Story of the Week

Posted: 04.23.2014
Buick’s Wartime Efforts
By Robert Tate - Automotive Historian/ Researcher
Images - Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection

“When Better War Goods Are Built, Buick Workmen Will Build Them".

 


When the war started, Buick’s last production model of that year was built on February 3, 1942. The factory workers demonstrated good leadership, support, and great patriotism for the war time activity. This is a story about Buick's motorcar division, how they prepared for the wartime efforts, and a story to honor the men and women who were apart of the war time production operations and process.

 


The Buick plant offered thirty separate war productions operations - GM said “Victory is our Business". Buick's number one war job at the time was building 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney radial air-craft engines for the Army's Bomber program. The huge bomber program was a great success and it demonstrated outstanding production and performances for the Army Air Force.

 


The first step toward putting Buick-powered aircrafts in the air was launched on March 17, 1941 with the ground-breaking of a vast engine plant at Melrose Park Illinois. Over fifty percent of engine production took place at Flint manufacturing plants with assembly and testing for the war time efforts. The first engine came off the line on January 7th, 1942. Buick's factory employees along with government’s expert engineers worked closely together examining parts and testing material which were officially accepted for Army usage during the war.

 

 


Buick also had a part in the Tank program that consisted of the transmission and final drive assembly through which the power of the engines was transmitted to the treads for the drive and steering mechanisms. Buick built the M-18 Hellcat which was a breakthrough weapon that could provide room for a crew of five soldiers. The M-18 Hellcat tank destroyer proved its ability to master terrain that completely stopped other vehicles in their places and carried high-velocity artillery firepower.

 


To produce these powerful units, Buick's production men had to equip themselves with machine metal which was very difficult to manufacture compared to the building and handling of Buick automobiles. Although they faced new tasks, heavier machinery, and harder work, the job was completed. Buick's factory workers, both men and women, did a great job with the arsenal. They maintained a rigorous schedule and kept up with the quantities needed to meet the Army's accelerating tank programs. Typical automotive assembly line methods were used in mass quantities, producing many heavy units. Therefore, speed and performance were important factors during war production manufacturing. Buick also manufactured and developed an important new method of making steel shell cases.

 


When the government needed Diesel engine crankshafts for its war time efforts to help the Detroit Diesel engine Division, Buick took a subcontract for the diesel engine crankshafts. Buick manufacturing applied its own forge and machine shop facilities for the job. The Crankshaft line moved from one machine operation to the next and had undergone rigid inspection at each stage of the manufacturing process.

 

 


This story tells the general account of Buick’s war time efforts however it can't begin to show all of the hard work and dedication that the men and women provided within Buick plants during the 1940's. Mr. Harlow Cutice, General Motors president once said “SALUTE.... Buick folk in service total at this writing 6844 men and women….They come from every section of our plants and offices and field operations…They are serving in every branch of the armed services-Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Forces, Coast Guard, and the various women's auxiliaries as well. In all that we do, we seek to raise a standard with which these Buick people can have no complaint and of which those who return can be proud when Victory brings them home again".

 

 


This story is dedicated to all the men and women who worked in the factories to help produced war time vehicles and artillery for the war and those who helped move this country forward.

 

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Dammann H. George. " Seventy Years Of Buick ". Crestline Publishing 1973. Dunham B. Terry & Gustin R. Lawrence. " The Buick A Complete History" Automobile Quarterly Publications 1980. Buick at its Battle Stations . General Motors 1944.)

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at btate@motorcities.org.

If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Desirae Tolbert at dtolbert@motorcities.org


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