The Protection of Our Homes and Our Shores


By WILLIAM S. KNUDSEN, Director-General Office of Production Management

Before the Military Order, Veterans of Foreign Wars, delivered on Army Day, April 5, 1941 at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 410-413.

WE are all in the Army now. This is Army Day and we have all seen the parade and had our spirits lifted by the display, but most of all by the feeling that somebody like Uncle Sam is here for the protection of our homes and our shores. Wars are fought for aggression or for protection, and in our particular case we have no use for aggression. We arm for protection only, and when we extend aid to other people, it is for protection only. We are not in the business of giving aid to aggressors, large or small.

Wars have changed in the last century. No longer can the warrior fight his jolly way ahead and live on the invaded country. When that was the custom wars could be fought over long periods. We know about the Thirty Years' War and the Seven Years' War and the Napoleonic wars. Nowadays the war requires an enormous amount of material, and the warring forces are merely disposing of this material according to their best judgment and technical knowledge.

War has also changed in the respect that where before it was fought by armies of men pitted against each other, today with the airplane in its present position as a nerve-breaker, one important part of it is to prepare the non-combatants and civilian population for the attack to follow. In other words, where women and children once were spared the horrors of war, war is now presented to them right on their front doorstep with the idea of making their men run for cover and open the gates for the invasion. At thestart this scheme worked pretty well in the present war. For one side had practically all the planes and the other side practically none, but as the war progressed certain people in Europe came to the conclusion that they might as well resist and not accept slavery lying down and we have the magnificent example of Britain and Greece fighting tooth and nail for their independence and (for a wonder) making a real fight of it.

We, on the other side of the ocean, felt we had no particular quarrel with anybody. However, as the horror of this new-fangled warfare of killing women and children first progressed to its present stage, the feeling of our American people were aroused. Under the leadership of our President and Congress they decided that we would help with material the people who were willing to fight for their liberty with material so that in part of the world, any way, the individual still would have some rights and not be put in a uniform from the age of 4 to demise, violent or otherwise.

The Question of Material

The background for all this is that war is today a question of material. The technical progress of making war has advanced to such a stage that one man in the field requires the backing of ten men at home—not only men but machines and raw material as well. Therefore, we are particularly fortunate in having an abundance of men, machines and materials to put to work to back up our forces for home protection, but we also have a surplus potential with which to help others.

Over across the ocean a battle of life and death is being fought—in the field, in the air and in the shop. Over here, thank God, we have only the battle of the shop, but it is just as serious, just as important, just as indispensable, that we may not be in a bad position here. We must plan and work to help the men who are fighting for their liberty and when we do that with all our might, we are getting in shape to protect ourselves for what might come later if it becomes necessary.

I sometimes am afraid that we haven't quite realized the seriousness of the battle against time. The next four months might be crucial in the whole history of the world and if we can only save part of a month in these four, it might mean everything in our future and the future of our children.

The launching of our program was started last June. Previous to that time small quantities of British and French orders had been placed in the United States, but mostly for aircraft, machine tools and base materials. With the American defense program instituted in June, it was possible to place over twelve billion dollars' worth of contracts promptly, Congress giving final authority in early September, so that we have placed today practically all the equipment required for one million two hundred thousand men and heavy equipment—meaning guns, tanks and planes—for eight hundred thousand additional. This we hope to have finished by the end of 1942. The additional load caused by the lease-lend bill and the British orders still unfilled adds 60 per cent to the total, so that we are faced with a production job, the approximate size of which is twenty-eight billion man-hours, to do in twenty-seven months.

This is the biggest job ever undertaken by any country in that length of time, and it will require the maximum cooperative effort of every man and woman in the United States to get it done on time.

