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This article/commentary was taken from a publication called The Lakeshore Guardian. It is being forwarded around by GM directors and chief engineers with pride of heritage and a thought for the future to consider.

Another Senior Moment

By Jim Sponseller

Most of the time, this column takes on a lighthearted attitude. Today, it's a heavy-hearted one.
Its heavy-hearted because I'm both disappointed and worried about the way that so many car buyers are ignoring the products of Americas automobile manufacturers. Yes, I know all the arguments pro and con. The reasoning for buying from foreign manufacturers abound in letters to the editors and columns by auto writers in our newspapers and magazines.

Up front, I should admit that I worked for two US auto manufacturers in addition to several decades in the newspaper trade. The first was Kaiser-Frazier, back in 1953. I had worked there only six months when they locked the doors of the huge plant in Ypsilanti because of the lack of sales. I later had a stint with General Motors That lasted longer. I personally believe that most of the models produced by American carmakers are just as good as those offered by foreign companies. Many are even better.

But besides the fact that I have been completely satisfied with the cars produced by American-based companies, one of my main reasons for never considering the purchase of a foreign vehicle is quite different from anyone else you may know. Some may even call it stupid and antiquated reasoning. Here it is:

Not until I went to work for the Fisher Body Division of GM did I realize what an impact our auto companies had in the defense of our country. I had heard of Detroit being called the “Arsenal of Democracy” but really didn't appreciate the meaning of it until I thumbed through the historical files of Fisher Body. One of my many jobs was to keep them up to date. Fisher Body was the division that produced the bodies for nearly every GM model since they started in 1908 until the division was merged into other units in 1984.

While the “Arsenal of Democracy” tag wasn't applied until World War II, Fisher Body's involvement started during the first World War. Soon after the US entered the war in 1917, the Army granted a contract to Fisher Body for the largest order every written in this country for airplanes. Although Fisher Body had never before made a single airplane, it produced the first one 48 days after taking over a government-owned building near downtown Detroit (later used to assemble Cadillac car bodies). It eventually reached 40 a day. By the time the rather short war for the US ended, the plant had assembled 2,005 planes.

Within months after Pearl Harbor, Detroit's auto industry shut down its assembly lines and converted to the tools of war. Ford Motor Was soon turning out such items as aircraft and tank engines and gun mounts. It was most famous for its vast Willow Run plant where 8,685 B-24 bombers were produced. Chrysler converted its assembly lines to tanks, Army trucks, antiaircraft guns and assemblies for B-25 medium bombers. Detroit's Hudson plant made subassemblies for the B-29 bomber and marine engines. Packard produced engines for fighter planes and PT boats. The hundreds of automotive supplier plants all became involved.

I don't have a record of the items produced by the score of other General Motors Divisions but I discovered that its Fisher Body Division alone contributed a remarkable assortment of material to the war effort. Twelve Fisher plants were assigned for use by other GM divisions and other companies such as Boeing And Firestone. The remaining 13 plants, mostly in Michigan, tallied up production numbers such as these:

§ Aircraft assemblies, such as wings and tail sections, were produced for 5,214 Mitchell B-25 bombers.
§ In Grand Blanc, 17,213 tanks rolled off the assembly line, most of them the famous General Sherman.
§ Over in the Grand Rapids Plant, the assembly line produced 2,359 antiaircraft guns and later 550 huge 5-inch guns for the Navy's ships. They also shipped out over a half million high-explosive 155 mm shell casings, plus aircraft and tank components.
§ In plants of the Ternstedt Division of Fisher Body, a total of 293,100 intricate gyro aircraft instruments were manufactured. The division also produced 1.2 million parts used in fighter plane cannons.
§ Five Fisher east coast plants were merged into the GM Eastern Aircraft Division and was the source of three-quarters of the nearly 18,000 Wildcat and Avenger planes produced for the Navy carriers.
§ In Cleveland, a 400 acre plant was built for assembly of wings, tail sections, ailerons, flaps, tail gun turrets and other parts for the huge B-29 bombers as well as parts for tanks and Naval guns.
§ Also pouring out of these facilities, along with plants in Flint, Lansing, Detroit and Pontiac, were such items as 200,000 rocket fins, 86,000 droppable fuel tanks, 1,500 cowlings for Navy fighters and 9,352 huge crankcases for diesel engines to power Navy ships and submarines.

Today, dozens of auto plants are closing So are hundreds of automotive supplier plants. One can only wonder how we could ever gear up to fill wartime production should the need ever arise. Call up Japan, Germany or China?

All of this wartime production stuff may sound boring and trivial to most Americans now, but back in the 1940s it was a life and death matter for our troops and for the defense of our country. Back then, when I was among the millions of GI's serving overseas, I had no idea of how vital the efforts were of our auto plants and the men and women working there in achieving final victory. Today I do.

You can call me a sentimental old geezer still living in the past, but I'll just keep on buying and loving the cars that best support our country's economy today and played a huge role in keeping it free over 60 years ago.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. During those war years, 14,761 Fisher body employees left their jobs and families to serve in the armed forces. And 288 gave their lives.
 

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Don, thank you for sharing this excellent post.

Although I'm a product of the post war baby boom generation, I'm always grateful for those who gave all during World War II.

I'll add a historical note regarding Buick Motor Division's contribution during World War II.

Buick built Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines to power the B-24 Liberator bombers. The company also produced the Hellcat Tank Destroyer. There were many other contributions, but these two products were among the most significant items rolling out of Buick's plants in Flint. Buick's assembly complex in Flint was General Motors' largest industrial facility.
 

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excellent information thanks don :thumb:
 

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Thank you for the great history lesson. I think the author should be optimstic about the future of domestic auto builders. If GM keeps putting out great products like the lambdas things will begin to turn around.

For the last month the S&P 500 is down about 1% while GM's stock is up about 19%. Things are looking good for GM and I'll be driving my Buick with pride!
 
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