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Allison Machine Shop

Location: 1200 W. Main St., Speedway (Marion County, Indiana) 46224

Installed 2015 Indiana Historical Bureau and Allison Transmission

ID#: 49.2015.1

Visit the Indiana History Blog to learn about how the Speedway became an aviation hub during World War I and World War II.


Side one:

Entrepreneur James Allison helped establish Indianapolis Speedway Team Co., 1915, and later built a precision machine shop here near speedway to improve race cars. Upon U.S. entry in WWI, 1917, 500-mile race was suspended and he devoted shop resources to war effort, including making parts for Liberty aircraft engines. Shop name became Allison Engineering Co. by 1921.

Side two:

General Motors purchased company, 1929, and focused work on aircraft engines. During WWII, Allison Division built 70,000 liquid-cooled V-1710 engines for fighter aircraft. Company grew to over 23,000 employees and received awards for excellence in production. By mid-1940s, it manufactured jet engines and transmissions, which later played a key role in Korean War.

Annotated Text

Side One:

Entrepreneur James Allison[1] helped establish Indianapolis Speedway Team Co., 1915,[2] and later built a precision machine shop here near speedway to improve race cars. [3] Upon U.S. entry in WWI, 1917, 500-mile race was suspended and he devoted shop resources to war effort,[4] including making parts for Liberty aircraft engines.[5] Shop name became Allison Engineering Co. by 1921.[6]

Side Two:

General Motors purchased company, 1929, and focused work on aircraft engines.[7] During WWII, Allison Division built 70,000 liquid-cooled V-1710 engines for fighter aircraft.[8] Company grew to over 23,000 employees [9] and received awards for excellence in production.[10] By mid-1940s, it manufactured jet engines[11] and transmissions,[12] which later played a key role in Korean War.[13]

*Note regarding newspaper publications: Indianapolis News articles were accessed via IUPUI Digital Collections unless otherwise noted; and all other newspaper articles were accessed via unless otherwise noted.

*All issues of the AllisoNews were accessed via the Allison Transmission Collection available at IUPUI Digital Collections, unless otherwise noted.

[1] “Allison, James A.,” R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1895 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1895), 148, accessed; “Allison Coupon Co.” R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1904 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1904), 167, accessed; Deed of Sale, “Carl G. Fisher, et al, to Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co.,” March 29, 1909, Filed April 6, 1909, Deed Record 6080, page 149, Marion County Recorder Office, accessed “Carl Fisher” Marker File #16.2014.1, Indiana Historical Bureau; 1910 United States Census, Perry Township, Marion County, Indiana, roll T624_366, page 8B, line 93, accessed AncestryLibrary; “A Lively Promoting Factor for Acetylene,” Acetylene Journal 15, no. 2 (August 1913): 56, accessed GoogleBooks; “Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1914 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1914), 756, accessed; “Hoosiers at Road Meeting,” Indianapolis Star, November 12, 1915, 6; “Automobile Men Aid Big Highway Project,” San Antonio [Texas] Light, February 18, 1917, n.p.; “Local Man Turns Miami Village into Great Resort,” Indianapolis Star, May 1, 1922, 10; “James A. Allison New Speedway President,” Indianapolis News, June 12, 1923, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Millionaire Builds Unique Hospital,” Hammond Times, December 21, 1926, n.p.; “J.A. Allison is Dead After Brief Illness,” Indianapolis Times, August 4, 1928, 1; “Carl Fisher Pays Tribute to Associate, J. A. Allison,” Indianapolis Star, August 6, 1928, 1, accessed ISL microfilm.

Like his friend and business associate Carl Fisher, James A. Allison was widely recognized for his involvement in a number of business enterprises in the early 1900s, many of which involved the early automobile industry and real estate. Reflecting on Allison’s accomplishments in an August 1928 Indianapolis Star article, Fisher reported “through our close business association and warm personal friendship, I grew to look on him as one of the greatest business men in the United States. He seemed to have a business sixth sense, and once he made up his mind to a plan of action, he followed it through.”

After his father’s death in 1890, James Allison and his brothers inherited the family business, Allison Coupon Co. City directories list Allison as a clerk for the company as early as 1895 and as vice president by 1904. Additionally, in the late 1800s, Allison started his own business, which manufactured and sold fountain pens under the name Allison Perfection Fountain Pens. While busy with these enterprises, he began to work closely with Fisher on a number of projects to improve automobiles. The two, along with Percy Avery, co-founded the Concentrated Acetylene Company (later and more commonly known as Prest-O-Lite Company) in 1904. Just a few years later, in 1909, Allison, Fisher, Frank Wheeler, and Arthur Newby established the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Allison served as secretary and treasurer, and eventually became president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1923. See footnotes 2 and 3 for information regarding Allison’s additional work in Speedway, including the incorporation of at least two racing teams and the establishment of a precision machine shop.

Allison and Fisher’s partnership extended beyond Indiana’s borders. Newspaper articles in the Indianapolis Star (1915) and San Antonio Light (1917) show that the two worked together to help with preliminary expenses for the Lincoln Highway. Allison was elected a director of the Lincoln Highway Association by at least 1917. Additionally, after much encouragement from Fisher, who by that time had begun to develop Miami Beach into a major tourist destination, Allison visited him there and took an interest in the area. Like Fisher, he soon became involved in civic and business life in Miami Beach, establishing Allison Aquarium and Miami Beach Hospital in the 1920s.For more information on James A. Allison, see Sigur E. Whitaker, James Allison: A Biography of the Engine Manufacturer and Indianapolis 500 Cofounder (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2011).

