75 Years Ago—Sept. 4, 1943: Australian 9th Division lands near Lae on New Guinea.
On Labor Day I thought it was appropriate to honor the vital role of production in the Allied victory in World War II.
The United States was well situated to become the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Other than a handful of bombings from Japanese submarine-based planes and shellings from submarines, American soil was unscathed by the war. The factories and shipyards functioned free from danger. The US also had a large industrial infrastructure with Yankee flexibility. Assembly lines for automobiles and washing machines were quickly reconfigured to crank out jeeps and tanks.
To compensate for the loss of labor due to the military draft, women stepped forward to work in the factories, with 16 million women in the workforce by 1943.
Work days were lengthened and manufacturing wages rose, from an average of $25 per week in 1940 to $45.70 in 1944, even while civilian prices and rents were frozen.
American industry and workers stepped up production so that by 1944, real economic output had increased 150%. By 1942, the United States produced more arms than all the Axis countries combined. As a result, America was able to keep itself and the rest of the Allies well supplied.
Dark spots existed. Despite taking a “no-strike pledge” after Pearl Harbor, unions launched many strikes that slowed production, especially in the railroads and the coal and steel industries. The threat of government takeover, public outrage, and disgust from the military ended these strikes. In June 1944, sailors on the seaplane tender USS Coos Bay sarcastically sent $412 in pennies to buy off the workers at the Wright aircraft factory in Ohio.
In the end, American production was a key factor in the Allied victory. By keeping the Allies suppled with arms, vehicles, planes, ships, equipment, uniforms, medical supplies, and food, the “Arsenal of Democracy” lived up to its name.
Italy signs secret armistice with the Allies.
75 Years Ago—Sept. 2, 1943: In Germany, Albert Speer is appointed Reich minister for arms and war production.
Movie premiere of musical The Sky’s the Limit, starring Fred Astaire & Joan Leslie, featuring hit song “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”
75 Years Ago—Sept. 1, 1943: US Navy assumes aerial antisubmarine warfare responsibility in the Atlantic from the US Army Air Force.
Civil Air Patrol is relieved of antisubmarine duties; the civilian pilots had spotted 173 subs, 91 vessels in distress, and lifeboats carrying 363 survivors.
US 5th Ranger Battalion is activated at Camp Forrest, Tullahoma, TN; the 5th Rangers will land on Omaha Beach on D-day.
75 Years Ago—Aug. 31, 1943: First use of Grumman F6F Hellcat in combat, from carrier USS Yorktown in raid on Marcus Island in the Pacific—only 18 months after first flight of F6F prototype.
US Civil Air Patrol’s Coastal Patrol program discontinued as U-boat threat has waned.
Destroyer escort USS Harmon commissioned at Quincy, MA, the first US Navy ship named for an African-American—Leonard Ray Harmon, who died in action in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal while caring for the wounded.
75 Years Ago—Aug. 30, 1943: The second (and current) carrier USS Hornet is launched, Newport News VA (now a museum ship in Alameda, CA).
75 Years Ago—Aug. 29, 1943: Germans impose martial law in Denmark.
Germans dissolve Danish army and navy and interns personnel.
In Denmark, King Christian X and royal family are confined to the palace.
Danes scuttle fleet: 13 ships escape to Sweden, only 5 captured.
75 Years Ago—Aug. 28, 1943: Bulgaria’s Tsar Boris III (age 49) dies of unknown reasons, possibly poisoned (he resisted fascists and protected Jews); succeeded by six-year-old Simeon II.
Danish government resigns; German Gen. Hermann von Hanneken takes control.
75 Years Ago—Aug. 27, 1943: US Eighth Air Force flies its first mission to “Crossbow” sites—associated with testing, production, and launching of German V-1 & V-2 weapons.
British sloop HMS Egret is sunk by a German Hs 293 radio-controlled bomb in the Bay of Biscay, the first ship ever sunk by a guided bomb.
Movie premiere of Watch on the Rhine, starring Paul Lukas (who will win Oscar for best actor) & Bette Davis.