As I See It
WE HAVE BUT ONE COURSE
By FRANK C. WALKER, Postmaster General of the United States
Delivered from Butte, Montana, July 12, 1941, over National Broadcasting System
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 662-664.
IT is good to be back home again—back in the heart of the Rockies. For it is here I enjoyed the happiest days of my life. It is here that in youth I was thrilled with the sheer joy of living—here where I felt the first touch of things serious-here where I came to man's estate. It is here where most of the nicer and finer and sweeter things of life came to me.
Filled with the memories of it all, it would be so pleasing to me tonight to discuss with you, my old friends, the beauties and joys and happiness that has been ours—to speak of the courage and fine spirit of our pioneers—the greatness of the generation before us—our fine resources—our great industry. But all that would seem so completely out of place.
Because pain and anguish and suffering twist and torture the bodies, the hearts, the very souls of the people of the world—a world that is almost overwhelmed by a hopeless, helpless, despair.
Never in all our history have we reached a more serious, more tragic, more critical moment than the very present.
May I in my own simple fashion talk to you, my old friends of Montana, of these matters that concern us all so gravely. I want so much to bring home to you calmly, and dispassionately, a message that I so deeply feel. Without animus or rancor or hatred in my heart for any man, I want to present the case as I see it. I do want to much to persuade you in what I think is the right for I am overwhelmed with the righteousness of our cause.
I yield to no man in my respect for the rights of our citizenry to give full and complete expression to their views—though the view expressed be diametrically opposed to theview of the majority. Yes, and I yield to no man in the sense of obligation that rests on us to speak the truth as we see it and to do the right as God gives us to see the right.
I take issue with those who lead in the opposition to the policies being pursued by the President and our administration. I take issue with the principles they broadcast to the people of America. This is what they are trying to persuade the American people to believe.
First, that this conflict is one for political power in Europe alone that in nowise affects the United States.
Second, that the idea of a possible invasion of America by the Axis powers is fantastic.
Third, that the duty of the United States is to pursue a policy of strict isolationism, and to take the lead in bringing about a negotiated peace with Hitler.
I say to those who maintain that the present war is only a conflict of political powers; to those that say this is no affair of ours; to those who say that the invasion of America is fantastic—to all such I say humbly but with profound conviction—you are mistaken. You have learned nothing from the tragedies of Europe and Asia and Africa.
Unwittingly, I grant, but harmfully nevertheless, I do say you deceive others—you do a great disservice to America—the America that has done so much for you. You do a grave and serious disservice to the peoples of the world.
To those mortals who cry out we are being slyly and viciously led by propaganda to champion a cause not our own—that we are being beguiled into meddling into the affairs that are the affairs of Europe and Asia; we of America should reply as with one voice: "We are the puppets ofnation." We see our duty standing out as clearly as the lighthouse in the sea—we shall follow that sense of duty.
To those who say that the present war is only a conflict between foreign political powers—Do you not remember Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, Greece; nation after nation of liberty-loving, God-fearing people—people who wanted to live and let live—happy, peaceful souls with no political ambition—no lust for power—no hatred in their hearts—no desire for conquest. With lightning-like suddenness those people were transformed into sad, tragic figures, made subjects, vassals, slaves.
I say that for each one who has died on the battlefield, hundreds have died in their homes, on the streets, on the hillsides.
In the name of "peace" and a "stable social order" families are being broken, wives separated from husbands, children kidnapped from their parents and trained while yet babes to act as a small part of a State machine—trained to recognize no human parents—to acknowledge no brother or sister but to move as automatons in a senseless, automatic state. The state is their father—their mother—their leader—their God.
For the first time in all history the objective of the conqueror is not alone to destroy the political but to destroy the moral and the spiritual as well, and establish a "new order".
The dictator cries for "peace, order and unity" through destruction. He denies the spiritual reality of God and the indestructible dignity of the human soul and so proclaims the death of the dignity of man.
Who can say that this is no affair of ours? This brutality—this false philosophy that pervades Europe today bespeaks the gravest peril to ourselves and our way of life. That it should not come to the shores of America, as come it will, if the conqueror is not halted, is a matter of life and death to our own civilization.
