Episode 87: The Arsenal of Democracy l How American Businesses Built the WWII Army


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As the United States military reorganizes for Large Scale Combat Operations against a high-tech adversary, the role of industry in developing cutting-edge capabilities increases in prominence. It's important at this moment to look book to a period of American history in which private industry modernized an antiquated Army.

The story of American mobilization for World War II is well told: leaders like FDR, Henry Stimson, and George Marshall assembled a massive military force to beat the German and Japanese empires. Missing from this telling of history is the role of American businessmen in building FDR's "arsenal of democracy" that propelled the Allies to victory.

Historian Arthur Herman, author of "Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II," the wonderful 2012 book on this subject, joins host Joe Buccino to describe how two extraordinary American businessmen—General Motors automobile magnate William “Big Bill” Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser—helped corral, cajole, and inspire the country to transform America's Army from a hollow shell into a global force in a few years. Indeed, these "dollar-a-year men" who accepted a $1 annual salary from the American government to led through the nation at a time of global war, laid the foundations for the country’s post-war rise as an economic and military superpower.

Episode 87 is a fascinating, eye-opening conversation about a critical, and critically overlooking, aspect of American history. The conversation between Arthur and Joe is rich with insight about the role of industry in American production for war.

The 18th Airborne Corps Podcast is the official podcast of the US military. Recorded on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the program releases new episodes every Tuesday on topics of importance to military leaders. The podcast, hosted by Joe Buccino, covers insight from history, news of the day, and professional development and often features the Nation's top military leaders. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Stitcher, or Spotify and please leave a five-star rating and review.

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