Author Lynne Olson, whose recent book, THOSE ANGRY DAYS, Roosevelt, Lindbergh and American’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, spells out in unsparing detail the inexcusable long time that it took America to join the fight against imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in World War II.
Olson will speak on this theme at an open public meeting at Essex Meadows on Sunday, September 29 at 3:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Churchill Society, and a voluntary contribution of ten dollars is requested from those attending. Refreshments will be provided by Essex Meadows after author Olson’s talk.
Roosevelt Goes Slow in Going to War
As Olson notes in her book, although Great Britain’s war time leader, Winston Churchill, was literally begging Roosevelt to have America enter the war against Nazi Germany as soon as possible, the President’s response was to parcel out support for Britain, one slow step at a time. The President’s excuse was that he did not want to get ahead of American public opinion, which he felt at the time did not want to go to war.
In her book Olson also writes how Roosevelt, ever so slowly, doled out aid to Great Britain. America’s first concrete gift was to give the British, 50 American World War I-vintage destroyers. However, in return for these creaky, old ships, the President required Britain to hand over to the U.S. a number of British bases in the West Indies.
Next, there was the American Lend Lease program, in which Roosevelt adopted the fiction that the U.S. was not giving aid to Great Britain but rather simply lending it. Finally, there was the issue of America destroyers protecting convoys of British ships, which were crossing the Atlantic Ocean with much needed aid for Britain.
However, even when an American destroyer was sunk by a German U-boat, as Olson reports, killing 115 Americans crew members, Roosevelt did not protest such a war-provoking attack. In fact, not until Japan’s surprise attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when eight American battleships were sunk, did Roosevelt call upon the Congress to declare war against Japan.
However, the President at the time did not ask the Congress to declare war against Germany or Italy, the two other Axis powers. This meant that for a short period there was speculation that America would only be at war with Japan. However, then on December 11, 1941 Germany and Italy declared war or the U.S., and finally Roosevelt asked the Congress to declare war on them as well.
Charles Lindbergh, America’s Voice for Peace
As Olson spells out in her book, it is difficult to imagine now, just how popular Charles Lindbergh was after he made the world’s first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. He was, literally, idolized both in Europe and America. Making him an even more evocative figure was the tragic kidnapping and murder of his young son, Charles, Jr.
After his son’s death, Lindbergh and his wife, Anne, moved to England and France for a number of years. While in Europe Lindbergh became deeply impressed by the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler. In fact, in 1938 Lindbergh had become such an unabashed Nazi sympathizer that he accepted the “Service Cross of the German Eagle” from the Hitler regime. The medal was personally presented to Lindbergh by Nazi Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering.
After Lindbergh returned to the United States, he became a much sought after speaker by America peace groups, such as America First. These groups were dead set against America becoming involved in another European war like that of World War I. Even after the fall of France to the Germans, and the relentless bombing of London and other British cities by the Luftwaffe, Lindbergh and his pro-peace allies counseled that the America should not take sides in the European conflict.
However, as Olson notes, Lindbergh finally took a step too far. In a speech in September 1941 in Des Moines, Iowa, he said that American Jews pose a particular “danger to this country,” because of “their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.” This was even too much for the isolationist Chicago Tribune, who in the past had praised Lindbergh for his anti-war activities, and who now repudiated his remarks.
However, for all of Lindbergh’s pro-peace activities, after the U.S. went to war against Japan, Germany and Italy, he totally committed himself to the American cause. He even flew combat missions as a pilot in the Pacific against the Japanese, and worked on making more effective U.S. war planes, as is duly noted by Olson.