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   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:
  Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  
Links

 

Ford Victory Pictorial   Ford WWII Production Database   Ford M4A3 Sherman Tank Photos   Ford Highland Park Plant Photos
Ford Motor Car Company in World War Two / WWII
Dearborn, MI
1903-Present

This page updated on 3-1-2017.

An Overview

Ford Motor Company is probably best known for its production of 6,790 B-24 Bombers at the US government financed and owned plant at Willow Run, MI.  Constructing the plant, finding and training the required people, and acquiring the tooling and equipment to build the aircraft consumed a considerable amount of Ford's resources and time during the war. Lost in the B-24 story is the numbers and diversity of other war items Ford built that contributed to the success of the US war effort.  Below I have attempted to capture the entire breadth of what the Ford Motor Company produced during WWII. This starts with the JB-2 Loon, the first US "cruise missile," which was a copy of the German V-1 Buzz Bomb.

Also of significant note is the number and location of Ford's plants, not only in the US but overseas as well.  While several of the plants were sold or loaned to the US government for war production, Ford's 42 domestic plants continued producing war goods.  Some of these were small "village" plants that produced many important parts for the larger products.


In the years after World War One and leading up to World War Two, the United States military establishment ignored the work of US rocket inventor Robert Goddard, putting the defense of the country at risk in doing so.  While they were ignoring Robert Goddard, now proclaimed the father of American rocketry, the German military was in the process of funding its rocket scientists, resulting in the Vengeance Weapons, the V-1 and V-2.  The United States was therefore put in the position of having to copy captured German V-1s as they became available.  The result was the JB-2 Loon as seen above.  Republic Aviation had the contract for the airframe, but Ford Motor Company was chosen to produce the pulse jet engine.  Check my Willys-Overland page to see the significant contribution it made to this project when Republic Aviation subcontracted the all of the airframe work to it.  Author's Photo.


This 1903 Ford Model A runabout had its engine and chassis supplied by the Dodge Brothers machine shop, setting in motion two names in the US auto industry that still exist.  This was Henry Ford's third and lasting attempt to start a car company, the second one became Cadillac after he left.  Author's photo from the Gilmore Car Museum.

Seven Ford plants won the Army-Navy "E" Award a total of 14 times during WWII.

Ford Motor Car Company Plants that won the Army-Navy "E" for Excellence Award during WWII

Aircraft Engine Plant, Dearborn, MI 1
Glider Plant, Iron Mountain, MI 3
Richmond Tank and Motor Vehicle Depot, Richmond, CA 4
Somerville Branch, Somerville, MA 2
Twin City Branch, St. Paul, MN 1
Willow Run Bomber Plant, Ypsilanti, MI 1
Ypsilanti Plant, Ypsilanti, MI 3
  14

Ford Motor Company World War Two / WWII Production Numbers / Statistics: 
Aviation Related - (57,851) Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Radial Aircraft Engines, (6,790) B-24 Liberator Bombers, (1,894) B-24 Knock Down Kits*,  (75,166) P-1 Aircraft Generators, (11,224) R-1 Aircraft Generators, (4,314) CG-4A Gliders, (87) 14A Gliders, (17,008) Aircraft Drop Fuel Tanks, (2,501) Pulse Jet Engines, (52,278) Turbo Superchargers, (5,475) Aircraft Rate of Climb Indicators 

*Knock Down Kits - These went to the Douglas Plant in Tulsa, OK and Consolidated Plant in Fort Worth, TX for final assembly.

Vehicles - (12,782) Amphibious Jeeps (Seeps), (282,354) Jeeps, (250) T17 Armored Cars, (8,410) M-8 Armored Cars, (3,791) M-20 Armored Cars, (19,520) British Axles, (26,086) British Engines, (1,690) M4A3 Sherman Tanks, (1,038) M10A1 Tank Destroyers, (26,727) Tank Engines, (5,475) Tank Gun Mounts, (13,893) Universal (Bren Gun) Carriers, (7,053) GTBC 1-1/2 ton, 4x4 Bomb Service Trucks, (77,915) G8T 2-1/2 ton 4x2 Trucks, (8,218) GTB 1-1/2 ton 4x4 Cargo Trucks (Burma Jeep), (42,676) Army/Navy Cargo Trucks (Standard Product), (12,420) 1-1/2 Pick-up Trucks (Standard Product), (10,476) 1942 Automobiles, (3,025 or 10,877) Ford designed Moto-Tugs.

Other - (802) M-7 Gun Directors, (400) M-5 Gun Directors, (9,498) Squad Tents

The numbers given above only represent United States production.  Foreign production is listed on the Ford Database Page.

