America’s standard Army ambulance during World War II was a Dodge 4x4 chassis mated with a body created at Wayne Works in Richmond, Indiana. A former bus-building company, Wayne made over 22,800 ambulance cabins designed to carry four wounded on stretchers or six seated, along with a driver and attendant. Unlike most other Dodge combat vehicles, ambulances were built with improved suspension for a smoother ride and came with built-in cabin heating. Some WC54s were converted to Signal Corps radio vans.
History of the Artifact
The First Geneva Convention recognized the red cross on a white background as the distinctive emblem to protect first aid volunteers and the wounded on the battlefield. Though developed in 1863, the red cross (and red crescent) became widely recognized during World War I, and its usage further expanded in World War II. Under the Geneva Convention any vehicle bearing the symbol is protected by international humanitarian law.
Like other Dodge vehicles, the WC54 was well-liked and considered rugged and dependable. The U.S. Army used the vehicles, often called “meat wagons” by troops, through the Korean War. European countries including France, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark used WC54s into the 1960s.