Arsenal of World War II
The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1940-1945
Paul A.C. Koistinen
Prolific munitions production keyed America's triumph in World War II but so did the complex economic controls needed to sustain that production. Artillery, tanks, planes, ships, trucks, and weaponry of every kind were constantly demanded by the military and readily supplied by American business. While that relationship was remarkably successful in helping the U.S. win the war, it also raised troubling issues about wartime economies that have never been fully resolved.
Paul Koistinen's fourth installment of a monumental five-volume series on the political economy of American warfare focuses on the mobilization of national resources for a truly global war. Koistinen comprehensively analyzes all relevant aspects of the World War II economy from 1940 through 1945, describing the nation's struggle to establish effective control over industrial supply and military demand—and revealing the growing partnership between the corporate community and the armed services.
“Koistinen has long been a recognized authority on the World War II economic mobilization. In this book, he cements his mastery of it. . . . This book provides a valuable foundation and guide to those who study World War II to understand the origins of the postwar power structure.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Koistinen’s study of America's mobilization effort during World War II is meticulously researched, well organized, and highly detailed. If it were simply these things, it would be a magnificent contribution to a richly studied period. But it is a great deal more. Koistinen traces, with understated but riveting thoroughness, the recovery of the power of big business in twentieth-century America and its fateful alliance with a virtually unrestrained, authoritarian American military.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“Should become both an essential source on its subject and obligatory reading for serious students of American political development.”
—Journal of American History
“The book is basically about the politics of industrial production as experienced by the civilian war managers, and on that subject, it is definite.”
—The International History Review
“Koistinen has set himself the formidable task of writing a detailed, authoritative, solely-authored history of the way America has harnessed its economy during times of war.”
“Like the endeavor it examines, Arsenal of World War II is massive, impressive, and contentious. . . . This is primarily a detailed and deeply analytical history of the Washington struggle among New Deal supporters, big business, and the military over industrial mobilization. Lucidly written and based largely on research in a tremendous volume of archival material, it is the best overall treatment of its subject . . . . There is great substance in this book . . . . It is essential reading for scholars of the home front.”
—Journal of Military History
“Of epic proportions. Meticulously researched in both primary and secondary sources, this is another installment on the evolution of the United States as a developing industrial country. . . . An essential scholarly work on the subject.”
“For students of the history of American military-industrial relations, the work of Paul A. C. Koistinen has long been required reading. . . . [This book] is likely to be seen as the most important single work in Koistinen’s opus.”
—Business History Review
“In this monumental and magisterial work, Koistinen . . . demonstrates, more deeply and broadly than any other scholar, how the federal government directed the American war effort.”
“In this fourth installment of his magisterial history of the political economy of American warfare, Koistinen provides a brilliant and probing analysis of the conflicts among New Dealers, corporate managers, and military leaders that created an industrial-military alliance. . . . Will emerge quickly as the defining interpretation of the economic mobilization experience.”
—Patrick D. Reagan, author of Designing a New America: The Origins of New Deal Planning, 1890–1943
“Koistinen, our leading historian of the American warfare state, tells this epochal story with the insight and authority it so clearly deserves.”
—Nelson Lichtenstein, author of State of the Union: A Century of American Labor
“A truly outstanding achievement.”
—George McJimsey, author of The Presidency of Franklin Delano RooseveltSee fewer reviews...
Koistinen traces the evolution of federal agencies mobilizing for war—including the National Defense Advisory Commission, the Office of Production Management, and the Supply Priorities and Allocation Board-and then focuses on the work of the War Production Board from 1942-1945. As the war progressed, the WPB and related agencies oversaw the military's supply and procurement systems; stabilized the economy while financing the war; closely monitored labor relations; and controlled the shipping and rationing of fuel and food.
In chronicling American mobilization, Koistinen reveals how representatives of industry and the armed services expanded upon their growing prewar ties to shape policies for harnessing the economy, and how federal agencies were subsequently riven with dissension as New Deal reformers and anti-New Deal corporate elements battled for control over mobilization itself. As the armed services emerged as the principal customers of a command economy, the military-industrial nexus consolidated its power and ultimately succeeded in bending the reformers to its will.
The product of exhaustive archival research, Arsenal of World War II shows that mobilization meant more than simply harnessing the economy for war-it also involved struggles for power and position among a great many interest groups and ideologies. Nearly two decades in the making, it provides an ambitious and enormously insightful overview of the emergence of the military-industrial economy, one that still resonates today as America continues to wage wars around the globe.