[2]Deed of Sale, “Carl G. Fisher, et al, to Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co.,” March 29, 1909, Filed April 6, 1909, Deed Record 6080, page 149, Marion County Recorder Office, accessed “Carl Fisher” Marker File #16.2014.1, Indiana Historical Bureau; “Articles of Association of Indianapolis Speedway Team Company,” Filed September 14, 1915 (Indianapolis: Myers & Gates), submitted by applicant; “Forty-One Cars in 500-Mile Race,” Motor Age 27, no. 18 (May 6, 1915): 10-11, submitted by applicant; “Incorporate Speedway Racing Teams,” Automobile Topics 39, no. 7 (September 25, 1915): 500, accessed GoogleBooks; “Indianapolis Speedway Team Co.,” R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1916 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1916), 711, accessed; “Prest-O-Lite Team Headed by Rickenbac[k]er,” [Omaha, NESunday World Herald, August 6, 1916, 12, submitted by applicant; “Allison Story Began in 1905,” AllisoNews 1, no. 1 (July 4, 1941): 1-2; “Speedway was Actual Reason Allison Began,” AllisoNews 1, no. 2 (July 18, 1941): 1-2.

In 1909, James A. Allison partnered with businessmen Carl G. Fisher, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler to establish the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company. The group purchased a plot of land on the outskirts of Indianapolis and officially transferred ownership to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company on March 29, 1909. This tract of land and several adjoining lots became the building site for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, later home of the internationally-recognized Indianapolis 500.

Drivers came from all over the country and overseas to participate in the Indianapolis 500. According to a 1941 retrospective article in the AllisoNews, in the early 1900s the annual race “provided a common meeting ground for the automobile engineers, manufacturers and racing fans of that time. It attracted the world’s greatest racing drivers. It served as the greatest impetus to the improvement of the American automobile.” By 1915 however, foreign participation in the Indianapolis 500 began to decrease as a result of World War I. In May of that year, Motor Age reported “there are not as many foreign cars and foreign drivers in this year’s contest as there were in 1913 and 1914,” noting that many European drivers who had participated in earlier years were “on army service” and could not hope to get a discharge to compete. Anticipating the reduction in foreign cars and foreign drivers while the war raged abroad, Fisher, Allison, Newby, and Wheeler collaborated again, along with Theodore Myers, to organize a racing team under the name the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company. Incorporated in September 1915, the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. (along with the Prest-O-Lite Racing Team Company, which Fisher and Allison incorporated at the same time) offered a way of “putting a high-class racing team in the field to assure real competition at the various speedway events throughout the country,” as noted in the Omaha Sunday World Herald. The Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. represented the beginning of the company that would later evolve into Allison Transmission.

For more information on the origin of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, early racing events in Indianapolis, or Fisher and Allison’s business partnerships see “Allison Story Began in 1905,” AllisoNews 1, no. 1 (July 4, 1941): 1-2; “Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” State Historical Marker, 1975, Indiana Historical Bureau; or “Carl Fisher,” State Historical Marker, 2014, Indiana Historical Bureau.

[3] “Indianapolis Speedway Team Co.,” R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1916 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1916), 711, accessed; “Seeks Fame in Clouds,” Motor Age 29, no. 5 (February 3, 1916): 18, accessed GoogleBooks, submitted by applicant; “Machine Shop for Mr. J. A. Allison Designed by Herbert L. Bass Co.,” Herbert L. Bass Co. Architectural Plans, 1916-10, Allison Transmission, Inc. Archival Collection, submitted by applicant; “Peugeot Drivers Back From West,” Indianapolis Star, November 26, 1916, 4; “Machine Shop for Mr. J. A. Allison,” photograph, circa 1917, Herbert L. Bass Co. Architectural Plans, 1917-11, Allison Transmission, Inc. Archival Collection, submitted by applicant; “Threat of War Cancels Great Motor Classic,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, March 23, 1917, sec. 2, p. 1; “Addition to Machine Shop for J. A. Allison,” Herbert L. Bass Co. Architectural Plans, 1917-11, Allison Transmission, Inc. Archival Collection, submitted by applicant; “Speedway Was Actual Reason Allison Began,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 2 (July 18, 1941): 1-2; “World War I Has Its Day at Allison,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 3 (August 1, 1941): 1-2.

From July through September 1941, AllisoNews carried a series of stories on the history of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. According to the July 18, 1941 issue, after forming the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. in 1915, James Allison and Carl Fisher “put up a shop in a rented building on Georgia street [sic] in downtown Indianapolis. Here they redesigned and rebuilt foreign and domestic cars and entered them in the races.” The article goes on to state that by late 1916, interest in the Georgia Street shop was waning, and Allison decided to build a new shop near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it would be more convenient to test the race cars and run them at the track. Allison reportedly became sole owner of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. soon after, and opened the machine shop near Twelfth St. and Main St. in Speedway.

The 1916 Indianapolis City Directory lists Allison as president of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Co. Although it is unclear when the machine shop opened, architectural drawings show that plans for a “machine shop for Mr. J. A. Allison” were being prepared by October 1916. An Indianapolis Star article dated November 26, 1916, provides additional details, reporting that racers John Aitken and Howard Wilcox had recently returned home to Indianapolis and would “soon be in their new machine shop preparing the race cars for next season’s grind.” The article goes on to state:

They will work hard throughout the winter on their cars in a shop which is being built by James A. Allison near the Speedway and the Prest-O-Lite Company plant. The new workshop for the race drivers is a $50,000 affair and in it will be installed machinery costing as much, if not more. Aitken and Wilcox said last night that they expected to be in their news quarters about Dec. 15.

A photograph from the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch Collection dated “circa 1917” provides an early image of the machine shop on Main St. Additionally, newspaper articles in late March 1917, report that Allison had announced that the plant, which had recently been built for the manufacture of racing cars, would be repurposed for the war effort. For more information on the machine shop during WWI, see footnotes 4 and 5. Architectural drawings from 1917, which feature an addition to the machine shop, show the shop’s location on Main St. between Twelfth St. and Thirteenth St. in Speedway.

[4] “Threat of War Cancels Great Motor Classic,” Fort Wayne Sentinel, March 23, 1917, sec. 2, p. 1; “Indianapolis Auto Race Declared Off,” Salt Lake [Utah] Telegram, March 23, 1917, 7, submitted by applicant; “Speedway Racing Meet Called Off,” Saginaw [Michigan] Daily News, March 23, 1917, 5, submitted by applicant; “Auto Racing Classic Called Off By War,” Altoona [Pennsylvania] Mirror, March 24, 1917, 14; “Decoration Day Race Off,” Motor Age 31, no. 13 (March 29, 1917): 9, submitted by applicant; “Rich Purse Is Set for Autos at Indianapolis,” Oakland [California] Tribune, December 22, 1918, 25; “33 of Fastest Cars in History Ready for Dash,” Indianapolis Star, May 31, 1919, 1; “Former Shortridger Wins Speedway Race,” Shortridge Daily Echo, June 3, 1919, 1; David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, eds., Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Bloomington: IU Press, 1994): 1461, accessed IUPUI Digital Collections.

