“We did it before and we can do it again…”

Why is it that, as a nation, we rush headlong into military operations, yet we’re such laggards when it comes to engaging in economic competition?

Not a single U.S. citizen can say that, during the whole of his or her lifetime on earth, our nation has been at peace. We remember well the events that grew into World War II. Since that time a number of wars involving our sons and daughters have taken place, and in every instance the country geared up and outproduced friend and foe alike. No stone was ever left unturned. We can do anything we set our minds to. Review, if you will, our Vol. VII, Art. 2 commentary entitled, “How times have changed …”. We need to create employment opportunities for today’s unemployed, and some of what we wrote back then bears repeating in today’s collapsing economy.

“It was 1941”, we wrote. “We were just emerging from the Great Depression and getting back on our feet again, but we were caught napping on December 7th by a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, our Naval base in the Hawaiian Islands, some 2,500 miles from the U.S. mainland … but starting from scratch, here’s what we did from 1941 through 1944:

• We revitalized our shipyards … about 100 of them.
• We built 2,571 Liberty Ships … and one of them, the SS Robert E. Peary**, was built in the remarkable time of just 4-and-a-half days!
• We built 534 Victory Ships.
• We built 1,198 LSTs.
• We built more than 800 DDs and more than 800 DEs.
… and that was just the small stuff.

• We built the world’s most powerful navy … 35 Aircraft Carriers, 10 Battleships, 2 Battle Cruisers, 15 Heavy Cruisers, 36 Light Cruisers … and hundreds and hundreds of Auxiliaries.

“All told, we delivered 5,150 vessels to the U.S. navy from 1941 to 1944, yet none of the time and effort devoted to shipbuilding stood in the way of those who were simultaneously building the more than 125,000 aircraft needed for the conduct of the war.

“Tanks, artillery, ordinance, wartime equipment and supplies of every description … all in a day’s work …”

Were there rules preventing the government from subsidizing our efforts? Indeed there were but no one gave a hoot. WWII was a national emergency and a question of national survival. Well, we’re faced with a national emergency once again but this time it’s a question of economic survival. Shipyard revitalization would be a great starting point. We were successful in the ‘40s, the Koreans hit paydirt from the early ‘70s on, and India is following suit today. It’s the way to go.

[** Mark the coincidence. Another Robert E. Peary is now under construction at NASSCO.]