The Military-Industrial Complexes of WWII: Research Facility Expansion and Product Diversification at B.F. Goodrich and the Largest U.S. Industrial Manufacturers, 1941-1960 Open Access
Downloadable ContentDownload PDF
In his 1961 farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower explained how a “technological revolution during recent decades” was “largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture.” As a result, this dissertation considers how and why post-WWII industrial research became, according to Eisenhower, “more formalized, complex, and costly.” The origins and characteristics of a paradigm shift in how American corporations conducted research are identified by comparing changes in R&D; at the B.F. Goodrich Company from 1941 through 1960 to similar developments at the 200 largest U.S. industrial manufacturers in 1948.For large-scale firms, WWII mobilization escalated into a crisis when federal attempts to organize industry for wartime and postwar production threatened to break down barriers to entry and increase competition in the marketplace. As a participant in the government’s synthetic rubber program, B.F. Goodrich was required to share patents and technical expertise with federal agencies and other rubber, oil, and chemical companies. Fearing that these exchanges might undermine its competitive advantages in rubber manufacturing, Goodrich reorganized its R&D; departments and constructed a new research center by 1948 as part of its strategic transformation from an industrial corporation that refined and fabricated one particular raw material (rubber) to a research company with diverse product lines in rubber goods and chemically related sectors. Likewise, an analysis of the 200 largest U.S. industrial manufacturers in 1948 reveals that from 1941 through 1960, nearly every one of these firms constructed new research facilities, hired armies of scientists and technicians, and implemented some type of product diversification strategy in order to hedge against the uncertainties of an evolving postwar political economy. These research facilities were themselves small-scale, brick-and-mortar “military-industrial complexes” where the technical and functional capabilities of large corporations were enhanced by managers and scientists who not only secured funding in the form of government contracts, but also coordinated the activities of corporate and university laboratories to achieve technological innovation.