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 The Last B-24 Liberator Rolls off Ford’s Line at Willow Run

DATE: Will be calculated from "Release Start Date" field.

Editor's Note: Each Thursday, @Ford Online takes a look back at Ford heritage moments from the company's past. Click here for more heritage articles.
 
YPSILANTI, Mich. - On June 28, 1945, the last Ford-built B-24 aircraft rolled off the assembly line. 
 
World War II ended with Germany’s official surrender on May 8, 1945 and Japan’s on Sept. 2, 1945.
 
The article below published in the company’s monthly Ford Times magazine in August 1945. 
 
Last “LIB” Gets Bon Voyage Party
Bomber 8,685 Climaxes Production Drama at Willow Run – Leaves Plant Strangely Silent
 
Gleaming in the summer sun, the big bomber moved behind its tugging tractor with the solemn dignity befitting the last B-24 Liberator to come off the Willow Run assembly line.  It was No. 8,685 in the Ford Motor Company’s contract with the Army Air Forces.  And the date was June 28, a year to the day since the 5,000th plane had come rolling out. 
 
Behind it, in the plant, the last rivet had been thrown, the last Plexiglas bubble blown, the last fuselage “mated.” The gigantic building where more than 42,000 men and women had combined their efforts to fulfill the “bomber an hour” promise was oddly silent. Machinery, which had made possible that peak month of March a year ago (462 planes) was still under a heavy coating of protective grease.  A comparative handful of employees stood by to give this last “Lib” a sendoff.
 
It was a climax to the production drama begun just two years and ten months before – Sept. 10, 1942 – with the first bomber.  Skeptics had laughed at Henry Ford’s statement that he would build a plant that could turn out massive planes at the rate of one every hour by using automotive mass production methods.  Why, that’s still a soybean patch, they said about the strip of land “out Ypsilanti way” in Michigan that he announced as the site.
 
They watched while he covered 67 acres with the largest bomber plant in the world and added a 1,434 acre airport.  They watched while engineering experts fought their way through a tangle of difficulties. (At that time they coined the name “Willit Run.”) They watched while the inexperienced housewives, farmers, youngsters just out of school flocked to Ypsilanti to pick up unfamiliar rivet guns and drills, learn countless machine operations.
 
Slowly, but surely, the plant justified every promise.  It overtook all other plants making four-engined bombers, producing 18 planes a day.  Better still, it built them 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 Army.
Now, the last great ship has taken to air. The plant is still under contract to the Ford Motor company to “standby” in case there is a need for it to resume production.
 
 

  

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6/28/2012 5:55 AM