This is great storytelling about winning WWII, American ingenuity, innovation, and how many of the great engineering and construction firms grew into the powerhouses they still are today. I wish this book would have been around when I started Clayco.

Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II” is written by author and history connoisseur (with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and five other historical works to his credit) Arthur Herman. This book is insightful in covering the history of the United States’ industrial mobilization for World War II.

The text highlights how two American businessmen, General Motors automobile magnate  William “Big Bill” Knudsen and shipbuilder Henry J. Kaiser, charmed and rallied business leaders across the nation to mobilize the “arsenal of democracy,” including companies like  Chrysler, Republic Steel, Boeing, Lockheed, GE, and Frigidaire, Knudsen, and Kaiser. These organizations transformed factories to manufacture aircraft and implemented civilian assembly lines to help move the Allies toward victory. 

Over several years, America’s military was rebuilt, and the pathway for the US to rise as an economic and military powerhouse was becoming paved and clear. Knowing and understanding our history is crucial to recognize how it has directly impacted and contributed to our society and frameworks today. 

I highly recommend this terrific book that shines a light on an endearing and inspiring point in American history when business elites set their sights on collaborating to save the world instead of generating revenue (but they did both). Herman does a great job of relaying interesting and relevant moments of the past into a worthwhile and eye-opening read with mentions of some of today’s enduring builders.