BUYING AIRCRAFT: MATERIEL PROCUREMENT FOR THE ARMY AIR FORCES. By Irving Brinton Holley, jr. (1964,1989; 643 pages, 23 tables, 9 charts, 36 illustrations, 3 appendixes, bibliographical note, glossary, index, CMH Pub 11-2.)
In the last chapter of Buying Aircraft, I. B. Holley, jr., concludes that the process of procuring aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II was as much a weapon of war as the fighters, bombers, and guns procured. The author's specialized study of aircraft procurement bridges the gap between the larger volumes on industrial mobilization and wartime production, such as TheArmy and Economic Mobilization and The Army and Industrial Manpower, and the various volumes in The Technical Services subseries that focus on the detailed research, development, and procurement of military materiel for the specific combat and service components of the War Department.
The long years of modest aircraft procurements for the Army Air Service and Air Corps between the wars adversely affected the growth of the American airframe, engine, and components manufacturing industry and discouraged the development of assembly line production methods. The Air Corps Act of 1926 further exaggerated problems by mandating a set of restrictive procedures that governed military aircraft procurement in the following years. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the first of his large aircraft production targets in November 1938 in response to the deteriorating situation in Europe, existing AirCorps studies of industrial mobilization were inadequate to handle such a large program. Nevertheless, the aircraft production orders that were now expected to flow encouraged aircraft manufacturers to begin much-needed plant expansions, and the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 accelerated that trend as foreign orders and Roosevelt's emerging foreign and national security policies stressed American preparedness. The quick defeat of Poland, the sudden collapse of France, and the ensuing isolation of Great Britain created a sense of national emergency and spurred congressional action that finally removed the procurement restrictions in 1940-41.
The leaders of the Air Corps struggled from 1939 until Pearl Harbor to resolve its key aircraft procurement problems, among them how to define actual requirements for air weapons and spares without an accepted air doctrine and reliable attrition figures for air combat. Moreover, the evolving U.S. economic mobilization and war production structure provided other variables that complicated Air Corps procurement planning and procedures. The final form of aircraft production planning emerged only in late 1942 under the War Production Board (WPB) and its various aircraft production sections and the Joint Aircraft Committee and its subordinate Air Service Unit at Wright Field, Ohio.
Central to the success of wartime aircraft production was the development of new plant capacity through expansion of existing facilities and the building of entirely new aircraft plants. After much discussion between the government and aircraft industry, most new capacity was completed during 1941-43 under the auspices of the Defense Plant Corporation which built government-owned production and assembly facilities for operation by the aircraft and also automobile manufacturers. The large automobile companies, which specialized in assembly line mass production, approached produc-
tion problems much differently than the aircraft manufacturers who were accustomed to job shop production relying on highly skilled workers. Production of B-24s at Ford's newly built Willow Run, Michigan, facility tested the automobile industry's approach to aircraft production using special tooling, subassemblies, and semiskilled labor. Modification centers were established to make changes and improvements in production line aircraft so that serial production would not be disrupted.
Successful aircraft procurement depended heavily upon the contracting process and the subsequent administration of the contracts. During the war the Army Air Forces constantly revised its air materiel procurement organization and procedures. Procedures for negotiating and administering various types of contracts changed as experience was gained in thousands of large and small procurements. The author rightly devotes significant coverage to the mundane but critically important aspects of contract negotiation and administration and the hard lessons learned in aircraft procurement and production during the war.
1 . The effect of congressionally mandated prewar procurement limitations on the development of an efficient aircraft industry that could provide a ready wartime productive capacity (Chs. II-VII).
2. The importance of prewar mobilization planning for effective industrial mobilization (Chs. II, V-XIII).
3. The problems faced in developing realistic prewar requirements for military aircraft procurement and production (Chs. VII, X, XI).
4. The evolution of Army Air Corps and Air Forces organization for aircraft procurement (Chs. IV-VII, XII, XIX).
5. The role of the government in developing the aircraft plant capacity required to sustain the Allied war effort, such as the role of the Defense Plant Corporation, tax- amortization policies, and private capital expansion (Chs. VI-VII, XI-XIV).
6. The role of the automobile industry in manufacturing aircraft during World War II (Chs. VII, XIV, XX).
7. Development of procedures for contract negotiations, administration, and termination in aircraft procurements (Chs. XV-XVIII).
8. Use of cost-plus-fixed-fee (CPFF), fixed-price, and price adjustment contracts for aircraft procurement (Chs. XV-XVII).
9. Problems of allocation of limited aircraft, airframe, engine, and component production capacity between the Army Air Forces and U. S. Navy and within the War Department (Chs. XIX, XX).
10. The roles of the National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC), Office of Production Management (OPM), and War Production Board (WPB) in developing the policies and procedures for organizing, developing, and administering the nation's productive capacities in general and the aircraft industry in particular (Chs. IX-XIV, XIX, XX).
11. The importance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in establishing the national aircraft production goals and programs during the prewar years (Chs. VII-XI).
12. Statistics for wartime aircraft and engine production (Ch. XX).
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