Lindbergh's Des Moines speech (9-11-41)

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It is now two years since this latest European war began. From that day in September 1939, until the present moment, there has been an over-increasing effort to force the United States into the conflict.

That effort has been carried on by foreign interests, and by a small minority of our own people; but it has been so successful that, today, our country stands on the verge of war.

At this time, as the war is about to enter its third winter, it seems appropriate to review the circumstances that have led us to our present position. Why are we on the verge of war? Was it necessary for us to become so deeply involved? Who is responsible for changing our national policy from one of neutrality and independence to one of entanglement in European affairs?

Personally, I believe there is no better argument against our intervention than a study of the causes and developments of the present war. I have often said that if the true facts and issues were placed before the American people, there would be no danger of our involvement.

Here, I would like to point out to you a fundamental difference between the groups who advocate foreign war, and those who believe in an independent destiny for America.

If you will look back over the record, you will find that those of us who oppose intervention have constantly tried to clarify facts and issues; while the interventionists have tried to hide facts and confuse issues.

We ask you to read what we said last month, last year, and even before the war began. Our record is open and clear, and we are proud of it.

We have not led you on by subterfuge and propaganda. We have not resorted to steps short of anything, in order to take the American people where they did not want to go.

What we said before the elections, we say […] and again, and again today. And we will not tell you tomorrow that it was just campaign oratory. Have you ever heard an interventionist, or a British agent, or a member of the administration in Washington ask you to go back and study a record of what they have said since the war started? Are their self-styled defenders of democracy willing to put the issue of war to a vote of our people? Do you find these crusaders for foreign freedom of speech, or the removal of censorship here in our own country?

The subterfuge and propaganda that exists in our country is obvious on every side. Tonight, I shall try to pierce through a portion of it, to the naked facts which lie beneath.

When this war started in Europe, it was clear that the American people were solidly opposed to entering it. Why shouldn’t we be? We had the best defensive position in the world; we had a tradition of independence from Europe; and the one time we did take part in a European war left European problems unsolved, and debts to America unpaid.

National polls showed that when England and France declared war on Germany, in 1939, less than 10 percent of our population favored a similar course for America. But there were various groups of people, here and abroad, whose interests and beliefs necessitated the involvement of the United States in the war. I shall point out some of these groups tonight, and outline their methods of procedure. In doing this, I must speak with the utmost frankness, for in order to counteract their efforts, we must know exactly who they are.

The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.

Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that the future of mankind depends upon the domination of the British empire. Add to these the Communistic groups who were opposed to intervention until a few weeks ago, and I believe I have named the major war agitators in this country.

I am speaking here only of war agitators, not of those sincere but misguided men and women who, confused by misinformation and frightened by propaganda, follow the lead of the war agitators.

As I have said, these war agitators comprise only a small minority of our people; but they control a tremendous influence. Against the determination of the American people to stay out of war, they have marshaled the power of their propaganda, their money, their patronage.

Let us consider these groups, one at a time.

First, the British: It is obvious and perfectly understandable that Great Britain wants the United States in the war on her side. England is now in a desperate position. Her population is not large enough and her armies are not strong enough to invade the continent of Europe and win the war she declared against Germany.

Her geographical position is such that she cannot win the war by the use of aviation alone, regardless of how many planes we send her. Even if America entered the war, it is improbable that the Allied armies could invade Europe and overwhelm the Axis powers. But one thing is certain. If England can draw this country into the war, she can shift to our shoulders a large portion of the responsibility for waging it and for paying its cost.

As you all know, we were left with the debts of the last European war; and unless we are more cautious in the future than we have been in the past, we will be left with the debts of the present case. If it were not for her hope that she can make us responsible for the war financially, as well as militarily, I believe England would have negotiated a peace in Europe many months ago, and be better off for doing so.

England has devoted, and will continue to devote every effort to get us into the war. We know that she spent huge sums of money in this country during the last war in order to involve us. Englishmen have written books about the cleverness of its use.

We know that England is spending great sums of money for propaganda in America during the present war. If we were Englishmen, we would do the same. But our interest is first in America; and as Americans, it is essential for us to realize the effort that British interests are making to draw us into their war.

The second major group I mentioned is the Jewish.

It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race.

No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.

The Roosevelt administration is the third powerful group which has been carrying this country toward war. Its members have used the war emergency to obtain a third presidential term for the first time in American history. They have used the war to add unlimited billions to a debt which was already the highest we have ever known. And they have just used the war to justify the restriction of congressional power, and the assumption of dictatorial procedures on the part of the president and his appointees.

