Keep America Out of War


By JAMES E. VAN ZANDT, Congressman from the 23rd District of Pennsylvania

Delivered over the National Broadcasting Company, September 27, 1940, from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 3-4

LADIES and Gentlemen: Throughout the length and breadth of this great nation resounds this stirring command:—Keep America out of War! Through the columns of the Press and by radio broadcasts events in war-torn Europe are described in realistic fashion. Daily the problem of America keeping out of another of Europe's century-old wars is becoming more acute. People of all faiths have turned to prayer as a means of achieving a peace in this war-crazed world; while, at the same time the wheels of industry hum in turning out weapons of national defense.

Gradually America is being transformed into an Armed Camp. Peace time conscription of the youth of America is now a law of the land as thousands of young men prepare to follow the National Guardsmen in answering their country's call. In order to accommodate this influx of manpower into our military life, cantonments are being constructed overnight to house these thousands of patriotic young Americans.

Our ship yards are working overtime, while the U. S. Navy has embarked on a construction program aimed to give America a two-ocean navy.

The Air Corps of both the Army and Navy are being developed on a huge scale, while private manufacturers are being pressed to supply the 50,000 planes that America asked for to guarantee this nation air equality.

Yes, truly America is presenting the same picture as she did in 1917—a nation prepared for war.

In the midst of this gigantic task to arm America, we have not been selfish. Our thoughts have turned to our European neighbors, as evidenced by the fact that America has sent to Europe since September 5, 1939, 2,200 planes from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps; 500,000 Lee-Enfield rifles; 70,000 machine guns; 600 French 75 M.M. Field Artillery guns; and 150,000,000 rounds of rifle ammunition. In addition to sending our own military supplies, American industryhas given preference to filling orders for military equipment to our European neighbors. Thus, it is evident that despite reports to the contrary, the United States has been aiding the Allies in a practical way, refuting the assertion often heard that America is only extending sympathy to our friends across the sea.

America has recognized the heroic efforts of many peaceful European nations now subjugated, and cannot forget the valor of the Finnish soldier against the forces of the Godless Stalin. Nor can we find words adequate to express our admiration for the magnificent display of bravery that Great Britain's loyal sons have demonstrated in repelling the beast of Berlin whose monster military machine is a menace to world peace.

In the present war, we have seen the armies of yesterday rendered obsolete by the introduction of new methods of mechanized warfare. Daily the headlines of our newspapers tell of so-called secret-weapons designed to visit untold agony on the civilian population of the affected countries. Yet, one of the mightiest and oldest weapons of any war is propaganda whose unholy mission is death and destruction.

Today the American people are face to face with the greatest propaganda machine the world has ever known. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the American people are on record for aiding our British neighbors and against involvement in the present war, the sympathy of this peace-loving nation is being exploited by propagandists who are unmindful of our own national safety.

Today the United States is traveling the same path we took in 1917 but at a faster pace. Not content as a neutral nation to occupy a seat on the side-lines, we took our first step toward war last Fall when Congress repealed the embargo on the sale of arms to the belligerent nations of the world. This step was quickly followed by the heavy sale of airplanes and the release of arms and ammunition by our own Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Having taken thesesteps, the agents of propaganda continued their carefully planned mission with the result that we did not stop on our journey down the pathway that leads to war.

American dollars were loaned to United States factories to build airplanes for the Allies. American aviators were encouraged to enlist and risk their lives in European skies; while we exchanged U. S. Destroyers for Air Bases.

As these steps were made, the American people were told they were necessary in the preservation of world peace.

Contrary to what the American people believe, there remains but two more steps to actual involvement of America in the present European War.

This nation owes a duty to American citizens to keep out of this European War. Yet we have been asked to take one of the last two fatal steps toward war, when the request was made that this nation send a military mission to Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when we comply with that request, we are going beyond the stage of being sympathetic. Mark you, when the day arrives for the departure of a military mission from the United States we can prepare to follow it with the Second American Expeditionary Force to Europe. God forbid, that day will ever come!

Let us pause for a moment and reflect deeply before we become involved in another European brawl that is certain to destroy our present form of government.

Are we so gullible that we are willing to trade our form of government recognized the world over as a masterpiece of statesmanship; and receive in return a life of bondage and servitude?

