Appendices - Hirohito's War
ECONOMICS OF THE PACIFIC WAR – THE NEW DEAL MOBILIZED
Expansion of America’s Productive Capacity: While the story of the building of America’s Liberty Ships is perhaps the most extraordinary example of the rapid expansion of America’s industrial capacity in World War II, it was a story that was replicated across the entire industrial landscape. Americans had a genius for mass-production. As German armaments minister Albert Speer commented, “The Americans know how to act with organizationally simple methods and therefore achieved greater results.”42
Japan like Germany had shown in many areas of weaponry that they had skills to produce superior weapons to the Allies; examples were the ‘Zero’ in its early years, the ‘Long Lance’ torpedo, their cavernous submarines and the battleship Musashi, the most technologically advanced warship of its day. However adherence to engineering perfection, bureaucratic sloth, reverence for hierarchy and the restraint of individual initiative held back their economy from ramping up production of standardized products. As Maury Klein in his seminal work on the US war economy [Call to Arms, 2013] has concluded, “The American strength in weaponry lay far more in quantity than in quality, and the military determined to exploit that advantage to the fullest.”43
Apart from the unprecedented expansion of America’s commercial fleet, the US battle fleet also underwent a transformation. Naval historian R.H. Connery has noted, “Between July 1st, 1940 and June 30 1945, the Navy added 10 battleships, 18 large aircraft carriers, nine small aircraft carriers, 110 escort carriers, two large cruisers, 10 heavy cruisers, 33 light cruisers, 358 destroyers, 504 destroyer escorts, 211 submarines, and 82,028 landing craft of all types.”44
It was an expansion mirrored in the production of other weaponry. Between 1919 and 1930, the United States produced 33 tanks; between 1935 and 1940, US industry produced 1,000 tanks; over the next five years to 1945, 87,619 tanks were produced. Given that a heavy tank comprised some 40,000 individual pieces, the effect on America’s subcontracting industry can easily be imagined. Materials in a tank included steel, nickel, brass, copper, aluminum, rubber, leather, glass, cotton, plastic, tin, lead, etc. A basic chassis would need rolled plates, castings, forgings, rivets, bolts, wire, tubing, bearings, motors, instruments and batteries. The $2bn worth of contracts placed by the military in 1942 represented a 2,000 percent increase over expenditure in 1940.
During the course of the war, a US Army that, at the start of World War II, had just 80 semi-automatic rifles and whose standard infantry piece was a single bolt weapon designed before World War I, was provided with 17.4 million rifles and 315,000 pieces of artillery including mortar launchers. The scale of munitions production was equally impressive. The Army Ordnance Department procured 574 million rounds of small caliber bullets (20mm to 40mm), 222 million rounds of medium caliber ammunition (57mm to 105mm) and 29 million rounds of large caliber shells. In addition US industry produced 90 million hand-grenades and 26 million mines.
American expenditure on munitions rose from US$1.5bn in 1940 to US$38bn in 1943 while Japanese expenditure over the same period rose from US$1.0bn to US$4.5bn.
In 1939 the US Army Air Force comprised 400 aircraft. By comparison Germany’s Luftwaffe had over 4,000 aircraft and Japan a similar force. Between July 1940 and July 1945, the US aerospace industry produced 295,000 aircraft of all types - some of them, such as the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, pushing the boundaries of technology and logistics to unprecedented levels of complexity. Production of fighter planes increased from a rate of 7,500 per annum in 1941 to 96,000 in 1944. Bomber production increased from about 3,000 per annum to 35,000 over the same period. By the end of the war America produced 40 percent of all the aircraft produced by all the belligerent nations, allies included, in World War II. The US also transported enough materials to Britain and Russia to make them the second and third largest producers of aircraft during the war.
In response to the massive demand for war matériel, metallurgical industries also boomed. Production of magnesium rose 3,000 percent while aluminum production rose 440 percent over pre-war production from 500 million lbs to 2,700 million lbs in 1943. Demand for chemicals, steel, copper and synthetic rubber grew by similar proportions. As in the manufacturing industry productivity growth was dramatic. Reflecting the amount of pump priming investment done in the New Deal 1930s it is noticeable that while the power industry met a 75 percent increase in demand between 1939 and 1944, generating capacity increased by just 25 percent. Apart from power generation fixed capital investment growth was impressive. Investment in new industrial capacity rose from US$2bn in 1940 to US$4bn in 1941, peaking at US$8.5bn in 1942.
It was not just in heavy industry that demand was lifted. Textile, leather and clothing companies were also significant beneficiaries of the military spending spree. Military demand for socks rose from 25m pairs in 1941 to 73.2m in 1944 while the sale of black leather shoes to the armed forces increased from 3.2m pairs in 1942 to 10.2m pairs in 1944. A similar increase in demand was experienced by the pharmaceutical industry; purchases of sulfadiazine tablets (used to counter urinary tract infections) increased from 35.9m in 1942 to 463m in 1944.
The importance of US manufacturing to the outcome of the war with regard to America’s allies was immense. US production was such that it was able to supply three of the other major combatant nations, Britain, Russia and China, with a high proportion of their weapons. Although ‘Lend-Lease’ is most known for its supply of military equipment to the British, for Roosevelt the maintenance of the Soviets was almost as important. As Hitler’s Panzers swept across the Russian steppes in the summer of 1941, Roosevelt wrote to Henry Stimson, his Secretary of War, “I deem it to be of paramount importance to the safety and security of America that all reasonable munitions help be provided to Russia, not only immediately but as long as she continues to fight the Axis powers effectively.”45
It is estimated that the US produced 60 percent of all the weaponry produced by the Allies in World War II. In contrast to the belittling of foreign assistance in post-war propaganda, at the Tehran Conference in December 1943 Joseph Stalin admitted, “from the Russian point of view, what the President and the United States have done to win the war. The most important things in this war are machines… The United States… is a country of machines. Without the use of these machines… we would lose this war.”46