Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces protecting our country. Including all wars through today, over 1.3 million service members have lost their lives. The Civil War accounted for the most deaths (623,026), followed by World War II (407,300).
Folks remember Memorial Day each year by visiting national memorials and decorating cemeteries; remembering takes on different emotions for each individual. Many families will schedule picnics, and swimming pools will open.
Local resident Lee Holland, a retired army officer with 28 years of active and reserve duty as an ordnance officer and 13 years of civilian duty, remembers what war time was like for those who severed during World War II each time he enters “The Motor Pool,” a 1938 replica of a working motor pool he constructed on a former farm on Meadowville Road.
Holland, 63, is passionate about the era and the vehicles that serviced the army throughout Europe. His historical tribute, a 2,010-square-foot motor pool, based on WWII-era motor pools built at installations all over the county, is complete with several WWII-era tactical wheeled vehicles in various stages of restoration, as well as photos, books and manuals from the era, and mannequins dressed in period uniforms in the working garage. Original newspapers leading up to the end of the war line the walls, the Star and Stripes newspapers that would have been read by the ordnance officers during breaks, lie throughout, light fixtures and fans from the period add to the war time setting, an 8 x 12 foot mural of the Normandy Invasion on June 12, 1944; is a heart-wrenching reminder of the intensity of the war’s end. Photographs from the factories that made the army vehicles show that women played an important part during wartime.
“Straight from their homes after getting their children off to school, in their aprons, high heels, curlers… they [the photos] show just how important women were during wartime,” said Holland.
Not only is The Motor Pool a working garage; it is also a museum. Holland’s life work began 35 years ago and continues today with his current restoration of a 1942 Dodge three-quarter-ton Carryall which became the chassis for the Dodge Ram after the war.
He has already meticulously restored a 1942 Dodge command car and a 1942 Willy-Overland quarter-ton truck, the original Army “Jeep.” Each vehicle takes about five years to restore. Additional vehicles stored in the motor pool include a 1941 GMC two and a half-ton truck, a 1943 Checker Cab one-ton trailer, and a 1943 American Bantam Car Co. quarter-ton trailer. Several vehicles sit in a barn waiting for restoration.
So much of the technology that was introduced and used during wartime went on to become household names for us today. Holland knows every detail of his vehicles and what morphed from them.
“A lot of technology with us today is enhanced technology that originated in these vehicles during the 1940s,” he said. “The 1942 Willys-Overland is where the jeep began. Every Jeep out there is a direct descendent of this jeep.”
Visitors find Holland’s history lessons during the tour of The Motor Pool fascinating and interesting. “He is a wealth of information,” said Nick Pride on a recent tour. “I found it very interesting. I am not a history buff, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. He is so knowledgeable about what he is doing.”
The Motor Pool houses some personal mementos, too. The jeep on display is named “Elaine” and displays a photo of his dad when he was in the army serving in North Africa; he stands in front of a jeep also named “Elaine.” “Elaine became his wife and my mom,” Holland said. “I did it as a little tribute to them.”
Another tribute is the field mail-distribution center. It is not found in a motor pool, but it was an opportunity to display some of the few thousand letters Holland’s dad sent to his mother through V-Mail during wartime.
Visiting The Motor Pool is free of charge and has welcomed hundreds of military personnel, veterans, scouts, elementary school students, church and corporate groups. Holland gives his visitors a complete history and background for the design and development of the American tactical wheeled vehicles.
“I had my oldest veteran to date come by for a tour,” he said. “He was 99. World War II vet; loaded bombers in 1943. Sharp as a tack.”
Call 804-530-2400 for tour arrangements. For a preview, visit www.mymotorpool.webs.com