We have done a lot of plant construction in the last eight months, and will have to do a great deal more, particularly on explosives, but the main job of metal working in this added program will and must be to find existing factories where, by piecing out or "farming out" so-called, we can use tools we now have to do machine and assembling work. We just haven't time to build all the new factories necessary and supply new tools. You might be interested to know that during the last seven months we have actually started and more than 60 per cent completed new factories at a cost of over two billion dollars, of which a billion dollars and a half was furnished by the government and the balance privately financed. All these plants will be in operation within the next four to six months.

They cover everything from gun powder to airplanes and are only a percentage of what is in work today. Many private facilities employed by thousands of contractors are actually at work producing shells and guns and motors and small arms ammunition. All the existing shipyards have been commandeered and seven new ones started. Ships and planes and guns, there is the story in a nutshell. We must have more and still more. Every machine shop and foundry in the United States which can make even a piece of something must be enlisted for the duration.

Everybody knows that America is the greatest mass producer in the world. Not everybody knows that mass production inevitably takes time to get started.

We are mass producers of peace-time products and it is a big shift to defense materials. It requires many new plants, hundreds of millions of dollars of machine tools and complete retooling in nearly every case.

On aircraft we got a pretty fair production in January and February quite close to schedule, but to meet our goal these monthly figures have to double by August and keep on doubling until the end of the year.

Thirty-caliber machine guns are close to schedule. Fifty-caliber are right up to the notch, but in the former case we are striving for a 500 per cent increase in monthly production by the end of the year and in the latter case nearly a thousand per cent. These figures roll off one's tongue pretty easily, but just try to increase something tough a thousand times.

The medium tank program as you probably know has been deliberately held up because of the necessity of giving machine tool priority to other more critical items. Nevertheless, we will start making a few of the 26-ton tanks in April or May and are now turning out the 13-ton tanks, which is the so-called light tank, at a fair rate. Even so, our present schedule must be doubled by the end of the year.

I sometimes wonder who invented the name "medium" and "light" tanks. They are certainly not medium or light by any other standard. The transmission alone, of the medium tank weighs 7,600 pounds—as much as the combined weight of two automobiles.

Production of Explosives

Powder production and TNT have been big jobs and for that matter still are, but, nevertheless, a vast area of new explosive plants are going into production right on schedule which is a great credit to all who have been concerned with their construction and equipment.

Small arms, such as rifles and submachine guns are, I am happy to say, running ahead of schedule, but one can never be satisfied, for here again the production of the one has to be stepped up a hundred per cent before the end of the year and of the other about 500 per cent.

Next to the management problem in production there is a raw material problem as well. All of these things require vast quantities of material, some of them very special and difficult to obtain. In spite of our wealth and national resources we are largely dependent on imports for our supplies of fourteen strategic materials. We have been acquiring stock piles of most of these materials but many obstacles had to be overcome. Tungsten comes from China and must move on the Burma Road. Chrome comes from Turkey and already there is a shortage of available shipping.

Fortunately most of the needed products can be produced here at home. Great increases in domestic production have already been effected. Greater increases are under way. A year ago we were producing 25,000,000 pounds of aluminum ingots a month. Today the monthly production exceeds 40,000,000 pounds. Great additional plants are under construction and by the end of the year the American output of aluminum should approximate 70,000,000 pounds a month.

Similarly there is a great increase in the demand for magnesium, partly due to the increased production of airplanes, but chiefly because of the development of the incendiary bomb. Capacity of this industry has already been doubled and plants now under construction should further increase it sixfold.

Now I come to the items which can be produced more easily, those which are somewhat akin to our normal civilian needs.

Supplies and equipment of every conceivable character—from food and clothing to X-ray machines—are being furnished and for the most part the procurement, distribution and storage as satisfactory.

Army and Navy construction is better than half behind us. Group housing—three-quarters of a million dollars worth—44,500 buildings and 95,000 tent frames and utilities are in the final stages of completion. Much of the basic work for the naval base facilities, air fields, storage depots, has been completed and, during the next few months, many of these new facilities will be available for service.

