Every three minutes another military vehicle rolls off Canadian automotive assembly lines
ON THE day you read this a girl, whose name may very well be Jane, working in a factory at Sarnia, Ont., weaves into a standard pattern a rope of many thin electric wires, each one wrapped with a distinctively colored insulation. At the same time a man, called perhaps Joe, shapes heavy steel springs in a Winnipeg plant. All across the country in dozens of industrial establishments, large and small, located in dozens of widely separated cities and towns, east and west, something like 30,000 other Joes and Janes are employing their nimble fingers and expert knowledge at tasks of stamping, sawing, cutting, turning, welding, riveting, bolting, nailing, painting, measuring, testing, inspecting, checking. Their combined efforts add up to one of the biggest co-ordinated production jobs Canada has ever tackled—all-out mass production of what the Department oí Munitions and Supply comprehensively describes as “vehicles for military purposes.”
The pattern of this considerable enterprise is as the pattern of a tree. The score or more factories making thousands of parts for motor-driven war vehicles are the roots. The three big automobile plants and the two locomotive works where the components are assembled may be compared to the trunk. Thte branches spread widely to far-off lands wherever the armies of the United Nations are fighting the Axis powers. So, on the day you read this, even as the Joes and Janes are turning out more and more bits and pieces for military vehicles, Russian soldiers are hammering at Nazi invaders with tanks made in Canada, while among Libyan sand dunes, across Australian bushlands, under the scorching suns of India, in defense areas of Great Britain as well as in Canadian military encampments, universal carriers, mobile workshops, artillery tractors, fire trucks, radio trucks, ambulances, and many other vehicles produced in this country, are helping to smash Hitler and his gang.
At the end of March Canada had manufactured and shipped to destinations in all parts of the world well over 200,000 vehicles for military purposes, including tanks. That is only a beginning, for we are not yet at the peak of production. Canadian automobile plants are making this summer ninety different types of mechanized army transport, mounted on twelve different chassis. These are only the transport vehicles: trucks, tractors, buses, ammunition wagons, Army and Air Force cars and the like. In addition, the same factories are turning out twelve types of field workshops, four types of ambulances, three types of wireless trucks, and three types of fire trucks. Then there are the universal carriers, that all-purpose fighting vehicle, running on caterpillar tracks, armorplated and mounting light guns—actually a baby tank. Twelve types of military tires are required to equip this assortment of rolling stock. Two heavy duty plants that formerly built locomotives are making two types of tanks, a medium light and a medium heavy.
According to the Department of Munitions and Supply, the Canadian automobile industry, as it is now organized for war, employs 30,000 workers. Geared to an all-out war effort, the industry is capable of rolling a completed unit off the assembly line every three minutes. One of the three big Canadian plants can make sufficient uni-
versal carriers in a single day to equip an infantry battalion, can supply the carrier requirements of an infantry division with every fourteen days production.
MANUFACTURE of vehicles for war purposes on this unprecedented scale is a much greater, many times more complicated business than was the peacetime job of turning out new models of cars and trucks in time for the annual automobile shows. The mistaken but rather widely held notion that all the automotive industry had to do was stop making civilian cars at six o’clock on Saturday evening, then start right in making army vehicles at eight o’clock on Monday morning, has caused many severe headaches for plant executives.
Take bits and pieces. Each army vehicle contains approximately 3,000 parts—that is, parts depending one upon the other—as well as such important minor details as bolts, rivets and fittings made of rubber. Many of these, special to military transports, were not used in civilian production. In normal circumstances automobile manufacturers, having learned from past experience what their plant’s demand for accessories would be, made their contracts well in advance with the firms producing them. Frequently the accessory makers were subsidiary companies of the automobile manufacturers. The point is, the automobile plants knew just what they were going to need in the way of parts, and exactly where those parts could be obtained.
All-out war production, calling for a continuous effort on an ever-increasing scale, is a vastly more demanding proposition than was the production of a stated number of civilian cars to meet the accurately estimated demands of the new season. Hitherto untapped sources of supply had to be discovered for new equipment, and for larger quantities of the old equipment. New machines had to be found and installed, new buildings constructed to house them, new assembly lines put together.
As the national purchasing agent, the Department of Munitions and Supply set up a special division early in 1941 to supervise “the manufacture and the purchase of automotive vehicles for war purposes.” Previously this had been the responsibility of the General Purchasing Branch of the Department; but the task quickly outgrew its knickerbockers. Establishment of the Automotive and Tank Production Branches of the Department put it into long pants.
The Automotive and Tank Production Branches supervise and assist the manufacture and purchase of transport vehicles, armored vehicles, universal carriers, armor plate, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, tires, spare parts and tanks. Its officials keep tabs on every plant in Canada qualified to produce military vehicles and the bits and pieces that go into military vehicles.
Basic contracts—officially termed “prime contracts”—are let directly by the Automotive and Tank Production Branches. Some of the more important subcontracts also come under ATPB’s immediate supervision; but prime contractors and subcontractors may make their own secondary or
tertiary contracts when, as and if circumstances so demand.
The Big Three of the Canadian automotive industry, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, naturally are the most important primary contractors for military vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway and Montreal Locomotive Works have the prime contracts for tanks. General Motors and Ford between them are just now making the largest number of army transport cars. The Chrysler plant is producing some types, but Chrysler is also turning out twenty-five-pounder guns, in association with the Simard Brothers. Ford and General Motors are working on military vehicles exclusively.
Canadians are accustomed to think of their automobile industry as concentrated in two Ontario cities. It is true that the main plants of the Big Three, located in these two cities, combine to form the trunk of our automotive production tree; but the main roots, and their tap roots, are spread from coast to coast.
The purchasing departments of the Automotive and Tank Production Branches list fifty-two firms in twenty-two different Canadian cities, including Vancouver, B.C., and Saint John, N.B., as “available” to supply equipment necessary for the manufacture of military vehicles. Among them are nineteen companies making springs, seventeen producers of car bodies and cabs, six plants turning out axles, four making transmissions, and three each manufacturing brakes and electrical equipment. Of this total the Department of Munitions and Supply has prime contracts with fourteen firms operating in ten different cities. There is no information available on the number of companies working on secondary and tertiary contracts which Munitions and Supply does not directly contact; but it is probable that every firm on the available list is producing in greater or less degree for the automotive industry, while still other smaller concerns, not known to Ottawa, are making contributions through subcontracts and sub-subcontracts.
There is no centralization of production in the larger manufacturing centres, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Winnipeg, although these of course are included. Firms located in such communities as Gananoque, Tilbury,Ingersoll, Belleville, Guelph, Wakefield, Galt and St. Catharines, in Ontario; Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Saskatoon in the West, and Moncton in the Maritimes, appear officially among the availables. This is a national not a sectional enterprise.
U.S.-Canada Joint Resources
IN A WAY it is an international enterprise, too.
Some frames, and practically all the sheet steel used in Canadian plants producing military vehicles and tanks, have to be imported from the United States, because these items are not made in Canada in sufficient volume. This condition has made necessary the closest possible co-operation between the two governments, in order to meet the situation created by U.S. priorities. The Department of Munitions and Supply maintains a liaison staff in Washington working with the Office of Production Management. Following the procedure authorized by President Roosevelt about a year ago, the Priorities Division of Washington’s OPM, on receipt of an official application, grants upper bracket rating to Canadian primary contracts either in the United States or Canada. When the primary contracts cover items on what Ottawa calls the “critical list” (vehicles urgently needed), the ratings may be extended to subcontracts leading up to the prime contracts. Under this plan, if a secondary contractor finds himself running short of, say, sheet steel obtainable only in the United States; he will be granted U.S. priority rating, providing that the primary contract he is to supply ranks as critical.
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Canada now is producing tanks of two distinct types—the Valentine and the Ram.
The Valentine is a medium light tank officially rated at eighteen tons. It is Diesel motored. The body is armor plate, riveted and welded, and the rotating turret may be operated either by hand or by electric controls. The Ram, a medium heavy tank of twenty-eight tons, is powered by a Wright Whirlwind gasoline engine.
Survey of the main sources of supply for the Valentine and the Ram provides an excellent example of the way different companies are coordinating their production efforts. The Valentine’s Diesel engines are made by General Motors in the United States. A Quebec factory makes the heavy and intricate suspensions and the steel bogie wheels. Hydraulic shock absorbers are produced in Quebec as are the caterpillar tracks. C.P.R. shops make some but not all of the heavy steel pins that lock the track sections together.
Most of the armor plate for the bodies comes from Ontario mills. Some of the big toothed transmission wheels are made in the United States, some in Ontario. The traverse gears that rotate the turret are a product of an Ontario elevator company. The wireless and loud-speaker equipment is made in Quebec, while a southern Ontario factory makes
the heavy bolts that hold the tank together.
