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   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by 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   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   United Motors Service

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   Caterpillar   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

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


 United Motors Service Division of General Motors Corporation in World War Two
Detroit, MI
1960-1974 as United Delco
1974 to present as AC-Delco

This page updated 2-10-2017.

The Lima Tank Depot in World War Two
1942 to Current - Now as the Lima Army Tank Plant

The Lima Tank Depot was one of four tank depots in the US during the Second World War.  The other three were in Richmond, CA, Chester, PA and Toledo, OH, which the Lima Depot replaced.  The Toledo Tank Depot was opened in January 1942 in leased space at the New York Central Railroad yard.  The Ordnance Department placed Auto-Lite Company in charge of the management of its operation.  The Ford Motor Company was contracted to convert its Chester, PA and Richmond, CA assembly plants into tank depots.  This strategy then allowed for a depot on each coast to facilitate shipments overseas.  The Ordnance also opened a depot in Montréal, Quebec, for equipment going to the United Kingdom.

 Construction on the Lima Tank Depot began on May 13, 1942, on what originally was to be a plant for the manufacture of heavy artillery.  However, on September 25, 1942 the decision was made to use the facility as a tank depot. With three fourths of the plant complete, United Motors took control of the plant in November 1942. 

United Motors Service Division, Lima Tank Depot, Lima, OH won the Army-Navy "E" Award once.

This photo shows the state of construction when United Motors Service took possession of the plant in November 1942.

With the opening of the new and larger Lima Tank Depot with 5,000 employees, the Toledo location closed on August 1, 1943.  A total of 100,000 vehicles were processed though Lima; and were made ready for shipment to the European combat zones in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Europe.  Tanks and other vehicles arrived at the Lima Tank Depot without many of the items needed for combat; or needing updates or changes to make them more combat fit that the factory did not install.  The vehicles then needed to be prepared for shipment across the Atlantic Ocean on Liberty ships.  This preparation included applying corrosion resistant applications, and in the case of non-tank vehicles, dismantling them for shipment in wooden crates for protection from the elements, especially the salt-air corrosion, theft, pilferage, and mechanical damage.

Just a few of the twelve acres of vehicles waiting processing into the now completed tank depot seen in the background.  The vehicles are all covered to protect them from the elements.

In many instances the Lima Tank Depot worked under emergency conditions, when tanks were needed after large American tank losses in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.  Tanks had to be retrieved and brought into the plant to be processed for immediate shipment. 

Steps for preparation of a tank or other type vehicle to the combat zone: 

1- Order placed by Ordnance with requirements for each vehicle.
2- Vehicle is driven to the wash rack.
3- Vehicle lubricated.
4- Vehicle moved to production floor and main gun and systems checked.
5- General condition of vehicle checked and battery replaced as necessary.
6- Vehicle updated and modified per latest directives from the Ordnance Department.  For tanks this could include installing turret door locks, ventilating fan in the turret, periscope guards or smoke throwers.  Modifications could be more intense, replacing or updating parts in the engine or transmission or adding armor for the ammunition racks inside the tank.  The more than 25 different vehicles created over 150 different modifications, which could take between 2 and 150 man-hours to complete.  This was the central focus of the Lima Plant Depot, and its reason for being.
7- Any necessary welding of modifications made.
8- Install radios.  There were 35 types of radios.  At the beginning of the war, 35% of the vehicles needed one or more installed.  By the end of the war, 80% of the vehicles needed a radio installed. This operation took 3 to 12 man-hours each.
9- Treat tracks with paralkatone, a preservative.
10- Clean tank for prior to sealing.
11- Seal all openings and joints except for hatches.  Stow OVM (On Vehicle Equipment.) inside the tank.  (See photo below for more information.).
12- Seal up the tank hatches.
13- Attach OVM rack and attach OVM boxes to tank.
14- Check for completeness of required tasks.
15- Load tank on railroad flat car.

