WW2 Warbird Factory in Los Angeles – Amazing Pictures

Explore the WWII history of the company that later became a part of Boeing and made more aircraft from 1938 to 1944 than any other company in the United States.

During World War II, industry in Los Angeles was booming. By the end of the war, the L.A. area had been responsible for meeting 17 percent of all of America’s war needs. North American Aviation, operating out of their main Inglewood plant – which is south of and adjacent to the city – was a key player in that work.

From 1938 to 1944, NAA built over 40,000 aircraft – more than any other company in the United States. The bulk of them were of three iconic types designed by NAA:

  • The P-51 Mustang, arguably the best fighter of WWII.
  • B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, which saw worldwide combat.
  • Two-seat military pilot trainers, such as the AT-6 Texan.

This is a fascinating story of a remarkable time in aviation history, when American businesses helped fund the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the Axis powers. Warbird Factory tells this story with over 200 photographs, many of which come directly from the NAA/Boeing archives, where they have resided since WWII. This is an essential book for anyone interested in warbirds, aviation, Boeing/NAA, WWII, and/or the history of Southern California!

All photos provided by North American Aviation Inc.

Page 35
This photograph, at the Kansas City plant, was carefully staged and well executed. It also depicts the racial segregation that was considered normal at that time.
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Iris Mahone (left) and a co-worker are seen in shirt-sleeve comfort at the Kansas City B-25 factory, which was air-conditioned, a feature then more frequently found in motion picture theaters.

Page 56
The lengthy ammunition belts make it evident that the student pilots will be engaged in a live-fire exercise. The guns installed in trainers were not for combat but to expedite pilot training in the more lethal fighter aircraft of the day.
Page 64 Bottom
The graceful lines of the North American trainer family are visible in this in-flight photo.

Page 64 Top
With its fuselage skin removed, the light and delicate internal structure of this North American trainer barely obstructs the view of surrounding scenery. Exposing the underlying structure was intended to ease maintenance and facilitate repairs.
Page 78
Even in the days before digital photographic manipulation, people working in the darkroom could create fanciful spoof images.

Page 83
A wind-tunnel technician attaches a torpedo to a B-25 scale model. The bottom turret was eliminated by mid-war and skip bombing became a common weapon against shipping because torpedoes were expensive and in short supply.
Page 113
The large tires on the B-25 made it possible to operate from unpaved surfaces but placed a weight penalty on the design. The entire sub-assembly includes brakes and the sturdy landing gear.

Page 121
Barrage balloons constantly flew over the airfield. They were intended to defend the airfield and factory by complicating a low level aerial approach. Some had explosive charges that would detonate on contact.
Page 144
NA-73X had a bad day on November 20, 1940, when test pilot Paul Balfour experienced an engine failure and was forced to put down in a nearby farm field. The term “bought the farm” derives from the lawsuit that would often follow such a crash. The farmer would claim $10,000 in damages and this amount would typically pay off his mortgage. Nonfatal airplane wrecks were a constant sight during the war.
Page 150
Edgar Schmued (left) and a colleague examine a model of the Mustang in the wind tunnel.

Page 162
The radial engines have cooling fins like the small engine on a rotary lawn mower or gasoline-powered chain saw. The broad diameter is necessary for cooling but increases drag.
Page 174
Celebrities invited to inspect the Navion included motion picture actor Clark Gable (left) and the most famous of the bomber generals—Curtis LeMay (the ubiquitous cigar happens to be in his hand). Many celebrities from nearby Hollywood visited NAA Inglewood over the years.

All photos provided by North American Aviation Inc.