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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   Marmon-Herrington Company   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

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   Willys-Overland War Production Record   Willys-Overland Plant Photos   Willy Jeep

Willys-Overland Motors in World War Two / WWII
Toledo, OH
1903-1952
(Willys-Overland ceased as a company in 1952, but the Jeep has remained and has been built by several companies in Toledo.)
Rest in Peace

This page last updated 6-22-2016.

An Overview

Willy's is most famous for its Jeep which continues to be produced today in Toledo, OH, although in newer plant than the one used during WWII while over the years since the Second World War the owners of the Jeep have changed several times.  However, if one looks at the photos below and in the War Production Record above, it becomes very obvious that Willys-Overland had a very diverse product line beyond the Jeep.  In fact, as shown below it was one of the four US automakers during WWII to make airframes.  But what was special about the Willys built airframe is that it was the United States' first cruise missile.   

How many Willy's Jeeps were built???  We have included official Willys-Overland photos and documents from the WWII era and they do not agree.  Below one can note that 1,557 MA models were built and 359,849 MBs were built for a total of 361,406 Jeeps.  Looking at the our Outline page two, 353,941 is given but we assume that to be a typo and should have been 358,941.  Then on page 3 of the linked "Willys-Overland War Production Record" 358,941 is given.  However, if one actually adds up the numbers it comes out 359,941.  It appears that the fire trucks for the Navy were subtracted out as they were not Jeeps but only used the chassis.  It should be noted that body production was outsourced and was built in Connersville, IN, so the Jeep engine and final assembly were what was done to the Jeeps in Toledo.  Based on 359, 941 the average cost of a Willys MA/MB Jeep and fire truck was $1,291.78 in WWII dollars.

As noted above and as can be seen from the information below, Willys-Overland produced a whole plethora of war goods for the US Military besides Jeeps.  Total wartime sales for the company was $734,148,706 for the 19 major projects it undertook and at peak production the company employed 15,000 workers and was turning out a Jeep every two minutes.  All of the production was at one plant complex on Central Avenue in Toledo. 

Normally histories on the US Auto Industry in WWII are Detroit centric and forget Willys-Overland down to the south and just over the Ohio-Michigan state line.  Hopefully here I have corrected that and given a full accounting what Willys did during WWII.

Editors note:  None of what is shown here would not have been available without the help of Jeep Historian Emeritus Ron Szymanski of Toledo, OH.  Mr. Szymanski is former Curator of the Jeep Museum and is a virtual encyclopedia of information on the entire history of the company and product line.  He willingly spent a day with me in January 2012 providing information and photos that make this history of Willys-Overland in WWII so complete.


Willys-Overland won the Army-Navy "E" two times during WWII.

Willys-Overland World War Two / WWII Production Numbers / Statistics:  (358,941) Model MA and MB Jeeps, (4,344,160) 155mm shells, (3,374) Breech Housings and Recoil Cylinders for 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, (78,731) 1/4 and 1 Ton Cargo Trailers, (415) Powder and Projectile Hoists for US Navy ships, (253,072,519) 40mm Primers and Parts, (2,000,460) 20mm Shells, (6,096) Grumman F6F Landing Gears, (849) Carburetor Air Scoops for Curtiss-Wright (Unknown type aircraft.), (3,605) C-46 Wing Fuel Tanks, (37,500) Bomb Cluster Shipping Bands, (1,087,277,247) .30 and .50 bullet cores, (3,731) Vought F4U Wing Center Sections, (1,292) JB-2 Airframes.

During WWII Willys-Overland was the third largest producer of Aluminum forgings in the US totaling 29 million pounds for the war years. 

It also produced steel forgings not only for its in-house products but on a subcontract basis also.  See the accompanying "Willys-Overland War Production Record" for the complete list of parts.

The accompanying "Willys-Overland War Production Record" linked to above is a ten page typed document from the end of the war  that not only gives the production numbers but more detailed information on product usage and production dates.


It was a total and unexpected surprise when Willys/Jeep Historian Ron Szymanski showed this photo to me in January of 2012.  I had not even imagined that Willys-Overland was responsible for the manufacture of the JB-2 Loon, which was the first cruise missile and very high tech for its time.  It was also the American reverse engineered copy of the German V-1 "Buzz Bomb".  As noted above Willys was the only manufacturer of the 1,292 produced.

The 1,292 Willys-Overland JB-2 Loons were being produced for use in the planned invasion of Japan.  Republic Aircraft had the contract for the airframe and Ford built the engine.  However, Willys-Overland was subcontracted to build the airframe after Republic built ten prototypes.  But Republic was still in full production of the P-47 Thunderbolt and did not have the capacity to manufacture it in high volume.  This one and only photo above shows a JB-2 being assembled in the Toledo Willys-Overland plant.    Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


This is the final product after Republic added the Ford built engine.  This Willys built JB-2 can be seen on display at the The Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, which is part of the National Air and Space Museum.  When I took this photo in 2011 I was still unaware that Willys built this.  One of the best keep secrets, intentionally or unintentionally, of Willys' contribution to the war effort.  Author's Photo.


