Friday, December 7, 2012
The important role of American car companies during World War II
People often have a hard time differentiating American vehicles from foreign vehicles these days. The complex equation of assembly plant locations, company headquarters, content origin, and marketing message can throw off even those who want to support the home team. General Motors builds Impalas in Canada. Chrysler has an Italian owner. Toyota and Honda build a few of their vehicles in the U.S. What does it all mean?
Well, if you appreciate the notion of being loyal to companies that have historically been loyal to America, it is hard to ignore the efforts of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. During some of the bleakest times in our nation’s history, these companies have stepped up to the plate to help keep our military strong, and our borders safe.
But the U.S. auto industry ended up serving a higher purpose than just selling shiny new cars to happy suburbanites. Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, manufacturers were dipping a toe in the war materiel pool. Light vehicles such as jeeps were already filling government orders. And the auto companies were closely monitoring the world climate and planning accordingly. Should they need to convert automobile factories to build tanks, airplanes, and weapons, they would be ready.
Locally, B-25's were manufactured in Kansas City, Kan., by North American Aviation.
Here is an interesting promotional video about Ford's role in the production of the B-24 Liberator airplane during World War II at the Willow Run Assembly Plant (MORE AFTER VIDEO!).
Once World War II ended and automotive production resumed, people showed their appreciation by buying up new models like no other time in history. Soldiers came back from the war ready to buy. Older cars needed to be replaced. The efforts, sacrifices, and hardships of our military, and the flexibility and might of American manufacturing had paid off. Out of the evil and misery of World War II came a prosperous, optimistic new world. The U.S. auto industry proved that they could do anything they set their minds to, and as the 1940s came to an end, and the ‘50s got underway, they set out to prove that again with some of the most flamboyant, futuristic vehicles ever to grace a showroom.
Not everyone has the same definition of what an American car company is these days, but there’s something to be said for the impressive, all-American résumés of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. That may be something to consider when you make your next car purchase.
The following slideshow contains interesting period photos and advertisements of U.S. carmakers working toward the efforts during World War II. Click on the dialouge baloon in the bottom left corner of the slideshow for captions.