Commentary

A Qualitative Economic Transformation

By Stuart Rosenblatt

Aug. 16, 2018–The following is part 5 of a series devoted to “Lessons for a Recovery: The WWII Economic Mobilization.” Click the following titles for the previous parts: Part One , Part Two , Part Three , and Part Four .

As the Allies shifted to the offensive in 1943, FDR and his chief financial assistant Jesse Jones shifted from building up the U.S. military arsenal to deploying the vast economic capability. Roosevelt’s military budget for 1943 would be $100 billion ($1.23 trillion in today’s figures), compared to $10 billion in 1939.  The expenditures would go toward purchasing the huge amount of military equipment that was being produced by U.S. industry.

The Defense Plant Corporation (DPC) had spent half its war-time money in 1942, and the other subsidiaries of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) had also spent much of their monies by 1943.  It was now up to the private companies who had either leased the plants, or been the beneficiaries of the investments, to produce what the military required. Already, plane and ship production was setting new records; according to the U.S. Maritime Commission, the United States was building more ships than the rest of the world combined.

What ensued was a spectacular economic transformation, which expanded some of the huge industries that dominated the U.S. economy after the war. The mobilization created the capabilities to not only win the war, but also to dramatically improve the standard of living and output of the nation once the war was over. The so-called “military-industrial complex” which was created could have been reconverted in the post-war period to use its immense productive capability for a peace-time economy, which could also have been directed into aiding the reconstruction and development of a war-torn world.  That was really never accomplished, although there were fits and starts in that direction, both at home (development of domestic airline industry, automobile improvements, modern medicine, peaceful nuclear energy, etc.), and abroad (Marshall Plan).  This report will not delve into that very provocative area, as that is more political than “economic.”

The Producers

Starting with Oil

During that summer of 1943, the United States completed the largest oil pipeline in the world when the Big Inch pipeline began shipping urgently needed oil from East Texas to the East Coast.  Nazi submarines had decimated the eastern seaboard’s shipping capability, and unless tanker delivery of oil was replaced, the central production and transportation areas of the nation, military and civilian, would be paralyzed.

Welding the Big Inch oil pipeline, 1943

The RFC, the government, and private industry collaborated  in this emergency effort., which came at the request of the Petroleum Administration for War in 1942.  The Big Inch ran nearly 1400 miles from oil fields in East Texas to depots in New York and Philadelphia.  “Big Inch,” a twenty-four inch wide line, was completed in just over a year by August of 1943. It was followed by “Little Big Inch”, a twenty-two inch line, in October.  The first pipeline provided crude oil; and the second line delivered gasoline and light petroleum products. (Billions for Defense, pp. 79-80)

Together these lines delivered 500,000 barrels a day of petroleum and refined products, one third of all oil that was provided to the East Coast.  The War Emergency Pipelines company oversaw construction of the lines, which hired over 15,000 tradesmen and unskilled laborers. When construction was finished, it turned the lines over to the Defense Supplies Corporation.  The DSC, another RFC offshoot, then leased the lines to the companies that ran the operations.

This was not the totality of output of oil from Texas, but a significant contribution.  Ultimately, the Axis nations produced 276 million barrels of oil.  Texas alone produced 500 million!  According to people who overheard the comment, Joseph Stalin once told Winston Churchill, “This is a war of engines and octanes.  I drink to the American auto industry and the American oil industry.” (Unprecedented Power, p. 462)

The Behemoths

The immense nature of the mobilization demanded relying on large corporations, which became even bigger. These large companies dominated the production process. For example,   General Motors manufactured 10% of the entire output for war, and two-thirds of the government’s  contracts went to 100 corporations. Some of the contributions of the large companies bear reporting.

General Motors built more than 2,000 different products, ranging from tiny ball bearings to tanks, airplanes, engines, trucks guns and shells.  Ten million dollars’ worth of new products rolled off their assembly lines daily.

