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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 listeners with a vivid new portrait of America—and Detroit—during the war.
From the Back Cover:
A touching and absorbing portrait of one of the forgotten heroes of World War II . . . A. J. Baime has given us a memorable portrait not just of an industry going to war but of a remarkable figure who helped to make victory possible. Wall Street Journal
As the United States entered World War II, the military was in desperate need of tanks, jeeps, and, most important, airplanes. Germany had been amassing weaponry and airplanes for five years the United States for only months. So President Roosevelt turned to the American auto industry, specifically the Ford Motor Company, where Edsel Ford made the outrageous claim that he would construct the largest airplane factory in the world, a plant that could build a bomber an hour. And so began one of the most fascinating and overlooked chapters in American history.
Drawing on unique access to archival material and exhaustive research, A. J. Baime has crafted a riveting narrative that hopscotches from Detroit to Washington to Normandy, from the assembly lines to the frontlines, and from the depths of professional and personal failure to the heights that Ford Motor Company and the American military ultimately achieved in the sky.
Wars are fought on many fronts, and A. J. Baime chronicles this little-known, but terrifically important battle to build America's bomber force with narrative zest and delicious detail. Put simply, it's a great read. Neal Bascomb, best-selling author of The Perfect Mile
Fast-paced . . . the story certainly entertains. New York Times
[AU PHOTO] A. J. BAIME is the author of Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans as well as Big Shots: The Men Behind the Booze. He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and has written for numerous other publications, including the New York Times, Playboy, Road & Track, and Popular Science."
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