One of the things that make a democracy work is critical appraisal of the objective of the Government and the methods used. During my years in the public service I have been impressed many times by the value of objective and intelligent criticism in improving governmental administration.

Within a short period of time, the war brought a wealth of experiences in government, experiences which, in variety and importance could be matched only by decades of peacetime conditions. Clearly these experiences should be recorded and appraised and the lessons from them be made, as quickly as possible, a part of our general knowledge of government.

In this volume a small group of trained professional men, working under the guidance of scholars of high professional repute, have attempted to supply an objective report of what this government south to do during the war, how it went about the task, and what success it achieved.

This study will, I am sure, serve to increase public knowledge of our wartime problems. It should also make all of us more conscious of the usefulness of continued, careful, and intelligent appraisal. I hope it will be read widely and thoughtfully.



Letter to the President of the United States from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget

June 19, 1946.

My Dear Mr. President: I am sending you herewith a volume entitled "The United States at War." It has been submitted to me by the Committee on Records of War Administration. This study, along with accounts being prepared by many of the executive agencies and establishments, has grown out of the suggestion made by President Roosevelt in march 1942, that I appoint a committee to help in the task of "preserving for those who come after us an accurate and objective account of our present experience."

This account has been prepared, for the Committee and under its guidance, by the War Records Section of the Bureau of the Budget. It is an account of the Federal Government's role in the mobilization of the nation for World War II that pays particular attention to major problems of administration and their solution. It impresses me, as it impressed the Committee, as an objective and useful treatment of many important parts of our war experience.

Fortunately, this war will leave behind it much more systematic reports on its administration that did World War I. Most of the executive agencies have prepared or are preparing final accounts that are designed to tell what problems they faced and how they handled them. The purpose of these documents is to tell the story of the war impartially and analytically; the total product should be a valuable contribution.

In my opinion, this volume will add substantially to public understanding of the war effort, but it will do more than this. it will help to show the magnitude and the complexity of the problems that Government faces and how Government in a great democracy can deal with major problems within the framework of the democratic traditions that we cherish. Finally, its analysis of the way in which we rose administratively to meet crisis after crisis may hold some useful lessons for those of us, within and without Government, who are striving for better public administration in peace as well as in war.

Sincerely yours

Harold D. Smith

The President,
     The White House


Letter to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget from the Chairman of the Committee on Records of War Administration

June 17, 1946.

My Dear Mr. Smith: On behalf of the Committee on Records of War Administration, I am transmitting to you an account of how our Government mobilized the Nation's human and material resources for the winning of the war.

The war posed the most stupendous set of problems in the management of public activities that the country ha ever faced. We fought that war on a greater scale than anyone could have dreamed: the Government regulated production, censored mail, drafted men, controlled prices, rationed food and commodities; we had to move, rapidly and purposefully, in spite of manifold differences of interests and opinions. We had to conquer the world's most powerful dictatorships--and urgency required us to do many seemingly dictatorial things in the process--yet we had to do this within the framework of those processes and principles of democracy on which our Nation has been built.

This is a study of how the job was done, with emphasis on the civilian rather than the military aspects of the effort. It deals with the growth of war production and certain allied problems such as stabilization, transportation, manpower, and food. Certain other fields, important but a little father from the main theme, have been left for others to report on; these fields include civilian defense, field operations of the various agencies, special administrative problems like personnel and budgeting, much of the rationing program, and the notable contribution of volunteer war workers. The principal emphasis is upon the period when the Nation's machinery for war was being put into operation; and less attention is given to the preceding period that led up to war and the later period of high level but relatively stable production.

This study tries to throw light on how the Government's complex and difficult administrative problems were tackled. The story of all of the substantive things that were done will require many volumes by other students. Details about many of the subjects that this account touches upon will have to be filled in; many of them will be covered in the reports that other Government agencies are preparing. One major goal throughout has been to make the report objective; to carry the analysis only as far as the available facts justify; and to show our difficulties, our growing pains, and our mistakes along with our successes.

The volume was prepared, under the guidance of the Committee on Records of War Administration, by the War Records Section of the


Bureau of the Budget. Although each chapter was drafted initially by one man who turned his specialized attention to the subject over a considerable period of time, the project has been from the beginning a joint effort that has embodied the collective thinking of the Committee and the staff.

