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Gearing Up for Victory: American Military and Industrial Mobilization in World War II

Colloquium on Contemporary History June 25, 1991 No. 5

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.

Dr. Thomas C. Hone
Defense Systems Management College

As Alan Milward pointed out in his fascinating study of World War II production, War, Economy, and Society, 1939-1945, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), the United States not only produced the material and food it needed to wage war and sustain its allies, the American economy also enlarged during the war. The economy of the United States did not just surge. It grew. Unlike its enemies and allies, the United States did not have to drain its economy to wage war. As a result, the American economy was the only one to emerge from the war actually strengthened by its wartime experience. This is a-side to World War II often neglected, especially in popular histories. If there is a popular mythology of wartime production, it is that the nation rallied after Pearl Harbor and "muddled through" the problems of coordinating and managing a wartime economy. The energy and dedication aroused by Japan's surprise attack are, in this mythology, credited with the feats of wartime production. Historians should know better. Patriotism did play a role -- and an essential and powerful one. But the source of American economic victory in World War II can be traced back to 1920, and to the efforts by the Army and Navy after 1920 to prepare for the next industrial war.

At the end of World War I, the Navy and Army decided that the confusion and corruption of arms production and supply which they had endured (and helped create) in 1917 and 1918 was an experience they did not wish to repeat. The National Defense Act of 1920 was an effort to create a system of war mobilization planning that would make sure the procurement problems of World War I did not recur. The act placed the responsibility for mobilization planning in the hands of the Assistant Secretary of War, thereby both centralizing industrial planning and entrusting it to an office headed by a civilian. The act also authorized the creation of joint Army-Navy boards to draw up mobilization timetables and requirements. In addition, the law allowed the military service secretaries to place what were called "educational orders."1 Such orders for equipment could be used to prepare commercial producers for wartime production by underwriting their purchases of special tools and giving their workers experience in working to military specifications.

The act was an experiment. It assumed that planning for wartime industrial mobilization could be done successfully by small staffs of military officers. As war threatened, the plans would be implemented by executive agencies whose members would represent both military and civilian organizations. But the act, did not give the Army and Navy the power to create such organizations or to lay out their structure in peacetime. Though the Secretaries of War and the Navy acted under the of the law to create the joint Army and Navy Munitions Board (to parallel the Joint Army-Navy Board, which coordinated war planning), and though the Army and Navy Munitions Board (ANMB) was the source of joint mobilization plans before World War II, the plans themselves were largely thrown aside when the United States went to war in 1941. The assumption, basic to the 1920 law, that successful planning could be carried on by the services in isolation from industry, labor, and farm organizations was proven false.

There were several reasons why military plans produced by the ANMB could not be a success. First, mobilization planning was closely tied to war planning, and war planning in the 1920s was dominated by the Navy's focus on Japan. In a war with Japan, the Army's role was subordinate to that of the Navy, and it followed then that "industrial mobilization" would focus on ship construction and -- after the late 1920s -- the manufacture of airplanes. The Army was never happy with this situation and was therefore unenthusiastic about its participation on the Joint Army-Navy Board.2 It grew even less happy during the late 1930s, as the prospect of a two-front war became a real one. Indeed, only after the start of war in Europe did the President accept a war strategy which not only assumed a two-front conflict but also made the European conflict a higher priority than the anticipated fight with Japan. So the war planning effort, meant to feed mobilization planning, was either off the mark (because it did not seriously anticipate a major war in Europe until very late) or just not serious enough (because of Army-Navy differences).

Second, most of the detail work of mobilization planning was left to the services, and the services either could not do such work in the necessary detail or did not want to do it.3 To plan for mobilized war production, the services needed to know what their requirements were and where the factories were that could meet those requirements.4 The requirements were derived from war planning (through the Joint Army-Navy Board, when it functioned) and from the state of technology. When both were accepted and relatively stable (as in 1929), the services could put together a reasonable Industrial Mobilization Plan (as they did, for the first time, in 1930). However, where technology was rapidly changing, or where the nature of the enemy (or enemies) was uncertain, requirements were anybody's guess, and that was precisely the situation in the late 1930s.

Both services did compile lists of firms that could engage in war production, and Army and Navy members of the ANMB even prepared a Directory of Allocated and Reserved Facilities, which

divided the available industrial potential between the two services.5 However, the Navy's materiel bureaus did not support the industrial mobilization planning process, and the Navy's Bureau of Supplies and Accounts (BUSANDA), charged with drawing up contracts for industry projects, actually opposed the ANMB's planning process.6 Army Air Corps planners at Wright Field, Ohio, even objected to the use of educational orders on the grounds that aircraft manufacturers would not be willing to share their trade secrets with firms engaged in mass producing items such as automobiles.7 As I. B. Holley observed, companies like Boeing, Douglas, and Martin might well have objected to helping the government set up potential competitors through the practice of letting educational orders, but that was a very minor issue indeed when set beside the need to win a major war.8

Third, Congress was reluctant to support mobilization planning with appropriations for staff, studies, and educational orders. Quite the reverse at times. In the 1930s, Congress actually prohibited the Army from conducting research on motor vehicle standardization, forcing the Army to use standard production items from American automobile producers.9 Congress also placed a ceiling on profits which firms could make from producing items such as ships and aircraft, and Congress did not modify the legislation covering military procurement to allow negotiated (as against sealed-bid) contracts.10 It would be inaccurate, however, to place all the blame on Congress. The Air Corps Act of 1926, for example, authorized the Secretaries of War and the Navy to negotiate contracts for experimental aircraft, and the discretion given the service secretaries by the law was great enough to allow for the integration of research and development into contemporary aircraft designs.11 Congress also continued to support the Navy's own aircraft factory, despite aircraft manufacturers' claims that a government aircraft factory was a threat to the growth of the domestic aircraft industry.12

Fourth, there was not enough pressure, in peacetime, from the White House on the services to plan to produce huge numbers of items such as airplanes and tanks. The services were content with smaller numbers of such pieces of equipment because (a) they lacked the trained manpower to maintain many tanks, planes, and ships, (b) the technologies of aviation and armor and communications were changing so fast in the late 1930s that service leaders were afraid to freeze the designs of wartime equipment too soon and (c) the services did not have many people trained to deal effectively with industry in areas like contracting and finance. The procedures for dealing with industry were formal and rigid, and the organizations which supervised industrial production were ineffective.13 Only White House pressure could have overcome the inertia of the existing procurement organizations, but White House pressure was lacking until the eve of the war. President Roosevelt shocked the leaders of military procurement after Pearl Harbor by setting what they thought were unachievable production goals for tanks and aircraft. The fact that they were surprised shows how they were constrained, even in their planning, by past habits and by what Holley called "rigid time-consuming contractual formalities."14

Fifth, the services had not developed means to move innovations from the laboratory to the production plant quickly. Mobilization was not seen widely as both a problem of production and as a problem of research and development. Prewar planning focused on a quantitative approach to mobilization: making lots of planes, tanks and ships and then training the great numbers of soldiers, sailors and airmen required to field those items. In fact, during an extended conflict, production modifications and entirely new technologies were as important as mass producing basic models of ships, airplanes and tanks.

In their study of the Navy's Bureau of ordnance during World War II, for example, Buford Rowland and William Boyd detailed the means by which the bureau and its contractors were able to take drawings and specifications developed in Europe (by Bofors and Oerlikon) for European production methods and modify them for American-style mass production.15 The effort was a great success. Much less successful, however, was the attempt by the Army Air Corps to integrate modifications (derived from combat experience) into ongoing production lines. As early as January 1942, the Army funded the major airlines to turn their maintenance facilities into post-production modification centers, and, by war's end, the Army had created or funded about "twenty permanent modification centers" with nearly twenty million square feet of work space.16 But first producing a plane and then taking it apart again for a combat-related modification was expensive: "anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the total labor spent in turning out military aircraft was actually performed at the centers."17 The Army was more successful in modifying the production process for tanks. The shift from the model M-3 medium tank to the model M-4, for example, went as smoothly as the shift from one production model automobile as another because the process of mass producing tanks was basically the same as producing automobiles.18Aircraft modifications were another matter altogether.

Getting innovations from the laboratory to the production line was also a serious problem. Neither the Army Air Corps nor the Navy, for example, made the shift from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft by the end of the war, and even the development of new propeller-driven aircraft (such as the B-29). was expensive, fraught with technical problems, and dangerous for flight test crews.19 Despite the best efforts of Army ordnance engineers, "no satisfactory range finder for tanks was developed."20 Indeed, Charles Baily has gone so far as to argue that "it was difficult to see who was in charge" of tank and tank destroyer development. His claim is that there "was a definite lack of a thorough grasp of tank and tank destroyer development at the highest levels in the U.S. Army."21 Whether Bally's claim is correct or not, the fact remains that Army ground forces did not receive adequately armed and armored tanks for their assault on France and Germany in 1944. Moreover, Army armored divisions were also not able, during the war, to engage in offensive combat operations at night, something operational commanders very much wanted to do.

So much for what prewar planning did not achieve. What were the reasons? What could planning by the Army and Navy not do? First, the presidency itself had to be prepared for the war. In the summer of 1939, President Roosevelt finally brought the Army -Chief of Staff and the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, the Aeronautical Board (which linked the aviation organizations in the services with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics), the-Army-Navy munitions Board, and the Joint Economy Board (which brought together the military departments and the heads of Treasury and Commerce) directly under his supervision as Commander-in-Chief.22 Only that September did Congress pass the Reorganization Act of 1939, which established the Executive office of the President. From the authority granted the President in that law, Franklin Roosevelt created the plethora of alphabet soup agencies which he used (and at times ignored) to direct war production.

Economist Eliot Janeway, who was part of that effort, argued after the war that Roosevelt ran war production and mobilization the same way he ran New Deal agencies: by creating multiple centers of power with overlapping jurisdictions. When the new agencies could not agree on a course of action (which Roosevelt understood they often would not), they appealed to the President, leaving him with final authority over their actions (and over the general policies they were supposed to implement). In 1939, however, Roosevelt was feeling his way cautiously, careful to not step too far ahead of public and Congressional sentiment. He took the authority Congress had granted him and used it, but he did not demand more. For example, Congress authorized the services in 1939 to negotiate cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts for new base construction. The services would have liked the power to negotiate similar contracts for weapons production, but the White House did not ask for it for another year, and even then, after granting that power, Congress limited the fixed fee to 7% of the estimated cost.23 The legal restriction on the use of negotiated cost-type contracts for weapons production was not lifted by Congress until after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Janeway also argued that Roosevelt's cautious and inefficient (because it was based less on plans than on the measure of public sentiment) approach to wartime mobilization was the only sensible one the President could have pursued in light of the division in the country regarding the issue of American participation in the war. In Janeway's view, Roosevelt knew that, once fully committed, the nation's population and its private institutions would produce what was needed in the time allowed. What Roosevelt had to do, in this view, was to wait while public opinion moved toward supporting a war. Put another way, Roosevelt's mobilization policy was not to bypass partisan politics but to allow it to work. The President knew that, even with public support for a war policy, his administration would have to deal with the social and political divisions which crisscrossed American society.

