MotorCities National Heritage Area logo

During World War II, metro Detroit and the region encompassing our MotorCities National Heritage Area converted from the production of automobiles to the materials of war. Dubbed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as America's "Arsenal of Democracy," this region played a key role in helping the Allies win the war.

Beginning in 2020, in the midst of the national emergency caused by the spreading of COVID-19, many companies in Michigan once again responded to the needs of the country and converted to production of ventilators, masks, hand sanitizer and other products necessary to win this new fight. Many dubbed this new fight the "Arsenal of Health."

The production line at Willow Run Yankee Air Museum RESIZED 3The bomber production line at Willow Run (Photo courtesy of the Yankee Air Museum)

To bring some perspective to our history and its relevance today, here are some resources from our MotorCities partners to help you learn more about our proud history as the Arsenal of Democracy.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy Exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum

Encyclopedia of Detroit -- Arsenal of Democracy

Encyclopedia of Detroit -- Willow Run

Interactive Arsenal of Democracy Map

The Henry Ford

The Willow Run Bomber Plant

Historic Fort Wayne

10 Key Events from Historic Fort Wayne's History

Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society

Arsenal of Democracy Videos

Yankee Air Museum

Current Exhibits at the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run

Ford making medical masks RESIZEDA Ford worker with a medical mask (Ford Motor Company) 

And now, here are some articles about how our auto industry fought the war against COVID-19:

President Trump to Visit Ford Rawsonville Plant
Eastern Echo - May 20, 2020

How GM and Ford Switched from Building Vehicles to Making Medical Supplies
CBS News "60 Minutes" - April 26, 2020

Mary Barra GM CBS News 60 Minutes April 2020General Motors CEO Mary Barra

From Vehicles to Ventilators, Ford & GM Take On Coronavirus
CBS News "60 Minutes Overtime" - April 26, 2020

Ford Motor Company Making Face Shields with Help from Sinai Grace ER Doc
Fox 2 Detroit - April 22, 2020

The Big 3 Versus COVID-19 
DBusiness - April 21, 2020

Ford Making Masks to Protect Workers from COVID-19 
Reuters - April 13, 2020

What Fiat Chrysler Is Doing in Coronavirus Fight 
Detroit Free Press - April 11, 2020

GM Gets $490 Million Government Deal to Build Ventilators 
Detroit Free Press - April 8, 2020

Big 3 Automakers Could Enlist to Produce COVID-19 Medical Equipment 
Michigan Advance - March 20, 2020


Site 8 I 96 EB ramp to I 75 SB Detroit CROPPED and RESIZEDI-96 Eastbound ramp to I-75 Southbound in Detroit
Drivers around the Michigan are likely to notice something new along the highways -- those familiar brown National Park Service signs with a message welcoming them to the MotorCities National Heritage Area! The first nine signs were installed in November and December 2019 and are the culmination of many years of work with the Michigan Department of Transportation. An additional five signs were added in the Spring of 2020 to bring the total to 14!

Site 6 WB I 96 before US 127 RESIZEDWestbound I-96 before US 127 near Lansing

You can find the signs at the following locations:

  • Southbound I-75 before the Mt. Morris exit north of Flint;
  • Eastbound I-69 near Lansing Road northeast of Lansing;
  • Eastbound I-96 near the I-69 interchange northwest of Lansing;
  • Eastbound I-96 near the US 127 interchange southeast of Lansing;
  • Westbound I-96 near the US 127 interchange southeast of Lansing;
  • Westbound I-94 before the M-59 exit in Chesterfield Twp.;
  • Eastbound I-96 on the ramp to southbound I-75 in Detroit;
  • Northbound I-75 on the ramp to westbound I-96 in Detroit;
  • Northbound I-75 near Monroe-Wayne County border;
  • Northbound US-23 near Exit 15 in Dundee;
  • Northbound I-75 just south of the Michigan Ave. exit in Detroit;
  • Southbound I-75 just north of West Grand Blvd. in Detroit;
  • Northbound I-275 at the Michigan Ave. exit in Canton;
  • And Northbound US-23 just south of the I-94 interchange in Ypsilanti.

Site 3 EB I 96 SB I 69 RESIZEDEastbound I-96 near the I-69 interchange

Join Us for our next session coming in November 2022!

Brown Paper Lunch Bag MC


Watch our most recent sessions:

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month w/Cindy Estrada of the UAW
Wednesday, October 12, 2022 


Watch the October 2022 session here.

