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“Pour It On!” poster by Garrett Price for the War Production Board, 1942

As the United States geared up for World War II, American factories rapidly converted to defense production. Operating around the clock, they turned out military aircraft, tanks, and other equipment by the thousands. The Truman Committee scrutinized contracts, materials, and production, pushing contractors to maintain high standards.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Pour It On!” poster by Garrett Price for the War Production Board, 1942

The Defense Industry

Anticipating the nation’s possible entry into World War II, Congress appropriated $10.5 billion for defense contracts in 1940. To observe how those funds were used, Senator Harry Truman of Missouri toured military bases and plants and then pressed Congress to investigate the defense industry. The Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, created in 1941 with Truman as chairman, saved taxpayer dollars—and soldiers’ lives—by reducing corruption, waste, and inefficiency. In 1948 the Senate created a Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to continue the Truman Committee’s oversight mission.

I consider public funds to be sacred funds, and I think they ought to have every safeguard possible to prevent their being misused and mishandled.

Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, Speech to the Senate, February 10, 1941