Haunted House -- From the Oct. 18, 1943 issue of TIME magazine.
The hexed Brewster Aeronautical Corp., which has sandbagged four presidents in 16 months, last week finished off a fifth. Hoarse-voiced, 275-lb. Frederick Riebel Jr., after seven months of falling through trap doors, tripping over wires and hearing noises in the woodwork, gave up and left. The big news was his successor. Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser, who has been Brewster's board chairman since March, went in.
The snares that brought down the behemoth Mr. Riebel and now faced Mr. Kaiser were still the same : 1) an ironclad, waterproof contract with C.I.O.'s United Automobile Workers which straitjackets management, banning it from firing, shifting or disciplining workers without union permission, 2) bad control of materials, which sometimes forced workers to loaf.
Big Fred Riebel had tried to wriggle out of the strait jacket, but he was soon laced in tighter than ever by the rough & tumble Brewster union. He had no time to untangle the materials mess. Result : Brewster failed in production on the Navy's Corsair fighter, although production of the so-so Brewster dive-bomber picked up. In August, month of Brewster's latest strike, not a Corsair was delivered.
The Senate's Truman Committee called in Kaiser and gave him a Hobson's choice : to reorganize plant management, ie., to take over Brewster production himself, or resign from the board. Reluctantly, Kaiser took over. Said the miracle man glumly : "It's not an alluring prospect to take over what's reputed to be the worst situation in the country."
Pulmotor [resuscitation] Department. To help revive Brewster, Kaiser installed his tall, bespectacled son, Henry Jr., who has been Kaiser's eyes and legs on many a West Coast project, as administrative assistant. His job : to kill off the hex. Then the War Labor Board gave Kaiser a mighty boost by designating an arbiter to settle disputes on the spot, and put Brewster's union on probation for six months. With this solid backing, Kaiser sat down with the tough, headstrong boss of the Brewster union, Tom De Lorenzo,* got from him a promise that the union would cooperate. Mr. Kaiser, newly confident, predicted : "Brewster will be back on schedule this month. By the end of the year we will make up all our plane deficiencies and be hitting our schedules regularly."
* Manhattan-born Tom De Lorenzo, 35, became head of the Brewster local three years ago, now collects $5,000 yearly to dictate its policies. A firm believer in "force as the only weapon," he vigorously opposes labor's "no strike" pledge. Last week he told the Washington Post "Our policy is not to win the war at any cost," but "to win the war without sacrificing too many of the rights we have at the present time."
A Prayer for Henry -- From the Nov. 1, 1943 issue of TIME magazine.
Until pachydermatous (275 lb.) Frederick Riebel Jr. was ousted from his $30,000-a-year job as president of Brewster Aeronautical Corp. three weeks ago, he kept his mouth tightly closed. But last week, before the House Naval Affairs Committee, which is probing Brewster's snail-paced production, Mr. Riebel rattled all the Brewster skeletons in public.
Sometimes weeping softly, sometimes roaring with rage, frog-voiced Mr. Riebel blamed all the troubles at Brewster on the "hellish" contract it had with C.I.O.'s United Automobile Workers. He lashed out at the union's tough, headstrong boss, Tom De Lorenzo, impaled lesser officials as "punks and heels," denounced the local itself as that "gang of forty thieves." Carefully he explained that those opinions had grown in him only after he came to Brewster, last March. He had cozied up to the union. Said he : "I got in bed with Tom De Lorenzo, with the cover tucked right up to my chin. I guess we were sort of bundling together."
Baffled Bundler. But Bundler Riebel soon found out that "every time I got in bed with Tom De Lorenzo I got out with less than I went in with." Riebel stopped bundling, started battling. He got nowhere that way, either. Meanwhile he had other troubles, which he tried to solve by firing top Brewster officials.
And in the nation's weirdest war plant, he found such things as this : Brewster was trying to build dive-bombers for the British without complete drawings of the plane or a list of materials needed.
Committeemen properly asked : In view of all this, could Brewster's new president, Shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser, get Brewster into production?
Replied Riebel : "Oh, I've dreaded that question more than any the committee could ask. It's a matter of embarrassment to a dear, dear friend of mine. . . . I say a little prayer every night for Kaiser's success at Brewster."
Curtain Kaiser. But pachydermatous Mr. Kaiser, who also appeared before the committee, showed no embarrassment, wanted no prayers. He calmly stated that Brewster's failure to produce planes for the British and for the U.S. Navy was due to lack of cooperation between labor & management. He promised to end this and get Brewster producing on schedule.
But the Navy, which finds Brewster 18 months behind schedule on contracts totaling $175,000,000, is almost sick & tired of the whole thing. Retired Navy Captain George C. Westervelt, who ran Brewster for a month when the Navy took it over, reiterated the ominous warning given by James V. Forrestal, Under Secretary of the Navy. He told the committee : if Kaiser fails, all of Brewster's Navy contracts should be transferred to other companies.
The Demise of Brewster -- From AirtoAirCombat.com by Joe Baugher.
Following the completion of the F2A production run, the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation's difficulties went from bad to worse.
More business for Brewster arrived in the form of a contract to build the Vought F4U Corsair carrier-based fighter under license. On November 1, 1941, Brewster was given a contract to built the Corsair under license as the F3A. The same production delays that had affected the Bermuda and Buccaneer also affected the F3A-1, and the delays in both programs led to a brief takeover of the Brewster factory by the Navy on April 18, 1942. Captain George Westervelt of the Navy's Construction Corps was placed in charge while the management at Brewster was reorganized. A month later, on May 20, the Navy turned over the corporation to a new board of directors, with Charles Van Dusen as the president.
Unfortunately, the problems continued and ... (full article).
The first F3A-1 did not fly until April 26, 1943 and by the end of 1943 only 136 had left the production line. The delays in the F3A program were the source of several Congressional hearings. Because of the controversy, the Navy terminated Brewster's F3A contract on July 1, 1944 after 738 had been built. That month, the Navy closed down the Brewster factory itself, marking the end of the line for the company.
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