Editor's Note:  The information presented for Ford built World War Two military production numbers was obtained from :Ford in the Service of America:  Mass Production for the Military During the World Wars," by Timothy J. O'Callaghan published by McFarland and Co. in 2009.  This is an excellent book; Mr. O'Callaghan spent considerable time researching Ford historical archives to tell the Ford story during both World Wars.  Production numbers above came from a table that included three different ways the WWII production had been tabulated:  1)  Month by month production records from 1-1941 to 8-1945; 2)  Fixed and Cost contracts from 1941 through 1945; 3)  Flyer published September 1945.

Sometimes the numbers for a particular product match between the three sources, and sometimes they don't.  I chose method "one," as this covers the war production that ended with the termination of hostilities in August of 1945.  In other parts of the book, production numbers are given for individual plants for particular products.  As seen below, in several cases where I have compared the two sets of numbers they do not reconcile.  This is not unusual, as I have found in many cases, for many of the companies presented in this website conflicting or non-existent production numbers.  The main thing to recognize is the vast scope and large numbers of different products Ford produced in the defense of the US in WWII.


This JB -2 Loon is on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.  Author's Photo.


The Udvar-Hazy Center is in error or misleading in its identification of Ford Motor as the manufacturer, as it only produced the pulse engine.  Author's Photo.


This Ford built pulse jet engine is on display at the Air Force Museum.  Author's Photo.


The red tubes are the fuel lines and injectors, which sprayed the fuel into the combustion chamber.  Author's Photo.

Ford Built WWII Ground Vehicles:  Below are photos of the many different types of vehicles Ford manufactured for the war effort.


During World War One the Model T was high tech. Ford shipped 4,362 ambulance models like this one to Europe during that conflict.  This was the predecessor to the many trucks it supplied during WWII.  As seen at the US Air Force Museum.  Author's Photo.


Seen here at the 2014 Indiana Military Museum's Salute to WWII Veteran's is a 1943 Ford 1-1/2 ton GTBC 4x4 bomb truck.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 (7,053) GTBCs were built, (4,292) at the Edgewater, NJ plant and (2,750) in Louisville, KY.  These two production numbers leave eleven units unaccounted for.   Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


In US Navy parlance this is a Mark II, Model II with serial number 101709.  The Ford serial number is 185548.  The maximum gross weight is 10,900 lbs.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


(8,218) GTB 1-1/2 ton 4x4 Cargo Trucks (Burma Jeep) were built by Ford during WWII.  This pristine example was on display at the 2014 Aviation Day at the Columbus, IN Airport.  Note that the design is similar to the GTBC bomb truck shown above.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


The GBT has the same sideways facing passenger seat as the bomb truck.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Edgewater, NJ built (5,951) GTB Cargo Trucks, and Louisville (1,442) GTBA Cargo Trucks for a total of 7,393.  This leaves (825) units unaccounted for.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


On the move back at the end of the day.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 This is one of (77,915) G8T 2-1/2 ton 4x2 trucks built by Ford.  It is basically the same as its civilian trucks.  Author's Photo from the 2014 MVPA National Convention in Louisville, KY and added 9-1-2014.


 Dallas, TX built (5,899) G8T and (314) GT8A Cargo Trucks, while Edgewater, NJ built (71,350) G8T Cargo Trucks.  In this case (352) trucks are not accounted for.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 G8T production lasted continued from September 1942 until May 1945.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 Most of the trucks went to the Russians under Lend Lease but many ended up on US farms in 1945 when the war ended.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.

 


This World War Two photo shows one of 250 T17 armored cars produced by Ford Motor Company at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.  This 30 ton vehicle was to be supplied to the British as the "Deerhound", but instead the units were given to Military Police units in the US for use after the 37mm cannon was removed.


A Ford built GPW Jeep photographed at the MPVA Rally at the Ropkey Armor Museum.  Author's Photo.


My source shows that Ford built 282,354 Jeeps during WWII.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This Ford was delivered to the US Armed Forces on May 3, 1943.  It was seen at the 2013 Great Georgia Airshow as the British Long Range Desert Group would have equipped it.  Author's Photo.


Displayed at National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN is one of 12,782 Amphibious Jeeps (Seeps) produced by Ford at the River Rouge.  Ford's designation for this was GPA.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Ford built 8,410 of these M8 armored cars and was the sole manufacturer of the type.  Its internal designation for it was GAK and it was built either 6,397 in St. Paul, MN or 2,126 Chicago, IL.  The two totals differ by 113 units.  This one was seen at the Tico, FL Airshow in 2012.   Author's Photo.


 

The M20 version of the Ford armored car came without the turret, but retained a .50 machine gun for defense.  It was used primarily as a command car with more radios.  Ford built all 3,791 of these at its Chicago, IL facility.  Author's Photo from the 2013 Wings over Houston Airshow. 


