The Willow Run Bomber Plant, a historical WWII landmark located just east of the Ypsilanti area, is now being threatened with demolition.
A Detroit based auto company, Devon Industrial Group and Walbridge Development LLC, plans to build a new test track in its place.
This plan has not been received well by everyone and a strong campaign has been pushing to save part of the plant by creating a New Yankee Air Force Museum, as the former one burned down in 2004. This campaign effort can be found at savethebomberplant.org.
The plant was established in 1941 to aid the war effort during WWII and was based on Ford Motor’s chief engineer Charles Sorensen’s design plans. Assembly lines for aircrafts were considered impossible, so it was expected to produce one bomber a day. Sorensen did not think the same and created a plan for a bomber assembly line. From that plan the Willow Run plant was born.
The assembly line process was very successful in producing the B-24 Liberator bombers, and at the plant’s highest point it produced one bomber per hour. The success of the plant caused a population increase as houses began to hastily be constructed to house the 15,000 plant workers and in 1942, highway I-94 was made to connect the new plant complex to Detroit. The job opportunities attracted many people to the Ypsilanti area, which helped to shape what is here today.
Beulah Bunny Hardy, 91, lives just outside of Ypsilanti Township and was one of the original employees at the plant.
“I was a Rosie the Riveter – I ran the machines,” Hardy said as she described the massive size of the plant and the various jobs she did from riveting to mechanics. She watched the plant thrive, seeing off many of the B-24 Bombers as they made their way to the airstrip and she said she remembers the many pictures that were taken.
“It was a lot of work, hard work but it was a lot of good stuff,” Hardy said. “It was an enjoyable time putting together things and working with the people there.”
She recalled she and her husband’s experience of working at the factory, saying her favorite part was, “Getting acquainted with the people, who were all so friendly.”
The Willow Run Bomber Plant has a rich history and has employed over 40,000 workers from all over America and produced over 8,700 B-24 Liberator bomber aircrafts. The deadline to decide if part of the plant will be saved is coming up quickly on Oct. 1, and donations can be made at savethebomberplant.org. The funds left to raise total $5 million.
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