Memorial Day, a time to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served in the armed forces, is a moment to consider what unites rather than divides many aspects of the American experience. In the automotive world, the Ford vs. Chevy / Ford Motor Company vs. GM argument is over 100 years old and deeply embedded in American car culture. At times, though, it is clear that both are in the same boat, and one of those moments was captured in the photo above in August 1944. Taken in Saint-Raphael, a town on the Mediterranean in the Cote d’Azur that was one of the landing sites in the Allied invasion of southern France, it shows GIs of the U.S. 7th Army entering a wrecked building that once housed showrooms and stations service for both Ford and General Motors.
Before the war, this dealership must have been an exclusive establishment, selling imported American cars at a time when few people in France owned a car. The scene is a poignant reminder of a time when the American automobile industry was the undisputed leader in mass producing high quality vehicles and sold its products worldwide.
This scene from Band of Brothers, of a GI yelling at passing German prisoners of war, brings both of these themes to life. The choice of vehicles shown on screen appears to give a nod to each of the Big Three, by showing a vehicle produced by each of them: GM (GMC CCKW 2.5 ton truck), Ford (Ford GPW jeep), and Chrysler (M4 Sherman tank). At the same time, an American taunting Germans for their lack of automobiles is obviously ironic in a somewhat painful way. Memorial Day is about the veterans and not their vehicles, but thinking about both is not out of line, I believe.