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GENERAL DISCUSSION

Q. Dr. Dean C. Allard, Naval Historical Center. Dr. Hone, you described FDR's decentralized political vision. Is that basically the Navy's vision of management as well?

A. Dr. Thomas C. Hone. Defense Systems College. I have to say no, because the services did not think politically in that way and they really weren't allowed to and they still aren't allowed to. So I would have to say no.

Q. Allard. Isn't it popular to characterize the Army's style of management as centralized and the Navy's as a decentralized style?

A. Hone. No, I don't think so. I don't think there is any relationship there at all. There is some relationship between Roosevelt and Forrestal because it was Forestalls aid, Eberstadt, who came up with the Controlled Materials Plan, but that was a different kind of relationship. No, I don't think there is any kind of relationship between Roosevelt's approach to it at the highest level and the Navy's decentralized style. I think they are very different things. The Navy had a very different concept than Roosevelt's and the Navy did not like him. It was the President who forced the Navy to convert the light cruisers to light carriers, and it was the President who forced the Navy to build a lot of escort carriers. And the Navy did not want to do either, because they did not want to be stuck with pieces of junk after the war. I understand their perspective but, I also understand his. So I think there was a lot of tension there.

Q. Dr. Jeffrey Clark. Army Center of Military History. All of you addressed one way or another the great masses of material that we produced during World War II. I'm sure you are well aware that in almost every theater though there was a shortage of amphibious shipping, especially LSTs. Often the number and timing of operations seemed to be determined by the number of LSTs, landing ships, tank, and other large landing ships available. Do you know if there was any reason for this, whether for planning or construction? Were there some peculiarities of construction, of authorization of construction of LSTs that would have precluded the United States using its mass production capability to end the problem, at least by late 1944-1945, which apparently it did not?

A. Dr. Gary E. Weir, Naval Historical Center. I'm not as familiar with the LST program as I an with some others, so I can't answer your question exactly.

A. Hone. I'll fall back on the Maritime Commission history by Frederic Lane, I guess it was. I didn't find it until this year. its a fascinating study. Given what he says, I think the answer is that no one could figure out just what the priorities should be until it was too late. They were building Liberty ships, Victory ships, destroyer escorts, and submarines and it was a real problem deciding how many LSTs you needed. By the time they realized it, it was too late to crank up the numbers.

Q. Dr. Michael A. Palmer, Naval Historical Center. I can't give a source, but there was a connection between the industries that produced destroyer escorts, other convoy escorts, and the LSTs and unplanned losses in the North Atlantic in 1942 and 1943 that led to higher production of the escorts. And this led to a corresponding reduction in turning out amphibious ships. That factor messed up their plans.

A. Weir. Also, shifting from one type of vessel to another to yet another while doing conversions was probably the most complex thing you could possibly do. So, in setting your priorities, the LSTs lose as the destroyer escorts go up; what happens when the priorities are reversed? It's difficult to make that transition down at the yards where it needs to be made. It is not difficult to provide the designs, blueprints, and all~ the rest. The capability is there. The stuff is on the drawing boards. They know what they are doing. They have the yards to build them. But, it's shifting that industrial establishment around to a different emphasis that is far more difficult.

Q. Unknown Questioner. On that point right there; does anyone have an idea, regarding the shipbuilding industry in particular, of the difference in the number of ships; in other words, how much capacity was increased during the war? In other words, not just converted from civilian shipbuilding capacity to military but all that was converted.

A. Weir. I can't give you numbers. I can give you some idea of the scope of it though. A great many of the private shipyards tried to mobilize or remobilize navy yards or upgrade a variety of different types of vessels rather than just the one or two they did in the past. There were significant programs, like the one I mentioned at Mare Island, to use private contractors way inland to provide parts of ships; in sections. It was done; it was very imaginative, really. So the scope of it only begins at the shipyards.

Q. Unknown Questioner. I was curious about the skilled labor pool that existed prior to the war. Did the labor pool actually grow significantly?

A. Weir. The labor pool grew but one of the curious things that I found was that Portsmouth-was the champion for example in producing submarines the fastest. The average was a little over nine months per vessel; once they got up to speed, around late 1941 early 1942, they did very well in that. But Electric Boat always produced then cheaper; always. Now Portsmouth labor figures; you're talking about approximately 20,000 people plus Mare Island at its height almost had an equal number as well. EB never exceeded 12,000. Why then, why the discrepancy? Its over approximately a half century of skill in building submarines and focusing just on that to the exclusion of everything else. Electric Boat is a very, very highly skilled organization, not to say Portsmouth was not. But Portsmouth was asked to do a variety of things as well as submarines. You have got more people working at Mare Island and at Portsmouth than you have at EB, but you have cheaper submarines coming out of Electric Boat even though its taking them a little longer.

