The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute by David D Jackson

Overview      Lansing Michigan in World War Two   The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry   M36 Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry   Surviving LCVP Landing Craft    WWII Landing Craft Hull Numbers   Airborne Extra-Light Jeep Photos  The American Auto Industry vs. the German V-1 in WWII   American Auto Industry-Built Anti-Aircraft Guns in WWII   VT Proximity Manufacturers of WWII   World War One Era Motor Vehicles  
Revisions   Links

 Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Briggs Manufacturing Company   Checker Car Company   Chrysler Corporation   Crosley Corporation   Ford Motor Car Company   General Motors Corporation   Graham-Paige Motors Corporation   Hudson
Motor Car Company  Nash-Kelvinator   Packard Motor Car Company      Studebaker    Willys-Overland Motors

General Motors Divisions:  AC Spark Plug   Aeroproducts   Allison   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   GMC   GMI   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   Ternstedt Manufacturing Division   United Motors Service   Vauxhall Motors

 Indiana Companies:  Bailey Products Corporation   Converto Manufacturing    Cummins Engine Company   Diamond Chain and Manufacturing Company   Delta Electric Company   Durham Manufacturing Company   Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation   Horton Manufacturing Company   Howe Fire Apparatus   J.D. Adams Company   Magnavox  
Muncie Gear Works   Pierce Governor Company   Portland Forge and Foundry   Republic Aviation Corporation - Indiana Division   Ross Gear and Tool Company   S.F. Bowser & Co.   Sherrill Research Corporation   Tokheim Oil Tank and Pump Company   Warner Gear   Wayne Pump Company   Wayne Works

Commercial Truck and Fire Apparatus Manufacturers:  American LaFrance   Autocar  
Biederman Motors Corporation   Brockway Motor Company   Detroit General   Diamond T   Duplex Truck Company   Federal Motor Truck   Four Wheel Drive Auto Company(FWD)   International Harvester   John Bean   Mack Truck   Marmon-Herrington Company   Oshkosh Motor Truck Corporation   Pacific Car and Foundry   "Quick-Way" Truck Shovel Company   Reo Motor Car Company  Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Sterling Motor Truck Company    Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Aviation Companies:  Abrams Instrument Corporation   Kellett Aviation Corporation   Laister-Kauffman Aircraft Corporation   Naval Aircraft Factory   Schweizer Aircraft Corporation   Sikorsky Division of United Aircraft Corporation   St. Louis Aircraft Corporation

Other World War Two Manufacturers: 
Air King Products   Allis-Chalmers   American Car and Foundry   American Locomotive   Annapolis Yacht Yard  
B.F. Goodrich   Baker War Industries   Baldwin Locomotive Works   Boyertown Auto Body Works   Briggs & Stratton   Caterpillar   Cheney Bigelow Wire Works   Centrifugal Fusing   Chris-Craft   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Continental Motors   Cushman Motor Works   Crocker-Wheeler   Dail Steel Products   Detrola   Engineering & Research Corporation   Farrand Optical Company   Federal Telephone and Radio Corp.   Firestone Tire and Rubber Company   Fruehauf Trailer Company   Fuller Manufacturing   Galvin Manufacturing   Gemmer Manufacturing Company   General Railway Signal Company   Gibson Guitar   Gibson Refrigerator Company   Goodyear   Hall-Scott   Harley-Davidson   Harris-Seybold-Potter   Herreshoff Manufacturing Company   Higgins Industries    Highway Trailer  Hill Diesel Company   Holland Hitch Company   Horace E. Dodge Boat and Plane Corporation   Huffman Manufacturing   Indian Motorcycle   Ingersoll Steel and Disk   John Deere   Johnson Automatics Manufacturing Company   Kimberly-Clark   Kohler Company   Kold-Hold Company   Landers, Frary & Clark  Lima Locomotive Works   Lundberg Screw Products   Massey-Harris   Matthews Company   Miller Printing Machinery Company   Morse Instrument Company   Motor Products Corporation   Motor Wheel Corporation   National Cash Resgister Company   Novo Engine Company   Olofsson Tool and Die Company   Otis Elevator   Owens Yacht   Pressed Steel Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Samson United Corporation   Shakespeare Company   Simplex Manufacturing Company   Steel Products Engineering Company   St. Louis Car Company   Victor Adding Machine Company   Vilter Manufacturing Company   Wells-Gardner   W.L. Maxson Corporation   W.W. Boes Company   Westfield Manufacturing Company   York-Hoover Body Company  
   

 The American Auto Industry in World War Two
An Overview

See the "Revisions" page for my new and updated information as it is added.
This page updated 4-18-2020.


