Santa’s Jeep – A Brief History

Picture shows Santa Claus in a jeep with a Christmas tree and presents. Undated photo circa 1942. Used by license from Getty Images

As soon as there was a Jeep, it became part of Christmas. The photo above is our favorite and we have used it in past Christmas posts. Since we are all about Jeep history, we thought it would be fun to dig into this very special story.

The first sighting

Our first search for Santa’s Jeep didn’t turn up any results for 1941. With the attack on Pearl Harbor taking place on December 7th, we weren’t surprised that Jeeps and Santa weren’t on people’s minds just two and a half weeks later. But we were wrong.

We published the original article on December 24, 2023. The above picture appeared in a Facebook post on the 28th. Two things stood out. First the Jeep is a Willys MA, not the later more famous MB model. There were a small number of MA models produced in 1941. Second, the number in the lower corner indicated it might be part of a series.

We had submitted research requests to several organizations before Christmas and one of those organizations responded on the 29th. While they couldn’t answer our questions directly, they pointed us to a couple of photos at the National Archives.

Original Caption: “Just before Santa Claus leaves his “jeep-sleigh” the guard of honor stands on each side presenting arms to the Christmas visitor. Camp Lee, Virginia, Quartermaster Replacement Center.” Photo by: Larry Williams

Those photos led us to the George C Marshall Foundation’s “Christmas 1941 at Camp Lee, Virginia. So where were the 1941 newspaper articles? After more research, we found this article from the Richmond Times Dispatch December 21, 1941 –

Courtesy of

At this point, we are prepared to say that this is the earliest reference to Santa and jeeps.

The second sighting

The following ad appeared in a Madison, WI newspaper September 27, 1942 –

From the Capital Times Madison WI – click to enlarge

While it seems like Santa appears in big box stores in late September or early October these days, it was necessary to get the word out about mailing and shipping deadlines to get delivers to soldiers fighting overseas.

Just three days later. an ad appeared in The San Francisco Examiner on September 30, 1942.

Here Santa arrives on a P-38 fighter, dropping gifts to GIs in a truck. But under the gift-tips column is this statement – “If Santa jeeps in with colored neckties he’d better beware!” So maybe Santa was employing multiple transportation methods.

November 20, 1942 sees the appearance of Santa in his jeep again. but this time with a copyright mark.

From the Cincinnati Post November 20, 1942

Our efforts to find details about origin of the photo copyrighted by “Retail Reporting Corp. N.Y.” have failed, but we assume it is a retail store national association. We plan to update this story when new information becomes available.

On Christmas Day in 1942. the Tallahassee Democrat published a photo that is same one used in the Fort Lee article in 1941.

Christmas 1943

For the third Christmas of the war, Willys-Overland got involved –

The above appeared in the Sandusky Register on October 12, 1943. Below is a copy of the original photo.

Courtesy of

With a banner headline of “VIOLENT BATTLES FLAME IN ITALY” the Sioux City Journal of December 6, 1943 posted this picture on the frontpage.

Christmas 1944

By the fourth Christmas of the war, Santa’s Jeep was a well established tradition. This ad from the Ashville Times November 7, 1944 edition sees the return of our favorite Santa.

Overseas, GIs tried to bring Christmas wherever they landed. The Dispatch of Moline, IL ran this photo December 12, 1944.

Post-war Santa

At least from a newspaper prospective, Santa and Jeeps weren’t quite as merry after the war. We were expecting something else when we read this Chillicothe Gazette headline for December 13, 1945.

The St. Joseph News-Press of December 14, 1946 printed this little bit of wisdom.

This clipping from the Cincinnati Post December 01, 1950, is, perhaps, a new low –

Finally, this headline and story from the Oakland Tribune December 17, 1946, sums it up best – “Santa in Jeep; Reindeer Weep”

Merry Christmas!

Barry & Evan