January 6

This Day in History

World War II

Jan 6, 1942:

Roosevelt commits to biggest arms buildup in U.S. history

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announces to Congress that he is authorizing the largest armaments production in the history of the United States.

Committed to war in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. had to reassess its military preparedness, especially in light of the fact that its Pacific fleet was decimated by the Japanese air raid. Among those pressing President Roosevelt to double U.S. armaments and industrial production were Lord William Beaverbrook, the British minister of aircraft production, and members of the British Ministry of Supplies, who were meeting with their American counterparts at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Beaverbrook, a newspaper publisher in civilian life, employed production techniques he learned in publishing to cut through red tape, improve efficiency, and boost British aircraft production to manufacturing 500 fighters a month, and he felt the U.S. could similarly beef up armament production.

Spurred on by Lord Beaverbrook and Prime Minister Churchill, Roosevelt agreed to the arms buildup. He announced to Congress that the first year of the supercharged production schedule would result in 45,000 aircraft, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 antiaircraft guns, and 8 million tons in new ships. Congressmen were stunned at the proposal, but Roosevelt was undeterred: "These figures and similar figures for a multitude of other implements of war will give the Japanese and Nazis a little idea of just what they accomplished."

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