This video was on the 2010 Forum.
Newer joiners may have never seen it.
The footage of this old film is truly amazing, and you have to give the Ford Motor Co. a lot of credit for the incredible amount of ingenuity used to manufacture these planes. The pilots that flew them for the first time were gutsy guys. A real piece of history.
This was 6 months BEFORE Pearl Harbor ! Henry Ford was determined that he could mass produce bombers just as he had done with cars, so he built the Willow Run assembly plant in Michigan and proved it. It was the world's largest building under one roof at the time. This film will absolutely blow you away - one B-24 every 55 minutes . . . and Ford had their own pilots to test them.
ADOLF HITLER LIKELY HAD NO IDEA THE U.S. WAS CAPABLE OF THIS KIND OF THING.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/iKlt6rNciTo?rel=0 t minutes
Gene in Virginia Beach
The video is 7 minutes long.
Gene, fantastic video!
It was so amazing, the industrial strength and might of this country back in the 30's & 40's. Too bad it isn't that way today.
Could we duplicate that effort now.?
I work in aviation and I think all the time about how they rolled the planes off the line so fast. Now it takes YEARS and a lot of unnecessary headache to just build a handful.... that usually get slated for the boneyard every year in the Air Force budget.
PS: When I lived in Hawaii seven years ago, some of the locals showed me a spot where a B-24 crashed on approach to the strip at Ford Island. We dug up spots all around the motors, props, ball turret and landing gears. Got a nice piece of it hanging in my office that I brought home.
(Message edited by adminchris on November 24, 2014)
The popular slang name among the guys who flew on the Ford B-24's was, "Willit Run".
One of my fellow local car club members worked for the Army Air Force at Wright Field during the war. Don had a lot of dealings with Ford during those years and he had stories to tell of the absolute commitment of the company to supporting the war effort. He was a lifelong Ford man based on his wartime experiences.
B-24 crews had a 55% survival rate.
60% of Kamikaze survived.
Came across this site. Interesting reading.
Japan held a vast reserve of Kamikaze planes and pilots for the expected invasion of the homeland. Could be why so many survived.
That the Japanese got as far as they did with the weapons they had seems a mystery—at least in light of 21st-Century hindsight.
Everyone who knows anything about military aviation knows the mantra: Higher, faster, further. _We use advanced technology and metallurgy to chase those performance goals and if you don't have the tech, you do a little creative "squeezing" and wind up trading something you really need for something you really need much more badly.
And so it was with the Zero, which though a new design at the time of Pearl Harbor, didn't have an engine any more powerful than that of the obsolete P-40. _In the case of both the Zero and Tomahawk, supercharging was a joke and so was the spec that claimed either airplane had a ceiling above 30,000 feet. _But the P-40 had an excuse: It was old. _It was little more than an obsolete inline engine grafted to an even more obsolete P-36 airframe (but even that improvised stop-gap was way better then the P-39).
With a draggy, not especially powerful radial engine optimized for around 16,000 feet, the Japanese had to make significant sacrifices for the Zero to work, so no radios, no armor plate, no self-sealing fuel tanks. _Structural strength was given away to make the airplane as lightweight as possible and if it got tagged, it got blown to tinsel. _Its aerodynamics weren't particularly sophisticated; in fact, above 250 mph, the airplane had very stiff ailerons and it dove like a feather in a breeze. _Tests of a captured A6M2 Zero Model 21 showed a level top speed of 326 mph at 16,000 feet and 315 mph at 25,000 feet. _Compared to the Chance-Vought Corsair, those performance numbers are pitiful. _Imagine for a moment what it would have been like to substitute the Zero for Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs in the air battles over Europe, at altitudes where Thunderbolt and Mustang pilots would have enjoyed not only a speed advantage of at least 100 mph, but a cockpit heater/defroster that actually worked in minus 60 degree temperatures.
The Japanese didn't have turbochargers because they didn't have the high-temperature metallurgy to make them work, so their bombers were slow, medium-altitude sitting ducks that could carry only minimal defensive armament. _If the Germans didn't have anything to compare with the B-24 Liberator that Ford manufactured in such overwhelming numbers, the Japanese certainly didn't.
So, how did the Japanese do as well as they did with the aircraft available to them? _Audacity—and superior tactics (which worked until Americans caught on to the fact that a left turn was a poor evasive maneuver against a Zero and that maintaining a minimum airspeed of 250 mph was pretty good life insurance). _Then there was inexcusably poor management. _Curtiss stopped building P-47 Thunderbolts after having produced only 354 units—and then, instead, continued producing their obsolete P-40. _Bell Aircraft should have stopped production of their thoroughly useless P-39 and, instead, manufactured... well, just about anything else. _Yeah, for a while there, we were actually helping the Japanese win the air-war.
The Zero was a good, not great, fighter. _It was elegant, not sophisticated. _If the F6F Hellcat, with its mediocre top speed of 380 mph, absolutely slaughtered the Zero (and I'd call a kill-to-loss ratio of 19:1 a slaughter), then the Zero had absolutely no business being in the same sky as the Corsair.
But why talk about fighters when this thread is about the B-24? _Well, there isn’t much point comparing Japanese bombers to the Liberator because they had nothing in its class. _Where the B-17 was the darling of the Army Air Force and became the immortal symbol of American WWII airpower, the far less attractive B-24 was significantly faster and carried a significantly larger bomb load a significantly further distance, which is why, to a great extent, it replaced the B-17 in the Pacific Theatre. _The Liberator may not have starred in any Hollywood movies, but it soldiered on and on and on, and like the P-40, though damned by words, was flown to glory.
I thought Republic, not Curtiss, built the P-47. Or did both of them build it? Did the U.S. keep building P-39s and P-40s all through the war, when they were obsolete from the beginning?
