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M5 Director

Excerpt from Singer in World War II, 1939-1945 (published in 1946).

During the first phase of the war in Europe, much of the phenomenal German success was directly attributable to the effective use of the dive bomber. The British had partially met the urgent need for new defensive weapons to combat the dive bomber by the development of the Kerrison Predictor, a complicated instrument which accurately controlled the fire of 37mm and 40mm anti-aircraft guns. The relatively small quantities of instruments being produced in Great Britain, however, did not suffice to meet even the British requirements, and additional manufacturing facilities were urgently needed.

By 1940 it became evident that the United States must prepare to defend itself against possible bombing attacks on eastern coastal cities and steps were taken by the War Department to start production of gun fire control instruments in this country on a quantity basis. The design of the Kerrison Computer was made available to the United States Government by the British and immediately Ordnance engineers undertook to adapt the design of the instrument for mass production by American methods and to American standards.


ORD DRG NO:  A183908

SNL STOCK NO:  F-209-01-52802

    DIRECTOR, M5-M5A1-M6


DATE PACKED:  Sep 7 1944

Singer Machine Gun Wrenches


In December 1940, before the completion of Ordnance drawings, Singer engineers were invited to visit Frankford Arsenal for a first look at the Kerrison instrument. Stated simply, the function of this "mechanical brain" is to compute instantly the location of the target plane at some future instant and, by making all necessary allowances for the speed of the attacking plane, gravity, windage, and the ballistics of the projectile, to so direct the gun that the projectile will arrive there at the identical time. The demonstrations at the Arsenal quickly proved to Singer engineers that the manufacture of this instrument on a mass production basis presented a terrific challenge. Weighing approximately 500 pounds without its Tripod, the working mechanism incorporated a degree of precision similar to that of a tiny wrist watch, most of the 1,000 different parts and sub-assemblies requiring close tolerances, often as little as .0001 of an inch.

When Singer Management agreed to accept a contract to produce a lot of 1,700 of these Directors within a year, the undertaking seemed overwhelming. When later, after the country was at war, the Ordnance Department advised that 1,500 Directors per month would be required from the Company as soon as such a rate could be reached, then Elizabethport employees realized that they had been given a war job that would test their mettle to the utmost. This challenge was accepted, however, and Elizabethport met every delivery schedule month after month until a total of 25,308 Directors was shipped out, and in addition has continued to produce large quantities of Industrial Sewing Machines, Parts and Needles for war work and essential civilian requirements, and has also taken on other important war work projects.

In the Spring of 1942, in order to provide space for increased Director production, the Diehl Company vacated the space in the Elizabethport Plant which had been occupied by them for many years and moved to large new buildings in Finderne, New Jersey. This made available over 357,000 square feet of additional floor space, and this area was entirely renovated and equipped for Director work.

Period of Preparation
The 12 months from December 1940 to Pearl Harbor was a period of preparation for the Director work at Elizabethport. The first drawings were received from Frankport Arsenal in February 1941, followed by a constant flow until the final lot arrived in June. In the meantime, the engineering and tool design departments became beehives of activity and steps were taken to provide the space, equipment and personnel which would be required for the tremendous task ahead.

Prior to accepting commitments to produce the Director, Singer Management had anticipated the need for additional space and, on its own initiative, had planned and contracted for the erection of a new brick and steel building 600 ft. by 200 ft. Completed in record time, this building provided a ground floor and a basement totaling 240,000 sq. ft., artificially lighted and air conditioned for day and night use. When Director work started at Elizabethport, this space became Department 110 and was devoted almost entirely to the assembly and inspection of the instrument and its accessories.

While Department 110 was often referred to, even by Elizabethport employees, as the "War Department", such a reference was not factually correct. In a very real sense nearly every department in Elizabethport Works was a war department; in fact, there were very few departments that did not share in some phase of the Director project.

By the very nature of their equipment and the long experience of their workmen in the production of large quantities of accurately made sewing machine parts, several departments were able to undertake the manufacture of certain Director parts without any considerable amount of plant rearrangement. These departments produced Director parts in parallel with the production of sewing machine parts. This, of course, required longer hours, usually an extra shift and additional hours per shift, but was accomplished without seriously disrupting the departmental organization and usually without more than minor retooling.

Other departments, however, were completely retooled and equipped and, in many cases, machinery previously used for sewing machine production was set aside for the duration of the war. The Director parts produced by such departments were usually more highly specialized and it was often necessary for the operators to learn new machining techniques in order to accurately produce many of the aluminum, bronze and alloy steel parts to the extremely close tolerances allowed.

In the Spring of 1942, in order to provide space for increased Director production, the Diehl Company vacated the space in the Elizabethport Plant which had been occupied for them for many years and moved to large new buildings in Finderne, New Jersey. This made available over 357,000 square feet of additional floor space adjacent to Department 110, and this area was entirely renovated and equipped for Director work.

One of the most urgent problems and one which required solution before production of parts could get under way was the obtaining of a satisfactory source of supply for large quantities of aluminum and bronze castings. A careful survey soon revealed that there was very little available capacity in the Eastern part of the United States for the production of these nonferrous castings. It was also realized that serious difficulties might arise in trying to hold a supplier to the rigid specifications required, and these two facts together prompted the decision to convert Elizabethport's cast iron foundry so as to make possible the production of high grade aluminum and bronze castings. This was accomplished by the procurement of melting equipment with accurate temperature control, by the provision of additional capacity for core making, by changing over two of the continuous pouring systems from cast iron to nonferrous castings, and by converting a conveyor japan-baking oven into a stress-reliving heat treatment oven.

Of equal, or perhaps, even more importance, it was necessary to re-train the foundry workmen and develop the new techniques of handling these unfamiliar metals. Each Director required 230 lbs. of aluminum alloy castings and 110 lbs. of bronze castings conforming to rigid chemical and physical specifications. To hold to these specifications, it was necessary to sample and analyze every heat. Throughout the period of Director production, the nonferrous foundry was one of the busiest parts of the Plant and during the month of November 1942, this department turned out 478,000 lbs. of finished aluminum allow and 247,000 lbs. of finished bronze castings for Director work. As in the case of other departments, this record was achieved while continuing to produce other important work, in the case of the Foundry, large quantities of iron castings required for industrial sewing machines and motors and other items directly required for the prosecution of the war.

The Engineering and Tool Making Departments bore particularly heavy loads during these early days of preparation; these were the days when many employees in these departments practically lived in the Plant week after week. Although deliveries of machinery required from six to eighteen months, over 1300 new machine tools were purchased through D.P.C., fitted, set up, and installed at various places as required throughout the Plant. In addition, many Singer machine tools were converted for Director production by Elizabethport tool makers. More than 11,000 tools, jigs, gauges and fixtures were produced for Director work in the Elizabethport Tool Room.

The obtaining of large amounts of critical raw materials, such as aluminum, copper allows and allow steels in regular quantities when and as needed proved to be about as difficult as the machine tool deliveries. Certain fabricated components such as ball bearings, required daily chasing and, at one period, in order to guarantee the quantities needed from day to day, it was necessary for the Company to send an employee to the Producer's plant each day to obtain and carry to Elizabethport that day's quota of ball bearings.

Although all these preparations, conversions and rearrangements were pushed through as rapidly as humanly possible, the early production of the Director had of necessity to be brought forward before many of the special fixtures and much of the machinery was actually available. However, the delivery of eight Directors to the Ordnance inspector and his acceptance of them in February 1942 represented roughly the end of the period of preparation and the beginning of the period of production.

Period of Production
The production of the Director was considered from the beginning as a Company project and all existing facilities of each of the American Singer Plants which could be utilized were employed on the project. The same applied to the facilities of the Diehl Manufacturing Company and Poinsett Lumber and Manufacturing Company, Singer subsidiaries.

The Sough Bend Works manufactured and supplied to Elizabethport the large packing chest for the Director and other smaller chests for tools and accessories, batteries, etc., using dimension parts and panels made up at Trumann and Pickens Works who also supplied shooks to Elizabethport for the shipping cases.

Diehl Works produced the motors and Selsyn transmitters, the intricate wiring harnesses and a group of moulded parts.

Thus, while the production of the Director had been primarily an Elizabethport project, a very important part of the work has been accomplished by the other American Plants in the Singer family and Elizabethport has been fortunate to have had the facilities of these plants at its disposal.

The Dexter Folder Company of Pearl River, New York, a subcontractor, supplied the tubular steel tripod complete, and performed the machining operations on some of the large castings. The work of this subcontractor has been commendable. Other suppliers furnished such fabricated parts as canvas covers, tools, accessories and instruments on a subcontract basis.

Following the adoption of the redesigned Director, M5A2, subcontracts for the supply of a considerable number of new parts were placed with Barber-Coleman Company of Rockford, Illinois. Elizabethport has been particularly fortunate in its selection of subcontractors; a spirit of friendly cooperation has been in evidence throughout and has contributed to the solution of all difficulties in a manner mutually satisfactory and in the best interests of the project as a whole.

As indicated previously, the first complete Directors were accepted from production in February 1942, exactly two months after the Pearl Harbor attack. Five months later, in mid July, the 1000th Director was passed by the Ordnance inspector and this was the occasion for a considerable celebration. The instrument was placed on a factory truck, properly placarded, and triumphantly paraded throughout the factory, giving the majority of the Plant employees their first look at the mysterious gadget being assembled over in Department 110.

At this time, the deliveries had reached a weekly rate of just over 100 and the Management set for itself a new goal, i.e., the 2000th Director by Labor Day. The attainment of this goal called for another parade and this time, the workmen were the guests of the Company at a series of dinners in the Recreation Building. At these dinners the employees were given demonstrations to show the use which was being made of the instrument they were producing.

Rates of delivery continued to climb, reaching the maximum 1500 per month rate prescribed by the Government in February 1943. This rate was maintained throughout the first half of 1943, tapering off to 1275 per month during the last quarter of 1943 and 700 per month during the first quarter of 1944, by which time the entire quantities on contract had been produced.

The plant facilities through which this production was achieved have already been described. Manpower questions also required constant consideration. The transfer of employees from sewing machine work to meet the rapidly rising tempo of the Director production and the hiring and training of new employees to replace men who left the Company's service to join the Armed Forces continued to be a real problem throughout this production period. When the production rates reached large proportions, there was no choice but shift work, with the result that practically the entire plant operated on two sixty hour shifts. Obviously this meant the hiring and training of more new employees with the result that, during the busiest days, Elizabethport Factory had on its payroll over 8,000 employees who were averaging in the neighborhood of sixty hours per week. This compared with about 5,000 employees on a forty hour week in pre-war days. As in the case of other war industries, many of the new employees were women who after proper training and experience have done remarkably well and deserve a full share of the credit for Elizabethport's achievement.

Of nearly equal importance to the production of the Director was its preparation and packing for shipment. Obviously, a large heavy instrument of such delicate character had to be carefully packed to insure its transportation intact to battle front in all parts of the world, having in mind particularly the handling on and off railway cars and ships. Both Elizabethport and South Bend employees have collaborated with the Ordnance Department in the development of the chests and the outside packing cases for the Director itself, its accessories and the spare parts. Singer has received commendation for its accomplishment along this line, and Elizabethport Works has recently been visited by a group of British and American experts of the Anglo-American Packaging Committee who inspected the work being done there and praised it highly.


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