Thursday, November 24, 2022

Larrie D. Ferreiro's "Churchill's American Arsenal"

Larrie D. Ferreiro is an engineer, historian and the author of several award-winning books in history, science and technology, and was the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist in history for his book Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It. He teaches at George Mason University in Virginia and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Ferreiro applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Churchill's American Arsenal: The Partnership Behind the Innovations that Won World War Two, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Churchill’s American Arsenal ends with the following paragraph:
By late 1943… American aircraft were also being fitted with the same [radar] systems as the RAF, but Army Air Forces doctrine still saw daylight bombing by mass formations of bombers as the best means of conducting precision attacks against specific German military targets, notably factories, oil refineries, and railroads. However, without adequate long-range fighter protection, unescorted American bombers, even in massive formations with mutually supporting gunfire, were being chewed up by the Luftwaffe before they could even reach their targets.
Let’s unpack that and see what it tells us about the book as a whole.

The chapter is called “Fight in the Air,” a reference to a line in Winston Churchill’s famous speech after the evacuation of Dunkirk in June 1940. The great bulk of the British army had been saved, but all of its equipment – tanks, artillery, even rifles – had been left behind on the beaches. Germany, meanwhile, had swept through France and completed its domination of Europe. Churchill vowed to keep fighting and even re-take the continent. But to rebuild its forces would require months and even years to complete, and would require America’s help. Churchill’s immediate goal was to carry out “devastating, exterminating attacks by very heavy bombers… upon the Nazi homeland.” Even before the United States entered the war the following year, the two nations joined forces – military, industrial and scientific – to produce the weapons needed to carry out these attacks.

Two revolutionary inventions, developed in Britain and built in the United States, led the bombing campaigns. Airborne radar, which allowed bombers to “see” their targets through the heavy clouds that blanketed European skies, was the brainchild of two British scientists. After Dunkirk, the British brought the invention to the United States, where American scientists and engineers created and built radar sets in their thousands. By 1943, radars equipped both nations’ entire bomber fleets.

At the same time, the RAF placed orders for its new fighter, the P-51 Mustang, to be built in America to British specifications. Delivered in 1942, the RAF immediately saw that the aircraft would become a superb high-altitude escort fighter if fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Fortunately, American automobile plants were already building the Merlin, and Roosevelt himself directed that the Army Air Forces order the newest Mustangs fitted with the Merlin engine. By 1943, the combination of radar-equipped bombers, escorted by P-51 Merlin Mustangs, allowed for Churchill’s “devastating, exterminating attacks” that decimated German industry, paved the way for the Allied invasion the following year, and victory soon after.
Learn more about Churchill's American Arsenal at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Brothers at Arms.

The Page 99 Test: Brothers at Arms.

--Marshal Zeringue