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"We must be the great arsenal of democracy."

December 29, 1940.  The world is a scary place, and getting scarier.  War rages in North Africa and China.  With the fall of France in the summer, the horror has slackened a bit in Europe as the tyrants catch their breath. The continent of Europe lies bleeding beneath the tyrant's heel (just a different tyrant in the East, and lesser tyrants in Rome,  Vichy and Madrid admittedly).  England stands seemingly alone, her skies filled with German bombs and bombers.

President Roosevelt prepares the country for war with a fireside chat, one of several he would give.  Heh.  And people listened to them, too, in percentages more recent Presidents only dream of (a bi-partisan observation, that).  The full text is available here, at American Rhetoric - this post concentrates on this part:
...Nine days ago I announced the setting up of a more effective organization to direct our gigantic efforts to increase the production of munitions. The appropriation of vast sums of money and a well-coordinated executive direction of our defense efforts are not in themselves enough. Guns, planes, ships and many other things have to be built in the factories and the arsenals of America. They have to be produced by workers and managers and engineers with the aid of machines which in turn have to be built by hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the land. In this great work there has been splendid cooperation between the government and industry and labor. And I am very thankful.

American industrial genius, unmatched throughout all the world in the solution of production problems, has been called upon to bring its resources and its talents into action. Manufacturers of watches, of farm implements, of Linotypes and cash registers and automobiles, and sewing machines and lawn mowers and locomotives, are now making fuses and bomb packing crates and telescope mounts and shells and pistols and tanks.

But all of our present efforts are not enough. We must have more ships, more guns, more planes -- more of everything. And this can be accomplished only if we discard the notion of "business as usual." This job cannot be done merely by superimposing on the existing productive facilities the added requirements of the nation for defense. Our defense efforts must not be blocked by those who fear the future consequences of surplus plant capacity. The possible consequences of failure of our defense efforts now are much more to be feared. And after the present needs of our defense are past, a proper handling of the country's peacetime needs will require all of the new productive capacity, if not still more. No pessimistic policy about the future of America shall delay the immediate expansion of those industries essential to defense. We need them.

I want to make it clear that it is the purpose of the nation to build now with all possible speed every machine, every arsenal, every factory that we need to manufacture our defense material. We have the men, the skill, the wealth, and above all, the will. I am confident that if and when production of consumer or luxury goods in certain industries requires the use of machines and raw materials that are essential for defense purposes, then such production must yield, and will gladly yield, to our primary and compelling purpose.

So I appeal to the owners of plants, to the managers, to the workers, to our own government employees to put every ounce of effort into producing these munitions swiftly and without stint. With this appeal I give you the pledge that all of us who are officers of your government will devote ourselves to the same whole-hearted extent to the great task that lies ahead.

As planes and ships and guns and shells are produced, your government, with its defense experts, can then determine how best to use them to defend this hemisphere. The decision as to how much shall be sent abroad and how much shall remain at home must be made on the basis of our overall military necessities.

We must be the great arsenal of democracy.

And so, we did.  To the point of Ford Motor Company building, from scratch, in a field near Willow Run, Michigan, a factory capable of producing one B-24 Liberator bomber (out of 1.25 million bits and pieces) every 55 minutes


The Germans, in their planning for the war (especially after we got in it) were unable to conceive of the threat this represented, because they were unable to conceive of someone having a production capacity of that scale - and that was just one item, from one factory.  They were still wondering how the hell it happened when their skies were darkened with the "aluminum overcast" of the Army Air Forces.

Willow Run, along with all the other facilities like it for trucks, tanks, artillery, small arms (heck, we had Rock-Ola, a jukebox-maker, building M1 Carbines), and above all in importance, airplanes and ships, was a triumph of ingenuity and organization.

I just wonder, in this day where we feed data into computers and await the result, if we could do it again...  or have we lost some of the essential art to the machine?  Probably, but sometimes, I gotta wonder if computers haven't made us less functional in some key ways - all while undoubtedly enhancing and freeing us in others.

Here's to never having to find out!

Hat tip to Jim C for providing the seed that crystallized this post.


No, it could not be done today. The American worker no longer has the work ethic to do it, the American company is so paralysed by fear of lawsuits and unions (those workers would have to do things their union contracts don't state they're supposed to do...) that they'd never dream of doing things like a car company building a factory in the middle of nowhere to build aircraft for another company (and anyway, the environmental impact study for that factory would take 20 years, and then the "worker safety" inspections would delay operations for another decade while things were fixed like the speed at which automated doors close).

IOW, by the time the factory was even past planning stages, the need for it would be gone as the country'd have been long since overrun.
I am tempted to agree with the comment above.  Perhaps if a clear demonstration of the fact that their civilian asses were on the line, the average American would get off their ass and bust it to ensure their survival, but on the whole I agree with the Marine who wrote in Baghdad " America is not at war, the Marine Corps is at War.  America is at the mall." 

But then after seeing how we as a country behaved during Vietnam, I have never been really kindly disposed towards the typical self absorbed American civilian. 