The power of the Roosevelt administration depends upon the maintenance of a wartime emergency. The prestige of the Roosevelt administration depends upon the success of Great Britain to whom the president attached his political future at a time when most people thought that England and France would easily win the war. The danger of the Roosevelt administration lies in its subterfuge. While its members have promised us peace, they have led us to war heedless of the platform upon which they were elected.

In selecting these three groups as the major agitators for war, I have included only those whose support is essential to the war party. If any one of these groups – the British, the Jewish, or the administration – stops agitating for war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement.

I do not believe that any two of them are powerful enough to carry this country to war without the support of the third. And to these three, as I have said, all other war groups are of secondary importance.

When hostilities commenced in Europe, in 1939, it was realized by these groups that the American people had no intention of entering the war. They knew it would be worse than useless to ask us for a declaration of war at that time. But they believed that this country could be entered into the war in very much the same way we were entered into the last one.

They planned: first, to prepare the United States for foreign war under the guise of American defense; second, to involve us in the war, step by step, without our realization; third, to create a series of incidents which would force us into the actual conflict. These plans were of course, to be covered and assisted by the full power of their propaganda.

Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war. Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms “fifth columnist,” “traitor,” “Nazi,” “anti-Semitic” were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war. Many others dared no longer speak.

Before long, lecture halls that were open to the advocates of war were closed to speakers who opposed it. A fear campaign was inaugurated. We were told that aviation, which has held the British fleet off the continent of Europe, made America more vulnerable than ever before to invasion. Propaganda was in full swing.

There was no difficulty in obtaining billions of dollars for arms under the guise of defending America. Our people stood united on a program of defense. Congress passed appropriation after appropriation for guns and planes and battleships, with the approval of the overwhelming majority of our citizens. That a large portion of these appropriations was to be used to build arms for Europe, we did not learn until later. That was another step.

To use a specific example; in 1939, we were told that we should increase our air corps to a total of 5,000 planes. Congress passed the necessary legislation. A few months later, the administration told us that the United States should have at least 50,000 planes for our national safety. But almost as fast as fighting planes were turned out from our factories, they were sent abroad, although our own air corps was in the utmost need of new equipment; so that today, two years after the start of war, the American army has a few hundred thoroughly modern bombers and fighters – less in fact, than Germany is able to produce in a single month.

Ever since its inception, our arms program has been laid out for the purpose of carrying on the war in Europe, far more than for the purpose of building an adequate defense for America.

Now at the same time we were being prepared for a foreign war, it was necessary, as I have said, to involve us in the war. This was accomplished under that now famous phrase “steps short of war.”

England and France would win if the United States would only repeal its arms embargo and sell munitions for cash, we were told. And then […] began, a refrain that marked every step we took toward war for many months – “the best way to defend America and keep out of war.” we were told, was:

…by aiding the Allies.

First, we agreed to sell arms to Europe; next, we agreed to loan arms to Europe; then we agreed to patrol the ocean for Europe; then we occupied a European island in the war zone. Now, we have reached the verge of war.

The war groups have succeeded in the first two of their three major steps into war. The greatest armament program in our history is under way.

We have become involved in the war from practically every standpoint except actual shooting. Only the creation of sufficient “incidents” yet remains; and you see the first of these already taking place, according to plan – a plan that was never laid before the American people for their approval.

Men and women of Iowa; only one thing holds this country from war today. That is the rising opposition of the American people. Our system of democracy and representative government is on test today as it has never been before. We are on the verge of a war in which the only victor would be chaos and prostration.

We are on the verge of a war for which we are still unprepared, and for which no one has offered a feasible plan for victory – a war which cannot be won without sending our soldiers across the ocean to force a landing on a hostile coast against armies stronger than our own.

We are on the verge of war, but it is not yet too late to stay out. It is not too late to show that no amount of money, or propaganda, or patronage can force a free and independent people into war against its will. It is not yet too late to retrieve and to maintain the independent American destiny that our forefathers established in this new world.

The entire future rests upon our shoulders. It depends upon our action, our courage, and our intelligence. If you oppose our intervention in the war, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Help us to organize these meetings; and write to your representatives in Washington. I tell you that the last stronghold of democracy and representative government in this country is in our House of Representatives and our Senate.

There, we can still make our will known. And if we, the American people, do that, independence and freedom will continue to live among us, and there will be no foreign war.

