The dramatic, untold story of how the American Army was mobilized from scattered outposts two years before Pearl Harbor into the disciplined and mobile fighting force that helped win World War II
In September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and initiated World War II, a strong strain of isolationism existed in Congress and across the country. The U.S. Army stood at fewer than 200,000 men—unprepared to defend the country, much less carry the fight to Europe and the Far East. And yet, less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the American army led the Allied invasion of North Africa, beginning the campaign that would defeat Germany, and the Navy and Marines were fully engaged with Japan in the Pacific.
The story of America’s astounding industrial mobilization during World War II has been told. But what has never been chronicled before Paul Dickson’s The Rise of the G. I. Army, 1940-1941 is the extraordinary transformation of America’s military from a disparate collection of camps with dilapidated equipment into a well-trained and spirited army ten times its prior size in little more than eighteen months. From Franklin Roosevelt’s selection of George C. Marshall to be Army Chief of Staff to the remarkable peace-time draft of 1940 and the massive and unprecedented mock battles in Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Carolinas by which the skill and spirit of the Army were forged and out of which iconic leaders like Eisenhower, Bradley, and Clark emerged; Dickson narrates America’s urgent mobilization against a backdrop of political and cultural isolationist resistance and racial tension at home, and the increasingly perceived threat of attack from both Germany and Japan.
An important addition to American history, The Rise of the G. I. Army, 1940-1941 is essential to our understanding of America’s involvement in World War II.
Historian Dickson (Leo Durocher: Baseball's Prodigal Son) delivers an exhaustive chronicle of U.S. Army efforts to prepare for WWII. Noting that the army grew from less than 200,000 men to 4.5 million between the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the one-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor in December 1942, Dickson credits U.S. Army chief of staff George C. Marshall for tapping the Civilian Conservation Corps for seasoned officers, directing large-scale training exercises that tested the army's expeditionary capabilities, and purging poor-performing generals from the ranks. Meanwhile, lawmakers overcame isolationist rhetoric to pass the first peacetime draft in American history, and then extend the minimum term of duty from 12 to 30 months. Dickson also documents the contributions of generals including Omar Bradley, George Patton, and Dwight Eisenhower; preparations for the invasion of North Africa in November 1942; and frustrations of African-American soldiers fighting in a segregated army. Dickson marches readers through his voluminous research at a brisk clip, and makes a convincing case that if the army hadn't been transformed, the war would have been lost. WWII buffs and military history readers will salute this stirring effort. (July)