- Feb 27, 2010
You could almost say America began to plan for a war when it started to expand the Army and Air Force around that time (it already had a Navy that could span the globe), and appointed George C. Marshall as Army Chief of Staff in 1939. Roosevelt jumped Marshall over about several Generals more senior to him, but he was already Acting Chief of Staff, and his organising genius was recognised.I think one could look further still. 1938 perhaps and the aircraft orders placed by both France and Britain in that year?
Following the Munich Crisis both France and the UK placed significant orders for American aircraft....approx 500 each. The British sent a mission(Group Capt Arthur Harris amongst others) to USA in that year to evaluate American types. They were not particularly impressed with what they saw, judging that the B17(“Flying Fortress”) and the PBY4 Catalina to be unsuitable but did recommend that orders should be placed for training and patrol aircraft. Orders were subsequently placed for 200 Lockheed Electras high speed passenger aircraft(to be converted into Hudson martime patrol aircraft) and several hundred Texan trainers. Far larger orders followed on in 1939, 1940 etc....
The French were far less fussy/far more desperate and they placed orders for Douglas DB7 Havocs, Martin 167 Marylands bombers and Curtis P36 Bell P39 and later Cutiss P40 fighters. The French instigated the establishment of the Allied Purchasing Commission in 1939 based in New York to coordinate Anglo French orders for American aircraft. One of the leading advocates of post war European unity, Jean Monet, was central in the establishment of this office. It’s interesting to note that these French aircraft were for the very latest American types and Roosevelt approved these orders inspite of serious objections by the American army.
Prefiguring his public Arsenal of Democracy statement Roosevelt privately assured Chamberlain in December 1938 that he would “have the industrial rescources of the American nation behind him in the event of war with the dictatorships”.
The speed that the US went from having the 17th largest army (I think) in the world to one of the largest, probably the most mechanised and best supplied, was nothing short of stunning. It says something about the character of the nation, and it did shorten the war.