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


Overview      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

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

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   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   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   United Motors Service

Truck Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
Manufacturers:
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  
Links

 

  Fisher Body - Home   Fisher Body - Craftsmanship   Fisher Body - Aircraft   Fisher Body - Aircraft Instruments   Fisher Body - Guns   Fisher Body  - Tanks   Fisher Body - Miscellaneous   Fisher Body - Database   Cleveland Plant #1    Detroit Die and Machine Plant  Grand Blanc, MI Tank Arsenal   Grand Blanc built M4A2 Sherman Tank Photos   Grand Blanc Built M4A3 Tank Photos   Grand Blanc M10 Tank Destroyer Photos   Lansing, MI Plant   Memphis, TN Plant

 
Grand Blanc, MI Tank Arsenal- General Motors Corporation in World War Two
A Surviving Fisher Body Plant 
1942-Current

Fisher Body - Gone but not Forgotten!!!

This page updated 8-19-2017.

"I don't get no respect!" - Rodney Dangerfield 1921-2004

Abstract:  The Fisher Body Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc, MI never got the publicity and hype of the Chrysler Tank Arsenal either during or since WWII.  Grand Blanc never received the credit it deserved for delivering desperately needed tanks and tank destroyers with more potent main guns or heavier armor to soldiers facing better German tanks in Europe after the Normandy invasion.  However, the US Army recognized its importance by awarding Fisher Body Grand Blanc four times the Army-Navy "E" for Excellence Award; the Chrysler Arsenal only received it once.  Below is the complete story of the importance of Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal in WWII, which until now went unrecognized.
David D Jackson 12-4-2015


Ground was broken for the 452,000 square foot Fisher Body Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc, MI in January 1942; and M4A2 Sherman tanks started coming off its assembly line in July.  Prototype work was done and all of the necessary tooling, fixtures and jigs at Fisher Body Plant 1 five miles north on Saginaw Avenue.  The first tank came off the prototype line April along with three others and in May sixteen more   M4A2s came off the Flint 1 prototype line, allowing Fisher Body to deliver tanks two months before scheduled and before the Grand Blanc plant was finished in July and production began in it.

Grand Blanc produced 19,052 tanks, tank destroyers and prime movers from April 1942 to October 1945.  This record makes it second in the production of tanks and tank destroyers during World War Two.  The plant was built and owned by the US government with Fisher Body operating it during the war years.  In 1946 Buick leased the facility for storage and then purchased it in late 1950.  On June 1,1951 Fisher Body Division took possession of the facility in order to build 4,200 M48 Patton tanks for the Korean War effort.  Construction began on additions to the plant, resulting in a total of 1,179,442 square feet.  When M48 production ceased in 1955 Fisher Body converted it into a metal stamping plant, operating it until it disappeared as a division in 1986.  Several different GM divisions then controlled it until the Metal Fabrication Division that took possession of the plant in 1994.  In 2002 the presses were moved out; and the facility became the GM Tool Weld Tool Center until closing on July 1, 2013.  When it closed, the plant had grown to 1.6 million square feet on 311 acres of land. 

When I was there in June 2015, GM was using the parking lot of the plant for car storage.  The plant is on the list of plants to be razed.  With all of the commercial growth in the area, the land will quickly be redeveloped into shopping centers, housing, or new smaller factories.  So while the factory that did so much to help win WWII will soon disappear and be forgotten, this webpage will keep its important contributions alive.


There were 49,234 M4 Sherman tanks of various types built by ten companies during the Second World War.  This Fisher Body built M4A3 Sherman tank combat veteran is displayed 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, in December 1944.  It now sits at the intersection of several roads in Bastogne, the location that made the town an important military objective during the battle.  Author's photo.


Of all of the Sherman Tanks built during WWII it is noteworthy that one built by Fisher Body in Grand Blanc, MI in March of 1944 has the honor of representing all of the M4s that participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  Registration Number 3081532 was one of 339 M4A3 Sherman tanks built in the Fisher Body Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc, MI in March 1944.  Author's photo.


The M4A3 Sherman tank was powered by a Ford V-8 engine and armed with a 75mm cannon.  This particular M4A3 was one of 1,711 M4A3s that were built by Fisher Body between February and September 1944.  Author's photo.


This M4A2 is the oldest Fisher Body built tank in North America, and is on display at Victoria Park in London, Ontario.  It came off the Grand Blanc assembly line in September 1942.  It landed with the Canadian Army at Normandy, and then fought its way across Europe until the end of the war.  It survived the many battles it was in, and then came back to Canada.  Author's Photo.