To you who proclaim to America that the possibility of an attack on these shores is fantastic, I say you speak the very language of Hitler himself. His message to the American people, in an interview arranged exclusively for American consumption, is almost identical with your language. "A Western Hemisphere invasion", Hitler says, "is about as fantastic as an invasion of the moon."
That sort of thinking was responsible for the unhappy fate that befell Norway and Holland and Belgium. That same cocksureness, lulled France with its Maginot Line into a false sense of security. That sort of appraisal of Hitler and his forces, made shambles of Greece and Yugoslavia.
Do you realize that Hitler can do it? Do you realize Hitler will do it when HE determines the time is right for the attack? When will it come? Will it come tomorrow, will it come next month, will it come six months hence? We do not know the day or the month, but come it will when our first bulwark of self-preservation—our first line of defense—are overwhelmed by this, thus far invincible force. Because just so long as Britain and Russia stem this mighty tide of conquest—just so long as the British fleet remains intact—just that long and no longer, can we be assured that the war will be kept from our shores.
We are told this holocaust will not come to our land for it is fantastic to believe such a possibility exists. We are reminded of the expanses of sea to the East and to the West, and we are told that this distance insures us. Lulled by this theme, Europe and Asia seem so far distant.
Let us be mindful of the fact that mechanicians of terror and destruction are just overnight from our seaboard. Air power now operates at the terrific speed of 4 to 5 miles a minute—200 and 300 miles an hour. With our own FlyingFortresses, capable of striking 1500 miles distant and returning—with our own Patrol Bombers having a range of 4000 miles—we gain the proper perspective of world military geography.
The coast of France is less than fourteen hours from New York. Dakar, on the coast of Africa, is but eight hours by air from Brazil. Martinique is within six hours flying time of the Panama Canal.
How many of us here in Montana appreciate that an air armada from Europe using Iceland, Greenland, and Northern Manitoba, could sweep down on the northwestern and north central states in twenty hours of flying time?
Recently I saw with my own eyes an American-made bomber that has a cruising range of seventy-five hundred miles—a bomber equipped to carry eighteen tons of bombs, that might be made to deal death and destruction to any of the fair cities of America. This machine of destruction can travel at more than two hundred and fifty miles an hour. Were it in German hands it could travel from Berlin to New York, drop its cargo of death and return to its home port in quicker time than it takes to travel by rail from Butte to Chicago.
What air equipment does Hitler have? Has its full might yet been displayed? Or has he equipment even more awesome than we suspect. Who could foresee the comparative ease with which Hitler's vast motorized army and devastating air force brought France to her knees, not in a matter of years, not in a matter of months, but in a few short days. Proud France—to the knowledge of the world, the possessor of the finest defenses man had yet devised. Proud France—on her knees in days. He has repeatedly confounded the world with his tactics, his ordnance, his tanks, his air power. Do there exist in aerodromes, swastika-emblazoned bombers awaiting only the master's order to wing their way to our shores? Does not every military campaign thus far prove to us that we are stupid to conduct our affairs upon the assumption that Hitler does not have the military equipment necessary to successfully attack the next country, the next island, the next hemisphere, when the season, the disunity of the people, and the military circumstance synchronize "according to plan."
Hitler seek to destroy things as they are—and in their place to establish a system of government based on the enslavement of all human beings. If there were the slightest doubt of Hitler's intentions to conquer the world, this doubt vanished with his invasion of Russia. To that nation he had said less than two short years ago:
"Germany does not intend to export her doctrine to Russia. I see no reason that we ever again shall take a stand against one another. We, therefore, agreed to conclude a pact which excludes for all the future any application of force between us, which obligates us to consultations in certain European questions and makes possible economic collaboration and, above all, assures that the force of these two great states will not be spent against each other."
And now Russia is invaded from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
How can we take comfort and maintain silence while military might is barbarously and treacherously used against all peoples? The peoples of Czecho-Slovakia, Yugoslavia, the Poles, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians, the French, the Greeks, and now the Russians.
