We Must Expend Material or Lives


By Lieut. Gen. BREHON SOMERVELL, Commanding General, Army Service Forces

Delivered before the National Association of Manufacturers, New York City, December 6, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 130-133.

THIS is the most important speech I have ever made. Upon me at this moment rests the responsibility for how long this war will last; perhaps the fate of millions of men—their very lives.

Unless I can somehow pass this responsibility on to you, who represent such a large block of industry, and on to several hundred thousand American workers, I shall have failed those men; failed them at a time they most needed my support.

Worse than that, if I fail today to get this situation across to you and these workers, I shall have failed all America—the 12,000,000 in the armed forces, and the ten times that number on the home front.

That is the reason for my earnestness today; that is why I believe this is the most important speech I have ever made.

This nation has committed its troops to fighting the war in one specific fashion—with an overwhelming superiority of materiel.

We are a productive and resourceful people. Knowing our power to produce, we sent our men into war with this promise: You shall have an overpowering weight of everything it takes to win.

You shall have this weight because time and thus lives will be saved.

You shall have this weight because we would rather fire a ton of munitions than lose a single American soldier.

We, a productive people, elected to fight the war by that method. So far we have made good on that promise; our tactics, our strategy, our victories have been shaped by it.

This War Like a Balance

I have come here today to examine the current situation with you so that we may all see what it takes to live up to our part of the plan and to continue to make good the promise we made our men in uniform.

Now this war is like a giant balance. Onto one side of the scales the enemy throws the weight of his men and his materiel. Imagine with me that the indicator at the top of the balance points to the time on the calendar.

If you will look at the balance on Dec. 7, 1941—the day of Pearl Harbor—you will see us very badly outweighed indeed.

Much of our fleet was out of action, most of our present Army was still in civilian clothes. We possessed exactly 1,157 airplanes suitable for combat and almost exactly the same number of usable tanks.

Then and there we set about to change the balance—to put the weight of men, and particularly of materiel, on our side.

I should like to tell you a little about the cost of not having the weight of materiel—what happens if the scales are against you for a long period.

The Russians had men but lacked materiel, lacked the sheer weight of arms. According to a report a few months after the turn came at Stalingrad, from June 22, 1941, when Hitler marched against Russia until June of 1943, the Russians paid for their lack of materiel with 4,200,000 killed and missing.

That was an appalling price. It's more than half of our whole Army. It would be nearly fatal to us.

Fortunately, we have not had to sacrifice our manpower while we were building our strength in materiel. Thanks to an almost incredible job of production by American industry, you made fighting materiel as fast as we could get fighting men ready to use it, and as fast as you could build ships to carry the men and materiel to the fighting fronts. When our troops met the enemy they were equipped to fight the war on our terms.

Let's take a good look at that kind of war:

It's on wheels! It's mechanized! It's in the air! It's on the ocean! And everywhere it's in overwhelming strength.

Magnificent But Not Enough

Since it started you have made 1,800,000 trucks, 68,000 tanks, 2,800,000 big and medium guns, 15,000,000 machine

guns and rifles, 43,000,000,000 rounds of ammunition, 43,400,000 bombs, 196,000,000 uniforms, 98,000,000 pairs of shoes of all kinds, 187,000 planes*

Based on any experience any country had ever had in any war, these and the thousands of other things you also made represent a magnificent achievement.

In the opinion of many, they should have been enough, but they are not enough for this war.

General Eisenhower's forces, General MacArthur's forces, General Richardson's forces, General McNarney's forces are using some parts of the reserves we were able to build up, before the fighting reached its present intensity, faster than we can replace them.

Where, by reason of the superior mobility which our mechanization has given them, they have been able to discover the enemy's softest spots, and where they have been able to hurl more tons against the enemy they have been able to hurt him worst, advance our cause most and save more of our own men's lives.

