Looking Back: The Journal in World War II

Looking Back
What were the profession’s contributions during the Second World War? Two Journal of Accountancy editorials—one from October 1939, before the United States entered into combat, and one from June 1945, written just as V-E day was announced—describe the contribution CPAs made during the war years and envision the many areas in which they would be needed in an economy shaken by battle. We reprint these glimpses into the profession’s past as part of an ongoing series celebrating the JofA ’s centennial this year.

“I nevitable speculation as to whether the United States will become involved in the conflict will remind many accountants of the demands on them in 1917 and 1918. Supervision of accounting related to cantonment construction; cooperation with government departments in scrutinizing contracts for supplies; service with government boards for review of excess-profits taxes, for price fixing, for property accountability, and for review of interallied transactions are some of the activities which will be remembered.

The accounting profession proved its mettle then, and if the call comes it will serve again.”

—October 1939

“A ccountants played their part in bringing about [the war’s] successful conclusion. In uniform and out, they did what was required of them to keep in working order the complex network of financial transactions, which might be described as the nervous system of a free-enterprise economy engaged in total war.

Without the accounting profession’s aid the intricate procedures for procurement of war material, price control, war taxation, renegotiation and termination of war contracts would hardly have been possible; nor could the civilian economy have kept from bogging down in the maze of record-keeping and reporting requirements imposed upon it. The profit system might have had to be suspended for the duration; or exploitation of the war emergency might have been wide enough to earn the lasting enmity of all the people for private business.

The second half of the double war [ Editor’s note: The writer refers to the war in Asia, which had not yet ended ] remains to be won, and accountants will continue to do their part in winning it. But it is reasonable to suppose that problems of a different nature will soon confront the profession—problems related to surplus-property disposal, reconversion, expansion, new financing, international trade, and government regulation designed to improve the living standards of the people, rather than to fight a war. Accountants will have great opportunities to help their clients and the whole public in the solution of these problems. Their training and experience—particularly in the rigorous experience of the war years—equip them admirably to take a leading part in the rebuilding of a peaceful economy.”


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