#2-238 Editorial Note on Armaments Production

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Editorial Note on Armaments Production

June-September 1940

Prior to mid-June 1940, the various deficiency and supplemental appropriations for the army had been essentially short-term responses to European events whose future developments were unpredictable and whose full implications were obscure. Germany’s victories, however, clearly demanded a bolder, longer-range program to stimulate United States military industrial production. By June 20 an itemized and detailed materiel procurement having a projected cost of $7,300,000,000 had been delineated by the War Department staff. The president’s advisers suggested that the total appropriation should be held to around $4,000,000,000 by deferring certain costs for possible future supplemental appropriations. Accordingly, the revised Munitions Program of June 30 was adopted; according to one army historian, this marked “a major development in the preparedness policy.” It called for the production of essential (i.e., commercially producible) items for a ground force of 1,000,000 men; the critical (i.e., specialty or noncommercial) items for a force of 2,000,000; the creation of production facilities to supply an army of 4,000,000; the procurement of 16,000 new aircraft; and the creation of the capacity to produce 18,000 aircraft per year. (R. Elberton Smith, The Army and Economic Mobilization, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], pp. 130–32.)

The new army munitions program was introduced into Congress as part of the second supplemental appropriation bill for fiscal year 1941. Marshall testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on June 24 and reappeared briefly on July 26; he appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on August 5 and 6. Funds for materiel concerned the nation’s representatives less than the implications of manpower increases.

Much of the discussion at Marshall’s August 5 hearing concerned recruiting, the draft, the National Guard call-up, and the construction necessary to house the growing army. On August 6 Marshall began his testimony with some remarks on the great cost of mobilizing. “I think it is tragic that we find ourselves in a situation which requires the spending of these colossal amounts of money for purely a war-making purpose. I think it is indeed unfortunate that the so-called enlightened peoples of the world should be engaged in devoting such a large part of their resources to nonproductive, war-making purposes. The spending of huge sums for national defense is a most serious business. However, I want to be equally frank in saying that I do not see any other solution at the moment. Written history is full of the records of the destruction of peace-loving, unprepared nations by neighbors who were guided by the policy of force of arms. We must meet the situation that is facing us, and I see no way of doing that except by preparing. Huge sums of money must be spent, but that spending must be done in the most businesslike manner possible. There must be no undue waste. Hasty and ill-considered expenditures must be avoided.”

Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota inquired whether developments abroad would soon make it possible to abandon a considerable part of the expensive program. “Senator,” Marshall responded, “I am sorry that I can not entertain any such hope at present. My fear is not that I am recommending too much but rather that I may find at some time in the future that I recommended too little. In fact, if I could feel now that I might expect some day to face an investigation for having recommended too much, my mind would be more at rest than it is at present.” (Senate Appropriations Committee, Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill, 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1940], pp. 21–22.)

Marshall testified on the bill again on August 15, but it was primarily to reiterate what he had said on August 5 and 6. Senate amendments caused the total appropriation to increase slightly. After considerable debate and negotiation between the House and Senate, the bill passed and was signed by the president on September 9, 1940.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981– ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 285–287.

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