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 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  
Links

 

Reo Motor Car Company in World War Two / WWII
Lansing, MI
1904-1975
Rest in Peace

This page updated 11-25-2015.

Reo or REO stood for Ransom E. Olds and was the company he founded when he left what later became the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors.  Although he originally built automobiles by the time WWII arrived the company was only building trucks.  It was an important source of employment on the south side of Lansing, where I grew up.

Reo's plant was located at South Washington and Baker Streets in Lansing.  The plant was torn down in the 1980's after then Diamond Reo went out of business.  My grandfather took part in one of the few non-violent sit-down strikes that were sweeping the US auto industry at the time that started on March 10, 1937.  My grandmother along with other workers' wives took food and supplies to the workers and passed them through the factory windows during the four week strike.  After the strike my grandfather got a job at Fisher Body which was timely as Reo went bankrupt in 1939 which closed the doors for a year. 

In looking at the numbers in the column to the left it would appear that during WWII Reo was not producing vehicles to capacity as it had an apparent annual capacity of 50,000 units.  However, this was a problem that bedeviled the company for many years and finally led to its demise in 1975.  I remember as a teenager walking past The Reo, as we called it, on my way to downtown Lansing.  At that time the Vietnam War was in full swing and Reo was producing many M-35 Army 2.5 ton trucks for that conflict.  Probably without these it would have gone out of business earlier.

Reo Motor Car Company World War Two / WWII Production Numbers / Statistics:  (594) 11/2-Ton Navy Stake Trucks, (743) 3-Ton Navy Stake Trucks, (200) Navy Aircraft Salvage Trucks, (438) 3-Ton Navy Stake Trucks, (594) 11/2-Ton Navy Dump Trucks, (875) 3-Ton Navy Dump Trucks, (300) 5-Ton Navy Dump Trucks, (2,318) Tractors for Fuel Trailers, (22,204) 2 1/2 ton 6x6 Trucks*, (700) Diesel Powered Tank Transporters, Buses, Aircraft Radial Engine Starter Parts, Aircraft Engine Parts, Amphibious Tracker Parts, Bomb, Projectile and Rocket Fuses.

*The 2 1/2 ton 6x6 Trucks were license built Studebaker M6s.


Mia Tioli made this excellent looking model of what the Reo Plant looked liked in 1906.  In the end most of the green space was covered with factory expansions.  The road along the bottom is Washington Ave and I used to walk this section of Washington from my house to the downtown area during the mid sixties which would be to the left or north .  I remember trucks, and especially Army 2&1/2 ton and five ton trucks, coming off the assembly line no doubt on their way to Vietnam.  In the lower right hand corner which would be the intersection of Baker Street and Washington the City of Lansing had a firehouse with a Seagrave engine.  On the site where the west side of the test track is located the Reo Clubhouse was later built. 


Looking south with the Lansing railroad station for the Grand Trunk Railroad.  Now you know where Grand Funk Railroad got its name from.  Author's photo.


The Reo Complex looking SE at at later date than the model above.


This is a post 1979 photo looking NW of the Oldsmobile Complex in Lansing, MI when at it apex as much of it has now been torn down.  In the back ground one can see the Fisher Body / Olds Forge / Olds Jet Plants that have also been razed. However, of interest from a Reo prospective is the empty field in the front center of the photo as this is where the The Reo used to stand.  Since this photo was taken the area has been made into an industrial park.  The red building to the right (north) of the former Reo complex is the train depot that can be seen in the model above.  The train station may out last all of us!


The train station still stands even though the Lansing Board of Water and Light has built a new building just to the north of it.  Someone has had the presence of mind to make sure there was room for the structure.  It will outlast all of us!!  Author's photo taken on 4-8-2015 and added 4-30-2015.


Its 1907 and R.E. Olds is driving President Teddy Roosevelt in a Reo to Michigan State Agricultural College in East Lansing (Now Michigan State University.) so he can deliver the commencement speech.  Photo added 4-30-2015.


Seen here at the James Dean Festival in Fairmount, IN is a Lansing, MI built Reo/White M35 2-1/2 ton truck.  Since the beginning of this website over a year ago I have been searching the military events to find a Lansing built M35.  Then of all places I find it at a car show 25 miles from my house.  Author's photo added 10-5-2014.

During WWII Reo built Studebaker designed US6 2-1/2 ton trucks for the war effort.  After WWII Reo in 1949 Reo designed and built 5,000 1-1/2 ton 6 wheel trucks designated as the M34 and known for a while as the "Eager Beaver" due to its ability to ford rivers and streams.  The M34 was quickly replaced by the 10 wheel M35 that was produced by Reo, General Motors, Studebaker, Kaiser-Jeep, AM General from 1950 to 1999 and was known simply to the troops that used it as the "Deuce and a Half".  It was this design that replaced the WWII GMC CCKW in service.