The ship program presents quite a problem. Over 3,400 ships, ranging from small boats and patrol craft to large tanker cargo vessels and on to battleships are to be built. Along with this is the conversion and modification of hundreds of existing craft. A gratifying start has been made—some new ships already are being delivered ahead of schedule. On the other hand, it is only a start—this program outstrips anything ever attempted as to time, volume and complexity. The urgency for speed is extreme.

Skilled workers, materials, machinery, apparatus and management are the essential components, and even though the time elements in ship building are long, the outlook is encouraging.

Tells of Shop Census

It naturally takes time to organize an effort of this kind, but we are making progress. First we get the general contractor, the man who takes the order from the government, to subcontract all he can from the people he knows. Next we are tabulating every community or, rather taking an inventory of the shops and equipment in every community with the help of State and local manufacturers' associations to spot every place where equipment is idle and useful. This information is transmitted to the government contractors so as to make it possible to spread their work still more and get the widest possible distribution of the man-hour load I mentioned previously. Naturally, there is going to be a tremendous amount of education required to get the drawing and engineering data spread around and the proper understanding by the contractors and their men of the requirements and limits on government work. It could not be done from a central office, but working through the general contractors and making the idle talent available to them will make the job a success, providing we have real cooperation from everybody and what I call the "will to win," which, in this case, means the will to get the job finished well and on time.

Time is the great factor. It is the one thing we never have enough of when we are well, and, always too much of when we are sick. On how we use the time when we are short depends the success of our undertaking. Trains run on time against schedule. Sometimes they get away late and catch up, but they catch up only if all the factors which made them late in the first place are eliminated. A clear track and lots of steam is the only remedy. We are today in the position of having gotten off to a late start. We didn't have enough steam when we started and the track had to be cleared first. Now that the President has told all of us to get going full speed ahead, I feel we will get up more steam to help us get to our last stop, which is "the arsenal of the world," and on time.

On the Fourth of July we celebrate our independence. There are just eighty-nine days to that day. If we can put on a little steam in these eighty-nine days and save ten days, we might save a lot of blood later on. If we have, roughly, a billion hours a month to spend in the next twenty-seven months and we could gain a month in that time that billion hours would mean that we had gained the equivalent of 10,000 medium-sized bombers with motors and that would certainly be worth trying for. I believe that if we all work together we can do it—manufacturer, engineer, mechanic, helper, clerk and apprentice.

Again Warns on Labor

The labor situation during the last month has grown worse mostly due to organizational and jurisdictional strikes. Strikes like the Lackawanna, International Harvester and Bethlehem at Johnstown, and Ford are purely for the purpose of speeding up the union organization effort in the plants. The Allis-Chalmers strike after starting out as a closed shop strike wound up as a union security strike after a lot of confusion in wording a so-called referee clause which, to say the least, was ambiguous.

The conciliation service of the Labor Department, the OPM, and the union tried for two months to find a way of settling the argument, only to find at last that the original strike vote was fraudulent and that the strike, at least technically, was called without the consent of the membership. A thing like this is very hard to deal with. The fact that the strike vote was fraudulent was gone over lightly, The fact that a large number of men came back to work in support of the defense job was given no consideration. The fact that 4,000,000 hours of time is lost in order to find out what happens to a union man who isn't paying his dues was not even important—the important part was that the radical leaders with the help of other unions in Milwaukee and vicinity could show the State and the nation where to get off—and have both our friends and their foes across the water have this wonderful piece of morale builder served with their next morning's breakfast.

Many small strikes in specialty shops often tie up production in large factories. Recently a strike in a small foundry on the Coast threatened the whole airplane production in that area. We have just got to get over this strike epidemic which we have had since January. The hours lost can never be made up and they are precious. Let us settle the disputes, large and small, around the table and keep the plant going. The larger percentage of the men went to work and helped defense.

The new Mediation Board will undoubtedly perform a great service if it can induce the disputing parties to work while the dispute is being analyzed. The OPM had some early successes along this line, but as soon as the parties to the dispute found out that there were no penalties behind the effort they soon began to delay and hinder the efforts of the OPM in order to get more concessions.