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Audio for this portion of the speech:

The Pittsburgh Press (September 12, 1941)

ROOSEVELT SPOKESMAN LINKS LINDBERGH, NAZI PROPAGANDA

Washington, Sept. 12 (UP) –
President Roosevelt’s spokesman, Stephen T. Early, asserted today that there is “striking similarity” between fabrications of the Nazi propaganda machine and Charles A. Lindbergh’s charge in Des Moines last night that:

…the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration are leading America toward war.

Mr. Early said:

You have seen the outpourings of Berlin in the last few days. You saw Lindbergh’s statement… I think there is a striking similarity between the two.

LINDBERGH SAYS AGITATORS WANT U.S. TO ENTER WAR

Charges ‘the British, Jewish and Roosevelt administration’ are taking the lead in this country

Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 12 (UP) –
Charles A. Lindbergh asserted last night that a small minority of “agitators,” led by “the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration,” were using propaganda, money and patronage to push the nation into war.

The isolationist leader said the three groups:

…planned: first, to prepare the United States for foreign war under the guise of American defense; second, to involve us in the war, step by step, without our realization; third, to create a series of incidents which would force us into the actual conflict.

Mr. Lindbergh addressed an audience of 8,000 at a meeting sponsored by the America First Committee.

First hear Roosevelt

The throng first heard President Roosevelt’s address from Washington. It applauded a dozen times at pauses in the President’s speech and then greeted Mr. Lindbergh with applause which mingled with shouts from the upper balcony of “Heil Hitler” and “get your head out of the sand.” Gallery hecklers shouted several times during Mr. Lindbergh’s talk, but he took no notice of them.

Mr. Lindbergh said:

The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.

Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that the future of mankind depends upon the domination of the British Empire.

Reds also named

Add to these the communistic groups who were opposed to intervention until a few weeks ago, and I believe I have named the major war agitators in this country.

Against the determination of the American people to stay out of war, they have marshaled the power of their propaganda, their money, their patronage.

Discussing the British, Mr. Lindbergh saisd they were spending “great sums of money” opn propaganda to draw America into war. He said England’s motive was “understandable” because her position is “desperate.”

If it were not for her hope that she can make us responsible for the war financially, as well as militarily, I believe England would have negotiated a peace in Europe many months ago, and be better off for doing so.

Persecution cited

Speaking of Jewish groups, Mr. Lindbergh said:

It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race.

…But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength.

Of the administration, Mr. Lindbergh sai1d:

The power of the Roosevelt administration depends upon the maintenance of a wartime emergency. The prestige of the Roosevelt administration depends upon the success of Great Britain to whom the president attached his political future at a time when most people thought that England and France would easily win the war.

Subterfuge charged

The danger of the Roosevelt administration lies in its subterfuge. While its members have promised us peace, they have led us to war heedless of the platform upon which they were elected.

Mr. Lindbergh contended that “only rising opposition of the American people” was keeping the United States out of war.

We are on the verge of a war for which we are still unprepared, and for which no one has offered a feasible plan for victory – a war which cannot be won without sending our soldiers across the ocean to force a landing on a hostile coast against armies stronger than our own.

Stand in silence

For one minute before Mr. Roosevelt spoke the audience stood in silence, a deference to his mother who died last Sunday.

A dozen times during his speech, there were outburst of applause, but only when he paused. There was no disturbance as the President spoke.

Robert Bannister, Des Moines attorney, introduced Mr. Lindbergh with the remark:

Now we’ll get down to work.

Mingled applause and boos greeted his statement.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 13, 1941)

LINDBERGH TOLD TO SHUT UP BY EX-LEGION HEAD

America First chief also hit by Col. Johnson for hindering President

Washington, Sept. 13 (UP) –
Col. Louis Johnson, former Assistant Secretary of War, said last night it is time:

…for the Lindberghs to accept the opinion of the majority of good Americans and shut up.

He said that Gen. Robert E. Wood, national chairman of the America First Committee, was seeking to “undermine confidence in and thus hinder execution of” President Roosevelt’s “shoot-on-sight” orders to the Navy.

A former national commander of the American Legion, Col. Johnson stopped here en route to the Legion convention at Milwaukee and made public an exchange of telegrams with Gen. Wood. The latter’s telegram sought to enlist Col. Johnson in a denunciation of the President’s action.

Col. Johnson replied:

I do not see that you or your unnamed associates have any right to speak in the name of the American public just as I am very clear that you are subverting the constitutional system which makes the President Commander-in-Chief and responsible for the national defense.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1941)

WILLKIE BLASTS LINDBERGH TALK

’Un-American,’ declared 1940 candidate

Washington, Sept. 13 (UP) –
Wendell L. Willkie, the 1940 Republican presidential candidate, said tonight that Charles A. Lindbergh’s address in Des Moines Thursday night was:

…the most un-American talk made in my time by any person of national reputation.

In an address, which followed President Roosevelt’s radio statement that the Navy had been given orders to shoot on sight Axis warcraft in American defensive waters, Mr. Lindbergh said that three groups were seeking American participation in the war – the British, the Roosevelt administration and the Jews.

Mr. Willkie said in a statement:

If the American people permit race prejudice to arise at this critical moment, they little deserve to preserve democracy. I was shocked to hear the same sentiments expressed by Senator Nye, another isolationist, before a Senate subcommittee.

JAIL RECOMMENDED FOR LINDBERGH, NYE

Jamestown, Tenn., Sept. 13 (UP) –
Sergeant Alvin C. York, America’s top hero of World War I, said today that Charles A. Lindbergh and Senator Gerald P. Nye:

…ought to be shut up by throwing them square into jail – today, not tomorrow.

Mr. York said:

We can’t risk our whole freedom, our country, listening to them, when we all know full well that they’re either looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or they’re downright Nazi-inclined – and one is about as dangerous as the other.

BUDGET EXPERT FEARS 'FALSE PREJUDICE’

New York, Sept. 13 (UP) –
Lewis W. Douglas, former director of the United States budget, charged Charles A. Lindbergh with implied antisemitism today.

Mr. Douglas, chairman of the policy board of the Committee to Defend America, took issue with Mr. Lindbergh’s speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Thursday night.

Mr. Douglas said:

When he said:

The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.

…he made a gross misstatement of fact that may create a false prejudice.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1941)

‘BLIND PREJUDICE’ CHARGED TO LINDBERGH BY EDITOR

Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 15 (UP) –
W. W. Waymack, editor of the editorial pages of The Des Moines Register & Tribune, said in a radio address yesterday that Charles A. Lindbergh was “blindly prejudiced” and “unfair to all three” when he called the British, the Jews, and the Roosevelt administration America’s war agitators.

Mr. Waymack said:

And he ignores the real culprit – Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Waymack spoke over MBS at the invitation of the Fight for Freedom Committee, a national group dedicated to defeat of Hitler and totalitarianism.

’Close to Nazi policies’

His topic was “The Follies of Isolationism,” a reply to Mr. Lindbergh’s speech here Thursday night before an America First Committee rally.

Concerning the Jews, Mr. Waymack declared:

Col. Lindbergh’s implication seems to be that they must curb themselves or alternatively be curbed wherever the isolationist consider that they have influence, including “our government.”

This is ominously close to the proscriptive policies – exclusion of Jews from public employment – applied from the first by Nazis in Germany, applied since 1939 by fascists in Italy, and being applied now by the Vichy government of France.

’Germans, Italians to blame’

Antisemitism has been fomented as a weapon of Nazi conquest, or of softening preliminary to conquest, or of just dividing a potential resisting nation.

This policy is appallingly irresponsible on the part of men who would lead in the determining of national policies. I repudiate it. I think America does.

Mr. Waymack said that “it was not the British, it was the Germans and Italians,” who were guilty of war propaganda in America.

He declared:

Only prejudiced blindness can attribute to the British major responsibility for our crisis.

The Pittsburgh Press (September 16, 1941)

LINDBERGH GOT CARELESS

Some of the persons and newspapers who have been egging on Charles A. Lindbergh in his attacks on the Roosevelt foreign policies and his pleas for appeasement with Hitler are doing a sudden – and ridiculous – about-face.

Mr. Lindbergh went so far at Des Moines last Thursday night that he sounded like Dr. Goebbels. In fact, you couldn’t tell the difference.

Well, he’s been tending in that direction for months. Yet he received ample encouragement.

Occasionally he interjected a mild protectional protest against Hitler; but, mainly, he denounced Roosevelt, the British and everybody else who didn’t agree with him. While he tapped Hitler on the wrist, he threw everything within reach at the British and the President.

The Lindbergh name was “big” – not that he was an international expert, but because of the daring flight he once made – a brave effort which Americans still treasure and admire, but which indicated no qualifications beyond the ability and courage to fly an airplane for a long distance.

And because they needed a “big name,” certain isolationists and others who are motivated by hatred for Roosevelt encouraged Lindbergh, and even talked about him for President.

The publicity – and he claimed for a long time to hate it – went to his head. At Des Moines, it went to his head to the extent that he dropped all camouflage and delivered a speech so full of racial hatred that Dr. Goebbels might have written it.

