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Chapter 8: Production Planning and Organization

THE 5,500-airplane program launched by the Air Corps in the spring of 1939 guided its expansion for more than a year. The goal for 30 June 1941 called for the organization and equipment of 24 combat groups and a number of additional squadrons, with a total of 1,900 first-line airplanes.

In the more than eight months that elapsed between the German attacks on Poland and France, the United States took no further decisive steps to rearm itself. While some military leaders, particularly General Marshall, recognized the need for a still greater expansion of the armed forces, they were not in a position favorable for pushing their views. President Roosevelt and congressional leaders viewed with reluctance the prospect of persuading the American people of the necessity to undertake rearmament beyond that already under way. As late as April 1940 the House of Representatives seemed ready to reduce the War Department’s request for obligated funds by 9.5 per cent for fiscal year 1941. Indeed, during the early months of 1940 the Air Corps had to make a vigorous defense of its request for a small number of additional four-engine bombers to be included in the 1941 budget estimate.1 It is evident, too, that military leaders themselves had some difficulty in shaking off the habits of thought shaped by long years of peacetime budgets. Accustomed to think in small terms – whether of dollars or of manpower – they understandably displayed some reluctance to ask for sums which would “choke the patient,” as General Marshall later put it.

But once the tide of Nazi aggression began to engulf western Europe, there quickly developed among all segments of American society a demand for a large and rapid, indeed immediate, expansion of the armed forces. This demand focused especially on the Air

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Corps, which because of its hitherto small size and the technically complicated character of its equipment faced a more difficult problem of adjustment than did any other arm. Popular impatience, which more than once found expression in Congress, took little account of difficulties that had led the Air Corps to shape its plans with a view to the steady expansion of a balanced air force.2 When the President on 16 May 1940 issued his call for a 50,000-plane program, the Air Corps had just completed its study of a War Department proposal of the preceding March that first-line combat-plane strength be increased from 1,900 to 2,700 – this to be accomplished within the limits of the 5,500-plane program.3 The result may be instructive to the lay reader and helpful to an understanding of the complex problems with which the Air Corps struggled in its effort thereafter to keep up with the demand for expansion.

On the face of it, such a proposal might seem to involve no more than an increase by 800 of the number of combat planes at the expense of other types. But training requirements for manning the additional combat planes, it was estimated, would raise the Air Corps’ requirement for training planes by an additional 1,792 trainers. To provide adequately for a reserve and replacement of the new force of 800 planes would add 394 more planes of combat type to the program, for a total of 1,194 combat aircraft. With the addition of incidental requirements for other types of aircraft, the grand total exceeded 3,000 planes – a total of course that could not be accommodated with – in the existing 5,500-plane program.4 Should the decision favor this increase, the Air Corps proposed to add eighteen to the twenty-four groups currently planned.

Any doubts that may have existed as to the reaction of the War Department were immediately removed by the President’s call for a force of 50,000 planes – a figure approximately equal to the total aircraft production of the United States since the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.* Twelve days after the President’s message, the Chief of Staff on 28 May approved the Air Corps’ plan for an operating force of 2,726 combat planes, a goal to be attained by 31 December 1941 instead of June 1942, as originally had been suggested.5

* For purposes of contrast it may be of interest to note that almost 300,000 planes were built in the United States between 1940 and 1945, three-quarters of them under AAF cognizance.

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It seems clear enough that the “fantastic” goals set by the President in May 1940 had not been suggested by any responsible officer in the War Department. Sentiment there had favored further expansion, but objectives tentatively set seemed extraordinarily modest by comparison with the goals the Army, and especially the Air Corps, was now called upon to attain within theretofore unthinkable time limits. As staff officers hurried to make the necessary adjustments, programs succeeded programs, none of them destined for completion before being replaced by still more ambitious goals.

The President on 28 May announced the appointment of a National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC) charged with initiating the country’s defense mobilization. William S. Knudsen, the member responsible for production, brought a new type of embarrassment to the armed services with his persistent question: “How many pieces do you want?”6 Army and Navy conferees agreed that the division of the 50,000 planes should be 36,500 for the Air Corps and 13,500 for the Navy – an arbitrary division made under the intense pressure to “get going” which then prevailed in Washington. For production-planning purposes, Arnold presented Knudsen with a listing by type of the 36,500 planes for the Air Corps on 5 June, calling for 26,500 tactical planes and 10,000 training planes. The enumeration of the tactical planes by types was, of course, highly tentative and underwent numerous changes in succeeding months and years, as did every subsequent aircraft production program.7

It was impossible to fix upon any firm program of expansion which could be expected to last for any period of time.8 This was true not merely because the planners changed their minds from time to time, but also because many factors beyond the control of the military exercised a profound effect on both over-all and particular munitions programs, especially the aircraft program. Foreign orders had already tied up a substantial portion of American aircraft production capacity, and with the fall of France the needs of the British became still more desperate and urgent. Their claim on American aircraft production was generously honored by Roosevelt, sometimes to the dismay of Marshall and Arnold. The uneven acceleration of aircraft production also made it difficult to plan programs, while strategic and tactical uncertainties hindered attainment of a realistic breakdown of the 36,500-plane program. Educated guesses became the only recourse in this period, giving way to more definite and reliable plans as experience

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and events provided the data on which to base such plans and programs.

As the result of pressure from Knudsen and from the office of the Assistant Secretary of War, on 13 June 1940 the Chief of Staff estimated that aircraft production requirements for the Army would range up to an annual production rate of 36,000 by 1 April 1942.9 At the same time, the Air Corps raised its goal for combat planes from the 2,726 adopted only a few weeks previously to 7,378.10

The First Aviation Objective

Knudsen had warned earlier that it would take two and one-half years to produce 50,000 planes, and this prediction, coupled with the desperate needs of the British, led to a downward revision of the Air Corps’ goal. On 18 June 1940 the President indorsed a program calling for 28,000 aircraft and 30,000 engines by 1 April 1942, plus an annual productive capacity of 18,000 planes for the Army by that date. These planes were to be over and above those already on hand and on order.11 On 26 June 1940 the Chief of Staff approved a plan intended to serve as the initial step toward the 28,000-plane air force. Known as the First Aviation Objective, this program called for the Air Corps to have by 1 April 1942 a total of 12,835 aircraft of current types, of which 3,873 were to be in tactical units, 2,131 in reserve, and 6,831 were to be training planes. The Air Corps would eventually reach the strength of fifty-four combat groups.12 In order to meet the goals set in the First Aviation Objective the Air Corps sought and received approval for procurement of 14,394 airplanes as part of the War Department munitions program. This was actually the President’s 18,000 plane program minus 2,181 planes previously included in appropriation legislation passed on 13 June and minus 1,425 planes deferred by the Bureau of the Budget.13

A recapitulation made in July showed the following summaries:

Planes on hand as of 30 June 1940 2,755
Planes on order as of 30 June 1940 2,829
Plane purchases authorized by Congress 4,247
Planes included in WD Munitions Program as of 30 June 1940 14,394
Total planes on hand, on order, and being considered for procurement 24,225

It can readily be seen that the total fell short of the 36,500 planes envisaged as the Army’s share of the President’s 50,000-plane program. The Air Corps anticipated that the President would submit to Congress future estimates for the remainder of the 36,500-plane program.14 It is also apparent that the more than 21,000 planes included in this procurement scheme would provide far more than was needed to meet the First Aviation Objective of 12,835 aircraft. Higher objectives would have to be authorized by the War Department if the Air Corps were eventually to reach the size contemplated by the President. The War Department had not yet authorized the Air Corps to go beyond the 54-group program, but the Air Corps projected a 98-group program in July. At that time, the various programs, related to combat aircraft strengths, stood as follows:15

No. of Combat Planes No. of Combat Groups* Completion Date
1,965 25 1 April 1941
2,726 41 1 October 1941
3,873 54 1 January 1942
7,378 98 Fiscal Year 1942

* The number of groups for these programs varied slightly from time to time, depending on whether transport groups were included in the total.

