French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

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rbannon01
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 03 Jan 2011 20:46

Hi...good points Bronsky, however:
"Every country underwent the same problems when transitioning from biplanes to fast monoplanes"
The French were not transitioning from biplane to monoplane at that time, they were transitioning from fast monoplane to a faster monoplane.
" they had produced some very advanced types until the early 1930s but then started lagging behind ""then started lagging behind for reasons related to industrial policy."


How do you consider that the French were lagging behind when the M.S. 406 was still by the standards of the time, a very effective aircraft, about as fast as the Hurricane and the curtiss Hawk. It had a cannon and two M.G. it was agile and with a good pilot could have put up a good fight with anything in the air at that time. Contrary to popular belief, the fastest plane doesn't always win.
Also, production of designs just as good as anyone elses were already being built. Why would you say they were lagging behind? Politics and labor disputes disrupting production was not exclusive to France, all countries involved had their share of those problems.

"Do you know exactly how many planes, on paper, the French and the Germans had? My understanding is that, if you're counting everything with wings and an air force serial number, the RAF was the largest of all.

As to falling into disrepair, it's not a case of one or the other. Many planes were not combat worthy because they were lacking critical spare parts, the reason for which being that these spares had been directed to the newer types. Also, many of these aircraft were simply worn out"

I wasn't there to count the planes. Like most everyone else I have to use information published by various sources. Spare parts could have been produced in the U.S. if the French were lacking facilities, which I doubt. Put the employees on overtime and weekend if you have to. Many U.S. companies would have jumped at the chance. No plane cannot be rebuilt or repaired unless there is failure with the airframe. There are even a few M.S. 406s flying today in airshows.20% of what the French had built... when

"20% of what the French had built... when?"

Before Sept. 1st 1939 aparantly. But like I said, I wasn't there....I have to go by what other people have written. But looking at the production figures, and then looking at what was available to fight with, that seems about right.

that's all I have time for right now, but I will come back and finish later. Great talking with you. You may well be correct on most of this, being French, you should know more than I do. But I appreciate the imput. I know some Frenchmen/women. Their English isn't anywhere near as good as yours.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Bronsky » 03 Jan 2011 21:37

Thanks for the kind words. Living in France doesn't automatically makes me an expert on all things French, there are non-French topics that I know better than this one, but I do happen to have studied the French rearmament effort.
rbannon01 wrote:The French were not transitioning from biplane to monoplane at that time, they were transitioning from fast monoplane to a faster monoplane.
Same difference - the Gloster Gladiator was faster than those early French monoplanes.
rbannon01 wrote:How do you consider that the French were lagging behind when the M.S. 406 was still by the standards of the time, a very effective aircraft, about as fast as the Hurricane and the curtiss Hawk. It had a cannon and two M.G. it was agile and with a good pilot could have put up a good fight with anything in the air at that time. Contrary to popular belief, the fastest plane doesn't always win.
The MS 406 was more or less a match for the early Hurricane and the early Bf 109, though it appeared somewhat later. Compared to the 1939-40 fighters, it was becoming obsolescent and was in trouble when facing the Emil. The main reason it soldiered on was that production of the follow-up designs was lagging. Some of those more modern fighters, like the MB 152, had serious problems of their own that had to be solved, first.
rbannon01 wrote:Also, production of designs just as good as anyone elses were already being built.
The best fighter that the French had in production was the Dewoitine 520, which had roughly the speed of the Hurricane and could hold its own against, but definitely held no superiority over, the Bf 109E or the Spit I, with the latter two aircraft already being in operational service with most of the early troubles worked out. That's hardly production of designs just as good as anyone else's. The other main fighters in French production were the MB 152 and the Curtiss Hawk (the latter only being assembled), both of which were inferior to the D.520, not to mention enemy front-line fighters.
rbannon01 wrote:I wasn't there to count the planes. Like most everyone else I have to use information published by various sources.
My question was: what exactly is the source for your claim that 20% of the French aircraft were operational, and what are comparable statistics for other, contemporary air forces? I have looked at some of these figures myself, and haven't arrived at the same conclusion as you seem to have, hence my asking.
rbannon01 wrote: Spare parts could have been produced in the U.S. if the French were lacking facilities, which I doubt.
Spare parts could not have been produced in the U.S. unless the French were prepared to pay a heavy price and wait a long time for suitable retooling. Things like metric vs imperial measurements. U.S. production had trouble of its own ramping up: look up the first volume of the USAAF official history, or the relevant article in "The Big L", for details of the growing pains the US industry experienced with foreign orders, both books are available on line. The short version is foreign orders jump-started the US industrial mobilization, just in time for the US government to pick up the effort with huge orders of its own.

