From the New Deal to the Raw Deal by Janette Rainwater)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and John Nance Garner are inaugurated
as president and vice-president of a country in the midst of a severe
banking crisis since early February nearly half the states
have had to declare bank "holidays" due to the queues of depositors
demanding to withdraw more funds than the banks possessed. 1
In the first days of March more than 15 % of the nation's
cash had been taken out of circulation by hoarders.
his inaugural address which was broadcast to an unprecedented
178 radio stations: "This is a day of national consecration." He
utters the soothing phrase that would later become the most famous
part of his speech"The only thing we have to fear is fear
itself" and promises prompt "action now" in putting
people back to work and in providing "an adequate but sound currency."
In an echo
of his cousin Theodore (the 26th president, 1901-1909) he charges
into the businessmen and the bankers: "Our distress comes from no
failure of substance; we are stricken by no plague of locusts. .
. . Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes
in the very sight of the supply. . . . rulers of the exchange of
mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their
own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in
the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to
the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply
social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public
opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. . . . They know
only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision,
and when there is no vision the people perish."
(FDR was triumphantly referring to Charles Mitchell who had been
forced to resign as head of National City Bank only six days earlier
as a result of revelations of the Pecora hearings. See
February 21, 1933.)
receives the greatest applause with these words: "I am prepared
under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken
Nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures,
or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience
and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority to
bring to speedy adoption. But in the event that Congress shall fail
to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national
emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course
of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for
the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis broad Executive
power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power
that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign
inauguration many prominent people such as the highly respected
coloumnist Walter Lippman had spoken out for the assumption of "dictatorial
powers" by Roosevelt. The Progressive Republican from Idaho, Senator
William Borah, advocated putting aside "partisanship and politics"
to give the incoming President a free hand "within the Constitution
for a certain period." A Republican senator from Pennsylvania had
"if this country ever needed a Mussolini, it needs one now." It
was only a few years later that the term "dictator" became disreputable.)
[The mood of
the day was solemn and tense in stark contrast to the euphoria
of the 2009 inauguration. People were frightened, some even terrified.
The flags flying at half-mast in honor of Senator Walsh 3
seemed only too relevant. The Senate confirmed Roosevelt's
ten nominees for his cabinet that afternoon; they were sworn in
together in a private evening ceremony at the White House with Associate
Justice Benjamin Cardozo administering the oaths.
The ten cabinet
of State, Senator Cordell Hull of Tennessee;
Secretary of the Treasury, William H. Woodin of New York;
Secretary of War, former Governor George H. Dern of Utah;
Attorney General, Homer S. Cummings of Connecticut; 3
Postmaster General, James A. Farley of New York;
Secretary of the Navy, Senator Claude Swanson of Virginia;
Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes of Chicago;
Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace of Iowa;
Secretary of Commerce, Daniel C. Roper of Washington and
Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, the head of New York's
State Labor Department.
"Miss Perkins" as the New York Times referred to her, was the
first woman to be appointed to a cabinet position. New
York Times, March 5, 1933.
was a controversial appointment for far more than her gender; it
was no surprise that FDR would appoint a woman to his cabinet. Perkins
had headed New York's labor department under both Governor Al Smith
and Governor Roosevelt and was highly regarded. (Unbeknownst to
the general public, "Miss" Perkins had been happily married since
1913 and had a teenage daughter.)
In all the
administrations since the inauguration of the department in 1913,
the position of Secretary of Labor had been held by a union leader,
usually from the AFL. Labor's candidate for the 1933 appointment
was Dan Tobin, president of the Teamsters, and the unions lobbied
extensively for him. So they were not happy with the selection of
Perkins; ironically, she achieved more for the labor movement than
a unionist in the post could have accomplished.
agreed with AFL President Green that the post should go to a unionist.
However, FDR persuaded her to take the job and she set some firm
conditions. The federal government should-
---- immediately provide aid to states for unemployment relief
the unemployment figure had risen to 13 million Winkler,
---- enact an extensive public works program;
---- institute unemployment and old-age insurance;
---- provide mandated minimum wages, maximum hours and abolition
of child labor.
Alter, pp. 165-166, 339-343; Bernstein, Turbulent Years,
pp. 8-14; Cohen, pp. 35-45; Winkler, pp. 69-70.]
Outgoing President Hoover had refused to take any emergency actions
without the concurrence of the incoming president. FDR refused to
take responsibility for deeds over which he had no authority. In
this impasse Raymond Moley and the incoming Secretary of the Treasury
on their own initiative pressured the governors of New York and
Illinois to close the banks in their states. By dawn of Inauguration
Day the banks in thirty-two states had been closed. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 14-15, 21, 24-26.
was triumphantly referring to Charles Mitchell who had been forced
to resign as head of National City Bank only six days earlier as
a result of revelations in the Pecora hearings.
See February 21, 1933.
Cummings was a last-minute appointment, replacing Senator Thomas
J. Walsh of Montana who had died suddenly two days earlier. Walsh,
a strong advocate of women suffrage and a determined opponent of
state corruption and child labor, had headed the Senate investigating
committee that had exposed the Teapot Dome scandal, 1922-23.
March 4, 1933
On the other side of the world from events in the United States,
Japanese troops occupy Chengteh, the chief city of Jehol province
in northern China. Feis, 1933, p. 299.
observed as the Japanese overran 100,000 miles in ten days, using
motorized transport and "cutting through the Chinese forces and
driving deep, paying no attention to their exposed flanks." In a
1953 interview he would describe this as "the first tryout of the
modern blitzkrieg" and regretted that it was only the Germans and
the Russians who had taken notice of the technique: "Other people
thought it was just a lot of Japanese overrunning a lot of Chinese,
and not worth study by professional soldiers." Newman,
Owen Lattimore, p. 21.]
All parties except the Communists gain seats in the Reichstag.
The Nazi party receives only 44% of the total vote despite the suppression
of the opposition press and the monopoly the NSDAP enjoyed on the
state radio during the election campaign. Its 288 seats combined
with 52 Nationalist seats give Hitler's government a bare 16-seat
majority. Shirer, Rise and Fall, pp. 195-196.
[In the days
following the election, considered by Hitler to be a "mandate,"
his storm troopers swarmed into the provinces. The provincial authorities
were replaced by Hitler's people; Nazi komissars (or party observers)
were assigned to all major newspapers and companies. In the major
cities the swastika was raised over Jewish shops as their owners
"voluntarily" closed. In other places windows were shattered and
customers escorted out of Jewish shops as the stench bombs were
rolled in. There was random street violence by the Brownshirts against
Jews. Black, Transfer Agreement, p. 9.]
a four-day bank holiday nation-wide, places an embargo on the
export of gold, silver and currency, using the war-time Trading
with the Enemy Act as authority.
A violation of the embargo will incur a fine of $10,000 and ten
He calls Congress for a special session to begin on the 9th. (Over
4000 banks have failed since the first of the year; the average
bank failure rate in the 1920s had been 100 a year.
In the previous week $226 million in Treasury gold reserves
had been withdrawn. ) Carroll and Noble, p. 339;
Cohen, pp. 70-71.)
[In a second
proclamation he called on the new Congress for a special emergency
session to begin on the 9th to deal with the crisis. William H.
Woodin, the new Secretary of the Treasury, Assistant Secretary of
State Raymond Moley and outgoing Secretary of the Treasury Ogden
Mills had spent the previous day, a Sunday, conferring in the Treasury
with the major bankers of the country.
