September 3, 1944
As this program is being broadcast to our Armed Forces, it might be fitting this afternoon, to include a message to the General Motors people in uniform. I believe many will hear it because over 100,000 of them are in the services.
A failure to understand human nature at the close of the last war made it possible for aggressors thousands of miles away to destroy the peace of the world for a second time. And to our young people has fallen the task of again saving the world’s freedom.
But I don’t believe we can count the years of war as entirely lost, particularly from the standpoint of experience. Many of our men are on foreign soil obtaining a new viewpoint. They are seeing different people, strange lands and getting a firsthand insight into the customs and thinking of other people. This information will give them a new yardstick with which they can re-evaluate our own way of doing things when they come home.
Basically, war is a terrible way to obtain experience. From the usual business standpoint, it is a system of inverse economics. The peacetime way of doing business is a simple process. We try to make something to satisfy the wants of our customers and we do our best to deliver it to them when they want it and where it is most convenient -- and at the lowest possible cost. In war we do it just the opposite way. In the first place, we make something the enemy doesn’t want and do our best to deliver it when he least expects it and where it will do him the most harm -- and at the highest cost.
In looking at the cost of tomorrow , we have two extreme points of view. We have the optimists with the rose-colored glasses who see a bright, entirely new world -- a world in which human nature has been completely transformed. On the other hand, we have the pessimists who feel that civilization is finished -- we have reached the end of the line, there are no frontiers ahead. From now on we shall be dependent rather than independent and the accent will be on security instead of opportunity.
I like to look at our situation something like this. Before the war we were traveling along a broad highway -- a little rough in spots perhaps -- but a road leading to a better world. We might call it the road of human progress. Then suddenly, in 1939, a power-crazed paper hanger blew up a bridge ahead of us and we were forced to detour. We are on that hectic stretch now but not far off we can see the sign “End of Detour.” We have lost some time perhaps, but I don’t believe our experience has all been wasted. We will soon be traveling again on the main Road.
There is much work immediately ahead because we must supply the replacement demands for the things we normally use -- automobiles, refrigerators, houses and thousands of other items. Our transportation has undergone great wear and tear -- busses and trucks and railroads have run up tremendous mileages. These things must be taken care of as soon as possible. The new tempo on the Road of Progress must be faster after the war to make up for lost time.
General Motors has a great responsibility in this situation. We expect to promptly spend whatever may be required in modernizing plants, and converting them to peacetime production. We will employ about 400,000 people for our postwar production. Since we ordinarily had about 250,000, this means more than a 50% expansion.
Included in these plans, of course, are the jobs for the 100,000or more General Motors workers now in the Armed Services. In fact, over 6,500 of our returned Service men are already back at work. I am sure that all industry, including General Motors, would like to reassure everyone in the Armed Forces that there is a great job to be done here at home. We haven’t, in even a small way, reached the end of the road of progress.
We join the Maestro Toscanini in paying tribute to the fine job you have done on the Land, Sea and in the Air, and to those in particular of the General Motors family, we want you to know that we are waiting to give you a hearty welcome on your return home, and above all, we are planning peacetime jobs for you.