Auto Industry in World War Two
See the "Updates and Additions" page for my new and revised information as it is added.
page updated 4-27-2018.
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 the 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.
The Purpose of this
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 WWII 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 WWII, 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
Dayton, OH Flint, MI and Rochester, NY. These plants produced such
items as starters, batteries, car 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
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.
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
surpassed $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.
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 US Auto Industry produced all of the
fully tracked tank destroyers during WWII. 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 a M36. This originally was built as
a 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.
Two American automotive industry products in the same photo. A 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
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 WWII
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 US 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.
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 US automaker
to receive the Navy "E" award in January, 1942. Author's photo.
Here is another unusual product not
typically identifiable with the US Auto Industry. This is a
SCR-584 anti-aircraft radar unit. 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
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 motor
on the bow could have a Firestone Tire and Rubber company base plate.
Many of the 37mm cannons mounted on PT boats were built by Oldsmobile,
and the AC Spark and Frigidaire Divisions of GM built .50caliber machine
guns. This Higgins Industries built 78 foot PT is the only WWII
combat veteran still in existence. The author's photo was taken
the PT-305 boat house on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, LA operated
by the National WWII Museum and 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
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 provide power to four electric motors
for main propulsion, and four more for
ship's electrical power. The USS Slater also has a 3in gun with a
Fisher Body breech, 20mm canons 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. 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 WWII. 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
WWII. 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 WWII. Today the WWII 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.
The 40 mm cannon gun mount on the deck of the USS Cod
was built by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Author's photo.
Last revision date: 2-20-2019
Original publication date: 8-30-2013