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Participation in WW2

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Ww2_crst.jpg (4777 bytes)
Wartime Cadillac crest



On May 27, 1941 President Roosevelt declared a state of national emergency. Auto production was greatly reduced. Only 16,511 Cadillacs were built in 1942 before the switchover to M-5 tanks, aircraft engine parts and munitions.

Cadillac automobile production came to a halt on February 5, 1942 and was resumed only in the Fall of 1945 [the last Cadillac-powered tank left the factory August 24, 1945].  In the interim, the factory continued production of the sturdy, reliable V-8 motors as well as the recently introduced [1941] Hydra-Matic transmissions.  A pair of each was mounted in the M-24 light tank that was to see action on many fronts up to the end of hostilities in 1945.


Aircraft-related production

The story of the important war job done by Cadillac is told by the then CEO, Nicholas Dreystadt, in a rare catalog entitled Cadillac ... From Peace to War, published by the company in 1943. 


War_misc.jpg (8493 bytes)
Cover design of wartime Cadillac catalog
entitled Cadillac ... from Peace to War

[ same format as the prestige catalog of automobile models ]



As early as 1939 Cadillac had begun to make precision aircraft engine parts, and plans for the M-5 light tank were under way a few months before Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The booklet recalls how Cadillac, with its reputation for precision manufacture, was asked to make some of the most difficult and vital parts for the renowned Allison aircraft engine:  the crankshafts, camshafts, connecting rods, and piston pins. These are just four out of 170 different parts made by Cadillac for  the war effort. The first delivery of these precision parts was made in December, 1939.



ww2cshft.JPG (5719 bytes)    Ww2_pln3.jpg (4774 bytes)
Left: Cadillac-built crankshaft for Allison aircraft engines
Right:  comparable to the transmission in an automobile, this gear reduction unit was used in WW2 aircraft

ww2_rods.JPG (5189 bytes)    ww2_cams.JPG (3891 bytes)    ww2_vane.JPG (5398 bytes)
Left:  connecting rods; center: camshafts; right: rotor vanes

Ww2_pln4.jpg (6518 bytes)
Cadillac-built engine parts were used,
inter alia in the P-40 Warhawk; the prop

attaches to the gear reduction unit in the plane's nose



Tanks and related wartime Vehicles

Prior to 1941, airplane engines had been used to power tanks.  The advent of Cadillac's Hydra-Matic transmission coupled to the sturdy flathead V-8, basically unchanged in design since 1936, pumped more speed, flexibility and maneuverability into the M-5 light tank. It was the fastest such vehicle of the time and could stop and start on a 60 degree incline.  These tanks had dual controls enabling a switch from one driver to another at any time, to reduce driver fatigue.


ww2_tnkf.JPG (7866 bytes)    Ww2_tnkd.jpg (9128 bytes)
Left:  dropping engine and transmission into place
Right:  Final assembly of the M-5 light tank



Cadillac received its first order for 75 of these light tanks in November, 1941. The first tank was delivered just 55 days after automobile production was halted on February 5, 1942.  The second tank was shipped just 17 days later. 

What began as a trickle soon turned into a flood.


War_m5.jpg (7271 bytes)
M-5 light tank, ready for action



In the summer of 1942 the M-8 Howitzer Motor Carriage was put into production.  It was similar in design and construction to the M-5, except for  the turret and the type of guns used. The M-8 fired 75mm shells with an accuracy so great that it could strike within a 50-foot radius from a distance of three miles.

Both these military vehicles were powered by not just one but TWO Cadillac V-8 engines, each one coupled to its own Hydra-Matic transmission, then to a transfer unit, bringing the power of the two engines to a common point.


ww2tnkax.JPG (7095 bytes)    ww2tnkdg.JPG (8083 bytes)

ww2_m5a.JPG (9786 bytes)    Ww2_tnks.jpg (11515 bytes)
Left:  the M-5 light tank in action
Far right: rail transport for M-8 Howitzer motor carriage 

Ww2_tnke.jpg (6915 bytes)    ww2m24xx.JPG (5954 bytes)

The M5 Light Tank



The Army-Navy "E" Award

On January 13, 1943, Cadillac Motor Car Division of the General Motors Corporation received the Army-Navy "E" Award ("E" for "Excellence"), the highest wartime honor that may be bestowed on an industrial organization. The award originated in the navy and was a symbol of merit for a ship's crew.  It was broadened, when war struck, to include certain war plants which had made an outstanding contribution in the production of war material.