In the case of the Ram, the Wright Whirlwind engines are produced in the United States. The transmissions also come from across the line. The Montreal Locomotive Company makes the suspensions. Ram bogie wheels are tired with solid rubber, made by a well-known rubber company in one or another of its plants; the combination steel and rubber track is produced in Quebec.
More heavily protected than the smaller Valentine, the gun turret and the upper part of the Ram’s hull are cast solidly of armor plate in two sections, both castings made in U.S. mills, then freighted to Montreal. The armor steel plates for the lower hull are made in Ontario. These three component parts of the body—gun turret, upper hull and lower hull—are welded into one unit at Montreal Locomotive Works. The gun mounting for the Ram is a product of an elevator company in Ontario.
See what this involves. To produce the two tank types requires the services of twelve different Canadian companies as well as the prime contractors; and those twelve companies are located in seven different cities. Half a dozen U.S. concerns, too, are contributing to the same production effort. Further, this record covers only the principal component parts. It does not include armament, details of which are more or less a military secret, or the hundreds of smaller items, the bits and pieces that must be made available in quantity from a score of different sources, if mass production is to be maintained.
Factories on Wheels
AMONG vehicles for military purposes the ■ tank is the most awe-inspiring. Anything weighing twenty-eight tons and travelling at motor vehicle speed, hurling shells and machine gun bullets into the enemy’s ranks, belongs in the brontosaurus, or thunder-lizard class; but other
less fearsome army transports are often far more complicated contraptions than is the tank.
Take a look at the field workshop. Here is nothing less than a factory on wheels, compressed within the limits of a medium-sized truck. Electrically operated lathes and drills, riveting hammers, welding torches, a generator, a switchboard, a work bench, a tool cabinet, steel drawers for spare parts, and an anvil, are among the gear crowding the truck’s interior. Spotlights set in a row along the top of the front end of the body provide illumination for night work. There are hundreds of yards of electric wiring, together with loose connection cords fitted with plugs—one reason why there is going to be a shortage of similar connections for your toaster.
Some of the equipment that goes into the field workshop is purchased by Munitions and Supply direct from the manufacturer, then issued to the automobile plants as required. Other items the prime contractors must either make in their own shops, or buy on their own account. The twelve different types of field workshops have been designed by army engineers to make all sorts of repairs under all sorts of handicaps. With them soldier mechanics can mend broken pipe lines, patch shell-torn plates, restore ignition systems that have been shot away, solder leaky gas tanks, recharge batteries, install new wireless systems or vulcanize blown tires.
Different climatic conditions demand different types of extra equipment. The field-workshops shipped to tropical countries have canvas awning extensions that can be spread from the sides of the truck, providing shelter for blacksmiths forging metal under the blistering heat of desert sunshine.
Many military vehicles are made on a compressed wheel base with a short hood, so that they can make quick turns in tight corners. Some have double transmissions, providing a four-wheel drive. The Japs have started to use gas in Burma.
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Anticipating this, sponge rubber cushions in army vehicles are fitted with canvas slip covers, easily removed for gas decontamination. For night manoeuvres under blackout conditions, an illuminated white spot is painted in the middle of the rear axle of each truck. Drivers following each other closely in single file can trail that white spot, although the body of the vehicle in front may be completely invisible in total darkness.
All modern military vehicles run on rubber, not for the greater comfort of the soldier, or because officers must live in luxury, but for the practical reason that inflated tires give better traction, higher speeds, greater mobility than any other known method of covering wheels. Heavy guns as well as light trucks must have tires, and the smallest army tire uses up twenty-seven pounds of rubber, about twice as much as is required for the average civilian car tire. The heaviest types take nearly three hundred pounds of rubber each.
In design army tires are something pretty special. There is the run-flat tire, produced by some anonymous magician and developed as a military secret by the British War Office. Machine gun bullets or shell fire may puncture this shoe a dozen times. It will still run. Completely deflated it will run on the rim without irreparable damage. Treads come in various shapes and depths to meet exceptional conditions. Some of them are molded inches deep in tenand twelve-ply rubber. Army vehicles have to churn their way through desert sands, must have traction over slippery grass, or in
greasy mud reaching to the hubcaps.
There’s the problem of extra spare parts, a troublesome issue in the past, now more efficiently organized. Under the plan currently in operation, every shipment of cars carries with it extra engines, extra transmissions, extra rear axles; and a percentage of the smaller bits and pieces. Three months after the date of the initial shipment another supply of spares follows to the same destination, this time based on the degree of deterioration experience has taught the Army to expect under given conditions. Three months later, that is, six months after the first shipment, a third lot of spare parts goes forward. This is a “depot spares” allowance, covering practically every requirement, including new chassis, frames and cabs, in a bulk order intended to keep base motor transport depots fully stocked with everything they need or are likely to need to maintain the vehicles on active service.
