Willy the Jeep
Willy the Jeep, one of 275 jeeps purchased by students at Stockton High School during World War II, is on display in the museum’s Vehicle Gallery. It highlights one of the most inspiring stories in Stockton’s history.
This story began in 1942, when Stockton High School officials started selling stamps and bonds to support the war effort. Sales were slow until one of the instructors came up with a brilliant idea that launched the Great Jeep Project: For every $900 donated by students from lunch money and earnings from odd jobs, the government would credit the school with the purchase of a new jeep. This innovative catalyst spurred donations of close to $250,000–well over $3 million in today’s dollars.
Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of Stockton High alumni, including Marian Jacobs and Bob and Tom McKeegan, jeep no. 151 returned to Stockton decades later. On St. Patrick’s Day 1979, the jeep, dubbed Willy by the Stockton Record, emerged from a helicopter in front of the Civic Auditorium carrying one of the stars of the TV show MASH. At a special ceremony, Willy was made an honorary member of the American Legion and awarded an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, the first such distinction for an inanimate object.
Willy was then donated to The Haggin Museum. Due to lack of exhibition space, it was put in storage and over the years only brought out for special occasions. Now Willy is back and can be seen in the museum's Vehicle Gallery. During your museum visit, enjoy this display that recounts the moving story of one school’s resolve to make a difference.