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From serving in the Second World War to conquering Ferrari at Le Mans, Ken Miles had a tremendous life. His efforts, along with the vision of the venerable Carroll Shelby and the industrial might of the Ford Motor Company, gifted the world with one of its finest racing treasures: the Ford GT40. But to get to that point, Miles had to survive World War II; not an easy feat. 

Ken Miles survived his service in World War II and went on work with Carroll Shelby and the Ford GT40

Most car enthusiasts know a thing or two about the Carroll Shelby, the 1966 feud between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari, and the resultant Ford GT40. However, some fans might not know that Ken Miles, one of the men behind the Ford GT40, served in World War II as a soldier, engineer, and driver. 

However, his military service may not have been quite as cinematic as “Ford v. Ferrari” made it out to be. In the Academy Award-winning 2019 film, Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby says “That man landed a busted tank on the beach at D-Day and drove it clean across Europe.” According to the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Museum (REME), Miles joined the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army was essentially the British equivalent to the U.S. Army Reserve.

Ken Miles, a World War II veteran and racing driver, in the driver's seat of a Ford GT40.
Ken Miles in a Ford GT40 | ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

After joining up in 1939, Miles served in an anti-aircraft unit. However, he also spent time as a driving instructor. Apropos for the racing driver. After his service with the anti-aircraft unit, he became one of the founding members of the REME. According to the Engineering outfit, Miles served at their training establishment. “He embarked from the UK on 15 June 1944 landing in Normandy and serving in North-West Europe, as evidenced by the 21st Army Group stamp on his [tracer] card,” the REME said of his service.

Following 21st Army Group service, he served in the King’s Royal Hussars (KRH) LAD (Light Aid Detachment). The LAD is the REME support detachment that keeps the KRH’s tanks and other vehicles fighting. From teaching soldiers how to drive to wrenching on fighting vehicles, Ken Miles’s military service is an evident precursor to his time working with Carroll Shelby and the FoMoCo.