Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/November 2013/Book reviews

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A Call to Arms - Mobilizing America for World War II

A Turret lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas

3.5/5 stars

By Hawkeye7

A Call to Arms is, according to the cover blurb, "the astonishing story of how American industry, and American workers, won World War II". It is not written by a military historian, but by Maury Klein, an economic historian best known for his work on the history of American railroads.

Like most historians writing broadly about World War II, Klein has to frequently hark back to World War I, when American industry mobilised for war, but failed to deliver anything in time for the troops to use it in action. It did, however, provide enormous windfalls to war profiteers. This experience shaped the way that America approached the even greater challenge posed by World War II. The task was much too complicated to be managed, and too vast to fit in a single book, even one as big as this, although Klein does his best.

Nearly 900 pages long, this is an imposing looking book. It's not a difficult read though, because Klein tries hist best to tell his story with colour and anecdotes. So you get, for example, a description of President Roosevelt's wheelchair. The book frequently stops to fill in the background of someone. Of course, this added to the weight of the book, but otherwise the reader would be confronted by a procession of three-letter acronyms so common in the New Deal period. (Fortunately, the list of abbreviations is located right up the front of the book.) The prose is warm, although sometimes a bit academic, with "According to..." references unlikely to be meaningful to most readers.

The cover depicts the workers at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington. Some 30,000 people worked at the plant in May 1944. They normally worked in shifts, but came together to celebrate the completion of Five Grand, the 5,000th B-17 to be produced by a plant building them at the rate of over 300 a month. Signed by all the workers, Five Grand flew 78 missions with the 96th Bombardment Group. The plant itself was irreparably damaged in an earthquake in 2001, and demolished in 2010.

If the size of the book does not scare you, there is much to discover inside.

Publishing details Maury, Klein (2013). A Call to Arms - Mobilizing America for World War II. New York: Bloomsbury Press. ISBN 9781596916074. OCLC 811597616. 

Recent external reviews

Beaumont, Joan (2013). Broken Nation : Australians in the Great War. Sydney: Allen &​ Unwin. ISBN 9781741751383. 

Harrington, Daniel F. (2012). Berlin on the Brink : The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813136134. 

  • Sayle, Timothy A. (November 2013). "Berlin on the Brink". H-Net Reviews. H-Net Humanities & Social Sciences Online. 

Scott-Clark, Cathy; Levy, Adrian (2013). The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel. New York City: Penguin Group. ISBN 0143123750. 

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