[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 28

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Navy's Air War

by
the Aviation History Unit OP‑519B, DCNO (Air)

Harper & Brothers Publishers
New York and London
1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 30
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p330  Chapter 29

Production to Meet Changing War Needs

Production Adjusts Itself to Total War — 1942

Organizing the mass production of airplanes for naval use acquired a new meaning for the Bureau of Aeronautics as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and work already under way was driven ahead with increased intensity. Thanks to Allied orders, the aircraft plants had expanded. The question of the moment was whether or not these companies could meet both Allied needs and our own.

Almost immediately the challenge was thrown down to industry in the ringing tones of the President's message: the United States would make 60,000 airplanes in 1942, and it would more than double that number by producing 125,000 the following year. Engineers whistled on hearing these figures, and sat down with sharpened pencils to figure out just how much floor space and how many machine tools would be needed to complete the job. The task presented was not an easy one. Airplanes were complex machines with a very short life, whose manufacture on a great scale was being planned for the first time in the United States. During the First World War, American industry had produced only some 15,000 planes of all types, while France, with the best record for aircraft production, had made slightly less than 68,000 planes during the period from 1914 to the signing of the Armistice.

As we have seen, the Navy and the Army at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack had had only modest experience in ordering large quantities of aircraft. In December, 1941, the Navy had on hand about 5,000 useful aircraft and by July, 1941, the beginning of that fiscal year, orders had been placed for only some 7,000 planes. Now in the short period of two years, the Navy was to obtain almost 32,000 planes under the President's program. To be successful, the program had to overcome the scarcities of machine tools, materials, skilled labor, and the lack of experienced management for all the new plants.

 p331  Two important problems affecting this contemplated production had been in evidence months before the break with the Axis. In the first place, both the Army and the Navy were in the market for planes. While both armed forces required planes in numbers that were astronomical in comparison to prewar orders, the Army had a greater demand than the Navy. It was evident that there must be co‑ordination and not competition between these two purchasers. In scientific and engineering work the precedent had been set before 1917 by the establishment of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the Aeronautical Board, and when America entered the war other agencies had been set up to deal with the production of airplanes.

The other problem, and one that affected both the Army and the Navy, was the question of the share that the Allied nations were to have in the total output of the American aviation industry. Both British and French cash had built our aircraft factories to new size and capacity, and it was our policy to help these countries in their struggle against the Nazis. This policy was necessary to give us time to build our own defenses. The President, therefore, declined to stop the flow of arms and planes to France and Britain. When France fell, it became our need to arm more rapidly than before and at the same time help save Britain from invasion. To meet this peril, England took over all the planes marked for foreign use.

In September, 1940, all airplane production was placed under the Joint Army-Navy-British Purchasing Committee. At first this committee considered only airframes, engines, and propellers, but by the winter of 1940‑1941 it was clear that the scope of its authority would bear closer scrutiny because other kinds of aviation material were not being manufactured rapidly enough. The committee, therefore, was cloaked with more power and on 22 April 1941 became known as the Joint Aircraft Committee (JAC). To the end of the war, this remained the principal agency for scheduling Army-Navy purchases of airframes, engines, radios, radars, and aviation equipment. Both the Army Air Force and naval aviation were represented on the JAC by their senior members, who were authorized to commit their own departments.

One of the first accomplishments of the JAC was to complete the division of aircraft plants between the armed forces according to plans that had been drawn up in 1940. This was a measure that had been used during World War I to minimize competition between the armed forces, and once again experience in our first air war stood us in good stead. In 1941 there was special urgency for such a move, since the Army  p332 had already launched upon its expansion, whereas the Navy had just begun.

Both forces had great need for trainers, and it was essential to agree at once on similar types. Scheduling and standardization became the real work of JAC. Through twenty technical subcommittees, JAC hammered down the differences in design of armament, communications, and navigation equipment used in American planes. The committee also created a master plan of aircraft production that set forth the construction of every type, class, and model called for in the President's program and drew together our own and British requirements so that similar equipment could be used by all.

