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Download Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War II Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War II Audiobook, by Arthur Herman Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (115 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Arthur Herman Narrator: John McDonough Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2012 ISBN: 9781464048449
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In Freedom’s Forge, bestselling author Arthur Herman takes us back to that time, revealing how two extraordinary American businessmen—automobile magnate William Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser—helped corral, cajole, and inspire business leaders across the country to mobilize the “arsenal of democracy” that propelled the Allies to victory in World War II.

Remarkable as it may seem today, there once was a time when the president of the United States could pick up the phone and ask the president of General Motors to resign his position and take the reins of a great national enterprise. And the CEO would oblige, no questions asked, because it was his patriotic duty.

“Knudsen? I want to see you in Washington. I want you to work on some production matters.” With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enlisted “Big Bill” Knudsen, a Danish immigrant who had risen through the ranks of the auto industry to become president of General Motors, to drop his plans for market domination and join the US Army. Commissioned a lieutenant general, Knudsen assembled a crack team of industrial innovators, persuading them one-by-one to leave their lucrative private sector positions and join him in Washington, DC. Dubbed the “dollar-a-year men,” these dedicated patriots quickly took charge of America’s moribund war production effort. 
Henry J. Kaiser was a maverick California industrialist famed for his innovative business techniques and his can-do management style. He, too, joined the cause. His Liberty ships became World War II icons—and the Kaiser name became so admired that FDR briefly considered making him his vice president in 1944. Together, Knudsen and Kaiser created a wartime production behemoth. Drafting top talent from companies like Chrysler, Republic Steel, Boeing, Lockheed, GE, and Frigidaire, they turned auto plants into aircraft factories and civilian assembly lines into fountains of munitions, giving Americans fighting in Europe and Asia the tools they needed to defeat the Axis. In four short years they transformed America’s army from a hollow shell into a truly global force, laying the foundations for a new industrial America—and for the country’s rise as an economic and military superpower.

Featuring behind-the-scenes portraits of FDR, George Marshall, Henry Stimson, Harry Hopkins, Jimmy Doolittle, and Curtis LeMay, as well as scores of largely forgotten heroes and heroines of the wartime industrial effort, Freedom’s Forge is the American story writ large. It vividly re-creates American industry’s finest hour, when the nation’s business elites put aside their pursuit of profits and set about saving the world.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Freedom’s Forge is the story of how the ingenuity and energy of the American private sector was turned loose to equip the finest military force on the face of the earth. In an era of gathering threats and shrinking defense budgets, it is a timely lesson told by one of the great historians of our time.”

    Donald Rumsfeld

  • “A rarely told industrial saga, rich with particulars of the growing pains and eventual triumphs of American industry…Arthur Herman has set out to right an injustice: the loss, down history’s memory hole, of the epic achievements of American business in helping the United States and its allies win World War II.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A rambunctious book that is itself alive with the animal spirits of the marketplace.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “The production statistics cited by Mr. Herman…astound.”


  • “[A] fantastic book.”


  • “A compulsively readable tribute to ‘the miracle of mass production.’”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Invaluable insights regarding how government administrators and industry leaders worked together to produce a winning arsenal. Economists and general readers alike will benefit from its historical perspective.”

    Library Journal

  • “A magnificent, controversial reexamination of the role of American business in winning WWII.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “World War II could not have been won without the vital support and innovation of American industry. Arthur Herman’s engrossing and superbly researched account of how this came about, and the two men primarily responsible for orchestrating it, is one of the last great, untold stories of the war.”

    Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War

  • “It takes a writer of Arthur Herman’s caliber to make a story essentially based on industrial production exciting, but this book is a truly thrilling story of the contribution made by American business to the destruction of Fascism. With America producing two-thirds of the Allies’ weapons in World War II, the contribution of those who played a vital part in winning the war, yet who never once donned a uniform, has been downplayed or ignored for long enough. Here is their story, with new heroes to admire—such as William Knudsen and Henry Kaiser—who personified the can-do spirit of those stirring times.”

    Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War

  • An Economist Best Book of the Year, 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sher | 2/7/2014

    " I'm still not sure why I enjoyed this book so much. I was fascinated by it, while at the same time wondered if I were the only person in the world who was. The premise of this book is a review of all the events that helped ready America to enter WWII with the power that would soon end it. In the meantime, so many new inventions, technologies and ideas were put into play that America emerged from the war as the world leader it was for so many years. This part was compelling to me, but so were the people who happened to "be at the right place at the right time" that brought it all to pass. These things could only have taken place in a country where freedom allowed it. It is freedom that fosters forward, productive thinking and doing. Without it, we stifle ourselves. Here is a prayer for the future, that we don't let go of the precious little freedom remaining to us. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Todd | 1/8/2014

    " Well researched, very interesting. Great narrative and a very fast read. I really enjoyed this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stan | 1/6/2014

    " A very interesting look at American industrial capability and management in the pre-WWII and WWII years. Anyone who thinks the Government ran the whole show should read this and discover the truth about how both Government and private business contributed to this extraordinary story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 12/11/2013

    " Excellent.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robin Riester | 12/11/2013

    " Great book covering outstanding efforts in industry in the US to build the arsenal for World War II. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William Hill | 11/27/2013

    " Important history for a capitalist economy. What could be a boring subject was well presented by the author. His take on labor unions and the Roosevelts were most interesting. The production figures and like data got a little tedious toward the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 11/23/2013

    " Lots of information to process in this book. Why isn't something in the Detroit area named after Bill Knudsen? There should be some kind of tribute to this amazing man. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aneil | 11/12/2013

    " Great book so far. It's a page-turner about historical figures that until have faded into the background. Another great example of the "ordinary people who became extraordinary leaders" who built America and then helped save it fascism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Oldesq | 9/9/2013

    " A fascinating and well told story of two industrialists who had the foresight and stepped up to the plate to prepare America for war before December of 1941. Knudsen and Kaiser were mavericks who knew how to harness the power of the American people. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rae | 7/18/2013

    " Written by one of my favorite professors at George Mason. I read it for my Progressive Book Club. Very interesting story of how private industry mobilized for production before WWII. A part of history that is overlooked. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debbie | 7/9/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. It's history of WWII and American business. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aaron Mcqueen | 6/16/2013

    " Really enjoyable read but unfortunately definitly has a pro big business agenda. It has me looking do more material on the subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim | 5/20/2013

    " I've read a lot of books on World War 2, but this one was from a different angle. Seeing what went into building the infrastructure to support the war efforts was neat. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diane Hoover | 4/26/2013

    " Excellent book and well written history. Read just like a novel "

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About the Author

Arthur Herman, is the author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World, which has sold more than half a million copies worldwide. His book, Gandhi & Churchill, was the 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. Herman has been a professor of history at Georgetown University, Catholic University, George Mason University, and the University of the South and is currently Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

About the Narrator

John McDonough, one of AudioFile magazine’s Golden Voices, has narrated dozens of audiobooks, and won eleven Earphones Awards. He is known for his narrations of children’s books, including Robert McCloskey’s Centerburg Tales and Albert Marrin’s Commander-in-Chief Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Outside of his audiobook work, he has starred in a revival of Captain Kangaroo on the Fox Network.