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

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(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  
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Oldsmobile Overview Page   Conversion to Firepower   Oldsmobile WWII Plant Tour Guide Book   Firepower is Our Business
Oldsmobile in World War Two
 Lansing, MI
1897-2004
Rest in Peace

Updated 4-29-2017.

I grew up in Lansing, MI.  My childhood and early adulthood was dominated by the presence of Oldsmobile in the city.  Oldsmobile was the economic engine that drove the economy.  Oldsmobile provided the jobs for many of the fathers of my school friends.  Oldsmobile was important to my family, even though my father worked for the nearby Fisher Body Division of General Motors plant.  Oldsmobile was still important to our family, as my father's plant produced the automobile bodies for "The Olds."  Indirectly, Oldsmobile dominated my life and my family's as I grew up.  I have memories of new Oldsmobiles being driven past my grade school to the nearby trucking companies, where they were loaded onto trailers, to be delivered to dealers around the country.  The Oldsmobile plant was just a half mile down the road from my school.


Oldsmobile in 1905 looking south east from Division Street and Olds Ave.  In 1905, Olds Avenue was Issac Street.


The Olds Administration Building that served the division during WWII. It was replaced by a more modern structure in 1965.


Oldsmobile in 1950 looking west.  The old administration building pictured above can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the complex.  I grew up in the neighborhood to the south of the Grand River that bordered Oldsmobile.  I fished and played in Moores Park, on the south bank of the river.  Photo added 11-16-2015.


This post 1975 photo looking NW in Lansing shows the Olds Complex at its peak, before being dismantled after 2004.  In the background, one can see the Fisher Body / Olds Forge / Olds Jet plants.  A new administration building can be seen in the location of the former one show above.  The new administration building still exists today.  In the foreground is the empty field where REO used to be.


The Oldsmobile complex shown in the previous two photos was replaced by the GM Grand River Assembly Plant.  Several of the older buildings from the Oldsmobile era still appear to stand.  The heat exchangers in the foreground along the Grand River were opposite the side of the river where I fished while growing up in Lansing.  The plant now assembles the Cadillac CTV and ATV, and the Chevrolet Camaro.


Oldsmobile Plant Number Two in 1945, looking east with Lansing Fisher Body behind it.  Up in the right hand corner is the newly completed JW Sexton High School that I would attend 20 years later.  The Fisher Body plant's power housed supplied steam to both plants.  Downtown Lansing is in the distance through the smoke haze.  The capitol dome is not visible in this photo.

Today Oldsmobile is gone, and most of the plants shown in the photos above have been razed.  Lansing and the surrounding area still has two GM Assembly plants, building the Cadillac CTS and ATS, Chevrolet Camaro and Traverse, and Buick Enclave.  But it is not the same for those of who grew up in Lansing under the protective shadow of Oldsmobile.  Oldsmobile then had its headquarters and engineering staff along with its own forge and engine plants in Lansing.  Engineering advances were developed in Lansing, not at the GM Warren, MI Technical Center, as they are today.  The aura of an GM auto town with its own auto division is no longer present.


This 1903 Olds Curved Dash was first introduced in 1901.  It is considered to be the first mass produced automobile.  It was actually built by Olds in Detroit before a fire destroyed the factory, and Olds moved back to Lansing.  Author's Photo from the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI.


This 1910 Oldsmobile was the first motorized fire truck in the state of Indiana.  Author's Photo from the Terre Haute Fire and Police Museum, Terre Haute, IN


On display at the RE Olds Museum in Lansing, MI are many of the engine technologies developed and built in Lansing.  Olds developed many other automotive innovations in Lansing.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.

Little did I know of Oldsmobile's huge contribution to the winning of World War Two until I started my research on the subject.  Lansing Oldsmobile built "Firepower" in the form of 125,527 cannons ranging in size from 20mm to 76mm, and 20,818,600 artillery shells ranging in size from 75mm up to 155mm.  Oldsmobile's two borrowed GM plants in Janesville, WI, and Kansas City produced another 24,919,390 shells ranging in size from 75mm to 105mm.  Total shells produced by all Olds operated plants was 45,737,190.


