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North Coast Current

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North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Historically Speaking: An Unbelievable Effort of Production

By Tom Morrow

Between 1940 and 1946, the United States became the most powerful nation in the world. This came about because of World War II.
Anyone who wanted a job got one – unemployment was a forgotten memory of the Great Depression. The nation rose from being a sleeping giant to an industrial jugernaught that built not only the largest armed force in history, but an arsenal of war materials that not only equipped our nation’s military, but that of a number of other Allied nations such as Great Britain, France, Canada, China, the Soviet Union, and others.
Because of the war, America’s Great Depression was ended due to the great demand of war products, which put the nation back to work. During the period from 1940 through 1945, the United States produced more material from implements of war to uniforms and food stuffs than had been produced by all nations in a century of time before the War.
To give an approximate picture of the enormity of America’s wartime production, consider the following data taken from several historical accounts:
For the Navy, there were 22 aircraft carriers built, as well as 8 battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, and 34 million tons of merchant ships, also known as “Liberty Ships.”
Shipbuilding companies were turning out troop-carrying and supply vessels in record numbers. Kaiser Shipbuilding in Oakland was able to increase its production by launching a “liberty ship” every 30 days.
Aviation-wise there were 100,000 fighter aircraft built, as well as 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport planes, and 58,000 training aircraft. Several automobile companies switched their production lines to building bombers and other large aircraft. Ford and General Motors turned out B-24 “Liberators” by the hundreds. Consolidated Aircraft Co., in San Diego assembled bombers in huge factories shielded by a mammoth camouflaged canopy that, from above, made it look like a pastoral landscape of farms and fields.
Boeing was turning out huge numbers of B-17s and other aircraft at its plants in Seattle and Moses Lake in Washington, as well as Wichita, Kan. Goodyear Rubber was turning out all sorts of tires and other war materials, including rubber, self-sealing fuel bladder wing tanks for B-29s in Lincoln, Neb., and Akron, Ohio.
For the Army and Marine Corps, 93,000 tanks were built along with 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3 million machine guns, and 2.5 million military trucks. A variety of farm implement manufacturers and sewing machine companies turned to making small arms such as pistols and rifles.
The Studebaker automobile company built trucks, thousands of them sent to Russia on the Lend-Lease plan. Soviet veterans maintained years after the war that the most valuable equipment they had to fight with was the Studebaker truck because of its reliability in the rugged Russian terrain.
Willys-Overland, American Bantam Car Co., and Ford Motor Co., responded to a U.S. War Department request to design a utility vehicle which became known as the “Jeep.” The name, “Jeep” is slang for “General Purpose” vehicle, which was at first referred to simply as a “GP,” then it was gradually slurred into “Jeep” by adoring G.I.s.
Hundreds of small manufacturing companies produced millions of rounds of ammunition of a variety of calibers, as well as thousands of hand grenades, bombs and other high explosives. Clothing manufacturers made all types of uniforms, gear, and combat-wear.
Food companies produced millions of tons of food stuffs to feed the armed forces while the civilian population went to rationing food and many other items from clothing to gasoline to rubber tires.
There were 16.1 million men and women in uniform throughout the various armed services, and double that amount of civilians working in all of the war production factories around the clock, seven-days-a week.
Almost overnight, beginning in 1940, America went from a sleepy, isolationist nation to that of the most powerful in the world.
American forces invaded Africa, Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany. Nothing in the history of mankind has ever equaled the multi-layers of production toward a singular purpose: that of winning a world war.


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Historically Speaking: An Unbelievable Effort of Production