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When Detroit went to war

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 18, 2015

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

BOOK RECOMMENDATION Non-book review by Doug Stokes The Arsenal of Democracy FDR, Detroit, and an epic quest to arm an America at war By A.J.Baime Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Boston - New York

This is not a book review. It is, however, a strong recommendation. Hardly in need of more glory from this writer or this site; this book has received not only great critical praise, but enjoyed incredibly strong sales as well. My note here is to encourage the last few serious students of American automotive history who have not yet read this one to put it on their summer reading list. Here’s why: this very important book tells the true story of the automotive industry and its heroic reaction to the staggering challenge of the Second World War. Richly detailed and reading more like a classic adventure novel, this exciting book takes its reader right into the factories and board rooms of the American automotive industry in the dark days when it is called upon, quite literally, to become the “Arsenal of Democracy”. With more than enough twists and turns along with its share of good guys and bad guys (and we’re not just talking Hitler and Roosevelt here), “Arsenal” is fast-moving, intricate, deadly serious, and (best of all) very true. If you are at all interested in the history of the American automotive industry this brilliantly-staged book is a superb look at a time when a whole country pulled together to defeat the forces of fascism. Written by A.J. Baime, who gave us the “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at LeMans”, this one is every bit as gripping in every aspect. From building monstrous, blunt-nosed, four motored B-24 Liberators at a rate of one an hour for a total of 8685 at Ford’s gargantuan Willow Run facility, to GM delivering over 850,000 military trucks, Chrysler’s Dodge division spitting out shortwave radar systems and gyrocompasses like they were two-door coupes, and Oldsmobile contributing some 40 million artillery rounds … Detroit rolled up its collective sleeves and fought the war from home. In all, fully 30 percent of the nation’s war materiel poured from one city—Detroit. Baime’s masterwork is wonderfully complete with an extensive set of notes and a highly detailed index which reveal the amazing amount of research that went into this richly-detailed tale. If reading this book gives its reader a thirst for more information on the subject, there are quite literally hundreds of points of reference to go forward from in those 70-pages of information. Again, this book was on just about every best seller list there is, and a lot of people have already read it. I was just thinking that , since you found this recommendation while driving through the LA Car site, there’s got to be better than a good chance that you ‘d really enjoy this book. Honestly, the story is not about cars, it’s about what the people who built our cars did to save our country. His racing book already optioned by the studios for a film version, I have visions of this book being brought to the small(er) screen (TV) in a mini-series , but, if you’ve not read it, get the book. The page-turning (…I can stay up another hour) draw of Baime’s writing is the answer to the question or why we read books. – DS


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