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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Guys, my Mom and Dad both worked at the factory in Saginaw where they made M1 carbines and 1919's. Dad is 94 and sharp as a tack. Now he worked on the carbine side but saw a little of the MG side including the test firing.... I just wondered if anyone had specific questions they'd like me to put to him as I reckon there aren't tons of people out there who worked at SSG in that time frame. Again he won't be full of 1919 tech.mfg info but might have some generic answers about the factory.
 

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Welcome! Been by that plant many times but always saw the Suburbans and pickups in the lots. Wondered where they stored all the weapons back then for shipment, it's really not that large of a plant.
 

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Ned, welcome! Ask your dad about the test firing protocol,ie: racking on guns, how many tested per day, how many rounds shot, test fixture, firing range, tagged ready to ship, back for issues, etc. Best to ask him about a normal day of test shooting to get his mind back in the day. Thanks for sharing, some of us might be on the edge of our seats with your dads memories.
FWIW, both my father and my uncle worked for Houde, the parent co. of Buffalo Arms, abit post war. I have an affinity for BA due to my lineage.
 

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I've always wondered about the roll stamping of the mfg info on the right side plate and the riviting process,, if they did it the same way we are doing it today, or if they had a multiple rivit press??

And where did all that tooling end up??????? :D
 

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Tooling

I've always wondered about the roll stamping of the mfg info on the right side plate and the riviting process,, if they did it the same way we are doing it today, or if they had a multiple rivit press??

And where did all that tooling end up??????? :D
Just a guess and more questions on my part but given the era of production there were probably jigs for specific operations with fixtures that held multiple parts to increase production rates. At least the cutting type tools are probably long gone to dull tool heaven to be recycled. Is there any photo history on these plants or pictures by employees inside the plant (security threat at the time?)?
 

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I suppose you could ask him if any of them ever had any idea that their efforts to win a war would ever wind up becoming the parts kits and then privately built semi-auto rifles of a bunch of WECSOG types! :D
 

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this is knida off topic--but last summer i got to go to the inland plant (home ave --dayton ohio)that made 1919's and m1 carbines---all of the building are being cleared out all the machines sold and from what i heard --- the buildings were going to be destroyed----and some of the buildings were the first "home" for the wright brothers---they made ww1 aircraft there
so much for history
just my input
waffen
 

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Could you ask him if he knows about how the ArmaSteel parts, developed at SSG, were implemented into production? I am curious if they had to get them approved by the Ordnance Dept or did they have free reign to add them to the mix when they drew them up? I have seen Saginaw drawings of an ArmaSteel component with a drawing date well before the first Ordnance Dept drawing of the same, cast part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Guys, sorry I started this and then didn't come back. I checked it a few times and then lost track, didn't realize I had gotten some responses.

I'll talk to Dad this week and try to get specific responses although I don't think he's going to know these things-- he was a set-up guy in the machine shop mostly, and probably would not have been in the material-flow end where he would recognize supplier names and such. I'll see waht I can geth though!

Thanks
Ned
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well.... Dad passed away in 2012 and-- my apologies for starting something I didn't finish. But, I had occasion yesterday afternoon to visit the plant, or to put it more accurately, the location where the plant was. Everything is long gone, since about the mid-2000's as far as I can tell-- I have not really delved into it yet. I talked to some locals about it, and some know a few bits about it and some have no idea it was ever there. We drove up and down the street where Mom and Dad lived in 1944 and 1945..... we know the street but not the exact house. We visited a small but significant military museum in nearby Frankenmuth and the guys there had some info about the gun plant. I'll be looking further into a GM guy who is an unofficial Gun Plant historian and hopefully report back. That museum is:

Unassuming from the outside but rich on the inside in stories and gear.... don't pass it up if you're up that way.

All the stories Dad told, and yet-- still I frequently wish I could ask just a few more questions! Take note, you whose fathers are still with you. The oft-repeated stories that you think you are tired of, are your family jewels!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
He did know, thanks. To him it was just doing something to contribute to the war effort. Here is a little bit of something I've been writing about all this:

Immediately after December 7th, 1941, like a great many other Americans, Dad took a day off and went to the recruiter’s office to sign up as a fighter pilot. They told him, basically, “Yeah, you and everyone else wants that job. Fighter pilot trainees we don’t need. Bet you’d make a great tailgunner or bombardier though…..” He declined that and didn’t enlist.

Dad wanted to do his part so he went to Saginaw (MI) and got a job at the Saginaw Steering Gear gun plant there, until the end of the war. Mom worked there too, in time study. Out Of The Valley To Victory is a great history of how Saginaw Steering Gear came to be manufacturing guns for WWII: processes radically streamlined, materials improved, parts simplified-—a fascinating read and, Mom and Dad are listed in the book as employees! As the war progressed, Dad went back to the recruiter early in ‘44, having decided he’d take whatever he could get. He got as far as the physical and was rejected for a hiatal hernia, which he never knew he had. It had never bothered him and never did after that, and no other doctor in the next seventy years ever brought it up. Well…. he was already “serving” in another way, he and Mom both— by making 1919A4 Browning machineguns and M1 Carbines.

