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Ford's Willow Run Factory

The Ford Willow Run Factory

   The Liberators flown by the crew while in training at Pueblo, and in combat in Italy, were manufactured at the Ford Willow Run plant in Michigan.
   The War Department asked Ford to put it's production know-how to the task of producing planes at an unprecedented rate - essentially the need was to build bombers faster than the enemy could shoot them down.
   The plant Ford built at Willow Run had an assembly line that was a mile long. At the peak of it's production, the assembly line was producing a Liberator an hour. Willow Run had its own airfield. It employed 30,000 workers.
   The first completed B-24 came off the assembly line at Willow Run on May 15, 1942. On June 28th, 1945 production Run ceased - 8,685 planes had been manufactured.

                                AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD AT WEILLOW RUN
"I seldom got more than a few miles, usually on foot, away from our home on Strawberry lake. It was 1944 and no one travelled much due to the war. My brother Bob worked at Willow Run, just a name to me. I knew that they built the B-24 Liberator there. One day, I think a Sunday, my Brother took me to Willow Run. The workers were at home. Now that I am 69 years old I realize, in retrospect, the impact that magic place had on me. My brother said that it was the biggest factory in the world under one roof at that time. We started at the beginning of the assembly line; mountains of strange objects. Nuts, bolts, wheels, struts, wing spars, rib sections, things I had never seen before, tail sections, fuselage sections, wings. It seemed we would never get to the end but we did and there sat a finished B-24. The climax! I can still feel the awe of the workers who built such a marvel and the image in my mind of the heroes that would take that huge plane into harms way. I was embarrassed when I cried then from sheer emotion. "Big boys don't cry." I'm crying now as I write but there is no embarrassment. I Think that day might just have been the day that set me on a quest to become a fighter for my country. My heroes have never been movie stars. My heroes have always been, from 8 years old onward , the men like those who manned that B-24; the knights, the soldiers who made America the strongest nation in the world!"
6/5/2005 - T/Sgt. Gary R. Downing U.S.A.F. Retired.

Assembly line at Willow Run

Nose sections. Tail sections (above) await installation

Installing an engine

Lathe operator

Drill press operators

Riveting a wing section
For everything you ever wanted to know about the Willow Run factory project, W.B. Kidder's excellent book, Willow Run - Colosses of American Industry can be obtained through a phone number on the Links page.