Business in War and Postwar
Frequently, foreign observers understand America better than Americans. Certainly the young French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, proved uncanny with his predictions and unerring in his analysis of American culture and politics. In the case of World War II, historians have long maintained that the exceptional skill of American fighting men won the war, only to be challenged by Europeanists who claim that the overwhelming might of the Soviet infantry was the decisive factor. Still another group suggests that the superior technology of the United States—culminating in the atomic bomb—made the difference.
British historian Paul Johnson offers a much more straightforward assessment: “The real engine of Allied victory was the American economy”1 After only a year of hostilities, industrial productivity in the United States exceeded that of Germany, Japan, and Italy combined. Johnson concluded that the “astonishing acceleration was made possible by the essential dynamism and flexibility of the American system, wedded to a national purpose which served the same galvanizing role as the optimism of the Twenties.”2 The war, he observed, “acted as a boom market, encouraging American entrepreneurial skills to fling her seemingly limitless resources of material and manpower into a bottomless pool of consumption.”3