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Arsenal of Democracy

The American Automobile Industry in World War II

Charles K. Hyde

Award Winner

Automotive Studies, American History, By WSU Faculty, Detroit, Michigan, Military History

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: October 2013
ISBN: 9780814339510
Pages: 264 Size: 7 x 10
Published: October 2013
ISBN: 9780814339527

Throughout World War II, Detroit's automobile manufacturers accounted for one-fifth of the dollar value of the nation's total war production, and this amazing output from "the arsenal of democracy" directly contributed to the allied victory. In fact, automobile makers achieved such production miracles that many of their methods were adopted by other defense industries, particularly the aircraft industry. In Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II, award-winning historian Charles K. Hyde details the industry's transition to a wartime production powerhouse and some of its notable achievements along the way.

Hyde examines several innovative cooperative relationships that developed between the executive branch of the federal government, U.S. military services, automobile industry leaders, auto industry suppliers, and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union, which set up the industry to achieve production miracles. He goes on to examine the struggles and achievements of individual automakers during the war years in producing items like aircraft engines, aircraft components, and complete aircraft; tanks and other armored vehicles; jeeps, trucks, and amphibians; guns, shells, and bullets of all types; and a wide range of other weapons and war goods ranging from search lights to submarine nets and gyroscopes. Hyde also considers the important role played by previously underused workers-namely African Americans and women-in the war effort and their experiences on the line.

Arsenal of Democracy includes an analysis of wartime production nationally, on the automotive industry level, by individual automakers, and at the single plant level. For this thorough history, Hyde has consulted previously overlooked records collected by the Automobile Manufacturers Association that are now housed in the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library. Automotive historians, World War II scholars, and American history buffs will welcome the compelling look at wartime industry in Arsenal of Democracy.

Charles K. Hyde is professor emeritus of history at Wayne State University. He is the author of Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson, and American Motors (Wayne State University Press, 2009), The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy (Wayne State University Press, 2005), and Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation (Wayne State University Press, 2003).

Arsenal of Democracy will surprise and educate those of us for whom Rosie the Riveter has always implied a smooth, patriotic, even happy transformation of industry in the nation’s interests.

– John W. Presley, Journal of American Culture

Hyde's well-researched volume will enlighten serious students of the war...

– Donald Lateiner, Michigan War Studies Review

Heavily researched and scrupulously presented... Extensive notes and an index round out this excellent addition to military and World War II history shelves.

– James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

The American automobile industry's rapid conversion from civilian to military production was one of the keys to Allied victory in World War II. In retrospect that conversion appears smooth and seamless. Charles K. Hyde demonstrates that it was in fact fraught with many technical, political, and social challenges. Arsenal of Democracy is an engaging portrait of what was arguably the auto industry's 'finest hour.'

– Robert Casey, retired curator of transportation, Henry Ford Museum

The book clearly shows the enormous impact of WWII and the auto industry's essential role. There would have been no victory without the arsenal. Summing up: Highly recommended.

– C. J. Myers, Choice

This well-written book is one of the most important studies of industrial mobilization to appear in a long time. . . In addition to anyone interested in the history of industrial Michigan, this study should appeal to historians of technology, business, and the US war economy who have long waited for a comprehensive portrait of the automobile industry in World War II.

– Thomas Heinrich, Baruch College, City University of New York, Michigan Historical Review

Many people have written about war production in World War II, but Hyde stands among the few who teach us new things about how it worked.

– Mark R. Wilson, Business History Review

American manufacturing prowess is on full display in this masterful study of automobile makers and parts suppliers who shifted gears to achieve miracles of military production in World War II. Hyde proves that modern wars are won not just on battlefields but also on assembly lines and shop floors.

– Patrick Malone, professor emeritus, Brown University

Charles K. Hyde wrote the definitive history of Detroit’s role [in World War II] . . .

– Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press

  • 2014 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Winner of the Bronze Medal in the category of War & Military
  • 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the Military category.
  • 2014 State History Award - Result: Winner