In my two previous blogs I have outlined the developments that led to the miraculous American War Machine that would ultimately lead to axis defeat. It is important to understand how America was pitifully prepared for war in order to understand the full scope of America's war production surge.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, they effectively took out half of our naval fighting capability. On that same morning one would find a soldier at Fort Dix carrying a wooden rifle. The few tanks we possessed had been shuffled off to England under Lend Lease, a program conspired by FDR and Churchill, to keep the Brits propped up long enough for FDR to convince a pacifist America that we would eventually have to enter the fray if the Axis were to be defeated.
Winston Churchill's daring foray across the Atlantic to confer with FDR and our War Department leaders went far in awakening America to the fact that we'd need to feed, clothe and equip our allies if we hoped to achieve victory over an enemy that had a five year head start on us.
But, when all is said and done, it was the magnificence of the America people who won this war. It was Rosie the Riveter turning out B-17's. It was Millie down in Atlanta turning out allied uniforms. It was Sam on Main Street running newspaper and scrap iron drives. It was Ford and General Motors and Chrysler who converted production lines to produce tanks and jeeps and airplanes in lieu of Cadillacs. It was the millions of families who planted "victory gardens", who had to plan "meatless meals" and ration tires and gasoline.
Years later when "Rosie the Riveter" would be asked about her role in the war, she would say "it was something we had to do...and we just wanted to get it done and get it over with".
From "toy tanks" and "wooden rifles" America would rise from Pearl Harbor with a fury! She would feed, clothe and equip two thirds of all of the massive allied needs.
In three short years she would turn out 180,000 tanks and self propelled weapons
She would manufacture over 2,000,000 military trucks
Manufacture over 300,000 military aircraft
Turn out over 3,000,000 machine guns, 200,000 pieces of heavy artillery
To assure American supremacy of the seas America would turn out 22 new aircraft carriers, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 203 submarines and over 34,000,000 of additional merchant marine tonnage
And America would turn out more than twice as much coal, iron ore and crude oil as anyone else to fuel the allied victory.
And, by the time the Japanese surrendered in August 1945 the Gross National Product of America had more than doubled in three short years!
But the greatest resource that emerged from World War II was not the miraculous surge in industrial production. Instead, it was America's "human resource"; those men and women who, hardened by the ten year long Great Depression, and toughened further by the need to defeat a militarily superior foe, emerged from the war years with confidence and strength of character that would lead America into the most prosperous three decades in the history of man.
Before the war only the "elite" in America attended college. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, millions of vets came home, swamped the college campuses, lived in war surplus huts with their families, and secured an education. Those college degrees, partnered with leadership forged in crisis, pioneered the first "middle class" that ever existed in America.
And it was that "Greatest Generation" that would come home, build millions of homes, state of the art factories, a national highway system, and lift the dreams of men in the direction of the stars!
And it all came about by two men, both greatly flawed, standing on the upstairs portico of the White House, planning for the future shaping of the world, hoping and praying for success, when there was little reason for hope.
One would die before the end of the war, totally spent from twelve years of trying leadership...the other would be turned out of office, his soaring speeches even as the bombs fell, no longer needed or wanted.
Two Giants who dared to dream...and to hope... on a Christmas night long ago.