Nash-Kelvinator Lansing Michigan
World War Two Propeller Plants
Nash-Kelvinator in World War Two / WWII
(1916-1937- Nash Motors)
Rest in Peace
Nash-Kelvinator came into being in 1937 when
Nash Motors, an automobile manufacturer in Kenosha, WI since 1916,
merged with Kelvinator Appliance, a maker of home appliances in Detroit,
MI. Then in 1954 Nash-Kelvinator merged with Hudson to form what became
American Motors. Hence the reason for the two dates above.
Also, even though in the merger Nash was the senior partner in the
merger, company headquarters were in Detroit, rather than Kenosha,
because the CEO was from the Kelvinator side and wanted to remain there.
Nash-Kelvinator during WWII with the exception
of 1 ton truck trailers did not manufacture products related to its
pre-war product lines. In fact, it was one of only three American
automobile manufacturers to build complete aircraft, in this case the
Sikorsky R-6A helicopter. In fact, Nash-Kelvinator built more
helicopters during WWII than Sikorsky and the rest of the aviation
industry put together.
Nash-Kelvinator built more helicopters
during WWII in the United States than the rest of the industry combined.
It built the most advanced Sikorsky Helicopter design of the war, the
R-6A Hoverfly II, which is shown above at the Air Force Museum in
Dayton, OH. Author's photo.
The Nash-Kelvinator Plant in Lansing, MI won
the Army-Navy "E" Award on September 17, 1943.
The Nash-Kelvinator Ranco Division in Columbus, OH won the Army-Navy "E" Award in January 1943.
Nash-Kelvinator World War Two / WWII
Production Numbers / Statistics:
(17,012) R-2800 Pratt & Whitney Radial
Aircraft engines which included the R-2800-8 for the Vought F4U Corsair,
the R-2800-10 for the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the R-2800-65 for the
Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Production of the R-2800 actually began in the former
Reo Truck plant at Mt. Hope Ave and Washington Street in Lansing, MI in
late 1941. However, due to increased production demand for both
Hamilton-Standard Propellers also being built by by Nash-Kelvinator in
Lansing the engine manufacture was transferred to Kenosha, WI and
Lansing concentrated on propeller production. In Kenosha the Defense Plant Corporation
spent $31.4 million on a new 204,800 square foot plant and equipment to produce
the Double Wasp engine. An average of 9,125 employees worked at the
plant during the war with peak employment reaching 11,500.
Hamilton-Standard Propellers Hamilton Standard Props. Original
production began in the former Reo plant on South Cedar Street to the
east of the main Reo complex and after WWII became John Bean. After
expansion to the Mt. Hope plant propeller hubs were the main product.
Production later expanded to another former Reo Truck plant at Mt. Hope
and Washington. Motor Wheel used it for a while after WWII and then
about 1960 it was the site of the first big box discount store in
Lansing. This plant became propeller manufacturing and final assembly
for Nash-Kelvinator during WWII.
Besides the 158,134 propeller assemblies completed here were another
85,656 spare blades. Note that this plant, at which my grandfather was
in charge of propeller balancing, produced the second highest amount of
props by the US in WWII. The propellers produced where both three and four
blade configurations that included the four bladed type for the Vought F4U
Corsair and Douglas A-26 Invader.
(Over 200) R-6A Sikorsky Helicopters. While
many of the production numbers from WWII are somewhat "soft" and depend
on which source or production record, the R-6A helicopter production
seem to vary more than normal.
The National Museum of the US Air Force (Air Force Museum): 219
Buying Aircraft: Material Procurement for the Army Air Forces by
Irving Brinton Holley, Jr: 201 This was part of a post WWII
study by the Center of Military History - United States Army that has
become the guidepost for World War Two production numbers and facts.
Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson and American Motors
by Charles K. Pride (Google Books): 262
Actually other numbers beyond these three have
been seen. What is really important is not so much the numbers,
which are 200+, but the fact that Nash-Kelvinator built more helicopters
than any other company during the Second World War and that it was
technology that was in its infancy and leading edge at the same time.
Twenty more were apparently partially complete
at contract cancelation in August 1945. All were produced at the
Nash-Kelvinator Plant on Plymouth Road in Detroit.
(650,000) bomb fuses, (204,000) rocket motors,
(200,000) M3 6x30 binoculars and cases (There is also an M13
Nash-Kelvinator built 6X30 type binoculars which is not documented in
the historical literature. See the example below.), and (44,628) one ton two wheel cargo
trailers along with aviation items which included pressure gauges and .
