Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 16

Inequality
in the Arsenal of Democracy

MICHIGAN RESIDENTS, LIKE THOSE THROUGHout the entire nation, were shocked and angered by the Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Because of its seemingly limitless industrial capacity, Michigan became an immediately critical factor in the struggle to prevent the Axis powers— Germany, Italy, and Japan—from gaining world domination. Within hours after the news of Pearl Harbor reached Washington, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Army were dispatched to Detroit. Four truckloads of soldiers were assigned to guard the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel. Police patrolled every radio station and transmitter in the city. Plans were formulated to prevent sabotage and, if necessary, to seize all foreign-born Japanese in the state. With speed and efficiency, the automobile capital of the world was transformed into the “armorer for the Allies”—the “Arsenal of Democracy.”


Michigan in the War

Michigan's contributions to the war effort are legendary and began even before active American involvement in the conflict commenced. In 1940, the United States National Defense Council, headed by General Motors President William S. Knudsen, was created to coordinate industrial preparedness. Knudsen toured industrial centers across the country and devised a blueprint to convert automobile plants, and their suppliers, into producers of war materiel. In August 1941, the government decreed that domestic automobile production had to be curtailed, and the following February it ordered that all automobile manufacturing was to cease until

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