To Janeway, then, the conflicts which plagued the civilian-led agencies of mobilization were inevitable, unavoidable, foreseen by the commander-in-chief, and absorbed by these same institutions. But these institutions could not do either their political or their economic work unless the President could create them, so the willingness of Congress increase the power of the presidency in 1939 was essential to mobilization and to victory. Essential, too, was Roosevelt's willingness to continue politics during the war in the area of mobilization. As far as grand strategy and the actual fighting were concerned, Roosevelt was commander-in-chief. In the "war of production," however, he was politician, moving cautiously and cleverly to guard his authority (and that of his office) while opening up the direction of war production to the leaders of private industry (many of whom were his political enemies), labor, and agriculture.

It was not clear, for example, just how to make the agencies of war production both effective and representative. To be effective, war production agencies at the federal level had to (1) have data on what U.S. industry and agriculture could do, (2) be able to anticipate the right kinds and numbers of items needed by the fighting forces, (3) have control over civilian manpower, (4) have a means to control scarce resources, (5) maintain a stable currency by monitoring and controlling prices, wages and savings, and (6.) work closely with the agencies implementing foreign and fiscal policy. To do these things, the leaders of war production-would need public support, the support of the President, the cooperation of the armed services, and the knowledge necessary to make workable policies. Yet it was not really clear to Roosevelt and his advisors how to create a hierarchy of politically legitimate institutions which had the capabilities required to perform the tasks necessary to effective mobilization.

This explains the start-stop, trial-and-error progression of war production agencies, from the War Resources Board of 1939 to the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense in 1940 to the office of Production Management in 1941 to the War Production Board in 1942. As the country moved closer to war, the weakness of the specific prewar plans developed by the Army and Navy alone became clearer. The services just could not be expected to plan for the political problems which came with a directed economy of such size and potential. President Roosevelt understood that the productive potential essential to winning the war existed. If Janeway's account is correct, the President also knew that the economy could not be managed from the White House. Roosevelt's intuitive appreciation of the productive power of the economy was matched by his understanding that directing the economy would be difficult, from both a technical and a political perspective.

Yet as commander-in-chief Roosevelt was obliged to take responsibility for mobilizing production. To retain ultimate control while shielding himself (as partisan political leader) and the institution of the presidency from blame, the President created a batch of agencies, gave each limited but overlapping responsibilities and powers, put ambitious and talented people in these agencies, and trusted in the resourcefulness of private industry. He turned himself into the audience (along with the "public") and let his new agencies and their staffs perform. When they worked (or appeared to work), he left them alone. When they appeared to lack authority, or seemed to be failing, he replaced them or their leaders, usually after allowing the organizations or their leaders to serve as lightning rods for public dissatisfaction.

In his memoirs, Donald Nelson, head of the War Production Board, tells a revealing story. There was a dispute over which firm would get the contract for mass production of the jeep. There were three primary contenders, according to Nelson: Willys, Ford and Bantam Car (the company that had pioneered what became the jeep design). Ford argued for the contract on the grounds that its competitors could not produce jeeps fast enough to meet the Army's needs, but Nelson believed that Willys could in fact produce the vehicles at the required volume, and he was instrumental in seeing to it that Willys got the contract.24 What Nelson did not say in his memoirs was that Bantam really deserved the production contract because it was the jeep's designer. The Army chose not to award the contract to Bantam because it did not believe the firm could produce enough of the vehicles to meet the Army's great need. As a result of this decision, made rationally by the Army, Bantam did not reap the benefits of production sales of an item it had developed, and it suffered economically after the war.

The story demonstrates the managerial dilemma facing the War Production Board: there was no way the board could really manage the whole war production effort (let alone the whole economy) because, first, there was no way the board and its staff could understand all the details of what was going on, and, second, there were few legal, established means both to compensate fairly a firm like Bantam and to free the Army to rationalize its war production by limiting the number of producers of specific pieces of equipment. This was the sort of issue which should have been resolved before the war, but it was also an issue which the Army and Navy lacked the authority on their own to resolve. Because it had not been resolved by 1942, the war production effort came close to staggering.

The production timetables produced by the Army and Navy Munitions Board had already been rejected as inadequate, even by the services themselves. In their place, the President had set incredible production goals; in February of that year, for example, he had directed the Army to procure 105,000 medium tanks - 169,000 tanks of all types - in one year.25 This was a tremendous number (double what was eventually produced during the whole war); it sent the production and ordnance experts reeling. Even worse, it ignored the need to produce ships, trucks, artillery and aircraft. But the Army had to respond, and respond it did -- with an investment in production facilities that was double the amount eventually deemed necessary.26

In response to protests from his senior military advisors, Roosevelt modified the tank production goal: to 136,000 in April 1942, 121,000 the following September, and 99,000 by November.27

But the services had already begun to respond to his direction. If the President's effort to spur the mass production of war items had had the beneficial effect of forcing the military and civilian managers of wartime procurement to face the magnitude of their problem, it had also revealed how hard it was to manage a wartime production effort. "Commanding" production levels made no sense if the services, empowered by law and by executive order to negotiate and manage contracts, could not draw on the economy for the resources and manpower they needed. It made even less sense if equipment, once delivered, could not be supported and serviced. But the services could not be let loose to compete for resources, as they had been in World War I. There had to be some coordination. otherwise, war production would be chaotic, and priorities in resources, electric power and labor would be set through a series of ad hoc negotiations among a crowd of public and private executives. Instead of being directed by constitutionally authorized authorities, and performed in pursuit of definite war aims, war production would be unregulated and inefficient.

The solution to this problem was not obvious, even to Roosevelt, that master of political and bureaucratic manipulation. Congress was not a problem after 7 December 1941. The laws restricting negotiated contracts with industry were waived when Congress granted the President emergency war powers after Pearl Harbor. As early as 1940, Congress had suspended the requirement that profits on shipbuilding contracts be limited to ten percent.28 The real problem was how to coordinate the wartime economy without managing it from the White House or tolerating a series of essentially political deals among the major producers and the services. The solution was suggested by Ferdinand Eberstadt, an associate of Navy Under Secretary James Forrestal. It was called the "Controlled Materials Plan," and it balanced the need for central coordination of war production with the fact that the production itself had to be decentrally managed, industry by industry.

1942 was the key year. It began with Congress granting the President impressive and sweeping powers. In response, Roosevelt created the War Production Board, Office of Price Administration, National War Labor Board, and the War manpower Commission (all in January) to support the work of the already active Office of Production Management. But the creation of these organizations (and a host of lesser offshoots) did not solve the basic problem of giving sensible direction to the war-related economy. Neither did the President's effort to set targets. The targets were a kind of plan, but the emergency organizations did not have a means to turn the plan into reality. They did not even know what information they needed to decide if and how the specifics of the President's production goals needed to be revised.

The Stabilization Act of late 1942 was the first step toward a solution. The law created the post of Director of Economic Stabilization, and Roosevelt persuaded James Byrnes to leave the Supreme Court and take the job. Donald Nelson, head of the War Production Board, had not found a way to balance central direction with decentralized action to Roosevelt's satisfaction, but the President apparently wanted to avoid pushing Nelson aside and, in so doing, admitting that the war production effort was faltering. So Byrnes, a close confidant, was brought in above Nelson. In October 1942, Byrnes, Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Navy Secretary Frank Knox accepted Eberstadt's Controlled Materials Plan, and the plan itself was formally adopted at the beginning of November.29

The plan was deceptively simple: it controlled the flow of steel, aluminum and copper, and left other materials alone. It did not attempt to regulate wages or prices directly. Civilian rationing, for example, was left to the Office of Price Administration, and the Office of Production Management continued to try (and not very successfully until 1943) to balance the needs of the services against those of allies, as it was intended to do.30 What the Controlled Materials Plan did was leave the bulk of war production decisions to officials in the services and in the industries the service officials negotiated with. The plan was the second positive action which had to be taken to overcome the obstacles to effective war production.

In the Navy, for example, the Office of Procurement and Material (OP&M) stood as the gateway to the quotas set by the War Production Board. Navy acquisition bureaus (such as Ordnance, Ships, and Aeronautics) could not negotiate contracts which depended for their completion on a violation of the Controlled Materials Plan quotas. OP&M, headed by a vice admiral, had the power to review (and reject) all major material contracts being negotiated by the bureaus. Once the Controlled Materials Plan quotas were set, there was no appeal from the bureaus over the head of the officer in charge of OP&M. If bureau officers could find a substitute for steel, copper or aluminum, then they could proceed; OP&M would not interfere. If not, then the bureaus' uniformed leaders already knew they could not get OP&M permission. Under the Controlled Materials Plan, OP&M's standards were known ahead of time by bureau officials working with industry. OP&M’s staff did not have to review all major material contracts because the bureaus knew up front what they could get away with and what not.31

After the war, Janeway argued that the Controlled Materials Plan "doubled the economy's finished, usable production in 1943 without curtailing consumer expenditures, and while slashing plant expansion from its inflated 1942 peak."32The plan did not solve every war production problem, however. Manpower allocation was a major problem in 1941 and it stayed a serious problem all through the war, despite prodigious efforts to expand the industrial labor force. Controlling wages and prices, and administering rationing (indirectly related to production efficiency) was difficult and controversial. Coordinating production with transportation was also difficult. Donald Nelson, head of the War Production Board, had an uphill struggle persuading the major railroads to invest in sufficient locomotives and railroad cars to ship resources to factories and finished products to service depots. As it happened, the railroads were able to double their capacity with just 10 percent more locomotives and 20 percent more freight cars, but that was an unanticipated stroke of luck, not the consequence of good planning.33 Indeed, Roosevelt's faith in American industrial productivity and innovation was vindicated. Examples abound. During the war, the Army's Detroit tank arsenal and other sources produced over 45,000 M-4 medium tanks in fifteen variations. In 1941, German factories produced 3,256 tanks; U.S factories 4,052. In 1942, the numbers were 4,098 and 24,997, respectively, and the Germans -- despite efforts which more than doubled production levels -- never came close thereafter.34 In 1943 alone, U.S. factories made over 4.4 billion .50 caliber machine gun cartridges.35 In 1940, Congress authorized a "two ocean Navy," and Navy planners believed that, by the end of 1945, the Navy would have 13 large aircraft carriers and five escort carriers. The actual numbers were 27 large carriers, 9 light carriers (based on converted cruisers), and 85 escort carriers. Aircraft -production was so great that it was often measured in pounds, not numbers delivered. 'But all the numbers Were staggering: 324,750 planes turned out in the years 1939 through 1945.36 A total of 2,089,436,000 airframe pounds in yearly totals as follows:

Year37 Pounds
1940 20,279,000
1941 68,064,000
1942 239,858,000
1943 542,397,000
1944 797,120,000
1945 421,718,000

These production levels were supported by advances in logistics. Chrysler, for example, sent a "package" of 460 spare parts boxes to the Army with every 100 3/4-ton trucks. Every box could be carried by one man except for those which carried spare motors. Each box was labeled on all six of its sides, and the 460 boxes were arranged so that they could be set up in numerical order, opened, and function then as "a working parts depot." Each group of 460 boxes had a 267 page "double indexed directory," so maintenance personnel could identify and find parts quickly. Finally, the boxes were put together so that parts personnel could work their way systematically down through them, from top to bottom.38

The key to such massive production and innovative support, as economists as different as Janeway and J.K. Galbraith recognized, was just the right balance between central direction and decentralized production. It worked because (1) the industrial and managerial potential was already in place, (2) there was overwhelming support for the war production effort, (3) Roosevelt and the business community recognized the need to keep the civilian economy strong even while war production boomed, (4) the strategy of burying the Axis in mass produced war machines worked, (5) the U.S. was never threatened with attack, and (6) the Army and Navy -- especially the latter -- had quietly worked with industry to develop means for expanding production. Though prewar Army and Navy plans were largely useless by 1941, both services had developed means to communicate their needs to industry, and both had cultivated sets of manufacturers who expected to increase production in the event of mobilization. The development of regular ties to industry was the third factor which allowed the United States to overcome the obstacles to effective war production.