The first tank into Bastogne, Belgium with Patton's Third Army was this Grand Blanc built M4A3E2 "Jumbo."  It was named Cobra King and still exists today.  It has already been placed on location at the new National Museum of the US Army that will open at Fort Belvoir, VA in late 2019. 

The Fisher Body Tank Plant was awarded the Army-Navy "E" for Excellence Award five times.  Below are four of the known dates.
January 15, 1943
September 22, 1943
July 30, 1944
March 5, 1945


 This photo shows the awarding of the Army-Navy "E" award on January 15,1943.  The award ceremony always included the workers being present, even though this shut down needed war production, as the military officials wanted the workers to know how important they were to winning the war.  This type of ceremony happened 4,283 times during the war.  Photo added 12-16-2016.


 Hanging center stage is the Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal "E" flag.  Today its location, if it still exists, is unknown.  Photo added 12-16-2016.

Unfortunately the Fisher Tank Arsenal did not get the publicity given to the Chrysler Tank Arsenal in Warren, MI; whether that was then or from WWII historians today.  There are a few reasons for this.  Firstly, the Chrysler plant was built and got into production a year earlier than the Fisher plant, and when it opened, it was in April 1941, before the US was officially at war.  When the Grand Blanc plant opened, the nation was at war and there were many new war plants opening and being converted to war production.  It did not make for the same news impact as was Chrysler's opening the year before.

Secondly, Chrysler did an excellent job of promoting its new plant, even producing a movie entitled "Assembly Lines of Defense" which can be found today online.  The link to this informative video is posted on my "Links" page.  Conversely, there was not much publicity by General Motors about its tank plant at Grand Blanc.  In 1946 Chrysler published an excellent series of seven small books on the subject of the company's accomplishments during the Second World War.  The book on the Warren Tank Arsenal was entitled "TANKS are Mighty Fine Things" and gave the complete history of the plant.  Conversely, GM and the other auto makers put the war behind them, addressing the challenge of getting the auto assembly lines back going and making automobiles.

Thirdly, most history today is Detroit-centric, focusing on the Detroit metropolitan area such as Chrysler's  Warren location.  Meanwhile, places like Flint, Grand Blanc, Lansing and a  multitude of other important locations are overlooked or not given the emphasis as the Detroit area.

In spite of the lack of publicity the Fisher Tank Arsenal did contribute significantly to the war effort.  Its contribution is outlined with the information and photos below.  Fisher produced at total of 19,052 tanks and tank destroyers, 3,183 less than the Chrysler Warren plant.  If one looks at the number of tanks produced by Chrysler in first extra year of production it had in 1941, the numbers between the two are comparable.

M10 Series Wolverine Tank Destroyers:  Fisher Body Grand Blanc with Ford Motor Company produced all of M10 and M10A1 Tank Destroyers.  Fisher produced 4,993 M10s and 375 M10A1s, and Ford 1,038 M10A1s.  The difference between the two types were Fisher built M10s were powered by twin 6-71 Detroit Diesel engines, and the M10A1s were powered by Ford GAA V-8 gasoline engines.  Because of the larger number built by Fisher Body and the difference in the engines, the US Army sent the Fisher Body M10s overseas to the combat zones.  The Ford M10A1s were kept in the US for training purposes. 

First combat for the M10 was March 23, 1943 in the North African campaign at the battle of El Guettar in Tunisia.  The 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion lost seven M10s, but helped to destroy thirty German tanks.  At Salerno, Italy, Sgt. Edwin Yost became the first M10 "ace" when he destroyed five PzKpfw IV tanks on September 14, 1943.

Between June 1944 and the end of the war in May 1945, M10 monthly strength in the European Theatre of operations varied between 486 and 790; and 540 were lost in combat.  The British received 1,548 Fisher built M10s, the USSR was given 52 under Lend-Lease, and the Free French Army was provided 255 M10s.  The M10 also served in the Pacific but not to the extent as in Europe due to the lack of Japanese tanks.

The main point is that Fisher Body Grand Blanc built all of the M10s in combat during WWII.  All photos of M10s in combat during WWII were Fisher Body built and it was the first of three fully tracked Tank Destroyers to enter combat for the US Army.  Today there are approximately thirty M10s still in existence. 

Until March 1, 1943 the M10 was classified by the War Department as "Secret".  From a manufacturing standpoint the turret was constructed of armor plate instead of a cast turret like the M4.  The design using the armor plate allowed for reduced production hours by using automatic welding machines instead of having to be hand welded. 