There are 11 other Willys-Overland built JB-2 Loons on display around the world.  One is outside the United States Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.  Those residing in the US can be seen at:  National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio (This is painted as a German V-1 "Buzz Bomb".); US Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB; FL, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon; Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasilla, Alaska; Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill AFB, Utah; Point Mugu Missile Park, NAS Point Mugu, CA; Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, NY; Milford Township Park at Milford, IL; American Legion post in Wheaton, MN; White Sands Missile Range Museum, NM.  Author's Photo.


Even the curators at the Air and Space Museum make mistakes, as shown here on the information plaque.  Note that Ford, not Republic, gets credit for being the manufacturer while it only built the engine.  No mention of Willys-Overland at all.  Actually it should be called Republic/Ford/Willys-Overland JB-2 Loon.


The Willys-Overland signature product line for the Second World War.  The Jeep and 1/4 ton trailer as seen at the 2013 Wings over Houston Airshow.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


This Willys Jeep came off the Toledo, OH assembly line on June 12, 12, 1944.  It is serial number 341407.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


The trailer serial number is 46489 and it was built in November of 1943.  Author's Photo.


The original Willy's Jeep. Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


The next two photos will be after November 1940, when the US government ordered 1,500 Jeeps from Willys but before February 1942 when all car production stopped in the United States.  The automobiles pictured are the Willys-Overland American.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


 The first of 358,941 MA and MB Jeeps built by Willys during WWII.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


Here is a 1945 Willys MB Jeep at the National Military History Center in Auburn, IN.  Author's Photo.


Serial Number 424041 delivered on 6-8-45.  Author's Photo.


This Willys MB Jeep at the National Military History Center in Auburn, IN has had 5/16 steel plate added as armor.  Author's Photo.


This Willys Jeep at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY is the one General George Patton used to review the troops.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Because the company was building the center section of the Vought F4U Corsair's wing during WWII, one was trucked to the plant and put on display for the employees to see.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


This section was extremely difficult to manufacture due to the curvature and the 1,500 parts and 360 assemblies.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


The curved center section of the wing that gave the F4U Corsair its distinctive look as seen at the 2013 Hillsdale, MI Airshow.  Author's Photo.


A 1.1 inch (28 mm) quad mount anti-aircraft gun that was used by the US Navy during the first part of WWII.  Prone to overheating and jamming if not properly maintained, the weapons were replaced by the both the 20 mm Oerlikon and 40 mm Bofors cannon on US Navy ships later in the war.  Willys built 3,374 breach housings and recoil cylinders for the weapons starting in 1941 and ending in 1943.  As seen on the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point, SC.  Author's Photo.


Author's Photo.


Here is another 1.1 inch quad mount photographed in Freedom Park, Omaha, NB.  This one has one of the gunner's seats still attached.  Author's Photo.


This photo gives good vies of the feed trays for the 1.1 inch shells.  Author's Photo.


Willys produced 4,344,160 of the 155mm shells as shown above from 1941 to 1945.  Smoke shells for the 155 mm were developed by Willys in 1943.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


A 155mm cannon "Long Tom" like this one could hurl the 100 pound Willys-Overland 155mm built shells up to 13.7 miles away.   Author's Photo.


This Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat is under restoration at the Yanks Air Museum in Chino, CA.  Willys built 6,096 landing gears for this type aircraft.  Author's Photo.


This photo shows the internal structure and mechanism to retract the gear.  The gear will be fully locked in the up position when it rests on the hook in the foreground.  The Hellcat landing gear was robust in order to withstand the "controlled crashes" that it made in landing on an aircraft carrier.  The Navy required that a Hellcat's landing gear at landing weight be able to stand a free drop of six feet.  Grumman successfully tested the aircraft to ten feet thereby exceeding the Navy's requirement.  Author's Photo.


A Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as seen at the 2009 Chino, CA Airshow.  Grumman built 12,275 Hellcats during the war so Willys provided a significant amount of landing gears for the aircraft.  The F6F created more Naval aces than any other aircraft during the Second World War and was responsible for the the destruction of more Japanese aircraft that any other Allied fighter.  Author's Photo.


The Curtiss C-46 Commando was the largest twin engine transport used by the US in WWII and in 1945 Willys produced 3,065 fuel tanks for the aircraft.  Each wing contained three tanks that were twelve feet long and were outboard of the engines.  This C-46 was photographed at the 2013 World War Two Weekend in Reading, PA.  Author's Photo.


The front fuel tank had a capacity of 245 gallons, the center tank a capacity of 285 gallons and the rear tank could hold 170 gallons for 700 gallons per side or a total capacity of 1400 gallons.  It is not know which of the three fuel tanks Willys-Overland built.


Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


A shipment of MA model Jeeps awaiting transportation to the US military.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.

 

 

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