And French facilities and manpower were already busy, why do you think they were buying from abroad?
rbannon01 wrote: Put the employees on overtime and weekend if you have to. Many U.S. companies would have jumped at the chance. No plane cannot be rebuilt or repaired unless there is failure with the airframe. There are even a few M.S. 406s flying today in airshows.
There is no question that the French could have kept the Moranes flying for longer. In a different forum, Takata even suggested going with the Morane v2.0 (M.S. 410) with a cleaner design and more powerful engine, to capitalize on the fact that the production lines were already set up, and so was the logistical chain. Doing that meant seriously postponing the introduction of the Dewoitine, though, as both planes were competing for parts (and engines).

The point is, keeping older machines airworthy meant delaying the introduction of the newer models. You can argue for a different choice, but you have to stick to the historical parameters, you can't just wave constraints away and declare the French didn't have more planes due to sheer neglect.
rbannon01 wrote:Before Sept. 1st 1939 aparantly. But like I said, I wasn't there....I have to go by what other people have written. But looking at the production figures, and then looking at what was available to fight with, that seems about right.
Again, I have to ask, what production figures? Since when? Only a handful of the 68,000-some planes the French built during WWI were still airworthy, not to mention operational, by 1939. Should the French have gone to the effort of keeping what remained of that stockpile operational? Obviously not. On the other hand, if you don't come up with a source for your claim, discussion is impossible because we don't know what facts you are talking about. I have an inkling you're going from a couple of articles by Kirkland, the worse of which is available on line, but until you come back with more details, it's hard to be sure. No hurry, though, take care.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 04 Jan 2011 06:02

O.K. the information I've read gives the M.S. 406 a top speed of 300+ MPH. The Gloster Gladiator is usually given about 250 MPH. I'm assuming that is unladen. And I'm not talking about WWI aircraft, the M.S. 406 mostly.

Sources: I bought several books on the subject and I've read every book I could find in our 2 local librarys with any substantial information on the early years of WWII. There aren't that many here, maybe 20 or so. You can find books on D-Day and Iwo Jima by the dozen though. But, the early years are what interest me the most. I've even ordered a couple of books specifically on the Battle of France. Then there's the internet and various magazines. Sorry...but I'm not in the habit of documenting where I've read this or that. And I don't have the time to go back and look. I'm sure you know that every source differs at least a little, often a LOT. If you can suggest a book that is the absolute definitive book AND is available in english, I will try to find it. I can't read French...I wish I could. Most books/articles on the Battle of France that I have found are sketchy and information varies widely. According to -Winston Churchills The Second World War- you guys had about 35,000 tanks (I assume that was a misprint and that Churchill didn't really believe that). Yes, I could make a list of the books if you really want me to, but I don't see the point.

I understand what you are saying, and of course you are correct for the most part. But....

