Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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“A rarely told industrial saga, rich with particulars of the growing pains and eventual triumphs of American industry . . . Arthur Herman has set out to right an injustice: the loss, down history’s memory hole, of the epic achievements of American business in helping the United States and its allies win World War II.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Magnificent . . . It’s not often that a historian comes up with a fresh approach to an absolutely critical element of the Allied victory in World War II, but Pulitzer finalist Herman . . . has done just that.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A compulsively readable tribute to ‘the miracle of mass production.’ ”—Publishers Weekly
“The production statistics cited by Mr. Herman . . . astound.”—The Economist
“[A] fantastic book.”—Forbes
“Freedom’s Forge is the story of how the ingenuity and energy of the American private sector was turned loose to equip the finest military force on the face of the earth. In an era of gathering threats and shrinking defense budgets, it is a timely lesson told by one of the great historians of our time.”—Donald Rumsfeld
“World War II could not have been won without the vital support and innovation of American industry. Arthur Herman’s engrossing and superbly researched account of how this came about, and the two men primarily responsible for orchestrating it, is one of the last great, untold stories of the war.”—Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War
“It takes a writer of Arthur Herman’s caliber to make a story essentially based on industrial production exciting, but this book is a truly thrilling story of the contribution made by American business to the destruction of Fascism. With America producing two-thirds of the Allies’ weapons in World War II, the contribution of those who played a vital part in winning the war, yet who never once donned a uniform, has been downplayed or ignored for long enough. Here is their story, with new heroes to admire—such as William Knudsen and Henry Kaiser—who personified the can-do spirit of those stirring times.”—Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War
About the Author
- Publisher : Random House; 1st edition (May 8, 2012)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1400069645
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400069644
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.45 x 1.2 x 9.53 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #689,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The incredible difficulty in cranking out tanks when the plans weren't all that great, nor were the results when the plans were followed, led to substitutions and improvements that ultimately devised the Sherman tank, one of the machines that was crucial in the winning of the war. The plans for the firearms designed by J.M. Browning involved the use of old manufacturing jigs that had been stored for years and were scarcely worth taking out of their crates. Another company stepped forward and took on that project, successfully creating firearms in mass quantities.
Manufacturing in Great Britain was severely limited by the availability of raw materials, and by their system of making one machine at a time, customizing it to perfection, and sending it out the door. The American system of mass production, emphasizing accuracy of production parts so that they were interchangeable with ANY of the units instead of just one, was far superior, and ultimately resulted in production numbers that were astounding.
I really enjoyed this book, and now see a lot of big industrial projects differently, as those are discussed in the book as well. There were heroes in those days, and not all of them wore uniforms.
Subtracts from the great story of American ingenuity. Herman’s book is interesting and there is room for
Both books on your shelf. Knudsen is a hero all history people should know so I do recommend this book.
In an era where labor needed help from the government and FDR provided help and hope, I wish Herman
Focused exclusively on the great accomplishments of labor and manage,ent together.
In Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman, just published in May 2012, we learn why and how "the finest equipment" in the world was built in massive quantities for the allied cause.
At the start of World War II, the USA was a third rate military power. In 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland Hitler's Luftwaffe had a strength of nearly 8,500 fighters and bombers. The US Army air corps had barely 1/5th that number. Patton's Second Armored brigade had only 325 tanks while the Germans had more than 2,000. There were only 334,000 men in the total US armed forces. The US army ranked 18th largest in the world with about 190,000 men just ahead of Holland and behind Hungary and Romania. Time Magazine said "the US Army looked like a few nice boys with BB guns." There was no Military Industrial Complex, the USA was not a superpower and about 3/4's of the population supported isolationism and the preservation of peace at all cost.
From July 1940 to VJ day in August 1945 the United States produced a staggering $183 billion in arms. America's shipyards launched 141 aircraft carriers, eight battleships, 807 cruisers, destroyers and destroyer escorts, 203 submarines and almost 52 million tons of merchant shipping. US factories turned out 88,410 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces and 640,000 Jeeps. The United States produced 324,750 aircraft averaging 170 per day since 1942. Nearly 10 million American men and women would serve their country in uniform.
The United States, by the end of the war, had the best equipped fighting force on the planet. Moreover, through the lend lease program the United States had supplied many of the arms needs of Britain, the Soviet Union and other allied forces.
