11 Year Old Boy Draws Bombers to Save Willow Run

Miles and his drawing of Willow Run

Miles creates beautiful drawings to help save the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

This is Miles. He’s 11, and he loves the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

The Rosies heard about him when we were talking with tailgaters at a recent U of M football game. But we had no way to find him. Fortunately, he and his family heard we were at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, and they came down to meet us.

You see, Miles loves the plant so much, he draws beautiful pictures of it and sells them to raise money for the campaign to save a small portion of the plant as a new home for the Yankee Air Museum.

He also creates drawings of the Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park Plant, another industrial treasure worth saving.

Miles Art Work - Willow Run Bomber Plant

Proceeds from the purchase of Miles’ drawings go towards the campaign to save a portion of the Willow Run Bomber Plant as a new home for the Yankee Air Museum.

Miles and his family have created a Facebook Page for his art, and he sells his drawings, nicely matted and ready to frame, for $10 each.

If you enjoyed this story, do your part to keep a little piece of it alive for future generations. $50 saves 1 sq. ft. of the Willow Run Bomber plant at www.savethebomberplant.org

Willow Run Grand Opening Part I: a B-24 Bomber Flies up from Smyrna, TN

Homer Himchliff's Dad was featured t the opening of the Willow Run Bomber Plant

Mr. Homer Hinchliff, whose father was a USAAF B-24 pilot, and attended the grand opening of the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

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.

If you enjoyed this story, do your part to keep a little piece of it alive for future generations. $50 saves 1 sq. ft. of the Willow Run Bomber plant at www.savethebomberplant.org

Willow Run Grand Opening Part 2: Rats on a Plane!

Rats on a plane!

And you thought snakes were bad!

Another great story from Mr. Homer Hinchliff of Willis, MI.

Homer’s father, Lt. Col. Edward Hinchliff, with his B-24 Liberator bomber, was present at the Grand Opening of the Willow Run Bomber Plant.

But this story is about what happened after the war. Lt. Col. Hinchliff was on his way home in his B-24 after the close of World War II. They had stopped somewhere in North Africa to fuel after leaving Italy.

As they approached cruising altitude, panicked rats started swarming all over the plane. Yes, you heard me, rats on a plane! They must have come aboard during the layover. They were everywhere. The crew tied their pants legs shut with twine to keep the rats from crawling up there and biting them. The copilot said, “What the heck are we going to do?”

Lt. Col. Hinchliff said, “We’re going up to 22,000 ft!”

As the B-24 gained altitude, the rats moved slower… and slower… and slower. The crew put on their oxygen masks as they climbed, and finally, the rats were still.

They returned home, without further incident, to a hero’s welcome.

If you enjoyed this story, do your part to keep a little piece of it alive for future generations. $50 saves 1 sq. ft. of the Willow Run Bomber plant at www.savethebomberplant.org

Little People at the Willow Run Bomber Plant

little-people-at-willow-run

Eddie Rickenbacker (?) meeting with Little People at Ford Motor Company’s Willow Run Bomber Plant. Photo by TheHenryFord.

I dressed as Rosie the Riveter today at the Orphan Car Show to benefit the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum (another treasure from Ypsilanti’s distinguished industrial past.)

And, as usual, I met a lot of very interesting people with a connection to Willow Run. For example, a guy whose dad came up from southern Ohio to work at the plant during WWII. Dad was a very small guy, so they asked him, “Are you strong in your arms?”

He was a fiesty little guy, too, so he said, “Yeah, ya wanna try me?”

They said, “No, we believe you.” Then they took him to the center wing section of the assembly line and put him inside the wing, bucking rivets in an awkward corner. The smallest girls would fit in the center wing, but sometimes they weren’t strong enough for all the jobs that needed doing in there.

Tap Room Ypsilanti Michigan

The doorknob at the Tap Room on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti is set very low to accommodate the “little people” who worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during WWII. Photo by Jane Vass.

BTW, the word around Ypsilanti is that the doorknob at the Tap Room on Michigan Avenue is set very low to this day because they moved it down during the war, so the “Little People” who worked at the plant could reach it.

Little People were so needed in the center wing assembly on the B-24 line, that the Ford Motor Company actively recruited them from Hollywood and the circuses.

Henry Ford was a stickler for everybody punching their own time card, so it was a daily sight at shift change to see coworkers cheerfully lifting up the Little People so they could punch their cards.

I’m guessing that this man’s father came up from Ohio before Ford went all-out to recruit Little People from show business. His small stature and strong arms were probably a welcome sight to the plant managers, who had some very tough slots to fill on the line.

At the 2013 Thunder Over Michigan air show, we Rosies met a woman whose mom, quite small herself, was in charge of making sure the little people had everything they needed. Ford built special housing at Willow Run Village for them, with everything scaled to their size.

If you enjoyed this story, do your part to keep a little piece of it alive for future generations. $50 saves 1 sq. ft. of the Willow Run Bomber plant at www.savethebomberplant.org