Boeing History: The War Years of 1939-1945

To an airman the Pacific Northwest is the home of the long-range heavy bomber, which has changed the character of war and the meaning of peace.

General Carl Spaatz, Commanding General, U.S. Air Force, 1947

Only 16 months after the Stratoliner’s introduction, war clouds darkened the European horizon. Phil Johnson returned from Canada and took over as Boeing company president, in charge of wartime production. He died of a stroke Sept. 14, 1944, while overseeing operations at the Boeing Wichita plant.

Camouflage rooftop on Plant 2

By the 1940s Boeing workers were building B-17s at a rapidly increasing rate. Burlap houses and chicken-wire lawns camouflaged the rooftops of Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle so that, from the air, the bomber manufacturing center looked like a quiet suburb.

As American men went to war, women built airplanes. Thousands of women, symbolized by “Rosie the Riveter,” took up the slack in the workforce and helped boost production from 60 planes per month in 1942 to an astounding 362 planes per month by March 1944