Whereupon some of his supporters and eggers-on, including journalistic champions who only a few days ago were prodding him to new heights, discovered his speech was “un-American.” Now they are busy denouncing him.

Which is sheer hypocrisy. Lindbergh said at Des Moines only what he has been displaying for months past. Emboldened by praise from some quarters, he became more careless.


We disagree with and have little respect for Mr. Lindbergh. We don’t trust him.

However, we again say – and have said previously – that it was poor policy for the White House to denounce his speech. We still have free speech in this country, even for those who follow the Goebbels’ line of expression, and we think it would be far better if the White House would leave it for other Americans to answer such speeches.

Mr. Willkie, for example, cracked down on Mr. Lindbergh with perfect propriety. So did other eminent citizens. But it is more in the American tradition for the President and his spokesmen not to descend to a debate of this kind.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 19, 1941)

LINDY’S BLAST UNDER SCRUTINY

Chicago, Sept. 19 (UP) –
The America First Committee announced today that its national committee had considered Col. Charles A. Lindbergh’s Des Moines address and would issue a statement “within a few days.”

Mr. Lindbergh blamed the British, the Jews and the Roosevelt administration for efforts to involve the United States in war.

The committee announced it discussed plans for am intensified campaign in answer to:

…the President’s threat of undeclared war in violation of the Constitution.

JEWISH COMMITTEES ASSAIL LINDBERGH

New York, Sept. 19 –
The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Labor Committee charged today that Charles A. Lindbergh is seeking to “impugn the patriotism” of American Jews and divide the country with Nazi racial tactics.

The two groups said in a formal statement:

On Sept. 11 at Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Lindbergh made an unsupported and unstoppable charge impugning the patriotism of American of Jewish faith.

The overwhelming denunciation with which the charge has been met from coast to coast by the press and by leaders of all faiths places it in the category in which it belongs.

’React upon himself’

It is not serious argument but only another example of the now familiar tactics of the Nazis to divide other countries by stirring up religious and racial hatreds and setting group against group. In supporting these tactics and accusing others of lack of patriotism, Mr. Lindbergh’s changes react only upon himself.

Americans of Jewish faith, in common with Americans of every other faith, denounce Hitler’s persecution of the Jews and his numberless other crimes against civilization. But the sympathy of any group of Americans for any people in any other land is wholly distinct from their basic American interests.

Each of us answers for himself the question whether the United States is or is not next on Hitler’s list of victims and what our foreign policy should be.

As everyone knows, Jews in this country represent in all respects, save a common religion, a cross-section of the American population, with all the differences of viewpoint which such a cross-section includes.

As individuals, each one of us has a right to his views, whether for or against isolationism, without fear that Mr. Lindbergh can intimidate any of us with the low and baseless charge that there are other “interests” which we place ahead of loyalty to our country.

In fact, Mr. Lindbergh, in order to secure converts for his own point of view, counsels that we should be just that. He warns Jews to support his policy on the ground that any other attitude would lead to antisemitism. We are obliged to Mr. Lindbergh for his gratuitous advice and completely reject his un-American appeal to selfish interests.

We will not put even what we consider our “interests” before those of our country – since our interests and those of our country are one and indivisible.

LINDBERGH, WHEELER DEFENDED BY NYE

Cincinnati, Ohio, Sept. 19 (UP) –
Senator Gerald P. Nye (R-ND) told an America First rally last night that:

Not one shred of antisemitic feeling exists in the minds or hearts of either Col. Charles Lindbergh or Senator Burton K. Wheeler.

Denying recent charges that Mr. Lindbergh and some other isolationist speakers have raised the Jewish issue, Mr. Nye contended that it is the intervention bloc which has stressed the issue of racial intolerance.

The Senator said:

This attempt to paint the cause of non-intervention as an antisemitic cause has been about the meanest, smallest thing that I have ever experienced in my contact with American politics.

He charged that:

No one had contributed to the dragging of this red herring into the controversy so largely as has Wendell Willkie, the “me too” man of the 1940 presidential campaign – the man who helped arrange things so that there would be no chance in that presidential campaign for the American people to voice themselves clearly and openly on this issue of intervention.

Rev. John A. O’Brien, professor at Notre Dame University, declared that:

Millions of Americans are coming to regard Mr. Winston Churchill and his Canadian spokesman, Mr. Mackenzie King, as greater meances to the peace of America and to the lives of American boys than Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini.

There were frequent boos for President Roosevelt, Mr. Willkie, Mr. Churchill, Walter Winchell and the British government.