Academic journal article Military Review

LOUIS JOHNSON AND THE ARMING OF AMERICA: The Roosevelt and Truman Years

Academic journal article Military Review

LOUIS JOHNSON AND THE ARMING OF AMERICA: The Roosevelt and Truman Years

Article excerpt

LOUIS JOHNSON AND THE ARMING OF AMERICA: The Roosevelt and Truman Years, Keith D. McFarland and David L. Roll, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 452 pages, $35.00.

Keith McFarland and David Roll have written a first-class biography of secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, who was in office from January 1948 to September 1950. This extremely insightful, well written, meticulously researched, and eminently fair book is particularly needed because critics' opinions have clouded Johnson's picture.

Secretary of State Dean Acheson characterized Johnson as suffering a brain disorder that caused hyperaggression. President Harry S. Truman concluded that Johnson "is the most ego maniac [man] I've ever come in contact with -and I've seen a lot." Truman might simply have gotten a bit more than he wanted. He had appointed Johnson to the position because Johnson's predecessor. James Forrestal, seemed too deferential to the armed services.

Coming from modest roots in West Virginia. Johnson became a self-made multimillionaire who was ambitious, abrasive, hard-working, and effective. In 1949, he set out to hold military spending to $ 13 billion a year (about 5 percent of the gross domestic product). The military wanted $ 15 billion but could not ply Johnson's firm hand off their budget until the Korean War. Why Johnson took the stance he did is a point of controversy because he had been a strong proponent of preparedness when he was President Franklin D. …

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