How did this remarkable transformation take place? FDR was wise enough to recognize that the power of American business, more often than not led by those who opposed him politically, needed to be harnessed in order to win the war. Freedom's Forge shows how FDR reached out to Bill Knudsen, a Danish American and the President of General Motors, to spearhead the wartime production effort. Knudsen served as the head of the Office of Production Management and brought an experienced manufacturers' vision to the problem of producing war material.
Herman documents many of the American production achievements that led to victory in World War II. In Freedom's Forge we learn about the unsung and nearly forgotten production heroes such as Bill Knudsen, Henry Kaiser and others that put the USA on a path to a rapid build-up of industrial production.
It was the free market that enabled America to gear up for war so effectively. Herman writes, "Production, however, remained an entirely voluntary process. The War Production Board could and did order companies not to produce things: new cars, for instance, and refrigerators and other heavy durable goods, It never told anyone what to make. That was left to the imagination of American business. This was how Bill Knudsen had designed things from the start, and it remained the pivot point of the entire wartime system. Everything made for the war effort was made by those who saw some advantage for themselves in doing so, and therefore they brought all their skills and tools and knowledge to bear on the task--both to help the country and to make some money...Nor was it entirely a coincidence that no other wartime economy depended more on free enterprise incentives than America's, and that none produced more of everything in quality and quantity, both in military and civilian goods."
American business showed remarkable flexibility during the war. The famous carmaker Henry Ford, who was an ardent isolationist before Pearl Harbor and despised FDR's New Deal, built the massive Willow Run production facility to crank out B-24 aircraft. Henry Kaiser, who had specialized in road construction projects before the war, became a massive ship and aircraft builder. Kaiser led the "Six Companies" that produced thousands of Liberty Ships that ferried men and equipment to the war zones. Kaiser had one Liberty ship built in an astonishing 4 days, fifteen hours and twenty-six minutes. Winston Churchill declared, "The foundation of all our hopes and schemes was the immense shipbuilding program of the United States."
Not all US casualties in World War II served in the military; many were from the world of work and business. Morrison Knudsen (another "Six Companies" member) had employees serving alongside US Marines in the defense of Wake Island in December 1941. A Japanese amphibious force was dispatched to capture the island in late 1941. Many of these MK engineers fought, were killed or wounded, and were captured and spent years in Japanese POW camps. Thousands of civilian merchant mariners aboard Liberty ships lost their lives particularly as a result of Nazi U-boats in the North Atlantic. On December 30th, 1942 Boeing's best civilian test pilot, Eddie Allen, was killed with the rest of his crew while test-flying a B-29 which crashed near Boeing field in Seattle. Boeing later sorted out the issues with the B-29 and the "Superfortress" bomber; these planes ignited Japanese cities with incendiary bombs (developed by Kaiser) and delivered the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Arthur Herman's fine book is not without a few flaws. Herman writes that Hap Arnold "was the only senior military or civilian leader to oppose dropping the atomic bomb." Yet in Eisenhower's own book Mandate for Change, he recalls a Potsdam conference encounter with Henry Stimson, the head of the War Department, where he "voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives." (Source: D.D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 312-13).
If you enjoyed Freedom's Forge you will also like America Invades America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth by Kelly / Laycock and Italy Invades
The war started with the Axis powers well-armed and with substantials resource production capabilities. However, during the last two years of the war, the US overtook them in a big way and made war equipment faster than all the Axis powers combined. We were also able to supply our Allies with much of what they needed; especially England and Russia.
Many history books have characterized these men (such as William Knudsen and Henry Kaiser, among others) as robber barons. They did profit handsomely, but they did earn it and the reader is left with the sense they did what they had to because of a "calling"; they were driven and not just by profit.
What made these industrial giants' leadership interesting is that most of them were Republicans who were appointed by Progressive Democrats under the Roosevelt administration; you will have to read the book to see how all this turned out.
Freedom's Forge will provide the reader with a different perspective of what was going on behind the scenes of the WW ll effort; it is a good read.
Top reviews from other countries
A literally riveting read!
I am not sure I would have read the book,had it not been written by Herman.He has that ability to write about quite complex subjects,very important ones at that.His books on Ghandi and Churchill and How the Scots invented the modern world,are good examples of this.Most of all,when I read a Herman book,I always learn so much and know I can trust him to keep to the facts.I recommend this book to anyone who has a thirst for knowledge but does not like to be lectured.