The Committee feels that this volume is a useful contribution to the task of capturing, recording, and analyzing the Nation's experience in the administration of its war effort. We are obviously too close to the war to evaluate what has happened. We hope, however, that we have presented enough of the story so that the basis for later evaluation is in the book. We hope finally that this material will be a contribution to general public knowledge and to the literature of public administration.


Pendleton Herring
Chairman, Committee on
Records of War Administration.

Hon. Harold D. Smith,
     Director, Bureau of the Budget,
          Washington, D.C.



By the Committee on Records of War Administration

In March 1942 the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, at the suggestion of the President, appointed a Committee on Records of War Administration to provide guidance and support in the assembly and analysis of material on the administration of the Nation's war effort. This Committee was asked to advise with staff members of the Bureau of the Budget assigned to this field and to encourage the various Government agencies to prepare accounts of their own administrative experiences.

There were several reasons for recognizing, at an early date and in the midst of other preoccupations, the importance of capturing and recording the story of our administrative response to the crisis of war. The contemporary reporting on Wold War I was neither systematic nor analytical. later attempts to find adequate analyses of our methods of meeting problems in World War I were largely futile. At the outset of World War II, people with foresight realized that a relatively small investment of effort would avoid a repetition of this neglect and would provide a store of information that might be of incalculable value in any future period of national emergency. Such observers also foresaw that the war period would concentrate into a short span of years a lifetime of administrative experimentation and experience just as it had in medicine, and science. They saw the importance of recording these things, whether they proved to be valuable administrative inventions or merely instructive essays in trial and error, for whatever purpose they might serve in improving quality of peacetime administration.

President Roosevelt showed his interest in the problem and took the step that led to the creation of the Committee in his letter to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget on March 4, 1942:

MY DEAR MR. SMITH: I am very much interested in the steps that you have been taking to keep a current record of war administration. I suggest that you carry this program further by covering the field more intensively, drawing on whatever scholarly talent may be necessary.

I wonder if it wouldn't be desirable to appoint a committee on records of war administration, to be composed of representatives


of appropriate learned societies and perhaps two or three agencies of the Government which might be interested in such a program.

The present program strengthened in this manner might be helpful to the work of the BUreau of the Budget in planning current improvements in administration in addition to its main objective of preserving for those who come after us an accurate and objective account of our present experience. I hope that officials in war agencies will bear in mind the importance of systematic records, and to the extent commensurate with their heavy duties, cooperate in this undertaking.

Very truly yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Hon. Harold D. Smith,
     Director, Bureau of the Budget.

The Committee originally consisted of seven leaders in those areas of social sciences most directly related to the problem of recording our wartime administrative experiences. These seven members were:

In the 4 years of its existence, the Committee increased in numbers and certain changes were made as some of the members had to withdraw because of the pressure of other commitments and the following were appointed members of the Committee:


Of the original membership, Messrs. Leland, Buck, Schlesinger, and Young continued to serve. In 1945 Dr. Herring succeeded Dr. Leland as Chairman.

Even before the creation of the Committee, a small staff of the Administrative Management Division of the Bureau of the Budget had begun to do two things: to stimulate the Federal agencies in the maintenance of adequate records of war administration; and to carry on independent studies of the war program on a Government-wide basis. After the Committee's appointment, this staff was organized as the War Records Section of the Division of Administrative Management, and has continued its work to the present time.

On January 25, 1944, President Roosevelt expressed his continuing interest in this project in a letter to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget:

MY DEAR MR. SMITH: I'm glad to have your memorandum telling of the progress being made in recording the administrative story of this war. We need both for current use and for future reference a full and objective account of the way the Federal Government is carrying out its wartime duties. The Committee on Records of War Administration is doing a useful job and I am much pleased to know that 30 of our Federal agencies are actively cooperating in their program.

I am personally very much interested in this study of administration and I hope that each department and agency head will see to it that the story of his agency in wartime is systematically developed. The best way to advance our knowledge of administration is through the study of actual experience. Those agencies which have not yet established units to deal with the recording of their administrative experience should do so.

