Military Review

Aircraft and road trains

Since the beginning of World War II, the US industry, which has mastered the technology of mass conveyor production, very quickly shifted from consumer goods to weapon and military equipment. On conveyors collected Tanks, guns, planes and even ships. In the second half of the war, the Americans produced more weapons per day than the Allies lost in battle. A typical example of mass production of military equipment can be considered a heavy bomber B-24 "Liberator". We are most interested in the motor transport component of this process, since it clearly demonstrates the state of logistics and road transport involved in the production of aircraft in the United States during the war.

B-24 in the leader coloring book.

The B-24 became the most massive four-engined combat aircraft of the war — the Liberators 18 313 was released over five and a half years, more than two times more than the more well-known B-17 Flying Fortresses. History production of the B-24 is closely connected with the automobile concern "Ford". In 1940, two group leaders - Edzel Ford and Charles Sorensen - visited the plant. aviation Consolidated Vultee in San Diego. The purpose of this visit by motorists to aircraft manufacturers is to organize the mass production of B-24 aircraft developed in San Diego at the new Ford plant in Willow Run, Michigan. E. Ford agreed to start producing aircraft, but with one condition - for the period of production at Ford, the aircraft will not be modernized.

B-24 on the conveyor.

The customer - the Air Force - agreed with this unexpected demand, as the capacities of the three aircraft factories of the firms “Consolidated Vultee”, “North American Aviation” and “Douglas”, which were supposed to produce a new bomber, were not enough to produce the aircraft. E. Ford demanded not to change the design not because of a whim, but because he intended to produce a bomber on a conveyor belt, like a car, and he knew very well that the slightest change in design immediately stopped the conveyor.

In 1942, when production of the B-24 in Willow Run was in full swing, one complete Liberator and two sets — the fuselage, tail, and wings — for two more bombers were assembled on the conveyor each hour. But even in this huge plant there was no room for two additional assembly lines. Could not find free areas in the vicinity. Such areas and labor were available in Oklahoma, in the city of Tulsa, and also in Texas, in the city of Fort Worth. But from Willow Run to Tulsa was 1450 km. However, this did not scare Ford specialists. They knew the answer to the question - how to deliver large-sized elements of a bomber to the assembly site. Yes, just immerse them on the train. The price of transportation did not play a role - the state paid for everything. It was also known who would do this - in the late twenties, Ford had signed a long-term contract with entrepreneur Lloyd Lawson for the delivery of new Ford cars to vendors in all states. In the thirties, he was joined by Robert Ellenstein, the way the transport company “E and L Transport” emerged - by the beginning of the war, Ford’s most important partner in the field of transport services. It was she who received the order to organize the delivery of parts of the aircraft to the final assembly. Transport workers were given only one condition - the delivery of elements to the factories should be carried out at the pace of assembly of aircraft, i.e. every hour so that the delivered parts without intermediate storage “from the wheels” are sent to assembly conveyors ...

Aircraft and road trains

B-24 on a conveyor in camouflage.

But we needed special semi-trailers. They were developed and manufactured by the firm “Mechanical Handling Systems”. The semi-trailer was 18,3 m long, 2,3 m wide and 3,0 m high. The roof was not, as the elements of the aircraft loaded crane on top. After loading the semi-trailer was closed with a canvas awning. For transportation of a set of elements of one bomber, two semi-trailers were needed - the first one loaded parts of the fuselage and tail of the aircraft, the second - the center section, wings, bomb bay and engine hoods. Engines, chassis and internal equipment were made by other companies, and they were engaged in delivery to the assembly plant on the same principles. However, there were problems with the tractors for such large-sized road trains. The most important condition was high power and exceptional reliability, but even the highly developed US auto industry at that time could not provide E and L Transport with such machines capable of delivering aircraft parts to the assembly at one specific time at one exact time. Therefore, immediately abandoned all serial truck tractors, as unreliable and not enough speed. L. Lawson, as an experienced transport worker, decided to order a tractor from the specialized firm “Thorco”, which had considerable experience in re-equipment of Ford production trucks into three-axle heavy vehicles. The design of the chassis of the tractor was almost traditional for three-axle - with a balanced rear suspension truck on inverted semi-elliptical springs and continuous beam front axle also on two semi-elliptical springs. Both leading bridges were designed specifically for the future car. Well, the power unit assembled on the subframe being pushed forward became the real “highlight” - side by side mounted two V8 engines in 100 hp from the passenger car “Mercury” along with their gearboxes. And they switched gears with a whole system of workloads that worked from a single control lever; respectively, also altered the clutch drive system. Each engine set in motion "its" driving axle. Two engines were supplied not so much for providing high power, but for reliability - so that in the event of a single failure, the auto train “reached” the workshop.

