DETROIT and DEARBORN — Seventy-five years ago, the Allied Expeditionary Forces accepted surrender from Germany in a red-brick schoolhouse in Reims, France.
The surrender marked the end of hostilities that began in September 1939 in Europe, and in December 1941 for the United States.
The key to victory was the remarkable capacity of Allied countries to unite and work together under shared leadership, and what President Franklin Roosevelt called the “Arsenal of Democracy,” the collective of innovative, and committed companies that designed and manufactured the planes, vehicles, artillery, ammunition, engines and equipment that was required to achieve victory.
“Undoubtedly, one of the proudest episodes in the history of Ford Motor Company is our participation in defending the United States during World War II,” said Ford Manager of Archives and Heritage Brand Manager Ted Ryan. "Ford leadership then, as now, believed that Ford Motor Company should and could play a vital role in protecting the security of America.”
Ford’s commitment to the war effort included:
- Ford’s Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was built to mass produce the B-24 Liberator bomber. By 1944, the plant was producing almost a one plane an hour on the mile-long production line – a goal thought impossible when war department officials asked for bids to build the plane that would be critical to Allied victory. At peak production, Willow Run employed 42,000 workers.
- The Highland Park assembly plant produced the M4 tank.
- The Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Richmond, California, was the largest assembly plant to be built on the west coast and its conversion to wartime production during World War II included assembling jeeps and putting the finishing touches on tanks, half-tracked armored personnel carriers, armored cars and other military vehicles.
- By the end of the war, Ford had built 86,865 complete aircraft, 57,851 airplane engines, 4,291 military gliders and thousands of engine superchargers and generators. In addition to aircraft, Ford plants built 277,896 vehicles. Ford also had plants in Great Britain, Canada, India, South Africa and New Zealand that all contributed to the war effort.
- Thousands of Americans were inspired and enabled to grow “Victory Gardens” with the help of Ford, which published millions of pamphlets with advice and tips for cultivating a successful garden. A “garden for security” was the guiding philosophy of the Ford’s Garden Educational Service. “Victory Gardens,” created in backyards and vacant lots, contributed mightily to solving the challenge of feeding millions of armed forces deployed throughout Europe and Asia.
- In 1941, Ford also took on the fight of improving infant mortality, especially in rural parts of America, by manufacturing mobile incubators for distribution throughout the country. That effort continued through the war.