A. Hone. I'd say, looking at the Maritime Commission figures that I've seen, and going on my memory; when I get back to the office I will check that. I would say that the shipbuilding capacity was tripled. But, to say that is like saying there is no difference between building an aircraft carrier or a battleship versus building a submarine versus building a Liberty ship versus an LST. I would have to say probably the work force was tripled; somewhere in there anyway; not an order of magnitude increase, but a major increase, whereas in some other industries like aircraft production we are talking about order of magnitude increases both in production capacity and labor force. Not so much in tanks, because they went over from automobiles to trucks to tanks. I mean it varies from industry to industry and it also relates to the strategy of the services before the war. If you read the memoirs of Rear Admiral Bowen, head of the Bureau of Ships in the 1930s, he was trying to get the shipyards to shift from making their own machinery and doing everything in the yard to mass production. They would simply take from their suppliers pieces and then assemble vessels using some mass production techniques like the one Henry Kaiser used to build the escort carriers on the West Coast. So we get all these differences from industry to industry and item to item. off the top of my head, I think it's about three times.

Q. Major Charles E. Kirkpatrick, Army Center of Military History. In terms of the magnitude of the effort, before the war started the Army planned that there would have to be sufficient ship construction to move units overseas and that something on the order of a thousand vessels was called for. And, that was not going to happen before about the Ist of July of 1943. The mobilization, training, and preparation of the vessels to move the force all pretty much coincided at the same time. The United States, for many other reasons, would not be able to undertake early offensive operations.

Q. Dr. Terrence Gough, Army Center of Military History. I would like to make a comment on something Tom Hone said. Tom, I believe you said that the 1920 National Defense Act amendments represented a consensus that the next war would have to be fought on the basis of industrial mobilization, as opposed to manpower mobilization; that is, if you're going to field an army, its got to be equipped. Everybody realized that. Well, I argue that that wasn't really so, particularly within the Army. In the 1920s, the combat arms officers on the General Staff were planning for manpower mobilization; that is the general mobilization plan was written as if the rate of manpower mobilization was the driving force. And those officers from the technical services and in the office of the Assistant Secretary of War who were planning for procurement and industrial mobilization had quite a battle to convince the combat arms officers that their position was correct. I believe actually that the manpower planners were never thoroughly convinced, even up to 1940. And, in regard to another point you made about organizational cultures, I think this is what was at work here. These differences between the two groups of planning officers goes back to the line and staff disagreements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. And I think that this is a factor that we have not taken into sufficient consideration in evaluating this whole question; planning for war. Charlie Kirkpatrick, I believe, also said that the Victory Plan showed that the military realized that the military could not win the war by itself; it had to depend on the economy. Yes, but there were many arguments during the war between the civilian and military sectors over feasibility and that sort of thing. And I think that this idea of feasibility could be studied in greater detail through World War II with profit.

A. Kirkpatrick. We won't argue with you at all. I would only say that with regard to the amendment to the National Defense Act of 1920, manpower planners in the Army were not the, ones I was thinking of so much. You're right. One thing, the political and industrial leaders often regarded those kinds of folks in the Army in the sense that they felt they didn't know what they were talking about. You see a lot of this in the mobilization issue. Industry would come in and say we'll do this. And the military people would say you probably can't. And industry would go off and do it anyway, saying "you guys just don't have the experience. You don't know how the industry works."

Q. Jon Sumida. University of Maryland. Tom, I really appreciate your remarks about Alan Milward because he is not as widely read as he should be and his is certainly a valuable book. I want to announce that he will be with us at the University of Maryland beginning in August. We are hoping to look a lot more into this question of industrial mobilization in wartime. A second observation I think is ordnance and naval procurement between the wars which is actually a study of the entire planning basis for the Air Force, Army, and the Navy for the Second World War. If you want an example of planning that actually worked, the British started about 1923 to plan to fight a war with industrial mobilization and they invested an enormous amount of time and effort into making an inventory of the entire British economy and then dividing up that economy well in advance of the Second World War between the air force, the army, and the navy. This is one of the reasons why when the Second World War breaks out, the British go into war production with very little conferring between the services. It's an interesting contrast between the British and the Americans. I might add that one of the great advantages the Americans have is that we don't go to war until 1941; that certainly must have had an impact on the way we mobilized for the Second World War.

