The U.S. /
American Auto Industry in World War Two / WWII
New page added - Ford M4A3 Sherman Tank Photos added 8-11-2016.
Link is on the main Ford page.
New page added
-The complete listing
of all Army-Navy "E" Award Winners page added 7-28-2016.
New page added - Grand Blanc built M4A2 Sherman Tank images added
New page added -
U.S. Automobile Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners page added
New page added - Studebaker Built R-1820 Aircraft Engines on the B-17
"Yankee Lady" added 6-12-2016.
New page added - Detroit Transmission Torqmatic Model 900-T added 3-18-2016.
New page added - Fisher Body Detroit Die and Machine Plant added 2-15-2016.
New page added - Detroit Diesel "The Power to Win" added 1-3-2016.
New page added - Fisher Body Memphis Plant added 10-5-2015.
New Page added - "Hyatt Bearings Division of GM added October 2,
See the "Updates and
Additions" page for other new information as it is added.
Nothing more can attest to the contribution
of the US Automobile Industry in its effort to help win World War Two
than this Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal built M4A3 Sherman Tank combat veteran that is on display in downtown
Bastogne, Belgium. It was knocked out of combat during the one of the
most famous battles of World War Two, the Battle of the
Bulge, in December of 1944. It sits at the intersection of several
roads in Bastogne that made the town an important military objective
during the battle. Author's photo added 4-6-2015. More
The goal of this website
is to bring together in one location what the US Automobile industry
produced during the Second World War, as far as what the products were,
which company made them, the numbers produced and the manufacturing
locations. While there are many good history sources of
information on most of the American automobile manufacturers detailed on
this website, because there was no production of automobiles during
WWII, scant space is given to what the US auto industry did in WWII.
Of interest to automobile historians are the cars that were produced
during peace time, not the military products of WWII that interfered
with car production. However, my orientation is that of a WWII
military historian who worked in the US auto industry during my working
career, and whose interest is not cars so much but what the industry did
during the war. There are also several very good books written on
the American automobile industry of WWII, but they do not give the
complete depth on a each company that this website will do.
As noted, there are several good books on the American Automobile Industry
and what it did during World War Two. However, while the US auto
industry was centered in Detroit, MI and dominated by the Big Three;
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, there were nine other auto companies
and six of them were located outside of the Detroit area, five of them
outside of Michigan. World War Two histories of the US auto industry
while acknowledging them usually give them short shift. Where
possible, I have recognized all twelve auto companies and have provided as
much information on each as I have been able to find. Also, GM had
over 25 different divisions, most of them outside of Michigan, making
all sorts of war products which are normally overlooked. By using
period publications I will attempt to fully tell the General Motors
Story. Also, WWII histories on Ford in most cases focus on its
B-24 production at Willow Run and its River Rouge plants. However,
Ford had plants all over the US and the world that contributed which I
will document on this site.
This website will include
not only WWII production statistics as can be found for each of the
American car companies, but include period publications produced by the
automakers themselves, period advertising I have collected over the
years, and contemporary photos of weapons and other items built by the
automakers during the war. General Motors near the end of World War
Two had all of its car, truck and parts divisions produce a history on what each one did during the war. While I
have not been able to obtain all of the GM divisional histories, those
that I have will be included in this site. These GM WWII
divisional histories give insight that can not be found anywhere else.
Also, at the end the war Chrysler published seven books on its
participation in the war which were very comprehensive on what that
statistics will be presented they can be meaningless unless the reader
knows what they represent in a physical product. Therefore period
advertisements from the auto companies I have acquired over the years
will be included to assist the reader in seeing what was actually made.
Because there were no cars built during most of the Second World War in
the US, the car companies needed to keep their name recognition out in
front of the public for the sale after the war of all the cars that
would be needed. So the ads in a very patriotic manner showed what
they were making and producing for the war effort. Also many of
the items produced still exist today and can be seen at museums and
aviation and military collector events. Contemporary photos of
will also enhance the reader's understanding.
While there were still
some vestiges of the US Horse Cavalry left in the Army at the start of
WWII, it quickly disappeared and the Jeep replaced the horse as the
individual soldier's mount and the sundry types of trucks built replaced
the covered wagon and caisson for the transport of soldiers, supplies,
ammunition and artillery. The United States military during WWII
was the most mechanized of any of the combatants while horses were still
used in varying quantities by others. The Germans, who were highly
advanced in rocketry and jet aircraft, still relied extensively on
horses to move supplies. The strength of the American Automobile
industry made this unnecessary for the US Army. Wheeled and
tracked vehicles came off the assembly lines in abundance.
At the beginning of the Second World War for the United States in
December of 1941, there were only twelve automobile manufacturers
remaining of the hundreds that had started making cars in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. Of the twelve still left in the US at the start of the
war, three were heavy weights and controlled 90% of the market; General
Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and three were inconsequential, but did
produce a very small amount of cars; American Bantam, Crosley and
Graham-Paige. Actually Graham-Paige had stopped producing cars in
1940 but produced war goods and then morphed into Kaiser-Frazier after
the war. The
remaining six were of various sizes; Checker, Hudson, Nash-Kelvinator,
Packard, Studebaker, and Willys-Overland and fought for the remaining
10% of the market.
