Keep from All Thoughtful Men: How U.S. Economists Won World War II

Overview


Keep from All Thoughtful Men overturns much accepted historical dogma on how World War II strategy was planned and implemented. It is taken for granted that the Axis powers were defeated by an avalanche of munitions that poured forth from pitiless American factories. So it is amazing that the story of how this "miracle of production" was organized and integrated into Allied strategy and operations remains untold.
Keep from All Thoughtful Men is the first book that tells how ...
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Keep From All Thoughtful Men: How U.S. Economists Won World War II

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Overview


Keep from All Thoughtful Men overturns much accepted historical dogma on how World War II strategy was planned and implemented. It is taken for granted that the Axis powers were defeated by an avalanche of munitions that poured forth from pitiless American factories. So it is amazing that the story of how this "miracle of production" was organized and integrated into Allied strategy and operations remains untold.
Keep from All Thoughtful Men is the first book that tells how revolutions in both statistics and finance changed forever the nature of war. While the book relates the overall story of how economics dictated war planning at the highest levels, more specifically it tells how three obscure economists came to have more influence on the conduct of World War II than the Joint Chiefs. Because military historians rarely understand economics and economic historians just as rarely involve themselves with the details of war, there has never been a military history that shows how economics influenced the planning of strategy and the conduct of any war. This is sadly true of even World War II, which has been called by Paul Samuelson, "The Economist's War."
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Editorial Reviews

America in World War II
For decades, the children and grandchildren of America's WWII generation were taught that their nation's industrial might and capacity and its people's work ethic were two big elements in defeating Germany and Japan—that the United States had a victory plan conceived by its brightest men and, running like clockwork, it produced ships and guns and equipped soldiers and sailors on a timetable that almost guaranteed military success by the mid-1940s. The new Naval Institute Press book Keep from All Thoughtful Men, by Jim Lacey, a defense analyst and scholar and a former US Army officer, corrects this picture…It does not claim the American people didn't outwork and out-produce its enemies in World War II and thereby achieve victory. But it does reveal that for far longer than Americans might have cared to believe possible, there was no victory plan or Victory Program. Lacy's work explains that well into 1942 and 1943, US administrators flailed about desperately trying to figure out what the US armed forces did need and what it would take to produce it all. It also reveals that when a plan was finally in place, it was… the work of a collaboration of economists and statisticians.

Readers interested in America's WWII home-front history may want a copy of Lacey's work for their shelves. Comparing some of its conclusions to much of what has been printed on the subject of America converting itself into the Arsenal of Democracy is useful. And what Keep from All Thoughtful Men adds to what we already know about America's weak military position in the first days of the war makes the story a little more hair-raising.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591144915
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 544,623
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Jim Lacey, a retired U.S. Army Infantry officer with a Ph.D. from Leeds University in Great Britain, is a defense analyst and writer based in the Washington, DC area. He is the author of several books on military history, terrorism, and current affairs, including Takedown: The 3rd Infantry Division's Twenty-One Day Assault on Baghdad and a biography of General Pershing, among others.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Economics and War 1

Chapter 2 Unmaking the Victory Program 8

Chapter 3 The Real Victory Program 19

Chapter 4 The Economist's War 32

Chapter 5 The Production Organizations 50

Chapter 6 The War Production Board and Two Wars 70

Chapter 7 War and Feasibility 86

Chapter 8 The Great Feasibility Debate 96

Chapter 9 Marshall's Commitment to a 1943 Invasion of Europe 117

Chapter 10 Why Marshall Changed His Mind 133

Appendix 1 The Feasibility Concept 137

Appendix 2 The First Feasibility Study (14 March 1942) 146

Appendix 3 Wedemeyer's Victory Program 158

Appendix 4 Nathan's 6 October Memorandum for War Production Board Meeting 173

Appendix 5 General Somervell's Comments to War Production Board Proposals of 31 August 1942 183

Appendix 6 Simon Kuznets' Reply to Somervell's Comments on His Feasibility Proposal (Sent under Robert Nathan's Hand) 186

Appendix 7 Letter from Robert P. Patterson (Under Secretary of War) to General Somervell, Post 6 October Feasibility Meeting 190

Appendix 8 Minutes of War Production Board 6 October Meeting 192

Notes 203

Bibliography 241

Index 253

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  • Posted December 5, 2011

    Important but narrow subject; writing quality is okay

    The author in the opening pages vividly and compellingly argues for the importance of studying economic aspects of war. From resource abundance to resource utilization to the financing of war: these are key factors in determining wars' outcomes. World War II of course was no exception. The book's descriptions and introduction however don't convey to the prospective reader that the true subject of the book is not so much economic planning as the US's planning (or lack thereof) through 1941 and, once the war started, the decision to postpone the invasion of Europe from 1943 to 1944, due to insufficient military resources having been accumulated. Moroever, economists had been able to estimate that timeline in late 1941, when the military planners (according to this book) were either clueless or disinterested (and when the US entered the war, were still unable to do proper planning/synchronization of military needs and economic resources). The reader will gain an appreciation for the importance of economic principles in the waging of war, and for the planning (or lack thereof) that the US engaged in prior to and during the first half of WW II. But it's a narrow topic, with the key players being mostly unrecognizable names (although economists will recognize and appreciate Simon Kuznets' contributions). The author tries to make the narrative exciting and interesting, but the material is inherently dry and the authors' writing skills are not up to the challenge. His explanations of the more complex economic topics lack clarity; at one point I re-read a paragraph six times and still could not figure out what the author was trying to say. When I read the next paragraph I finally realized that he was trying to describe what economists call "monetizing the debt". I don't criticize the author for failing to use that phrase -- it would be useful only to a reader who was an economist or an advanced economics students -- but I do criticize the author for failing to provide a clear explanation for the lay reader. Thankfully most of the book doesn't require explanations of complex phenomena and the author conveys them clearly enough.

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