Q. Allard. Let me just add that John Sumida's work in this area, his own work, is well known.

Q. Sumida. I've been working the past year on British naval and industrial mobilization in the First World War. I'm looking really at the conflicts between the army, that is the Ministry of Munitions, the Admiralty, and also the merchant marine. one of my major arguments is that the submarine crisis is really a function that the navy is consuming 90 percent of British shipbuilding from 1914 to 1917. Nearly as many merchant ships are not built because of navy consumption than all the ships sunk by the Germans in 1917. And so it is fairly clear that there were two problems with the submarine crisis. one is suffering the sinking of ships. The other is that British merchant shipbuilding collapsed. I will try to present this argument and also the whole question of how the army and the navy tried to appropriate resources within the system; how that affected the civilian economy.

Q. Allard. Jon Sumida will be speaking on this topic on July 8 at the Naval Historians' Seminar here at the Naval History Center and all of you, of course, are invited.

Q. Dr. Edward J. Marolda. Naval Historical Center. I have a question for Charlie Kirkpatrick. I think that it became obvious when listening to Gary Weir's presentation that Portsmouth had quiet an influence on the development of the submarine industry. The fact that the Navy kept Portsmouth in being during the 1920S and 1930s was really crucial to later bringing industry into that. Was there something comparable in the Army, like its arsenals, that were kept alive by the Army during the lean years of the 1930s?

A. Kirkpatrick. I don't really know enough to answer that well; I think Terry Gough might do a better job of it, but I would comment that certainly during MacArthur's tenure the Army slice of the budget was so small that MacArthur opted for keeping trained people as opposed to buying equipment, except prototypes. I don't think the prototype plan that he had worked out very well at all, either.

Q. Gough. I missed the first part of Ed's question.

Q. Marolda. I said that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was a boon to the submarine industry in that it developed designs during the 1930s. Basically, the Navy had a road map so they could get industry involved, civilian industry, in submarine construction in the late 1930s. Was there something comparable on the Army side?

A. Gough. Yes. Yes, there was. In fact, in the early stages of production for World War II, the manufacturers who were just beginning to learn how to do it had to depend on the Army installations. They had been doing it with the old shop methods for many years. But, after a period of let's say one to two years of production, the new producers who had gotten into it were soon showing the old Army installations new tricks. Which is, I think, quite interesting. That is, there is that element of entrepreneurial ingenuity that the private sector showed.

Q. Marolda. I think Gary Weir also suggested that after a while Electric Boat did the same thing.

A. Weir. It was also interesting that during the interwar period, it was a real period of debate for the submarine community in terms of strategy, what types of submarines we want, what are we going to do with them. On the other side of that, the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the Bureau of Engineering showed a remarkable presence of mind in placing the small amounts of money they had?in the proper place in-order to insure that they have this industrial foundation for whatever use is coming for it down the road. For example in 1924, that early, the Navy allowed the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, our number two submarine producer during World War I, to go bankrupt., They deny them the contracts and the money goes into bringing Portsmouth up to speed as a first-class design installation and submarine producer. So there is a conscious decision made here to rely on Electric Boat and Portsmouth. To give Electric Boat the competition that Portsmouth can provide, but also to give the Navy the strength in design and engineering expertise. And this is made very early. And there are incredible strategic debates going on, while the technical side of it is fairly well placed on a solid foundation.

Q. Naval Officer. I'm working on a competitive strategy for industrial reconstitution and mobilization. That's why I'm here. At the moment, if you look at policies that are going on, you hear talk that the industrial base should sink or swim based on market forces. This basically says that these investments, like you are talking about, aren't going to occur unless somebody makes a change. Now, that brings me to my question. What was the level of investment in terms of percentage of the budget? Any estimates of how much the services really spent in the 1920s and 1930s maintaining the capability to come back, particularly in Navy submarines?

A. Weir. A perfect example; Lake goes bankrupt in 1924. So what do you have left? Portsmouth coming up to speed and you have Electric Boat. From approximately 1925, when Electric Boat finished fixing submarines that were built during the Great War, through 1931, it received no new submarine contracts from the Navy; none; not until the Cuttlefish contract in 1931. All of the interwar submarines, save for one, went to Portsmouth, with the exception going to Mare Island. So it is obvious where the Navy was putting its assets and what it wanted to do. Lake resisted these decisions. He had a great many contacts in Congress; he wrote open letters in the newspapers complaining about the fact that it was a skilled work force that was going to be let go. He lobbied in Congress to put pressure on the Navy; he did not go down without a howl. But, the Navy was determined. The Bureau of Ships and its predecessors, the bureaus of Construction and Repair and Engineering, were determined that's where the money was going to go. Even though they did not know exactly what they wanted to produce yet. They knew that they needed a firm base and they made their investment in that.