Fisher Body M10 Wolverine in Europe 1944-1945 - Strength and Losses

  Jun44 Jul44 Aug44 Sept44 Oct44 Nov44 Dec44 Jan45 Feb45 Mar45 Apr45  May45 Total
Strength 691 743 758 763 486 573 790 760 686 684 427 427 Losses
Losses 1 17 28 40 71 45 62 69 106 27 37 37 540


This Grand Blanc built M10 Wolverine was totally restored in 2016 by the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles in Nokesville, VA.  This photo was taken at its premier public showing on September 24, 2016 at the Museum's annual open house.  Author's photo added 10-7-2016. 


M10 Wolverine Tank Destroyers come down the Grand Blanc assembly line.  Photo added 11-18-2015.

Below are several photos of M10 tank destroyers in action in Europe.


A Fisher Body M10 built in Grand Blanc, MI fires its three inch Oldsmobile built gun at a target in Normandy, France in July 1944.  This was one of 743 deployed with US forces in Europe in July 1944.


This photo provides an excellent profile view of another Fisher Body built M10 Wolverine as it comes out of hedgerow in Normandy.  This particular vehicle belonged to the 889th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  Photo added 11-10-2015.


Three M10 Wolverine tank destroyers are moving into position to fire on a German observation post in Aachen Germany in October 1944.  This was the first German city to be captured by the US Army and the Grand Blanc M10s were there.  As can be seen in this series of photos, the M10 was used for general fire support along with its main mission of destroying tanks.  Photo added 11-18-2015.


The WWII tank destroyer was designed to not be well armored; and was to rely on speed in combat with enemy tanks.  It fell into the category of "it sounded like a good idea of time".  There have been innumerable books and articles written about the US WWII misguided tank and tank destroyer theory ad nauseum.  Whatever the official policy and theory, the M10 tank destroyer crews in their Grand Blanc, MI built vehicles were in the thick of the battle, doing whatever it took to win the war.  This particular M10 has attached sandbags, wheels, and logs to the vehicle to help defend against enemy anti-tank projectiles.  Also steel from the Normandy beach obstacles was cut up and welded to the front of the M10 to allow it to penetrate the hedgerows of Normandy.  This was known as a Culin hedgerow cutter.  Photo added 11-10-2015.


A Fisher Body built M10 assists members of the 90th Infantry Division flush out a German soldier from a pillbox at Mainz, Germany on March 22, 1945.  Photo added 11-9-2015.


Two Grand Blanc M10 tank destroyers are slogging through a German forest near the end of WWII.  Photo added 11-9-2015.


Another Fisher Body Grand Blanc built M10 in action in Europe during WWII.  Photo added 11-9-2015.

M36 Jackson Tank Destroyers:  There were three different types of M36 tank destroyers as defined below.


This photo from 1944 shows construction one of 714 M36 turrets Fisher Body built at Grand Blanc.  Photo added 12-16-2016.

M36:  The M36 utilized the Ford and Fisher Boyd M10A1s that had been previously built and converted them to the M36 by installing a new larger turret with a 90mm main gun.  Also, the last three hundred Fisher built M10A1s were constructed without turrets.  Grand Blanc fabricated turrets with a 90mm main gun, and installed them in these 300 M10A1 chassis.  Because Grand Blanc was so busy with other war contracts, the re-conditioning and addition of the new turrets for the remaining M10A1s was contracted to other companies.  Fisher Body, according to Fisher Body Craftsmanship goes to War, supplied 713 turrets for the M36 Jackson Tank Destroyers being converted by the other contractors.  In the end M10A1s finally saw combat as the M36.

M36B1:  The M36B1 was a pure Grand Blanc version of the M36.  It consisted of a Fisher built M4A3 Sherman tank chassis with the Fisher Body fabricated 90mm turret installed.  Only 187 of these were built, making it the rarest of the M36 series tank destroyer.  This version was developed when the US Army couldn't retrieve all of the M10A1s fast enough to convert them into M36s.  So in the emergency Grand Blanc built 187 M36B2s on the M4A3 chassis. 


M36B1 tank destroyers sitting outside of the Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal.  Only 217 M36B1's were built and several of them are in photo.  The photo is the only known WWII photo of the exterior of the plant.  Photo added 12-17-2016.


This is a rare photo of one of the 187 Fisher Body built M36B1 Jackson tank destroyers in the European combat zone.  Note on the turret are four victory markings indicating this M36B1 has destroyed two German Tiger tanks and two Panzer IVs.  The new 90mm main gun was doing its job!  This Grand Blanc built unit is serving here with the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion.   Photo added 11-18-2015.

