V is for Victory

In this epic and definitive history of the American homefront during World War II, New York Times bestselling historian Craig Nelson reveals how FDR confronted a nation antagonistic to war in Europe, skillfully won their support, and pushed government and industry to build the miraculous arsenal of democracy — the secret weapon that won the war.

In 1938, the prime ministers of Britain and France forced Czechoslovakia to cede land to the Third Reich … Nazi thugs attacked Jewish homes and businesses during Kristallnacht while the police did nothing … Charles Lindbergh was so forceful in his public praise of Nazi air power that Göring decorated him with the German Eagle … and the United States was so politically isolationist and pacifist that its defense forces were smaller than Portugal’s. That same year, Franklin Roosevelt ordered the federal government to spark a dramatic expansion in domestic airplane production, and this minor effort — three years before Pearl Harbor — would in time become the arsenal of democracy, the full-throttle unleashing of American enterprise that was the secret weapon for victory in World War II. Combined with Roosevelt’s public fight with Lindbergh — known as the Great Debate —  victory at land and sea and air across the globe began at home in America.

Under FDR’s resolute leadership, the United States rose from poverty and solitude to defeat the greatest evils of the 20th century. By transforming what Americans thought of themselves and what they could achieve, FDR’s efforts ended the Great Depression; defeated 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. Across history, however, 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.

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, Soldier of Fortune, National Geographic, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, and a host of other publications; he lives in New York.