It is a well established practice for officials to make a public accounting of their stewardship. Soon after the war each agency should have ready a good final report that will sum up both what was accomplished and how the job was done. if organizational changes make this impossible the Bureau of the Budget should see that the report is completed. We should also remember that full records must be preserved for deposit with the National Archives.

There is much to be gained form our wartime experience for improving administration in the future. I feel sure that a careful


recording of this experience not only will help to win the war but also will serve the needs of the postwar era.

Very truly yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Hon. Harold D. Smith,      Director, Bureau of the Budget.

President Truman also expressed his interest in this matter of analyzing and reporting on wartime experiences in a letter to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget on July 6, 1945. The President said:

MY DEAR MR. SMITH: I am pleased to learn of the efforts which the agencies and departments are making to record the administrative history of this war and I wish that you would express to the members of the Advisory Committee on Records of War Administration my appreciation of their continued interest and assistance.

The heads of the departments and agencies should have the program brought as nearly as practicable to a current basis during 1945. I would like to see completed soon after the war is over an objective account of how problems of administration were handled. Both failures and successes should be analyzed. The development of governmental administration can be greatly aided by such investigations.

This information will probably be most useful within the government, but a final report to the American people of wartime administration also seems highly appropriate. I hope that you will give particular attention to the ways in which our administrative experience during World War II can be turned to practical use in the future. Experience is a stern teacher; we must not forget the lessons so dearly bought.

Very truly yours,

/signed/ Harry S. Truman

Hon. Harold D. Smith,      Director, Bureau of the Budget.


Cooperation between the Bureau of the Budget and the executive agencies ha resulted in the development of historical activities in some 40 agencies. A number of agencies hope to publish general histories of their operations in one or more volumes. Many agencies will publish either in addition to a general volume or instead of this kind of treatment, special studies covering subjects or problems of particular importance. These accounts, which are already beginning to appear and which will be available in increasing numbers over the next year or two, will form a permanent and instructive legacy for those who want to translate our wartime experience into a body of useful data for postwar administration.

The other interest of the Committee and the War Records Section ha been in the broad analysis of wartime administration as a whole. The Committee believed that the preparation of a general study in this field could provide a broad and reliable perspective on our entire war administration and background for the more specialized studies being prepared by other Government agencies.

This volume is the result of this interest on the part of the Committee and the support given by the Bureau. The Committee has provided general stimulus and has concerned itself particularly to the end that the study be of a professional and objective nature. Important contributions to the planning of the study and in the supervision of its preparation were made by George A. Graham and Patterson H. French, who were successively in charge of the work of the War Records Section during the time the study was under way. Phillips D. Carleton assisted in the final editing

The primary responsibility for research, interpretation and the actual writing of the text has rested on the staff members of the War Records Section. As Dr. Herring's letter points out, the volume is the product of a staff working in close collaboration and enjoying the benefits of the suggestions and criticism of numerous qualified individuals not only among their associates within the Bureau but also in other Government agencies. The book, however, is basically the work of the authors who prepared the various chapters:

Ethan P. Allen
Clarence H. Danhof
Harold F. Gosnell
Luther Gulick
Elias Huzar
V.O. Key, Jr.
Donald H. Morrison
Lloyd G. Reynolds

In their work on this book these men have participated in an experiment in a new type of public reporting. They, of necessity, have written before all the evidence became available. On the other hand, they wrote before the data existing in the temper of the times and in the working environment of wartime administration were


lost with the passage of years. Working so soon after the event, they could not have the perspective which comes with time, but they had the advantage of current impressions created by the events with which they dealt, and they were able to capture some phases of wartime administration which would otherwise be lost. Torn between their interests in the technical aspects of administration and their mandate to produce an analysis of general interest, they have combined their efforts to turn out a volume which might have been designed differently had any single one of them been charged with sole responsibility.

The Committee's sincere appreciation is due to Mr. Harold D. Smith, DIrector of the Bureau of the Budget, and to Mr. Donald C. Stone, Assistant Director in Charge of Administrative Management, for their support from the beginning of this enterprise. Acknowlement needs to be made also to some 20 persons in the Bureau and elsewhere who read part or all of the manuscript and gave the staff the benefit of their suggestions.


Table of Contents ** Next Chapter (1)

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation