This is the latest Guest Post from gpcox all about the vehicles in service during World War II and a little about what the American Family had to sacrifice back home.
When Making a Car Was Illegal
After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered all car manufacturers to cease the production of private automobiles and convert the factories to produce military
vehicles, weaponry, airplane engines, parts, etc. But, this would not put an end to man’s love affair with the automobile. A car manual became priceless to a private owner and a truck manual was an absolute necessity for a farmer or businessman. With the rationing of gasoline in the U.S., the “National Victory Speed” was 35 mph and driving clubs were encouraged. (Our modern day car-pools).
Automobiles were produced in massive quantities before the Great Depression and this brought the price down considerably. Then, the stock market crashed and many people were unable to afford the fuel for the cars they already owned. There were some that removed the engines from their vehicles and had a horse pull them. These were nicknamed “Bennett Buggies” in some areas.
FDR gave a long-winded speech on 28 April 1942 called the “Call for Sacrifice,” where he stated, “…Not all of us have the privilege of fighting our enemies in distant parts of the world. Not all of us can have the privilege of working in a munitions factory or a shipyard, or on the farms or in oil fields or mines… There is one front where everyone is in action and that is right here at home and that is the privilege of denial.” (Can any of us even imagine what would eventuate from a statement like that today?) It was not until June that civilian truck production ceased, except some tightly government controlled heavy trucks produced during 1944 by GMC.
A quote from the Random Memories of Cedric Duryee Guion – “We had a 1927 Packard Touring car. I guess this was when Lad was working at Well’s Garage and he was making a little money there. He saw a 1929 Packard Touring car – it was a beauty – and he asked my Dad if he could trade in the old Packard and my Dad told him “OK”. We didn’t like that because then it was Lad’s car. I think that’s the Packard with the hidden compartment that Lad found while cleaning it out. We figured it must have belonged to some rum-runners”
Packard was known as a “company of premier luxury cars.” In 1937, they introduced their first 6-cylinder engine since 1928 – right in time for the ’29 Depression, so they designed the “110” model in 1940-41 to serve as taxi cabs. With the onset of war, air plane engines, such as the Merlin that powered the P-51 Mustang fighter were produced. Many American and British PT boats were equipped with the Packard 1350-, 1400-, and 1500 horsepower V-12 marine engines. During this era, the company also produced ambulances and other military vehicles. All in all, 60,000 combined engines were built by Packard.
GMC had produced nearly 584,000 multi-drive vehicles for use in WWII, the first of which was the amphibious 6×6 “Ducks.” These were sent to the Army for island landings
and river crossings. Over 21,000 of these unique vehicles were produced. GMC also built the first 2 ½ ton 6×6 trucks powered by a 270 cid engine which became the famous “workhorse” of the Army.
The Ford Corporation during 1942-45 built approximately 8,600 of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers. They also produced aircraft engines, M-4 tanks, spare parts
and the ever-famous Jeep. In England, the Dagenham plant built the Ford military trucks, Bren-gun carriers and more than 30,000 super-charged V-12 engines for the Mosquito and Lancaster bombers.
The transportation department of the U.S. Army performed monumental feats during WWII. They moved tons of food, weapons, equipment and men despite gasoline, oil and lubricants being in short supply. If one delves deeper into this research, we find that Congress was not always willing to loosen the government’s purse strings. As I have mentioned previously on my site, http://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com, Europe received the majority of the supplies since their slogan at the time was, “Europe First.” (But, even the ETO had shortages.) I have two specific reports stating that my father’s unit, the 11th Airborne Division while fighting in the Pacific, could not reach the city of Manila before the Sixth Army due to the lack of trucks. (We once again see why the Technical Forces were so important to the Ground Forces.)( See Guest Post – gpcox – Technical and Ground Force Coordination, published here Feb. 12, 2013)
Since the first automobile sputtered down the street and caught up to a horse, men have defined themselves by their vehicles, showing their cars off with pride and affection. They wash them, wax them and individualize them. It becomes an extension of himself – whereas a woman does the same routine for her home.
The ever-reliable car manual during the WWII era was a lifeline keeping farmers connected to markets, businessmen to their offices and factory workers to their jobs. What you had, you were forced to maintain or learn to do without. Just try to picture it – a world without rent-a-cars or gas stations at every intersection, no leasing contracts for new cars, no power windows or GPS or Blue Tooth… What do you see?
Judy and I enjoy these guest posts and want to hear how this situation affected your family or give us suggestions for future articles.
Research & Photo Resources:
Military History Online
Internet History Sourcebooks
History of Packard
From the Great Depression to WWII
Classic Car History
Fine Art America
Lopez Transport 1941
Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society
Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of these Guest Posts. Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters from 1944. All five sons are in the service of Uncle Sam. Grandpa is holdong down the fort with Jean, Dick’s wife, and Aunt Betty, his mother’s sister.