Mobilization of the American Home Front

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Mobilization of the American Home Front

World War II officially began in Europe when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. By 1940 the war in Europe was in full swing, and the Allies, the nations fighting Germany and Italy, including Britain and France, needed U.S. support. At this time the United States was not involved in the war. However, it did agree to provide the Allies with weapons and other war materials. This agreement changed daily life in the United States as Americans began participating in a broad united effort to support the far-off military campaign. The biggest challenge involved industrial mobilization, the conversion of U.S. manufacturing from the production of civilian goods to the production of war materials. America had much to do to gear up for war production. It had to awaken from an economic lull brought on by the Great Depression. The Great Depression was the most severe economic crisis the United States ever experienced. It began in late 1929 and lasted throughout the 1930s. The Depression led to slowed business activity, high unemployment rates, and social unrest in many areas of the country.

To guide and coordinate the massive mobilization effort the U.S. government created numerous temporary federal agencies, including the War Resources Board, Office of Emergency Management, Office of Production Management, Supplies Priorities and Allocations Board, War Production Board, Office of Economic Stabilization, Defense Plant Corporation, and Office of War Mobilization. Under the guidance of these agencies, American businesses and workers brought about a giant increase in U.S. industrial productivity, and overall the mobilization effort created dramatic growth in large private corporations.

The World War I experience

Mobilizing the American home front for a worldwide war was not a new experience for the United States. U.S. war mobilization had occurred once before in the twentieth centuryduring World War I, which broke out in Europe in 1914. The United States did not enter that war until 1917, when the fighting had spread through much of Europe.

At that time the U.S. federal government was small and weak compared to what it would become by the end of the twentieth century. It had little influence over private business matters and played little role in the daily lives of Americans or in the national economy. Therefore, U.S. businesses took the lead in the mobilization effort. To organize this effort Congress created the National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC), a group composed of corporate leaders. While mobilizing U.S. industry, the NDAC sought to greatly limit any permanent growth of government. The commission did not want the government involved in what it regarded as private business matters. To avoid government intervention, the NDAC created various industry groups to assist in the award of government contracts for war materials These groups often directed contracts to their own industries. Public opposition to this arrangement grew quickly. People did not want privately owned businesses making decisions that affected the military and government spending, particularly if those businesses financially benefited from the decisions. The War Industries Board (WIB) was created in July 1917 in an attempt to decrease business influence in war-related decisions and spending. However, the board had little effect on the mobilization effort, and the World War I soon ended with the Allies defeating Germany in 1918. Later, in the 1930s, Congress investigated the role of private business in mobilizing for World War I and held numerous hearings to gather testimony from industry leaders and others. While no outright wrongdoing was uncovered, the public was angered by the high profits and inner dealings of certain private businesses exposed by the hearings.

A German power rises

The Allied victors imposed heavy economic penalties on Germany following World War I. The penalties caused great hardship for the German

people, thrusting many into poverty. These difficult times gave rise to radical politics in Germany, because the German people were desperate and willing to follow leaders who promised to help. Adolf Hitler (18891945), leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (later known as the Nazi Party), rose to power by promising to bring Germany back to world prominence. He had established a dictatorship in Germany by 1933. Under Hitler's guidance Germany began military mobilization in 1935. Germany focused on military mechanization, relying more extensively on tanks and warplanes to wage war, rather than the foot soldiers, horses, and much less armored vehicles it had relied on in the past. (In some of the last major battles of World War I, tanks and airplanes had played key roles.) Hitler also signed a cooperation pact with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (18831945), thus posing a broader threat to European peace and existing governments of other nations. By 1939 Germany had the most modernized air force and tank divisions in the world, and these would soon play a critical role in hard-hitting attacks against other European nations. Germany also built modern submarines that would prove highly effective in sinking Allied ships in the early months of World War II (193945).

Other European nations and the United States had not produced so many new weapons since World War I. As late as 1939 Britain still had no armored divisions, and its warplanes were outdated. After the end of World War I in 1918, the U.S. military was significantly reduced to its prewar size. In addition the arrival of the Great Depression in late 1929 led to a major decline in U.S. industrial and agricultural production and caused substantial unemployment. Little money was available to spend on new military technology.

