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  


 Studebaker Proving Ground   Studebaker South Bend Plant Photos   Studebaker in World War One   Studebaker World War Two Vehicle Photos   Studebaker R-1820 Aircraft Engines on the B-17 "Yankee Lady"   Studebaker World War Two Fort Wayne Plant
Studebaker in World War Two
South Bend, IN
Rest in Peace

Studebaker World War Two Fort Wayne Photo page added 2-7-2018.
Studebaker R-1820 Aircraft Engines on the B-17 "Yankee Lady" page added 6-12-2016.
Studebaker Proving Ground and Studebaker South Bend Plant Photo pages added 1-25-2015.
Studebaker in World War One and Studebaker World War Two Vehicle Photos pages added 2-12-2015.

This page last updated 6-22-2016.

Studebaker had 17,000 employees during WWII and had production facilities in South Bend, IN, Fort Wayne, IN and Chicago, IL at this time, having moved out its facilities in Detroit during the Great Depression.  The company's total contract value for the war was $1.2 billion.

In South Bend there was the main automotive complex of several plants that produced truck engines, trucks and the M29 Weasel.  This was the main Studebaker complex that before and after the war built automobiles until the company went out fo business.

On the south side of South Bend at 701 West Chippewa Avenue had its plant for the final assembly of license built Wright R-1820 aircraft engines for the B-17 Flying Fortress.  During WWII this 1,560,000 square foot plant was on five parcels of land totaling 318 acres.  This was a government owned plant during WWII.     

In Chicago, IL on the southwest corner of Archer and Cicero Avenues the company 850,000 square foot plant on 50 acres to produce components for the Chippewa Street final assembly plant.  The Chicago plant still exists today as a logistic center.  This was a government owned plant during WWII. 

The Fort Wayne, IN plant also produced components for Chippewa Street.  This 500,000 square foot building was located 4300 New Haven Avenue in Fort Wayne.  Today this plant is owned by the Rea Magnet Wire Company after it was purchased from Phelps-Dodge in 2006.  In the 1990's I was inside this plant several times on business for General Motors. I was unaware of its WWII history until June of 2016.  This was a government owned plant during WWII. 

Studebaker started as a wagon manufacturer in South Bend, IN in 1852 before making the conversion to trucks and automobiles in the early 20th century.  Seen here at the Museum of the Soldier in Portland, IN is a Studebaker Wagon Company built Army Escort Wagon 1899-1917.  Author's photo added 9-30-2014.

 This type of Escort Wagon was pulled by four mules and accompanied soldiers in the field by carrying their personal belongings, food and other essentials and suppliers.  Author's photo added 9-30-2014.

 The Four Studebaker plants were awarded a total of 14 Army-Navy "E" Awards during WWII.
The Studebaker Aviation Plant in Chicago, IL won three Army-Navy "E" Awards.
The Studebaker Aviation Plant in South Bend, IN won four Army-Navy "E" Awards.
The Studebaker Automotive Plant in South Bend, IN won three Army-Navy "E" Awards.
The Studebaker Aviation Plant in Fort Wayne, IN won four Army-Navy "E" Awards.

Long before the US became involved in WWII Studebaker was supplying 4x2 1-1/2 ton K-Series trucks to the Netherlands, France and Belgium.  Most were captured by the Germans and used by them during the conflict.  Photo added 2-12-2015.

All of the Studebaker production of radial aircraft engines went into this type aircraft, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.  All B-17s manufactured after January of 1944 came equipped with Studebaker built R-1830 engines with the last engines coming off the South Bend, IN assembly line in June of 1945.

Another big WWII product line that Studebaker is remembered for is the 2 1/2 ton truck. This Studebaker US6 2-1/2 ton truck is located at the National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN, and is on loan from the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend.  It was built in 1942 and is one of 197,678 that were built by the company.  It was never used so is in near brand new condition.

Studebaker World War Two Production Statistics: 
(63,789) of the Wright R-1820 Cyclone aircraft engines used exclusively in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber.  Starting in January of 1944 and continuing to the end of B-17 production in the summer of 1945, Studebaker supplied all of the engines installed the B-17s.

For production of the radial aircraft engines the Defense Plants Corporation provided a $50,000,000 for a new plant on Chippewa Avenue on the south side of South Bend, the ground breaking ceremony taking place in January of 1941.  Studebaker did not need the facility after WWII as it was too large for its intended car production.  However, during Korea it did again make post war M35 2-1/2 ton military trucks in the facility.  After Studebaker went out of business Kaiser-Willys and then AM General used the plant for the manufacture of the M35.  