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The achievement of these goals on anything like schedule was recognized as highly unlikely, partly because of the high priority accorded British claims on American production. In a meeting on 23 July 1940 between representatives of the American services and of the British Purchasing Commission it was agreed that “the procurement of airplanes and engines during the next two fiscal years ... should be coordinated to permit an unified effort.” The British already had 8,275 planes on order in the United States, and it was stipulated that they should be allowed to order 6,118 additional planes. This meant that the British would be given a higher priority for aircraft than the Army or Navy, which would have to schedule their production over a longer period of time. The allocation and delivery schedule reflected this priority:–16

30 June 1940 to 1 Apr. 1941 1 Apr. 1941 to 1 Oct. 1941 1 Oct. 1941 to 1 Apr. 1942 Total by 1 Apr. 1942
Army 6,882 3,548 2,454 12,884
Navy 1,923 1,555 2,730 6,208
British 4,094 4,686 5,595 14,375
TOTAL 33,467

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The agreement, applying to deliveries on all aircraft programs under way, was substantially modified in succeeding months as circumstances dictated, but it provided the basis for the first over-all aircraft production schedule, Report No. 8 submitted in August by the Aeronautical Section of the NDAC.

On 9 September 1940 Congress passed legislation which brought to almost $2.5 billion the amount appropriated or authorized for the purchase of planes by the Air Corps since 13 June 1940. The bills provided for the purchase by 30 June 1942 of 18,641 planes of which 11,447 were combat models.* The Air Corps had let contracts for these by 30 October.17

With procurement plans thus geared to a rapid expansion of the aircraft industry under schedules that would bring peak production in 1942, the problem of how to maintain a high rate of production thereafter tended to take first place in U.S. defensive preparations. As Lovett later put the problem, the maintenance of a productive capacity was “a truer measure of air power than the number of planes at some given moment.”18 Once the industry had produced the planes ordered by the Army and Navy, what then? To maintain the Air Corps and the Navy air arm under other than war conditions would require a production rate only a fraction, probably between one-fourth and one-fifth, of the actual operating strengths of the services. What was to become of the excess productive capacity which would have been created? Aircraft manufacturers would need to know before the summer of 1941 what would be required of them after June 1942 if they were to be expected to maintain the highest possible capacity.

To Air Corps leaders it seemed unthinkable, in the light of world conditions, that aircraft production should not be maintained at a high level indefinitely. At the end of August 1940 Arnold told his staff that “we are practically on a war-time footing.”19 Subsequently, he urged upon Patterson the need for maintaining the production of the aircraft industry at a high level beyond 30 June 1942, and suggested that an additional 15,000 planes be produced during fiscal year 1943. These planes, he asserted,

must be secured regardless of what is done with the airplanes we now have on hand. ... The surplus planes ... should be taken care of by sale to South

* The planes actually procured under appropriations legislation usually did not coincide with the number provided for because adjustments by type and model were frequently made.

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American countries, giving them away, or melting down to secure raw materials for building other planes. It makes no difference what disposition is made of these surplus planes, so long as industry is kept working at full speed without interruption.20

In the end, it was judged that a further expansion of the Air Corps, rather than the junking of surplus planes, offered the better solution to the problem.

As plans for additional expansion took shape, the Air Corps pressed claims for substantial increases in the category of heavy bombers. During October it suggested a program for the production of 12,000 two- and four-engine bombers. Marshall was skeptical of the need for so many bombers but supported construction of the plants to produce them. The President questioned the advisability of including four-engine bombers in the mass-production program but was convinced by the arguments advanced by the Air Corps through Patterson and Knudsen.21 On 16 November 1940 Roosevelt approved the first step in this direction – a program for the annual production of 3,600 bombers-1,200 four-engine and 2,400 two-engine.22 Meanwhile, on 31 October, General Marshall had notified Patterson that the “annual production rate of 36,000 military type planes directed by the President is believed to be, in the light of world conditions, justified as a precautionary measure.” Accordingly, the War Department approved an Air Corps program for production of 12,000 more aircraft, including all major types.23

While all estimates of rates of production to be attained by early 1942 were optimistic (Marshall mentioned a rate of 32,400 by 1 February 1942), and the production of the planes already contracted for would therefore take longer than anticipated, the need for continued procurement was appreciated by Congress. By July 1941 cash and contract authorizations covered the procurement of the 1,425 planes deferred from the previous September, the 3,600 bombers approved by the President in November 1940, and 12,856 more planes requested by the Air Corps. The addition of these planes to previous programs brought the Army procurement program approximately to the 36,500 planned a year before. Between them, the Army and the Navy had received either the funds or the authorizations to procure the 50,000 planes called for by the President in May 1940.24

Concurrent with the effort to increase aircraft production and maintain it at a high level, the Air Corps moved to expand its strength beyond the fifty-four combat groups authorized in June 1940. In November

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1940 the Secretary of War directed that the 54-group program be completed without stop and that plans be made for the organization of additional groups. In December, General Marshall notified Assistant Secretary of War Patterson that “requirements so far as can be determined at the present time provide for equipment for 54 tactical groups and six transport groups, with a reserve believed to be sufficient to provide for the equipment of 40 additional groups.”25 After further study, the Chief of Staff approved a Second Aviation Objective on 6 March 1941. This program, providing for 84 groups and 7,799 combat planes, was to be initiated as soon as the 54-group program had been completed.26

All these plans, of course, dealt with the future and as yet had had little effect on the actual strength of the Air Corps. At the end of March 1941 the GHQ Air Force, which incorporated the striking power of the Air Corps, had 543 combat aircraft, of which only 38 were considered first-line airplanes suitable for combat.27 Total aircraft strength of the Army was 4,975 planes, over half of them trainers. Of the 1,617 combat types (many in overseas departments – Panama, Hawaii, and the Philippines), the great majority were obsolescent.28 Under the 5,500-plane program adopted in 1939, the Air Corps was supposed to have by June 1941 a total of 1,900 first-line planes. The failure to achieve this goal has more than one explanation. First of all, aircraft production had not been accelerated at the anticipated rate.* Of actual production, moreover, the British had enjoyed high priority on acceptances of late-model planes. The Air Corps also had agreed to defer delivery of many of the planes originally scheduled under the program in order to get later models which were still under development. Yet another factor affecting the delay was the priority necessarily given to the construction of training aircraft over combat planes.29 As General Marshall explained late in 1940, the real need was for the “productive capacity to maintain our organization on a war basis,” and “actual production of the planes prior to our becoming involved in hostilities would result in deliveries far beyond our necessities, with the inevitable accumulations of obsolete types.”30

It should be observed, too, that the practice of fixing objectives in terms of a specified number of planes tended to establish a misleading

* The Anglo-American agreement of 23 July 1940 had settled on a tentative U.S. production objective of 12,899 military aircraft between 30 June 1940 and 1 April 1941. Actual production for the nine-month period was 6,933.

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standard. There can be a vast difference between one plane and another, and the over-all number of planes possessed by an air force can provide no more than the roughest index to true strength. During 1941 a new emphasis on the production of heavy bombers introduced another factor affecting the rate of progress toward announced goals. Winston Churchill had been among those whose influence helped persuade Roosevelt to accept the 3,600-bomber program in the fall of 1940, and the persuasion of the British, who planned to strike back at Germany with a strategic air offensive, was partly responsible for a directive to Stimson on 4 May 1941 which called for an increase in heavy bomber production to the monthly rate of 500 planes.31 As these planes – mostly B-17’s and B-24’s – took a larger share of the productive effort, pounds of airframe weight rather than the number of planes manufactured offered a more accurate measurement of progress on production. Because the larger planes required more time for construction, their increasing importance tended to extend the length of time required for the achievement of Air Corps programs.

