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Checker WWII Army Shelter

Copyright 2016 - Checker Car Club of America, Inc.

Mysteries beg to be solved.

Such was the case when I discovered a Checker tag bearing the inscription "Shelter HO-17-A".

A search on the internet immediately brought up roughly 10 entries matching the search term "Army HO-17."

Looking at these references led me to conclude that during World War II, Checker received an order (perhaps more than one) to produce a mobile communications shelter that could be loaded onto a 6x6 truck.

HO-17 Shelter on a GMC CCKW Truck

These shelters were most likely produced by more than one manufacturer. The first orders went out in the 1942-1943 time-frame from the Army Signal Corps. This became evident from one of the documents found on the internet that was released in September 1942 by the War Department Office of the Chief Signal Officer.

Here are two excerpts from that document related to the HO-17 shelter:

Further investigation revealed several photos of the shelter (inside and out). Some of them are included here:

Note the trailer being towed by the truck. It is primarily used to house the power generator that allows all of the electronic equipment to operate inside the shelter.

Luckily, I was also able to find a photo of a shelter mock-up that gives you an idea of the cramped quarters within which the signal corps operators had to work.

This discovery does not come without some unsolved questions.

  • Why was Checker chosen as a contractor?

  • Were the production units made of steel or the wood bodies described in the 1942 procurement document?

  • How many of these shelters did Checker produce?

  • Was the order to Checker placed in 1943 as the 35501-Phila-43 plate would indicate?

  • Which Signal Corps units used the Checker-made shelters?

Finally, it is interesting to see that at least one of these shelters still exists as can be seen in this video taken during a movie shoot in Vienna, Austria. The fact that the truck and shelter are in Europe should not be surprising since a lot of US military equipment was never brought back to the United States after the war. Many of them continued to be used by the militaries of the countries where the vehicles were left.

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