Friday, September 5, 2014

How the New Deal Helped Win World War II (part 2 of 10): New Deal Ships

 Above: According to Dr. William M. McBride, professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy, "The battleships North Carolina (shown above) and Washington were the first capital ships to fall under the control of New Deal legislation" ("The Unstable Dynamics of a Strategic Technology: Disarmament, Unemployment, and the Interwar Battleship," Technology and Culture Vol. 38, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 386-423, 417). The North Carolina's construction began in 1937, commissioning occurred in 1941, and she was decommissioned in 1947. The North Carolina became a museum/memorial ship in 1962, and can be visited today in Wilmington, North Carolina. According to the Historic Naval Ships Association, "North Carolina is the most decorated U.S. battleship of World War II with 15 battle stars, having participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay. She is also credited with kills of 24 aircraft, a merchantman and the bombardment of nine Imperial Japanese strongholds." Image courtesy of Doc Searls and Wikipedia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Above: The U.S.S. Enterprise, built with PWA funding, played a critical role in America's victory in the Pacific. For example, "In June 1942, Enterprise played a vital role in the Battle of Midway, in which her planes sank or helped sink three Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser" (link). The Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947. Above, we see the Enterprise heading towards the Panama Canal in October of 1945. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Above: A WPA poster, created by artist Robert Muchley, in Pennsylvania, between 1941 and 1943. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Dr. Daniel Goure, of the somewhat right-leaning Lexington Institute, wrote "Both organizations (the WPA and PWA), but primarily the PWA, turned out to play major roles in the American victory in World War Two. It was the PWA that funded construction of the aircraft carriers Yorktown and Enterprise whose aircraft were responsible for sinking the four Japanese aircraft carriers...In addition, the PWA funded the construction of four cruisers, four heavy destroyers, many light destroyers, submarines, planes, engines, and instruments...The PWA and the WPA helped mitigate the effects of the Great Depression while also making the world safer for democracy."

In his book Long-Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal (University of South Carolina Press, 2007), Dr. Robert D. Leighninger, Jr., highlights some of the PWA funding for the Coast Guard and Navy: "An allotment of $1.5 million to the Coast Guard built several kinds of airplanes for patrol and rescue operations. Another $2.8 million produced five 165-foot Coast Guard cutters. Most impressive was what PWA did for the Navy. It might surprise most people to learn that the aircraft carrier Yorktown, sunk in the Battle of Midway, was a New Deal public works project. In addition to the Yorktown, PWA funded the carriers Ranger and Enterprise, seven heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, five submarines, and thirty-two destroyers." 

Some people say that the New Deal was just a giant boondoggle, and that we would have been better off without it. What do you think?

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