A major problem
was the lack of currency in circulation and change. Children's
piggy-banks were robbed by parents; the automat became a favorite
place to eat due to its supply of nickels. Personal checks were
more readily accepted than before. Most communities and many businesses
had already started issuing "scrip" in various forms.
conceived a solution: Have the Bureau of Printing and Engraving
print a quantity of Federal Reserve Bank Notes that looked just
like the Federal Reserve Notes then in use, but not backed by gold
a somewhat devious form of federal government scrip. This idea was
enthusiastically endorsed by FDR and the Bureau started printing
round the clock.
expressed the national mood: "The whole country is with him, just
so he does something. If he had burned down the capitol we would
cheer and say 'Well, we at least got a fire started anyhow. . .
. We have had years of 'don't rock the boat.' Go ahead and sink
it, Franklin, if you want to. We might just as well be swimming
as floundering around the way we are.'" Davis,
New Deal Years, p. 35; Carroll and Noble, p. 339; Cohen,
pp. 72-74; Alter, pp. 226-231, 245-250.]
his first press conference
in which he changes past customs. Questions do not have to be written
and submitted in advance. There will be two press conferences a
week. FDR builds such a bond that the short session ends with spontaneous
(and unprecedented) applause from the reporters. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 43-45; Alter, pp. 253-257.
Rush of 1933": The Federal Reserve Board orders banks to report
the names of all customers who have withdrawn gold since February
1 if that gold is not returned in exchange for paper currency by
on a Wednesday. The next two days there were long lines of customers
returning gold to their banks, a reverse gold stampede. By the end
of the week $200 million in gold and gold certificates had been
turned in. Cohen, p. 74.]
June 16, 1933
Hundred Days" of the New Deal during which the major pieces of recovery
legislation will be passed.
Congress convenes, and within eight hours both houses pass the Emergency
Banking Act which gives the president and the Secretary of the Treasury
broad powers to:
--- "issue Federal Reserve notes to replace the scrip that
had been increasingly issued by various institutions,
--- "prevent the hoarding of gold, and
--- "certify the soundness of banks and qualify them for reopening."
passed the unread and unprinted bill by voice vote after a 40-minute
discussion. The House minority leader urged a "Yes" vote on his
colleagues. The only objection came from a handful of Senators who
favored far more radical measures.
The Socialist Norman Thomas and Wisconsin Farmer-Laborite Senator
Robert La Follette advocated nationalization of the banking system.
Long of Louisiana opposed the bill and accused the administration
of planning to leave the small state-chartered banks unopened. He
and Senator Carter Glass of Virginia came close to blows until the
new Majority Leader Joe Robinson intervened. Nevertheless the bill
passed the Senate 73-7 and was signed by FDR within nine hours of
Few knew that
this first piece of New Deal legislation had been written by members
of Hoover's administration the bill was copied from legislation
that men in the Treasury Department had unsuccessfully urged Hoover
Davis, New Deal, pp. 55-57; Alter, pp. 245-252; Cohen, pp.
Act: FDR sends Congress a surprise "Bill to Maintain the Credit
of the United States Government" which would give him the power
to make governmental economies, such as:
---- cutting government salaries up to 15 percent,
---- reducing veterans' payments and eliminating some categories
of veterans' benefits, for a saving of $100 million and $400 million,
respectively. Overall veterans' benefits were slashed by 50%; Civil
War pensioners took a 10% cut.
(More than one-quarter of the federal budget went to veterans' benefits.)
[FDR had campaigned
on a pledge to reduce governmental expenses by 25 percent and his
Director of the Budget, Lewis Douglas, was determined to hold FDR
to his promise. Despite lobbying by veterans' groups as powerful
a block then as Social Security recipients are now and an
incipient revolt by the more progressive Democrats, the Economy
Act passed in the House when enough Republicans (69) crossed over
to support the Act to replace the 92 Democrats voting against it.
were held in line by the knowledge that FDR would not dispense patronage
until after the bill was passed. 4It
became law on March 20. Burns, Lion, p.
167; Freidel, pp. 96-97; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 57-64;
Cohen, pp. 95-108; Alter, p. 275. ]
A Democratic floor leader, "When the Congressional Record goes
to President Roosevelt's desk in the morning, he will look over
the roll call we are about to take, and
I warn you new Democrats to be careful where your names are found."
Burns, Lion, p. 167.
Chat: On Sunday night FDR gives the first of his "Fireside Chats"
in which he explains that the next day those banks certified to
be sound will be reopened and others in following days. He assures
the radio audience of sixty million that their money will be safer
"in a reopened bank than under the mattress. . . . We have provided
the machinery to restore 5 our financial
system; it is up to you to make it work . . . Together we cannot
would write that Roosevelt's explanation was so clear "that he made
everyone understand it, even the bankers."
no run on the banks when they reopened; rather, deposits far exceeded
withdrawals in every city; 75 percent of the nation's banks had
reopened by the end of the week. On Wednesday the New York Stock
Exchange reopened with a record-high one-day rise in prices of more
than 15 percent. The Treasury bonds issued that day were oversubscribed
by 100%. As brain-truster Raymond Moley said seven years later,
"Capitalism was saved in eight days." Miller,
Intimate, p. 311; Davis, New Deal Years, 59-61; Cohen,
81; Alter, pp. 263-271.]
"Restore" is the operative word here; FDR was a fiscal conservative
who never intended to change the system. Moley,
The First New Deal, p. 310.
Bill": Anticipating the repeal of the Eighteenth (Prohibition)
FDR asks Congress to modify the Volstead Act to permit the sale
(and substantial taxation) of low-alcoholic content beverages. The
popular measure also galvanizes Senate support for the controversial
Economy Bill to be considered that day, as FDR arranges that the
"beer bill" may not be voted on until after the Economy Bill.
bill" passed the Senate more pressured by dry interests than
43-30. The product was soon available and signs sprang up advertising
the long-banned beverage: "Near beer sold here; no real beer near
here." The 3.2% beer was supposedly non-intoxicating.
remarks that this quick amendment of the Volstead Act is "one of
the least appreciated elements of how FDR changed the country's
psyche during the Hundred Days. . . . beer parties were held all
over the county . . . Washington's Abner Drury Brewery pulled up
at the White House with a sign:, PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, THE FIRST
BEER IS FOR YOU," Burns, Lion, p. 168;
Freidel, pp. 96-97; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 63-64; Cohen,
pp. 105-106; Alter, p. 277.]
FDR sends the Agriculture Adjustment Act to Congress, saying: "Deep
study and the joint counsel of many points of view have produced
a measure which offers great promise of good results. I tell you
frankly that it is a new and untrod path but I tell you with equal
frankness that an unprecedented condition calls for the trial of
new means to rescue agriculture. If a fair administrative trial
of it is made and it does not produce the hoped-for results, I shall
be the first to acknowledge it and advise you.
legislation is necessary now for the simple reason that the spring
crops will soon be planted and if we wait another month or six weeks
the effect on the prices of this year's crops will be wholly lost."
The bill proposes
that the government will set parity prices and provide subsidies
to farmers for limiting acreage in certain crops wheat, cotton,
corn, hogs, rice, tobacco and dairy products after a democratic
vote of the farmers of any particular crop. The money to pay for
these subsidies will come from a tax placed on the processors of
those crops canneries, flour mills, packing houses, etc.
this bill as much an emergency bill as the banking measures, as
the farmers of the Midwest were threatening revolution if the pre-war
"parity" between industrial and farm income was not achieved soon.
Agricutural income had fallen nearly 60% during the Depression.