In late March 1917, with the United States on the verge of entering World War I, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided to cancel the Indianapolis 500-mile race scheduled for May 30 of that year. Newspaper articles across the country repeated the news that the race had been “declared off by James Allison,” secretary and treasurer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company. Explaining the decision on March 23, 1917, Allison was quoted in the Fort Wayne Sentinel, stating:

Racing means taking away from the government the services of skilled mechanics whose services can be used by the government to better advantage in time of war than by a speedway corporation as a means of entertainment.

Allison continued by reporting that “many materials and accessories used in racing will become absolute necessities in times of conflict.” To demonstrate his commitment to the country, Allison dedicated his machine shop’s resources to the war effort. According to the Altoona Mirror, he stated “sport has no right in the minds of Americans when their country needs their attention.” On March 29, 1917, Motor Age reported:

The racing factory, built near the speedway, in which Mr. Allison was going to build racing cars and parts, and which factory . . . is well fitted with lathes, milling machines, grinders and all other kinds of necessary machinery, has been offered to the government to use as it sees fit.

Additionally, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was offered to the government to be used as an aviation field or for any other purpose that might be needed during the war. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company’s response to the threat of war was not unlike many other companies in Indiana and the nation as a whole. As noted in the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, “local businesses and industries also geared up to join the [war] cause.” Although the United States had maintained a neutral, isolated stance since the conflict began in Europe in 1914, escalations in unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic and the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram did much to sway public opinion in favor of joining the war in the spring of 1917. The United States officially entered WWI on April 6, 1917. For information on Allison’s machine shop’s work during the war see footnote 5.

By December 1918, just one month after the war’s end on November 11, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the resumption of the Indianapolis 500-mile race. According to an article published in the Oakland Tribune that month, the Indianapolis 500 was scheduled for May 30, 1919, three years since the last running of the Indianapolis 500 had occurred. Newspaper articles indicate that this race was actually held May 31, 1919.

For information on U.S. entry and involvement in World War I, see “U.S. Entry into World War I, 1917,” Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State; David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980; reprint, 2004); and Neil A. Wynn, From Progressivism to Prosperity: World War I and American Society (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986). For information on Indiana during World War I, see Cedric Cummins, Indiana Public Opinion and the World War, 1914-1917 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1945); Clifton J. Phillips, Indiana in Transition: The Emergence of an Industrial Commonwealth, 1880-1920 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1968), available via

[5] “New Corporations,” The National Corporation Reporter 54, no. 4 (March 1, 1917), 148-149, in The National Corporation Reporter, Frederick A. Rowe, ed., Index to Volume 54, February 8, 1917 to August 2, 1917 (Chicago, IL: The United States Corporation Bureau), accessed GoogleBooks; [Untitled], help wanted ads, Indianapolis News, December 31, 1917, 12; The Bulletin of the Airplane Engineering Department, War Department, Bureau of Aircraft Production 1, no. 2 (July 1918) (McCook Field, Dayton, OH: Airplane Engineering Department), 143, accessed GoogleBooks; “Hoosier News Briefly Told,” Jasonville [Indiana] Leader, July 17, 1918, n.p.; The Bulletin of the Airplane Engineering Department, War Department, Bureau of Aircraft Production 1, no. 3 (August 1918) (McCook Field, Dayton, OH: Airplane Engineering Department), 104, accessed GoogleBooks ; “Italian Engineers to Work on Airplanes,” Indianapolis News, August 12, 1918, 11; The Bulletin of the Airplane Engineering Department, War Department, Bureau of Aircraft Production 2, no. 2 (November 1918) (McCook Field, Dayton, OH: Airplane Engineering Department), 97, accessed GoogleBooks “Use Indianapolis Device,” Indianapolis News, May 17, 1919, 21; “Plan to Build $500,000 Plant in Indianapolis,” Indianapolis News, July 12, 1919, 4; “Decisions of the Appeals Section War Department Claims Board,” v. 7, 1920 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1921), 231-232, submitted by applicant; “Wilcox Becomes Research Engineer,” Automobile Journal, 67, no. 9 (April 1920): 17, accessed GoogleBooks; “Liberty 12-Cylinder,” fact sheet, accessed National Museum of the United States Air Force; “Liberty 12-A Inverted,” fact sheet, accessed National Museum of the United States Air Force;“Aviation Summary of Projects,” Navy Department (Washington: Office of Naval Operations, May 1920), 26, image 299262002, accessed; “World War I Has Its Day at Allison,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 3 (August 1, 1941): 1-2.

By the time James Allison repurposed his machine shop for the war effort, the shop was operating under the name Allison Experimental Co. The National Corporation Reporter lists Allison Experimental Co. as a new corporation in Indiana by March 1, 1917. In the months following the incorporation and the United States' entry in World War I, the company published numerous help wanted ads in Indianapolis newspapers, looking for "lathe and milling machine operators on tool work." On December 31, 1917, one ad in the Indianapolis News read:

First-class toolmakers wanted; lathe and milling hands on government work; aviation engine tools, jigs and fixtures; day and night shifts. Allison Experimental Company, Speedway.

According to secondary sources, including the August 1, 1941 issue of the AllisoNews, Allison Experimental produced tools, jigs, and fixtures for the Nordyke & Marmon Co., which was tasked with building Liberty aircraft engines during the war. The Bulletin of the Airplane Engineering Department, published by the Bureau of Aircraft Production of the War Department, shows that by mid-1918, Allison Experimental Co. had been awarded government contracts to build parts for the Liberty aircraft engine. According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Liberty engine represented "America's major technological contribution to World War I.” The United States' auto industry produced over 20,000 of these engines for the war.

The Bulletin report (July 1918) from June 1 to June 8 states, "three units of the epicyclic gear reduction assembly for adaptation to the Liberty motor are well under way. These parts are being machined by the Allison Experimental Co." Later reports in the Bulletin (August 1918) note that the gears were to be mounted on Liberty engines received from the Packard Motor Car Co. According to a 1920 article in the Automobile Journal, the reduction gear helped "reduce the ratio of aeroplane propellors [sic] from the air-whipping stage to that of maximum efficiency."
In addition to the government contracts for epicyclic gear reduction, the Bulletin (November 1918) shows that in late October 1918, Allison received orders for "six herring-bone planet gears with shafts and two herring-bone sun gears complete with bushings." War Department records from 1920 also report that on January 31, 1918, Allison was awarded an order to manufacture two model 2.5 ton tractors.
WWI was just the beginning in terms of Allison Experimental Company's work with both reduction gears and the Liberty engine. Newspaper articles in the Indianapolis News in the summer of 1919 provide additional reports of reduction gears being assembled at the Allison experimental station. One such article on May 17, 1919, states that the equipment had been installed on the front of engines for U.S. naval planes, and that it "increases the lifting power of the machine three or four times."
During the 1920s, the company worked on rebuilding and inverting Liberty engines. A report from the Navy Department in May 1920 shows that a contract had been prepared for the company to convert 200 straight-drive Liberty engines to geared-drive.

For more information on the company's work with the Liberty engine, see Robert J. Neal, A Technical & Operational History of the Liberty Engine: Tanks, Ships and Aircraft, 1917-1960 (North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 2009): 291-326.

[6] "Allison Experimental Co.," R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1920 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1920), 300, accessed; "Allison Engineering Co.," R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory for 1921 (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co, 1921), 328, accessed; “Incorporations,” Indianapolis Star, January 6, 1921, n.p.; “Trade Notes,” Machinery (February 1921): 616, accessed GoogleBooks; “The Highest Priced Marine Engines Built,” Motor Boating 28, no. 5 (November 1921): 51, submitted by applicant; “The Power Plant for Express Cruisers,” Motor Boating 30, no. 4 (October 1922): 70, submitted by applicant; Norman H. Gilman, Connecting-Rod Bearing, U.S. Patent 1,581,083, filed June 16, 1923, and issued April 13, 1926, accessed United States Patent and Trademark Office.

On January 6, 1921, the Indianapolis Star reported that Allison Experimental Co. had changed its name to Allison Engineering Co. The following month, Machinery also reported the change, stating "this is a change in name only, the ownership, management, and scope of work remaining the same as before." This work included "experimental machinery, tools, jigs, and fixtures," as noted in the Indianapolis city directories of 1920 and 1921.
In addition to inverting Liberty engines (see footnote 5), the company took on many other jobs during the 1920s, including precision work on marine engines. Advertisements in Motor Boating in November 1921 and October 1922 promoted Allison's marine engines. Priced at $25,000 a piece, they were meant for a "limited class of yachtsman."

For more information on the marine engines, see "Allison Motors," booklet, Allison Engineering Co., circa 1920, Allison Transmission collection accessed via IUPUI Digital Collections, copy in IHB marker file, submitted by applicant.
In the 1920s, Allison Engineering Co. also worked to improve and eventually patent a new design for connecting-rod bearings. Unlike traditional bearings, which had been made of bronze, Allison Engineering Co. proposed a steel-backed bronze bearing. According to Norman H. Gilman, chief engineer for the company, steel was able to hold up better under stresses and would not undergo distortion as easily as the bronze bearings did. The new design helped extend the service life of the bearings and, in turn, the life of an aircraft engine. Allison Engineering Co. used this design while rebuilding Liberty engines in the late 1920s, and it would later play a significant role during WWII. For more information on these bearings, see “World War I Has Its Day at Allison,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 3 (August 1, 1941): 5.

[7] James A. Allison to Carl G. Fisher, letter, August 20, 1924, accessed Carl Fisher Papers, 1896-1958, HistoryMiami, submitted by applicant; "General Motors Corporation Appropriation Request [and Executive Committee Meeting Minutes]," March 26, 1929, accessed Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust-Allison Branch Archival Collection, submitted by applicant; “Motors Acquires Allison Company,” New York Times, May 25, 1929, 28, accessed ProQuest; “Unprecedented Industrial Growth Largely Result of Chamber’s Efforts,” Activities of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce 43, no. 5 (May 1929): 18, accessed Indiana Memory; “Aviation Holds Industrial Stage Center,” Activities of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce 43, no. 6 (June 1929): 1, 3, accessed Indiana Memory; Paul Sonnenburg and William A. Schoneberger, Allison: Power of Excellence, 1915-1990 (Malibu, CA: Coastline Publishers, 1990): 40.

James Allison's interest in his engineering company began to wane as early as 1924. In a letter to Carl Fisher dated August 20, 1924, Allison, who by that time was spending most of his time in Miami Beach, stated that if he were to do any other work with the company "it would be to try to get someone else to buy the plant and run it." The letter provides insights into Allison's reasons for originally establishing the machine shop: "Since Johnny Aitken and Howdy Wilcox are dead, and you [Fisher] are located down in Long Island, there isn't any fun in running the thing, and that is all I ever wanted it for."
Just four years later, in August 1928, Allison passed away and Allison Engineering Co. was put up for sale. According to Paul Sonnenburg and William Schoneberger in their history of the company, the sale came with the stipulation that "offers would only be considered from buyers intending to maintain its assets and operations in Indianapolis for a period of at least ten years.” Fisher & Company of Detroit purchased the company. By March 1929, General Motors Corp. filed an appropriation request to buy the company from them. According to the appropriation request, Allison's interest in the aviation industry would continue under General Motors. The New York Times published news of the purchase in May 1929. Alfred Sloan, president of General Motors stated "as for the future, it will be the purpose of General Motors to intensify and expand this company's operations, especially along the lines indicated [aviation engines]." The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce also promoted the acquisition, stating in June 1929:

With the entrance of General Motors into the aviation field through the purchase of the Allison Engineering Company at the Speedway, Indianapolis, development of this city as a center for the nation's aviation industry seems assured.

