MUNITIONS AND COMMON SENSE
AN ADDRESS By MAJOR L, A. CODD
Thursday, April 4, 1935
MR. DANA PORTER: Today, Gentlemen, we are considering a subject which has been very much before the public of this country and the United States in recent years.
The late President of the United States, Mr. Calvin Coolidge once attended a sermon-and perhaps he attended a sermon more than once. On one occasion, having attended a sermon he came home and his wife asked what the sermon was about. Mr. Coolidge being a man of few words, eventually said, "Sin". His wife being very curious when this subject was mentioned wanted to know what the minister had said about sin, and finally, with great reluctance, Mr. Coolidge said, "He was against it."
We have heard one aspect of the armament problem, that aspect of it that has been presented to the Club has been universally against munitions.
Today, Major Codd of the Army Ordnance Association of Washington proposes to speak on a somewhat different aspect of the problem. He is not connected with any private interest in this industry. The Association is a purely voluntary association, but he believes as other people associated with him do, that there is another side to the question which should be fairly presented to the public. It is therefore, with the great pleasure that I bring Major Codd to this Club, and I may remind you that this Club does not further any particular view on any particular subject. Our attempt is to have as many and as great a variety of views presented as possible. Major Codd.
MAJOR L. A. CODD: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Empire Club of Canada: I need not tell you, I hope, how delighted I am at the opportunity you have given me to address you this afternoon, and I trust that I need not assure you I am grateful for the honour, not only of being here with this distinguished organization, but also for the many courtesies and kindnesses which the officials of your group and particularly Mr. Porter have shown me. I feel that an after luncheon speaker should reciprocate as best he may and the only thing I can do, by way of reciprocation is to get on with my subject.
I am reminded of a story which makes the rounds in the United States army, about a certain Colonel who was far from a good horseman. One day there was a regimental review and of course the Colonel had to be mounted and all of his organization were curious among themselves as to what would happen when the Colonel was astride his mount. When the military band came by the mount began to prance and to canter and the men were so intent on watching the Colonel that one company in particular broke its line quite unheedingly and when the Captain saw his men in that form, he hurriedly came up and gave the command, "Ease off." Whereupon, one of the men in the ranks said, "No, he ain't off, but he soon will be." So, probably the sooner I am off or on, as the case may be, the better.
Now, I want to speak to you very, very frankly about this subject that I am here to discuss this afternoon, 'In my desire to be as frank as I can, I shall have, at the start, to speak a little in the first person. I want to tell you that I am not a spokesman for any individual or any company in the United States or elsewhere, nor was I ever engaged in the manufacture of armaments. I am not an employee of any such company. I am not a stockholder in any such company and I say that to emphasize the fact that my view is not at all the view of a party in interest. I hope it is not necessary for me to tell you that I am not a militarist or a war monger. I share as definitely and heartily and sincerely the views of every sane individual in his detestation of war. I do share the policy of my native country, of a degree of adequate preparedness but there is a sharp distinction between preparedness against war and any effort or inclination to wage it or to foment it.
With those negative explanations, may I add just one or two of a positive nature? As your President has already indicated to you, I am the Executive Secretary of the Army Ordnance Association with headquarters in Washington, and I am Managing Editor of Army Ordnance, its by monthly publication. The organization has been in existence now fifteen years and grew entirely out of our world war experience. I am not here to further the interests of that Association, but I should tell that it is not a group of munitions makers, but rather of engineers and manufacturers of the United States, several thousand of them who, by reason of their experiences during the World War, believe that the cultivation on their part of a knowledge of the design, manufacture and engineering technique of munitions production is one of the most important phases of our national defence. The Association is not organized for profit. It has no commercial interests, no political affiliation, no religious connection. It may be said to be intensely patriotic in so far as it endeavours to hold itself and its members in reserve, should the industrial strength of the United States ever again be required in any phase of a major emergency.
With these explanations out of the way, may I add a few philosophical, if you will, reflections in connection with this general subject, "Munitions and Common Sense." You know there is a great deal of misunderstanding today of that very term, munitions. If you will consult any recognized authority you will find that munitions, as a term is all inclusive. It embraces everything. Let's take the definition given in Webster's Dictionary
It embraces everything used by a defence force in time of war. And it is literally understood to mean that among military men. The munitions of an army means the supplies of that army, with everything that it requires in the completion of its objective. Munitions is so all-embracive, so inclusive a term, that it includes everything from shoes and socks and tooth brushes, which an army uses, to tanks and aeroplanes and guns - everything from army pants to navy beans, and supplies in time of war for an army is oftentimes more acute than man power.
