Scientific Management and the U.S. Navy: Congress Bans Taylorism

February 2, 2018 | Author: Sherman McCormick | Category: N/A
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Scientific Management and the U.S. Navy: Congress Bans Taylorism

Naval Maritime Power in Two World Wars Greenwich Maritime Institute University of Greenwich

Manley R. Irwin, Professor Emeritus Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics University of New Hampshire Durham, NH 03824



Introduction George Santayana, over hearing British surgeons singing “Tipperary” at an English

coffee shop, was inspired write that each generation “…breaks its egg-shell with the same haste and assurance as the last, pecks at the same indigestible pebbles, dreams the same dream…” Although directed at British war veterans, Santayana could easily have been referring to the life cycles of the U.S. Congress.1 Certainly Congress celebrated the U.S. Navy’s victory over the Spanish Fleet in the Philippines (1898). Although the U.S. Fleet had performed well, naval officers began reexamining the accuracy of warship gunners. Their finding was disconcerting. For every 100 shots, 3% hit their target. The officers proceeded to analyze the movements of gunnery personnel, broke down the total into steps, eliminated wasteful actions, then adopted a new protocol. Target accuracy rose from 3% to 33%.2 In the same time period a Mare Island yard constructor monitored machinists operating lathes. The constructor proceeded to recruit untrained workers, adding a financial bonus based on piece work output. Productivity rose 50%.3 In each instance, the navy had employed a shop floor routine advocated by Frederich Winslow Taylor, a machinist turned foreman. Taylor called his innovation scientific management. Historians later acknowledged that Taylor had become father of modern management studies. This paper divides Congress’s response to Taylorism into three sections. First, we outline the content Taylor’s management principles; next, we detail Congress’s reaction to Taylorism. Finally, we consider the role that Taylor’s management principles played in the navy’s Pacific campaign, World War II.



Frederich Winslow Taylor FrederichTaylor was born and raised in Philadelphia. His parents sent him to Phillips

Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. During his stay at Exeter, Taylor enrolled in a mathematics course taught by George Wentworth. Wentworth adopted what might be called an eclectic classroom regimen. He assigned a math problem to students and told them to raise their hand when they had completed the answer. Wentworth’s stop watch recorded the elapsed student time.4 Taylor’s parents had expected their son to attend Harvard College. Taylor insisted that he wanted to work with his hands and become a machinist. After completing the required apprenticeship program, Taylor was hired by the Midvale Steel Company in Philadelphia. Within a short period Midvale promoted Taylor to the rank of foreman. It was in that position that Taylor arrived at an unconventional view of shop floor activities. Bluntly put, Taylor concluded that foremen didn’t manage and that machinists didn’t work. Though somewhat of an overstatement, Taylor was on to something. Consider Taylor’s take on management. Here Taylor concluded that steel plant operations had become so complex that the work assignment exceeded the ability of one manager to coordinate much less administered activities on the shop floor. As a remedy, Taylor recommended the creation of staff specialists, ranging from floor planning to inventory control, from cost accounting to time and motion studies. In one sense, Taylor simply extended Adam Smith’s division of labor principle to 20th century manufacturing.5 Taylor also had second thoughts regarding the work habits of machinists. He was struck by the amount of time a machinist remained away their station, searching for raw material,


rummaging for tools, sharpening and oiling cutting devices. Taylor concluded that machinists, the core of any steel plant operation, were essentially wasting their time.6 As a remedy, Taylor decomposed a machinist’s work process into a series of steps. He examined each movement, eliminated redundant actions, reassembled the assignment into a new work routine. He then added a piece bonus based on a worker’s output. The result was dramatic. Worker productivity soared. Not everyone, of course, celebrated Midvale’s production gains. Labor critics charged that Taylor had simply indulged in a production line speed up and then called it a fancy name. Taylor replied that he had employed empirical evidence to replace past rules of thumb and operating tradition.7 By the early 1900’s Taylor practices began to spread throughout the U.S. His book, Principles of Scientific Management (1911), achieved wide circulation not only in the U.S. but in Europe and the Far East.8


Congress, 1913-1921 (The Wilson years)

In the months preceding the U.S. entrance into World War I, the International Association of Machinist, American Federation of Labor (AFL), began to voice reservations over Taylor’s practices at government arsenals, bases, and stations. At the time, machinists stood at the apex of employee prestige and compensation. When machinists voiced objection over new work applications, their opinions obviously carried weight. For one thing, machinists objected to being replaced by unskilled employees – a practice they called dilution. In their mind, dilution was more than an assault on the very essence of a skilled worker. Dilution also meant lower pay checks.9


The AFL was especially concerned by the practice of tying worker compensation to piece-work output, the notion of a bonus. Such practices, said the union, set young workers against the old, a form of labor rivalry in which the latter could easily become expendable. Taylorism threatened a trade union’s commitment to seniority and pay equality. U.S. Navy Yard commandants, searching for improved performance, became intrigued with the potential of Taylor’s time studies. By contrast, yard employees viewed time cards as pernicious. When asked to fill out time cards, some civilian yard workers walked off the job. In one case, the battleship New Hampshire, assigned to a navy yard of dissident machinists, was rerouted to a navy yard where workers appeared more accommodating.10 Nor did the AF of L and their machinist affiliates confine their opposition to the floor plant. They also turned to Congress for help. Between 1911-1914 Congress held hearings. Machinists detailed their bill of particulars against navy yard Taylorism. Frederick Taylor himself testified for the better part of a week on aspects of scientific management. In February 1915, Congress acted. The House banned the navy from employing Taylor practices at government plants and arsenals.11 Six months prior to Congress’s anti-Taylor legislation, Germany invaded Belgium in a western envelopment around Paris. French troops, looking east rather than west, attempted to retake provinces seized by Bismark in 1870. It would not be long before World War I degenerated into a siege campaign. From the perspective of President Wilson, however, the outbreak of a European war appeared remote and distant. Indeed, the Wilson administration took issue with both European combatants. Britain employed its fleet to impose an embargo against Germany; Germany responded by imposing a submarine blockade against the British Isles. The


