By on May 30, 2011

Willys MA, Willys’ entrant in the jeep competition

General Motors was the largest supplier of war materiel to the American armed forces. Ford famously built B-24 Liberators that rolled off the Willow Run assembly line at a rate of one per hour. Chrysler alone built as many tanks as all the German tank manufacturers combined. With those high profile contributions to the war effort made by the big three automakers, it’s easy to forget that the independent automakers (and automotive suppliers as well) also switched over completely to military production.

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By on May 29, 2011

Tank testing at General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds

To commemorate Memorial Day here in the US, we’re taking a look at how the American auto industry was mobilized into war production for World War Two. Because that mobilization was so extensive, the conversion to military production so complete, a blog post by it’s very nature cannot really do the subject justice. This is only the most cursory review of the topic, which truly deserves a book length treatment. As a matter of fact, historian Arthur Herman is currently working on a book about the “arsenal of democracy”, American industry during the war.

Herman will have a lot of material to work with.Today we’ll be looking at the role of the Big Three automakers in war production, starting with General Motors. (Read More…)

By on May 29, 2011

Chrysler A57 Multibank 30 cylinder Sherman tank engine made from five inline sixes

Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember those who gave their lives in military service to the United States. Today, even as we are fighting two wars and have men and women in harms way in yet other places, though, a relatively small fraction of Americans serve in the military. Few civilians, except military families, understand the sacrifices necessary to protect our country. There was a time, though, when the military conflict was genuinely existential and just about every able bodied man was drafted or enlisted, while virtually the entire civilian population was directly involved in the war effort, either through their jobs in military production, or more personally, because just about everything was rationed giving the military a higher priority for things like vehicles, tires, fuel and food. With the dawn of total war, the plants and proving grounds of Detroit became a new kind of battlefield, in which the tools of economic prosperity were turned into munitions and machines that would change the course of history.

(Read More…)

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