History of the E-Award to Collins Radio During WW II
by: Rod Blocksome, AACLA Secretary

World War II began on September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The war expanded over the next months as Great Britain, France, and other European countries were drawn in. It was 27 months before the United States would enter the war when the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

In 1939 the Collins Radio Company was only 6 years old. It was located at 2920 First Avenue, with 150 employees and annual sales of $504,000. A gradual expansion started and with financial help from the Navy, construction of a new plant on 35th Street was started in the summer of 1940 and completed by December 1940. Employment at Collins Radio Company had grown to over 500 by the time the U.S. entered the war a year later. Industrial production dramatically increased all across the U.S. during the war and Collins Radio Company was no exception. By war’s end in August 1945, the company employment was over 3,500.

The U.S. Government instituted the “E-Award” to recognize excellence among the approximate 85,000 U.S. companies engaged in production for the war effort.

The “E” Award was granted only to facilities which were particularly outstanding in production for the War and Navy Departments. The two main factors were quality and quantity of production. Other factors included:

  a Overcoming production obstacles
  b. Low rate of absenteeism
  c. Avoidance of work stoppages
  d. Maintenance of fair labor standards
  e. Training of additional labor forces
  f. Effective management
  g. Record on accidents, health, sanitation, and plant protection
  h. Utilization of sub-contracting facilities
  i. Cooperation between management and labor as it affected production
  j. Conservation of critical and strategic materials

The E-Award was given for exceptional performance. It was a big deal to earn an E-Award. By the end of the war, there were 4,283 of the nation's war production facilities that had earned the E-Award. This number represents only 5% of the estimated war plants in the nation. Both prime and sub-contractors were eligible for and received the award. Approximately 50% of the awards went to plants having less than 500 employees. (Note 1)

After receiving the “E” Award flag, plants that maintained an outstanding level of performance were eligible for adding a white star to the flag every six months. The number of U.S. companies that reached each level of the “E” Award were as follows:

  “E” Flag only: 987
  “E” Flag + 1 star: 763
  “E” Flag + 2 stars: 723
  “E” Flag + 3 stars: 776
  “E” Flag + 4 stars: 820
  “E” Flag + 5 stars: 206
  “E” Flag + 6 stars: 8

Collins Radio Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was one of the 206 U.S. Companies to have earned Five Stars on its “E” Flag - thus placing it among the top 5% of the 4,283 companies receiving the “E” Award.

Research into the Collins Column Publications provides the dates of the E-Awards received by the Collins Radio Company:

  July 22, 1942 – Initial E-Award Flag
  February 5, 1943 – One star added to the Flag
  July 18, 1943 – Second star added to the Flag
  July 24, 1944 – Third star added to the Flag
  September 19, 1944 – Fourth star added to the Flag
  August 28, 1945 – Fifth and final star added to the Flag

Collins Radio Company was among only 214 companies out of 85,000 to achieve this level of production excellence. That’s the top 0.25% !

A glimpse of what it took can be found in the September 1943 issue (page 2) of the Collins Column where it describes the changes to the working hours from 8 hours/day for 6 days/week to 10 hours/day for 6 days/week for people on a two-shift basis. For those on a 3-shift basis, the day remained at 8 hours/day but went from 6 days/week to 7 days/week. Production at Main Plant was literally continuous around the clock.

An example of this dedication can be found in photo 1 published on page 7 of the January 1944 Collins Column. The photo was taken on the afternoon of December 31, 1943 just after the production quota for the month had been achieved – the 1,500th ATC (AN/ART-13) Transmitter. That’s an average rate of 50 transmitters per day and they worked on New Year’s Eve to accomplish their quota for the month. Amazing!

The above picture was taken the afternoon of December 31st, as the Transmitter which filled the month’s ATC quota was completed. Elmer Koehn, Superintendent of the department, is wearing a red hair ribbon, while “Slim” Dayhoff prefers the decoration as a necktie. Arthur Collins seems to be pleased with the whole affair, and Chas. Kreuzer is happily looking on.

