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Dr. Dean C. Allard
Director of Naval History

When I was talking with Jon Sumida as we shared coffee, I asked, "who was it who said that amateurs study strategy and professionals study logistics?"

In any case, at least since the days of the French Revolution, when those famous musket factories were established in the parks of Paris to provide French armies with the means to repel foreign invaders, it has been a truism in military history that modern warfare involves the mobilization of the total economic resources of the nation. The ability to enforce economic discipline is a commentary on the powers of the modern nation-state, whether that state is in the democratic or authoritarian tradition. In listening to today's papers, it may be useful to bear those broad historical perspectives in mind.

And yet, historians of modern military affairs, especially since World War II, also should bear in mind another tradition that may echo the era of limited war that is supposed to have preceded the French revolutionary era in Europe. The wars that the United States fought after 1945, including the protracted conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, certainly did not involve general industrial mobilization. It is possible that our examination this morning of the World War II case will throw some light on the reasons American postwar conflicts saw, at best, only limited economic mobilization.

On behalf of the Naval Historical Center, I welcome all of you. I know we can look forward to a stimulating morning.

Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Head, Contemporary History Branch
Naval Historical Center

From August 2nd, 1990 to February 24, 1991, the world watched in amazement as the United States orchestrated the rapid buildup in the Persian Gulf of an allied air, land, and sea force of over 500,000 men and women. The American ability to deploy forces by sealift and airlift half-way around the globe from the U.S. East and West coasts, from Europe, and from the Western Pacific awed most observers. Equally impressive was the ability of U.S. industry to supply the armed forces with a vast array of technologically superior weapons and equipment; hard-to-detect Stealth fighters, deadly accurate Tomahawk and Patriot missile systems, fast and lethal M-1 tanks, maneuverable HUMVEEs, protective body armor, and Meals Ready to Eat, MREs. Civilian workers at a number of American defense plants worked long shifts to keep material flowing to the troops in the field. The speed and skill with which the country mobilized resources for war had much to do with the allied coalition's victory in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq.

As impressive as it was, the Desert Shield/Desert Storm mobilization program pales in comparison with the monumental national effort to arm, equip, and supply U.S. and Allied forces in World War II. The figures are mind-boggling. In four years, American industry turned out 296,000 airplanes, 102,000 tanks, and 372,000 artillery pieces. By 1944, Detroit's 67-acre Willow Run plant produced one B-24 long-range bomber every hour of the day and night. Navy and civilian shipyards launched 87,620 naval vessels, from mighty battleships and aircraft carriers to landing craft, harbor patrol boats, and simple-design Liberty ships. To give punch to these engines of war, ordnance factories all over America poured out 47 million tons of artillery ammunition and 44 billion rounds of small-arms ammunition. This mobilization of resources for war, which the world had never seen before, and hopefully will never see again, cost the United States $183 billion.

This prodigious effort was crowned with success because the American people generally believed in the country's war aims, the leaders of government and industry were able to fashion a national program, and the United States possessed the essential business know-how, skilled workforce, and material resources to do the job. Nonetheless, there were many potholes along the road to success. The government and the military services had to contend with industries that were reluctant to switch from civilian to war production, sometimes put out inferior finished goods, and sought to reap huge profits from their war work. Industry was faced with overlapping government bureaucracies that often changed priorities and issued reams of red tape in the management of war production. The defense industry also had to compete with other sectors of the economy for scarce raw materials and labor. The loss of skilled workers to military service and to better paying jobs, their replacement by females and less skilled male workers also imposed special demands on the manufacturing sector.

In the post-Cold War era, the size of the armed forces is being reduced and weapons programs are being scaled back or cut altogether. Soon the industrial sector devoted to defense may resemble that of the late 1930s. Thus, our study of government-industry interaction and the mobilization for World War II may be a beacon for the future.

11 July 2003