New book reveals Allied industrial efforts to feed World War Two machine

A new book by Charles K. Hyde reveals the industrial efforts that were put in place by the Allies in order to fulfil and meet demand for the World War Two war machine. The book features a series of original photographs taken at Detroit’s war factories where the great majority of supplies and weaponry was being manufactured and produced.

The book, ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ takes its name from a President Roosevelt quote in 1940. This was before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America had joined World War Two. Roosevelt  said that the American people would need to provide the supplies and weaponry for the Allied war effort in Europe, he said: “ We must be the great arsenal of democracy…”.

Tanks were by far the most important vehicle the Americans had to produce. The German Panzers had been manufactured in their thousands and the Allies were being outnumbered by them. In the 1930s the US didn’t even have the right facilities to make combat tanks. It wasn’t until 1939 that the US Army began assigning tank manufacturer contracts to private companies, which were actually building railway equipment at the time. But then it was realised that Detroit’s car manufacturing industry would be much better suited to making the Army’s tanks on a mass scale. The government created the Automotive Council for War Production, and the book brings together a unique collection of pictures of that part of the war effort.

M3 General Grant tanks being finalised at the Chrysler Tank Arsenal. When the US first entered the war in 1941, the M3 was the best medium-sized tank and could be quickly produced. However it wasn’t seen as ideal since it was too high and its gun turret only had a turning range of 15 degrees.

A multibank engine used in the M3 and M4 tanks. It was a modified car engine with five six-cylinder engines all connected by one driveshaft.

Surpassing the M3, the M4 General Sherman tank is shown here in the last stages of production in 1944, with a huge stack of tank treads in the centre awaiting fitting.  The M4’s gun turret had been improved to turn a full 360 degrees. Its hull was welded, rather than riveted.

Detroit Diesel workers assemble a twin diesel tank engine designed by General Motors. Tank engine design and development continued throughout World War Two. The M4 Sherman was fitted with six diesel and petrol engines, the Slate reports.

Ford’s River Rouge plant workmen assemble Ford V-8 tank engines. It was the best at 450 horsepower and viewed by the Army as dependable, with little maintenance required.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE