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Willow Run Bomber Plant Saved From Wrecking Ball

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Part of GM's former Willow Run plant. (credit: Paul Pytlowany/CBS 62)

Part of GM’s former Willow Run plant. (credit: Paul Pytlowany/CBS 62)

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Organizers of an effort to save from demolition a portion of the Michigan factory where Rosie the Riveter worked say they have accomplished their goal.

Or at least part of it.

The site’s manager had given the Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant campaign a deadline of Thursday to raise the $8 million needed to buy a 150,000-square-foot slice of the old factory for use as a museum.

Fundraising consultant Michael Montgomery says the group is close to having the full amount and has enough to go forward with a purchase agreement for the property. The deal is expected to be finalized in seven to 10 days.

Meanwhile, Montgomery says he and others will keep working to raise cash to put toward making the new Yankee Air Museum a reality.

From 1942 to 1945, tens of thousands of workers built roughly one B-24 Liberator an hour and 8,685 in all.

Although women performed what had been male-dominated roles in plants all over the country during the war, it was Rose Will Monroe, who was one of an untold number of women in the Willow Run plant’s 40,000-person workforce, who caught the eye of Hollywood producers casting a “riveter” for a government film about the war effort at home.

Monroe, a Kentucky native who moved to Michigan during the war, starred as herself in the film and became one of the best-known figures of that era. She represented the thousands of Rosies who took factory jobs making munitions, weaponry and other things while the nation’s men were off fighting in Europe and the Pacific.

Although many Rosies were let go once the war was over and the soldiers returned home, they had shown that women were capable of doing jobs that had traditionally been done by only men. An illustrated poster of a determined-looking Rosie the Riveter rolling up her sleeve with the slogan “We can do it!” became an iconic symbol of female empowerment for American women.

The Willow Run factory transitioned to producing automobiles after the war ended, and it continued to make them as well as parts for more than a half-century under the General Motors name before closing for good in 2010.

Now, the plant is coming down in part to make way for a connected vehicle research center.

The Save the Bomber campaign wants to separate and preserve more than 150,000 square feet of the plant and convert it into a new, expanded home for the Yankee Air Museum, which would move from its current location less than two miles away.

For more information or to donate, visit www.savethebomberplant.org.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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