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"US WWII mass production - by contract?" Topic

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656 hits since 2 Aug 2017
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Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian02 Aug 2017 12:24 p.m. PST

I know that most of the ships that the US produced were by contract, but what about the high volume items like M4's, P-51's, B-17s, etc. Were contracts let for specific numbers, or when the war was in high gear was it more like "just build them, bill us, and we'll tell you when to stop"?

rmaker02 Aug 2017 1:04 p.m. PST

There may have been a few open-ended contracts for expendables, but mostly contracts were for specific numbers. Remember, they had to be run by Congress.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2017 3:22 p.m. PST

Remember, they had to be run by Congress

And yet somehow we still managed to win the war.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2017 3:59 p.m. PST

Yes, everything was contracted.

If you want to see an example of something that went wrong in every possible way, read up on the Brewster Company and the history of the Brewster Buccaneer. Got so bad the government took over the company.

Then again, when the UK purchasing commision sought out North American to sub-contract the P40 fighter, the boys at North American were just about shocked. "We can do better than that!" and the purchasing commision gave them a hundred days and they came out with what would turn out to be the Mustang.

JAFD2602 Aug 2017 11:52 p.m. PST

There's probably detailed answers to your question somewhere in "The Green Books" – the official US Army histories of WWII. All you have to do is find them ;-)

The 78 volumes are online at:

more info at

There's a seperate set "The US Army Air Forces in WWII"

Hope this is helpful. (OK, I ain't trying to be sarcastic here. Uncle Sam went to the trouble to get the info recorded Because It Might Be Useful Someday, and if you don't find this One Heckova Time Sink, my regrets.)

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2017 7:32 a.m. PST

The general rule was that Army Ground Forces developed things and then paid private companies a set price to produce them to spec, though I think mostly on a contract for a certain number. (You'd keep the line running smoothly by getting another contract before you'd fulfilled all the first.)
Army Air Forces didn't really have a design bureau. Private firms would design planes--sometimes to a set of performance standards--and the contract went to the firm.

Navy I understand to be similar. Big ships (mostly) were Navy designs, while naval aircraft worked like the Army Air Force. Parts contracts were mostly tied in, and I've run into at least one case in which the Navy refused to accept any more planes from a manufacturer because he wasn't producing the contractually-required spare parts.

All kinds of individual exceptions--French aircraft contracts picked up by us or the UK for instance, and FDR REALLY had to turn the screws on the Navy to get them to accept using Cleveland Class cruiser hulls to make the Independence Class light carriers.

JAFD28 is right about where to go for details. The volumes I've read are good professional history.

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