Now that the industry knows it cannot make cars any longer, it is freely granting that its facilities can be changed over to make the materials of modern warfare.” What incensed Thomas was the fact that instead of a gradual retooling which would have minimized workforce disruption, now 250,000 autoworkers in the Detroit area would be laid off while assembly lines were retooled. Soon a sketch was on paper for a vehicle that could launch from a ship, part the waves on propeller power, then hit the ground and drive at speeds of 50 mph, with three axles and six wheels (all-wheel drive). Tanks were rolling out of GM’s Cadillac factory, where some of the nation’s most luxurious cars were being built just a few years earlier. There were amphibious trucks, tanks, four-wheel-drive troop transporters, flame-throwing armored cars, jeeps, fighter planes, bombers… No entity did more to produce that machinery than the American automobile industry, which at the time of World War II, had a larger economy than almost every foreign nation on earth. The National Defense Strategy provides a clear road map for the Department of Defense to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia. The Washington Post called Willow Run “the greatest single manufacturing plant the world had ever seen,” while The Wall Street Journal called it “the production miracle of the war.”. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! READ MORE: The Surprising Role Mexico Played in World War II. A good example of the problem was Willow Run, located twenty miles from Detroit at Ypsilanti, Mich. READ MORE: Wartime Propaganda Helped Recruit the 'Hidden Army' of Women to Defeat Hitler. “There was no sight in the war that so impressed me with the industrial might of America as the wreckage on the landing beaches,” he recalled in his memoirs. Powerful military and … Some car dealerships simply closed shop. America's largest industry shifted from making cars to bombers, tanks and more—at unparalleled speed. Production line at the Ford Willow Run bomber plant. Using the resources of the federal government and the U.S. private sector, Operation Warp Speed will accelerate the testing, supply, development, and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to counter COVID-19 by January 2021. A stamp on a South Bend 9A lathe, manufactured in 1942, states: “This machine conforms to orders of the War Production Board.” The lathe was built because it could be used to shape materials needed for warfare. No other corporation, anywhere on earth, at any time in history, ever did more to win a war. Military production during World War II was the arms, ammunition, personnel and financing which were produced or mobilized by the belligerents of the war from the occupation of Austria in early 1938 to the surrender and occupation of Japan in late 1945. Prior to World War II, factories in the United States were turning out automobiles, large and small appliances, and childrens' toys. “The first half of 1941 is crucial,” Knudsen told a gathering of the most powerful Motor City executives. Here’s a look back at how Detroit became the biggest war boomtown of them all. In 1940, William Knudsen telephoned K.T. It had 60,000 workers that used private transportation to get to work. The story goes back to 1942, when GM engineers got together with a marine architect and some Army officers to solve a critical problem. The National Defense Strategy acknowledges an increasingly complex global security environment, characterized by overt challenges to the free and open international order. As this vehicle took on the name jeep (the origin of the moniker is highly debated), it also took on a life of its own, and today it has been called the grandfather of all SUVs. Civilian automobile manufacturing was curtailed during the war as the emphasis shifted to war production. The famed WWII war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote of the jeep (just before he was killed in 1945, next to the one he had been riding in), “Good Lord, I don’t think we could continue the war without the jeep. “I’ve never seen one of these things.” Soon after, Chrysler broke ground on what would come to be known as the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, situated in what is now the suburb of Warren. The WPB replaced the Supply Priorities and Allocation Board and the Office of Production Management. The atomic bomb, code-named 'Little Boy,' as it is hoisted into the bomb bay of the Enola Gay. To illustrate the magnitude of the transition to wartime production, there were about 3 million automobiles manufactured in the U.S. in 1941. It does everything. While the vehicle’s technical name was DUKW (in GM’s code, D signified model year 1942; U meant amphibious; K stood for front-drive; W for two-axle rear drive), the thing came to be known as the Duck. Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, would never forget the moment his boots hit the sand during Operation Overlord—the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/WWII/. Besides turning industries around to wartime production, U.S. industries also supplied much of the military equipment needed by the Allies, including the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. A worker inspects shell cases at the converted plant of GM's now-defunct Fisher division, known for building auto bodies. “To laymen, the thing [the Manhattan Project] sounded almost incredibly fantastic,” according to Chrysler’s 1947 official history of its bomb work, entitled Secret. Even before the factory had been completed, the first Chrysler M3 tank rolled off the assembly line. Instead, automakers built guns, trucks, tanks and aircraft engines. DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author, radio host, and president of the... © 2020 Defense Media Network. FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. Though the move itself was not unexpected, the short timetable was. Workers at a Chrysler plant assemble tanks. GM built over 21,000 of them, at a cost to the government of $10,800 each, according to Michael W.R. Davis’s Detroit’s Wartime Industry: Arsenal of Democracy. So many, in fact, that when the Democratic National Committee compiled a list of the five factors contributing to the Democrats’ by-election loss in 1942, Henderson’s name was on it. GALLERY: The Pictures that Defined World War II. The War Production Board was an agency of the United States government that supervised war production during World War II. The decision by the United States to join World War II required mass production of goods and increased services to support the war effort. Ford Motor Company produced B-24 Liberator bombers. 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At 31 feet long, the Duck could carry a payload of well over 5,000 pounds. Chrysler engineers had set up offices for something called Project X-100, and FBI agents were patrolling the premises, as the work was so top secret, none of the engineers working on the project had any knowledge of what it was all about. The act is similar to the War Production Board in that it allows the president to allocate materials for national security. All Rights Reserved. Three companies built prototypes: Willys-Overland, Ford and Bantam. At the time of Pearl Harbor, General Motors had dwarfed every other corporation in the world—by far. The Office of Price Administration ordered the rationing of tires in January 1942 after the fall of the Dutch East Indies. In 1941 civilian automobile production totaled about 3.6 million vehicles. Pedestrians moving past 1525 Woodward Avenue in Detroit in 1943 might have noticed something odd about the place—an inordinate amount of security surrounding the first floor of an abandoned department store. It looked like a junk yard of dead machinery—yet also, proof that the war was being won by the soldiers of the American workforce, on assembly lines thousands of miles away.