After the United States entered the war, the actual assignment of finished aircraft was entrusted to the Munitions Assignment Committee (Air), which functioned under the Combined Chiefs of Staff, to distribute among our own and Allied services the weapons being forged in a now overtaxed arsenal of democracy. It was not until after the first year of our war had been fought that further changes were made in this organization.

Meanwhile, in order to solve the manifold problems of expanding plant capacity, speeding production, and sharing output with the Army and England, the Bureau of Aeronautics needed an ever-increasing staff. This requirement was met by commissioning additional officers, many of whom were experienced engineers, businessmen, or lawyers. These men were assigned to procurement duties in Washington or in the field. With the officers, an increasing number of Waves, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees, the administrative aspects of aircraft procurement and production were soon well taken care of.

Throughout the first year of war, the old system of having all final contracts made by the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts remained in effect. While laying the groundwork for the growth of the aircraft industry and for placing immediate orders for thousands of additional aircraft, it was prudent to use the established procurement methods. In the second year of war, after the initial shock of the transition from peace to war had been absorbed, and the regular production and delivery of aircraft assured, we shall see that it was to become expedient to develop administrative methods more suitable to the requirements of the vast new industry that was coming into existence.

With these readjustments in organization, the Navy pushed ahead to meet the President's program for production in 1942. The job at hand was simplified by the groundwork that had already been laid. It was  p333 decided that planes that were in major production, the Brewster Buffalo and the OS2U (Kingfisher), were to be pushed with new speed. Another fighter, the F4F (Wildcat) and the SBD (Dauntless), a dive bomber, were coming off the lines in small numbers, and strong efforts were made immediately to increase the volume of production. The design problems that had been so troublesome in getting the TBF (Avenger) into full production were tackled by engineering teams in order to get improved torpedo planes into action. On the whole, production of training planes was more satisfactory than the output of combat aircraft.

Until the summer of 1942, the bulk of the Navy's production was of F4F's, PBY's, TBF's, and OS2U's. The OS2U was called upon to carry a heavier burden than had been anticipated, because its replacement, the SO3C (Seagull) did not meet navy requirements, and an improved design, the SC, was not yet being manufactured.

All the hard work of planning and sweating out the production details began to get results. Navy plane acceptances reached a total of 1,104 airplanes for the month of September, 1942. The extent of the increase can be measured by the fact that for the same month in the previous year the Navy had accepted only 268 planes. There was another important trend to be noticed. Half the production of 1941 had been of trainers; by the fall of 1942 the emphasis on combat types was resulting in production at four times the 1941 rate. By the fall of 1942, the F4F and the TBF were well established in the production line, the SBD was coming out at better than a hundred a month, and the PBY was being accepted in ever-increasing quantities. By July, 1942, a newcomer that was to make an enviable name for itself, the F4U (Corsair), began to come off the production line in small numbers.

By the end of 1942, large-scale production of naval aircraft was well established. Planes were being made more than 2.6 times as fast as during the previous year while the "target" for production had been exceeded by 14 per cent. A good deal of this success was due to the fact that a number of surplus trainers had been turned over to the Navy by the Army, making possible greater concentration on the production of combat aircraft. Only dive-bomber production failed to equal the number of deliveries called for. Since the automobile industry was converted to aircraft production during 1942, the prospects for the next year were excellent.

No account of aircraft production during the first year of war would be complete without mentioning the plans and designs of advanced and radically new aircraft. With an eye to the future possibilities of  p334 air war, by the fall of 1942 both the Navy and the Army had projects well under way for the design and manufacture of jet planes. Before the outbreak of war, in 1941, arrangements had been made for the General Electric Corporation to obtain information about the best English jet motors. After further experiments, the first American jet plane, the P‑59, designed by Bell Aircraft and sponsored by the Army Air Forces, made its test flights in October, 1942. Meanwhile, the Navy made arrangements with the Ryan Aeronautical Corporation to make experimental planes designated as XFR‑1's, which used the General Electric I‑16 jet engine in addition to a conventional gasoline engine. Anticipating our story somewhat, it might be noted that in the summer of 1943, after the completion of satisfactory tests, one hundred of these planes were ordered. These purchases illustrate the manner in which joint procurement facilitated experiment and new designs, since these jet engines were made in Army-sponsored plants — that is, finance, inspection, and production control were all handled by the Army.

