Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Production: Buffalo 1941
Curtiss-Wright, perhaps best known as the manufacturer of the legendary P-40 Warhawk fighter plane, was the largest aviation company and the second largest company in the world (behind only General Motors) during World War II.

These photos are from the Life Magazine Archive, taken by photographer Dmitri Kessel during the winter/spring of 1941 (likely March or April) at Buffalo, NY.

Curtiss-Wright was headquartered and had most airframe engineering and production facilities at Buffalo. Curtiss, along with several other aircraft companies such as Bell and Consolidated, effectively turned the city into the center of the U.S. aircraft industry from World War I through World War II.

This set contains three aircraft, mainly the P-40 (B or C variants) "Warhawk" / "Tomahawk" / "Kittyhawk" and the O-52 "Owl," (both produced by Curtiss at the Kenmore Avenue Plant), as well as a few incidental photos of the SBC-4 "Helldiver." Also pictured are flights over the Buffalo area, and several photos of Curtiss' visibly makeshift Buffalo Airport facilities, before the huge Genesee Street Plant was completed there later in the war.

The set clearly shows a company frantic to fill both domestic and Lend-Lease orders during early 1941, well before the United States became directly involved in World War II (at the very end of that year, after Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941).

In many of the photos, aircraft are shown being assembled outside—even, apparently, during the late winter or early spring. This is a telling indication of the huge demand and Curtiss' lagging production capacity at that time. Never had the world needed aircraft so quickly and in such large numbers, and not since World War I had aircraft been produced in any significant quantity.

In fact, between Curtiss-Wright and Bell Aircraft, more airplanes were built in Buffalo in 1940-1942 than the rest of the U.S. aircraft industry combined. These two Buffalo firms helped win the war by keeping the Allies in the fight during the tenuous years before the U.S. fully entered the conflict.

© Time Inc. For personal non-commercial use only. Photos can be found online at: images.google.com or at www.life.com. (Search using both "Curtiss" and "Buffalo" keywords at both sites.)

Notes: I have attempted to correct any irregularities in the originally posted photos. You may notice the occasional 'Life' logo is shown backwards or upside-down. This is intentional. Many of the originally posted photos were backwards or otherwise mis-oriented. In addition, captions were often inaccurate, so these were corrected where possible—and I've liberally added my own comments. Hope you enjoy!
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