HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — (Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.)
Upon his arrival to Hill Field in November 1940, the 49-year-old Col. Morris Berman began his stint as the first Ogden Air Depot commander by making a studied tour of the new installation and its many underway construction projects.
Hill Field completed two runways during the fall of 1940 and two more the following year. With the completion of the Operations Hangar (Building 1) and its annexes in October 1941, full flying operations commenced at the field. Another important building project seen to completion in 1941 – the depot supply warehouses – made it possible to store the repair parts needed to support major maintenance operations. Additionally, an engine repair shop and engine test building came online early in 1942, as well as the first two repair hangars. The second two repair hangars followed a year later, enabling the Ogden Air Depot to begin large-scale production lines.
The Ogden Air Depot’s maintenance function officially became an organizational entity when its first engineering officer, Maj. Russell J. Minty, assumed this post as his primary duty Feb. 11, 1941. Organization of the depot’s Maintenance Department was slow in the first months of 1941 since workloads were as yet nonexistent, but over the course of the next year the department added branches such as a machine shop, welding and heating, radio repair, and equipment repair (in which maintenance personnel inspected and repaired parachutes for the 8th Transportation Squadron, reaching an average of 3,000 chutes a month). Then in December 1942 the Maintenance Department began its first major project – modification of compasses on B-17E aircraft.
Early in February 1943, Ogden laid plans for its largest single maintenance project up to that date. It wanted to see whether or not it could perform complete rehabilitation of battle-weary B-24 Liberator Bombers efficiently and satisfactorily on a production-line basis. The aircraft moved through successive stations for specialized repair instead of using the former method of accomplishing all repairs at one dock. On Feb 14, 1943, the first B-24 entered the production line. In less than two months, the field delivered it to the Second Air Force. The field set a goal of one B-24 bomber per day.
By July 1943, that aim was reached when six bombers went through the production line in as many days. The efficiency and success of the B-24 production line brought Ogden nationwide attention. In December 1943, the Army Times published an article telling of the 500 civilian mechanics and enlisted men on Ogden’s production line. The story called the effort “the first progressive assembly line for B-24’s in the war.” The new line techniques led to a 60 percent production increase while reducing the safety hazard of previous procedures.
The experience and skill the Ogden Air Depot gained during World War II contributed directly to the Allied victory and had many other effects. Among them, these professionals started a drive to provide warfighter readiness through continuous process improvement that has continued to the present day.