The America First Committee (AFC) was the foremost United States non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. Started on September 4, 1940, it experienced mixed messaging with antisemitic and pro-fascist rhetoric from leading members, and it was dissolved on December 10, 1941, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor had brought the war to America. Membership peaked at 800,000 paying members in 450 chapters. It was one of the largest anti-war organizations in American history.
|America First Committee|
|Formation||September 4, 1940|
|Founder||Robert D. Stuart Jr.|
|Founded at||Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.|
|Extinction||December 10, 1941|
|Type||Non-partisan pressure group|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Robert E. Wood|
The AFC was established on September 4, 1940, by Yale Law School student R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. (son of R. Douglas Stuart, co-founder of Quaker Oats), along with other students, including future President Gerald Ford, future Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. At its peak, America First claimed 800,000 dues-paying members in 450 chapters, located mostly in a 300-mile radius of Chicago.
It claimed 135,000 members in 60 chapters in Illinois, its strongest state. Fundraising drives produced about $370,000 from some 25,000 contributors. Nearly half came from a few millionaires such as William H. Regnery, H. Smith Richardson of the Vick Chemical Company, General Robert E. Wood of Sears-Roebuck, publisher Joseph M. Patterson (New York Daily News) and his cousin, publisher Robert R. McCormick (Chicago Tribune).
The AFC was never able to get funding for its own public opinion poll. The New York chapter received slightly more than $190,000, most of it from its 47,000 contributors. Since it never had a national membership form or national dues, and local chapters were quite autonomous. Historians point out that the organization's leaders had no idea how many "members" it had.
Serious organizing of the America First Committee took place in Chicago not long after the September 1940 establishment. Chicago was to remain the national headquarters of the committee. To preside over their committee, America First chose General Robert E. Wood, the 61-year-old chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Wood remained at the head of the committee until it was disbanded in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The America First Committee had its share of prominent businessmen as well as the sympathies of political figures including Democratic Senators Burton K. Wheeler of Montana and David I. Walsh of Massachusetts, Republican Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, with its most prominent spokesman being aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. Other celebrities supporting America First were actress Lillian Gish and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Two men who would later become presidents, John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford, supported and contributed to the organization. When he donated $100 to the AFC, Kennedy attached a note which read simply: "What you are doing is vital." Ford was one of the first members of the AFC when a chapter formed at Yale University. Additionally, Potter Stewart, a future Supreme Court justice served on the original committee of the AFC.
When the war began in September 1939, most Americans, including politicians, demanded neutrality regarding Europe. Although most Americans supported strong measures against Japan, Europe was the focus of the America First Committee. The public mood was changing, however, especially after the fall of France in the spring of 1940.
The America First Committee launched a petition aimed at enforcing the 1939 Neutrality Act and forcing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to keep his pledge to keep America out of the war. They profoundly distrusted Roosevelt and argued that he was lying to the American people.
On the day after Roosevelt's lend-lease bill was submitted to the United States Congress, Wood promised AFC opposition "with all the vigor it can exert". America First staunchly opposed the convoying of ships, the Atlantic Charter, and the placing of economic pressure on Japan. In order to achieve the defeat of lend-lease and the perpetuation of American neutrality, the AFC advocated four basic principles:
Charles Lindbergh was admired in Germany and allowed to see the buildup of the German air force, the Luftwaffe, in 1937. He was impressed by its strength and secretly reported his findings to the General Staff of the United States Army, warning them that the U.S. had fallen behind and that it must urgently build up its aviation. He had feuded with the Roosevelt administration for years. His first radio speech was broadcast on September 15, 1939, on all three of the major radio networks. He urged listeners to look beyond the speeches and propaganda that they were being fed and instead look at who was writing the speeches and reports, who owned the papers and who influenced the speakers.
On June 20, 1941, Lindbergh spoke to 30,000 people in Los Angeles and billed it as a "Peace and Preparedness Mass Meeting", Lindbergh criticized those movements which he perceived were leading America into the war. He proclaimed that the United States was in a position that made it virtually impregnable. He claimed that the interventionists and the British who called for "the defense of England" really meant "the defeat of Germany".
