Boeing Built An Artificial Town On Top Of Its Rooftop In WW2

This year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. During what was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history, extra security measures had to be taken. Between 1944 and 1946, a seemingly tranquil neighborhood could be seen from the skies over King County, Washington. However, this town was actually built on top of Boeing Plant 2 as a disguise for the production factory.

Plant-2 Village
In a bid to provide camouflage for Boeing’s Plant 2, a 26-acre make-believe small town was constructed. Photo: Boeing

Top priority

Plant 2 was built in 1936 and went on to host the production of some of Boeing’s key aircraft in the decades to follow. Planes manufactured in at this site include the 307, 377, and the initial 737.

However, it was the production of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress that caused the American manufacturer to hide its new plant just before the end of the war.

Boeing B-17
Boeing machinists make the final adjustments to a B-17 in 1942. Photo: Boeing

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, fewer than 200 B-17s were in service with the US Army. However, following the incident, the demand for the four-engined heavy bomber went through the roof.

Altogether, 6,981 of the planes were produced with the help of the factory until April 1945. Surveillance and strikes from the air became a common theme within the arena of WWII. With such a sensitive operation occurring at the site, Boeing had to implement a clever plan to keep its project under wraps.

5,000th Boeing B-17
The 5,000th Boeing B-17 built since Pearl Harbor was built at Plant 2 in 1944. Photo: Getty Images

Something out of the movies

According to The Seattle Times, this “Boeing Wonderland” was made of burlap, canvas, and chicken wire. Meanwhile, the lawns and trees were actually just chicken feathers and spun glass.

Each building was just four feet tall and they were made of wood, which helped create the illusion of the commune. Even the street signs read “Synthetic Street” and “Burlap Boulevard”.

Designer G.W Dennis has been attributed to helping with the setup of this project. Additionally, Bored Panda shares that Hollywood set designer John Stewart Detlie helped fool potential attackers with the same techniques used on movie production sets.

A single Flying Fortress had cost US$200,000, which is nearly $4 million today after inflation. With thousands of this aircraft being produced each year, no risks were taken by the US Army and Boeing. Moreover, these extra measures included the hiring of actors to add even more realism.

Flying Fortresses
B-17 Flying Fortresses in an assembly line. Photo: Getty Images

Significant operations

The Army Corps of Engineers knocked down the synthetic cottages, trees, and lawns in 1946, the year after the war was over.

However, before its dismantlement, 30,000 workers helped produce 300 B-17s a month during a time of international uncertainty. More than 64,000 tons of bombs were dropped by B-17s on Germany alone during the war.

Boeing B-17
The 6,981st and final B-17 rolled off the Plant 2 assembly line on April 9, 1945. Photo: Boeing

Plant 2 went on to help produce more military jets such as the B-47 Stratojet and the B-52 Stratofortress. However, it also found success in building commercial jets such as the first three Boeing 737s. The building was eventually demolished just ten years ago, after 74 years standing along the Duwamish River.

Simple Flying reached out to Boeing for more information on this rooftop neighborhood. We will update the article with any further comments.

Were you aware of this piece of Boeing history? Let us know in the comment section.