What was the WWII Army-Navy “E” Award?
What is so great about the award?
How did Bliley receive it FOUR times?
These questions and more will soon be answered! Let's take a look at this interesting and historic story, written by our founder's son Charles Bliley, found deep inside the Bliley Vault.
Discovering a Strange Flag
My father, F. Dawson Bliley, died when I was nine years old. I barely knew him and wanted to know him better as I grew up.
I knew my dad created a ham radio “shack” in a room in the finished attic of our family home. I began to explore it looking at various artifacts of his life.
To get to the shack you had to climb two long flights of stairs to the attic. After you opened the door to the room, you would immediately notice a flag hanging on the long hallway wall. It was big, colorful and read, “Army” on the left side, “Navy” on the right side with a big “E” in the middle. But, what was this flag all about?
When I asked my mother and others, I was merely told it was awarded to the company in World War II for its “efficiency”---that is what the “E” on it meant. That was back in the late 1950s and the flag remained a mystery until recently.
This year, I was going through the Bliley Electric Archives in my home and discovered a wealth of material about this award. Then, I went on to the Web to some research. What I discovered was it was no routine award like a pat on the back for a job well done. It was an award presented to less than 5% of the 85, 000 defense contractors since August of 1942. That was a pretty exclusive group. And, the company received a total of four of these prestigious awards.
But, how and why?
Here is a photo of what the flag looked like:
A Change in Military Communications Technology
In 1939, a U.S. military task force decided to make communications more reliable by using crystals for frequency control on all transmitters and most receivers. This was a major change in communication practices in anticipation of entering the world war. The industry was now expected to support the all Allied Forces and with new technology---the crystal. The Signal Corps created the Quartz Crystal Section (QCS) to oversee the crystal industry build-up and monitor the results. It was headed by Lt. Col. James D. O'Connell.
At the time, there were but a few manufacturers in the U.S. and Bliley’s was among the largest with just over 40 employees, a 30% share of the ham radio market and some commercial customers. There were about 15 competitors in a relatively new and unregulated industry.
Bliley’s Supports Our Military’s Stockpile Build-Up
Bliley Electric, like thousands of companies, was greatly impacted by government interests in expanding existing manufacturing facilities, or funding entrepreneurs to build new facilities to support the war efforts. Bliley Electric was one of the first contractors to supply crystals to the military.
Bliley’s received large orders from the Signal Corp that demanded a relatively quick expansion of existing facilities. The current plant in the Union Station next to the railway tracks was too small to support the demand, and they received loan to build dedicated facility about a mile away. Total soon employment blossomed from less than 50 to ultimately 2,000 over the course of several years.
This was a big job. Ramping up production was essential without compromising quality was a major challenge, but they did their best to support this important mission. By the end of the war, the crystal industry had produced 30 million crystal units.
What Did It Take to Receive This Award?
The criteria for the award had six principal criteria:
• Quality and quantity of production
• Overcoming of production obstacles
• Avoidance of work stoppages
• Maintaining of fair labor standards
• Training of additional labor forces
• Good record keeping in relation to health and safety
These were not easy goals to achieve, especially for a rapidly expanding company. Most of the employees had never worked in a manufacturing environment nor had practical experience with mechanical processes. Virtually everyone had to be trained on the basics, and advanced manufacturing techniques.
You will notice the first item on the list was “quality”. Bliley’s had always been seen as a producer of quality products, but never at a rate of hundreds of thousands of crystals a month! But, they did it!
Bliley’s First Army-Navy “E” Award
Bliley’s was chosen by Colonel J. D. O'Connell as one of the principal suppliers. He led a committee within the QCS to monitor and honor those companies who achieved the six goals.
The first Army-Navy E Award was presented on December 9, 1942 by Colonel O'Connell. It was a big celebration and a true honor for the entire company. It was held in a large auditorium, ceremonies broadcast on a local AM radio station, local dignitaries were in attendance and eight army and navy brass. All employees at the time were invited to attend the ceremony from the rank and file.
Lapel Pin, Ceremony Invitation, and Program
President, F. Dawson Bliley Accepting the Award
L/R: Colonel O’Connell, Pres. Frank Dawson Bliley, Commander Ralph Walling, & VP Charles Collman
This award became the focus of an advertising campaign in trade journals. Why not? It was a major achievement.
Three More Awards in Just Two Years!
Not only did the company earn the award, it also earned three more times and three stars to be paced on the first awarded flag; an achievement that the company certain could be proud to receive.
“Plants which maintained an outstanding record of performance for six months after receiving the original Army-Navy “E” Award were granted a Star Award, indicated by a white star on their “E” flag. Additional stars could be won by continued outstanding performance for succeeding six-month periods until the flag carried four stars, after which the interval was increased to one year.”
Source: War Employment, Bureau of Public Relations, Press Branch, announcement, December 5, 1945
This was truly an honor, and out of 85,000 government contractors in all industries, only 5% received this award. Of that five percent, only a small number received it multiple times. This was truly an honor for all involved!
Fourth Award Flag, Circa 1944
Quality was one criterion to win the award. This was nothing new; Bliley’s had a focus on quality from its infancy in 1930. To transfer that goal to largescale production required a lot of work with mostly inexperienced personnel. But, it was done!
Some things have changed, but not these two vital qualities over the last 87 years. Quality continues to be the most important product criteria, ranking just above another Bliley interest—innovation.
Army-Navy “E” Award Lapel Pin
If you would like to read more about more information and images about the Army-Navy "E" Award can be found by clicking here. You may also enjoy reading Chuck's previous story about Dawson Bliley’s Christmas letter of 1929, and how this experience was formative in starting our company. Click here to read the story.
About The Author
Chuck Bliley is the third son of the company founder, Frank Dawson Bliley, who died in 1955 when Chuck was nine years old. As a young teenager, he followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a licensed radio amateur at the age of 14. In 2016, we invited him to contribute to the company by writing short stories of the company’s early years. He welcomed this opportunity to tell some of his favorite stories from his archives to a new audience through the company's blog.
A brief biography can be found on his Web site.