If there is one lesson that was proved to the United States it was that we could mobilize men at a much faster rate than we could begin to supply them with the things they would need for their own protection in battle. Supplies are all important in varying degree.
I am reminded of a story that is told about the tribes in China where a General was captured by one of the factions. Emissaries were sent over to see if they could not arrange his release. So the emissaries thought they would trade a little bit with the captors. The captors were willing to consider the trade and said, "Well, what have you to offer for the General we now have?" They said, "Well, we will give you four Lieutenant-Colonels for him." The Chinaman shook his head, "No, he wouldn't do that." "Well, then, we will give you eight Majors." "No, we won't do that." "We will put those two together and give you a couple of captains." "No, that won't do."
"What can we give you." The captors said, "We can't think of releasing your General for anything less than 24 cans of condensed milk."
"Now, armament is a term and the military armaments I speak of is just one particular part of this whole munitions question and when we hear a great deal of complaint raised these days about munitions makers, the complaints certainly mean the armament makers because if they use the broad term, then they must include everybody who makes anything that an army can use. So, when I speak and use the word munitions, I certainly mean it in the sense of armaments.
May I give just another reflection? It is the great misunderstanding that exists generally today about the effect of modern armaments upon war. If I read history correctly, I can not see how a common sense viewpoint of the question can claim that armaments are a prime cause of war. Rather, it is most convincing from the record of history, to me at least, that armaments are merely an effect. They are not a cause. Wars existed long before modern implements of defence or offence were ever dreamed of. By the same token, we are often told that modern armaments make war more horrible. There may be isolated cases where modern arms have done that but certainly in the long run, he who neglects the lesson of history might make the claim, but the one who takes stock in history could not countenance it for a moment. History records for instance, that Gengis Khan built huge pyramids, captured human skulls and certainly he had not modern armaments; or, again, that during the Crusades, the streets ran ankle deep with blood, and the Crusaders would have been as much surprised at a machine gun as you and I, today, would be to see a modern army with a pick or a spear.
Then, we are told that modern armaments make war far more destructive and yet you' can go back to the days of ancient history and find that the Romans destroyed ancient Carthage and Jerusalem, more completely than did all the might of the German artillery pounding away incessantly for four years, wreck the little town of Verdun.
No, Gentlemen, in my viewpoint, these inanimate things can not be ascribed as the causes of war. They are the effects. War is a matter of will or of intention. These inanimate things of guns and tanks and planes and rifles do not have wills of their own. They do not go about the world seeking whom they may destroy. They are only tools, tools, in the hand of a man and man, as one commentator has observed, is a more unstable compound that T and T.
Now, in giving you the viewpoint that some of us in the United States hold on this question, may I ask you for just a moment to recall the incident which occurred after the United States entered the World War, when General Pershing was assigned the task of leading overseas the complement of the American Army. If you will consult General Pershi’s report, you will find he describes one of the first things he had to do upon arrival abroad; it was to arrange for the supply of our artillery which the American forces were to use and the General says in so many words in his report, that he considered himself and the American Army most fortunate in being able to arrange with the French Government for the supply of our artillery for the first two years. Now, why in the world did the Commanding General of the United States Army, in 1917, consider himself fortunate to make such an agreement? We might consider that due to the difficulties of shipping there might have been a loan for three months or six months or so. But why did he make the arrangements to get the artillery for two years and consider himself fortunate in being able to do so? Simply for one reason, he knew, and anyone else familiar with the problem knew, that despite its industrial power, despite its professional engineering ability, the United States did not have the facilities with which to produce that material and it would require safely, at least, a year or a year and a half before American industry could begin to produce the things they needed of that nature.
The situation before the World War was that the United States Army owned and operated six manufacturing arsenals. It owns and operates the same six today. Before the World War there were a few, not more than a half dozen, private companies in the United States, who were actually producing in connection with their commercial production, some types of American ordnance. Today, we have the self-same six.
