Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

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Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Auto Shop teacher » Sun Jun 10, 2018 9:38 pm

Hi, this is my first posting here but I was at a buddies house looking at his Duce and asked why so many trucks from WW2 on seem to have a soft top as standard equipment. Is/was there a reason?

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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Mark Jesic » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:53 am

Costs ?, and welcome to the G.

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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Frank USMC » Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:33 am

Reduction in height.
On the CCKW, an open cab weights more than the closed cab.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Frank USMC » Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:36 am

Sorry, could have gone into more detail. You can take the rag top off and drop the windshield down. Everything on the bed also can be dropped to reduce shipping height.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Ben Dover » Mon Jun 11, 2018 2:46 am

It also aids in the ability to be detected and camouflaged.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by W. Winget » Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:08 am

Ever try to fire a MG through a hard top?
Multiple reasons why soft tops are used, Knock down for shipping, (you can stack many mil vehicles atop each other without damaging the lower one) reduced height allows some to enter ship holds with lower bulkhead clearance or become a containerized load for examples.
Weapons can be added to smaller vehicles with removable canvas tops where they cannot with a hard top (actually they make a hatch cover in some trucks with hard tops)
In general you used to (now everything is armored) find no hardtop vehicle under 10 ton vehicles forward of the supply lines with a hardtop, usually so they could be armed for convoy protection. Hardtops were reserved for those that could not be stacked, or worked in extreme cold weather areas of issue where keeping snow and ice out and heat in are important.
Since WWII all systems are waterproofed as well up to the air intake level with minor prep. Another reason to not have a hardtop as you cannot egress (leave) the hardtop vehicle if it falls off the ramp of a landing craft in too deep of water or crosses a stream and finds a deep hole that was not reconnoiter properly.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Prop Trailer » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:56 am

What I am missing is the saving of steel by leaving hardtops on such a high number of vehicles made......

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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Ben Dover » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:03 am

Low silhouette was a major factor, it allowed the operators greater visibility of the situation, and as mentioned better field of view for gun mounts.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by johnseidts » Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:59 am

All the reasons above are valid, but I think one major reason for extensive soft tops in WWII was the saving of machine-tool capability and labor. The Great Depression had led to an erosion of the machine tool capability in this country- basically there wasn't enough work to support the industry that had developed prior to the economic downturn. So it slowly disappeared during the 1930's.

Machine-tool labor was part of the "tech revolution" of the day, and it took time to develop personnel, tooling, and even leadership capable of running concerns using these things. Many young people who came up through companies which had this capability were exempted from draft boards. It was a big story in many company newsletters when a man left a highly technical job to enlist in the service, mainly because they had a solid deferral and didn't need to do so. It was the WWII equivalent of Pat Tillman.

That is all by way of explanation- if you built a truck that used sewing of canvas, bending of tubes, and minor forgings or stampings instead of having to tool up to build a solid cab, you saved a great deal of machine tool labor and machine time which could be used to build other things, like aircraft stampings or ship parts. The Office of War Production was full of personnel who specialized in making such decisions in order to most efficiently use the available labor, industry, and corporate pool available.

I'm not going to say this is the only reason for soft tops in WWII, but I believe it was an important part of the decision-making process which led to extensive use of them.

And here is an aside which relates peripherally to the discussion and I thought about on D-Day. Major General Charles Gerhardt, commander of the 29th Infantry Division, would not let his men use canvas on their vehicles. If he caught his units with canvas up on their vehicles, he'd stop and chew their commander out until it was removed.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Ben Dover » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:26 pm

Major General Gerhardt, his assigned Jeep was "Vixen Tor'.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by johnseidts » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:12 pm

Hey Ben,
I got to see Vixen Tor on an almost daily basis when I worked at the 5th Regiment Armory 1989-1990. I even sat in her at one point to look at the mileage. Do you know the story of Bob Cuff, his driver, and how the jeep came to be there? I unfortunately missed meeting Bob Cuff by a few days due to deployments.

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1994-0 ... beach-jeep
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Ben Dover » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:31 pm

The only name I am familiar with is a Guardsman and WWII veteran who was one of the wartime mechanics. His name was Hippensteil and he had repaired a tire that had a piece of shrapnel in it during the battle at St Lo. The tire ended up as the spare and was displayed on Vixen Tor at the National Guard at I think Havre de Grace. As I understand it, SP-6 Hippensteil was a post war full time Nationsl Guardsman. Vixen Tor returned to Europe during the 50th anniversary of D-day. It had some maintenance issues, over heating, maybe, as it was poorly prepared for the trip. Some National Guard Warrant Officer was in charge and may have been the driver. This is from memory, wonder how far off from the facts I am.
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Re: Why do many military trucks have soft tops?

Post by Hammerhead » Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:05 pm

Saving steel was a big wartime consideration by the mid-war point. That's why the early war Ben-Hur's which were steel were then being made with wood by mid '43. CCKW's went from full cabs to open cabs and then even full wood beds in late 43 and certainly '44.
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