For the United States, war on the home front would begin much earlier than actual involvement on the battlefields. In 1936 and 1937, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, German and Italian troops began aggressively overtaking portions of Europe and North Africa. U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945; served 193345) and other world leaders took note: It was clear that massive industrial production programs on the U.S. home front would be needed to support the European nations locked in conflict with Hitler and Mussolini.

Asian military developments

Beyond Europe other threatening foreign events were unfolding. Japan, like Germany, was expanding its military. As the democratically elected Japanese government faltered during the early 1930s, the Japanese military gained greater power and strength.

Because the Japanese islands did not have many natural resources to support industrial growth, Japanese military leaders decided to establish a colonial empire to obtain the resources it needed, much as Great Britain had done in earlier centuries. In 1931 Japan invaded and seized the northeast Chinese province of Manchuria, a region rich in iron and coal. By 1937 Japanese forces began moving deeper into China, gaining control of other regions that would provide Japan with the resources it needed to establish a modern, powerful industrial nation. Though condemned by other nations for its aggressive actions, Japan remained largely unchallenged. The United States and other nations did not want to get involved in another war so soon after World War I.

An unprepared nation

President Roosevelt was very concerned about the lack of preparedness of the United States if it were drawn into another war. The effects of the Depression were still plaguing U.S. society in 1940. Nine million workers remained unemployed. Social unrest grew as the economy continued to languish. Many jobless Americans had packed up their families and taken to the road, looking for work and better times. However, they often found themselves unwelcome in new places because local job competition was fierce. Racial discrimination worsened as whites increasingly competed with black Americans for the precious few jobs traditionally held by blacks such as doormen and hotel elevator operators. Laborers struggled for greater recognition from management for their newly formed and expanded unions, labor organizations formed by workers to press management for improved working conditions and pay. A wave of labor strikes, incidences whereby workers refused to work until their demands for better pay or work conditions were met by management, occurred in 1937: Workers quit working but remained at their workstations, hoping to force management to recognize their concerns. These "sit-down" strikes involved some four hundred thousand workers. Some work stoppages turned into violent clashes with armed company guards. In one case, police fired into a crowd outside a Chicago steel mill, killing ten. Given all these events, Roosevelt knew that unifying the nation for possible involvement in another European war would be challenging. Besides rejuvenating the country's industrial productivity, he also needed to unite Americans to support a common cause.

The U.S. population was largely reluctant to get involved in another European war. U.S. involvement in World War I had been unpopular among many Americans. The great number of casualties and the use of chemical weapons horrified people on the home front. Many Americans preferred a policy of isolationism; that is, they wanted the United States to avoid any formal foreign commitments and involvement in foreign conflicts. This sentiment posed a major obstacle for Roosevelt as he prepared to mobilize the home front.

Adding to Roosevelt's obstacles, business leaders and an increasingly conservative Congress were unhappy with the government growth that had occurred during the Great Depression, particularly the growth of federal agencies designed to regulate the U.S. economy. By 1937 they had gathered enough strength to block any new government programs proposed under Roosevelt's New Deal. (The New Deal was the name given to a collection of programs initiated by the Roosevelt administration to help America recover from the Depression.) When Roosevelt began arguing for war preparedness, U.S. businessmen and Congress feared that the president's early mobilization efforts would involve more governmental controls over private business.

Plans to mobilize

The period from 1939 through 1941 was one of uncertainty for Americans. Tension grew in Europe and Asia, but Americans remained detached from international events. Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 officially started World War II. Honoring a defense agreement they had with Poland, France and Britain declared war on Germany. Although Roosevelt reasserted U.S. neutrality, he feared the United States would eventually be drawn into combat unless some U.S. financial aid was offered to France and Britain. As the first step in home front activity, Roosevelt issued a "limited" national emergency proclamation on September 8, 1939. The proclamation set the stage to begin planning for home front mobilization. Under the proclamation the president created the War Resources Board (WRB) to develop a plan to mobilize U.S. industries. With isolationism still deeply rooted in the U.S. population, little resulted from the WRB plan. However, with strong pressure from Roosevelt, Congress reversed the existing neutrality laws so that U.S. arms could be sold to European democracies that were being attacked by Germany. In late 1939 the United States established a cash-and-carry plan to supply Britain, France, and other Allied countries with arms manufactured in America. Under this plan, these nations had to pay cash and transport the supplies in their own ships.

