American folk hero name is John Henry. Hefty Negro that worked on the laying of a railway tunnel in Virginia. Once a black "Stakhanovite" decided to compete in productivity with a steam hammer, ahead of the car, but eventually died from exhaustion. The legend of John Henry will be the best illustration of the further events of this story.
Plant at the farm site
28 March 1941, workers began digging pits and uprooting trees in Willow Run, 30 miles from Detroit. October 1 1941, the first four-engined Liberator bomber, rolled out of the gates of the assembly shop of the Willow Run plant.
Built in record time, Willow Run has become the world's largest enterprise. aviation industry - 330000 sq. m. meters of workshops, 42000 jobs, the main assembly line with a length of 1,5 kilometers, its own airfield and all the necessary infrastructure, including residential quarters and shopping malls for employees. The design of the giant complex was entrusted to Albert Kahn, a world-renowned industrial architect, whose masterpieces by then were Tankograd, GAZ, and the Kharkov Locomotive Plant. And this time, Kahn did not disappoint - the Willow Run supermarket was built to meet all customer requirements - Ford Motor Co.
In the midst of production, the main assembly line was turning sharply 90 degrees: a special camp deployed an almost assembled bomber in the right direction, and the workers continued to work again. The strange L-shaped shop had a simple explanation: the plant was designed not to enter the territory of the neighboring region (county), where the land tax was higher. Capitalist Ford counted every cent.
Even before the start of the war, Ford received a lucrative contract for the production of strategic bombers - and now he “broke away” in full, engaged in assembling a cheaper version of Flying Fortresses using automotive technology. Not paying attention to the caustic jokes “Will it wound?” (“Will it work?”) And regular complaints from the army on the fighting qualities of the B-24, which, other things being equal, was inferior to “Flying Fortress” in a number of important parameters (primarily - security), Ford continued to drive steel avalanche of military equipment.
The whole technological process was calculated to the minute. Traditional jokes in the style of Henry Ford were used, deftly ridiculed by C. Chaplin in the film “New Times”: the Chinese were specially put next to the Italian, the German with the French. At the workplace it was forbidden to talk, sing, eat, whistle and generally be distracted by any extraneous things.
Every 63 minutes, a brand new B-24 rolled out of the gates of the assembly shop. At the peak of production, Willow Run switched to round-the-clock operation and assembled over 600 bombers a month.
In one of the hangars, the enterprises were 1300 army beds, on which pilots and navigators dozed in anticipation of their future aircraft. Having received the car and documents, a short overflight was made with checking the main systems - a circle above the airfield, opening / closing of the bomb bay flaps, machine-gun turrets left-right, radio station checking. Good for you! And the plane was hiding in the clouds, going to his place of service.
There were not enough working hands, and Ford had to break one of its main rules - to hire women. Already from the first days there was a problem: the ladies staged a strike, refusing to live in the same hostel next to men. Ford's face twisted into a grimace of rage, but there was nothing to be done - we had to build several additional houses. In general, the problem of housing was extremely acute: the staff of Willow Run, who came from all over the country, rented all the houses and rooms within a radius of ten miles. By June 1943, a new settlement had grown up near the plant - 15 apartment buildings for 1900 families + 2,5 thousand trailers and temporary plywood structures. The number of houses continuously increased - by the end of the war 15 thousand people already lived in the village. However, housing alone was not enough - one day the employees staged another strike, demanding to build a shopping complex in the village: they no longer intend to go to the neighboring city. And this time the requirement was met.
Events at the Willow Run factory became legendary, becoming the embodiment of American military life.
The road to the North. Bulldozers instead of bullets
In the winter of 1933 of the year, the traveler and conqueror of the north, Clyde Williams, took this route on a dog sled. However, the project of the motorway to Alaska initially did not meet with support among the leadership of the United States and Canada. The complexity is too high and the costs of creating such a structure are too high with the futility of its operation in the sparsely populated territories of the Far North.
Everything changed overnight in December 7 1941: the threat of the landing of Japanese troops in the Aleutian Islands and the conduct of hostilities in Alaska demanded that these territories be immediately linked to the main part of the United States. The ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) command, a network of military airfields in Alaska and the Yukon, through which lend-lease goods flowed into the Soviet Union, pinned great hopes on the future road. We had to hurry ...
The northernmost of Canadian roads reached Dawson Creek. The local road in Alaska dropped off at 150 km south of Fairbanks (a place known as the Delta Crossroads). Between them lay 2700 km of cold taiga.
At dawn, 8 March, 1942, the engineering corps of the US Army began to break through the frosty mist and crackling from the cold spruce. Hundreds of units of road-building equipment and trucks with building materials and fuel moved forward.
Work began immediately on four sections of the future route: on the site to the south-east of the Delta junction. In the area of Fort Nelson - where the advanced group of builders, materials and equipment was delivered to the frozen marshes. And also to both sides of the Whitehorse Key Point, where the route of the future route was 300 km off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It was convenient to deliver the cargo by sea and then transport it by local narrow gauge railway (port of Skagway-Whitehorse).
2700 km of roadway, 5 mountain passes, 133 bridge. Wildly sparsely populated area, cold and permafrost. Despite the obvious difficulties, the construction of the “Alaska Highway” took less than eight months - the last section was opened on October 28 on the 1942 of the year.
