1942 : Willow Run Bomber Plant Produces First B-24 Bomber

October 1, 2018 all-day

willow run bomber plant

They said it couldn’t be done. Doubters chided Henry Ford for declaring that his Willow Run Bomber Plant could turn out a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber every hour. However, by early 1944 he was delivering as promised.

In December 1940, the federal government asked the Ford Motor Company to build 1,200 B-24 bombers. Ford’s chief engineer, Charles Sorensen, quickly devised a then-untried scheme of mass-producing planes. The government agreed to the plan, and in April 1941, construction began on what would become the world’s largest assembly plant.  On October 1, 1942, the first B-24 bomber rolled off the assembly line at the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Ypsilanti.   The plant would eventually produced 8,600 planes.

By mid-1944, bombers came off Willow Run’s mile-long assembly line at the rate of one an hour.

Michigan’s other auto companies also produced war materiel. By the end of World War II, Chrysler’s Warren Tank Plant made 25,000 tanks, while in Kingsford, the Ford Motor Company manufactured more than 4,000 gliders. Known as the “Arsenal of Democracy,” Michigan—with only 4 percent of the nation’s population—led all other states in the production of war materiel.

Source : October 1, 1942 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

For another article including a picture of the first B24 Liberator bomber rolled off the assembly line on Oct. 1, 1942, see Jenny Nolan, “Willow Run and the Arsenal of Democracy”, Detroit News, January 28, 1997. The first plane completed was christened “The Spirit of Ypsilanti.” Its $300,000 cost was paid for with a fund-raising drive by the townspeople of Ypsilanti, who bought war bonds and stamps. Contributors were issued buttons bearing the bomber’s Winged V insignia, designed by Jean Ohlinger, a 17-year-old junior at Ypsilanti High School.

Samantha L. Quigley, Ford’s Willow Run Factory, Welfare History Notebook.

Tim Trainor, “How Ford’s Willow Run Assembly Plant Helped Win World War II“, Assembly Magazine, January 3, 2019.

A Bomber an Hour

Willow Run Wikipedia entry

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