By Jeff Veesenmeyer
The Greatest Generation put 16.1 million men and women in uniform during WWII. Those numbers are amazing. But the military needed more than uniforms to win the war. What the folks back home produced to supply the war effort is incredible.
At the beginning of the war in Europe the U.S. industry was still flat from the depression. Factory output was less than half of capacity and unemployment was at 20 percent. By 1945 factory output had doubled, then doubled again and yet again. Unemployment dropped to 1 percent during the war.
In 1939 the United States only produced 800 military planes all year. In 1942 President Roosevelt called for 4,000 airplanes per month! Nobody thought it was possible. But by 1944 over 8,000 planes per month were coming off the assembly line. The same kind of output for jeeps, trucks, tanks and weapons was produced by the auto industry. But, none of this could reach the war zones without ships.
Over 60 shipbuilding yards went into emergency production mode. Yards on the east coast, west coast, gulf coast and Great Lakes operated 24/7 for nearly four years of war. Many classes of ships were prefabricated so unskilled labor could assemble the parts at a shipyard. Ships of all types were launched daily! A new destroyer was launched every week during America’s 3-½ years of World War II. We the people of the U.S.A. produced the following:
- 22 aircraft carriers
- 8 battleships
- 48 cruisers
- 349 destroyers
- 420 destroyer escorts
- 203 submarines
- 558 landing ships medium (LSM)
- 1,051 landing ships tank (LST)
- 6,000 merchant ships
- 23,000 Higgins LCVPs
And 10 shipyards built one of the most versatile ships of the war.
- 923 Landing Craft Infantry (large) LCI(L)s nick-named Elsie Item.
Our parents and grandparents were truly the Greatest “industrial” Generation of all time.
Sources: Alligator Alley Newsletter – June 2018, Wikipedia, usslci.org, NavSource.org, Mashable.com