KanColl: The Kansas  Historical Quarterlies

The Battle of Kansas

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

     DURING the war most Kansans were so occupiedwith their specific jobs that they had little time to consider the state'stremendous contribution to victory. Two hundred thousand men and women went intothe armed services. If the nation's casualty percentages are applied, there were17,000 Kansas casualties, including 4,250 dead. At home, on the farms, with lesshelp than normal, the state's wheat yield for the four war years has not beenexceeded by any similar period. Production of other crops and farm products wasalso high.

     Kansans helped build and staff the army and navyinstallations and the hundreds of war industries which dotted the state. FortRiley expanded, with a new Camp Funston, and stressed mechanized cavalry. FortLeavenworth continued its Command and General Staff School and also became areception center. Several infantry regiments were trained at Camp Phillips, nearSalina. The army located the 2,200-bed Winter General Hospital and an airforcespecialized depot at Topeka. Anhydrous ammonia was produced at the JayhawkOrdnance Works near Baxter Springs, powder was manufactured at the SunflowerOrdnance Works near De Soto, and shells were loaded at the Kansas Ordnance Plantnear Parsons.

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



and Culver factories completed 25,865 airplanes during the war, and enoughequivalent 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 themanagement of Kansas-born J. Earl Schaefer, completed 8,584 Kaydet primarytrainers, and 1,762 additional trainers in spare parts; 750 CG4 gliders, the samegliders used in General Eisenhower's invasion of Europe, and wing panels andcontrol surfaces for the B-17 Flying Fortress. Its work on the B-29 Superfortresswas outstanding. All the B-29's used in the first raid on Japan on the steelcenter at Yawata, June 15, 1944, were built at Wichita and were processed fromKansas airfields.

     The story of these Kansas Superfortresses is ofunusual interest. By the fall of 1943 production and "know how" were moreadvanced in the Wichita plant than in other B-29 factories. Construction of thefirst 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, wherebombardment 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 theair force, had already worked out a schedule for the bombing of Japan. On March9, 1944, he arrived at the Smoky Hill Army Airfield at Salina and asked how manybombers could leave next day for India "as ordered." Because of the alterationsthe answer was "None." According to the Post, Arnold thereupon "exploded a stringof `impossible' orders that set phones jangling all over the country," and "sobegan 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; hourswould be as long as a man could stand on his feet; the last plane must fly awayApril fifteenth.

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


mechanisms were delivered to waiting B-29's in soft-sprung ambulances. Spareengines 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." Twomonths later they bombed the Japanese homeland.

     At the end of the war Boeing-Wichita wasproducing 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 from157,000, the average required for the first 100 bombers, to less than 20,000. Ofthe 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 Boeingplant, August 29, 1945, addressed the following statement to Boeing employees andto the people of Wichita and Kansas:

     It is a great satisfaction to me to be able to be here today and see thecompletion of your B-29 program even as American occupation forces are makingtheir initial landings in Japan-landings made possible at this relatively earlydate and with relatively reduced cost of American lives by the army air forcesflying the B-29's made by you in this Boeing factory.
     I recall very well my last visit here on January12, 1944-as time is measured, not very many months ago. I then told you people ofWichita and Kansas that we desperately needed additional planes of the range andstriking power of the B-29-and because of the widely extended Japanese defenseperimeter, only if we had them could we knock the Japs out of the war without acostly series of land invasions. At that time, I inscribed my name on anunfinished B-29 on the production line that was not scheduled for delivery untilMarch 15. Typical of your spirit and your faith in the army air forces to do itsjob, that plane was delivered to the flight test crew on February 21-almost afull month in advance of the scheduled date. That is typical of the extra effortyou made, the loyal support you gave the AAF, and the will to do that prevailedthroughout the Superfortress production program.
     Thanks to what you did, our combat crews had beentrained and B-29's were ready and waiting to occupy Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa aseach base was prepared to receive them. Thanks to you the Japs in Tokyo, Nagoyaand Kobe, and fifty other cities learned the folly of tackling the unbeatablecombination of your production and the magnificent efforts of our splendid youngairmen.
Soon after the Superforts completed their first strikes from theMarianas, the Japs' official Domei broadcast conceded that the planes were anunsolvable problem to them. And from that time on until Hiroshima and Nagasakifelt the final blows carried by B-29's, all America knew that the army air forcesand Boeing Superforts could do the job they were assigned.
     And in speaking to you of your splendid work in theB-29 program, I would be amiss if I overlooked your Boeing Kaydet primarytrainers and


the part they played in training thousands of the young men who were later tofigure so largely in victory, both in Europe and in the Pacific.
     What I told Earl Schaefer in Washington I want totell you people of Boeing, of Wichita and of Kansas here today. You were given ajob 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, andthanks from the bottom of my heart.

<[Aerial view of Boeing plant near Wichita.]

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.


[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.

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