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Paul Christ

WWII Ford Willow Run B-24 manufacturing plant

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As a tribute to veterans, I've posted the link below which will take you to an interesting slideshow. Featured in the show are 286 photos of the Ford-owned Willow Run B-24 Liberator manufacturing plant. The slideshow will automatically advance through the photos, or you can use the on-screen controls.

http://public.fotki.com/Kos/members_photo_galle/wiilow_run_bomber/?cmd=fs_slideshow

The Willow Run plant had several connections to the automotive industry, as revealed in this brief history from Wikipedia;

<span style="font-style: italic">The Willow Run manufacturing plant, located between Ypsilanti and Belleville, Michigan, was constructed during World War II by Ford Motor Company for the mass production of the B-24 Liberator military aircraft.

The site of the plant was a farm owned by Henry Ford. He had used the farm to provide employment for youths during the summer. Ford Motor Company, like virtually all of the United States' industrial companies, directed its manufacturing output during World War II for Allied war production. The firm developed the Willow Run site to include an airfield and aircraft assembly facility. The plant held the distinction at the time of being the world's largest enclosed "room." At its peak, in August 1944, Willow Run produced 428 B-24 aircraft, or almost 14 for each calendar day.

An interesting feature of the Willow Run plant was a large turntable two-thirds of the way along the assembly line where the B-24s would make a 90° turn before continuing to final assembly. This arrangement was to avoid having the factory building cross a county line and so be taxed by two counties. The neighboring county's taxes were higher

After war production ended, the plant was used by a partnership of Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer. They produced both Kaiser and Frazer models until 1953, when the company merged with Willys-Overland and the plant was sold to General Motors. The "Henry J" was one of the cars he produced in later years. It was also sold through Sears-Roebuck as an "Allstate". B-24s were not the only planes produced at Willow Run. From 1952 to 1953, the facility was used by Kaiser to assemble Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" cargo planes.

Sociologist and professor Lowell Juilliard Carr of the University of Michigan studied the sociological conditions arising from the wartime increase in the worker population in his landmark book on Willow Run in 1952.

On the other side of the airport from the assembly plant were a group of World War II hangars, which were sold to the University of Michigan in 1946. The university operated Willow Run Laboratories (WRL) from 1946 to 1972. WRL produced many innovations, including first ruby laser and operation of the ruby maser. In 1972, demonstrations by Vietnam war activists forced the university to detach WRL from it.

The airfield continues to operate as the Willow Run Airport. After the war, ownership of the assembly plant passed to Kaiser Motors and then to Ford rival General Motors, which still owns and operates part of the facility as Willow Run Transmission. The airfield is primarily used for cargo flights. The Yankee Air Museum is also located on the airport grounds. On October 9, 2004, a fire destroyed the museum's main hangar, H-2041.

The plant has given its name to a community on the east side of Ypsilanti, defined roughly by the boundaries of the Willow Run Community Schools district.</span>

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My wife's uncle (Cecil Claflin) flew a B24 Liberator and was shot down over Italy. There is a photo of his plane from the lead plane where one of his engines was blown off and right before it went down. He became a P.O.W. and had to wait until the war was over to come home. His brother (my wife's dad, Vince Claflin) was a flight engineer for the Army Air Corp and flew B25s, and P38s. Luckily, he did not have to go into battle, but was in one of the aircraft involved in hunting down the Bismarck. He was also in one of the planes that flew over the Dorchester when it was sunk. What brave young men and women they were to serve in the ways that they did. The stories of these fierce flying fighters are wild and they had a real hard time believing that those planes could fly because they rattled so much.

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Thanks for posting the slide show, I enjoyed seeing those big planes. I love the can-do spirit they had in those days. Definitely the greatest generation.

In the 1980s I had a small private plane. There were some WW2 veterans at my local airport. I always enjoyed talking with these guys, they were the best. One of them had flown fighters in Europe, mostly strafing missions. He said in training they'd teach you never to exceed a certain: speed, supercharger boost, manifold pressure, G force etc. Which they would generally follow. Except when an enemy fighter got on your tail, then he said, everything was exceeded. grin.gif

Those planes were very tough and so were the guys who flew them.

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Wow, what a treasure trove of WWII photos. Note those beautiful preway Fords in some of the pix. Thank you for posting those great pictures.

Rog

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