Nothing did more to escalate the tensions than the speech which Lindbergh delivered to a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941. In that speech, he identified the forces pulling America into the war as the British, the Roosevelt administration, and American Jews. While he expressed sympathy for the plight of the Jews in Germany, he argued that America's entry into the war would serve them little better. He said in part:
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 the Jewish race suffered 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 devastation. A few farsighted 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.
Communists were antiwar until June 1941 and they tried to infiltrate or take over America First. After Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, they reversed positions and denounced the AFC as a Nazi front (a group infiltrated by German agents). Nazis also tried to use the committee: at the trial of the aviator and orator Laura Ingalls, the prosecution revealed that her handler, Ulrich Freiherr von Gienanth, a German diplomat, had encouraged her to participate in committee activities.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, AFC canceled a rally with Lindbergh at Boston Garden "in view of recent critical developments", and the organization's leaders announced their support of the war effort. Lindbergh said:
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 by force of arms and by force of arms we must retaliate. Our own defenses 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. When American soldiers go to war it must be with the best equipment that modern skill can design and that modern industry can build.
With the formal declaration of war against Japan, the organization chose to disband. On December 11, the committee leaders met and voted for dissolution. In the statement which they released to the press was the following:
Our principles were right. Had they been followed, war could have been avoided. No good purpose can now be served by considering what might have been, had our objectives been attained.
We are at war. Today, though there may be many important subsidiary considerations, the primary objective is not difficult to state. It can be completely defined in one word: Victory.
Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan has praised America First and used its name as a slogan. "The achievements of that organization are monumental," writes Buchanan. "By keeping America out of World War II until Hitler attacked Stalin in June 1941, Soviet Russia, not America, bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding and dying to defeat Nazi Germany."
Events from the year 1941 in the United States. At the end of this year, the United States officially enters World War II by declaring war on the Empire of Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.America First (policy)
America First refers to a foreign policy in the United States that emphasizes American nationalism and unilateralism. It first gained prominence in the interwar period and was advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. Since 2016, an identically-named foreign policy that emphasizes similar objectives has been pursued by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974) was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the 33 1⁄2-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.
Lindbergh's flight was not the first non-stop transatlantic flight, Alcock and Brown achieved this in 1919. Lindbergh's flight was, however, the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight, and one made between two major cities, and by a man barely 25 years of age. Lindbergh was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve, and he received the United States' highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for the feat, and many other awards and other forms of recognition from many countries. Lindbergh's achievement spurred interest in both commercial aviation and air mail, and he devoted much time and effort to promoting such activity.
Lindburgh's historic flight and extraordinary celebrity status also led to tragedy. In March 1932, his infant son, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what American media called the "Crime of the Century" and was described by H. L. Mencken as "the biggest story since the Resurrection". The case prompted the United States Congress to establish kidnapping as a federal crime once the kidnapper had crossed state lines with their victim. By late 1935, the hysteria surrounding the case had driven the Lindbergh family into voluntary exile in Europe, from which they returned in 1939.
Before the United States formally entered World War II, Lindbergh was an advocate of non-interventionism. He supported the antiwar America First Committee, which opposed American aid to Britain in its war against Germany, and resigned his commission in the United States Army Air Forces in 1941 after President Franklin Roosevelt publicly rebuked him for his views. Nevertheless, he publicly supported the U.S. war effort after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and flew fifty combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant, though Roosevelt refused to reinstate his Air Corps colonel's commission.
In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist.
