Appendices - Hirohito's War
ECONOMICS OF THE PACIFIC WAR – THE NEW DEAL MOBILIZED
Electronics, Radio and Radar: Throughout the Pacific War, America maintained a significant advantage in radio technology and communications. A major leg up to the development of these technologies had come in World War I when the American Army in Europe, despairing of the French telephone system, had built its own telephone network under advice from AT&T.
Radio expertise developed during that war created a pool of patents that were turned over to a newly created business, Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The President of RCA, David Sarnoff, rapidly grew the consumer and retail possibilities of the new technologies and, along with competitors, invested heavily in research and development. The result was that by 1940, there were 26m radio sets in America and an additional 4m radios installed in automobiles. At the World Fair in New York, opened by President Roosevelt on 3 April 1939, RCA demonstrated a wondrous new consumer device that they called a television. By end of the year RCA had also established the world’s first television broadcasting station. GE built a kitchen with talking devices and the Westinghouse stand featured a robot and mechanical dog. America was in the process of developing a mass consumer electronics industry. The result was that America, by comparison with Japan or indeed any other country, possessed a broad pool of technological expertise at all levels from research, manufacture, usage, repair and maintenance.
The depth of technical expertise in these areas was a boon to the development of radio communication for ships and airplanes as well as radar detection equipment. Also ‘radar was adapted for a variety of uses from aircraft-recognition responders, proximity fuses, detection countermeasures, and range finding.’50 With substantial private resourcing of investment in these new technologies America had the technical and management expertise to mass produce military products in the radio and communications sectors.
By 1940 Westinghouse alone was able to offer 19 different radio products. When the Navy asked for ten-band radio transmitters for carrier-based bombers, Westinghouse developed the AN/ARC that contained 4,600 precision components in a container no bigger than a humidor. Meanwhile GE supplied nearly every Army bomber with a 75-watt radio called SCR-287. A compact radio with five frequencies of which four were pre-tuned, the SCR-287 was used in tanks, airplanes and battlefield command posts. GE also developed the ultra-robust, waterproof TBX radio used by Marines in amphibious landings.
Radar sets for the Navy were developed from the spring of 1941 when they commissioned the building of 400 shipboard units. Within six months the first sets were deployed on US destroyers. Air based ASB radar units were also manufactured for use by carrier planes. Westinghouse eventually produced 18,000 units and coped with over 2,000 component and design upgrades. Radar would eventually play an invaluable role in the critical undersea war. In the air the development of radar chaff and the production of electric noise to jam enemy radar also proved invaluable in reducing bomber losses. The linkage of GE’s SCR-584 radar to automatic gun directors on anti-aircraft weapons also helped stem the losses caused by kamikaze. Expertise in radio and electronics was also helpful in the development of mass production techniques for essential war devices such as timers and fuses. GE developed a plastic fuse and would eventually produce 29m of them at a cost of 25c each, compared to the one pound aluminum fuse costing over a dollar.
In some areas British technology was more advanced but, in the wake of ‘Lend-Lease’, Churchill felt obliged to hand over to the US Britain’s intellectual capital in the form of pioneering radio technologies. America had the funds and manpower to realize their full potential.