Borne On The South Wind, A Century Of Kansas Aviation

Chapter Summary

By Frank Joseph Rowe & Craig Miner
Copyright 1994, The Wichita Eagle & Beacon Publishing Company
Wichita, Kansas

Chapter 5, The Battle Of Kansas

Chapter 5 (The Battle Of Kansas) spans the years of 1939 -1945, with primary focus on the struggle to design, test, modify and build large volumes of aircraft to sustain the war efforts on the European and Pacific Fronts.

Kansas was an ideal location to produce equipment for war. Not only was there a very large skilled labor pool, but with the state of Kansas being located dead center of the continental United States, it afforded a strategically safe location (far enough inland to be safe from invasion).

Communities such as Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas provided the bulk of the combat and support aircraft that were built in the state. Of particular significance was the effect on Wichita. The aircraft facility expansions and housing projects to accommodate the huge influx in workers helped establish post-war Wichita as a prime manufacturing resource. Cities hummed 24 hours a day with multiple shifts turning out a variety of aircraft. The workforce consisted of a previously unheard of 50 – 60% women.

Kansas aircraft manufacturing companies built a total of approximately 34,500 aircraft during World War II (or, about 11.5% of the U.S. total). Noteworthy aircraft were the Boeing 29 Superfortress Heavy Bomber, North American Aviation B-25 Medium Bomber (Kansas City, Ks), Stearman Kaydet Primary Trainer, Beech Aircraft AT-11 & AT-7 Advanced Trainers , Cessna Aircraft Company AT-17, UC-78 & CG-4A-CE, Commonwealth Aircraft Company (Kansas City, Ks) CG-4A & CG-3A Combat Gliders as well as the Culver Aircraft Company PQ-8 & PQ-14 Target Drones.

Not to be overlooked are the 14 airbases that were constructed throughout Kansas to provide specialized training to support the mission of these and other military aircraft.

Perhaps nothing can quite underscore the amazing achievements that occurred during this time as the picture of Boeing Wichita’s wartime assembly line in which the Stearman Kaydet biplane is produced "alongside" the B-29 Superfortress. One a throwback to the type of aircraft that is almost an antique at that time, and the other one the most complex warplane (with computers onboard) at that time.

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