The extension of aid to the U.S.S.R. in the summer of 1941 on a priority basis momentarily higher even than that accorded the British made it still more difficult for the Air Corps to make firm plans for its own expansion. Marshall and Arnold, though alert to the advantages in providing all possible assistance to Great Britain and Russia, could not but experience some exasperation as they struggled to make the U.S. Army ready for all eventualities. By no means least exasperating was the repeated necessity to recompute requirements in what General Echols described as’ the “mass production of programs.”32

Organizational Adjustments

Up to May 1940 the military services had continued to follow conventional methods of procurement. For the Air Corps the Materiel Division at Wright Field carried the major responsibility, depending chiefly upon its three (Eastern, Central, and Western) procurement districts. Before December 1939 these districts functioned through a dual organization: one for procurement planning and the other for supervision of contracts let. In that month the two functions had been consolidated in a single organizational structure. Contracts usually were written at Wright Field until October 1939, when the chief of the Materiel Division was moved to Washington.33 Within the War Department the Chief of the Air Corps was responsible to the

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Assistant Secretary of War in all matters related to procurement and production. By law, the assistant secretary was charged with approval of all contracts over a specified amount, usually $500,000 during the early years of expansion and $5 million after 1941.34

The Army-Navy Munitions Board, established in 1922 and composed of representatives of the two services, served chiefly to standardize Army and Navy supply items but was also charged to stockpile strategic raw materials. After the President placed the board under his own direction on 5 July 1939, its authority and prestige increased substantially.35 For a period in 1939–40 the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry L. Morgenthau, Jr., also played a prominent part in the aircraft production picture. Partly because of the Treasury Department’s traditional role as a major government procurement agency, partly because of its control of export licenses, and partly because of the secretary’s enthusiasm for aiding the rearmament of the western European democracies, the President conferred on Morgenthau broad powers for coordination of foreign purchases, chiefly aircraft, in the United States. For a few weeks in May and June 1940, the Secretary of the Treasury had power to review all supply contracts for aircraft and engines. After June 1940, when the mobilization of industry began in earnest, the secretary’s role in the organization and administration of aircraft production diminished rapidly, although he continued for some time to exercise influence over the allocation and export of planes to foreign countries.36

By May 1940 it had become evident that the President’s greatly expanded program of defensive preparations would require a mobilization of the nation’s industrial resources comparable to that of 1917 and 1918. Although aircraft programs held the headlines, plans called also for a substantial strengthening of ground and naval forces. Not only would there be competition between the several military interests, but between military and civilian requirements as well. The NDAC was the first of a series of civilian agencies which undertook to organize and administer the munitions production of the country. By agreement with NDAC (later, Office of Production Management and finally War Production Board), the military services retained control of their own procurement machinery throughout the war, purchasing the materiel they needed and supervising production. NDAC and its successors devoted themselves to providing the raw materials, machine tools, and facilities needed to produce weapons and

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equipment for the armed services. The civilian agency also participated in the division of productive capacity between military and civilian requirements and eventually scheduled and controlled the flow of materials and tools into production. In general, it provided the foundation for the procurement and production machinery of the military departments and, especially in the field of aircraft production, attained a high degree of coordination of effort.37

But any and all efforts to organize production would have been ineffective without some machinery to integrate the requirements of the various claimants on output. The first step toward eliminating confusion and wasteful competition was the appointment by the Army and Navy in May 1940 of a Joint Air Advisory Committee to advise the service chiefs on employment, requirements, and cooperation of the two air arms.38 This in itself might have been enough had the American services enjoyed a monopoly of U.S. aircraft production, but that was far from being the case. The agreement reached with the British Purchasing Commission on 23 July 1940, like all other programs at the time, could be regarded as no more than a temporarily helpful guide to policy. Demands on production fixed by a highly fluid world situation made it clear that problems of allocation required a continuing study and review. Accordingly, the Air Corps urged in July, and again in August, that an Anglo-American agency be established for the better control of allocations. On 13 September 1940, with the concurrence of the Navy and the British Purchasing Commission, Secretary of War Stimson appointed a committee to “consider and decide matters pertaining to aircraft standardization and aircraft delivery schedules.”39 Originally known as the Army-Navy-British Purchasing Commission Joint Committee, it became the Joint Aircraft Committee (JAC) in March 1941 and evolved into the top authority for the approval and coordination of all aircraft contracts for military purchasers – both foreign and domestic. It included two members each from the Army, Navy, British Purchasing Commission, and OPM. It had “power to schedule the delivery of, and allocate the capacity for, aircraft and aircraft components in the official program for all customers, Army, Navy, British, and other Foreign and Commercial.” It had also the final say in standardization of aircraft and aircraft components.40 Like other combined British and American committees, JAC worked chiefly through subcommittees, the JAC itself assembling as occasion required for the determination of policy.

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The Chief of the Air Corps acted as chairman, and the Air Corps, as the principal interested party, tended in other ways to assume the leadership.

The pre-Pearl Harbor organization for production was completed by establishment of the Aircraft Scheduling Unit at Wright Field. This agency, which eventually employed more than 3,000 people, determined the requirements of materials, components, and parts for the various aircraft programs; arranged with OPM (later WPB) for the provision of these materials; and allocated, in accordance with established priorities, the available materials among the various aircraft programs. The need for such an agency had become increasingly urgent, for aircraft production could get nowhere without efficient and orderly allocation of necessary materials and components. The Aircraft Section of OPM proposed in February 1941 that a scheduling unit be established at Wright Field, where the Materiel Division of the Air Corps was already performing certain portions of this function. Using Air Corps personnel as a nucleus, OPM established the Aircraft Scheduling Unit at Dayton, Ohio, on 5 May 1941 as an agency of its Aircraft Section. In order to give the unit a broad foundation, it included Army, Navy, OPM, and British representatives. The Navy, in particular, had insisted that the unit be placed under OPM rather than under the Air Corps, feeling that the interests of the Navy and the British would be better protected under the direction of a disinterested agency. The Aircraft Scheduling Unit integrated its activities with those of the Aircraft Section of OPM, operating under policies directed by the JAC. In practice it depended for production information on the Materiel Division, which had a going organization in its Production Survey Branch.41 Through most of its existence the unit was dominated by Air Corps personnel.

The Victory Program

By the summer of 1941 widespread sentiment existed among the interested agencies in favor of some attempt to draft an over-all plan of production for the total defense effort. As early as April 1941 members of the General Staff had begun to call for such a plan, and on 18 April Patterson recommended to Stimson that a committee be appointed to work out the production program necessary to achieve victory in the event of war.42 The Chief of Staff favored the move and in May directed that the General Staff prepare over-all strategic

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and supply estimates to govern the Anny’s expansion. The Secretary of War followed this up by communicating to the Navy, the U.S. Maritime Commission, the Office of Production Management, and the British Supply Council his desire for a joint production estimate.43

Meanwhile, Knudsen and John D. Biggers, of the Office of Production Management, had been urging similar action as early as February 1941. OPM was finding it extremely difficult to plan and schedule production without some over-all guide to requirements. The separate programs in existence were shifting, changing, and overlapping to an extent which threatened to reduce planning and scheduling to a state of complete confusion. On 18 June the OPM Production Planning Board emphasized that until an “over-all program for an all-out effort” had been determined, “a basis will not exist for production planning in which the distribution of energy, effort, materials, and facilities will be most effectively directed toward the national objective.”44 The necessary spur to the desired action came in a Presidential directive to the two service secretaries on 9 July – to explore “at once the overall production requirements required to defeat our potential enemies,” with the purpose of establishing a munitions objective which the OPM could translate into “practical realities of production facilities.”45 Before the War and Navy Departments had completed their estimates, the President had enlarged the scope of the program to include aid to Russia. On 30 August he asked that the military departments submit to him by 10 September their recommendations for “distribution of expected United States production of munitions of war as between the United States, Great Britain, Russia and the other countries to be aided ... from the present time until June 30, [1942].” He reiterated his request for an over-all munitions program.46

The Joint Board Estimate of United States Over-all Production Requirements was completed on 11 September 1941 and forwarded to the President. It actually represented a minimum of Army-Navy coordination, for the Navy had not seen fit to coordinate its estimates with those of the Army until 5 September. Accordingly the estimate was essentially a statement of three sets of requirements – Navy, Ground, and Air.47

The General Staff had called on the Air Staff to prepare the section dealing with air force requirements – a task accepted with relish by Arnold and his assistants. The resulting study, included as an annex

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to the Joint Board report, was prepared by the Air War Plans Division in a single week, 4–11 August, and came to be known within the AAF as AWPD/1. First of the master blueprints drawn by the Air Staff, it proved to be an unusually accurate forecast of over-all requirements as well as of air strategy. AWPD/1 was drafted on the assumption that the United States might have to fight Germany and Japan simultaneously, that the defeat of Germany would be given first priority, and that the major contribution of the AAF to the attainment of this end would be made through a strategic bombing offensive.* For this offensive, for the AAF’s contribution to the maintenance of a strategic defensive against Japan, for support of ground operations, and for the air security of the United States and the western hemisphere, the AAF would require ultimately a force of 239 combat groups and 108 separate squadrons, an aircraft strength of 63,467 planes (including those for training and reserve purposes), and 2,164,916 men. The monthly replacement rate would be 2,133 aircraft. With prompt steps to initiate an all-out effort, it was predicted that “the air offensive against Germany can reach full power in April 1944.”48 And this proved to be just about right, as did the predictions of total requirements. At its peak strength in 1944–45, the AAF had almost 2.4 million men and women, 243 combat groups, and nearly 80,000 aircraft.

