Part of the former Willow Run Bomber Plant is shown at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. The bomber plant west of Detroit was where, at President Franklin Roosevelt's urging, Ford Motor Co. switched from making cars to planes and produced one an hour -- nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers in all -- to help win the war in Europe. At the time of its 1940s construction, the plant was the largest factory in the world, employing 40,000 men and women, including Rose Will Monroe, who was believed to have been the inspiration for the famed Rosie the Riveter character.
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DETROIT — A group has been given a two-month extension in which to raise enough money to save some of the Detroit-area factory where Rosie the Riveter helped build World War II-era bombers and became an icon of American female empowerment.
The trust set up to oversee properties owned by a pre-bankruptcy General Motors announced today it was extending until Oct. 1 the deadline for fundraisers to bring in the cash needed to preserve a portion of the former Willow Run Bomber Plant.
The Save the Bomber Plant campaign has raised $4.5 million of the $8 million it would cost to separate and preserve 175,000 square feet of the Ypsilanti Township plant and convert it into a new, expanded home for the nearby Yankee Air Museum.
The original deadline to raise the remaining $3.5 million had been Thursday, but the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust tacked on 60 days, saying in a statement that the campaign’s “success and momentum” warranted the extension.
Dennis Norton, the Yankee Air Museum’s founder, said he and his fellow fundraisers were excited to be given the chance to finish what they started.
“The RACER Trust has been extremely supportive of Yankee Air Museum and this initiative,” he said. “We’re grateful to be able to continue working toward our goal of preserving a portion of the former bomber plant to tell the Arsenal of Democracy story and how Americans, men and women of all races, came together to not just build aircraft needed to win World War II, but to change the country forever.”
Indeed, while women performed what had been male-dominated roles in plants all over the country during the war, it was a Willow Run worker who caught the eye of Hollywood producers casting a “riveter” for a government film about the war effort at home.
"Rosie the Riveter" dressed in overalls and bandanna was introduced as a symbol of patriotic womanhood in the 1940's
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Rose Will Monroe was one of the 40,000 who toiled at the 332-acre Ford Motor Co. facility that churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during the war. Monroe, who moved from to Michigan from her native Kentucky during the war, starred as herself in the film, and the Rosie character became one of the best-known figures of the era as well as an enduring symbol of female empowerment.
If the Save the Bomber Plant Campaign is successful, the Yankee Air Museum will move from its current location on the east side of Willow Run Airport to the former bomber plant, which is adjacent to the airport’s western boundary.
All of the museum’s collections and exhibits, including aircraft, would then be reunited at a single site, which was the end of the World War II-era assembly line where planes were completed and exited the plant for delivery to the government.
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