In early 1940 Germany invaded Western Europe. Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and France all fell to the relentless push of German troops. The German advances forced Roosevelt to take further action. He created the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) within the White House in an effort to personally guide mobilization. Following the fall of France in June, he requested and received $1 billion from Congress to manufacture fifty thousand planes. After capturing France, Hitler turned his aggression toward Britain. Germany launched massive air assaults against Britain in the summer of 1940; German bombers approached across the narrow English Channel, which separates Britain from the European mainland. Great Britain stepped up its orders for war materials from the United States, including planes. Also, with European agriculture disrupted by the fighting, U.S. farmers experienced a heavy demand for their crops to be exported to Britain.

With France under German occupation and Britain under attack, Roosevelt reestablished the National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC), which had originally played a part in World War I. The advisory commission was composed of representatives from labor, industry, agriculture, and the general public. The purpose of the new NDAC was to advise Roosevelt and the OEM on mobilization issues and encourage industry to begin converting factories from the production of civilian consumer goods to the production of war materials. However, like the OEM, the NDAC had little authority to compel action because the conservative Congress, responding to business concerns, would not give the temporary war agencies power to regulate business activities. As a result, not much conversion occurred.

To spur military mobilization, Congress established the first-ever peacetime military draft, mandatory enrollment in the U.S. military for men meeting certain qualifications, in September 1940. Many American men who were still unemployed from the Depression entered military service and began receiving a paycheck once again. The U.S. Army had only 190,000 men in uniform when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. It grew to 270,000 in 1940 and well over 1 million by 1941. However, despite the efforts of the NDAC and Congress, the home front remained largely quiet in the summer of 1940, as U.S. industry produced only limited amounts of wartime goods.

A reluctant nation

The German bombings of British cities increased in intensity during the winter of 194041. Following his reelection in November 1940, Roosevelt felt more politically secure and bold enough to take more aggressive action. For example, in an attempt to increase spur businesses' cooperation with increasing war production, he described the growing U.S. home front effort as "the Arsenal of Democracy" in a speech delivered on December 29, 1940. In January 1941 he replaced the NDAC with the Office of Production Management (OPM). Roosevelt appointed the former chairman of General Motors, William Knudsen (18791948), and Sidney Hillman (18871946) of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America to jointly head OPM. They were charged with jump-starting industrial production of war materials and distributing necessary raw materials and manpower. However, like the previous mobilization agencies and commissions, OPM had no authority to require industry to place military needs over civilian needs. Most members of industry preferred making civilian goods, hoping that all the civilians who were newly employed in the war industry would be ready and willing to buy.

By late 1940 Britain was out of money to pay for the U.S.produced war goods under the cash-and-carry plan. In response Congress established the Lend-Lease program in early 1941 to loan Britain the money to purchase U.S. goods. In return Britain granted the United States leases to place military bases on various British territories around the world. By May 1941 the British air defenses had prevailed. Hitler pulled back from the air assault and turned eastward, launching a massive surprise attack on the Soviet Union in June. Under the Lend-Lease program the United States began shipping war supplies to the Soviet Union. The U.S. supplies helped Britain and the Soviet Union survive until the United States entered the war in December 1941. The U.S. government contracted with industries to produce the war materials, creating much needed jobs for American workers. As a result, the orders for war materials helped the U.S. economy rebound from the Great Depression. The United States would ultimately spend $50 billion under the Lend-Lease program.

While Germany's air assault on Britain was beginning to wind down, Japanese forces pressed forward into Southeast Asia and took control of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The United States became concerned over the growing threat to the nearby U.S. territories of Guam and the Philippines. Roosevelt issued an "unlimited" national emergency declaration on May 27, 1941. He cut off trade with Japan, stopped much-needed oil shipments to Japan, and froze Japanese bank accounts and investments in the United States so that the Japanese could not withdraw the money to help finance its military expansion in Asia. Soon the United States and Japan were in a diplomatic standoff, neither side willing to back down. The emergency declaration gave Roosevelt sweeping powers to mobilize the home front. In late August 1941 Roosevelt created the Supplies Priorities and Allocations Board (SPAB) to establish policies that OPM would carry out, such as regulating what manufacturers could and could not produce and what raw materials were available to them. Still he proceeded cautiously to avoid confrontation with American industry leaders, knowing he would need their full cooperation in the near future.

Full mobilization

Full industry cooperation became a necessity in late 1941. The key event that finally spurred more aggressive home front preparation came on December 7. Shortly before December 7, Japanese leaders had traveled to the United States to resolve disputes related to Japanese military expansion. When the talks failed, the Japanese feared that the United States would stage a military intervention in Asia. In an effort to prevent U.S. military intervention in Japanese expansion, Japanese naval and air forces launched a major air attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7. The attack on Pearl Harbor completely surprised the American public and the entire U.S. government. Faced with more than two thousand U.S. military casualties and major destruction of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. home front was first shocked, then angered. Almost instantly, Americans became united in their resolve for action; the voices of isolationism quieted. Within the next few days the United States declared war against Japan, and Germany and Italy declared war against the United States. Japan, Germany, and Italy became known as the Axis powers. Their opponents, known as the Allied forces (or simply the Allies), included the United States, Great Britain, and other countries joining the fight against the Axis military expansion. With war formally declared, Roosevelt took immediate action to build the U.S. military and mobilize the home front.

In January 1942, one month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt established the War Production Board (WPB) to oversee war mobilization. He appointed Donald Nelson (18881959), former executive of Sears, Roebuck and Company, to head the WPB. The WPB consisted of corporate executives and military leaders. Unlike its predecessors, such as the NDAC and OEM, the WPB had the power to require industrial conversion. The WPB also had authority to limit or halt the production of civilian goods. It also controlled the distribution of much-needed raw materials, such as steel, rubber, and aluminum, to critical industries. Production goals set by President Roosevelt for 1942 included 60,000 warplanes, 45,000 tanks, and 20,000 antiaircraft guns. Through the

first half of 1942 the military services issued war contracts worth a total of $100 billion. However, industry was still slow in converting, and Nelson and others on the board were unwilling to wield their full power. As a result the WPB had difficulty matching industrial raw materials needs and supplies since businesses were slow in responding to its requests and struggled to meet deadlines for military production. The year's production goals were reached, but for many businesses, private interests still took priority over national needs. That is, better money could still be made in the production of consumer goods rather than military goods.

To further spur mobilization Roosevelt decided to appoint specific individuals to oversee mobilization in key industries, such as petroleum and rubber. For example, in late 1942 Roosevelt appointed William Jeffers (18761953) as director of rubber production. Rubber was a critically needed raw material. Japan had cut off more than 90 percent of the U.S. crude rubber supply when it seized the Dutch East Indies and Malaya as part of its expansion into Southeast Asia. In response, the United States began rubber drives, asking its citizens to gather up and turn in unused rubber that could be recycled for industrial production. Automobile tire rationing programs also began. Rationing refers to a government program of making certain foods or materials available to the general public and businesses in limited amounts. However, these efforts alone could not supply enough rubber for wartime needs. To fully meet the need for rubber, the federal government boosted the development and production of synthetic (man-made) rubber. As part of the boost, the government spent $70 million to construct fifty-one factories for lease to rubber companies. These measures worked: By 1944 the annual production of rubber equaled 800,000 tons. The giant United States Rubber Company plant in West Virginia produced 90,000 tons in one year. Synthetic rubber production provided 87 percent of the rubber used for the war.

The New Atomic Industry

The war mobilization effort included the creation of an industry to produce atomic bombs. To develop the atomic bomb many new facilities, including three new cities, were built. The cities, built for the purpose of testing the atomic bombs, were Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Each was built in a remote location to maintain top secrecy and public safety. Congress provided $2 billion to the top-secret atomic development program called the Manhattan Project. Hundreds of scientists and more than 120,000 other workers were employed on this project. In July 1945 the first successful test of the atomic bomb occurred in the New Mexico desert at Alamogordo. The following month the United States dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war with Japan.

To improve access to critically needed materials, Roosevelt created the Office of Economic Stabilization (OES) with Supreme Court justice James F. Byrnes (18791972) as the head. The OES adopted the Controlled Materials Plan (CMP), which set a strict priorities system for the distribution of three vital materials: aluminum, copper, and steel. The CMP played an important role in finally putting order to U.S. war production.

Business holds the lead

From 1940 through 1942 business leaders controlled the progress of the nation's mobilization efforts. U.S. business leaders were hungry for profits after years of economic stagnation during the Great Depression. As employment began increasing in 1940 and 1941, many businesses wanted to keep producing civilian consumer goods, because greater employment meant more people would have money to buy things. Faced with the government's request to convert to war production, businesses wanted government assurances that they would make decent profits while producing war materials for the military. In seeking such assurances business leaders formed an increasingly strong relationship with U.S. military leaders, who desperately wanted to get war production going. Working together, business leaders and military leaders carried a great deal of political power, and could essentially force the president and Congress to rely on them for making key mobilization decisions.

