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Willow Run Rough Start

Willow Run Airport (Wikipedia)

January 1942 through June 1945, Willow Run served not only as the birthplace for 8,685 B-24 Liberator bombers, but also the airport for their native flight. The industrial installation also stood proudly as one the world’s largest factory at 3.5 million square feet across 80 acres with a peek capacity of 100,000 workers (Anonymous). While the former modern marvel fueled the arsenal of democracy, surprisingly the construction and administration faced hardship and criticism.

April 1941, Henry Ford alongside the Defense Plant Corporation agreed that around 2,000 acres of rural land full of orchards, vineyards, wood-lots in Ypsilanti Township would house the location of the industrial giant. The building of the plant was hitched on the theory that, if a worker in the automotive industry in Detroit could commute to the factory in a reasonable time, they would not need to change residency and thus roadways were prioritized over housing facilities (Bromage, Perkins). Contrary to the anticipation, even workers that were within a reasonable distance still migrated to the plant, noted by Michigan providing 82 percent of migration workers and 72 percent of those were already within communities 50 miles and overall around 89 percent of workers involving a transfer of residency (Anonymous).

To house these newfound residential workers the Federal Public Housing Authority supported an initial housing project containing dormitories for 5,000 single person, 2,500 temporary families, 1,000 war apartments, 500 private trailers, and 960 2 person trailers (Anonymous). With a large amount of workers taking up residency surrounding the plant, protection of public health became a rising concern for the unprepared small local governments. Enforcing sanitation ordinance became an immediate tough task for the Washtenaw county as the promised housing project would not be carried out until the small health department ensured all regulations were met (Bromage, Perkins). Minimum standards regarding water supply, sewage disposal, laundry facilities, garbage disposal and food handling were all put into place by a sanitarian secured for the Washtenaw health department (Bromage, Perkins). After enforcement of the minimum standards the local state governments successfully cooperated with the federal government in functioning commuter roads, public health administration allowing for a housing project completed to allow for 14,000 residents.

Construction plans (In MelCat book (Herman))

Payment of workers (Anonymous)

Strike (Chicago Daily Tribune)

Relation to war and how governmental aid provided privatized/local factory development.

Secondary Sources:

Bromage, Arthur W., and Perkins, John A. “Willow Run Produces Bombers and Intergovernmental Problems.” The American Political Science Review 36.4 (1942): 689-97. Web.

Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Nov 12, 1943; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune pg. 15

Herman, Arthur. Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, p. 229, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.

Anonymous, Monthly Labor Review (pre-1986); Dec 1945; 61.000006; ProQuest Business Collection pg. 1074

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Willow Run

Wikipedia: Willow Run Airport