Our Achievements So Far


By JAMES F. BYRNES, Director of War Mobilization

Delivered at Rally of Cotton Textile Workers, Spartanburg, S. C., May 31, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 519-521.

I AM happy to be back home even for a day. I am particularly happy to join you in paying tribute to the men and women of the cotton textile industry who, tending their looms and machines, are doing their part in winning the greatest war in the history of mankind.

I wonder if you yourselves realize what you are doing in this struggle. In the last war American troops were outfitted with clothing and equipment for fighting in a relatively small sector of western Europe. In this war troops must be provided with clothing and equipment to fight in all parts of the world under every conceivable climatic condition.

Cotton is no less than steel or aluminum as an essential war material. More than 5,000 articles in which cotton is used are purchased for our armed forces.

Rafts like the one which saved the life of Eddie Rickenbacker and his associates, and parachutes which drop fighting weapons out of the sky for our paratroopers are made from King Cotton.

The task of meeting the rapidly growing war demands for cotton textiles has fallen mainly upon American cotton mills. Management and labor have responded magnificently. The bolts of cloth produced by the industry in 1942, if sewed together, would reach around the world 282 times. The remarkable part of this achievement is that the mills are turning out 66 per cent more textile products with 30 per cent less spindles than the industry had in the last war. Textiles have really gone to war.

Praises Labor Record

Textile workers are justly proud of their war work. Although firmly determined to preserve their right to strike in time of peace, with few exceptions they have patriotically refused to countenance the right to strike in time of war. We have had some stoppages of work in industries producing weapons of war. They have justly aroused criticism. But when you condemn the few who strike, do not forget that the great mass of our workers and, with rare exceptions, the leaders of organized labor, are doing as much as any of us, and more than many of us, to see that there is no interruption of war production. Do not forget that during 1942, only 1/20 of 1 per cent of the time of workers engaged in war work was lost on strikes. The striker in war industry is almost as rare as the slacker in the Army.

But we have a big job ahead of us. The Nazis and the Japs started to prepare for this war years before we as a nation woke up to what was going on. While they were plotting our destruction we were passing neutrality laws that helped them out. Not until after France collapsed and Britain was besieged and Russia attacked, did we begin to realize what was happening in the world.

But in the meanwhile we had lost precious time, and our enemies launched their treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor, mistakenly believing they could beat us down before we could equip ourselves for battle.

It was humiliating for a nation as great and proud as ours to remain for months on the defensive, to be unable in the winter of 1942 to send the reinforcements necessary to save the Philippines, to be unable in the summer of 1942 to open a second front in Europe to help Russia.

It was not easy to reply to critics who complained that we were losing the war by default. The President could not tell them what the general staff was doing to rebuild our Pacific Fleet and to strengthen our supply lines in the Pacific by the capture of Guadalcanal. The President could not tell them how the general staff was assembling ships, supplies and men to drive the Nazis from Africa and to expose them to attack in Europe from every direction.

Lack of Preparation

Military operations require more than the brilliant ideas of clever strategists. They require extensive preparations. As important as the co-ordination of our air, sea and land forces in actual battle is the preparation which must be made long before the battle begins to bring together at the right place and the right time the necessary men, supplies and equipment. Hitler won the first battle of Europe not in 1939 or 1940, but in the preceding five years of preparation.

We have at length caught up with the Axis in our preparations and are forging rapidly ahead. We are now girding ourselves not for a single attack on a single front, but for many attacks on many fronts both in the European theater of war and in the Pacific Those attacks will proceed when and where the enemy least expects them. And they will not cease until the last vestige of Japanese treachery and Nazi tyranny are blasted from this earth.

This is the harvest year for the Navy's ship construction. It is the year in which the great majority of the vessels for which plans were made a year and two years ago will actually join the fleet.

In the first five months of this year we have completed 100 fighting ships. It means that in five months we have finished almost as many warships as were finished in the entire year of 1942.

During this year we will double the size of our fleet. That accomplishment is without parallel in history. It is bad news for Tojo.

These are fighting ships—battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, escort ships and submarines. These do not include the several thousand landing craft which have been completed during the last five months.

This year's warship construction will be marked by two special achievements—aircraft carriers to give air coverage to our convoys and to our attacks and escort vessels to destroy the enemies' submarines.

The Navy has developed a special convoy vessel, the destroyer escort. It has but one function—to hunt down submarines. More of them will be built this year than there were destroyers in the fleet at the end of 1942. Within a year and a half we will have more of these vessels than any other single class of vessels in the fleet.

