By Arthur Herman
Random House, $28.00, 400 pages
In 1938, Nazi Germany was steadily gaining more power, but in America, the general mood was one of isolationism toward the growing crisis in Europe. President Roosevelt knew that America would be in serious trouble if Germany were allowed to conquer Europe. When he asked his advisors who he should talk to about getting America’s industrial manufacturing sector ready to produce war material, one name was mentioned – Bill Knudsen. Knudsen took the assembly line manufacturing design from Henry Ford and changed it into what experts called “flexible mass production,” a process that allows for constant modification and change. Through this manufacturing model, he was able to convert many American companies from making cars, trucks and home appliances to making planes, tanks, machine guns and other items necessary in fighting a war. Knudsen selected Henry Kaiser to help build transport ships for supplies and men. Kaiser was also instrumental in building the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other such structures. What Knudsen and team did in such a short period of time is truly inspiring. This is an excellent and well-written book, and I highly recommended it.
“I’m not a soldier and I am not a sailor, I am just a plain manufacturer. But I know if we get into war, the winning of it will be purely a question of material and production. If we know how to get out twice as much material as everybody else – know how to get it, how to get our hands on it, and use it – we are going to come out on top – and win.” William Knudsen
Reviewed by Brian Taylor