Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

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

The dramatic, untold story of how the American Army was mobilized from scattered outposts two years before Pearl Harbor into the disciplined and mobile fighting force that helped win World War II

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date April 20, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5869-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date July 07, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4767-7
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date July 07, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4768-4
  • US List Price $30.00

About the Book

In September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and initiated World War II, a strong strain of isolationism existed in Congress and across the country. The U.S. Army stood at fewer than 200,000 men—unprepared to defend the country, much less carry the fight to Europe and the Far East. And yet, less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the American army led the Allied invasion of North Africa, beginning the campaign that would defeat Germany, and the Navy and Marines were fully engaged with Japan in the Pacific.

The story of America’s astounding industrial mobilization during World War II has been told. But what has never been chronicled before Paul Dickson’s The Rise of the G. I. Army, 1940-1941 is the extraordinary transformation of America’s military from a disparate collection of camps with dilapidated equipment into a well-trained and spirited army ten times its prior size in little more than eighteen months. From Franklin Roosevelt’s selection of George C. Marshall to be Army Chief of Staff to the remarkable peace-time draft of 1940 and the massive and unprecedented mock battles in Tennessee, Louisiana, and the Carolinas by which the skill and spirit of the Army were forged and out of which iconic leaders like Eisenhower, Bradley, and Clark emerged; Dickson narrates America’s urgent mobilization against a backdrop of political and cultural isolationist resistance and racial tension at home, and the increasingly perceived threat of attack from both Germany and Japan.

An important addition to American history, The Rise of the G. I. Army, 1940-1941 is essential to our understanding of America’s involvement in World War II.

Praise for The Rise of the G.I. Army

“Reading about the birth of the country’s citizen Army before World War II is a profoundly heartening experience. With all they are facing today, Americans need Dickson’s reminder of this momentous accomplishment.”—New York Times Book Review

“In The Rise of the G.I. Army, 1940-1941, veteran author Paul Dickson resurrects a critical but overlooked period, recounting the remarkable story of American mobilization during the 828 days between the war’s onset and the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor… The best history is character-driven, and in this Mr. Dickson excels. He follows the fortunes of emerging Army stars such as Bradley, George S. Patton, Mark Clark and Eisenhower himself with verve and compassion… An indispensable account.”—Wall Street Journal

“A must-read book that explores a vital pre-war effort ignored by many Roosevelt-era historians… Deep research and gripping writing.”—Washington Times

“It now seems inevitable that the U.S. would win World War II, but in 1939, this was far from likely. Only the decisive action by statesmen such as George Marshall enabled the Army to awaken from its interwar hibernation and begin the long road to becoming the mightiest Army in American history. This book tells this amazing and improbable journey with all the near disasters, hard choices, and missteps that had to be overcome to get the military prepared for that fateful Sunday morning in December 1941.”—New York Journal of Books

“Exhaustively thorough . . . Dickson, an indefatigable researcher, again demonstrates his talent for marshaling ground-level details and contemporary newspaper accounts into a coherent and engaging story . . . A remarkable work of historical scholarship, an eminently readable narrative crafted from a swarm of disparate and far-flung sources. The author plunges boldly into a saga that few other experts have explored in detail . . . A brilliant history. In the sad and dispiriting times we’re living through today, it shines a light on a saga that’s largely uplifting yet still shot through with elements counter to our ideals. It’s a long story we all need to see as our own, as characteristic of our nation today as ever.”—Bob Duffy, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Americans can accomplish amazing things when roused to action by strong leadership. Paul Dickson gives ample evidence of that in his fascinating new book The Rise of the G.I. Army, 1940-1941.”—American Heritage

“The book is enjoyable and informative reading, filled with revealing anecdotes, oversized personalities and often pointed analysis. Dickson moves his narrative forward by deftly interweaving historical events with personal experiences. The book makes a significant contribution in showing just how near America came to dismantling its forces, and how important a few individuals, notably Marshall, were in preventing this calamity . . . The narrative is fast-paced, the personalities and events clearly detailed, the role of politicians, the press and public opinion all well developed.”—Army Magazine

“Covers the buildup to conscription, the Louisiana Maneuvers, and even the nascent U.S. Army’s trial by fire in North Africa in one expansive, thoroughly researched, and compelling volume.”—Military.com

“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

“Dickson, a prolific and precise writer, focuses on the troops, or G.I.s, as they came to be called in WWII. He does an excellent job of delineating the training shortfalls, and he’s especially thorough on the poor treatment of African American soldiers and sailors… An informative slice of military history.”—Booklist

“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

“Paul Dickson has discovered one of the last important untold stories of the World War II era, and he has told it as well as it can be told. He deserves great thanks for enriching our history.”—Laurence Leamer

“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 manoeuvres 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

Praise for Paul Dickson

“A prodigious research project . . . A revealing and bleakly fascinating account.”—Janet Maslin, New York Times, on The Bonus Army

“Recalls the subliminal force of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men with gaunt stories of character at the limits of dignity.”—Taylor Branch, New York Review of Books, on The Bonus Army

“A haunting, compellingly written and marvelously researched book, an important contribution to American history.”Los Angeles Times Book Review, on The Bonus Army

“[Debunks] many of the old myths and shine new light on this astonishing episode . . . Gripping.”Minneapolis Star Tribune, on The Bonus Army

Sputnik is a fascinating slice of useful social history . . . A serious book that is breezily written, Sputnik reviews the scientific history, the Cold War mentality and a media-driven crisis over what headline writers called ‘the Red Moon.’”USA Today, on Sputnik

“Paul Dickson skillfully puts the story of Sputnik and its aftermath into this new perspective in his informative and readable book.”Christian Science Monitor, on Sputnik

Sputnik should climb far up the lists, and have a long ride.”Baltimore Sun, on Sputnik

“A sharply focused snapshot of a nation caught with its jaw dropped, partly in fear and party in wonder.”Philadelphia Inquirer, on Sputnik

“Stunning . . . Captures the excitement and angst of the dawning of the Space Age.”Dallas Morning News, on Sputnik