Ww2_fact.jpg (12618 bytes)
Plant workers gather on a blanket of snow outside the Clark Avenue plant,
January 13, 1943, to hear the address by Major General Campbell



In Cadillac's own words: The award once won, is not lightly held.  The flag that flies over our plant, the "E" pins we wear, are a constant reminder of the penalty of leadership1, the obligation to be better, in the things we do, than anyone else.  That's not easy, but we know it can be done.
The Penalty of Leadership is the theme of a well-known 1915 Cadillac automobile advertisement


ww2_ewrd.JPG (3798 bytes)
The flag of the Army-Navy "E" Award
for excellence in wartime production




News clippings on wartime production

-  Detroit Free Press, 12.23.1942: Another New Weapon  ... for Hitler, Tojo and Il Duce,
   a new Christmas present from Detroit.   Another secret weapon, mobile and deadly,
   came off the production line at Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors Thursday...

-  New York Times, 1.14.1943:  Says Cadillac Tanks see Action in Africa ... in presenting
    the joint Army-Navy 'E'  Award for production excellence to the Cadillac Motor Car
   Division of the General Motors Corporation today, Major Gen. Levin M. Campbell Jr.,
   chief of ordnance, disclosed that the new light tank manufactured at the Cadillac plant
   had already seen action in Africa.


ww2_rsvl.JPG (11815 bytes)
President Roosevelt reviews M-5 tank troops in North Africa
[International News Service photo]



-  Detroit Free Press, 1.25.1943:  It's a Detroiter (shows M-5 tank in test maneuvers)

-  Detroit News daily, 2.7.1943: Cadillac Builds World's Fastest Tank
   [item #49 describing Detroit's War Products]

-  Washington Post, 4.15.1943: Display of Speedy M-5 Tank Arranged for 'Back the
   Attack'- Engineers set stage for Mammoth Show of Fighting Equipment

-  Detroit Free Press, 5.27.1943:  Cadillac Built Engine Powers U.S. Tanks

-  New York Times, 8.18.1943: Automatic Gear Shift now Used in Tanks -
   Greater Speed and Maneuverability Obtained

-  Detroit Free Press, 8.19.1943:  Army Reveals Details of M-5 Power Train

-  Detroit Journal of Commerce, 8.28.1943: Cadillac Engine Used in M-5 Tank



Ww2_engn.jpg (6432 bytes)
Wartime Cadillac V-8 engine
and Hydra-Matic transmission

Ww2_m24.jpg (6415 bytes)    Ww2_m24b.jpg (8673 bytes)
The M-24 tank in war ...and peace

ww2final.JPG (5272 bytes)    Ww2fina2.jpg (2483 bytes)
The last tank that received its engine and transmission at the Cadillac factory



Other wartime production

U.S. participation in the Korean conflict, in the early fifties,  revived the production of tanks, engines and Hydra-Matic transmissions at the Cleveland Ordnance plant in Ohio.


War_kor2.jpg (19613 bytes)    Ww2_tnkc.jpg (6919 bytes)


Summary of Wartime Production (WW2)

A.  Aircraft with Cadillac engine and other parts

P-38 Lockheed Lightning: A 400 mph, fast-climbing, twin-engined, twin-fuselaged P-38 Lightning fighter plane, the rudders of which inspired the first fish-tail fins on the 1948 Cadillac; see CA, 12/92, p.10; plane was viewed by Harley Earl at Selfridge Field air base in the late thirties [1938?]; photo of P-38 in flight, GM First 75 Years, p.108; good drawing in catalog From Peace to War [1943-44]; line drawing AF, p.25; Sch40, p.125; Germans referred to the 'plane as the fork-tailed devil. The plane was designed by Kelly Johnson and powered by twin GM Allison engines.

