Our Spiritual Defense



Over the Network of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Saturday, June 28, 1941

Under Auspices of the Laymen's National Committee

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 589-590

I AM speaking to you tonight under the auspices of the Laymen's National Committee because I believe, with this group of Americans, that there is a moral force in wars that in the long run is stronger than any machine.

While it is true that the boldest of men is helpless in battle today without modern weapons, it is likewise true, as once said by Frederick of Prussia—it is true for all times and circumstances—that it is the martial spirit that determines the issue and not the tactical form. The final word is spoken not by arms or equipment but by the moral will of the nation.

The question of where or how or when defense of the United States may require that our armed forces strike at Hitler is a military question, but should that hour come, only a genuine American spiritual force will provide enough motive power back of our armed forces to secure us victory.

The army Hitler has set up is a formidable foe—formidable not only in its arms, its equipment, its training and its daring, but formidable also because it is sustained by a philosophy and a faith. It is not a faith we profess; it denies the dignity of the soul in man. It affirms the supremacy of force. It denies the kingdom of the spirit. It affirms the ascendancy of the corporate state—but it is positive affirmation and the men who march and fight derive a fanatic strength from it. That force cannot be beaten by something that is half-hearted or indifferent.

Anyone who watches the march of the German armies, the blind faith of the German soldier, his willingness to face death for Hitler and his fatherland—anyone who has *en the vast youth movements in Germany itself realizes that here, indeed, is a formidable foe.

As we sit in the safety of our homes tonight, let us not make any mistake about it. The Nazi Party believes and, through believing, does. It is not enough for us to hate it. It is not enough for us to destroy it. It will only be enough when we in America pledge ourselves anew to the principles upon which our country was founded.

Democracy—liberty—are intangibles until the moment that we profess a faith in them; then they are realities, indeed. They are more real than anything we can touch.

Peace at any price is not part of democratic belief and never was. Human life deprived of liberty is worthless. The fact of war and the love of war are two differentthings. Christian democracy can never love war, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we may be forced to accept war in order to survive. If Hitler wins, our vital interests will be affected. We will have to redraft our plans for the future; our trade, our standard of living, our concept of human life, will all be placed in jeopardy. We shall have to match Germany's military and sea power merely to live. For the conflict between the two systems is irreconcilable and inevitable; so we ask ourselves what will be the effect of the war between Russia and Germany. We must realize that if Hitler is successful in this war, the danger to us will be increased.

Without doubt, before he moved, he had studied carefully Russian weaknesses and had devised means to exploit them. All of his victories have been based upon his accurate knowledge of the situation of his enemy. We have no reason to believe that Russia will be his equal either in equipment or in strategy.

A German victory against Russia would bring with it serious consequences both to Europe and to ourselves. It would be Hitler's best answer to the British blockade. It would give him an agricultural foundation for his new continental empire. It would give him a jumping-off place to reach the oil fields of the Near East, and it would enable Hitler to turn to his war against England free from the danger of attack from his rear.

But the longer Russia can be kept in the war, the better. The longer Germany can be held there in her effort, the greater the drain upon her resources; so these next few weeks present not a period of rest, but a time to exert our greatest effort. This does not mean we are to become friends of the Soviet regime; it does not mean that we are going to have anything in common with the brutal despotism of Stalin. But the real danger to America is still Hitler. He is our enemy. Let's keep that in mind, always. The fact that he is now ready to destroy Russia is the final proof of his aim of world conquest—also final proof, if any were needed, that his treaties and his friendship are as dangerous as his open hostility.

When we look at this war today, we see in process three great battles. These three battles Germany seeks to win this year. One is the battle of the Mediterranean (and Germany moves against Russia not only for the acquisition ofRussia itself, but as a means of winning this battle of the Mediterranean); second is the battle of the Atlantic; and, third, the battle here at home in America. In the battle of the Mediterranean, Britain is fighting a rear-guard action—an action she must maintain until the bitter end. There Germany is seeking to determine the fate not only of Egypt and the Suez, but of the Spanish-Portuguese Peninsula and French North Africa. And if Hitler obtains the Iberian Peninsula and French North Africa, he will be able to dominate the South Atlantic; he will control not only vital sea lanes of the British Empire; he will control our own lines of trade with Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina; he will be at our back door. He will be in a position to threaten our command of the Caribbean and the Panama Canal itself.

We must consider the possible worst and, therefore, we must assume that Germany will defeat Russia. This will probably enable her to win the Mediterranean—and the winning of the Mediterranean by Germany would be a severe blow not only to Britain but to us, because of the influence of the Mediterranean on the battle of the Atlantic.

This is the second battle of which I speak. This is a battle where we can help. In this battle of the Atlantic, Germany is keeping pressure upon the jugular vein of England, the jugular vein of supplies. Once Germany can choke off that supply line, the invasion of Britain might be assured. To prevent this, there must be driven from the Atlantic the German long-range reconnaissance planes and bombers, and the submarines, and the fast-moving ocean raiders. But this clean-up of the Atlantic can only be done by America, so that the third battle of which I speak, the decisive battle, is being fought here. This is the battle where you can help most—the battle to hold out America, the battle to paralyze our effort. Germany is fighting this battle desperately today. She is fighting it by every weapon at her command, by her skillful propaganda, by spreading fear of her invincibility, by creating discord among us, by penetrating our spiritual and moral defenses. Hitler strikes at everything that affects our will, yours and mine. He tries to place a fifth columnist in the heart of each of us—a fifth columnist of doubt and discord. If these weapons provesuccessful and he can hold us out of the Atlantic, or if he can prevent us from giving essential aid, then the battle of the Atlantic is lost to Britain and to us. With that battle lost, the last obstacle to European domination by Germany is removed. The shield behind which we could prepare and get strong is beaten down; Naziism and Americanism will be face to face. A Germany strong and self-confident, feeling the urge for new conquests and an America without any ally, unready to meet so strong an enemy alone.

That possibility must make us keep in mind this fact: The security and liberty of our hemisphere have prospered behind a wall of sea power. That wall consisted of the men and guns of the American and British fleets. No formal alliances cemented that wall. It was held together by common national interests, nothing else. No European, no Asiatic military and naval despotism could gain a foothold beside Canada or the United States or the republics to the south while that sea wall stood. Today, one-half of the wall is threatened with vast and final destruction. While our Atlantic outposts will stand beneath attack from bomb and shell and torpedo, shall we withhold the power of our vital aid until half the wall has crumbled? Until a hostile Hitler-dominated world advances with combined strength against us alone?

No one can reasonably deny that danger threatens our republic. Will we go to meet danger in the spirit of the American generations who came before us, or will we wait until it has crossed the doorstep of our homes and touches our families and our altars?

What must we—each of us—what must we do to defend those altars? No nation is stronger than its people. What we must do to defend those altars is, first of all, to affirm our own burning faith against the Nazi faith. We must reassert our belief in a Christian democracy—a democracy whose chief concern is not for human life but for human liberty; not for peace but for the dignity of man in the image of his Master.

This is the moral force which, in the long run, is stronger than any machine.