“It is now generally accepted as a fact that it requires more time to mobilize the industrial effort of a nation to the war load than it does to convert the civilian manpower into soldiers. It follows that every reasonable effort must be made to speed up industrial mobilization.” — George C. Marshall, September 1939
The first two sequences of the Marshall Legacy Series for 2016 dealt with manpower and equipment requirements of the United States and its allies to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II. The final sequence of 2016 “Let’s Get A Move On” focuses on the vast industrial mobilization as well as other civilian initiatives that aided the war effort.
As early as 1940 Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall was concerned with the inadequacy of the Army’s equipment and supplies necessary to defend the country, let alone win a war. Marshall repeatedly warned that most of the equipment and supplies the army needed would take one to two years to be produced. In addition to encouraging increased industrial mobilization, Marshall helped develop the Munitions Program, later called the Victory Program, which determined the amount of equipment and supplies that would be needed to support an army ranging in size from one million to four million men. He met with President Roosevelt to present the Victory Program and requested $6 billion for Army expenditures in fiscal year 1940. This was a staggering figure considering Army expenditures during the preceding 18 years had only totaled $6.5 billion. Nevertheless Marshall succeeded in securing the funding.
An essential component of industrial mobilization was ensuring there were enough men and women to work in factories. Marshall understood that success on the battlefield was linked with soldiers having everything they needed to fight. He wanted the public to know as much, too, and he said, “Without the cooperation of the mechanic who builds the planes, the machinist who forges the guns, or the farmer who raises the crops, the soldier in the field cannot succeed.” As the war continued, Marshall’s concern shifted to maintaining the high levels of production that had been achieved through civilian mobilization. He did not want overconfidence in the outcome of the war to affect production and encouraged civilians to continue working as hard as possible until the final surrender.
World War II brought food shortages to Europe and with it the return of victory gardens. By growing victory gardens, civilians were able to feel they were contributing to the war effort by making more food available for soldiers and by using limited resources as little as possible. At the height of the victory garden movement an estimated 20 million victory gardens were grown in the United States. Throughout the course of the war these victory gardens produced more than 1 millions tons of vegetables.
An avid gardener himself, Marshall maintained a garden at his home in Leesburg, Virginia, in which he grew lettuce, radishes, onions, peas, string beans, lima beans, beets, squash, potatoes, and corn.
Purchasing war bonds became another way for civilians to support the war effort. The bonds were issued by the Treasury Department, and the money generated through the sales of the bonds was used to buy equipment for the war effort. Bonds were redeemable after ten years for their full value.
Speaking at the Third War Loan Drive in 1943, Marshall said, “The American people must give not only their full personal effort but the full use of their dollars invested in War Bonds, to back these attacks. There is no alternative. Total victory is in sight but it can only be won by concentrating every resource of America to the task.” Eighty-five million Americans participated in seven loan drives and purchased bonds totaling more than 185 billion dollars.
After the United States entered World War II and began the transition to a wartime economy, it was not very long before many items were in short supply.
To ensure that the war effort was being adequately supplied, rations were instituted on many common items such as sugar, butter, and meat as well as gasoline, tires, silk, shoes, and nylon. Americans were issued ration books and would use the stamps in the books to obtain an item in a quantity that was permitted.
The ration program is just another example of how the American public made do with less in their support of the war effort.