Proof that our kind of war pays off lies in the men who will come home again as well as in the ground won. At Aachen, for instance, we were able, with the help of a very great concentration of fire from 105-mm, howitzers and air bombing, to capture the town at a relatively low cost in men.

Let me explain what I mean. As our troops moved forward, the town was divided into areas. Each area just ahead of the troops was smothered with shellfire to keep the Nazis pinned to whatever shelter they could find. With the lifting of that fire to another sector our infantry moved forward to kill or capture the Nazis as they crawled out of their shelters.

We saved manpower by taking the town that way. We did not save artillery shells. We didn't try to. At Aachen alone we fired 300,000 rounds of 105's.

Same Tactics in Pacific

And the same general tactics are working in the Pacific. To date the Japs have lost over 277,000 men to our 21,000. One American soldier and his tons of supporting materiel to thirteen Jap soldiers.

Today, both in Europe and in the Pacific, we are fighting with millions of men in the combat lines instead of the hundreds of thousands of last year and the year before.

There will be many Aachens ahead of us on both fronts; spots where we will throw everything America has at a groggy enemy, never letting him rest, never letting him get his head up day or night; throwing fresh men with fresh materiel at him from the front while the air forces batter his supply lines and factories in the rear.

Until we are heavy enough on our side of the balance to fight such battles with all armies on all fronts, we aren't ready to call the war "in the bag."

This is the way, remember, America elected to fight this war. Our generals and our GI's are carrying out the strategy America set for them, and they are doing it magnificently.

In short, industry, labor, the WPB, the WMC and the Army Service Forces are on the spot. We, at home, are squarely up against the question of whether American productive capacity can deliver the increased quantity of goods to fight the kind of war America has elected to fight, can deliver these goods wherever they are needed, whenever they are needed, and in whatever quantities may be needed. When you compare the weight we swing today with what we could muster three years ago today, the balance is undeniably shifting.

Had we been able, however, to have reached today's weight on Dec. 6, 1943, we might be celebrating total victory now. Great as is our capacity, it was beyond our ability to do that.

Instead, we are just now coming against the full might of the concentrated weight which a desperate Germany and an even more desperate Japan can use to pit against us.

I will give you a few figures for comparison between our strength in 1942 and in 1944. But don't forget that Germany with its undeniable fiendish skill and efficiency is right now training thousands of fresh troops and turning out millions of tons of equipment for them.

Nearly 5,000,000 Overseas

By the end of 1942, we had a little over 1,000,000 army men overseas; now we have nearly 5,000,000 men overseas—and that doesn't include the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The tempo is quickening—the fury more devastating. Our men are using supplies faster. They need new kinds of supplies.

Take the mortar shell, as an example. In North Africa our forces expended 42,000 rounds a month. In France, between Sept. 20 and Oct. 20, the First, Third and Ninth American Armies alone expended more than 1,300,000 rounds of mortar ammunition. They fired more mortar shells every day than were used in a month in Africa. And there are four other armies fighting on this same front.

The other day a cable requisition came to Army Service Forces Headquarters in Washington from a general in the field. He asked for eighty different types of ammunition—4,000,000 rounds of one kind, 10,000,000 of another, 5,000,-000 of a third, and so on for four closely typed pages. That wasn't the only big ammunition order we were handling on that day, either. Add to the needs of this general those of others in Europe and throughout the world and you get a fair notion of the industrial job ahead of us.

The more weight we can have, when we need it, and where we need it, the sooner we shall be able to knock over Germany and Japan.

It is just a case of simple arithmetic.

More materiel equals fewer casualties, a shorter war.

What weight do we need? We need all the weight we can use. What additional weight must we have right now? How do we stand right now?

Make no mistake about our situation! They have supplies at the front right now. It's the future we must provide for. Our program is not lagging on all items. Even on the critical items many manufacturers are abreast of the schedules we have given them. Further, some of the demands are so recent that you could not be expected to have reached your maximum schedules in the time that has elapsed. That very fact merely emphasizes the urgency of our plight.

