Michigan

Mass Production of Airplanes for World War II; Detroit Nicknamed "Arsenal of Democracy"

As our nation was drawn into war simultaneously in Europe and in the Pacific, the vast manufacturing capacity and skilled labor force of Michigan was called upon to provide the tools needed for victory.

Rising to the challenge, Detroit converted its peacetime auto plants into wartime factories, churning out tanks, aircraft engines, boats, cannons, and even tires. But most of all airplanes-in huge numbers. At the height of the war, workers at Ford Motor Co.'s Willow Run Plant turned out one twin-tailed B-24 Liberator an hour.

By V-J Day, Ford had produced 8,685 bombers, 50,000 Pratt & Whitney engines, and 4,203 assault gliders; Nash Kelvinator, 150,000 propellers; Chevrolet, 500,000 propeller blades; and Packard, 55,523 Rolls-Royce engines. Michigan, with only 2 percent of the U.S. population, was producing more than 10 percent of the nation's war goods. The vast quantity of airplanes and other war tools streaming out of Detroit earned the city the nickname "Arsenal of Democracy."

B-24 Liberator
At the height of WW II, Ford Motor Company's Willow Run Plant turned out one twin-tailed B-24 Liberator (pictured above) an hour.
The Tin Goose
Popularly known as the "Tin Goose," Ford's Tri-motor airliner made transcontinental flight a reality when Trans World Airlines used it to inaugurate the first coast-to-coast passenger service in 1930.

 

Aviation Firsts Logo

"Tin Goose" Inaugurates First Coast-
to-Coast Passenger Service

1930-Michigan's status as an industrial and manufacturing leader set the stage for its entry into the aviation industry shortly after the first powered flight, in 1903.

In 1909, the Brooke Aeroplane Company of Saginaw manufactured eleven airplanes. In 1917, Michigan industries began producing aircraft and parts for the first world war. In 1925, Ford Motor Company began its own airline.

Between 1926 and 1932, Ford produced more than 200 Tri-motor airliners. Popularly known as the "Tin Goose," the airplane made transcontinental flight a reality when Trans World Airlines used it to inaugurate the first coast-to-coast passenger service in 1930.