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.
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!"
T/Sgt. Gary R. Downing U.S.A.F. Retired.