Navy, Andrew Higgins, FMC discussed on American History TV


What's striking about the way in which FMC mobilized for amphibian tractor construction is that it didn't stop its agricultural production business whatsoever. It did both. And this is how. One of its new factories. It would build in lakeland Florida specifically to build an amphibian tractor designs. It added to its factory in Dunedin to build amphibian tractors and in the clearest case of guns N butter in riverside, California, southern California, the FMC factory what actually build an entirely new factory for amphibian tractor production on exactly the opposite side of the rail line that ran right up to the back of the food machinery corporation warehouse. So in other words that FMCS always built its factories close to a rail line. So it could simply offload equipment that it manufactured foot him on railcars and ship them away. But in this case when it got its work contracts from the navy. If built new factories just on the opposite side, so it expanded its operations and was able to actually do both. In fact, from the federal government received tax breaks to file what are called certificates of necessity, and such and these would facilitate industrial mobilization for war purposes, where companies that did not necessarily make war machines could entertain the costs and minimize the cost of starting a war machines business, and that's just what FMC will do. Now with respect to this elaborate network of just FM see production, the navy appreciated that FMC to its best interests could never build all of the the envisioned, and so they found other prime contractors like the Saint Louis car corporation, the Borg Warner corporation among others FMC was always the primary lead in this field of development. But there were other major manufacturers that would build amphibian tractors. Of course, there's hundreds and hundreds of subcontractors that filled. These specialized parts needs transmissions radiators collections and the like. And of course, a whole elaborate network of raw materials providers to it was really up to the navy, however to figure out how to ensure that the system of supply and procurement actually worked well. And with respect to production. One of the challenges in the midst of all of this was could the navy and the Marine Corps actually, get what they want in the time that they need it in anticipation of future operations. One of the challenges for all industrial operations in World War Two for the United States and other warring powers was providing the necessary workplaces to create the talented workforce the specialized workers that can do the work. To allocate the appropriate machine tools because if you don't have certain lathes and other equipment for casting such you can't make these enough equipment. And so finding that the critical resources human and otherwise to actually construct specialized machines was of the utmost importance, but the challenge for the government as a whole the US government as well as as every other war government was to identify which people can script and not which people do allow to volunteer in the armed forces. And not and then the case of my grandfather there in the middle and his brother Tommy, just before the war. They they're working in an automotive shop their mechanics, and they chose to join the Marine Corps. But the question that their very lives suggests is would they have been better served working in an FM C plan, perhaps then joining the Marine Corps and serving basically ground infantry all worrying governments had to make those decisions about who not to let serve in uniform. Whether you worked in a creamery whether you worked in a lumber mill there are. Host of specialized civilian fields that necessitated continuing production and FMC's very experience of doing both guns and butter suggests how the US government tried to balance military need with ongoing domestic priorities. Also. Farm tractors will always be one of the top ten programs during World War Two for US war production, domestic farm tractors out of the appreciation that you need to feed your own people to keep the war effort functioning. And historians such as Richard ovary have identified that one of the reasons the I allies it seems that the allies will win World War Two is because they better formulate their war economies for endurance long-term affairs by minimizing the hearts of civilians encounter. So that there's well-fed people. There's there's abundant resources the challenges autumn. It takes a long time to to do. Well, both in the in the pictures of the tractor. There's Donald Roebling near the front of his vehicle in Tampa Bay talents. Then is how do you take that one design and then turn it into a vehicle for war? Can you do it in time? Do you have the right people in place? Those are other complexities to this production puzzle. How do you know what you're building is the best thing that you could build. This particular backdrop photo is actually of another amphibian design. It's not a tractor. It's a wheeled amphibian designed by New Orleans shipbuilder undoubtedly you've heard of him his name is Andrew Higgins and the Higgins boat would be come one of the mainstays of America's emphases forces. Tom Hanks would start off the beaches off of onto German held beaches to the Hitler and saving private Ryan. From a Higgins boat Higgins, wasn't an industrial entrepreneur more successful than Christie, but interested in if anything and patriotic as well as profit based motivations Christie's, not looking or rumblings, not looking to make a buck. But Higgins when approach Marine Corps officer depicted here name Victor Krulak, then a captain in the marines. But ultimately become a Lieutenant General Krulak