Saturday, May 22, 2010

ACSOTs are ApoCryphal Stories Often Told,

and there are a number of them out there.

There was a pretty good one that made the rounds several years ago with the entry of the primitive electronic game, Space Invaders. The rumor was that if you made the high score and entered your initials that the machine would take your picture and the Department of Defense would put it in a file so you could be drafted in case of an intergalactic war.

The game winner would be drafted and sent to Space Shuttle Door Gunner’s School or some such truck.

That particular rumor went around for at about ten or fifteen years.

My favorite one of all time just popped up again for the first time in quite a while. It is the Jeep one.

For the life of me, I heard it just the other day. It hasn’t died after 65 years and the rumor hasn’t changed at all.

This is a miracle among the order of Moses parting the Red Sea, as often repeated rumors get changed over time and retelling.

Now the Jeep rumor started in about late 1945 right after the Japanese surrendered.

The official rumor in that I heard in the 50s was this: You can buy an army surplus jeep in a crate for fifty dollars. All of the pieces are covered in cosmoline and you have to put it together yourself.

While it is fact that after the war, quite a number of jeeps were sold off to the public, it should be carefully remembered that the condition of them ranged from brand new to tired, worn out pieces of junk. Most of the ones sent overseas were left there after the war, but occasionally one made it back into the states for rebuild, so the side rumors of buying one full of bullet holes is greatly exaggerated.

I told my dad about the rumor and he told me that if I could buy one for that much money, he would pay for it and help me assemble it. You can bet that this young lad went off on a wild goose chase that lasted for years.

Letters were written, pamphlets sent for and a kid was kept out of mischief chasing the elusive fifty dollar jeep-in-a-crate.

Over the years I have met a number of people that know someone that had a friend who had a brother-in-law that had a best friend’s college room mate’s girlfriend that had an uncle that owned one that he had bought for fifty bucks and put together.

Try as I may, I was never able to find anyone that had ever seen one in real life, although I have met a couple of people that claimed someone they knew actually did own one.

Recently I found out where the Jeep in a crate rumor actually came from. Indeed, there really were Jeeps crated up, and to a certain extent they were partially disassembled.

Jeeps were shipped overseas by the thousands during the Second World War, and quite often they were crated up. The wheels, and canvas roofs were taken apart and stored in various parts of the body and the windshields were folded down. All of this was to reduce the size of the crate needed to box the jeep up.

When the jeep-in-a-crate arrived overseas, it was taken to a staging area near the dock, the crate was opened, and the wheels were bolted on, the battery connected. Oil was then added to the crankcase, the jeep was gassed up and it was good to go.

This is where the jeep in a crate myth was started, and because it was partially disassembled, the rumor of having to put the parts together yourself. This is true enough if you were fortunate enough to buy surplus jeep that had been packed for overseas shipment. Of course, the rumor apparently grew as to how much assembly was required.

Where the cosmoline part of the story came from is beyond me. Cosmoline is an obsolete military preservative used for the deep storage of metal and wood items. It is generally associated with small arms because many wartime GIs were issued weapons covered with the nasty stuff and played hell removing it.

Cosomline is a greasy looking compound that is a viscous liquid that enters every pore of whatever it is dipped into it, and shortly thereafter it gels up to a fairly stiff consistency and resembles petrified grease.

Rifles were dipped in the stuff, covered with a foil backed paper and packed into wooden cases, 10 per.

Over the years I have had a few surplus rifles and have had to remove cosmoline from them. The way I was taught by the WW2 generation was to disassemble the rifle, immerse the parts in gasoline and scrub it off with a stiff fiber brush. It’s a dangerous job that way, but it works.

I can think of no reason for the rumor of the jeep parts being coated in cosmoline except that it may have been started by a GI somewhere that had to de-cosmoline a number of weapons or whatever and mused about how just about everything GI he encountered was covered with the stuff.

It makes no sense, as the metal on every surface of a jeep was covered with good, solid OD green paint.

Anyway, the subject of the fifty dollar jeep-in-a-box, you assemble and de-cosmoline came up a couple of days ago and I had to laugh about it.

It had been a couple of years since I heard it, and deep inside I was very pleased to know the old rumor was very much alive.

Jeep crated up for shipping overseas.

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