[8] “General Motors Will Build New Airplane Engine,” Syracuse Herald, July 21, 1935, 4A; “New Type Aircraft Engine Approved,” Ada [Oklahoma] Evening News, April 29, 1937, 12; “Want Roosevelt,” Tipton Daily Tribune, October 24, 1940, 4; “Allison Company Name is Changed,” Indianapolis Star, January 7, 1941, n.p., accessed ISL Clippings File, Indianapolis, Industries, Allison –1959; “Allison Engine,” Life (January 13, 1941), 15-19, accessed GoogleBooks; “2,600 Engines for Defense Planes,” Clovis [New Mexico] News Journal, March 16, 1941, 6; “Allison Engine H.P. up 15 Pct.,” Indianapolis Star, June 6, 1941, 12, accessed ISL microfilm; “Plant Ready to Fill Huge New Orders,” Indianapolis Star, July 10, 1941, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “World War I Has Its Day at Allison,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 3 (August 1, 1941), 5; “More Air Power,” Mason City [Iowa] Globe Gazette, August 13, 1941, 4; “Post-War Events Are Related in Allison History,” AllisoNews 1, no. 4 (August 15, 1941): 1, 3; “Allison First to Pass 1000-H.P. Army Type Test,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 5 (September 3, 1941): 2, 7; “Production Began in ’40,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 6 (September 19, 1941): 2, 7; “Allison Speeds War Production,” Indianapolis Star, December 17, 1941, 15, accessed ISL microfilm; “Allison to Get Back 1st Motor,” Indianapolis News, March 24, 1944, part 2, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Allison to Build Jet Power Units,” Indianapolis Star, October 31, 1944, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Allison Gets Urgent Call for Jet Engines,” Indianapolis News, December 22, 1944, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Allison Jets Will Power Navy Fighter,” AllisoNews, 5, no. 2 (July 27, 1945): 1,3; “Allison Auto Industry Pioneer,” Indianapolis Times, November 18, 1946, accessed ISL Clippings File, Indianapolis, Industries, Allison –1959; Howard Mingos, ed. The Aircraft Year Book for 1946 (New York, NY: Lanciar Publishing, 1946): 385-387; Howard Mingos, ed. The Aircraft Year Book for 1947 (New York, NY: Lanciar Publishing, 1947): 275-277.

During the 1930s, Allison Engineering Co. focused its efforts on developing a 1,000 horsepower liquid-cooled aircraft engine. In explaining the benefits of a liquid-cooled engine as opposed to an air-cooled engine, Norman Gilman, chief engineer and general manager for the company, reasoned that “a radial type engine mounted directly in the wind stream developed high wind resistance or drag especially at high speed, whereas a liquid-cooled engine could be placed inside the fuselage,” as noted in the August 1, 1941 issue of the AllisoNews. The AllisoNews provided a summary of Gilman’s thoughts and early work with the liquid-cooled engine in its August 15, 1941 issue. According to the newsletter, despite initial hesitation from both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, the Navy placed an order with Allison Engineering Co. for a liquid-cooled airplane engine of 750 horsepower in June 1930. The company reportedly designed, built, and eventually delivered this engine to the Navy in March 1932. After completing a 50-hour development test, the Navy accepted the engine in September 1932. Soon after, the Army Air Corps also became interested in a liquid-cooled engine and placed an order with the company. The September 3, 1941 issue of the AllisoNews reports that Allison Engineering Co. delivered a 750 hp. liquid-cooled engine to the Army Air Corps in June 1933.

Throughout the mid-1930s, Allison Engineering Co. worked to improve the engine, with the goal of delivering 1,000 hp. As early as July 1935, newspapers such as the Syracuse Herald reported on the project, stating “an extensive plant expansion program to enable production of a new 1,000 horsepower aircraft engine, will be started immediately at the Allison Engineering Company, division of General Motors.” After several tests and improvements to the design, the company delivered the engine to the Army Air Corps at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio in March 1937. One month later, the engine, known as the Allison V-1710 engine, passed the 150-hour acceptance test. On April 29, 1937, the Ada Evening News reported, “Army air corps [sic] approval was stamped today on what officials described as America’s largest aircraft engine – developing 1,000 horsepower and weighing only 1,275 pounds.”

By 1939, as war clouds gathered over Europe, Allison committed itself to mass production of the V-1710 aircraft engine. Orders quickly came pouring in, making Allison one of the three principal manufacturers of aircraft engines in the country, alongside Pratt & Whitney and Wright Aeronautical. As early as October 1940, the Tipton Daily Tribune described the V-1710 as “the famed Allison ‘V’ 12 warplane engine.” In January 1941, Allison Engineering Company changed its name to Allison Division of General Motors Corp. That same month, Life magazine ran a feature on the V-1710 engine, highlighting it as the “plane motor on which the Army puts its biggest bet.” By June 6, 1941, newspaper articles described improvements to the engine, resulting in 1,325 hp. According to an Indianapolis Star article published that day, “Allison officials said that the engine produced here is considered superior to any European liquid-cooled engine for fighting planes up to a height of 25,000 feet.” The following month, the Star reported that the War Department had awarded Allison a new contract for the engines amounting to $50,000,000. With this contract, total orders for Allison engines since the beginning of the defense emergency program totaled approximately $242,000,000. In August 1941, the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported:

America has bet heavily on the Allison engine in its aircraft defense plans, just as the war industries board in 1917 bet everything on the Liberty engine . . . the Allison engine has been delivering regularly for the R.A.F. [Royal Air Force]. Allison is now producing 400 aviation engines a month, where a year ago it was delivering only 150, and expects to approach 1,000 engines a month by the end of 1941.

Orders and output for the V-1710 engine continued to grow, particularly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. By March 1944, Allison built and delivered its 50,000th liquid-cooled engine. These engines were used to power many of the United States’ fighter planes during the war, including the P-38 Lightning, the P-39 Airacobra, and the P-40 Warhawk. Additionally, as noted in the Mason City Globe-Gazette article mentioned above, the Allison V-1710 engine was used in several fighter planes flown by the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.

In October 1944, the Indianapolis Star reported that since the start of the war over 60,000 Allison liquid-cooled V-1710 aircraft engines had been built. The article also noted that the U.S. Army Air Forces had recently selected Allison to begin production on jet propulsion units in an effort to speed up the war’s end. For information on Allison’s work with jet engines see footnote 11. Despite the call for jet engines, production of the V-1710 continued. In July 1945, AllisoNews revealed that the company had built 70,000 liquid-cooled engines. The Aircraft Year Book of 1946 and 1947 confirmed this number, stating “Its war record showed production of more than 70,000 engines . . . Allison had reached its war stride early and had stayed to the finish.”

See footnote 10 for awards and recognition Allison won for the V-1710 engine and for its work during WWII. For a detailed history of the V-1710 engine, see Daniel D. Whitney, Vee’s for Victory!: The Story of the Allison V-1710 Aircraft Engine, 1929-1948 (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1998).

[9] “Triple Plant for Making V Plane Motors,” Alton [Illinois] Telegraph, April 29, 1939, 1; Sam Tyndall, “Once-Neglected Suburb Now One of Hoosierland’s Busiest,” Indianapolis Times, February 24, 1940, 1, 3, accessed ISL microfilm; “Speedway City Asks State Aid,” Indianapolis Star, December 20, 1940, 17, accessed ISL microfilm; “Allison Speeds War Production,” Indianapolis Star December 17, 1941, 15, accessed ISL microfilm; "Allison Maps 2 10-Hour Shifts," Indianapolis News, November 12, 1942, 1, 12; "The Allison Woman," AllisoNews 2, no. 7 (October 1942): 9-13; W. Chester Hibbitt, “When White Workers Sit Down Because of Negro Machinists,” Indianapolis Recorder, May 1, 1943, 1, 3, accessed ISL microfilm; “W. Chester Hibbitt, “Whites ‘to Think;’ Officials ‘Educate,’” Indianapolis Recorder, May 8, 1943, 1, 2, accessed ISL microfilm; Maurice Early, “The Day in Indiana,” Indianapolis Star, May 27, 1946, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; "Allison Top Producer of Jet Engines,” Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1947, 9; “Department Functions and Individual Responsibilities,” Allison Division, General Motors Corp., circa 1949, submitted by applicant.

By 1939, Allison Division of General Motors (at that point still Allison Engineering) employed 600 people. This number would begin to grow exponentially as orders for Allison’s V-1710 engine came pouring in from the U.S. Army Air Corps and the British government. An Alton Evening Telegraph article dated April 29, 1939 reported that the company would soon triple its facilities with construction of a new plant that would span 200,000 sq. ft. By the end of that year, employment figures had almost doubled to 1,200. Allison Division constructed additional plants in Speedway and the Indianapolis area throughout the war years, and with them came thousands of additional employees. By the time of Pearl Harbor and the United States’ official entry in World War II in December 1941, employment at Allison Division had surpassed 12,000. According to “Department Functions and Individual Responsibilities,” a report published by Allison Division which included employment figures for every month from 1939-1949, employment reached its peak in October 1943, at 23,019.
Among the plants' 23,000 employees were thousands of women and African Americans. In a November 12, 1942 article, the Indianapolis News reported "women are being employed on an increasing scale at Allison's, and the number in the factory now represents about 20 percent of the total employment." As more men left the home front to join the armed forces, the number of women joining Allison Division grew in comparison. This became common in WWII war industry. According to the News, "women workers [were] being assigned to subassembly work and to practically every other department, except heat treating and final assembly."

In late April 1943, when African American workers were placed on machines at Allison Division, hundreds of white workers stopped production and went on strike to protest the move. According to the Indianapolis Recorder, Allison's executives ordered the striking men and women back to their machines, stating that refusal to do so was in direct violation of Executive Order 8802, which "encouraged full participation in the national defense program by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin." Further, management stated that "the men were promoted on merit and they will stay there as long as they can do the job."
The company’s growth not only had a direct impact on the plants, but on the city of Speedway as well. As early as 1940, Indianapolis newspapers commented on Speedway’s growing pains, reporting that officials from the city were seeking state aid to address problems that had come about from the influx of workers to the plants. These problems included the need to improve streets, sanitary conditions, and create a better water system. On February 24, 1940, the Indianapolis Times noted that with more employees at the Allison plants came “more money, more home buying, more eating, etc.” In a May 27, 1946 article, the Indianapolis Star summarized some of the expansion that had occurred in Speedway during the war years, reporting that school enrollment had doubled, church attendance had risen greatly, and many new homes had been built.

[10] “Attainment of Production Goal to be Honored,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 11 (December 5, 1941): 1; “Praise Cabled to Allison for British Victory,” Indianapolis News, February 17, 1942, 4, accessed ISL microfilm; “Details of Action Given in Which Tomahawk Knocks Down Two Enemy Aircraft,” AllisoNews, 1, no. 17 (March 14, 1942): 1, 3; Colonel C. D. Chennault to Allison Division, April 21, 1942, telegram in AllisoNews, 1, no. 20 (April 30, 1942): 1; “Allison Motor Performance Praised by U.S. Commander of AVG in China,” Indianapolis Star, April 30, 1942, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Presentation of the Army–Navy Production Award to Allison Division,” November 5, 1942, submitted by applicant; “Original Allison Employe [sic] City’s Proudest at “E” Flag Ceremony,” Indianapolis Star, November 6, 1942, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Army-Navy “E” Award Termination Sees Award Granted to 5% of Eligible Plants,” War Department, Bureau of Public Relations, December 5, 1945; “Army-Navy E Award,” Naval History and Heritage Command.

On December 5, 1941, AllisoNews reported that Allison Division was close to achieving the peak production goal set for it by the U.S. Army Air Corps a year earlier. The company planned a ceremony for December 17, 1941 to mark the accomplishment, and invited approximately 100 officials of the War Department, Air Corps, Office of Production Management (OPM), British Purchasing Commission, Royal Air Force, and other leaders in industry. Just two days after the AllisoNews announcement, however, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and U.S. Declaration of War would necessitate cancellation of Allison Achievement Day. Allison’s wartime accomplishments would not go unnoticed though as production increased dramatically to meet military needs.

As early as March 1942, AllisoNews relayed a story from Grant Parr, NBC’s Egypt reporter, praising the durability of the Allison engine. Parr reported on the battle front of Cyrenaica in eastern Libya, and described a “desperate dog fight” between German Messerschmidts and American-made Tomahawks. After successfully taking down one Messerschmidt, a Tomahawk pilot suffered a hit as bullets went through the fuselage and into his Allison engine. According to the broadcast, “every moment he thought the motor must quit, but the Allison roared on. Back at the airdrome they took the cowling off and found several bullet holes. Yet this engine would still run.” Parr continued, “the R.A.F. boys . . . have asked me to tell the Allison people and all of those who helped make American aircraft that if they continue to send the motors and planes, the R.A.F. pilots will keep ‘em flying and fighting, too.”

Just one month later, Brig. Gen. Claire Chennault, who commanded the American Volunteer Group operating in China and Burma, also sent high praise to Allison Division. In his telegram to Allison Division in April 1942, a copy of which appears in the April 30 issue of the AllisoNews, he stated:

Our pilots flying Curtiss P-40 pursuit airplanes equipped with Allison liquid cooled engines have been extremely successful in their flight operations against the invading Japanese Air Force. You men and women of Allison have done an outstanding job in building the Allison engine with such fine precision and careful workmanship with the result that the performance of these liquid cooled engines has been absolutely amazing under the most gruelling [sic] wartime fighting conditions.

Later issues of the AllisoNews contain similar recognition from others familiar with Allison’s liquid-cooled engines. In addition to this praise, Allison also won the Army-Navy “E” Award for excellence in production four times during the war. According to a joint Army-Navy release from the War Department in December 1945, “the Army-Navy “E” Award was granted only to facilities which were particularly outstanding in production for the War and Navy Departments. Excellence in quality and quantity of production were two of the determining factors in granting the Awards.” The joint release reports that over 4,000 war production facilities won the award during the war, but that this number represented only 5% of the estimated war plants in the country. Allison Division won its first Army-Navy “E” in October 1942, and held a ceremony for the presentation of the award on November 5, 1942. Issues of the AllisoNews in March 1944October 1944, and June 1945 reported on the other three instances in which Allison Division received the Army-Navy “E” award. For more information on these award ceremonies, see corresponding issues of the AllisoNews.

[11] “The Jet Propulsion of Airplanes,” Science News 100, no. 2593 (September 8, 1944): 10, accessed JSTOR; “Jet Propulsion Contract Signed with Allison Div.,” AllisoNews, 4, no. 7 (October 1944): 1; “Allison Gets Urgent Call for Jet Engines at Total Capacity,” Indianapolis News, December 22, 1944, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; James J. Strebig, “New U.S. Jet Fighter Fastest Plane in World,” Hattiesburg [Mississippi] American, March 1, 1945, 4; “Allison Jets Will Power Navy Fighter,” AllisoNews, 5, no. 2 (July 27, 1945): 1, 3; “J-35 Becomes Second Turbine Engine to be Built Here,” AllisoNews, 6, no. 11 (September 13, 1946): 1; “Timken 16-25-6 in World’s Fastest Airplanes,” Zanesville [Ohio] Signal, August 31, 1947, 5; “Strike Halts Delivery of Parts for Jet Engines,” Daily Register [Harrisburg, IL], May 18, 1949, 4.

As early as October 1944, the U.S. Army Air Forces awarded Allison Division a contract for the production of jet propulsion units. Production of the V-1710 engine continued, but Allison’s leadership recognized that jet engines would be just as much, if not more of a priority than the V-1710 in 1945. A December 22, 1944 Indianapolis News article quoted E.B. Newill, general manager of Allison Division, regarding the project, who stated, “behind the [production] program is an urgency that is remindful of the desperate demand for Allison engines in the early days of the war. The urgency is simply explained – jet propulsion.” According to Newill, “preliminary tests of new secret airplanes have convinced our military authorities that winning of this war may be delayed months without speedy deliveries of jet-propelled planes to the fighting fronts.” A September 1944 article in Science News described some of the benefits of the engine, stating:

The jet engine is simple in construction, and is made up of only a few moving parts, while the gasoline engine is made up of thousands of parts. The jet engine weighs much less than the conventional motor, thus reducing the total weight of the plane and making it more maneuverable, a vital factor in military flying.

The main advantage of the jet engine was its speed. By March 1945, newspapers such as the Hattiesburg American reported that the new American plane, the P-80 Shooting Star, was “credited with flying faster than any other plane.” The jet engines used to power the P-80 were being manufactured by General Electric in Syracuse, N.Y., and by the Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis.

On May 17, 1945, with the war in Europe overAllisoNews reported that V-1710 schedules had been reduced to allow greater concentration on producing jet engines. By July 27, 1945, the newsletter reported that the Navy had followed the Army’s lead and placed an order with Allison for jet engines, stating “these engines will power airplanes which ‘are urgently needed in the Fleet for an important part in the ultimate defeat of Japan.’” According to the article, the Navy selected Allison for the job because it had a “well established reputation for delivering the goods on time.”

Allison Division continued to manufacture jet engines for the Army and Navy in the years immediately following WWII. In addition to its J-33 engine, which it used to power the P-80, by 1946 it announced plans to manufacture a new jet turbine engine, the J-35. Newspaper articles from 1947 report that Allison’s J-35 engine had been used in record breaking speed runs by both Army and Navy aircraft (note that on July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, which officially established the United States Air Force as a separate service). By May 18, 1949, the Daily Register noted that Allison was one of five jet engine producers and that “it produces more engines than any of the others.”

For information on the use and significant role of jet engines during the Korean War see footnote 13.

