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America in World War IIFor 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.