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The Corps of Engineers: construction in the…
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Reviewing the lessons of World War II, Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves declared: "Mobilization was decisive and construction generally controlled mobilization." In 1939, when hostilities began in Europe, the United States was ill prepared to counter threats to its security. To be sure, the Navy, the first line of defense, ranked with Britain's mighty fleet. But the Army was barely more than a token force, and the country had virtually no munitions industry. Before the nation could realize its huge military potential, it had first to build a vast complex of camps, plants, airfields, hospitals, and depots. As Presidential adviser Sidney Hillman pointed out in 1941:
Construction is not only the biggest single part of defense, it is also the first step in defense. Before we can produce guns and planes and tanks, we must build defense plants or alter non-defense plants to new production . . . . Similarly, if we are to train our Army well, our soldiers must be provided with proper living conditions in camps and cantonments.
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In World War II the Corps of Engineers superintended the largest construction program in the nation's history, providing the home base for a United States Army that grew to more than eight million men and women. The Corps-related construction work included development of the facilities for making atomic bombs. In telling the story of these herculean efforts the authors set unprecedented standards: no detailed and scholarly history on the subject of construction has ever before been undertaken in this country. Other aspects of the domestic contributions of the Army Engineers in the war have been covered in the first volume of this subseries to be published, Troops and Equipment, and a second told the story of the Engineer effort overseas in the war against Japan. A final volume still in preparation will relate the activities of Engineers in the Mediterranean area and Europe in the war against Italy and Germany. While this volume presents the story of military construction during the war primarily from the point of view of the Corps of Engineers as revealed in its records and by its participants, it does justice also to the work of the Quartermaster Corps from which the Engineers inherited responsibility for military construction in the United States in 1940 and 1941. This book should be welcomed by both the thoughtful citizen and the military student for its readability as well as for its instructive value in describing with authority a variety of activities that collectively were a significant foundation of victory in America's most gigantic conflict.
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