Lindbergh and his wife, the former Anne Morrow, were the parents of six children. He fathered seven more children as a result of several covert adulterous affairs with three German women (two from Bavaria, one from East Prussia) beginning in 1957 when he was 55 years old. In 2003, twenty-nine years after Lindbergh's death and two years after his wife died, one of those children, Astrid Hesshaimer, revealed the story of Lindbergh's affairs.Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies
The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA) was an American political action group formed in May 1940. It was at the forefront of the effort to support a "pro-British policy" against Axis aggression. It advocated American military materiel support of the United Kingdom as the best way to keep the United States out of the conflict in Europe
Politically pro-intervention, it strongly believed the US should actively assert itself in the Second World War in Europe. The CDAAA competed for American sympathy with the America First Committee, the main pressure group supporting complete neutrality and non-intervention.
The CDAAA supported the Lend-Lease Act and opposed the various Neutrality Acts of the late 1930s and sought their revision or repeal. The CDAAA was also influential in mobilizing public support for the Destroyers for Bases Agreement by 600 local chapters and national radio addresses by individuals such as John J. Pershing and William Harrison Standley.When the No Foreign War Committee organized in mid-December 1940, its chair, Verne Marshall, said its mission was to counter the "propaganda" of the CDAAA, which had, he said, "the same public psychology as that which was carefully created during the war period preceding our declaration of hostilities in April 1917." He said his group aimed to force the CDAAA to provide details "specific, exact, and unequivocal" of what it meant when it called for "steps short of war."William Allen White, the group's national chair, in late October as the November midterm elections neared, said his group remained nonpartisan because both Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie has backed providing assistance to Britain. Following the election, on November 26, 1940, the CDAAA released a new statement of policy. It included support for "the maintenance of the lifeline between Great Britain and the United States," the "assumption by Congress of greater responsibility with the President," and the repeal of "restrictive legislation."Late in 1940, there were reports of differences of opinion in the group's leadership after White made remarks that some thought to be at odds with the CDAAA program. He said: "The only reason in God's world I am in this organization is to keep the country out of war.... If I were making a motto for the Committee it would be 'The Yanks Are Not Coming.'"New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wrote White a letter of protest, accusing him of "doing a Laval." French minister of state Pierre Laval, the principal figure in France's Vichy government's co-operation with Germany. Herbert Bayard Swope supported the mayor and said that the organization as a whole, despite what White had said, takes as its priority "all possible aid to Britain and the allies." The national director denied any differences and said everyone in the group supported Lend Lease and opposed both appeasement and a negotiated peace. He quoted and endorsed White's statement: "appeasement is treason to democracyErnest W. Gibson Jr. succeed White as national chairman in January 1941. The CDAAA, by then, had 700 local chapters. White had cited his age as his reason for resigning.After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the CDAAA dropped the "by Aiding the Allies" from their name and became simply the Committee to Defend America (CDA) because of a strong aversion from many in the group to embracing Joseph Stalin and communism. It now viewed the Soviets as fellow-fighters against Hitler and fascism Soviets were allies of immediate necessity but not true allies. The CDA always maintained an officially anticommunist stance.
The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 effectively brought an end to both the CDA and the America First Committee. In January 1942, the CDA merged with the Council for Democracy to form Citizens for Victory: To Win the War, To Win the Peace. The combined organization officially dissolved in October, 1942. The America First Committee had officially dissolved four days after Pearl Harbor.
Prominent members of the CDAAA included Executive Secretary Gibson, National Director Eichelberger, Adlai Stevenson II, U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla), White, former federal Budget Director Louis W. Douglas, Hollywood screenwriter and activist Philip Dunne, the historian Conyers Read, and Swope.David I. Walsh
David Ignatius Walsh (November 11, 1872 – June 11, 1947) was a United States politician from Massachusetts. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 46th Governor of Massachusetts before serving several terms in the United States Senate.
Born in Leominster, Massachusetts to Irish Catholic immigrants, Walsh practiced law in Boston after graduating from the Boston University School of Law. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1900 to 1901, establishing a reputation as an anti-imperialist and isolationist. In 1912, he won election as the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, becoming the state's first Democratic lieutenant governor in seventy years. He served as governor from 1914 to 1916 and led a successful effort to call for a state constitutional convention.
