Arsenal of Democracy by A.J. Baime

The Arsenal of Democracy

The Arsenal of Democracy : FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War

You don’t have to be a fan of History or WWII to enjoy this book. I found the story excellent as it shows a side of the War (the Home Front) that rarely gets covered in non-fiction. Baime shows the deteriorating relationship between Henry Ford and his son Edsel, and the contentious relationship between Henry Ford and Franklin Roosevelt. In the end Edsel saves both, the Ford Motor Company, and possibly the Allies- at the cost of his life.

389 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

As Britain’s spymaster William Stephenson (code name: Intrepid) confided in Roosevelt:, The Fuehrer is not just a lunatic. He’s an evil genius. The weapons in his armory are like nothing in history. His propaganda is sophisticated. His control of the people is technologically clever. He has torn up the military textbooks, and written his own. – location 114-117

Sitting before the brain trust of Detroit, Kanzler pounded a gavel. “We must have at once,” he said, “in fact we should have had it yesterday, an all-out war economy. We were all agreed upon what we want to do to Hitler and the Japs. I say to you, gentlemen, we have got to develop a new point of view.” – location 2113-2115

He entered the main plant, with its interior skeleton of steel girders, tiled floor, and no windows or natural light. Ford executives had taken to calling this space, the most enormous room in the history of man. Some 156, 000 40-watt Sylvania fluorescent bulbs gave the scene an eerie glow, especially when workers looked at their watches and saw that it was midnight. This was the largest lighting installation ever created. – location 2258-2261

The Air Corps had organized a gathering of American military airplanes all in a row, to showcase the rise of the nation’s airpower. Here stood the B-24 Liberator, its sister plane the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, several Martin B-26 Marauders (medium bombers powered by 2, 000-horsepower R-2800 Double Wasp engines built by Ford at the Rouge), the famed Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter (also powered by a Ford engine), the North American B-25 bomber, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a Bell P-39 Airacobra, a bunch of Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, and some training Vultees and Cessnas. – location 2668-2671

showcase of his war work, all the military equipment that the Rouge, Highland Park, and Lincoln factories were producing. The Ford medium tank, the Ford V8 tank engine, the T-17 armored car, the T-22 light armored car, the one-and-a-half-ton army truck, the amphibious reconnaissance car, the 75-millimeter cannon mount, the Jeep, two kinds of anti-aircraft gun directors, and the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp aviation engine‚which the Rouge was now pumping out at a rate of more than 600 a month, the equivalent of 720, 000 horsepower every thirty days. From – location 2672-2676

Our heavy bomber is our greatest weapon, John Steinbeck wrote in his book Bombs Away (1942), after spending a month flying with a crew. – location 2834-2835

Operation Tidal Wave‚ first conceived among the Allied military brass at the Casablanca Conference, targeted Ploesti, Romania, home of Hitler’s greatest wellspring of oil. Ploesti was an oil boomtown north of Bucharest in the Transylvanian Alps. Nine vital refineries ringed the city, huge tanks full of highly explosive liquid, along with their pipes, stacks, generators, and machinery of all kinds. To ensure maximum target precision and avoid enemy radar, Tidal Wave was planned with an unprecedented low-altitude approach. The bombers would make their attack runs at treetop level at nearly 250 miles per hour. Each Liberator was loaded to 64, 000 pounds, greater than the proscribed takeoff weights, with extra fuel tanks built into the bomb bays to make the 2,400-mile, thirteen-hour round trip. They carried aboard, more killing power than two Gettysburgs as one Air Corps journalist put it, 1.25 million rounds of shells, 622, 000 pounds of bombs, plus boxes upon boxes of smaller flammable-jelly-encased incendiaries that the airmen would throw out the windows. – location 3455-3463

As the legend of Ford Motor Company goes, it was Eleanor Ford‚ Edsel’s widow‚who came to her son’s aid. It was Eleanor who ultimately played a chess move that could not be defended., He killed my husband, she allegedly said of Henry Ford., And he’s not going to kill my son. She demanded that Henry Ford II become president of Ford Motor Company. “If this is not done,” she told the family, “I shall sell my stock.” Her demand sent a shock wave through Dearborn. If Eleanor Ford sold her stock, a large portion of the company would go to the highest bidders on Wall Street. Not in over two decades had anyone owned a crumb of Ford Motor Company outside of the Ford family. The threat worked. Days later, Henry Ford called his grandson to Fair Lane. Henry I offered Henry II the company’s presidency. “Okay, Henry,” the old man said, “you take over. You call the board meeting and I’ll write my letter of resignation.” – location 4241-4248

When the last of the bombers rolled out of Willow Run‚ the 8, 685th ship‚ Henry Ford II was there to host a ceremony. The ship was named the Henry Ford, though Henry I asked that his name be removed so that the workers who had built the bomber could sign their names before the army took possession. – location 4282-4284

Of the total 18,482 Liberators built during the war, 8,685 of them rolled out of Willow Run. A total of 80,774 workers (61 percent men, 39 percent women) staffed the bomber plant, with a peak employment of 42,331. The cost to make each Liberator dropped from $238, 000 per ship at the beginning of production to $137,000 at the end. Under the guidance of Edsel Ford and Charlie Sorensen, Ford Motor Company also built 57,851 aviation engines at the Rouge, plus 277,896 Jeeps, 93, 217 trucks, 26,954 tank engines, 2,718 tanks, 87,390 aircraft generators, 52,281 aircraft superchargers, 10,877 squad tents, 12,314 armored cars, and 2,401 jet bomb engines (which powered the new JB-2 Loon, the American copy of Hitler’s V1 and V2 flying bombs, the first-ever pilotless missiles). From its Kingsford lumber mill, the company built 4,291 invasion gliders. The total dollar figure of war materiel that came off the company’s assembly lines was $4,966,314,000 (in 1945 – location 4330-4336

The following two books proved a great foundation for beginning research on the home front: A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II by William O’Neill and Don’t You Know There’s a War On?: The American Home Front, 1941-1945 by Richard Lingeman. – location 4464-4466

Sylvania fluorescent bulbs:, Electrical Goods Lead in Diversity, New York Times, January 3, 1943, p. A76; see also, Bright Lights, Wall Street Journal, February 15, 1943, p. 1. – location 5072-5073


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information:
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