The growing alliance of business and military leaders during the World War II mobilization effort had several consequences. The key result was that the alliance successfully blocked any efforts by President Roosevelt to create permanent bureaucracies to guide the conduct of the war and regulate home front activities. Instead of government administrators or even military servicemen, business advisers oversaw mobilization through small temporary agencies such as the WPB. This put a stop to the growth of new permanent agencies. Furthermore, in coordination with a conservative Congress, business leaders were able to roll back many New Deal programs that competed with private business.

Conceding to business demands so mobilization could proceed, Roosevelt appointed Republican Henry L. Stimson (18671950) as secretary of war. Stimson, a big business advocate, followed the guidance of industry leaders in preparing for war. War mobilization was essentially turned over to the nation's business leaders, who were quite willing to cooperate with the government as long as they were in charge. The majority of government military contracts went to corporations whose leaders and representatives were serving as government advisers. The larger industries in particular enjoyed handsome profits under this arrangement. In addition, thousands of businessmen were hired by federal agencies to guide relations between the government and business interests. Many were called "dollar-a-year" men, because they were paid a dollar by the government so that they would be officially on the payroll, but were able to keep their much higher-paying private incomes. Serving in various government departments and on government commissions, they greatly influenced home front activities during the war.

Incentives to mobilize

Private corporations received various financial incentives from the government to cooperate in the mobilization effort (an incentive is something used to influence or reward a desired action). The incentives included substantial tax breaks for building new manufacturing plants or expanding existing ones, subsidies (government money given directly to the business) for retooling to create war products, guaranteed profits for production of war materials, and looser antitrust laws so that companies could more freely cooperate with each other. (Antitrust laws were designed to increase competition between businesses by restricting cooperative relations or combining of businesses.) In addition, through the federal Defense Plant Corporation the government spent billions to build factories and lease them to companies on attractive terms. Companies were unwilling to build the needed war production plants without sufficient incentives, because they feared being stuck with empty, unneeded plants following the war. The government sold the federally built plants to private companies after the war at bargain prices.

Automobile Industry

As the American home front was converting industry to wartime production, numerous problems arose. The revived economy brought jobs and better income to the U.S population, and people were eager to spend their earnings on new consumer goods, including the latest automobiles. Busy meeting this demand, automobile manufacturers were slow to convert their assembly lines from car production to tank and warplane production. Although the automobile factories were crucial to government production plans, the manufacture of automobiles actually increased by almost one million from 1939 to 1941. However, in its first meeting in early 1942 the federal War Production Board (WPB) outlawed civilian car and truck production so that military production could proceed. Despite this move it still took several months for military production to improve as automobile manufacturers sought various exemptions and extensions for conversion. President Roosevelt, however, was patient with the automobile manufacturers, realizing that he needed their cooperation for the long term. In the end, Packard was contracted to build nine thousand airplane engines, Chrysler to build tanks, and Ford to produce bombers.

To guarantee industry profits a cost-plus system was introduced. The government promised to cover all development and production costs for wartime goods plus a certain percentage of profit. In addition, rules that required competition among businesses bidding for government contracts were suspended so that the government could more freely select whatever businesses it thought would be best suited for the particular job. With these additional government incentives, private business operated with little financial risk during the war.

Small companies overlooked

Many within Roosevelt's administration wanted the government war production contracts to be awarded to small companies, particularly to those located in areas hit hardest by the Great Depression. However, the military contracted primarily with larger companies that were located in established urban industrial centers. Between May and September 1942, for example, 80 percent of the contracts went to large companies. The military argued that they merely favored businesses that could build the most war products in the shortest time; the larger corporations won out because they already had established assembly lines, research staffs, and access to large labor pools.

Smaller firms did not get many government contracts. Even worse, they could not continue their usual production of civilian goods because of new wartime restrictions or because the raw materials they would use were

needed for war production. For example, until the Pearl Harbor attack in early December 1941, silk hose (stockings) were a staple of a U.S. woman's attire. By the end of 1941 silk, a Japanese product, was embargoed (prohibited by the government); because the U.S. government would not allow trade with Japan, silk became unavailable in the United States. The industry switched to using nylon, but soon nylon went into parachute making.