The Joint Board report on American requirements was followed by the preparation of an Anglo-American consolidated statement which Stimson submitted to Roosevelt on 23 September 1941. This statement showed stocks of major items of war materials as of 30 June 1941 and anticipated quarterly production to the end of 1942 for the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. British-Canadian aircraft production currently was running ahead of American production, but it was expected that the United States would be ahead by 50 per cent in the last quarter of 1942.49

All this represented an effort to provide such long-range prediction of requirements as would permit an intelligent coordination of current programs and their upward revisal as developments permitted in accordance with some over-all estimate of ultimate objectives. At the time, the AAF was still working toward the goal set the preceding March: a force of 7,600 first-line aircraft with 84 groups and 600,000 men. On 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,

*See Vol I, pp. 121-32, 146-47, and Index.

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this was still the AAF’s approved program.50 Its staff meantime had been preparing procurement programs designed to fulfill the requirements stipulated in AWPD/1, and had won the tentative approval of the Chief of Staff for plans to procure 30,000 planes in addition to those already on order, which numbered approximately 36,500. The attack at Pearl Harbor, bringing the reality of war on two remotely situated fronts, prompted Lovett to ask on 12 December for an upward revisal in this latest proposal of the number of heavy bombers to be procured.51 Instead of the 775 bombers per month that had been proposed, Lovett suggested a rate of 1,000 per month with the over-all figure to be raised from 30,000 to approximately 33,000. To contain Japan in the Pacific and to carry the war to Germany, it would be necessary to depend upon long-range planes in large numbers. Three days later the Air Staff completed its own revised estimate of requirements, which were presented in AWPD/4. With their faith in the air weapon reinforced by the extraordinarily successful Japanese attacks upon U.S. and British fleet units, AAF planners called now for an air force of 2,922,637 men and 87,937 aircraft and for a “NATIONAL FIRST PRIORITY” for “the production of military aircraft and related equipment.”52

Although this extreme priority was not to be accorded the aircraft program, the airmen had no ground for complaint of neglect as the President promptly pressed for goals going even beyond those set by the AAF. Early in January 1942 the Air Staff computed its victory requirements for planes, in addition to those already under procurement, to be 32,373 combat planes and 22,443 training and miscellaneous planes, or a total of 54,816 of all types. The planners calculated that in order to meet this requirement, and the demands of the Navy and of lend-lease, it would be necessary for the country to reach by 30 June 1944 an annual productive capacity of 50,000 airplanes, of which 37,500 would belong to the AAF. Simultaneously, Donald Nelson, executive director of the Supply Priorities and Allocations Board,* prepared a program which recommended production of 50,000 completely equipped planes in 1942 and an annual production rate of 80,000 planes by the end of that year.53 This, no doubt, reflected the influence of the President, who notified Stimson on 3

* This board, established in August 1941 to make policy for and coordinate the whole defense program, had the OPM and other government agencies under its authority. It went out of existence when the WPB was established on 16 January 1942.

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January that the “concept of our industrial capacity must be completely overhauled under the impulse of the peril to our nation.” More thoroughly alive and sympathetic to the needs of our Allies than any of his advisers except possibly Hopkins, he stressed that “we must not only provide munitions for our own fighting forces but vast quantities to be used against the enemy in every appropriate theater of war, wherever that may be.”54

The President’s letter directed the production of combat aircraft as follows:

Target Monthly
Type 1942 1943 Capacity
Long-range, heavy, and medium bombers 11,300 30,000 3,000
Light, dive, torpedo, and scout bombers 11,000 17,000 2,000
Pursuits 16,000 38,000 3,500
Observation and transports 6,700 15,000 1,500
TOTALS 45,000 100,000 10,000

These figures, which were increased by the necessary addition of noncombat types, ran far in excess of any goal that had ever been given serious consideration, and they reflected an assessment of foreign-aid needs much greater than the Army and Navy had assumed. The President recognized that many changes of detail would be required, but the “substance of this program [was] to be initiated at once in all its implications.”55 Three days later, in a message of 6 January, he reported to Congress that he had ordered the production of 60,000 planes (45,000 combat) in 1942 and 125,000 (100,000 combat) in 1943.56

Immediately before the President’s message, the War Department had raised production goals to 45,000 planes for 1942, of which approximately 28,000 were to be combat types, and to 65,000 planes for 1943, of which 45,000 would be combat types.57 At a meeting on 8 January, representatives of the military and civilian agencies concerned with production agreed that a “supreme effort” must be made to accomplish the objectives set by the President but that it was “highly improbable that such an objective could be met in toto.”58 The conferees decided to go ahead with earlier programs for which estimates had already been put in the hands of the Bureau of the Budget in order to guarantee uninterrupted production and expansion of facilities.59 The 84-group program, the most recently approved combat-group program for the AAF, was superseded on 7 January

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by a 115-group program carrying provision for a personnel strength of 998,000. This became a new “first aviation strength” of the AAF and was to be completed by 31 December 1942.60

An agreement between the Army and Navy on the distribution of combat aircraft for 1942 and 1943 gave the Army 34,830 and the Navy 10,170 planes from anticipated production during the first of these years, and 78,210 and 21,790 respectively in the second year. As indications of AAF plane strength, however, these figures can be misleading, for they included aircraft destined for transfer to our Allies, aircraft mainly of Army types. The agreement got the President’s approval on 14 January 1942,61 and Congress acted quickly to provide the funds needed. For the 33,000-plane program requested by the War Department in December, a program initiated before the President had so drastically revised the ultimate goals, Congress on 30 January appropriated $12,525,827,474, the largest single amount ever provided for the equipment of the military forces, and all of it was for the AAF. The sum appropriated for complete airplanes alone, $7,144,056,340, was greater than the Air Corps had received for all purposes during its entire existence. Further appropriation measures in April and July covered the purchase of an additional 54,620 planes by the AAF through fiscal 1943. By mid-summer Congress had provided almost $30 billion for the AAF, the greater part of which would be spent for the purchase of 87,620 aircraft.62

There would be money enough – no one worried about that now – but whether the planes could be produced was another and still critical question. Early in July 1942 it seemed that production capabilities would permit organization of 122 groups by the end of that year and 283 by the end of 1943,63 a substantial number of which could not be ready for operation until later dates. The President in May had reiterated his intention to attain the objectives set by him in January,64 but production leaders came to believe more and more strongly that these goals, particularly those for 1943, could not be met. In August, Donald Nelson of WPB, with the concurrence of the War and Navy Departments, notified the President that aircraft objectives could not be met for either year under existing conditions and that production in 1942 probably would not exceed 48,000 planes. For the next year 92,000 planes was the best estimate. Only a preference for the aircraft program greater even than that it already enjoyed could solve the problem; such a “green light” might raise the total in 1942 above

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50,000 planes and in 1943 to 107,000. Nelson urged that the “aircraft program as a whole be preferred over all other production” and that great care be exercised in giving highest priorities to other projects.65

On the same day, 24 August, the President asked the AAF to prepare a new study of the requirements for combat aircraft production in 1943 to attain “complete air supremacy over the enemy.” The study was to be made “without consideration of existing schedules or production possibilities or any other competing military requirements.” As a check against this theoretical study, he asked that General Marshall and Admiral King submit a second schedule based on “realities and the proper relationship of air power to the Navy and our ground forces.”66

The request came at a critical point in the fortunes of the AAF. Although congressional appropriations had placed at its command resources far in excess of anything hitherto dreamed of, and although the large share of the nation’s total productive capacity already committed to the aircraft program guaranteed a major role for the AAF in the prosecution of the war, it was not yet certain that the AAF would be allowed to fulfill its most cherished hope – the mounting of a full-fledged strategic air offensive against Germany. Indeed, the recent decision to invade northwest Africa during the fall of 1942 in preference to an early invasion of western Europe had called into question the whole plan of AAF leaders for a strategic attack on Germany. Not only would the planes scheduled to begin the bomber offensive from England be required for support of TORCH and its subsequent developments in the Mediterranean area, but the bomber offensive had no place in strategic plans except as a preliminary air offensive to soften up the enemy in preparation for a landing in western Europe. The cancellation of plans for any such early landing necessarily gave first claim on all available resources to the support of a hazardous venture in Africa – and more than that, it opened the way for the Navy, whose forces had recently invaded Guadalcanal in another hazardous venture, to ask for review of priorities heretofore based on the assumption that western Europe must be invaded at the earliest possible moment.*

* For fuller discussion of these issues and the complicated sparring which resulted from the decision in favor of TORCH, see Vol. II, passim. For an excellent recent discussion of over-all strategy, see Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941–1942 (Washington, 1953).

