After Pearl Harbor: American War Production

July 28, 2017

On December 6th, 1941, life in the United States was just like any other day. People went to work, factories produced whatever products or tools they always had; there wasn’t a lot for the nation to worry about, save for concerns about what was happening in Europe.

World War II had been going on since September of 1939 and for the most part, the US had remained uninvolved. There was always the question of “What if the nation went to war?” but this wasn't really a serious thought that weighed heavily on the minds of most Americans.

Within a day, that all changed. Suddenly, people weren’t going to work, but instead rushing to recruitment offices for the Navy, Marines, or Army. Factories started to shift focus from their standard lines of products to things that would be necessary for a war. And it all started with the decision by the Japanese to launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Gearing Up for War

American war productionThough the United States wasn’t at all eager to jump into war, the decision ultimately wasn’t left up to Congress or even the President. The Japanese forced America’s hand and subsequently, forced the entire country to drop what it was doing to focus on supporting the war.

After the attack, American production focused heavily on war materials and the numbers associated with American World War II production are astounding. In the four years of war after the Pearl Harbor attack, US factories pumped out hundreds of thousands of machines of war, including tanks and aircraft. Fighter planes and bombers made up a large portion of that production, averaging a total of 49,000 aircraft each year. Tanks and machine guns also saw a massive jump in manufacturing, with over 102,000 tanks and 2.6 million machine guns produced by the end of the war.

Even with all this preparation and production of heavy duty weaponry, the United States suffered a great deal during the war. The Battle of Midway in June of 1942 marked a turning point of the war in the Pacific, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the bloody end. In the European Theater, Germany proved to be a formidable force against the Allies until well into 1944.

In total, over 419,000 American servicemen and civilians were killed, though that number pales when compared to the Soviet and Chinese losses of over 20 million each.

The United States wanted to avoid war, but once it was laid on its doorstep, Americans refused to let up until its aggressors were no longer a threat to the safety and freedom of the entire world.

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