20 MARCH 1942, Page 8



WHAT is happening in America today is one of the most stupendous things in history. I can find no better word to describe this event than those of my friend and colleague, Richard L. Strout of The Christian Science Monitor's Washington staff, writing from Detroit:

"America has just scrapped its biggest industry. The auto- mobile industry that turned out 5,000,000 cars and trucks in 1941 doesn't exist any more. Except for war purposes motor-car manufacture is as out of date today as the manufacture of whalebone-corsets. As the last car comes off the conveyor, workers are tearing out assembly-lines behind them. The immensity of the thing is almost terrifying. At the main Plymouth plant there are 24 to 28 miles of overhead conveyors and assembly-lines. They are being junked as fast as men can junk them. The greatest mass-production industry on earth is being scrapped. And even as the lines come down a new, bigger, and immensely more costly industry moves in. This is the arms- industry. The auto-industry turned out $1,000,000,000 worth of defence goods in 1941, as a " side line " to a simultaneous near-peak production of automobiles. This calendar year it is being asked to turn out between $5,0cio,000,00o and $6,000,000,000 of war goods, and expects to come near the mark. To do it, the very core of the industry is being yanked out. Engineers and plant-managers are awed by the very thing they are doing. The men crowd around to slap the final car that comes down the assembly-line. Some workers in bare arms, blue shirts, oily aprons„ and dungarees find it hard to speak. When will the next peace-time car come down?

" The automobile industry is at the height of its transition. An orderly confusion reigns in a dozen factories. Poignant drama is being enacted. Mass-production is like a poem. It is a poem of balance and rhythm. Instead of being the work of one man, mass-production is the poem of a whole city, of a nation. It required preliminary years of planning, and a nicety of expres- sion that went down into a split thousandth of an inch ; it meant complete interchangeability of parts ; it meant shipment of parts across the continent and then streams of tributary assembly-lines flowing at exactly the right second into the main assembly-line, where crews of men, as perfectly trained as circus-performers, put part after part on the moving thing until the shiny whole chugged off the line, one car a minute, to take Henry Jones and his family into the realm of heart's desire. That was the poem. And that poem of balance and planning and infinite detail, of genius and heartbreak and lifetime toil in which inarticulate men found self-expression, is being ripped out with crowbars and steel cables and tractors in Detroit."

Now Detroit has gone over to war-production for the duration, and new assembly-lines are rising beside those other new ones which have arisen in the past year and a half. Soon the nation will enter the same rhythm, will achieve the same production. poem, whose passing Mr. Strout so movingly describes. The juggernaut which will roll off these new assembly-lines will be the most nearly irresistible thing ever fashioned by the hand of man—and already it is well rolling. The Chrysler tank-arsenal is already producing twice the number of tanks that was estimated last August for January, 1942. The Ford-built Pratt and Whitney engine factory is ahead of schedule on everything. Ford's old factory was the greatest integrated industry on earth, and it employed about 8o,000 men at River Rouge. The new Ford bomber-plant, which will be in production by May, will employ 6o,000 to 8o,000 men by itself—and it is only one of several. while the River Rouge plant goes on producing war-goods at

top speed. •

This paean of production may be as boring as it seems boastful. It is sounded here again for one reason: because the tale of the passing of the motor-industry is such a graphic and expressive indication of America's effort today. It shows that " business as usual " has been buried with a completeness we could hardly have anticipated. The oily workers who patted the last car coming down the assembly-line also said good-bye to complacency and business-as-usual. America today means simply business. But Americans are not deceived by the magnitude of the mutual task, no matter how much we are able to produce. We are at present face to face with distances. It is 12,000 miles to the African front by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and half again as far to the Far East by the same route. It is nearly as far by the more precarious route across the Pacific. Travel-time is from six to ten weeks, depending on the ship. That is the measure of the present problem. American troops and equipment, like those of Great Britain, have shown themselves to be superior to their enemies when they were disposed in equal or anything like equal numbers. The record of our forces in the Philippines. against terrific odds, has aroused the nation to deep pride, just as Britain's achievements have done in similar gallant stands. There is no doubt of the efficiency of our troops and our newer equip- ment—British or American—but both nations face the same problems of transport and tremendous need.

President Roosevelt, engaged in his favourite sport of puzzling the enemy, said the other day that we have eight or ten American Expeditionary Forces planned or on their way. The statement was not rhetorical. We are planning an army of 7,000,000 men and ample naval and transport facilities and fighting tools. The problem is thus back to its elementary terms of distance, to which is added the factor of time. Already, it may be assumed but cannot be discussed concretely, American forces are beginoto8 to arrive in Australia, in West Africa, and in the Near East. In addition, large American garrisons man important outposts: Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Trinidad and the Caribbean Islands, Newfoundland, Iceland, Northern Ireland. The time Will come when from these outposts and the other points to which A.E.F. forces are being directed offensive activities will begin against the enemy. That moment has not arrived, because the forces are far from in place or supplied. Only harassing activities and efforts to prevent the farther advances of Axis forces are Pos- sible now. It is well recognised in the United States that the coming months are filled with great perils: that Japan's advance to Malaysia, not to mention Germany's next stroke, may mean gains which will take years to undo. By early February the full gravity of the Pacific position had sunk into American thinking. Yet our basic recognition of the Nazis as the central menace had not been shaken. The necessity of avoiding great retreats on all fronts was at last driven home. And so we tackled our three great tasks: to build the tools, to train the men, to transport them to the ends of the earth Of these problems, the third was by all odds the greatest. It was the measure of the war's length. American civilian morale, like American men and machines in the war, was measuring up to severe standards. The rubber-shortage already makes perceptible changes in our entire manner of life. The sinkings of ships off our coasts cause no panic, but grim determination to dispose of the submarines. The arrival of our first A.E.F. in Ireland was applauded. We are ready for whatever may come, with a sober consciousness that the ultimate defeat of the Axis may take long, a realisation that the flower of American youth must fight in every continent and on all seas, but a firm confidence in ultimate success.