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Geographical Distribution of Major Federal Defense Contracts Announced June 1–Nov. 15, 1940, map by the National Planning Board, ca. 1940

As charted by this map, many of the 1940 defense contracts were concentrated in certain areas of the country. Senator Harry Truman of Missouri made a 10,000-mile tour of military bases and defense plants and concluded that the majority of contracts were going to a few large corporations.

Records of the National Resources Planning Board, National Archives and Records Administration

Geographical Distribution of Major Federal Defense Contracts Announced June 1–Nov. 15, 1940, map by the National Planning Board, ca. 1940

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