(14,924) Weasels: (301) T15-1942, (299) T15-1943, (583) T24-1943, (522) M29-1943, (2,578) M29-1944, (4,579) M29C-1944, (5,446) M29C-1945.  The M29 Weasel was invaluable to the military as it had the ability to move through sand, mud and snow and negotiate up, down and sideways across hills in any of the three.  It was totally designed and built by Studebaker in its main plant in South Bend.

Studebaker built T15, T24, M-29 and M29C Weasel World War Two Production

Month 1942 1943 1944 1945  
January   240 505 603  
February   223 514 637  
March   15 515 748  
April     454 976  
May     590 916  
June     692 (As M29C) 985  
July     634 601  
August     729    
September   417 (As T24) 651    
October 8  (As T15) 503 674    
November 37 80 663    
December 256 522 (As M29) 536    
Totals 301 2,000 7,157 5,466 14,924

 US6 / M16A  2-1/2 ton trucks - Several figures are given for the number of trucks built by Studebaker during World War Two.  This is not unusual with the production of WWII vehicles;

(197,678) - This is number is found on several historical websites.
(194,535) - This comes from the table below based on monthly production figures.
(193,659) - This comes from the table below that breaks down the production of the trucks by model type.

Most of the production went to Russia which desperately needed good reliable heavy duty trucks, and in appreciation for the supply of trucks, Joseph Stalin sent Studebaker an official letter of thanks.  The trucks came in either a 148 in. or 162 in. wheelbase.  There was also a 6x4 version that was rated at 5 tons but this was for over the road use only.  The 6x6 was rated 2 1/2 tons for off road travel and five tons for on road travel.  Around 10,000 trucks were manufactured as open cab starting in December of 1942 but production reverted back to the covered cab in March of 1943 after the Russian Army expressed its dissatisfaction with the change.  It gets cold in Russia in the winter!  Studebaker US6 trucks were not only manufactured as cargo trucks but as 750 gallon water tankers, semi-tractors (6x4) and dump trucks.

World War Two Studebaker Built 6x6 Truck Production

  1941 1942 1943 1944 1945  
January   2,016 1,444 2,334 2,601  
February   295 2,641 2,527 2,500  
March   2,002 2,247 2,704 2,900  
April   1,600 2,808 2,083 2,610  
May   2,855 2,813 2,415 2,808  
June 137 3,092 3,223 2,470 3,490  
July 258 1,015 3,172 2,312 2,530  
August 106 1,438 2,980 2,557 1,466  
September 319 1,091 2,255 2,271    
October 1,446 3,520 2,502 2,398    
November 1,256 1,496 358 2,300    
December 1,202 1,632 2,662 2,408    
Totals 4,724 22,052 29,105 28,779 20,905 105,565


Studebaker Built 6x4 Truck World War Two Production

  1942 1943 1944 1945  
January 183 2,076 2,891 2,875  
February 2,076 879 2,898 2,526  
March 2,155 1,766 3,101 3,134  
April 1,990 1,592 2,909 2,495  
May 1,184 1,235 2,915 2,215  
June 1,253 500 2,886 1,840  
July 3,584 1,499 2,550 1,999  
August 2,489 1,600 3,033    
September 3,180 2,222 2,555    
October 0 1,876 2,939    
November 2,000 0 2,692    
December 1,932 1,936 1,310    
Totals 22,026 17,181 32,679 17,084 88,970


Total Studebaker World War Two Truck Production

  1941 1942 1943 1944 1945  
January   2,199 3,520 5,225 5476  
February   2,371 3,520 5,425 5026  
March   4,157 4,013 5,805 6034  
April   3,590 4,400 4,992 5105  
May   4,039 4,048 5,330 5023  
June 137 4,345 3,723 5,356 5330  
July 258 4,599 4,671 4,862 4529  
August 106 3,927 4,580 5,590 1466  
September 319 4,271 4,477 4,826    
October 1,446 3,520 4,378 5,337    
November 1,256 3,496 358 4,992    
December 1,202 3,564 4,598 3,718    
Totals 4,724 44,078 46,286 61,458 37,989 194,535


