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Kansas Historical Quarterly - The Battle of Kansas

November 1945 (Vol. 13 No. 8), pages 481 to 485.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

DURING the war most Kansans were so occupied with their specific jobs that they had little time to consider the state's tremendous contribution to victory. Two hundred thousand men and women went into the armed services. If the nation's casualty percentages are applied, there were 17,000 Kansas casualties, including 4,250 dead. At home, on the farms, with less help than normal, the state's wheat yield for the four war years has not been exceeded by any similar period. Production of other crops and farm products was also high.

Kansans helped build and staff the army and navy installations and the hundreds of war industries which dotted the state. Fort Riley expanded, with a new Camp Funston, and stressed mechanized cavalry. Fort Leavenworth continued its Command and General Staff School and also became a reception center. Several infantry regiments were trained at Camp Phillips, near Salina. The army located the 2,200-bed Winter General Hospital and an airforce specialized depot at Topeka. Anhydrous ammonia was produced at the Jayhawk Ordnance Works near Baxter Springs, powder was manufactured at the Sunflower Ordnance Works near De Soto, and shells were loaded at the Kansas Ordnance Plant near Parsons.

Naval air stations were located at Olathe and Hutchinson. Army airfields were built near Salina, Topeka, Pratt, Walker, Herington, Great Bend, Liberal, Independence, Coffeyville, Dodge City, Garden City and Winfield. Varied types of training were given at these fields and from some, specially designated, departed thousands of the heavy bombers used in the European and Pacific war zones. Landing craft were built at Leavenworth and Kansas City and were floated to the gulf. Huge airplane factories were located at Kansas City and Wichita. At Wichita, the Boeing, Beech, Cessna

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482 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

and Culver factories completed 25,865 airplanes during the war, and enough equivalent airplanes in spare parts to bring the number above 30,000. Boeing, Wichita's largest, employed as many as 30,000 workers. This plant, under the management of Kansas-born J. Earl Schaefer, completed 8,584 Kaydet primary trainers, and 1,762 additional trainers in spare parts; 750 CG4 gliders, the same gliders used in General Eisenhower's invasion of Europe, and wing panels and control surfaces for the B-17 Flying Fortress. Its work on the B-29 Superfortress was outstanding. All the B-29's used in the first raid on Japan on the steel center at Yawata, June 15, 1944, were built at Wichita and were processed from Kansas airfields.

The story of these Kansas Superfortresses is of unusual interest. By the fall of 1943 production and "know how" were more advanced in the Wichita plant than in other B-29 factories. Construction of the first bombers therefore was concentrated there under rush orders before all the "bugs" could be eliminated. The Saturday Evening Post, of August 25, 1945, said: "Superfortresses unready for battle were delivered to Kansas bases, where bombardment groups were poised for overseas. Army mechanics at Salina, Pratt, Walker and Great Bend tried to button up jobs left flapping."

General of the Army H. H. Arnold, chief of the air force, had already worked out a schedule for the bombing of Japan. On March 9, 1944, he arrived at the Smoky Hill Army Airfield at Salina and asked how many bombers could leave next day for India "as ordered." Because of the alterations the answer was "None." According to the Post, Arnold thereupon "exploded a string of `impossible' orders that set phones jangling all over the country," and "so began an uproar famed as the Salina Blitz, or The Battle of Kansas. Overnight, Kansas swarmed with tough colonels. G. I. mechanics flew in from a dozen states, and Boeing sent 600 civilian experts from the Wichita plant. Maj. Gen. Bennett E. Meyers gave them the pitch: No paperwork except simple notes of work done; hours would be as long as a man could stand on his feet; the last plane must fly away April fifteenth.

They worked outdoors in a wintry gale; hangars were scarce. The wind hissed with sleet. Loose cowlings flapped and clattered and sailed away. Gasoline heaters were flown in; and every shivering man was issued a high-altitude flying suit. "The Salina Blitz was being won. Training engines were yanked. War engines were installed, the latest model. Delicate fire-control

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mechanisms were delivered to waiting B-29's in soft-sprung ambulances. Spare engines were hoisted into bomb bays, and one B-29 was ready, and then another. . . . The last B-29 left Kansas April fifteenth, right on the blitz deadline." Two months later they bombed the Japanese homeland.

At the end of the war Boeing-Wichita was producing 4.2 Superfortresses per working day for an average of 100 a month, which was the army's schedule, and had reduced the number of manhours from 157,000, the average required for the first 100 bombers, to less than 20,000. Of the 3,888 Superfortresses built by all factories, 1,644 were Wichita made. Wichita also built an additional 125 Superfortresses in spare parts.

General Arnold, on a visit to the Wichita Boeing plant, August 29, 1945, addressed the following statement to Boeing employees and to the people of Wichita and Kansas:

It is a great satisfaction to me to be able to be here today and see the completion of your B-29 program even as American occupation forces are making their initial landings in Japan-landings made possible at this relatively early date and with relatively reduced cost of American lives by the army air forces flying the B-29's made by you in this Boeing factory.

I recall very well my last visit here on January 12, 1944-as time is measured, not very many months ago. I then told you people of Wichita and Kansas that we desperately needed additional planes of the range and striking power of the B-29-and because of the widely extended Japanese defense perimeter, only if we had them could we knock the Japs out of the war without a costly series of land invasions. At that time, I inscribed my name on an unfinished B-29 on the production line that was not scheduled for delivery until March 15. Typical of your spirit and your faith in the army air forces to do its job, that plane was delivered to the flight test crew on February 21-almost a full month in advance of the scheduled date. That is typical of the extra effort you made, the loyal support you gave the AAF, and the will to do that prevailed throughout the Superfortress production program.

Thanks to what you did, our combat crews had been trained and B-29's were ready and waiting to occupy Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa as each base was prepared to receive them. Thanks to you the Japs in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe, and fifty other cities learned the folly of tackling the unbeatable combination of your production and the magnificent efforts of our splendid young airmen.

Soon after the Superforts completed their first strikes from the Marianas, the Japs' official Domei broadcast conceded that the planes were an unsolvable problem to them. And from that time on until Hiroshima and Nagasaki felt the final blows carried by B-29's, all America knew that the army air forces and Boeing Superforts could do the job they were assigned.

And in speaking to you of your splendid work in the B-29 program, I would be amiss if I overlooked your Boeing Kaydet primary trainers and

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the part they played in training thousands of the young men who were later to figure so largely in victory, both in Europe and in the Pacific.

What I told Earl Schaefer in Washington I want to tell you people of Boeing, of Wichita and of Kansas here today. You were given a job to do and the way you finished that job met our greatest expectations.

For myself and on behalf of the army air forces, I say to you-well done, and thanks from the bottom of my heart.

[Aerial view of Boeing plant near Wichita.]

PLANT OF THE BOEING AIRPLANE COMAPNY NEAR WICHITA (1945),
BUILDERS OF THE B-29 SUPERFORTRESS
Before the war the Boeing factory consisted of only a part of the building
shown near the water tower in the upper right At the top are some of
the war housing units erected in the Wichita area.

SUPERFORTRESSES BY THE ACRE AT WICHITA

[B-29 asembly line.]

Nose Sections, and in the Left Background the Double Bomb Bay Sections.

[B-29 asembly line.]

Wing Sections in the Assembly Area of the Boeing Wichita Plant.