While the people of Carrier adjusted with the rest of the world to wartime hardships, they also felt the personal loss of President J. Irvine Lyle, who died on June 7, 1942. Lyle was remembered as a great industry pioneer, and as the man who, 40 years before, had a chance meeting on a streetcar with young Willis Carrier that began a long and fruitful partnership. Carrier would remember Lyle simply as “my partner and my best friend.”
Cloud Wampler was named president on June 25, 1942. Meanwhile, when many 66-year-olds might be pondering retirement, Willis Carrier grew energized by the urgent needs of World War II.
In 1942, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics awarded Carrier Corporation the contract to install an air-conditioning system in its wind tunnel in Cleveland, Ohio. This was a project so difficult, Willis Carrier remembered, that “the task seemed impossible when I first tackled it.” However, with the same tenacity that marked his entire career—from the original Sackett & Wilhelms installation of modern air conditioning, to the Atlas Powder Company during World War I, to making ice at Madison Square Garden, to the Robinson Deep gold mine—Carrier would make the seemingly impossible possible.
The result was a success so brilliant that it was said to have contributed greatly to hastening the end of global hostilities.
While conversion to war production meant radical changes for many manufacturers, Carrier’s standard equipment, including central air conditioning for productivity and refrigeration for food preservation, required little modification. The military also took advantage of the company’s exceptional engineering talent, which set about producing classified equipment like airplane engine mounts, sight hoods for guns, tank adapters and the “hedgehog,” a highly successful anti-submarine bomb discharger.
Ironically, war production also benefited from the work Carrier engineers had done in the 1920s and ’30s to bring comfort air to department stores.
Tiffany & Co., Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Gimbels in New York all sacrificed their air-conditioning installations to the war, as did Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Washington, D.C., Marshall Field’s in Chicago and J.L. Hudson in Detroit. Nearly 7,000 tons of air conditioning was removed from comfort air installations and reinstalled to support production by companies like B.F. Goodrich in Texas and Pratt & Whitney in Kansas City, which would become sister companies to Carrier decades later under United Technologies.
On September 11, 1941, before 1,800 personnel in the courtyard of Carrier's Syracuse plant, the United States Bureau of Naval Ordnance awarded Carrier Corporation the bureau's flag and the Navy "E" pennant. This gave Carrier employees the right to wear the Navy "E" badge showing their excellence in fulfilling naval contracts. Three years later, on November 10, 1944, Carrier became one of only 14 companies to add five stars, the maximum number possible, to its original award.
To celebrate the rapid production of new naval and merchant vessels, September 27, 1941, was designated "Liberty Fleet Day" by the U.S. Maritime Commission. Carrier provided air conditioning or refrigeration for 11 of the 14 new vessels launched that day, and 258 of the sister ships that followed.
The demands of war did not stop Carrier leadership from preparing for the future. In May 1943, a postwar forum attended by planners from nearly 20 companies posed the question, "What are you going to do when the telephone call comes from Washington cancelling war contracts?" Close observers might have caught a glimpse of that answer in 1943 when Carrier helped solve the difficulties encountered in the manufacture of the new wonder drug, penicillin. The following year, Carrier equipment was installed in Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio, for use in laboratory experiments aimed at conquering malaria.
Postwar planning involved the entire company. An article in the The Saturday Evening Post featured the new Carrier Institute of Business, a unique program that brought management and employees together to discuss the company's future.
By 1945, Carrier engineers had developed a new line of reciprocating compressors and a new line of food freezers, and completed redesign of its bus air conditioning and centrifugal refrigerating products.
The first Dealer Course was held as the company reorganized to separate "direct sales" and "dealer sales." In February 1946, Carrier sponsored its first postwar national sales meeting with 300 dealers and distributors attending, and later that year acquired the Thompson Road, Syracuse, New York, facilities from the United States government. The TR-1 building, a 660,000-square-foot plant described as "the largest and most modern facilities in the world for the manufacture of air conditioning and refrigeration," soon began production of centrifugal refrigeration machines.
As peacetime orders grew, the company began to aggressively promote its Weathermaker line for stores and offices, reminding customers that Carrier had introduced the first packaged air conditioner to the world in 1931. The promise of the Weathermaker was to not waste "one square foot of valuable business floor space." In recognition of these simpler commercial and consumer products, the company invited customers to "contact your Carrier dealer."
By 1950, the global market was roaring back.
Carrier opened a branch organization in Johannesburg to serve South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Mozambique. The company formed a new branch in Singapore to serve as Carrier headquarters for South Asia. Carrier provided air conditioning for rayon mills in Mexico and India and textile mills in Pakistan and Puerto Rico, and sent two of the largest centrifugal chillers ever sold by Carrier International to Polymer Corporation Ltd. in Ontario, Canada. Cold-storage and ice-making plants were constructed in Greece, France, India, Japan, Portugal, Morocco, Israel and Venezuela. Carrier equipment was installed in cracker plants in Mexico, breweries in Colombia and El Salvador, and confectionery plants in India and Venezuela.
Comfort air also continued to make significant inroads. The first large deployment of Carrier's Conduit Weathermaster Air Conditioning System in Europe supplied comfort for the Industricentrum Building in Helsinki, Finland. Large installations were also planned for the new National Savings Bank in Santiago, Chile, and for the Bridgestone Tire Building in Japan.
With the end of World War II, Willis Carrier and his wife set off on a well-earned, three-month trip to South America. Visiting 30 cities, Dr. Carrier was treated as a celebrity everywhere he went.
Not long after his return, however, doctor's orders required that he slow his pace. In February 1948, he was named Chairman Emeritus of Carrier Corporation and could still be glimpsed occasionally in the office. More often, he welcomed a steady stream of visitors to his home. Even then, Dr. Carrier would rarely be seen without a yellow legal pad and his trusty slide rule nearby, pondering a complex problem.