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Images from the Arsenal of Democracy

Charles K. Hyde

Publication Year: 2014

While researching his previous study, Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II (Wayne State University Press, 2013), award-winning automotive historian Charles K. Hyde discovered the many remarkable photos that were part of the era’s historical documentation. In Images from the Arsenal of Democracy, Hyde presents a selection of nearly three hundred of these documentary photos in striking black and white, with brief captions. Taken together, the images create a captivating portrait of this crucial moment in American business, military, and cultural history. Images from the Arsenal of Democracy spans from 1940 until the end of the war, presenting up-close, rarely seen views of newly built plants and repurposed production lines, a staggering variety of war products and components, and the many workers behind Detroit’s wartime production miracles. The human faces that Hyde presents are especially compelling, as photos show the critical role played by previously underused workers—namely women and African Americans. Images from the Arsenal is divided into chapters by theme, including “Preparing for War before Pearl Harbor”; “Planning Defense Production after Pearl Harbor”; “Aircraft Engines and Propellers”; “Aircraft Components and Complete Aircraft”; “Tanks and Other Armored Vehicles”; “Jeeps, Trucks, and Amphibious Vehicles”; “Guns, Shells, Bullets, and Other War Goods”; “The New Workers”; and “Celebrating the Production Achievements.” The first comprehensive and detailed history drawn solely from the surviving photographic record of wartime Detroit, Images from the Arsenal will be appreciated by automotive historians, World War II scholars, and American history buffs.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book grew directly out of my work in researching the well-known Arsenal of Democracy story. What has inspired me and at the same time has driven me to write this book is a remarkable collection of surviving photographs portraying the wartime auto industry. The Automobile Manufacturers Association...


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pp. xi-xii

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1. Preparing for War before Pearl Harbor

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pp. 1-18

Most Americans did not view war in Europe as a threat to U.S. security despite the escalating situation abroad, including Adolf Hitler’s aggressions in Eastern Europe starting in March 1938 when he annexed Austria to Germany, the official start of World War II in September 1939 after Hitler invaded Poland...

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2. Planning Defense Production after Pearl Harbor

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pp. 19-44

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the automobile companies established the Automotive Council for War Production (ACWP) in late December 1941 to improve communication and coordination between the automakers and the military services. In mid-January...

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3. Aircraft Engines and Propellers

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pp. 45-68

American industry built approximately 300,000 military aircraft in 1940–1945. These required 802,161 aircraft engines, including spares, to keep them flying. The U.S. Army Air Force bought 81 percent of the aircraft engines manufactured during this period, with the U.S. Navy purchasing most of the rest. The contributions...

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4. Aircraft Components and Complete Aircraft

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pp. 69-118

The automobile industry made an enormous contribution to the production of military aircraft during World War II, which was a major element of overall defense spending. American aircraft manufacturers produced a paltry 5,856 airplanes in 1939, but production peaked at 96,318 units...

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5. Tanks and Other Armored Vehicles

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pp. 119-154

In the late 1930s, the U.S. Army was not using tanks in any combat capacity. There were no facilities in the United States to manufacture tanks—not even in small quantities. The U.S. Army Ordnance Department awarded its first contracts for tanks in 1939 to manufacturers of railroad locomotives and railroad cars. They mistakenly believed...

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6. Jeeps, Trucks, and Amphibious Vehicles

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pp. 155-196

The American Expeditionary Force operating in France in World War I used motorized vehicles only haphazardly and put trucks from scores of U.S. and European manufacturers in the field. In June 1940, the Quartermaster Corps, with the approval of Congress, adopted standardized truck designs and ended...

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7. Guns, Shells, Bullets, and Other War Goods

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pp. 197-232

The American automobile industry produced a wide range of weapons, ammunition, and other war products that it had no experience or expertise with when the war began. Chrysler manufactured the Swedish-designed Bofors 40-mm antiaircraft gun after redesigning it to U.S. standards. Chrysler...

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8. The New Workers

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pp. 233-280

The Great Depression’s effect on employment was still evident in 1940, when 14.6 percent of the civilian labor force was unemployed. However, due to the growth of defense production beginning in 1941 and its increase in 1942–1943, as well as the military absorption of millions...

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9. Celebrating the Production Achievements

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pp. 281-290

The enormous production of weapons and munitions by American industry, especially the automobile industry, contributed mightily to the eventual victory of the Allies over the Axis powers. American production dwarfed that of our principal allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union...


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pp. 291-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780814339824
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814339817

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 298
Publication Year: 2014