Arsenal of Democracy

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U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing the nation. Franklin-roosevelt.JPG
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing the nation.

During the Second World War (1939–1945), "Arsenal of Democracy" was the slogan used by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a radio broadcast delivered on 29 December 1940. Roosevelt promised to help the United Kingdom fight Nazi Germany by giving them military supplies while the United States stayed out of the actual fighting. The president announced that intent a year before the Attack on Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941), at a time when Germany had occupied much of Europe and threatened Britain.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A Democrat, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century. Though he has also been subject to much criticism, he is generally rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Fireside chats

The fireside chats were a series of 30 evening radio addresses given by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1944. Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans about the promulgation of the Emergency Banking Act in response to the banking crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the course of World War II. On radio, he was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was regarded as an effective communicator on radio, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency. Their introduction was later described as a "revolutionary experiment with a nascent media platform."

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Contents

Nazi Germany was allied with Fascist Italy and the Empire of Japan (the Axis powers). At the time, Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression treaty under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and had jointly affected the Invasion of Poland (1939), a Realpolitik deal that remained effective until Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in 1941.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Axis powers Alliance of countries defeated in World War II

The Axis powers, also known as "Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis", were the nations that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Roosevelt's address was "a call to arm and support" the Allies in Europe, and, to a lesser extent, arm and support the Republic of China (1912–), in total war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. "The great arsenal of democracy" came to specifically refer to the industry of the U.S., as the primary supplier of material for the Allied war effort.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

The slogan "Arsenal of democracy" refers to the collective efforts of American industry in supporting the Allies, which efforts tended to be concentrated in the established industrial centers of the U.S., such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and other places. [1]

Origins of the phrase

In 1918, Doubleday executive Herbert S. Houston analyzed World War I with an article titled "Blocking New Wars". He wrote that American business was the "Protector of Democracy" while the American free press was "one of the most effective weapons in the arsenal of democracy." [2]

Doubleday is an American publishing company founded as Doubleday & McClure Company in 1897 that by 1947 was the largest in the United States. It published the work of mostly U.S. authors under a number of imprints and distributed them through its own stores. In 2009 Doubleday merged with Knopf Publishing Group to form the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is now part of Penguin Random House.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections.

The concept of America as an actual arsenal came from the American playwright Robert Emmet Sherwood, who was quoted in the May 12, 1940 New York Times as saying "this country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies." [3] Although the French economist Jean Monnet had used the phrase later in 1940, he was urged by Felix Frankfurter not to use it again so Roosevelt could make use of it in his speeches. [4] [5] Franklin Roosevelt has since been credited with the phrase. [6] [ page needed ] The phrase was suggested by top Roosevelt advisor Harry Hopkins. Yet another account has it that Roosevelt borrowed the phrase from Detroit auto executive William S. Knudsen, who was tapped by Roosevelt to lead the United States' war materiel production efforts. [7]

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

Jean Monnet French political economist regarded by many as a chief architect of European unity

Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet was a French political economist and diplomat. An influential supporter of European unity, he is considered as one of the founding fathers of the European Union. Jean Monnet has been called "The Father of Europe" by those who see his innovative and pioneering efforts in the 1950s as the key to establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of today’s European Union. Never elected to public office, Monnet worked behind the scenes of American and European governments as a well-connected pragmatic internationalist. He was named patron of the 1980–1981 academic year at the College of Europe, in honour of his accomplishments.

Felix Frankfurter American judge

Felix Frankfurter was an Austrian-American lawyer, professor, and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Frankfurter served on the Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962 and was a noted advocate of judicial restraint in the judgments of the Court.

Synopsis

Much of the ending of the speech attempted to dispel complacency. Roosevelt laid out the situation, and then pointed out the flaws in United States isolationism. He mentioned that "Some of us like to believe that even if Britain falls, we are still safe, because of the broad expanse of the Atlantic and of the Pacific."

"Some of us like to believe that even if Britain falls, we are still safe, because of the broad expanse of the Atlantic and of the Pacific..."

He refuted this by saying that modern technology had effectively reduced the distances across those oceans, allowing even for "planes that could fly from the British Isles to New England and back again without refueling."

After establishing the danger, the president then proceeded to request action from the people. He acknowledged a telegram he had received. He refuted its message, which he summarized as "Please, Mr. President, don't frighten us by telling us the facts." The central fact he felt Americans must grasp was the geopolitical Heartland theory: "If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the high seas—and they will be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere."

He then continued to describe the situation in Europe, punctuating his remarks with warnings of how the Nazis would use the same tactics in the Western Hemisphere, and giving vivid imagery such as "The fate of these [occupied] nations tells us what it means to live at the point of a Nazi gun." Roosevelt attacked the British prewar policy of "appeasement," calling it ineffective. Listing prior examples given by European countries, he said it was futile.

The only solution was to assist Britain ("the spearhead of resistance to world conquest") while it was still possible.

While not explicitly pledging to stay out of the war, he stated that "our national policy is not directed toward war," and argued that helping Britain now would save Americans from having to fight. "You can, therefore, nail–nail any talk about sending armies to Europe as deliberate untruth." Europe does "not ask us to do their fighting. They ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security. Emphatically we must get these weapons to them, get them to them in sufficient volume and quickly enough, so that we and our children will be saved the agony and suffering of war which others have had to endure."