RAW MATERIALS for military vehicjes are loaded into the automobile plants from trains that run over factory sidings to the receiving platforms. Electric trucks carry them to the shops where they are to be used, or to storerooms. Stamping and cutting machines take the steel plates, fashion them into wheels, fenders and the like, each machine performing one operation, then passing the part on to the next in line. Finished, the raw material is scrubbed clean of grease and dirt and rough surfaces removed. Then comes a spray paint finishing, a baking, and so at last it reaches the tire department where the demountable rims are bolted into place, in the case of a wheel. Fenders and bodies go to the assembly line.
Paint jobs vary. Canadians are familiar with the khaki green used in our own camps and the air force blue seen around the flying fields. Troops in Britain use vehicles similarly finished, but in Africa, for desert fighting, the paint job is a light yellow to match the sandy background.
Most people know about assembly line procedure, seemingly so simple when in operation, actually requiring a tremendous amount of planning to set up. The naked chassis, lifted by travelling cranes to a roller chain belt, passes from one group of workers to the next, each group adding its own particular contribution — transmission, engine, body, cab, fenders—until finally, with the wheels in place, the completed vehicle is ready to roll. Inspection is strict and double checked. Plant inspection is followed by government inspection. Each plant has a department set aside for the government inspectors’ exclusive use, and every unit must pass the standard government tests before it is accepted.
The final process is crating, and crating army vehicles for export is not at all like wrapping Christmas parcels. Standard crate dimensions for the different types have been established. Crates are delivered to the automobile plants in fabricated sections ready to be nailed together. An important contribution to the mass production of military vehicles is being made by dozens of woodworking plants in various parts of the country, making these knocked down crates by the thousand.
A crate designed to carry a fourwheel-drive truck overseas will be nineteen feet long, seven and a half feet wide and five feet three inches high. The gross weight, with contents, is 8,860 pounds. Floors, sides, ends and tops come ready made, but sturdy two-by-fours sawn to the required lengths have to be bolted into place to hold the heavy vehicle rigidly in position. The wheels are removed for crating, packed tightly below and on top of the body. Strap-iron bands, bolted to the floor beams, hold the axles firmly. There’s enough wood in one of these crates to build a small garage.
Even the nails are of special design, for a particular and revealing reason. Lumber is scarce in Britain, and in many other war areas where these vehicles will serve. Therefore the Army salvages every precious length of spruce or pine it can get hold of. The mill-finished wood in these crates is particularly prized. Early shipments of military vehicles from Canada were packed in crates nailed together in the orthodox fashion, with the nail heads hammered deep into the wood for security’s sake. When the crates were removed the leverage necessary to pry those four-inch nails loose from their moorings inevitably split and splintered the wood, causing a waste gazed upon by thrifty Ordnance officers with horror. Do something about this, they implored. We can use every inch of that wood.
Hence the nail with two heads. On the ordinary four-inch nail the manufacturers put a second head, or a shoulder, half an inch below the regular head. Packers in the motor plants drive the nails as far as the shoulder, leaving half an inch of nail and the head projecting so that the nail can be quickly and easily withdrawn without damage to the lumber.
But another problem arose. In the constant pounding and rubbing of ocean travel the projecting nails tore holes in other packages with which they were brought in violent contact, causing considerable damage and a flood of complaints. The automobile packers solved this by covering the nailed edges of their crates with a strip of plywood, tacked into position. One hearty heave-o removes the plywood trim, and the rest is simple. So many little things go to make this big job an efficient one.
The Men Behind Production
SETTING up controls in the Department of Munitions and Supply has been a lengthy process, largely one of evolution. As at present constituted, the Automotive and Tank Production Branches are split into three main divisions— automotive production, tank production, and army engineering design —with staffs of experts here and in Britain, some army officers, some civilian businessmen, in key positions as directors, executive assistants technical advisers, and so on.