U.S. insisted that both parties had violated a fundamental maritime principle - freedom of the seas. The U.S., nevertheless, adopted a posture of neutrality. The U-Boat sinking of the British liner Lusitania (1915) emerged as a defining movement for President Wilson. His protest note to Germany was so stern that William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State, resigned on grounds that the President had violated his own neutrality stance. In the meantime, Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, held navy expenditures at peace-time levels. By 1916, however, Congress funded a naval construction program guaranteed to give the U.S. Fleet global superiority. The act contemplated the construction some 150 warships, including 10 battleships and 6 battle cruisers.12 The naval act also marked a shift from the naval outsourcing tradition. Up to that time, U.S. commercial yards had built some 80% of all U.S. warships. In 1916, Congress vowed to reverse that policy. Congress accordingly directed that heavy battleship construction be assigned to U.S. Navy Yards – assuming the yards had sufficient building ways. Congress next provided funds that enlarge yard capacity, virtually assuring heavy warship construction.13 In the spring of 1917, Woodrow Wilson reversed his neutrality position. He called upon Congress to declare war against Germany and her central European allies. Given congressional backing, the President dispatched naval officers to London to coordinate U.S. and British naval strategy. It was here that U.S. officers were taken back to learn that Britain’s food supply was down to six weeks. More important, Britain’s Royal Fleet appeared perplexed as to how they should respond to Germany’s U-Boat offensive.14 London based U.S. officers also recommended that Washington embark on a crash program of anti-submarine weapons, namely; destroyers and eagle boats. To block German


access to the North Sea, the U.S. Navy constructed a mine barrage across the Baltic Sea. The strenuous anti-submarine program imposed a cost, however. The navy’s 1916 battleship program had to be deferred. Now at war, the Wilson administration embarked on a program of merchant ship construction. Originally, Secretary Daniels offered to build merchant hulls at U.S. Navy yards. Instead, Congress created the U.S. Shipping Board, and its affiliate, the Emergency Fleet Corporation. The latter let contracts to private yards along the U.S. east coast. One Philadelphia yard, the International Shipping Corporation, adopted a standard cargo hull, assembled ship modules and employed cranes to lift vessel components onto merchant hulls. Known as the “Hog Islanders,” the yard turned out 122 cargo vessels.15 Congress also gave the President emergency authority to take over key industries in the economy’s private sector. The Post Office, for example, assumed management of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; the U.S. Shipping Board operated private merchant vessels; the Navy Department seized foreign radio stations along the U.S. East Coast; the Treasury secretary managed the nation’s railroads. As part of the U.S. war effort, Congress funded a naval armor plant in western Virginia, an aircraft plant in Philadelphia, a Helium plant in Texas not to mention building a nitrogen plant at Muscle Shoals, Tennessee. Congress encouraged navy yards to manufacture such components as vessel chains, torpedoes and guns. In a move toward petroleum autonomy, the Wilson administration added a third naval oil reserve in Wyoming, supplementing two California reserves set aside by the Taft administration. Congress, however, blocked the navy’s attempt to move into the oil refining business.16


Inevitably, Congress and the President had to address the problem of industrial mobilization, i.e. converting commercial production into arms output. One option appeared attractive - enlist the services of Edward Stettinius, Sr., a former president of the U.S. Match Box Company. Prior to 1917, the British had designated Stettinius as their U.S. buying agent. Overtime, his staff not only purchased wire, arms and supplies for Britain, but lent capital for U.S. plant expansion and even unraveled a railroad tie-up on the east coast.17 Wilson rejected the Stettinius choice. Now associated with the J.P. Morgan Bank, Wilson viewed Morgan as a Republican bank. Instead, the president asked key cabinet members to add mobilization effort to their existing cabinet duties, a move that failed to expedite factory conversion. It was not until the President appointed Bernard Baruch as head of the War Industries Board that industrial mobilization began to gain traction. A Wall Street investor, Baruch centralized production priorities and assigned trade associations to divide up munition’s output. In the process, Baruch exempted U.S. firms from the reach of nation’s anti-trust laws.18 As the U.S. Army prepared for a 1919 offensive in France, Germany unexpectantly agreed to an Armistice in November 1918. The fighting ended before the U.S. economy had gained production momentum. U.S. war output had yielded 143 pieces of artillery, six tanks and a dozen aircraft. Members of Congress had apparently neglected to consider the lead time required for machine tool conversion.19 In the fall of 1918, President Wilson anticipated Paris peace negotiations with U.S. allies. But first the President sought a bargaining chip. The navy would to be that chip. Three weeks following the Armistice, the President announced that the U.S. would resume its 1916 battleship