Studebaker World War Two Truck Production by Type
Short Bed (SB) had 148 inch wheel base
Long Bed (LB) had 162 inch wheel base
6x6 trucks were rated 2.5 ton for off road travel, but could carry 5 tons over the road.
6x4 trucks were rated for 5 tons as they were not for off road travel.
Body Type Body Code  Years Production
SB Cargo 6x6 w/o winch U1 1941 425
SB Cargo 6x6 w winch U2 1941 779
LB Cargo 6x6 w/o winch U3 1941-1945 81,535
LB Cargo 6x6 w winch U4 1941-1945 18,779
LB 750 Gallon Tanker 6x6 w/o winch U5 1941-1942 500
LB 750 Gallon Tanker 6x6 w winch U5 1945 1,425
148 inch WB Semi Tractor 6x4 w/o winch U6 1942-1945 8,640
LB Cargo 6x4 w/o winch U7 1942-1945 66,998
LB Cargo 6x4 w winch U8 1942-1945 12,104
LB Cab/Chassis w/o winch U9 1942-1943, 1945 2,074
SB Rear or Side Dump w/o winch U10, U12 1943 300
SB Rear or Side Dump w winch U11, U13 1943 100
Total     193,659

Wrong!!!  Wrong!!!! Wrong!!!!  The HD Documentary "WWII from Space" states at 44 minutes into the show that the United States supplied 500,000 Studebaker trucks built in Detroit factories to the Soviet Union during WWII.  First, Studebaker trucks were not built in Detroit, MI, but South Bend, IN.  And because Studebaker only built 193,659 trucks during the war, it was impossible for the company to supply half a million to the Soviets as the show states.  Not all American trucks plants during WWII were in Detroit.  Dodge was.  GMC, the largest builder of the 2-1/2 ton truck was in Pontiac, MI.  Chevrolet built the GMC 1-1/2 ton truck in St. Louis, MO.  Ford built 1/4 ton trucks in Dearborn, MI, and Willys-Overland built them in Toledo, OH.  People need to get their facts straight before doing a documentary!  DDJ 6-22-2016

(2) Prototype T27 eight wheeled armored cars

What didn't happen:  Originally the Chippewa Street Plant was to produce the Wright R-2600 engine for the North American B-25.  After much of the tooling was built the Army Air Corp had a more urgent need for the R-1820 for the B-17.  The original tooling was scrapped and the process started over to tool up for R-1820 production.

B-25 "Champaign Gal" at the Champaign Air Museum in Urbana, OH.  Studebaker originally was contracted to build the engines for this type aircraft.  Photo added 2-12-2015.

The R-2600 had two rows of cylinders vs. the one row in the R-1820.  Photo added 2-12-2015.

This undated four page brochure on Studebaker's contribution to the war effort would appear to be 1943.


This is a Studebaker built R-1820 engine that is at the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, OH that will end up as one of the four power plants that will go onto the B-17 "Champaign Lady" when she is fully restored to flying condition by the Museum.

Magazine Advertisements - Studebaker is one of the manufacturers that elected to advertise its war effort in the magazines of the period to keep its name in front of the car buying public, knowing there was going to be pent-up demand for the automobiles after hostilities ceased.  Looking the ads helps give more insight into the war products produced.

This ad from October of 1944 gives some Studebaker production numbers to that date.  45,000 R-1830 aircraft engines out of a total of 63,789 and 135,000 trucks out of 197,678 had been produced by that date.

Studebaker built 197,678 trucks during WWII, most of them going to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program.

15,124 M29 Weasels were produced during WWII.  This was a Studebaker design and it was the only company to manufacture them.

Photos from the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN.  This is an excellent museum and is well worth the trip to South Bend to visit it.  Composed of three floors, there are all sort of vehicles in the brand new facility.  The WWII items are in the basement which is a combination display and storage area for vehicles as they are rotated through the main museum displays.

The M29/T15/T24 Weasel:


The Wright 1820 Radial Aircraft Engine:

There is no US6 /M16A truck on display but there was this photo of one.  See photo below.

Photos from the National Military Historical Center, Auburn, IN.

Another view of the Studebaker US6 2.5 ton truck that is on loan from the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend.

The National Military Historical Center also has a Studebaker T24 on display also.

The National Military Historical Center also has a Studebaker M29C "Water Weasel" which was the amphibious version.

Here a Studebaker built M29 Weasel is pulling troops behind it on skies with a tow rope in Italy in early 1945.

At the end Studebaker, actually Studebaker-Packard, was still turning out military trucks.  This M35A1 was built by the company in South Bend, IN in 1962.  A year later the company was gone.  Author's photo from the 2014 MVPA Portland, IN gathering added 9-30-2014.

Interesting is the fact that in WWII Studebaker designed the US6, which Reo in Lansing, MI then also manufactured.  After WWII Reo then designed the M35 which not only Studebaker built, like this one, but other companies as well.   Author's photo added 9-30-2014.

Author's photo added 9-30-2014.

You can see real Studebaker US6 Trucks below:
YouTube Video of seventeen Studebaker Trucks in Queensland, Australia, 2007



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