Airplanes Need Spare Parts

An airplane grounded for want of spare parts is of little use to a fighting air force. Such a condition can easily develop, because a plane uses spare parts faster than any other piece of fighting equipment in the Navy. During the early months of the war there were times when the percentage of American naval planes grounded for want of repair material was a little too high for comfort. As we shall see in another connection, maintenance forces through almost superhuman effort and superb ingenuity created spare parts from practically thin air or "cannibalized" planes to "keep 'em flying." Such procedures merit great praise, but more than improvisation was needed to win a war. An effective system of securing spares in sufficient quantities was absolutely essential. Our success in building up such a system in comparison with the enemy's comparative failure to develop one was an important factor contributing to victory.

Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy had made a good start toward building an efficient system for the purchase and distribution of aviation spares, and the wartime history of the spare parts program bears out the farsightedness of the early measures. Two major developments were set in motion at the same time, in October, 1941. The first was the purchase of spare parts in quantities determined by the rate at which spares would be used. Previously the selection of  p335 spares had been left to the manufacturer, and a quantity equal in value to 20 per cent of the contract had been ordered. The second development was the establishment of an agency to handle the ordering, stocking, and distributing of spares to the entire naval aviation organization.

This organization was known as the Aviation Supply Office. Established at Philadelphia, 1 October 1941, this agency eventually became the principal procurement office for naval aviation replenishment and maintenance material. The Bureau of Supplies and Accounts also entered the picture. Although the Bureau of Aeronautics finally acquired authority to make its own contracts, the handling of spare parts continued until the end of the war as a joint project of both bureaus. There were several factors making this the best procedure. In the first place, a good deal of the replacement material was what the Navy calls "standard stock," or material in common use, such as paint or sheet metal. It was better to buy these items in general orders for the whole Navy through the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts than to duplicate the process in the Bureau of Aeronautics. Then, as any one who has ordered spare parts for his automobile knows, keeping stock bins full and getting the right part in the right bin depends upon a good system of stock numbers and on up‑to‑date inventories. This type of work was "right up the alley" of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, and since its people were handing the material over the counter at hundreds of repair bases it was logical to let this bureau to take care of all the details of delivering it. On the other hand, the Bureau of Aeronautics, because of its technical staff and its connection with the manufacturers as well as its experience in operating planes, was in a better position to know the kinds and quantities of spares that would be needed. These special qualifications of both bureaus established the lines along which the machinery for ordering and distributing spares could be put together.

To carry out this task, an agency was set up that stood, as far as responsibility was concerned, halfway between BuAer and BuSandA. This was the Aviation Supply Office and its offshoot the Aviation Supply Depot. The roots of the latter went back to World War I, to a central supply depot for aviation material that had been set up at that time, and to the work of the supply officer at the Philadelphia Aircraft Factory. To carry out the same task in World War II, the Aviation Supply Depot was built in Philadelphia. Material was received in its vast warehouses from the manufacturers and was distributed to the air bases and the fleet through supply annexes established at Norfolk, Virginia, and Oakland, California.

 p336  One of the major achievements of the Aviation Supply Office was the development of a standard numbering and inventory system. By renumbering the interchangeable parts for the different series of Pratt & Whitney engines, for example, the ASO saved taxpayers not less than $30,000,000. To perform this service for all kinds of maintenance material a "Sears Roebuck" type of catalogue of aviation spare parts, complete with pictures and ordering instructions, was compiled.

