Mickey Jeep

* Type: 1/4 ton Jeep Willys
* Serial Number: 421892
* Hood Number: 20678560
* Date Of Delivery: January 30, 1945
* Operation Served In: ETO
* Location Now: Reading, PA
* Date Restored: 1994
* Owner: Jim Swope

The vehicle data plate delivery date located on the glove box door is 1/30/45, Willys factory, Toledo, Ohio. Ironically, this date was also the 12th and last anniversary of Hitler’s Third Reich and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 63rd and last birthday. During February of 1945 the jeep was shipped across the Atlantic to Liege, Belgium where Warren Rangnow, Les Wolf, and 4 other members of the 83rd Division’s 783rd Ordnance Company picked up six new jeeps for the division during the first week of March 1945 as recounted in Warren Rangnow’s book Hut Two. Jeep hood number 20678560 (this number was found under several coats of paint) served with the 83rd prior to and during the Rhine crossing, the Central Europe campaign, occupation duties, and then was turned in at the huge depot at Rhiems, France when the division was shipped home. Major Metro Bodnyk, U.S.A.A.F., purchased the jeep from the Office of Foreign Liquidation Commission in Paris for $250.00 and picked it out at Rhiems. After picking out a number of jeeps for Generals and Colonels he picked one out for himself, according to retired Lt. Col. Metro Bodnyk, “The bumper markings read: 83rd Division”. For years, the jeep was located in a barn on the Bodnyk farm near Kutztown Penna. It was discovered and restored in 1994 to 83rd Division markings. It is named in honor of Metro Bodnyk’s brother Michael Bodnyk, known as “Mickey”, a P-47 pilot who was killed in action in the European Theatre. The jeep now serves as a rolling 83rd memorial in parades, museum, and school events, as part of the Archbury Foundation’s mission to Preserve and Present the American Experience from 1935-1945. After all- what is more symbolic of WW II America than the good ‘ole jeep.

“Mickey” was with the division for the Central Europe Campaign, which took place from March 22nd to May 11th 1945. The 83rd rolled across the Rhine River on March 30th 1945 and then struck swiftly to clean out pockets of resistance, which had been by-passed by the second Armored Division. After eliminating these enemy strong points, the division crossed the Lippe River at Hamm Germany to aid in the encirclement of the Nazis hopelessly trapped in the Ruhr Pocket. On being relieved by other units the 83rd again smashed eastward in pursuit of the fleeing Wehrmacht toward the Russians advancing westward. The division advance ran beside and a little ahead of the 2nd Armored Division as part of the XXIXth Corps, 9th U.S. Army. Utilizing tanks, tank destroyers, motorbikes, captured German Army Vehicles, captured civilian busses, trailers, and fire trucks, the division rode herd against the disorganized Nazis for 215 miles to the Elbe River Germany. The newspapers picked up on this use of captured transport and labeled the division “The Rag-Tag Circus.” In accomplishing this feat the 83rd wrote a new chapter in infantry history as they liberated over 75,000 Allied prisoners-of-war, took some 34,000 Germans captive in the 14-day assault that carried them across four rivers into the very heart of Germany and gave the Allies the only permanent bridgehead across the Elbe. After winning the battle of Barby Germany on the west bank of the river, where German civilians fought side by side with Wehrmacht and SS troops in a futile effort to stem the 83rd advance, elements of the 329th Infantry made assault-boat crossings of the river. After the engineers established an Elbe bridgehead, named the Truman Bridge, the 83rd fought off several vicious enemy counter-attacks and defended the bridge itself against air attacks and floating mines. The pitched battles on the east bank of the Elbe took the 83rd as far as Zerbst Germany, leaving Berlin a mere 30 miles away. It had been decided at the Yalta conference that the Russian’s would take Berlin and General Eisenhower was not about to incur more American casualties for an objective he could not keep. So the 83rd division instead of attacking Berlin withdrew back across the Elbe River as the war came to an end.