A Lesson in History – Community Ethos of WW II

Go Lean Commentary

The publishers of the book Go Lean…Caribbean want to forge change in the Caribbean. Is it possible to change the attitudes of an entire community, country or region? Has that ever been done before for an entire community? When?

Yes, and yes. 1942…

The book relates a great case study, that of the history of the United States during World War II, where the entire country postponed immediate gratification, endured hard sacrifices, and became convinced that their future (after the war) would be better than their past (before the war).

The foregoing article is a scholarly work on that subject, the events of 1942, and the subsequent years of World War II.

Title: The Auto Industry Goes to War

CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Community Ethos of WW II - Photo 1

Did the U.S. manufacture of automobiles come to a halt during World War II?

Yes, it halted completely. No cars, commercial trucks, or auto parts were made from February 1942 to October 1945.

On January 1, 1942, all sales of cars, as well as the delivery of cars to customers who had previously contracted for them, were frozen by the government’s Office of Production Management. As a temporary measure, local rationing boards could issue permits allowing persons who had contracted for cars before January 1st to secure delivery.

President Roosevelt established the War Production Board on January 16, 1942. It superseded the Office of Production Management. The WPB regulated the industrial production and allocation of war materiel and fuel. That included coordinating heavy manufacturing, and the rationing of vital materials, such as metals, rubber, and oil. It also established wage and price controls.

All manufacturers ended their production of automobiles on February 22, 1942. The January 1942 production quota had been a little over 100,000 automobiles and light trucks. The units manufactured at the beginning of February would bring up the total number of vehicles in a newly established car stockpile to 520,000. These would be available during the duration of the war for rationed sales by auto dealers to purchasers deemed “essential drivers.”

Representatives from the auto industry formed the Automotive Council for War Production in April 1942, to facilitate the sharing of resources, expertise, and manpower in defense production contracting.

The auto industry retooled to manufacture tanks, trucks, jeeps, airplanes, bombs, torpedoes, steel helmets, and ammunition under massive contracts issued by the government. Beginning immediately after the production of automobiles ceased, entire factories were upended almost overnight. Huge manufacturing machines were jack hammered out of their foundations and new ones brought in to replace them. Conveyors were stripped away and rebuilt, electrical wires were bundled together and stored in the vast factory ceilings, half-finished parts were sent to steel mills to be re-melted, and even many of the dies that had been used in the fabrication of auto parts were sent to salvage.

The government’s Office of Price Administration imposed rationing of gasoline and tires and set a national speed limit of 35 mph.

By April 1944, only 30,000 new cars out of the initial stockpile were left. Almost all were 1942 models and customers required a permit to make the purchase. The Office of Price Administration set the price. The government contemplated rationing used car sales as well, but that was finally deemed unnecessary. The government estimated that about a million cars had been taken off the road by their owners, to reserve for their own use after the war.

In the autumn of 1944, looking then toward the end of the war, Ford, Chrysler, Nash, and Fisher Body of General Motors received authorization from the War Production Board to do preliminary work on experimental models of civilian passenger cars, on condition that it not interfere with war work and that employees so used be limited to planning engineers and technicians. Limits were also set on the amount of labor and materials the companies could divert to this.

During the war, the automobile and oil companies continued to advertise heavily to insure that the public did not forget their brand names. Companies also were proud to proclaim their patriotic role in war production, and their advertisements displayed the trucks, aircraft, and munitions that they were making to do their part in combat.

In addition, auto advertisements encouraged the public to patronize local auto dealers’ service departments so that car repairs could help extend the lives of the cars their customers had bought before the war. In the last couple of years of the war, the auto companies also used their advertisements to heighten public anticipation of the end of the war and the resumption of car and truck manufacturing, with advertising copy such as Ford’s “There’s a Ford in Your Future.”

