Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andy Morris




General Electric, Military-Industrial Complex, WWII, defense


This thesis examines General Electric's role within the Military-Industrial Complex from World War II to 1970, with a particular focus on how defense work affected General Electric’s growth during this period. The study relies heavily on two General Electric publications, the company's annual reports and The General Electric Monogram, and is also based on a number of secondary sources. For purposes of analysis, this thesis has been divided into three periods: WWII-1952, 1953-1961, and 1962-1970. Each section details General Electric's work as a defense contractor, indicates what portion of the company's total sales was from defense production, and describes how defense research was applied to the development of consumer products. Many scholars have justifiably criticized the Military-Industrial Complex because it can lead to political corruption and unnecessary defense spending by the government. However, the defense work of General Electric from World War II to 1970 was beneficial to America in many respects. With the help of General Electric and other defense contractors, the American government was able to provide for the nation's security by fielding a well equipped and technologically advanced military during World War II and the Cold War era. General Electric's defense production from World War II to 1970 also played an important role in facilitating the growth of the company. Not only was defense production a steady source of income for General Electric, it also gave the company inroads into space research, jet engine production, and the design and construction of nuclear power plants, all of which would become increasingly profitable endeavors during the 1960's. Furthermore, General Electric’s government sponsored research and development allowed the company to apply new technologies to its consumer products. Even so, General Electric downplayed the importance of its defense work to the success and growth of the company. Instead, sensitive to the perception that it was profiting excessively from government contracts, General Electric portrayed its defense production as an act of good citizenship that contributed to America's military strength and security.