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Freedom's Forge



Arhur Herman







More books on Business

Bill Knuden lead the conversion from private to war material production. When he first came to Buffalo to make Model T's for Ford, he took away every file and hammer in the factory. When he moved to Chevrolet he did the same thing - to make his workers rely on the machining process to make every part fit.

Henry Kaiser avoided telling his management staff what to do. Instead he asked questions designed to prompt the answer he wanted, and then "That's a great idea. Let's try that."

He was also an innovator. First to put rubber wheels on his wheelbarrows - and ,oved twice as much dirt. He was first to put a plow blade on front of Caterpillar tractors. And when Cat refused to put a diesel engine in them, he simply did that himself.

He was a dedicated cultivator of legislators. He got California to impose a gasoline tax to pay for new roads (which he of course built).

Competition to do fastest build of Liberty ship. The first took 253 days. Steadily reduced that, mainly by prefabbing sections, culminating in one boat being finished in 5 days.

Kaoser was making between $60,000 and $100,000 on every Liberty boat he built. That made him vulnerable to having excess profits confiscated. He was also dealing with a chronic shortage of steel for his boats. Killed 2 birds with one stone by getting $100m loan to build a new steel mill in the San Fernando Valley (middle of nowhere so cheap land, plenty of labour available, and near a junction of 3 railroads).

Small contractors also heavily involved. Frank Hobbs had invented a superhard paint finish for masonite that cd be used as a substitute for tiles in wet areas. Took that peacetime product and used it to design prefab buildings for the army, to replace steel buildings which were heavy to transport and slow to erect. By 1943 he was turning out a hut every 15 minutes, and by end of war had nade 12,000 or them. After the war they were just abandoned. Four decades later a survey made of the Alaskan ones which had been exposed to worst weather. Not only had they survived better than steel ones, most were still livable.

The B-29 project turned out to be the most organizational and most expensive project of the war (even manhattan Project came in cheaper) A Superfortress had 40.000 different parts and a million rivets.

At one of plants building B-29 motors was a widow who lived in a tiny trailer near Atlanta, who had signed up the day the plant opened and worked every day until the end of the war. Helen Dortch Longstreet was the widow of a Civil War general whomshe married when she was 34 and he was 76. She was 80 when she started working at the Bell plant.

When the Americans first started bombing Japan they used same tactics as used in European theatre - high level daytime raids. But dismal results, so switched to very low (5000') night raids. 9 Mar 1945 firebombed Tokyo and set whole blocks alight and boiled the water in the canals. Destroyed 250,000 buildings and killed 83,000 people.

In 5 years from July 1940 to August 1945, Am shipyards launched 141 aircraft carriers, 8 battleships, 807 cruisers and destroyers, 203 submarines, and 52m tons of merchant ships (mainly Henry Kaiser's Liberty boats). Produced 324,000 aircraft.








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