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B-29's Over Dixie

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B-29's Over Dixie This is a battlefield of total war. Not in Normandie or in Poland. Not in the far Pacific. This is Georgia, USA. The Chattahoochee here is no river barrier to be stormed. No gun emplacements are dug into the red clay of these pine-covered hills. Here memorials of wars past look down on a new kind of war, which gets its fighting strength from every part of America. A war of production, for which all peacetime activities have been mobilized. The work of town and village and of the great city, has been coordinated smoothly and effectively into the overall plan of a nation at war. North of Atlanta near Marrietta , in the shadow of historic Kennesaw Mountain, is a new and important part of this plan. A huge war plant, its product long a closely guarded military secret. Here is one of the greatest industrial plants in the country with a floor area of more than the 4 million square feet. More space is enclosed by these walls than in any other similar factory in the land. Here working night and day, some 25,000 people are creating what has been called the industrial miracle of the war. They're building in record time and in large numbers the giant B-29, the Super Fortress. Pearl Harbor caused it. Army engineers built it. Brought in their big shovels and tractors. Leveled the hills and filled in the valleys. Moved 8 million cubic yards of earth with the precision of a well-planned military maneuver. Brought in more than 28,000 tons of steel. 45 acres of concrete were needed to make floors and foundations. Enough material was used to build a medium-sized city. Speed was the word for it. Speed and efficiency. But as the steel went up, and the walls around it, there were some wondered at this huge plant in Georgia and asked, "where would they come from?" The thousands of skilled workers that are needed to build the airplanes. The answer was simple and direct. The plant's in Georgia, isn't it? Well that's where the workers come from. 82% of them. And another 11% come from bordering states. Clerks and housewives, office people, shop workers, farmers and mechanics. People who'd never been close to an airplane before they came to work in the plant. Getting started meant training on a large scale as part of a long-range plan. And that was the first big job of the Bell Aircraft Corporation, chosen by the Army to staff and operate the big plant. Even while it was still under construction, hundreds of Georgians were being trained in Buffalo and Niagara Falls where the Airacobra fighter plane is built. There they learn basic aircraft skills. And the quantity production methods which made it possible to supply the cannon-carrying pursuit ship to all the war fronts of the world. Big training centers were set up in Atlanta and in Marrietta, too. Used a six-story building in downtown Atlanta and kept it going day and night on a three shift basis. One of the chief subjects is riveting. All the different sizes and shapes are each handled in a different way. And it's just as important to know how to drill out a rivet when that's necessary. Today as before, trainees are regular employees and they draw their paychecks just as they will when they finish training and become full-fledged builders of the B-29. This program of employment and training is continuing today on a large scale to meet the requirements of increased production. This is everybody's war. And in the total mobilization with which the people of America have answered the threat to their freedom, no skill has been overlooked. No handicap has been found too great for willing and determined hands. Inside the plant another training program prepares for supervisory jobs, those who through actual production experience have become skilled workers. Besides their skill at specific jobs, supervisors must take a broader view. Must know how these jobs fit into the whole pattern. How the thousands of different skills needed to build a big bomber are united by a master plan of production. Key to this master plan is a system known as lofting, developed by Bell engineers to serve every phase of quantity aircraft construction. It simplifies the work. Speeds production. Metal patterns called templates are the basis of this system. They're laid out with exacting care, accurate to the thousandth of an inch. They bring to every job a precision that cannot vary. The thousands of templates used in the plants have been designed by the lofting department, so that all parts made from them will fit perfectly when assembled. These templates are used throughout the plant. To every job done with them is transferred the accuracy of the highly trained men who designed them. Take this stack router, for instance. As it's guided along the edge of the template, it cuts many sheets of aluminum at the same time. Each piece is exactly the shape of the template and they're all exactly alike. Templates are used with this stack driller to spot the holes that will be used for riveting and to spot the fix holes which are used as guides in assembling the different parts. They're even used to make the dies for the big presses, and they're carefully designed by lofting department to allow for shrinkage of the die metal so the parts formed by them will be sure to fit properly. With the fabrication of every part controlled by this master plan, workers assemble the units by lining up the fix holes. The parts are held together with temporary fasteners until they are riveted. From small sections, which successively become part of larger sections, the great wing is gradually built up. As the size increases, so does the need for accuracy in this work. So sensitive are these metals to variations in temperature that the entire atmosphere within the plant must be carefully controlled. This requires one of the largest air conditioning systems in existence capable of delivering more than 7 million cubic feet of cold or warm air per minute. As the wing passes through successive stages and grows to its full length and breadth, the assembly becomes so large that the work is done on two stories at once. Built as a complete unit, the wing contains a complicated system of tubes, wires and special devices. Each step of the production process, each rivet, must undergo rigid inspection and must be without flaw. For in the role these bombers will play, there is no margin for error. Perfect in every detail, yet produced in the shortest possible time. But "shortest possible time" can mean a lot of things. Before Bell engineers designed this milling machine, it meant 24 hours for 8 men to shape a wing spar. Today it's turned out in 22 minutes flat. Other special methods too speed up production. The side blisters for the fuselage, for instance, are made from softened plexiglass by literally blowing it into a bubble. This makes