The Dodge Power Wagon, like the Jeep, was forged in the fires of WWII. While the name did not arrive till 1946, WC series of dodge trucks (military designation M-37), served on every front of the war, from slogging thru mud on the Burma Road to sliding in the snow of the Ardennes. They served as weapons carriers, troop carriers, ambulances, tow trucks, and just about every other function that the services could think of. When the war ended dodge knew it had a solid and proven work truck on its hands that it could sell to the commercial truck market.
In 1946 Dodge put a "civilian" cab and an 8-foot bed on the proven ¾-ton, 126-inch wheelbase WC chassis and dubbed it the "Power Wagon". This civilianized version of the M-37 was still too Spartan for civilians as far as Dodge was concerned, so it was marketed to government and commercial agencies that needed a "no-frills" work-horse that could get the job done in rough country, under harsh conditions. Functionality over form was the hallmark of the Power Wagon.
Though dubbed the "Power Wagon", under the hood resided the relatively tame 230 cubic-inch flat head six, with a compression ratio of about 6.7:1. The "Power" came from torque multiplying final-drive ratios more common to farm tractors than road vehicles. Buyers could choose a highway-friendly 4.89 rear end that could get you cruising at 50 mph in the fast lane, or a stump-pulling 5.83 that would top you out at blistering 45 mph in the top gear. It featured a two-speed transfer case and a 4-speed transmission with a power take off which would send power to the front and back of the truck for operating auxiliary equipment. With the optional 10,000 lb front mounted winch, this truck could go just about anywhere, which made it perfect for utility companies, fire and forest service agencies and the military, not to mention farmers with stumps to pull.
From 1946 till 1968 when the line was ended in the US, the military/commercial version of the Power Wagon remained virtually unchanged. Most people would be unable to tell the difference between the '46 and '68 models by simply looking at one. To confuse matters, in 1957 Dodge introduced a separate "civilian" line of 4x4 half-ton and ¾-ton trucks that also bore the "Power Wagon" name. These had conventional, modern cabs and bed designs, and came with the kinds of amenities that could attract the everyday user. These parallel lines co-existed until '68 when the original line was ended because the 40's era cab could not meet the new highway safety standards (the line continued for another 10 years in the export market).
In 1977 the military was looking to replace the venerable M-37 Power Wagons. It needed a light utility pickup in the one ton range, and rather than reinvent the wheel, it decided to purchase the current W200 series civilian Power Wagons in both the standard and crew-cab version as a cost saving measure. Given the military designation of M-880, these trucks would serve until their replacement by the HUMVEE. The M-880 came with a civilian 2-speed full-time transfer case, 318 V8s, automatic transmissions, Dana axles front and rear and four-wheel drum brakes. The military developed a love/hate relationship with the 880 during its service. It was a good truck that took a lot of abuse, but it just did not have the off-road capability and maneuverability (battleships have tighter turn radius'), needed for combat operations in the field. In other words, it got stuck a lot and could not go many of the places the Army needed it to.
The Power Wagon name was retired in 1981 when Dodge trucks were given the name "Power Ram", thus ending an era of 4x4 lore. In the past couple of years there has been talk of reviving the line with modern, rough duty 4x4 with retro 40's styling. We'll keep our eyes open and fingers crossed.