program. Wilson’s navy secretary, Josephus Daniels upper the ante by proposing to double the 1916 tonnage. Not surprisingly Japan and Britain responded with a construction program of their own. As former allies quarreled over sharing Germany’s warship reparations, German naval officers neatly resolved the problem by scuttling their warships at Scapa Flow. In the meantime, the allies added up war damages and pension costs, and presented the bill to the German government. In the interim, government yard employees had made notable economic progress under the Wilson administration. Congress immunized labor unions from antitrust prosecution; yard unions now enjoyed civil service protection; Congress prohibited stop watch practices at yards and stations; and government yards were given exclusive access to fleet repair work. By now navy yard share of warship construction rose from 20% to 50%. . Inevitably, craft union work rules began to proliferate. Ship forces were prohibited from repairing a vessel while docked at a navy yard. Naval officers were banned from issuing a direct order to civilian yard employees. Ship tenders were prohibited from delivering paint to warship’s afloat. Workers, drunk on the job, were given furloughs rather than dismissal. Machinist at the navy’s Newport torpedo station were prohibited from operating more than one machine at a time. Even prior to 1915 yard officers who attempted to adopt Taylor’s practices were transferred or given unsatisfactory fitness reports.20 By contrast, firms in the nation’s private sector began embracing Taylor’s practices. The Detroit’s Board of Commerce, for example, explicitly fostered Taylor’s shop principles. The question was how to do it. One choice was to hire such consultants as Arthur Anderson or


Booze Allen. Concerning by consultant fees, the Board shied away from this alternative. A second option focused on management programs offered by Penn State, Harvard, Michigan, Syracuse, and Dartmouth College. The Board rejected this option on grounds that such courses might be overly academic and theoretical. Finally, some board members asked to visit on site Detroit companies that had adopted Taylor principles. The Board put the proposal to American Blower, Road Way Motor, Packard Motor Car Company, Aluminum Castings Company, and Timken Roller Bearing Company. Surprisingly, the plants agreed to showcase. Known as “plant conventions,” corporate guests were given a guided tour of plant their operations. The visitors observed the recording of time sheets while employees worked at their assigned stations.21 Following a plant tour corporate guests gathered in a factory conference room and engaged in a question-answer session with their host managers. The visiting executives were instructed in calculating standard time units and how employee and supervisors developed standard cost for a particular job. The invitees also explored the concept of worker compensation. Despite the fact that Henry Ford had offered to pay a flat $5.00 a day, one plant host noted, said that under Taylor practices, his workers earned as much as $15.00 to $18.00 dollars a day.22 Edwin Denby, serving as president of the Commerce Board in 1916-1917, was well known in Detroit’s business circles. He was chief executive officer of the Denby Motor Truck Company, treasurer of the Hupp Motor Car Company; a board director of Detroit Bank of Commerce and a founder of the Federal Truck Company. It was on Denby’s watch that the Detroit Board of Commerce learned that congressman Clyd Tavenner (Illinois) had introduced a rider prohibiting government plants from adopting scientific management. Among other individuals, Boyd Fisher, a Board official, went to Washington to meet President Wilson. The


group informed the President that Detroit Board members were concerned that if Congress banned management science in the public sector, U.S. navy yards might be attempted to award contracts to firms that similarly banned scientific management practices in the private sector. President Wilson responded that he would speak to the House committee chairman. Subsequently, Wilson signed off on a naval appropriation act that embodied an anti-Taylor rider.23


Congress, 1921-1931

Taking office in March 1921 the Harding administration inherited Wilson’s massive warship program – now estimated to cost some $2 billion dollars ($30 billion in today’s dollar). In the summer of their first year Harding and Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of State invited former U.S. allies to meet in Washington D.C. to negotiate a naval arms limitation agreement. By early 1922, the Washington conferees agreed to a battleship agreement, 500,000 tons allocated to the U.S. and Britain, 300,000 tons to Japan. The agreement included a tonnage assignment to aircraft carriers as well. Given an inferior tonnage allotment, Japan asked Britain and the U.S. to distance their naval bases from the Japanese homeland. Britain agreed to transfer its fleet from Hong Kong to Singapore; the U.S. agreed to limit its western Pacific naval base to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In short order, the U.S. Senate ratified the naval agreement.24 It would be an understatement to suggest that U.S. naval officers were stunned by the Washington limitation agreement. Naval officers had obviously monitored Japanese movements in the Pacific. As an ally to Britain, Japan had seized control of the German islands, of the Marshals and Marianas in 1914. Residing between Hawaii and the Philippines, the islands posed


as a logistic impediment to any U.S. fleet action in the western Pacific. If the U.S. and Japan ever came to blows, how could the U.S. fleet defend the Philippine islands, 5,000 miles west of Hawaii? So vexing was the issue that some navy war planners proposed to write off the Philippines as expendable. 25 Absent a western Pacific naval base, the Office of Naval Operations in 1923 came up with the concept of a mobile base force. Under the plan U.S. Marines would seize an enemy held Pacific Island. Naval forces would then transform the Pacific anchorage into a floating base to accommodate tankers, colliers, cargo vessels, distilling ships, hospital ships, repair ships, floating dry docks, and barges. The concept of mobile base constituted a move away from the U.S. fleet’s dependence upon a fixed, continental naval base.26 The mobile base plan depended upon the availability of merchant bottoms, some converted from private vessels, others constructed at commercial ship yards. In the case of the former, Bureau of Construction and Repair’s war plans division catalogued commercial vessels as potential auxiliary candidates.27 Annual fleet exercises of the 1920’s served as a test bed for amphibious operations. Marine forces placed a Pacific map over their Caribbean map as they experimented with a landing craft, an amphibious tank, a tank lighter and radio equipment. The Marines concluded that taking an island by frontal assault placed a premium on speed, combat loaded transports and naval air support. In a lecture at the U.S. Naval War College, Major General John Lejeune, Marine Corps Commandant, went so far as to ask that battleships be detached from the fleet in order to render gunnery support to amphibious forces. Given the navy’s battleship doctrine at the time, Lejeune’s proposal was obviously pushing the envelope.28


