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Boeing and U.S. Army Hid an Entire Airplane Factory During World War II

Fake suburb built over Seattle facilities to hide crucial factory from Japanese bombers.

History By

In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack that dragged the United States into World War II, the American military high command worried that an airplane factory essential to the war effort could next be in the Japanese cross-hairs.

So the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertook an unprecedented feat of engineering to hide it.

The result? An entire fake neighborhood built over the Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle, hiding the facilities from the aerial view of potential bombers, as profiled on 99% Invisible.

Rows of B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers are under production at a Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington. 1942-1945. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Thirty thousand workers inside the 1.7 million-square-foot plant would be used to assemble B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-29 Superfortresses, among other aircraft that would be used to fight the Japanese in the War of the Pacific.

So it was essential to camouflage the place. The Army hired Hollywood set designer John Stewart Detlie to help produce fake streets, sidewalks, parks and housing exteriors over a 23-acres plywood facade, as 99% Invisible chronicles.

Though the camouflage was ultimately ditched, the factory remained in operation until 2010.

Read full story at 99% Invisible