B-24 "Night Mission"

“Mad Russian” - it happened that B-24 was called and so ...

But it was necessary to push the motors out from under the cab because it was not folding. By the way, a rather wide at that time cabin was assembled from parts of the serial cabs of Ford 1940 trucks and vans, and it turned out to be more beautiful and comfortable than the cabs then produced, located above the engine. The total length of the tractor with a semi-trailer was 23,5 m.

B-24 in the air.

The routes of movement of the road trains to the assembly plants were chosen so that along the way there was enough “Ford” workshops. According to martial law, their owners were obliged to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two road train drivers replaced each other every 5 hours. During the trip, provided four stops for one hour for inspection and food. At the factory, the semi-trailer with the elements of the bomber was unhooked, they immediately drove empty, and the drivers went back. And so every day for three and a half years ... "Bombers" were not the only cargo of the described road trains. They serviced Ford’s WACO transport glider plant in Iron Mountain. A little later, Ford’s experience was taken over by North American Aviation, an aircraft manufacturing company, in organizing the mass production of the best American fighter of the Second World War - the P-51 “Mustang”.

"Messerschmit" shot down by us, and the car flies, on an honest word and on one wing ... "

After the end of the war, unique road trains carried the B-32 bomber elements for some time until they were replaced with more modern ones. They served in small private companies and gradually went to landfill. In the nineties of the last century, one, probably the last of the remaining tractors found on a landfill and fully restored. Unfortunately, we have not yet found one of several hundred semi-trailers, so you can only see the road train “aircraft” in old photos ...
What is the conclusion? The principle of “just in time” (“just in time”) was not invented by the Japanese at all, but much earlier — in America as early as the Second World War. It was precisely the organizational skills of the “Yankees” that, during the war years, helped, thanks to automobiles, they united factories that were distant from each other into one giant assembly line and forced them to work in one rhythm, in one technological chain.
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  1. bionik
    bionik 24 May 2016 07: 00
    Sergeant Stephen Dergo against the backdrop of the B-24 bomber (serial number 41-51128) with his own name "Comrade". Stephen Dergo was a crew member of this aircraft and came up with this name, as he had Russian roots. The bomber was part of the 579th squadron of the 392nd US Air Force bomber group, returned to the United States in June 1945.
    1. Alf
      Alf 24 May 2016 17: 13
      Quote: bionik
      since he had Russian roots.

      The fact that he had Russian roots is clearly visible in the presence of a solid sign at the end of the word.
  2. bionik
    bionik 24 May 2016 07: 03
    B-24 in the coloring of the leader. 1st photo. Here, too, only in a different coloring. American B-24 Libererator bomber (Consolidated B-24D-20-CO Liberator, serial number 41-24109) of the 466th bomber group at the airport.

    During the bombing of Europe and Japan, the Americans used the brightly colored and equipped with additional signal lights B-24 "Liberator", called "flying hangers" (or assembly ship - a collection aircraft), to facilitate the formation of large compounds of bombers: such aircraft were clearly visible in sky, which helped other group planes line up around.
  3. bionik
    bionik 24 May 2016 07: 09
    Landing of the Consolidated B-24H bomber (Douglas-Tulsa B-24H-25-DT Liberator "Pegasus The Flying Red Horse", tail number T9-N, serial number 42-51141) of the American 784th bomber squadron of the 466th bomber group 8 Air Force. Parachutes were used for braking after the failure of hydraulics damaged during the flight. The command did not approve of using parachutes for braking; it sent planes to the airport at Woodbridge, which had a 3000-foot (914,4 meter) runway.
  4. bionik
    bionik 24 May 2016 07: 11
    An American sergeant photographs a heavy-duty B-24H-5-DT Libererator bomber (serial number 41-28641) of an American-built aircraft flying in the German KG200 bomber squadron with tactical number A3 + KB. The bomber has a broken front landing gear.

    This aircraft belonged to the American 732th bomber squadron, made an emergency landing at the Luftwaffe airfield in France on February 4, 1944, after repair it was used by the Germans for special operations, and was captured by the Americans in Austria in May 1945. In total, the German KG200 squadron had at least twelve captured American B-17 bombers and at least seven captured V-24 bombers.
  5. Arktidianets
    Arktidianets 24 May 2016 07: 16
    An interesting article, still a photo of the protagonist of the article-truck.
    1. bionik
      bionik 24 May 2016 10: 12
      Quote: Arctidian
      , still a photo of the protagonist of the article-truck.