Annual naval exercises also permitted the fleet to engage in refueling ships at sea. Here the fleet explored two protocols, refueling broadside and refueling astern. The latter was regarded as safe but time consuming, the former permitted two ships to refuel at the same time. The broadside risked vessel collision, however. To a naval officer, a banged up hull was hardly the route to flag rank.29 Another recurrent issue surfaced during annual fleet exercises. Auxiliary ships simply could not keep up with combatant vessels, exposing both to the risk of submarine attack. To be sure, the navy did enjoy an inventory of World War I cargo vessels. But the ships had one trait in common. They were slow. The navy concluded that they needed fast ships constructed from the keel up. A merchant ship subsidy program seemed to be the answer. Between 1922-23 President Warren Harding proposed such a program. Actually, the administration advocated a two tier plan; one for merchant shipping firms, another for private shipbuilding yards. The House of Representatives passed a watered down version of the program, only to be killed by a senator filibuster. Congress did legislate a limited subsidy for ocean liners during the Coolidge administration.30 Fleet exercises served as a venue to test torpedoes supplied by the navy’s Newport Torpedo Station, Rhode Island. When some line officers reported that torpedoes ran “cold”, the Chief of Bureau of Ordinance cautioned the officers not to “alibi.” It was obvious, said the bureau chief, that ship’s forces required additional and careful training.31 In the 1920’s the nation’s craft unions assumed a more accommodative posture. After a postwar recession in 1920 the economy turned around and real wages began to trend upwards. The AFL obviously preferred a close shop, though Joseph Gompers, AF of L President, had not


lost sight of other agenda items. Gompers, for example, urged President Harding to permit U.S. Navy Yards to take on work for the Army Transport division, the U.S. Shipping Board, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Gompers essentially proposed that a Taylor ban be extended to all government ship work. President Harding, apposing the ban, responded that such a program would weaken and debilitate the nation’s commercial shipyard industry.32 The stock market crash of October 1929 ended the good times. The nation’s Gross National Product dropped in half, unemployment rate hit double digits, corporate earning evaporated. The Hoover administration attempted to dampen the downward economic spiral by creating the Reconstruction Finance Corporation while directing ship construction to eastern Navy Yards. Congress raised taxes and imposed a tariff on U.S. imports. Presumably the Federal Reserve was created to serve as a banker’s bank, but the Fed abandoned the nation’s banking system and proceeded to reduce the nation’s money supply by one third. Real interest rates soared to 15% and corporate capital spending all but dried up. Driven to the wall, some commercial yards attempted to survive by diversifying into railroad repair work. Other yards simply closed up shop.33


Congress, 1933-1939 (The New Deal)

After Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed office in March 1933, the legislative pace began to accelerate. Congress enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act that allotted three billion dollars to public work projects. The NRA act also contained a sleeper. The President, not Congress, would determine assigning individual ship construction work to a private or government yard. In addition, President Roosevelt, via an executive order, allocated $283


million dollars for naval ship construction. The rationale was straight-forward. Labor accounted for 50% of a ship’s building cost. Congress passed the Vinson-Trammel Act in 1934 permitting the U.S. fleet to build up to its tonnage level permitted by the Washington and London naval agreements. The naval treaty system ended in 1936 when Japan, after being denied naval parity, vacated the agreement entirely.34 After the President assigned battleship construction to U.S. navy yard, commercial yards objected that government yards had submitted estimated cost while private yards had to post firm prices. The President awarded heavy warships to government yards, instructing private yards to sharpen their pencils. In the privacy of the secretary’s weekly council meetings, however, U.S. line officers admitted that their yard cost estimates were largely bogus. Congress, to be sure, did fund the construction of four aircraft carriers in the 1930’s. When questioned as to the low status of aircraft carriers, however, Admiral William Leahy, Chief of Naval Operations, testified that flying boats could easily serve as the fleet’s eyes and ears.35 Directing their attention to the parlous state of the U.S. shipping, Congress, in 1936, created the U.S. Maritime Commission, replacing the former U.S. Shipping Board. The Commission took as its mandate the construction of fast merchant cargo vessels and high speed oil tankers. Rather than a mail subsidy program Congress reimbursed shipping lines and private yards with cash payments. Fleet exercises continued in the 30’s, warships divided between attacking and apposing forces. After each exercise naval officers analyzed, assessed and rendered tactical and asset recommendations. Refueling at sea became more frequent in the 1930’s as ships experimented


with hose size, heated oil, and automatic coupling devices. By 1931, the Operation’s office ordered ships to turn in their astern refueling gear. Broadside now became the preferred fleet replenishment protocol.36 Congress actively supported organized labor in the 1930’s. The House and Senate legislated a ban on legal injunctions employed against union strikers; passed the Wagner Act that legitimized labor’s right to organize; created a National Labor Relation Board to monitor antiunion corporate practices. In 1938, Congress legislated a minimum wage, limited hours of work per week and specified overtime pay. Firms accepting government contracts were required to pay workers the highest prevailing wage in a given geographic area.37 The political posture of labor unions in the 30’s stood in sharp contrast to the era of the 20’s. Craft unions (AFL), for example, quarreled over internal jurisdiction lines between machinists, carpenters, metal workers, boilermakers. In 1935, a new development entered the labor scene; John L. Lewis created the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO). It would not be long before craft and industrial unions were at daggers drawn. The two unions confronted each other over jurisdictional lines, vying for control over worker’s dues. On more than one occasion, business enterprises found themselves caught in a labor crossfire.38 Directing their attention to the cause of an anemic economy, Congress came up with at least three diagnoses. A first insisted that the economy suffered from rampant over production. Under that premise, U.S. output production should be scaled back and the nation’s prices and wages stabilized. Accordingly, the NRA instigated a massive price – wage fixing program as a device to restore the nation’s purchasing power. Executives who supported the program wore a blue eagle emblem on their coat lapel.39