We have exactly the same type of socialist president we had back then though.  Read "New Deal or Raw Deal" for the true skinny on that great socialist Roosevelt.  He started the true downward slide in moral values of the democrat party and got them into that Democrat first, American second mentality.
Well, Ladies, so, we just lay down and play dead. Before, you know it, you'll be dead! Nobody wants to talk about it, but sooner or later, there's a group of questions. Did your Drill  Instructor give you a bunch of options? If I remember correctly, the three options are the right way, the wrong way and the Military way. You talk about the lack of motivation in the civilian populace, why is that? If I could take you back in time, this is what I would show you. At some point, this Nation will need to have a discussion. It is something that nobody wants, but the Nation may very well need. I am talking about the dreaded, Military Draft. I am talking more along the lines of the Israeli concept of Military. I am not talking about Draft of the later years of 'Nam. This would be more like “WW I I”. This way, the manufacturing base will see themselves in those products and they better dang sight work! If it was not themselves, then it was somebody they cared about. If we had this approach, we would be watching our politicians more closely, you might even see people out to vote. This is a start and only a start. There are many ways to approach this, but we need our people involved in the sacrifice on some level. There are many who will debate this approach. That's fine with me, but we need to find a way to get our people off of their asses.

I've laid out an approach to  you, now in the short term to get off of your asses and come up with a solution that will work. What ever you do, don't just complain, bring better answers to the problem. I am not saying this is the only answer, but we must start from somewhere!
Do you REALLY beieve that the Head Nagger What's In Charge would EVER give an address even remotely similar to that?  EVEN IF by some grave mistake it ended up on his Teleprompter?

Do you have any doubt that OSHA, DHS, BATFE, IRS, et al would do their best to shut down any attempt to save this country?
Oh, there were lots of options described.
There's your way, Private.
The way your Mother taught you.
The way the Boy Scouts taught you.
The Army way.
The Book way.
The Marine way!
and you, Private, are going to do it MY way! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?

Sir, YES, Sir!
 Military service is a duty of citizenship. If you refuse to place your one precious body on the line to defend your beloved home from war's desolation then you are not a citizen. You are a subject and I hope your chains rest easily on you. I, for one, will forget you were ever my countryman.
I believe if things get bad enough the people will rise up and throw off the shackles imposed by over-regulation and return to a leaner, less cluttered government. I see the TEA parties as an expression of a desire to have that type of government. It reminds me of the WWII Danish resistance group Holger Dansk, based on the legend he would rise when the people needed him.

I do think it could be accomplished again but it will take a long, hard push to get back to where we were.
Aside from the questions of national will to win, or even compete, the answer is that we can no longer be the "Arsenal of Democracy" that we once were.

Look at our core infrastructure and industrial base for manufacturing.
How many steel mills do we have compared to 1941?
How many Navy Shipyards and even commercial yards capable of building anything larger than a landing craft?
How many plants make firearms of any sort?
How many plants (active or in mothballs) to make small arms ammunition or artillery/mortar/rocket/bomb munitions?
How many places could make even WW2 style medium tanks today?
How many places make basic machine tools?
How many companies make any time of aircraft or aircraft engines?

Finally, how could we pay for any of it when we are indebted up the gumpstump and only able to borrow from the Chinese?

No, friends, we have no way to function as the Arsenal of Democracy, and probably not enough to even provide sufficient primitive "last ditch" weapons of the type contemplated by the Japanese and Germans in 1945.

However, we do have a nice clean enviornment, fat welfare recipients with color TV and cell phones, and schools that indoctrinate socialism instad of building patriotism.  Was that a good trade?
Ahem.  Ford unionized in the late 1930's. The deal was 40 hours a week and a living wage, with due concern for a safe work place.  Wages and prices were frozen for the duration, so the union got health care in lieu of a pay raise, the deal was, there's a war on, be glad you aren't at the front, the kids there need everything we can make to stay alive and win the damn war, so make it right.
No loafing on the job, you're making good money, now earn it.

Kids were the workers' kids, and management's kids, so everybody had skin in the game.

FoMoCo has never been easy, or particularly safe. Ever. Then and now, you made good money there, and a decent retirement. You earned it. Most years,
Most years the Company make a profit. Some years they didn't. If they didn't, they figured out a way to keep the doors open and get back to profitability. The people who ran it had their names on the doors, the gates, the buildings and (usually) what went out the door. As a group the Fords have been responsible.  Cantankerous, eccentric, brilliant, hard working and honest. Mostly.

Swap brilliant for smart and add tough and you've got the workers. Mostly
You want something done, go see them.
It's worth pointing out that the notion that the US populace was united behind the war effort is wrong.  History seen through rose-colored glasses. 

Even at the height of the war, many employers refused to hire blacks and Jews.  John L Lewis took his coal miners out on strike several times during the war.  Business owners along the East Coast in early 1942 refused to observe a blackout, providing plenty of light for prowling U-boats offshore and dooming many merchant ships.  War profiteering, black market, and counterfeit ration stamps were all plentiful.

Finally and most shamefully: even during the war, there were people who claimed that it was 'Roosevelt's war' and that FDR had arranged the Pearl Harbor attack in order to get us into the war.  There were also some Nazi sympathizers who said we should only be fighting the Japanese, and should stay out of the war against Germany. 
 Alas, Wolf, there is plenty of evidence that it was indeed Roosevelt's war. "Day Of Deceit" is an eye opener. Stinnett got the Navy radio traffic that is quite damning. Even so, the author came out of it a fan of FDR.