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Serving on the Home Front
Like many other Minnesota companies, World War II greatly influenced operations at Villaume. Initially the company contributed to the war effort by manufacturing thousands of K-ration cartons for the armed services. Another major war contract was for ammunition crates for Federal Cartridge, which was located in New Brighton.
When in December 1943 a potential customer asked Villaume to bid on a contract for over 200,000 wooden packing boxes, their response was that they were "now devoting practically our entire plant in the manufacture of Gliders so that we would not have the space nor the help to take on additional business." Because gliders were cheaper to make and their pilots easier to train than the pilots of powered aircraft, the U.S. War Department let out a number of contracts for the building of wood and canvas gliders that could be used to carry troops and their equipment into combat. Consequently Villaume received a large contract as a subcontractor to produce the wooden wings, control surfaces, and floors for the gliders that would be manufactured in the Twin Cities area. The company also received a separate contract to produce the shipping crates that would be used for the delivery of glider components overseas. Beneficial as these contracts were to the bottom line at Villaume, they also brought many changes to the plant. The company's old drill presses, for example, presented some problems in meeting the air force's demanding specifications. But thanks to one man's ingenuity, a way was found to adapt the drills and achieve the required precision. Soon, around 1,500 people-many of them women-were working on three different shifts at Villaume. Between 1942 and 1945, Villaume eventually produced wood parts for over 1,500 gliders that were used in the landings at Normandy, the air assault on some key bridges in Holland, the crossing of the Rhine, and in several battles in the Pacific theater.


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