The Navy, for example, had had extensive experience by 1941 manipulating and supporting major shipbuilders. In the years after 1933, as the Roosevelt administration and Congress sustained a steady program of military and merchant ship construction, commercial yards were encouraged to identify potential "second sources" for wartime needs. Navy shipbuilding contracts were also spread around in the lean years of the 1930s, despite federal legislation which required the Navy Department to award shipbuilding contracts through a process of "sealed bids." The Navy was supposed to prepare a package of ship specifications, and then circulate these to interested yards. The yards would then submit proof of their ability to build what the Navy wanted, along with a confidential bid. The winning shipbuilder was supposed to be the one with the lowest bid.

Theoretically, this system was supposed to drive down costs by giving an advantage to productively efficient firms. winning a contract in the first place by bidding competitively, an efficient builder would get better at estimating and controlling costs over time, reducing both the government's cost for a ship and the number of firms able to bid (unless the losers could find contracts building commercial hulls). The hitch was that the Navy did not want to steadily reduce the number of yards able to build Navy ships. Quite the reverse. The Navy wanted to cultivate the major shipyards, spreading the available business among them so that there would be a large pool of skilled shipbuilders when the decision to mobilize was finally made.

The Navy got around the intent of the law by using the first step of the two-step "sealed bid" process. In that first step, yards had to convince the Navy that they were qualified to build whatever ship type the Navy wanted. To keep some potential bidders out of the running, the Navy Department ruled that firms were not qualified to bid unless they had already built that kind of ship. To spread the work around, the Department also judged the ability of a yard td produce numbers of the ship type wanted, so that even the lowest bidder might only get a few ships. The Navy, forced by law to award fixed price contracts, used the requirement to its advantage by requiring bidders to bear the costs of capitalization. What that meant was that one yard could rarely walk away with all the destroyer contracts for one year, for example. The law allowed the Navy to award multiple contracts if the lowest bidder could not build all the ships authorized, and the Department consistently did so. The result was a "stable" of competent builders, each of which was required to identify emergency expansion yards for potential use in wartime.

The Navy also won support in Congress for expansion of the merchant marine. As early as 1934, the Shipping Board Bureau of the Department of Commerce began development of "standard types of merchant vessels acceptable to the Navy."39 Navy participants in this process of designing new commercial shipping later assumed responsible positions in the Maritime Commission, an organization created by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. The purpose of the act was to grant federal subsidies to shipping companies so that they could afford more expensive American-built ships. In return for federal support, U.S.-owned firms bought ships whose designs were standardized by the Maritime Commission and the Navy. Finally, the Navy Department was able to persuade President Roosevelt that ship construction was a form of public works, and therefore eligible for support under legislation such as the National Industrial Recovery Act.40

All this prewar work paid off handsomely when Congress authorized increases in the Navy's strength in 1938 and 1940. Yet the Navy faced the same basic production problem after 1941 as the Army Air Corps: would it convert other industries to make what it needed, or would it simply expand the existing base? As in the case of the Air Corps, it did both. That is, the Navy and Maritime Commission supported and financed the expansion of existing yards and the development of new ones. The same policy was followed by the Army in procuring tanks: existing facilities were expanded and brand new facilities were purpose-built. Aircraft were procured according to the same strategy by both the Army and the Navy. What forced both services to modify their prewar production surge plans was the need to manufacture such great numbers of tanks, planes and ships, plus the need for so many specialized if technologically unsophisticated items such as landing craft.

Indeed, for the Army war production was a kind of revolution, especially in areas such as tank production and -- especially -- aircraft production. The numbers of tanks and planes required to defeat the Axis were so great that making them overwhelmed the habits of Army procurement officials. Within a matter of months, these officials, cautious in dealing with industry, and trained in formal, slow methods of contracting, had to change completely the way they did their work. I. B. Holley's Buying Aircraft tells in detail the dizzy story of the Army's effort to break free from its old procurement habits and its reliance on a small number of airframe and engine manufacturers. only three factors made the change possible: (a) a conscious decision to freeze what were essentially prewar designs (such as the B-17) for wartime use, (b) an unanticipated ability of U.S. industry generally to support aviation production, and (c) hard, long, exhausting work by Army Air Corps procurement officials.

Interestingly enough, the same factors sustained the Navy. Very few major combat ship types, for example, were actually developed during the war. New designs were largely confined to amphibious types and auxiliaries. The combat types which were "developed" during the war were in fact mass produced versions of already developed Navy concepts -- the escort aircraft carrier and the destroyer escort. Both types were made in great numbers because both designs were suited to quantity production. Neither type was especially favored by the Navy because the uniformed leaders of the service knew that mass production ships (like the "Eagle" antisubmarine patrol boats of World War I) would not have much value after the war, in a fleet which would not get numbers of replacements postwar for perhaps two decades.41

It took pressure from civilian leaders (the President and Under Secretary Forrestal) to move senior Navy officers to accept "war emergency" production, just as it took the President's extreme 1942 war production goals for aircraft to get the Army to question its commitment to expanding the aircraft industry (with which it had close ties) as against converting the automobile industry to aircraft production. What both Army and Navy military leaders wanted was the freedom to put their prewar plans into effect. What President Roosevelt recognized was that the prewar plans -- to say nothing of the mentality which produced such plans -- were unsuitable. On the other hand, civilian leaders -- simply because they were civilians -- had no lock on an understanding of the essentially political nature of the "war of production." Aroused after Pearl Harbor, American workers, engineers and managers pulled off what seem now to have been miracles of production. This immense effort could not have been successful if the services had not learned something from their World War I experience. The difference between the Army and Navy was that the latter had had more opportunities to create the linkages which, during the war, helped speed war production.

So what really won the war of production? Prewar planning? A consensus among American political and industrial leaders that the mistakes of World War I would not be repeated? Patriotic fervor? The answer is all of these a more.

Though prewar plans produced by the Army and Navy were unrealistic as to numbers and as to the means by which they would be carried out, prewar efforts to plan and to maintain bases of supply in American industry proved invaluable. Moreover, as Milward showed, the American strategy of mobilizing assumed that the civilian economy needed to be kept strong as a necessary support to war production. The general acceptance of this assumption was a key to victory and to success after the war. Because the assumption was shared so widely, Roosevelt did not have to abandon his New Deal and business could participate enthusiastically in the war effort. Furthermore, as Janeway argued, partisan politics was not suppressed during the direction of war production. Politics, the legitimate competition among different individuals and interests over social priorities, was deliberately carried right into the war mobilization agencies, but the President was able to retain control of the direction of the mobilization effort because he stood aside from the day-to-day direction of the economy.

Roosevelt also realized that the White House was not suited to managing war production. War production was best managed at a much lower level. The task facing the government was to direct that management. But not in detail. American managers, workers and farmers could and did manage and innovate on their own. The Navy and Army had to train thousands of firms to produce items to government specifications, but many firms willingly and successfully took on what had been strictly government responsibilities, such as test and evaluation of military items (tanks and airplanes, for example) in development. This grass roots eagerness to produce, save, recycle and innovate is now a major American myth. What is so impressive is that much of the myth was quite real.

Perhaps the primary lesson learned by military officers managing procurement in World War I was that there was no good reason not to be able to tap the productivity of American industry, labor and agriculture in wartime. Indeed, it was recognized in 1920 that the U.S. advantage in war was the country's ability to bury its enemies in piles of machines manned and maintained by healthy, well fed and well trained personnel. This vision was not lost between the wars. What was never quite worked out -- and probably could not have been -- in peacetime was the precise. relationship of public to private institutions during mobilization, and the proper and effective relationship between the military services and the civilian agencies of government which-, would have to guide them.42


1. I.B. Holley, Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces (Washington: Office-of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1964), p. 151.

2. The U.S. Naval Institute soon will publish an exhaustive study, prepared by E. Miller, of Navy "War Plan ORANGE" planning.

3. Holley, Buying Aircraft, pp. 153-55. Robert H. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1951), pp. 38-53.

4. Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 155.

5. Ibid., p. 152.

6. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II, notes, p. 39.

7. Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 160.

8. Ibid.

9. H. C. Thomson and L. Mayo, The Ordnance Department: Procurement and Supply (Washington: office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1960), p. 269.

10. Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 35.

11. Ibid., pp. 89-92.

12. W. F. Trimble, Wings for the Navy. A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917-1956 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), p. 85.

13. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II, p. 125; Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 107.

14. Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 109.

15. Buford Rowland and William Boyd, History of the Bureau of Ordnance in World War II (Washington: CPO, 1953).

16. Holley, Buying Aircraft, pp. 530-31.

17. Ibid., p. 532.

18. W. W. Stout, Tanks Are Mighty Fine Things (Detroit: Chrysler Corporation, 1946).

19. Thomas Collison, The Superfortress Is Born: The Story of the Boeing B-29 (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1945).

20. C. M. Green, H. C. Thomson and P. C. Roots, Planning Munitions for War (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1955), p. 342.

21. C. M. Baily, Faint Praise: American Tanks and Tank Destroyers During World War II (New York: Archon Books, 1983), p. 145.

22. Eliot Janeway, The Struggle for Survival, A Chronicle of Economic Mobilization in World War II (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1951), p. 44.

23. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II, pp. 66-67.

24. D. M. Nelson, Arsenal of Democracy. The Story of American War Production (New York: Harcourt Brach, 1946).

25. Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply, p. 64.

26. Ibid., pp. 255-57.

27. Ibid., p. 64.

28. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II, p. 268.

29. Janeway, The Struggle for Survival, pp. 315-16.

30. Ibid., pp. 197-204.

31. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II, pp. 393-98.

32. Janeway, The Struggle for Survival, p. 317.

33. Ibid., p. 353.

34. Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply, p. 263.

35. Ibid., p. 65.

36. Holley, Buying Aircraft, p. 548.

37. Ibid.

38. W.W. Stout, Mobilized (Detroit: Chrysler Corporation, 1949), P. 111.

39. F. C. Lane, Ships for Victory. A History of Shipbuilding Under the U.S. Maritime Commission in World War II (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1951), p. 24.

40. R. H. Levine, The Politics of American Naval Rearmament,1930-1938 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988).

41. Norman Friedman, U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1983) U.S. Destroyers, An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1982).

