Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Map Room Papers, 1941-1945
Box 162

Naval Aide's Files
(A1-1) Habbakuks (Floating Airdromes for Asia Theatre), July 1942-January 1945





October 3, 1942


          Subject:          Letter from Mr. Donald Nelson to the President, dated October 3, 1942.

1. Mr. Nelson's report shows that we can build an air force of the size required to secure air supremacy.

2. Air action as the dominant factor, properly supported and extended by the action of surface forces will win the war.

3. The Army Air Forces are prepared to operate the required equipment provided for in the Air War Plan '42, a copy of which you have.

4. Almost all of our combat air units can reach the point of employment under their own power. Shipping requirements for the remainder and accessory equipment described in the Air War Plan can be met.

5. To obtain decisive results, air power must be employed en masse – half measures will not do. Working with the RAF we can apply the mass necessary when the equipment is available.

6. To apply direct pressure against Japan, advances must be made by utilizing air strength supported by surface forces so that we can obtain bases from which air power can hit at the heart of Japan.

7. This advancing of bases must be relentless and must be limited only by the availability of forces not required to crush Germany.

8. I realize the drain of this plan on the Nation's productive capacity, but I have every confidence in it. Therefore, it is urgently recommended that you direct Mr. Nelson to give aircraft production an unassailable priority over the other programs outlined in his letter and that we adhere to the Air War Plan with steadfastness and confidence.

Lieutenant General, U.S.A.
Commanding General, Army Air Forces

Incl: Memo for Gen. Arnold frm
        F.D.R., 10/6/42 /w/
        Ltr to the Pres. frm Mr.
        Nelson, 10/3/42 /w/ memo
        to Mr. Nelson frm Joint
        Aircraft Planning Com., 9/28/42
        subj: Aircraft Prod. in 1943 /w/
        Exhibit A /w/ Tables 1 thru 11.

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October 6, 1942.

                GENERAL H.H. ARNOLD

Will you speak to me about this?


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October 3, 1912


The President
The White House
Washington, D. C.

My dear Mr. President:

In response to your letter of September 17 listing the number of airplanes which you regard as essential to be produced in 1943, I have had the matter studied thoroughly.

1. I believe your objectives can be achieved if airplanes are given a clear green light over all other war programs. There is for this purpose sufficient material and labor. Facilities which are now in existence, those already planned, plus a very limited number of new plants, as well as some conversion from other purposes, will be adequate.
2. If you decide on your objectives, there are some major considerations to bear in mind.
(a) Additional strain on the supply of aluminum, alloy steel, machine tools and other industrial equipment will develop. As you say in your letter "something of course must give way". In view of the limit of our production resources, the balance of our requirements will have to be adjusted, and, in some cases, postponed.
(b) Your objective can in any case only be carried out in 1943 if the decision to do so is taken at once. I suggest then that the necessary readjustment of the remainder of the program of requirements be dealt with by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by me immediately thereafter.
(c) The prospects of producing in 1943 the plane objectives are based on the assumption that the planes to be produced are to be those of the present, and now contemplated, models and design. Obviously, any major changes in type would bring new difficulties and delays. If, however, as you may well have in mind, any material changes should be made in the types now contemplated, then decisions on these matters should be made within a very short time after you have decided on your quantity objectives.

Attached is a more detailed report on the subject.

Respectfully yours,
Donald M. Nelson


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PLANNING COMMITTEE                                                                            IN REPLY REFER TO

September 28, 1942

TO:                Donald M. Nelson

FROM:          Joint Aircraft Planning Committee

SUBJECT:     Aircraft Production in 1943

A. Our aircraft production plans have all been made in relation to the President's objective of 125,000 planes for 1943. Appraisals of this objective have all been on the basis of the existing spare and spare parts requirements, averaging 30% spares. Reassessment of these spare requirements is now under way by the Joint Aircraft Committee. This will probably result in a downward revision of most of the spare requirements, possibly to about 25%.

You have recently been requested to evaluate the possibility of attaining a new objective of 131,000 planes in 1943. Taking into account the changed composition of planes in this new proposal, and the probable reduction in the provision of spares, we find that the burden of achieving the new 131,000 plane program, in terms of machine tools, facilities, and raw material requirements, differs only inconsequentially from the previous 125,000 plane objective. The following analysis, therefore, has been made throughout in terms of fulfilling the President's existing objective of 125.000 planes with 30% spares.

I. Objectives for 1943

Airplane production in 1942 will probably total under 50,000 planes as contrasted with the President's objective of 60,000. The tactical plane production will fell one-third short. Production for the first quarter of 1943 is already pretty well set by current activities, at a level one-quarter short of the President's objective.

