War Industries Board

War Industries Board

The War Industries Board (WIB) was a United States government agency established on July 28, 1917, during World War I, and reorganized in 1918 under the leadership of Bernard M. Baruch. The organization encouraged companies to use mass-production techniques to increase efficiency and urged them to eliminate waste by standardizing products. The WIB set production quotas and allocated raw materials. It also conducted psychological testing to help people find the right jobs.

The WIB also dealt with labor-management disputes resulting from increased demand for products during World War I. The government could not negotiate prices and could not handle worker strikes, so the WIB regulated the two to decrease tensions by stopping strikes with wage increases to prevent a shortage of supplies going to the war in Europe.

Under the WIB industrial production in the U.S. increased 20 percent. As a result, retail prices soared, almost doubling between 1914 and 1918. The War Industries Board was decommissioned by an executive order on January 1, 1919.

With the war mobilization conducted under the supervision of the WIB, unprecedented fortunes fell upon war producers and certain holders of raw materials and patents. Hearings in 1934 by the committee of U.S. Senator Gerald Nye were intended to hold war profiteers to account.

Members of the War Industries Board

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Bernard M. Baruch was 75 years old in 1946 when President Harry S. Truman asked him to take the American proposal concerning atomic energy to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. The basis for the proposal was the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, which had been made public in March. Baruch decided to make some changes, which resulted in what became known as the Baruch Plan. He presented his plan to the first meeting of the UNAEC on June 14, 1946.

Born on August 19, 1870, in Camden, South Carolina, Bernard Mannes Baruch graduated from the City College of New York and eventually became a partner in the financial firm of A. Housman and Company where he later managed to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Baruch amassed his fortune before he was 30, started his own company, and by 1910 had become one of Wall Street’s financial leaders. He became an advisor to presidents, serving as the chairman for President Woodrow Wilson’s War Industries Board and as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Brain Trust.”

The Acheson-Lilienthal Report had been developed by a committee headed by Dean Acheson, with advice from a board of consultants headed by David Lilienthal. Its intent was to bring atomic energy under the ownership of an international agency, with the secrets of atomic weapons being revealed, but with all countries renouncing any intention of developing more bombs.

Known as the “Park Bench Statesman” for his work giving counsel to congressional politicians on a bench across from the White House, Baruch made it clear that he intended to put his own stamp on the report before proposing it to the U.N. He delivered his message to the opening session of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission at Hunter College in New York City on June 14, 1946. It specified swift and sure consequences for anyone breaking the rules, and placed the decision to impose those consequences beyond anyone's veto in the Security Council. It also laid out stages through which the United States would decommission its own nuclear weapons, but postponed the start of that reduction until after there were clear, worldwide guarantees that no one else would build such devices.

Baruch's speech began with words designed for impact, "We are here today to make a choice between the quick and the dead." Unfortunately, something was already dead and it was the Baruch Plan. The Soviet Union was firmly opposed on several counts. The purpose of vetoes in the Security Council was to ensure that the U.N. would not take action against any of the great powers. Baruch's plan would have abrogated that protection.

In addition, the delay envisioned that before the United States would begin dismantling its own weapons, it would give a probable several-year period in which the United States would have an advantage in any negotiations. This situation was intolerable to the Soviet Union.

Acheson had vehemently opposed allowing Baruch, a diplomatic amateur, to make changes to the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. His pessimism was justified. A desultory debate on the proposal continued into 1948, but there was no movement on either side. Before the end of the decade, the atomic arms race came into the open with the testing of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb. Denied any real purpose, the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission lasted until 1951, when it was merged with the Commission for Conventional Armaments.

It was not until Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace speech in 1953 that serious proposals for international control of atomic weapons re-emerged. In it, Eisenhower proposed that both parties draw on their stockpiles of fissile materials to make contributions to an International Atomic Energy Agency, which would be connected to the United Nations. This material would be used by the agency to promote the peaceful pursuits of mankind, applying it to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. Nuclear power would bring electricity to power starved areas of the world. By finding peaceful uses for the atom, the inventiveness of man would be dedicated to life rather than death.

On Baruch’s 90th birthday, a commemorative plaque was placed on his “office” bench in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. He continued to give counsel on international affairs until his death in New York City on June 20, 1965, at the ripe old age of 94.

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Bernard Rogers Bernard Rogers A Kansas Portrait In December 1966, the Army helicopter set down at Quan Loi, the 1st Infantry Division's outpost just 15 miles from the Cambodian border. The division's assistant commander stepped out to begin his tour of ...

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St. Bernard Parish Information Bernard Parish. The St. Bernard Parish Community College and the Elaine P. Nunez Vocational Technical School offer a wide range of technical and employment related training programs. Courses are scheduled by both programs in such fields as ...

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