5. America First
The members of the Un-American Activities Committee were not the only U. S. congressmen involved in the secret war the Axis was waging against America in the days before Pearl Harbor. There were other Representatives and Senators who, wittingly or unwittingly, proved extremely useful to Axis agents operating in the United States.
There was, for example, Senator Ernest Lundeen of Minnesota. On June 19, 1940, Lundeen delivered on the floor of the Senate a lengthy speech attacking Lord Lothian, then British Ambassador to the United States. Lundeen’s speech was widely distributed by American fifth column organizations after being reprinted by a publishing house called Flanders Hall, Inc.
It happened that the firm of Flanders Hall had been founded and was financed by the ace Nazi agent, George Sylvester Viereck. It also happened that Viereck had written Senator Lundeen’s speech for him. For the most part, the speech was a compilation of material Viereck had acquired at the German Embassy in Washington . . .
Two other American politicians who were in close touch with Flanders Hall were Representative Stephen A. Day of Illinois and ex-Senator Rush D. Holt of West Virginia.
In the summer of 1941, Representative Day turned over to Siegfried Hauck, President of Flanders Hall, a manuscript savagely attacking the domestic and foreign poHcies of the Roosevelt Administration. After various editorial revisions by Nazi agent Viereck, the manuscript was published as a book called We Must Save the Republic.
Ex-Senator Holt, following conferences at his Washington house with Hauck and Viereck, wrote for Flanders Hall a manuscript entitled Who’s Who Among the War Mongers. Holt’s book was never pubHshed, but the manuscript went on an interesting journey. It was mailed by Viereck to the German Ambassador in Portugal, who was to forward it for inspection to Berlin. The manuscript, however, never reached its destination. It was intercepted at Bermuda by the British censors.
Viereck, who was later characterized by an Assistant U. S. Attorney General as “the head and brains” of the Nazi propaganda network in America, had frequent urgent business in the nation’s capitol during 1 940-1 941. As Hitler’s legions overran Europe and then plunged eastw^ard into Russia, and as Axis plans were readied for the open military assault on America, the Fascist Powers placed increasing importance on sabotaging Lend-Lease aid and U. S. defense legislation. To further these aims, Viereck established a special propaganda apparatus in Washington.
The headquarters of Viereck’s Washington propaganda machine was in Room 1424 in the House Office Building. Room 1424 was the office of Congressman Hamilton Fish of New York, an arch exponent of isolationism and appeasement.*
* In the fall of 1939 Representative Fish traveled to Nazi Germany. There, immediately prior to the outbreak of war, the Congressman conferred with Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi Foreign Minister; Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister; and other Axis leaders. In a private plane placed at his disposal by the Nazi authorities. Fish toured Europe urging the smaller nations to accede to Germany’s demands. In Berlin, Fish told American newspapermen, “Germany’s claims are just.”
Representative Fish’s secretary, George Hill, was one of Viereck’s key assistants. After being introduced to Viereck by the Congressman, Hill became— as Special Assistant Attorney General William P. Maloney later declared— “an important cog in … a [propaganda] machine so diabolically clever that it was able to reach in and use the halls of our own Congress to spread its lies and half truths to try to conquer and divide us as they did France and other conquered nations.”
Another of Viereck’s Washington aides was an isolationist publicist named Prescott Dennett. With Dennett acting as his front man, Viereck set up a special propaganda “committee” in Washington which arranged to have isolationist propaganda inserted in the Congressional Record and then mailed throughout the country, under the congressional frank, mass quantities of reprints of this material in the Record. The Chairman of this propaganda committee was Senator Ernest Lundeen. Honorary Chairman was Senator Robert R. Reynolds of North Carolina, the Chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee. Representative Martin L. Sweeney of Ohio acted as Vice-Chairman. Prescott Dennett was Secretary-Treasurer.
Here is a list of congressmen whose franking privilege was used, whether or not all of them were aware of it, by the Viereck-Dennett Committee:
Senators: D. Worth Clark, Rush D. Holt, E. C. Johnson, Gerald P. Nye, Robert R. Reynolds, and Burton K. Wheeler.
Representatives: Philip Bennett, Stephen Day, Henry Dworshak, Hamilton Fish, Clare E. Hoffman, Bartel Jonkman, Harold Knutson, James C. Oliver, Dewey Short, William Stratton, Martin L. Sweeney, Jacob Thorkelson, George Holden Tinkham, and John M. Vorys.
But the most important agency used by George Sylvester Viereck for the distribution of his isolationist and pro-Axis material was not his own propaganda apparatus. It was the America First Committee.
The America First Committee appeared on the American political scene in September 1940. Operating on a national scale up until the day of Pearl Harbor, through the medium of the press, radio, mass raUies, street-corner meetings and every other kind of promotional device, the America First Committee spread a prodigious amount of anti-British, anti-Soviet and isolationist propaganda, and vigorously opposed the sending of Lend-Lease supplies to England and Russia.The Committee was headed by the isolationist Chicago businessman General Robert E. Wood, who publicly stated that he was willing to hand Europe over to Hitler and, if necessary, all of South America “below the bulge.” Other original America First leaders included Henry Ford, who as early as 1923 was reported to be an active supporter of the Nazi Party in Germany and was decorated by the Hitler Government in August 1938; Colonel Robert R.iMcCormick, publisher of the violently isolationist Chicago Tribune; Charles E. Lindbergh, who blamed the war danger to America on “the British, the Jews and the Roosevelt Administration,” advocated cooperation with Nazi Germany against Russia, and had accepted a medal from Hitler in October 1938; Senators Burton K. Wheeler, Gerald P. Nye and Robert Rice Reynolds, and Representatives Hamilton Fish, Clare E. Hoffman and Stephen Day— all of whose franking privileges had been used for propaganda purposes by the Nazi agent Viereck.