42, T. J. Gough, "Origins of the Army Industrial College: Military-Business Tensions After World War I," Armed Forces & Society, vol. 17, no. 2 (Winter 1991).

Major Charles E. Kirkpatrick, USA
U.S. Army Center of Military History

The unspoken assumption that President Franklin Roosevelt and his principal military advisors shared in the early summer of 1941 was that the United States would, sooner or later, become involved in the expanding European war.1 Public opinion polls revealed that Americans also thought that war was inevitable, although the same polls showed that most citizens opposed an American declaration of war. Thus discussion of the possibility was a contentious political issue that occasionally verged on the hysterical, and a hazardous undertaking for any public figure.2 Yet it was the duty of the War and Navy Departments to plan for the worst contingencies, however politically unpalatable they might have been.

Assistant Secretary of War Robert Patterson,3 responsible for managing military procurement, including the demands of the Lend Lease program, first raised the question in April 1941, of how much military production the United States should plan for. Because it was evident that existing military plans would be inappropriate for the European war he envisioned, and wishing at all costs to avoid the chaotic mobilization that he had witnessed in 1917, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, welcomed Patterson's request for information and combined it with a similar request from President Roosevelt.4 Thus Marshall combined those requests with a question that had also been percolating within the War Department General Staff for some time.5

Marshall directed his War Plans Division to make a rough, strategic estimate that would include the nation's munitions requirements, not only for its own forces, but also for the almost insatiable demands of Lend Lease:

We are continually receiving suggestions as to increases and changes in armament, bombers, etc., along with suggestions of a more far-reaching nature. To provide a base of departure for meeting these proposals we should have a more clearcut strategic estimate of our situation from a ground, air, and naval viewpoint. With such an estimate kept up to date, the various organizational, tactical and strategical questions which are constantly arising could be answered with more consistency than at present. . . . Please contact other divisions of the WDGS and take the necessary steps to have an estimate prepared to be submitted to me in the rough. It should be brief.6

There was a problem of balance, from Marshall's point of view. "We must not create the situation that a year from now possible shortages will exist and we will find it necessary to say that we were sorry that we did not anticipate the true situation.7 By the same token, Marshall did not want to forward impossible demands to the Office of Production Management. He warned WPD that "We must not get a pile of stuff which "is not only obsolescent but blocks other things more essential."8

Marshall's directive was the origin of the Army's portion of the so-called Victory Plan, a joint Army-Navy production estimate of the services' needs in the event of total war.9 Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow, chief of War Plans Division, entrusted the task to Major Albert C. Wedemeyer, an infantry officer who had been an exchange student at the German Kriegsakademie in Berlin and was recently assigned to WPD.10

Conventional wisdom holds that the Victory Plan was an important step forward for the Army because it looked at the problem of mobilizing for war from the point of view of the civilian economy, rather than the demands of military expansion. According to this view, manpower needs of industry took precedence over other considerations as the War Department shifted to a war footing, with the consequence that the author of the Victory Plan scrapped the normal military planning process. A second generalization sees the Victory Plan as a logistical estimate that was most important as it related to industrial production and manpower allocation.11 superficially correct, both of these conventional views about the Victory Plan understate the importance of that document and cloud understanding of its significance for the Army and the nation in the Second World War. A closer look at the first assertion about the planning process provides the context in which the second may be reconsidered.

The Planning Process

To deal with such an open-ended planning task, Wedemeyer analyzed the question to determine the information he had to gather. In order to deduce the nation's ultimate production requirements, he concluded that the essential first task was to compute the size of the Army and Air Corps that the War Department would have to arm and equip. Size and composition of forces were functions of mission, however, and no one could estimate the size of military forces required without knowing the missions they would be ordered to execute. missions depended upon military strategy, and in order to know the military strategy, Wedemeyer had first to know the national objective in the event of war. He therefore established for himself a series of questions to answer in order to accomplish his task:

1) What is the national objective of the United States?
2) What military strategy will be devised to accomplish the national objective?
3) What military forces must be raised in order to execute that military strategy?
4) How will those military forces be constituted, equipped and trained?

His methodology implied that by the time he had answered the first three questions, he would have the information he needed to answer the last, which was the objective task was given.12

Thus his logistics estimate began with a survey of strategic factors. After careful study of the problems involved, Wedemeyer drafted a simple statement of national objectives and obtained the Secretary of War's agreement that he should proceed on the assumption that the United States meant to eliminate totalitarianism from Europe and, in the process, to be an ally of Great Britain; further, to deny the Japanese undisputed control of the western Pacific.13

Proceeding from that general statement of political aims, he reviewed the relevant military plans and records of informal Anglo-American conferences and outlined a military strategy that was, in essence that followed by the Allies from 1942 through the end of the war.

Wedemeyer's brief sketch delineated, necessary American actions to keep the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in the war while the United States built and trained its forces, mobilized a war economy, and built up a base in Great Britain for the eventual attack on Germany. In sum, the United States had to adopt a military strategy that placed the bulk of American combat forces in contact with the enemy in the European theater. In order to accomplish this, the United States had to build and maintain armed forces capable of controlling the sea lanes of communications in two oceans, fight a major land, sea, and air war in one theater, and be sufficiently strong to deter war in the other. No other nation faced the task of building up its army, navy, and air forces to such standards, to meet such global commitments. Likewise, no other power had to rely upon lines of supply tenuously stretched across oceans, the control of which was still disputed, to bases that had still, in many cases, to be won.

The military strategy appropriate to attainment of the political goals thus dictated the military forces the nation would need. It was here that Wedemeyer first considered the question of manpower allocation. He realized that American economic power was as much a weapon of war as military forces, and that he had to reserve adequate skilled manpower to meet the demands of mobilization and lend lease, as well as to maintain the internal order of the society. Through various calculations he determined that the country could sustain armed forces of around twelve to fourteen million men without jeopardizing other essential war tasks.14

He then considered means to wage a war against the armed forces of the Axis that accommodated that limitation, and planned for an armored and mechanized army that, when used in conjunction with Allied air power, could concentrate decisive mass at any given point to defeat Axis forces. After designing an Army of 215 divisions that could accomplish the missions inherent in the overall national objective, Wedemeyer turned the entire planning document over to the G-4 staff for the mechanical computation of types and quantities of equipment for those divisions. The eventual calculations, combined into a joint study with Navy estimates, became the Joint Army and Navy Board's "Victory Program," and gave the War Department a basis on which to plan production requirements.

Clearly, the customary conclusion that Wedemeyer did not follow the usual military planning process, but began with available manpower, which he distributed in consonance with the nation's military objectives, is not correct. Manpower considerations were certainly prominent, but Wedemeyer began, not with the limiting factor of available forces, but with the greater question of the national goal. The critically important aspect of his planning process was that, after settling the strategic goals of the nation, he pursued the logical, rather than the usual, next question. Traditionally, that had been "What can the Army accomplish with the forces at its disposal?" Instead, he asked: "What sort of forces must the Army have to accomplish these missions?" So doing, he escaped the traditional constraints of budget and limited force structure, recognizing that the nation would not skimp on either if it came to war.

The number of men the services could extract from the civilian economy was a subsidiary question in force design, the third major step in his planning process. Conducting an analysis of the available manpower, he then decided upon the various ways that the Army could multiply the combat power of the divisions it could create. Indeed, fine calculations to distribute draft-age men between industry and the armed forces were largely moot, because neither the United States nor its allies could possibly raise large enough forces to attain the 2:1 numerical superiority over the Axis normally considered necessary.15 Regardless, therefore, of the size ground Army the nation could field, Wedemeyer had to find some way to rake an inferior force suffice. Superior mobility, superior firepower, and proper use of air power were the answers.16

The Victory Plan was therefore not based in the first instance on the industrial needs of the United States, nor did Wedemeyer's thought process begin with the civilian sector. He did not deviate from the strategic planning processes familiar to all of his colleagues in War Plans Division. It was nevertheless his awareness of the many valid wartime jobs for a limited pool' of high quality manpower that distinguished him from other mobilization planners. Aware of the importance of Lend Lease to the war effort and conscious that the Germans both feared and respected American economic power, he took special pains to avoid disrupting the industrial work force. Analysts of the Victory Plan therefore justifiably praise him for understanding that the needs of industry were as important as the needs of the Army.

The Import of the Victory Plan

In general terms, the Victory Plan was a remarkably prescient document. In 1941, Wedemeyer estimated that the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces would need a grand total of 8,795,658 men to fight the war. As the Army was attaining its peak strength in March of 1945, it had a total of 8,157,386 men in uniform -- very nearly the figure that Wedemeyer had estimated almost four years earlier. To have calculated the total manpower utilization with such precision is a superficially impressive achievement, although it might more properly be expressed the other way around. The Army eventually used almost exactly the amount of manpower Wedemeyer predicted because his assessment of the amount of available manpower was essentially correct, and the Army conceived and fought a style of war that observed that constraint.

In detail, however, the Victory Plan turned out to have many flaws. While correctly computing the total number of men available for the armed forces, Wedemeyer used a distribution formula that did not take account of the increasingly technological nature of warfare. The Army eventually required far more men for maintenance and logistical support than in the past, with the consequence that the combat edge was actually slightly smaller than that of the World War I Army, which had half its total strength. Rather than 215 divisions, the country eventually fielded 90 Army divisions. Similarly, Wedemeyer overestimated the number of mechanized and armored divisions that American industry could equip, especially when it was also building similar weapons for the Allies. The errors in detail, as it turned out, were not important. For purposes of production planning, the estimate was sufficient, despite errors that later became evident in the number and types of divisions the Army would create, to allow industrial planners to set up production lines for very large quantities of materiel, thereby establishing the industrial capacity the United States would need for the rest of the war. As a logistics estimate, the Victory Plan therefore served its purpose.17

Because of the context in which it was drafted, most discussions of the Victory Plan refer to it either as a mobilization plan or a logistics estimate. Secretary of War Stimson and General Marshall called it a study of production requirements for national defense, noting that the estimate of equipment had to proceed from certain strategic assumptions.18 Wedemeyer himself insisted that the Victory Plan was neither a strategic nor a tactical plan, although strategy provided the framework for estimating production requirements.19 What emerged from the Army's production estimate in the fall of 1941, however, was far more than a logistics plan, or even a mobilization plan.

The Victory Plan of 1941 was, although not many War Department staff officers realized it while it was being drafted, the blueprint both for the general mobilization of the United States Army for World War II and for the operational concept by which the United States would fight the war. The Victory Plan predicted the future organization for an army that did not yet exist, outlined combat missions for a war not yet declared, and computed war production requirements for industries that were still committed to peacetime manufacture. It did all of this with remarkable accuracy, considering that the intentions of the United States Government were anything but clear in 1941. Very few staff papers have ever had its prescience, its impact, or its far-reaching consequences. Fewer still have dealt so concisely, yet comprehensively, with grand strategic concepts.