For non-tank vehicles, OVM equipment would be enclosed with the vehicle inside its shipping crate.

The photos below show some of the actions described in the 15 steps.

All of the tanks arriving at the depot were given a complete wash.  After being built at the manufacturer, each tank was driven around a test track for 50 miles to make sure everything worked properly.  This wash was to make sure any dirt not removed at the manufacturer was cleaned off before the tank was prepped for shipment.  Shown here is an M4A1 Sherman, which could have been one of the 1,658 produced by the local Lima Locomotive Works.

Once the tank is cleaned up all critical moving parts received a protective coating.

For M4 tanks going to North Africa, sand shields were added if they did not come so equipped from the factory.

There were two types of tracks used on tanks during WWII; all metal and metal with rubber pads.  The M4s could come with either, depending on what was originally ordered by the Ordnance Department.  The tracks often had to be changed before shipment to meet the needs of the units in the field.

As reports of needed additions to the tanks came in from the combat zones, modifications not only needed to be welded to the outside of the tank, but to the inside as well.

Lima Tank Depot had to remove the M4 tank turrets from the tank to update the turret basket with reinforcements.  The tanks from which these turrets came out of were manufactured before it was known at the factories to build them with reinforcements.  Making important improvements to tanks and other vehicles before being prepared for shipment was one of the most important tasks assigned to the 5,000 employees in Lima.

Radios were not installed at the tank factories, so the Lima Tank Depot would performed this important task and installed the proper radios depending on the function of the tank.  A company commander's tank received one SCR508, which had one transmitter and two receivers.  Platoon commander's tanks would have an SCR228 with one transmitter and one receiver.  Originally, the remainder of the tanks had installed an SCR538 with no transmitter.  As the war progressed it became obvious that all tanks needed a transmitter. So the SCR228 was installed in all tanks except for the company commander's tank. 

In the photo above, the radio has been installed in the rear of the turret on this M4A1, and the new radio is undergoing transmission and receiving tests from a central radio test center.  

An SCR series radio is being installed by a Lima Tank Depot employee in the right rear of a half-track.

The star was painted on tanks and other vehicles as they were processed through the Lima Tank Depot.  Although the stars identified the vehicles as American to prevent fratricide, but they were also excellent aiming points for German tanks and anti-tank guns.

This photo shows the many items stored inside or on the tank itself, including weapons and 75mm or 76mm shells.  Items like the pioneer tools shown at the left of the photo, tools to make repairs to the engine and tracks, and the tow cable shown across the top all needed to be stowed in the tank before it left the Lima Depot.  These items were not provided by the manufacturing plant, so the Lima Tank Depot was tasked with adding all necessary items.  This assured that when the tank arrived in the combat zone it was ready to go.  These items were known as "On Vehicle Equipment" or OVM.  Only weapons and ammunition would be supplied in the field.

A 30 ton M4 Sherman tank is loaded on to a railroad flat car.  While the tanks arrived at the Lima Tank Depot and were able to run under their own power, the overseas preparation of the tanks disabled the engines for shipment.  Therefore they were all loaded on to flat cars by overhead cranes and then secured for travel.

Other vehicles were treated against salt water corrosion, partially disassembled, and then completely boxed for shipment.  Completely boxing equipment, like this Dodge WC-51 truck, protected it from the elements, damage, and theft of parts while in transit.  It also allowed for the secure transport of OVM items.

Here is a small group of boxed trucks awaiting shipment to the war zone after being prepared by the Lima Tank Depot.

M35 Prime Mover Project

Starting in January 1944 the Lima Depot converted 209 M10A1 Wolverine tank destroyers into M35 prime movers.  Work included removing the turret, ammo racks, and equipment not needed for use as a prime mover.  The Lima Tank Depot also fitted the vehicles with air compressors for the air brakes on the towed artillery they would be pulling.