General Electric began the war with 34 plants housing 29 million square feet of floor space.  By war’s end they operated 68 plants with 41 million square feet of floor space.  Its permanent workforce increased from 76,000 to 171,000, but it trained and put to work over 200,000.   It also had a part-time force of clerks, teachers, real estate salesmen, and many others.

The large companies also owned the most important research laboratories.  GE had a corps of 350 scientists and inventors churning out new products, and an army of engineers configuring the new and retooled items for production.  As new objects were needed, engineers shifted from one department to another, picking up new skills or honing existing ones to meet the demand.  Radio engineers moved to aircraft instruments, and refrigerator engineers to ordnance control.

An MIT lab where GE sponsored scientific research

To fill the gaps, GE deployed a vast network of over 2,000 subcontractors .  These highly skilled workers quickly adapted to the urgencies of production.  A gravestone maker used his facility to sandblast castings for electrical apparatus.  A small company of ten men who made model airplane engines did machining for GE with a precision that was unmatched by the larger firm!

The combined efforts of GE’s own factories and the subcontractors  produced about $4 billion worth of war materiél, including 75 percent of the Navy’s total propulsion and auxiliary turbine power.

Westinghouse had a similar story.  It built an immense amount of equipment, from turbines, to guns, radar, radio equipment, lighting equipment, and much more.  It built the largest factory in the world dedicated to producing steam turbines for merchant ships.  Improvisation was nowhere better seen than when this fully constructed plant, which began work before its heating system was installed, rented a Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive and its crew.  It backed up the train to the factory and the engine made enough steam to warm the building until the heating was available!

This kind of non-stop innovation characterized the entire mobilization.  Given the demands of the army for personnel to fight and run the military, unskilled citizens, many women included, and African-Americans with limited skills as well, were scooped up and dropped into the fabrication process.  They were trained and upgraded on the fly.

When the Louisville, Kentucky Westinghouse plant, which built naval anti-aircraft guns, needed employees, they hired workmen from over 250 different vocations, ranging from dentists to salesgirls to cartoonists!  All were trained on the spot, and upgraded in their positions as their skill level warranted.  There was specialization of job description and rigid quality control.  But demands were met, and a relatively unskilled workforce acquired high skills in the process.

This model could be employed today, were the United States to launch a sustained high-technology industrial recovery.

Meanwhile, GE, Westinghouse, and all the large companies also maintained and expanded their “regular” production lines.  In 1944, Westinghouse manufactured 190 million lamps in more than 1,000 different wattages, including 65 million miniature lamps for the Army and 60 different lamps for the Navy.  These lamps came in all sizes. Military vehicles required 50 types of bulbs, and naval vessels needed 75 types, including many that were shock-resistant.  Westinghouse also made electronic tubes for use in radar, amplifiers, rectifiers, X-ray machines and other equipment.  One new technology was the development of Sterilamps, which used ultra-short wavelengths to sterilize surfaces in hospitals and laboratories.  (Arms, pp.  516-23, some of the sections are quoted, others are summarized)

Small and Medium-Sized Industries

The war effort stimulated a tremendous development of “Mittelstand” (German for medium and small industries that are renowned for the highest level of innovation) corporations, as well as the behemoths.  Of the over $9 billion spent by DPC on new plant and equipment, half went to the largest companies in the country, including (in order) Alcoa, General Motors, US Steel, Curtiss-Wright, Republic Steel, Chrysler, Ford, Anaconda Copper Mining, Dow Chemical, United Aircraft, GE, and so on.

But DPC also financed small firms, whose contributions were equally decisive. Three hundred fifty of its investments were for less than $100,000, and included contracts with manufacturers of jewel bearings, ball bearings, searchlights, electrodes, frozen foods, medical supplies, etc.  Jesse Jones, who was wary of the large companies’ increasing control over U.S. manufacturing,  sought to funnel money into smaller, well-run firms, at every turn.