possible a clearness that can't be gotten any other way. These methods have worked so well that the plant supplies not only its own needs in these parts but those of other companies that build the B-29. Yes, building an airplane fast means turning out the parts fast. And it means getting the right part to the right place at the right time. It's a tremendous job of industrial planning which has been worked out in minute detail. From the time raw materials are first brought into the plant the flow of production follows the most direct route possible, resulting in an important saving of time. The manufacture of the fuselage is an example of how this system of production control works. Single pieces are formed from raw material and moved across an aisle to be joined into a skeleton subassembly. At the same time throughout the plant, other small assemblies are being formed section by section. Each piece fitting snugly into place for riveting. The work is planned so that whenever possible, each job is done while it is still easy to reach and is made more accessible by specially designed fixtures. The manufacture of these assemblies has been synchronized so that they are completed at the proper times to be joined to other units into a finished section of the airplane, ready for the final assembly line. This method of breaking down the airplane into separate manufacturing units, each built independently of the others, makes quantity production on so large a scale possible and is itself made possible by the overall planning which has organized the work. But the production of these stacked-up parts, which are the product of many skilled hands, requires another plan. A human plan. Part of it is expressed in this antebellum home on the plant site where an employee service division takes care of housing problems, rationing and transportation. The workers share rides with each other. Many come by streetcar or bus. Some travel as much as a 150 miles a day to work in the bomber plant. They bring their lunches or they eat them hot in the plant cafeterias. There are eight of them. Serve some 10,000 pounds of meats and vegetables a day. And after lunch, there's time for friends to get together. "I got me a bomb load and a plane to fly in. I'm gonna drop the whole load on the middle of Berlin." For those who want exercise there's always plenty of company. These are the people of democracy. On them and on others like them our war potential depends. Their purchases of war bonds have been so great that the Treasury Department has presented them with its "T" Award. More than one Super Fortress as it nears completion on the final assembly line is being paid for by the war bonds of the people who are building it. On one of the largest crane installations in the country, the giant wing, complete with nacelles and wing flaps, is lowered inch by inch into the fuselage. All the sections which have been built separately in the plant are brought together in this last phase of production as double rows of the big bombers move toward the great doors that lead to the airport. The work of final assembly is largely a matter of unifying the different sections of the airplane by interconnecting them with a network of tubes and wires. Tubes are necessary for fuel and oil lines. For piping breathing oxygen to various stations for the crew. And for hydraulic booster breaks. Most of the devices inside the airplane, however, are operated electrically and they require 150 electric motors. 11 and a half miles of wire wind through the great ship. To the nacelles are added the powerful 18-cylinder radial engine that make the airplane faster than any previous heavy bomber. The efficiency of these engines is increased by a special nacelle design for cooling them. Each engine is equipped with twin turbo superchargers for extremely high-altitude flight out of reach of enemy interceptor planes. The 16.5 foot propellers are the largest ever installed on an airplane. They turn at slower speeds than the propellers of other aircraft reducing the noise the ship makes as it flies and giving it a characteristic muffled sound. Ample visibility is provided for pilot, bombardier and gunner. Enemy fighters will find no blind spots on the B-29. The immensely complicated equipment on the ship is still a military secret. A secret which the people who build and install this equipment are helping to keep. As they do their final work on the airplane before it leaves the assembly line they are dwarfed by its giant size. Its tail stands 28 feet high and scaffolding tall enough for a three-story building is necessary for workers to reach the top of it. This great assembly line, with the huge ship standing nose to tail is a tribute to American ingenuity. For here, one of the most intricate machines ever designed is being built in quantity numbers by thousands of skilled men and women in a factory that didn't even exist two years before. And here it is. The Boeing-designed Georgia-built B-29. Fuselage length: 99 feet. Horsepower: 8800. Wingspan: 141 and 3/10ths feet. Range: very long. Bomb load: very heavy. Number built per month here in Georgia: quite a few. The sound of the engines as they warm-up for takeoff mean something special to the people at the bomber plant. To them, their work is an investment. An investment in a future they've already begun to build for themselves. Within walking distance of the plant in Marrietta is a new kind of industrial community. Pleasant and attractive. Some 2500 new homes have been built here with the friendly help of the folks in Marrietta. Permanent houses designed for comfortable living. They're well-equipped, with refrigerators and electric stoves in the kitchen. And other conveniences that make housekeeping easier. There weren't enough churches at first, so new ones were organized. This one used to be a Civil War home. The schools are good and there are nursery schools for the young children. Yes, it's an investment in the future that's already paying dividends. The people of this community have a double interest in the B-29. They share with the rest of the nation the added security brought by this powerful weapon of democracy, whose long-range and tremendous striking power will speed the day of final victory. But it means even more to these people of the Southeast. Through it, they've found the opportunity to create a new way of living as complete and as well designed as the airplane they are building. For them, the B-29 and the plant where they've built it, although conceived in war, are dedicated to the peacetime development of a new, modern, industrial America to come. THE END

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 9 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 1,240
Posted by: japanairraids on Oct 1, 2010

1945 Bell Aircraft documentary about B-29 production plant in Marrietta, Georgia.

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