Protection from the Enemy Within

Everyone who has worked in a war plant and has opened his lunch pail for inspection by the watchman at the gate, and the passing motorists who have wondered at the camouflage paint and nets used on aircraft plants, has been made aware of some of the details of the system of plant security developed by the War and Navy departments. To a people not accustomed to close governmental scrutiny of workers changing shifts, or FBI investigations of applicants for new jobs, plant security measures might seem to be an irksome and unnecessary detail thought up by busybodies. Fortunately, the presence of enemy agents was detected so quickly by the FBI and other agencies that the elaborate security systems were never put to a real test. Had there been any organized sabotage, security measures would have been able to cope with the situation. That they were adequate is shown in part by the fact that there were no disasters comparable to the "Black Tom" explosion of the last war. There is no doubt that continual surveillance helped the morale of workers by providing visual and constant protection and by creating an atmosphere that made people "security conscious." If they did nothing else, security measures made some indifferent people know that "There's a war going on."

One of the most effective security measures was a check on employees. Authority to make these investigations was based on the provisions of the Aircraft Procurement Act of 1926 and the War Powers Act of 1940 that required employers to obtain the consent of the Secretary of the Navy to hire aliens for work in factories producing classified or aeronautical materials. Much of the actual work of investigation was carried by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Naval Intelligence, but Bureau of Aeronautics inspectors and other officials of the Security Section of BuAer were directly connected with the process.

Passive defense, as it was called, was also under the control of the  p337 Security Section of the Bureau of Aeronautics. This included such matters as blackout regulations and camouflage, and also the general problem of safety both for the plant and its personnel. To secure these ends the Navy furnished funds for the construction of high steel fences around factories, and assisted materially in the serious matter of arranging for protection against fire. In view of the fact that the only attacks on our country came in the shape of a few shells lobbed into our western shores and paper balloons wafted our way through the stratosphere, some people may consider the expense of plant security measures unnecessary. A moment's reflection on postwar flights of four-engined bombers from Tokyo to Washington should, however, lead to a different conclusion.

Production Forges Ahead in 1943

Production of aviation materials made tremendous strides during 1943, a year which marked the achievement of the Navy's first production goal: the building of productive capacity. Expansion of plant facilities had been substantially completed by the end of 1943, concurrent with the mass production of new and improved fighting aircraft.

Early in 1943, the F4U (Corsair), the F6F (Hellcat), and the FM‑2, an improved Wildcat, were the fighters upon which the Navy was relying. During 1943 Goodyear got into production of the Corsair under the designation, FG. A great increase in the number of "baby carriers" and the demands of anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic gave rise to a special need for fighters of the Wildcat type. Marine squadrons based ashore received the Corsair, while the Hellcat was used in ever-greater numbers by large carriers operating in the Pacific. Production of other types of combat aircraft continued at great speed, so that in 1943 a total of 23,144 aircraft of all types were accepted by the Navy. This was about two and a half times the 1942 rate, and it exceeded the estimate that had been established at the beginning of the year.

During the first year and a half of wartime production, the brunt of the engine production had been borne by Pratt & Whitney, the principal engine manufacturer allotted to the Navy in the division of industry between the armed forces. The success of this company in filling the great demand was the result of two factors: subcontracting and licensing other engine companies to manufacture according to the Pratt & Whitney design. Four Pratt & Whitney engines were used: the 985, 1340, 1830, and 2800. Continental and Jacobs were brought in to make  p338 the R‑1340, and Chevrolet and Buick helped to get the R‑1830 past the critical point. Lycoming and Aircooled made engines of similar size on licenses. Nash was licensed to produce the R‑2800, 2‑stage "B" engines for the Navy, and Ford produced the R‑2800, 1‑stage "B" engines for the Army. Both companies were ultimately supplying all the service requirements for these engines, allowing Pratt & Whitney to concentrate on advanced models. A new Pratt & Whitney plant was set up at Kansas City to manufacture the improved R‑2800 "C" engine, and complete success was achieved in producing an entirely new engine that had never been in production at other Pratt & Whitney plants.

The importance of these Pratt & Whitney engines to the Navy's air effort can be seen from their use in key aircraft. The F4U and the F6F used the R‑2800‑R engine rated at 2,000 horsepower. Late in 1943 the PBM came into production with the R‑2600 engine, which gave place to the R‑2800 single stage "C" in 1944. The PV‑1 (Ventura), a land-based twin-engined bomber, used the R‑2800‑31. Navy Liberators, or PB4Y's, and the PB4Y‑2 (Privateer), both used the R‑1830 engine.