M36B2:   These were 724 Fisher built M10s that were converted to the M36B2.  Conversion started with 50 in May 1945 and the remaining 674 being converted after the end of WWII.  They can be indentified by a sheet metal covering over the turret and a large muzzle brake.  The result was the M36B2 powered by Detroit Diesel engines. 


Several of the 300 M36 tank destroyers coming down the assembly line at Grand Blanc during 1944.  Photo added 12-16-2016.

Today there are 80 M36 tank destroyers still in existence, of which seven are the M36B1 model.  Most of them are overseas, as they were given to foreign countries after WWII. 

M4 Sherman Tanks:  Grand Blanc built 11,358 M4A2 and M4A3 tanks between April 1942 and May 1945, totaling 23% of the 49,234 built by ten different companies during the war.  Grand Blanc, Chrysler, and Pressed Steel Car Company were the only companies still producing the Sherman tanks at war's end. 


The tracks are being prepared for installation on an M4A2 small hatch Sherman tank on the Grand Blanc assembly line.  Photo added 12-16-2016.

There were four basic types of Sherman tanks built based on the engine type.  The M4/M4A1 was powered by a Continental R-975 Radial aircraft engine and at the beginning of the war was the preferred Sherman for the US Army.  Fisher did not build any of this type.

The second type was the M4A4 which was built exclusively by Chrysler with its Multi-Bank engine.  This model, like the diesel powered M4A2 described below, was built because there were not enough R-975 engines for all of the tanks that needed to be built. Both the M4A4 and the M4A2 for the most part were given to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union under Lead-Lease.  Fisher did not build any of the M4A4.

The third type was the M4A2,which was built in quantity by Fisher Grand Blanc and three other companies. It was powered by twin GM Detroit Diesel 6-71 engines driving a single drive shaft and designated as the 6046 engine.  It was only natural that Grand Blanc would build the M4A2, as General Motors did a good job during the war of using the products of other GM divisions in its final products.  At the start to of WWII, the automotive diesel engine was just starting to come into its own, and was not nearly as prominent as it is today.  Having the Fisher Tank Arsenal build tanks with Detroit Diesel engines was an excellent way to showcase the attributes of the diesel engine for future sales after the war.


This M4A2(76)HVSS is Grand Blanc serial number 69192 and registration number 30129671 which was built in April 1945.  It can be seen outside the Beatty Street Drill Hall in Vancouver, BC.  It was one of 7,508 M4A2s built in the plant.  Photo courtesy of David Jackson, Jr.

With the exception of the M10 Tank Destroyer, the US Army utilized gasoline powered vehicles rather than diesel fuel. Therefore, the M4A2 was like the Chrysler built M4A4, was given to the United Kingdom and the USSR for their tank forces under Lend-Lease.  The M4A2 was first used by the British in the North African campaign against Rommel's Afrika Corps.  The US Marines also utilized the M4A2 as it had access to the US Navy's diesel fuel.  The US Army in Burma utilized them also.  Fisher Body provided 7,508 of the 10,998 or 68% of the total M4A2s produced during the war.  Today there are 64 of the Fisher Body built M4A2s still in existence.

Supplying large numbers of tanks to our equipment starved Allies allowed them to continue the war and combat the German war machine until US Forces could enter the war in sufficient numbers.  Providing tanks to our allies was an important part of the war strategy for the US in WWII.

The M4A3 was the fourth major type of Sherman built.  It was powered by the Ford GAA gasoline engine.  In the latter half of WWII this was the preferred Sherman by the US Army.  Fisher Grand Blanc produced 3,850 in several versions including 535 with Oldsmobile built 76mm main guns.  Production started in February 1944. Many of the Fisher built M4A3s arrived in Europe later in the year, and were present to take part in the Battle of the Bulge.  Among these M4A3s was 3081532 that is now on display in Bastogne, Belgium as seen at the top of this page. Today there are still 43 Fisher examples of the M4A3.


This period photo shows a Fisher Body built M4A3 tank that was hit by enemy fire in the Bastogne area during the Battle for the Bulge.  Registration number 3081563 was one of the 339 M4A3 tanks built in March 1944 at the Fisher Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc, MI.  Between February 1944 and March 1945 Fisher Body built 3,071 M4A3 Sherman tanks.  Photo courtesy of the Patton Museum.

Grand Blanc was the only location to produce an up-armored version of the M4A3.  It was designated M4A3E2 and was known as the "Jumbo".  Production of the "Jumbo" ran for two months from May to July 1944 and these were then immediately shipped to the combat zone in Europe.  Of the 43 Fisher Body built M4A3 Sherman tanks still in existence, seven are M4A3E2s. 