This was the display of Olds military products in the plant from the Second World War.


The original and extremely rare Army-Navy "E" award flag that Lansing Oldsmobile won on August 10, 1942.  Lansing Olds then won the award three more times denoted by the three stars, as can be seen on the flag on February 6, 1943, September 25, 1943, June 3, 1944.  The "E" Award was the most coveted award given to companies by the Army and Navy for outstanding work in producing war material.  This flag is very rare. and is one of only four original Army-Navy "E" award flags still in existence in museums today.  Author's photo taken at the RE Olds Museum added 4-29-2017.


This plaque detailing the Lansing Oldsmobile "E" Awards is also on display at the RE Olds Museum.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.

Oldsmobile Janesville won its first Army-Navy "E" Award in December 1943.  It won two more for a total of three.
Oldsmobile Kansas City won the Army-Navy "E" award four times.  The first time was October 5, 1943.

Oldsmobile World War Two Production Statistics for the Lansing, MI Home Plant
Cannons:
 (125,527) total units 
(77,010) 20mm M2 aircraft cannon built from 10-16-1941 to 1-31-1944
(2,779) 37mm M4 aircraft cannon built from 7-12-1942 to 6-16-1943
(1,500) 37mm M4E3 anti-aircraft cannon,
(150) 37mm M1A2 anti-aircraft cannon
(2,930) 37mm M9 anti-aircraft cannon built from 5-23-1943 to 5-16-1944,
(5,129) 75mm M6/T13E1 cannon - The T13E1 was used in the B-25H, and the M6 was used in the M24 Chaffee tank
(21,894) 75mm M3 tank cannon built from 4-25-1942 to 2-4-1944
(14,135) 76mm M1A2 tank and tank destroyer cannon with production to 6-1-1945.  Olds also built the M7 3 inch cannon used in the M10 tank destroyer.  The weapons are similar in that 3 inches is equivalent to the 76.2mm the 76mm size the cannon M1A2 actually was.  The M7 production numbers are included in the 14,135 quantity built. 

Shells:  
(8,597,161) 75mm M48 HE  The 75 mm High Explosive round was preferred by US tank crews, as it was superior to the 76mm HE round.
(398,328) 75mm M66 
(5,417,737) 105mm M1 HE
(316,362) 105mm M67
(3,740,678) 75mm M61 APO
(414,098) 75mm M62A1
(330,476) 75mm M72 AP Shot
(1,026,120) 3 inch MK29APO Shot for the M10 tank destroyer and M5 towed anti-tank gun
(521,490) 155 M101
(56,150) 75mm M61A1

Total amount of shells, projectiles and shot produced at the Lansing operation was 20,818,600 from 8-19-42 until 6-30-45.

Oldsmobile World War Two Production Statistics for the Lansing, MI Home Plant
Misc.:
 
(24,713) M2 Feeders
(1,680) 37mm M4E3 Magazines
(30,672) .50 Cal. Gun Tubes
(220,906) P&W Piston Rods
(27,050) 4.5 inch T22 Rockets
(231,198) 4.5 inch T38 Rockets  (These are also referenced as T22 in one source.  Both were 4.5 inch rockets.)
(?) Propeller Spider Hub Forgings for unknown aircraft
(?) Bomber Landing Gears Part Forgings
(?) Forged Crankshafts for Vauxhall
(?) Packard Rolls-Royce Merlin Aircraft Engine Crankshafts from 10-1944 to 6-1945
(?) Packard Rolls-Royce Connecting Fork Rods from 10-1944 to 6-1945
(?) Packard Rolls-Royce Rocker Arms from 10-1944 to 6-1945
(?) Packard Rolls-Royce Cylinder Liners from 10-1944 to 6-1945

Oldsmobile World War Two Production Statistics for the Janesville, WI Plant
(4,088,757) 3in M62 APC Projectiles, (Armor Piercing Capped)  The shell had a ballistic cap over the firing cap to reduce drag
(270,000) 3in M79 AP Projectiles (Armor Piercing) for the M10 tank destroyer and M5 towed anti-tank gun
(558,358) 3in MK29 APC Shot (Armor Piercing Capped) for the M10 tank destroyer and M5 towed anti-tank gun
(196,315) M75 HE Shells,
(720,973) 90mm M82 APC Shells, (Armor Piercing Capped
(6,585,950) 105mm HE Shells, (High Explosive)

Oldsmobile borrowed both the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants for WWII production.  Total amount of shells, projectiles and shot produced at the plant was 12,420,353 from 7-7-42 until 8-19-45.

