Thursday, April 17, 2014

David Kaiser's "No End Save Victory"

David Kaiser has taught history at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, the Naval War College, and Williams College. His books include The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Kaiser applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford’s test is a good one, because in a good book, every page should bear some relation to the major themes of the work. Page 99 most certainly does.

No End Save Victory: How FDR led the Nation into War, deals with Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the world crisis from 1937 onward, but with the emphasis on the period from the fall of France in May 1940 until Pearl Harbor. Americans, including all the senior figures in Roosevelt’s Administration, expected the fall of France to be followed in short order by the surrender of Great Britain, leaving the United States face to face with the threat of German aggression, very possibly aided by the Japanese. While many Americans opposed fighting in Europe, virtually every American agreed on the need to prepare the defense of the Western Hemisphere, and Roosevelt pushed through a series of rearmament measures, including vast expansion of the U.S. Navy, in May, June and July 1940. He also created a new agency, the National Defense Advisory Commission (or Defense Commission), to supervise the increases in industrial production that rearmament would require. It included the Secretaries of War and of the Navy and representatives of private business and labor, most of whom volunteered their services. P. 99 discusses their most critical problem as follows:
The Defense Commission had to arrange for the production of the weapons America needed, but widespread disagreement persisted about how much that would be. In one of their first meetings on July 3, the commissioners agreed to assume that “the emergency,” as they referred to the situation facing the nation, would last about four years, but they differed widely on what it would entail. As Commissioner Donald Nelson explained after the war, the key argument divided men like himself, Leon Henderson, Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, and [Secretary of War] Stimson, who believed that the United States would soon be fighting all over the world, and those like William Knudsen, Edward Stettinius, and Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones who focused on the western hemi sphere and may even have believed that the European war might come to an end without U.S. intervention. Meanwhile, much of American industry, powerfully represented on the Commission by members like Knudsen of General Motors and Stettinius of U.S. Steel, wanted the minimum possible disruption of the civilian economy and the maximum possible profit, while labor wanted to conserve its gains in wages and hours amid increasing employment. With GDP destined to increase from $101 billion in 1940 to $126 billion in 1941, $162 billion in 1942, and $198 billion in 1943, the stakes were obviously enormous. So was the necessary productive effort.
This argument, as the book shows, was not resolved for another year, until July 1941, after Germany attacked the Soviet Union. At that point, Roosevelt specifically directed Stimson to do a thorough study of what it would take to defeat all the potential enemies of the United States—not merely to defend the western hemisphere. That study, which became known as the Victory Program, was completed in September. As a result, when a revamped production agency met on December 9, 1941—two days after Pearl Harbor—William Knudsen was able to inform Stimson that the production targets in the Victory Program could be met by July 1, 1944—almost the exact date at which the decisive offensives against Germany and Japan began. This was an extraordinary achievement.
Visit David Kaiser's blog, and read more about No End Save Victory at the Basic Books website.

My Book, The Movie: No End Save Victory.

--Marshal Zeringue