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

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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