Bank foreclosures were taking about 20,000 farms a month, with many
more seizures prevented by bands of armed and irate neighbors. FDR
hoped that this "new and untrod path" would solve the double plague
of low farm income and crop surpluses. The bill passed the House
in six days, and the threatened nation-wide farmers' strike for
May 3rd was cancelled.
bill was mired down in the Senate by the lobbying of the processing
groups and the intransigence of the Agriculture Committee chairman,
Ellison "Cotton Ed" Smith 6 of South
Carolina. Smith allowed debate to begin on the bill only after assurance
from FDR that neither Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace nor
Rexford Tugwell both considered too left-wing by people like
Smith would be in charge of the program. The bill passed on
May 12th, after most of the crops had already been planted.
that administered the act was the Agricultural Adjustment Administration
(AAA). The first administrator was George Peek, a friend of the
conservative South Carolinian, Bernard Baruch, who was first offered
the position. To attack the problem of crop surpluses [see
February 25, 1927 for post-war farm problems] the AAA paid
farmers to limit production, slaughtering six million pigs and plowing
under ten million acres of cotton.
were highly critical of this policy, yet this is exactly what Hoover
had attempted to achieve but on a voluntary basis. (Then-Governor
Roosevelt had called it a "cruel joke" to ask farmers to "allow
20 percent of their wheat lands to remain idle, to plow up every
third row of cotton, and shoot every tenth dairy cow.")
the slaughter of pigs began, FDR set up a Federal Surplus Relief
Corporation a non-profit corporation to which the AAA would
transfer all the surplus produce.
FERA [see March 21, 1933] used its funds to
process the pork and other products and supervised their distribution,
Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 280-281.
of farm subsidies begun with this act is now standard practice in
the US, even though the original act was declared unconstitutional
in US v. Butler (January 6, 1936) and
a new law, with the US Treasury paying the subsidies, enacted.In
the first year cotton prices rose from less than 7 cents a pound
to more than 12 cents; wheat went from 38 cents a bushel to 86 cents;
and a bushel of corn increased from 32 cents to 82 cents. By 1936
farm income had increased 50%; by the end of the New Deal the ratio
of farm to city income 48% in 1932 had risen to 79%.
tide failed to lift one boat that of the sharecroppers. Many
farmers, faced with a reduced work load, threw their tenant farmers
off the land, often withholding important possessions such as a
mule or crop seed. Not many farmers followed the AAA guidelines
and shared their subsidies with their tenants. One result was the
formation of sharecropper unions such as the Southern Tenant Farmers'
Union. James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
(with photographs by Walker Evans) depicts the heartbreaking story
of sharecroppers in Alabama.
Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 69-76; Burns, Lion, pp.
231-232; Alter, pp. 279-282; Cohen, pp. 133-146, 301; Time,
March 27, 1933; Schlesinger, Coming, pp. 369-381; Winkler,
pp. 74, 92.]
His nickname derived from his famous mantra: "Cotton is king and
white is supreme." Smith was a role-model racist; he walked out
of the 1936 Democratic Convention because a black delegate was allowed
to speak. In 1938 FDR tried unsuccessfully to have him defeated
in the primary. Alter, p. 281.
The Democratic leaders agree to hold Congress in session indefinitely.
The New York Times describes Nazi plans to destroy the professional
lives of Jews. Each year one-quarter of the Jewish lawyers will
be forced to retire until there are none left. Similar firings and
forced departures will occur in all the major professions.
Black, IBM, p. 64.
The page one center headline of the New York Times reads:
"German Fugitives Tell of Atrocities at the Hands of Nazis." The
article makes it clear that censorship has prevented the truth of
vicious treatment of the Jews from emerging. Black,
IBM, p. 64.
- Concentration Camps: Munich Chief of Police Heinrich Himmler
announces that a concentration camp for "political prisoners" will
be established at Dachau, a small town ten kilometers north of Munich.
[This was only
the first of many concentration camps in Germany over 50 were
constructed in 1933 alone. The early ones were set up by the SA
(Sturm Absteilung, or storm troopers) as places to house
dissidents, homosexuals, communists and Jews where they could be
beaten and then ransomed off to friends and relatives for whatever
price possible. Dachau's later prisoners were primarily Jewish.
One of its most famous prisoners was Pastor Martin Niemoller who
was incarcerated there for seven years until liberated by Allied
troops. Niemoller had been arrested after his sermon, "God is My
Führer." New York Times, 3/21/33; Shirer,
Rise, pp. 271, 235-239.]
and Forestry: Disregarding the skepticism of his cabinet, FDR
proposes the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He wants a "Tree
Army" of a quarter-million unemployed youth working in the forests
by July 1st. (In his last year as governor he had a reforestration
program that utilized 10,000 otherwise unemployed men.)
passed the bill ten days later with only one significant amendment.
The sole black member of Congress- Republican Oscar De Priest of
Chicago- successfully inserted a non-discrimination clause. The
program put unemployed young men to work in forests and national
parks planting trees, draining marshes, building dams, cutting
trails, and fighting fires. They were paid $30 a month, part of
which was paid to their families. Before the program was phased
out in 1942, it had given temporary employment to over three million
men and was considered one of the triumphs of the New Deal. Three
billion trees were planted, twenty million acres of soil were rescued
from erosion, and over one hundred thousand miles of trail were
cleared, including the nation's first downhill skiing slope at Stowe,
Lane Kirkland, who grew up in South Carolina, would later reminisce
about the CCC camp in his state: "The southern U.S. was totally
stripped of vegetation. Every river was thick with mud from erosion.
Every farm had a gully. And every time it rained, the topsoil just
washed away. You go down there now and you see millions of pine
trees that are the basis of the timber and pulp industry, planted
by the CCC."
The bill was
initially opposed by the AFL on the grounds that the pay was too
low and would lower pay scales in general. The counter argument:
only 2% of the 10 million unemployed would go into the CCC; there
they would receive board, room and clothing in addition to their
dollar a day, a total value higher than the normal pay rate for
the kind of work they would be doing.
concerned that the administration of the CCC by the Army was too
much like what was happening in Italy and Germany under their fascist
rulers; FDR replied that it would be a civilian corps with
the Army involved simply because it was the only group that could
swiftly organize the transportation, housing, etc. for the project.
(A colonel named George Catlett Marshall was the organizer of 17
camps in the Southeast.)
The CCC set
a record for the rapidity with which it was established. A week
after the bill's passage 25,000 unmarried men between the ages of
18 and 25 had been enrolled by the Department of Labor and were
arriving in the forest camps. They were first housed in tents until
barracks could be built. (Some of these barracks were later used
to house conscientious objectors during World War II who continued
the work of the CCC men Other barracks would house German and Italian
prisoners of war.) An initial condition for enrollment: the recruit's
father should be on relief.
of the first young men were 18-19, malnourished and with typically
no more than a year of high school. So the CCC program reclaimed
people as well as the land. Their bodies were strengthened, they
learned new trades, they learned about America and other Americans
and how to get along with them. By July 1st 275,000 young men were
at work in 1300 camps throughout the 48 states.
a second Bonus Army- initially about 6000 men- came to Washington.
J. Edgar Hoover claimed that more than 300,000 more were on their
way with some bearing arms. FDR arranged for them to be housed at
the CCC camp at Fort Hunt, Virginia where there was food, shelter,
electric lights and water for showers. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt,
alone and unescorted by the Secret Service, visited the camp to
hear the men's complaints and bring them back to her husband. One
of the vets was heard to say, "Hoover sent the army, Roosevelt sent
In one of the
many spontaneous changes that FDR made in his first term, the CCC
mandate was enlarged to include veterans, even vets from the Spanish-American
War. About 25,000 marchers enrolled in the CCC despite some grumbling
about the low pay. The rest returned home peacefully with their
transportation paid from a congressional fund..
