December 29, 1940, 75 years ago tomorrow, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his weekly fireside chat to announce America’s historic commitment to build wartime equipment and supplies for Great Britain and our other European allies. It became known as the Arsenal of Democracy speech and it served to set in motion great changes for the auto industry.
Chrysler Corporation, along with other automakers, began ramping up their plants and their workforce to meet the new wartime production needs. Building cars increasingly gave way to designing and building tanks, planes, guns and other vital weapons of war for our allies and for our own soon-to-come entry into World War II.
Auto workers found themselves immersed in a whole new learning curve, honing the skills needed to retool, design and assemble specialized, sometimes ‘exotic’ war equipment. The face of the workforce also changed with women taking on new roles in the office and on the assembly lines.
“The employees were really the backbone of everything,” FCA US Historian Brandt Rosenbusch says in this look at how Chrysler Corporation’s determination, pride and ingenuity went to work to help win the war.