Other navy planes were powered by Wright engines. The FM‑2, for example, used the Wright R‑1820 which produced 1,350 horsepower at take‑off. In the SB2C a Wright R‑2600 engine was used, and it was also installed in the TBM, the General Motors version of the TBF. Production of aircraft engines presented many problems both to the contractors and to the bureau, and at various times the ignition, bearings, piston rings, and other components threatened the schedules. By persistent work and diligent experimentation to develop more easily fabricated and longer enduring parts, the manufacturers kept the engine program moving along to equip the mountains of airframes being produced in other factories.

Army-Navy Co‑operation for Production

During the first year of war, as we have already seen, the assignment of finished aircraft was entrusted to the Munitions Assignment Committee (Air), which functioned under the control of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Experience during this first year showed that more top direction was needed. There was need of an agency to direct actual production and settle matters of aircraft policy at the highest level. As a result, the Aircraft Production Board (APB) was formed on 9 December 1942. This body provided a meeting place for high-ranking representatives of the armed forces and members of the WPB to discuss  p339 the joint aircraft program and thus secure the best balance in the war effort.

Since the Aircraft Production Board was a policy-forming agency, it needed an executive body to carry out its directives. Accordingly, on 19 February 1943, the Aircraft Resources Control Office, better known as ARCO, was brought into being. Essentially, the job of ARCO was to present the case of the aircraft industry before the War Production Board, or other agencies controlling the war effort, as far as manpower, materials, or machine tools were concerned. Much of the field work and actual liaison with the Bureau of Aeronautics and the Army Air Force was accomplished by an older agency that was placed under ARCO. This was the Aircraft Scheduling Unit (ASU), established on 5 May 1941 to handle the problem of scheduling aircraft production for our own and the British armed forces, and, under ARCO, assigned to correlate the industrial needs of the Bureau of Aeronautics and the AAF.

If there had been plenty of material, these organizations might not have been necessary. However, with limited supplies of basic metals, such as copper, steel, and aluminum-magnesium, care had to be exercised to make the best possible use of this material from the standpoint of the war as a whole. To achieve this, the War Production Board set up what it called the Controlled Materials Plan to handle the allotment of basic war materials. It was ARCO's task to present the claims for the Army-Navy program before the Requirements Committee of WPB. It is a tribute to the officers up and down the line in both services that the joint aircraft program worked so smoothly and well during the critical years of war.

Manpower Problems

At the start of the war, it was not immediately foreseen that a shortage of manpower would become one of the most serious production problems. Throughout the 1930's few American industrialists or labor economists had been obliged to think seriously about labor shortages. For this reason, the Bureau of Aeronautics before Pearl Harbor had considered manpower only in terms of labor-management relations. For a time this approach appeared to be adequate, since shortages of labor did not interfere with the first great expansion of the aircraft industry that began soon after the United States entered the war. Almost two years after the Pearl Harbor attack, however, when the national economy was straining to increase every kind of war production to equip armed forces  p340 that were expected to total more than ten million men, the attainment of maximum aircraft production began to be threatened by lack of workers.

This lack of manpower manifested itself with dramatic suddenness in the spring of 1943, first in the west coast aircraft plants and then in other parts of the country. Since there were other agencies, both in the Federal and state governments, that had a more direct control over the supply of labor, no immediate steps were taken in the Bureau of Aeronautics until it became evident that the aircraft production program was threatened.

The work with the manpower problem as developed by the Bureau of Aeronautics was tied closely to other Navy Department organizations and to ARCO. At first most of BuAer's work was carried out through the board. In order to deal adequately with manpower, BuAer then began in 1943 to build up its own staff. Officers with a background in labor relations work or with legal training were ordered to duty in the Production Division. The organization was at first handicapped because its work was arbitrarily divided into manpower and labor relations aspects, which were handled pretty much as separate units. That these two phases of the labor problem usually flowed into each other was not fully appreciated until the crisis had become acute in the summer of 1943. When this fact became clear, the precedence of manpower activities was advanced, and a special section for dealing with interrelated labor problems in the aircraft industry was set up in the Production Division. Special labor advisers were added to BuAer offices in the field.

