WWII War Worker.

Faces out of time #2

Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct. A lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct.

In these images, Grace Ann Janota1, a 21-year-old lathe operator, is shown at a lathe used for machining parts for bomber and transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. Grace had previously worked at the University of Texas Tea Room until shortly after the war started, when the tea room was converted into a mess hall.

Grace Janota, a lathe operator, setting up for machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct.

Grace Janota at a lathe2

Without a job and wondering what to do, Grace signed up with the National Youth Administration for training as a machinist at a school in Waco for eight hours a day for about six months.  The students got room and board, ten dollars a month, and uniforms to wear to class. At the end of the school, June was hired by Consolidated Aircraft to operate a turret lathe in the machine shop, making various parts for the planes. The only men were supervisors – older men who didn’t qualify for the draft.  For a time, she had a job as a parts inspector, but that was “boring,” so she took an engineering course to learn how to design cams for an automatic screw machine.  She “got the job of designing cams and setting up the machines and did this until the war was coming to an end and we girls were sent home.”

Photographed October 1942 by Howard R. Hollem (photos at Wikimedia)

Grace Janota, a lathe operator, setting up for machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct.

Grace Janota working at lathe3

Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1923 in Buffalo, New York.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Consolidated became famous for its line of flying boats, the most successful of which was the PBY Catalina flying patrol boat, produced throughout World War II and used extensively by the allies.

C-87 Liberator Express - World War 2 heavy transport plane

C-87 Liberator Express4

Consolidated’s Liberator B-24 bomber and C-87 transport plane construction in Fort Worth resulted from the city’s 1940 campaign to lure aircraft manufacturers to the city to build an aircraft assembly plant to support the pre-World War II massive expansion of the Army Air Corps.  To meet the blackout requirements of the war, the government built and owned Consolidated plant was constructed without windows, required an immense amount of lighting and air conditioning.

An air-to-air left front view of a B-24 Liberator "Diamond Lil" aircraft flying in an air show held during the Air Force Association's "Gathering of Eagles", a convention commemorating spectacular achievements in the free world's aerospace development.

B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil”5

The groundbreaking for the plant took place on April 18, 1941 with construction of the immense facility finished in less than a year. B-24 Liberator production started in February 1942 while parts of the plant were still being built. The plant was operated around the clock with 3 shifts, women making up 23% of the workforce in 1942.

The plant is still in operation 75 years later as Air Force Plant 4. Operated by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, workers today build the F-35 Lightning II single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighter.

Edging out the B-17 on most performance criteria – speed, range, bomb load – more B-24s were built than any other world War II American aircraft. The B-24s were more than bombers.  B-24 crewmen claimed over 2600 enemy downed.  Its great range enable it to perform anti-sub work in the Atlantic and heavy bomber support in the pacific.


Originally published July 23, 2012, this 2017 revision adds background and additional pictures.  The original post of an unnamed war worker only included the head close-up at the top of the page and the larger image it was taken from, along with some of the information in endnote 2 below.  Use of Google image search that picture yielded a second color image at the Library of Congress and a black and white image on Wikimedia and the National Archives site.  The image was the same as the color image originally used, but the caption at National Archives yielded a name, Grace Janota.

Grace Janota, former department store clerk, is now a lathe operator at a Western aircraft plant producing B-24 bombers and C-87 transports. October 1942

Grace Janota at a lathe6

Searching on the name resulted in finding another Library of Congress  and National Archives image which included Grace Janota and Rudolph Dolkas, and instructor at the plant. It also yielded a post, Remembering the Woman Machinists of World War 2, which includes a letter by Grace Jonata Brown that provides some background for the images.

Production. B-24 bombers and C-87 transports. Grace Janota, former department store clerk, was trained as a lathe operator by Rudolph Dolkas, who deserted the Austrian Army as a sergeant in 1913 and came to this country. He worked on the production of military equipment in World War I. He instructs women workers in a Western plant in the various tasks necessary to the production of Consolidated B-24 bombers and transports.

Rudolph Dolkas and Grace Janota, 19427


Endnotes:

  1. Letter from Grace Jonota Brown, shared in a post,  Remembering the Woman Machinists of World War 2 on CNC Cookbook website, accessed November 11, 2017. (Also found on Internet Archive here).
  2. Hollem, Howard R, photographer. Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017878313/. (Accessed November 07, 2017.) [Image on Flickr]
  3. Hollem, Howard R, photographer. A lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942. Oct. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017878306/. (Accessed November 08, 2017.)[Image on Flickr]
  4. The Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express was a transport derivative of the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber built during World War II for the United States Army Air Forces. A total of 287 C-87s were built alongside the B-24 at the Consolidated Aircraft plant in Fort Worth, Texas. – Wikipedia
  5. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. While aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff favored the B-24, and procured it in huge numbers for a wide variety of roles. At nearly 19,000 units, it holds records as the world’s most produced: bomber; heavy bomber; multi-engine aircraft; and American military aircraft in history. – Wikipedia; Wikimedia Commons image; Flickr image
  6. Grace Janota, former department store clerk, is now a lathe operator at a Western aircraft plant producing B-24 bombers and C-87 transports. October 1942; National Archives and Records Administration; Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (NLFDR), 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY, 12538-1999. catalog.archives.gov/id/196370; Accessed 11/8/2017
  7. United States Office Of War Information, Hollem, Howard R, photographer. Production. B-24 bombers and C-87 transports. Grace Janota, former department store clerk, was trained as a lathe operator by Rudolph Dolkas, who deserted the Austrian Army as a sergeant in 1913 and came to this country. He worked on the production of military equipment in World War I. He instructs women workers in a Western plant in the various tasks necessary to the production of Consolidated B-24 bombers and transports. Fort Worth Tarrant County Texas, 1942. Oct.
american history, blast from the past, faces out of time, history, images, military, photography, war
5 comments… add one
  • Rummuser Nov 11, 2017

    Any idea what eventually happened to her? With that kind of training, experience and skill she should have done something more than just be a housewife methinks!
    Rummuser recently posted…You Need To Believe.My Profile

    • Mike Nov 11, 2017

      No, the 2013 letter I found on line only had information about her war service. She was 91, living in Mesquite, Texas at that point.
      Mike recently posted…Give me a break!My Profile

  • nick Nov 11, 2017

    That must have been a very interesting few years for Grace Ann – a lot more interesting than being at home doing the household chores, as women were normally expected to do in those days. Like Ramana, I wonder what happened to her after the war was over.

    • Mike Nov 11, 2017

      And there were tens of thousands of others in the bomber and other war industries. One, Betty Reid Soskin, a blogger and Facebook friend, is the oldest park ranger in the US National Park System at 97, assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. After being highlighted in the government shutdown several years ago, she become a minor media sensation, appearing on several TV programs and being invited to the White House for the 2016 Christmas tree lighting ceremony. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Reid_Soskin
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