The M20 was used as either a command car with an extra compliment of radios or as an armored troop carrier.  Here we can see the bench seats along the sides.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


  General Patton used an M20 for his command car when he was in Europe.  This is a re-creation of that vehicle.  Author's Photo from the 2014 MVPA National Convention in Louisville, KY and added 9-1-2014.


 Under the windscreen is an M1 2.36 inch bazooka and four rounds of ammunition.  The radio and a Thompson submachine gun are on the opposite wall.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 More bazooka ammunition on the back wall with three M1 carbines.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


The driver's location.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 Another photo of the driver's location and the assistant driver's seat.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 The M20 was powered by a Hercules JXD inline six-cylinder engine, as seen here from the driver's side of the vehicle.  The JXD could produce 110 hp from 320 cu. in.  The Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


 Here is the engine from the assistant driver's side with the battery box in the foreground.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


  This is an extremely well restored example of the 1,690 Ford built M4A3 small hatch Sherman tanks constructed at its Highland Park, Michigan plant.   This was the only type of Sherman tank Ford built; and was photographed at the WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. 

The original small hatch M4 Sherman tanks, like this Ford built M4A3, had the front glacis angled 57 degrees from the vertical, to hopefully have enemy anti-tank shells deflect off the glacis rather than penetrate it.  However, this allowed for the driver's and assistant driver's hatches to protrude forward of the glacis, creating a weak spot in the armor.  Steel plates were welded in front of them in the field or at tank depots to increase armor protection.  The later large hatch tanks got away from this problem by reducing the glacis angle to 47 degrees.  This eliminated the protruding hatch bulges.  The glacis armor thickness was increased to compensate for the smaller angle of defection.  Author's Photo.


The Ford built M4A3 Sherman was powered by Ford's GAA 500 hp engine as shown below.  Sand bags were placed on the front glacis to give more protection, not only against German tank shells but the just as dangerous hand held Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon.   Author's Photo.


This is an M36 Jackson Tank Destroyer.  This could be one of 1,038 Ford built M10A1 Wolverine Tank Destroyers at its Highland Park plant that was converted to an M36 starting in April 1944.  It could also be one of 375 Fisher Body Grand Blanc built M10A1s that were converted to M36s.  There is no way to tell as they are all identical in appearance.  The M36 serial number of 869 and US registration number of 40191168 do not indicate the original manufacturer.  It is known that this is not one of the 300 M36s Fisher Body built off its assembly line as they had serial numbers 1-300.  Author's Photo taken at the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles.

The Ford built M10A1 tank destroyers did not see overseas duty, and were delegated to training in the US.  This happened because it was powered by the Ford GAA V-8 engine while the Fisher Body M10 version was powered by twin Detroit Diesel engines.  Five times the number of Fisher Body M10s were available for combat duty versus the M10A1.  The Army also did not want two different type engines in the field.  So it chose to have the Ford stay in the US for training purposes.  But the M10A1 did see combat duty when converted to the M36 like the one shown above.  The M10A1 was armed with a three inch  main gun.  The M36 was armed with a larger 90mm main gun needed to penetrate the more heavily armored German tanks that US forces were coming up against in Europe.

Ford built M10A1 Serial Numbers
Serial Numbers Registration Numbers
1803-2840 4046509-4047546


This photo shows both the M10A1 Tank Destroyers and M4A3 Tanks coming down parallel production lines at the Ford Highland Park assembly plant circa 1942-43.


Ford built 26,727 GAA 1,100 cubic inch, 500 hp engines in its Lincoln Plant in Detroit for use in the M4A3 Sherman tank, M10A1 Wolverine tank destroyer, and later in the M26 Pershing.  The engine block castings for the GAA were poured at the River Rouge.  Another display of the Ropkey Armor Museum.  Author's Photo.


Here is a WWII photo of the GAA engine assembly at the Lincoln Plant.


This 1941 Ford Fire Truck served at Hunter Field in Savannah, GA during World War Two.  As seen at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, GA.  Author's Photo.


This 1942 Ford/American LaFrance fire truck served at Freeman Army Airfield in Seymour, IN during WWII.  It then served with the Seymour fire department after the airfield closed in 1946.  It can be seen on display at the Freeman Field Airfield Museum at the Seymour, IN airport.  Author's Photo added 3-1-2017.


Ford Motor Company also produced 13,893 of these Universal Carries for British Commonwealth nations at its Somerville, MA remote assembly plant.  Ford of Canada in Windsor built another 33,988.  This carried the Ford internal designation of GAU, while the Universal Carrier was sometimes better known a Bren Gun Carrier.  This example was found at the National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This Canadian Ford built Universal Carrier from the Second World War was photographed at the 2014 Spirit of St. Louis Air Show.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This WWII photo shows several of the 33,988 Universal Carriers on the railroad dock at the Windsor, ONT Ford plant.