The policy and the activity of the Bureau of Aeronautics manpower representatives were determined by the integrated manpower and production control plan, known as the West Coast Manpower Program, which the Director of War Mobilization put into effect 4 September 1943. After this date, operating machinery was set up for the continuous adjustment, by decisions made in localities themselves with occasional appeals to Washington, of the shifting needs of manpower to meet the military and naval production requirements. With various refinements and modifications, the West Coast Manpower Program was adopted wherever a critical labor shortage developed. The War Manpower Commission was, of course, the top agency controlling manpower policies, but with the help of various area and co‑ordinating committees, the labor needs of the aviation industry could usually be met without prejudicing other aspects of war production.

 p341  Foremost among the problems with which the Manpower Section of the Production Division had to deal was Selective Service. Without impairing the equal treatment of citizens upon which the functioning of Selective Service depended, the Manpower Section tried to protect the production of naval aircraft by obtaining occupational deferments or military furloughs for the key men. In this work close liaison was maintained with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. To assist the west coast aircraft plants at the time of the manpower crisis of August and September, 1943, an arrangement was made whereby the Army and the Navy agreed to give six months' furloughs to key workers who had been drafted. Surveys were made of the factories, and lists were compiled of the number of skilled workers required to maintain output. After much planning by the bureau representatives, the program fell down because the companies did not know which men were needed most. As a result of their inability to name the key men drafted into the Army or Navy, the bureau representatives were able to obtain but few releases.

A labor relations desk in the Manpower Section gave the BuAer contractors expert advice in the handling of wage problems and in the preparation and processing of the various applications at the stabilization agencies. Production of aircraft was promoted wherever possible by obtaining wage rates more favorable to the recruitment of additional labor. Special assistance was also given BuAer contractors whose production was threatened by strikes. Because all aircraft production hinged upon the output of airframes, all disputes over wages paid by the airframe contractors were handled directly by the Bureau of Aeronautics before the War Labor Board.

Manpower problems were more difficult to solve than those involving matériel, transport, or equipment. There was not only the human factor but there were also the laws of property and the constitutional rights of citizens. To attract people to war industry often required more than mere appeals to patriotism; the social customs; personal desires, and standards of living of the workers had to be recognized, and as far as possible in wartime, protected and nurtured. Considering the size of the industry that was developed, there was remarkably little governmental intervention in the matter.

Production Aids

It was not enough to get men and women to work in aircraft factories. The vast majority of them had had no previous experience in this type  p342 of employment. The Bureau of Aeronautics played an important part in helping to train these workers, and in presenting incentives that stimulated greater output. BuAer found that many of the techniques that were working out so well in the technical training of its own men could be applied in aircraft factories. Training aids of all variety, therefore, found their way into aircraft factories. Films, slides, posters, and other devices were used. Morale was built up by war films and by visits of war heroes. In addition, a monthly magazine, Wings, was published as a joint Army-Navy project. This magazine, which reached an important percentage of the aircraft workers, contained articles and illustrations on various phases of aircraft production. The publication stressed the conservation of materials and of time, and made suggestions for more effective contribution to the war effort. Films were widely used, with effective use of the animated cartoon, and before the end of the war a catalogue of more than a thousand films of technical subjects was compiled. Another valuable type of visual aid was the graphic chart. One of the first of these was a set of charts prepared for the Goodyear Company in 1942, and from this original work a service was developed for analyzing management problems. Close relations between the bureau and the leading contractors were maintained by meetings such as the one held at Buffalo, New York, in March, 1943, at which general problems were thoroughly aired.

