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Introduced to wide usage (although probably not first used) by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in December, 1940.


arsenal of democracy

  1. (politics, figuratively) The United States of America, as supplier of extensive materiel support to U.S. allies during World War II; or post-war U.S. as the manufacturer and possessor of the greatest quantity of advanced military weaponry in the world, in the service of defending democratic forms of government.
    • 1941 Jan. 6, "Diplomacy v. Defense," Time (retrieved 11 July 2014):
      In a fireside shout Franklin Roosevelt this week told Business and Labor that they would have to speed up the job of making the U. S. the "arsenal of democracy".
    • 1985 July 6, Drew Middleton, "Books of the Times: Analysis of a Failure" (book review of The 25-Year War: America's Military Role in Vietnam by Gen. Bruce Palmer Jr.), New York Times (retrieved 11 July 2014):
      The United States, he contends, is no longer the arsenal of democracy. Nor does it have a clear technological advantage over the Soviet Union.
    • 2012 Feb. 15, Michael A. Fletcher and David Nakamura, "Obama, GOP candidates more hopeful about factory jobs," Washington Post (retrieved 11 July 2014):
      Newt Gingrich toured a metal plant in Cleveland last week, telling workers on the shop floor that manufacturing jobs are crucial to national security. “We have to have companies like this. You cannot be the arsenal of democracy if you don’t have an arsenal,” he said.

Usage notesEdit

  • Sometimes used to refer to specific American urban industrial centers which contributed much output of this kind, such as Detroit, Chicago, and New York.