On this day, in 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces to the American people that he was committing America to the largest armament production expansion in the history of the nation. In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war on the US, the country found itself fighting a war on two fronts. The American President knew that American had to use every resource to build up its military capabilities. The US would use its industrial might to defeat the Axis powers who were threatening the free world. The US President wanted to double the level of armament produced by the country. America had already greatly increased it armaments production after 1939 but Roosevelt wanted even more weapons produced.
The British persuaded the Americans that this was possible. Lord William Beaverbrook and the British Minister for Aircraft Production urged the US to aim to at least double their production. He had performed minor miracles with the British aircraft industry and had allowed the country to produce many more planes than before the war. After Beaverbrook had taken control of the aircraft industry the British had been able to produce over five hundred planes every four weeks. At a meeting in a hotel in Washington, he offered to share production techniques that had greatly increased the British arms industry’s productivity. Beaverbrook also offered help on how to cut red tape to boost production. Roosevelt soon was setting ambitious targets for American industries. The President demanded that America produce 40,000 planes, hundreds of ships, ten thousand heavy guns and 45,000 tanks. The figures were huge and many believed that American factories could not produce that amount of armaments. Many Congressmen were skeptical. Roosevelt was able to increase production in war-time America. He was able to do this despite the drafting of millions of men into the war-effort by bringing more women into the workforce. The rapid expansion in the production of arms was made possible by diverting all available resources to the production of tanks, ships, and weapons. Many factories were converted to the production of arms. The rapid expansion in armaments production resulted in many industrial accidents and thousands of deaths.
The British were delighted by the announcement as they would benefit. The Americans did not only use the armaments they produced for their own army and navy but shared them with the British. Soon the Americans were also supplying the Soviet Union with armaments and supplies. Roosevelt had wanted to make America the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ and by 1943 this was certainly the case.