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  • The Arsenal of Democracy

  • FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War
  • Written by: A. J. Baime
  • Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
  • Length: 11 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times best seller.

A dramatic, intimate narrative of how Ford Motor Company went from making automobiles to producing the airplanes that would mean the difference between winning and losing World War II. In 1941, as Hitler’s threat loomed ever larger, President Roosevelt realized he needed weaponry to fight the Nazis - most important, airplanes - and he needed them fast. So he turned to Detroit and the auto industry for help. The Arsenal of Democracy tells the incredible story of how Detroit answered the call, centering on Henry Ford and his tortured son Edsel, who, when asked if they could deliver 50,000 airplanes, made an outrageous claim: Ford Motor Company would erect a plant that could yield a "bomber an hour". Critics scoffed: Ford didn’t make planes; they made simple, affordable cars. But bucking his father’s resistance, Edsel charged ahead. Ford would apply assembly-line production to the American military’s largest, fastest, most destructive bomber; they would build a plant vast in size and ambition on a plot of farmland and call it Willow Run; they would bring in tens of thousands of workers from across the country, transforming Detroit, almost overnight, from Motor City to the “great arsenal of democracy.” And eventually they would help the Allies win the war. Drawing on exhaustive research from the Ford Archives, the National Archives, and the FDR Library, A. J. Baime has crafted an enthralling, character-driven narrative of American innovation that has never been fully told, leaving readers with a vivid new portrait of America - and Detroit - during the war.

©2014 Albert Baime (P)2014 Audible Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Arsenal of Democracy

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic

Highly recommended, glad to see Edsel Ford recognized for the great man he was.

Even better book than "Go Like Hell" by the same author, also recommended.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2014-12-01

Misleading title

What made the experience of listening to The Arsenal of Democracy the most enjoyable?

I enjoyed the book but the title was very misleading. The book should be renamed Ford Motor Company in WWII. There was very little about any other Company switching from civilian production to war production or the changes this brought. This is the story of Edsel and Henry Ford II developing the Willow Run plant to build B-24 bombers and eventually achieving their goal of producing a bomber a day. This is not the story of how American industry converted to build the tanks, planes and bombs that won the war. Nor is the story about the great migration of people from rural areas to large urban areas to work in the war factories and the changes this brought.

29 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 2015-04-09

Tough Review to Write

I thought it was a well researched, organized and thoughtful work. Most of the time, I thought the narrator did a credible job. But, at times I couldn't figure out why he did what he did. Best example. He consistently referred to FDR as Rooooooooosevelt. Almost to the point of rubbing it in. I know that's how Teddy's branch pronounced it but in 50 years of studying history, I've never heard the Franklin branch referred to as anything other Rose-a-velt. It got in the way. Also, he ascribed accents and speech patterns that certainly don't fit. In one conversation, Edsel Ford breaks into what I guess was supposed to be a southern accent. Why? Other places, many of them in fact, he was channeling James Cagney playing a depression era gangster. Some drama can be good but gratuitous mispronunciation bugs me to no end. He's good but would be so much better if he stopped trying to be someone he's not or gave up trying to force feed us a pronunciation that we've heard differently for our entire lines.

24 people found this helpful

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  • TG
  • 2014-12-21

Edsel Ford, a tragic hero

Where does The Arsenal of Democracy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best books I've listened to - well researched, well put together, and well read. It was such a great story that I'm glad to hear.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Edsel Ford. Esdel is the tragic hero - not allowed to participate in WW1 by his father, Henry, he seemed to go above and beyond to make up for that in WW2.

Which character – as performed by Peter Berkrot – was your favorite?

Harry Bennett - the obvious "bad buy" in this story, there was always a bit of nastiness in the narrator's voice when he performed Harry.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely. As a car buff, and airplane buff, it was a wonderful book. Layer in the story of WW2 in the process, and it was irresistible.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Chris Caldwell
  • 2015-01-09

Excellent historical account

Henry Ford (genius Nazi sympathizer), Lindbergh (Nazi sympathizer), Hitler (Lunatic Nazi), Churchill (all around genius/hero), Detroit & Auto Giants - Ford, GM, Packard are all characters in this grand story. So we'll researched and so well paced. I didn't want it to end and that's my measure of a great book. The only drawback is the narrator's voice took some getting used to but I did get used to him.