A Fisher Body Grand Blanc, MI M4A3E2 "Jumbo" tank passes burning German vehicles in March 1945. 

Components for the Buick assembled M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer Besides building tanks and tank destroyers, Grand Blanc provided 2,445 turrets and 1,511 hulls for the 2,507 M18 Hellcats built by the Buick Division of GM.  It also converted and reconditioned 600 previously built and used M-18s into M39 prime movers for the US Army.

M39 Prime Movers, New construction:  Grand Blanc also built 40 brand new M39 prime movers for the US Army in addition to converting 600 M18s to M39s.

T26E3, T26E4, M26 Pershing Tanks:  The only T25E3/M26 Pershing heavy tanks that arrived in Europe in time for combat at the end of WWII were Fisher Body Grand Blanc built starting in November 1944.  Chrysler did not start producing the M26 until March 1945 which was too late to get them to the European combat zone before the war ended two months later.


M26 Pershing tanks can be seen coming down the production line sometime after November 1944 at Grand Blanc.  Photo added 11-20-2-15.


The assembly line is empty in October 1945 as the last Grand Blanc M26 Pershing comes down the line.  Photo added 12-17-2016.


An empty 90mm shell casing is being thrown out of this Fisher Body built T26E3 on the streets of Cologne, Germany in March 1945.  It is serial number 26. When sent to Europe, the Pershing was still designated T26E3 as the tank had not yet been officially accepted by the military.  The first twenty T26E3s sent to Europe for combat evaluation were all Fisher Body built; and of the 310 Grand Blanc Pershing tanks to arrive before the end of the war, they saw all or most of the combat.  


 In this photo the same Grand Blanc built M26 is seen firing its 90 mm main gun in the fire fight.  Photo added 11-20-2015.


 One of the Fisher Body four built T26E3s that were involved in the capture of the Remagen Bridge is being ferried across the Rhine River.  The serial numbers were 27, 28, 35, and 39.  Photo added 11-20-2015. 

Fisher Body built T26E3 Pershings in Europe 1945 -  The Zebra Mission

Serial Number Registration Number Division Regiment Battalion Company Comments
22 30119832 9th Armored   14th Tank BN A March 1, 1945 hit by two explosive shells during the night.  The first one set fire to the engine compartment and the crew dismounted to fight the fire.  The second round then struck the rear of the turret and killed Platoon Sergeant Chester Key.  The tank was eventually returned to service.
23 30119833 9th Armored   19th Tank BN C Undocumented.
24 30119834 3rd Armored 33rd Armored    D Undocumented.
25 30119835 3rd Armored 33rd Armored   H This Pershing was knocked out by a self propelled 88mm Nashorn tank destroyer.  The 88mm round set the tank on fire but the crew escaped.  Due to the length of time to repair it was used for spare parts.  Of the 20 original Fisher Body T26E3s that were sent to Europe, it was the only to not end the war on active service.
26 30119836 3rd Armored 32nd Armored   E This may be the most famous Pershing of all time, as it is the one that knocked out the Panther in front of the Cologne Cathedral on March 6, 1945.  Photos and video of this can be found online.   Pershing #26 avenged the loss of an Sherman just a few minutes earlier by the Panther.

Also see the photos above.

27 30119837 9th Armored   14th Tank BN A This Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal T26E3 was one of four at the Remagen Ludendorf Railway Bridge from March 7, 1945 to March 12, 1945.

 On February 28, 1945 this Pershing broke a piston during the crossing of the Roer River in Germany.  It was repaired and returned to service on March 5.

28 30119838 9th Armored   14th Tank BN A This Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal T26E3 was one of four at the Remagen Ludendorf Railway Bridge from March 7, 1945 to March 12, 1945.
29 30119839 9th Armored   19th Tank BN B Undocumented.
30 30119840 9th Armored   19th Tank BN A Undocumented.
31 30119841 3rd Armored 32nd Armored   H Undocumented.
32 30119842 9th Armored   19th Tank BN B Undocumented.
33 30119843 3rd Armored 32nd Armored   G This Pershing knocked out a Panzer IV at Manheim in early March 1945.
34 30119844 3rd Armored 32nd Armored   I  
35 30119845 9th Armored   14th Tank BN A This Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal T26E3 was one of four at the Remagen Ludendorf Railway Bridge from March 7, 1945 to March 12, 1945.

See my M26 page for more information about this tank, which may still exist at the Wright Museum of WWII in Wolfeboro, NH.

