The plan the Allied Powers had during World War II was that they must not only produce the latest technology, but in order to defeat the Axis Powers, they must also out-produce them overwhelmingly, so that there was no question of their ability to provide a crushing superiority of equipment in any aspect of the war.
In a way, the Great Depression was a good preparation for what was to come: Americans had learned to scrimp and persevere. When metals became scarce, plastics were developed to take their place. Copper was taken out of pennies and replaced with steel; nickel was removed from nickels. War-inspired pragmatism even affected fashions: To save material, men’s suits lost their pant cuffs and vests, and women painted their legs to take the place of nylons. By the end of 1940, 64 million pairs of nylons had been sold in America. But before the next year ended, war came, and the three most common sheer stocking materials—silk, nylon, and rayon—were all but lost to the war effort. Much of what little silk was available to the United States was used to make powder sacks for the military, because it left no residue inside gun barrels. This is one example of how the American industry went into full throttle for the war, changing the American way of life.
In 1939, the United States Army ranked thirty-ninth in the world, possessing a cavalry force of fifty thousand and using horses to pull the artillery. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the president set staggering goals for the nation’s factories: 60,000 aircraft in 1942 and 125,000 in 1943; 120,000 tanks in the same time period and 55,000 antiaircraft guns.War production profoundly changed American industry.
Companies already engaged in defense work expanded. Others, like the automobile industry, were transformed completely. In 1941, more than three million cars were manufactured in the United States. Chrysler, instead of making cars, made fuselages. General Motors made airplane, guns, trucks, and tanks. Packard made Rolls-Royce engines for the British Air Force. And the Ford Motor Company performed something like a miracle 24-hours a day. The average car had some 15,000 parts. The B-24 Liberator long-range bomber had 1,550,000. One came off the line every 63 minutes. While 16 million men and women marched to war, 24 million more moved in search of defense jobs, often for more pay than they previously had ever earned. Eight million women stepped into the work force and ethnic minority groups, such as African-American and Latinos, found job opportunities as never before.
The other nations of the Allied Powers in Europe were also experiencing extreme industrial reform. Over in Scotland, for example, while the men fought in the war, the women's land army and Scottish school children helped to bring in the harvest and potato crop, a vital food source during the war due to its hardiness. Women worked in factories, just like in America, in the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS), Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). 10,000 women at the Rolls-Royce factory at Hillington built the Merlin engines that powered spitfires and Lancaster bombers.
Met only by the Industrial Revolution itself, this time of industrial reform was an astounding era. What was achieved during this period during World War II had not been thought possible before it was actually achieved, what with its unprecedented amount of production.