The Russians are not fighting to propagate Communism. They have not launched an attack of force against Europe and against the world. They have taken up arms to protect their homes and the fruits of their toil. To defend their homes is not to extend Communism by force. To lose their lives is not to gain the world for Communism.
How can we in conscience sanction the use of force to punish others for false ideas? How can we in our hearts welcome the slaughter of millions, hoping for the overthrow of a political philosophy? A cynicism that would condone world domination by Hitler in order to overcome the doctrines of Communism is a cynicism unworthy of respect. It is indecent—it is un-Christian.
Is the parable of the Good Samaritan to be applied with exceptions? Are we so zealous for the principle of Christianity that we welcome an unprovoked slaughter? Or, may it not be that some are seeking an easy way to avoid a manly conflict and a resistance of the spirit to the incursion of the subversive doctrines of Communism? If Communism is to be defeated, it will never be defeated by the sword. It will be defeated by the spirit, and to refuse now the encouragement of assistance to the Russian people is to weaken our own spirit; it is to deny our own principles and it will result in making us less ready for Hitler when he comes.
Realistically, is it not absurd for the leaders of the opposition to insist that we stand indifferent to Russia's fate—or even worse—hope for her defeat? Do they not realize that a Russian defeat of the character that would bring about her collapse would leave the ports and airfields of Eastern Siberia in the hands of the Axis powers? If, after she was beaten at Moscow, she gave no resistance in Siberia, consider then what would confront us.
It is not Stalin and his philosophy that we should considerat this point, it is the safety, security and well-being of a threatened America. Our military strategists unanimously agree that an impregnable position in Alaska is absolutely essential to the defense of our hemisphere. Do those men who criticize the President's policy, realize that a German bombing plane could fly from a Siberian airport to the shores of Alaska and return well within sixty minutes?
These leaders of the opposition cry out that it is the duty of the United States to bring about peace—a negotiated peace—and with whom?—with Hitler.
From the very moment this carnage threatened, the President of the United States exercised to the utmost the influence of this mighty nation to prevent the start and spread of this terrible holocaust. He brought to bear with supreme effort every moral force to prevent war. He utilized every proper means at his disposal that this great tragedy might not come to pass. But the man who guides the destinies of the German people took step after step, move after move, that
made World War II inevitable. Agreement after agreement was violated, promise after promise made and broken—the Munich pact—the Polish agreement—the rights of Norway, Holland, Denmark, Belgium—wantonly, arrogantly, ruthlessly set aside—trampled upon.
Prudent men when they contemplate negotiating agreements first inform themselves as to the character and good faith of those with whom they would deal. I call upon those sad and tragic Peoples whom Hitler has so brutally enslaved! I ask them to bear witness to the character and good faith of him with whom our friends would have us negotiate a peace—I call upon them to testify as to the dignity, the worth, the sanctity of the Hitler Pact. In their hearts and souls will be found the true answer.
How, then, can we lead in bringing about a negotiated peace? There can be no peace; there can be no security by treaty or pact, so long as Hitler and his doctrines rule Germany. Within Germany and throughout the world, implemented by force, he has attacked with corruption, the liberty of every individual and the sanctity of Almighty God. Hitler can have no friends; he can have no allies. A handshake with Hitler is a prologue to suicide.
Against such consequences, we have no choice but to defend ourselves. We have no choice but to participate with others in an effort to ward off the disaster. We do not, as from a safe distance, extend help to others, nor offer them aid for their separate resistance. In resistance we are one with them and they are one with us, for the cause of the war is the Nazi aggression against mankind, and the consequence of a Hitler victory is enslavement. From such a cause no man anywhere can escape; to such a consequence
no man anywhere but will become a victim. The freedom and liberty to which we Americans were born and which we now enjoy with tranquility—that liberty was bitterly fought for, valorously won. The founders of our Republic bequeathed to us the fruits of the victory—Liberty. They have entrusted to us much more—the spirit, the vision, the decisive convictions upon which ALONE true liberty can rest, and for which free men would rather die than relinquish.
In closing I repeat—OURS is a grave responsibility. We have but one course. That course has been charted by the President. It is our patriotic duty to fulfill these individual responsibilities. To this high concept I know every American worthy of the name will subscribe.