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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

In 1941, bulldozers began clearing Henry Ford’s farm in Ypsilanti, Michigan, twenty-five miles west of Detroit, to make way for the massive Willow Run Bomber Plant. By May 1942, thirty-thousand workers had produced their first B-24 Liberator. Efficiency continued to improve and by November 1943 Willow Run had produced one-thousand Liberators. A month after D-day Ford Motor Company made good on its promise to build one bomber an hour. At its pinnacle, Willow Run employed 42,331 workers, and when production ceased in June 1945 the plant had produced a total of 8,685 Liberators. The numbers are impressive but impersonal, because they mask the labor relation and housing difficulties both hourly and salaried employees had to overcome. To realize production at the Willow Run Bomber, workers had to overcome the culture of fear that existed at Ford Motor Company and their fear of an unfamiliar diverse workplace.

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