This is one of 209,000 Canadian Military Pattern Trucks built by Ford of Canada and was photographed at the National Military History Center in Auburn, IN.  Author's Photo.


This version carries a single Bofors anti-aircraft gun.  Both Chrysler and Pontiac made the 40mm weapon during WWII.  Author's Photo.

Ford Built Aircraft and Related Items:  


A Northrop P-61 "Black Widow at the National Museum of the Air Force.  Ford built (17,008) drop tanks like the one seen here for the P-38, P-47 and P-61 during WWII.  Author's Photo added 9-1-2014.


Ford is most remembered, especially among the aviation historians, for its contribution to the war effort in the building 6,790 Consolidated B-24 Liberator Four Engine Bombers in a huge, brand new plant in Willow Run, MI.  This was quite an endeavor and not without a lot of pain and controversy.  Once the plant got up to line speed it was producing one bomber an hour like the B-24 shown here, owned and operated by the Collings Foundation of Stowe, MA.  Not only was the Willow Run Plant making parts for the bombers it was building but it also built 1,894 Knock Down B-24s that were then shipped by truck to the Douglas Plant in Tulsa, OK and the Consolidated Plant in Fort Worth, TX for final assembly. The Willow Run Plant was one of five in the US during WWII that in total produced 18,140 B-24s, making it the most produced aircraft in this country during the war.  Only two remain flying in the world today.  Author's Photo.


This is a Waco CG-4A Combat Glider that is on display at the Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX.  Ford built 4,190 of this combat gliders at its Iron Mountain Plant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Ford was one of 17 companies that built a total 13,903 CG-4As under license for the US Army Airborne Troop Carrier Command and was the largest producer of this type glider.  Author's Photo.


This photo shows the both the landing skids and landing wheel.  Author's Photo.


From inside, it is evident that the glider is built with steel tubing wrapped by aircraft fabric and wood for supports, benches, and the floor.  Ford's Iron Mountain facility was ideally suited for this task, as it had originally made wooden bodies for the Model T.  Author's Photo.


This photo shows the interior of the rear of the CG-4A.  More steel tubing, fabric and wood.  Author's Photo.


Ford Motor Company built 57,851 Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Radial Aircraft Engines like this during the war, at a new plant at the River Rouge.  The Ford built R-2800 found application on the the Curtiss C-46,  Douglas A-26, Martin B-26, Northrop P-61, Republic P-47 and the Lockheed B-34.  This is an actual Ford built R-2800-21 engine, on display at the Museum of the United States Air Force. Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


The Ford built R-2800 can be see next to one of the P-47s on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force.  Author's Photo.


A Republic P-47.  Author's Photo.


This Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon photographed at the 2013 Gathering of Warbirds and Legends still has its Ford Built R-2800-31 engines in it.   Author's Photo.


 Author's Photo.


This Ford built R-2800-31 was seen at the 2016 Warbird Expo at the Indianapolis Regional Airport.  Author's photo added 11-13-2016.


The ID tag shows the engine has a serial number of FP-0-42-08-7.  Author's photo added 11-13-2016. 


Ford was the exclusive manufacturer of the R-2800-51 engines that powered the Curtiss C-46 Commando.  Author's Photo.


This cutaway on display at MAPS Museum is a Ford built R-2800-51 that powered the C-46 Commando as seen above.  Author's Photo added 5-6-2015.


Author's Photo added 5-6-2015.


This is a GE Turbo Supercharger used on a Republic P-47 during WWII.  Ford Motor Company built 52,276 of the GE Turbo Superchargers at its River Rouge plant that were used on B-17s and B-24s.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This cut-away of a turbo supercharger shows some of the internal parts.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

 B-24 Nose Section Photos from the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum:


It is unknown if any Ford built B-24s still exist, and on display at a museum somewhere around the globe.  However, there is this Ford built nose section on display at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Poole, GA.  More photos of this nose section can be seen at the bottom of this page.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


It was delivered 2-25-1942.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.

Miscellaneous Ford built items:


High tech to low tech, Ford delivered to the US Military.  Squad tents like this one were very important to the common service person, as they protected them from the elements.  One would not think an automobile manufacturer would have the expertise to make something like this.  In today's world, they don't.  The seats and interior trim are now outsourced .  But in the WWII era, Ford and other companies made their own seats and sewed their own upholstery.  The Ford Highland Park Trim Department made 9,498 tents like this to protect the GIs from rain, snow and the cold.  Author's Photo.


This Ford Moto-Tug can be seen at the Yankee Air Museum.  This particular one was used to pull aircraft off the end of the assembly line at the Ford B-24 plant.  Ford records are unclear whether 10,877 Moto-Tubs were outsourced or built in-house by Ford.   Author's Photo added 2-16-2017.


Also at the Yankee Air Museum is this Ford built B-24L cockpit.  Author's Photo added 2-16-2017.

 

 

 

 

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