When World War II concluded, civilians wanted Jeeps, so Willys made the CJ-2A and then the CJ-3A. As the conflict in Korea started to heat up, Willys saw the writing on the wall and started creating a military model based on the CJ-3A. The model was equipped to ford bodies of water better, more changes included the addition of larger headlights, a one piece windshield with conventional windshield wipers, and tougher rear axle. The result was the M38.
The electrical system was upgraded to a 24 volt system which required dual 12 volt batteries connected in series. Its ignition and electrical systems were waterproof; a handy feature in rainy environments and where deep river fording was necessary.
The military made many modifications to the Jeep M38 to help with different duties during the war. Some were outfitted with Ramsey winches to help with recoveries. A small number were modified with attachments like blades controlled by hydraulics, which were used for leveling and dozing the earth. Some were even modified to cross deep water, which included snorkels. For the harsh winters in Korea, the military crafted metal enclosures and a hard top, protecting the occupants from the elements.
In 1952, Willys wrapped up production of the M38. Even though the results of the Korean War were mixed, the Jeep once again was lauded as being indispensable in the military effort, only endearing it more to the American public. After that, the M38-A1 became the new military Jeep. The M38A1 was manufactured by Willys where it was known as the Model MD.
The M38 jeeps that were built for the U.S. Army (and used by all the armed services) are very popular with collectors due to their reasonable size, ready availability of parts, and great off-road capabilities.
Willys produced about 45,500 of the M38 jeeps from September 1950 through July 1952.
The Willys M38A1 was built from 1952 until 1957 for the U.S. military forces and from 1958 until 1971 for export to foreign governments.