Words That Men Live By
Charles A. Lindbergh (1941)
NEW YORK, N.Y., April 23, 1941 - Charles A. Lindbergh, who in the 1920s became the first man to fly the Atlantic Ocean alone, tonight aligned his famous name with a new and rising faction of controversy over the place of the United States in a world shaken by the great European war.
Unknown heretofore in the political arena, but holding national public regard both as a result of his courage on his historic flight and sympathy over the tragedy that saw his first son kidnapped and murdered, Mr. Lindbergh has stepped now into the center of a major storm.
It is an unpopular thing today to be an isolationist or a pacifist; Mr. Lindbergh went a step further and told the United States, contrary to popular feeling, that intervention in Europe would bring on a war that the United States cannot hope to win.
To this conclusion he added his own estimate that France and England had made a mistake in opposing Germany with arms.
By these arguments, the flying hero has taken a stand opposing the Administration, the overwhelming majority of Congress and the greater proportion of the instruments of communication – press and radio.
There are many viewpoints from which the issues of this war can be argued. Some are primarily idealistic. Some are primarily practical. One should, I believe, strive for a balance of both. But, since the subjects that can be covered in a single address are limited, tonight I shall discuss the war from a viewpoint, which is primarily practical. It is not that I believe ideals are unimportant, even among the realities of war; but if a nation is to survive in a hostile world its ideals must be backed by the hard logic of military practicability. If the outcome of war depended upon ideals alone, this would be a different world than it is today.Printable version
I know I will be severely criticized by the interventionists in America when I say we should not enter a war unless we have a reasonable chance of winning. That, they will claim, is far too materialistic a viewpoint…. But I do not believe that our American ideals and our way of life will gain through an unsuccessful war. And I know that the United States is not prepared to wage war in Europe successfully at this time. We are no better prepared today than France was when the interventionists in Europe persuaded her to attack the Siegfried Line.
I have said before, and I will say again, that I believe it will be a tragedy to the entire world if the British Empire collapses. That is one of the main reasons why I opposed this war before it was declared, and why I have constantly advocated a negotiated peace. I did not feel that England and France had a reasonable chance of winning. France has now been defeated and despite the propaganda and confusion of recent months it is now obvious that England is losing the war. I believe this is realized even by the British government. But they have one last desperate plan remaining. They hope that they may be able to persuade us to send another American Expeditionary Force to Europe and to share with England militarily, as well as financially, the fiasco of this war.
I do not blame England for this hope, or for asking for our assistance. But we now know that she declared a war under circumstances which led to the defeat of every nation that sided with her from Poland to Greece. We know that in the desperation of war England promised to all these nations armed assistance that she has misinformed us, concerning her state of preparation, her military strength and the progress of the war.
In time of war, truth is always replaced by propaganda….
I ask you to look at the map of Europe today and see if you can suggest any way in which we could win this war if we entered it. Suppose we had a large army in America, trained and equipped. Where would we send it to fight? The campaigns of the war show only too clearly how difficult it is to force a landing, or to maintain an army, on a hostile coast. Suppose we took our Navy from the Pacific and used it to convoy British shipping. That would not win the war for England. It would, at best, permit her to exist under the constant bombing of the German air fleet. Suppose we had an air force that we could send to Europe. Where could it operate? Some of our squadrons might be based in the British Isles, but it is physically impossible to base enough aircraft in the British Isles alone to equal in strength the aircraft that can be based on the continent of Europe.
I have asked these questions on the supposition that we had in existence an Army and an Air Force large enough and well enough equipped to send to Europe; and that we would dare to remove our Navy from the Pacific. Even on this basis, I do not see how we could invade the Continent of Europe successfully as long as all of that Continent and most of Asia is under Axis domination. But the fact is that none of these suppositions are correct. We have only a one-ocean Navy. Our Army is still untrained and inadequately equipped for foreign war. Our Air Force is deplorably lacking in modern fighting planes because most of them have already been sent to Europe….
We have weakened ourselves for many months, and still worse, we have divided our own people by this dabbling in Europe’s wars. While we should have been concentrating on American defense, we have been forced to argue over foreign quarrels. We must turn our eyes and our faith back to our own country before it is too late….
The time has come when those of us who believe in an independent American destiny must band together and organize for strength. We have been led toward war by a minority of our people. This minority has power. It has influence. It has a loud voice. But it does not represent the American people….
That is why the America First Committee has been formed – to give voice to the people who have no newspaper, or newsreel, or radio station at their command; to the people who must do the paying and the fighting and the dying, if this country enters the war.
… If you believe in an independent destiny for America, if you believe that this country should not enter the war in Europe, we ask you to join the America First Committee in its stand….