The U.S. auto industry
produced 20% of the total U.S. output of the material manufactured to fight World War II,
with the total value of goods produced by the U.S. automobile industry
in the war effort surpassing $29 billion. GM produced $12 billion of that or 41% the
industry output and 8% of the entire American war economy. Ford
came in second with $3.9 billion, and Chrysler was right behind with
$3.5 billion in war contracts. Willys-Overland had $7.34 million for the
nineteen wartime projects it had. While
the auto companies were the logical manufacturers of trucks, armored
cars, jeeps and tanks, the product line was extensive and many of the
items built were new to the industry. Both Ford and General Motors
both built entire warplanes for the conflict, and many aircraft
components were produced by the industry. An overview of what was
being produced in 1942 can be seen farther down this page.
Also included on this
website is limited information on the US truck manufacturers as they
made contributions to military vehicles during WWII. Most started
out as automobile manufacturers but then concentrated on trucks as the
competition in the auto industry intensified and then became dominated
by the Big Three.
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
a history site on the US auto industry in WWII with the most
sophisticated, advanced and complex aircraft the United States built
during the war? Because a good percentage of the components on
this aircraft were produced by the automakers. Dodge built the
engines, Frigidaire Division of GMC built the propellers, Hudson built
the rear fuselage assemblies, Fisher Body Division of GMC supplied the
engine nacelles, the outer wing sections (Note on the different color of
aluminum on the last third of the wing starting at the ailerons.
That is the section built by Fisher Body.) and the tail assembly while
Chrysler built nose sections and wing leading edge and cowling
assemblies. My mother worked at the Lansing Fisher Body plant where the
tail assembly was built and my father worked in the same plant until
drafted early in the war. Several other GM Divisions could have supplied the weapons
and other components.
World War Two was a war of industrial
production, for which the U.S. auto industry was well suited. The
world of military products were not nearly as sophisticated or as
expensive as now. Modern electronics, smart bombs, atomic weapons,
ICBMs and stealth that are so prominent in today's US military arsenal
were in their infancy during WWII. The United States won WWII by
out producing the Axis powers in weapons such as airplanes, tanks,
trucks, armored vehicles, artillery, ships and lots and lots of
ammunition. And the US not only had the secret Manhattan Project that ended
the war with Japan, but also radar that was also one its two most
advanced technology projects. Chrysler Corporation was
involved in both.
The Germans were way ahead of us in cruise missiles (V-1) which the US
reversed engineered (The politically correct term for copying.) from
V-1s that were not completely destroyed during their attacks on England
The US copies were going to be used in the proposed invasion of Japan.
Ford Motor company built the engines and Willys-Overland built the
airframe components in Toledo, OH for final assembly by Republic
Aircraft in New York.
The German V-2 missile
which was the forerunner of the intercontinental missiles we have today
the US did not have at all during the war. The Germans also had
jet aircraft which if had been used properly by the them would have
lengthened the war in Europe as we were way behind on this technology
also. But with the help of the US Auto Industry the United States
steamrollered the Axis with more of everything needed to fight a war.
Maybe not "Firstest with the Mostest" as the old saying goes but
definitely Mostest. In early 1942 when the last automobiles came
off the assembly line the largest industry in the county had its plants
setting idle. But not for long as the plants immediately were put
through the process of "conversion" that you will see described in some
of the literature in this website (Oldsmobile used the term
extensively.) when all the equipment for making cars was removed from
the factories and new equipment to make armaments was moved in, which
was no small task in itself. In the end the United States
smothered its enemies with endless streams of armaments and related
equipment that came out of the former auto factories. Chrysler was
responsible at its Evansville, IN plant for the manufacture of .45
caliber small arms ammunition. Before the war was even over it had
become so efficient through the use of it mass production methods that
the US Government cancelled the contract, as it had too much .45
ammunition, and would not use up what it stockpiled in WWII until the
Vietnam Conflict twenty years later.
Today the US Auto Industry
is a lot different, smaller and weaker than it was during WWII.
That is not the subject of this website and one can find any number of
books, articles and opinions as to why everything changed and is
different today, if they so desire.
I grew up in Lansing, MI
in the fifties and sixties, which was the post war hey day of the US
auto industry. In Lansing we had Fisher Body, Oldsmobile, Reo,
Motor Wheel, a multitude of drop forges (I still remember on hot summer
nights listening to the hammers drop at the one that was a mile away
from my house. It must have been unbearably noisy and hot in the forge.)
Today most of that is gone from Lansing, which is so unfortunate in that
it provided such a good living for the workers and their families.
In today's world of globalization, the auto workers' grandchildren get
to work, if they can find it, for minimum wages and no health care.
The US auto industry may not have been perfect but it did provide for
many of us.
When I graduated from High
School I worked summers in the Lansing Fisher Body Plant to pay my way
through college, after which I worked for the US auto industry until my
retirement. On that journey I collected what I could about the
industry in WWII and much of that is presented here within this website.
General Motors especially in 1944 had all its divisions produce a
booklet on what they did during the war. Those that I have been
able to find are reproduced on this website as they tell the story of
what they did by the people that did it. Other companies had
similar publications or in some cases none at all. If that is the
case I have been able to obtain period advertising to help tell the
What did the US Automobile
Industry make during WWII? The proverbial "Soup to Nuts"! I
will let the Automobile Council for War Production describe that better
than I could ever do what what the US Auto Industry was doing in the
seventh month of war in its June, 1942 pamphlet below. This was
only the beginning and as more conversion took place war products beyond
what is listed below were produced.
The Job is Being Done
The engines were GM Allison, while the 20mm cannon was from Oldsmobile
and the .50 caliber machineguns came from AC.
Last revision date: 8-11-2016
Original publication date: 8-30-2013