Following the election of 1936, Congress executed a 180 degree turn. Congress now concluded that the economy produced, not too much, but insufficient output. The cause, insisted Congress, was due to output restraint exercised by concentrated big business. A host of structural policy prescriptions followed. The Department of Justice dusted off the nation’s antimonopoly statutes and filed restraint of trade charges against U.S. firms. Congress ordered the banking industry to divest commercial lending from investment activities. Congress ordered electric power companies to limit their holding company control over power affiliates. The FCC attempted to convert telephone owned manufacturers into a regulated utility. And the House and Senate accused the nation’s airline carriers of rigging mail subsidy bids. The administration ordered the U.S. Army Air Corps to supply the nation’s air mail service. Following the death of several Air Corps pilots, Congress reversed itself, and adopted Hoovers’ continental trunk system, but not before imposing a condition. Airframe suppliers had to spin off their airframe subsidiaries. In a final note, Congress placed the nation’s trucking under the jurisdiction of Interstate Commerce Commission. Nor did Congress resist the siren call of engaging in massive transfer payments. Congress lifted marginal income rates to 90%, levied a tax on estates, pushed through a tax on inter-corporate dividends, imposed a levy on corporate savings. The next step was perhaps inevitable. Congress asserted that U.S. corporations had not only caused the great depression, they were the prime mover behind the First World War. Adhominens followed; “banksters,” “merchants of death,” “economic royalists.”40



World War II, 1940-1945

At first, Congress appeared aloof to recent events in Europe. After seizing control of Poland in 1939, German panzer divisions in the spring of 1940 severed the connection between British and French forces. France capitulated. Britain successfully evacuated its troops from Dunkirk leaving their heavy weapons in France. Had the British army been able to access tank transporting ships, much of their equipment might have been saved. Once again, German UBoats roamed the Atlantic at will. In the spring of 1941, Congress passed a Lend Lease bill to aid a vulnerable Britain, later extended to the Soviet Union. So bountiful were U.S. truck exports to the latter that Russia adopted the term “Studebaker.” In the summer of 1941, the U.S. State Department elected to cut off high octane gasoline sales to Japan. Casting their eye toward the Dutch East Indies oil the Japanese fleet, nevertheless, realized they had an exposed left flank. On December 7, 1941 Japanese carrier aircraft nullified that flank at Pearl Harbor. Nor was this to be the first carrier engagement in the Pacific. The U.S. fleet interdicted a Japanese move to isolate Australia (Coral Sea.) Japan next attempted to lure U.S. carriers into a battleship trap (Midway). In all engagements, carrier aircraft dominated fleet action.41 However pivotal, Coral Sea and Midway did come at a price. The U.S. lost the carriers Lexington and Yorktown, the first sired under Harding administration, the second, under the Roosevelt administration. During Guadacanal, Japanese torpedoes sank the Hornet and Wasp. So stretched were U.S. carriers in the Pacific that the U.S. Navy borrowed the British carrier HMS Victorious. While in the Pacific, the Victorious was renamed the USS Robin.42


German U-Boats position themselves off the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coast – a move so effective that the U.S. Navy banned commercial tankers from delivering Texas through the Florida straits to the U.S. northeast. U-Boats also sealed off U.S. access to Venezuelan oil by sinking tankers leaving Aruba’s Caribbean oil refinery.43 In the spring of 1942 the Joint Chiefs of Staff dropped an unexpected deadline. President Roosevelt agreed to launch an invasion of North Africa. The North African target precipitated a crash construction program of personnel landing craft, LST ships, cargo ships and transport vessels. So urgent were LST’s that the battleship USS Kentucky was removed from its Norfolk construction way to make room for amphibious landing ship tank (LST).44 By this time, Henry Kaiser’s yards, under contract from the U.S. Maritime Commission, began turning out Liberty cargo ships. Kaiser also proposed to install a flight deck over a merchant hull, creating a carrier escort (CVE’s). The navy vetoed the Kaiser’s proposal. Roosevelt interceded and Kaiser constructed 100 escort carriers – half assigned to the British navy, the other half to the U.S. The navy also enlarged its carrier squadrons by converting nine cruisers into light carriers. It would not be long before the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Maritime Commission found themselves vying for private yard access. So intense was the rivalry between the two agencies that the president had to step in and divvy up commercial yard assignment.45 The new Essex Class carriers began arriving in the Pacific by 1943. In November, the U.S. fleet launched its central Pacific offensive – the Gilbert Islands. In the meantime, the demand for merchant hulls became insatiable. By this time, the Commission had run out of conventional ship building yards. It was here that Admirals Emory Land and Howard Vickery


