All My Sons is one of the most treasured American plays of the 20th Century. It was written by Arthur Miller in 1947 and has been adapted to film twice. But what many people don’t know is that this great piece of American Theatre is based on true, heartbreaking events. This play demonstrates that theatre can make an impact and can get ordinary people involved and passionate on real world problems.
It is the story of a family whose son Larry is MIA during World War II. Though many in his family have accepted that he is most likely dead, his mother will not give up hope. Throughout the journey of the play, it is revealed that Larry’s father Joe was arrested for shipping out faulty aircraft engines which were responsible for the deaths of 21 pilots. When Larry heard about his father’s involvement in the deaths, he couldn’t bear living knowing his father’s guilt, and he killed himself.
Upon hearing why his son killed himself, Joe agrees to turn himself in and goes to pack his things. Once in the house, we hear a gunshot. Joe kills himself in a sad attempt to rid his family of the problems he has caused them and perhaps also to stop his family from hating him. It is a great piece of theatre, but what many people don’t know is that Miller based it on true events. His mother-in-law pointed out in an Ohio newspaper. The real thing is just as chilling.
From 1941 to 1943, the Curtiss Aeronautical plant in Lockland, Ohio produced aircraft engines during wartime. Officials at Lockland insisted on high engine production levels, resulting in a significant percentage of engines that did not meet Army Air Force (AAF) inspection standards. These defective engines were nevertheless approved by inspectors for shipment and knowingly installed in U.S. military aircrafts. The carelessness of the company was responsible for the deaths of many soldiers. After investigation, it was later revealed that Wright company officials at Lockland had conspired with civilian technical advisers and Army inspection officers to approve substandard or defective aircraft engines for military use.
Army Air Force technical adviser Charles W. Bond testified that he had been “wined and dined” by Wright company officials; He was dismissed by the Army in 1943 for “gross irregularities in inspection procedure. Miller wanted to reflect the pragmatic reality of wartime profiteering that coexisted with idealism and patriotism. He said, “everybody knew that a lot of hanky-panky was going on … A lot of illicit fortunes were being made, a lot of junk was being sold to the armed services, we all knew that. The average person was violating rationing. All the rules were being violated every day but you wanted not to mention it” Arthur Miller did an incredible job at converting these true events into a theatrical masterpiece and bringing this tragedy to the eyes of the public.
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