War on U-Boats

Living up to our disarmament agreement, we junked a large part of the fleet following World War I. But the Navy fortunately kept up its research work. We put on paper some of the most effective devices and implements of war in naval history. They had to be built. They have provedto be marvellously effective. With the airplane and the escort vessel, they have contributed to the splendid record in the month of May, when we lost fewer ships and destroyed more submarines than we dared to hope for.

The submarine is still a deadly menace, but our attack against the submarine is even more deadly. Recently one of our convoys was set upon by a pack of Nazi submarines. They got one of our merchant ships, but we got four of their submarines.

History will some day record the part radio and the radar have played in giving us fighting superiority over the Axis. But let me give you one instance. On the night of Nov. 24 off Guadalcanal there lay a Japanese battleship. It was a stormy night. Eight miles away was a ship of our fleet. With the use of the radar our ship, with its second salvo, sank the Jap battleship in the blackness of night, eight miles away. Is there any wonder that the Japanese admiral Yamamoto who boasted he would dictate the peace to the U. S. in the White House has quietly passed away?

This war imposes great and grave responsibilities upon our merchant marine. Ships must maintain lines of supply to our far-flung battlefields.

During the twelve month period ending May 31, 1941, we constructed 50 dry cargo ships and 22 tankers. During the twelve month period ending tonight we have constructed more than a thousand ocean-going dry cargo ships and almost 100 ocean-going tankers. Remember this record has been achieved on top of the gigantic naval construction program.

We are building merchant ships four times as fast as they are being sunk. The merchant fleet of the United States is growing so rapidly that we are shipping and delivering more cargo than ever before in history. But we still need more ships and still more ships to carry out the unconditional-surrender war plans of the United Nations.

Only by comparison with our achievements in World War I can we grasp the progress of our effort now. In World War I our forces were equipped in very large part by arms and munitions lend-leased to us by our allies. In this war we have had to assume the burden not only of equipping our own troops but of helping equip our allies.

Vast Gain in Armament

We have, for example, shipped to lend-lease countries almost twice as many motor vehicles as we produced for ourselves alone in the last war. If all these vehicles were parked bumper to bumper they would reach twice across North America.

In the month of May of this year we produced three times as many pieces of artillery for ground troops as we did in all nineteen months of the last war.

Our production of high explosive powder has been six tunes greater than during the last war.

Because we were unprepared we bad the tremendous task of providing training camps. By April 1 of this year we had spent $10,000,000,000 in buying land and in building all over the United States airfields and training camps such as you have here at Camp Croft. We provided housing for 5,000.000 men.

In modern war we must have machine guns for airplanes, machine guns for anti-aircraft and for ground troops. Between June 1, 1940, and June 1, 1941, our ordnance plants turned out 25,000 machine guns and sub-machine guns. The year following we turned out 700,000. Between June 1, 1942, and the present date we turned out 1,500,000 bringing our total to 2,225,000 since America began to rearm.

Let me give you some idea of what we have in store forour enemies. A week ago last night there occurred the greatest and most devastating raid in history. The Germans know what it did to Dortmund and its war industries. Our bombing strength is being added with increasing intensity to the strength of the British. The tonnage of bombs that we have already produced is sufficient to load our planes for 542 raids the size of the Dortmund raid and we are producing more every day. America means business.

For the seven years preceding June, 1940, while we were building automobiles and refrigerators, Hitler was building airplanes. He relied upon those planes to enslave the world. American skill and energy are producing planes to free the world.

News for Hitler

Between June 1, 1940, and June 1, 1941, we made 10,143 airplanes. Between June 1, 1941 and June 1, 1942, we made 30,248 airplanes; and between June 1, 1942, and today we made almost 60,000.

I have some bad news for the man Mr. Churchill calls "Corporal Hitler." I have some bad news for the Japanese, too. I am permitted to announce that the 100,000th airplane manufactured since we began our war production program came off the assembly line today.

Do you remember how the Nazi and Japanese propagandists scoffed when President Roosevelt first announced that we were going to build 100,000 planes? Well, they do not scoff now. They know that America means business.

I cannot tell you how many of these planes are bombers, how many are fighter planes, how many are training planes and cargo planes. That is a military secret. But I can tell you that in the beginning of our program the proportion of trainees was large. Since that time our planes have become heavier and heavier. The proportion of bombers and fighters has become steadily higher, and they are bigger and more devastating.

I will make no prediction about the number of planes we will produce in the next twelve months. You may draw your own conclusions.

