What’s in a Name?

July 16, 2006

At a time when new automobile names are being spawned like weeds, Detroit observers have to wonder what’s in a name.

Witness Ford’s abandonment of the only-year-old and well-accepted Lincoln Zephyr retro tag in favor of the meaningless MKZ, apparently in response to Cadillac dumping the long established DeVille for DTS. Meanwhile Toyota has maintained the Corolla name since 1968 and Honda the Civic moniker since 1973.

So what do the names Austin, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and Chrysler mean to you? Not what you think!

Remember the code names Omaha, Utah, and Sword for beaches in the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy? Well, the automotive names listed above were those chosen as codes for initial landing points of the planned November 1, 1945, Allied invasion of the eastern shore of mainland Japan’s Kyushu Island.

Likewise, according to an article in the Omaha World Herald nearly 20 years ago, the landings on Kyushu’s southern shore would have been at beaches DeSoto, Duesenberg, Essex, Ford, and Franklin, while Marines landed on the western shore would invade via Pontiac, Reo, Rolls Royce, Saxon, Star, Studebaker, Stutz, Winton, and Zephyr.

Finally, if they were not needed as reserves for any of the other landings, a second force was planned to invade another southern Kyushu bay on November 4 at Hupmobile, LaSalle, Lincoln, Locomobile, Maxwell, Mercedes, Moon, Oldsmobile, Overland, Packard and Plymouth points. As to Dodge and Hudson, the newspaper didn’t say — perhaps they were drop zones for airborne forces. At least the Japanese didn’t name their formidable defenses Accord and Camry.

We should all rejoice that our memories of these names are played out on the fields of the summer’s classic car shows rather than in military cemeteries and history books. —Mike Davis

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