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Interpreting the Evidence

We Must Have Ships! United States Shipping Board

  1. Load We Must Have Ships! United States Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation, World War I, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A flyer or poster distributed by the National Service Section, United States Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation during World War I. It calls for more ships to be built, 1918.
Historical Context
Lloyd George, one of Great Britain’s war time Prime Ministers, was once cited as saying “The road to victory in one word is ships. In a second word ships. And in a third word ships.” This quip helps explain the allied emphasis on ship building. The critical point, once America entered the war, was that its production could not keep pace with the losses sustained as a result of German unrestricted submarine warfare and the expected rise in demand caused by the need of her allies for war materials and supplies. Not only were ship yards inadequate to meet the need, but the suppliers of raw materials were not equipped to handle the new orders that would soon be coming in.

President Wilson and the federal government created and then expanded the power and scope of committees such as the Shipping Board and the War Industries Board, the Shipping Control Committee, and the Emergency Fleet Corporation to address the desperate situation. These organizations used a centralized approach to increase shipping contracts, to funnel appropriate materials to ship building facilities, to increased production standards and quotas, and to create a climate of unprecedented government-industry collaboration.
One of the central questions that had to be resolved was not simply a matter of building or replacing “hulls” but gaining the equivalent of the necessary tonnage capacity to move war supplies and troops to Europe. Each of the newly conceived administrative organizations started from scratch or completely altered the manner in which they had previously conducted business. Everything was transferred to a war economy and function. Each act of legislation was original and unprecedented. By war’s end, though, not only had America achieved the short term goal of helping the Allies defeat Germany but its commercial capability going forward had upset the economic advantages of the seas once dominated by Britain.
Essential Question
How does war impact the global economy?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea and purpose of the poster.
Historical Challenges
Research why shipping was so critical to the Allied war effort during World War I.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Calculate the loss to replacement ratio during the four years of the war.