tv History of Willow Run Bomber Plant CSPAN November 17, 2013 2:15pm-2:31pm EST
tracked. and so i also write mystery books and put the white house in one. my google searches, if the fbi chose to look, would be very incriminating. i'm looking at different date rape drugs, things like that for my mysteries. and so people may sitting there with their computer thenk they are engaged in some secret activity, not knowing it's as if there were a big eyeball on the other end keeping track of things you do. >> monday on the communicators on c-span2. all weekend long, american history tv is featuring ann arbor michigan where gerald forward's presidential library is located. he attended and played football for the university of michigan. posted by our comcast table partners we visited many sites exploring rich history.
learn more on american history tv. >> this is the story of willow run. the story that now can be told in full. [ bell ringing ] >> we are presently in what's known as hangar one at willow run airport. we are in bay eight. if you look out at a 45-degree angle from here we see the two doors where the bombers would come off the assembly line after they were built. there are a lot of stories that lead up to the building of the factory. with the war in europe turning hot when the blitzkrieg took place in the low countries, the
u.s. was totally unprepared. roosevelt went to congress and said the u.s. must build 50,000 airplanes to protect itself. then in the fall of 1940, the battle of britain took place and the bombers were devastating england. it came out that bombers would be the way that you would have to fight world war ii. all the auto companies were given projects to build engines and airplane parts. ford motor company was given the b-24 bomber which was a problematic airplane. it was the newest plane we had. it was still in development stages. they wanted to mass produce the airplane. so ford said, i'm just going to build parts. i will build complete airplanes. that was henry ford speaking for his company. in january of 1941 his chief production guy, charles sorenson went to san diego, california, to watch how consolidated was building the b-24 bomber.
what he saw for a production guy was just out of this world. they were building them one at a time by hand. every airplane. an individual handcrafted masterpiece. he said, you will never build a lot of airplanes the way. ford can't help you. ford builds everything the same and you guys build it different. he went back to the coronado in san diego. he stayed up all night. in the back of 42 place mats he drew the willow run bomber plant, where we are today. he went back the next morning. he told them they could build one per hour on an automotive style assembly line. the u.s. was desperate that without even asking how you could do that they said start the project. they allocated $200 million to build the factory. the largest allocation in the history of the u.s. government at the time. they broke ground on the plant
in april of 1941. they broke ground on the airport at the same time. by november of '41 the factory was producing parts. >> this 80-acre plot was built in record time. in real aty it was made in two parts under one roof. a manufacturing plant and assembly plant. this was the largest single factory under one roof ever produced in the world when this plant was designed. it was originally designed to have 60,000 employees. they never got above 42,000 because of the logistics of living here and getting people in the plant. when they were in peak production there was only 17,000 employees in this factory. between january and june of 1944, 35% of the four engine bombers built in the united states were delivered here at willow run. that was one of 11 factories building the b-21 bomber.
>> of course this was something new in assembly. not just another relatively simple automobile with only 15,000 or so parts to be made and assembled. each of the machines is made of 1,225,000 parts. >> what they did was took what had been done as individual pieces and they took the engineering drawings and designed it to hold within 2/10,000 of an inch. then a massive press would knock out thousands of pieces that would then go to the assembly line and unskilled assembly worker s with a little bit of training could assembly airplanes. all the pieces were precise. you could interchange parts and it would fit because they fit them to blueprints like cars. the rest of the aircraft industry still used hand fabrication to complete
airplanes. >> at ford's willow run near detroit, manpower shortage had become a problem. from the overworked trains and the need for workers had risen sharply. >> there was a shortage of manpower so the women came into the workforce and even by may of '42 before production started, women made up about 20% of the workforce here at willow run. the women didn't get drafted and the women didn't volunteer to go into the service like the men did. they tended to come in here and stay. so as the employees turned over it was on the male side and the females stayed in here. by the end of the war 40% of the production workers in the factory were women. >> not peeping toms, but riveters. learning how and where to put the 700,000 rivets that go into a single liberator bomber. >> there was a girl named rose monroe out of kentucky. moved up here to take the job at the factory.
