Arsenal of Democracy
The American Automobile Industry in World War II
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Series: Great Lakes Books Series
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
This book grew indirectly out of my earlier work in automotive industry history, including the histories of the Chrysler Corporation, the Dodge Brothers, Nash Motors, and the Hudson Motor Car Company. In the course of my research on those automakers, I encountered several “snapshots” or “glimpses” of the contributions made by American automobile manufacturers to the astounding production...
The story of America’s monumental production achievements during World War II, sometimes expressed as the “arsenal of democracy,” is a complex, multilayered story that ideally should also include everything that comprised the home front. This book is not intended to be a comprehensive reexamination of all of the economic, social, and political changes that transpired in the United States from...
One: Preparing for War before Pearl Harbor
As war clouds gathered over Europe and Asia in the late 1930s, U.S. military leaders and President Franklin D. Roosevelt began preparations for war, but only haltingly and quietly at first. Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, and in September of the same year Germany took control of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Hitler swallowed the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and, along...
Two: Planning Defense Production after Pearl Harbor
Within five weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration established a new government agency, the War Production Board (WPB), to control and coordinate defense production, as well as the Supply, Priorities and Allocation Board (SPAB). With the outbreak of war, the automobile industry fundamentally changed its attitude toward war production. The industry soon worked effectively...
Three: Aircraft Engines and Propellers
This chapter will highlight the work of a half-dozen automakers in producing two significant aircraft components: engines and propellers. The history of the production of these key components is largely unknown, although vital to the aircraft industry. Because they are not very sexy, aircraft engines and propellers have not generated the interest that fighter and bomber aircraft have. Because no single...
Four: Aircraft and Aircraft Components
The production of military aircraft was the archetypical example of the “production
miracle” achieved by American industry during World War II. American
aircraft production, a paltry 5,856 units in 1939, peaked at 96,318 aircraft in
1944 before falling off to 49,761 aircraft in the final year of the war.
This chapter will examine the operation of the procurement system as it applied to aircraft. The...
Five: Tanks and Other Armored vehicles
At first glance, the automobile manufacturers would appear well positioned to fabricate and assemble tanks and other armored vehicles for the war effort. Tanks, after all, have a mechanical drivetrain much like that of a car or truck, with an engine, transmission, driveshaft, and the like. However, the differences between tanks and standard motor vehicles are in fact more significant than their...
Six: Jeeps, Trucks, and Amphibious vehicles
In stark contrast to the Ordnance Department’s decision to use five different engines in Sherman tanks, the Quartermaster Corps, which was responsible for providing the military with trucks, moved decisively toward standardization of truck designs before the onset of World War II, and for good reason. During World War I, American troops in France had more than two hundred different makes of...
Seven: Guns, Shells, Bullets, and Other War Goods
The automobile industry’s production of aircraft engines, aircraft components, complete airplanes, tanks and other armored vehicles, and trucks of all types was the industry’s major contribution to the war effort. Automobile manufacturers did not make long-range artillery for the army or navy but did produce a substantial quantity of anti-aircraft guns and machine guns. The industry also manufactured...
Eight: The New Workers
Rapidly expanding defense production, especially in 1942 and 1943, created the need for an expanded workforce for the automobile and parts makers engaged in war production. Industries outside the automobile industry, especially those engaged in building aircraft, ships, and munitions of all types, also developed an enormous appetite for more workers to staff their plants. Simultaneously, the growing...
Nine: The Achievement
When the United States officially entered World War II following Pearl Harbor, a powerful alliance between the military services and the automobile industry was already in place, resulting in a system for procuring and producing military equipment in significant quantities. President Franklin Roosevelt developed and nurtured this system with the cooperation and assistance of key leaders...