Wants Strikes at Minimum

I do not believe that legislation against strikes is necessary or enforceable, but I do believe that during the emergency period a definite procedure should be followed in order that strikes can be held to a minimum. For instance, I believe that strike votes should be taken under the supervision of the Labor Department; I believe a certain minimum of dispute both by the conciliation service and the mediation board and that after the board gives its findings a period of time should be allowed before the strike is actually called. With a procedure like this 90 per cent of the strikes will be eliminated—and they must be or our program will fail

That wages may rise in a period of high industrial activity is an accepted fact. The problem is to hold the rise in proportion to the rise in living cost, and prevent a spiral from which it is extremely hard to recover. The desire on both sides to hold wages and prices in the proper relationship is the number one problem in economics and requires goodwill and extra measures.

I am getting all out of patience with all this talk about money. This is no time to ask for quotations on the defense of the United States. If we are going to put it on a dollars

and cents basis, how much more per day or per share is this defense job worth, how much of a down-payment do we all want on the protection of our shores and our homes and our democratic institutions. This job can't be handled with money. It must be handled with our hearts. I was very much interested a short time ago to meet Sir Walter Citrine, secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, who said time should be allowed to sift the something which made a deep impression on me. Sir Walter is wholly labor-minded and his work is wholly on labor's side, but still he said: "It is perfectly clear that it would be utterly foolish in a war in defense of democracy to insist upon the maintenance of certain trade union restrictions modeled for the purpose of restraining the employer during peacetime and apply these restrictions to the effort of the nation to equip itself with the means of resistance."

This remark tells a powerful story coming from a man whose life has been spent either as a working man or as a leader of working men. The reports from Britain tell an eloquent story of how "thumbs up" was started by British labor and is kept alive by labor.

A production job like ours, I say "ours" advisedly, will call for sacrifices from everybody. "Work and Save" must be our slogan. The impact economically of an undertaking of this sort can only be softened by work and by savings. To conserve, to plan, to think, and to be careful about it is the best antidote for worrying about what is going to happen now or after the emergency is over.

I remember being in France in 1936 and 1938 and being able to observe the difference on both sides of the border. It gave every one the creeps to see the difference in the strike picture. The foundation for the debacle of the French defense program was certainly laid in the years of 1936 to 1939 and it was with a great deal of sorrow that I heard how the French workmen and their women and children had made the extreme effort in the Spring of 1939, only to find that it was too late and the battle was lost. We haven't got much

time, but I think, thank God, we can still prevent anything like that from happening over here.

In our work in Washington we contacted the services—the Army and the Navy. The services are our customers. Every so often somebody intimates that things are terribly wrong with either one of us or all of us. I think this is as good a place as any to make the flat declaration that as far as I am concerned there isn't anything much the matter with any of us.

We are moving ahead and I am sometimes reminded of the fellow in the park who stumbled and was laughed at by some of the fellows sitting on the bench. He turned and said, "Well, maybe I stumbled, but I am going somewhere. You fellows won't stumble because nobody ever stumbles sitting down."

My relations with the services have been most pleasant. I find the highest type of hard-working men in the Army and in the Navy: men who undoubtedly in private industry could command great positions, but stick to the service of their country through tradition or through ideals. The planning these men did was of great assistance in getting the program under way. They are always available, night or day, with knowledge or advice and willing to go anywhere or do anything which will help the service and the country. I get an inspiration out of this. They don't wear uniforms or medals as they do in other countries, but when they put the uniform on and go out to work at their trade I know that every one of them will give his country everything, and, with these few words, I think it behooves the rest of us—yes, all of us—to go and do the same.

We can do it, I know we can do it if we all put our hearts and our efforts into the job, engineer, manufacturer, mechanic, and clerk. This is our land—the land where democracy was really born and will live forever, so let's go full speed ahead—a green light on the track—this is "America's special," and we must also help to get in on time.