After the United States accepted a role as a world power after World War I, it could no longer rely upon a single mobilization plan that mustered the resources of the nation just to defend the western hemisphere. The evolving national policy in 1941 made existing plans obsolete, leading to the hastily conceived Victory Plan. This case points out with particular clarity that no single mobilization plan could possibly serve all contingencies, especially when national policy was in the midst of change. The mission of the armed forces in 1941 changed in consonance with changes in national policy, and those changes demanded greater sophistication and flexibility in military plans. The War Department suddenly faced an international crisis that exceeded the scope of existing war plans, and the Victory Plan was one of the essential first steps in preparing the United States for a war beyond its shores. Wedemeyer's estimate demonstrated a realization that mobilization in the modern era was a complex and dynamic process in which plans had to strike many delicate and interlocking balances -- among them the proper balance between conflicting domestic and military manpower priorities and the correct balance between pure manpower and materiel as means of generating combat power. It was evident to the Wit Plans Division that all wars in the twentieth century were not alike, nor would they necessarily break out where most convenient for the defenders. Therefore rigid plans had to give way to flexible ones that accounted for contemporary circumstances. Thus the Victory Plan superseded the Protective Mobilization Plan of 1939.

The paper was remarkably concise: in only fourteen pages it laid out the strategic objectives of the United States in the event of war, stated American strategic military requirements for such a war, and developed and outlined the force structure to accomplish those tasks. It was therefore far more than just a mobilization plan or a logistics estimate. The victory Plan was a prism that reflected basic elements of successful military planning. It demonstrated that good planning could not be apportioned in discrete bits or exist solely as abstract calculations, but that each part had to be integrated with the provisions of every other part. The Victory Plan was in effect a comprehensive statement of American strategy that served as a fundamental planning document in preparing the country for war.

Broader Significance

All of these things were significant, but the single most important f act about the Victory Plan had nothing to do with its successes and failures, with the adept planning process by means of which it was written, or with the accuracy and discernment for which it has customarily been praised. Instead, the Victory Plan was important because it typified the outlook of General Marshall and the War Department General Staff, which was never occupied with purely military considerations, but wrote war plans that had a more mature focus.

The Victory Plan is evidence of the early meshing of political and military goals by the American military command structure, as demonstrated by military attention to the manpower needs of the civilian war economy; by military understanding that American economic power was itself a powerful military weapon; and by the delineation of military objectives that suited the national goals in the war. significantly, it demonstrated that the men responsible for outlining America's strategy in the war had a firm grip on all of the elements of national strategy, and that they never confused that national strategy with a purely military, and therefore subordinate, strategy. This, rather than any accounting of detailed successes and failures in what was, after all, only an initial draft and never an operational directive, represented the real genius and uniqueness of the Victory Plan. It reflected the broad consensus of American civil-military leaders on what had to be done and set the tone for future high-level planning in the War Department.

Wedemeyer's essential contribution to preparing America for war was that he had an intellect, a carefully educated and prepared intellect, that could grasp the numerous and diverse strands of politics, policy, strategy, and practical military applications and, understanding them, produce a document that reflected the commonly-held, but as yet unarticulated strategic vision of America's wartime leaders. When called upon to do so, he had the capacity to write a plan that took account of the contexts of the day: the restrictive and, at times, hostile domestic political environment; the mood of the nation; the condition of the armed forces; and the probable intentions of the nation's political leadership. Within that context, he had a sufficient grasp of the nature of total war to conceive of the military operations the country might be called upon to undertake, and a sufficient grasp of the profession of arms to propose an efficient and effective military organization to accomplish those missions. That, and not the relative successes and failures of the plan in its various details, is the final significance of Albert C. Wedemeyer's work in writing the Victory Plan of 1941.


1. Letter, H. L. Stimson to Editor, New York Times, 6 Mar 1939. On Stimson's viewpoint, see Henry L. Stimson, with McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New York: Harper, 1947); Elting E. Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: The Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960). Stims6n's diary recorded a conversation as early as mid-December 1940 with secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, General George C. Marshall, and Admiral Harold Stark to the effect that "there was basic agreement among us all. . . . All four agreed that this emergency could hardly be passed over without this country being drawn into the war eventually." Stimson, On Active Service in War and Peace, p. 366.

2. Generalizations are based on surveys of the following standard works: Harold T. Butler, "Partisan Positions on Isolationism vs Internationalism, 1918-1933," unpublished Ph.D dissertation, Syracuse University, 1963; Thomas N. Guinsburg "Senatorial Isolationism in America, 1919-1941," unpublished Ph.D dissertation, Columbia University, 1969; Warren F. Kuehl, "Midwestern Newspapers and Isolationist Sentiment," Diplomatic History 3:3 (1979), pp. 283-306; Dexter Perkins, "The Department of State and American Public opinion," in Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, eds., The Diplomats, 1919-1939 (New York: Atheneum Press, 1953), Vol. I, pp. 282-308; Thomas A. Bailey, The Man in the Street (New York: Macmillan, 1964 reprint of 1948 edition); David H. Culbert, News for Everyman: Radio and Foreign Affairs in Thirties America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976); Jerome E. Edwards, The Foreign Policy of Col. McCormick's Tribune, 1929-1941 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1971); Alfred O. Hero, Jr., Americans in World Affairs (Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1959). For statistics: "A Peace Policy for 1935," Christian Century LII (Jan 1935), p. 40; George Gallup and Claude Robinson, "American Institute of Public opinion - Surveys, 1935-38," Public Opinion Quarterly, II (Jul 1938), p. 388, and subsequent issues of Public Opinion Quarterly.

3. Later Under Secretary.

4. Memorandum, Under Secretary of War Patterson to Secretary of War Stimson, 18 Apr 1941, Subj: Ultimate Munitions Production Essential to Safety of America, NARA, RG 165, File WPD 4494 and 4321-12; Pogue, Marshall, p. 140. Existing goals for production of munitions were neither sufficiently precise nor sufficiently long-range to suit the needs of Patterson, the G-4, and the office of Production Management. The intermediate goals had been established for munitions to support an Army of 2 million men at once and an ultimate force of 4 million (Munitions Program of 30 Jun 1940). But the end was not in sight, and procurement planners needed some sort of final target with which to work. Letter, President to the Secretary of War, 9 Jul 1941. Entry 234, box 498, Director of SS&P, G-4, NARA, RG 165, Numerical File 1921-Mar 1942, Document #33473.

5. Memorandun, Lieut. Col C. W. Bundy for Acting Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division, 20 May 1941, Subj: Coordination of Planning and Supply, NARA, RG 165, File WPD 4321-12. Memorandum, Assistant Acting Assistant Chief of Staff War Plans Division, for Chief of Staff, 7 Jun 1941, Subj: Ultimate Munitions Production Essential to the Safety of America, NARA, RG 165, File WPD 4494. Also see memorandum, Gen. Gerow for Director, War Plans Division, OPNAV, 27 May 1941, NARA, RG 165, File WPD 4321-12.

6. Quoted in Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, pp. 335-36; see also Kreidberg and Henry, History of Military Mobilization, p. 620.

7. Quoted in Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, p. 336.

8. Ibid.

9. The Army planning data, including estimates made by the planning section of the Air Corps, were combined as a joint study and, together with a similar estimate made by the Navy for Victory sea forces, turned over to the Joint Army Navy Board. The Joint Board approved the basic plan and forwarded it to the civilian production agencies in the government. The Office of Production Management eventually administered the entire production program. For the final, detailed production estimates, see Joint Board No. 355 (Serial 707), Army and Navy Estimate of United States Over-all Production Requirements, Sept 11, 1941, NARA, RG 225.

10. For a detailed analysis of the Victory Plan and more thorough discussion of sources, refer to this author's An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941 (Washington: GPO, 1990).

11. Discussions of the Victory Plan are concentrated in studies that address World War II logistics issues. The viewpoints summarized in this paragraph appear, in part or in whole, in various general histories of the war as well. These include: Marvin A. Kreidberg and Merton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army 1775-1945 (Washington: Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-212, Jun 1955); Byron Fairchild and Jonathan Grossman, The Army and Industrial Manpower (Washington: GPO, 1959); Richard M. Leighton and Robert W. Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-1943 (Washington: GPO, 1959); David F. Trask, ed., "Historical Survey of U.S. Mobilization: Eight Topical Studies of the Twentieth Century" (Washington: USACMH unpublished typescript, n.d.); Ray S. Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division (Washington: GPO, 1951); Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942 (Washington: GPO, 1953); Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies (Washington: GPO, 1959); Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations.

12. The entire discussion of the planning process is based upon: the Army's portion of the Victory Plan, contained in two documents, WPD Memorandum, Ultimate Requirements - Ground Forces, 23 Aug 1941, NARA, RG 165, entry 234, box 498, Director of SS&P, G-4 Numerical File 1921-Mar 1942, document #33473, and the later Ultimate Requirements Study. Estimate of Army Ground Forces (War Plans Division, GS), Sept 1941, folder WPD 4494-14/4494-19, NARA, RG 165; author's interviews with General A. C. Wedemeyer (24 Apr 1987, 5 May 1987, and 3 Jun 1987); and A. C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (New York: Henry Holt, 1958).

13. Author's interview with General A. C. Wedemeyer, 24 Apr 1987.

14. For a detailed analysis of Wedemeyer's computations on manpower availability and troop strength requirements, refer to chapters 3 and 4, respectively, of An Unknown and Doubtful Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941.

15. For his assessments of the manpower limitations of the Alliance, see memorandum, Wedemeyer to Gerow, 9 Sept 1941, OPE Exec. #4, Item V, NARA, RG 165. Manpower, as Wedemeyer knew, was not everything. Citing a relevant case, he observed of the French defeat in 1940 that "Another million men in Flanders would not have turned the tide of battle for France." Estimate of Army Requirements, p. 8.

16. Estimate of Army Forces, p. 7. Wedemeyer derived his understanding of these issues from broad reading in military affairs and from his senior military schooling, above all at the German Kriegsakademie in 1934-1936, where the course of study emphasized mobile warfare, and where he, like his German peers, read the various works of J.P.C. Fuller. On this point, see the discussion on Wedemeyer's professional education in chapter 1 of An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941.

17. Analyses of the successes and failures of the Victory Plan are found in chapter 5 of An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941.

18. Press Conference Memorandum, Secretary of War Stimson, 11:45 a.m., 5 Dec 1941; and Statement by the chief of staff, re: Leak of Victory Plan (5 Dec 1941); both in File WPD 4494-20, NARA, RG 165.

19. Wedemever Reports!, pp. 63-65.

Dr. Gary E. Weir
Naval Historical Center


This brief study will examine the increase in the number of submarine shipyards in the United States and their mobilization through 1943. Augmenting the experienced and already available yards with two newcomers from the private sector, the U.S. Navy led the way in promoting the transformation of the interwar command technology for submarines into a part of the modern naval-industrial complex.1

As it is used here, the term "naval-industrial complex" (NIC) depends heavily upon Samuel Huntington's definition of the military-industrial complex.2 He characterized this elusive and often misunderstood component of western society and economy as "a large permanent military establishment supported by and linked to a variety of related industrial, labor, and geographical interests." This description provides an understandable conceptual framework. It also creates an environment for inquiry flexible enough to permit discussion of the different motives and goals of the participants and the changing roles of the Navy and industry which contributed to the evolution of the naval-industrial complex.

