Manufacturers on the Home Front Helped Allies Achieve Victory on D-Day

Posted by elizabethbb on 06/06/2014

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. The lives of more than 100,000 soldiers from both the Allied and the Axis powers were lost, and this day in 1944 is considered the turning point for the Allies in World War II. 

About 300,000 allied soldiers launched a semi-amphibious attack with a giant armada of 54,000 warships. Flying above were aircraft equipped with bombs and other weaponry. And the soldiers who came ashore were armed with the valor and bravery needed to change the course of history.

The 16 million men and women called for duty trusted that their fellow Americans back home would be there to support them.  The citizens on the home front assumed this responsibility, manufacturing supplies and weaponry that would set records and help the Allied powers achieve victory. 

“We sometimes forget, I think, that you can manufacture weapons, and you can purchase ammunition, but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line,” said Sergeant John Ellery, a D-Day veteran who served with the 16th Infantry Regiment of the US 1st Division, in Stephen Ambrose's book D-Day.

Support from the Home Front

As the fate of the world changed with this and every battle in World War II, the American home front also underwent a dramatic transformation. With the war raging on across the Atlantic, there was not one American citizen whose lifestyle was not affected. 

About 16 million men and women had been called to war, leaving behind a demand for people to assume manufacturing jobs that were needed to support troops fighting overseas. In response to these drastic changes, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board in 1942 and the Office of War Mobilization in 1943. 

The War Production Board was an emergency response that converted peacetime industries and expanded them to serve war needs, allocated essential materials, and oversaw production of non-essentials.

“Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-produced,” Roosevelt told Congress. “It is not enough to turn out just a few more planes, a few more tanks, a few more guns, a few more ships than can be turned out by our enemies. We must out-produce them overwhelmingly, so that there can be no question of our availability to provide a crushing superiority of equipment in any theatre of the world war.”

An industrial revolution took place on a massive scale, as car manufacturers shifted gears to produce machine parts and vehicles of war, clothing factories churned out camouflage netting, lipstick tubes were converted to ammunition cases, and vacuum cleaners were converted into gas masks.

Companies tasked with this wartime production included Chrysler, which manufactured fuselages; and General Motors, which made airplane engines, guns, trucks and tanks. Meanwhile, Ford, Boeing, and the Lockheed Aircraft Company helped with aircraft; General Motors, General Electric, and Colt Firearms helped with small arms; Buick, Ford, and General Motors helped with vehicles; and Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, and Read machinery helped with artillery.  

According to statistics from the National World War II Museum, 2,000 aircraft were manufactured in 1939 in the United States. By 1945, the number had quadrupled to 16,000 aircraft annually.

Turning Point for the Economy, Too

Economics-wise, things also began to improve as the war progressed, as wartime production boomed, helping to lift the economy out of the shadows of the Great Depression.

By the end of the war in 1945, over half of all industrial production in the world would be American-made. 

The remarkable economic and social transformation that took place during World War II has been a source of curiosity for historians, economists, and politicians. It was World War II that broke America from the latency and stagnancy of the Great Depression, yielding a victory in war and on the home front. 

Economists classify economic activity into agricultural, service, and industrial sectors.  Through the 19th century, the United States was primary agricultural.  But the late 19th century through the early 20th century, America saw a rise in industry that propelled the nation to be the industrial powerhouse of the world by 1950. 

Normandy remembered.

As tradition dictates, leaders from around the world united in Normandy today to honor the bravery and sacrifice made by the troops who fought on D-Day.  Also invited were veterans who have this day ingrained in their memories. 

This year is exceptionally notable: many of the veterans who once stood alongside each other in sharing this memory have passed and those who will be returning to Normandy this year are aware of the significance of what could be their final visit. 

“I know very well that for the 80th anniversary, I might not be there, and I am afraid people might forget the war, and the misery that it brought,” said Bernard Dargols, a 94-year-old veteran of the United States Army, told Time magazine.

But for at least today, D-Day is remembered.

AAM Intern Lauren Pak authored this post.

Photo courtesy the U.S. Army.

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