Correct me if I'm wrong. Starting with fighters. Germany, according to most sources I've read, had about 1000 fighters participating in the Battle of France. Again, according to most sources I've read, German fighters outnumbered the Allies fighters by about 300 +/- fighters.
According to sources, and I'm operating off of memory, France had on May 10, about 20 VG 33, about 60 operational Bloch 155, 300 Curtis 75, about 75 D 520 (these I've just mentioned are NOT including all that were produced by that time, but those with pilots, sitting on an airfield, ready for combat)........ AND 900+ M.S. 406.
That's a total of 1355 fighters for France alone NOT EVEN including the RAF and the Low Countries. We can assume that the reason for the German numerical advantage was that most, I'm guessing, 80% of the M.S. 406 were not able to fly. So that's where the 20% comes from. I've read that elsewhere, and to me looking at that, it appears more or less correct.

Since from my reading, most French leaders were almost certain war was comming since, at least, the Rhineland incident or even before. Any that doubted were surely convinced by the Czechoslovakia incident.

I'm aware of the reasons, but to allow your main fighter force to go to ruin when you have 2 or more years to plan and make arrangements to suit both new production and keeping your current models battleworthy until replaced, in my opinion, IS neglectful.

With Bombers, there is a simular story, but I don't have time to get into that.

Other countries had simular problems, yes, but England and the U.S. had little or no fear of a direct invasion the same way France did. The French leaders were very aware of this, so no expense should have been spared to keep all or most M.S. 406 ready to fly and pilots to man them. Even if it means paying more and getting U.S. contractors to build the spare parts. Sure it would have taken some time to get it set up, but they had at least 2 years. No factory has just one set of plans, one set of jigs and fixtures for the various tooling required, there's usually dozens made. Send one of each, have them duplicated and let production begin.

Really, when the M.S. 406s reached below 80% combat readiness, someone should have put some thought and effort into it and kept them flying.

And what of the pilot shortage? We are talking about an extra 1000-2000 or so guys out of a military that at mobilization would be in the millions. Again, given Frances' geographical location, no expense should have been spared.

But, that's just my opinion. Yours would be appreciated.

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Bronsky
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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Bronsky » 04 Jan 2011 08:07

rbannon01 wrote:O.K. the information I've read gives the M.S. 406 a top speed of 300+ MPH. The Gloster Gladiator is usually given about 250 MPH.
I was referring to the early French monoplanes, that would be the Dewoitine 500-501-510 for the fighters. Sorry if I was unclear.
rbannon01 wrote:I'm sure you know that every source differs at least a little, often a LOT. If you can suggest a book that is the absolute definitive book AND is available in english, I will try to find it.
When they differ a lot, they're either talking about something very different, or some of them are wrong. That's where quoting the source can help determining which is which. I don't know of "the absolute definitive book" in any language.
rbannon01 wrote:Starting with fighters. Germany, according to most sources I've read, had about 1000 fighters participating in the Battle of France.
Available for Fall Gelb, 860 Bf 109 + 350 Bf 110s, not counting those that weren't serviceable. Total Luftwaffe strength available for Fall Gelb was 3,520 plus 520 transports and gliders.
For French figures, no need to rely on your memory, see upthread.
The RAF had 408 aircraft in France, of which 397 were serviceable, plus 22 Gladiators.

Regarding the rest, two quick points. First, this thread is supposed to be used as a reference, so a general discussion about French preparations should probably take place elsewhere. Secondly, there's no question the French made mistakes, including serious ones, like with pilot training. Somehow forgetting to perform basic maintenance on otherwise usable aircraft was one of the few they didn't make.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 04 Jan 2011 14:40

Been great talking to you, thanks for your time and imput.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 04 Jan 2011 16:08

And I would like to add that I am not a France basher. If you notice, most of my comments here, with the exception of the "spare parts for the M.S. 409s" and the pilot shortage situation, are pretty much pro French. I have just started posting here, but I'm usually the one defending the French. I like to feel I have reached somewhat of an understanding of what happened..... and what could have happened.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Tim Smith » 05 Jan 2011 12:23