36 30119846 3rd Armored 32nd Armored   D On or about March 6, 1945 this Pershing knocked out a Tiger I on the Cologne drive.
37 30119847 3rd Armored 33rd Armored   I This suffered an engine failure and was returned to service on March 5, 1945.
38 30119848 3rd Armored 33rd Armored   F This was named "Fireball" by the crew.  It was the first Pershing hit during WWII February 26, 1945.  It was hit by three rounds from Tiger tank at Elsdorf, Germany.  It was guarding a roadblock during the night and the turret was exposed by a nearby coal fire.  The tank was repaired with a 90mm gun from an M36 tank destroyer and returned to combat on March 7.
39 30119849 9th Armored   14th Tank BN A This Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal T26E3 was one of four at the Remagen Ludendorf Railway Bridge from March 7, 1945 to March 12, 1945.
40 30119850 3rd Armored 33rd Armored   E Killed one Tiger 1 and two Panzer IV on February 29, 1945 at Elsdorf, Germany.  This avenged the loss of SN 38 "Fireball" three days earlier.  A third Panzee IV was destroyed by this Pershing enroute to Cologne. 
41 30119851 9th Armored   19th Tank BN C Undocumented.



This Fisher Body built Pershing is on display at the Wright Museum of WWII in Wolfeboro, NH.  It may have been one of four Grand Blanc built T26E3s that helped liberate the Remagen bridge on the Rhine River on March 7, 1945.  See my M26 Photo page for more information and photos.  Author's photo added 8-19-2017. 

Fisher Body built M26 Pershings in Okinawa 1945

Serial Number Registration Number
586 30127332
603 30127349
606 30127352
608 30127354
609 30127355
614 30127360
617 30127363
621 30127367
623 30127369
625 30127371
629 30127375
632 30127378

On June 28, 1945 Army Ordnance announced a 50% cut-back in M26 production; and that the M26 would be produced until April 1946.  With the end of the war, the situation changed and production was halted at the Chrysler Tank Arsenal on August 27, 1945.  Army Ordnance had chosen Grand Blanc to be the sole producer of the Pershing for the remainder of the war.  On October 5, 1945 the Flint Journal reported that Grand Blanc production was still running at a rate of 200 M26s a month.  Five days later it was reported by the newspaper on October 10, 1945 that production had stopped at the Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal, and that the 1,500 remaining employees were being laid off.  It was then reported that on January 22, 1946 that the plant had been returned to the control of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. 

The Flint Journal reported on March 8, 1951 that 1,799 M26 Pershings had been built at the Fisher Tank Arsenal at Grand Blanc which was 81% of all the Pershings built.  It was also in this article that the newspaper was announcing that Fisher Body Grand Blanc was going to start producing the M48 Patton tank for the Korean War.

The Bottom Line:  The significance and impact of the Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal to the outcome of WWII has never been acknowledged or recognized.  While the Chrysler Tank Plant had considerable publicity, the Grand Blanc plant's history has remained in the shadows and generally ignored.  While Chrysler had a head start in building tanks, most of the M3 Lee/Grant tanks it built went to resupply the British tank inventory after Dunkirk.  As this was happening, the Fisher Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc was being built.

In April 1942 Fisher started building M4A2 tanks, and in June 1942 Chrysler started building the M4A4.  The M4A2 was powered by GM Detroit Diesel engine and the M4A4 by the Chrysler A57 Multibank engine.  Because neither of these engines was favored by the US Army, most were sent to either the British or the Russians under Lend-Lease.  For initial Sherman tank production, tanks from both Arsenals went to foreign nations and not directly contributing to the US war effort.

In September 1942 Grand Blanc started producing the M10 tank destroyer at the request of the US Army.  There have been many forests felled and gallons of ink used to debate the usefulness of the American Army's tank and tank destroyer doctrine during WWII. That is beside the point.  At the time, the US Army wanted and needed fully tracked tank destroyers; and Fisher Body supplied all of the M10 Wolverines that were used in Europe during WWII.  The first Grand Blanc built M10s to see combat did so with the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Tunisia in March 1943.  As the photos from above show, the M10 was an important weapon with the US combat teams in Europe in WWII.

In February 1944 Fisher started producing the M4A3 Sherman.  A month later, Chrysler started producing the same model.  Historians make note that Chrysler took over the M4A3 from Ford, which originally produced the M4A3 tank.  They ignore the fact that Grand Blanc actually started production a month before Chrysler; and both produced the M4A3 simultaneously until the end of the war.  This is what Chrysler wrote in its 1946 "TANKS are a Mighty Fine Thing" history.  Later day historians have taken that as gospel without investigating what really happened.  Both Fisher Body and Chrysler took over the manufacture of the M4A3 from Ford, with Fisher going into production first.

