You’ll Be Surprised to Hear How These 10 American Industries Won the Second World War

When the Second World War erupted in Europe in 1939, American industry still lay mostly idle. The Great Depression had not yet fully released its grip on the American economy. Government spending had decreased in the late 1930s as FDR sought to balance the federal budget, bringing about another recession in 1938. There were many other chain reactions: the military was poorly equipped and budgeted, the US Navy had begun a spending program to modernize and rebuild the fleet, and progress was slow. War in Europe meant opportunity for American business supplying the necessities of war to friendly nations, but neutrality laws impeded them. By law, all goods purchased by belligerents had to be paid for in full, and nations at war often find cash in short supply.

America built the wartime economy and full employment for its work force over the six years of the World War II by providing not only finished goods but the materials needed to manufacture them. Tanks and ships required steel and aluminum to build them. Steel required coal and iron ore. The story of how the United States manufactured the weapons of war is well documented, less is known about American production of the raw materials to manufacture those weapons, products to support the troops, food for all, the means of moving it to where it was needed.

Posters like this one encouraged American workers to keep up their contributions to the war effort. Office of War Information

American manufacturers such as Ford shifted from making consumer products to military equipment, but many industries continued as they always had, providing the most basic commodities to support industry. Here are ten American products without which the Allies could not have prevailed in World War II.