America Must Prepare
OUR NATIONAL SOUL IS PUT TO THE TEST
By J. C. McMANAWAY, Lawyer of Clarksburg, W. Va., formerly Major in the Intelligence Service of the A.E.F.
Delivered at Memorial Day Celebration, May 30, 1940
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 594-596.
MEMORIAL DAY was instituted for the purpose of doing honor to the memory of those of our citizens who died that the Union might be preserved. Today, we have broadened our ceremony to include all of our war dead.
I think it is entirely fitting, in the world in which we find ourselves today, to review the history of our last two great wars; to think over again why they were fought, and why our government was unable to prevent them. Another fact meriting our consideration is, that in all three of our great wars the Presidency was held by men who were as nearly Pacifists as it is possible for an intelligent man to be—Madison, Lincoln, Wilson.
The Civil War, certainly on the part of the North, was fought purely for a sentiment, an ideal. The Northern people could have stopped the war at any moment at the mere cost of recognizing what many people considered an accomplished fact, and without any sacrifice of the solid and material facts that most closely touch the lives of the individual citizen.
From their own point of view, the Southerners were fighting for everything that men hold dearest. For liberty and self-government; for hearth and home; and for the supremacy of their race. Negro emancipation was an incident, not
an object, of the war. Lincoln, in his inaugural address, stated the reason that the North was fighting, in one phrase, "physically, we cannot separate." We now know that that was a bare statement of fact. No matter how willing to separate the States had been, there was at that time no possibility of a readjustment and redistribution of federal power that would have been satisfactory to either side. No settlement that would not have raised problems that could have been solved only by force.
The fact that this terrible war, fought to the bitterest end of exhaustion of one of the parties, at the cost of the flower of the manhood of a whole generation, was fought for an ideal, does not make it unique in history. Nearly all of the great wars of history have been fought for ideas. Ideas and ideals are the one thing, and the only thing, for which man will fight to the death.
In re-reading the history of the United States from 1850 to 1861, it is almost incomprehensible that the people of the North refused to see the coming of this storm, and failed utterly to prepare for it. Even after South Carolina had seceded in December, 1860, and the Confederate Government was formed in February, 1861, no steps were taken, and the Northern Press still treated the threats of secession —not as though they were a fact—but as though they were
an argument. Seward openly said "It is a bluff." They so little realized the seriousness of the situation that an English banker in New York, writing to John Bright, said "that the Federal government was dissolving and it looked then that by March 4th there would be nothing left to secede from."
The Regular Army at that time consisted of 16,000 men. It was scattered all over the western frontier. In Washington, on the day of Lincoln's inauguration, General Scott had to ask the local police department to deputize citizens to preserve public order. The deep South had already seceded; the confederate government was already formed. He hadn't enough soldiers to police the Inauguration Parade. Even after Fort Sumter, Lincoln asked for 75,000 volunteers, most of whom were enlisted for 90 days. And the war came on. It lasted four long years; nearly half of the United States was destroyed; more than a million men died, and the animosities created exist today, when there is hardly a survivor of the conflict left alive. It could have been prevented by a striking force of 10,000 men under determined leadership.
The history of the United States shows that this complete lack of military preparedness existed in the war of 1812; it existed in the Mexican War. We know of the terrible situation of our troops in the Spanish-American War, where there were more casualties from typhoid at Chicamauga than —were suffered in the entire Cuban campaign. In the World War, which most of us here endured, we blamed our Regular Army for their lack of capacity to maneuver divisions —when no officer in our Regular Army had ever seen a Division; when, with the one exception of Pershing in the Mexican campaign, no man in the Regular Army had ever seen a war strength regiment. Those of us who were in France saw the terrible casualties suffered by our troops— out of all proportion to those of the trained soldiers of our Allies and our enemies. Luckily, an American army was only in one battle, but, in that battle, our casualties, in dead, were more than five times that of the French Army fighting on our left. We paid (and most of us know this of our own knowledge) for our lack of preparedness in blood. By this sacrifice of lives and treasure we saved our lives and our liberties from German domination for twenty years. Now, we are living again in a world in flames.
Do we not owe it to those men who died that we might live, might have liberty and might pursue our happiness in peace, that their sacrifice shall not have been in vain? And do we not owe it to them that, if called upon again, the lives of our young men not be wasted?
The war that is being fought today in Europe is not a new war. It is the same war. The same war that has been raging in Europe intermittently ever since the rise of the Prussian Monarchy to power. A war that power makes inevitable. A war that will recur until the Prussian domination of Central Europe is either crushed or achieves its ideal. And it is a grandiose ideal—World Dominion.