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Previous commitments of productive capacity to long-range bombers offered some assurance, but these commitments involved for the most part production still lying in the future. It would be possible to divert that production to other types of planes and thus, for all practical purposes, to cancel the bomber offensive against Germany. Not until the Casablanca conference of January 1943, at which a directive for a combined Anglo-American offensive was agreed upon, could the AAF feel real assurance on the question nearest its heart.

AWPD/42, submitted by the Air Staff on 9 September, was built around the requirements for a strategic air offensive against Germany. For all purposes, including defense aid, the study recommended production in 1943 of 130,906 airplanes plus 8,248 gliders. The AAF’s share of this would be the total glider production and 75,416 airplanes, of which 63,068 would be combat planes. Air operations would require the organization and deployment by 1 January 1944 of 281 groups, 76 of which would be heavy bombardment. The personnel requirement would be 2,734,347 men.67

For almost three months thereafter the requirements set forth in AWPD/42 stood at the center of an intensive debate over production capacities and their proper allotment. The AAF made strenuous efforts to have AWPD/42 accepted as the “Bible” for American strategy and aircraft production. General Marshall initially supported the aircraft goals set by the AAF but subsequently concurred with a reduced production figure for 1943. The Navy disagreed flatly with the study’s assumptions and especially with its assignment to the AAF of all heavy and medium land-based bombers, a proposal that had been made without consulting the Navy.68

While the Navy’s strong objections weighed heavily against AWPD/42, another argument was even more effective: a productive capacity not capable of meeting the goal of 131,000 planes in 1943 unless the Navy and ground forces programs were substantially reduced, an unlikely prospect at a moment when both ground and naval forces were just beginning to take the offensive. The Joint Aircraft Planning Committee reported to Nelson at the end of September its sober conclusion that not even the President’s January 1942 goal of 125,000 planes in 1943 could be attained except at the cost of 40 per cent of the nation’s military production and a consequent reduction of ground and naval programs.69 On 1 October the President reiterated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff his desire that the

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goal remain 100,000 combat planes (plus 25,000 others) to be delivered during 1943. At the same time he directed Nelson to take the steps necessary to insure that production.70

In spite of the President’s directive and the efforts of Arnold to convince the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the desirability and feasibility of the larger objective, it became clear that neither military nor civilian production staffs were willing to accept such a production figure. According to General Somervell, the Army’s chief production officer, the War Production Board was convinced by mid-October that the maximum aircraft production for 1943 could not exceed 107,000 planes, of which 80,500 would be for combat. Somervell notified Marshall on 17 October that studies by the Joint Planning Staff of the JCS indicated that the country could not transport overseas and maintain there by the end of 1943 an air force of the size contemplated in AWPD/42, and the President’s goal of 100,000 combat planes in 1943 would provide far more planes than could be logistically supported in combat. The 107,000 planes which the WPB believed could be produced in 1943 would meet all operational needs and fix air strength within limits that could be supported.71 Two days later Nelson notified the joint Chiefs that the President’s objective could not be achieved in 1943 and that the munitions program would have to be reduced.72 In spite of Arnold’s objections, the JCS promptly confirmed this conclusion and recommended a program of 82,000 combat planes and 25,000 trainers for 1943; the President accepted the schedule on 23 October.73 On 29 October the President directed that this program for the delivery of 107,000 planes during the next calendar year “be given highest priority and whatever preference is needed to insure its accomplishment.”74

Thus 107,000, rather than the President’s 125,000 or AWPD/42’s 131,000, became the number representing the highest possible aircraft production for 1943. To the maintenance of that standard the AAF devoted its full effort in all ensuing negotiations; to the accomplishment of some further reduction in the figure the Navy devoted its energies no less zealously, objecting to an overriding priority for aircraft production and demanding a top priority for significant parts of its shipbuilding program. In what perhaps may be described as a typically Rooseveltian compromise, the President agreed on 26 November to the establishment of a “No. 1 Group” of priorities which, as subsequently formulated by the JCS, quickly

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came to include large portions of the munitions programs of the Navy and the ground forces in addition to the aircraft program.75 The long-enjoyed priority for the aircraft program was a thing of the past, and little likelihood existed that even the goal of 107,000 planes could be met in 1943. Although Nelson notified the JCS on 3 December that he believed that the 107,000-plane program could be completed on schedule, most of its own production experts disagreed with him and proved to be better prophets.76

Arnold was realist enough to grasp the hard facts in the new situation. To his key advisers on 22 December he issued this warning: “Outside of this room we want 87,000 planes and that is our position ... but we must be realistic and 1 think that 60,000 planes is a fair estimate.” Production of 60,000 combat planes in 1943 would still permit the AAF, in his judgment, to carry out the program of 273 combat groups which already had been officially approved by the War Department.77 On 5 January 1943 Arnold notified his full staff that 273 groups represented the “saturation point for American air power” and directed that they use this figure in preparing subsequent plans and programs.78 And this remained the framework within which the AAF was built to its ultimate combat strength.

Consistently supporting the highest possible figure on bomber production, the AAF had succeeded in holding for itself a share in the national production large enough to provide some assurance that its ideas would govern final decisions on strategy. No one can say just what shaped Roosevelt’s attitude at Casablanca in January 1943 on proposals for an all-out air offensive against Germany, but the full record suggests that he might well have asked himself in what other way the planes in production or on order could better be employed. In any case, it was agreed that a directive should be issued for the Combined Bomber Offensive, which officially got under way in June 1943 and continued to the eve of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944.*

In truth, the whole discussion of aircraft production in terms of the number of planes to be produced had come by 1943 to be more than a little misleading. The aircraft industry during December 1942 had produced 5,493 aircraft, which represented a production rate of almost 66,000 planes per year. But the more than 40 million pounds of airframe weight produced provided a more exact index

* See Vols. II and III.

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to the increased output of the industry, for it represented almost a 50 per cent increase over July 1942, whereas the increase in the number of aircraft was little more than 33+ per cent.79 This increase of airframe weight reflected the growing number of combat planes, as against the smaller trainers, that were being produced and a greater emphasis on heavy bombers. In earlier days the round numbers thrown out by the President had served useful purposes: they had provided a quick and ready yardstick for the measurement of drastic changes in policy, and they may have served to stimulate a hardening resistance to Nazi ambitions as so evidently had been the President’s purpose. But what counted now was not the over-all number but the rate of production on particular types of planes. Indeed, the danger existed that a continuing focus of attention on the total number of planes might encourage the production of types having little if any tactical utility.

But the long-established practice of fixing aircraft production policy in set programs for a specified total of planes discouraged any move by the AAF to place the formal discussion of that policy on a more realistic basis. Inside the family, the problem was discussed freely. Thus in February 1943, Maj. Gen. Davenport Johnson, Director of Military Requirements, declared that to the “word ‘PRODUCTION’ is being attributed an importance not entirely consistent with the military requirements for winning a successful war against our enemies.” As a result of the intense pressure for high production, he warned, models of little or no use to the AAF had been continued in production. He specified the A-31* as “a shining example of the waste of material, manpower, and time in the production of an airplane which this office has tried to eliminate for several months.” Continued insistence by the AAF on a goal of 107,000 planes for 1943 might have the effect of providing that many aircraft but not necessarily in the types needed to fight the war, an opinion shared also by General Echols.80 Nevertheless, in March the Chief of Air Staff, Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, protested against consideration by the JAC of any proposal “to submit to the President, at this time, a suggestion or request that he reduce the 1943 production objective for combat aircraft.”81 And in April Arnold again put his staff on notice that “our program for 1943 is 107,000

*A-31 was the AAF designation for the V-72 dive bomber developed by Vultee Aircraft for sale to the British.

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planes. We will not cut down below that figure and we will not discuss ... a reduction below that figure.”82 As he long since had put staff planning on an altogether different basis, it can only be assumed that Arnold, who by now had a full and varied experience in inter-service diplomacy, feared the effect of any formal concession on a program which had the sanction of a Presidential directive.