About the Author

CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Community Ethos of WW II - Photo 2
Historian John Buescher is an author and professor who formerly headed Tibetan language broadcasts at Voice of America. His Ph.D. is from the University of Virginia and he has published extensively on the history of Tibetan and Indian Buddhism and on the history of 19th-century American spiritualism.

a. John Alfred Heitmann, The Automobile and American Life. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. pp. 119-130.
b. James J. Flink, The Automobile Age. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988. pp. 275-76.
c. Automobile Manufacturers Association, Freedom’s Arsenal: The Story of the Automotive Council for War Production. Detroit: Automobile Manufacturers Association, 1950.
Teaching History.org – National History Education Clearinghouse (Retrieved 09/29/2014) –

This relates a commitment so vital to a community that everyone was willing to sacrifice and lean-in for the desired outcome. This requires effective messaging.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU); an initiative to bring change, empowerment, to the Caribbean region; to make the region a better place to live, work and play. This Go Lean roadmap also has initiatives to foster a domestic (region-wide) automotive industry. So there are a lot of benefits to glean by studying the American track record, even the periods of halted production. The Go Lean book posits that permanent change for Caribbean society will only take root as a result of adjustments to the community attitudes, the national spirit that drives the character and identity of its people. This is identified in the book as “community ethos”.

The purpose of the book/roadmap though is not just the ethos changes, but rather the elevation/empowerment of Caribbean society. In total, the Caribbean empowerment roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance and industrial policies to support these engines.

The roadmap details the following community ethos, plus the execution of these strategies, tactics, implementation and advocacies to forge the identified permanent change in the region:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – People Choose Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – People Respond to Incentives in Predictable Ways Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – The Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Governing Principles – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Governing Principles – Cooperatives Page 25
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Research & Development Page 30
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 35
Community Ethos – Ways to Promote Happiness Page 36
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Confederate 30 Member-States Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Foster New Industries Page 46
Tactical – Confederating a Permanent Union Page 63
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Planning – 10 Big Ideas for the Caribbean Page 127
Planning – Ways   to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Reasons   Why the CU Will Succeed Page 132
Planning – Lessons   Learned from 2008 Page 136
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the   Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways   to Improve Communications Page 186
Advocacy – Ways   to Develop Auto Industry Page 206
Advocacy – Ways   to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218

Previously Go Lean blog/commentaries have considered historic references and stressed fostering the proper and appropriate community ethos for the Caribbean to prosper. The following sample applies:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2297 A Lesson in History – Booker T   versus Du Bois – to Change a Bad Community Ethos
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2201 Changing Bad Community Ethos – Students   Developing Nail Polish to Detect Date Rape Drugs
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1918 Philadelphia Freedom – Some Restrictions Apply – One   Community’s Constant Quest to Change
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1531 A Lesson in History: 100 Years Ago   Today – World War I – Cause and Effect in Community Ethos
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=841 Having   Less Babies is Bad for the Economy?
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=623 Only   at the Precipice, Do Communities Change
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=353 Book Review: ‘Wrong – Nine   Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn…’
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=228 Egalitarianism versus Anarchism – Community   Ethos Debate

All in all, there is a certain community ethos associated with populations that have endured crises. It is a focus on the future, a deferred gratification as investment for future returns. These attributes have been promoted by the Go Lean book as necessary traits to forge change in the Caribbean region. We need our own Caribbean flavor of this community ethos, in our manifestation of industrial policy.

The world was at the precipice, near implosion, in 1942 (World War II) … (and again in 2008 during the Great Recession). In order to endure the crises, many people had to endure sacrifice; but the entire community had to adopt the community ethos of deferred gratification. The industrial policy adjusted accordingly, with little objection from the public in general. A lot of good came from these sacrifices.

There are lessons for the Caribbean today to consider from the development of industrial policy in US history during World War II:

• Priorities can change in times of crisis. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

• Having a domestic manufacturing industry gives control of domestic production capability.

• Efficiency and effectiveness in one industry can be transferred to other industries; it is disciplined competence that is the real asset.

• Lowest cost is not the only criteria for providing out-sourced contracts.

• Limited raw materials are valuable, even as recycled materials.

• Effective Command-and-Control accentuates front-line effectiveness – Lean operational principles.

• Interdependence with partners can avoid crisis in the first place, and mitigate the damage from realized threats.

Now the Caribbean is in crisis, still reeling from 2008; we must endure, we must sacrifice and we must defer gratification. Now is the time to lean-in to this roadmap for Caribbean change, as depicted in the book Go Lean…Caribbean. We cannot afford to standby and watch our world implode. This was the case in 1942 and again in 2008. We must have a hand in our own destiny; an integrated (Single) market of 42 million people is large enough to be consequential in world negotiations.

We urge all Caribbean stakeholders (residents, Diaspora, governmental leaders, visitors, investors, etc.) to lean-in to this roadmap for change. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Share this post:
, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *