“They have given their sons to the military services. They have stoked the furnaces and hurried the factory wheels.
They have made the planes and welded the tanks, riveted the ships and rolled the shells.”
– President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, August 19, 1942
To honor the heroes who fought in the War and those on the home front who produced the tanks, ships, and aircraft that enabled the United States and its Allies to achieve victory, one of the most diverse arrays of World War II aircraft ever assembled will fly above the skies of Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 8, 2015, the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, as part of the Arsenal of Democracy World War II Victory Capitol Flyover. The flyover will include dozens of World War II aircraft flying in 15 historically sequenced warbird formations overhead. The formations will represent the War’s major battles, from Pearl Harbor through the final air assault on Japan, and concluding with a missing man formation to “Taps.” Never before has such a collection of WWII aircraft been assembled at one location, to honor the large assemblage of veterans gathered at the WWII Memorial for a ceremony.
On Saturday, May 9, 2015, a selection of the planes will be featured at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport for a one day exhibition. The display will be open to the public 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. No advance tickets are required.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the Arsenal Of Democracy to the United States and its allies. Without the support of American industry, WWII could not have been won. America gave her all – her sons and daughters, their hard work, and years of deprivation – to win the war.
On May 28, 1940, the phone rang in Bill Knudsen’s office in the General Motors Building. Knudsen, a Danish immigrant who had made parts for Henry Ford’s Model T in a bicycle factory in Buffalo before working his way up to become president of GM, heard a voice familiar from newsreels and radio broadcasts on the other end.
It was President Franklin Roosevelt. “Knudsen?” the voice said. “I want to see you in Washington.”
France was collapsing under the Nazi blitzkrieg. Great Britain was slated to be next. Imperial Japan’s sun was rising in the Pacific.
America had the eighteenth largest army in the world, not much bigger than Holland’s, and no defense industry — it had been dismantled after World War I, “the war to end all wars.”
You cannot just order a Navy as you would a pound of coffee, or vegetables or meat, and say, we’ll have that for dinner. It takes time. It takes organization.
“Our greatest need is time,” Marshall told him. Knudsen could see that, but he also needed to know exactly what equipment Marshall and the Army needed and how many, and no one could tell him. The situation in the Navy was much the same. 37 The truth began to dawn on Knudsen. He couldn’t get a straight answer because they were waiting for him to tell them what the American economy could produce, and how much. If the country was going to make itself seriously ready for war, neither the politicians nor the generals nor the admirals were willing to take the lead. American business and industry would have to figure it out on their own.
Excerpt from the book, Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II (Random House)
Knudsen called upon fellow industrialists across the country, but particularly in Detroit:
Knudsen started things rolling soon after he got to Washington with a phone call to his friend K.T. Keller, president of Chrysler, to see if he thought Chrysler could build tanks. The result would be the Chrysler Tank Arsenal in Warren, where some 25,000 Grant and Sherman tanks would be built, more tanks than Nazi Germany built during the entire war.
Another call went to Knudsen’s old employer, Henry Ford, to see if he could convert part of his River Rouge plant to make aircraft engines for Britain’s Spitfire fighters. Ford said no (in 1940 the old man was still in the throes of isolationism) but Alvan Macauley at Packard Motors said yes.
Macauley and his engineers welcomed the challenge. Soon the Packard Plant on Grand Boulevard became the site of a new facility for making the 12-cylinder, 1645-cubic inch Rolls Royce Merlin engine, and for employing the thousands of young women Packard hired to make them. In the end, Packard would build more than 55,000 Merlins, not just for the Spitfire but for America’s own P51 Mustang.
Then on Oct. 29 Knudsen set up a secret meeting of auto executives at the New Center Building, where he and a then-unknown Army Air Corps Major named Jimmy Doolittle showed them the aircraft parts they needed to have made in record numbers and in record time.
Four weeks after bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, the men at that meeting formed the Automotive Council for War Production, under a dynamic young executive director. His name was George Romney. He and the ACWP pulled together a production plan that wound up making 75 percent of all the aircraft engines, one-third of the machine guns, two-fifths of the tanks, and 100 percent of the trucks and motor vehicles America used during the war, not to mention hundreds of other implements of war from artillery shells and bomb fuses to steel helmets. ….
Together they proved what Bill Knudsen’s had first told FDR, “we can do anything if we do it together.”From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130103/OPINION01/301030336#ixzz3XgUCIlIN
America is like a giant boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate. —British foreign secretary Lord Grey