Lovett had taken a different view. In a letter of 25 March to Harry Hopkins he recommended that “a realistic production ‘figure’ should be given the President,” who might be well advised to revise downward his aircraft production directive. “By facing the facts frankly at this time,” Lovett wrote, “I believe that much good will result and that we will get more planes rather than less by removing doubt and confusion in the Services, industry and the public.”83 Arnold himself had gone so far in March as to notify Marshall of the necessity to postpone the terminal date for the 273-group program from the end of 1943 to June 1944 or later because of delays in production. His request that the goal of 273 groups be retained was approved.84The War Production Board stood with Lovett on the need for a downward revision. In March it estimated that 1943 production would be 90,000 planes and that the limit for 1944 should be 120,000 instead of 150,000. Its figures for 1943 were revised several times during the next month or so, and in June Nelson formally notified the JCS that the production goal for 1943 had been lowered to 95,000 planes.85 But this notice could bring no change in the official figure without the agreement of the JCS, who, interestingly enough, refused to go along.86

The explanation for this decision must depend partly on conjecture. JCS minutes provide no more than a clue. The JCS was a committee and Arnold was a full-fledged member; since all JCS decisions had to be unanimous, it was only with Arnold’s concurrence that it could act at all. But there seems to be no evidence that he was forced to make a stubborn stand. The record suggests rather that everybody was happy with what they had got out of the negotiations of the preceding fall, and that no one was inclined to reopen the debate. Adjustments in the “must” program during the month of March had given new assurance that naval and ground force needs would be met, and the JCS took the position that high goals provided a spur to production, psychologically comforting to the United States and its Allies and possibly dismaying to its enemies.87

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That the AAF was doing well enough is indicated by Arnold’s concern as early as April 1943 that production would outrun the training program. At that time he observed that “every indication points to our having far more heavy and medium bombers and fighter planes by midsummer than can be manned by our new combat units, employed as replacements in combat theaters, or profitably used by our schools.”88 Combat loss rates had been less than anticipated, making more planes available for equipment of units at an earlier date than had been expected. One solution, a desirable one, was to increase the unit-equipment strength of combat groups and to build up reserves in the theaters.89 This was eventually done, especially with heavy bombardment groups. The AAF dilemma is made refreshingly clear in a memorandum to Arnold from one of his staff officers on 14 July 1943. He recommended that the JCS send no reply to Nelson’s letter concerning the downward revision of the 1943 plane program because “even with the 95,000 program we might have more airplanes that we could use in 1944 under current AAF program and it ... [is] bad judgment to needle WPB for more planes until we ... [know] we could use them under revised AAF program now being prepared.” Displaying a flair for political as well as military strategy, the officer advised that by “not challenging Mr. Nelson again on this matter, we make it possible for him to say at some later date that JCS have accepted by silence his reduction of production target from 107,000 to 95,000 planes.”.90 This advice, quite evidently, was ignored.

By the summer of 1943 assembly lines all over the country were full, and the question of production goals for that year tended to become increasingly unimportant. As attention turned to production during 1944, the adoption of a goal of 120,000 planes was accomplished with much less discussion than had marked the adoption of a program for 1943. The AAF concentrated on efforts to meet its 273-group program, which was reaffirmed as a goal in November 1943 and again in 1944 although consideration had been given in 1943 to the equipment of as many as 350 groups.91 Congress on 1 July 1943 had provided $23,055,481,000 for the purchase of 99,740 planes plus spares by the AAF through 30 June 1945.92

In 1944–45 capacity was progressively shifted to construction of bigger bombers and transports. The most important change affecting over-all quantity production was the decision late in 1943 to maintain

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a strategic reserve of initial equipment for ten ground divisions and twenty-seven air groups. This reserve remained a part of the Army supply program until September 19, when the War Department approved the AAF’s recommendation to eliminate it because a strategic reserve was no longer necessary and because ample reserve stocks of aircraft were on hand.93

The AAF never attained its goal of 273 groups, although it reached a total of 269 groups at the end of 1943. Many of these groups existed only on paper, however, and the true maximum of 243 groups was attained only in March 1945.94 Well before that date, planning had already shifted to consideration of the contraction of aircraft production and military strength, a subject outside the scope of this chapter.

Scheduling Production

While the President established the over-all production objectives, it required a large and complex machinery to translate those objectives into detailed production schedules for guiding the allocation of facilities, tools, materials, and manpower. Eventually, these schedules also permitted the AAF and the Navy to plan their expansions with some assurance, for the rate of growth depended on aircraft deliveries.

The need to schedule production became imperative only after the United States embarked on a serious rearmament program in the summer of 1940. Up to that time the military services had exerted no great pressure for expansion of the aircraft industry or rapid acceleration of its production. The Air Corps had ordered 435 planes during fiscal year 1939 and 1,677 in fiscal 1940, the latter number in connection with the 5,500-plane program. The Navy’s orders had been even smaller. But the heavy orders placed by the French and British in 1939–40 far exceeded those of the American military services and required an expansion of facilities which was financed by the two countries. Under the shadow of the Luftwaffe, England and France were willing to pay premium prices for American planes and to provide the funds for an acceleration of production. American manufacturers gave priority to foreign orders initially because of the larger profits to be made and later because the American government deemed the needs of England and other countries to be greater than our own and deferred deliveries to the Army and Navy. Accordingly,

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the Air Corps received very few planes from the manufacturers during 1939–40.95

After May 1940, American and British demands on the industry for a huge number of planes in the shortest possible time changed the production picture drastically. Competition among the British, the Navy, and the Air Corps led to competition among the aircraft manufacturers for the limited resources available and threatened to create a near-chaotic condition in the industry. The production effort required to meet the President’s goals would affect virtually every part of American industry. Under such circumstances, the need for coordination and control of aircraft production became acute. The NDAC in June 1940 began to provide a measure of coordination, especially in aircraft production.

A number of preliminary steps preceded the issuance of the first aircraft production schedule in late August 1940. The Aircraft Section of the NDAC, organized in June 1940, was fortunate in attracting a group of competent and experienced men. Theodore P. Wright, Dr. Albert E. Lombard, Jr., Robert E. Lees, and Myron A. Tracy established a basis for the eventual formulation of detailed production schedules by preparing a number of reports on aircraft procurement, manufacturing capacity, and prices. But it was not until after the Anglo-American agreement of 23 July 1940 that the Aircraft Section had the necessary data from which to prepare a production schedule. This first schedule, Report No. 8 of the Aircraft Section, was issued on 22 August and listed by type, model, and manufacturer the monthly schedules for airplanes, including spares, for the Air Corps, the Navy, and the British. Report No. 9, issued on 9 September, dealt with engines, and Report No. 10, on 6 November, with propellers.*96

Between August 1940 and March 1943 the Aircraft Section issued twelve revisions of the 8, 9, and 10 series, running from A through L. Through No. 8-H, the reports were usually approximations above the manufacturers’ estimates of their production capabilities. These estimates were consistently high, and actual production ran well behind plan. Until the coming of the war the schedules, which forecast production by eighteen to thirty months, were revised every

* Engine and propeller deliveries were scheduled sixty days ahead of airplane deliveries in order to provide a smooth flow of all the aircraft components needed for final assembly.

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few months, whenever some important change in requirements or capacity seemed to warrant it.97 The schedules during 1940–41 reflected the changes both of quantities and of types and models needed, with the latter frequently causing as much adjustment as did the constant increases in quantity. Because they were production guides, the schedules had to take immediate cognizance of changes desired by the Army, Navy, and British. Report No. 8 lasted less than three weeks, being superseded on 9 September 1940 by 8-A, which called for the delivery of 47,495 planes, including spares, between August 1940 and July 1942. Report No. 9, issued simultaneously, showed a requirement for 86,198 engines of all types over the same period.