The DPC accounted for over 30% of all new plants built during the war, and most of these plants could be converted to peace-time uses.  They were geographically dispersed, for obvious security purposes, to ensure that no enemy attack or invasion could wreck the productive capability of the nation.

The investments favored the now-Rust Belt areas.  Five of the states receiving the largest investments were in the North, with Ohio getting $1.4 billion in 463 plants; Michigan was second, with Detroit alone getting 1,227 leases; Texas was third with $650 million; Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York followed.  The South and the West made substantial gains but the majority of plants built were still in the industrial heartland.  (Billions, p. 56; and Unprecedented, p. 492)

Production at General Motors, one of the largest producers for the war effort.

It was understood throughout the nation that victory in the war depended upon production and productivity. Ultimately, it was estimated that the Allies had a three-to-one advantage in arms and munitions over the Axis nations. (Unprecedented, pp. 481 and 490.

All of this had been accomplished through the combined effort of the Congress, the Federal Budget, and the National Bank-equivalent Reconstruction Finance Corporation.  In a national speech delivered on October 31, 1944, Jesse Jones reviewed the progress of the economy since Roosevelt took over in 1933.  He said that the national income (GNP) had tumbled by 50% at the depth of the Depression, from $80 billion to $40 billion.  But through the recovery carried out by the New Deal and the War mobilization, the national income had skyrocketed to $180 billion.

In the speech, Jones recounted the FDR New Deal programs and the crucial intervention of the RFC, both before and during the war.  He underscored the real irony, that by deploying the funds into goods-producing and productivity-enhancing areas, the RFC had actually run a surplus! As Jones underscored, the RFC investments had cost the taxpayer nothing!

He concluded his national radio address by citing the crucial contributions from American industrialists, hard-working American citizens, and the government institutions.  “… without the  great cooperative partnership between these men (industrialists) and… millions of American working men and women, we could not have produced our war requirements…….future historians ….will find that the determining element which brought victory to the Allies was the productive power of the United States of America.  It is a little short of miraculous and could only have been accomplished through cooperation between government, management and labor.  All have done a good job.” (Unprecedented, pp. 496-97)

Development of New Technologies

Scientific and technological innovations poured onto the battlefields and into the skies as the Allied mobilization shifted to the offensive in 1943 and 1944.  As author David Woodbury summarized the transformation in his landmark book, Battlefront of Industry, Westinghouse in WWII, “In this new kind of warfare science and technology alone could win… nor was the mass production of heavy equipment enough.  Each new design must be engineered, built experimentally, and tested like a precision instrument, then standardized and mass-produced to the utmost degree of accuracy and uniformity.  Still more, they must all be invented, developed, put into production without the usual interval of time considered vital for untried commercial goods.” (Arms, p. 649)

Here we will deal with three major new technologies that were incubated during the war mobilization.

Microwaves: A major advance in radio technology came out of the need to developing armor-piercing shells to penetrate the big German tanks.  This required the creation of a new shell, weighing 9 pounds ( six less than conventional shells) but composed of cemented tungsten carbide, the hardest metal developed. But the innovation came with its complement, a new fuse.

The fuse, made of plastic rather than aluminum, and costing 75% less, was called the proximity fuse, and its development was so secret that it was given the same level of clearance as working on the Manhattan Project.  The new fuse was actually a signaling unit, operated by light and then by radio, and could be deployed in most types of bombs.  The era of radio wave technology had begun.

Under Westinghouse’s lead, a new field quickly developed, microwave technology.  Westinghouse turned out 50 major products, including nearly 20 new radio units and 20 radar units, and two radar fuses, with most of the output going to the Navy.  Orders multiplied after 1940, and the company had to hire 600 subcontractors to help fill them.  In 1935 Westinghouse Radio Division had 500 employees, and by 1945 it had 6,000!

By mid-war Westinghouse was supplying the navy with high frequency radio telephone sets, which could be controlled by quartz crystals for minimally 10 channels.  The resulting set, composed of 4,600 parts, was crammed into a box 29 inches by 19 by 9 inches, and shipped to all types of naval vessel and plane.

GE supplied similar radio technology for the Army, and the Army Air Force.  It provided 70,000 75 watt radios for use in virtually all bombers, featuring a long-range transmitter for voice and key operations.  GE also produced 40,000 radios, designed for tanks originally, but modified for all other vehicles and even command posts, airplanes, and infantry.  They even designed one unit for amphibious landings, rugged enough to be dropped in the water, and immediately capable of being used for all communication.  They also developed various recording devices to allow reports and observations to be transmitted to relevant leaders instantaneously.

Radar: The development of radar quickly followed the radio breakthroughs.  In the 1930s, Germany, France, Britain, and the United States had all figured out that short-wave radio impulses could be bounced off  distant objects and return as an echo.  By 1935, Britain had set up a cluster of five radio location stations on its east coast to detect incoming enemy planes.  They added 15 more stations two years later.  This deployment was a significant help in the Battle of Britain.  (Arms, pp 651-52)

One of the first radar installations on a Navy destroyer in World War II.

The Naval Research Laboratory, along with Westinghouse and GE, did the heavy lifting in the development of radar technology.  To create a shortwave beam powerful enough that it could amplify weak reflections from distant objects such as planes and missiles, they needed to develop a new kind of transmitter tube.  Ultimately they developed a tube which violated just about every known rule of radio-tube design.  When two of these tubes were configured in parallel, they could deliver power of 500 kilowatts, far greater than the standard 35 kilowatt per tube design.

The first radar they developed was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Ironically, the radar worked to perfection, but so shocked the operators that they failed to convey the finding, and the subsequent mass bombing of the navy base became history.  (Arms, p. 653)

GE produced radar sets for the Navy and ultimately delivered 1500 radar sets to equip Navy ships. Westinghouse was contracted to produce radar sets for Navy planes aboard carriers and ended up supplying over 18,000 units.  As they mass produced the radar units, new demands and new breakthroughs kept multiplying, and Westinghouse incorporated 2,000 changes into the product design to keep the radar mostly up to date.

Another new use of radar was the installation of units aboard destroyers who were escorting merchant ships crossing the Atlantic to supply the military and European allies.  German U-boats had menaced the convoys from before the onset of the war, and had inflicted massive damage on the ships. The new radar sets permitted

U-boats to be spotted both from the surface and above the water, enabling American planes or ships to disable or sink the submarines.  By the summer of 1944, the U-boats had become the hunted, not the hunter.

To deal with German counter-measures to jam the radar, the United States then invented newer, short wave, radar systems, as well as new technologies to jam the German radar.  The Germans and the Japanese were ultimately incapable of figuring out how to jam the American devices, giving the Allies a significant strategic edge.

The most powerful innovation used to nullify German “buzz bomb” attacks on Britain in 1944, was the creation of radar-linked automatic gun directors.  The new electronic unit combined data on range, wind, barometric pressure, temperature, and shell characteristics, and computed all this to aim the guns!!  The automatic instrument then shot at the target with accuracy far greater than that of human operators!  It was an obvious foretaste of the new computerized battlefield. (Arms, pp. 652-54)

Nuclear Power: The Manhattan Project to harness nuclear technology and produce the atomic bomb represented the pinnacle of scientific achievement during the war effort.  This brief analysis is not going to do justice to the program, which has been the subject of innumerable studies, but will merely highlight some of the major accomplishments.

The program began officially in October 1939, when Albert Einstein sent his letter to President Roosevelt warning of German efforts to develop some kind of new, powerful, and potentially atomic bomb. One task force after another was created by the President, all shrouded in secrecy, until the advisory committee S-1 was created in 1941.  Work progressed on the project throughout 1941, but Pearl Harbor changed everything, and during 1942 two lines of attack were developed.  There would be a large building program run by the Army and the Corps of Engineers, and a similarly top secret working group to conduct the scientific analyses and experiments to solve the problem of fissioning nuclear materials.  The net result was a  crash program within the crash programs of the war mobilization itself.

