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   M36 Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry   Serial Numbers for WWII Tanks built by the American Auto Industry   Surviving LCVP Landing Craft    WWII Landing Craft Hull Numbers   Airborne Extra-Light Jeep Photos  The American Auto Industry vs. the German V-1 in WWII   American Auto Industry-Built Anti-Aircraft Guns in WWII   VT Proximity Manufacturers of WWII  
Revisions   Links

 Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Briggs Manufacturing Company   Checker Car Company   Chrysler Corporation   Crosley Corporation   Ford Motor Car Company   General Motors Corporation   Graham-Paige Motors Corporation   Hudson
Motor Car Company  Nash-Kelvinator   Packard Motor Car Company      Studebaker    Willys-Overland Motors

General Motors Divisions:  AC Spark Plug   Aeroproducts   Allison   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   Vauxhall Motors

 Indiana Companies:  Converto Manufacturing    Cummins Engine Company   Delta Electric Company   Durham Manufacturing Company   Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation   Howe Fire Apparatus   J.D. Adams Company  
Muncie Gear Works   Pierce Governor Company   Ross Gear and Tool Company   Sherrill Research Corporation   Wayne Works

Commercial Truck and Fire Apparatus Manufacturers:  American LaFrance   Autocar  
Biederman Motors Corporation   Brockway Motor Company   Detroit General   Diamond T   Federal Motor Truck   International Harvester   John Bean   Mack Truck   Marmon-Herrington Company   Oshkosh Motor Truck Corporation   Pacific Car and Foundry   Reo Motor Car Company  Seagrave Fire Apparatus   Sterling Motor Truck Company    Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Other World War Two Manufacturers:   Allis-Chalmers   American Car and Foundry   American Locomotive   Annapolis Yacht Yard  
B.F. Goodrich   Baldwin Locomotive Works   Boyertown Auto Body Works   Briggs & Stratton   Caterpillar   Chris-Craft   Clark Equipment Company   Cleveland Tractor Company   Continental Motors   Cushman Motor Works   Dail Steel Products   Federal Telephone and Radio Corp.   Firestone Tire and Rubber Company   Fruehauf Trailer Company   Galvin Manufacturing   Gibson Refrigerator Company   Hall-Scott   Harley-Davidson   Harris-Seybold-Potter   Herreshoff Manufacturing Company   Higgins Industries   Indian Motorcycle   John Deere   Kimberly-Clark   Kohler Company   Landers, Frary & Clark  Lima Locomotive Works   Massey-Harris   Otis Elevator   Owens Yacht   Pressed Steel Car Company   R.G. LeTourneau   Wells-Gardner   W.L. Maxson Corporation   York-Hoover Body Company  
   

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

Willys-Overland Motors in World War Two
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 5-8-2020.

An Overview

Willys 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 and 359,849 MBs were built for a total of 361,406 Jeeps.  Looking at the Outline page two, the quantity of 353,941 is reported 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," the quantity of 358,941 is reported.  However, if one actually adds up the numbers it comes out to 359,941.  It appears that the fire trucks for the Navy were subtracted, as they were not Jeeps.  Only the Jeep chassis were used.  It should be noted that body production was outsourced and was built in Connersville, IN.  The Jeep engine and final assembly 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 besides Jeeps for the US Military.  Total wartime sales for the company was $734,148,706 for the 19 major projects it undertook.  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, just across the Ohio-Michigan state line.  Hopefully this page provides a full accounting and credit for what Willys did during WWII.

Editor's note:  None of what is shown here would 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 voluntarily spent an entire 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 Production Statistics:  (358,941) Model MA and MB Jeeps, (15) MT Tugs, (4,344,160) 155mm shells, (3,374) Breech Housings and Recoil Cylinders for 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, (78,735) 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.

Willys-Overland World War Two Vehicles Accepted by Detroit Ordnance, US Army
The information below comes from "Summary Report of Acceptances, Tank-Automotive Material, 1940-1945."
Published by Army Services Forces, Office, Chief of Ordnance-Detroit, Production Division, Requirements and Progress Branch
January 21, 1946.
Type 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
Truck, 1/4-ton, 4x4, Command   9,129 83,739 91,955 108,806 56,720 350,349
Truck, 3/4-ton, 6x6, Tractor       15     15
Trailer, 1/4-ton, 2-Wheel, Cargo     16,527 34,037 9,392   59,956
Trailer, 1/4-ton, 2-Wheel, Flat Bed     3       3
Trailer, 1-ton, 2-Wheel, Cargo       9,502 5,274   14,776
Total   9,129 100,269 135,509 123,472 56,720 425,099

Author's Note and Disclaimer:  The Detroit Office of Ordnance of the U.S. Army was the primary purchasing entity for vehicles for the U.S. Army during WWII.  It also purchased vehicles for the USMC, US Navy, and for Lend-Lease.  However, there were other organizations that also purchased vehicles including the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Air Force, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Navy Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, and foreign countries making direct purchases.  In this case it is known that the Signal Corps ordered its own trailers from Checker, and they are not comprehended in the numbers above.

The Willys-Overland MT-Tug:  Army Ordnance describes this vehicle in the above table as the Truck, 3/4-ton, 6x6, Tractor.  Willys-Overland described it as the MT-Tug, as shown on the data plate below.  Of the fifteen that were produced in 1943, there appear to be three still in existence.  This is not a bad percentage for a World War Two vehicle.  One of the survivors is Serial Number 6, and is located at the Sam Werner Military Museum in Monteagle, TN.  While not restored, it is original, with the data plate still attached to the vehicle.  Some collectors have been known to modify a standard jeep into the 6x6 configuration.  This is the real deal at the Sam Werner Military Museum.

The U.S. Army tested them and decided it did not want it.  However, the Army Air Forces took the vehicles and used them to tow aircraft at its airfields. 


  Photo added 7-29-2019.


One feature of the Willys-Overland MT Tug is that the steering wheel folds down parallel to the top of the vehicle.  This was a design feature so the units could be stacked for shipping.  After the windshield is folded down, the tires removed and stored in the bed of the tub, the vehicles could be stacked one on top of another for efficient shipping overseas.  Photo added 7-29-2019.


The gas tank is located next to the driver.  While this may have aided in shipping by not being under the vehicle, this location is not the best location for it.  Photo added 7-29-2019.


Photo added 7-29-2019.


The data plate.  MT Tub Serial Number 06.  Photo added 7-29-2019.


Photo added 7-29-2019.


Photo added 7-29-2019.

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

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 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 of World War Two, intentionally or unintentionally, is 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.  There is 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, 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 are post 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 Americar.  Photo courtesy of Ron Szymanski.


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


Four early jeeps by three different manufacturers are on display at the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville, AL.  From farthest to closest are a Ford prototype jeep, a 1941 Ford GP, a 1941 Bantam BRC 40 and a 1941 Willy Model MA.  It is one of 1,500 MAs that were produced for testing.  Author's photo added 5-8-2020.


Author's photo added 5-8-2020.


Author's photo added 5-8-2020.


This MA is serial number 855044.  Most of the MA jeeps were sent to Russia after testing. The improved MB became the production version of the Willys-Overland jeep.  Author's photo added 5-8-2020.


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 was used by General George Patton 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.


This Corsair under restoration shows the complex curvature of the wing center section.  Author's Photo added 10-10-2017.


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 on US Navy ships later in the war by the both the 20 mm Oerlikon and 40 mm Bofors cannon.  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 view 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 added 10-10-2017.


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 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.  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 known 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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