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 and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   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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Nash-Kelvinator Lansing Plants in World War Two / WWII
Lansing, MI

This page updated 11-14-2017.

Nash-Kelvinator Lansing Plant World War Two / WWII Production Numbers / Statistics:  158,134 three and four blade propellers and 85,656 spare blades.  Nash-Kelvinator Lansing was second in the amount of US propeller production during the war.  For the month of October 1943, Lansing produced 7,015 propellers, more than any other manufacturer, making it the world's leading propeller supplier for the month. 

The Nash-Kelvinator Plant in Lansing, MI won the Army-Navy "E" Award on September 17, 1943.

The Plants

Nash-Kelvinator South Cedar St. Plant in Lansing, MI


Author's photo.
Original production of Hamilton Standard propellers by Nash-Kelvinator was done in this plant on the east side of Cedar Street across from The Reo.  Originally a Reo plant, it was purchased by the Defense Plant Corporation (DPC) in 1941 and turned over to Nash-Kelvinator for the manufacture of propellers.

The first contract received at the plant came on June 28, 1941 for 5,000 propellers to be delivered to the British government starting in 1942, which would have been used on Lancaster, Mosquito and Baltimore aircraft.  First production started in the 450,000 square foot facility in February of 1942 when the first propeller came off the assembly line and was accepted by inspectors.  The DPC provided $8.5 million worth of equipment for the manufacture of the propellers in the plant.

In October of 1942 Nash-Kelvinator received a second contract from the Army Air Force for 7,000 propellers for its own use, and then was issued a third contract in May of 1942, which was the working contract and amended as the war progressed for more propellers. In March of 1942 final assembly and blade manufacturing moved to the former Reo plant at Mt. Hope and Washington Streets, with the Cedar Street plant then responsible for propeller hub production.

At its peak the Nash-Kelvinator Lansing operation employed 8,500 workers.

When I grew up in Lansing, the Cedar Street plant, photographed above in 2011, was owned by John Bean and made fire apparatus. 

Nash-Kelvinator Mt. Hope Ave Plant in Lansing, MI


Looking at the former Nash-Kelvinator plant from across the street on Mt. Hope Avenue.  When in junior high school, I would walk the sidewalk in the foreground, not realizing the significance of the plant across the street or that my grandfather had worked there during the war.  While in college, I would drive this route to Michigan State University.  Author's photo.

The plant pictured is located on the southwest corner of Washington Street and Mt. Hope Avenue.  Originally built by Reo, which was located about a half a mile north on Washington, starting in March of 1942 the plant became the final assembly location for Nash-Kelvinator to produce 158,134 Hamilton-Standard propellers. 

I grew up a mile away and walked by this plant for three years going to junior high school, and then drove by it for five and a half years when I went to college, but was unaware of this building's historical or or my family's involvement with the plant until 2010.  Then while visiting my uncle in May of 2010 in California, he mentioned that my grandfather had worked in the plant during WWII, and was foreman in the propeller balancing department.  This came as a complete surprise to me, as I had no idea of this plant's contribution to the war effort, nor the fact that my grandfather had ever worked in the plant.  The location of the plant allowed him to walk to work and save valuable rationed gasoline during the war.

After WWII Motor Wheel Corp. occupied the building for a while until it moved out to the north end of Lansing.  Around 1960-61 this was the location of the first discount / big box store in Lansing, and I remember when it opened as we went shopping there on occasion.  I actually remember purchasing some solder needed for a radio project I was building at the store.  The name of store escapes me but it was the predecessor of the K-Marts and others we have today.  That lasted for a short time and then the plant I believe was occupied by a drop forge, of which we had several in Lansing supporting Oldsmobile.  It now is occupied by multiple companies in what is called the Mid-Michigan Industrial Center.


Looking southwest with Washington Ave. on the left.  About a half a mile down Washington Ave. on the west side of the road is the HQ for the Michigan National Guard.  It was here that I served out my military commitment in the 1970's.  Again, not knowing that the factory just to the north of the armory had produced Hamilton-Standard propellers during WWII.   Author's photo.

Aircraft types with Lansing built Hamilton-Standard three blade propellers:  A-20, C-47, C-53, B-17, B-24, B-25, Baltimore, Lancaster, and Mosquito.

