In early 1941 The Food Machinery Corporation, a manufacturer of farm machinery and equipment such as pump sprayers, canning equipment, plows, and tractors, won a contract from the War Department to produce amphibious vehicles known as LVT's (landing vehicles tracked). The LVT's were based on a design for a vehicle invented by Donald Roebling. Roebling's vehicle was known as an Alligator and its purpose was to operate as a rescue vehicle in swampy or low lying areas where boats and automobiles were unable to go.
The Food Machinery Corporation produced a prototype modified for military use and was awarded a contract for an initial order of 200 LVT's. The company began building the vehicles, also known as "Water Buffalos," at its existing plant in Dunedin, Florida, but quickly determined that it was not adequate to meet production needs. In March 1941 the company began construction on a new facility in Lakeland, Florida to produce LVT's exclusively. The plant was completed by the beginning of November and the first LVT's rolled off the assembly line by the end of the year. As demand increased, two other plants in California also began producing the LVT"S and by war's end more than 18,000 had been produced.
Management and employees of the Lakeland facility began jointly publishing a bimonthly company newsletter in March 1944. The newsletter was fairly typical of those produced by defense plants during World War II, stressing safety and vigilance in the plant, promoting war bond drives, and providing news about the war. It also provided a gread deal of information about company employees, including promotions, transfers, and such personal milestones as marriage and the birth of a child.
The newsletters capture a moment in time, the flavor of what corporate iand individual life were like in a defense plant during World War II.