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William S. Knudsen


William S. Knudsen joined the Ford Motor Company in 1912 as manager of the company’s 27 plants. During World War I, Knudsen was in charge of manufacturing Eagle boats for the Navy. Before leaving Ford in 1921 he had installed assembly plants in several foreign countries. He resigned from Ford to become general manager of Ireland and Matthews Manufacturing Company, but in less than a year he was called to Chevrolet Motor Company. Two years later he became president and general manager of Chevrolet, as well as vice president of General Motors. Under Knudsen’s guidance, Chevrolet in 1928 switched from a four to a six-cylinder engine, and within a year had produced well over a million of the new models. After becoming president of General Motors in 1937, Knudsen in 1940 resigned his office to take a position on the National Defense Advisory Commission. During the war he served with several government agencies, usually acting as a coordinator and general “trouble shooter”. So thorough was his work that in 1944, Knudsen, then a three star general, received the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal.

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