Monday, October 02, 2006

Another Look at America First

Roeser (see blogroll) writes the material which makes "World History" profs (and text-authors) and war-mongerers in the Administration and in Congress's the truth, as opposed to the propaganda-spin given by most of them.

Conventional wisdom, propagated by contemporary history texts, say that America’s entry into World War II was inevitable: that Adolf Hitler meant to conquer the U. S. and that along with Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and Italy’s Benito Mussolini to run the world. Further the isolationists and members of the America First Committee didn’t understand the realities of the new internationalist age. Finally, there was the charge of anti-Semitism: the allegation that the America First Committee was insensitive to the plight of the Jews. These have been the allegations bruited around for more than two generations

...It started with a needless war: the unnecessary involvement in World War I to satisfy the need of a president who pretended Christ-like sanctity in order to establish an international global consortium after the peace-a consistory he believed only he could rule: Woodrow Wilson. But the Versailles treaty produced a Carthaginian peace and bitterness in Germany. The bitterness led to the rise of a brutal dictator, Adolf Hitler.

International cowardice in the institution Wilson founded, the League of Nations, led to the strengthening of Hitler and his ally Benito Mussolini. Meanwhile a new U. S. president, failing to solve the Depression with his stock prescriptions, saw a need to solve unemployment and stimulate the economy once and for all: by going to war. Subtly Franklin Roosevelt preached peace but stealthily he pursued war.

After elected to an unprecedented third term, he set aside the old plan and began to seriously court our entry into World War II on Britain’s side. Like his old mentor Wilson, FDR sees himself as a potential leader of the entire world with a new international organization. In this dream he is aided by a crafty, brilliant British premier, Winston Churchill, who sees Britain’s survival pegged on the U.S. entry into the war.

But his efforts were being hobbled by The America First Committee, headed by Robert D. Stuart, Jr. The committee was formed in September, 1940, three months after France fell. Then things looked bleak for Britain. But the gallant Royal Air Force slowly won mastery of the skies. Soon Hitler’s dream of conquest of Britain was shelved. Poll after poll showed the American people steadfastly opposed to entry into the war. Franklin Roosevelt was dismayed. Wherever he looked, America First seemed to be dominating the conversation on the war.

For those of you who think that the America First committee was largely a group of churlish, uneducated, cave-dwellers who couldn't be bothered to look past their front porch (on which sat their washing-machine,) this list might disturb you:

That was because Stuart had put together a very impressive group called America First. In Chicago a number of powerful business leaders had signed up headed by a World War I legendary ex-quartermaster general. He was General Robert Wood, head of Sears, Roebuck. The committee had branches in all the major cities. In Massachusetts, Democrat Jack Kennedy the son of the U. S. ambassador to Britain (a young Harvard grad who sent $100 in support). Also the grandson of the Senator who opposed Wilson’s creation of the United Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. To supervise publicity, the double threat team of Benton & Bowles, Madison avenue’s hottest company: Chester Bowles and William Benton who had just joined Encyclopedia Britannica as its vice president.

Also on board: a former FDR ally, Brig. General Hugh Johnson who had headed the president’s National Recovery Administration (NRA), now a vehement opponent of the war. The list went on: General Hanford McNider (ret.), a heavily decorated hero of World War I and former national commander of the potent American Legion. Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and widow of House Speaker Nicholas Longworth. Lillian Gish, Hollywood actress, manufacturer William H. Regnery (later to become a famed publisher). Amos Pinchot, bearer of a legendary environmentalist name, brother of Gifford who had helped Theodore Roosevelt design his conservation program. Then, Mrs. Burton K. Wheeler, wife of the New Deal supporting Montana Democratic senator. Followed by none other than the socialist party candidate for president whose ideas on social policy were borrowed by Roosevelt for the New Deal-- Norman Thomas.

