Discussion in 'Pearl Harbor' started by OpanaPointer, Nov 6, 2011.
Just a reminder to myself to post some info on this once the coffee soaks in.
Sorry about that. I've been on the phone for six hours today. Anyway, this is an extract from Stanley Weintraub's Long Day's Journey Into War. (Empahsis mine.)
392 Long Day's Journey
At Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh, nearly three hours into an enthusiastic America First meeting, Senator Gerald Nye was winding up his attacks on Roosevelt to approving shouts of "Treason!" and "Impeach him!" Suddenly he paused and confessed, "I have before me the worst news that I have encountered in the last twenty years. I don't know exactly how to report it to you; but I will report it to you just as a newspaperman gave it to me." Excited murmurs rippled through the hall.
Nye read Robert Hagy's note about Pearl Harbor, adding, "I can't somehow believe this. I can't come to any conclusions until I know what this is all about." And he went on to charge that when Roosevelt had addressed the nation on radio about the German attack on the destroyer Greer, and claimed that it was without provocation, "I tell you the Greer shot first. That was the incident the President said was unprovoked—and that's cheating." Roosevelt, he implied, may have cheated again.
America must not let communism "grow in the ruins," Nye exhorted to loud applause. "Keep your chins up!" he closed, sitting down to ringing cheers.
Vaulting to the platform, Hagy handed Nye a third scrap of news— that Roosevelt had called an evening meeting of congressional leaders, very likely to prepare a declaration of war for which the senator's vote, yea or nay, would be expected. Yet another Nye rally in Pittsburgh was coming up, an evening lay sermon at the First Baptist Church, where the pastor was an America First stalwart. Flustered and sweating, Nye mumbled vaguely, "I must, I must try . . . ," insisting as he left Memorial Hall that he would keep his church date, then catch a late train to Washington.
Faced with little choice, R. Douglas Stuart, Jr., who ran the America First headquarters on Jackson Boulevard in Chicago, prepared a statement recognizing the inevitability of a declaration of war and asked "all those who have subscribed to America First principles to give their support to the war effort of this country until the conflict with Japan is brought to a successful conclusion." It even pledged "aid to the President as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States." Chapters were advised to postpone all scheduled rallies and to
Hour 34 393
cease distribution of noninterventionist literature. Yet the language, complete to the conspicuous italics, carefully left the door open for further opposition to war with Germany.
The pledge to Roosevelt drew some bitter telegrams from diehards, and Stuart prepared a counter-telegram to all members of the national committee of America First, calling a meeting to determine the future, if any, for the organization. European war or not, most regional leaders, even more conservative and intemperate than the national board, would oppose closing down, hoping to use the organization as a weapon against socialism, unions, liberalism, Jews, and other allegedly alien influences.
Although Robert Wood's first bitter words to Lindbergh on the telephone were "Well, he's got us in through the back door," both of them knew that the Boston rally had to be scrapped. For Richard Moore, America First publicity director in Chicago, Lindbergh drafted a statement which effectively ended his activity against intervention. Although Roosevelt had provoked the war, Lindbergh charged, it had to be fought anyway. "We have been stepping closer to war for many months. Now it has come and we must meet it as united Americans regardless of our attitude in the past toward the policy our government has followed. Whether or not that policy has been wise, our country has been attacked.... Our own defences and our own military position have already been neglected too long. We must now turn every effort to building the greatest and most efficient army, navy and air force in the world." It admitted no error but failure.
The bolded part above may be the genesis of the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theories of the "FDR did it" variety at least. Nye was one of the most prominent isolationists, after Lindbergh, and more important than Lindy because he was a senator. People wanted to believe him, so they did. And his off the cuff remark would have sounded very likely to the diehards. From there it's all downhill.
I do need to get into the records and get more information on this, tide and time permitting.
if the AM firsters had had their way they would be screaming later on how Roosevelt did nothing while the Soviets occupied Europe after beating the Germans and crying on how Japan was allowed to occupy the western pacific unopposed.
(The following will include some generalizations, but we should remember that the America First Movement was not homogenous. The anti-war stance was their common feature, otherwise they varied, sometimes wildly, in their political and sociological outlook.)
The Firsters were for the most part very conservative, including a large religious segment. They were anti-Communist, anti-interventionist and US-centric. Given that you could see that they were ok with Germany attacking Russia. Prior to Operation Barbarossa they used the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to say that the Soviets were "just as bad" as the Nazis. So when June '41 rolled around they were cheering for both sides to slaughter the other, with a bias toward Germany winning that fight.
Gerald Nye was actually a very progressive Republican, who was known throughout his public career as a man of high integrity. Often at odds with the conservative leadership of his own party, Nye was a supporter of many of FDRs New Deal policies. He headed up the Nye Committee in the mid thirties that was looking into the military industrial complex's dealings and the possible use of their influence in getting the US involved in the first world war. He began to see that these industrialists had a huge amount of influence over the course of the country and this probably more than anything slanted his views and put him in league with the Firsters, whom he really had little else in common with. After the war, he stayed in DC and for a while headed up the FHA during the post war boom and led a relatively distinguished and respected career, AFAIK.
That's why I put a note about generalizations in earlier. There is no one profile for the isolationists/anti-interventionist/anti-war/anti-FDR people. I noted elsewhere the various options they supported in one way or another:
Help defend nations not a war at the time.
Help defend Western Hemisphere nations.
Help defend Canada and Mexico because we shared borders with them.
Defend the US with a "loose" interpretation.
Defend the US with a "tight" interpretation. (This means the rest of the world can go to hell, just so long as we're not bothered.)
The chaos in the Movement coalition is fascinating to me. To keep it together they had to tread a very fine line. They didn't do that very well.
Yes it is very fascinating because they really were made up with people from all points on the political compass.
Linbergh was a very complex and interesting person.
I think that what makes him and the firsters like him interesting was that they were really the presursors of the cold warriors of the next forty-five years, seeing the Soviets as the "real" enemy, while ignoring Hitlers agressions. They and those of their mindset came to power in the early fifties and it became US policy to back the most vile dictators as long as they were anti-communists, and of course we fought two costly "hot" war over the same idiology.
Possible of similar interest; I came across and scanned in a document relating to members of the Silver Shirts who were working at the Puget Sound Naval shipyard in Bremerton. I've been meaning to post it but it's a bit further down the list. I can bump it up next in the list if you think it's of any interest.
Always interested in getting the story straight on this topic. Thanks!