Walsh won election to the Senate in 1918, lost his re-election bid in 1924, and returned to the Senate with a victory in the 1926 special election to succeed Henry Cabot Lodge. Walsh became increasingly opposed to an activist government after 1924. He supported Al Smith over Franklin D. Roosevelt at the 1932 Democratic National Convention and gave lukewarm support to President Roosevelt's agenda. Walsh introduced and helped pass the Walsh–Healey Public Contracts Act of 1936, which established labor standards for employees of government contractors. Prior to the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, Walsh opposed American involvement in World War II and was a leading member of the America First Committee. He lost his 1946 re-election bid to Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and died the following year.Douglas Stuart
Douglas Stuart is the name of:
Douglas Stuart (biblical scholar) (born 1943), professor of the Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts
Douglas G. Stuart (born 1931), professor of physiology at the University of Arizona
Douglas Stuart (rower) (1885–1969), British rower who won a medal at the 1908 Summer Olympics
Douglas Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray (1928–2011), British peer
R. Douglas Stuart (1886–1975), United States Ambassador to Canada, 1953–1956
R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. (1916–2014), founder of the America First Committee, CEO of Quaker Oats; and United States Ambassador to Norway, 1984–1989History of antisemitism in the United States
There has been different opinions among historians to the extent of antisemitism in America's past and contrasted American antisemitism with its European counterpart. Earlier students of American Jewish life minimized the presence of antisemitism in the United States, which they viewed as a late and alien phenomenon on the American scene arising in the late 19th century. More recently, scholars have asserted that no period in American Jewish history was free of antisemitism. The debate continues about the significance of antisemitism in different periods of American history.Antisemitism has always been less prevalent in the United States than in Europe. The first governmental incident of anti-Jewish sentiment was recorded during the American Civil War, when General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order (quickly rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln) of expulsion against Jews from the portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi under his control. (See General Order No. 11.)
In the first half of the 20th century, Jews were discriminated against in some employment, not allowed into some social clubs and resort areas, given a quota on enrollment at colleges, and not allowed to buy certain properties. Antisemitism reached its peak during the interwar period. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the antisemitic works of Henry Ford, and the radio speeches of Father Coughlin in the late 1930s indicated the strength of attacks on the Jewish community.
Following the Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement, anti-Jewish sentiment waned.John T. Flynn
John Thomas Flynn (October 25, 1882 – April 13, 1964) was an American journalist best known for his opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and to American entry into World War II. In September 1940, Flynn helped establish the America First Committee (AFC). He was also the first to advance the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory.List of anti-war organizations
In order to facilitate organized, determined, and principled opposition to the wars, people have often founded anti-war organizations. These groups range from temporary coalitions which address one war or pending war, to more permanent structured organizations which work to end the concept of war and the factors which lead to large-scale destructive conflicts. The overwhelming majority do so in a nonviolent manner. The following list of anti-war organizations highlights past and present anti-war groups from across the world.R. Douglas Stuart Jr.
