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Lockheed Aircraft Factory in Burbank, California, photograph, February 16, 1941

Even before the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for vastly increased production of military aircraft, ships, tanks, and armaments to support the nation’s allies. Congress responded by approving the First and Second War Powers Acts, enabling the president to hasten production of essential war material.

Collection of Oakland Museum of California, The Oakland Tribune Collection, Gift of Alameda Newspaper Group

Lockheed Aircraft Factory in Burbank, California, photograph, February 16, 1941

Congress Grants Power to Wartime Presidents

The Constitution authorizes Congress to pass legislation necessary to execute the powers and responsibilities of the federal government. During the First and Second World Wars, Congress temporarily granted extraordinary power to the president to expedite certain wartime policies. The Department Reorganization Act (Overman Act) of 1918 gave President Woodrow Wilson broad authority to create or reorder government agencies. The War Powers Acts of 1941 and 1942 granted President Franklin D. Roosevelt extensive powers to support the war effort and provide for the nation’s defense.

This bill merely gives the President . . . powers that are necessary to win the war, but powers that should be returned to the Congress when the war has been won.

Representative Hamilton Fish, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, December 16, 1941