P-39 Lockheed Airacobra: The engine of the tough, speedy P-39 Airacobra low altitude fighter was mounted amidships, behind the pilot; the plane carried a deadly canon in its nose as well as several wing-mounted machine guns.

P-40 Lockheed Warhawk: Favorite plane of the Flying Tigers a daring crew of WW2 fighter pilots under General Claire Chennault.


Ww2_plan.jpg (6070 bytes)    Ww2_pln2.jpg (7709 bytes)
Left: (clockwise from top):  P38 Lightning, P39 Airacobra and P40 Warhawk
Right: Sortie of  the Flying Tigers in P-40 Warhawks, searching for enemy submarines 



P-51 Mustang: Allison-engined WW2 fighter plane using Cadillac engine parts. The last of the Mustang planes, the Twin Mustang was the first to down an enemy plane in the Korean conflict where it flew nearly 2000 sorties.


ww2p51m.JPG (6728 bytes)    ww2p51m2.jpg (12212 bytes)
Left:  Wartime aerial photo; right:  a survivor



P-63 Kingcobra: Another Allison-engined WW2 fighter plane using Cadillac engine parts.


B.  Cadillac-powered tanks and related vehicles

The following military vehicles all were powered by Cadillac V-8 engine/transmission combination:  the M-5 light tank built by both the Cadillac Motor Car Division and by Massey-Harris, the M-5A1 light tank built by the Cadillac Motor Car Div., by Massey-Harris and by American Machine and Foundry (AMF), the M8 Howitzer motor carriage built by the Cadillac Motor Car Div., the Australian Cruiser tank, the B-FT2 Snow-A-1 snowmobile built be Farand & Delorme Ltd., the LVT III Amphibian craft built by Graham-Paige and by Ingersoll Steel and Disc Div., the M-24 light tank built by both  the Cadillac Motor Car Division and by Massey-Harris, the CT-20 Universal Carrier built by Morris Motors Ltd., the M-19 gun motor carriage built by Cadillac Motor Car Div., the T-674E1 Howitzer motor carriage built by Massey-Harris, the M-37 Howitzer motor carriage built by AMF and the M-41 (or T-41) Walker Bulldog light tanks built at the Cleveland Ordnance plant.

The M-5 and M-5A1 light-tanks were produced at the Cadillac plant, starting in April, 1942; they were redesigned from the Washington Ordnance Department's M-3 light tank and equipped with paired 1-G V8 engines and Hydra-Matic transmissions [photos in GM, the First 75 Years, p.108, story and photos, SSA92, pp.8-17]. A good drawing of it is included in the Cadillac sales catalog From Peace to War [1943-44]; there is another good photo in CA 12/92, p.17, also McC p.263.


ww2m5en.JPG (10744 bytes)    ww2M5pr.jpg (11845 bytes)
M-5 tank production line
Left:  engines and transmissions;  right: track assembly



There are good pics of the M-8 Howitzer gun carriage in the factory brochure entitled From Peace to War [1943-44], as also in McC, p.263.

The M-19 anti-aircraft vehicle manufactured at the Cadillac plant in 1945 is illustrated in McC, p.263.

The M-24, a new light tank produced at the Cadillac plant starting in 1944, also known as the Chaffee tank, used two paired 3-G type V-8 engines and Hydra-Matic transmissions. The final unit was completed on August 24, 1945.  There are good pics in CA 12/92, p.17 and McC, p.263].


ww2m24t.JPG (9554 bytes)



There is a good pic of the M-41 Walker Bulldog light tank, of which Cadillac built more than 3,700 units  for the Korean war,  in McC, p.293.  This tank carried a 76mm gun.


Warcrst.jpg (1795 bytes)



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© 1996, Yann Saunders and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, Inc.
[ Background image:  Cadillac wartime crest and P39 Airacobra fighter plane built with Cadillac engine parts ]