The bomb-making activity, eventually named the Manhattan Project, had several key components.  The bomb was going to be developed out of uranium and/or plutonium.  The plutonium project was located at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, which began testing plutonium for bomb making in the spring of 1942.  This was the site of the nuclear pile, under Stagg Stadium, which generated the first chain reaction in late 1942.

Another key site was the 790-acre Los Alamos site in New Mexico, twenty miles from Santa Fe.  The complex encompassed 54,000 acres, and was run by the University of California under contract with the War Department.  This would be the final testing site of the two bombs produced: Little Boy, the uranium device, and Fat Man, the more powerful plutonium explosive.  Both would be dropped on Japan, unnecessarily, in 1945.

Production of the bomb materials was done at Hanford, Washington. What was required was a site that had a large supply of cool water and access to large amounts of electricity.  Hanford had both, thanks to the success of the New Deal infrastructure program in the 1930s.  Hanford was on the power grid of both the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams, both funded by the Public Works Administration, under Harold Ickes.  These dams supplied 100,000 kilowatts to the Hanford Lab, as well as providing immense amounts of water.  The Hanford project was conducted on 500,000 acres of land, purchased by the government and walled off from the community.

The Oak Ridge complex where nuclear power was born.

The final project was housed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in the area of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA was the center of the immense power-generating capability of the nation.  Oak Ridge was a city/research facility created out of nothing.  It was 56,000 acres, and had water from the Clinch River, rail service, and immense hydroelectric power from TVA.

Oak Ridge housed all the major research and testing projects of the Atomic bomb project.  There were four immense sites, an electromagnetic plant, a gaseous diffusion plant, a thermal diffusion plant, and the first plutonium producing pile and its attendant buildings. As a totally interdisciplinary crash program, the Manhattan Project pursued all major lines of research to determine which would yield a breakthrough. No expense was spared, and intense co-operation between staff characterized the program.

It was entirely secret, deliberately cut off from the rest of the nation.  Its workforce totaled 82,000 employees, and the city housed 75,000 people, including family of the scientists, engineers, and construction workers.  By 1945, TVA hydro power was producing 17 GW and was the largest electricity supplier in the nation, supplying 18% of the total.

Manhattan Project employment, taking Oak Ridge and Hanford as the major components, was .8% of the productive workforce of the country.  This would not have been possible without the infrastructure contribution of the New Deal.  (Paul Gallagher, Nov 20, 2017, Discussion Paper)

The result is well known, and the potential created by the breakthrough in harnessing nuclear power and hopefully fusion power, has yet to be realized.  However, it did introduce a new infrastructure platform centered on nuclear energy production, the most powerful and efficient technology known thus far.  The product of the entire Manhattan Project was not merely a technological feat, but a scientific breakthrough. Technological advance increases the overall throughput of the existing economy, what we might call potential relative population density, but a scientific revolution introduces an entirely new concept.

The new concept—in this case,  harnessing the power of the atom–is a transformative event which potentially moves the entire society upward.  No longer is society dependent on burning one or another form of fossil fuel or related particle.  The unleashing of nuclear reactions and the potential harnessing of isotope separation means that man can create his own “raw materials.”. It also permits the utilization of far more powerful energy generating reactions to power the economy.

Yet this, the major achievement of the war time economic mobilization, remains to be realized in the economy as a whole.

Building the West

Not among the least of the transformations engendered by the WWII mobilization was the second major settling of the American West and  Southwest.  At the outbreak of the war, manufacturing accounted for only five percent of the income of the western states, but by its conclusion all of that would completely change.  Industrial expansion drove the development of the entire West and changed its character, something that could occur again were the United States to undertake a new infrastructure/manufacturing driven revitalization.

