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A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II Hardcover – July 16, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1596916074 ISBN-10: 1596916079 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916079
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916074
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"'We must be the great arsenal of democracy,' declared Franklin Roosevelt in December 1940. In the five wartime years that followed, his countrymen stocked that arsenal with astounding quantities of the instruments of war – even while expanding the civilian sector of the economy as well. For all the valor of its warriors on land, sea, and air, in the last analysis it was the stupefying productivity of America’s behemoth economy that constituted the nation’s greatest contribution to victory. Maury Klein tells the story of the World War II “production miracle” in all its complexity, contention, and drama. Meticulously researched, incisively argued, and fetchingly written, A Call to Arms is the authoritative account of one of America’s most prodigious achievements."—David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of FREEDOM FROM FEAR: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

"For those who believe the "grand narrative" has disappeared, I strongly recommend Maury Klein's elegant and endlessly fascinating account of America's mobilization for World War II.  Combining a deft understanding of the enormous forces that won the war and changed the world's direction along with a jeweler's eye for the anecdotes that bring history alive, Klein has produced the best one-volume account to date.  The shrewd analysis superb writing, and masterful storytelling sweep the reader along.  History doesn't get much better than this."—David M. Oshinsky, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of POLIO: An American Story and A CONSPIRACY SO IMMENSE: The World of Joe McCarthy

"While the United States did indeed become the arsenal of democracy in World War II, it was far from a smooth or inevitable process.  In this outstanding achievement of research, synthesis, and lucid writing, Maury Klein traces the fits and starts, bureaucratic infighting, and eventual unparalleled success of America's economic mobilization that outproduced all enemies combined and enabled the allies to win the war."—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom and Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief

"Everyone knows that America's economic mobilization was the great force that won World War II—but there was so much more to it than that. In A Call to Arms, one of our greatest historians vividly captures the titanic struggle to turn a Depression-wracked country into a superpower. We see engineers accomplishing the seemingly impossible, managers cracking open production bottlenecks, the troubles and triumphs of weapon design and deployment, and squabbling politicians, businessmen, and labor leaders, all driven forward by the complicated man in the White House, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Where others have seen only numbers, Maury Klein finds a story—a hell of a story." —T. J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

“The story of how America became the ‘great arsenal of democracy’ is the subject of A CALL TO ARMS, and I can’t imagine it being told more thoroughly, authoritatively or definitively. Maury Klein crowns his long career with this massive examination of one of the most important aspects of 20th-century American history and one of the least documented or understood. In every respect, “A Call to Arms” is a remarkable and singularly important piece of work.”—Washington Post,one of Jonathan Yardley’s favorite books of 2013

“[A] magisterial account. Exhaustively researched and engagingly written, this marvelous book tells an epic story. It paints on a broad canvas, yet simultaneously limns detailed and fascinating miniatures of compelling people and places. It deserves a spot on the bookshelf alongside David Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Freedom From Fear" as the definitive rendering of the World War II home front.” –Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Maury Klein, the noted economic historian, has written a sweeping account of how America got ready for war. A CALL TO ARMS is history writ both large and small—from FDR at cocktail hour to ordinary workers on the assembly line, from portraits of cabinet chiefs to detailed discussions of industrial fabrication and the endless turf battles of New Deal agencies.”—Wall Street Journal

"Except for a couple of nearly unreadable official histories, there is no comprehensive retelling of the ‘production Miracle’ that made the United States the "Arsenal of Democracy.’ Maury Klein’s A CALL TO ARMS fills that gap. Moreover, it does so in a spectacular fashion. Klein’s work does the same for the story of American production that Adam Tooze (Wages of Destruction, 2006) did for those trying to grasp the scope of Germany’s World War II economic effort...for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of World War II, A CALL TO ARMS is a must read. Moreover, considering the subject matter, this is a great read."—Military History Quarterly

“[Klein’s] coverage of the organization of American institutional, economic, military, and governmental might for WWII is both sobering and inspiring….reminiscent of Arthur Schlesinger’s earlier, sweeping volumes on the early New Deal—uncommonly perceptive, enjoyably readable, and authoritative.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Thoroughly researched, objective and authoritative in tone, this is likely to be the definitive work on this topic for years to come.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Very well written and exhaustively researched, this masterpiece demonstrates that accomplished scholarly work can also be accessible. Highly recommended to both academics and lay readers.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Klein is a writer, historian and, most enjoyably, a storyteller…The excellent, broader story [he] tells in A Call to Arms is about a country that fought with itself before it could fight its enemies abroad.” –Dallas Morning News


About the Author

Maury Klein is renowned as one of the finest historians of American business and economy. He is the author of many books, including The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America; and Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Rhode Island. He lives in Saunderstown, Rhode Island.

