Henry Ford once said, "The only foundation of real business is service."
His quote is in reference to an obligation he felt companies had to give back to their communities. That very same philosophy is evident each time Ford gives back and lends a hand to our servicemen and servicewomen.
While Henry Ford was an active proponent of peace, he lent his company’s support once it became clear the country was going to enter World War I. Using the same mass-production techniques that were perfected for its automobiles, the massive River Rouge Complex assembled Eagle Boats that were going to be used to hunt down German submarines.
This philosophy of inclusion made Ford one of the first companies to hire people with disabilities and adapt the work environment to their specific needs. Henry Ford also honored these veterans by organizing a caravan of 50 Model Ts to take them to a convention in San Francisco.
Ford Motor Company repurposed its assembly lines to meet military manufacturing needs during World War II. Ford built the giant Willow Run Plant to produce B-24 Liberator bombers using an assembly line that was one-mile long. The plant produced its first bomber in May 1942 and made several hundred aircraft a month from then on.
The last peacetime automobile rolled out of the massive River Rouge Plant in 1941. The focus was shifted to the wartime production of aircraft engines and military vehicles. The Rouge manufactured M-4 tanks through 1943 and continued producing M-4 engines and armor plates until the end of World War II.
In addition to aircraft, Ford plants built 277,896 vehicles (tanks, armored cars and jeeps).
Henry Ford also enjoyed visiting his factories, even at the age of 81, and his frequent appearances were well known around the world. In 1944, The American Legion awarded Henry its Distinguished Service Medal for his contribution to the rehabilitation of veterans of both world wars.
Everyone was asked to “Do Their Part.” These pioneering, industrial workers were collectively known as “Rosie the Riveter.” They took over the work that was once reserved for men and laid the groundwork for sweeping social change.