Now, the problem of producing these complicated things is so great that when the War came to the United States it was necessary for American industry to begin from scratch to build up the technique, the facilities with which to produce the things that the Army needed, and American industry, doing its best, took many a month before the job was even tackled. But tackle it American industry did and by November, 1918, there were five thousand separate contracts with private manufacturing of every phase of industry producing the armaments need ed for our military forces. In addition, there were three thousand more contractors engaged in the production of secondary items, by which I mean, parts of the completed armaments. And, in addition to these there were 17,000 contractors engaged in supplying all types of munitions for the army, a total in all of approximately 25,000 contractors engaged in that huge task.
Of course, that put the nation on a war footing and promptly it returned to the things of peace. So in the United States, today, you still have the six government-owned and operated arsenals under the jurisdiction of the United States Army and a few companies who, encouraged by the United States Government, have kept up the manufacture of certain types, in very limited quantities, so that in the event of an emergency we will at least have that nucleus equipped through knowledge and facilities to begin the production of the things that we might need.
Might I just call your attention to one complication with regard to the actual production of these companies, these private companies and how much of that production goes abroad, You know if you listened to a great many critics of the munitions situation you would think there was a great deal of secrecy about this huge business that is going on under cover. Well, in the United States and I speak only for the situation in that country - I know little or nothing about it elsewhere-in the United States we have been publishing through the Department of Commerce, monthly statistics since the year 1922, showing by country of destination and by quantity the number of articles of a military nature produced by private manufacturers and sold to other countries. Now, it is difficult to find a common denominator, if you are trying to get some sort of a picture as to just how big this business is, but you can find a common denominator of weight and do you know, if you take the statistics for twelve years, from 1922 to the end of 1933, you find that the total shipment of military arms and military powder and explosives, the total shipment from the United States for twelve years, figures out as nine thousand, seven hundred and some odd tons for twelve years. Is that much or little? Well, the nearest comparison I can find is that it is just about the cargo of one modern ocean going freight vessel for the period of twelve years, so that this production which is going on is for the supply of other countries, mostly non-industrial countries. The countries that do not make their own armaments are the non-industrial countries and there are not more than ten industrial countries in the world today, so the other nations, not equipped to produce but which feel they have a certain requirement for armaments, both for their external and internal national defence are compelled to import the implements that they require from some producing country and the exports that have gone out from the United States are certainly, in the great majority of cases, for the legitimate national defence needs of some other country.
Now, there may be gun runners; there may be gun toters. If you are familiar with the prohibition situation in the United States for many long and arduous years, you would know there are bootleggers, but why in the world allow an abuse, if there are abuses, to result in any such thing as a philosophy which cannot distinguish between a legitimate use and an abuse? If there are unethical practices, by some particular individuals, certainly no sane, fair-minded person holds any brief for them, whatever. If there are gun runners, efforts should be made to curb their activities, but to say in one fell swoop that the remedy for this situation, the remedy for clearing out this individual who is supposed to go about the world fomenting war for his own profit is to eradicate the whole industry is certainly for one in the United States to make the same colossal mistake that was made when that philosophy was applied to whether one should or should not drink.
Now, what possible solutions are there for putting into some sort of control this thing that is a part of the national defence? Well, some students of the question say that we should have a nationalized industry, just as the trend seems to be in so many other fields today, to a nationalized industry of one type or another. Well, now, if the nationalized industry of arms making be able, economically to provide for one's national defence needs, certainly there could not be any complaint about it. But expert opinion in the United States regarding our own problem is that the six arsenals that the Army now has for the production of its military supplies and which are able to produce all and more of the limited peace time needs of the Army, those six arsenals in time of major war could not produce more than five per cent of the total military requirements. Now, taking the viewpoint of the realist, and national defence cannot be viewed in any other way, what would be necessary if we nationalize the industry in the United States? My view is we would have to have ample capacity ready to take care of any army required in the event of emergency and if we have only five per cent now, experts estimate that the facilities to produce one hundred per cent of the requirements in government-owned and operated establishments, would cost the taxpayers anywhere from a billion and a half to three billion dollars, simply to erect those facilities.
Now, leave out the great government payroll. Leave out amortization on such an investment as that, but capitalize it only at a very low interest figure and it certainly should be apparent that any such public expenditure would certainly be the most uneconomical way in which such a problem could be handled.