Army vehicles come under the jurisdiction of the Director-General of Automotive Production, who is also Motor Vehicle Controller and Motor Vehicle Administrator. This three-way job is held by John H. Berry, an English-born engineer, and ex-General Motors manager, who has had experience in Japan and the United States. A native of Cheshire, Mr. Berry served an apprenticeship in Liverpool as a dockyard engineer. During the first world war he joined the Royal Naval Air Force, later transferred to the Royal Air Force. Demobbed, he went to work for
General Motors in London and was sent to Japan to organize a General Motors plant there. That job completed, he returned to England to become production manager of Vauxhall Motors, a GM subsidiary. Just before the outbreak of the present war Mr. Berry was sent to the United States to round up machine tools and other equipment for Vauxhall, and in August, 1940, he crossed into Canada to become technical adviser to the Motor Transport Section of the Department of Munitions and Supply. He was appointed Motor Vehicle Controller in February, 1941, took on the additional responsibilities of Director-General of Automotive Supply when the automobile industry was turned over to mass production of army vehicles last winter.
Mr. Berry’s Deputy DirectorGeneral is Brigadier N. 0. Carr, a native of Ottawa who graduated from Royal Military College in 1909 and took a commission in the Permanent Force Artillery. Brigadier Carr went overseas in 1914 with the First Canadian Artillery Division, served with the First Canadian Heavy Battery in France, then as Major on the staff of the Fourth Canadian Division. After the war he attended the Royal Military College of Science at Woolwich, graduated in 1920 and returned to Canada to serve in turn as Assistant Superintendent of Lindsay Arsenal and as gunnery instructor at Halifax. For five years Brigadier Carr commanded “A” Battery of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. In 1929 he was appointed General Staff Officer (Artillery) and following that Director of Mechanization and Artillery under General McNaughton, who was then Chief of Staff, and shortly after the present war broke out was made Deputy Master General of Ordnance.
Head of the Tank Production Branch is B. D. Beamish, a Quebecborn businessman who has as his technical consultant H.M. Ainsworth. Mr. Beamish is a dollar-a-year executive, on loan from Beamish Sugar Refineries, Limited, of which company he is president. A graduate of the University of Toronto’s School of Commerce, Mr. Beamish first worked as a statistician with the Canadian Bank of Commerce, then became assistant to the president of Crosse and Blackwell (Canada), Limited, before organizing his own sugar refining company. He joined the Department of Munitions and Supply in March, 1941, as consultant in the Contracts Branch, later became priorities officer in the Tank Production Division. Mr. Beamish was appointed Director-General of the Tank Production Branch last February.
Production of military vehicles other than tanks comes under the immediate supervision of Major T. W. Cumner, who has been Director of Automotive Production since June, 1941. Major Cumner is a Hampshireman, a mechanical engineer who worked on naval construction at the Beardmore Shipyards in Glasgow, then joined the White Steamer organization when White cars and trucks were first introduced to the market. He began the last war as an officer of the Queen’s Westminster Dragoons, later transferred to mechanical transport, and was in command of General Headquarters Workshop in France when the armistice was signed. Returning to the White Company in 1919, Major Cumner was general manager of the organization for a time, then was moved around the globe in the White interests. In turn he found himself in charge of branches in Egypt, India, Burma and Siam. After a short stay in France he went to the United States to become general manager of the eastern region. At the outbreak of war he offered his services to the British Army and was posted as Senior Inspecting Officer of Mechanization with the British and Canadian Inspection Board. From that job it was a short step into Munitions and Supply.
Vehicle design is controlled by H. J. Stevenson, graduate of the University of Toronto, loaned to the government by General Motors. He commenced this work on military vehicles in the early part of 1940 in the Department of National Defense, and was shortly afterward appointed Director of Ordnance Services (Mechanization). In this position he created a technical organization for the development of vehicles for the Canadian forces. In the summer of 1941 he was transferred to the Department of Munitions and Supply to handle vehicle design responsibilities for all governments purchasing automotive equipment through Canada. He took with him from the Department of National Defense his technical group as a nucleus upon which to build an organization capable of handling the additional work involved.
Officials of the Automotive and Tank Production Branches at Ottawa think that the Janes and Joes who are making the bits and pieces, the workers on the assembly lines in the automobile factories, the men and women in the rubber factories, the steel mill huskies, the electrical experts, the packers and the water boys, all are doing a good job of work, will do a still better one when the new tools are ready and the new assembly lines start rolling.
Right now the combined effort of the Canadian automotive industry and the big roots and little roots that feed it are making it possible for us to ship every month between 75,000 and 80,000 tons of assorted vehicles for military use to the armies of the United Nations in all parts of the globe, this tonnage not including tanks.
If Hitler or Mussolini or Hirohito can get any satisfaction out of that bit of military information, they’re welcome to it.
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