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The Rise Of The G.i. Army: 1940-1941 The Forgotten Story Of How America Forged A Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor
Paul Dickson Paul Dickson
Washignton , DC
Tuesday, July 07, 2020

The Rise Of The G.i. Army: 1940-1941 The Forgotten Story Of How America Forged A Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor

Contact: Kait Astrella

Associate Publicist


THE RISE OF THE G.I. ARMY: 1940-1941

The Forgotten Story of How America

Forged a Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor

By Paul Dickson


"A richly detailed history of the rebuilding of American military power in the run-up to World War II . . . The author provides a wealth of fascinating detail; even those familiar with the general history of the period will learn something new . . . One of the best treatments to date of America's rapid transition from the Depression to the wartime power it became."?Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Dickson marches readers through his voluminous research at a brisk clip and makes a convincing case that if the army hadn't been transformed, the war would have been lost. WWII buffs and military history readers will salute this stirring effort."?Publishers Weekly

"A gripping study of a topic less explored, this work should appeal to readers interested in pre–World War II preparations and social and cultural aspects of U.S. Army history."—Library Journal


Most people would say, if asked, that the United States entered World War II right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. While we did immediately declare war on Japan and Germany, planning for that eventuality had begun two years earlier, when the U.S. Army had shrunk to 189,000 men, not enough to defend our own shores much less fight across oceans. Paul Dickson's THE RISE OF THE G.I. ARMY, 1940-1941: The Forgotten Story of How America Forged a Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor (Atlantic Monthly Press; July 7, 2020; ISBN: 978-0-8021-4767-7; $30 hardcover) chronicles how, in merely two years, the Army was transformed from scattered, ragtag units into a powerful, disciplined fighting force capable of taking on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Dickson recreates the pivotal moments in this dramatic mobilization, including:


  • Franklin D. Roosevelt appointing George C. Marshall: FDR received a call at 2:50 am on September 1, 1939 that Germany had invaded Poland. Later that morning, he formally appointed General George C. Marshall as Army Chief of Staff over otherwise obvious candidates. But Marshall was the perfect choice.  He had served on the Western Front in Europe during World War I and later became assistant commandant at the Army Infantry School and had served as deputy chief of staff in Washington since 1938. He had already seen the deadly consequences of an unprepared military; he had learned that a short, quickly dispatched order was better than a long, late one. It was clear to him that the U.S. would be forced to enter the war eventually. He insisted that FDR address him as "General" and let the president know that he wasn't going to prioritize demands from senior officers. The men in the field came first.


  • The 1940 peace-time draft: Before the draft, the Regular Army could fit inside Yankee Stadium—evidence of its dramatic diminution since the end of World War I. The idea of a peace-time draft was so controversial that FDR avoided the word altogether and called it a "muster."  But, with newspapers bringing word of devastation in Europe, the tide of opinion quickly changed. College students and celebrities alike signed up without a violent incident. On October 29, 1940 at a ceremony in D.C., secretary of War Henry Stimson, blindfolded, drew number 158 from a fishbowl thus summoning the first wave of conscripts. Within a year, one million men were in uniform. These Depression-era boys could read road maps and knew their way around an engine; they were a new kind of solider and created a G.I. culture that would unite men from all walks of life.


  • Unprecedented military maneuvers: Three realistic "war games" were staged in 1941 in Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Carolinas that changed U.S. battle tactics forever. Discipline and speed translated into armored cavalry units that would later lead the US to victory in North Africa and Europe. Paratroopers were used for the first time, along with novel equipment such as the walkie-talkie and the Jeep. Iconic leaders like Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley did battle amidst Hollywood-esque smoke canisters and flour-firing artillery while loudspeakers blasted recorded sounds of battle. The games—Louisiana especially—were heavily reported at the time and were essential to U.S. success in World War II. This is the first time their story has been fully told.



About the Author


Paul Dickson is the author of many nonfiction books, including The Electronic BattlefieldWar SlangSputnik: The Shock of the Century, and The Bonus Army: An American Epic (with Thomas B. Allen). He concentrates on writing about 20th century history, the American language, and baseball. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland.



Advance Praise for Rise of the G.I. Army, 1940-1941


"Paul Dickson's The Rise of the G.I. Army is a deeply researched and well-written account about how FDR mobilized the American army in the years before Pearl Harbor. This is military history at its absolute finest. It's impossible to think about World War II properly without reading this seminal work. Highly recommended!"?Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University, and bestselling author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America and American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race


"Just when we think there's nothing left to learn about World War II, Paul Dickson tells us more, much more. This is one of the most important books I've read that showcases the forces of isolationism and racism during one of the most consequential periods in American history. It belongs on the shelves of everyone who understands how fragile democracy is and why every American is worthy of fighting for it."?Senator William S. Cohen, former United States Secretary of Defense


"A largely forgotten story brilliantly rectified by Paul Dickson in a book that lucidly and compellingly charts the rise of the US Army from the nonentity it had become by 1939 to the exponentially growing force of millions by the time of Pearl Harbor. From the corridors of Washington to pioneering maneuvers to the shores of North Africa, and demonstrating how many of the leading players later in the war made their mark, Dickson recounts this astonishing progression and in so doing fills a gap in our understanding of the United States' incredible contribution to victory in World War II. Utterly fascinating from start to finish."?James Holland, author of Normandy '44 and Big Week


"How did the United States Army transform from a fighting force barely able to repulse another Pancho Villa-like raid to taking on the mighty Wehrmacht? Through lively and engaging prose, Paul Dickson tells this largely forgotten but crucial story. Thoroughly researched and very readable, Dickson's brilliant The Rise of the G.I. Army is destined to be the new standard for this period."?Patrick K. O'Donnell, bestselling author of Dog Company and The Unknowns


"Paul Dickson's compelling, focused and timely account of how America prepared to meet the challenges of the twentieth century's second global conflict is history at its finest: it tells us a story we think we know but actually don't. Dickson deserves enormous credit for his prodigious research, his deft handling of a complex subject, and his singular ability to tell a story."?Mark Perry, author of The Most Dangerous Man In America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur


THE RISE OF THE G.I. ARMY, 1940-1941: The Forgotten Story of How America Forged a Powerful Army Before Pearl Harbor

Atlantic Monthly Press

July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4767-7; $30 hardcover

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