In mid-1944, when it became painfully obvious to the US Army that the 3 inch main gun on the M10 was not effective against new German tanks being seen on the European battlefield, Fisher Body, and not Chrysler that added turrets with a 90mm main gun to the last 300 Fisher built M10 chassis.  This was the M36B1 Jackson.  It was Grand Blanc that took 187 of its M4A3 chassis off the assembly line and put the 90mm gun turret on them before sending them to the battle zone as M36B1's.  And it was Fisher Body that supplied the 713 turrets needed for the Ford built M10A1s rebuilt into the M36 completed by other contractors.  Grand Blanc expedited all of the work on these items in order to get them to the front where they were needed as soon as possible.

Simultaneously it became evident that the Sherman tank, with its 75mm and new 76mm main gun, was not effective in penetrating the armor of German tanks.  Again, many trees have been cut down, and gallons of ink have been spilt on why this was the case.  There are numerous documented instances of internal US Army mismanagement, internal bickering, and lack of vision.  When the Army finally decided what it wanted in the T26E3/M26 Pershing Heavy Tank, Fisher Body Grand Blanc started manufacturing the weapon four months before Chrysler.  All of the Pershing tanks that saw combat in Europe were built by Fisher.  All Pershings that arrived in Europe by the end of the war were Grand Blanc built!  At the end of the August 1945 Army Ordnance chose the Fisher Tank Arsenal as the only supplier of the M26.

In conclusion, the Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal has been over looked in its importance and the timeliness of its weapons production, as needed by American soldiers. While it did not produce the largest amount of tanks during WWII, it did produce the M10s, M4A3s, M36B1s, M36B2s, and T26E3/M26s when needed to arm the tank and tank destroyer battalions with the proper weapons desperately needed on the European battlefield.

That is its worthy and lasting legacy! 

David D Jackson
10-18-2015 with additional comments on 12-4-2015.


The end of the line!  This M26 Pershing is the last tank to come off the assembly line at Fisher Body Grand Blanc in October 1945.  Photo courtesy of Genesee County Historical Society via Jeremy Whitman.  Photo added 11-20-2-15. 


Photo courtesy of Genesee County Historical Society via Jeremy Whitman.  Photo added 11-20-2-15. 
 

World War Two / WWII Products:  Below is a summary of tank and tank destroyer production at Grand Blanc and below that contemporary photos of the weapons today.

Fisher Body Grand Blanc Tank, Tank Destroyer, and Prime Mover Production during World War Two

Type Number built Dates Engines Comments
M4A2(75) 4,325 4-1942 to 2-1944 Twin 6046 Detroit Diesel Dry Storage for main gun ammunition. Small hatches for driver and assistant driver. 
M4A2(75) 289 2-1944 to 5-1944 Twin 6046 Detroit Diesel Dry Storage for main gun ammunition. Large hatches for driver and assistant driver.
M4A3(75) 3,071 2-1944 to 3-1945 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp  Wet storage for main gun ammunition. Large hatches for driver and assistant driver.  539 or 652 of these were HVSS suspensions.
M4A3(76) 525 9-1944 to 12-1944 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp  Wet storage, large hatch.
M4A3E2(75) 254 5-1944 to 7- 1944 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp  Wet storage, large hatch.  This was known as the Jumbo due to the extra think armor plate.
M4A2(76) 2,894 5-1944 to 5-1945 Twin 6046 Detroit diesel Wet, Large hatch
Total M4 Series Tanks 11,358   Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp  This was 23% of all of the M4 Sherman tanks produced during the war.
         
Total T26E3, T26E4, M26 Pershing Tanks 1,799 11-1944 to 10-1945 Ford GAF V8 gasoline, 450500 hp 90mm main gun.  Production for the first five months:  November 1944-10, December 1944-30, January 1945-70, February-132.  The first twenty T26E3s to be sent to Europe in early 1945 were Fisher Body built.  They saw most of the combat of the 300 eventually sent to that theatre, as Chrysler did not start production until March 1945.  Included in the 1,799 Pershings were 25 T26E4s, only one of which still exists and is at the First Division Museum at Cantigny.

The T28 tank was renamed the M28 Pershing on March 8,1945.