We were unprepared in the last war. We used the inferior Enfield Rifle, because we had no factories to make Springfield Rifles, to equip our army. No American gun was fired in France. No American plane flew in France before the Armistice. Our young men were not trained; our Regular Army had learned their profession only out of books. They had never seen a modern army. Their efficiency could only be tested by written examinations. They had nothing with which to maneuver. We could only judge a man's capacity to handle other men in thousands by the facility with which he passed examinations, or maintained the records of his company—65 men strong.
As a result of our lack of training, the American Army
in the last war fought the war with a rifle and a bayonet. We had automatic weapons, but our young battalion commanders, jerked out of business houses, banks and law offices, did not, and could not, know their characteristics. As a result, our losses on every given mission averaged from five to eight times the losses of adequately trained troops.
From 1870, when Prussia achieved the domination of modern Germany, until 1914, Prussian statesmen, scholars, writers, and soldiers, shouted the slogan from every rostrum "World Power or Downfall," "Weltmacht oder Niedergang." At a dinner on a German Torpedoboat Destroyer in Boston when I was in the Law School, every officer stood and drank the toast of the Commanding Officer, "Weltmacht oder Niedergang" and every officer answered the toast "Der Tag." At every formal dinner, in every regimental post in the German army, this toast was given. Every boy of the better classes, and every boy of a family that aspired to the better class, was taught this toast from the day he was big enough to go to school alone.
In the occupied territory in Germany after the Armistice, as a member of the Intelligence Section of the General Staff, I was ordered to fraternize with the German officers of the Divisions who had fought against us. Not one of them considered for a minute that the war was over. Literally dozens of them told me in conversation "You have won the war, but we will win the peace. And we will win it in one generation."
Since 1933 we have heard Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, shouting from every German rostrum "World Power or Downfall." During that period we have seen Germany reintroduce universal military service. For the past five years we have seen the entire nation mobilized for war, every national activity directed to the one purpose of building an army of tremendous striking force. And now, we have seen that army strike. We have seen a tactic that our ablest military critics hooted at as ridiculous "The vertical envelopment" achieve, certainly an initial success. We have seen a coordinated army of air planes, mechanized units, motorized units, smash through what we all considered the best army in Europe. And the defending army so demoralized that it had to change Commanders in the middle of the battle.
We do not know but that England is at this minute (after a thousand years) being invaded. We know that at the word, Paris and London can be destroyed. And, if the French Army is destroyed, and if, in accordance with the formula set out in "Mein Kampf," France is effeminized, and then England destroyed, what about us?
I am going to ask you to think of our strength—not as we see it ourselves—but as others think of us. Especially the Germans and the Japanese. These Germans and Japanese opinions are not hidden. They are not secret. They are openly published in the writings of their greatest and most respected leaders, for anybody to read who cares to read such unpleasant matter.
All the foreign observers admit that the initial battle morale of our troops in the last war was splendid. Most of them state that, due to our heavy losses and the impossibility of replacing our trained officers, that this initial battle morale deteriorated very rapidly. As to our national war morale, there is practical unanimity of opinion. This opinion is held not only by our enemies, but by our old Allies. And this opinion is, that we probably would not, or could not, stand a long war, with heavy casualties. They say that in the last war we went from absolute indifference to hysteria in eight months. We who lived through it know that to be true. They are convinced that mass emotions come in waves and
that action and reaction are equal and opposite in direction; that after our hysteria, when the casualty lists started to come in at the rate of ten thousand a day, our civilian population would become revolted. They feel, and say, that the opinion of the women of the United States has such a tremendous effect on the general public opinion, so much larger an effect than in any other country in the world, that the American public, as distinguished from the American soldier, is effeminate.
I don't agree with that opinion. And I am sure you don't agree with it. But I can assure you that it is the opinion held by foreign armies. And it is not we, but the leaders of foreign armies, who will decide whether or not we go to war.
The only reason that I fear we may be forced to go to war is: The apparent fixed resolution of our politicians, businessmen, and leaders of public opinion to see things other than as they are. These Germans are not fighting for booty, "Lebensraum;" they are fighting for a great ideal. The ideal of Empire of World Dominion. Pride of Race. The hegemony of a planet. The place that Rome once held. They are ambitious to give the world a new religion—a German religion. As Goebbels said, "We have crucified Judea and now we will scour the stink of Galilee from our souls."
