Willard F. Rockwell, Sr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1888. He began his career as an engineer in 1909 and by 1918 was the Vice-President in charge of Engineering and Manufacturing for the Torben¬sen Axle Company in Cleveland, Ohio.
During World War I, he was commis¬sioned a major in the Quartermaster Corps and helped to develop standard mobile equipment for the Army, particularly military truck axles and five-ton rear axle drives. He took over the small Wisconsin Parts Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1919, where he developed a substantial market for worm drive axles as truck production in the United States began booming.
During the 1920s, he spent some of his firm's time and money to develop experimental models of truck and tank trans¬missions and drives for the Ordnance Corps since Congress had declined to do so.
His firm was absorbed by the Timken-Detroit Axle Company, which made him Chairman of the Board in 1940 after he helped guide it through the Great Depression of the previous decade. By 1953, several of the firms he had previously led were amalgamated into the Rockwell Spring and Axle Company, renamed the Rockwell Standard Corporation in 1958.
During World War II, Rockwell Standard produced 80 percent of the axles employed in heavy-duty Army vehicles. The 2-1/2 ton general purpose truck with four wheel drive, which he helped to design, was later described as one of the six secret weapons which had won the war. During World War II, he was appointed assistant to the Chief of the Motor Transport Division of the Army and later Director of Production and Procurement in the U.S. Maritime Commission. Mr. Rockwell died in 1978.