Crucial industrial facilities, large and small, were deposited in the West.  Shipbuilding on a massive scale took place in Washington State, Oregon, and California.  Steelmaking went hand in hand with ship-building in California.  Airplane construction was centered in Washington and California, and aluminum production accompanied it in Washington and Oregon.  Texas was a case unto itself, as it received a large amount of federal largesse.  This was not only due to its strategic mineral deposits, but also to its excellent ports and other facilities.

The Defense Plant Corporation played a significant role in the Western buildup. It built 129 plants in California at a cost of $323 million.  It built 29 plants in Oregon and 30 in Washington State.  Texas had 108 plants constructed, and the DPC spent $650 million there.  It built everything from oil and petrochemical facilities to synthetic rubber plants.

The DPC also built units in the South.  Kentucky had 52 DPC plants constructed, Louisiana 31, Missouri 36, and Tennessee 30.

Kaiser Oregon shipyards

However, federally funded manufactories were only part of the story, as privately funded ventures went up throughout the regions.  Henry Kaiser built steel mills with partial RFC funding in Fontana, California, but his shipbuilding facilities were prominent in California, Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  Chemical industries sprung up in California, Seattle, and Portland, and other shipbuilders set up shop all over the West Coast.

Portland led the western states in aluminum output, due to an Alcoa plant, while Nevada and California combined to produce much of the nation’s magnesium.  Los Angeles, Seattle, and Oregon led the way in new chemical facilities, while aircraft and shipbuilding topped the major industries.  The West Coast employed 200,000 workers in ship construction, with Kaiser employing 48,000 in Richmond, Ca. and 30,000 in Portland.

The aircraft industry had 300,000 employees on the West Coast.  Eight companies in Southern California employed 243,000 people at their peak, with plants in Los Angeles and San Diego.  Boeing did the same in Seattle.

Along with investment in industry came government facilities not immediately involved in actual production. The federal government invested $40 billion into these various bases in the west.  Utah had ten military bases, employing 60,000 civilians and housing an equal number of military personnel.  In Utah, a supply depot in Ogden became the largest quartermaster depot in the nation. At nearby Hill Air Force Base 22,000 people were on its payrolls.  Other facilities in Utah and Nevada became major storage areas for explosives, contained large repair shops for military vehicles, and supported gigantic warehouses for military equipment.  The salt flats were the bombing ranges and training centers for pilots and other air force staff.

Investment from the federal government and the RFC and its subsidiaries transformed the West.  Ninety percent of the capital for industries and other facilities came from Washington.  From 1941-45 over $70 billion of federal monies were invested in California alone.  This money was merely the stimulus for the raft of spinoff industries that followed.  Subcontractors, suppliers, labor, skilled and unskilled, flocked into the newly settled areas.  These soon to be new cities required banking, housing, retail businesses, and new governments.  (Arms, pp. 536-38)

The San Francisco Chronicle called the flood of newcomers looking for work “The Second Gold Rush”.  From 1940-1943 the civilian population in the three Pacific Coast states exploded by 847,000 people, nearly 13%.   By 1945, the increase in Washington and California was 35%; and the increase in Oregon was 18%!! African-Americans made up a substantial percentage of the new immigrants.  700,000 black citizens left the South, and 120,000 arrived in Los Angeles in 1943 alone!  (American Economy, pp. 10-11)

A riveter working in Seattle.

Despite war time rationing, the massive investment in new industries and some basic consumption articles, coupled with increasing wages (due to proliferation of labor unions), led to a significant leap in the standard of living.  Personal income per capita jumped over 40% in Washington and Oregon, and 22% in California during the war.

With the population influx there arose immense problems of housing, sanitation, transportation, food and other basic services.  The burgeoning cities and encampments were dubbed “migrant ghettos” by historian Marilynn Johnson, as incoming population swamped the available services and infrastructure.