would identify in these early model Anthony and tractors like the ones in the inset picture there off the coast of Waddell canal that the suspension was was was problematic. They're prone to overheating these vehicles were they broke down too quickly. In other words, there are a host of deficiencies with rumblings early designs. And so when Krulak was discussing these with Higgins in New Orleans said, well, maybe instead of a track to design because there's so many moving parts in what's sand can infiltrate and jam up the roller bearings in such and could you build a wheeled vehicle and Higgins on his own dime. We'll do that. He builds several prototypes. And the photograph up here to pick ultimately one of the trials that some of the Higgins industries agents and members of the armed forces were investigating the vehicle. The challenge for Higgins at this moment. He's got a design and by all reports, the navy and the Marine Corps identify his design as superior superior to Donald Rollings. Can you switch gears and the navy decided it could not a lecture in American history from Weaver state university. Professor, brandon. Oh, she's been reading by nine hundred forty two. It'd already invested too much in the blueprints and the processes for industrial mobilization mass production of rumblings amphibian tractor. This is what I would call standardizing obsolescence, you know, it's deficient. You know, it's got problems. You're not going to solve all of them and model one point. Oh, but in order to have any quantity of anything you need to start building. And that's precisely what the bureau of ships and FMC will choose to do to build vehicles. They know are deficient. But better than nothing. Higgins's designs for all their promise are never built and Krulak explained to me years ago. He said, well, the reason being is as much as I had hoped that Higgins is designed could replace this one the reason that it doesn't is because we couldn't make the shift and design philosophy. We just couldn't shift gears that much. Now in the midst of building all of this one of the complexities also is not just building final product spare parts do you need. Ultimately, the navy concludes it for every twenty five Anthony and tractors you need basically, another one just fullest fares to cannibalize and to replenish things that are breaking. And so it wasn't just a question of final production. It's also question of how many spare parts how much training how much investment have you paid into this particular industrial program and the navy concluded no Higgins amphibian. Who in the navy makes these decisions I'd like to introduce you to a fellow named commander George Fifield Fifield fell into an interesting position as an individual called a supervisor of shipbuilding. We don't hear about supervisors of shipbuilding and the grand tales of naval history in World War Two. We hear about battles such as midway or or the coral sea or or such but price fold was ultimately tasked to a desk job. Stateside where he worked for the duration of the war. And what his job was was ultimately to be the liaison between the bureau of ships and FM see the other contractors to actually build the fifty and tractor. His job was literally to translate the strategic requirements, such as we that we need five thousand of these or ten thousand of these these vehicles in the next campaign season where we're going to rip into the central Pacific are March from the southwest Pacific forward, we need a certain quantity. And price would articulate that work with FM, see and its designers. It's corporate bosses to adjudicate their concerns and mass produce such things. Pry fold just by way of illustration. I I found by looking through bureau of ships records and seeing his name come up again. And again, and again and was intrigued by how influential he was. So I read it out and found his daughter who provided me as photograph here. And the photograph in back is one signed by his boss, who's in charge of the entire navy's amphibian tractor program. And what it is is a picture of particular island called Tarawa. Marines are shor at Tarawa. What it says here is dear George you may enjoy sharing with me the satisfaction of these marines at Tarawa your most outstanding contribution toward developing. The alligator as the Amtrak was often called and its progeny where most important factor in putting them on Pacific islands. So in other words, if it wasn't for you. We don't win if it's not for the home front, and this harmony of translating strategic requirements into the industrial production. The United States doesn't win war in the Pacific. It's up to individuals reconciling negotiating providing the liaison services between industry and the armed forces to ensure that things were built according to the needs that the services identified. And there are few other kinds of jobs once called an inspector of material. These would be often navy personnel assigned to factories sometimes they have their offices in these factories, and they would work in concert with with with engineers and draftsmen and others who are literally designing these vehicles to identify what the defects were. And moreover what they should do about them. Are these things that need to be fixed now or fixed and the next model the next production run, maybe six to eight months twelve months from now, those are all the kinds of questions that the homefront uniformed officers and industrialists had to to answer. Guess what? The presumption is that lessons learned in the field. Actually made a difference in vehicle design back home, and you would hope that that would be the case that if you identified if troops in the field detected problems with these vehicles or any vehicle or.

Coming up next