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YPSILANTI, Mich. - On Sept. 10, 1942 at the Willow Run plant, Ford delivered its first completed B-24 Liberator to the U.S. Army.
As the rumblings of war began in Europe, the military ramped up production of a number of aircraft.
The B-17 Flying Fortress was already in production, but the military wanted to add to its stable of planes with additional heavy bomber designs.
A B-24 Liberator design was eventually selected and the prototype made its first flight in December 1939.
Through the war, there were more than 1,000 engineering changes made to the plane. For instance, the original B-24 included two .30 caliber machine guns and later models had four turrets and two .5 caliber machine guns on the sides. Self-sealing gas tanks, armor plating and turbo-superchargers also were added.
According to the June 1945 Ford Times magazine, “This great ship, too, was the product en masse of Henry Ford’s determination to prove his theory that anything – yes anything – cam be built in large round numbers if we set our mind to it.”
Ford’s Willow Run Plant would provide the space for workers to manufacture nearly 8,700 B-24s during its three years of production during World War II. At its peak, Ford employed 42,000 workers at the Willow Run facility, producing 18 planes a day. Better still, those at the site built the Liberators at less cost to the government, and with fewer man-hours of labor per pound of aircraft, than any other manufacturer building planes for the military.
The last Ford-built B-24 aircraft rolled off the Willow Run assembly line on June 28, 1945. After that final bomber was gassed and oiled – the last operation before the plane’s test flight – workers, aided by Executive Vice President Henry Ford II and Plant Superintendent M.L. Bricker, pushed it out on the tarmac for a celebratory sendoff.
Click here to read The Last B-24 Liberator Rolls off Ford’s Line at Willow Run.