The two assembly lines, where 668 B-29 bombers were built during World War II, were each more than half a mile long.
Operator awaits the go-ahead at the 1942 groundbreaking for what would become the Bell Bomber Plant and later Dobbins Air Force Base. Standing, at left, with Cobb County community leaders is Eastern Airlines president Eddie Rickenbacker, a former World War I flying ace.
Four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, MacDougald Construction broke ground with Caterpillar dozers on a massive industrial complex in Cobb County that would employ more than 28,000 workers building the new B-29 Superfortress bombers.
Bell Aircraft, the largest assembly plant ever built in the South, would include a building with twin half-mile-long final assembly lines covering 3.2 million square feet, and other structures adding a million more square feet. On March 30, 1942, World War I fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker joined local dignitaries for the groundbreaking, alongside a Cat®dozer on land south of Marietta where cotton had been harvested only a few months earlier.
Rickenbacker was president of Eastern Airlines, and had in the late 1930s promoted construction of a new commercial airfield in Cobb County to relieve pressure from the Atlanta Municipal Airport. Construction of the airfield had been approved but not begun when the United States made plans for a huge rearmament program in response to Adolph Hitler and Germany’s rampage across Europe and Japan’s threats of war.
The Atlanta area was chosen in part because it was far from the coast and the possibility of German attack. The Cobb County site was selected because it was adjacent to the already approved airfield and because of the existing transportation infrastructure. The site ran alongside the brand-new four-lane U.S. 41 connecting Atlanta and Marietta. A nearby trolley line could also bring workers to the site, and a rail line through the property could deliver parts.
MacDougald worked quickly preparing the complex site, at times continuing the excavation of basement and tunnels in one area while footings and concrete walls were being poured in another. Fifty-four weeks after breaking ground, construction of the plant was complete and production began on the four-engine B-29s, America’s largest and longest-range bomber. By the end of the war the Georgia plant had completed 668 Superfortresses.
Several years after the war, the Lockheed Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) took over the facility, which continues to employ thousands.
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War Years and Beyond 1939 - 1947