Schedule 8-B, issued on 23 October, revised total deliveries downward to 41,341 planes, in order to bring objectives closer in line with possibilities. But under the pressure of further demands from the British and from the Army and Navy, the aircraft program was still further expanded and production had to be rescheduled. By February 1941 the major outlines of the expanded programs had become clearer, and the Aircraft Section issued Report No. 8-C, which, including B-29 and B-32 production models, projected production through fiscal year 1943. Of the 78,961 planes scheduled, the Army would receive 43,780; engine requirements were raised to 226,301. The three succeeding schedules, issued between April and July 1941, made comparatively minor changes. The last of the pre-Pearl Harbor schedules, 8-G, appeared in October and reduced to 75,637 the number of planes planned through fiscal 1943.98

The first major departure from routine scheduling came in January 1942 as a result of the President’s directive for production of 60,000 planes in 1942 and 125,000 planes in 1943. Although many responsible production people felt that these goals could not be met, the military insisted that the President’s statement be accepted as a military order, and production schedules were prepared accordingly. The outcome was the institution of schedules with initial and ultimate objectives, beginning with 8-I at the end of January 1942 and continuing through 8-J and 8-K. The initial objective, based on the current program and contracts, was both the realistic working schedule assigned to manufacturers and the basis for planning immediate plant expansion and allocation of materials and equipment. The ultimate objective, designed to meet the President’s goals, called for

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an acceleration of production far beyond that in the more practicable initial objective. The difference in numbers between the two objectives was especially great for 1943. For 1942, Schedule 8-I had an initial objective of 51,061 planes and an ultimate objective of 68,166. For 1943 the goals were 88,366 and 131,417 respectively. In the two succeeding schedules, 8-J and 8-K, the gap between the two objectives narrowed substantially, largely because they were issued later in the year and included the actual production figures for the earlier months of 1942. With the passage of time also the rate of production acceleration became more discernible and permitted changes more in keeping with probability. Objectives were as follows:–99

1942 1943
8-J Initial 53,504 97,337
Ultimate 64,465 129,017
8-K Initial 52,671 107,111
Ultimate 61,665 129,973

The additional aircraft production scheduled in the ultimate objective was never actually assigned to specific plants, although expansion of facilities and production of materials and equipment were scheduled on such a basis. It has been pointed out that it was a mistake to give the ultimate program official status because, by gearing facilities expansion and output of materials and equipment to it, resources were dissipated. Since the production scheduled under the ultimate objective was never attained, there were bound to be materials and parts surpluses which caused difficulties and distortions in achieving the initial objective.100

By the end of 1942 the President had revised downward his production objective for 1943, and it became possible, as well as desirable, for the production planners to eliminate the ultimate objective and prepare a single working schedule. Report No. 8-L, issued on 30 November 1942, constituted the working objective and formed the basis for planning immediate plant expansion and allocation of equipment and materials among manufacturers. In March 1943 the Aircraft Resources Control Office (ARCO) * replaced the 8-series of reports with the W-series, and the 9-series of engine reports became the WE-series. These new series of schedules were issued as amendments to 8-K until W-5 was released on 15 July as an overall

* Successor to Aircraft Section, See below, p. 293.

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detailed schedule superseding all preceding ones. After the publication of W-6 and W-7 in August and September, the Joint Aircraft Committee directed that schedules thereafter be issued quarterly; and this was done, beginning with W-8 on 18 October 1943 and continuing through the final W-15 of July 1945. Schedule revisions for individual plants were issued from time to time as was necessary.101

Production schedules sought to reconcile the requirements of the claimants – AAF, Navy, British – with the production potential of the aircraft industry. During 1940–42 these schedules were intended primarily to provide guidance for the expansion of industry rather than to set firm goals for airplane deliveries. Accordingly, the estimates of deliveries were high, and it was not until 1943 that the schedules actually became forecasts of future production. By that time the aircraft industry was approaching its peak, claimants realized that they were sure to get most if not all of the planes they required, and the organization and operation of aircraft production had reached a high level of coordination. Apparently, many manufacturers remained skeptical of the constant urgings of the Aircraft Production Board for greater output, feeling that the schedules were arbitrarily established “numbers programs.” In July 1943 the board found it necessary to assure the industry that the production schedules represented the realistic requirements of the military services, but it also sought greater accuracy in its scheduling thereafter, reducing schedules when necessary to bring them in line with the actual production trends.102

The schedules prepared by the Aircraft Resources Control Office and its predecessors were derived from information submitted by the manufacturers, by the claimant agencies – the AAF and the Navy – and from studies of capacity, of delivery rates, and of materials available. ARCO balanced the schedules submitted by the AAF and the Navy against probable deliveries. The completed schedules were reviewed by the AAF, the Navy, and British representatives. After acceptance by the Joint Aircraft Committee, the Aircraft Production Board had to give the final approval. The working schedules used between 1943 and 1945 were generally based on the manufacturer’s estimate of his probable production for a given period of time. On the basis of experience and knowledge of possible changes and special circumstances which might affect production, ARCO frequently

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revised these estimates, usually providing for goals which were expected to exceed actual acceptances by a small margin. This was considered necessary in order to make certain that the supply of engines, propellers, and other parts and equipment kept up with airframe production. In 1944, for example, ARCO made more than 200 interim individual model changes in the schedules, which led to further changes in component schedules and materials requirements.103 The actual details of controlling and allocating within the industry all aeronautical equipment and critical materials were done, under ARCO’s direction, by the Aircraft Scheduling Unit* at Dayton. Authorized to use the field inspection agencies of the AAF, the Navy, and the British, the scheduling unit carried out its highly complicated and important task by following JAC preference lists which set up six priority groups among the various aircraft types and models.104

A Final Word on Organization

As the preceding discussion repeatedly has suggested, a major part of the production control problem was coordination of British and American programs. At no time during the war did the two countries see fit to attempt a closely integrated combined program of production. But the two Allies did try through the Combined Chiefs of Staff and its subordinate agencies to establish necessary controls over the flow of raw materials and the allocation of munitions. The chief agency serving these purposes was the Munitions Assignments Board, established early in 1942 under the chairmanship of Harry Hopkins,105 which functioned through a dual organization, one part in Washington and the other in London. In Washington, the AAF held the chairmanship of the Munitions Assignments Committee (Air), a major subcommittee of the board. Acting under directives from the CCS, the MAC (Air) assigned munitions from a common Anglo-American pool, which included American lend-lease production. Each country had first call on its own production, and each retained control of its own facilities and determined its own production program.106 The Joint Aircraft Committee yielded to the MAC (Air) its control over allocation of aircraft, but in connection with its scheduling of aircraft production it retained control over allocation of aircraft components to the manufacturers. Inevitably,

* For a discussion of the scheduling unit, see above, p. 274.

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there remained a considerable area of overlapping jurisdiction which could lead to misunderstanding.107

In the War Production Board, which replaced the Office of Production Management during January 1942, the Aircraft Production Division became virtually a separate organization within the WPB. The overriding importance attached to the aircraft program by the President’s directives led WPB to establish on 9 December 1942 a special Aircraft Production Board (APB), under the chairmanship of Charles E. Wilson, WPB vice-chairman. The other members of the board were Lt. Gen. William S. Knudsen, then of the office of the Under Secretary of War, one representative each from the AAF and the Navy, and a recorder appointed by the chairman. The recorder was Theodore P. Wright, a former official of Curtiss-Wright and a key figure in the planning and scheduling of aircraft production from 1940 through 1944. The board assumed central direction of aircraft production, including scheduling.108

As its executive agency the APB established the Aircraft Resources Control Office, which began functioning before the end of 1942 under the direction of Theodore P. Wright. ARCO acted for the board in all matters pertaining to manpower, materials, and machine tools, and it directed the work of the Aircraft Scheduling Unit. The new agency continued to prepare the over-all production schedules which had been inaugurated by the NDAC in 1940. For the remainder of the war, the Aircraft Production Board, ARCO, and the Aircraft Scheduling Unit constituted the most important aircraft production agencies outside of the military services.109 The Joint Aircraft Committee, really a combined rather than a joint agency, was dominated by the military.

Within the War Department, the supply task devolved on the Under Secretary of War who, charged by law with responsibility for Army procurement, found it necessary to build up a huge organization during 1940–41 in order to carry out his functions. The procurement of AAF materiel was such an important part of the over-all munitions program that in December 1940 Patterson had appointed Robert A. Lovett as his assistant for all matters pertaining to aircraft procurement and production. After his elevation to the post of Assistant Secretary of War for Air in April 1941, Lovett continued to devote the greater part of his time to supervision of the AAF production program.110 After the reorganization of the War Department

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in March 1942, the Services of Supply (later ASF) took over most of the procurement functions of the Under Secretary of War, thereby permitting Patterson and his reduced staff to devote their time and energy to making policy, reviewing contracts, and expediting production in general. Because of the special status of aircraft production and the specialized nature of air warfare, the AAF was exempted from the control of the Services of Supply and continued to operate its own procurement and production organization through the Materiel Command.