There was the progressive Republican Senator of North Dakota, Gerald Nye who had run a Senate probe of the munitions industry. Then none other than the budding liberal novelist Gore Vidal. Young prize-winning journalist Murray Kempton was a key member. Topped by the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis, author of Main Street whose journalist wife, Dorothy Thompson was rooting for war. Also sitting with the committee, a distinguished son of a U. S. president who was judged highly qualified for the presidency himself at some future time: Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

The impressive list continued. Jerry Ford of Michigan, an assistant athletic director at Yale and an All-American football player from Michigan. Potter Stewart, another Yalie who later became a Justice of the Supreme Court. Sargent Shriver, who had married Eunice Kennedy, running his father-in-law Joe’s Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Kingman Brewster, later president of Princeton. None other than Charles A. Beard, the foremost historian in the U. S. Also Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s greatest World War I ace and first president of Eastern Airlines. Then Oswald Garrison Villard, the nationally known former editor of the most liberal magazine in the country, The Nation magazine who quit his job there to fight against the war. Non-board members included former president Herbert Hoover, Robert Maynard Hutchins, at 32 the youngest major university president in the country, president of the University of Chicago. Waiting impatiently outside the Committee but clamoring to get in: American entrepreneurial legend Henry Ford. Once he got accepted he was quickly booted off because of his earlier anti-Semitic writings. National publicity was handled by Sydney Hertzberg, prominent former “Time” magazine correspondent (and father of Hendrik Hertzberg, former editor of “The New Republic” and now political editor of “The New Yorker.”

And, of course, Charles Lindbergh, the aviator.

HST had an interesting point of view:

Standing close to the America First Committee-and just outside the circle-was Senator Harry S. Truman, the Missouri Democrat. Truman was the first to argue that we should stand back and watch Naziism and Communism fight it out to the death. Said Truman: “If we see Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia. And if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany. And in that way let them kill as many as possible although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances.”

There WAS no "battle for Britain:"

Once FDR thought he had it cinched: when France fell, caused more from moral dry rot than from Hitler.. Britain came under siege and the country squire from Hyde Park warned that all democratic freedom was in peril. Churchill warned: “The battle for France has been lost. The battle for Britain has begun!” But in the Battle of Britain, Hitler’s Lufftwaffe huffed and puffed but lost the engagement. Britain did not topple. German plans for an invasion of Britain were shelved. Supposedly good news for the West but not for Roosevelt and Churchill who wanted the U. S. to go to war.

And an attack upon America? Ludicrous:

Then Charles Lindbergh came before the House Foreign Affairs committee. As the world’s greatest authority on air power, he now made a point that seemed irrefutable. How could Hitler invade the U. S. with no surface ships to attack us and with our air power and Britain’s dominant in the west Atlantic? As the nation’s young radio networks carried his calm, young voice, he told America: “If England is able to live at all with bases of the German air force less than an hour’s flight away, the United States is not in greater danger across the Atlantic ocean…[N]ot a single squadron of trans-oceanic bombing planes exists anywhere in the world today…I do not believe there is any danger of invasion of this continent, either by sea or air, as long as we maintain an army, navy and air force of reasonable size and in modern condition and provided we establish the bases essential for defense.”

You can, and should, read the rest at the link.


Terrence Berres said...

So what? Germany declared war on the United States, not the other way around.

Dad29 said...

And that happened AFTER the US declared war on Japan.

And THAT happened after Pearl.

And THAT happened after the US conveniently disrupted Japan's oil supplies.

But that's not relevant, eh?

Terrence Berres said...

Just so it's clear, are you saying that the U.S. discontinuing sales of oil to Japan justified Germany later declaring war on the U.S.?

Dad29 said...


Just to be clear, the US interfered with Japan's oil-supply routes and their rubber-supply as well.

Our declaration of war on Japan triggered Germany's DOW on the USA.

Germany was bound by treaty with Japan.

Terrence Berres said...

A treaty that required joining an attack wouldn't add any justification for doing so.

But wasn't the treaty you refer to the Tripartite Pact of 1940? It's my understanding it obliged the parties to assist if any of them were attacked. It did not obligate Germany to join in when Japan attacked the U.S..

Fix4RSO said...

Great post, Dad29!!! I've been on a tirade about those who lack conviction. In my recent posts, I've posited that there has been, with Democrat Presidents in the last 5 decades, a condition to which they have all succumbed: the "governing law of inaction".

Truman, in my opinion, is just such a man, and President. And too, you can stack good ol' Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - cut from the same bolt of cloth.

Take care, and God Bless! Thanks for the Daily Mass readings in your sidebar! It's nice to see! :)

(i came to your blog by way of Mr. Tastic!)