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Artifact Friday: Consolidated Ambulances

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

In the First World War, the United States Army developed a separate ambulance service to help the Allies on the front. This service saved many lives allowing for quick transportation of the wounded to field hospitals.

It was discontinued as an independent branch after World War One, but the military still operated ambulance services for their respective branches.

Many twentieth-century military ambulances were created by Dodge; however, for production Dodge used the process of consolidation.

This meant that the umbrella company was Dodge, but the vehicles were actually produced by either Chrysler, Ford or even Willy’s.

Consolidation is a company tactic used to improve supplier relationships as well as to help overcome engineering or technological difficulties with the item.

Our first consolidated ambulance or “Beep” as it was nicknamed, is the WC-54 Dodge. It had room for a driver, a medic, and four to seven patients depending on whether or not they were on stretchers.

Between 1942 and 1945, 255,000 Dodge trucks were produced for the U.S. military. Of these over 29,000 were military ambulances.

The WC-54 was later replaced by the Dodge M-43 ¾ ton truck. This truck could hold four litter patients, a medic, and a driver. It was equipped with a surgical light for emergencies as well as an efficient heating system. There were also storage compartments at the base of the lower stretcher holders for extra equipment.

The last ambulance is a Dodge CUCV ambulance or a M-886. This model was introduced in 1976 and used until the 1990s.

The M-886 had a large cab and a spacious, heated patient compartment that could hold up to five litters.

The double doors on the back also allowed for easier placing of the stretchers in the ambulance.

Fun fact, the ambulances in our collection not only represent different periods of U.S. military medical eras, but they also represent different branches.

The WC-54 is Navy, the M-43 is Army, and the M-886 is Air Force.

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