Inevitably, there were controversies between the AAF and the SOS, for both were headed by aggressive leaders seeking a maximum of responsibility and authority for their organizations. Overlapping functions and conflicting jurisdictions gave rise to differences which often had to be resolved at higher levels. Generally, the AAF came off well on such occasions, and its position and prestige waxed as the war advanced. The whole period from 1940 to 1945 is marked by a continuous trend toward AAF independence in operating its own supply program – from the placing of contracts to the delivery of materiel at forward combat bases.111

Throughout the years from 1939 to 1945 AAF procurement and production were carried out by essentially the same men and organization. The Materiel Division, with its top staff at Washington after September 1939, and its operating arm at Wright Field, was the key agency in the performance of this function until March 1942. At that time it was redesignated Materiel Command, with headquarters still in Washington. Wright Field, as the Materiel Center, continued to handle operations. In March 1943, the Materiel Command headquarters was moved to Wright Field and the former headquarters staff in Washington became a staff agency of AAF Headquarters, known as AC/AS, Materiel, Maintenance, and Distribution until July 1944, when it became AC/AS, Materiel and Services. As the representative of the AAF commanding general, the staff agency established policy and supervised operations of the Materiel Command and the Air Service Command, which were combined into the Air Technical Service Command in August 1944, uniting all logistical functions under a single headquarters.112 This change actually represented a return to 1941, when the Materiel Division had exercised unified control over all aspects of Air Corps logistics.

Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Echols, who replaced General Brett as chief

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of the Materiel Division in 1940* remained General Arnold’s chief adviser on materiel matters throughout the war, as commanding general of the Materiel Command until March 1943 and then as assistant chief of the air staff at AAF Headquarters. His long experience in Air Corps materiel matters, both as engineer and administrator, made him exceptionally well qualified to render outstanding service to the AAF logistical organization. Lt. Gen. William S. Knudsen, first as Director of Production in the office of the Under Secretary of War from 1942 to 1944, and later as Director of the Air Technical Service Command, contributed greatly to the operation of the whole aircraft production program. Among General Echols’ most important assistants in Washington were Maj. Gen. Bennett E. Meyers, Brig. Gens. Edward M. Powers, Benjamin W. Chidlaw, Frederick M. Hopkins, Jr., and Mervin E. Gross, and Cols. Roscoe C. Wilson, John W. Sessums, Jr., and James F. Phillips. Col. William F. Volandt, assistant to the chief of the Materiel Division from 1939 to 1942 and an experienced officer, handled AAF contract administration in Washington until the end of the war, overseeing the expenditure of more than thirty billion dollars. Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Lyon, who died in 1942, performed especially valuable service as technical executive of the Materiel Division between 1939 and 1941.

Echols and his staff provided over-all direction for AAF procurement programs and production, serving as the link between the AAF field organization and Washington, where top policy was being made. Echols himself represented the AAF on the Aircraft Production Board, and he or other members of his organization served on joint Army-Navy committees, in ARCO and the Aircraft Scheduling Unit, with the Joint Aircraft Committee, and on top War Department committees. The relationship between the staff office in Washington and the operating agency at Wright Field was not always clear or harmonious. Even between 1940 and March 1943, when Echols controlled the whole materiel organization, there were serious problems of jurisdiction between Washington and Wright, particularly in dealing with the procurement districts and with aircraft manufacturers. These problems persisted even after the separation of staff and command

* General Echols actually succeeded Brig. Gen. Carl Spaatz who was chief of the Materiel Division for less than a month after General Brett.

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in March 1943, but it would have been most unusual if they had not.113

Under a series of commanding generals, including George C. Kenney, Arthur W. Vanaman, Charles E. Branshaw, Kenneth B. Wolfe, and William S. Knudsen, Wright Field steadily broadened its functions and responsibilities; each wave of decentralization in Washington washed additional responsibilities into Wright Field. In 1943 Maj. Gen. Charles E. Branshaw, head of Materiel Command, insisted upon further decentralization of responsibilities to the procurement districts. The scope and degree of responsibilities placed on the districts, of which there came to be six during 1943, varied during the war, reflecting the tendencies in Washington and at Wright Field to tighten or slacken the reins of authority. The personnel strength of the Materiel Command from 1939 forward is indicative of the growing importance of the functions it performed. At Wright Field itself the strength grew from less than 2,000 on 1 July 1939 to more than 17,000 in 1943–44. Most of these employees were civilians, but the proportion of military grew significantly during the war, increasing from about 6 per cent in 1941 to about 40 per cent in 1943 The total strength of the command rose to more than 44,000 at the time of its integration into the Air Technical Service Command in August 1944. Of this number, more than 27,000 were in the districts, compared with 6,292 in the districts in January 1942. Civilians constituted more than 70 per cent of the command’s total strength throughout the war.114

The major procurement and production functions at Wright Field and in the procurement districts were organized under the production, engineering, procurement, and inspection divisions. During the greater part of the period from 1939 to 1945, these divisions operated separately with a considerable overlapping of responsibility and occasional conflicts. The Production Division under the vigorous direction of Brig. Gens. Kenneth B. Wolfe and, later, Orval R. Cook dominated operations at Wright Field until 1944, when all divisions concerned with procurement and inspection were organized into a single agency which handled the whole process from negotiation of contract, through production engineering and inspection, to acceptance of finished articles. Brig. Gen. Aaron E. Jones handled contract administration at Wright Field throughout the war. The procurement districts of the Materiel Command maintained regular

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contact with the manufacturers who produced AAF equipment. From offices in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, and other such centers, district supervisors directed the operations of a vast network of engineers, auditors, and inspectors who represented the AAF at all of the major plants of the aircraft industry. These resident representatives of the AAF provided guidance and helped solve manufacturers’ problems, checked on costs, and inspected and accepted materiel at the plants. Their presence on the premises helped much to keep the machinery of production moving at an accelerating pace. On some matters, particularly contracts, manufacturers sometimes tried to bypass the districts and deal directly with Wright Field or Washington, but the AAF usually frowned on such maneuvers. District supervisors of the caliber of Brig. Gens. Charles E. Branshaw* and Donald F. Stace, and Cols. Don L. Hutchins, Alfred H. Johnson, and Roy M. Jones, were generally capable of handling most of the problems encountered by manufacturers.115

The Navy assigned personnel to the Materiel Command procurement districts instead of setting up its own districts and thereby insured a considerable measure of cooperation between the two services. Some idea of the magnitude of the work done by the districts may be gleaned from the sizes of the inspection staffs maintained by the services. In November 1942 there were 110 AAF inspectors and 155 naval inspectors at the Martin plant in Baltimore, 40 AAF and 4 naval inspectors at the Curtiss-Wright plant in Buffalo, and in December 1942, 77 AAF inspectors and 181 naval inspectors with Consolidated and Vultee at San Diego, California.†116

The organizational chain which governed aircraft production was completed by the voluntary formation of a production council by the major aircraft manufacturers. In April 1942 the eight largest companies on the west coast formed the West Coast Aircraft War Production Council, and six months later, in October, the eastern manufacturers followed suit. In April 1943 the two branches organized the National Aircraft War Production Council, Inc., for the purpose of coordinating the production efforts of the whole industry. The council served as a research and information agency for the

* General Branshaw was supervisor of the Western District before becoming commanding general of the Materiel Command in 1943.

† The large number of naval inspectors is explained in part by the fact that they performed many duties which the AAF assigned to personnel other than inspectors.

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aviation industry, provided a medium for the exchange of production information among manufacturers, and worked with governmental agencies in seeking solutions to industry-wide problems. The pooling of technical knowledge, and sometimes of materials and manpower, as a voluntary action by the industry, complemented the AAF’s efforts to bring about a higher degree of coordination within the industry.117

Certain special committees organized by the manufacturers made an especially worthwhile contribution to production. Perhaps best known among these was the Boeing-Vega-Douglas committee which pooled the efforts of the three companies on behalf of B-17 production.118 Boeing, the creator of the B-17, could not by itself meet the demand for the plane, and other manufacturers had to be induced to produce B-17’s for the A. Without proper coordination and sharing of knowledge and resources among the companies involved, the AAF would never have received B-17’s, or almost any other major combat type, in the numbers it desired.