From Bofors to bikes, Harley’s York County, Pa., plant top hog
Workers produced Bofors anti-aircraft guns at the Special Ordnance Division plant, long part of Harley-Davidson’s complex, during WWII. Also of interest: York Safe & Lock worker recalls chat with Hedy Lamarr.
Decades before market leader Harley-Davidson operated out of its Springettsbury plant, another top-of-category company occupied the complex.
First, it was York Safe & Lock and later Blaw-Knox Special Ordnance Division, and their prime product was Bofors guns. You know, Ack-Acks, the guns on ships that you see in World War II movies.
The 40-mm anti-aircraft guns represented the Navy’s response to Japanese Kamikaze planes.
The double- and quad-mounted York County-made guns are credited with bringing down Kamakaze planes at a rate of 32 a minute in Pacific Theater fighting.
Some facts about Bofors, according to a Naval Ordnance Plant publication, February 1946: …
— The gun was originally made in Bofors, Sweden.
— Alfred Nobel, pioneer in high explosives of Nobel Prize fame, owned the company for a period.
— The weapons were initially used in the Spanish Civil War.
— In the early years of World War II, the Springetts plant was the only facility in the country making the 40-mm pieces.
— Each barrel in a mount fired independently and automatically at 100 rounds per minute.
— Projectiles were tracer type with a sensitive nose fuse. The projectiles were designed to explode after they left the gun barrel and traveled a short distance.
“This excellent weapon held a prominent place among the many contributions to the war effort as did the men and women who helped to build them,” the publication stated.
As for Harleys produced in the same plant years later, it could be said: This excellent bike has held a prominent place among the many contributions that have made post-war America great, as did the men and women who helped to build them.
To Harley workers, parts of the Special Ordnance Complex at the end of World War II will look familiar.
Selected York Safe & Lock links:
– New Freedom station houses alien safe
– Hedy Lamarr’s visit to York long remembered
– From Bofors to Bikes, Harley plant top hog
– Forry Laucks, Lauxmont sparked debates
– York-made safes spotted in post-war Tokyo
– York Safe restoration ‘once in a lifetime’ project.
– York Safe faltered after owner’s death.
All York Safe & Lock posts from the start.
(For multiple posts on York County’s industrial prowess, see this blog’s Made in York category.)