27 Per Cent Is Critical

It is on these critical items, some of them new ones, that we must concentrate our efforts. Twenty-seven per cent of all the programs are in this critical category. It is to this 27 per cent we must give our thought and bend our energies.

Though individual manufacturers can well take pride in their position if they are on or ahead of schedule, on a broad front we can find no comfort unless these critical shortages are met. For example, though all else may be up to schedule, what good is a truck without tires or a gun without ammunition or, for that matter, .50-caliber ammunition in abundance, if ammunition is needed for big guns? We must have balance, and to make our problem harder, that balance is constantly shifting. We must meet these shifts, we must meet new and unforeseen demands. We must meet them when they are needed and continue to meet them until the last shot is fired.

We have explained our need to our two great labor organisations, the AFL and the CIO, and both have responded wholeheartedly, with prompt organization of recruiting services to assist us in plugging the holes we need to fill.

Government agencies involved in our production programs, especially the WPB and the WMC., are acutely aware of our need. We are in complete agreement as to the urgency of our situation. Together we have outlined the steps we must take.

In a few minutes, Mr. Krug, whom I am mighty proud to have in here pitching with me, will discuss these measures and the programs where extra effort is needed today.

I said at the beginning that it was my job also to see that several hundred thousand good American workers understand this problem. Who are these good American workers, over 300,000 of them?

They are ex-members of the home front industrial army, or workers who have not yet been in war production at all. They are members of the group of optimists who have already guessed that the war is about over. They have drifted away from the home front army of 10,400,000 war workers. They have taken a furlough or have come to believe their term of enlistment is over.

Over 300,000 is the number of additional workers our critical programs need to get up to schedule. We may need more later on.

Must Reach 300,000 Workers Now

So, we must reach these men and women now. We must get their help to turn out the weight they can add to the balance.

If every one of these workers decides today to go back to work on the production front this week, it won't be long before Eisenhower and MacArthur will feel their support; it won't be long before there will be an upsurge of short items needed on the fighting fronts.

To date we've had 500,000 casualties. Thank God not one has been because of short production! But, if we don't throw this extra weight of production into the scales, now, right now, we may have to risk lives tomorrow that we never should risk. The lives are those of your sons and your brothers.

You see now what I mean by the importance of this speech.

If I fail, if you fail, if these needed workers fail, we face the justly accusing eyes of the men who are willing to die for us and who ask us only to give them the power to carry the fight to the enemy.

How much is enough?

There cannot be too much weight.

In a little over three months after D-day, the First, Third and Ninth American Armies in France fired 300,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, 4,426,000 rounds of 105s, 1,248,000 rounds of 155s and 3,500,000 rounds of mortar shells.

And I remind you again, there are four other armies on this front as well as still others in the Mediterranean and the Orient.

Since Oct. 20 General Eisenhower has asked us for two-thirds of all our present mortar shell output. Yet General MacArthur, not to mention the other Pacific and Mediterranean fronts, has used more mortar shells on Leyte than in all his previous actions combined.

I told you earlier of the vast quantities of material you have delivered already. Let me give you another reason why we must make more, and still more.

We Have Two Wars to Fight

In one month those same three American Armies in France lost from all causes 83 per cent of their dump trucks, 50 per cent of their mortars, 14 per cent of their scout cars, 10 per cent of their light and medium tanks. Multiply such losses by twelve months and you can see that our manufacturing output is far from being net gain in the weight we put in the balance.

I have had quite a little to say about the way we are using up the weight of our materiel in Europe—at an ever increasing rate. We have two wars to fight. We are perhaps not yet in the full fury of the one in Europe. We are certainly not yet full out against Japan.

You may be looking toward V-day in Europe as a day of let-down, a time to relax. Burn this thought into your minds. It takes more tons, hauled more miles by far, to destroy a Jap than it takes to destroy a Nazi. We will only transfer our energies after Hitler's Germany falls. We may even have to increase our output in many categories of materials. For instance, there are new weapons now being made—weapons I can't tell all of you about—not yet in use in Europe.

