John Deere Military Involvement

posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 in Blogs

This past weekend, West Central Equipment was honored to be a part of a Military Appreciation Event at Z&M Harley Davidson. To make this event more meaningful then just having equipment on display and talk about the military discounts offered, we wanted to make it more personal to the veterans who are going to be attending the event. While knowing John Deere has multiple Military equipment, most never knew that John Deere was actually involved more then making military grade equipment, they formed their own U.S. Army Battalion.

 On August 15, 1942, less than a year after the United States entered World War II, Deere & Company issued a bulletin to John Deere employees and dealers and their employees. “The War Department,” it stated, and has asked the employees and our dealers to form a U.S. Army Battalion, made up entirely of men enlisted from our organization, for service as a maintenance unit for keeping mechanized combat equipment constantly in order at an established base.

Nearly 950 men applied, including 642 who eventually enlisted. More than two-thirds came from John Deere dealerships. Robert Tarbell of the John Deere Plow Co., in Syracuse, New York, was appointed commanding officer. Deere CEO Charles Deere Wiman, a World War I veteran, resigned his position at Deere & Company to accept a commission as colonel of the Ordnance Battalion. But at the request of the War Production Board, he instead returned to civilian status to serve as director of the farm machinery and equipment division of the War Production Board, based in Washington, D.C.

The John Deere Battalion was comprised of five companies: Headquarters, E, F, G, and H. Sullivan was assigned to Company F for the duration of his service.

By the end of World War II, nearly 5,000 John Deere employees had entered military service. Thousands more employees supported the effort at home through scrap drives, Victory Gardens, fuel rationing, war bonds and more. Projects at Deere factories included manufacturing components for tanks, wagons, and airplanes, including tail wheels for the P-47 fighter plane, bomb bay doors for the Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, MG-1 military tractors, and complete mobile laundry units. Also, with the production of tractors limited by war-time regulations, Deere acquired more than 1,000 government contracts and subtracts from 1941 to 1943, and at its peak, the company produced 1,000 transmissions per month, with a total of 22,000 over the entire time of war. 

In 1955 Sullivan traveled to Moline, Illinois, for the first reunion of the John Deere Battalion, a reunion that occurred regularly until 2000.