WarJeeps.com - The MB GPW Front Bumper Rope

The MB GPW Front Bumper Rope

The MB GPW Front Bumper Rope

Story by: Gene J. Olsen, Major, Ordnance (Ret), USAR, 457 Transportation BN, SPO
Editor: Mark Smith, WarJeeps.com

A s the B-29 came in for its second attempt at landing, the first not being good enough for the air boss sitting in the tower, the exhausted crew touched down mid runway, hard! Crushing and folding the front landing gear sending the massive bomber careening down the runway out of control at an odd angle then off over the taxi way into, you guessed it, three Autocar fuel tanker trucks. The fuel and ordnance on the plane, plus the tanker trucks exploding, clearly got everyone's attention. So much so, that PFC Gene E. Olsen sitting in the Dodge ambulance didn't even feel the cigarette burn a hole in his pant leg when it fell out of his mouth. They spent the next 12 hours putting out spot fires, one building and two other bombers that burned to the ground. "It was a long day in Burma", was how my Grandpa would always end that story.

What I do know is my Grandpa was a PFC in the U.S. Army Air Corps 86th Airdrome Squadron, China, Burma, and India 12-43 to 1-46. Other than that, names and places have been lost over time unfortunately. He never talked about the war unless I or my Dad pressed him when we were alone. And even then it wasn't much. Until I got my first military jeep in 1987. An M-38A1, the same model my Dad Lance Corporal Gene Bradley Olsen, drove as a Forward Observer, in the 3rd Marine Divisions HQT'S Battery. And yes, I restored it frame up (with extensive help from Louis and Tom Larson from the famed Willys Minneapolis) with my Dad's unit markings (I am still looking for a Collins TRC 75 radio). When my Grandpa first saw this jeep (I remember it clear as yesterday) he made the comment "I made tow ropes for these things, that we would wrap on the front bumper". I would not realize until many years later how this would affect me.

Several years after I restored the M38-A1 for my Dad, I got the bright idea of restoring a WW2 jeep for my Grandpa. There was no going back; this was the start of a hobby that would consume me to this day. So, in 1989 back to Louis and Tom Larson at Willys Minneapolis for parts and advice. On one of my Grandpa's visits, I showed him my project and asked him to show me how to make a bumper rope. Me, at 20 years old with my "aahhmmm, vast" knowledge of jeep details, told him the manila rope needs to be exactly 12 ft long. He rolled his eyes as if saying "shut up kid and learn how we really did it, and not by a book". He then continued:

"Its a simple 3 strand eye splice, like we taught you when you were 8 years old"

"Hot damn" I said, "simple, I will get my splicing fids "

"Slow down Jr." he said

"We didn't have fids then and you don't need one now" he continued. "pull another stretch of rope off but don't cut it yet," he instructed.

I was a little confused but did as he said. Now I watched as he took ten paces , taped the rope and cut it.

"Ten paces at about 3ft per pace gives us roughly 30 ft, understand?" he stated.

"We learned pretty quick that 12 feet is no good for towing anything, all it does is damage stuff" he said.

Then me again, with my "vast" experience asked " Why didn't you use a tape measure"

For the second time, he rolled his eyes, then said "You haven't been in the military yet have you? Do you really think we will take the time to do that"

I didn't fully understand that statement until I joined the Army in November of 1990, then it became crystal clear, painfully clear.

He spliced a rope, while I followed along and copied him and before you knew it we were done. I spliced my first bumper rope! Then I asked the next most obvious question, " How did you mount this on the front bumper?"

He said "Watch, once, because you will only do this once, it was such a pain in the arse to wrap, we just either looped in around the frame when we were done or threw it in the back, which was most of the time."

To this day, 31 plus years later, I still have the rope he spliced. Not only is it my connection with him, it is a bumper rope spliced by a WW2 vet who made them during the war: you can't get much more original than that.

The MB GPW Front Bumper Rope

Grandpa, Gene E. Olsen
standing next to a wire rope choker he had just finished
making at the company which specialized in wire rope
and chain that he and Gene's Dad started.

That time we spent together that day, him opening up about his experiences and me learning "the way they did it," is one of my fondest memories. The ability to not only splice regular rope, but wire rope (ie. control cables on aircraft) opened doors to all kinds of benefits for him, from extra cigarettes to extra time off. His advice of "Learn a skill that is in demand and it will serve you well, but be humble" rings true to this day.

In August of 1992 my Grandpa had several strokes and they took away the man I knew. Not much longer in 1993 he passed away, just after I graduated from Ordnance Officer Basic School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Connections to our past can come in many different ways, sometimes we don't realize or appreciate it when it does. It took me a little time, but I figured it out.

This simple skill of making bumper ropes has introduced me to an incredible bunch of MV collectors and parts dealers like George Baxter with Army Jeep Parts, who by the way I am greatly indebted to for his patience in answering all my tech questions for many years. His high standard of quality parts have kept me supplied on many restorations. I have sold ropes in the US and all over the world. Since 1989, I have made roughly 1100 (or 33,000 ft) of these ropes all the same way, just as I was taught.

I have now started my 8th WW2 jeep restoration. Over the last 30 some years I have/had/owned/traded/sold MB's, GPW's, M38's, M38A1's, 151's, DUKW, WC27, CCKW's open and closed cabs, Studebaker US 6's cargo and tractor trucks, M35A2's, M35, M211, M2A1 half tracks, and a Ford GP just to name a few.

Did I mention this hobby consumed me?

The MB GPW Front Bumper Rope

Gene J. Olsen
pictured in one of his many restored Military Jeeps

Bumper Ropes hand crafted by Gene can be purchased at Army Jeep Parts

Army Jeep Parts

Questions, comments email: Contact Us

Copyright ©1984-2020 Automated Sciences and Technologies All rights reserved.
WarJeeps.com is in no way affiliated with Jeep FCA US LLC. Jeep® is a registered Trademark of FCA US LLC.