York County’s BAE links BMY and Bofors and battered vehicles in Bair

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A silo in a neighboring farm overlooks BAE’s West Manchester Township (Pa.) plant, where rows of Bradley vehicles are ready for action, in this 2005 York Daily Record/Sunday News file vehicle. (See additional photo below.) Background posts: Jeep prototype has York County WWII roots and All Made in York posts from the start and From Bofors to bikes, Harley plant top hog.

BAE Combat Systems is known for the number of zeros in the defense contracts it frequently pulls down.
And it’s known for the York County-made Hercules Recovery Vehicle that pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein during fighting in Iraq.
But motorists could drive by the farmland between York and Spring Grove and not know this major defense contractor is operating in nearby Bair Station.
Here are some facts about the company, gleaned from BAE Systems history-rich Web site and my “In the Thick of the Fight”:


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After World War II, workers at West Manchester Township’s BMY plant ready tanks for possible combat service in Korea and elsewhere.- BAE traces its history back to 1560 when the Royal Powder Factory was established at Waltham Abbey in Essex. (And the York Daily Record’s 1796 origin seems old.)
- In 1943, Bowen & McLaughlin York, a division of the Harsco Corporation, began manufacturing tanks for armed forces in World War II. Even today, some local folks think of BAE as BMY.
- York countians know the name Bofors because many remember working on those anti-aircraft guns at York Safe & Lock and its successors in World War II. The Swedish company with that name was founded in 1873, and Alfred Nobel owned it for a short time the 1890s. Nobel’s name is linked to the Peace Prize but also with dynamite. He converted Bofors into a modern armaments company. Here’s the Bofors/BAE link: In September 2000, Bofors was acquired by United Defense Industries and in 2005 became part of BAE Systems.
- BMY worked on Sherman tank modifications and repairs after World War II. The Sherman tank was well-known to York countians. Native son Gen. Jacob Loucks Devers helped develop the tank early in World War II.
- In his “Made in York,” Georg Sheets writes about an exposition at the York Fair in 1951. He paints this scene of the BMY exhibit: “The Bowen & McLaughlin display featured a battered Army tank that had just returned from duty in Korea. Next to this gigantic defense vehicle was a similar tank already refurbished by the company’s workers.”
- BMY has a number of subsequent owners. BAE Systems purchased one of those successors, UDI, in June 2005.
Actually, BAE, knowingly or not, helps bring home the cost of war that goes beyond the size of its contracts. Battered military vehicles, fresh from Middle East fighting and strapped to flatbed truck trailers, can sometimes be seen on Route 30 on their way to rehabilitation at BAE.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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