Academic journal article Military Review

Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II

Academic journal article Military Review

Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II

Article excerpt

FREEDOM'S FORGE

How American Business

Produced Victory in World War II

Arthur Herman, Random House, New York,

2012, 413 pages, $28.00

RATHER THAN A straightforward history, Arthur Herman's Freedom's Forge is more a dual biography. It focuses on Henry J. Kaiser and William Knudsen to tell a tale of American business. While the rest of the world went about its isolationist business in the years between the wars, Herman contends Knudsen and Kaiser learned to work around balky government, particularly New Deal bureaucracies, and gained experience in building major works: Knudsen made both Ford and General Motors efficient car makers while Henry Kaiser built Boulder and the Grand Coulee dams. With their experience building large-scale, but highly efficient projects, the two free enterprise entrepreneurs created the almost miraculous armaments industry that won World War II.

Like Herman's earlier work, Freedom's Forge is popular history; it should be more popular with the conservatives than with liberals because Herman downplays the role of government, emphasizing instead government obstructionism and backwardness in the years between the wars. His view of the military is largely negative as well. His interpretation might have more nuance had he considered scholarly works such as Eric Hammel's 2009 book How America Saved the World: The Untold Story of U. …

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