Q. Hone. That's the point. Navy policy in the 1930s was to: maintain the mobilization base for shipbuilding and that was done deliberately, even when they had to skirt the law. It was consciously and deliberately done and the decisions were taken not at the highest levels, so much as the White House, but at the lower levels in the Navy Department itself. I would argue that that investment was immensely important for war mobilization.

Q. Naval officer. Right now, the Joint Staff thinks in terms of twelve-month, thirty-six-month, and forty-four-month warning times; in other words, those periods of time before we would actually take any action for mobilization. Is there any historical evidence that we can mobilize in three years to a war footing. Was there anything prior to World War II that took less than three years to from the time we said go, to production?

A. Hone. Gary just had the answer.

A. Weir. Again, in many of the specialized vessels, and submarines should be classified as one of those, the Navy in the early days would simply take them off the shelf. So whatever there was they bought. They didn't participate in designing submarines until 1916. So it's a much simpler world, the technology was much more basic then. The transfer of technology from civilian consumables to military hardware is less marked, is less drastic and mobilization is a lot easier to run.

A. Hone. The analog today would be a lot of civilian software. Its very sophisticated. One example of the thing Gary is talking about was the decision in the 1970s, and correct me if I'm wrong, to build the Tomahawk cruise missile4 The Tomahawk was a long-range weapon and you had a targeting problem. It had an active seeker. The problem you had in the 1970s was it took almost a mainframe computer to retarget those doggone things. So, if you were at sea carrying Tomahawks in-your submarine, you had to surface to get retargeting data and to load it onto the Tomahawks and that took time. They were not a quick-reaction weapon. But, they were a quick-reaction weapon in the Middle East because the hardware changed. Mainframes to personal computers. The technology in communications changed; the processing of intelligence data changed. And so, the doggone things worked. And, I'm trying to find out who made that decision in the Navy Department in the 1970s. Because, whoever did, it was a gamble and it was the right gamble. Let me give you another illustration. Go to Aberdeen Proving Ground. I love that place. They have armored vehicles and an artillery museum there. I went up there once because my kid wanted to see it and I was fascinated. If you look at the -- Army folks correct me if I'm wrong -- at the 105-millimeter howitzer, the 155-millimeter gun, towed, and the 8-inch howitzer; the wheels on those things are all the same size. The tires are all the same size; they looked to me that they are all the same size. Somebody, some minor procurement genius sold that to the Army in the 1930s. And it was a marvelous idea; one size wheel, one size tire makes it very easy for the supply and logistics folks. Whoever did that had his head screwed on straight. Some day I would like to find out who that individual was because I would put his or her picture up at Fort Belvoir and say this is what wins wars, because it does. And it's little investments like that that pay off in multiples once you got into mobilization.

Q. Marolda. Charlie, I have a question. Can you describe the interaction between those in the Army who were aviators and non-aviators over aircraft procurement. Did the aviators have a lot of influence or not in the period between 1940 and 1941?

A. Kirkpatrick. I haven't done any work in that period. I can tell you that in planning they relied on the air staff to tell them what was needed and they accepted that without question. Major Wedemeyer was working with gross estimates anyway in manpower and roughly twelve million people you figured you could draw upon without damaging industrial capacity. And out of all that he said, 110K, we have this pie to cut up. Navy, what do you need" and he asked Army Air Corps the same question. He simply accepted what they told him without challenging it and went on with the plan.

Q. Marolda. The figures supplied, were they inflated?

A. Kirkpatrick. I believe that I have read that in fact they were underestimating. They didn't actually represent what was needed. I'm not sure about Army Air Force. The Army's own figures were in terms of "tooth to tail." They estimated a division slice of two to one. The total was 20,000 for combat and another 10,000 for support. But it worked out to one for combat and three or four for support and you get some estimates as high as one to six or seven. He did not recognize that even in an infantry battalion, which is considered to be composed of 100 percent combat troops, only About eighty-three percent of the soldiers were real bullet-launchers and fighters and the rest were specialists.


22 September 2003