Everyone who has worked in a plant on war contracts for the armed forces knows the sense of pride and achievement that comes with the award of an Army-Navy "E." This award originated in the Navy in 1906, when an "E" was given a ship for proficiency in gunnery, engineering, or communications. To give this award for industrial achievement was a frank recognition of the important role that American war workers were playing. At first only plants working on navy contracts were eligible, but in June, 1942, it was retitled the Army-Navy "E." Every plant engaged in war production, whether private or government, then became eligible, with the exception of transportation, service, or utility agencies. First consideration was given the quality and quantity of war materials produced; then the armed forces considered the record of the plant in overcoming stoppages, maintaining fair labor standards, training additional labor forces, and creating effective management. Awards were made on a plant rather than a company basis, and consistent performance was necessary to retain the award. Whether the Army or the Navy made the award depended upon which service had the larger contracts in the plant, but confirmation of the award had to be made  p343 by both army and navy production boards. As evidence of the high performance necessary to win this award, it should be noted that only 30 per cent of the plants working on war contracts had received it prior to V‑J Day.

Production Reaches its Peak — 1944

The great naval air offensive planned for 1944 was made possible by the acceptance of more than 29,000 planes from the aircraft industry. This total may be compared with approximately 23,000 planes for 1943. Production reached its peak in March, 1944, when 2,831 planes of all types were accepted by the Navy. New fighters were being manufactured, such as the F7F (Tigercat), a twin-engined fighter designed by Grumman, the makers of the famous F4F and F6F series. Improved versions of these models were still being made and were giving an excellent account of themselves in air combat. A replacement was at last available for the OS2U, and even the old SOC, which had been the work horses of the scouting fleet. This was the SC‑1, a Curtiss model that possessed much greater speed than the OS2U. Still, the latter's exceptionally long duration of flight made it useful whenever long searches were required in areas where enemy fighters were not active. By 1944 the PB4Y‑2 was well established in production, and the old reliables, the PBY and PBM, were still coming off the lines. The Lockheed PV‑2 (Harpoon) was also being produced in 1944, together with improved models of the SB2C and TBM.

The increasing emphasis upon the production of combat planes rather than trainers or utility types, was shown in the fact that almost 90 per cent of the acceptances were for combat aircraft. There were two other trends during the latter period of the war. One was the fact that airframes were considerably heavier, a point that makes our production growth all the more remarkable. In 1940 the average navy airframe weighed 2,740 pounds compared to an average airframe of 6,423 pounds in 1944‑1945. This increased weight, of course, reflected improvements in range, speed and bomb load. Despite the trebling of output per employee, a second trend was to be noted, namely, that there were significant reductions in the cost of airframes to the Navy.

By 1944, the aircraft industry was on the whole a well-functioning machine. Production was keeping pace with operational needs. Efficient administrative organizations had been established to handle the complicated problems of labor, critical materials, machine tools, and co‑ordination  p344 between the armed forces. The full might of our production forces was making possible the great military gains made on the battlefronts of the world.

The Last Year of Production — 1945

While production remained at a very high level, 1945 in the aircraft industry saw the emergence of reconversion problems. Aircraft manufactures and workers are human. They were intensely concerned that implements of war should be made, but as the conflict appeared to be drawing to a close, it was only natural for them to think of the future. Factory owners began, therefore, to think about postwar work, and factory workers began to cast about for more permanent employment.

Since production might be affected by either of those tendencies, the Navy Department found it necessary to set up agencies to deal with them. Every effort was made to assist in the coming transition from war to peace by an intelligent policy of cutbacks. Contract termination services were developed, therefore, to make equitable settlements of war contracts and strike a balance between production for war and peace. Lawyers who had been serving in a variety of billets throughout the Naval Reserve were transferred to Contract Termination in order to carry out a "man-to‑man" type of negotiation with contractors who were seeking a release from war production. Close co‑operation was the order of the day with the Army Air Forces, and since both services faced the same problems, common methods were worked out and agreed upon. While these adjustments were being made, the aircraft factories continued to produce war materials and a steady stream of planes and equipment reached the combat areas.

The aircraft industry had done its job well. From 1 July 1940 to 1 September 1945, over 83,000 planes had been accepted by the Navy. This figure in itself is eloquent praise of the labor of the men and women of America who left their normal way of life to make this achievement possible. Without their efforts, victory on the field of battle could not have been won.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 8 Sep 14