[12] “R.E. Lynch Appointed Head of Transmission Engineering,” AllisoNews, 6, no. 9 (August 30, 1946): 1, submitted by applicant; “Output Good on GM Marine Transmissions,” AllisoNews, 6, no. 17 (October 25, 1946): 1, 4; “Employment and Production Up Say ’47 Reports,” AllisoNews, 7, no. 44 (May 7, 1948): 1, 3; “Allison Adds New Plant for Tank Transmissions,” AllisoNews, 10, no. 11 (September 8, 1950); 1, 3; “Allison to Hold Festive Ceremony for Its 10,000 Tank Transmission,” Indianapolis Star, June 22, 1952, sec. 3, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “A Special Tribute Issue to Allison’s CD850 . . . Our Power Transmission for 40 Years,” Inside Indy Operations Newsletter, 7, no. 4 (February 27, 1987), submitted by applicant.

On August 30, 1946, AllisoNews noted that a new department had been organized at Allison “for the design and development of transmissions.” According to the article, the transmissions would be made for both commercial and military uses. It also reported that at the time, production was “under way on the first transmissions developed for marine application.” By October 1946, the newsletter announced that over 450 transmissions had been built for marine installations. Production continued to increase throughout the late 1940s and into the 1950s. In its May 7, 1948 issue, AllisoNews noted that while “aircraft engines continued to account for the bulk of Allison business,” production of transmissions rose as well, especially with the “new coach transmission placed in production.” Just two years later, in September 1950, the newsletter’s front page headline read, “Allison Adds New Plant for Tank Transmissions.” According to the article, the new plant would be used “to manufacture a new transmission for a tank to be built by Cadillac Division of GM.” It continued:

The transmission is a hydraulically-controlled torque converter type similar to the transmission which Allison has been building for the past year for the General Patton M46 tank. Production of this transmission also will continue at an accelerated rate.

The Korean War (1950-1953) influenced production greatly. By June 1952, the Indianapolis Star reported that Allison had built its 10,000th tank transmission. R.E. Lynch, manager of the transmission operation at Allison, was quoted in the article stating:

Allison, since World War II, has become the world’s largest manufacturer of automatic transmissions for heavy duty equipment. . . In addition to developing and manufacturing the CD-850 cross-drive transmission for the M46 and M47 General Patton tanks, and the CD-500 transmission for the T-41 Walker Bulldog tanks, Allison makes the transmission for about 18 other Ordnance vehicles.

For more information on the use of tank transmissions during the Korean War see footnote 13.

[13] “Allison Plant Cancels 2 Week August Closing,” Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1950, n.p., accessed Chicago Tribune Archives; “Allison Plant Asked to Cancel Vacation Plans,” Logansport Press, July 28, 1950, 4; “Allison-Powered Aircraft Pictures in This Issue,” AllisoNews 10, no. 34 (February 16, 1951): 1-2; “From Allison to Korea, Each Man’s Job Counts,” AllisoNews 10, no. 34 (February 16, 1951): 4-5; “F-84’s Can Take It,” Flying Magazine (September 1951): 10, accessed GoogleBooks; “Allison Gets Huge Contract,” Indianapolis News, October 3, 1951, 1, accessed ISL microfilm; “Tank Transmissions Job Feted By Allison,” Indianapolis Star, June 26, 1952, 35, accessed ISL Clippings File, Indianapolis, Industries, Allison –1959; [Untitled], [Sikeston, MO] Daily Standard, October 10, 1952, 3; Hearings, v. 8, United States Congress, Senate (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955), 4478; “Korean War, 1950-1953: Teacher Resource Guide,” National Museum of the United States Air Force Education Division, accessed National Museum of the United States Air Force.

On July 15, 1950, just one month after the Korean War began, the Chicago Tribune noted that Allison Division had canceled its scheduled two-week vacation in August in order to continue production of both jet engines and tank transmissions. The article stated, “the decision to continue production was made at the request of the army air force and the ordnance department as a result of the Korean war. By cancelling the shutdown Allison will be able to fill current orders sooner and be ready to take on expected new large orders from the government.” According to a Logansport Press article, the Allison plant was reportedly “one of 23 throughout the nation requested to take such action.”
As anticipated, jet engines and tank transmissions would both come to play an important role in the Korean War. According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, “in Korea, the air superiority fight reflected the end of propeller-driven fighters and the supremacy of jet aircraft.” Flying Magazine reiterated this point in its September 1951 issue, stating, “The Korean war proved the value of the jets. Despite heavy damage to the tail pipes, turbine sections, combustion chambers and oil lines, the Republic Thunderjets, powered by the Allison J-35 axial flow turbo-jet engine, have all returned to the base safely.” By October 1952, the Daily Standard reported that jet engines produced by Allison Division had accumulated more hours of operation “than all other U.S. jet engines combined.” Allison’s J-33 engine helped power the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, and its J-35 engine helped power the Republic F-84 Thunderjet. Official Senate records from 1955 show that “According to the information released by the Air Force, 69 percent of all USAF jet-fighter sorties in the Korean conflict were flown by Allison-powered aircraft.”
Allison’s production of transmissions also increased during this time. As mentioned in footnote 12, Allison added a new plant for the production of tank transmissions in September 1950, just a few months after the Korean War began. In its February 16, 1951 issue, AllisoNews included a headline that read “From Allison to Korea, Each Man’s Job Counts.” The article reported:

A vital job in the national defense picture is being carried out by Allison Transmissions Operations. Pattons, the big tanks now supporting United Nations forces in Korea, are equipped with transmissions [CD850] designed and built by Allison.

On October 3, 1951, the Indianapolis News noted that Allison Division had received a new contract of $23,057,690 for tank transmissions, stating “this was the major contract in more than $25 million in war orders placed with Indiana firms in September by the Cincinnati ordnance district.” By June 1952, Allison produced its 10,000th tank transmission. In a ceremony marking the event, Master Sgt. Mele Della, who had served in Korea, declared that “the American tanks – with the Allison ‘heart,’ are not matched by the T-34 Russian tanks which our troops face on the rugged hills of the Far East,” as noted in the Indianapolis Star on June 26, 1952.
Allison Division continued to expand and evolve in the decades following the Korean War. For information on the company from the 1960s through 1990, including mergers, ownership and name changes, see Paul Sonnenburg and William A. Schoneberger, Allison: Power of Excellence, 1915-1990 (Malibu, CA: Coastline Publishers, 1990).


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