put their reputations on the line. They let contracts to sand, gravel and road construction companies. Unfamiliar with nautical terms, the so-called emergency yards asked where to “pour the keel.” By the end of the war, the U.S. Maritime Commission in produced some 60 million tons of merchant ships; hospital ships, transports, munitions, Liberty oilers, Victory ships, amphibious command vessels.46 The fast carrier task force emerged as the sharp end of the U.S. Pacific offensive. Carrier aviation first imposed air control over an island. Once marine and infantry forces secured the island naval construction battalions converted the island into a staging area for a subsequent island assault. However ingenious, the advanced base had one drawback. It could not keep up with the carrier’s offensive time table. By early 1944, the navy dusted off its 1923 mobile base concept. Rather than a fixed base, the fleet would rely on a floating base at a Pacific atoll anchorage. Designated Sevron #10, the mobile unit marked another step toward logistic autonomy. An unheralded 1879 British tramp steamer hull had redefined the very content of a naval base.47 And what was the production secret of the Kaiser, McCone, Todd, Bechtel emergency shipyards? The companies hired untrained labor, instructed them to weld components into prefabricated modules, employed whirley cranes to lift modules onto vessel hulls, putting into play the economics of specialization and production flow. Kaiser’s first liberty ship took 150 days of construction. By 1944, Kaiser had reduced the time to 42 days. When a government official asked how Kaiser came up with the concept of mass production flow, the company’s yard manager responded that he was inspired by a visit to Henry Ford’s final assembly line.48


By the end of the Pacific war, U.S. firms had adopted facets of Taylor’s management principles. The results were not trivial. The U.S. delivered four tons per U.S. combatant; Japan produced two pounds per capita. Fleet Admiral Ernest King acknowledged that the U.S. had built the largest navy in the world. One naval historian observed that U.S. production was so bountiful that it more than compensated for any logistic shortfall in the Pacific. Another historian concluded that U.S. productivity permitted the U.S. fleet to surmount the frustrations of command disunity in the Pacific.49

VII. Conclusion In 1915, Detroit firms permitted outside companies to visit, study and adopt standard cost calculation, incentive wage payments, shop floor planning, production flow methodology and inventory control - in a word Taylorism. During the same period the U.S. Congress, prodded by the International Association of Machinists (AFL), legislated a ban on Taylor practices in the nation’s public sector. The U.S. Maritime Commission, during World War II, let contracts to U.S. firms residing outside the nation’s ship construction industry. The commission sought, not maritime experience, but rather management competence and expertise. New firms scattered along U.S. rivers and coasts constructed merchant hulls, amphibious ships, (LST’s) and amphibious landing craft, a prodigious supply of “auxiliaries” that laid the foundation for floating mobile bases at Pacific anchorages. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz would term mobile logistics his secret weapon.50


More intriguing, the U.S. Maritime Commission assumed the role of a knowledge broker. Observing innovative management practices at one yard, Admiral Vickery, USMC relayed the information to other shipbuilding firms. In effect, the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II adopted Detroit’s “plant convention” of 1915 under Edwin Denby, President of the Detroit Board of Commerce. (Denby would later serve as navy secretary in the Harding administration.) 51 At the end of the Pacific Campaign the U.S. Congress engaged in several policy moves. The navy’s Newport torpedo was shut down. Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, gave battleships a new assignment - Marine artillery support. In 1949, Congress removed its legislative Taylor ban at government yards and arsenals. Peter Drucker, a student of corporate management, observed that “The substitution of knowledge for manual effort as the productive resource [as] is the greatest change in the history of labor.”52 Put differently, Congress inhibited the navy’s shore establishment from participating in a management revolution. Ironically, the navy, in circumventing the Taylor ban, enabled the nation’s private sector to rescue congress from itself (Figure 1). Clearly, Scientific Management and fleet logistics had that played a pivotal role in the Pacific War. And what of the future? It is here that George Santayana’s haunting words are less than reassuring. “Each generation,” he observes, “…rushes down untrodden paths which it finds alluring, to die in its own way or become wise too late and to no good purpose.”53


Crash Production Potus

GB Fleet Marines

Yards Bureaus

Industrial groups A

Anti-Taylor Pro-Taylor




Sinthy Kounlasa 2014


Notes 1

George Santayana, Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1922), p. 101. 2

William B. Tardy “Scientific Management and Efficiency in the United States Navy,” Engineering Magazine, 15, 4 (July 1911): p. 535; also Literary Digest, 44, 16 (April 20, 1912): p. 840. “Scientific Management in the Navy.” Literary Digest, 44, 1 (April 10, 1912): p. 840. 3

Holden A. Evans, One Man’s Fight for a Better Navy, (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1940) Appendix B. pp. 376-378. Milton J. Nadworny, Scientific Management and the Unions, 1900-1932, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), pp. 30-31. Bureau of Construction and Repair, History of the Construction Corps of the United States Navy, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Navy Department, 1937), pp. 45-46. 4

George A. Wentworth, American Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, (New York: James T. White, 1900): p. 106. 5

Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1920, (New York: Viking, 1989): pp. 192-193. Mayro F. Guillen, Models of Management: Work, Authority and Organization in a Comparative Perspective, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994): p. 43. 6

Judith A. Merkle, Management and Ideology: The Legacy of the International Scientific Management Movement, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980): p. 30 “…Taylor set out to break skilled labor’s ‘monopoly’ on expertise.” 7

Samuel Haber, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era: 18901920, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 1-17. 8

William M. Tsutsui, Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 32. Following a plant visit to the U.S., Godo-Takyo, a naval constructor introduced “…division of labor, centralized planning, stopwatch time study, cost accounting, and instruction card procedures.”