There is no greater testament to the US Automobile Industry's contribution to help win World War Two than this Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal-built M4A3 Sherman Tank combat veteran, on display in downtown Bastogne, Belgium.  It was knocked out of combat during one of the most famous battles of World War Two, the Battle of the Bulge, on December 30, 1944.  It was fighting with B Company, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division when it was put out of action near Renuamont, Belgium.  It had been named "Barracuda" by its crew. It sits at the intersection of several roads in Bastogne that made the town an important military objective during the battle.  The town has been completely rebuilt since the war.  German artillery fire virtually leveled the town in attempting to drive out the American soldiers defending it.  The tank has been on display since 1948.  Author's photo.
 

The Purpose of this Website:  The purpose of this website is to bring together in one location that which the US Automobile industry produced during the Second World War.  What the products were, which company made them, the numbers produced, and their manufacturing locations.  At the beginning of World War Two, there were twelve auto makers left in the United States, down from the hundreds that had been producing auto early in the 20th century.  All twelve are included in this website.

While there are many good historical sources on the US auto industry in World War Two, most focus on the Big Three and are Detroit-centric.  Not only are the other nine auto makers of the era covered in a comprehensive manner on this website, but all of the GM Divisions of the time are also included.  General Motors had five car divisions:  Buick (Flint, MI), Cadillac (Detroit, MI), Chevrolet (Flint, MI and other locations), Oldsmobile (Lansing, MI), and Pontiac (Pontiac, MI).  GMC was the truck division located in Pontiac, MI.  The Fisher Body Division of GMC was headquartered in Detroit but had multiple plants where each of the car assembly plants were located.  General Motors also had a host of component divisions located in such towns as  Anderson, IN; Kokomo, IN; Dayton, OH; Flint, MI; and Lockport, NY.  These plants produced such items as starters, batteries, radios, sparkplugs, radiators, and steering wheels.  Chevrolet and Fisher Body each had over a dozen plants, and each was as large or larger than Ford at the time, and both were larger than Chrysler. 

The format for each auto maker, GM division, truck manufacturer, and auto supplier includes a short history of the company, followed by a listing of items produced during the war, with production numbers, if available.  Contemporary photos of the products are used for the most part instead of historical photos.

Overview:

The U.S. auto industry produced 20% of the total U.S. output of the material manufactured to fight World War Two, 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, their wartime product lines were extensive, and many of the items built were new to the industry.  Both Ford and General Motors built entire warplanes for the conflict, and many aircraft components were produced by the industry. 

Below are a few of the items produced by the auto industry during World War Two.  Some are readily associated with the industry, while others are totally unassociated with what the industry commonly produced at that time. 


The American Auto Industry produced all of the fully tracked tank destroyers during World War Two.  Here are three of the most important ones, as seen at the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles at Nokesville, VA.  On the left is a Fisher Body Grand Blanc, MI produced M10 Wolverine.  In the center is an M18 Hellcat built in Flint, MI by the Buick Motor Car Division of GM.  On the end is an M36.  This originally was built as an M10A1 Wolverine at either Ford's Highland Park, MI plant, or Fisher Body's Grand Blanc, MI tank arsenal.  It was later converted into the M36 which replaced the 3-inch main gun with a more powerful 90mm cannon.  Author's photo.


Two American automotive industry products in the same photo.  An M36 built on a Ford M10A1 chassis is in the foreground, and a Fisher Body M4A3(75) is in the background.  Of the 39 M36s still known to existence in the world, only two have been positively identified as being built on a Ford M10A1 chassis.  Author's photo taken at the US Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, KS added 4-27-2018.


The nose section of the B-29 "Enola Gay".  This is one of the most famous, or infamous aircraft of all time, being the first bomber to drop a nuclear weapon.  The B-29 is not a World War Two weapon that one would normally associate with the American auto industry.  The eighteen foot long nose section of the fuselage that has the name "Enola Gay" painted on it was built by Chrysler DeSoto Division in Detroit, MI.  Author's photo.


With the exception of the wing center section, all of the other major wing, fuselage, and control surface sections in the Enola Gay were built by the US Auto Industry.  These companies were Briggs, Chrysler, Firestone, Hudson, Goodrich, Goodyear, and Libby-Owens-Ford.  Several Fisher Body Divisions, along with seventeen component divisions of GM, supplied parts.  Dodge supplied the engines.  For the complete story, please see the dedicated B-29 page above.  Author's photo.


This JB-2 "Loon" cruise missile is another weapon one would not associate with the American Auto Industry.  Willys-Overland, better known for its production of Jeeps during WWII, built America's first cruise missile in Toledo, OH under contract from Republic Aviation.  The engine was built by the Ford Motor Car Company.  The JB-2 was a reverse engineered copy of the German V-1 "Buzz Bomb".  It was intended for use by the US Navy in the invasion of Japan.  Author's photo.


Pontiac Motor Car Division built aerial launched torpedoes at its facilities in Pontiac, MI.  Pontiac's plant 11, which manufactured the torpedoes, was the first American automaker to receive the Navy "E" award in January 1942.  Author's photo.


The Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors built the navy torpedo bombers to carry the Pontiac-built torpedoes.  Eastern Aircraft built 7,546 TBMs during World War Two.  Eastern also built 1,060 FM-1 and 4,777 FM-2 fighters for the navy.  Author's photo taken at the Liberty Aviation Museum.


This is a SCR-584 anti-aircraft radar unit is another unusual product not typically identifiable with the American Auto Industry.  Chrysler produced 2,098 radar antenna mounts and  parabolic antennas; and then installed them in the ten-ton Fruehauf built trailer.  The radar antenna mount is stowed inside the trailer for travel.  It dropped straight down to where the table and mannequin are located.  Note the cables on the wall have slack in them, to allow for the up and down movement of the antenna unit.  This photo was taken at the National Electronics Museum in the Baltimore, MD area, which exhibits a history of the former Westinghouse Electronics Division (now Northrop-Grumman) located in the area.  Westinghouse installed the electronics within the trailer after receiving it from Chrysler.  Author's photo added 10-7-2016.


When World War Two ended, Nash-Kelvinator had built more helicopters than the American aviation industry.  It built the most advanced Sikorsky Helicopter design of the war, the R-6A Hoverfly II, which can be seen at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, OH.  Author's photo.


All American-built PT boats were powered by three Packard 4M2500 marine engines which had Delco-Remy starters and DC generators and Harrison Radiator heat exchangers.  The 60mm mortar on the bow could have a Firestone Tire and Rubber company base plate.   Pontiac built 20mm Oerlikon cannons like the one on the bow of PT-305.  Other PT boats were equipped with Oldsmobile 37mm cannons.  The AC Spark Plug and Frigidaire Divisions of GM built .50 caliber machine guns.  This Higgins Industries-built 78 foot PT boat is the only World War Two combat veteran still in existence.  The author's photo was taken in the PT-305 boat house on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, LA operated by the National WWII Museum.  Photo added 4-27-2018.


The 40mm gun mount on the stern of PT-305 was built by Firestone.  Chrysler and Pontiac both built gun mechanisms and gun tubes for weapons like this.  Author's photo added 4-27-2018.


The American Automobile Industry was a major source of anti-aircraft guns for both the army and navy during World War Two.  The Fisher Body Plant in Pontiac, MI built 2,359 90mm anti-aircraft guns like this one.  Three Fisher Body plants provided tooling to make parts and another three plants provided parts for the big guns.  Chevrolet built 2,000 gun tubes, breech ring and blocks, and recoil rails for the weapon.  Buick built 2,952 gun mounts.  It was a truly a General Motors corporate endeavor.  Author's photo added 4-18-2020.


 The USS Slater is the only Cannon Class Destroyer Escort on display in the world, and is located on the Hudson River in downtown Albany, NY.  The 72 Cannon Class DEs had four Cleveland Diesel Division of GM diesel engines driving generators which provided power to four electric motors for main propulsion, and four more for ship's electrical power.  The USS Slater also has a 3-inch gun with a Fisher Body breech, 20mm Oerlikon cannons and gun mounts built by Pontiac, and heat exchangers for the main engines built by the Harrison Radiator Division of GM.  The 97 ships in the Evarts class of DEs had the same compliment of Cleveland Diesel engines.  Author's photo added 10-29-2017.


Graham-Paige built LVT-1's, like this one displayed in the main lobby of the National Museum of the USMC in Quantico, VA.  Reo Motor Car Company built the bogies for the LVT series of tracked landing craft.  This diorama depicts the LVT-1 going over a log barrier on Tarawa.  Author's photo.


Yes, this is a photo of a replica of the first atomic bomb dropped during World War Two.  It is located at the National Museum of the US Air Force.  Chrysler delivered 1,000 railroad cars of equipment for the diffusion using hexafluoride gas to separate U-235 from U-238 at Oak Ridge, TN (The Secret City) during World War Two.  Author's photo.


The Cleveland Diesel Division of General Motors of Cleveland, OH supplied half of the diesel engines installed in the US submarine fleet of World War Two.  Today the World War Two era submarine USS Cod can be seen along the waterfront in Cleveland, OH.  One of the four Cleveland Diesels Engines on the submarine is operational.   Author's photo. 


The Bofors 40mm cannon gun mount on the deck of the USS Cod was built by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.   Author's photo. 

Last website revision date:  2-7-2023
Original publication date:  8-30-2013

 

 

 

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