Russia and Britain are both producing planes in tremendous numbers in their own factories. Not only America, but all the Allies mean business. Our combined might will drive the Axis from the skies, and hold a protection umbrella over our ground forces as they triumphantly march to victory.

It has not been so very long ago that we were told by some who claimed to have special knowledge that the Germans had a peculiar genius for air power and that neither Britain nor America singly or jointly could beat them in the air.

But the history of this war is proving that the Nazis genius In the air is no greater than the genius of a gangster with a gun against an unarmed victim.

Before this war is over, Hitler will learn as the psalmist foretold:

"Behold, he travelleth with iniquity; yea, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He hath made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violence shall come down upon his own pate."

But this is no time for over-confidence. Remember in June, 1941, Hitler was over-confident. It was Hitler's over-confidence which caused him to attack Russia and gave us the time to catch up in our preparations.

Thus far we are only on the outer fringes of this war so far as personal deprivation on the home front and the loss of blood on the battlefront are concerned. We have been

in this war almost as long as we were in the last war. So far our casualties in this war have been only 86,862. Our casualties in the last war totaled 233,184. This will be a much tougher war.

"Tough" Road Ahead

There is no doubt in my own mind but the American people will steel themselves for the tough weeks and months that lie ahead. Already the mothers who have lost sons have shown the mettle which makes America great.

Let me read you some lines that came to me from a letter by a mother whose home is in Aiken and whose son was killed in Guadalcanal.

"One of the first things I thought of and said, when I heard about George, was that it is not the length of time we live, but how we live and what we do with our lives that counts. It would not have been fair for other boys to have given their lives and not one of ours. Thank God, he had courage enough to give his life for what he knew was right." There are thousands of mothers just like this one. They e America's answer to the Axis propaganda that we are too ft, too weak, and too indifferent to our liberties to make the sacrifices which must be made before victory is won.

We have a long, hard road ahead. The hardest fighting is yet to come. We have not yet a firm foothold anywhere on the Continent of Europe, excluding Russia. Japan still holds her stolen empire rich in vital war resources. Thousands of our boys are prisoners of war in the Philippines and the flag of the Japanese aggressor flies in place of Old Glory over Corregidor.

There can be no cheer in the American hearts until the Nazis are crushed in Europe and the Nipponese in the Pacific, until China is free from aggression, and Quezon, MacArthur and Wainwright march in triumph through the streets of Manila.

Hitherto our energies have been largely engaged in production in preparation for attack. Now we must not only keep up our production and increase it at critical points, but we must assume a major part in the all-out military operations against the enemy. We must keep up our all-out production at the same time that millions of our men are engaged in all-out attacks. This will put stresses and strains on out military machine, on our civilian economy, on our private lives. We must streamline our governmental operations. We must act with greater dispatch and greater efficiency

than ever. We must learn to work, to fight, to sacrifice together as we have never done before. We must accept willingly and gladly a self-discipline to which we are not by tradition accustomed.

Joint Effort Necessary

Masses of men and women cannot work together if they are always thinking whether the other fellow is doing his part. Masses of men and women can work effectively together only if they are actuated by a desire to outdo each other in contributing to the common effort. The American people on the farms, in the factories and in the mines, as well as at the battlefront, must work together as one team.

Your government has no right to call upon you to work as a team if it is not going to demand of government officials that they work as a team. I admit that officials of the government have made mistakes. That is to be expected of human beings. But the people have a right to expect government officials to sacrifice all pride of opinion and co-operate just as officers of the Army and Navy are required to co-operate.

We must be just that. There have been controversies in government. But that these controversies and their effect upon the war effort have been greatly exaggerated is clearly demonstrated by the statement I have made of our progress.

The President has taken new and resolute action designed to unify and solidify our war efforts here on the home front. As part of this action he has designated me as Director of the Office of War Mobilization. Later this week the war mobilization committee will meet. Until that meeting I can make no statement as to our plan, but I pledge you that I shall do all in my power to bring about the same co-ordination of efforts among the civilians in governmental agencies that exists on the military fronts.

Victory in war cannot be achieved cheaply. We must pay dearly for victory with the lives of our fighting men. We must also pay for our victory by unremitting, and when need be, unrewarded toil on the home front. We must also pay for victory by willing sacrifice of the things we can do without. We must demonstrate that we are worthy of our freedom by our willingness to work, to fight and, if need be, to die for our freedom.

We must so conduct ourselves that future generations will speak of the men and women of 1943 as we speak of the men and women of 1776.