December 8, 2016
By David Nordby The Brillion News
BRILLION – Ariens Museum held an open house last Saturday to show off their latest additions. The turnout was strong, and for good reason too. The museum has been designed to bring the company’s entire history together and tell its stories of the past – and there are plenty of them.
In 1943, Ariens Company had 35 employees who were doing mostly contract war work during World War II.
Ariens did work for the Navy and made maintenance tools for the Air Force. Ariens Company, which was too small to get government contracts themselves for war-related work, coordinated with Heil Company in Milwaukee. That relationship eventually helped lead to a government contract that would change the company forever.
On September 1, the United States Army Air Corps decided they needed 300 T-9 paracaissions in order to protect troops from counter attacks after the aerial invasion of Sicily on July 9. All the government had was a drawing of what they needed and after General Motors told the government they would need six months to do the project, the government looked elsewhere.
The job needed many in Brillion, whose population was around 1,200 at the time. Ariens went into 24-hour scheduling. Farmers and women were brought in. High school boys were hired for after school hours. They had help from subcontractors and suppliers and soon a hard-hitting production line was developed.
The final few days featured everyone working at once around the clock and the paracaissions getting loaded onto the train on the nearby railroad tracks. The work was down to the wire, including aluminum castings that weren’t delivered until two days before the deadline. Somehow the work got done and the 300 paracaissions were shipped on time to New York.
The government was appreciative of Ariens’ response and they let them know their work was commendatory. So much so that they needed another 199 done in one week. “So same process, but now they knew how to do it,” longtime Ariens employee, historian and museum volunteer, Earl Herring said.
Of course even after Ariens’ work was completed it wasn’t without drama. The shipment missed the ship leaving the east coast, but a PT boat was loaded and caught up with the convoy and they were used in the invasion of Sicily.
To commemorate their work, on October 30, 1943, Ariens Company became one of few Wisconsin companies to ever receive the Army Ordinance Banner. A ceremony took place in Brillion where the statues of the man and machine stands to this day in front of the Ariens plant and in front of city hall.
Please see the complete story, with photos of the updated Ariens Museum, in the December 8, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.