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Avenging Angels: 1943

Avenging Angels: 1943

February 1943. "Looking up an assembly line at Ford's big Willow Run plant in Michigan, where B-24E (Liberator) bombers are being made in great numbers. The Liberator is capable of operation at high altitudes and over great ranges on precision bombing missions. It has proved itself an excellent performer in the Pacific, Northern Africa, Europe and the Aleutians." 4x5 acetate negative by Howard Hollem for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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There were

18,482 B-24's made, the most of any combat aircraft ever made in the U.S.

Response to girl power

The unfinished area of the nose you are referring to is just above the navigator's position and is the navigator's observation dome, AKA "astrodome". It was used to enable navigators to obtain fixes on stars when flying at night to establish the latitude over which they were flying.

Construction sequence

It looks like the planes in the background, where they are in two rows rather than one, might be the same model but without the outboard wing sections attached. If so, they maybe assembled the fuselage and main wing sections where they could fit two rows into the assembly space and then moved them forward into a single row and added the wing extensions.

How'd They Do That

How the US produced so much for that war always amazes me.

Looking at this picture makes me wonder how did the assembly process work here? Did each plane get moved up to the next work station after a certain number of assemblies were completed? Coordinating the timing of all that must have been a nightmare.

There was even a song about them.

Broadway, of course.


"More bombers to attack with,
More bombers 'til the skies are black with ..."

Walter? Oh, sorry pal.

I know the Willow Run plant employed thousands, but I can't help myself. Every time I see a picture of the Willow Run plant in this era, I look for my grandfather. He worked there throughout the war and after, when Kaiser-Frazer took over the plant. I'm not even sure I would recognize the man I first knew twenty-plus years later, but I still look.

Barely a year after Pearl Harbor

this incredible mobilization of American industrial might was fully underway.

Aunt Betty's 1943 Willow Run ID Card

Aunt Betty's Willow Run ID card was found among her belongings after her passing in 2001. Postwar, she worked for the Detroit Times, then NY Times, then Northwest Airlines. A lifelong career girl, she was well-educated, well-read, well-traveled, and interested in everything except marriage.

Designed in One Night

In the book, "My Forty Years with Ford," Charles Sorensen, Ford's Chief Engineer discussed how this plant came about. During a visit to Consolidated Aircraft's plant in San Diego, it was proposed that Ford gear up to manufacture subassemblies that would be shipped to Consolidated. Sorenson declared they were not interested in such work but were prepared to manufacture the entire plane. Using the principles he had developed designing automobile plants all over the world, Sorensen stayed up all night in his hotel room sketching out the layout that would become the Willow Run plant which was up in running within 18 months.

Next steps

How did the planes move from those positions? Were the elevated racks disassembled and reassembled each time or is there some kind of overhead crane system? Neat photo.

Deceased "Liberator"

There is a young man (James S. King) buried next to my grandfather who was a navigator on a B-24 called "Fickle Finger of Fate". He was killed in a bombing mission over Vienna, Austria on Oct 13, 1944. He was 23 years old. I try to decorate his grave every Memorial Day.

Girl power

Rosie peeking up from a hole (someone who knows the correct name for that, please correct me) near the nose of the first plane is pretty cool. Rosie II, wearing fancy shoes with her overalls, inspecting something just to Rosie I's left. We can do it!

This is What Won the War

Obviously, there were many, many factors that went into the Allied victory in WWII, but I think most historians agree that it was America's vast industrial capabilities, which allowed us to churn out bombers, fighters, tanks, ships, Jeeps, etc., by the tens of thousands that ultimately won the war.

Rosie the Riveter

Looks like a Rosie the Riveter working on the platform on the right on the plane in the foreground. Her shoes don't seem appropriate for an assembly line, but shoes were probably in short supply in 1943.

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