The original M34/35 series was powered by a Reo built 331 cu. in. 6 cylinder Gold Comet Engine.

  Below is a photo of seven of the 5,000 M34 6x6 2-1/2 ton trucks built by Reo.  This photo was taken out in front of the Reo office buildings looking north-northeast along Washington Avenue in Lansing.  These can be identified as the M34 as the trucks only have single tires on each end of the rear axles and the clearance cut-out over the tires in the bed.


 Photo added 4-14-2015.

After the Korean War was over Reo lost the contract to General Motors, which had a lower cost structure.  Later it again started producing them for the Vietnam conflict.  As an interesting aside, as noted above Reo built Studebaker 2-1/2 ton trucks during WWII, and Studebaker was building Reo designed M35s when it went out of business in 1963.  (See my Studebaker page for a photo.)


The reason I was looking the Lansing Reo M35 is that growing up in Lansing in the 1950s and 1960s I used to see these trucks come off the end of the assembly line.  Many times I would see them being test driven on Washington Ave.  During the 1960s as I walked by the plant I knew that the trucks were destined for Vietnam.  Author's photo added 10-5-2014.


White Motor Company bought Reo in May of 1957 and Reo became the Lansing Division of White Motors.  So while the name tag says White Motor Co., the plant was still known to us locals as "The Reo".  In any event, this truck was designed by Reo in 1949 and assembled in the same plant 15 years later.  They were still Reo trucks.  This M35A1 was built in February of 1964.  Maybe I saw it come off the end of the assembly line on Washington Ave. as did many of this type.   Author's photo added 10-5-2014.


A year after White purchased Reo, it then purchased the Diamond T Truck Company.  One of the immediate benefits to Reo is that its OH185 V8 engines were then supplied to Diamond T.  In 1960 White moved the Diamond T operation from Chicago to Lansing and built both truck lines in the plant until 1967 when the two truck products were combined into one product line, Diamond Reo.  Author's photo added 10-5-2014. 


This militarized version of the Holt Tractor was built by Reo in 1917 as a 5 ton prime mover for artillery in WWI and can be seen at the Ropkey Armor Museum in Indiana. The Tractor has a 45 hp engine and Holt later evolved into Caterpillar.  Author's photo.


A 1938 Reo Speed Wagon at the RE Olds Museum in Lansing, MI.  My grandfather worked at The Reo in 1938 so he contributed to the building of this in some form or manner.  Back in the old days they sure knew how to build a good looking fire truck.  Author's photo.


This Reo built Mark 229 Hydrostatic Tail Fuze was used by the US Navy during WWII in its 650 and 1000 depth charges.  The fuze is 16.33 inches long with a diameter of 3.25 inches, while the sixteen blade arming vane is 5.25 inches in diameter.  Depth settings were made by a hand dial on the device and could be set for 25, 50, 75,100 and 125 feet.  The small hole on the left end of the body was used to inserting a pin into the device to disarm it.  This was an explosive and dangerous device.  Author's photo from the RE Olds Museum in Lansing, MI.  Added 4-30-2015.


 Also on display at the RE Olds Museum is another Reo built depth charge fuze.  Note the pin that keeps the vanes from spinning and maintains it in a safe mode.  Author's photo added 4-30-2015.


This is a Reo built T13E1 was one of two prototypes built by the company under contract from The Trackless Tank Corporation.  The first was completed in May of 1942 and it along with the second prototype was shipped to Fort Knox, KY for evaluation.  Testing resulted in the cancellation of the project.


The 22,204 2&1/2 ton 6x6 trucks Reo built during WWII would have looked like this Studebaker US6 2.5 ton truck as Reo license built the Studebaker design.  This example is located at the National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN.  Author's photo.


Pictured here is a WWII photo of one of the 2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks built by Reo in Lansing during WWII.  Photo added 4-14-2015.


This last and only Reo building still in existence as seen in April 2015.  Author's photo added 4-30-2015.


The former Reo Showroom on South Washington Ave. as seen in November of 2015.  Artist Tony Hendrick painted this mural that was attached to the building in 2015.  Author's photo added 11-25-2015.


 Author's photo added 11-25-2015.


 The building in the mural shows several former Reo employees with the now razed Reo Clubhouse in the background.  In its prime the Clubhouse was a gathering place for Lansing residents to come and listen to concerts and participate in parties and dances held there. Author's photo added 11-25-2015.


Today this new building occupies the location of the former Reo Clubhouse in the Reo Industrial Park.   Author's photo added 4-30-2015.


The former Reo storage lot.  Author's photo added 4-30-2015.

REO Produces for War

 

 

 

 

Email us at:  Webmaster