V Is For Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II
“Drawing on considerable research, the author fashions a richly detailed, highly readable account of presidential leadership in perilous times.”
“If any one human being is responsible for winning World War II, it is FDR,” writes historian Craig Nelson, making no secret of his admiration for the man who led America in the battle against both the Great Depression and Adolf Hitler.
V is for Victory, his brightly written chronicle of the crises of the 1930s and 40s, shows that even as Franklin Roosevelt transformed the nation with the New Deal, he was laying groundwork for wartime victory.
“The New Deal successfully restored confidence and hope to the American people, confidence and hope they would need to win the war,” says Nelson.
By early 1933, when FDR was inaugurated, some 5,000 U.S. banks had collapsed. Millions were out of work. The stock market was reeling. When someone told a hungry young girl to go home to get some food, she replied, “It’s my sister’s turn to eat.”
Unleashing an alphabet soup of New Deal programs, from the life-affirming WPA to the critical supports of the FSA and the SSA, FDR transformed America’s outlook and reminded people what they were capable of.
He imparted not only his personal confidence but also the powerful benefits of new programs. There were dams to control floods, produce fertilizer, and provide electricity, made possible by the Tennessee Valley Authority. And, courtesy of the WPA and the PWA, there was new infrastructure like hydroelectric power for factories and paved roads for transportation.
The wildly popular Civilian Conservation Corps even proved a training ground for war work. It taught millions how to read a blueprint, how to grade and pave roads, and how to erect buildings.
The author brings to life the creation of FDR’s “arsenal of democracy,” including the making of roads and the launching of massive projects requiring enormous amounts of capital, such as Lend Lease. Aircraft production was increased, and no opportunity was overlooked to strengthen military might, which had been greatly neglected since the First World War.
The nation’s armed services “had been starved into comas” for 20 years, writes Nelson.
When George Patton arrived to take command of Fort Benning, Georgia, he found 325 tanks that could not be repaired for lack of nuts and bolts. Unable to get the needed supplies from military sources, he bought them from Sears, Roebuck, using his own money.
Even the 40 million tons of steel used to build the iconic Trylon and Perisphere structures at the 1939 World’s Fair were melted down for military uses.
Throughout, Nelson describes the remarkable partnerships formed between the country’s public and private sectors. The phenomenon even produced a “little-known hero of World War II,” Bill Knudsen, GM’s production chief, who led the successful retooling of factories for war production.
Amid the debates between interventionists and isolationists, FDR steadily and secretly prepared the United States for war, enlisting the help of Edsel Ford and other industrialists, and redirecting raw materials towards defense.
Drawing on considerable research, the author fashions a richly detailed, highly readable account of presidential leadership in perilous times.