Oldsmobile World War Two Production Statistics for the Kansas City, MO Plant
(3,198,255) 75mm M48 HE Shells,
(1,060,413) 75mm M66 Shells, 
(182,498) 75mm T39 HEAT Shells, (High Explosive Anti-Tank)
(1,122,287) 3in M42A1 HE Shells for the M10 tank destroyer and M5 towed anti-tank gun
(1,980,994) 90mm M71HE Shells,
(3,149,516) 105mm M67 HEAT Shells (High Explosive Anti-Tank)
(1,805,274) 105mm M1 HE Shells
(36,860) 81mm T19 Mortar Shell

Oldsmobile borrowed this plant for the war from the Fisher Body Div. of GMC.  Total amount of shells, projectiles and shot produced at the plant was 12,499,237 from 8-19-42 until 6-30-45.The

The total amount of shells, projectiles and shot produced at all Oldsmobile operations during WWII was 45,338,190.


An M10 tank destroyer built "up the road" from Oldsmobile by Fisher Body in Grand Blanc, MI fires it's Old's built 3 inch M7 cannon in anger in Normandy in July 1944.  It could also be firing one of the 1,026,120 three inch shells built in Lansing.  Photo added 11-10-2015.


In the back of the display case at the Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH is an Oldsmobile M2 aircraft cannon.  This one of  77,010 the division built in WWII.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Shown here in a glass display case at the RE Olds Museum is this collection of types of artillery shells Olds made during WWII.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


According to Oldmobile's records, the Division "only" produced 45,338,190 shells during WWII.  The number on this 155mm shell is a mystery.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


This Oldsmobile built M3 75mm cannon fired until it could not fire any longer!   This is a Chrysler built M4A4, not a M4A2 as marked on the tank.  This tank landed with British forces at Normandy, and became heavily engaged with German forces.  The crew fired the main gun so fast and so many times that a round exploded in the hot barrel.  This mismarked tank can be seen at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Ky.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


This M4A3 Sherman tank built in the Fisher Body Tank Arsenal in Grand Blanc, MI in March 1944 has an Olds built 75mm M3 cannon.  It is on display in downtown Bastogne, Belgium.  Olds was one of four companies building the cannon during WWII, and would have supplied M4 tank production at the sister GM plant in Grand Blanc, and the Chrysler Tank Arsenal in Warren, MI. Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


This Fisher Body Grand Blanc, MI built M4A2 Sherman tank and its Oldsmobile built M3 75mm main gun landed with Canadian tanks forces at Normandy, and survived the entire European campaign.  Holy Roller is on display at a park in London, ONT.  Author's photo. 


This Grand Blanc, MI Fisher Body built M3A3(76)HVSS Sherman tank is armed with one of the 14,135 Olds built M1A2 76mm cannon.  Author's photo taken at Bangert Park, Florissant, MO added 4-29-2017.


This Grand Blanc, MI Fisher Body built M3A2(76)HVSS Sherman tank is also armed with one of the 14,135 Olds built M1A2 76mm cannon.  Author's photo taken at the Oshawa Military and Industrial Museum, Oshawa, ONT added 4-29-2017.


The Cadillac designed and built M24 Chaffee light tank came with the one of the 5,129 M6 75mm cannons Oldsmobile produced during World War Two.  The M6 version was developed for the Chaffee tank; and came with a thinner barrel wall and different recoil mechanism than the M3 cannon used on the M4 Sherman.  The 75mm gave the M24 tank crews increased firepower over the previous 37mm cannon in the M5 series light tanks.  Not only did Cadillac build the M24, but Massey-Harris also contributed to the 4,731 built.  Author's photo taken at the tank park at the First Division Museum in Wheaton, IL added 10-31-2015.


