The Arsenal of Democracy
Mobilization was the first priority as Americans prepared for war. Although the United States had the potential to support the entire Allied effort, resources had to be channeled toward appropriate ends, making enormous organizational adjustments a requirement for the nation to operate on a successful war footing.
It was a daunting task. The economy had been in shambles in the 1930s as the nation struggled with the consequences of the Great Depression. With 25 percent of the workforce unemployed and a similar percentage underemployed, the industrial sector was but a shadow of its past might. As spending for defense in 1940 brought about the economic revival that economist John Maynard Keynes had predicted, the nation discovered the need for centralized direction—to a degree unprecedented in American history— to ensure the timely delivery of essential resources. Slowly, in a series of fits and starts, the United States converted to a war footing and found a way to produce what was needed most.