Brother, Can You Spare A Billion? The Story of Jesse Jones  

Jones and Associates

Under the newly passed legislation, the RFC was authorized to set up subsidiaries (federal agencies) to accomplish the goals of the preparedness program. Among the myriad of organizations established were Defense Plant Corporation, Defense Supplies Corporation, Metals Reserve Company, Rubber Reserve Company, United States Commercial Company, War Damage Corporation, Petroleum Reserves Corporation and Defense Homes Corporation. During World War II, more than 20 billion dollars was disbursed for the war effort under Jones. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing the new synthetic rubber and magnesium industries. Below are some highlights of Jones' efforts through these agencies to help America build its great "arsenal of democracy."

Defense Plant Corporation

Much of American industrial expansion during World War II was financed by the RFC through the Defense Plant Corporation. The War and Navy Departments, the Office of Production Management, the War Production Board and the Maritime Commission would request what they needed and in turn, the DPC would ensure that the plants were constructed, equipped and operated. Jones negotiated the contracts for the construction and operation of the plants and managed the corporation along with Emil Schram and Sam Husbands, both of whom were presidents of the organization during the war.

From its inception in August 1940 through 1945, the Defense Plant Corporation disbursed over nine billion dollars on 2,300 projects in 46 states and overseas. Most of this money was used to build and equip new factories and mills. In general, the plants were leased to private companies to operate. In spending these billions, the government acquired a dominant position in several industries, such as aircraft manufacture, nonferrous metals, machine tools, synthetic rubber and shipping.

The materials and supplies produced during the war ranged from tiny jewel bearings to giant guns, tanks, ships and airplanes. In fact, about half of outlays were used directly or indirectly for aviation. Next to the Geneva, Utah steel mill, the most expensive single Defense Plant Corporation project was the $176,000,000 Dodge-Chicago plant, which manufactured aircraft engines for the B-29 and B-32 airplanes. The plant's nineteen one-story buildings stretched over 6,300,000 square feet -- about 145 acres -- of floor space. It was so large that it had its own steel forge and aluminum foundry and could take in raw material at one end and turn out finished engines at the other.

Defense Supplies Corporation
Jesse Jones felt that Defense Supplies Corporation was the most versatile of the agencies set up under the RFC. He described it as a "catch-all, go-anywhere, do-anything organization." Over nine billion dollars in buying, lending and subsidizing was disbursed in the United States and 45 foreign countries. More than five billion dollars was used to buy, stockpile and distribute 200 kinds of commodities, ranging from abaca to silk and wool.