The Fight to Save Ypsilanti’s Willow Run Bomber Plant
The Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti has a very long, rich history and now many people are fighting to keep that history alive.
During World War II, the Willow Run Bomber Plant was at the forefront of military aircraft production in the U.S. When it was built in 1941, it was the largest factory in the world to be located in one building. At the height of its World War II-era productivity, it employed 42,000 people, many of whom were women filling the roles of factory workers while the men were away at war. So many people were eager to work there, it actually created a housing shortage in the area and dormitories needed to be built to house some of these workers.
Famously, the Willow Run Bomber Plant was the home of the legendary Rosie the Riveter image. Geraldine Hoff, the original model for the iconic World War II-era poster, was a factory employee from Inkster and the term “Rosie the Riveter” was coined in a government film starring Rose Will Monroe, a Willow Run employee.
After the war, the Willow Run Bomber Plant went on to be used for car production before it closed for good in 2010. When the plant was facing demolition, a Save the Bomber Plant campaign was launched to raise $8 million to preserve a 150,000 square feet section of the original bomber plant and turn it into a new home for the Yankee Air Museum. The original fundraising goal has been met, but now the group is continuing their fundraising efforts so they can restore their section of the building and get it ready for the museum to move in.
The original location for the Yankee Air Museum was destroyed by fire in 2004 and the museum is currently housed in a building near the Willow Run Airport. In the time since the fire, the museum hasn’t been able to have their exhibits and historic aircraft together in the same place. But if they are able to move to the old Willow Run Bomber Plant, it will give the Yankee Air Museum a chance to have their aircraft and exhibits together in one location again. They will also have the room to showcase historical artifacts that they don’t have room to display in their current location.
Not only does the Yankee Air Museum hope to educate visitors about the vital role Michigan played in World War II, they also aim to inspire younger generations to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. Currently, the Yankee Air Museum is expected to be in its new home at the Willow Run Bomber Plant by 2017.