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Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,023 ratings  ·  155 reviews
SELECTED BY THE ECONOMIST AS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Remarkable as it may seem today, there once was a time when the president of the United States could pick up the phone and ask the president of General Motors to resign his position and take the reins of a great national enterprise. And the CEO would oblige, no questions asked, because it was his patriotic duty.
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Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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Bou
In this book, two individuals are followed that - according to the author - helped American industries in becoming the arsenal of democracies. In so doing, they transformed America’s military into the biggest and most powerful in the world. They also laid the foundations for a postwar prosperity that would extend across three decades until the 1970s and fuel the economic growth of the rest of the planet.

One was William Knudsen, who worked his way up from the shop floor to become president of G
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Marks54
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a history of the effort to mobilize war production in the US in WWII - a biography of the "arsenal of democracy". This is a massive story that is essential in understanding the link between the US during the great depression and the post-war economic boom. The book is organized around the wartime biographies of two men - William Knudsen of General Motors and Henry Kaiser, of Kaiser Industries Fame. Both men played key roles in war mobilization - Knudsen by laying the initial foundations ...more
Amber
Oct 07, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I finish the vast majority of books I start (especially non-fiction), and the ones I don't, it's usually because the topic doesn't interest me. In this case, however, I find the topic--the role of American business in World War II--extremely interesting; I just couldn't handle the slanted way it was presented. And I have never before posted a review for a book I didn't finish, but in this case felt like I had a good enough understanding of its flaws to make a reasonable comment.

The k
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Clyde
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A very good history of the incredible mobilization of American industrial might during WW2. Very well researched and quite detailed, this is the true story. I hadn't realized how unprepared the USA was for war in 1939. The amazing thing is how quickly things were turned around, mostly through the efforts of a few American industrial leaders. Some of the heroes of the great effort are well known. However, others have drifted into obscurity while some who were really not so important have been mad ...more
Ben
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm conflicted by this book. One one hand, it's a great examination of the American business machine in WWII - little acknowledged yet obviously a vital component to our success in the war, not to mention the postwar boom. On the other hand, it's quite slanted and partisan. The mustache-twirling villains are President Roosevelt, his New Deal Administration, and the obstructionist, utterly selfish labor unions (how dare they strike! we've got a war to win!). The saintly, self-sacrificing heroes a ...more
Michael Elkon
When I was in tenth grade, I was giddy at the prospect of finally getting to cover WWII in a class. The subject had been of interest for me since I was eight years old and my Dad took me on "45-minute walks" to tell me the story of the war. By age ten, I was reading books about it. So you might imagine my disappointment when in 5th grade and then again in 7th, we had "American History" and never got to the war. In fact, my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Fluker (RIP), got to the Civil War in the final w ...more
Aminah Yaquin
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is startling in its evocation of the recognition of executive authority as measured not by status and money, but by the randomness of genius as it is developed in individuals whose talents and prodigious skills are honed by doing, and their ranks in a company earned, not purchased.

Vestiges of the excitement of shared collective enterprise and pride in work, were still extant when I was young,and made even factory work very appealing...something Total Quality Management appr
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Luisa Knight
I thoroughly enjoyed this read! It was both incredibly fascinating and well written!

If you're interested in economics, history, The New Deal, capitalism, business, production and World War II, you'll most likely enjoy what this book offers. It closely follows the actions and leadership of the two men that essentially took America out of the Great Depression and turned it into the nation which became the world's strongest military power and aide of the War.

Full of astonishing facts (
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Mal Warwick
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The mind-boggling story of how America rearmed for World War II

Since I was born six months before the U.S. entry into World War II, I grew up familiar with a long list of names — little-heard now, more than half a century later — that were associated with the U.S. role in the war that seized hold of Planet Earth for a half-dozen years and set America’s course as a superpower for the balance of the 20th Century. Jimmy Doolittle, Henry Kaiser, George Marshall, Hap Arnold, Curtis LeMay,
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Adam Yoshida
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Freedom's Forge, Arthur Herman does something that I didn't think that anyone could: he teaches something that (for me, at least) is genuinely new, relevant, and interesting about the Second World War.

This book follows a handful of American industrialists - from Henry Kaiser, who led the construction of the Liberty Ships that carried vital war materiel to to Bill Knudsen, a Danish immigrant and former General Motors executive who led the industrial mobilization effort in the openi
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Rick
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As we all know the United States was the Arsenal of Freedom during WW2. This book does that story no great service. It pay's tribute to the technocrats and does nothing to celebrate the multiple people who took the initiative to help arm, clothe and feed the American armies and those of our allies. We don't hear anything about the people who worked in the mills and factories or how this help to start a number of seismic changes in the fabric of our culture. This book lauds those who contributed ...more
Jared Bryson
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know how you make industrial production during the 1940s exciting and patriotic, but Arthur Herman does it. He champions the production hero’s of the 1940s who helped produce the economic juggernaut that was the United States. He details the battles between the free market business community and the progressive/labor forces as well. An exceptional, eye-opening book on both business and history. A look at WWII that I’ve never seen before. Exciting.

I could go on and on. If you
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Shane Hawk
Arthur Herman covered thousands of pages of research into less than 400 pages with so much detail your head will spin. This is a great read for anyone interested in how American businesses shifted from the consumer economy to wartime production during WWII. Truly astounding.
Mad Russian the Traveller
Bias toward corporatism/cronyism, but otherwise interesting account of the industrial might of the the USA back in the day.
Aaron Mattupurath
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book it talked about how America at the start of the war was in economic hardships and how America went to the Major corporations for assistance and what they had to go trough to please the government.
Tom
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. The author brought to life the scale-up of American manufacturing during the years before WWII until then end of the war.
ZaibatsuRandom
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spectacular book. Besides the fascinating specifics of history the book makes it crystal clear how the free market was the foundation of winning WWII. Highly recommended!
Gunnar
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Herman gives the story behind the mobilization of American industry in World War II the attention it deserves. I knew, in vague terms, that the country made a remarkable transformation from the depths of the Depression to the world's most productive country in just a few short years. What I didn't understand, and Herman so skillfully illustrated, was that this transformation was the result of a kind of dance between industry, which was both patriotic and profiteering, and government, which was i ...more
Mary Catelli
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-modern
A good overview of the build-up for war production and its operations
Brenton
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Arthur Herman has written a magnificent tribute to American capitalism, and to the men who pioneered the concept of mass production. This is hardly an arid history of engineering, but a mind-boggling, fast-paced narrative of the remarkable men who built the ships, planes, and armaments that transformed a woefully inadequate American military into a technological juggernaut that rolled back the axis powers on two continents.

At the outbreak of World War II, America’s military ranked eighteenth i
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Matt Caris
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are really almost two books to review here. One is the meat of the book itself, between the introduction and conclusion, and it is remarkable. Excellent narrative history of how the Arsenal of Democracy came to be, and the personalities behind it. Well worth everyone's time, and a needed counterweight to the typical Washington idea that a single point person, a "czar" of some kind, and top-down direction is the solution to truly great problems. There is no way the government could have pla ...more
Charlie Newfell
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched and detailed book on the change-over of US manufacturing to the WWII effort. Incredible in the story of the amount of airplanes, tanks, and ships that were poured out each week.

What is missing is the people. Not the notable CEO's and FDR's $1 a year men ( yes, all men in those days) but the average worker in those plants. More manufacturing workers were killed in industrial accidents than on the battlefield in 1942 and 1943. Wow! That deserves a story in itself, yet I had to loo
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Terry Quirke
Whilst overall good and well written, it has a clear bias that personally I found a little grating. It presents the captains of industry in a basking light but there is very little touching on the imperfections or downsides and also the experience of people on the shopfloor to provide balance or even comparisons to the other nations at war (the only time they are mentioned is to show howg reat the USA is doing, rather than an analysis of what they were doing differently).

I'm a bit of a WW2 buff
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Peter
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An ode to capitalism and the virtues of the military-industrial complex. Good portrait of Bill Knudsen and Henry Kaiser, two industrial wizards who made a large difference in arming America during WWII. The overall tone of the book is defensive, and it detracts from the interesting anecdotes that otherwise make this a quick and enjoyable read.
Daniel
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very fascinating read on how American Business was primarily responsible for the war materials being produced that helped the Allies to victory over the Axis, covers the how's, why's and both sides of management vs. labor vs./with the government. Pretty heavy read close to textbook like but if you are interested in the subject it goes by really quick!
Jhbenwell
This book definitely "pumped" the author's view point, but was very interesting all the same. An American miracle from the depths of the Great Depression to the end of World War II, it tells the story of what can be imagined and accomplished.
Tim
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tim by: Paula
Thank you to Paula Pike for the recommendation. It was a well written history of the industrial efforts used to provide war supplies for the Allied war effort in WWII. Never considered it at all before and also the effects it played on the post-war economy were very enlightening.
Paula
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book...wish that I could find someone to discuss it with because it is loaded with information that would stick with me if I could talk about it.
Nooilforpacifists
Not a fluid writer; too bad--topic is interesting.
Jim Brown
I thought I had a good understanding of the events leading up to WWII and the war itself. After reading this book, I know I was obviously wrong. This is an amazing read about how America prepared for war when it seemed everyone was against America entering the war even when it was obvious that war was coming like it or not.

Ever heard of Henry Kaiser? How about William Knudsen? These are only two of the many names identified in this wonderful book about the days and years leading up t
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Arthur L. Herman (born 1956) is an American popular historian, currently serving as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute. He generally employs the Great Man perspective in his work, which is 19th Century historical methodology attributing human events and their outcomes to the singular efforts of great men that has been refined and qualified by such modern thinkers as Sidney Hook.
“His heart is so filled with the love of the machine that it has somewhat crowded out his love of the men who must run it.” 0 likes
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