Burns, Lion, p. 169; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 77-78;
Lindley, pp. 100-105; Alter, pp. 291-299; Schlesinger,Coming,
FDR asks for the passage of the Federal Emergency Relief Act
and an appropriation of $500 million for grants to states
not loans as under Hoover for relief for the unemployed and
for a new government agency, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
[It was approved
by Congress on May 12 and administered by Harry Hopkins, who had
run a similar agency for FDR in New York. On his second day in office
the Washington Post reported that he had disbursed five million
dollars in his first two hours on the job and predicted the half-billion
would be run through quickly. (That first five million went to eight
states that had run out of money and were about to close down their
relief programs.) Hopkins
required states receiving grants to give a standard level of relief,
enough to cover food, shelter, utilities, medical care and clothing.
would head many subsequent agencies and "came to be regarded as
the Chief Apostle of the New Deal and the most cordially hated by
its enemies." At the time that he conceived the plan for FERA, he
had no entrée to FDR; he had to first present the plan to Frances
Perkins who quickly brought him to the oval office.
Coming, 263-281; Cohen, pp. 250-252, 265-276; Sherwood,
Roosevelt and Hopkins, pp. 44; Burns, Lion, pp.169-170;
New Deal Years, pp. 305-314.]
The Reichstag passes an Enabling Act which essentially gives dictatorial
powers to Adolf Hitler. His cabinet (whom he appoints) and not Parliament
will be responsible for the budget, foreign treaties, and laws drafted
by the Chancellor. It passes 441-84. All 84 "nays" are Social Democrats.
The Catholic Center Party, under the leadership of Ludwig Kaas,
a protégé of Eugenio Pacelli, had voted for the Act despite the
plea of ex-Chancellor Brüning not to collaborate with anything so
unconstitutional. Hitler has achieved his dictatorship "legally."
[One of Hitler's
first steps was the dissolution of the federal structure of Germany
and the abolition of the "popular assemblies" of the states. All
other political parties were forbidden, including NSDAP's erstwhile
partner, the German National Party. The Brownshirts celebrated the
victory with an escalation of the violence against Jews. Shirer,
Rise and Fall, pp. 198-201.]
and the Jews: At a meeting with five leaders of Germany's Jews,
Hermann Göring castigates them for the headlines about Nazi atrocities
in British and American newspapers and orders them to go to London
(the supposed headquarters of "international Jewry") and have the
March 27 demonstration in New York City canceled. "Unless you put
a stop to these libelous accusations immediately, I shall no longer
be able to vouch for the safety of German Jews!"
that went to London headed by Zionist Martin Rosenbluth was unsuccessful
in its appeal to Rabbi Wise to cancel the protest. In New York the
American Jewish Committee and the B'nai B'rith were similarly
opposed to the protest meeting and attempted to persuade Rabbi Wise
to cancel. Black, Transfer Agreement,
pp. 34-38, 79-80.]
Demonstrations: An anti-Nazi demonstration at Madison Square
Garden in New York City organized by the American Jewish Congress
and its president, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, draws 20,000 protesters.
broadcast sparked similar rallies in Paris, Istanbul, Toronto, Bombay,
Warsaw and London. The Jewish War Veterans had already begun a boycott
7 of German products with a well-attended
rally on the 23rd and the possibility of an official US boycott
had been intimated by Rabbi Wise. By this time 60,000 Jews had been
imprisoned and 10,000 more had fled Germany as a response to the
violence of the Nazi gangs.
Jews of Vilna had held a protest rally on March 20th. They identified
it as a national retaliation rather than a sectarian action by protesting
both the violence against Jews and Hitler's threat to occupy the
Polish Corridor to the Free City of Danzig. At this time there were
3.5 million Jews living in Poland. Black, Transfer
Agreement, pp. 9-47; Black, IBM, pp. 45, 67.]
7 A seven-year Jewish boycott of Ford
motorcars (and also Chevrolet's introduction of a low-priced car
to compete with the Model A) forced Henry Ford to publicly apologize
in 1927 for the virulently anti-Semitic articles in his Dearborn
Independent magazine and to cease publication of The International
Jew. (Whole passages of the latter had been copied by Hitler
into his Mein Kampf.) As Will Rogers said, "Ford used to
have it in for Jewish people until he saw them in Chevrolets."
Black, Transfer Agreement, pp. 26-30.
and the Jews and Boycotts: There will be a preemptive anti-Jewish
boycott starting April 1st in response to the economic havoc that
Germany's Jews have caused, according to the morning's Nazi party
and other German newspapers. "No German shall any longer buy from
the boycott in his position as head of the NSDAP (German Socialist
Workers' Party) not as head of the government. Germany's fragile
economy had been further threatened by the grass-roots boycotts
being organized in the US, London, Poland, Palestine, and Paris
which Hitler blamed on German Jews. Orders of machinery, furs, paper
products, toys, chemicals, gloves, cameras, etc. had been canceled.
Transatlantic German steamships such as the Bremen and the
Europa were sailing virtually empty, and the German stock
market was crumbling.
boycott announcement, however, only escalated the anti-Nazi boycott
movement abroad. The German industrial leaders who had backed Hitler
financially were now concerned that an economic war had begun that
Germany could not win; at the March 29 cabinet meeting they urged
Hitler to cancel the April 1st boycott. Hitler refused.
After Schacht detailed the economic damage that a protracted anti-Jewish
boycott would do to the country and its "Aryan" citizens and after
statements from the American Jewish Committee 8
and two leading Anglo-Jewish leaders disavowing the anti-Nazi boycotts
had been obtained, Hitler agreed to curtail the anti-Jewish boycott
after one day. 9Black,
Transfer Agreement, pp. 46-65.]
Adler: "The American Jewish Committee, of which I am president,
has taken no part in protest meetings. No responsible body in America
has suggested boycott. We have been and are doing all in our power
to allay agitation." Black, Transfer Agreement,
If Hitler had called off the April 1st action, Secretary of State
Cordell Hull the true believer in Free Trade was prepared
to issue the following quid pro quo statement to the press: "The
situation in Germany is being followed in this country with deep
concern. Unfortunate incidents have indeed occurred, and the whole
world joins in regretting them. But without minimizing or condoning
what has taken place, I have reason to believe that many of the
accounts of acts of terror and atrocities which have reached this
country have been exaggerated, and I fear that the continued dissemination
of exaggerated reports may prejudice the friendly feelings between
the peoples of the two countries. I have been told that protest
measures... in certain American cities ... would result in a partial
boycott of German goods.... Not only would such measures adversely
affect our economic relations with Germany, but what is more important,
it is by showing a spirit of moderation ourselves that we are likely
to induce a spirit of moderation elsewhere." Earlier Hull had attempted
to persuade Rabbi Wise to cancel the Madison Square Garden meeting
with false reports of an "investigation." Black,
Transfer Agreement, pp. 64-65, 39.
of Wall Street: FDR asks for the passage of the Truth-in-Securities
Act which would require complete disclosure about any securities
sold in interstate commerce and would levy heavy penalties for failure
to do so.
[FDR had promised
during the campaign to compel Wall Street to tell the truth about
the securities they were peddling. He had said, "Government cannot
prevent some individuals from making errors of judgment . . . but
Government can prevent to a very great degree the fooling of sensible
people through misstatements and through the withholding of information."
In his presentation to Congress he said: "This proposal adds to
the ancient doctrine of caveat emptor the further doctrine
'let the seller also beware.'"
