How American Business Produced Victory in WWII
By Arthur Herman
A Book Review by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, 22 May 2018
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 to World War II and America’s role in insuring its victory over Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.
For me this was a wonderful read. I have read about WWII and I have watched numerous television documentaries about the war but I had never heard of the activities of American businesses that led to the Allied Victory. President Roosevelt had many detractors back in the 1930s and 40s. Knowing what I know about him today I believe I would have been one of those detractors. But give him credit where credit is due – he had the courage to select a team of business leaders that resulted in our victorious efforts when most of the country was against the decisions he made in regard to building up America’s war machine.
Author Arthur Herman identifies the names of individuals who clearly demonstrated a “can do – consider it done” attitude that may never be repeated. In fact the title of this book could have been “Can do! Consider It Done!” In general, it was decided by these business leaders that no government control would ever achieve what was needed. Instead if government would let businesses identify the problem, they would formulate the solutions, their own competitive juices would insure that not only would the problems be solved, they would be solved in record time and amounts proving that tremendous things can be done when the government gets out of the way.
Aside from what businesses did there was one overriding thought that I could not avoid while reading Herman’s book and that is “Take a look around you. Everything changes, but nothing changes.” from the movie Take Me Home Tonight. During the late 1930s early 1940s a majority of Americans were against getting involved in the war. On one had they had blinders on as to what was actually happening around the world while on the other hand they did what they could to criticize anyone and everything that suggested America needed to plan for the worst but expect the best. These people were not just citizens; they also included the news media, reporters, print news, and worse, our elected politicians who were charged through the Constitution with protecting America and American interests. The worst offenders were the labor unions who in the face of an Axis victory took the opportunity to engage in hundreds of strikes costing America time and money when creating periods when it was not preparing for the worst that war would bring to our shores. Like it or not, most of the unions were infested with Communist organizers. I suggest that if you do not like what I just wrote or fail to appreciate the truth in that statement that you look up the 45 specific goals of The Communist Party USA; look at Objective #36, Infiltrate and gain control of more unions. You can read all 45 at: http://www.rense.com/general32/americ.htm Then came the kicker – there was fake news back in the 30s and 40s; just like today!
There were power struggles in all aspects of America life where everything was in play when it came to destroying anyone you disagreed with. My take away from the book was that everything changes and nothing changes. I saw what happened in 1938-1943 very similar to what is happening today. Then the country was against everything and anything that FDR tried to do except when it came to dealing with the labor unions and expanding the Federal Government. Today everyone is against whatever President Trump does even when it results in good things happening in our country. Everything changes; nothing changes.
Maybe what turned out to be so disturbing to me was at the end of the book when it became apparent that a great many people who had absolutely nothing to do with winning the war literally re-wrote history to the point of excluding the contributions made and names of the people most instrumental in our victory. Ever heard of William Knudsen? Neither me. Point made!
Who should read this book? EVERYONE, seriously, EVERYONE. It is a piece of American history I doubt most people are aware of but should be. Would I read it again? Probably not since I understand what it implies with the first read. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely! Would I give it as a gift? Absolutely!