Can you answer these questions about U.S. Manufacturing in WWII?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: youtube

About This Quiz

America went into panic mode after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. All across the land, factories and people overhauled their schedules to make war against the Axis. How much do you know about the incredible industrial shift of World War II?

What was the status of America's economy at the beginning of World War II?

The Great Depression of the 1930s had wrecked economies all over the world, and the U.S. was no exception. But to beat the Axis, the U.S. government had to somehow get manufacturing facilities working at a faster pace, otherwise, the military would never be able to fight effectively.


What is "total war"?

Total war is an all-consuming war. In World War II, the U.S. faced annihilation. To save herself, every citizen was mobilized at home, in the military service and at work in an effort to give America an advantage against the Axis.


After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt said, "Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-________"?

Roosevelt told Congress, “Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-produced. It is not enough to turn out just a few more planes, a few more tanks, a few more guns, a few more ships than can be turned out by our enemies,” he said. “We must out-produce them overwhelmingly, so that there can be no question of our ability to provide a crushing superiority of equipment in any theatre of the world war.”


Many towns and cities became "war towns," with vital manufacturing companies that attracted workers from all over the place. How many Americans moved during the war to find new jobs?

About 24 million Americans moved to get lucrative full-time jobs, often in manufacturing. That was about 20 percent of the country's entire population.


How many planes did the U.S. Army Air Corps have in 1939?

In 1939, America had just 1,700 planes. The country's military was ranked 39th on the planet, far less powerful than the other nations already fighting on the other side of the world.


During the war, how many warplanes did America build?

The numbers are nearly astronomical. The U.S. built nearly 300,000 planes to fight the war. Of that number, one-third were fighters.


What happened to consumer car sales on January 1, 1942?

On January 1, 1942, less than a month after the Pearl Harbor attack, the government froze all automobile sales. If you'd already ordered a car, you were probably out of luck.


In 1941, American car manufacturers built 3 million cars. Until the end of the war, how many more automobiles did these companies build?

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, car makers immediately switched to making war goods. They made just 139 automobiles throughout the rest of the war.


The U.S. built more Liberty ships than any other kind of ship. What sort of ship were Liberty ships?

The U.S. built more than 2,700 Liberty cargo ships during the war. These ships transported war goods all over the planet to further the Allied cause.


Why did many parts of ships have to be cut in air-conditioned rooms?

Making huge pieces of metal fit together properly meant cutting metal in enormous air-conditioned rooms. Otherwise, slight temperature fluctuations meant that the metals wouldn't fit together correctly when the time came for assembly.


At the start of the war, it took an entire year to build a single Liberty ship. By the end of the war, how long did it take to complete one ship?

It was a manufacturing miracle. By the end of the war, the U.S. could crank out an entire Liberty ship in just a single day.


The shipyards required many women -- including mothers -- to work on ship construction. What did mothers do with their children while they were on the clock?

Women went to work full-time and many needed someone to watch their kids. The government stepped in, providing round-the-clock daycare centers that provided care for kids while mommy built ships and guns.


During the war, many women stepped into jobs that had formerly been only for men. How many women entered the workforce?

About 8 million women surged into the workforce. Many of them took up physically demanding, dirty jobs that took a toll on their health.


Before the war, many states passed laws forbidding women to work if their husbands already had full-time work. Why?

Before the war, the Depression decimated the job market. There were so few paying gigs that states passed laws preventing women from working if their spouses already had jobs.


The Ford Motor Company converted one of its car factories to create long-range bombers. The company's cars had about 15,000 parts. How many did the bombers have?

The B-24 bombers had more than 1.5 million parts, far more than Ford cars. The plant manufactured the bombers 24 hours per day, seven days per week, in hopes of out-producing the Axis.


The B-24 bombers were incredibly complicated. How long did it take the Ford assembly line to make a single bomber?

Ford's workers poured every bit of sweat and ingenuity into manufacturing the bombers. They completed the bombers at an unimaginable pace -- one every single hour.


Car manufacturers were more than happy to convert their factories to building other products during the war.

The government had to force some industries to change products. Car makers didn't go willingly. Changing products meant that dealerships and salesmen were suddenly out of work.


Each year of the war, the American economy grew by how much?

Each year of the war, the U.S. economy grew by about 12 percent. At one point the government was purchasing fully half of every product that was manufactured.


Before the war, President Roosevelt was notoriously opposed to monopolies. How did that change during the war?

Roosevelt changed his tune, relaxing anti-trust regulations so that companies could use whatever means necessary to build products. The resulting competitive free-for-all worked -- manufacturing increased by leaps and bounds.


During the war, some manufacturers produced products that were designed by other companies.

Demand was so great that some companies simply made products designed by other manufacturers. For example, Boeing created the B-17, but two other companies (Lockheed and Douglas) started making the bombers, too.


In 1945 (the final year of the war), the U.S. produced about 45,000 warplanes. How many did Germany produce?

America made 45,000 planes that year -- Germany, just 7,500. The previous year, the Nazis had created 70,000 planes. But Allied attacks took a toll on German production capabilities.


America's industrial productivity clearly increased during the war. By what percentage did it rise?

The country's industrial productivity rose about 96 percent during the war. By the end of the war, America was a true economic superpower that had no equal.


Many manufacturers had specific machines meant to build specific products. How did they manage to build goods that the government wanted?

Don't have the machines to build a jet fuselage? Too bad. Rip out that old equipment and install new machines. Otherwise, you'll be out of business before the war is over.


During the war, the U.S. built more artillery guns than the Soviets.

Not even close. The Soviets built more than half a million artillery guns -- the U.S., just half that number. But the Soviets had tens of millions more workers slaving away to stave off the German advance.


The Soviets built more bombers than the U.S., too.

America transformed aircraft manufacturing and built around 97,000 bombers during the war. The Soviets, on the other hand, built about 20,000.


Including all aircraft types, the Soviets built just as many aircraft as America.

Fearing the spread of the Third Reich, desperation reigned on all fronts. Both America and the Soviet Union built around 300,000 total aircraft during the sprawling conflict.


America built more M4 Sherman tanks than any other kind of tank. How many did the country produce?

It was a whole lot of armor. The U.S. built more than 44,000 M4 Sherman tanks. And that was just a single model. Manufacturers cranked out tens of thousands of other armored vehicles, too.


To pay for the war, the government sold "war bonds" to civilians. What was the interest rate on the 10-year bonds?

The interest rate on the bonds was just 2.9 percent, but it was a rock-solid investment for civilians -- and they were doing their patriotic duty in helping to pay for the war, too. And the war was very, very expensive.


In 1939, war-related production was about 2 percent of the gross national product. What was that percentage in 1943?

By 1943, that measly 2 percent rose to 40 percent of the gross national product. The concept of "total war" had completely transformed the American economy.


Thanks, Great Depression! In 1940, nearly 15% of the labor force was suffering from unemployment. What was that number in 1945?

In 1940, the U.S. labor force was still struggling with the effects of the Depression. By 1945, less than 2 percent of the labor force was unemployed and wages were much, much higher. The war devastated many countries across the world, but in America it gave rise to an economic superpower.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!