A dramatic, intimate narrative of how Ford Motor Company went from making automobiles to producing the airplanes that would mean the difference between winning and losing World War II. In 1941, as Hitler's threat loomed ever larger, President Roosevelt realized he needed weaponry to fight the Nazis--most important, airplanes--and he needed them fast.Read more...
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A dramatic, intimate narrative of how Ford Motor Company went from making automobiles to producing the airplanes that would mean the difference between winning and losing World War II. In 1941, as Hitler's threat loomed ever larger, President Roosevelt realized he needed weaponry to fight the Nazis--most important, airplanes--and he needed them fast. So he turned to Detroit and the auto industry for help.
The Arsenal of Democracy tells the incredible story of how Detroit answered the call, centering on Henry Ford and his tortured son Edsel, who, when asked if they could deliver 50,000 airplanes, made an outrageous claim: Ford Motor Company would erect a plant that could yield a "bomber an hour." Critics scoffed: Ford didn't make planes; they made simple, affordable cars. But bucking his father's resistance, Edsel charged ahead. Ford would apply assembly-line production to the American military's largest, fastest, most destructive bomber; they would build a plant vast in size and ambition on a plot of farmland and call it Willow Run; they would bring in tens of thousands of workers from across the country, transforming Detroit, almost overnight, from Motor City to the "great arsenal of democracy." And eventually they would help the Allies win the war.
Drawing on exhaustive research from the Ford Archives, the National Archives, and the FDR Library, A. J. Baime has crafted an enthralling, character-driven narrative of American innovation that has never been fully told, leaving readers with a vivid new portrait of America--and Detroit--during the war.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-03-24
- Reviewer: Staff
This accessible, surprising history is a welcome addition to the inexhaustible list of WWII studies, as Baime (Go Like Hell) claims that perhaps the most important battle was fought far from the battlefield—in the monolithic warehouses of Ford Motor Company in Detroit. However, Baime’s not talking motorcars but airplanes—50,000 of them. His story hardly starts off patriotically: despite perceptions of Ford as a quintessentially American corporation, Baime describes a company whose public image was in rapid decline during the late 1930s, thanks in large part to its founder’s apparent anti-Semitism and questionable affiliation with Nazi Germany. (Hitler, who later presented Ford with the Nazi Gold Cross, stated: “We look to Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing Fascist movement in America.”) According to Baime, before Pearl Harbor the elder Ford, an outspoken pacifist, exerted most of his waning energy toward thwarting war production efforts. It’s only after the Pearl Harbor attack that the inspiring narrative of Ford Motors saving the Allied cause picks up, which is really the story of the heroic, if tragic, efforts of Edsel Ford and his sons. Baime delivers a forthright and absorbing look at “the biggest job in all history.” (June)