Mobilizing the Economy
"I have recently come back from a trip of inspection...There are now millions of Americans in army camps, in naval stations, in factories, and in shipyards. Who are these millions upon whom the life of our country depends? What are they thinking? What are their doubts? What are their hopes? And how is the work progressing? The Commander in Chief cannot learn all of the answers to these questions in Washington. And that is why I made the trip I did."
- Franklin Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, October 12, 1942
American war production was vital to Allied success. Roosevelt led the effort to convert the economy to military production. Billions of Federal dollars flowed into defense contracts. Thousands of factories were built or retooled. Millions of defense workers were recruited and trained.
At first, FDR's management style caused some inefficiencies. To control planning, he divided administrative responsibilities, creating inter-agency feuds that only he could settle. But, over time, he ceded authority to others to avoid such problems.
The results were astonishing. Americans produced 299,293 aircraft, 634,569 jeeps, 88,410 tanks, 5,777 merchant ships, 1,556 naval vessels, 6.5 million rifles, and 40 billion bullets. By 1944, the nation was producing 60 percent of all Allied munitions - simultaneously supplying America's military, more than 25 percent of Britain's war materiel, and 10 percent of Soviet military needs.