On this day in 1941, workers start clearing trees from hundreds of acres of land near Ypsilanti, Michigan, some 30 miles west of Detroit, in preparation for the construction of the Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run plant, which will use Henry Ford’s mass-production technology to build B-24 bomber planes for World War II.
During the war, Detroit was dubbed the “Arsenal of Democracy,” as American automakers reconfigured their factories to produce a variety of military vehicles and ammunition for the Allies.
When it opened in 1941, expectations were high for Willow Run, which at some 3.5 million square feet was called the world’s largest factory under a single roof. Early on, however, the plant was plagued by such issues as labor shortages and earned the nickname “Willit Run?”
The initial problems were later ironed out, as workers were recruited from the South, women were hired and employee housing was constructed. Willow Run eventually employed over 42,000 people and by 1944, the plant was producing one plane every hour. By the end of the war in 1945, more than 8,600 B-24s had been built at Willow Run and the plant’s mass-production techniques were hailed as a symbol of American ingenuity. READ FULL STORY
THE STORY OF WILLOW RUN MOVIE
The doorknob at the Tap Room on Michigan Avenue is set very low to this day because they moved it down during the war, so the “Little People” who worked at the plant could reach it.