Now, if you were to have a nationalization and the elimination of the private manufacturer - it is all well and good to say that the private manufacturer is ruled out in time of peace, but everyone who studies the problem will grant that in time of war you need the private manufacturer, you need every bit of the industrial power of the country to produce these very things so that we have the very contradictory situation of a producer being forced out of business by law in time of peace, knowing full well that in the event of war, he is going to be urged and demanded to begin production of a thing about which he will then know very little, will have had no engineering experience and certainly will have a most expensive undertaking for himself and his government on his hands.
Now, there has been one suggestion made and it certainly is a logical one, and that is that the production and shipment of arms, particularly to certain areas of the world where trouble might be started through having such equipment, that the control be exerted of the export by all the countries of the world. I do not think any sane individual or any company would object to any such method as that-control by export license and publicity as to the figures of materials exported and countries of destination.
As a matter of fact, the United States Senate, last June, ratified a treaty providing for such form of control. That ratification was provisional upon a similar ratification by the other armed producing countries of the world and my last information was that there were some four or five that had not yet ratified it but I am sure that anyone familiar with the problem in the United States would agree that there is no objection whatsoever to a form of control through export licenses and through that method it might be possible to curb shipments, particularly by unconscionable individuals who, in all events, have no business being in such an enterprise anyway.
Consequently, it does seem to me that there is a great deal of ground for common sense in looking at such a problem as this. I don't think it is at all helpful to take the attitude of the agitator of the cynicalist in attempting to iron out any wrong that may exist in connection with this problem. It goes to the very deepest roots of a country's existence and many a country in the world is going to exert every power and influence within its possession to see that its right to get what it needs for its own defence is not going to be withdrawn from it.
The viewpoint of some of us in the United States is that the private manufacturer, limited in number, limited in quantity, producing as those private manufacturers are, is really a second line of the national defence because we know full well that in the event of a major emergency, industry and the professional engineer will have to attempt to do the job as best he may.
At a profit? Well, we hear a great deal about the profits of munition makers during the World War. And there were profits, just as there were mistakes and delays and waste in every phase of so great an undertaking about which we had very little experience to operate upon. But in all fairness, it is a gross misrepresentation to accuse the armament maker during the World War as having been the profiteer. If you examine the figures you find that inflation brought such great increases in price that there were very few forms of enterprise, of production or of personal service, which did not bring their particular form of high profit. For instance, you seldom hear it mentioned when we talk of war profits, that wheat, that all-important essential item without which an army cannot move - Napoleon said an army travels on its stomach - the price of wheat in June, 1914, in the United States, before the World War, and the price in June, 1916, at the peak of the World War, shows an increase of 138 percent. Yet who ever thinks of accusing the wheat grower of the western plains as sharing in the profits of war? Cotton, without which a modern army could not last scarcely a day, the great essential component item of explosive powder, its price increased in the vicinity of 150 per cent, if my recollection is correct.
The general wholesale commodity index, comparing again the same dates, was about 98 per cent; the retail index, about 92 percent. And, strange as it may seem, one of the great companies which today is being criticized most severely in the United States because of its manufacture of powder, while all this price rise was going on, two of their products, explosive powder made purely from cotton, alcohol and nitric acid, all of which components had climbed tremendously in price, the finished product of one of those great companies shows a decrease in price for one type of powder of eight percent and a decrease in price for another type of twelve percent.
So, that I say when we criticize the arms maker as the profiteer, at least we should be fair enough to grant that this thing of profit in war time is a matter of national policy that must approach every individual, share and share alike, so that there is no inordinate profit made by any individual or any group.
In the United States, that question has been studied thoroughly, long before this present great amount of talk was begun. A War Policy Commission in 1930 recommended that in time of war in the United States all profits have an excess profit tax of 95 percent placed upon it, in addition to a system of price fixing, so that the inequalities of the high cost and the low cost producer might be ironed out through taxation.
Gentlemen, these are the broad outlines, I think, candidly and sincerely, the common sense of the question. I€ there be abuses, let's eradicate them. But I certainly think we are justified, we of the United States, in the policy that we are following which seeks war with no one, which wants to live on terms of justice and fairness with everyone, which has no thought of self-aggrandizement, which has no unjust aims that might result in war, while we hate war, we feel we must be prepared against it and we think we have ample authority in our own experience and in the experience of other nations to warrant that belief. Indeed, we have the great authority, the Bible, quotation, where we read, "When the strong man armed keepeth his court, those things which he possesseth are in peace." (Applause.)