National Geographic : 1942 Dec
The Miracle of War Production strain. In one place aluminum must be used, in another magnesium, in another steel, and in another plywood or plastics will do. Outside the plant was Mr. Martin's pride and joy, the giant flying boat Mars. It was only an experimental model when I made my visit, not in commercial production. But the aircraft companies never cease to experiment with new and bigger and better planes. They are always figuring on the plane of tomorrow. Engines and propellers are vital components of the aircraft industry, but they are not al ways made in the same plants as the planes themselves. The heart of an airplane is of course its engine, and if the makers had not learned to combine power and lightness the resulting contraption would be as big as a locomotive. Visitors to the main Pratt & Whitney engine plant in Connecticut are struck not only by its cleanliness and quiet but by the fine caliber of the workmen, New England indeed being famous for its skilful craftsmen. It takes such craftsmen, working steadily, but not in frantic haste, to do the good job required to machine and polish the 9,000 parts of an engine to tolerances as small as one ten thousandth of an inch. "How do we speed up production?" re peated my guide in reply to my question. "As much by keeping good men, having them know their jobs and all the short cuts-by stabiliz ing production, in other words-as by putting in new machines." After completion each engine is tested for hours, its temperature, speed, and the be havior of fuel, oil, and air being watched the way a doctor studies your heart beat and blood pressure. Each engine is then com pletely disassembled, inspected, and assembled again. If delicacy of outline and harmony of pro portion make for beauty in an object, as the dictionary says they do, then one of these finished engines is indeed a beauty of the first order. That such a shining, sensitive, elegant, and, incidentally, from a monetary viewpoint, costly mechanism can develop 2,000 horse power is incredible to the beholder until he goes into one of the many test rooms and is convinced! Moisture is deadly to such a symphony of metal, and the earlier method of protection was to cover it with grease before transporta tion or storage. But these engines are now covered with a pliofilm envelope, all air is exhausted, and the envelope sealed. In addi tion, dehydrating chemicals are placed inside, and a card in plain view turns pink if there is moisture and remains blue if all is well. In the near-by Hamilton Standard Propel lers plant production has gone up without increasing floor space by installing vertical equipment machines that go up in the air. But the visitor to this propeller factory first notices two things. He is in a world of aluminum and he is in one where perfection of balance is the very aim and object of existence. The propeller is the gear shift of the air. The blades automatically adjust themselves to conditions of take-off and flight. In manu facture the blades go through seemingly end less stages of trimming, milling, and buffing. On the final polish the best men are em ployed to get perfection of balance. At that stage it is necessary by means of screens to exclude drafts from the room in which the work is done. Far-seeing Planning by U. S. Army and Navy There is danger that this article may con vey a mistaken impression to the reader. The miracle of war production is by no means en tirely due to industry. Credit also should go to years of quiet, careful, and far-seeing plan ning on the part of Army and Navy. After functioning in World War I the War Industries Board, headed by Bernard M. Baruch, made a final report which led to the passage of the National Defense Act of 1920 and the setting up in 1922 of the Army and Navy Munitions Board. Also in the same year Army district ordnance offices were opened in 13 key cities. As a result 20,000 industrial plants were surveyed, 10,000 were given schedules of what they might be expected to produce in case of war, a few "educational" orders were let, and in other ways the groundwork was laid for the program which began to take shape after 1940. But back even of all this planning lies the Government's so-called arsenal system, founded under George Washington as an out growth of the Revolutionary War. The Garand Rifle In these relatively few arsenals there is in peacetimes experimentation in the differ ent branches of ordnance, models are made, "pilot" production goes on, and detailed re ports are rendered available to manufacturers who are expected to go into military pro duction in time of war. Different arsenals specialize on such branches as fire control, powder, large guns, small guns, and gun mounts.