Courtesy Reuters

The Battle of the Metals

THE statisticians had defeated Germany months before she invaded Poland. With batteries of adding machines they had proved that she was suffering from serious deficiencies in critical foodstuffs and in practically all of the raw materials necessary for the conduct of modern warfare. Their calculations showed that with respect to fats, oils, wool, cotton, hides, petroleum, iron, copper and other metals, the Reich was bound to be at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the French and British as long as the latter could keep open the lines of sea communication. The conclusion seemed obvious -- "Germany Can't Win." The more cautious of the commentators introduced qualifications as to the length of the war and the tightness of the British and French blockade. They also made a third qualification as to the character of the struggle -- whether it was to be a war of attrition or a war of movement. But since the invasion of Norway in April, there is no longer any doubt on this score. It is a war of movement -- a war in which fuel, lubricants and metals are being consumed on a scale never before seen.

Germany's rapid and smashing successes, first in Poland, then in Norway, and finally in the Low Countries, have forced us to reconsider our earlier conclusions, and to ask whether undue weight was not assigned to the raw material factor in deciding the outcome of the struggle. In this article I shall attempt a partial reappraisal in only a limited field, that of metals, especially the non-ferrous metals and ferro-alloys. I shall attempt to show where Germany's metal problem is most acute, and then review the various solutions which have been tried -- stock piling, recovery of wastes, substitutions, and the shifting of imports so as to find holes in the Allied blockade. Under the last heading, I shall consider the policy of the United States, in particular with respect to "moral embargoes."

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