Building the Auto Industry: The History of Organized Labor
Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Orgzd Labor is Marching WRL.21 Orig

Watch the September 2021 session here.

Individual Members 2024

Greg Aarssen
Robert Andersen
Bruce Annett
Larry Baker
Robert Barr
Michael Bauman
John Beck
Robert Benko
Sabin Blake
Mallory Bower
Terry Boyce
Todd Bryan
Paul Bumpus
Robert Burtch
Stephen Burton
Harriet Carter
Chris Causley
Robert Causley
Judith Christie
Jaclyn Clark
Ed Clemente
John Clor
Paul Corbett
Chuck Dalton
Michael Darga
John Dau
Robert Degenhart
Jaqueline Dick
Rich Dobson
Russell Dore
Larry Doyle
Paul Draus
Jim Dyar
Kenneth Ehrenhofer
David Elsila
Sandra Engle
George Etheridge
Reynolds Farley
Lila Fedokovitz
Russell Ferguson
Frederick Flock
Gerard Franchina
Robert Frey
James Fry
Lloyd Ganton
John Gilbert
Peter Glendinning
Donald Graham
Ron Grantz
Dean Greb
Trey Greene
Joel Grgurich
Elayne Gross
Gerald Haller
Patricia Hallman
Deborah Hartwick
Margaret Hehr
Charlie Henry
Mark Heppner
Fred Hoffman
Sue Huggett
Daniel Hughes
Wayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnston
Bill Jones
Cynthia Jones
Bob Kellum
Larry & Eleanor Kelsch
Richard Kinsey
Kevin Kirbitz
Jean Knowles
Robert Kreipke
Richard Krueger
William Krueger
Lori Lanspeary
William Lawson
Wade Leonard
Barry Levey
Christine Lezotte 
George Linker
Roger & Joan Luksik
Ronald Marklin
David Marold
Michael Mazor
Kevin McCabe
Anne Michelis
David Miller
Stephen Misterovich
Tom Mitchell
Thomas Mudd
Thomas Mullin
Mark Mundorff
Peter Murdoch
Bruce Nelson
Nick Nerbonne
Don Nicholson
Bill Nickels
Anne Partington
David & Rebecca Pettengill
David Pierce
Julie Pingston
Christopher Pokorski
Shawn Pomaville-Size
Ken Poynter
John Pregler
Jerry Preston
Steve Purdy
Richard Ray
Brian Raymond
Charles Reavis
William Romanski
Joseph Ross
Richard Russell
James Saliba 
Marjorie Sawruk
Sharon Scott
Jack Seavitt
Irene Shelley
Randy Shelton
Steve Shotwell
Michael Skinner
Allan Skoropa
Harvey Snitzer
Greg Stoner
John Summerville
Amber Taylor
Tammy Taylor
Randy Thayer
Mark Thomas
Nick Thomas
Nancy Thompson
Robyn Tonkin
Christopher Topham
Bob Tripolsky
John Tucker
Richard Tweedle
Roberta Vasilow
Douglas Wallace
Charles Watson
Ed Weichsler
Christopher Welborn
Thomas Winkes
Geneva Wiskemann
David & Mary Wood
Jill Woodward
Kenneth Yopp
Carol Zagorowska 
Nelson Zuchetto

Organizational Members 2024

American Rosie the Riveter Association
ASBE Foundation
Automotive Hall of Fame
Bomber Liberatories, Inc.
Don Nicholson Enterprises
Durant Dort Carriage Company National Landmark
Fair Lane, Home of Clara & Henry Ford
Ford House
Ford Piquette Plant Museum
Friends of Durant Park
Friends of Highland Recreation Area (FOHRA)
Friends of Historical Hamtramck
Gilmore Car Museum
Grigg Graphic Services, LLC
Lambda Car Club International-Detroit Region
Lincoln Motor Car Foundation
Michigan Firehouse Museum
Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society
Model A Ford Foundation
Oh These Irish Hills
Old Mill Museum
Packard Motor Car Foundation
Pierce-Arrow Museum
Plymouth Historical Museum
Pontiac Transportation Museum
Project Arts and Ideas
R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
Romeo Historical Society
Roush Automotive Collection
Saline Area Historical Society
Sloan Museum of Discovery
Stahls Automotive Foundation
Ye Ole Carriage Shoppe
Ypsilanti Auto Heritage Museum
Ypsilanti Historical Society