The major limiting factors for aircraft production in 1943 are in fabricating capacity for aircraft engines, propellers, and other components, and for aluminum products, and in allocations of machine tools, alloy steel, and copper. These limiting factors can be overcome by prompt and ruthless action, including severe cuts in other programs and the diversion to the aircraft program of raw materials, machine tools, existing structures, and manpower from other military products.

The most rapid possible completion of facilities now being built will affect aircraft production in 1942 little if at all. This would provide capacity to build about 107,000 planes in 1943. If new facilities are added which can he completed by the middle of 1943and necessary materials are allocated, production can be increased to 112,000 planes.

To get the maximum possible plane production, the expansion objectives should be somewhat higher than now appears feasible. It is therefore suggested that schedules, contracts, and allocations be based on producing 125,000 planes in 1943. At the same time, military plans should be based on the tactical employment of 112,000 planes.

These estimates presuppose that various types and models will remain as now contemplated. Further substantial changes in design or composition as a result of fighting experience may reduce quantities completed.

The magnitude of the suggested objective is indicated by the fact that it will require 40% of the Nation's military production. It will require the diversion to the aircraft program of 2/3 of the tools now scheduled for expanding plants for ordnance and transport and combat vehicles. It will require reaching a monthly rate of plane production of 6,600 for next January. By mid-1943, it must be the rate of 11,100. By December, it will have to be 13,500 planes monthly – 1,000 above any previous peak estimate.

II. What Must be Done to Achieve this Schedule.

A. All aircraft facilities now planned must be completed at the earliest possible date without interference. Approximately 85,000 tools are needed, or 35% of the output of the machine tool industry for the next year.

B. Additional fabricating capacity must be planned and completed by the middle of 1943. New plants will be required for propellers, engines, airframes, components. It may be possible to convert some existing plants (including some ordnance plants).

C. Orders should be issued to transfer critical tools not being utilized in the production of critical end products, to aircraft plants requiring such machine tools.

D. Alumina capacity increases will have to be expedited.

E. Aluminum fabricating facilities will have to be expedited and increased. Such facilities must be allocated tools and materials on the same basis as proposed for aircraft plants. These will be required for production of high-strength extrusions, high-strength sheet, aluminum wire, rod, and bar, and propeller forgings. Possible help can be secured by converting steel working facilities. Some plane designs will have to be modified to substitute tubes or rolled shapes for scarce products like extrusions.

F. Much closer scheduling of aluminum to aircraft plants, much tighter material and inventory control in such plants, and a sharp reduction in the flow-time in aircraft fabrication, all are needed.

G. Alloy steel needs can be met only by diverting steel from other proposed uses such as combat vehicles and ordnance. Even with the utilization of some open hearth alloy steel, it will still be necessary to expedite electric furnace capacity expansion now planned.

H. Aircraft copper requirements are approximately 5% of total requirements and should cause no great difficulties to give aircraft adequate allocations.

I. It is essential that bauxite imports be continued under convoy at the rate of 300,000 tons a month (for U.S. and Canadian production), until facilities are completed to use domestic low-grade bauxite.

III. Impact Upon Production of Other Munitions.

We do not have the raw materials nor the industrial capacity to reach the Presidential aircraft objective in 1943 and also fulfill all our other present objectives. The major over-all bottlenecks as now forseeable are in alloy steel and copper.

A. Steel. Alloy steel requirements for the 4th quarter of 1942 will have to be cut down by 25% before they can be brought into line with supply. Sharp cuts are necessary regardless of how many aircraft are produced. The shortage continues at a gradually decreasing intensity, with requirements for the 4th quarter of 1943 in excess of supply by one-seventh. (Table 1.) Because aircraft takes such a small part (15%) of the total alloy steel requirements, the necessary percentage cuts in alloy steel for other services will not be much heavier for the 125,000 plane objective than under the present 107,000 plane schedule.

Equipment for the ground Army accounts for almost half of the alloy steel demand; naval ships take one-twelfth, and naval ordnance 5%. (Table 1.) Tank and combat vehicles make up over half of the Army demands. Ten individual items, including medium, assault, and light tanks, self-propelled mounts, 50 cal. ammunition, 75 m.m. shell bodies, 2-1/2 ton trucks, and 13-place personnel carriers, take two-thirds of all the Army requirements. (Table 2.) If all Army ground items were cut by half for the next quarter, that would eliminate 92% of the shortage. If, in addition, naval ordnance and ship requirements were cut by one-eighth, that would balance alloy steel supplies and requirements, including requirements for the 125,000 plane program.