Those of you who make them, know them. They must be ready in large quantities for the Pacific pushes.

I would remind you that the Jap still has to be driven across half the Continent of Asia to destroy him—that this may be necessary even if we conquer all or a part of his home islands first. That cannot be done bare-handed.

It will cost us $71,000,000,000 a year to fight the Jap after Germany is defeated.

We are going to give that war everything we have. We are going to hit the Jap with everything and every man we can get within reach of him, hit him with every ship, every plane, and every ground formation. That is the formula which will bring the most of our men home quickest. That is the only way to cut down the cost in lives and in dollars.

The war against the Jap alone will be the biggest war this country or this world ever fought before the present war.

The $71,000,000,000 a year which will be expended against the Jap is greater than the value of all goods manufactured in the whole country in its busiest productive peacetime year, 1929.

Japanese Estimate Up 25 Per Cent

Within the past ninety days we have had to increase by 25 per cent our estimate of the production we believed we would need to fight the Japs after Germany is defeated.

We have more ahead of us today in the war against Japan than we faced in the whole of World War I in Europe. We will have to ship at least four tons to the Japanese front for every ton we shipped to Europe in World War I.

I told you at the beginning that this was the most important speech I have ever made. It is important because I speak in this room to American industry—the greatest industry in the world, an industry that has given sword and shield and buckler to its fighting men. And, I speak, through you, to the millions now making war goods so well, and to those 300,000 extra workers you and their fellow-workers need tomorrow—today, if possible—in war plants.

It is important because in this room is the power to add weight to the balance, to shorten the war, to save lives.

Because now, this minute, American productive force for the first time may fail our fighting forces.

Because for the first time industry and its workers are not making munitions as fast as munitions are being used up.

Because on all fronts the Allies are pouring on everything they have.

Because our enemies are fighting more desperately than ever before.

Because we planned this war to use up munitions to save men's lives and, with more than twelve millions of men under arms, with over half of them overseas, we are committed to backing them up with everything America has.

I wish you would pick up your next newspaper and take a pencil out of your pocket.

Turn to the casualty list. Say this to yourself:

"If we could somehow, some way, have thrown in another ton of steel, I could mark a name off this list. If we can supply enough tons, In enough places, we can replace the list with news of final victory." Today, all victory leads to is another battle. The final battle is the one we must win.

In closing here today, I want to urge upon you this thought.

War Is Nation's Only Business

As long as the nation is at war, on one front or two, planning for war, producing for war, fighting the war is the nation's business and its only business. We must win before we can reap the fruits of victory. You can't beat the gun in this race, and I know you don't want to try to do so.

Our enemies are tough, they are desperate. Their objective was to destroy us. It is still their objective. War is their single purpose. What reason have you to believe that they will not continue to fight? What that they won't defend their homeland with the same—yes, even more—desperate fanaticism than they now show on every front.

After Pearl Harbor we rose in indignation and in wrath. Our objective was to crush our enemies. That is still our objective. And, if we are to achieve it, war until the end must be our single purpose.

After Pearl Harbor all were imbued with a determination, a selflessness, a high purpose which carried us to peaks of production hitherto undreamed of. From January to August of this year production then scheduled continued to decline; to decline in the face of the efforts many of us made to stem the tide. During that period new demands for still more production added to our deficit.

Since August, production has again been on the increase. The increase, though not what we would have liked,, was gratifying. Since August still other new demands have developed. We must have more. We cannot delay, we must meet these new demands as well as the deficits that have accumulated. We must meet them now!

American industry and American workers must rededicate themselves, here and now, to an upsurge of production on the home front so that our forces on all fronts shall be limited in their use of material only by our ability to get it to them and by elbow room on the fighting fronts in which to use it.

The kind of war we shall fight is in the balance. The decision as to the weight we shall throw into the scales is your decision—and this is the time for decision. I know what it will be.