This analysis will not present a monolithic view of the naval-industrial complex or its antecedents. Rather than a single historical event or political-economic entity, this partnership between industry, science, and the Navy evolved as a network of individual relationships developing simultaneously. Each was based upon the historical timing and complexity of the particular vessel and technology involved. They were bonded together into a naval-industrial complex by the common motives of national defense, mutual growth, and profit. Historian William McNeill has described this relationship, in its often turbulent early stages, as a "command technology." At the turn of the century, industry built larger, faster, and more powerful ships in direct response to the special demands of naval leaders like Admiral Sir John Fisher, Great Britain's First Sea Lord, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, Chief of the German Imperial Naval office, and Admiral George Dewey, Chairman of the U. S. Navy's General Board.3 Instead of allowing the private sector to develop more effective engines of war in response to international market forces, these naval leaders now ordered specific weapons and technologies to support preferred naval strategies and policies. In developing these "command technologies", the armaments industries and the navies of the major western powers inaugurated a relationship which represented the first stage in the evolution of the naval-industrial complex.4

While a very mature and mutually profitable relationship between the Navy and industry certainly prevailed in surface ship construction as early as the 1880s, nothing comparable existed for submarines before the Great War. Absolutely dependent upon the private sector in 1914, by 1940 the Navy managed to reach a level of submarine design and construction expertise equal to that of its strongest prime contractor, the Electric Boat Company (EB). Its technical expertise and control over ship contracts placed the Navy Department in a position to control a mature command technology for submarines on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

At this juncture, the Navy initiated and financed a massive expansion program within the shipbuilding industry, assisted by other governmental agencies, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. This ambitious effort inaugurated an unprecedented degree of integration and cooperation between the Navy and its contractors supported by a national commitment to naval expansion absent during the 1920s.

The Roosevelt Administration also mobilized the scientific community. In June of 1940, the President authorized the creation of the National Defense Research Council (NDRC) to sponsor and coordinate defense related scientific research and development. One year later, the, Organization for Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), under the direction of Vannevar Bush, assumed the role of parent organization to the NDRC.

During World War II, this blend of naval, industrial, and scientific resources gave birth to the naval-industrial complex for submarines.

Congressional Consent

The aggressive and threatening behavior of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany during the 1930s made another major world conflict a disturbing possibility. Although Americans exhibited a strong desire to avoid war, an increasing number of the nation's leaders realized the need for a stronger defense and more modern weapons. Japanese expansion in the Far East, German rearmament, Hitler's annexation of Austria, and the Panay Incident combined with the president's domestic popularity to provide him with the congressional support necessary to expand the fleet. Thus, during Franklin D. Roosevelt's first two terms in office, slowly increasing appropriations allowed the Navy to build submarines already authorized and to plan for future construction.

The authorization for this fleet expansion came from Congress in three stages. First, the Vinson-Trammel Act of 1934 had given the Navy the authority to bring the fleet up to the full complement allowed by the London Naval Treaty of 1930. This agreement permitted the submarine force only 52,700 tons of front line vessels. Signatories to the treaty could replace or overhaul any overage units as long as the basic tonnage limit was observed. As an authorization, this bill did not provide the cash to build additional vessels. But, it did give naval supporters confidence that Congress would not fail over the next few years to appropriate the necessary funds.

The second stage in the process of authorizing naval expansion came with the legislation popularly known as the Second Vinson Bill, named after Carl Vinson, the Chairman of the House Committee on Naval Affairs. This measure passed the Congress on 17 May 1938 and authorized the president to exceed the construction limits of the 1934 Vinson-Trammel Act by twenty percent. This would allow the Navy to build nine submarines more than the forty-six permitted by the 1934 authorization.5

After the beginning of the war in Europe, two bills, passed in successive months in the summer of 1940, authorized the final stage of the American naval expansion program before Pearl Harbor. The Act of 14 June 1940 permitted an increase of 21,000 tons, or fourteen submarines. But on 19 July, Congress passed the most ambitious of the American naval bills. This measure, often called the Seventy Percent Expansion Act, permitted the Navy to add 70,000 tons of submarines to the fleet. This represented an additional forty-seven boats.6

That same summer, the Navy Department responded to increased demand by building upon the foundation of vast experience available at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Electric Boat. To amplify the Navy's effort at Portsmouth, the Bureau of Ships (BUSHIPS) expanded the services at Mare Island Naval Shipyard and reintroduced the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia to submarine construction. Both of these yards would take technical direction from Portsmouth.

In the private sector, Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison reached an agreement with EB to enlarge dramatically the company's facilities in Groton, Connecticut and Bayonne, New Jersey. The Navy Department also drew Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company into the submarine business as a follow-yard for EB. To this core of five prime contractors the Navy Department gradually added a network of subcontractors from all over the country, supplying everything from diesel engines to periscope optical sets. Naval and private sector personnel collaborated more closely than ever before in adding these new yards to the Navy's industrial base. This promoted the technical and professional integration that formed the foundation of the NIC for submarines.

Electric Boat and Manitowoc

The plan to ex and Electric Boat's facilities at Groton and Bayonne marked the first stop toward this critical integration in the submarine industry. It also gave the Navy Department its first opportunity to exercise the powers granted by Franklin Roosevelt's proclamation of a limited national emergency after the outbreak of war in Europe. Negotiations began in the early summer of 1940. At a meeting held an 10 June, the Navy Department and EB agreed that the latter would receive $1,422,000 under contract Nod-1541 to improve its physical plant and purchase new tools to expedite delivery of the sixteen submarines currently on order. EB's main plant at Groton received $1,261,000, while the other $161,000 went toward improving the company's Electro-Dynamic motor plant at Bayonne.7

As the negotiations for plant expansion continued into the summer, the estimation of the company's needs grew with the increased naval construction authorizations of June and July. In a communication to BUSHIPS on 25 June, the Vice President of Electric Boat Company, Lawrence Y. Spear, estimated that the company would need about $ 1.5 million to accomplish the necessary plant extensions. Spear felt that if,

a negotiated contract is placed with us for thirteen submarines in addition to the three recently awarded us, additional plant facilities will be necessary to enable us to make the deliveries required by the Department.

EB's cost estimate for the project rose to $2,633,100 when the Navy Department funded twenty-five of the additional submarines authorized by the Seventy Percent Expansion Act of 19 July.8 In each case, upon receiving the Navy Department's assistance for plant expansion, EB agreed that

throughout the useful life of this facility, the Government will be given priority in the use thereof, and the facility will be preserved for National Defense purposes.9

After the United States entered the war both submarine orders and naval investment in EB increased. By the summer of 1942 BUSHIPS reestimated the cost of expanding the company's facilities at $4,650,000.10 In addition, during the year preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, Electric Boat committed $1 million of its own funds for capital improvements. As a result, the rate of construction rose from 9.15 submarines per year before the summer of 1940 to approximately 15 two years later.11

In January of 1942, the Navy Department authorized a further expansion of the company's facilities at a site formerly occupied by the old Groton Iron Works.12 The government quickly acquired this site, just one-half mile down Eastern Point Road from the main EB plant, after the local press reported that a Norwegian firm had expressed interest in the property.13 Under BUSHIPS contract Nobs-380, the bureau built a government-owned, and EB-operated shipyard at this location which became known as the "Victory Yard". In this case, an investment of $9,410,757 enabled EB to further increase its output by nine submarines each year.14

The Navy Department soon discovered that its investment in EB contributed to lower submarines costs. According to a BUSHIPS note to the Price Adjustment Board, the contract price for EB submarines dropped $150,000 per vessel between 12 June and 9 September 1940. Twenty-four months later, BUSHIPS and EB completed the facilities expansion initiated under Nod-1541 and Nobs-380.15 With new plant space, tools, and scores of boats on order, the Navy Department paid $345,000 less than the June 1940 price levels for each of the twenty-five submarines awarded to EB in 1942 under contract Nod-1513.16

As these events unfolded, BUSHIPS drew another private contractor into the submarine business as a support facility for EB. The Manitowoc Shipbuilding company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin entered into an agreement with the Navy in September of 1940 to build EB submarine designs under license. The bureau decided to pursue a very long production run with the Gato Class submarines, and the newcomer would provide the Navy with duplicates of the USS Growler(SS-215), which EB produced at Groton. Manitowoc would employ this submarine as a prototype for the SS-265/274 series, using EB patents, supervision, training, and special systems installation.17

Building submarines on the western shore of Lake Michigan inspired some interesting innovations in construction and delivery. In an effort to maintain year-round progress, Manitowoc built its submarines, in segments, inside heated construction sheds. The sections then traveled to the ways by "mechanical doodlebug", or tractor-mover. Here the yard force installed the machinery and welded the hull sections together. The company then slid the vessels sideways into the Manitowoc River, a waterway too narrow to permit the traditional stern-first launch. After each submarine passed acceptance trials in Lake Michigan, Manitowoc turned the vessel over to the Inland Waterways Corporation, which brought each boat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans on a barge from Lockport, Illinois.18

This arrangement initially placed a considerable burden on Electric Boat. The company agreed to "license Manitowoc under all patents owned or controlled by it [EB] which may be used in the construction of the said ten submarines." In addition to providing experts to supervise and assist in the construction at Manitowoc, EB negotiated with its Qt2 Class subcontractors on behalf of the Wisconsin firm for the purchase of some vital materials and systems. EB even carried insurance which protected the vessels after they reached New Orleans and began the final stage of their trip to Groton. Once the vessels arrived, EB had to install the periscopes and masts. All of these services were rendered for a sum equal to their cost, plus a fixed fee per vessel of $126,560.19

The advantage to this arrangement was its speed and simplicity. Secretary of the Navy Edison, and his successor Frank Knox, wanted to acquire a large number of submarines in the most cost-effective manner. They believed this plan would accomplish that purpose, while saving the money, the design and construction time, and the expense which new tools and equipment, spare parts, planning, and testing would normally consume.20

The Manitowoc agreement proved very successful in spite of some initial difficulty. Although Electric Boat cooperated with BUSHIPS as the plan unfolded, the company exhibited a degree of reluctance to extend to the new contractor all of the supervisory and technical assistance the agreement required.21 Although its directors negotiated for Manitowoc, Groton refused to place orders or guarantee that its private subcontractors would offer Manitowoc the same prices EB paid on long term projects. Electric Boat would negotiate with its regular subcontractors, but expected very few of them to sign a long term supply agreement without some new provisions for rising costs and prices.

These circumstances caused a certain degree of tension between the staff at Manitowoc, led by Mr. Charles West, president of the company, and the visiting experts sent by EB to give advice on submarine construction. According to observations made by Commander Armand Morgan, wartime director of the Submarine Section of BUSHIPS, Mr. West and his staff did not like the attitude of the EB advisors. At the time, Commander Morgan noted that,

neither Supship, Manitowoc (Comdr Weaver) nor Mr. West want EB Co. supervision. Mr. West has privately told me that he resents EB Co attitude of ownership.

This kind of friction was to be expected in an unusual relationship of this sort. Electric Boat took exception to the idea of aiding a possible postwar competitor, but, in the end, it fulfilled its contract obligations.22

On the strength of naval investment in the company's facilities and the promise of new contract awards, EB became a conduit for much of the material and many of the systems needed to build the company's Gato class designs. BUSHIPS permitted Manitowoc to purchase locally those items not peculiar to EB designs. But the Groton firm had to negotiate the procurement of unique materials and systems for all of the yards using EB Gato plans, billing the Navy Department at cost and absorbing most of the manpower and administrative charges. The considerable administrative cost represented an important reason for EB's lack of enthusiasm for its role in the Navy Department's plans for Manitowoc.23

Portsmouth, Mare Island, and Cramp

EB had its design, engineering, and construction capabilities expanded with the addition of Manitowoc as a follow-yard. In a like manner, the Navy extended the considerable material and human resources at Portsmouth, by duplicating the yard's designs at both Mare Island and Cramp Shipbuilding.

Between 1940 and 1943, the Navy Department commissioned an expansion of the facilities and workforce at Portsmouth, to insure that it could sustain its productive capacity as well as its role as the country's leading submarine builder.24Employing 11,000 workers in 1941, the yard increased this number to 20,000 in two years. It operated around the clock on a three-shift system, seven days per week for the duration of the war. Under the command of Rear Admiral Thomas Withers, the yard added an emergency building basin and a new dry dock. In 1942, the Navy Department authorized a new steel shiphouse containing five building ways, and allowed Portsmouth to build an electrical manufacturing shop for the production of electrical boxes and switches.25

These measures, combined with the prewar design and construction capability of the yard, dramatically improved productivity at Portsmouth. As historian Richard Winslow observed, "from four subs in 1941, the Yard produced twelve in 1942, nineteen in 1943, thirty-two in 1944, and twelve through August 1945."26

Mare Island Naval Shipyard, experienced in submarine construction only as a follow-yard for Portsmouth during the interwar years, also experienced considerable growth. During the first year of the war in Europe, the yard's workforce grew to over 14,000. Before the end of the war, Mare Island built a wide variety of vessels, among them eighteen Portsmouth-designed submarines.

At Mare Island, the Navy Department initiated submarine construction under the emergency conditions of 1940 by extending existing contracts. To build copies of the SS-236 through 239 and the SS-281 and 282, the submarine planning force at Mare Island merely broadened the supply contracts for the USS Tinosa and Tullibee, SS-283 and 284. According to BUSHIPS, the

subject vessels are being constructed at the Navy Yard, Mare Island, and in order to obtain full advantage of the duplication in design, it is essential that identical equipment be furnished.

This practice continued into 1942 when Portsmouth supplied procurement services for Mare Island on the SS-285 through 291 according to an arrangement then in affect for the SS-228 through 239 and SS-275 through 284. In certain cases, to insure quick production and exact duplication, the Navy Department even negotiated with EB to procure equipment for Mare Island, as well as for Portsmouth and Cramp Shipbuilding.27

Under the command of Rear Admiral Wilhelm L. Friedell, Mare island instituted some creative planning and production practices before and during the war. In 1940, the yard administration divided its unified Planning and Production Departments into specialized offices according to ship type. Thus, the yard had a type superintendent for submarines, supported by engineering specialists and experienced workers.

In 1941, when the increased demand for ships strained the talents and capabilities of the yard's enlarged workforce to its limits, BUSHIPS and Mare Island embarked on a "farm-out" program. The yard employed hundreds of small contractors in California and six other western states. Under this program, independent, private foundries and factories supplied the yard with thousands of spare parts. The program became even more ambitious after an agreement signed on 2 December 1941 sent most of the work on Mare Island's destroyer escorts and landing craft to Denver. Private contractors in Colorado shipped the completed vessels, in sections, over the mountains to the yard for finishing and launching. This plan permitted Mare Island to keep the construction of its submarines and larger warships on schedule at home, while responding to other naval needs.28

The Navy Department also sponsored the resurrection of the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia. Although Cramp had a long-standing international reputation as a surface-ship producer, it also had limited experience with submarines. Between 1910 and 1914 it built the USS G-4 to Italian designs under contract to the American Laurenti, Company. After the Great War, the production of American warships declined dramatically and the results of the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-1922 insured that this trend would continue. These conditions forced one of the Navy's prime submarine contractors, the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, to close its doors in 1924. Cramp reluctantly withdrew from the shipbuilding business three years later. In 1940, at the insistence of the Navy Department, the New York firm of Harriman Ripley and Company agreed to convert the old Cramp facilities, unused for thirteen years, into a modern shipyard capable of building surface ships and submarines.29

Cramp served as one of BUSHIPS, rive prime submarine contractors during World War II. It performance in that role illustrated some of the problems inherent in rapid expansion for firms relatively new to the submarine industry. The successful construction of fourteen submarines at Cramp during World War II also demonstrated the facility with which the Navy Department and BUSHIPS integrated the new firm into a command technology rapidly becoming a naval-industrial complex for submarines.

Bringing Cramp back to the shipbuilding business immediately placed the company in competition with other yards for factors of production scarce during wartime. The yard found it particularly difficult to recruit the skilled labor it needed. According to Captain James Bethea, who as a lieutenant commander served as one f the two senior inspection officers for the Supervisor of shipbuilding at Cramp,

the place was opened under the most adverse of conditions that you can think of. All of the competent labor had been hired by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, by New York Ship[building Company) across in Camden, and by Sun Ship[building Company] down the river a short way. It became very difficult to hire competent labor. The management in the yard was very, very lacking in know how, in discipline, and in knowledge of how to run an industrial establishment. . . The Navy further complicated the situation by putting in one of the most complex programs you can think of: building cruisers, submarines, and handling ship conversions. . . . I was exposed daily to how not to do so many things, it could not have been better experience for my career anywhere I wanted to go.30

Thus it was not surprising that materials and scheduling emerged as a major problem for Cramp in building the SS-292/303 and the SS-425/426. The importance of schedules and the pressure placed on the yards to deliver on time led many firms to overcompensate by demanding early delivery on all of the materials, systems, and tools needed to complete the vessels. Cramp reacted in this way during a debate in 1942 with the Kohler Company over the delivery of torpedo tubes. Naval authorities responded by agreeing to Kohler's request for a conference to resolve problems of timely delivery and production schedules, while rejecting its appeal for early consignment on all of the contract items. The latter request had caused Commander Armand Morgan of BUSHIPS' Submarine Section to comment that long-term delivery of material to Cramp should not cause delay.

This material as promised should not cause a delay in the completion of the vessels. Cramp's demands are unreasonable and unnecessary. Ports[mouth] builds a submarine from keel laying up to completion in less than nine months. Cramp wants the steel for the C. T. [conning tower] almost last thing put on, about 1 year before completion. I cannot recommend diverting material needed at producing yards to fulfill such a request.31

Of course, Cramp did not have the experience with submarines one found at Portsmouth. But, with the training of the interwar period behind them, the Navy Department and BUSHIPS had sufficient background in working with submarine contractors to satisfy Cramp's needs while effectively integrating the now company into the complex of technical and business relationships which produced fleet submarines.32

Of the five building yards producing the Navy's submarines during the war, EB did the job more cheaply than any of the others. On its contract for the SS-222/227 and SS-240/264, EB recorded a unit cost of $2,765,000. This was $284,500 less than Manitowoc and $846,250 less than Cramp. EB's considerable experience in submarine construction would account for these differences. Both Cramp and Manitowoc were relative newcomers. But the comparison holds when EB and Portsmouth were compared by the Price Adjustment Board in the spring of 1942. EBOS unit cost on the USS Bluefish (SS-222), to take a particularly interesting example, fell below the price of comparable projects at Portsmouth and Mare Island by about $1 million.33

This did not surprise the Navy Department. In 1938, the department had Lieutenant Commander Ralph E. McShane compare the cost of building ships at private yards and naval facilities. In his report, McShane predicted that the private yards would produce ships more cheaply. Not underestimating the capital risks borne by the private sector in doing business with the Navy, McShane cited, among other factors, higher government pay rates and liberal leave policies, as well as the burden of soliciting and administering the bidding for all submarine contracts as the primary reasons for the higher costs at the naval shipyards.34

Portsmouth compensated for its more expensive unit costs by building its vessels much faster than any other facility in the early months of the war. In the spring of 1942 it took EB an average of fourteen months to complete a submarine. Portsmouth did the job in nine and one-half months, while it took Mare Island twelve, and Cramp seventeen. Throughout the war Portsmouth compared well with EB in this aspect of submarine construction, actually building one more vessel than its Groton competitor by war's end. Portsmouth remained the Navy's premier submarine construction facility well into the postwar years.35


Between 1940 and 1943, the Navy Department, armed with congressional support, successfully directed a dramatic increase in both the submarine force and the industrial base for construction. This process demonstrated a renewed commitment to these vessels and marked the birth of the naval-industrial complex for submarines.

These events were the product of a forty-year evolution. In the crucible of the interwar period, plagued by fiscal and technical trials, naval authorities defined the type of vessel and the strategy they wished to employ as well as the character of the naval-industrial relationship. In the years between 1940 and 1943, the Navy Department used its dominant position in the command technology for submarines to fashion a central core of building yards according to its preferred strategy and production planning. From this point on, anticipating the needs of the, submarine force became an integral part of the private sector's recipe for prosperity.

Under the very able direction of assistant secretary Charles Edison, the Navy Department utilized the design and construction expertise of Electric Boat Company and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as a central core for this much expanded network of construction facilities. By 1940, Manitowoc entered the submarine business as a follow yard for EB. In the same way, Mare Island and Cramp took design direction and engineering advice from Portsmouth. Thus, before the war began, the United States had five shipyards building the standardized Gato Class fleet submarine, rather than just two.

In the process of enlarging American submarine construction capability, the Navy Department naturally encountered some fundamental difficulties. Cramp's anxiety over construction and delivery schedules, the resentment at Manitowoc over Electric Boat's "ownership" attitude, and the technical challenges of building submarines on the Great Lakes were, just a few. But, overcoming these complications demonstrated the flexibility of the relationship and the excellent management skills exhibited by the significant players in this drama, like Charles West of Manitowoc, Secretary Charles Edison, Admiral Samuel M. Robinson of BUSHIPS, and Lawrence Y. Spear of Electric Boat company.


1. This paper is derived from my forthcoming book entitled, Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940-1961 (Naval Historical Center). This book is intended to complement an earlier work by the author entitled, Building American Submarines, 1914-1940 (Washington: Naval Historical Center, 1991), which traced the development of the early command technology for submarines in the United States before World War II. William McNeill's concept of command technology is used here to describe the early relationship between the Navy and industry which had not yet matured into the naval- industrial complex. W. McNeill, Pursuit of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).

2. S. Huntington, "The Defense Establishment: vested Interests and the Public Interest", in Omer L. Carey, ed., The Military Industrial Complex and U. S. Foreign Policy (Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press, 1969), 562-584.

3. Von Tirpitz held this position from 1898 through 1916. Fisher was First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910. The General Board advised successive American Secretaries of the Navy on the general characteristics for the vessels required by the Navy. For a recent analysis of the Royal Navy's response to technical innovation and its affect on strategy, see Jon Sumida, In Defense of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology. and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914 (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

4. William H. McNeill The Pursuit of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), chapter 8.

5. For general information on the 1934 and 1938 legislation as well as the tonnage allowed and the numbers of vessels authorized, see George T. Davis, A Navy Second to None (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1940), chapter 14. For the requirement that every other submarine be built at a navy yard, see Lewis Compton to Mayor T. S. Burgin of Quincy MA, 9 August 1937, box 7, Assistant SECNAV Alpha Files, RG-80, National Archives, Washington D. C. (NA).

