Willow Run Memories May–July 2015

Recent submissions to Willow Run Memories Project include B-24 nose art photos, remembering Kaiser-Frazer’s C-119 “Flying Boxcar,” A description of a Willow Run worker’s ID badge, WWII wartime memories from Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti, and the invention of a high-altitude carburetor heater at Willow Run.

Click here to see all submissions to the Willow Run Memories Project to date (the Project is ongoing through 2015 and beyond.) Learn how to submit your own family Willow Run Memories here. Please note, we are not looking for donation of actual photos necessarily, just a digital image is fine.

Photos submitted this month to the Willow Run Memories Project: (Click any image to view larger and in more detail. Hit your browser’s “Back” arrow to return here.)

And scroll down for the stories…

Here’s the inside story of a carburetor heater invented at Willow Run that increased the flying altitude of the B-24 Liberator bomber…

My father told me he became a foreman on the engine line at the plant and worked there between 1941 to 1943. He then left to become a Detroit policeman. He told be he was instrumental in the invention of the carburetor heater that allowed the bombers to operate at high altitudes. He said he was rewarded well for that. He also told me that at the end of the line where the planes rolled out there was a gigantic mound of earth that they used to shoot the machine guns into, so as to “sight them in” for accuracy.
– Merle S. via email

Remembering the C-119 Flying Boxcar, built for the US Air Force by Kaiser-Frazer at Willow Run after WWII…

I worked at Willow Run from Nov. of 1952 till the spring of 1953. I had just been discharged from the the US Air force after 3 1/2 years. At Willow Run they were building the C-119 Flying Boxcar. Each section was built on a stand, then moved along to final assembly. I was told that they were having trouble with final assembly and the Air Force wouldn’t accept the planes. I quit before that happened and went on to different things.
– Kenneth C. via US mail

More wartime memories of Willow Run…

My mother worked there during WWII and met my father (navy man), both deceased now. Have mom’s Ford Motor Co. ID: Eula M. McElyea serial no. a307422 personnel director Harry H. Bennett
– Bonnie H. via online contact form on this website

My dad, Ed, worked for Ford’s, bomber plant, Kaiser-Frazer, and then Ford again after KF closed. He was a security guard and was sworn into the military police during wartime. I have photos and documents of the era. We used to go out to Willow Run and watch the planes for fun when I was a kid in the 40s. And I remember driving around town making noise with anything that would make noise when it was announced that the war was over! We also shared a victory garden on Packard Road in Ann Arbor with friends. And we recycled for the war effort! 
Metal of all kinds, paper, etc.
– Patricia K. via online contact form on this website

And the aviation community at Willow Run Airport in the 1990s certainly sounds like a great place to be…

This is a Memory of Willow Run Airport from the mid 1990’s: When I was at the University of Michigan, I was a member of the Michigan Flyers. We organized a huge “Big Band” party in one of the hangars, each February for several years. There were some great vintage aircraft — I recall a trainer, bit I don’t remember what else was there. I set up lighting, spotlighting some of the aircraft, and projecting stars in red, and white, and blue on the walls. I’d light the dance floor and highlight the band. We’d tried to make it feel like a throwback to an elegant party from the forties, when the plant was in high gear. We’d invite pretty much everyone in the southeastern Michigan aviation community — had a huge turnout of people. I wish I had some photos, but I remember some great times. [Question from us: Did you hold the parties in a bay of Hangar 1 — the original airport building, next to the GM Powertrain plant?] No, it was a newer, smaller hangar. Someone (or several someones) who collected aircraft owned or rented it. There was a trainer that I think was WWII era, and a couple of other older planes. There was a newer Czech plane. And someone stuffed a MiG in the corner — although it somewhat ruined the “back in time” ambience of the parties. (Even though the Czech was more recent, and even though it was right up near the food line, it didn’t look so jarring as the MiG.)
– Loretta S. via online contact form on this website

Send us your own Willow Run Memories! You can learn more about the Willow Run Memories Project here.

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