14. Conclusions

Article excerpt

What mobilization lessons can be learned from the United States during the World War II period? First, personalities matter. Roosevelt did not invest sufficient authority in any of the people in charge of war mobilization until he appointed true confidant and New Deal acolyte Byrnes to the position. No one prior to that time--Stettinius, Knudsen, or Nelson--had the president's full confidence. Byrnes was not steeped in knowledge of industry, but he knew how Washington worked and how the legislature operated. Roosevelt could give Byrnes decision authority and hen love on to other tasks, confident that Byrnes would do the correct (and politically astute) thing.

Second, the military and civilians in the Defense Department should be eager to let civilians run the economy and industry. Throughout the interwar period people in the War Department wanted that role and designed plans to seize it when a national emergency occurred. Roosevelt would not permit this, and it is hard to conceive of any president turning to the military or its civilian overlords to operate the largest economy in the world. The Defense Department does not have the knowledge to make it work and its priority--defeating the enemy to secure the country's political objectives--would almost assuredly conflict with proper management of the economy.

Third, planners must acknowledge the needs of allies in materiel planning. In World Wars I and II, the United States played the major allied logistics role. America's allies needed enormous support, but this was not planned for in either World War.

Fourth, domestic and partisan politics will intrude on mobilization (and demobilization) decisions at every pass. In World War II the stakes were enormous, and Roosevelt had to watch his political adversaries and even his allies. Byrnes and Nelson before him were fully aware that mobilization decisions were scrutinized by Congress, anti not only by the loyal opposition. Presidential and congressional politics were never even below the surface in this most major of wars, and planners can assume with utter confidence that it will not be in any conflict in the future. …