Customer Review

127 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America- the Arsenal of Democracy, May 11, 2012
This review is from: Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II (Hardcover)
Did you ever see those cool WWII newsreel-turned-into-tv-shows, like "Victory at Sea"? One of them is entitled- "America the Arsenal of Democracy" and man, what they showed there- making tanks as fast as the assembly-line could move, warehouse full of bombers as far as the eye could see, and making Liberty ships in under a week. Honestly, it was amazing.

This book takes that idea, and runs with it, concentrating mostly on the story of William Knudsen and Henry Kaiser.

William Knudsen was the head of General Motors, who was drafted by FDR to run the war materiel production efforts for the war. When it turned out Knudsen wasn't getting the cooperation he needed, FDR just made him into a three-star general!

The tale of Henry Kaiser is better known, he brought mass production techniques to shipbuilding. Kaiser decided to use welding instead of riveting and brought in unskilled workers (many of whom were women) to build these "wonder-ships'.

This then, really, is the story of how America won WWII. By the end of WWI, the USA out produced every other nation combined! Just one US company produced more than entire Axis nations.

Now, there is also a political undercurrent behind this amazing story, and that is that it was the practice of free enterprise that was behind these production miracles. Free enterprise is the big hero here.

It's an amazing story and well told (politics aside). However, I think now I want to see that newsreel of "America- the Arsenal of Democracy" again.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 11, 2012 4:34:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 11, 2012 4:34:57 PM PDT
Probably not a book I'd pick up--just not a genre I read much of, but I very much enjoyed your review!

Posted on May 11, 2012 5:17:53 PM PDT
Andrea says:
I agree with 365.

Posted on May 14, 2012 4:59:16 AM PDT
H. Keller says:
The reviewer write "When it turned out Knudsen wasn't getting the cooperation he needed, FDR just made him into a three-star general!" I'm reading the book right now and FDR fired him due to political pressure. He was made a three-star general for not raising a stink about being fired without reason and for not making a stink over it. Knudsen and Kaiser did more to win the war than Roosevelt or his political pals.

Posted on May 14, 2012 10:39:43 PM PDT
This will go on the list. Always interesting to read of the many ways the war was won. thanks!

Posted on May 15, 2012 4:58:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 15, 2012 4:59:04 AM PDT
H. B. Baker says:
Good review.

Another highly readable book that shows just how unprepared for war Washington, D. C. truly was is David Brinkley's excellent memoir Washington Goes to War .

Posted on May 15, 2012 9:14:42 AM PDT
muffin man says:
Thanks for a good review. I saw the author on Fox News today and he gave a very good synopsis of the book. I will probably buy this when I place my next order

Posted on May 15, 2012 9:15:26 AM PDT
muffin man says:
Thanks for a good review. I saw the author on Fox News today and he gave a very good synopsis of the book. I will probably buy this when I place my next order

Posted on May 15, 2012 12:50:48 PM PDT
Aceto says:
Way to go Wulfie. Lots of stuff here I do not know about. Does it go into the goings on at Ford? That was pretty hairy. I visited the Patton Family church near L.A. One of the big stained glass windows has the Chrysler star up in the heavens. Pretty cool when you notice it. Of course, St. George is chasing the dragon in his tank. In the cary with this one.

Posted on May 22, 2012 5:18:22 PM PDT
W. Easley says:
Nice review, Wulfstan. Like Aceto, I learned from your review. That newsreel sounds good too,
Wayne

Posted on May 27, 2012 2:18:02 PM PDT
Yes, it's true. It wasn't "Rosie the Riveter". It was "Wilma the Welder". Riveting takes more skill. The shipyards in Richmond CA have a museum to the welders which I must visit.

The first welded Liberty Ships had problems with cracks propagating fully across the hulls and sinking the ships. Riveted ships stopped cracks at the seams. But women and blacks who came up from the deep South couldn't learn riveting fast enough. The ships were is a sense disposable. The strategy was to build them faster than the wolf packs could sink them. Sailors were tougher back then. They were expendable.
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