From the start, the America First membership was riddled from top to bottom with German and Japanese agents, and with notorious American anti-Semitic agitators, fascist propagandists and fiftli column leaders. The chief woman spokesman for the Committee was the ex-aviatrix and socialite Laura Ingalls; she was later convicted on charges of having failed to register as a paid agent of the Third Reich. Werner C. von Clemm, subsequently jailed for smuggling diamonds into the United States in collusion with the German High Command, served as an anonymous strategist and financial supporter of the New York branch of the America First Committee. Frank B. Burch, later convicted of having received $10,000 from the Nazi Government for illegal propaganda services in the United States, was one of the founders of the Akron, Ohio, branch of the Committee. The American journalist, Ralph Townsend, who was later given a prison sentence for having failed to register as a paid Japanese agent, was head of a West Coast branch of the Committee and a member of the editorial board of the two leading America First propaganda organs, Scribner’s Commentator and The Herald, Both of these journals regularly published Axis propaganda received via shortwave radio from Europe and Japan.
Behind the scenes, the Nazi agent George Sylvester Viereck prepared much of the propaganda material which was distributed from coast to coast by the America First Committee . . .
Via shortwave to America on January 22, 1941, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry announced: “The America First Committee is truly American and truly patriotic!”
Not all of the prominent Americans who were associated with the America First Committee were publicly known as members of its executive bodies or appeared as speakers at America First mass rallies. There was, for instance, William R. Castle, the wealthy former Under-Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration. Several of the conferences at which the original plans for the Committe were drafted took place at Castle’s palatial residence in Washington, D. C. Among the leading American advocates of isolatism and appeasement with whom Castle maintained close contact were Senator Burton K. Wheeler, General Robert E. Wood, Charles Lindbergh and former President Herbert Hoover.
Public statements by Herbert Hoover bitterly attacking the foreign policy of the Roosevelt Administration and condemning Lend-Lease, were enthusiastically reprinted and widely circulated by the America First Committee.
In a confidential cable sent from London by Harry Hopkins to President Roosevelt early in 1941, Hopkins reported:
“Last night I saw Wendell Willkie. He told me that he believes the opposition to Lend Lease is going to be vehemently expressed and it should not be underrated under any circumstances. It is his belief that the main campaign against the Bill will be directed from Chicago and heavily financed. As perhaps he told you it is his opinion that Herbert Hoover is the real brains behind this opposition.”
Wilham R. Castle was not the only old friend of Hoover’s who was quietly cooperating with the America First Committee. Another was the Wall Street attorney, John Foster Dulles. A staunch exponent of appeasement, Dulles had dehvered a speech before the Economic Club in March 1939 in which he spoke of the German, Japanese and Italians as “dynamic peoples determined … to take their destiny into their own hands.” Dulles added:
There is no reason to believe that any of the totalitarian states either collectively or separately would attempt to attack the United States. Only hysteria entertains the idea that Germany, Italy or Japan contemplates war against us . . .
The incorporation papers of the New York Chapter of the America First Committee were drawn up in the office of Dulles’ law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell; and the records of the America First Committee listed both Mr. and Mrs. John Foster Dulles among the Committee’s financial supporters.*
* In 1943, when Dulles was queried by newsmen about his former connections with the America First Committee, he was quoted as indignantly declaring: “No one who knows me and what I have done and stood for consistently over thirty-seven years of active life could reasonably think that I could be an isolationist or ‘America Firster’ in deed or spirit.”
In one respect, Dulles was perfectly justified in claiming not to be an isolationist. In the years between the two world wars, few Americans had been so constantly and deeply involved in international financial-political operations. “Imperialism and cartels,” declared Senator Claude Pepper, “are the only economic theories Dulles knows.”
In 1919, as the chief American counsel on the Paris Peace Conference Committees on reparations and financial matters, and as a member of the Supreme Economic Council, Dulles helped project the disastrous policies of the postwar period. During the 1920’s, as a member of the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, Dulles assisted in drafting the Dawes and Young Plans and channeling American funds to reactionary European regimes, and in making cartel arrangements between great German and American trusts.
After Dulles had become senior partner of Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the world’s wealthiest law firms (its partners sit on the boards of more than forty industrial corporations, utilities and banks), the concern represented such clients as these: J. H. Schroeder Banking Corp., whose parent banking house in London was described by Time magazine in 1939 as “an economic booster for the Rome-Berlin Axis”; the Bank of Spain, following fascist Generalissimo Franco’s seizure of power; and Count Rene de Chambrun, son-in-law of the French traitor, Pierre Laval.
“It may be only coincidence, of course,” stated the October 1947 issue of Social Questions, the bulletin of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, “that the firm (Sullivan & Cromwell) had such close relations with the Schroeder Bank, I. G. Farben, the famous German law firm of Albert & Westrick, etc., and that Mr. Dulles is listed as a director of the International Nickel Co. of Canada, which in 1946 was sued by the U. S. Government for having a cartel price-fixing alliance with I. G. Farben and giving illegitimate aid to German rearmament . . .”
On October 10, 1944, Senator Pepper declared: “One of Mr. Dulles’ connections which I believe the American people are especially entided to know is his relationship to the banking circles that rescued Adolf Hitler from the financial depths and set up his Nazi Party as a going concern . . . It . . . should in my opinion be one of the central points of a Senate investigation before entrusting the making of peace into the hands of any man with these past loyalties.”
At the end of World War II, as a U.S. delegate to the San Francisco Conference, advisor to Secretary of State Byrnes and a U. S. delegate to the U. N. Assembly, Dulles became one of the chief architects of American foreign policy. (See Book Four.) On April 6, 1950, Dulles was appointed by President Harry Truman as top-ranking advisor and consultant to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.