there was a promotion out in hollywood about the women in the defense industry. they picked this girl because her name was rosy it tacked onto rosy the riveter. she was the prototype for the female production worker during world war ii. the willow run bomber plant is a project the yankee air museum is involved in. we want to save a part of the plant and make it a display of what happened in world war ii, how the auto industry stepped forward in a time of need to really save the world. >> the willow run plant is in the process now of being demolished. you can see the two big hangar doors behind me. those represent the end of of the plant. the end of the assembly line where 8700 b-24s rolled out. we intend to restore a piece of the building, about 175,000
square feet. moch the yankee air museum into it and show people what the history of this was about in the 1940s. something for us to remember and save for our kids and grand kids to see. when ford motor company was finished with bomber production in 1945, they cleared the plant out and in 1947 it was purchased by the kaiser frasor company. they used the plant both for their automobiles. roughly 800,000 automobiles here. kaiser frasers, henry gray. as i said 800,000 automobiles were built. most people know of the b-24s built here, very few know we had c-19 flying boxcars built here. roughly 200 in the early 1950s. after kaiser fraser was done
with the automobiles and their aircraft production, general motors bought the plant. they lost one of their transmission facilities to a fire and they saw this plant. it was empty at the time they purchased it. ever since then until 2010 when it became vacant after the general motors bankruptcy. right now if you look inside the facility there is not much in there. there is a lot of the manufacturing equipment left from general motors on the floor that's slowly being cleared out. once it is cleared out and the power is restored to it again, you'll be able to see it looks like just it did in 1942. this end of the building was never restored. the other end of the bomber plant was restored a number of years ago and modernized by general motors. this end hasn't. the original plant was 300,000
square feet. it's now 5 million square feet with the general motors additions. we intend to save 175,000 square feet. so it really is an insignificant piece of the entire plant. but it represents the most significant part of it because it's where the bombers rolled out. we intend to move the yankee air museum into it some day. we can get all of the airplanes into it except our b-52. we use it for a hangar for the other airplanes. the airplanes we have in this hangar. initially we are looking at raising $8 million. that money is needed to bring the building back up to code. essentially they make it a functional building. by the time they are done we'll have put $15 million, possibly more into the building. of the $8 million we have to raise up front we have $2.5 million left. >> this ship is strong.
the strength built in by skilled brains and hands. with all the experience that ford has gained over the years of mass production. >> detroit had some rough times over the last ten years or so. especially in the last couple of years. but this is something that detroiters and people from southeastern michigan and northern ohio, all the people that supported the plant worked in it and the companies that supported the production here. this is something we can look back at and smile about. we did something in detroit that was not done anywhere else in the world. it literally saved the world from the axis powers. throughout the weekend american history tv is featuring ann arbor michigan. our local content vehicles traveled there to learn about the rich history. learn more about ann arbor and c-span's local content vehicles at c-span.org/local content.
you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. every weekend since 1998, book tv has brought the top nonfiction authors, including hannah rosa. the identities are tied up to work which we may find disturbing and unnatural but it is in fact true. when i look at someone like may diagno er, who was chosen to be ceo of yahoo! and then asked how many maternity leave do you want to take? basically none. the way such women exist, it's not the way -- i took plenty of maternity leave but i feel like that is a growing number -- that is a kind of woman that there can be space for. the fact there are some stay at
home dads that are happy and do not all entirely live in portland, oregon. that's okay today. >> we're the only national television network devoted exclusively to nonfiction books. throughout the fall we're marking 15 years of booktv on c-span2. i started with teddy roosevelt. i knew so much had been written that i needed another story. i got into taft knowing they had been friends and had broken apart in 1912. when i figured out the difference in the leadership it was teddy's public leadership. taft's failure as a public leader. i started reading about the progressive era and public and magazine an the press. these guys stood at the center of it. they will say these people were the vanguard of the progressive movement. i started reading about them. i didn't know the others and i didn't know mcclure. he came into my life.
>> roosevelt, taft and the muck rakers sunday night with doris kearns goodwin at 8:00 on c-span's q and a. next on american history tv sheri caplan, author of petticoats and pinstripes. she talks about how women played an important role if the world of finance. she argues that world war one was the watershed moment for women who entered the financial world. this 30-minute event took place at the museum of american finance in new york city. good afternoon. welcome. hi. i'm president of the museum of american finance, the only finance museum in the nation. our core mission is to teaching about our nation's finance and financial history and we're a
smithsonian affiliate. welcome back, friends of the museum and our friends from c-span who are taping today. today we have sheri caplan, author of petticoats and pinstripes. portraits of women in wall street history. while this is her first book, she is no stranger to writing. you can find her a contributor to forbes and bloomberg law and other media outlets. during her research, she used some of the resources here including a finding in our collection for the image on the cover. she has a wall street background. she was a vice president and assistant general counsel at gold man sacks and also on securities arbitration roster of finra, financial industry regulatory authority. her undergraduate work was at yale, her jd at the university of virginia.
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