Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People

By Claude Moore Fuess | Go to book overview

XIV
The Last Big Job

IN AN ADDRESS delivered in 1943, in St. Louis, Eastman reminded his audience of a statement by Paul Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, shortly after Pearl Harbor, to the effect that transportation, and especially railway transportation, would prove to be the vulnerable Achilles' heel of the American production effort. Goebbels commented particularly on the American shortage of rolling stock, which at a time when the country faced such strange problems as the paralysis of coastwise shipping and the dwindling supply of tires and gasoline would, he predicted, prove an insuperable handicap to our war effort. Our General Staff were well aware that we were facing a "war of movement," and Eastman listened more than once to prophecies from people in responsible circles in Washington that the railroads were certain to break down under the strain. They did not break down, even though they had to handle the biggest traffic load in history.

As a matter of record, conditions had begun to improve months before the United States entered the war. Although railroad cars and locomotives were in 1941 fewer than they had been in 1917, more than $8,000,000 had during the interval been spent on improvement of the properties, and motor truck traffic had effected miracles in short-haul transportation. The number of passenger cars registered in the United States had risen from 2,310,000 in 1915 to about 27,300,000 in 1940. In 1940 alone the automobile industry had produced about 777,000 trucks, and the total number of all types in the country was not far from 5,000,000. While this phenomenal increase in motor transportation was taking place, railway traffic had also improved steadily during 1940 and 1941; it still handled nearly two thirds of the intercity business. So prosperous were the railroads that Eastman wrote to President Roose

-270-

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Joseph B. Eastman: Servant of the People
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • I - Yankee Background 3
  • II - Growing Up 8
  • III - An Amherst Education 19
  • IV - Apprenticeship in Public Service 37
  • V - Transition to Power 61
  • VI - From State to Nation 80
  • VII - The Independent Commissioner 96
  • VIII - The Prosperity Era 126
  • IX - Valuation Is Vexation 153
  • X - Problems and Policies 166
  • XI - Federal Coordinator of Transportation 180
  • XII - The Coordinator's Task and Achievements 211
  • XIII - Eastman and the New Deal 245
  • XIV - The Last Big Job 270
  • XV - The End of the Road 297
  • XVI - The Measure of a Man 312
  • Index 345
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