6. The numbers of submarines were calculated by the author at an average displacement per boat of 1475 tons. For the pertinent sections of the legislation, see Naval History Division, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, vol. 1 (Washington D.C.: GPO, 1964), 244.

7. BUC&R-BUENG Joint Memorandum entitled "Electric Boat Company., Groton, Conn.", 10 June 1940, box 403, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. By 1942, the total expenditure on the Electro-Dynamic Works at Bayonne amounted to $476,000. Electro-Dynamic Works, Bayonne to BUSHIPS, 27 January 1942, box 404, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. The initial arrangement gave EB title to those construction facilities and tools for which it paid fifty and one-half percent of the cost. The government was vested with those facilities for which it paid the whole price. For an example of the 100 percent Navy ownership contract see, BUSHIPS to Allis-Chalmers, I January 1942; BUSHIPS to Director of Purchases, OPN, 30 April 1941, box 113, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

8. SUPSHIPS to BUSHIPS, 6 August 1940; EB to SUPSHIPS, 5 August 1940, box 403, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WURC.

9. EB to Supships, Groton, 14 Aug 1940 and 24 Jul 1940, Lewis Compton, Acting SECNAV to EB, 23 Sep 1940, box 1986, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC

10. When the work was completed in 1943, the total amount invested in Nod-1541 came to $4,991,250. EB to BUSHIPS, 3 February 1943, box 407, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

11. Captain N. L. Rawlings, USN, Liaison Officer for the Price Adjustment Board and Head of Shipbuilding for BUSHIPS to Price Adjustment Board, 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. An important factor in the production increase was the numbers of hours worked each day on the vessels at the yard. Before the summer of 1940, EB was using a 40 hour week. By 1942, around-the-clock shifts were in use.

12. EB to Supships, Groton, 14 Aug 1940 and 24 Jul 1940, Lewis Compton, Acting SECNAV to EB, 23 Sep 1940, box 1986, BUSHIPS Gencorr 1940-45, RG-19, WNRC. Liaison officer for the Price Adjustment Board, Captain N.L. Rawlings USN, Head of Shipbuilding Division, BUSHIPS to Price Adjustment Board, 12 Jun 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-45, RG-19, WNRC.

13. James Forrestal, Acting SECNAV to FDR, 2 January 1942; "Minutes of Conference", 31 December 1941; BUSHIPS TO SECNAV, 2 January 1941, box 403, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

14. Captain N. L. Rawlings, USN, Liaison officer for the Price Adjustment Board and Head of Shipbuilding for BUSHIPS to Price Adjustment Board, 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

15. Lieutenant R. B. Carothers, officer in Charge of Construction to BUSHIPS, 24 July 1943, box 407, BUSHIPS OENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

16. Captain N. Li- -Rawlings, USN, Liaison Officer for the Price Adjustment Board and Head of Shipbuilding for BUSHIPS to Price Adjustment Board, 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. EB to BUSHIRS, 18 August 1943, box 1988, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1943, RG-19, WNRC.

17. EB-Manitowoc Agreement, 14 Sep 1940; Manitowoc to Supships, Manitowoc, 2 and 22 Nov 1940, box 1986, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-45, RG-19, WNRC. Manitowoc decided in the autumn of 1941 to set aside private and Maritime Commission construction in order to concentrate on building the Navy's submarines. The reason given in the source cited below was the Navy Department's investment in Manitowoc since 1940, especially in terms of plant expansion and retooling. Manitowoc to BUSHIPS (Commander N. L. Rawlings) , 5 November 1941; SUPSHIPS, Manitowoc (Commander G. C. Weaver), 29 October 1941, box 704, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

18. SUPSHIPS, Manitowoc to Commandants, Mare Island and Portsmouth, 16 October 1941, box 703; Memorandum of a Conference in Captain Jones' Office at the Bureau of Ships, 9:30 am, 17 September, 1940; Manitowoc to BUC&R/BUENG, 22 May 1940, box 701, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. Captain G. C. Weaver, USN, SUPSHIPS, Manitowoc to BUSHIPS, 1 December 1943, box 1986, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. RADM William T. Nelson, USN (Ret), Fresh Water Submarines. the Manitowoc Story (Manitowoc, WI: Hoeffner Printing, 1986), chapters 2 and 3.

19. EB-Manitowoc Agreement, 14 Sep 1940, box 1986, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-45, RG-19, WNRC.

20. For a discussion of these motives see: BUSHIPS to Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, 23 May 1941, box 1987, BUSHIPS GENCORR, RG-19, WNRC.

21. Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock of Chester Pennsylvania tried to enter the submarine market in 1933 but was forced out by EB. According to communications between Sun, the Navy JAG, and the Bureaus of C&R and ENG, the company had to raise its price beyond the acceptable range to the Navy in order to cover the costs of royalties on EB submarine patents. The bureaus were not in the position at the time to grant Sun a waiver of patent liability, given the importance of EB to the Navy's new plans for construction in the early 1930s. Sun Shipbuilding Co to JAG, #SS/L4-2 (350703-1)18 of Jul 1935; BUC&R and BUENG to JAG, #SS/L4-2 (350703-1) of 30 Jul 1935, box 4020, SECNAV GENCORR 1926-40, RG-80, NA.

22. It should be mentioned here that Commander Morgan tended to be highly critical of EB's business practices. BUSHIPS to EB (route slip for the Morgan comment), 29 March 1943, box 406, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. See also the route slip on the following document related to price reductions initiated by EB in 1943, EB to BUSHIPS, 18 August 1943, box 1988, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1943, RG-19, WNRC

23. SUPSHIPS, Manitowoc to BUSHIPS, 10 Apr 1941; EB Purchasing Agent, F.B. Bently to the EB Representative at Manitowoc, Eric H. Ewertz, 25 Feb 1941; EB to Supships, Groton, 9 Feb 1942, box 1987, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-45, RG-19, WNRC.

24. From 1941 to August 1945 Portsmouth delivered seventy-nine submarines to the Navy. This exceeded EB’s total by one. R. E. Winslow III, Portsmouth-Built: Submarines of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (Portsmouth, Portsmouth Marine Society, 1985), 79. For the Pre World War II role of Portsmouth see also, Weir, Building American Submarines.

25. This facility was located in Somersworth, New Hampshire, some eighteen miles to the northwest of the yard.

26. Winslow, Portsmouth-Built, 79-91.

27. BUSHIPS to BUSANDA, 23 May 1941, box 1987; BUSHIPS to Portsmouth et. al., 6 January 1942, box 2105, BUSHIPS GENCORR'1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

28. Arnold S. Lott, Lieutenant Commander, USN, A Long Line of Ships: Mare Island's Century of Naval Activity in California (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1954), 207-216.

29. "Address to the Technology Club of Philadelphia" by Mr. Henry E. Rossell, President Cramp Shipbuilding Company, Philadelphia, 15 May 1945, box 133, Records of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, 1940-1947 (FORRESTAL, 1940-1947), RG-80, NA. This was the source used for the background information on Cramp.

30. Captain James Bethea, interview by Gary E. Weir, 4 March 1991, NHC Oral History, OA. (U)

31. Route Slip (signed AMM (515) 8/10/42), SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia to Inspector of Naval Material, Pittsburgh, 8 Aug 1942, box 2108, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

32. SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia to BUSHIPS, 15 April 1942; Cramp to SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia, 9 April 1942; Cramp to SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia, 10 August 1942; Kohler Letter of Intent to Cramp, 15 June 1942 (source of quote) ; SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia to Cramp, 6 June 1942, box 2122, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. Cramp to BUSHIPS, 30 October 1942; Cramp to SUPSHIPS, Philadelphia, 4 August 1942, box 2108, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. subcontract between Cramp Shipbuilding Co. and Kohler Co., 15 June 1942, box 2106, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.

33. Price Adjustment Board to Liaison officer for the Price Adjustment Board, 'Captain N. L. Rawlings, USN, Head of Shipbuilding Division, BUSHIPS and reply, 18 May and 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC-

34. Captain N. L. Rawlings, USN, Liaison officer for the Price Adjustment Board and Head of shipbuilding for BUSHIPS to Price Adjustment Board, 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC. EB to BUSHIPS, 18 August 1943, box 1988, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1943, RG-19, WNRC. "The Problem of Comparing the Costs of Ships Built at Navy Yards with Ships Built at Private Yards", 1940 (written 1938), box 8, Assistant SECNAV Alpha Files, RG-80, NA. McShane did not underestimate the problem of comparing the two types of shipyards and the variety of very different determining factors affecting each in its own environment. A comparison could be made only in the most general terms, citing the most outstanding factors involved.

35. Price Adjustment Board to Liaison Officer for the Price Adjustment Board, Captain N. L. Rawlings, USN, Head of shipbuilding Division, BUSHIPS and reply, 18 May and 12 June 1942, box 405, BUSHIPS GENCORR 1940-1945, RG-19, WNRC.


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.


Dr. Thomas C. Hone is well known as a scholar of naval history and an expert on-how governments, corporations, and other large bureaucracies work and evolve. He received the Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. Thereafter, he served on the faculty of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and on the professional staff of Booz, Allen and Hamilton, a Washington area defense contractor. Since 1988 Dr. Hone has been an instructor in the Policy and Organizational Management Department of the Defense Systems Management College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. His publications are many, and include articles in Defense Analysis, Armed Forces and Society, and other professional journals and a chapter in the Office of Air Force History's 1986 book, Air Leadership. Moreover, he authored Policy and Change: The Administrative History of the office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1946-1986, the second volume in the Naval Historical Center's series, Contributions to Naval History.

Major E. Charles Kirkpatrick, USA, earned the B.A. and M.A. degrees in history at Wake Forest University and in 1987 took the Ph.D. in history from Emory University in Atlanta. He has taught at the University of Maryland, George Mason University, St. Leo College, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. From 1987 to June 1991, Dr. Kirkpatrick served on the staff of the Military Studies Branch, U.S. Army Center of Military History. His publications, both official and unofficial, include pieces on the German assault on Belgium's Fort Eben Emael, the U.S. Army and the A-10 Thunderbolt, Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur, the Army's antiaircraft service, and the Victory Plan of 1941.

Dr. Gary E. Weir was awarded the B.A. from Manhattan College in New York and in 1982 earned the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He has teaching experience with the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the University of Maryland. The Journal of Military History, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, and Naval Engineers Journal have presented articles by Dr. Weir and in 1991 the U.S. Naval Institute published his work on the construction of the German High Seas Fleet entitled Building the Kaiser's Navy. Dr. Weir joined the Contemporary History Branch of the Naval Historical Center in 1987. Since then he has completed for the Navy two substantial histories, Building American Submarines, 1914-1940 and Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940-1961. He is currently preparing a history of naval oceanography.


Note: The views or opinions expressed or implied are those of the speakers alone and not those of the Department of the Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.


Published: Tue Sep 12 13:34:39 EDT 2017