The American hose industry went into a rapid decline, as did the pairs of hose in women's dressers.

Migration for jobs

The war proved to be a time of opportunity for those who had been unemployed and underemployed (working less than full-time) during the Depression. The large industrial companies that received government contracts for war production in 1940 and 1941 employed all the local urban workforce, so by 1942 the stage was set for a major migration of job seekers. People living in areas of little job opportunity left their homes to find work with the major manufacturers. Approximately twenty million Americans15 percent of the populationrelocated. Rural families moved to industrial centers in cities. Americans from rural New England, the hills of West Virginia, the central farmlands from the Dakotas south to Texas, and the poverty-stricken Deep South began a mass migration. They ended up in steel mills in Indiana, immense aircraft factories on the West Coast, and shipyards along the East Coast. The population shift included many black Americans traveling from the rural South to industrial cities in the North.

Growth of big corporations

War production, government contracting, and the population shift had a significant effect on large companies and smaller businesses. Soon after the United States entered the war, some two hundred thousand smaller businesses closed. They could not function without government contracts or access to raw materials, and in many cases, the owners and employees were leaving for military service. By the end of 1942 three hundred thousand retailers had closed; manufacturers were producing fewer civilian goods, so retailers had less to sell. By the end of the war more than half a million small businesses had failed, far more than had failed during the Great Depression.

Meanwhile big business got bigger. In 1940 one hundred of the nation's largest companies produced 30 percent of U.S. output, and some 175,000 smaller companies produced 70 percent. By March 1943, however, the one hundred large companies were producing 70 percent of the nation's output. In a futile effort to counter this trend and promote small businesses, Congress had established the Smaller War Plants Corporation in mid-1942 to divert government military contracts to smaller businesses. Nevertheless, the growth of industrial giants, particularly in aircraft and electronics, was already well established. Between 1940 and 1944 over half of $175 billion in war contracts went to only thirty-three companies.

As home front mobilization progressed, disputes arose between industries and the WPB over access to manpower and raw materials. To help resolve these problems as they arose, Roosevelt created another small temporary agency, the Office of War Mobilization (OWM), in May 1943. James Byrnes, formerly head of the OES, was appointed as its head.

Mobilization is a success

War mobilization of industry and agriculture ended the Great Depression in the United States. The U.S. government paid billions of dollars to businesses that produced war goods and allowed farm prices to rise while farm costs were capped. In addition, millions of Americans joined the military and received regular paychecks. These factors led to full employment in the nation. Using funds raised through increased taxes, borrowing, and the sale of war bonds, the government increased its annual spending from $8.9 billion in 1939 to more than $95 billion in 1945. During that same period, as a result of government spending in industry, the gross national product (GNP) rose from $88.6 billion to $211.9 billion as worker productivity (a general measure of economic health based on how many hours a typical worker produces a certain good or performs a certain function) increased 25 percent. The GNP is the total value of goods and services produced by a nation in a particular time period. Total industrial production was staggeringalmost 300,000 warplanes, 100,000 tanks and armored cars, 64,000 landing ships, 6,000 navy ships, 15 million guns, 41 billion bullets, 6 million tons of bombs (including two atomic bombs), and hundreds of thousands of trucks and jeeps. U.S. industry produced more than the three Axis countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan) combined. Historians credit this extraordinary production on the U.S. home front as one of the main reasons the Allies won the war. By July 1943 the conversion of U.S. industry to wartime production was essentially complete. Despite its difficult start and a series of ineffective government oversight agencies, industrial mobilization was an overwhelming success.

For More Information


Adams, Henry H. Years of Deadly Peril: The Coming of the War, 19391941. New York: David McKay Co., 1969.

Eiler, Keith E. Mobilizing America: Robert P. Patterson and the War Effort, 19401945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Jeffries, John W. Wartime America: The World War II Home Front. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1996.

Ketchum, Richard M. The Borrowed Years, 19381941: America on the Way to War. New York: Random House, 1989.

Wiltz, John E. From Isolation to War, 19311941. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1968.

Winkler, Allan M. Home Front U.S.A.: America during World War II. Arlington Heights, IL: H. Davidson, 1986.

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Mobilization of the American Home Front

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