Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Tulsa Bomber Plant

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


As World War II erupted in Europe in the late 1930s and the United States mobilized its own war industry, civic leaders aggressively promoted construction of a new aircraft assembly facility in Tulsa. The U.S. War Department agreed to build a plant if Tulsa provided land and necessary runways. Tulsa citizens quickly responded, passing a $750,000 bond issue in March 1941, enabling the city to purchase 750 acres east of the municipal airport and to construct the runways. On May 2, 1941, ground-breaking took place for the facility that became known as Air Force Plant 3, and Donald W. Douglas, owner of the Douglas Aircraft Company, dedicated the plant on August 15, 1942.

The Douglas Aircraft Company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, operated the Tulsa facility. During World War II it produced A-24 Dauntless dive bombers, B-24 Liberator strategic bombers, and A-26 Invader medium bombers. From 1953 to 1957 during the Cold War, B-47 Stratojet strategic bombers and B-66 Destroyer medium bombers were manufactured. More than twenty-three thousand people worked in the plant during peak World War II production.

The 4,004-foot-long, 200-foot-wide assembly structure provided more than eight hundred thousand square feet of floor space. Its forty-foot headroom and crane hoists were designed to process large, multiengine aircraft. A St. Louis and San Francisco Railway (SL&SF) spur line brought aircraft subassemblies and raw materials into one end of the building, and completed aircraft emerged from the other end. Built without windows, the plant operated under blackout conditions. In addition to the assembly building, the plant included a boiler house, cafeteria building, guardhouse, hanger, maintenance building, office building, paint shop, pump house, and police building.

Tinker Air Force Base (in Oklahoma City) used the plant for storage after the plant ceased aircraft production at the end of World War II. In 1951, as the Cold War with the Soviet Union intensified, the plant reopened, producing and modifying aircraft until 1991. The plant also produced missile-guidance systems, space-vehicle components, electronic countermeasure devices, and stealth technologies during that time period.

Kent A. Schell


Danney Goble, Tulsa: Biography of the American City (Tulsa, Okla.: Council Oak Books, 1997).

Tulsa (Oklahoma) Tribune, 14 April 1992, 15 August 1992.

Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 15 and 16 August 1942.

Browse By Topic

Twentieth Century


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Kent A. Schell, “Tulsa Bomber Plant,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=TU006.

Published January 15, 2010
Last updated August 2, 2023

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.