Flying High: PPG’s Remarkable Flags and Military History

If you’ve seen our site, you’ve seen our flagpole.

The Packard Proving Grounds boasts an impressive flagpole positioned on the lawn outside the Lodge House. When the weather is good, our volunteers occasionally honor a commendation given to the PPG during World War II. By flying the PPG’s Army-Navy E-Banner, we share our pride in the PPG’s military history.

Thanks to Board of Trustees member Bruce Webster and PPG volunteer Ray Hollingsworth, our flagpole, flags, and banners are well tended.

“E” for “Excellence”

WWII forced many industries and individuals to set aside “business as usual” and assist America’s efforts in the war. Adapting to the needs of the moment, the Packard Motor Car Company shifted focus from automobiles to tanks and aircrafts. Chrysler Corporation temporarily managed the PPG during this time, and the grounds were referred to as the Chrysler Corp. Tank Arsenal Proving Grounds. Tanks, not luxury automobiles, were put through their paces on the site. Simultaneously, Packard employees were either test driving tanks on-site; or were working at Packard’s East Grand Boulevard location, manufacturing aircraft engines.

As such, the site was recognized for its efforts through the bestowal of the Army-Navy E-Award. This honor was granted to those corporations which assisted in the production of wartime equipment. Like all things Packard, the award was bestowed because these production efforts met a considerably high standard of excellence.

Admittedly, it was Chrysler, not Packard, that was running the official operations on the grounds at the time. “The recipient location is listed as Chrysler Corp., Tank Arsenal Proving Grounds,” explained Bruce Webster, member of the Board of Trustees for the Packard Motor Car Foundation. “The Chrysler Tank Arsenal had earlier won an “E” banner for that location and accumulated three stars by the end of the war.” However, the Army-Navy E-Award was bestowed upon the Proving Grounds specifically. This means that Chrysler’s temporary management of the PPG has no impact on our ability to fly the banner afterwards. But, it does add an interesting layer to the banner’s history, one that we are glad to share with Chrysler.

A ceremonial presentation: The banner’s inaugural flight

The Army-Navy E-Award was presented on Sunday, November 5, 1944 during a commemorative ceremony which took place at the proving grounds. The banner took its first flight following the award’s presentation, and has remained a part of our history ever since. The names of the men and women responsible for this honor are proudly listed in the event program. Not to be forgotten are those individuals who worked at the grounds following the award’s initial grant to the site!

This commendation becomes even more personal to the PPG, however. An employee who worked for Packard during this time returned to the site as a volunteer many years later. “Our own longtime friend Carl Altz (1909-2008) was one of two Packard drivers who joined Chrysler in order to test drive tanks during the war,” related Webster, adding that Altz worked for Chrysler following the closure of the Packard Motor Car Company. “Carl was very proud of his ‘E’ pin and the contribution he made to the war effort.”

“We have a replica [E-banner] donated by Motor City Packards,” continued Webster. “We are thankful for permission granted in 1945 for locations to continue to display these banners with pride and respect.  After 70 years, the banner still complements our Arsenal of Democracy heritage.”

We’re next planning to fly the E-banner on Sunday, October 17th (Michigan weather permitting, of course). So if the skies are clear, consider passing by the PPG to catch a glimpse of our banner as it flies proudly above the grounds.

Many thanks to Bruce Webster for providing the details and images shared in this post.