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Military Jeep holds memories for longtime veterinarian

Staff writer

Anyone who has attended area parades more than likely has seen a 1943 Ford military Jeep driven by Robert “Bob” Novak of Lost Springs.

The World War II veteran, known to many as “Doc,” is a longtime veterinarian. He purchased the Jeep 15 to 20 years ago from a private individual. He said the vehicle was used in Germany during the war and brought back to the states, where it was reconditioned.

Novak joined the army after graduating from high school in 1945. He served from 1946 to 1948. World War II had ended, and he was stationed in Germany.

While at a base at Mannheim, he spent one night guarding railroad cars from pilferers. After that, he was recruited as a military clerk because of his typing ability. He drove a Jeep to relay messages and deliver supplies around the camp.

“What a break!” he said. “It was so durned cold over there! Guard duty? Whoosh!”

After seeing how Jeeps performed during the war, the veteran wanted one of his own. His wife and family have enjoyed numerous rides in the vehicle.

Upon close inspection, it has many interesting, practical features. A shovel and axe hang on the frame on the driver’s side. A tank mounted on the rear was used to hold water or gasoline.

“Dark-out” lights mounted on a front fender and the rear were used at night to allow the driver to see vehicles directly to the front and rear without alerting the enemy. The Jeep also is equipped with a night light of sorts on the dashboard.

A metal rifle case is mounted under the dashboard in front of the driver. The windshield has manual wipers operated by inside cranks mounted at the top on both sides. Novak said a passenger could operate the blades as needed, but if alone, the driver had to do it while keeping one hand on the wheel.

A siren mounted on the front is a unique feature Novak added. It comes from an old fire truck he purchased years ago from the Ramona Fire Department. He can activate it from inside the Jeep.

The first Jeeps were built in 1940 for the military.

Doc’s interest in Jeeps goes back to his youth. His father, Ralph, served as a chauffeur for a military commander in World War I. He bought a civilian Jeep after World War II ended.

Bob, a senior, and his younger brother, Bill, drove the vehicle to school in Lost Springs. They also used it on the farm.

The local mail carrier recruited them to take him on his routes. The four-wheel drive capability made it easier to get around on bad roads.

The mail carrier later bought a ’41 Jeep of his own, and Bob bought it when the man retired. It now belongs to one of his daughters.

The ’43 military Jeep, however, isn’t going anywhere.

“I’m sentimental about it,” Novak said. “I have no plans to sell it.”

Last modified Sept. 25, 2014

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