Is time so fleeting that we have forgotten the great cost of the first World War that totalled $64,000,000,000 in cash and the loss of 417 billions of dollars in business and commerce? Can we forget the inescapable fact that the aftermath of the World War gave birth to a depression that completely dislocated the economic stability of our nation? That 10,000,000 loyal American citizens through the throes of depression, almost overnight found themselves unemployed?

Can we ignore the fact that this unemployment situation has caused untold suffering and seriously affected the morale of the American people? And that through such a deplorable condition the forces of un-Americanism raised their ugly heads to menace our national well-being?

Are you going to forget the swollen bonuses and profits rolled up by the munition manufacturers in the last World War amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars? Yes, dollars dripping with the blood of American youth.

Are you ready to forget that over 23,000 Americans became millionaires while countless others rose from comparative poverty to great wealth, while their compatriots— the young men of 1917-18—were risking their lives in the trenches or on the high seas for $1.25 a day?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the merchants of propaganda are clever in their efforts to divert attention from the first World War and its hideous aftermath. If I know the American people, they will not be misled by these cleverly disguised war-profiteers.

The people of this great nation are fully conscious that the cost of the first World War was not alone paid in dollars but also in blood and tears. Tonight in Flanders Fields, row upon row of silent crosses mark the final resting place for thousands of the youth of 1917-18.

Here in the United States there is a group for whom the Armistice on November 11, 1918 meant little. At this moment, 86 Veterans' Administration hospitals scattered throughout the United States and erected by a grateful government, are caring for approximately 75,000 disabled World

War veterans who responded in 1917-18 in a war we were told was to save the world for democracy.

Truly these veteran hospitals are living shrines to which every American may well make a pilgrimage. Here you will find the heroes of Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry and the Argonne, with their shattered bodies, suffocated lungs and shadowed minds. These men know and understand war with its devastating effect on mankind.

At this moment I am thinking of one of my many visits to the Veterans' Administration hospitals. There I found veterans of the World War occupying row after row of hospital beds, or reclining in wheel chairs, armless or legless. To many of these boys of 1917-18 the sight of birds, sunshine and flowers are but a sweet memory.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a visit through any Veterans' Administration hospital should convince even the most heartless war profiteer of the true cost of war in human misery. More than 130,000 young men lost their lives during the World War period, and today among those who survived 91 are dying every 24 hours.

If the veterans confined to Government hospitals could speak to you tonight, they would tell you, as I have often heard from their own lips, of their horror of war and their fervent plea—Keep America out of another World War.

Their voices would form a mighty chorus in praise of the Gold Star Mothers of America who gave their own flesh and blood—in many instances more than one son in defense of our country. You would hear of the widows and orphans left destitute as a result of the first World War. In short, these boys of 1917-18 to whom life is a living death represent the greatest lesson why America should pause on its journey down the path that leads to war.

We need no propaganda to warn us of the futility of war. America need only take a lesson from the last war and its hideous aftermath to realize that to prevent war we need a strong national defense and a united nation.

The masters of propaganda, unmindful of our lack of military preparedness, are disregarding the safety of this nation in their efforts to plunge us into the present war. While we have started our journey toward war, it is not too late to reflect on the fact that while we have the greatest Navy in the world and plenty of potential manpower from the standpoint of mechanized equipment and military supplies for our Army, we are woefully unprepared.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you can not fight a war with equipment "on order", and there is no greater authority for the truth of such a statement than the assertion of Mr. William S. Knudsen, Commissioner, National Defense Advisory Commission, who declared that, "750,000 troops the number already available can not be equipped before 1942."

Let us as loyal Americans put our united efforts behind the program for national defense now being pushed to completion. With America properly prepared, we will have the added assurance that the young men of 1940 will not occupy the row after row of hospital beds in the Veterans' Administration hospitals, now reposing places for the boys of 1917-1918. Nor will there be new rows of white crosses in foreign cemeteries, a silent reminder of the ruthlessness of the propaganda machine whose only mission is to drive America into another Old World struggle.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our form of government is at stake. The American way of life is in peril. In short, let us preserve our cherished possessions of life, liberty and happiness that our forefathers fought to give us by insisting that we build a two-fisted defense for America, then no nation on earth will dare to attack us.

Let us think of America first this time—by Keeping America out of war!