modifying bombers

An enduring question I had when starting this project was one of geography. How did my grandmother work in a bomber factory in Denver when Boeing, Douglas, and other aircraft manufacturers were based on the west coast?

I finally found a good answer in Arthur Herman’s terrific book, Freedom’s Forge.

In 1942, American airplane manufacturers cranked out aircraft at an unprecedented rate, but production was still expected to more than double in 1943. At the same time, field requests for modifications from the US military were received almost daily, slowing production.

Modification Centers

“Stardust” in North Africa on its last flight before modification for daylight bombing, August 1944.

Starting in about 1942, while American aircraft manufacturers cranked out whole airplanes for the US military, US commercial airlines stepped in to run a series of more than a dozen modification centers spread throughout the country. The modification centers handled all change requests and configured the aircraft for specialized duties. For example, Leo’s B-17 “Stardust,” which went to the Continental-Denver Modification Center to be modified for strategic daylight bombing.


  1. My dad trained in B-17s in 1945, getting four-engine experience while waiting for enough B-29s to become available. I was commander of a B-29, with a date set to leave for Saipan that September, when the war ended.


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