Bronsky wrote:
rbannon01 wrote:How do you consider that the French were lagging behind when the M.S. 406 was still by the standards of the time, a very effective aircraft, about as fast as the Hurricane and the curtiss Hawk. It had a cannon and two M.G. it was agile and with a good pilot could have put up a good fight with anything in the air at that time. Contrary to popular belief, the fastest plane doesn't always win.
The MS 406 was more or less a match for the early Hurricane and the early Bf 109, though it appeared somewhat later. Compared to the 1939-40 fighters, it was becoming obsolescent and was in trouble when facing the Emil. The main reason it soldiered on was that production of the follow-up designs was lagging. Some of those more modern fighters, like the MB 152, had serious problems of their own that had to be solved, first.
The MS 406 was more than capable of blasting German bombers out of the skies, which was the French air defence priority. Fighter vs fighter combat was of secondary importance, just as it was for the British in the Battle of Britain.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by kender » 05 Jan 2011 15:46

Just to help you a little :

a good beginning about the French Air Army is the following site : http://france1940.free.fr/adla/ada_may.html
It list in english the aircrafts in unit of the french army.

Some others informations :
- the MS406 was to go to the training unit in the winter 1940 if not the shortage of new fighter.
But the MB15x, VG33 and D520 were not ready, so the MS406 were kept in Combat units.
-> less new pilot because of the lack of modern fighter (speed was an issue in trainning, older model than MS406 were of no use for advanced training)
-> more need of spare than planned (more flight from bad airfield)
-> the production line was retooled to build new type (so impossibility to product new MS406 without delay for the new MS406 and for the new planes)

- the MS406's engine lost a lot of power after 80 hours of work, limiting their nominal speed in the fight.

- the D520 was not in Combat Ready Unit, the unit equiped with (36 at G.C. I/3, 4 at G.C. II/3) were converting it in the south of france at the beginning of the battle or had only a few planes (3-4 on 30) to prepare their converting (G.C. III/3 G.C. III/6 G.C. II/7). Not all 75 built were ready to fight the 10 may.

- VG33 was not ready to fight (or only a few prototype above the factories's airfields, not production fighter)

- Lots of planes builts were waiting, in french reception base, their guns or some equipments (lance-bombe, viseur[sight]...). the french's nationalised airplane factory were outproducing the private's equipment factory.
- lots of MB151-152 were lacking helice or gunsight to fight (hélice et le collimateur)
- lots of bomber were missing gunsight or bombsight

About the pilot, some unit being converting of aircraft, their pilot have, in the battle, to go in the south take the airplane to their unit -> lots of time lost for his crucial ressource : good pilot.

You are right about using supplement hours in factory. Some factory were working as usual (in the battle, some pilot had to argue with gardian at night to be able took a few spare urgently needed for some planes of it unit).

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by rbannon01 » 06 Jan 2011 02:43

Thanks for the reply kinder. I will check out the link. I've read most of the info before, I have also read some info that disagrees with some of it. I have read where a French official visited one of the aircraft parts construction facilites shortly before the war, and was stunned to find out there was no night shift. (This was and old book written in the early 1950's, presumably when peoples memories were still fairly fresh. I can't remember the authors name, the title was -The Fall of France- but there have been several published with the same title, I myself, own one of them, same title, different book. When I have time I'm going to see if it's still at the library. This discussion has me wanting to read it again) Anyway, I've since wondered if....... out of the entire French Empire,...... they couldn't scrape up a couple of dozen machinists and a couple of hundred people to be trained to pull levers and push buttons to man a night shift? This situation is one of my few real critiques of how the French handled the situation before and durring the war. Most of the rest that was done was understandable, even if sometimes questionable.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by kender » 06 Jan 2011 10:24

Hi,

Could you develop the info that disagree (to be able to work on it)?

The french Empire is another question.
In 1940, French army didn't have any military factory out of France (some navy arsenal in Algery, lebanon), only some maintenance center in the Colonial Ministry (not the War ministry) and without big capacity. French used some capacity in marocco to assemble american plane. But they didn't had lots of capacity and it was used. Some studies are done about a whatif in North Africa without reddition. Lack of industrial base was the biggest issue in.