U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Labor, Hearings, “The stop watch and bonus system in government work,” April 17, 1914, 63rd Cong. 15 sess., testimony of N.P. Alifas, District No. 44, International Association of Machinists, pp. 17-18, pp. 21-22. NARA, RG80, General records of the Department of the Navy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1921-1940, Box 20, October 9, 1933. Agencies involved in Navy Yard Division, Material Division of CNO, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, “Labor falls between the cracks.” 10

The Texas Mathematics Teacher Bulletin, (Austin: University of Texas, 1920): 14, also Charles D. Wrege, Ronald G. Greenwood, Frederick W. Taylor: The father of Scientific Management, Myth and Reality, (Homewood, IL: Business one Irwin, 1991), p. 8. 11

David F. Noble, American by Design, Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 272. “…The banning of Taylor methods in the arsenals, in the navy yards – on instruction of the new assistant navy secretary, Franklin D. Roosevelt – and in all government funded operations by 1916.” 12

George T. Davis, A Navy Second to None: The Development of Modern American Naval Policy, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1971); p. 227. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1917, p. 59. 13

National Council of American Shipbuilders, Commercial Shipyards and the Navy, (New York: National Council of Shipbuilders, 1937), p. 3. 14

Hugh Popham, Into Wind, (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1969), p. 59.


Allan Nevans, Sail On: The Story of the American Merchant Marine, (New York: United States Lines Company, 1964), p. 67. 16

David H. Stratton, Tempest over Teapot Dome: The Story of Albert B. Fall, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), p. 230. 17

John Douglas Forbes, Stettinius Sr.: Portrait of a Morgan Partner, (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1924), p. 65; also Ron Chernon, the House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance, (New York: American Monthly Press, 1990), pp. 188191. Robert D. Cliff, The War Industries Board: Business-Government Relations During World War I, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), p. 144. 18

Harold Stein, ed., American Civil Military Decisions: A Book of Case Studies, (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1963). Albert Blum, “Birth and Death of the M Day Plan.” p. 78.



Roderick L. Vawter, Industrial Mobilization: The Relevant History, (Washington: National Defense University, 1983), p. 5. 20

American Federation of Labor, “Additional Legislative Achievements,” American Federationist, 22, 5 (April 1915): pp. 291-292. John Philip Frey, 1871-1957, The Reminiscences of John P. Frey, Columbia University Oral History Collection, Part II, pp. 732-733. Marilyn Johnson, The Second Good Rush: Oklan and the East Bay in World War II, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997): p. 31. 21

The Detroiter, Official publication of the Detroit Board of Commerce, Vol. VI, 44, August 16, 1915, pp. 1, 3. Also August 30, 1915, p.1. A.F. Knobluch, Northway Motor and Mfg. Co. on scientific management “… The principles may safely be opened up to manufacturing everywhere.” 22

The Detroiter, VI, 6, 49, July 6, 1915, p. 5. Special Planning Staff, frees up cuts down clerical work at North Way. 23

The Detroiter, VI, 49, July 6, 1915, p. 5, The Detroiter, Vol. VII, 41, July 10, 1916, p. 1. Also, The Detroiter, VII, 40, July 3, 1916, p. 2. 24

Lawrence Madras, “The Public Career of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1964, p. 180. 25

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Diary, June 13, 1922, p. 310, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress; also NARA, RG 80, memorandum from director war plans to chief of naval operations, 8 October, 1921; Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945, (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991), pp. 115-116. William M. Tsutsui, Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998): p. 32. “Godo had been greatly impressed by the accomplishments of Taylorism and spent the years from 1919 to 1921 formulating an American-style mass production system for Kure.” 26

NARA, RG 80, Mobile base project, CNO Eberle Distribution list for basic readiness plan appendix F. Basic Readiness Plan Mobile Base Project, 20 December, 1923.


“Mobile Base Project” is a readiness plan. It is not an operating plan. This mobile base will be incorporated in the U.S. Fleet Train. The project therefore, leaves complete freedom of action to the commander-in-chief, U.S. fleet in the operation of the base.” Also, Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945, (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999), p. 234. 27

U.S. Navy Historical Section, Bureau of Ships, An Administrative History of the Bureau of Ships, Washington: Department of the Navy, 1952), p. 73. “As early as 1923 the navy started to prepare for conversion which were anticipated in the event of war. In that year a war plans division was established in the bureau of construction and repair charged with the responsibility of preparing for the conversion of merchant type vessels to navy use. 28

NARA, RG 127, Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Division of War Plans, Basic Plan Orange, 1920-1932, Box 3. Division of operations and training memorandum for the Major General Commandant, 3 August, 1923. “….the weaker the marine expeditionary force is the more support must the fleet give it, which means that additional battleships to give this support would have to be detached from the battle fleet….” Also, John a. Lejeune “Amphibious Landing.” Lecture, Naval War College, June, 1924, Naval Historical Center, Naval War College, Newport, R.I. Also, NARA, RG 127, Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, Division of Plans and Policy, War Plans Section, War Plans, 1915-1946, Box 2. Finally, NARA, RG 80, Office of the chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Training Division, General Correspondence, 1914-1941, Box 1, memorandum from Bureau of Ordnance of Force Torpedo Bulletin No. 1, 16 October, 1923. 29

NARA, RG 19, Bureau of Construction and Repair, General correspondence, Chief of Navy Operations to Secretary of the Navy, Fueling at Sea, April 13, 1921. 30

Carl E. McDowell, Helen Gubbs, Ocean Transportation, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954): p. 256. Paula J. Pettavino, “Prospects for Shipyard Mobilization: the Shipbuilding Industry and the U.S. Navy in Peace and War,” 101, 1, (Naval Engineers Journal, January 1989, p. 48. 31

NARA, RG 80, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Training Division, General Correspondence, Box 1, Memorandum from Bureau of Ordnance on Force torpedo Bulletin, No. 1, 16 October, 1923. 32

Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) Warren G. Harding papers, microfilm, Columbus, OH, Ohio Historical Collection, Dartmouth College Library, Micro #183, 1969, pp. 834-839.



