Boeing History – Post War Developments: 1946-1956

Paths open for the future are paths of opportunity for the aggressive, capable company in the aerospace field, offering multiple choices of endeavor … The years ahead promise to be at least as challenging and revolutionary as those through which we have come.

William Allen

The years immediately following the end of World War II rocked with change. The military canceled its bomber orders; Boeing factories shut down and 70,000 people lost their jobs. The same day the plants closed, attorney William M. Allen, somewhat hesitantly, took over as company president.

Stratocruiser lower-deck loungeAllen promised to start hiring people back as soon as airlines ordered the Stratocruiser, a luxurious commercial airliner version of the company’s four-engine troop C-97 transport first flown in 1944.

Work still continued on the B-50 bomber, although the Army had cut its initial order of 200 down to 60. Boeing Wichita produced the L-15 Scout liaison-observation aircraft, which first flew in 1947.

Meanwhile, wind-tunnel data discovered in Germany as the war ended helped Boeing engineers design the country’s first multiengine, swept-wing jet bomber, the XB-47.

Unfortunately, the elegant Stratocruiser was not the hoped-for financial breakthrough. What contributed most to the company coffers was adapting the C-97 air freighter as a propeller-powered troop carrier and as the KC-97, an aerial tanker.