Henry Ford

More than the "car man" and assembly-line proponent, Ford was a great friend of The American Legion, which honored him as one of three Distinguished Service Medal winners in 1944.

Although Ford was unable to attend the ceremony, his grandson, Henry Ford II, was there to hear Past National Commander John R. Quinn speak of the automaker's accomplishments: "There are men, of course, without whose ingenuity and courage the automotive industry could not have developed into its modern stage. It was Mr. Ford, however, who first conceived the vision of a nation on wheels - a car for every family - and whose genius and foresight made that vision come true.

"Mr. Ford has been a pioneer, too, in bettering the condition of American workers. He has been particularly interested in workers who are veterans and disabled. Because of that interest, he has been an ardent supporter and friend of The American Legion and its program for the welfare of the war-disabled."

As the century wound down, Ford labored to grow a fledgling car-manufacturing business. After two rough starts, his third attempt launched the Ford Motor Co. in 1903. Each Model A, then the Model T, took a full day to assemble before Ford created the assembly line, where each worker assembled only a small portion of each car, greatly speeding up the process.

Then World War I broke out, and the pacifist Ford was called on by several groups to help broker a peace. Those attempts failed. Ford remained opposed to war when World War II began. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he opened his automobile factories to bomber production.

Throughout his career, Ford gained the support of veterans and The American Legion. In 1920 and 1921, the new Ford Hospital in Detroit opened to care for disabled World War I veterans. In 1932, 11,000 veterans started working at his River Rouge, Mich., plant. And by the mid-1940s, the Henry Ford Trade School began operating Camp Legion, set up to teach disabled veterans farming and mechanical skills. The program

offered work, food, shelter and a scholarship of $3 daily. At the end of training came job offers in production or sales, no strings attached.

Ford died in 1947, at 83.

For more on Ford, click here (http://www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/hf/printdefault.asp).

 

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