One of the main problem in france wasnt the lack of worker but more the absence in "urgent thinking" in the factory. lots of factory decline (more like didn't do) supplement hour because they didn't see the need (the contract didn't impose it I suppose). "mass production of military aircraft quickly" was new for the recent french air ministry, the builder of aircraft had more experience but with the nationalisation of aircraft factory, they had a system at 2 speed : planes and equipment were not synchro. Stress was present for the plane, not for the equipment (they didn't forsee the needs).

Your critique on nightshift are the right. It was the big problem.
French could have educate women (as in the munition factory in first war)
French could have call back more "specialists" from mobilisation
French could have imposed nightshift (Would have need some work in workshop to adapt to night)
French could have...

But they did, at less and too late, a very big improvement in their aircraft production without.
1 or 2 month later, they would have presented an another air force (2 or 4 D520 Group combat ready, 6 group H75 Combat ready, more bomber [2-6 more group in modern plane], more group in conversion or training.
At the end of the campaign, thier problem wasnt plane, it was too much plane for units (pilots and airbase).

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by takata_1940 » 06 Jan 2011 11:46

Hi all,
kender wrote: One of the main problem in france wasnt the lack of worker but more the absence in "urgent thinking" in the factory. lots of factory decline (more like didn't do) supplement hour because they didn't see the need (the contract didn't impose it I suppose). "mass production of military aircraft quickly" was new for the recent french air ministry, the builder of aircraft had more experience but with the nationalisation of aircraft factory, they had a system at 2 speed : planes and equipment were not synchro. Stress was present for the plane, not for the equipment (they didn't forsee the needs).
I basically disagree with such statement concerning the "lack of urgency" in aircraft manufacturing. There is plenty of distording (contradictory) testimonies about the aircraft industry organization, then it is not possible to make any rough generalization based on what one whitness noticed at one point (time, place) whithout taking into consideration the whole picture.

An aircraft final assembly line is the ending place of the production process, meaning that any bottleneck arrising before this stage could slow down the final rate of aircraft production (and this happened everywhere combat aircraft were made in large series). ie. it is useless to set double or triple shifts if there is not enough "parts" ready to be assembled together, or not enough manpower & cadre to work them on, etc. As there was many different stage in production closely related to each aicraft program specifics, nothing could be more wrong than to make any general statement based on one in particular.

About the overall situation, the reorganization of the aircraft industry was not completed the same way in relation with its different sectors (design office, airframes, engines & equipments). Most sectors were left to private industry (design office, engines & equipment) while most airframe plants were fully nationalized. Then, because they were at the end of the production process and that a lot of people into this industry were not happy with those nationalizations, they were used as scapegoats with plenty of polemics about them, before and after the defeat. But a closer look at it will show that it was mostly unfair for the overall good work made by the state-managers of the aircraft production.

Plenty of bottlenecks appeared all along the process due to various reasons (some being purely money-interest-lobbying related) but the huge majority concerned industrial difficulties to rise something starting from a very low point in the minimum amount of time. ie. the problems with lagging equipment production was resolved by February-March 1940 but the most accute part of it was due to technical difficulties (propellers, landing-gears, armament, shipping space for imports) added to the many changes in design (and not because it was not planned to be synchro at the first place).

As a matter of fact, if everything was going as planned, fully tooled and staffed plants worked around the clock when supplied to do so. An industry manpower disruption was caused by the full mobilization in September 1939 but most specialists finally were sent back to the industry while plenty of women were also called in.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by takata_1940 » 06 Jan 2011 12:25

About the numbers of aircraft.

Germany produced about 30.000 aircraft (all kind) from 1933 to May 1940. Only a very small part of this inventory was wasted (exported, written-off, lost) before the campaign and most were still in use for training, liaison, support as well as first or second line combat aircraft, while its first line operational (paper) strength was about 4.500 aircraft. In the meantime, France produced/imported less than 10.000 aircraft (all kind) and had about the same ratio of its first line strength as the Germans (1.500, then about 3 times less).

