Celebrating Veterans Day with a WWII Vet

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Tonight I had the honor of meeting Paul, a lifelong Ann Arbor resident and former Marine who served in the Pacific Theater in WWII.

He joined the Marines in 1942 at age 22, which would make him 93. Prior to that, he worked for the City, and he was responsible for clearing Stadium Avenue so the B-24 bombers from Willow Run could pass through the city on their way to Texas to be fitted with guns.

Production at Willow Run had by no means ramped up at that point; in fact the first completed bomber was not produced until October 1, 1942 and only 107 bombers had been made by December of that year (and not even half of those up to Army standards.) So clearing Stadium Avenue when needed was still an option at that point, one that would not have been possible at peak production of a bomber an hour in 1944.

And remember, we’re talking about a heavy bomber with an impressive 110′ wingspan!

Paul told us that they had special trucks made, with two engines, to transport the planes, and that they traveled at 90 mph once on their way to Consolidated’s new plant at Fort Worth. Soon gas rationing and speed limits to conserve rubber kicked in. And as production increased, eventually the bombers were fitted right at Willow Run, in the building that is now Hangar 1 of Willow Run Airport, test flown, then flown to their destinations. Later still, the crews were brought to the planes, and Hangar 1 was filled with cots for the crews waiting for their planes to roll off Willow Run’s twin assembly lines.

Paul served at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, and in between bouts of action, liked to be assigned to the Officer’s mess. He didn’t mind peeling potatoes, because those officers left a lot of steaks uneaten.

Thank you for your service, Paul, and happy Veteran’s Day!

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