This ground-breaking work overturns accepted historical dogma on how World War II strategy was planned and implemented. Refuting the long-accepted notion that the avalanche of munitions which poured forth from American factories defeated the Axis powers, it examines exactly how this miracle of production was organized and integrated into Allied strategy and operations. In doing so, it is the first book to show how revolutions in statistics and finance forever changed the nature of war, overturning three millennia of the making of grand strategy. Jim Lacey argues that manpower and the capacity to produce more munitions gave out long before the money did.
While the book relates the overall story of how economics dictated war planning at the highest levels, more specifically it tells how three obscure economists came to have more influence on the conduct of the war than the Joint Chiefs. Lacey further contends that the nation's basic strategy, known as the Victory Plan, had nothing to do with Gen. Albert Wedemeyer, despite the general's widely accepted claims that he formulated the plan. The author also is the first to correct to a long-standing fallacy that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall went to the Casablanca conference determined to push hard for a 1943 invasion of Northern Europe. A check of the conference minutes proved that the Army's official history purposely left out important information or misquoted the principals, according to Lacey, and that the idea of a 1943 invasion had been given up months before. He also makes extensive use of recently uncovered documents and histories written by members of the Joint staff that Lacey discovered misfiled in the National Archives. This first full study of the civil-military fight offers an entirely new perspective of World War II.
Jim Lacey, a retired U.S. Army Infantry officer with a Ph.D. from Leeds University in Great Britain, is a defense analyst and writer based in the Washington, DC area. He is the author of several books on military history, terrorism, and current affairs, including Takedown: The 3rd Infantry Division's Twenty-One Day Assault on Baghdad and a biography of General Pershing, among others.
- Watch Jim Lacey talk about Keep From All Thoughtful Men at the New York Military Affairs Symposium on 20 September 2013 - taped by C-SPAN.
Praise for Keep From All Thoughtful Men
“…The book will find favor among those who have a strong interest in military history or in rethinking the role of economics and logistics in warfare.”
— Parameters, Summer 2012
“Lacey has meticulously researched an inherently complex topic and crafted it in a concise and engaging way. This book is a must-read for 20th-century military historians, strategists, national security studies academics, and students. Also valuable is the author’s chapter in The Shaping of Grand Strategy (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which he coedited. It directly complements this noteworthy body of work.”
— Joint Force Quarterly
— Choice, December 2011
"In Keep From All Thoughtful Men, Jim Lacey has written an explicitly historical work, focused on the evolution of US strategic thought in 1941–42. However, because of its central concern with the foundation of military capability and strategy being assured access to industrial capability, it is of relevance to thinkers about the defence world of today.”
— RUSI Journal
“Lacey’s summary of the chaotic origins of the WPB will serve the general reader well. Yet it is the discussion of the board’s production committee as an economic forecasting unit that truly distinguishes his book from other analyses of wartime logistics…Keep From All Thoughtful Men should be required reading for both academic economists and senior military leadership as a solid reminder of why knowledge of economics is crucial to success in war.”
— Proceedings, November 2011
“Highly recommended, particularly for those who believe there’s nothing new under the sun!”
— Starshell, Autumn 2011, national magazine of the Officer’s Association of Canada
“This is why Jim Lacey has done a great service with his latest book that takes a realistic look at the economic, fiscal, and monetary policies that allowed the United States to win World War II, and to even finance the war for such allies as England and the Soviet Union. Lacey has a fine chapter that covers the complexity of monetary, budgetary, and fiscal policies used to finance World War II. The book does it in an easy to understand way, discussing the intricacies of taxation, printing money, inflation, bonds, investment, and the development of new economic tools like Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to help readers understand massive amounts of production information by American economists who would go on to win the Noble Prize for Economics.. This is an exciting and excellent book that should be required reading for anyone interested in the national security policy making. I am grateful that the Industrial College of the Armed Forces made me conversant and gave me an appreciation for the economics and industry of national security policy. Upon finishing the book, I wrote a letter to the Dean of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces recommending he read this volume.”
— DCMilitary.com, October 20, 2011
“. . .One of the more beguiling books to hit my desk lately. Keep From All Thoughtful Men is a useful contribution to the literature of World War II: passionately felt, briskly written, carefully argued and thoroughly documented, at least to a journalist’s eye.”
“Keep From All Thoughtful Men is a work of scholarship… Nonetheless, I was surprised to discover the book was not a daunting read. Readers interested in America’s WWII home-front history may want a copy of Lacey’s work for their shelves. Comparing some of its conclusions to much of what has been printed on the subject of America converting itself into the Arsenal of Democracy is useful. And what Keep From All Thoughtful Men adds to what we already know about America’s weak military position in the first days of the war makes the story a little more hair-raising.”
— America in WWII, August 2011
"Jim Lacey tells how a few obscure American economists guided the 'miracle of production' that crushed the Axis. In 1940-1943 'all-outer' military chiefs and Roosevelt himself badly misjudged American capacities of labor, materials and finance. Their jumbled arms programs were out of touch with reality. Lacey persuasively describes how the economists, applying then-new statistical measures like gross national product, convinced them to recalibrate output to credible goals that assured a timely victory."
—Edward S. Miller, author Bankrupting the Enemy: The U.S. Financial Siege of Japan Before Pearl Harbor
"Quite simply Jim Lacey has overturned nearly 60 years of sloppy work by historians. This book represents a crucial contribution to our understanding of how the United States actually developed the mobilization plan that led to victory in the Second World War. It is undoubtedly one of the most important books to appear on the war in a decade."
—Williamson Murray, author of A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War
"Much has been written about America's role in the Second World War and about the Second Front which was at the center of the story. Jim Lacey has turned the world upside down. Now for the first time we can see what really happened—and why. This is a path-breaking book."
—John Gooch, Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds, coauthor of Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War
"A fascinating account. This book breaks new ground by clearly demonstrating the inseparable connection between economics and military operations. It also makes for a most readable and engrossing narrative. Not only is the author gifted with the ability to make complex relationships easily understandable, he attracts the reader's attention and holds it."
—D. M. Giangreco, author of Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947