Monday, September 15, 2014

How the New Deal Helped Win World War II (part 10 of 10): Military Base Improvements that "Strengthened the Country to Bear the Burden of War"

(President Roosevelt said "(The WPA) has added to the national wealth, has repaired the wastage of depression, and has strengthened the country to bear the burden of war" (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

(Both PWA funds and WPA labor were utilized to make a variety of improvements to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Brent McKee.)

From 1933 to 1943, New Deal work & construction programs improved military bases across the nation via the creation of new, expanded, and repaired facilities. For example, "Among the new buildings constructed (by WPA workers) were 480 barracks, 500 mess halls, 350 storage buildings, 200 garages, and 80 administrative buildings. More than 90 hospitals and infirmaries were constructed and improvements were made to about 320 others." Other projects included "the construction or improvement of about 180 utility plants--electric power, incinerator, heating, water and sewage treatment plants, and pumping stations" (Final Report, pp. 85-86).

In the May 16th, 1942 edition of the Army and Navy Register, it was reported that "In the years 1935 to 1939, when regular appropriations for the armed forces were so meager, it was the WPA worker who saved many army posts and naval stations from literal obsolescence."

(WPA workers at the U.S. Naval Academy, in July of 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

The U.S. Naval Academy provides an example of New Deal attention to military bases. In the report, America Builds: The Record of PWA, it was reported that "At the Naval Academy, 36 PWA allotments totaling $5,324,057 provided new radio equipment, hospital facilities, a chapel extension, officers' quarters, and repairs to a number of services such as the power and heating plant, the mess hall, roads, and in cooperation with the civil authorities provided for a new sewage disposal plant. The famed snow white uniforms of the cadets will be kept clean in a new laundry" (p. 136, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1939). The WPA also contributed to many improvements at the Naval Academy (see, e.g., “Naval Academy Gaining By PWA-WPA Program,” Baltimore Sun, August 7, 1938).

In my 10-part blog series on the New Deal and World War II, I have shown how New Deal programs & policies were instrumental to the building of the atomic bomb, to the creation of strong air and naval defenses, to the quick mobilization of our soldiers, and much more. The lessons from history could not be more clear. When a strong democracy (which we don't have now) heavily invests in its people and its infrastructure (which we don't do now), great and significant things can happen, for example, better preparedness for struggles and tragedies.

World War II was a hideous waste of life and should never have happened. But it did happen and the New Deal helped us get through it.

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