76th Anniversary of D-Day and its Michigan Connections

76th Anniversary of D-Day and its Michigan Connections

Archive photo of World War II pilots training on Lake Michigan. (Courtesy of John Davis via MichiganRadio.org)

 

Michiganders are no strangers to hard work and resilience, and the innate Midwestern modesty is second nature so you’ll rarely hear them brag about putting the World War II effort on wheels. As we reflect today on the 76th anniversary of D-Day, and honor the sacrifices made by our troops throughout World War II and on those fateful Normandy beaches, we also remember the tireless efforts at home that helped us cross the line to victory. 
As it entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States found itself desperately short on pilots.1 Nearly 17,000 pilots, signal officer, and other personnel trained at Lake Michigan using two U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, among whom included former President George H. W. Bush.2 Being one of the largest inland bodies of water made it an ideal setting for this purpose. The Great Lakes have long been prized by residents along their coastlines, and many are likely unaware of the top secret training program that took place in their backyard, but the silent remains of aircrafts still scatter the floor of Lake Michigan.

Chrysler’s Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, MI, known as the Arsenal of Democracy, outproduced all of Germany in tank production. (Detroit Arsenal plant floor in 1942)

However, not all war efforts were covert in nature. Here in Michigan, at the heart of the nation’s motor capital, employees of the Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) rolled up their sleeves to bring their legacy of transportation to the front lines. More than 20% of the war effort’s budget was spent at Michigan automobile plants, with the three companies supplying over a million tanks, trucks, bomber aircrafts, engines, and shell casings, with Chrysler’s Warren, Mich., plant producing more tanks than all of Germany.3 Employees at the Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company plant hand sewed the head harnesses of gas masks and Preston Feather & Sons Lumber Company produced the milkweed floss for lift vests used by pilots and sailors.3 Before the war was over, hundreds of plants across Michigan had shifted from their normal productions to aid the war effort and the troops on the front line.

Black and white photograph of a scene at a Packard Motor Car Co. factory showing the last Packard automobile to come off the line prior to Packard focusing on war time production. (Packard Motor Car Co., 1942)


Here at Freedom Hill Coffee, we continue to honor the legacy of the men and women who propelled us to victory many years ago the troops they tireless served. We’ve partnered with Mission 22, an organization committed to the mental and emotional well-being of our troops by providing veterans access to treatment programs in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. They also work to raise national awareness for veteran issues with the goal of eliminating veteran suicide. We are proud to donate 20% of our net proceeds to this cause.

 

A woman marks a bombardier enclosure for a B-24 Liberator bomber at the Ford Willow Run plant. (Detroit Public Library)

 
Sources:
1https://www.michiganradio.org/post/floating-runways-film-explores-lake-michigans-critical-role-training-world-war-ii-pilots
2https://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/2016/02/heroes_on_deck_film_premiere_h.html
3https://d2y1pz2y630308.cloudfront.net/21960/documents/2019/4/The%20Michigan%20WWII%20Legacy%20Memorial%20Case%20for%20Support.pdf
 
For further reading:
https://www.history.com/news/wwii-detroit-auto-factories-retooled-homefront
https://www.michiganradio.org/post/michigan-milkweed-played-key-role-wwii
https://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/arsenal-democracy

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