Obviously, there was nothing that strange about such a ratio considering French combat units (it is only strange when one takes a "full inventory" in one side vs. "on line" strength in the other) and I'm sure that a quite similar comparison could be made with British numbers (incl. full inventory).

Overall, this figure is reflecting much more closely the huge effort made by Germany to build its Luftwaffe, but it should be also taken into consideration that Germany was also much closer to 3 times France's industrial capacity.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Bronsky » 06 Jan 2011 18:55

rbannon01 wrote:I have read where a French official visited one of the aircraft parts construction facilites shortly before the war, and was stunned to find out there was no night shift. (This was and old book written in the early 1950's, presumably when peoples memories were still fairly fresh. I can't remember the authors name, the title was -The Fall of France- but there have been several published with the same title, I myself, own one of them, same title, different book. When I have time I'm going to see if it's still at the library. This discussion has me wanting to read it again)
Probably Schirer's.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by kender » 06 Jan 2011 19:31

Olivier has more knowledge than me on the subject. So overall, he is more accurate view of the situation.

my point is related to text about PhoneyWar or testimonies.
So my "lack of urgency" theory can be wrong.
Your point about triple shifts and lack of part is right too (you could had add that the parts to use could not be chosen/designed yet).
manpower & cadre was a point of work but the french aircraft sector really did improved their total manpower (cadre generally is more difficult).

The majority of bottlenecks about parts could have been resolved by February-March 1940 but it limited the number of modern plane built and/or available in the winter period. The problem is not only plane built at the beginning of the battle. French needed time to train their units on, to polish reception/arming procedure, .... And Olivier know like me that an airplane out a factory is not a plane ready to fight, we just need to watch in his table for May 10th (page 1 of this topic) all the new planes referenced in the EAA/training (MB152, Leo 45, Martin 167).

I will not go again state-managers or another people, perhaps I could again politics in the begining of 1930s (it is easy to).
The french Air ministry was young and heritated of a bad situation in 1933.
Nationalize the airframe factory was needed to finance the planned retooling.
I just wanted to present the challenge to mobilize the french airindustry with 2 types of structures working together.

Just a few things related to our discussion :
Even Now, in a airplane program we can watch a succession of bottlenecks (B787 - A380) :
- bottlenecks always begin with the airframe (weight to win - crack in piece [not enought big])
- following is the engin (power, fiability) and landgear (first landing)
- late, after some test, you begin to have bottlenecks only about "part" and equipments
So at the end, the last bottlenecks are generaly often equipments/parts bottlenecks.

Another thing is :
a private equipment industry enterprise can be late for several reason :
- thinking the airframe will not be ready in time (low rate expected)
- waiting a stable version of the airplane to launch industrial production (plan changing)
- not ready for big increase in production rate (sells upper than planned)
- ...
Private equipment doesn't want to have stock of a product not usable (change in plan) or waiting it plane (not sell). So they have to make choice about launch industrial production or wait.

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Re: French Air Force disposition on 10 May 1940

Post by Bronsky » 06 Jan 2011 22:03

kender wrote:manpower & cadre was a point of work but the french aircraft sector really did improved their total manpower (cadre generally is more difficult).
Total manpower in the aircraft manufacturing sector:
Sep 1937: 38,495
Jun 1938: 58,265
May 1939: 82,289
Jun 1940:250,000

These figures don't include all subcomponents, only those plants officially registered as producing aircraft (including engines, propellers etc) as their main activity. So the total manpower probably was higher, but then the same would be true of other countries so they're a fair basis for comparison.

On the other hand, manpower increased slightly faster in the airframe plants, those producing engines and, as far as I can tell from limited data for the dates I'm interested in, propellers and the like, didn't increase as fast until war time exposed the critical need of key components. Even then, orders to the US industry had to be placed to help make good some of the shortfall.

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