Street Journal was initially pleased with the measure and predicted
"the country will insist upon its passage." On closer examination
critics emerged on both sides. Some conservatives thought it too
draconian in some of the provisions, such as a full refund on stocks
that had been misrepresented. The New Republic columnist
felt the bill had done far too little. So Sam Rayburn, the chairman
of the House Commerce Committee, asked Raymond Moley for a reworked
Securities Act of 1933 came before the House on April 21. Rayburn
shepherded the bill to an affirmative voice vote on May 5th and
presided over the conference committee that preserved the House
version over the less stringent Senate bill. FDR signed the Securities
Act of 1933 on May 27th.
changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization.
We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths..... There
will be an end to speculation with other people's money," FDR had
said in his inaugural address. This bill was the first of several
measures to correct the practices that had led to the wild speculative
investments on Wall Street before the Crash. Felix Frankfurter (who,
with his "Happy Little Hot Dogs" James Landis, Benjamin Cohen
and Thomas Corcoran wrote the final version) called it a "modest
first installment of legislative controls" and insisted that much
more was needed. Cohen, pp. 149-154; Sherwood,
p. 40; Burns, Lion, p. 170.]
and the Jews - The Boycott: When dawn breaks, all Jewish shops
have been identified by yellow spots on a black background. Storm
Troopers picket the stores, roll in stench bombs, and exhort would-be
customers to "Buy German! Don't buy from Jewish stores!" Some Germans
who defy the boycott have the word "Traitor" stamped on their foreheads.
Shop windows are smashed despite advance pleas from "Aryan" insurance
companies to abstain from such destruction. There
is a daylong siege of terror in which Jewish proprietors are beaten,
robbed, and their merchandise vandalized by the SA thugs.
was led to believe that the one-day boycott was essentially non-violent.
Photographs were taken of SA troops "guarding" Jewish stores; the
widespread window-smashing and looting was attributed in advance
to a "Communist group." Black, Transfer Agreement,
and the Jews: No Jew may leave Germany without an exit visa
from the police. Border guards posted at fifty-yard intervals fire
at Jews attempting to escape.
an exit visa, Jews had to sign over all or most of their assets
to the state- or to a particular corrupt "leader."] Black,
Transfer Agreement, pp. 97-98.
and the Jews: The Civil Service Act calls for the firing of
all Jews in government posts, including judges.
soon followed eliminating or curtailing Jews from all the professions
including medicine, dentistry, and the practice of law. The Jews
were to be impoverished by decrees rather than the politically-inflammable
anti-Jewish boycott. In the first two weeks of April over 10,000
Jewish refugees entered Denmark, Holland and France. Black,
Transfer Agreement, pp. 67, 71; Shirer, Rise and Fall,
FDR asks for legislation to create the Tennessee Valley Authority
(TVA). [This bill, passed a month later, retained the Muscle Shoals
dam in government ownership, provided cheap power for a poverty-stricken
and underdeveloped region, and included "national planning for a
complete river watershed" flood and soil erosion control,
reforestation, fertilizer manufacture, industrial diversification.
from the major utility companies 10 who
argued against the government's right to build transmission lines,
the measure passed in May by large majorities. And was signed by
Roosevelt on May 18.
River drained an area of over 40,000 square miles over parts of
seven states where the farmers eked out a most precarious living
and 98% of their farms and homes were without electricity. For over
a decade the Republicans had been trying to pass legislation to
sell the government-owned Muscle Shoals dam to private interests;
Senator Norris of Nebraska, a champion of public power, had led
the fight to prevent this.
before the inauguration, FDR had visited Muscle Shoals with Norris
and Arthur Morgan, the visionary dam-builder and president of Antioch
College (who had never attended college himself.) Their conversations
led FDR to extend the dimensions of a TVA beyond Norris' fondest
hopes. (Moley said that FDR had "out-Norrised Norris.") It could
be a pilot project to remake an entire region with help from
the government, of course.
[See entries for May 25, 1928 and March 5, 1931.]
And as a pilot
project it was an immense success. Unemployment dropped and wages
increased significantly in seven states; three million acres were
saved from erosion. By the 1950s over a thousand flood-control projects
emerged throughout the country, usually with a mix or private and
federal money, all enhancing the local economies. Alter,
pp. 287-288; Burns, Lion, p. 170; Davis, New Deal Years,
pp. 90-94; Cohen, pp. 141-149.]
the fight was the president of Commonwealth and Southern, Wendell
Willkie, who would be the Republican opponent to FDR's reelection
in 1940. Davis, New Deal Years, pp.
and the Jews: Hitler announces that there will be a nation-wide
The primary purpose of this new census is to identify the Jews within
the population, both "faith Jews" and "race Jews."
totally-controlled (and virtually totally-owned) subsidiary of America's
International Business Machine Company, solicited and won the contract
to provide the Hollerith machines and punch cards, design the questionnaires,
and analyze the results.
makes it clear that the famous Thomas J. Watson, creator and CEO
of IBM, was both aware of the purposes of the census and sympathetic
with Hitler's aims.
In anticipation of the mammoth profits to be made in Germany, he
had invested over a million dollars to expand Dehomag's facilities
within weeks of Hitler's ascension to power. Black,
IBM, pp. 47-61.]
With a thousand urban homes being foreclosed daily, FDR asks for
a temporary moratorium 11 on foreclosures
and an agency the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) to
save small home mortgages from foreclosure by providing loans, delayed
payments, and refinanced mortgages- interest at 5% with a longer
cap insured that it would be only the poor and middle-class home
owners who would benefit. The bill was passed within a month with
virtually no opposition.
The HOLC soon owned about 20% of all home mortgage debt and rescued
the real estate market which was near collapse.
attributes the consolidation of middle-class support for the New
Deal to this act. Four million Americans were able to tell their
children: "Franklin Roosevelt saved our home." Alter comments that
the bill laid "the groundwork for a system centered on home ownership
rather than the public housing popular in Europe . . . [and] made
possible the great postwar housing boom that populated the Sun Belt
and boosted millions of Americans into the middle class, where,
ironically, they soon became Republicans."
an additional lasting legacy of the HOLC. As a result of its nationwide
lending, it introduced national appraisal methods throughout the
real estate industry. Alter, p. 284; Burns,
Lion, p. 170; Cohen, p. 184; Schlesinger, Coming, pp.
298-298; Kennedy, Freedom, p. 369.]
This was not a new problem. Hoover had attempted to solve it
with the Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932 (after a quarter of
a million families had already lost their homes.) Rather than a
direct individual intervention to stop a foreclosure (as the HOLC
did), Hoover's bill merely increased the supply of money available
to local institutions that made home loans. It was a failure.
Schlesinger, Coming, p. 297.
FDR essentially takes the United States off the gold standard by
permanently embargoing the export of gold. (One could argue that
the gold standard had really been abandoned the month before when
Secretary Woodin started issuing currency that was not redeemable
was forced by Senator Wheeler whose proposed amendment to the farm
bill called for unlimited coinage of gold and silver in William
Jennings Bryan's old ratio of 16-1. "The nation must adopt bimetallism
or face bolshevism," he said. The amendment was gaining in popularity,
endorsed by the farmers who were begging for inflation as an aid
to their economic distress.
that he would veto a farm bill with the Wheeler Amendmenthe
wanted control of the currency in his hands, not Congress!
Instead he asked for passage of the competing Thomas Amendment which
gave the executive branch broad authority to expand the currency
supply, thus inducing inflation, and to fiddle as he pleased with
the coinage of silver or the gold content of the dollar.
There was great
indignation among his conservative advisors. Douglas declared that
going off the gold would be "the end of Western civilization"
runaway inflation could produce "social disorder" and a situation
like that in Weimar Germany that had led to Hitler. Bernard Baruch
had counseled against even modest inflation as being unwarranted,
as it would benefit only one-fifth of the nation"unemployed,
debtor classes incompetent, unwise people."
