Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tulsa Bomber Plant

Air Force Plant 3, also known as the Tulsa Bomber plant, was dedicated on August 15, 1942. Located on 750 acres east of the municipal airport, the 4004-foot-long and 200-foot-wide assembly structure provided over 800,000 square feet of floor space.

A Burlington Northern RR spur line brought the raw materials and partially assembled aircraft into one end of the building, and completed aircraft emerged from the other end. The plant operated under blackout conditions.
These are some of the workers on a lunch break:During WW II, the plant was run by the Douglas Aircraft Company, producing A-24 Dauntless dive bombers, B-24 Liberator strategic bombers, and A-26 Invader medium bombers.

My grandmother, Elva Robertson, came to Tulsa in 1942 from the Beechcraft Plant in Wichita where she had trained, worked and eventually taught. She took classes at Irvin Aircraft Schools here in Tulsa, 1115 S. Harvard Street. This was probably in preparation for her new job at the Tulsa Plant as an inspector.

When she first came to Tulsa, she lived in various hotels downtown as did many.
From the Beryl Ford Collection: B & B Transportation offered a service that transported 60-70 workers from 10th & Boston to the various shifts at the Douglas Air Plant. This is a semi truck pulling a trailer which served as a train coach. This service began in 1942 and ran until the end of the war.
An article ran in the Tulsa World on November 26, 1942 about the women who worked at the plant here.
That is my grandmother standing on the ladder:

In one of the many letters she kept, written to my father who was training to be a Naval pilot and my uncle who was in the Army:

June 17, 1942 Wichita
“We are working 10 hours a day. I also go to school 2 hours every night then I go to an instruction class 2 hours every morning on company time. 15 women out of about 2,000 were selected to train new employees…..
“I’m still the only lady inspector on final assembly, but I expect we will get some before long. I’m just mentally fatigued as well as physically- it’s such a strain all the time for fear- you’ll pass something up and endanger someone’s life.
“I’m so tired I can hardly write but I just think what you are doing and it gives me strength and courage to go on. I know you feel that we are backing you 100%. I’m trying to put a tenth of my salary into War Bonds. So honey, you “forge the thunder bolts” and mother will build the planes to follow up. Just know I’m trying to do my bit- in the way I see fit- and may God speed the day we’ll all be together again.”



GreenEyes said...

Such an interesting story - especially because of your personal connection. And the letter is priceless.

DrillerAA09 said...

Wonderful post. It gives a glimpse into the courage and heart of the "Greatest Generation." I have some letters from my Dad to my mother written in 1944 & 45 while he was in the navy. They are truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

Nancy said...

Thanks you guys.

Unknown said...

Interesting post. Personal letters like this from your grandmother make it real. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello~happy new year............................................................

Anonymous said...

My Mother was invited to do a film at TASM there in Tulsa a couple of days ago. My interest piqued I found this site thru a google search. I showed this to her and she immediately recognized Elvas picture. She worked at the bomber plant the same time, but knew her from here in Cushing.
Great Stuff here.
Dan S.

Unknown said...

I enjoy your site BUT, while your text tells the reader that the Douglas Bomber Plant made B-24s, you posted a picture of a B 17 that is situated in Plant 3.

Anonymous said...

I am researching info about a B24H 41-28960 (Sparta/Wilkins) that was shot down on 3 Jul 44 near Galateni, Romania. I have visited the crash site and have been able to personally verify much info thru conversations with elders of the village and as well as obtaining a piece of the stabilizer and a piece of the right wing tip. I have been advised that this B24 was built at the Douglas Tulsa plant. "lst
shift" is written inside the wing tip piece. Can anyone provide date of manufacture, delivery info, factory card or any info about this aircraft? Thanks in advance for your efforts/info. Glenn Watson

Nancy said...

Glenn I would suggest you send your question to someone at the Tulsa Air & Space Museum. Try this: