24-hour basis forced on U.S. by war's pace (9-26-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 26, 1941)

Roosevelt’s view –

President blames foes of his policy for hastening conflict

By Lyle C. Wilson, United Press staff writer

Washington, Sept. 26 –
United States relationship to the war is on a 24-hour basis – or less – President Roosevelt said today in an article in Collier’s Magazine. The President charged Republican and Democratic opponents of his neutrality policy with hastening the outbreak of the conflict.

He referred also to the existing “so-called” Neutrality Act which the administration now seeks to change or abandon.

Mr. Roosevelt assessed blame against practically all Congressional Republicans and about 25% of Democrats who prevented repeal of the arms embargo clause of the Neutrality Act in July and August of 1939, since, he said, the American people have abandoned:

…strict neutrality and aloofness.

Changes are due

The article, written last July, appears only 48 hours after revelation that the administration probably shortly will ask for further Neutrality Act changes to permit arming American flag merchant vessels. Mr. Roosevelt pledged all American “resources, industry and manpower” to the job of rearmament and to “help to the limit” the anti-Axis states.

He wrote:

International events have happened so quickly that it is impossible to tell exactly what the relationship of the United States and its people to this world conflict will be next week, or tomorrow or, indeed, before the ink on this page will have dried.

Repealer offered

Congress refused in regular session in 1939 to repeal the arms embargo and adjourned Aug. 5, about a month before the war began. It returned in special session Sept. 21 and changes the Act to Mr. Roosevelt’s specifications on Nov. 3, 1939.

A Neutrality Act repeal proposal was offered yesterday by Senator Kenneth McKellar (D-TN). The President has promised to decide next week whether to ask for repeal or modification of the Act but, meantime, is proceeding with the arming of at least part of the 125 American-owned merchant vessels which fly the Panamanian flag and, therefore, are exempt from Neutrality Act restrictions.

The Collier’s article, fourth of five, reviews futile American efforts for peace from 1933 to the outbreak of the war.

Mr. Roosevelt recalls the “quarantine the aggressors” speech he made in Chicago in Oct. 1937.

But the big political contest began on July 14, 1939, when Mr. Roosevelt asked for repeal of the arms embargo section of the Neutrality Act. He had signed the original Neutrality Act but now writes:

I have regretted my action.

By the spring of 1939, Mr. Roosevelt reveals:

It had become clear beyond question that war was on the way.

A few days before [a peace appeal to Italy and Germany], on leaving Warm Springs, Ga., after a short vacation, I said:

I’ll be back in the fall if we do not have a war.

The President continued:

This remark by me was attacked by many newspapers and politicians as warmongering.

I mention this refusal on the part of many newspapers and many public officials to believe that war was coming, and their ridicule of these warnings of war sounded by me, not in order to vindicate the position of the President and the State Department. On the contrary, I repeat these facts rather to explain the refusal of Congress to adopt certain legislation which this administration urged in 1939, to discourage and perhaps prevent the outbreak of war or to place the United States in a more advantageous position if war should come that year.