Total Fisher Body Tanks built during WWII 13,157      
         
M10 Tank Destroyer 4,993 9-1942 to 12-1943 Twin 6046 Detroit diesel

3 inch main gun on a M4 Sherman hull.  This figured differs from the number most often seen in the literature, which is 4,993.  But the 5,368 figure comes from Fisher Body Craftsmanship goes to War , a primary source from the manufacturer

M10A1  Tank Destroyer 375 10-1943 to 11-1943 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp   
Total M10 Series Tank Destroyers 5,368      
         
M36 Tank Destroyers 300 11-43 to 7-44 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp  These were the last 300 M10A1s that came off the Grand Blanc assembly line without turrets.  Fisher then installed the M36 turret with a 90mm main gun.
M36B1 Series Tank Destroyers 187 10-1944 to 12-1944 Ford GAA V8 gasoline, 450500 hp These were Fisher Body built M4A3 Sherman tank hulls that had the M36 turret installed with a 90mm main gun.  This was done to expedite the delivery of the much need weapon to the battle front in Europe.
Total M36 Series Tank Destroyers 487 11-1943 to 12-1944.    
Total Fisher Body Tank Destroyers built during WWII.

5,855

     
         
Total M39 Prime Movers

40

3-1945 to 3-1945.

 

This was based on the Buick M18 Hellcat chassis.

         

Total Fisher Body Tanks,  Tank Destroyers, and Prime Movers built during WWII.

19,052

4-1942 to 10-1945.

   


This 1982 photo of the Grand Blanc plant.  Note the Body By Fisher sign with the iconic Coach on it. 


This is a June 2015 photo taken from approximately the same location as the previous 1982 shot.  The Fisher Body sign is gone as the Division was dissolved in 1986.  The plant windows have been covered over and the administration building has new windows.  Author's photo taken June 2015.


A closer look at the Administration building.  Author's photo taken June 2015.


Another photo of the office building and the front of the plant.  Author's photo taken June 2015.


Looking west from across the street on Saginaw Street.   Author's photo taken June 2015.


 Author's photo taken June 2015.


Author's photo taken June 2015.


The Grand Blanc Arsenal provided 98% of the hulls and 60% of the turrets for the Buick assembled M18 tank destroyer.  Author's photo from the National Military Historical Center in Auburn, IN added 12-4-2015.


The 2014 movie Fury with Brad Pitt featured a Fisher Body built M4A2E8 Sherman Tank as the other co-star. 


Fisher Body Grand Blanc built twenty-five T26E4s in early 1945 of which this one on display at the First Division Museum at Cantigny is the only example still in existence.  This Fisher Body built Super Pershing, as they were called, is a very rare example of what was built at Grand Blanc, MI.  Author's photo added 9-30-2015.

The original Pershings built starting in November 1944 were designated as T26E3s. They were considered to still be test units by the US Army, which had insufficient time to test and accept the new tank.  However, a tank with a 90mm main gun was needed in Europe to combat German armor with the 88mm cannon, so the tanks were built under the test designation until the Army changed all of them to the M26 designation in March 1945.  The T26E4 was also produced as an expedient experimental unit, with the first one going to Europe late in the war for evaluation.  The T26E4s retained that designation as they were not put into production.


The feature that gave the T26E4 its name Super Pershing is that it was equipped with a high velocity T15E2 90mm cannon that used two part ammunition.  Note the large counterweight welded to the rear of the turret to balance the long gun barrel.  Author's photo added 9-30-2015.


This photo shows the long barrel of the T15E2 90mm cannon, which was five and a half feet longer than the normal 90mm cannon on the T26E3s which were later re-designated as M26s.  The M46 Patton tank can be seen in the background.  This was the next version of the M26, with a more powerful 830 hp engine.  It is one of the many fine tanks on display outside at in the First Division Museum's tank park.  Author's photo added 9-30-2015.  


This shows another view of the large counterweight on the rear of the turret.  Author's photo added 9-30-2015.  


This page from the 1942 GM Annual Report states Fisher Body built the M10, while other GM Divisions supplied components for the tank destroyer.

Post WWII:  Between 1952 and 1955 Fisher Body and the Grand Blanc Tank Arsenal again answered its country's call and produced 4,200 M48 and M48A1 Patton tanks.  Originally produced by Fisher Body, Ford, and Chrysler, the M48 was only built by Fisher Body after 1953.


This M48A5 on display at the AAF Tank Museum in Danville, VA started life as Grand Blanc built M48A1 with a 90mm main gun.  It was one of 2,069 M48A1s converted to the A5 version that had a M60 turret with a 105mm main gun.  Author's photo added 12-4-2015.


Photo added 12-16-2016.

 

 

 

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