Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Bruce Meyers, who served as an aircraft carrier gunner during World War II and built the dune buggy.
Bruce Meyers was born in 1926 in Southern California. After dropping out of high school, he joined the Merchant Marines at the age of 17. However, during a trip to Hawaii, Meyers jumped onto another ship and came back as a stowaway to the U.S. He lived in California until the military drafted him at age 18. Due to his previous experience as a sailor, he joined the Navy. Meyers served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill as a gunner for one of the turrets.
On May 11, 1945, he saw combat in Japan during the Battle of Okinawa when two Japanese kamikaze aircraft rammed into a U.S. aircraft carrier. The ship erupted into flames, and amidst the chaos, Meyers offered another sailor his life preserver. Once he was in the water, Meyers carried injured pilots to the safety of a whaleboat. For the next several weeks, Meyers served as a swabbie on a stretcher, going back to the aircraft carrier and assisting in the removal of over 400 bodies of his fellow comrades.
After the war, Meyers attended the Chouinard Art Institute (now part of the California Institute of the Arts). He surfed, raced in the Baja 1000 and sailed to Tahiti on a trading schooner. His greatest achievement, however, came in the form of building boats and learning how to shape lightweight but sturdy fiberglass. This experience gave him the necessary skills he needed to build his personal project: the dune buggy.
Meyers built his first 12 dune buggies by hand, primarily for himself and his friends. The first one he finished was named Old Red, and he drove it for decades. Invented in 1963, Meyers called his creation the Meyers-Manx Dune Buggy. The Old Red was the first known fiberglass dune buggy. In 1964, Meyers founded B.F. Meyers & Co., later renamed Meyers-Manx in 2000. The company focused on more than just dune buggies, it took the form of making car kits applied to smaller chassis of the Volkswagen Beetle series. Moreover, the company manufactured kit cars, automobiles sold as a set of parts to be put together by the buyer.
Meyers passed away on Feb. 19, 2021, at the age of 94.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Alex Boucher
Editor: Katherine Berman
Fact checker: Carl Wesseln
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr