Willow Run

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Whatever its flaws, the clunky, clumsy B-24 Liberator was the only bomber capable of crossing the vast distances between the Pacific Islands, especially after the ingenuity of Charles Lindbergh showed the aviators how to stretch their fuel.  The more the US planned to push the Japanese forces back from those many islands, the more they required the production of this aircraft.  It wasn’t long before assembly plants sprung up in San Diego, Dallas, Fort Worth and Tulsa.  But none would symbolize the rise of Liberator construction as the facility built near Detroit know as Willow Run.

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Managed by the Ford Motor Co., the factory itself was in some respects a greater engineering feat than the planes it produced.  It was the largest plant in the world, spread across 3.5 million square feet, with 28,855 windows and 152,000 fluorescent lights.  The assembly line traveled so far that, when it reached the edge of the county, designers built a 50-foot-diameter lazy-Susan to rotate the line and avoid paying extra taxes.

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As US forces drove into the Pacific, the pace of production at Willow Run doubled, then doubled again.  In January 1943, the factory produced 31 B-24s.  In February it rose to 75; March it went up to 104 and continued to grow.  To keep this process going, Ford hired massive numbers.  When there weren’t enough local men, he spread out.  They offered moving incentives to men as far away as California and the Deep South, building dormitories and a shopping mall.

Henry Ford quote.

Henry Ford quote.

Pilots and crews would go to the factory, wait for a plane to come off the line and then board her and fly the 18-ton aircraft into war.  No other multi-engine plane had ever been manufactured in such numbers, nor have any since then.  Although the production of the Liberator ended with the war, more than 18,000 models were built

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A 1945 advertisement for Ford boasted of Willow Run: “Raw material went in one end, planes out the other.”

Information is from the book, “Vanished” by Wil S. Hylton and The Willow Run documentary site found HERE!

Another site dedicated to saving the historical plant and the legend of Ford, Kaiser and Fraser is HERE!!

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 260ee918219e21f4aa408a68ed019c81

Carson Holmquist (25) – Polk, WI; USMC, Afghanistan, Sgt, 3rd Battalion/14th Marine Regiment

Thomas J. Sullivan (40) – Springfield, MA; USMC, Iraq, gunnery Sgt. Purple Heart, Mike Battery/3rd Battalion/14th Marines

Skip “Squire” Wells (21) – Marietta, GA; USMC, 3rd Battalion/14th Marine Regiment, Lance Corporal

David Wyatt 35) – Burke, NC; USMC, Afghanistan & Iraq, 3rd Battalion/14th Marine Regiment Staff Sgt.

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Randall Scott Smith (26) – Paulding, OH; US Navy, Logistics specialist, Petty Officer 2nd Class

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 Veterans –

I have been informed by Sheri de Grom that veterans who applied for disabilities using the electronic system, especially the promised 100% disability payment for any vet who served in Vietnam and now has diabetes or kidney disease, there are problems.  It’s expected to to take a minimum of 3 years to adjudicate each of those claims and the veteran MUST add new information to his/her claim every 6 months to keep the electronic claim active.

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Current News – 

Japanese firm apologizes to U.S. POWs

http://news.yahoo.com/70-years-wwii-japanese-firm-apologize-us-vets-144146733.html

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 20, 2015, in Current News, Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 90 Comments.

  1. Thank you for liking my Agent Peggy Carter quote on my blog maewpower.wordpress.com. Please spread the word about my blog MAE if you like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great piece. pacificparatrooper is one of my favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. About that disability applications for the vets who have diabetes – very sad.

    Like

  4. Military Intelligence is an obvious oxymoron and “How Detroit saved the world” is a bit over the top but doesn’t deflect from another interesting post gp, I’d have loved to have seen more illustrations taken inside this incredible building when it was going at full tilt.

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  5. A great video, and your timing was perfect. I just finished reading A.J. Baime’s “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an extraordinary facility Willow run, so much area and the turnout so incredible, raw material one end and a plane at the other end with pilots and crew boarding.
    That has to be the greatest feat ever achieved in production during the war years.
    Fantastic reading gp.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. And there history was made, as good a reason to preserve it as any im my book. Great aircraft too 🙂 Thanks!

    Like

  8. Is there any truth to the video that says the Ford Motor Company also made German tanks during WWII? Seems they worked for both sides if that is true.

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    • Before we entered the war, the automobile companies would also have factories in Europe. As Hitler became more aggressive, they pulled out. The war was in progress for Germany and Japan years before the US entered. It sounds confusing to us Americans because of that. We tend to think of WWII starting at Pearl Harbor. [we also sold Japan plane parts before FDR decided on blockading Japan to get us into the war]

      Like

  9. I work at was once the Consolidated Aircraft plant who build the B24’s it’s interesting to walk around and find stuff attached to the buildings from that era. Lots of Bakelite. Even the construction. Last year they removed the train tracks that ran the full length of the building.

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    • It must have been heartbreaking to see it fall apart and be dismantled. That’s why they are trying to save Willow Run as a historic site. Thanks for reading, Baker, and I appreciate you contributing your experiences.

      Like

  10. i swear your posts are the best posts on WordPress. Your Blog is OUTSTANDING!!!!!

    Like

  11. In one of WWII Vet interviews a couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned Willow Run -I’m gad you elaborated on it with more detail! Great story.

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    • It was a very large part of the war effort in both machinery, team work, employment, materiel, and spirit. I hope the organization is successful in saving the place as a historic site.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What incredible footage. That factory belittles anything before or since. To build a beast such as the B24 in such little time goes to show how well organised it all was.

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  13. Well done Mr Kimura and well done Mitsubishi. This link is just wonderful and is well worth reading. I have never seen anything like it in my life before. Thank you so much for making it available, Mr Cox.

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    • My pleasure, John. That’s why I have these Intermission stories. I’m attempting to give an all-round view of the situation back in the war era. So much team work – no wonder people wish for those days again.

      Like

  14. An amazing enterprise. It looks as though women worked there too.

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    • Most definitely. They continued to try and hire men from around the country, but as more and more were drafted for war – in came the women – our back-up work force, so to speak, as it was unusual for women to do this type of work back then. Thank you for your continued interest, Hilary.

      Like

  15. Hey, just wanted to say thank you for the farewell salutes to our Sailor and Marines lost in Chattanooga.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. For a while, we lived not too far from the plant. I knew it more as a GM facility since I worked for GM for a number of years and continued contracting with them until 2004.

    Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, what a great story and loved the fact the quote about raw material on one end and planes coming out the other end. Very interesting!

    Like

  18. I see you have farewell salutes to the marines and sailor who recently lost their lives in Chattanooga. Nice touch. What a sad tragedy.

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    • It breaks my heart when each one falls. To have them cut down on our own soil is devastating. Another coward looking for 15 minutes of fame shows up and destroys 5 more families.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve never heard of Willow Run. What a production pace–107 planes!

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  20. I just finished reading Unbroken. Grim to say the least. But it impressed upon me how much we owe to that generation. They were caught in the web of history and they paid with their lives. As I’m sure you know, the B-24 featured in that book.

    Like

  21. Followed the link–thanks. Hemmings Motor News has considerable information about the auto industry and WWII. One issue had a comprehensive list of contributions by auto manufacturers. There were more manufacturers then–than there are now.

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    • Nowadays it seems the companies buy each other up and become ultra-super corporations. I’m glad the link worked for you and you received the info you were looking for. Thanks for letting me know, Adam.

      Like

  22. What a great story and a great tribute to the industrial might that fueled our victory.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. My best friend fellow teacher Dick Rhodes long ago deceased was a waist gunner in a B24. He was in the Ploesti Raid. He got into the army because of young age well developed beard – he was just 16 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to look it up – didn’t know why I knew nothing about it. The North Africa/Romania area is out of my spectrum, but the article on Eyewitness to History was very interesting. Thank you for bringing it to my attention and give your friend my thanks!!

      Like

  24. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    About one of my favourite planes on my favourite blog…

    Liked by 1 person

  25. another great post. I would like a copy of that quote by henry Ford about a plane takes off into the wind.

    Like

  26. What an amazing production line.

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  27. Great tribute to the B-24. A real workhorse.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Pierre Lagacé

    I will read your post once more as I always do, and click on the links.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I wondered if the Willow Run complex was still there? …In use, or crumbling away?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are two links below the video – follow the second one. They are trying to save the place as a historical site.
      Thanks for reading and your interest, Adam.

      Like

  30. Pierre Lagacé

    It reminded me of this scene…

    Always thought it was another bomb dropped from another B-24.

    Read the explanation and the follow-up story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I happen to be reading the book “Vanished” about the Big Stoop crews that disappeared. Seeing that wing break off is described in the book as the recovery teams dive and record the planes buried in the coral and scattered in channels around the Palau isles.
      I did not see an explanation and follow up story…. but thank you for this film!!

      Like

  31. Pierre Lagacé

    One of my favorite plane.
    Thanks for this tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

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