Appendices - Hirohito's War
ECONOMICS OF THE PACIFIC WAR – THE NEW DEAL MOBILIZED
Managing the Scientists: It was not just manual skills but also intellectual ability that was put to better use during the war. America’s aeronautical advances were also aided by the efforts of Dr. Vannevar Bush, the son of a Massachusetts preacher who took a PhD in Electrical Engineering at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Engineering). The energetic, politically astute academic became President of the Carnegie Institution in Washington in 1939 and in August was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. This cash starved group had developed a creditable performance in the supervision of standards for commercial aviation manufacture but lacked the resources to provide much assistance to the rapidly developing military aircraft sector.
Bush wanted government financing to fund scientists to develop high risk but promising research projects that the military had overlooked. Bush, who had become disturbed at the lack of American efforts to re-arm in the face of the Nazi threat, had initiated efforts to coordinate and mobilize the science community to develop technologies and products to combat the emerging external threats. He hooked up with FDR’s close confidante, Harry Hopkins, with whom he struck up a close relationship and got himself in front of the President. The resulting National Defence Research Committee (NDRC) co-opted top scientists from US industry including Frank Jewett who was president of Bell Telephone Industries as well as the National Academy of Sciences, James Constant, a former chemist and president of Harvard, and Karl Compton, president of MIT.
In 1941 Professor Bush was put in charge of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) into which the National Defense Research Council was merged. This body took charge of the management and dissemination of British technology, notably radar and nuclear research. The OSRD also organized the development of nuclear fission technology until it was taken over by the Army Corps of Engineers, code named the ‘Manhattan Project’, in 1942. The ‘Manhattan Project’ spent more than half of the US$3.8bn spent on military research and development during the war. Universities that participated in the research program included MIT, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago. Enterprise research institutes and departments were also recipients of the government’s largesse including at Western Electric, General Electric, Westinghouse, RCA, Remington, Rand and Eastman Kodak. The scale of US government funding was such that it filtered down into to all areas of the military industrial complex and ended up producing weapons and equipment that were generations ahead of Japan’s by the time that World War II ended.
Another NDRC member, James Conant, president of Harvard, recalled that “I shall never forget my surprise at hearing about this revolutionary scheme. Scientists were to be mobilized for the defense effort in their own laboratories.”40 The result was that Bush managed to finance and co-ordinate US scientists and pushed them forward to unleash a tidal wave of military technological innovation. Bush’s only regret was that it came ten years too late: “If we had been on our toes in war technology ten years ago we would probably not have had this damn war.”41