Remembering Westinghouse’s World War II war production efforts

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Much attention has been paid to the Westinghouse Appliance Division in Mansfield lately. With only two buildings still standing and one set to be demolished, nostalgia has taken hold in Mansfield circles. This is part of a series of articles from the Mansfield Memorial Museum on the wartime production of Westinghouse and other manufacturers in our city showing the massive efforts of our factory workers.

The history of the Mansfield Westinghouse factory during the World War II period is a bright spot illustrating the ingenuity of American production.

Here was a plant that was apparently of little use in the war effort. Mansfield was largely a sheet metal forming, finishing and assembly plant for household appliances. None of the products produced were in any way similar to what was needed for the war effort. The volume of pre-war material that was handled daily was 33 railcars of material arriving by rail and 64 railcars of finished apparatus leaving the Mansfield factory daily.

Here are the production lines for 1941, broken down by aircraft:

  • Refrigerators – 295,602
  • Ranges – 133,723
  • Automatic Washers – 8,801
  • Water heater – 30 125,
  • Roasters – 92,352
  • Irons – 464 247
  • Miscellaneous appliances – 371,895 (waffle irons, sandwich toasters, percolators, coffee makers, toasters and hot plates)

Due to the difficulty of adapting Mansfield’s pre-war facilities to wartime production, conversion was not as rapid as at some factories. Production of refrigerators ceased in April 1942, and that of small household appliances in June 1942. Tolerances for wartime production were much more concise—ten thousand inches for each product, compared to a one-tenth inch tolerance in the production of household appliances – thus putting pressure on engineers and workers to be very precise in their production.

A bomb band adapter made by Westinghouse for the British Royal Air Force during World War II.

The following is taken from a report on this early war production equipment. Westinghouse Appliance Division in Mansfield was the first factory to produce war material for a specific theater of war.

The first product we made for the war effort started shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor with a phone call from Wright Field. An emergency order has been placed by the Army Air Corps. In Singapore there were British bombers and they had used up all their British bombs, but they had a lot of American bombs that didn’t match the British planes. A design was quickly made as an adapter to fit the bombs. Westinghouse Mansfield was awarded the contract to manufacture these “Bomb Bands”.

It was going to take our factory weeks to manufacture these bands, until the Army Air Corps called it an emergency and requested quick action. It was a Wednesday. The material to make the strips was delivered by automobiles to our factory and Mansfield went to work and by Friday afternoon 45,000 adapters or 4,000 pounds were ready to be shipped. They were flown from Mansfield to Singapore that next Monday was used by British bombers. These were so successful that another 40,000 were made. Thus allowing British or American bombers to use either country’s bombs. On January 19, 1942, Brig. General George C. Kenney of the AAF sent a letter of appreciation praising our factory for the speed and quality of these adapters. This shows the courage and ingenuity of our employees to get the work offered to them and complete the task.

An American-style bomb band adapter made by the Westinghouse factory in Mansfield for use in World War II.

The Mansfield Memorial Museum exhibits 257 small household appliances, including original wartime production equipment. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 419-525-2491.

Scott Schaut is the curator of the Mansfield Memorial Museum located at 34 Park Avenue West in downtown Mansfield.

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