Cuts as large as this would be only temporary. By the second quarter of 1943, a cut of 1/3 in production for the Army and no cut for the Navy would be all that was required; and by the 4th quarter, only a cut of l/4th for the ground Army.

B. Copper. As indicated above, aircraft requirements represent only a small proportion of the total. The excess of aggregate copper requirements over the available supply is indicated in Table 3.

C. Machine tools. Completion of the President's aircraft program will depend upon large and immediate increases in the proportion of new machine tools which go into aircraft industry plants and aluminum fabrication. This would mean deferring completion of many incomplete plant expansions for Army-type equipment by 3 to 6 months (note Exhibit A.) If current production of ordnance and other Army-type equipment is out as sharply as seems necessary in view of the alloy steel and copper bottlenecks, most of the reduced ground Army production can be readily fabricated in plants already completed. Even some plants already completed can be converted to aircraft. (This has already taken place in some cases, where ordnance capacity is excessive.) Expanding and expediting the aluminum-fabricating program, however, may compete at some points with other raw material expansions.

D. Aluminum supply, though critical for aircraft, cannot be met by diversion from other uses. More than 30% of most aluminum products now go to aircraft. The over-all aluminum ingot supply will be adequate to meet the demand. (Tables 4 and 5.) The slight apparent deficit for the next two quarters can be overcome by reducing the flow-time, and by the reduction in the ground Army objectives necessitated by the alloy steel and copper situations.

As already indicated, there is a much tighter situation for several types of aluminum products, especially high-strength sheet, extrusions, wire, rod, and bar, and some forgings. (Tables 6 and 7.) Ground Army uses require almost half as much wire, rod, and bar as do aircraft; and the Navy 1/3 as much. (Tables 8 and 8-A.) Cuts in production for these services would ease the aluminum wire, rod, and bar situation materially. In other scarce aluminum products, such as extruded shapes (Table 9,) tubing (Table 10). and sheets (Table 11 ), the quantities used by the ground forces and the Navy are so small that even sharp cuts in their requirements will still leave marked deficits. Speeding up completion of plant expansions now under way, diverting processing equipment from steel, cutting down the flow-time, and redesigning planes away from scarce aluminum products will help to balance supply and demand in these cases.

IV. Recommendations.

The objective for 1943 should be 125,000 planes.

If this objective is to be achieved it will be essential that certain broad policies be followed in addition to the detailed suggestions made above.

A. There must be a reduction in other parts of the military program to keep total demands within range of feasibility. Otherwise unbalance prevents maximum production of completed units.

B. Effective manpower policies must be put into action so that essential mining operations (such as bauxite) will not be interrupted; that plants are kept operating at full capacity; that key production or management men are not drafted or recruited into the armed forces; that essential industrial workers are not left in non-essential industries.

C. There must be tight control of material and production scheduling, of inventories, and of production of all parts and instruments. This means more direct guidance by Government authorities of manufacturing establishments.

D. There is need for centralizing aircraft production, procurement, and directive responsibilities in a single existing agency. The diffusion of authority that exists today would be relieved by concentrating authority.

E. The airplane goal for 1943 cannot be produced unless a Directive from the Commander-in-Chief is given to take whatever material, tools, equipment; and manpower are needed, and an order given to all Arms and Services, and other Government agencies involved, to act promptly in meeting such requests. Such action will have serious consequences on other elements of munitions production. Some projects will he delayed for many months. Unless superior authority is prepared to face this fact realistically and to stick to it, the endeavor should not be undertaken. Half measures will result not only in failure to meet the aircraft goal, but in a reduction in total war output through the confusion incident to alteration of programs and resultant loss of time.

It is the belief of the Committee that if the above proposals are adopted and carried through to the letter, there is a possibility of meeting the objective of 125,000 planes next year.

For the Joint Aircraft Planning Committee

Robert Nathan,Chairman, W.P.B. Planning Committee

Mordecai Ezekiel, Consultant, W.P.B. Planning Committee


     Gen. B. E. Meyers, U.S. Army Air Force

     T. P. Wright, Asst. Chief, Aircraft Branch
     A. H. Bunker, Chief, Aluminum & Magnesium Branch
     T.C. Blaisdell, Member, Planning Committee
     Robert Nathan, Chairman, Planning Committee
     Mordecai Ezekiel, Consultant, Planning Committee


     Capt. E. M. Pace, Jr., U.S.N.
     Capt. H. B. Sallada, U.S.N.

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This memo is found in full with it's attachments in the PDF. (LINK TO PDF)

I have only (so far) transcribed the first few pages; due to the size of the report and the many tables, plus the low resolution the FDR museum photographed/scanned them in; making OCR much harder.