Amendment passed both houses by wide margins. The result was a lowering
of the value of the dollar abroad, but a rise in value of stocks
and commodities, thus stimulating the economy and controlling the
deflationary aspects of the first New Deal measures. Cohen,
May 2, 1933
Nazi militia arrest trade union leaders, confiscate union property
and declare the unions to be dissolved. Shirer,
Rise and Fall, p. 202.
May 4, 1933
FDR asks for a Federal Coordinator of Transportation to avoid duplication
of services by railroads, encourage financial reorganizations, and
ensure a fair wage for railroad employees.
were one of the most depressed industries revenues were down
50 percent since 1929. Many people, including some railroad executives,
were urging nationalization since the railroads had been run so
efficiently as an integrated unit during the war under William McAdoo's
Railroad Administration. Davis, New Deal Years,
Chat: FDR describes the broad scope of the administration's
plans for recovery from the Depression. He recounts the bills already
passed or in progress; the Tennessee Valley Authority, Civilian
Conservation Corps, plus bills for mortgage relief and federal emergency
relief. An "industrial recovery bill" will be next, one that will
create a partnership between government and industry and prevent
the competitive over-production that had helped to cripple the economy.
cent of the manufacturers in an industry might be willing to cease
competitive over-production (and also the concomitant inadequate
wages, child labor, and too-long work week) if the other ten per
cent would agree to a common playing field, he said, using the cotton
industry as an example. The anti-trust laws, established in the
Progressive period, were intended to prevent monopolies in the large
industries and would still be needed for that. But it was
never intended that they should be used to "encourage the kind of
unfair competition that results in long hours, starvation wages
gold standard was necessary since the nation had only enough gold
to cover about 4 % of the currency. The government was now able
to inflate the dollar so debtors could pay off loans with dollars
worth the same amount as the dollars they had borrowed. And inflation
would be kept in check so that the lenders would not be cheated.
"We seek to correct a wrong and not create another wrong."
the New York Times had run an interview with the Secretary
of Labor, "Madam Perkins." She argued the thesis that greater consumption
was needed to revive the economy. When families stop spending money,
the neighborhood grocery stops buying supplies. The fallout then
reaches the whole social structure - lawyers, physicians, artists,
music teachers- like the "ripples eddying out from the pebble dropped
into a pool."
The fierce industrial competition had led to such deep and quick
wage cuts that the nation's purchasing power was decimated. A "disinterested
agency" was needed to help industry to find a new and fairer direction.
May 8, 1933
Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, in the US to attempt to thwart the Jewish War
Veterans rally scheduled for May 10th, meets with FDR, Secretary
of State Hull and German Ambassador Herman Luther. He describes
the deterioration of the German economy due to the accelerated boycott
of German exports. If this continues, Germany will run out of foreign
currency within a few weeks and be forced to default on all foreign
debts which amount to five billion dollars, two billion of
which are held by Americans.
threat was countered in June by attorney John Foster Dulles with
a list of German assets in the US that could be seized to compensate
any holders of defaulted bonds. Black, Transfer
Agreement, pp. 117-118, 182-183.]
in Germany: Nazi students at the University of Berlin hold a
public book-burning of 20,000 books by writers such as Thomas Mann,
Stefan Zweig, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Havelock Ellis, Upton
Sinclair, H.G. Wells, Erich Maria Remarque, Andre Gide, Jack London,
Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, Marcel Proust, Jakob Wassermann
condemned for their Jewishness and/or humanitarian values. Shirer,
Rise and Fall, p. 241.
in New York City and 50,000 in Chicago march with the Jewish War
veterans in protest of recent Nazi actions and pledge to extend
the boycott. Black, Transfer Agreement,
and Palestine: In the nick of time for the survival of the Nazis,
the German Reich strikes a deal with Sam Cohen 12
and the Zionist movement. Through some creative accounting German
Jews willing to emigrate to British-mandated Palestine will have
a certain amount of their assets (frozen into "sperrmarks" according
to the 1931 decree) unfrozen and given to a clearinghouse controlled
by the Zionists.
The first £1000
will go to satisfy the British entry requirement; the rest will
be used by the Zionists to buy German goods needed to build the
Jewish state machinery, pipes, fertilizer, coal, iron, tools,
seeds, etc. (The major part of Jewish fortunes, of course, will
go into the Reich's treasury.)
As a quid
pro quo the Zionists would also use their influence to moderate
or end the anti-German boycotts.
agreements, signed in August, created the Paltreu clearinghouse
in Berlin supervised by the Zionist organization and the Haavara
clearinghouse in Tel Aviv whose stock was owned by the Anglo-Palestine
Bank. This deal with the devil enabled 60,000 German Jews and $100
million of their capital to enter Palestine in the pre-war years.
the capital as well as the population needed to buy the land and
develop a country that could then be the homeland for the wretched
postwar survivors of the concentration camps. (In 1933 only 4% of
Palestine's 10,000 square miles was Jewish-owned. Jews, mostly living
in Jerusalem, made up 20% of the population.)
Yet this Transfer
Agreement rescued Germany from bankruptcy at a time when the boycotters
were predicting that "Germany will crack this winter!" In
addition to subverting the boycott the Zionists soon realized that
the fates of Germany and Palestine were now inextricably entwined
and efforts must be made to stabilize the German mark.
was acting as a broker to export German goods throughout the Middle
East (and attempting to keep these commercial transactions a secret
from the rest of the Jewish world.) Entrepreneurs established businesses
such as breweries and publishing houses using German Jewish sperrmarks.
The boycotts faded away and the incipient moves toward a preemptive
war against Germany by Poland, Czechoslovakia and France were squashed.
A good chance
to stop Hitler was lost, and many millions would perish in his death
camps and in World War II. That summer the Zionist Organization
rejected several offers to settle large numbers of German Jews in
other havens, such as the northern region of Australia, and a substantial
portion of Manchuria. No, it would be Palestine or nowhere. Black,
Transfer Agreement, pp. 133, 249-260, 380, 98, 373-375.]
Sam Cohen was a Polish Jew who had made a fortune trading in
real estate in Berlin during the First World War. Well-known for
his philanthropies and well-connected in Germany, he was an ideal
choice to negotiate a special currency exemption for Jews with the
officials of the Reich.
was Felix Rosenbluth, a German Zionist émigré to Palestine (later
Pinchas Rosen, Israel's first Minister of Justice), who thought
up the seemingly preposterous idea of such an approach to the Nazis.
Cohen attempted to highjack the deal for an orchard enterprise of
his own, but was forced by the Zionists to relinquish control and
be one of many participants.
Black, Transfer Agreement, pp. 82-87, 226-250.
Reforms: The Glass-Steagall bill the Banking Act of 1933
to institute various banking reforms is introduced. It proposes
the separation of commercial from investment banking, with the Federal
Reserve Board to be in control of interest rates. It raises the
minimum capital requirements for new banks; banks may not make loans
to their officers; and bank officers may be removed from office
and imprisoned for up to five years for unsound banking practices.
hearings of the Pecora Committee [See May 23, 1933]
in the new session of Congress had inflamed the public and insured
the passage of the bill. The House voted 282-19; the Senate by acclamation.
Before its final passage on June 16, a controversial amendment to
insure deposits was added.
opposed this; ironically, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
(FDIC) is considered "the most resoundingly and unqualifiedly successful"
of all New Deal reform legislation. (The limit insured was initially
$2500. Add two zeroes for the 2009 maximum.) In 1963 Milton Friedman
described the FDIC as the "single most important structural change"
in the economy since the Civil War. Davis, New
Deal Years, pp. 148-150; Alter, p. 305; Cohen, pp. 276-279;
Lindley, pp. 135-146.
27, 1995 President Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin
announced to a group of securities traders that Clinton would seek
the repeal of Glass-Steagall. This within days of the bankruptcy
of Britain's 223-year-old Barings Bank because of transactions forbidden
in this country by Glass-Steagall! Rubin had been the head of the
Wall Street investment firm of Goldman, Sachs. Los
Angeles Times, March 2, 1995.]
Eagle: After many weeks of debate within his corps of advisors,
FDR sends the National Industrial Recovery Act to Congress. He had
prepared the public with his second fireside chat ten days earlier
for a "partnership in planning" between government and business
that would prevent "foolish over-production" and unfair labor practices.
There would be exemption from anti-trust laws so that management
could cooperate in providing shorter working hours for higher wages
with the goal of increasing purchasing power in the nation.
passed quickly in the House. The Senate was lobbied by the Chamber
of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
who opposed the advantages given to labor. Liberal Senators feared
that suspension of the anti-trust laws would lead to price-fixing
to the disadvantage of the consumer and the destruction of small
After its Senate
passage on June 13 (with only nine votes to spare) the National
Recovery Administration (NRA), headed by Hugh Johnson, established
production codes for the ten major industries. Those
employers and merchants in compliance were entitled to display the
logo of the Blue Eagle with the motto beneath We Do Our Part.
Consumers were encouraged to sign a pledge to buy only products
displaying the symbol.
An early labor
victory of the codes was the ending of child labor in the cotton
mills; a long-term labor victory was Section 7(a) which guaranteed
labor's right to organize and bargain collectively and prohibited
management from making "yellow-dog contracts," or pledges which
new employees were forced to sign as a condition of their employment
that they would not join a union.
a quarter of a million people the largest demonstration to
date in American history marched down Fifth Avenue in the
Blue Eagle Parade with six times that number cheering. At this point
nine of the ten industries had agreed on their codes and the coal
industry followed later that month. The
basic NRA standard was a maximum work week of 35-40 hours for a
wage of no less than $12 to $15 a week.
arm of the NIRA was the Public Works Administration (PWA) with a
$3.3 billion appropriation to build highways, dams and federal buildings.
Administered by the over-cautious Secretary of the Interior, Harold
Ickes, this program did not make the economic or cultural impact
that the WPA would in later years. However, New York's Triborough
Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, Boulder Dam and many school buildings
and courthouses throughout the country still stand as testimony
to the effectiveness of Title II.
has pointed out that the NIRA (and subsequent labor legislation)
was affirmative action for white workers, as the legislation excluded
farm and domestic labor.
In the South 70-80 % of the black labor force was employed in these
The NAACP characterized the bill as "like a sieve with holes just
big enough for the majority of Negroes to fall through." The Southern
Democrats would never have let the bill pass without these exclusions.
Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional in 1935, or at least the
parts regulating American commerce. [See Schechter
decision, May 27, 1935.] As Alter points out, most New Dealers
breathed a sigh of relief. The program had become unpopular (even
with the manufacturers who reaped the major benefit.) The codes
were bulky and subject to ridicule. (How many times is a stripper
allowed to remove her clothes in one evening?) Consumers complained
about the higher prices. "NRA prices and Hoover wages."
The Hearst Newspapers alleged that the initials stood for No
The program, up for renewal in June, would surely have lost.
permanent gains from the NIRA, however workers' rights, and
the government as a big player in public works. Schlesinger,
Coming, pp. 105-130; Miller, Intimate, pp. 326-331;
Alter, pp. 300-304; Burns, Lion,
pp. 191-193; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 115-120, 249-269;
Cohen, pp. 279-283; Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White,
- Pecora Hearings - J. P. Morgan, Jr.: The hearings begin again
with the entrance of Jack Morgan and his retinue- partners, lawyers
and several very tough-looking bodyguards. Reporters and photographers
are waiting eagerly; special klieg lights have been installed and
there are facilities for hour-by-hour transmission of the news.
This is the
first time that a Morgan has been publicly interrogated since J.
Pierpont Morgan, Sr.Jack's father was grilled by the
Pujo Committee in 1912. The Committee's scrutiny is turning, at
FDR's suggestion, from the activities of the commercial banks to
those of the private banks, such as the House of Morgan, Dillon
Read and Kuhn Loeb.
bombshell was the disclosure that Morgan had paid no income tax
in the last three years, quite legally carrying over his 1929 losses.
This tax code loophole was then unknown to the general public. The
inner workings of the very secretive bank were revealed. The senior
partnerJack was the final arbiter of everything. He
could select a new partner (with no capital contribution required)
and he could fire an old partner. Or he could dissolve the partnership.
clients came to the bank by means of introduction. It was not possible
for some unknown person to walk in to 23 Wall Street (no business
name on the outside door!) and deposit $10,000, even the committee's
chairman, as Jack replied to his hypothetical.
Loans were made to one's clients, sometimes without collateral.
("They are friends of ours, and we know they are good, straight
fellows.") No statements of the firm's financial condition were
ever given to depositors- "They never asked for it."
The most important
revelation came in the interrogation about the bank's handling of
the common stock for the Allegheny Corporation in January, 1929.
This was a holding company formed to consolidate the various railroad
holdings of the Van Swearingen brothers of Cleveland. The Morgan
bank was offered over a million shares at $20 a share, but the "when
issued" price was already being traded over the counter at $35.
Morgan offered specified numbers of shares (at $20) to a select
list of clients who, he said, were "able to afford the risk."
windfall to 170 special friends came to eight million dollars. Pecora
forced the House of Morgan to reveal their names fellow bankers
in other banks, heads of corporations (such as Myron Taylor of U.S.
Steel, Owen Young of General Electric, Walter Teagle of Standard
Oil of New Jersey), Bernard Baruch, Richard Whitney of the New York
Stock Exchange, Charles Lindbergh, numerous Republican politicians
and a few Democrats . Two of the latter were members of the New
Deal circle; FDR resisted calls for the dismissal of his Secretary
of the Treasury Woodin and Norman H. Davis, delegate to the Disarmament
Conference meeting then in Geneva.
The most memorable
incident probably occurred after Senator Carter Glass (D-VA) criticized
Pecora's aggressive questioning and characterized the hearings as
The next morning before the hearings began, a publicist for Ringling
Brothers Circus slipped in with a pretty 27-inch midget, plopping
her onto the lap of the head of the House of Morgan. Then ensued
a scramble of photographers vying for the best shots, a series of
flashbulbs going off.
could have taken affront, but the man had class. He held the charmingly-dressed
little lady on his lap, engaged her in a brief conversation"I've
got a grandson bigger than you!" "But I'm older! I'm twenty-two!"
and then gently lifted her off his lap and put her on the floor.
This avuncular display of courtesy and affection completely changed
the public's perception of him. Seligman, pp.
30-38; Lindley, pp. 139-143; Brooks, pp. 180-193;Chernow, Morgan,
Japan and China sign a truce which recognizes Japan's control
of Manchuria now renamed Manchukuo with a puppet emperor,
Henry Pu-Yi and north China as far as the Great Wall.
two warring sides in China, the Nationalists and the Communists.
When FDR learned that Japan was fortifying its mandated islands
in the Pacific in violation of the Washington Conference pact, he
moved to build the navy up to its treaty limits and started sending
aid to China, including a $50 million credit for wheat and cotton
He encouraged Curtiss-Wright to build an airplane factory in Hangchow
and Pan American Airways to take over China's failing civil aviation.