Gerald Gunderson, A New Economic History of America, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1976), p. 461. Peter Goerge, The Emergence of Industrial America: Strategic Factors in American Economic Growth Since 1870, (Albany: State University of New York Press, Albany, 1982), pp. 179-180. 34

Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, The Use and Disposition of Ships and Shipyards at the End of World War II,” (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1946), p. 164. 35

Robert William Love, ed., The Chiefs of Naval Operations, (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1980), John Major, “William Daniel Leahy, 3 January 1937, 1 August 1939,” p. 106. 36

NARA, RG 19, Bureau of Construction and Repair, General Correspondence, 18 September 1931. On Astern Oiling Gear – remove “This material can be removed by ship force.” 37

Irving Brinton Holley, Jr., Buying Aircraft: Material Procurement for the Army Air Forces, (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1964): p. 282. On the Walsh-Healey Act. “…These laws required the submission of public contracts to the secretary of labor for approval.” Hilary Conroy, Harvy Wray, ed., Pearl Harbor Reexamined: Prologue to the Pacific War, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.) Gary Dean Best, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The New Deal and Japan, p. 32. In the first eight years of his administration Roosevelt was busy with another war – waged against business and banking in the United States. 38

Andrew E. Kersten, Labor’s Home Front: The American Federation of Labor During World War II, (New York: New York University Press, 2006), pp. 140-141; also Robert H. Levine, The Politics of American Naval Rearmament, 1930-1938, (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988), pp. 120-121. 39

Gene Smiley, Rethinking the Great Depression, (Chicago: Ivan R. Dec. 2002): pp. 90-91.


Jacob A. Vander Meylen, The Politics of Aircraft: Building an American Military Industry, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991), pp. 133-134. 41

Raymond Moley, After Seven Years, (New York: Harper and Brothers 1939), pp. 308-309; also Robert H. Jackson, That Man: An Insider’s Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 127. 42

NARA, Office of the Executive Secretary Policy Analysis Board, War Production Board, The Naval and Maritime shipbuilding Programs, July 18, 1944, p. 7. “Following the naval engagement in the Coral Sea and the one off Midway Island in May and June of 1942, a major change was made in the heavy combatant ship program.”


“… In June 1942, the construction of five battle ships and four heavy battle cruisers was indefinitely postponed to make way for the construction of more carriers.” 43

Christ Sheely, “USS Robin: An Account of the HMS Victorious First Mission to the Pacific,” M.A. Thesis, University of New Brunswick, 2003, pp. 76-77. 44

Civilian Production Administration, Industrial Mobilization for War: History of the War Production Board and Predecessor Agencies, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948): 658-659. John W. Frey, H. Chandler Ide, A History of the Petroleum Administration for War, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946), pp. 87-77. 45

Robert Greenhalph Albion, The Navy at Sea and Ashore, (Washington, D.C.: Navy Department, 1947). 46

Frederick C. Lane, Ships for Victory: A History of Shipbuilding Under the U.S. Maritime Commission in World War II, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1951), pp. 57-58. 47

Gerald D. Nash, World War II and the West: Reshaping the Economy, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), p. 44. “We were not at that time buying shipbuilding brains – what we were buying was management brains.” Also Lane, pp. 462-463. Arthur Herman, Freedom’s Forge: How American business Produced Victory in World War II, (New York: Random House, 2013), p. 132. 48

Paolo E. Coletta, ed., United States Navy and Marine Corps Bases Overseas, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985). William R. Braisted, Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands, U.S. Advanced Fleet Anchorage, 1944-1948, p. 34. “All supplies of fuel, ammunition and spare parts were to be stored afloat.” Duncan S. Ballantine, U.S. Naval Logistics in the Second World War, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), p. 176. 49

David A. Hounshell, American System to Mass Production, 1900-1932, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 250. The Reminiscencies of Emory Scott Land, Naval History Project, Oral History Research office, Columbia University, 1963, p. 156. 50

E. B. Potter, J.R. Fredland, ed., The United States and World Sea Power, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1955). Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan, (New York: Vantage, 1985), p. 560. E.B. Potter, C.W. Nimitz, ed., Sea Power: A Naval History,


(New York: Prentice-Hall, 1960), p. 645. Robert Gannon, Hellions of the Deep: The Development of American Torpedoes in World War II, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), p. 202. On Newport torpedoes, “It was ineffectual in testing, it was inadequate in manufacturing and it was feeble in its supervision of Newport,” also, William M. McBride, Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865-1945, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 268. 51

U.S. Congress, Congressional Record, U.S. Senate, January 31, 1924; p. 1735.


Peter f. Drucker, Technology, Management and Society: Essays by Peter Drucker, (New York: Harper and Row), 1970), 81. David O. Woodbury, Battle Fronts of Industry: Westinghouse in World War II, (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1948), pp. 3-5. 53

Santayana, p. 100.

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