Freedom's Forge by Arthur Herman
How American Business Produced Victory in World War II

88%

12 Critic Reviews

The author is avowedly pro-business, but you don’t have to share that perspective to enjoy...a rarely told industrial saga, rich with particulars of the growing pains and eventual triumphs of American industry...
-NY Times

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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.
 
In Freedom’s Forge, bestselling author Arthur Herman takes us back to that time, revealing how two extraordinary American businessmen—automobile magnate William Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser—helped corral, cajole, and inspire business leaders across the country to mobilize the “arsenal of democracy” that propelled the Allies to victory in World War II.
 
“Knudsen? I want to see you in Washington. I want you to work on some production matters.” With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enlisted “Big Bill” Knudsen, a Danish immigrant who had risen through the ranks of the auto industry to become president of General Motors, to drop his plans for market domination and join the U.S. Army. Commissioned a lieutenant general, Knudsen assembled a crack team of industrial innovators, persuading them one by one to leave their lucrative private sector positions and join him in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the “dollar-a-year men,” these dedicated patriots quickly took charge of America’s moribund war production effort.
 
Henry J. Kaiser was a maverick California industrialist famed for his innovative business techniques and his can-do management style. He, too, joined the cause. His Liberty ships became World War II icons—and the Kaiser name became so admired that FDR briefly considered making him his vice president in 1944. Together, Knudsen and Kaiser created a wartime production behemoth. Drafting top talent from companies like Chrysler, Republic Steel, Boeing, Lockheed, GE, and Frigidaire, they turned auto plants into aircraft factories and civilian assembly lines into fountains of munitions, giving Americans fighting in Europe and Asia the tools they needed to defeat the Axis. In four short years they transformed America’s army from a hollow shell into a truly global force, laying the foundations for a new industrial America—and for the country’s rise as an economic as well as military superpower.
 
Featuring behind-the-scenes portraits of FDR, George Marshall, Henry Stimson, Harry Hopkins, Jimmy Doolittle, and Curtis LeMay, as well as scores of largely forgotten heroes and heroines of the wartime industrial effort, Freedom’s Forge is the American story writ large. It vividly re-creates American industry’s finest hour, when the nation’s business elites put aside their pursuit of profits and set about saving the world.

Praise for Freedom’s Forge
 
“A rambunctious book that is itself alive with the animal spirits of the marketplace.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“A rarely told industrial saga, rich with particulars of the growing pains and eventual triumphs of American industry . . . Arthur Herman has set out to right an injustice: the loss, down history’s memory hole, of the epic achievements of American business in helping the United States and its allies win World War II.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Magnificent . . . It’s not often that a historian comes up with a fresh approach to an absolutely critical element of the Allied victory in World War II, but Pulitzer finalist Herman . . . has done just that.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Arthur Herman

See more books from this Author
Arthur Herman is the bestselling author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World, which has sold over 350,000 copies worldwide, and To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World, which was nominated for the prestigious Mountbatten Prize in 2005. He is a former professor of history at Georgetown University, Catholic University, and the Smithsonian's Campus on the Mall. He and his wife live in central Virginia.
 
Published May 8, 2012 by Random House. 433 pages
Genres: History, Business & Economics, War. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Freedom's Forge
All: 12 | Positive: 11 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Apr 15 2012

A magnificent, controversial re-examination of the role of American business in winning WWII.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Fred Andrews on Jun 02 2012

The author is avowedly pro-business, but you don’t have to share that perspective to enjoy...a rarely told industrial saga, rich with particulars of the growing pains and eventual triumphs of American industry...

Read Full Review of Freedom's Forge: How America... | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Mar 19 2012

A cross between Ayn Rand, Herman Wouk, and the Wall Street Journal, the book is a compulsively readable tribute to “the miracle of mass production.”

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Philip Delves Broughton on May 16 2012

...a rambunctious book that is itself alive with the animal spirits of the marketplace...it is impossible to read...and not think that, in times of economic hardship, heroic entrepreneurship, sometimes harnessed to government, will trump Washington's bloodless fiscal tinkering any day.

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Sol Schindler on Jun 11 2012

Our success came from the respect industry and a pragmatic government had for each other...If the current generation could achieve that same kind of unity, no goals are beyond reach.

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The Economist

Excellent
May 19 2012

The production statistics cited by Mr Herman, a think-tank scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, still astound.

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Forbes

Excellent
Reviewed by Steve Forbes on May 02 2012

Thankfully Freedom’s Forge sets the record straight, comprehensively and compellingly. Free markets, not big government, are the true source of America’s incredible strength.

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Tulsa World

Below average
Reviewed by Glenn Altschuler on Jul 22 2012

Our nation's conversion from a peace-time to a war-ready economy is well worth celebrating. Unfortunately, Herman's analysis of the process is ideologically driven and simplistic.

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'Bout Books

Excellent
Reviewed by R. Carnavale on Jul 20 2012

Freedom’s Forge, far from being another dry tome about American history, is an exciting book because Herman masterfully describes the Sturm und Drang surrounding the lead characters – Knudsen, Kaiser, and FDR.

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What Would the Founders Think?

Good
Reviewed by James Best

Freedom’s Forge is a good read for those who study World War II, love manufacturing, or want some clues as to why we seem stuck in a stagnant economy today.

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Mal Warwick's Blog on Books

Good
Reviewed by Mal Warwick on Sep 06 2012

Can the human mind today even comprehend what must have been involved in manufacturing 300,000 airplanes and 100 aircraft carriers?... a stellar job of telling this unimaginably complex story between the covers of a single volume.

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Raised on Hoecakes

Good
May 27 2012

We picked up “Freedom’s Forge” thinking it could be interesting. What we got instead was a book that was so toe curdling good, we give it five stars out of five – and wish we could go higher.

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Reader Rating for Freedom's Forge
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 481 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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