      Ford twin-engine army tractor, created on the basis of the 1941 Ford COE model year for transporting a ten-ton 18-meter trailer. The trailer, in turn, was created by Mechanical Handling Systems for transporting large wing parts and tail units of the B-24 Liberator between plants.
      1. bionik
        bionik 24 May 2016 10: 14
        Ford Army Tractor.
        1. bionik
          bionik 24 May 2016 10: 16
          Ford Army Tractor.
          1. bionik
            bionik 24 May 2016 10: 17
            Ford Army Tractor.
      2. ICT
        ICT 24 May 2016 15: 40
        Quote: bionik
        Ford tractor based on Ford COE

        thank you, but to me even in the morning the search only returned this type wink
        1. bionik
          bionik 24 May 2016 16: 39
          You are welcome. And, I scored in Google "a tractor for transporting parts of an airplane, a liberator," then Google pictures, and only then I found Vkontakte on the wall.
  6. ICT
    ICT 24 May 2016 07: 38
    and road trains

    I'm sorry, but the topic of boobs is not disclosed, not enough photos
    1. qwert
      qwert 24 May 2016 09: 36
      Quote: TIT
      I'm sorry, but the topic of boobs is not disclosed, not enough photos

      It's just that aviation is not Mr. Shpakovsky’s horse. His other topics are much better.
      1. ICT
        ICT 24 May 2016 15: 45
        Quote: qwert
        It's just that aviation is not Mr. Shpakovsky’s horse

        not well, you really find fault, the article is good, but from the photo Main character the supporting actor in the morning was not enough
  7. bionik
    bionik 24 May 2016 10: 19
    The American, heavy, evacuation, 7,5-ton tractor "Federal" (Federal G 692, Model 606 (C2) from the American bomber B-24 "Liberator", which made an emergency landing near Poltava during the operation "French".
  8. dumkopff
    dumkopff 24 May 2016 10: 42
    Good article. Thank you so much.
    A small note: "liberators" were produced 18 thousand, and "fortresses" - 12 thousand. Those. Liberators were produced 1,5 times more, not 2,5 times. This is at the very beginning of the article, so it caught my eye.
    1. Aleksandr72
      Aleksandr72 24 May 2016 17: 14
      I support. More precisely, according to American data, the B-17 of all modifications was released - 131 cars.
      Interest was caused by twin-engine tractors from Ford. Especially if you compare them with the truck tractors usual for the USA at that time, such as the White 444T G510 (aka Autocar U) (alas, I did not find a good photo of the Ford tractor):
  9. iouris
    iouris 24 May 2016 11: 01
    Production volumes exceeded combat losses. US industry has not been transferred to the military track. The economy and the created global logistics network after the war were immediately involved in the supply of everything everywhere. After WWII, the whole world became a market for exports.
    1. Rash
      Rash 24 May 2016 11: 26
      To whom is war, and to whom is mother dear ... what
    2. IImonolitII
      IImonolitII 25 May 2016 00: 35
      just because such volumes were translated and managed to be achieved. In fact, since 42, all of the US has been working in the military-industrial complex, including automobile factories and even cash register factories.
  10. Volga Cossack
    Volga Cossack 24 May 2016 19: 19
    interesting article. thanks to the author! Special thanks to the forum users for the photo, the article was well supplemented!
  11. Real stalinist
    Real stalinist 25 May 2016 05: 57
    I doubt that the Americans are now able to repeat such a feat as an almost instantaneous transfer of industry to the production of weapons and equipment.
    Just look at the ruins of Detroit car factories.
    1. Andrey591
      Andrey591 25 May 2016 17: 32
      And we have? And many defense enterprises were “killed.” Is the current leadership able to organize production from scratch in a few months !?
    2. iouris
      iouris 5 October 2016 12: 21
      Quote: Real Stalinist
      I doubt that the Americans are now able to repeat such a feat as an almost instantaneous transfer of industry to the production of weapons and equipment.

      The process did not become "instantaneous". After the Great Depression F.D. Roosevelt used state planning to create the infrastructure for a future world war, during and after which the United States was to become the greatest exporter of everything in history. The launching mechanism was supposed to be an attack on US soil. Thanks to the Japanese ally. There is no need for this now. After WWII, the United States became a superpower, the economy of the United States and its satellites is many times larger than the economies of potential adversaries. No one threatens the US technological championship. While.