Dan Stark, a Malibu resident, parked a 1943 Willy's MB US Army Jeep right in the middle of Agoura Hills' administrative lobby, but not with intentions of fighting city hall. The retired Commander of the US Navy who fought in WWII is loaning the authentic military vehicle to the city in conjunction with its One City, One Book program, paying tribute to the bestseller Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
Based on WWII veteran Louis Zamperini, the book was inspiration for the exhibit, said Cim Castellon, member of the Agoura Hills Cultural Arts Council (CAC), who is organizing the collection honoring local World War II veterans, particularly those who fought in the Pacific Theater.
"The response has been exciting," said Castellon. "Over 24 families from Northridge to Oxnard have contributed artifacts, photos and memorabilia. It's an incredibly powerful piece of history that still unites us."
The exhibit, "Pieces: Communities Collection from WWII," will open April 6 at the Agoura Hills Library. The Jeep will be on display inside City Hall.
The Willy's MB US Army Jeep was manufactured by Ford as a four-wheel drive, light utility vehicle between 1941 through 1945.
"It made quite an impression on soldiers during the war," said Stark, now 79, adding many felt the jeeps helped win the war. "Soldiers informally named them after Eugene the Jeep, a character in the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar." (Eugene the Jeep was Popeye's "jungle pet" and was "small, able to move between dimensions and could solve seemingly impossible problems.)
Stark is also loaning other artifacts from his WWII collection that includes aviation art prints signed by pilots who flew the planes during the war. Included in his collection is a print of a B-25 fighter plane signed by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, commanding the first air raid over Tokyo in 1942, intended to bolster American morale and help bring down the influence of Japanese leadership in its own county. He also has a print of a P-40 signed by several of the Flying Tigers.
The main exhibit will be in the Fireside Room in the library and is open to the public during library hours. The jeep is on view during city hall hours. The complex is located at 29901 Ladyface Ct., Agoura Hills and the exhibit runs until May 1.
The exhibit will be one of many tributes held throughout April during the One City, One Book program focusing on endurance, survival and redemption. Louis Zamperini will speak at the Agoura Hills Regency Theater on Wednesday, April 10, at 1:15 pm and 3:00 pm. The event is free but seating is limited; tickets available on a first come first serve basis starting at 12:30 p.m. the day of the event. The complete program schedule of all related events is available on the city website, www.ci.agoura-hills.ca.us.