Great story and very informative; thanks for sharing. I'm fascinated with with WWII war birds and love to talk to old-timers that spent time around them. The Liberator story especially interests me since my dad worked at the Willow Run plant during the war. He loved aviation, but since he lost a kidney at a very young age he couldn't pass the physical to be a combat pilot. So he made his aeronautical contribution with Ford at Willow Run. He and his team would taxi the completed aircraft from the final assembly area of the plant across the tarmac to another hangar where they would go to work "arming" each B-24 with her complement of 50 calibers, Norden bombsite, and other important amenities. He told of how they would often shuttle the finished bombers to Love Field in Dallas, Texas where Army pilots would take them on to their assignments. My dad also told me that they had a surprise visit one day from Charles Lindbergh who the Army Air Corp had retained as a consultant. He happened to stop by their work area to observe their activities.
Not meaning to hijack your story, but thought it was a fitting addition you might find interesting.
Charles Lindberg was hired by H.F. at this time and was influental in the planes development. Roosevelt be damned. FDR had smeared Lindberg for his stance against getting involved in a foreign war and barred other companies, including ones he'd perviously worked for, from re-hiring him.
The Thunderbolt was built at two Republic factories, the "home plant" in East Farmingdale, Long Island and their "inland plant" at Evansville, Indiana. -In Buffalo, New York, Curtiss did indeed build 354 P-47G Thunderbolts under license from Republic—and I got to fly in this one back in 1987:
Curtiss Thunderbolts were thought to be of lesser quality than the Republic product. -For that reason and issues with parts interchangeability, no P-47Gs were sent overseas, but served as advanced trainers, stateside. -Only two "Razorback" Thunderbolts remain airworthy and both are Curtiss P-47Gs.
The list of license-built, American combat aircraft was fairly long. -Martin built Boeing B-29s (including the Enola Gay); GM built Grumman Wildcats; Goodyear built non-folding wing, Chance-Vought Corsairs; Douglas and Lockheed-Vega built Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses—and of course, Ford built Consolidated Liberators. -There were plenty of others.
Packard built Roll Royce's Merlin engine for the P-51 Mustang (after having re-designed the induction system for greater efficiency), Chevrolet manufactured Pratt & Whitney R-2800 "Double-Wasp" engines for the P-47 and Studebaker built better quality Wright "Cyclone" R-1820 engines for the B-17 than did Wright. -Same deal with the Wright R-3350 engines that Chrysler/Dodge manufactured for the B-29. -One of the most important companies of all was General Electric, who who was responsible for ALL the turbo-superchargers used on ALL our heavy bombers; the B-29, B-17 and B-24, and two out of three of our primary fighters; the P-38 and P-47. -Heck, where would we have been without the G.E. Turbocharger?
Some very odd companies made airplane parts. -For instance, Otis Elevator made turret parts for the Martin B-26 Marauder, and the inner landing gear doors on Curtiss Thunderbolts were produced by a casket manufacturer whose name escapes me, but their nameplate was riveted to the doors. -Go figure, huh?
The AC Gilbert company (Erector sets & Trains-and lots of home appliances) built motors for surface controls on Grunmans--bragged about it in their post war catalogs.
Yes, the zero was obsolete when the war started, as was the Ki-43 Oscar, but then they were from the same genera as our P-40, the British Hurricane, and early German 109's. It didn't take too long before all sides got into gear with the next generation of fighters including the Corsair, Mustang, Spitfire, and late 109's/190's. The Japanese Tony, Frank, and Tojo were pretty formidable, but by then they lacked the pilots to utilize them. Both the Japanese and Germans had heavy bombers in development, the Germans even got one into production, the He-177 Grief (admittedly a lousy airplane). But again, by the time they could have been introduced they were on the defensive.
The B-24s were better in many respects than the B-17 except for their ability to absorb damage. You don't see many pictures of B-24s with their tail shot off returning to base. Still, whatever the airplane, you gotta stand in awe of what those crews went through day after day in Europe and the Pacific.
60 Minutes last night showed a B-24 wing fail over Palau. The segment was about a volunteer group, Bent Props, who are searching for the 200 planes and crews lost over Palau. They found the B-24 under water, and found the remains of most of the crew.
When I was there for a weekend in 1983, Palau was a true paradise with over 600 islands, and only 15,000 people. The first local I met said he wanted to move to Los Angeles. I said he had paradise right here. "Too much same same here. I want to see sky-crapers."
The 12,000 Japs were dug in so well at the airstrip at Peleliu, it took the Marines 4 months and 1,500 lives. It was supposed to be a 4 day campaign. By the time it was over, the main force passed them over, and the airstrip was never used.
I almost put my hand on a poisonous tree snake there.
Bob, You make it sound as if the manufactures built planes as they wanted and then offering them for sale to the government. Manufacturers only build military planes as the government orders them by contract. If Curtis quit building the P-47 it would have been because they didn't have a contract to continue production. I am sure they would have preferred to continue production as interrupting production a complicated item like a military aircraft is very expensive.
The Curtiss production of P-47 Thunderbolts was terminated because of inept management of the project. The first Curtiss P-47G rolled off the assembly line in December of 1942 and by March of 1944, when production was cancelled, only 354 Curtiss P-47Gs had been produced. The government took the very reasonable position that it shouldn't have taken well over a year to produce a few hundred airplanes and cancelled the order.
Curtiss-Wright was an aero-manufacturing colossus. It built P-40 fighters, C-46 transports, Curtiss-Electric propellers for the P-38, P-40, P-47, C-46, B-26 and B-29, and Wright Cyclone engines for the B-17, B-29 and a few others. They did a fine job of managing the manufacture of their own products, but didn't seem to have a whole lot of interest in producing somebody else's fighter at the government's behest.