These sentiments are not new. Von Treitschke, the most popular professor who ever lectured at the University of Berlin, preached them for thirty years. And Treitschke died in the 1890's. And since Treitschke, no man professing Christianity has ever taught history, or philosophy of history, in the University of Berlin.
This type of propaganda has now impregnated the lives of three generations of German youth, and it has come to fruition. Nobody now can any longer think that the ideal of World Dominion is not considered by the German People to be practical. And if England is destroyed, can anyone for one moment think that the German Nation, drunk with racial pride, with the most powerful army in the world, flushed with victory, will leave us in peace to enjoy the richest part of the world—helpless to defend ourselves! And we are helpless. Only the most shortsighted persons any longer consider the ocean a defense. No country that ever depended on a geographical barrier survived. When the army retires into a citadel, it has admitted defeat. And what are our ocean barriers but the walls of a citadel? If England and France fail, we are going to be given the same choice that Islam gave the Christians. That Genghis Khan gave the greatest and most civilized nations of the East. That Hitler gave the Poles—Slavery, or Death.
No German military writer considers the invasion of the Continental United States impractical, provided bases are first obtained in Newfoundland and the Caribbean. Von Waln wrote an article, demonstrating to his satisfaction that if a foreign power had Newfoundland, and Bahamas and Trinidad, that they could reduce the Continental United States with the loss of less than a million men. And he thought that price cheap.
We people, steeped for generations in the doctrines of Christianity, cannot realize the cold blooded calculation of men who for from three to five generations have had every instinct of Christianity held up to ridicule, drilled and trained out of them, and who have been taught to believe that the individual actually has no existence as such and is only important as a unit of the race—which is immortal. That the immortality of the individual soul is a ridiculous superstition. That only the race can be immortal. And only those races are entitled to survive who have the strength to
subject other races to their uses. These men religiously believe in their inherent superiority and in the necessity and the desirability of a slave civilization, with themselves as Masters and the inferior races, all races other than themselves, as slaves to do their will.
I hate war. I hate war with an intensity that people who have not seen war cannot achieve. I have seen my own dead. I have seen homes, villages, cities, that were blasted off the face of the earth. I certainly do not want these things to happen here. But I am convinced that unless we prepare ourselves, and become so strong that no one would dare attack us; so strong that an attack on the United States would be national suicide, that we will again have American war dead, and that we may well see our homes and our cities devastated.
To prepare adequately and to meet the attack of a modern army anything less than adequate measures are ridiculous waste. To achieve this strength, requires more than money. It requires men. The best men that we have. You, and me, and our sons. The sacrifice of our ease. The sacrifice of our careers. The sacrifice of our ambitions for our children. The days of security are gone, not to be seen again until this obscene Prussian war machine, bent on the destruction of every value we hold dear, is destroyed.
In order to give us even reasonable security, we must now —immediately—have a striking force of nine Army Corps, equipped, staffed with experienced professional officers who can coordinate an attack timing and synchronizing the striking force of air planes, mechanized troops, motorized troops, and organize the infantry behind them. Not men who have read about doing these things in a book. Men who have done them, and can do them. That means an army in being, ready to strike, of more than 700,000 men; with the nation in reserve.
No nation ever lived long who hired its defenders. We must go ourselves. Take our places in the ranks. It was only when the Spanish Grandees took the vow that they would go themselves on foot and in the ranks that they stopped the Turks. When the Athenians ceased to serve in the ranks they became the slaves of Macedonia. When Rome started to hire her legions, Rome died, and barbarism settled on Europe for 400 years. If we are going to have this kind of army, we must first build a national spirit in all of our people. We must have the will to be free. We must really, in our hearts, prefer to die on our feet rather than to live on our knees. We are going to have to change our whole national outlook on living. We are going to have to accept sacrifices (not only pay taxes); we are going to have to give up our ease and take the hard way, and steel ourselves and our young men to the idea that death is preferable to dishonor. That liberty is just as precious to us as it was to Washington, when he told his aide, Captain Tilghman, when they were riding home at the end of the Revolutionary War, "that he hoped the Americans would still cherish liberty when men no longer had to die for it."
It is now our turn. Our name has been called. Since the war of 1812 we have lived without any reasonable fear of invasion. As a nation, we have taken our ease in our safe place. It is no longer a safe place, and we can no longer take our ease. And now the strength of our national soul is put to the test. Can we give up our ease? Can we condition ourselves for battle? Or, shall we take our place with those nations that were unworthy to live and shall we demonstrate to the world that a nation founded on the principles that are declared to be self-evident in the Declaration of Independence cannot long survive?