What wasn't built but was planned. Plans
early in the war called for Nash-Kelvinator to build under license a
Sikorsky designed four engine sea plane. All or most of the WWII
magazine advertisements indicated that this was one of the product lines
along with aircraft engines and propellers. However, due to
changing military requirements the need for this particular type
aircraft decreased and the project was dropped. The aircraft had
an experimental designation of XJRK-1 and would have carried 37
passengers. Artist's renditions as shown below in the
advertisement are the Sikorsky JR2S that was in production and not a
military secret. Final assembly of the SJRK-1 aircraft would have
been in New Orleans, where the assumption is that it would have been
built adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain and then launched from the lake.
Sub-assemblies would have been made in Grand Rapids, MI and Kenosha, WI.
Nash-Kelvinator was 27th among United States
corporations in the value of World War II production contracts.
Another view of the Nash-Kelvinator built
R-6A Hoverfly II at the Air Force Museum. Author's photo.
This is a Nash-Kelvinator built pair of M13 6X30
Binoculars for the war effort in World War Two. All of the
documentation shows that Nash-Kelvinator made M3 6X30 Binoculars and
very little information can be found on the M13 and no information can
be found on the difference between the two types. Looking at
online auctions both types were made and for sale. This set built in
1944 was found at a military show in Fishers, IN in 2013. The
person selling them kindly let me take them outside for better light.
This pair was on sale for $79.50.
On display at the Vermillion County
War Museum is this pair of 1943 Nash-Kelvinator M3 6x50 binoculars, one
of 200,000 made at the Ranco Division in Columbus, OH. Author's
photo added 11-2-2015.
Author's photo added 11-2-2015.
The Ranco Division also made the cases for
the binoculars along with aviation items, to include altitude controls
and pressure gauges. Author's photo added 11-2-2015.
The binocular cases being manufactured in
the Nash-Kelvinator body plant in Milwaukee, WI. Photo courtesy of
Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.
This worked is building one of 204,000
rocket motors manufactured by Nash-Kelvinator during WWII. Photo
courtesy of Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.
This publicity photo from
Nash-Kelvinator shows the warhead added to the its rocket motors ready
to fire on a beach landing in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of
Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.
(Mt. Hope Ave Plant) in Lansing, MI - See the link above for a
complete story on the company's Lansing propeller operation in WWII.
Nash-Kelvinator built 17,012 of the Pratt &
Whitney R-2800 like this one shown here at P-61 display at WWII Weekend
in Reading, PA in a
new government plant in Milwaukee, WI during WWII. The models
built by Nash-Kelvinator, first built in Lansing, MI and then Kenosha,
WI went into the Hellcat, Corsair and Black Widow fighters. The
R-2800-65 version of the 2,000 horsepower engine was on display with the
Black Widow restoration in 2011. Author's photo.
This is one of only four Northrop P-61s "Black
Windows" that still exist in the world and the only one that will ever
fly again. This P-61 is being rebuilt by the Mid Atlantic Air
Museum in Reading, PA and is seen here on display at the Museum's annual
WWII Weekend in June of 2011. The engine to the left that could
very well be a Nash built R-2800-65 Model that the company built for the
"Black Widows" during the Second Word War. Author's
A WWII ad showing the Vought F4U Corsair
climbing towards the sun powered by not only by Nash-Kelvinator R-2800
built engine but quite possibly a propeller built in Lansing, MI by my
Seen here are eleven R-6 helicopters under
construction in this WWII photo of the Nash-Kelvinator Plant on Plymouth
Road in Detroit, MI. Depending on the source the company either
built 201, 219,or 262 of these during the war. In any of the cases
the key thing is that Nash-Kelvinator was the largest produce of
helicopters during the war. Sikorsky built 151 helicopters during
Three Nash-Kevinator built Sikorsky R-6
helicopters airborne at the same time in 1944. Photo courtesy of
Ken Schroeder added 3-14-2016.
This ad along with other Nash-Kelvinator ads
show and make reference to a Sikorsky four engine flying boat that the
Nash was to build with final assembly being in a new plant in New
Orleans, LA. The need for this type aircraft diminished as the war
progressed and more and larger aircraft carriers were built and the use
of long range land based patrol aircraft. The aircraft pictured
here is a JR2S.
In spite of the fact that Nash-Kelvinator
never built the proposed flying boat in production, it did spend a lot
of time and money on this wooden mock-up at its Milwaukee plant.
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. Also,
the engines on this aircraft were also provided by US auto companies.
Both Buick and Chevrolet built the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines that
powered the Liberator. The .50 caliber machine guns that defended
this aircraft the air against attacking fighters could have been
manufactured by any one of three General Motors Divisions; AC
Spark Plug, Frigidaire and Saginaw Steering.