Synopses & Reviews
When America declared war on Germany in 1917, the United States had only 200,000 men under arms, a twentieth of the German army's strength, and its planes were no match for the German air force. Less than a century later, the United States today has by far the world's largest military budget and provides over 40% of the world's armaments.
In American Arsenal Patrick Coffey examines America's military transformation from an isolationist state to a world superpower. Focusing on fifteen specific developments, Coffey illustrates the unplanned, often haphazard nature of this transformation, which has been driven by political, military, technological, and commercial interests. Beginning with Thomas Edison's work on submarine technology, American Arsenal moves from World War I to the present conflicts in the Middle East, covering topics from chemical weapons, strategic bombing, and the nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union, to "smart" bombs, hand-held anti-aircraft missiles, and the Predator and other drone aircrafts. Coffey traces the story of each advance in weaponry from drawing board to battlefield, and includes fascinating portraits of the men who invented and deployed them -Edward Teller, "the father of the hydrogen bomb", Robert Oppenheimer, head of atomic bomb design at Los Alamos; Curtis LeMay, who led the fire-bombing of Japan; Herman Kahn, nuclear strategist and a model for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; Abraham Karem, inventor of the Predator, and many others. Coffey also examines the increasingly detached nature of modern American warfare- the ultimate goal is to remove soldiers from the battlefield entirely- which limits casualties (211,454 in Vietnam and only 1,231 in the Gulf War) but also lessens the political and psychological costs of going to war.
Examining the backstories of every major American weapons development, American Arsenal is essential reading for anyone interested in the continuing evolution of the U.S. defense program.
"Science historian Coffey surveys the history of American military weapons development since WWI, focusing on the interactions between the military, science, and industry, and politicians in developing key weapons systems. 'Scientists and inventors were active participants' in WWI, an entirely new development in conducting warfare. Coffey highlights several major types of weapons, including chemical munitions, bombers and bomb-sights, nuclear warheads, and the M-16 rifle. He also notes challenges to effective weapons development, such as the exaggerated claims made by the Army Air Force in WWII of pickle-barrel accuracy for its bombers; a lack of comprehensive military understanding of science, as was the case in the early development of chemical weapons; inter-service rivalries that impede effectiveness and efficiency while raising costs; and the influence political expediency has on funding. By no means comprehensive, the book deals with only a handful of weapons systems, some of which are notable due to controversies and problems attached to them. Nonetheless, Coffey delivers an interesting book that introduces the general reader to a little-known perspective on military history." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
is a Visiting Scholar in the Office for History of Science and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Cathedrals of Science.
Table of Contents
Edison at War
Gassing the Senator
Mitchell's War in Three Dimensions
Precision Bombing Tested
The Atomic Bomb
The Weapon Not Used
The Hydrogen Bomb
Vietnam-the Limits of Analytical Thinking
Smart Bombs and Drones