Ever Greater Production


By DONALD M. NELSON, Chairman of the War Production Board

Over the Blue Network, from Washington, D. C., March 2, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 323-325.

MY fellow Americans: I have come to this microphone tonight to talk about one thing, particularly to the managers and the workers of American industry. It is deadly serious. I want to ask you a question I have been asking myself:

Are you doing everything within your power today to put more weapons into the hands of our fighting men?

I emphasize today because the arms we produce tomorrow, next month or next year are not going to the men who need them today, and they need them desperately today.

Let us look at the other side of the picture for a minute. In Germany, in Japan, in the conquered countries, millions of men are bound to their tasks under threat of death, under threat of concentration camps, under the whip and the goad of the secret police.

We are not fighting enemies whose production is free. We are fighting enemies where management is force and where labor is forced. Both, upon pain of death, must do exactly what they are told and exactly as much as they are told. They are actually slaves. That is what we are up against—a Germany and a Japan whose production is at its peak.

So I ask you, all of you free men and free women, can we beat it? The answer is to be found particularly in what you men in the war production plants—management and labor—what you do about it now—today.

I have talked to men who blame labor for lack of production. I have talked to labor leaders who blame management for lack of production. I have talked to managers who blame their suppliers. I have talked to suppliers who blame scarcity of materials. And I have talked to a lot of people who blame Washington.

My answer to each of these people has been: What have YOU done about it yourself? To the businessmen who blame labor, I say: What have you done to settle the problem forthrightly instead of merely complaining? Have you really tried to remove the causes of just complaints against working conditions in your plant? To the representatives of labor, I say: Have you really gone to the limit to adjust your differences without stopping production?

To those who whine that Washington hasn't done enough for them, I say:

Where is your initiative? Where is your enterprise? You are always talking about preserving free enterprise. What is it? Do you usually get business by waiting for the customer to call you and ask you to take an order? Have you made a thorough study of what the customer wants? Are you prepared to convert your machinery to those needs? Can you show us what you can do? There isn't time for the

Army and Navy to determine what every plant can make. There must be initiative and enterprise at the other end of the transaction.

If you can show the Army and the Navy what you can do and are prepared to do it, most of the problem is solved.

Almost without exception, every one of these people I have talked to feels the urge to do more. The trouble is not with their intentions. The trouble is rather too strong a tendency to pass the buck—to blame the other fellow. Work is slowed down, production is lost and the men in the foxholes with MacArthur, the men in the Indies, our boys on land and sea and in the air are the first to suffer, and suffer death.

So I ask industry; I ask the men in the plants; I ask all of you who can contribute so much to ever greater production: Look into your hearts, look into your minds, be honest with yourselves individually and answer my question:

Are you doing today every single thing within your individual power to see that the planes, the tanks, the guns and ships, the ammunition and equipment those boys need desperately is getting into their hands faster and in ever-increasing quantity?

I'm not talking tonight merely to hear the sound of my own voice. Nor am I appealing to you. I am telling you that unless we can answer that question with a loud, positive yes, we are, in reality, helping the Axis win this war.

It is the production line that supplies the battle line. But it is on the battle line that freedom is being defended—where your right to free enterprise; your right to collective bargaining; your right to criticize; your right to worship as you please—it is on the battle line that those things you hold more precious than all else are being defended.

It is on the battle line that men—fathers, sons, brothers, boys you know, have pledged their lives to this thing for their country, for you and for me. And their success in this heroic undertaking depends entirely upon what we—you and I here at home, you and I on the production line—do to give them the stuff they need to destroy the enemy.

Let's put it another way. Have you clinched your fists, impatient to get at the Japanese for what they did at Pearl Harbor? How many MacArthurs does it take to make you mad? Doesn't your blood run faster as you read of the undersea raiders operating within a torpedo's length of our own shores?

If these things have left you indifferent; if these things have not brought you to your feet alert and mad, determined that they shall stop and that those who inflict this bloodshed upon us shall be destroyed, then you are not worthy to be called American.

But I know that most of you are mad. So, I ask youto put that heat and that indignation—that fight—into that job of yours, whatever the job may be. It doesn't matter whether you tend a lathe, boss a production line or manage the plant. If you, every one of you, starts tomorrow putting that extra bit of drive; that extra head of steam; that extra measure of determination into the job at hand, we can win with a minimum loss of blood and treasure.

In doing that we carry the fight into our plants. We then move faster toward our goals, by which I mean the 60,000 military planes; the 45,000 tanks, the 20,000 anti-aircraft guns and the 8,000,000 tons of merchant ships the President has said we must have this year. That is the task before us. It is the greatest production job in history. And it must be done this year—the year 1942. We have but ten months to go—304 days—in which to strengthen our striking power to a point where victory can come within our grasp.

Think for a moment of 304 days—304 days of threescore years and ten, the life of a man. In the lives of men now living, those 304 days immediately ahead can shape the whole course of history for a thousand years, and shape it to our way of life.

Is it not, then, worth while to give up all else but war and production for war during those 304 days? Could any right, privilege, profit or material possession of which we voluntarily deprive ourselves during those 304 days to gain our end compare with what we gain by so doing?

Failure to achieve that end can mean the end of freedom throughout the world for centuries to come. Can we not understand what that would mean not only to those now living but to generations yet to come? I think we can and by dedicating ourselves wholly to this task we'll make those goals—yes, and exceed them.

To help us do all this and to give us the genuine feeling of participation that we need, the President has asked us for a great production drive. I am, therefore, writing the management and workers in plants engaged in primary war production asking them to set up joint management-labor committees within each of those plants to run this drive to push production up to and beyond the Presidents goals.

And right here I want to say that this is no sly scheme to speed up men and machines for profits' sake. It is instead a job in which we all can take a hand, and share in its success. Out of it must come greater production per machine and much greater use of each machine now operating. We cannot always wait for new ones. We must have full, three-shift operations of those we have. We cannot be satisfied until we've come as close as possible to the limit of 168 hours of work per machine per week.

In doing that I am confident we can increase production at least 25 per cent on existing equipment. That we must do and let no man fear that by putting more steam into his effort he'll soon run out of work. It is because there is so much yet to do that we must move faster than we have thus far.

To bring the goals closer to men and management I am assigning production schedules to the primary producers. They'll get a quota for the drive. These quotas are based on what we know a plant can do to meet the President's goals. They are not, however, the most the plants can do. No man can set a limit upon our will and determination once we have resolved to do our utmost.

That each man may measure his determination visually, I am asking the plants to erect a production score-board within the shops upon which each schedule can be laid out. There every man can see what lies ahead each day. In fact, the joint committee can mark each shift's progress toward the goal.

I want quotas broken down for each division within the plant so that every man working on every contract can be a member of the team. On the way he does his job depends the fate of all of us—the fate of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, of our families and friends. Upon the way that job is done rest all our hopes for future years.

We Americans love competition—the matching of wills and skills in sport and trade. Here in this plan we have in effect the greatest competition of all time in which the wills and skills of American industry—men and management-can really make freedom ring around the world.

In this production drive I am also asking the joint committees in each plant to provide machinery whereby each man may submit ideas and suggestions for doing the job better. These ideas and suggestions will be studied each week by the committees. Those found sound will be forwarded to Washington. Our engineering staff will examine them. Those proved valuable will be made available to other plants. Thus we tap a vast new reservoir of ideas, welding our productive genius into a united effort for victory. Our Army and Navy have systems of commending merit of high order in the line of duty. There is also merit of a high order on the production line in this war. I have therefore proposed that the production soldier shall also be recognized for meritorious service to his country. Individuals making special contributions to greater production will, upon recommendation of the local plant committees and subject to review by a national board, be given awards of merit.

As I have studied our production problems, it has seemed to me unfortunate that the men in the war plants so seldom have an opportunity to know how the plane, the tank, gun or ship they have constructed has performed. Consequently I am asking the Army and the Navy to arrange for men at sea and at the front who are using these instruments of warfare to report directly to the men who built them.

I want them to tell us how the job's been done. They are the only ones who really know. To do this we will use every possible means to extend a line of communication between the plants and the theatres of war.

Here in Washington we can but outline the basic framework of this production drive. We can give guidance and make suggestions. Success depends upon the men and women in industry—the men and women out there on the production line. The war can be lost in Washington. It cannot be won here. That can be done only on the battle lines that now extend around the world and on the production lines that extend across this nation. Those production lines will determine whether we hold the battle lines and whether ultimately we crush the enemy.

Hard months are ahead. You know that. The materials of war are for the most part materials of peace. Peace has given way to war and many of the materials which gave us those conveniences we have come to take for granted must now be devoted exclusively to war production.

In the months ahead there will be privation and there will be hard work. Yet, if I understand the temper of the American people, there will not be complaint or protest if the job is well done. But to do it well, those of us on the production line have got to get into this fight now. It's a fight in which no holds are barred. Our enemy has suspended all the rules. We can't fight by the book. For that reason nothing can be allowed to delay production.

There must be sweat and action on the production line to match the blood and action on the battle line.

We must train our sights on 168 hours per week of machine-time to match the 168 hours per week of machine-gun time.

The men of the production line dare do no less than the men of the battle line.

So, in closing, let me remind you once more that the slaves of Germany and the slaves of Japan are producing arms at a peak which we must equal and then surpass—quickly.

I therefore say to you free men and free women on the production line—to the free management of American industry—work as you've never worked before that we may defeat an enemy more ruthless, brutal and bloody than we ever faced before.