However, as of October 1942, the “highway” didn’t match its loud name very much. Hellish primer, which suffered from scree and a layer of permafrost, which threatened to slacken and collapse under the wheels of cars at any second - for this reason, part of the route became unusable in the spring of next year.
During 1943, the Alaskan Highway was put in order - a section of the 160 km long road that ran across frozen ground was replaced by hot (log road), pontoon bridges were replaced with timber and steel structures, crumbling hill slopes were improved, the roadway quality was improved - only after that the route became relatively safe and accessible to ordinary vehicles.
Alaska Highway these days
Six months after the end of the war, the Alaskan Highway became the property of the Canadian government. The road received a new kilometer markup and gradually, over the course of 20 years, it gained asphalt concrete pavement. To date, many sections are straightened and laid along previously considered impassable places - as a result, the length of the modern route has been reduced to 2232 km. The “Alaskan highway”, as before, continues to fulfill its transport function and amaze travelers with the harsh beauty of these northern places.
“Mr. Kaiser, what do you need here,” said the well-known tycoon in the White House administration, “your company won all the lucrative tenders for the construction of bulk carriers and tank landing ships.” What else do you want?
But Kaiser stubbornly insisted on meeting presidential advisers.
- I can build 50 aircraft carriers in one year!
“Mr. Kaiser, you don't joke with such things.” What did they say to you in the Maritime Commission?
- They doubt - I have seven shipyards loaded with Liberty transports. According to the established schedule, I have to deliver three ready-made vessels every day. But our capacities are not exhausted - we can build excellent aircraft carriers on the basis of dry cargo ships: with a flight deck, a hangar and all the necessary equipment. They will be small and not as fast as real warships, but cheap and fast in construction - just right for escort tasks. Fill them with the fleet as soon as possible. The project has already been prepared and approved by our experts.
(Note: this is not possible these days - the size and landing speeds of jet planes are too large.)
- Are you confident in your abilities?
“I'm sure ... how much will the fleet pay for my ships?”
Casablanca was often used as an air transport.
They agreed on the amount, shook hands - and the work began to boil. The project received the designation "Casablanca" - a series of 50 escort aircraft carriers in the shortest possible time. The first USS Casablanca (CVE-55) aircraft carrier was launched on July 8 on the 1943. The last is USS Munda (CVE-104) - 8 July 1944. Henry Kaiser kept his promise.
Despite the escort specialization, "Casablanca" was used mainly for other operations: kids in the number of 5-10 units became on the roads of the doomed island - and then the Japanese positions were plowed in with the support of artillery ships for weeks. They dug so that there was not a single whole tree on the shore, and the landing marines found only a dozen deaf and insane soldiers from the thousandth Japanese garrison. Own losses "Casablanoc" for the year of the war amounted to 5 ships.
As for Henry Kaiser, everything that happened at his enterprises is genuinely surprising. The main task was the construction of transport type "Liberty" - Kaiser built ships faster than they could sink the Germans. Three pieces a day, 2770 ships for the entire war. Rational layout, modular design and the use of welding have reduced the technological cycle to 45 days. By the end of the war, this figure was improved to 24 day. The “Robert Peary” was the fastest assembled - the 130-meter dry cargo ship stood up for loading after 4 of the day 15 hours after laying its keel at the shipyard.
We didn’t think much about choosing names for thousands of ships - everyone who donated a specified amount of money received the right to name the ship after themselves.
Another large series of transports - type "Victory" (improved "Liberty", built in the number of 531 units)
The Soviet sailors recalled with a smile the process of getting the land-lease ships:
- Hello, captain. Here are the keys: small from the boxes, large from the door. Good luck.
This was the end of the acceptance process. The ship with the cargo went to sea.
In general, everything related to shipbuilding, the Yankees managed extremely successfully - ships meant to the United States no less than Tanks for the USSR. Enormous capacities were allocated for their construction - the only Americans who mastered the serial construction of cruisers and battleships during the war. The number of aircraft carriers built has reached 151 (of which 20 are heavy). Destroyers - they baked like hot cakes: over 800 units! And in terms of the combination of combat characteristics, the Essexes, Iowa and Fletchers were the best in the world.
Fletcher type destroyers before launching (built with a series of 175 units)
How did a country with a population of 130 million produce such an incredible amount of equipment during the war years? There are more cars and trucks - 5 million units, more than in all countries of the world combined. The focus has a simple explanation: the United States was the first to industrialize, and by the beginning of the 20th century it was the most industrially advanced state. In their location there were all the resource bases of North and South America - American industry did not know the lack of fuel, rubber or alloying additives. The number of workers did not decrease due to total mobilization (during the war years 11 million Americans were called up for military service - 3,5 times less than in the Soviet Union), tens of millions of people did not disappear in the territory occupied by the enemy and did not know the horrors of a distant war .
The industrial areas of the United States were not ruined. In the presence of all the necessary resources, the best engineering personnel and highly skilled workforce. Technological processes and methods of work organization have been worked out in practice to the smallest detail. In the end, all this allowed for several months to build factories in an open field and to lay roads through the polar taiga. During the war years, the fighters of the American "Labor Front" accomplished many worthy feats, thereby bringing the overall Victory closer.
Transport type "Liberty", our days
Construction of the Iowa type head battleship
Iowa airborne salvo
"Strict pipe inspector". The slightest flaw in the hydraulic system of the aircraft threatened disaster. The quality control of these parts has received the closest attention.
B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress (background)