United We Stand
"WE MUST NOT HOARD OUR WEAPONS"
By WILLIAM L. BATT, Director of Materials, War Production Board
Delivered before the Foreign Policy Association, February 28, 1942, Hotel Astor, New York City
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 408-409.
WAR works on men in strangely different ways. It makes heroes of many—of quiet and steadfast "little men", who would, but for the supreme challenge, have lived and died in obscurity. War gives us the gallant fighters of Wake and Guam and Manila. It gives us, too, the daring fliers of the R. A. F., the parched garrison of Tobruk, the Russians who turned the tide at Moscow, the guerilla bands of the Yugoslav mountains, and the Czechs and Frenchmen and Norwegians who are steadily sabotaging the Nazi factories and railroads. And it has made the Chinese defense that has shown us Japan can be stopped and the Dutch stubbornness that is now helping to ward off attack from San Francisco.
But war works also on other men, to make them not greater but smaller than they were before.
These are the men who are now demanding that our planes be kept in our own hangars, that our fleet be recalled to guard our own shores. Under the impact of war these men shrink, in outlook as in stature.
These men are in hard fact doing Hitler's work, whether they know it or not. They are echoing the Axis broadcasts which tell Americans that they are fools to send supplies abroad, that Lend-Lease is a snare and a delusion, that the "game is up."
This is the first idea in my mind—the idea that we and our allies are in it together, in a common fight against a common enemy. It may be that we would like to fight alone and win alone. But the choice is not ours. The enemies of the British and the Russians and the Dutch and Chinese are our enemies; the victories of the British and Russians and Dutch and Chinese are our victories; their defeats are our defeats as well. Common sense, hard common horse-sense, makes it obvious that we must help our allies' efforts as our own. For some time to come, whileour army and ships and air-force are still in the making, the brunt of the land-fighting, at least, must be borne by our allies. For the moment it is our weapons and their lives. Is it common-sense to be stingy with our weapons? Or shall we give them materials of war with a system and a will that will swell the present small stream into a flood?
The British pilot, the Chinese soldier, the Russian soldier, cannot hope this year to find an American fighting at his side. But we ought to make sure that he can find an American gun in his hand, an American bomb in his bomb rack, a can of American beef in his kit. If this is charity—I say let's get ahead with it!
I'm saying over and over that the fight is a common fight and that at the present moment our job is to supply equipment.
We've been carrying on a policy called Lend-Lease. It's supposed to be a source of aid and comfort to our Allies. We hope and think it has been. But it has been an immense help to us too. First and foremost it has kept the war away from our soil. And in many other ways in this business of helping our friends we have necessarily been helping ourselves.
There was a time, in the winter of 1939 and '40, when this was supposed to be a phoney war. It seems centuries ago, doesn't it? In those days, it was going to be a nice safe war from behind the Maginot Line, and perhaps, in the Spring, an invasion of Germany. In those days, we in the United States weren't thinking in terms of 60,000 planes a year. We weren't thinking seriously about expanding our airplane industry. What expansion we were doing was largely the result of British and French orders, not ours. The same with munitions. The same with tanks. The British invested in those years two hundred million dollars inexpansion of American plants. They gave orders for a billion and a half dollars worth of planes. They spent, in all, about three billion dollars on war orders here. Compared to what we must spend today, this looks like a drop in the bucket. But it was the drop that started the stream and the river, and the torrent, that can win this war.
I could go on and show you how the 13 billion dollars appropriated so far under Lend-Lease has expanded our capacity for making planes and tanks and munitions and ships. These funds created new industries which are now making supplies for our own forces as well as for our allies. It is the plain truth that but for British orders and but for Lend-Lease we would be two years behind our present capacity in two essential industries—airplane engines and propellers.
In other words, Lend-Lease isn't a one-way but a two-way affair. If we have been helping our friends they've been helping us too. The two-way system of Lend-Lease has brought us blueprints, scientific information, and military secrets which have increased the efficiency and striking power of our weapons beyond all valuation. British and American engineers and technicians have crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic in Clippers and freighters, keeping up a constant exchange of new inventions, new techniques, and the fruits of battle experience. And from our Chinese friends, from Soviet Russia and the Netherlands Indies we have had critical materials and much priceless advice.
We have now in our possession detailed drawings of German tanks, planes, and submarines—thanks to cooperative British technicians. We now know all about the battle performance of British ships, magnetic mines and degassing equipment. We are profiting by studies of high altitudes, shock, and night vision—problems in which our allies have gained experience in the school of hard knocks.
We take pride in our machine tool industry, but even in this field we are in debt to our allies. Early Russian and British orders filled our factories during the lean years and certainly were partly responsible for our ability to triple our capacity in the past two years. And at critical points,machine tools from Britain are coming over here to keep us out of tight spots.
These are a few of the ways in which we are already indebted to what I have called "two-way Lend-Lease". Actually, the picture is much broader and more complicated. Here we come to the second idea that is very much on my mind. We don't have one set of dealings with the British and another with the Dutch and another with the Russians. The raw materials on which we depend must supply our allies as well. The ships that do the lonely job of carrying these materials do a job that is vital to all of us. To us come day by day ships of all the United Nations with essential materials from all the great "reservoirs of power". From us, democracy's arsenal, arms and ships and planes must go out to the various United Nations to fight the common fight. The Lend-Lease business will have to be not a two-way but a twenty-six-way business before we are done. The United Nations must pool their resources.
Six months from now many things will have happened; certainly by then every one of us will realize that this is a United Nations' war. Not an America First war—which we would surely lose. Not an Anglo-American war, which we should probably lose. It is a war in which we and our Allies will fight together wherever we can lay our hands on the enemy.
America is, and must continue to be, the greatest arsenal in the world. That is our first job, and we must carry it through. If necessary, we shall help to set up factories in Australia and New Zealand, in the Near East or in Britain. If efficiency demands, we shall ship machine tools instead of machine guns, so that the guns can be turned out closer to the front.
One thing we must not do. We must not hoard our weapons. That way lies certain defeat and degradation. There will be men who will tell you that we have a choice. Don't believe them. Americans are not defeatists. For Americans there is no choice. The road lies straight before us. We shall take that road—and we shall not be alone.