The Army Navy “E” Award Flag Presentation Ceremony to Collins Radio Company on September 19, 1942. The ceremony took place northwest of the main entrance of Main Plant. Elmcrest golf course is in the background across un-paved 35th Street.

Photo 3 - CLOSE-UP
Arthur Collins is standing behind the American Flag in this photo taken from the roof of Main Plant.

Arthur Collins receiving the E-Flag from Lieutenant Commander Bloom on September 19, 1942.

Susan Collins, Arthur’s daughter, is the little girl in the lower left of the photo (beside the man’s white hat)
facing the camera and held by her mother.
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Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, September 20, 1942
Front Page
Collins Company Gets Army-Navy ‘E’ Flag
by Naomi Doebel

CEDAR RAPIDS industry received its first official award for outstanding war effort at 2:45 p.m. Saturday when the Army-Navy “E” pennant was raised to fly below the Stars and Stripes whipping in a cold wind on the flagstaff in front of the Collins Radio company’s new plant at 855 Thirty-fifth street NE. Four thousand persons stood at attention, then broke into cheers as the huge pennant, with “Army” lettered in white on a red ground, and “Navy” in white on a blue ground, went up. Framed by a gold wreath in the design was a large letter “E”.

Lieut Comdr. J.M. Bloom, executive officer of the pre-flight school at Iowa City, Brig. Gen. Charles H. Grahl, Mayor Frank Hahn, Arthur A Collins, youthful president of the company, representatives of the plant employees, and others taking part in the program were on the bunting draped platform. Below stood the color guard of Hanford Post No. 5, American Legion. Near them were city officials and chief executives of many of the city’s leading industries. Across the road, recognized by only a few, was Lieut. Bill Reed, Marion’s hero of the famous China’s Flying Tigers, who was to be introduced to some of the military men following the ceremony. (Note 2)

Standing close-packed in a reserved section facing the platform were members of families and the 1,200 employees of the Collins Radio plant. All of these, who were employed last July when the Army-Navy production award for high achievement in the production of war equipment was made, will be entitled to wear the prized “E” pins presented Saturday with the pennant.

Significance of this award was emphasized by Lieut. Comdr. Bloom, principal speaker substituting for Capt. E. A. Lofquist. chief of staff for the ninth naval district, who at the last moment found it impossible to keep his appointment in Cedar Rapids. “We have met here today to honor the employees and administration of the Collins Radio company because you have recognized your obligation to our men on the fighting fronts and because you have done an outstanding job furnishing the equipment which we need so desperately today.” said Bloom.

“When the rising tide of war in Europe placed a premium on the production of war equipment, the navy “E” award was extended to embrace the plants and organizations which showed excellence in producing ships, weapons, and equipment for the navy. Then came Pearl Harbor ... and with it a demand for war production such as the world had never known. To meet the situation the Army-Navy production award was established as our fighting forces’ joint recognition of exceptional performance on the production front ... of the determined, persevering, unbeatable American spirit which can be satisfied only by achieving today what yesterday seemed impossible.

Jaws of many of the men tightened as reference was made by Lieut. Comdr. Bloom to the need for behind-the-lines support for the thousands of young Americans on the fighting front.

Brig. Gen. Grahl expressed, on behalf of the armed forces, sincere appreciation of the splendid example established by the workers in the Collins Radio company. “No one has a keener appreciation of the men and women engaged in trial war effort than have men in the armed service themselves,” he said. “The men of the army, the navy, the marine corps and the coast guard have offered their all and if need be, life itself. They are keeping the enemy away from our shores. They have every right to expect that we at home will keep faith with them. There must be a steady flow of arms, equipment and food to them.”

Presentation award ceremonies started promptly at 2:30 p.m. The invocation was given by the Rev. Grant Anderson, pastor of the First Baptist church. Eugene M. Pinney, president of the Chamber of Commerce, presided as chairman and read the telegram received by Mr. Collins from James V. Forrestal, undersecretary of the navy. He said: “Your outstanding production record is deserving of the gratitude of every man in our fighting forces. You men and women of the Collins Radio company have shown yourselves true soldiers in our great production army. My congratulations on the winning of the Army-Navy production award. May it long fly over your plant.”

Music for the ceremony was furnished by a band composed of Cedar Rapids musicians led by W. F. Vesely.

“Believe me, I deserved that award,” a girl worker was overheard saying earnestly as the crowd broke up. William Wilson and Miss Alice Rinderknecht represented the plant employees in accepting the award pins from Brig. Gen. Charles H. Grahl, state director of selective service, and accepted with Arthur A. Collins future production responsibility for the plant and its workers - admonishing the recipients of the “E” pins to wear them with justifiable pride for the contribution they are making to the production of war equipment. The navy “E” award was extended to embrace the plants and organizations which showed excellence in producing ships, weapons, and equipment for the navy.

“During the past several years.” said Collins, “the army and navy have charged our company with the responsibility of designing and building certain important types of radio equipment and have given us their utmost cooperation in its development. This equipment has been in constant use by our armed forces. When our foes struck, neatly soldered wires and brightly machined pieces fashioned by your hands began playing vital roles in resisting the onslaught of the enemy.”

“We now have the solid satisfaction of knowing that our radio sets are another example of American equipment which was soundly conceived and stoutly built. Reports from the services of their performance in the field have been generous and encouraging. We know that we have found the way to our share of victory in modern warfare.”

“Today, with deep gratitude, we are receiving an award which is an honor and also a challenge to accept greater responsibility.”

“Our job is to provide our full share of the lightning-fast radio couriers which will carry vital dispatches, commands, and reports to and from the growing thousands of ships and airplanes fighting a tremendous war extending over the entire world. To do this job each one of us must increase his skill, improve his workmanship, speed his hands, and sharpen his wits. We must not only do the work at hand but also prepare ourselves for many new problems to come. I am confident that you men and women are willing and eager to undertake this job on these terms and to accept the Army-Navy “E” award as a challenge to your spirit, resourcefulness, and steady purpose.”

The seriousness with which the award was received was apparent in the faces of the men and women assembled. With exception of a scattered few girls who giggled nervously, it was a sober crowd.

Newspaper Photo Captions:

Arthur Collins receiving E-Flag at Speaker’s podium: Arthur A. Collins, president of the Collins Radio company, left, holds the folded Army-Navy production award pennant just presented to him by Lieut. Comdr. J. M. Bloom, executive officer at the navy pre-flight training school at Iowa City, at the presentation ceremonies held Saturday on the grounds in front of the Collins plant. This award, which includes “E” pins for the workers, was made in recognition of high achievement in production of war equipment.

E-Flag about to be raised: Presented on the grounds of the Collins Radio company “E Flag” Emblem of high achievement in the production of war equipment, the Army-Navy “E” award is shown just as it was raised Saturday at 2:45 p.m. on the company. It was raised by Andrew Coleman, left, and Roy W. Decker, right, members of the color guard of Hanford post No. 5 American Legion.

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Note 1 - Reference: http://usautoindustryworldwartwo.com/Army-Navy E Awards/Army-Navy E Awards-page-4.htm
Note 2 - For details about Bill Reed, take a look at this article written by Cary J. Hahn in the Marion Times Newspaper for May 20, 2009: http://www.mariontoday.org/times/article.php?id=632
Identification of Individuals
The following close-up photo of the stage attempts to identify the individuals at the E-Award Ceremony on September 19, 1942.
1 - Bob Gates2 - ??3 - ??
4 - Brig. Gen. Charles H. Grahl5 - Arthur Collins6 - Frank Davis
7 - Lt. Cmdr. J. M. Bloom8 - Alice Rinderknecht9 - ??
10 - ??11 - Gene Pinney12 - ??
13 - ??14 - John “Slim” Dayhoff15 - ??
Others likely on stage but so far not identified:
Frank Hahn, Ceder Rapids Mayor; Ref. Grant Anderson, First Baptist Church; William Wilson, Collins Radio