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
WRENCH DOUBLE END
ORD DRG NO: A183908
SNL STOCK NO: F-209-01-52802
MFG BY: THE SINGER MFG. CO.
DATE PACKED: Sep 7 1944
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
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
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
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
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
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.