I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Homer Hinchliff of Willis, Michigan at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti. Mr. Hinchliff says his dad, Lt. Col. Edward Hinchliff, was present during the 1940s at the grand opening ceremony for the Willow Run Bomber Plant, east of Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Mr. Hinchliff says his dad was a B-24 pilot based at the Smyrna, TN USAAF air field. For the opening ceremony, they wanted a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber to fly over and land, to show everybody what the plant would be building. Lt. Col. Hinchliff’s job, after landing, was to stand by his plane and answer questions. There was a brass band playing, and they put him up in style at the Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.
From what I understand of the plant’s timeline, this grand opening ceremony would have occurred before war was declared. The plant was up and running within a year of its groundbreaking in early 1941. By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, the plant was already producing B-24 parts, for assembly elsewhere. It was not until early 1942 that Ford was producing completed bombers at Willow Run.