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Customer Reviews

The book was very interesting throughout.
Amazon Customer
This is a must have World War Two book for every high school in America.
Odie RI
Well written, about an obscure historical subject.
Robert Hausser

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
No question, this book has problems. The old cruiser Olympia was scrapped. Nope, it's still in Philadelphia. The battleship Oregon was scrapped. The liberty ships used steam reciprocating engines, not diesel. After listing some 500 ships sunk by U-boats, he says it totaled 2,000 tons. Typo. 2 million more likely.

Still, the story of how we mobilized for this war, warts and all, is a magnificent story of human endeavor of that particular flavor American. He questions that is was the greatest generation. It was more like the unluckiest generation. Some won't like that, but after reading his book, I think he's made a case that some were great, others, so so, and a whole lot just barely got by. A great story, nevertheless. Much more evenhanded than Freedom's Forge, and despite my list of howlers, it has fewer than Forge as well.

If you're curious as to how we got the job done of mobilizing American for World War II, you'll read this book.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Conan on July 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a great read, a great book, a great education. You merely need have a smidgen of interest in anything having to do with WWII to get absorbed in this wonderful book. Within ten pages I couldn't stop reading as the author has a delightful, masterly touch and sprinkles the narrative with all types of informative information. As a measure of how knowledgable he is about the period he is able to summarize Hitler's strategies and actions within 3 or 4 pages and make it completely informative even to someone like myself, who believes he knows more than a little about the period. The author's opinions are also, themselves, quite fascinating and provocative. He shatters not a few myths and illusions along the way almost by happenstance. This is a great book even for a beach read, as I am currently on vacation, on the beach, in sunny Croatia and enjoying it immensely. Go for it. A+
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John Weinshel on September 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a poorly written book, on a terrifically interesting and relevant topic, that is at least twice as long as it need be. Mr. Klein quickly loses his way amongst an endless compendium of short lived agencies and the men (they were all men) who ran or didn't or should have or should not have run them. He has clearly done his homework, and appears intent on making us read all of it.

I am proud that I made it a full third of the way through, before realizing I had completely forgotten what was going on at the beginning, and could not possibly summarize what I had read so far.

Some of the same material is touched on quite elegantly in Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days, but I am still waiting to learn the story of how we bungled the runup to the war before finally awaking the sleeping giant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Brennan on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I considered myself an advanced amateur student of World War II. What a joke; until I read this book I knew nothing about how the war was won. Sure, I knew of Rosie the riveter and her counterpart, Ralph. I even had my own victory garden but had no idea how it fit into the overall food production of the war.

Did you know that developing the B-29 cost more than the Manhattan Project? Neither did I, but that’s a fact that I won’t soon forget now.

The usual characters are largely missing from Maury Klein’s great book. They were off fighting the war while another cast provided them with the guns, ammunition, planes, radar, dehydrated potatoes, onions, tires, jigs, machine tools and a million and one other products and services that made it possible for the Eisenhowers, Pattons, Bradleys, Nimitzes, Halseys, Arnolds, MacArthurs and all the other generals and privates and seamen to Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, so we could all stay free.I hesitate to name many heroes of the home front for fear of leaving some off the list. I knew many of the names and was happy to see them get their due and take their bow as Klein showcased them. But one name was not familiar to me, and I want to point out Donald Nelson as one who gave much and was rewarded with almost nothing when all was said and done.

Most of the real heroes were supremely confident men – and women – who would not let bureaucracy stand in the way of their ideas on what must be done to increase production of the goods, commodities and services essential to defeating the Axis powers.

Klein also paints vignettes of how little people did their very best to support the war effort.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book was very interesting throughout. The detail is incredible. It really brings to life how the country worked getting ready for and executing WWII. It gave substance to the deeds accomplished by many of the people of that time, that we usually think of as just names from a history book. I now understand better why my father had the opinions he did of those people. The first 1/3 to 1/2 kept my rapt attention. Somehow the last part of the book began to drag. But I read it all, and I am glad that I did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dana T. Parker on August 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
An excellent book on a fascinating topic. No war was more industrialized than World War II. It was won as much by machine shops as by machine guns. For example, during the war, we produced as many planes in one year as had been produced in all the pre-war years since the Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1903, combined. It was an astonishing industrial achievement.

As William S. Knudsen of the National Defense Advisory Commission put it, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible."

Or, as Donald Douglas wrote, "Here's proof that free men can out-produce slaves."

Mr. Klein's book is the comprehensive version of this great story. Three other books on the subject are also excellent (and shorter):

- "Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II," by Arthur Herman
- "Masters of Mass Production," by Christy Borth
- "Why the Allies Won," by Richard Overy

If you are interested in aircraft, I recommend:

- "Climb to Greatness: The American Aircraft Industry, 1920-1960," by John B. Rae

Enjoy this adventure into the greatest production job in history.
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