Dad had a few anecdotes about the gun plant that I think qualify as being of historical interest. This plant was a big part of the so-called Arsenal of Democracy, and the plant really revolutionized production of the Browning 1919 machinegun in particular. Their first order was supposed to be 280 machineguns at $667 each. They delivered almost 29,000 of them at $141.44 each! After that manufacturing feat, they got the carbine contract after another Michigan company (Irwin-Pederson) could not reach the quality and production levels expected. Mom and Dad worked mostly on the carbine side. Bear in mind these are my recollections of his recollections, so I tell them to the best of my abilities but there could be some inaccuracies.

The plant had an underground, 100-yard test fire range. The walls were lined with pressed cornstalks about a foot thick to soak up ricochets and noise. The backstop was a big plate of steel a foot thick, on about a 45 degree angle, and bullets splattered down off it into sand. Every so often, when it became too gouged out from the impacting bullets, they would hoist the plate over on its back and a guy would come in and fill the crater with weld, which took a few days. I don’t know how many rounds they tested each Browning 1919A4 with, but that plate had to be catching a lot of .30-06 which at 100 yards is not kind to steel!

Proof firing for the carbines was done in a fixture inside a steel box. They would open the box, set an un-stocked carbine—action and barrel only-- into the fixture and chamber a proof load. This was a 25% or more overload to really test the gun. I have one in my collection and it has a pointed bullet, which I suspect is the 152-grainer used in the .30-06 M2 cartridge, where the regular M1 Carbine bullet is 110 grains. They closed the box and fired the round by pulling a rod. When you opened the box, if the gun was intact, it got a stock and got shipped. First they zero’d it of course—and if they used up all the sight adjustment before they got it zero’d, they bent the barrel in a press that had a big wheel on top, you would spin the wheel to turn a big screw, that would contact the barrel. Then you turned the wheel some more to bend the barrel in the right direction. He saw this but never did it. I first heard him tell this when I was in my mid-teens, and I thought he must be remembering something wrong. I could not imagine bending the barrel, or needing to. Then I learned that it is not uncommon practice even today, and on some very high-end barrels. Later, in my early twenties, I was visiting an old gunsmith locally I had become acquainted with. He was no longer working but showed me his shop, and there it was—a welded steel frame with a large wheel on top and a big screw. I asked if that was a barrel bender and he said yes! And that it had come out of a WWII defense plant— could it have been the very same one? But the old timer didn’t know the exact provenance of it.

Another gun plant story I heard a few times was, they had a vat, or cauldron, whatever you would call it, of liquid nitrogen. That’s at about 300 below, Fahrenheit. He didn’t say, maybe he didn’t know, what it was used for but cryogenic treatment of steel was already a known thing by that time. Or, I suppose, it might have been there for shrink-fitting things together. Example: you freeze a shaft and warm a collar. Between the shaft shrinking and the collar expanding, they will go together, and when temperatures normalize, the two parts are joined by a very tight press fit. Well—the guys liked to play with that liquid nitrogen. Somebody would bring in a goldfish, dip it into the LN with a net. I would instantly freeze solid but then come back to life when put into water. But, after a few cycles of this, the “coming back to life “ part ceased. They would freeze it one more time and then, when it was dropped on the floor, it would “shatter into a million pieces”.

I will dredge up a few more of these, bear in mind they are my recollections of his recollections, so there is no guarantee of 100% accuracy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The visit to Saginaw having sort of rekindled my interest, and the wife's, she found these links that may be old hat to some of you, of interest if not:
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
At the plant they had some kind of bonus program for ideas that wold improve output. Dad was a set-up man, so the various machines, he would set them up to do particular operations. I don't remember just what it was but he submitted some idea that eased production in some way, seems like it might have been a way to reduce broken drills or combining two operations. So he put in the idea, they used it and thanked him for it. He asked if it qualified for the bonus and they said, "You're a setup man, that's just your job, no bonus!" It wasn't a big deal to him because the job was to put out guns.

One guy was going around telling people to not be in such a hurry, something like, "Hey slow down, if you keep exceeding the expected production rate, they'll bump it up and we'll all have to work harder." Dad said the guy almost got taken out back for a beating, "There's a war on!" People were very serious about getting good quality product out in large numbers to get the war won!

Mom was, well, an attractive young lady (of about twenty-four at that time), and this did not go unnoticed in a plant with mostly men working in it. One guy commented to my Dad, something along the lines of, "Didja see that dish that comes out of the office every once in a while? Wow!" Dad politely informed the man, "Yes, yes, I did notice her. I fact about four years ago, I married her!"

Dad told me about the barrel-making area-- not his area but he saw it often enough. That's how I learned how barrels were made. Now I'm not sure if they were carbine or MG barrels, I know some plants did not make their own barrels. But he explained to me, very well, sot that even a kid could understand it, the process. I was reminded of this last week while attending the International Manufacturing Technology Show, where a company was displaying their gun drilling and rifling tools. As to drilling gun barrels, the process is largely unchanged. The feedrate on the gun drilling process was very slow, so as to help the drill go good and straight. Dad said the resulting chips were so delicate you could take a hand-scoop of thyem and just crush them almost to powder.
 
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