The Oldsmobile built M7 3-inch cannon was used on Fisher Body built M10 and Ford built M10A tank destroyers, like this Fisher M10 at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY.  Olds also manufactured 1,026,120 shells in Lansing for the weapon.  Olds Janesville, WI produced 4,917,115 shells and shot for the 3-inch gun.  The Kansas City Olds Plant produced another 1,122,287 shells for it. Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


This is a 3-inch M5 anti-tank gun built by the Rock Island Armory.  It is on display on the front lawn in front of the Vermillion County War Museum in Danville, IL.  Oldsmobile manufactured shot and shells that would have also been used in this type weapon that saw service with towed anti-tank battalions in North Africa and Europe.  The total number of 3-inch shells and shot Oldsmobile produced during WWII was 7,065,522.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


The Buick built M18 "Hellcat" tank destroyer came with an M1A2 76mm cannon.  This one at the National Military Historical Center in Auburn, IN gives an unobstructed view of the vehicle.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


This M18 at the Buick Museum in Flint, MI shows an excellent view of the Olds built M1A2 cannon.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


In the M18, the loader sat to the right of the 76mm cannon.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


The gunner sat to the right of the Olds built 76mm cannon.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


This Autocar M15A1 is on display at the US Army Basic Combat Training Museum at Fort Jackson, SC.  It was equipped with either an M1A2 or M9 37mm Oldsmobile anti-aircraft cannon.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


This photo shows the M1A2 or M9 37mm anti-aircraft guns mounted above the M2 .50 Browning machine guns.  Author's photo added 10-31-2015.


Elco PT-579 on patrol in the Philippines during the last two months of WWII.  Note an Olds 37mm aircraft cannon that now resides on the bow of the boat.  Old's cannons like this were scavenged from derelict P-39s, and mounted on the front deck to give PT boats more fire power.  This was common for many PT boats during the war, and the weapon found a use for which it was never intended.  Photo added 11-10-2015.

World War Two Magazine advertisements


This Oldsmobile ad is touting the attributes of the Hydra-Matic transmission, supplied before the war to Olds by Detroit Transmission Division of GM.  The Hydra-Matic transmission was exclusive Cadillac and Oldsmobile, and became one of its marketing features that Olds advertised to generate sales after the war.  Customers would not be purchasing the 75mm cannon, so it was more of a side note in this ad.


B-25H "Barbie III" seen on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in April 2017.  Barbie III is a H model B-25 that carried the Olds 75mm T13E1 cannon as an anti-ship weapon.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


One can see the barrel of the Olds built T13E1 cannon in the lower left of the nose of the B-25.  Of the B-25s that are still flying, 'Barbie III" is the only one in the cannon configuration.  Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Originally the Olds 75mm cannon was hand loaded, which allowed for three or four shots per minute.  Later, an automatic feed system was developed that utilized the T9E1 75mm cannon with an automatic feed system, which was not produced by Oldsmobile. 




A Lockheed P-38 as shown in the ad above.


The 20mm cannon is the one on the left.  The others are .50 machine guns that could have also been manufactured by a GM Division.


The engines were supplied by the Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis, IN.


Olds built 20mm aircraft cannons were the main armament of the Northrop P-61 "Black Widow."  There are only four surviving P-61s.  This one is on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


This P-61 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Of the four remaining P-61s, none are flyable.  This one is being restored to flying condition by the  Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, PA.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


The P-61's main armament was four Olds built 20mm cannon.  Barrels from three of the cannons can be seen.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Oldsmobile provided the 37mm cannon that fired through the propeller hub of Bell P-39 "Aircobra."   Author's photo.


The Bell P-63 also came with the Oldsmobile built 37mm cannon in the nose.  The P-63 was a larger version of the P-39.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


Oldsmobile built 37mm feed mechanisms for both the Bell P-39 and P-63.  Author's photo.


The Olds built 37mm cannon's barrel went through both the gear reducer and the propeller hub.   Author's photo added 4-29-2017.


The Curtiss SB2C with Olds built 20mm cannon in each wing.

PT-658 You Tube Deck walk around - In the first minute of this video an Olds built 37mm cannon is shown.  Normally these were scavenged off of P-39 Aircobras.

 

 

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