The five coastal cities were completely transformed:  Seattle, Portland, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  Inland cities also witnessed overnight metamorphoses.  These included:  Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Tulsa, and Salt Lake City.

Housing was the most pressing problem. San Diego could not accommodate the influx of people despite non-stop housing construction.  It became an urban metropolis overnight, with small town facilities.  Los Angeles coped somewhat better, as it had overbuilt housing in a boom/bust during the 1930s.  But it still built 160,500 new units during the war.

San Francisco was not so lucky.  With the quick construction of the Kaiser Shipyards, Steel mill, and related industries, the Bay area was overwhelmed by 500,000 new workers between 1940 to 1943.  The situation was reported as “near chaos.”  The Federal Government infused cash as quickly as possible to throw up temporary housing, sanitation, and other facilities, but even this effort fell short of the mark.

One city in the Bay Area, Vallejo, which was near the Navy shipyard, saw its population increase 500% in three years.  People camped out in shacks, stores, trailer camps or temporary units erected by the federal government.  14,000 workers found no housing and commuted five hours a day to and from work! Richmond, California, a nearby suburb, was in even worse shape.  The city was home to four Kaiser Shipyards and fifty-five other war industries.  “People lived in trailers, tents, tin houses, cardboard shacks, greenhouses, barns, garages, in the cars, in theaters, or on street corners.”  Many housing units supplied beds to workers from shift to shift, with different people sleeping in the same bed throughout the day.

Defense housing built to house workers in Vallejo.

The Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington area was home to the Kaiser shipyards, which drew in a mass influx of labor.  In 1943 alone, 175 new trailer camps were created in the outskirts of Portland to attempt to house the descending army.  It was not nearly enough, and so dormitories, public housing, and barracks units were constructed to house over 21,000 people.

The most ambitious occurred north of Portland, where Vanport (Vancouver and Portland) was created, a new city of 10,000 housing units that were home to 40,000 people.  It became Oregon’s second biggest city.   The city welcomed in a large African-American population, who both integrated the area, and made considerable headway into degrading Oregon’s notorious Ku Klux Klan activity.  However, the new city was still barely livable.

The Seattle area faced the same situation. Shipyards were built all along the Sound, from Bremerton to Seattle to Kirkland.  The Kaiser shipyards employed from 70,000 to 100,000 people themselves.  Seattle was also home to Boeing Company and welcomed in 50,000 employees.  Another 50,000 were hired by the contractors and subcontractors supplying Boeing.  With the influx of new labor came the same horrible living conditions, no matter how hard the city attempted to cope.

New cities sprang up all over the West.  One example was a railroad connection to Salt Lake City named Las Vegas.  The construction of Boulder/Hoover Dam and Lake Mead during the New Deal spurred an influx of settlers attracted by the various recreation opportunities.  Because the city was near the Dam and the water power in the region, a magnesium plant was built in 1942.  The Army Air Corps and Navy moved in with bases and ammunition depots, and its proximity to Los Angeles, plus its gambling casinos and liberal marriage and divorce laws, made it a mecca for job hunting workers and entertainment-seeking travelers.

The Army Gunnery School was set up in 1941, and 55,000 trainees passed through its doors during the war.  The Las Vegas Army airfield was created in 1942.  The City of Las Vegas had 8400 citizens in 1940, but by 1945 that had more than doubled.  The Las Vegas Valley had a population of 14,000 in 1940 and over 35,000 in January, 1943.  (The preceding sections came from Arms, pp. 550-53)

Out of the war mobilization emerged The New West, with all of its problems, but as one city’s name implies, a veritable Phoenix that rose out of the desert.  New cities, new industries, and new infrastructure emerged, and the potential tapestry of the nation was permanently altered.   The potential for a similar nation building explosion could occur were the country to embark on a new infrastructure/space exploration driver program to again develop the nation.  The inland western region is barely settled, and with a water/power program like the North American Water and Power Alliance implemented, the startling economic development achieved during war time could be dramatically extended.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*