He urged this to change, all the while stressing that open war would not hurt the country: "the strength of this nation shall not be diluted by the failure of the Government to protect the economic well-being of its citizens." He focused on that theme of "splendid cooperation between the Government and industry and labor" for several paragraphs, cited how American labor would make an impact in the combat zones, and noted how important the manufacture of weapons and vehicles is to being strong, as a nation.

He warned against labor disputes, saying, "The nation expects our defense industries to continue operation without interruption by strikes or lockouts. It expects and insists that management and workers will reconcile their differences by voluntary or legal means."

Roosevelt stressed that it was not the American government but the American people who had the power to turn the tide of the war. It was here that he used the phrase "arsenal of democracy": "We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war." Finally he reassured the American people: "I believe that the Axis powers are not going to win this war."

Impact

The Arsenal of Democracy exhibit at the Michigan History Museum Michigan History Museum July 2018 30 (Arsenal of Democracy).jpg
The Arsenal of Democracy exhibit at the Michigan History Museum

The speech reflected the American approach to entry into World War II. It marked the decline of the isolationist and non-interventionist doctrine that had dominated interwar U.S. foreign policy since the United States' involvement in World War I. At the time, while the United States Navy appeared strong and was widely thought to guarantee the Western Hemisphere would be safe from invasion, there were only 458,365 non-Coast Guard military personnel on active duty—259,028 in the Army, 160,997 in the Navy, and 28,345 in the Marine Corps. By the next year, that number had nearly quadrupled, with 1,801,101 total military personnel—1,462,315 in the Army, 284,437 in the Navy, and 54,359 in the Marine Corps. [8]

Previous policies such as the Neutrality Acts had already begun to be replaced by intensified assistance to the Allies, including the cash and carry policy in 1939 and Destroyers for Bases Agreement in September 1940. The Lend-Lease program began in March 1941, several months after the Arsenal of Democracy address. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941—less than a year after the Arsenal of Democracy address—the United States entered the war.

United States armament manufacturers

The spending on military production was distributed 32% for aircraft, 14.8% for ships, 25.6% for ordnance (guns, ammunition and military vehicles), 4.9% for electronics, and the remaining 22.7% for fuels, clothing, construction materials, and food. Note that production costs fell steadily—the same item cost much less to produce in 1945 than in 1942. The largest United States military prime contractors are listed below in order of the total value of munitions produced from June 1940 through September 1944. These large firms produced many different items; the aircraft companies assembled parts made by thousands of firms. [9]

  1. General Motors, trucks, tanks, aircraft parts
  2. Curtiss-Wright, aircraft engines
  3. Ford Motor Company, trucks, aircraft
  4. Convair, aircraft
  5. Douglas Aircraft Company, aircraft
  6. United Aircraft, aircraft parts
  7. Bethlehem Steel, ships
  8. Chrysler, tanks, electronics, trucks
  9. General Electric, electrical parts, engines
  10. Lockheed Corporation, aircraft
  11. North American Aviation, aircraft
  12. Boeing, aircraft
  13. AT&T Corporation, telephones
  14. Glenn L. Martin Company, aircraft
  15. DuPont, chemicals, ammunition, atomic bomb parts
  16. U.S. Steel, steel
  17. Bendix Aviation, aircraft parts
  18. Packard, aircraft engines
  19. Sperry Corporation, electronics
  20. Kaiser Shipyards, ships
  21. Westinghouse Electric Company, parts
  22. Grumman, aircraft
  23. Newport News Shipbuilding, ships
  24. Republic Aviation, aircraft
  25. Bell Aircraft, aircraft
  26. Vigor Shipyards, ships
  27. Nash-Kelvinator, parts
  28. Studebaker, trucks
  29. Consolidated Steel Corporation, steel
  30. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, tires
  31. Esso, gasoline & oil
  32. Avco, aircraft parts
  33. International Harvester, trucks
  34. American Locomotive Company, tanks
  35. Western Cartridge Company, ammunition
  36. American Car and Foundry Company, tanks
  37. United States Rubber Company, rubber parts
  38. Continental Motors, Inc., aircraft parts
  39. Sunoco, gasoline & oil
  40. Baldwin Locomotive Works, tanks
  41. Pressed Steel Car Company, tanks
  42. Permanente Metals, incendiary bombs
  43. RCA, radios
  44. Caterpillar Inc., tanks
  45. Allis-Chalmers, parts

Notes

  1. Hooks, Gregory and Leonard E. Bloomquist. "The Legacy of World War II for Regional Growth and Decline: The Cumulative Effects of Wartime Investments on U.S. Manufacturing, 1947–1972". Social Forces, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Dec.,1992), pp. 303–337. Note: See especially the discussion surrounding the table on page 308.
  2. Houston, Herbert S. (October 1918). "Blocking New Wars". The Furniture Worker: 364.
  3. Gould, Jack (May 12, 1940). The Broadway Stage Has Its First War Play. The New York Times. Quoting Robert Emmet Sherwood, "this country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies."
  4. Robinson, Charles K. (October 13, 1961) Time. Retrieved on June 6, 2008.
  5. Jean Monnet, Memoirs (London: Collins, 1978), p. 160.
  6. Barnett, Richard. 1983. The Alliance: America, Europe, Japan, Makers of the Postwar World.
  7. Herman, Arthur. "The Arsenal of Democracy: How Detroit turned industrial might into military power during World War II." The Detroit News. 3 Jan 2013. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2013-08-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. "Series Y 904-916: Military Personnel on Active Duty: 1789 to 1970." Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Part 2 (Bicentennial Edition). September 1975. United States Census Bureau.
  9. Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School pp.108–109 & 619–620

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