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Rick Atkinson on WW2; Plus Two Cents On Fred Thompson

Anyone who saw the Burns series (I saw only some of it, but liked it a lot) would have noticed the tremendous scale of wartime mobilization. No warfare on the cheap back then; everyone was all-in.

I thought of this again while reading the new book from my Post colleague Rick Atkinson, "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944," part 2 of his Liberation Trilogy. Part 1 wasphenomenal and won the Pulitzer. Atkinson is an exquisite handler of the language and a meticulous researcher and historian. His books on the war are so absorbing you have no idea who's going to end up winning.

Here are a couple of graphs from the new book that put U.S. mobilization into perspective:

"The green and feeble U.S. Army of just a few years earlier now exceeded 6 million, led by 1,000 generals, 7,000 colonels, and 343,000 lieutenants...A Navy that counted eight aircraft carriers after Pearl Harbor would have fifty, large and small, by the end of 1943. More cargo vessels would be built in this year by the United States -- a Liberty ship now took just fifty days, from keel laying to launch -- than existed in the entire British merchant fleet...

"A final automobile had emerged from American production lines on February 10, 1942; supplanting it in 1943 would be thirty thousand tanks -- more than three per hour around the clock, and more in a year than Germany would build from 1939 to 1945. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company now made compasses and de-icers instead of pianos and accordions, International Silver turned out Browning Automatic Rifles rather than tableware, and various lipstick, typewriter, and hubcap manufacturers produced, respectively, cartridge cases, machine guns, and helmets. Similar conversations occurred throughout the economy, which this year would also make 6 milion rifles, 98,000 bazookas, 648,000 trucks, 33 million sets of soldiers' cotton drawers, 61 million pairs of wool socks. And on, and on, and on."


From Buck Naked Politics: You'll be thrilled to know that your tax dollars buy first-class airplane tickets for government workers.

Via Kevin Drum (and Paul Krugman and the National Bureau of Economic Research, we learn that men's happiness bottoms out at age 49.


Run, don't walk, over to The Trail for my two cents on the campaign. That's actually the name of this little feature, which I may type up every Friday: "Joel's Two Cents." Lame, I know, but better than Campaignology, which was the initial name I came up with last night, and which was clearly derivative of Celebritology, though I could always claim priority, having once written a column for Style called Washingtology (which was actually Mary Hadar's name for a column I wanted to call Nature Of The Beast). Anyway, we probably shouldn't reveal how the sausage is made.

Excerpt from today's item:

Thompson is running a strong second in the national polls, and has single-handedly restored to common usage the word "laconic." He mulled a presidential run back in the spring, then ambled into the race about a month ago, and may soon get around to saying why he should be president. This is a man who cannot be rushed.

Critics say he's been confused about his own Senate record and has flip-flopped on key issues, but if that standard gets imposed we'll quickly run out of presidential candidates. The other day he mentioned our current relations with the Soviet Union. Well, close enough. His aides will surely brief him before he has to have a summit with what's-his-name, that Brezhnev fellow.

More problematic is his style on the stump, which, to hear reporters tell it, has the tendency to stupefy the audience. He's as vague as the day is long. He has to cue his listeners that it would be an appropriate time to clap. But some folks may find him a calming, reassuring presence. They may get the sense that, no matter what crisis might erupt, Thompson won't get too riled about it, and it'll still soon be nap time.

[Post a comment over there! Drive some traffic.]

[You know it's Casual Friday when the political reporters let me join them in the sandbox. Please don't tell anyone that I still have trouble recognizing Duncan Hunter on sight.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 5, 2007; 7:29 AM ET
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