19 people found this helpful

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  • UA UNCW
  • 2016-01-24

why can't producers check pronunciation?

this is an excellent book with very good narration unfortunately marred by incorrect pronunciations. the narrator who is otherwise very good and engaging says Roosevelt with a long oo. it is astonishingly annoying and leads me to wonder why producers can't check their narrator's pronunciation.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Wolfpacker
  • 2015-05-16

Better Than Fiction

This book read like a great novel. It has so many twists and turns and covers such a broad geographic and temporal span yet it is still amazingly cohesive. The characters in the story are too amazing to have been made up.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Charles
  • 2016-09-11

Narrator too dramatic

Amazing story and information. Very easy to follow, but hated the narrator's voice. He put far too much drama into reading where not necessary. The story was dramatic enough

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cynthia
  • 2015-06-23

Arms and Allies

A.J. Baime's "The Arsenal of Democracy" (2014) was, for me, one of those impulse buys Audible makes so easy. "It's about World War II," I thought, "and the cover has planes. I'm probably interested, but if it turns out just to be a technical discussion of wingspans and payloads, I can return it with a few clicks." Obviously, I kept the book.

I learned a tremendous amount about the B-24 Liberator bomber, but that was almost a footnote. What "The Arsenal of Democracy" actually does is thoroughly discuss Henry Ford's dynasty, and in particular, the life and tragic death of his only child, Edsel. While Henry aged gracelessly, a victim of dementia and the soul sucking paranoia that so often is its bellwether, Edsel shepherded Ford Motor Company through the depression and partway through the war years.

Ford's standardization of aircraft, much like automobiles two decades earlier, turned each plane from an inexact, handcrafted boutique product to a standardized vehicle that could be operated and repaired with relative ease. Aviation standardization was a struggle for Charles E. Sorenson, Ford's production chief, who kept claiming he wanted to retire. Sorenson made it work, but not before what must have seemed like the entire country cried inevitable failure.

Franklin Roosevelt was president when the United States began ramping up manufacturing in the 1930's for war under "Lend-Lease" to the Allied countries. Henry, a pacifist and a raging anti-Semite, was given an award by Adolf Hitler he never returned - and he detested Roosevelt so much he refused to meet him for years. Edsel had to convince his father to switch to war production, and Henry nearly backed out dozens of times. Eventually, the gargantuan Willow Run plant where B-24's were built, was constructed on the site of a former charity boys camp run by Henry Ford.

Edsel struggled with his father to his end. What Henry thought was exaggerated hypochondria was the cancer that took Edsel. Henry II, Edsel's son, took Edsel's position - but his life is another story. Perhaps A.J. Baime has enough to write that? "The Arsenal of Democracy" was no hagiography, and it would be nice to read a biography of Henry Ford II that doesn't sound like it was written by a corporate marketing department.

The narration was fine, but there's an editing problem: sometimes, you can't tell which Ford in general, or which Henry Ford in particular, is being referred to. It was enough to have me rewinding occasionally.

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

9 people found this helpful

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  • Jean
  • 2015-05-24

Fascinating

The American labor leader Walter Reuther declared in 1940, “America’s battles can be won on the assembly lines of Detroit.” This is one of the main themes of the book and it left me thinking, the U.S. and Canada won WWI and WWII by building more military equipment faster than any other counties. What are we going to do if or when, we have another big war? We no longer are the manufacturing giant we were in the past. We no longer have the manufacturing plants to convert to the war effort, in fact we no longer even manufacture the uniforms and boots our troops wear. After reading this book I cannot help but think we will be at a big disadvantage in the future. I know I must have heard the saying “the arsenal of democracy” but I did not remember that was what FDR called the production of war materials.

Baime focuses primarily on the Ford Motor Company and its production of the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. Ford also manufactured tanks, trucks, jeeps, aircraft engines and parts, gun mounts and armor plates. Ford was not the only plane and manufacture of tanks trucks, autos etc., in fact General Motors’ was by far the larger manufacture. Baime writes primarily about the conflict between Edsel Ford who was the head of the company at the time and his father Henry Ford. The author also discusses the conflict between FDR and Henry Ford. Baime also reviews the role of William Knudsen, Roosevelt’s mobilization czar. The author also notes that as the majority of white men were mobilized to fight the war, the women and black men and women were recruited to work the assembly lines with great success. Peter Berkrot narrated the book.

9 people found this helpful

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  • JSC51
  • 2015-10-06

Great story and performance

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Henry and Edsel back story was riveting and framed this amazing American story.

8 people found this helpful