LARAMIE, Wyo. - Spending his youth on a United States military
base during the 1950's in Germany was all Bill Hansen, of Laramie,
Wyo., would need to instill a lifetime appreciation of all things
military, especially military vehicles.
In the aftermath of
World War II, the young Hansen would spend his days crawling through
bunkers, playing hide and seek throughout bombed out crater fields,
and watching every make and model of wheeled or track machine used
in battle drive through his neighborhood.
Now, nearly sixty
years later, Hansen has teamed up with his son Tomas, also of
Laramie, to recreate the jeep that his deceased father and former
member of the Wyoming Army National Guard, Col. Louis A. Hansen,
drove during much of his military career. The process created a
lasting memory for the father-son team, as well as a quality
recreation of the 1953 Willy's jeep the former guardsman used and
Col. Hansen's career with the Wyoming Army National
guard began in 1937, serving in the 115th Cavalry (Mechanized).
There he would train at the former Pole Mountain Target and Maneuver
Area east of Laramie, riding horses and practicing advanced cavalry
techniques. With the onset of World War II, the elder Hansen found
himself with his fellow soldiers aboard a transport ship in route to
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Two days out to sea, the Japanese attacked the
base, causing the ship to change course and return to port in
California. Hansen was then issued a Harley Davidson motorcycle and
would spend several years patrolling the west coast of the U.S. with
the 115th, alert for potential enemy invasion.
duty came to an end, Hansen once again found himself aboard a troop
transport ship, this time headed to the Pacific to train for an
occupation army set to land on the island of Japan. The dropping of
atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would force a
surrender of the Japanese, putting an end to Hansen's war.
would again be called to duty several years later as the Korean
conflict began to escalate. This would find the Wyoming guard member
atop a rolling tank as the commander of the 141st Tank Battalion.
Serving first at Fort Campbell for several years, then in Germany
for four more, Hansen would spend seven years in garrison and in the
field, much of that time driving his jeep to visit his troops and
It is this period that Hansen's son Bill and
grandson Tom have captured with their project. The 1953 Willy's was
purchased from a car dealership in Laramie in early 1980 and has
spent nearly thirty years in service to the family. Bill Hansen says
that the jeep has “driven over ever mountain and peak in the Laramie
region in search of the best hunting and fishing in the area.”
It was just a few years ago that they made the decision to
recreate the memory to honor Col. Hansen. Working with old family
pictures, and members of the Wyoming National Guard, the two were
able to accurately match serial numbers and stencils that would have
been used on that period jeep.
“My father was a stern, but
good hearted man” says Bill Hansen, “he was loved by all he worked
with, and was always referred to as ‘The Colonel', by the men and
women he worked with, both in the military and civilian world.”
The father and son plan on continuing the work they have done
thus far on the jeep. Adding a functioning military radio,
additional lighting and other projects are part of their dreams for
the jeep. They also plan on driving the jeep in local parades and
possibly taking the project on a longer road trip.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Molineaux
Wyoming National Guard
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