V Is For Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II (Hardcover)
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A NEW YORKER BEST BOOK OF 2023
“Belongs in the library alongside the histories and biographies of Martin Gilbert, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and David McCullough.” —Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers
In this epic and definitive history of the American home front during World War II, New York Times bestselling historian Craig Nelson reveals how FDR won the support of a nation antagonistic to war in Europe and pushed both government and industry to build “the arsenal of democracy”—the secret weapon that won the war.
In 1938, the United States was so politically isolationist and pacifist that its defense forces were smaller than Portugal’s. That same year, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the federal government to spark a dramatic expansion in domestic airplane production, and this minor effort—three years before the attack on Pearl Harbor—would in time become what Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy,” the full-throttle unleashing of American enterprise and ingenuity that was the secret weapon for victory in World War II. Signaled by Roosevelt’s public fight with Lindbergh—known as the Great Debate—victory at land, sea, and air across the globe began at home.
In this “richly detailed, highly readable account of presidential leadership in perilous times” (New York Journal of Books), Craig Nelson traces how under FDR, the United States rose from poverty and solitude to defeat the greatest evils of the 20th century. By transforming what Americans thought they could achieve, FDR’s efforts ended the Great Depression; conquered the fascists of Germany, Italy, and Japan; birthed America’s middle-class affluence and consumer society; led to jet engines, computers, radar, the military-industrial complex, Big Science, and nuclear weapons; triggered a global economic boom; and turned the U.S. military into a worldwide titan—with America the undisputed leader of world affairs. While the arsenal of democracy has come to mean this miracle of American industry, when Roosevelt said it, he meant the miracle of the American people.
Revealing an era when Detroit was Silicon Valley; Ford was Apple; and Sears, Roebuck was Amazon, while filled with reflections on our own time, V Is for Victory draws on five years of research to create a powerful and essential narrative largely overlooked in conventional histories of the war but which, in Nelson’s skilled, authoritative hands, becomes an illuminating and important work destined to become an American history classic.
About the Author
Craig Nelson is the author of Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness and the New York Times bestseller, Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, as well as several previous books, including The Age of Radiance (a PEN Award Finalist chosen as one of the year’s best books by NBC News, the American Institute of Physics, Kirkus Reviews, and FlavorWire), The First Heroes, Thomas Paine (winner of the Henry Adams Prize), and Let’s Get Lost (shortlisted for W.H. Smith’s Book of the Year). His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, National Geographic, The New England Review, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, and a host of other publications.
“Nelson chronicles what went into efforts to ramp up production of needed supplies such as tanks and bombers, reviving a moribund military supply and making the oft-quoted Roosevelt line about the 'arsenal of democracy' come alive for readers. . . . Nelson manages to make what is essentially a history of logistics just as compelling as battlefield heroics.” —Associated Press
"Nelson focuses on the ways in which New Deal economics and a nascent war effort went hand in hand, as with the bond-sales programs that financed the 'arsenal of democracy' policy, and shows us Roosevelt wrangling generals and manufacturers alike. He sees America’s 'industrial genius'—factories producing everyday items were enlisted to make armaments—as central to the defeat of fascism, arguing that American workers were war heroes, too." —New Yorker, Best Books of 2023
“Drawing on considerable research, the author fashions a richly detailed, highly readable account of presidential leadership in perilous times.” —New York Journal of Books
“A strong argument that 'if any one human being is responsible for winning World War II, it is FDR.' . . . [Nelson] points out that one American Revolution established the country in 1776, but another began in 1933 with the Franklin Roosevelt. . . . A compelling and convincing history lesson.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“A must-read equally for WWII history buffs and students of supply-chain logistics.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Deeply researched and fluidly written, this is a rousing portrait of the partnership between America’s public and private sectors firing on all cylinders. . . . [A] comprehensive and colorful account." —Publishers Weekly
“V Is for Victory belongs in the library alongside the histories and biographies of Martin Gilbert, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and David McCullough. Immensely readable and engrossing, rich in detail and deeply reported, these pages possess that rare charm of omniscience flush with surprise at every turn. Nelson’s prose springs FDR and America to new life—we’re in the rooms as history is made. A rich feast of history and storytelling.” —Doug Stanton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Horse Soldiers