Bill Yenne's THE AMERICAN AIRCRAFT FACTORY IN WWII
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
History buffs will be familiar with the phrase “arsenal of democracy” when discussing how United States manufacturing capacity contributed to the Allied war effort in World War II. This book examines the development of one aspect of the arsenal—the aircraft industry—and how it literally exploded starting in 1939.
Replete with numbers and illustrations the book traces the beginnings of the industry in the early 20th century and how famous individuals like Boeing, Douglas, and Northrup established an industry that initially focused on small-group custom manufacturing but later on—to great effect— adapted some of the assembly-line practices used in the automotive industry.
The numbers of aircraft produce was staggering—tens of thousands, literally, more than produced per year prior to or after the war. The distributed manufacturing occurring throughout the country formed the basis of the companies and manufacturing facilities of today.
The book is not just a dry recitation of facts and figures. Manufacturing procedures are discussed as are behind the scenes business dealings. The book is also heavily illustrated with many assembly-line images as well as many images of the workers including the women who made up such an important part of the workforce.
I certainly enjoyed the book. As a lifelong fan of historic aircraft, reading details of how and where the B-17s, the B-24s, and P-51s were developed and manufactured provides a useful insight into what “mobilization on the homefront” meant.
FYI: I read the Kindle edition which handles the numerous illustrations quite well. Note also that the book contains a quite extensive and detailed index.
Review copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald. Dennis (email firstname.lastname@example.org phone 703-402-7382) is a management consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia. His experience includes consulting company ownership and management, database publishing and data transformation, managing the integration of large systems and databases, corporate technology strategy, social media adoption, statistical research, and IT cost analysis. His clients have included the HHS CMS, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Engineering, General Electric, AIG, the World Bank, Whirlpool, and the National Library of Medicine. He has worked as a project manager, analyst, and researcher throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Egypt, and Hong Kong.