The Arsenal of Democracy tells the incredible story of how Detroit answered the call, centering on Henry Ford and his tortured son Edsel, who, when asked if they could deliver 50,000 airplanes, made an outrageous claim: Ford Motor Company would erect a plant that could yield a “bomber an hour”. Critics scoffed: Ford didn’t make planes; they made simple, affordable cars. But bucking his father’s resistance, Edsel charged ahead.
I picked this audiobook on impulse, wanting another WWII nonfiction book and attracted by a subject that would be somewhat close to my old home. (I lived outside of Detroit for three years, driving past Willow Run on each trip to the Motor City or its airport.) While the reviews warned me that the book focused disproportionately (and almost exclusively) on Ford Motor Company's contribution, I soon understood why. The onset of World War II coincided with the peak of the Ford Family's dysfunctionality. Henry was well past his prime, and often consumed by his prejudices and obsessions, yet maintained often-despotic control, with the assistance of racketeers on his payroll, led by Harry Bennett. His only son Edsel was the company president but was continually sabotaged by his father and Bennett. Once the war mobilization began, the allies' fortunes depended in large part on Ford's ability to achieve its nearly impossible contractual commitments. Your Audible point will be well-spent as you find out how it all worked out.
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It's 1942 and the Nazis are racing to be the first to build a weapon unlike any known before. They have the physicists, they have the uranium, and now all their plans depend on amassing a single ingredient: heavy water, which is produced in Norway's Vemork, the lone plant in all the world that makes this rare substance. Under threat of death, Vemork's engineers push production into overdrive. For the Allies, the plant must be destroyed.
Not every writing style works well as an audiobook. In the first half of Winter Fortress the author uses names only sparingly, preferring to refer to his subject as "he" or "him" until the topic shifts to another person, whose name will then be mentioned once .As a result, listeners unable to fully concentrate for extended periods of time will have particular difficulty following the story, and separating one Norwegian saboteur from the others. The story picks up midway, as members of the Grouse and Swallow teams battle starvation, needing to use stone-age survival skills in order to carry out their orders to delay or prevent the start of the atomic age. Once Operation Gunnerside kicks into gear, the story picks up speed, and maintains it until the end of the book. Had the publisher assigned an editor with a greater sensitivity to the needs of audiobook listeners, minor changes could have been made that would have made it much less tempting to switch to another book before the most dramatic action really begins.
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