By Chet Yarbrough
The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War
Written by: A.J. Baime
Narration by: Peter Berkrot
“The Arsenal of Democracy” takes a retrospective look at an epic quest by America to build an arsenal of weapons before entry to World War II. Some surprising names are shown to have Nazi sympathies and anti-Semitic beliefs. Those abhorrent sympathies and beliefs are cloaked by pacifist and capitalist credos.
There is the capitalist credo that unregulated self-interest is the most important determinant of success. There is the pacifist credo that someone else’s tragedy is an opportunity for economic gain. Some pre-WWII movers and shakers are tainted by capitalist greed and prejudice. A. J. Baime shows there are two sides to the story of “The Arsenal of Democracy”.
CHARLES LINDBERGH’S 9/11/1941 SPEECH IN DES MOINES, IOWA;
Henry Ford, the “god” of America’s industrial revolution, is awarded the “Grand Cross of the German Eagle” by Nazi officials in 1938. He is 75 years old. The Grand Cross is the highest honor that can be given to a foreigner by the Nazi government. (The only other American recipient is Charles Lindbergh.)
Baime accusatorially notes that Ford is the only American named in Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”; i.e. the most well-known anti-Semitic book ever written. Ford did not wish to enter WWII. One may draw their own conclusion, but it stretches credulity to believe it is unrelated to Ford’s personal prejudice and presumed economic gain.
Ford is not the only self-made millionaire who believes America should not enter the war. Joseph Kennedy is equally opposed. Of course, before Pearl Harbor, the majority of Americans were against entering the war. However, Ford and Kennedy share a capitalist entrepreneur’s amoral belief that everything is negotiable, including peace with Hitler.
This amoral belief is characteristic of an idealized business model reflected by writers like Ayn Rand; i.e. it is a belief that the strong survive. and the weak deserve their fate. (This is an amoral belief evident in today’s American President, and a number of congressional representatives.)
Though Kennedy is not as clearly tainted by anti-Semitism as Henry Ford, both believe war is not a solution to Hitler’s aggression. Business men like Kennedy and Ford believe political leaders, like prudent business leaders, will fail if they do not benefit their country’s citizens and employees by staying out of war and making a profit. They, like most Americans, could not believe holocaust rumors could be true. Baime suggests the stark evidence of Jewish slaughter after the war shakes Henry Ford’s conscience. (One is inclined to doubt Baime’s conclusion considering Ford’s history of anti-Semitism.)
WW2 CONSPIRACY—FORD BUILDS TRUCKS FOR NAZIS, B-24S FOR USAAF,
Baime primarily focuses on how “The Arsenal of Democracy” came into being. Baime recounts “The Arsenal of Democracy” speech given by FDR on December 29, 1940. The year before Pearl Harbor, Henry Ford reluctantly agrees to join the automobile industry mavens in re-tooling car manufacturing for the defense of America.
WILLOW RUN ASSEMBLY PLANT,
THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY SPEECH BY FDR:
Edsel and Ford Corporation’s managers finally convince Henry to build Willow Run, the largest assembly plant of its time, to produce American bombers. The goal is to produce a completed airplane bomber at a rate of one per hour. Baime argues that the goal is achieved through Edsel’s leadership; complemented by innovations created by Ford Corporation’s experienced managers; e. g. men like Charles Sorenson, the lead engineer and designer of the company.
In a muddled side story, the role of Harry Bennett is explored by Baime. The story is muddled because it is shrouded in mystery involving rumors of Bennett’s mob-informant role for the FBI; his contacts with foreign interests, and his strong-arm tactics against union sympathizers. Henry Ford expresses great confidence in Bennett’s ability.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF HARRY BENNETT : <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z0jyOfSg0P8″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen> Baime suggests Henry Ford treats Bennett like more of a son than Edsel. When Edsel dies, Baime writes that Edsel’s wife accuses Henry of being the proximate cause of Edsel’s death because of Henry’s constant criticism (Edsel dies in 1943 with a diagnosis of stomach cancer).
FOOTAGE OF THE 1941 STRIKE WITH A GLIMPSE OF HARRY BENNETT: <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/PLN1svpbPBA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
This is an interesting story but one has to remember the context of the time to have a fair perspective of villains in sheep’s clothing. Henry Ford is an anti-Semite but he joins a vast number of Americans that were equally anti-Semitic.
5 CORPORATIONS THAT HELPED CARRY OUT THE HOLOCAUST: <iframe width=”640″ height=”390″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/RXh7HfEFhik” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>German anti-Semitism did not suddenly spring from one demented leader. Henry Ford came from the same primordial swamp that all human beings came from.
THE TWO FACES OF HENRY FORD:
Baime notes that Edsel Ford had contact with Hitler’s French puppet government leaders. Edsel is accused of aiding Ford Corporations’ manufacturing capability in occupied France. Intertwining relationships often distort truth but there is a conflict-of-interest odor surrounding Ford Corporation’s actions before and during the war.
The facts are that creation of “The Arsenal of Democracy” would have been a pipe dream without Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, Charles Sorenson, the industrial capability of the auto industry, and the American people. Truth and history do not forgive anti-Semitism, manager’s exploitation of workers, human greed, illegal dealings with the underworld, or nasty treatment of a sons by fathers. The truth is and always will be–human beings are good and bad. Baime’s story of “The Arsenal of Democracy” joins a pile of books affirming the moral duality of humankind.