Aircraft types with Lansing built Hamilton-Standard four blade propellers: F4U-4 and A-26D,E,F.  These two aircraft were late developments in the war and Goodyear, which was going to build the four bladed version of the F4U-4 Corsair as the FG-4, never went into production with the aircraft.  Lansing-Nash Kelvinator was to be the supplier for the Goodyear FG-4 and it is unknown whether the propellers were routed to the Vought production line in Connecticut, for use on the F4U-4 version that was built there.

The A-26D, E and F were the only versions of the aircraft that were to have been fitted with four blade props, and they never went into production, even though there had been plans for 750 of the A-26Ds and 2,150 of the A-26E to have been built.

Nash-Kelvinator Lansing built a total of 4,972 four bladed props by the time production stopped at the end of the war.

Anatomy of a Hamilton-Standard propeller blade:  Below are photos of sectioned blade that is on display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Lock, CT.  Note that there is a center spar section that runs the length of the blade that is encased in a foam material.  The two outside sections of the blade are welded together to make a finished product.


Author's photo from the New England Air Museum added 11-14-2017.


Shown here is the tip of the blade.  Author's photo from the New England Air Museum added 11-14-2017.
 


Author's photo from the New England Air Museum added 11-14-2017.


Author's photo from the New England Air Museum added 11-14-2017.


 


Author's photo from the New England Air Museum added 11-14-2017.


Hamilton-Standard propellers being run at the Lansing Nash-Kelvinator plant during WWII.  Photo courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.



This photo is interesting due to the American automotive industry's importance in the construction of this late model B-24 (J, L, or M model).  First of all, this is a Ford built B-24 at the Willow Run, MI plant.  Obviously the Lansing, MI Nash-Kelvinator plant built the propellers being installed and the 100,000th milestone has been reached.  My grandfather, Frank Dominik, while not in the photo, played an important part in this, in that he was the supervisor of the propeller balancing department back in Lansing.  It was his responsibility to make sure that when the engines on this B-24 fired up, there were no vibration issues due to out of balance blades.

Army-Navy E for Excellence Award

The Lansing Nash-Kelvinator Plant was awarded the prestigious Army-Navy E for Excellence Award on September 17, 1943.  Below is the program given to the employees to honor the event.



This page notes production of propellers by Lansing for use on the US types of aircraft to include the B-17, B-24, B-25, A-20, C-47, C-53 and the Baltimore.  Research indicates all of the Baltimore production went to the British, which served with distinction in North Africa.


This article from the Detroit Times is misleading in the section titled "Precision Propellers Perfectly Balanced".  While I appreciate the author honoring the work my grandfather did in making sure the propellers were balanced, it should be noted that Nash-Kelvinator both before and after WWII had no operations in Lansing, and so therefore the production men and women in the Lansing plants did not previously build refrigerators.  Because of this, employees at the Lansing plants were all hired specifically for war production.  My grandfather was came from the Fisher Body plant to help out, and then returned there when the war was over. 

World War Two Aircraft with Lansing built Nash-Kelvinator Built Propellers:


The Boeing B-17 has became one of the most famous bombers of World War Two, if not the most famous of those in US service during the war.  With over 12,000 built, Nash-Kelvinator was one of two automakers to supply propellers for this aircraft.  Author's photo.


The Consolidated B-24 was the most widely produced bomber of World War Two by the US, with over 18,000 being built in five plants across the country.  Lansing built propellers were supplied to the Ford Willow Run bomber plant in southeast Michigan for this aircraft as noted above.  Author's photo.


The North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.  Author's photo.


A rare Douglas A-20 Havoc twin engine attack aircraft.  Author's photo.


The Douglas C-47 was equipped with Lansing Nash-Kelvinator produced propellers.  Author's photo.


Early on the morning of June 6, 1944 C-47s like this one along with C-53s, pulled through the air by Lansing built Nash-Kelvinator propellers, dropped the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions into Normandy, France, to start the D-Day invasion.  This C-47, "Tico Belle", is a Normandy veteran.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


A close up look at the propellers on a C-47.  Author's photo.


Nash-Kelvinator built the four bladed propellers for the Goodyear version of the Navy's F4U-4 Corsair, the FG-4, which did not go into production.  It is unknown whether the Lansing built propellers were diverted to Vought for use on the F4U-4, like this one pictured here.  Author's photo.


Lansing produced propellers for Martin Baltimore bombers, all of which went to the British under Lend-Lease.


Nash-Kelvinator's original production went to the British for aircraft like this Canadian built Lancaster bomber.  Author's photo.


Another British aircraft built in Canada was the DeHavilland Mosquito shown here, which was also supplied with Lansing built propellers.  Author's photo.
 

 

 

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