“A touching and absorbing portrait of one of the forgotten heroes of World War II . . . A. J. Baime has given us a memorable portrait not just of an industry going to war but of a remarkable figure who helped to make victory possible.”—Wall Street Journal
As the United States entered World War II, the military was in desperate need of tanks, jeeps, and, most important, airplanes. Germany had been amassing weaponry and airplanes for five years—the United States for only months. So President Roosevelt turned to the American auto industry, specifically the Ford Motor Company, where Edsel Ford made the outrageous claim that he would construct the largest airplane factory in the world, a plant that could build a “bomber an hour.” And so began one of the most fascinating and overlooked chapters in American history.
Drawing on unique access to archival material and exhaustive research, A. J. Baime has crafted a riveting narrative that hopscotches from Detroit to Washington to Normandy, from the assembly lines to the frontlines, and from the depths of professional and personal failure to the heights that Ford Motor Company and the American military ultimately achieved in the sky.
“Wars are fought on many fronts, and A. J. Baime chronicles this little-known, but terrifically important battle to build America's bomber force with narrative zest and delicious detail. Put simply, it's a great read.”—Neal Bascomb, best-selling author of The Perfect Mile
“Fast-paced . . . the story certainly entertains.”—New York Times
This accessible, surprising history is a welcome addition to the inexhaustible list of WWII studies, as Baime (Go Like Hell) claims that perhaps the most important battle was fought far from the battlefield in the monolithic warehouses of Ford Motor Company in Detroit. However, Baime's not talking motorcars but airplanes 50,000 of them. His story hardly starts off patriotically: despite perceptions of Ford as a quintessentially American corporation, Baime describes a company whose public image was in rapid decline during the late 1930s, thanks in large part to its founder's apparent anti-Semitism and questionable affiliation with Nazi Germany. (Hitler, who later presented Ford with the Nazi Gold Cross, stated: "We look to Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing Fascist movement in America.") According to Baime, before Pearl Harbor the elder Ford, an outspoken pacifist, exerted most of his waning energy toward thwarting war production efforts. It's only after the Pearl Harbor attack that the inspiring narrative of Ford Motors saving the Allied cause picks up, which is really the story of the heroic, if tragic, efforts of Edsel Ford and his sons. Baime delivers a forthright and absorbing look at "the biggest job in all history."