Robert Douglas Stuart Jr. (April 26, 1916 – May 8, 2014), referred to as R. Douglas Stuart Jr. when young and as Robert D. Stuart Jr. when older, was the son of Quaker Oats Company co-founder Robert Douglas Stuart, the founder of the America First Committee in 1940, the CEO of Quaker Oats from 1966 to 1981, and United States Ambassador to Norway from 1984 to 1989.Robert E. Wood
Robert Elkington Wood (June 13, 1879 – November 6, 1969) was an American military officer and business executive. After retiring from the U.S. Army as a brigadier general, Wood had a successful career as a corporate executive, most notably with Sears, Roebuck and Company. A Republican, Wood was a leader in the Old Right American Conservatism movement from the 1920s through the 1960s as well as a key financial backer of the America First Committee prior to the United States' entry into World War II.Robert Stuart
Robert Stuart may refer to:
Robert Stuart (British Army officer) (c. 1812–1901), British Army officer and veteran of the Crimean War
Robert Stuart (explorer) (1785–1848), Scottish-born American fur trader
Robert Stuart, Duke of Kintyre and Lorne (1602–1602), fifth child of James VI of Scots and Anne of Denmark
Robert Stuart (businessman) (1852–1926), co-founder of the Quaker Oats Company
Robert L. Stuart (1806–1882), American businessman and philanthropist
R. Douglas Stuart (1886–1975), United States businessman and United States Ambassador to Canada
R. Douglas Stuart Jr. (1916–2014), Quaker Oats heir and founder of the 1940 America First Committee
Bobby Stuart (1913–1987), footballerRuth Sarles Benedict
Ruth Sarles Benedict (January 28, 1906 - September 6, 1996) was an American anti-war activist, researcher and journalist. She worked for the National Council for Prevention of War as an editor and the America First Committee as head of research in the 1930s, and as a reporter for The Washington Daily News in the 1940s. From 1949 to 1960, she worked for the United States Department of State. In 1958, Benedict and her husband, Bertram Benedict, traveled to South Asia, particularly India, on behalf of the United States Information Agency, where she gave speeches on college campuses.A book about the American First Committee authored by Benedict but edited posthumously by Bill Kauffman, with an introduction, was published in 2003.Sargent Shriver
Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. (; November 9, 1915 – January 18, 2011) was an American diplomat, politician and activist. As the husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he was part of the Kennedy family. Shriver was the driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, and founded the Job Corps, Head Start, and other programs as the "architect" of the 1960s "War on Poverty." He was the Democratic Party's nominee for vice president in the 1972 presidential election.
Born in Westminster, Maryland, Shriver pursued a legal career after graduating from Yale Law School. An opponent of U.S. entry into World War II, he helped establish the America First Committee but volunteered for the United States Navy before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war, he served in the South Pacific, participating in the naval Battle of Guadalcanal. After being discharged from the navy, he worked as an assistant editor for Newsweek and met Eunice Kennedy, marrying her in 1953.
He worked on the 1960 presidential campaign of his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy, and helped establish the Peace Corps after Kennedy's victory. After Kennedy's assassination, Shriver served in the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson and helped establish several anti-poverty programs as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from October 16, 1964 to March 22, 1968. He also served as the United States Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970. In 1972, Democratic vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton resigned from the ticket, and Shriver was chosen as his replacement. The Democratic ticket of George McGovern and Shriver lost in a landslide election defeat to Republican President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew. Shriver briefly sought the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out of the race after the first set of primaries.
After leaving office, he resumed the practice of law, becoming a partner with Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. He also served as president of the Special Olympics and was briefly a part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003 and died in Bethesda, Maryland in 2011.The Plot Against America
The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth published in 2004. It is an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh. The novel follows the fortunes of the Roth family during the Lindbergh presidency, as antisemitism becomes more accepted in American life and Jewish-American families like the Roths are persecuted on various levels. The narrator and central character in the novel is the young Philip, and the care with which his confusion and terror are rendered makes the novel as much about the mysteries of growing up as about American politics. Roth based his novel on the isolationist ideas espoused by Lindbergh in real life as a spokesman for the America First Committee, and on his own experiences growing up in Newark, New Jersey. The novel depicts the Weequahic section of Newark which includes Weequahic High School from which Roth graduated.Thomas S. Hammond
Thomas Stevens Hammond (October 29, 1883 – June 15, 1950) was an American business and political leader, soldier, and college football player and coach. He played football for Fielding H. Yost's renowned 1903, 1904 and 1905 "Point-a-Minute" football teams at the University of Michigan. In 1906, he served as the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels football team. He worked for the Whiting Corporation in Harvey, Illinois, starting in 1907 and eventually became the company's president and chairman of the board. During World War I, Hammond served as an artillery officer in the Rainbow Division of the U.S. Army. He remained active in the Illinois National Guard after the war and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Hammond was also active in Republican Party politics and served as the chairman of the Illinois Citizens Republican Finance Committee and the Chicago America First Committee. During World War II, he was decorated for his work as chief of production of the Chicago ordnance district.
|Opposition to specific|
wars or their aspects