This M35 is pulling a bulldozer in Kyll Germany in March 1945 has had a hard top with windshield added.  It also has a ring mounted .50 caliber machine gun.  These were not standard on the M35.  See the photo below for the standard M35.  Photo added 1-17-2017.

 Photo added 1-17-2017.

Below are a photos of a few of the over 25 types of tanks and other military vehicles that came through the Lima Tank Depot.

The M7 Priest was a 105mm gun carriage built on a Sherman tank chassis.  4,315 were built by three different companies starting in April 1942, and continued through the end of the war.  Author's photo from the Patton Museum.

This Fisher Body built M4A3 is one of 49,234 Sherman tanks built by ten different manufacturers during World War Two.  Many of the M4s came through the Lima Tank Depot to be processed on their way to battle fronts in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and then Europe.  As battles raged and M4 losses became heavy in Europe, the Lima Tank Depot was called upon to expedite the processing and shipping of replacement tanks for the troops on the battle front.  Author's photo.

Pacific Car and Foundry in Renton, WA produced 1,327 M26 and M26A1 "Dragon Wagons" like this M26A1.  The vehicles were used extensively in Europe to pull trailers while retrieving disabled M4 tanks on the battlefield.  The Lima Tank Depot prepared these vehicles for overseas shipment.  Author's photo. 

This is one of 53,733 half-tracks built during WWII in various models and configurations. Half-Tracks manufactured by Auto-Car in Ardmore, PA, Diamond-T in Chicago, IL, International Harvester in Springfield, OH and White Motor Company in Cleveland, OH would have been processed for combat duty at the Lima Tank Depot.   Author's photo. 

This Dodge WC-51 is the type shown above being boxed for shipment.  The Lima Tank Depot would have prepared many of the 404,817 Dodge trucks built in various configurations during the war.   Author's photo.

The first M26 Pershing tanks built by the Fisher Body Tank Arsenal in November and December 1944  were expedited for emergency shipment to the battle front in Europe by the Lima Tank Depot in January 1945.  M26 tanks were desperately needed to combat the German Tiger and Panther tanks that were decimating American Sherman tanks on the battlefield.  This was especially true after large American tank losses during the Battle of the Bulge.  Author's photo.

Both Massey-Harris and Cadillac built the M5 and M5A1 Stuart light tank. The Lima Tank Depot would have prepared them for North Africa and later European combat fronts.  Author's photo.

First used in the invasion of Sicily, the GMC DUKW amphibious truck was considered by General Dwight D Eisenhower to be one of the most important weapons fielded by the US in WWII.  The Lima Tank Depot would have processed many of the 21,147 DUKWs produced by both GMC and Chevrolet on their way to Sicily, Italy and France.   Author's photo.


The M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank was built by the Lima Tank Depot along with the Warren Tank Arsenal.  It is unknown whether this was built at Lima.  Author's photo added 2-10-2017.

"The Wartime Story of United Motors Service"

This 37 page booklet published in 1944 not only tells the story of the Lima Tank Depot as managed by United Motors Service, but how the GM Division provided service parts and rebuilt automobile components to keep civilian cars running during WWII.

Pages 4-17 tells how United Motors Service provided parts for civilian vehicles by rebuilding starters, generators, and fuel pumps.

From pages 18 to the end, the complete wartime story of the Lima Tank Depot is detailed.  This is the best and most definitive account available of what a tank depot did in World War Two.  It is well worth the reading time.  One will not find anything more informative on World War Two tank depots than that provided below.

Page 4.

Page 18.  The section below is the best description of the workings of a WWII tank depot.

Page 19 gives a general description of a tank depot.

Page 22.  "Emergencies are our business" illustrates one of many times the Lima Tank Depot pulled out of all of stops to get needed equipment ready and on the way to the battlefield.

Page 23.  Starting with "What Do We Do?" explains in detail how the Lima Tank Depot prepared vehicles for final shipment.




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