Explore Oral Histories From Washtenaw County and Michigan Civilians Who Worked in Military Manufacturing
Helen is the wife of veteran John Fidler. She was born on February 9, 1921. While her husband was serving in the Air Force, she and her sister got jobs working on the B-24s, at the Willow Run Bomber Plant. They became riveters, attaching the gas tanks to the insides of the wings. One riveter would put in the rivet with a metal gun, and a riveter on the other side flattened it with a bucking bar. Once, one of the rivets put a hole in Helen’s thumb. They were paid in cash, with many two-dollar bills. Nevertheless, she wanted to work for her country and really enjoyed it. Later, in Norfolk, Virginia, she worked at a PX, and had two German prisoners of war working for her. She said that they worked really hard and were glad to be in the U.S., instead of a POW camp.
Edna Bauman supported the war effort by working as a civilian employee in the Willow Run Bomber plant, in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She had graduated from high school and wanted to make more money than the average office worker, so she applied for jobs in industry. Edna was hired at the Willow Run plant in May 1943, when she was 23 years old, and worked on B-24 planes until August 1945. She was originally hired as a riveter, but the station of the plant where she worked did not have the type of riveting that she knew how to do, so her supervisor put her to work sound-proofing the airplanes. Because she was trained as a riveter, her supervisor offered her the higher male riveter wage to keep her on the line as a sound-proofer. Edna was the only female worker at her station, and she remembers many comic moments and always being treated fairly. During the war, many famous people visited the Willow Run plant, and Edna was present when Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt toured the facilities. Edna was one of the last workers to be laid off after the war ended, because of her specialized sound-proofing training, in August 1945. Edna, who had been married for four months by the time she left Willow Run, remained jobless for a year and a half. She then applied for a job in Plymouth and was hired to stuff cushions on an assembly line, taking time off to have a child, but remaining employed until her retirement.