Douglas Miller, the US commercial attaché in Berlin, writes in his
monthly dispatch that:
of decrees have announced a grant of one thousand marks to certain
married couples with a compensatory tax on bachelors
failure to give the Hitler greeting salute is to be regarded
as an act disturbing the peace and will be punishable by several
days of imprisonment
the Ministry of Post has eliminated several Jewish names
from the series of names used to describe letters of the alphabet.
No more David, Jacob, Nathan, Samuel or Zacharias.
the secret police have received the right to investigate
the contents of safety deposit vaults, to open mail, to listen to
telephone conversations, and to search the premises of suspected
Jews and foreigners are less numerous and conspicuous in
public places. There has been an influx of country people.
Signs have been appearing: "German Women Do Not Smoke;" last
week a radio speaker exhorted German women to stop the use of cosmetics.
Miller, Via Diplomatic Pouch, pp. 53-58.
Germany: One-half million census takers, supported by storm
troopers and SS officers, spread out through Germany to question
their 41 million fellow citizens.
[It took several
months for Dehomag to complete the statistical analysis. Cards punched
in hole 3 of column 22 for "Jew" were further processed and sorted
for profession, current address, place of birth, native language
and so on. (The OstJuden, or Eastern Jews identified by their
Polish language, would be the first to be deported from Germany.)
IBM chief Watson
visited Germany in October to observe the progress of the operation.
He took a portion of the very large profits from the job to invest
in a new factory in the Lichterfelde suburb of Berlin. It opened
in January 1934 in a ceremony attended by numerous ranking Nazi
officials and accompanied by the singing of the Horst Wessel. (According
to an emergency law of August, 1931, all profits were frozen for
use only in Germany.) Black, IBM, pp. 56-61,
unhappy with the census statistic of less than half a million Jews,
which was less than 1% of the total population and fewer than in
1925. The census had not identified all
the Jews according to his race theory; they were hiding or had converted
So Dehomag designed forms to correlate information culled from several
generations of baptism, birth, death and marriage records with the
census results in order to identify
the "race Jews." By 1935 the "true number" of Jews in Germany was
declared to be 1.5 million or three times the number revealed by
the census. Black, IBM, pp. 103-104, 109.]
and the Jews: The New York Times alerts the public to
the American Jewish Committee's booklet, "The Jews in Germany,"
in which the Committee finally admits that anti-Jewish violence
in Germany is real, rampant, and escalating. The Times advises
its readers to reject all German denials.
given an interview to Collier's Weekly: "Perfect calm reigns
in Germany! . . . If only all Americans could come over here! They
would look about and ask themselves where is this revolution, where
is this terror, where is all this destruction and chaos I've heard
about?" At the same time Nazi boycott leader Julius Streicher was
proclaiming that if Germany went to war, all Jews would be killed
and a prominent German physician was advocating sterilization as
the solution to the "Jewish question." Black,
and the Vatican: Hitler signs a Concordat with the Vatican which
recognizes the right of the papacy to impose the 1917 Code of Canon
Law on German Catholics.
In exchange all Catholic clergy, political parties, social associations
and newspapers will "voluntarily" abstain from social and political
of State Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, had been negotiating
for such a concordat with Germany since 1920, all in the interest
of guaranteeing the supremacy of the Vatican over the Catholic clergy
and its right to choose archbishops and lower church officials.
had been outspokenly critical of the Nazis in the press and
from the pulpit since the emergence of the Nazis as a viable
party. A best-selling book of 1931, Hitler and Rome, described
the National Socialists as "a brutal party that would do away with
the rights of the people." Some parish priests refused the sacraments
to card-carrying Nazis. Three German archbishops had declared that
National Socialism and Catholicism were incompatible; Pacelli would
demand a statement from the German hierarchy disavowing all such
Center Party was the sole surviving opposition party to Hitler;
Pacelli had compelled its dissolution ten days earlier as a condition
of the concordat. (In August, 1931 he had badgered Chancellor Brüning,
a devout Catholic, to "form a right-wing administration precisely
to achieve a Reich Concordat" even if this meant including Hitler
and other Nazis in his cabinet. Brüning had refused.)
only 35% of Germany's population; however, Catholic churches were
better organized than the Protestant ones. For instance, in 1933
there were 1.5 million people enrolled in Catholic youth groups
as compared to 700,000 in the Protestant ones. Hitler had feared
Catholic grassroots action as in the 1870s when Bismarck had attempted
to institute his Kulturkampf and Catholics had responded
with demonstrations, rock-throwing and destruction of buildings.
one blow, rendered the Catholics of the 1930s impotent for any moral
or political protest against Hitler and his policies. Hitler considered
the agreement "a great achievement. The Concordat gave Germany an
opportunity and created an area of trust that was particularly significant
in the developing struggle against international Jewry."
The Concordat definitely thwarted clerical protest on the treatment
of Jews or the Holocaust. And the author of the Concordat as Pope
failed to condemn the Final Solution. Cornwell,
Hitler's Pope, pp. 6-7, 85, 106-110, 120-121, 149-154.]
- Eugenics: A law is passed permitting the forced sterilization
of Gypsies, the mentally and physically disabled, African-Germans,
and others considered "inferior" or "unfit."
Frick Strike: At the Frick Coke Company in western Pennsylvania
one striker is killed, three are critically injured, and many others
injured by the company police. This is the culmination of several
days of hostilities following strikes in the area in which 20,000
miners stopped work. The Frick plant is closed down. Governor Gifford
Pinchot, a Progressive Republican, is forced to call on the National
Guard to restore order, the first call-out of militia since the
great soft-coal strike of 1922.
7(a) of NIRA was the catalyst for a great deal of union organizing,
especially by John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers of America.
Anticipating this, the steel companies formed company unions in
their subsidiary mine companies (the so-called "captive mines"),
such as Frick Coke, before the June 1 implementation date of NIRA.
The steel companies resisted recognition of the UMW and various
was only enabling legislation; there were no sanctions attached.
It called for the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.
No employee (or anyone seeking employment) should be required to
join any labor organization or to refrain from joining any organization
of his choosing.)
100,000 miners were out on strike, there had been many more shooting
deaths, three-fourths of Pennsylvania's production had stopped,
and food stores were being looted. Governor Pinchot was pleading
for some sort of federal intervention. On October 30th FDR pressured
the steel companies to an agreement.
--- The union called off the strike.
--- Strikers would be re-employed without prejudice.
--- There would be a check-off for union dues.
--- Wages, hours and conditions would be those of the Appalachian
Agreement and the bituminous NRA code, hammered out by Lewis with
the mine owners on September 21st. --- There would be elections
in which the employees would choose their representatives for collective
6th the miners returned to work. In the elections later in the month
the UMW won recognition in the captive mines of seven steel companies
(including Republic, Allegheny, and Jones & Laughlin.) Union recognition
at Frick Coke and other captive mines of US Steel wouldnot come
for several years. Davis, New Deal Years,
pp. 254-257.; Bernstein, Turbulent Years, pp. 30-60.]
FDR announces the establishment by executive order of a seven-member
National Labor Board (NLB) to arbitrate labor-management disputes
arising under the NRA.
He appoints Senator Robert Wagner of New York, a longtime champion
of the right of labor to bargain collectively, to chair the board
while continuing to serve in the Senate.
(This was possibly an abuse of the constitutional "separation of
powers" since he accepted a post in the executive branch while continuing
in the legislature.)
immediate opposition from industry and the powerful National Association
of Manufacturers (NAM); there were many efforts to defy and sabotage
rulings of the NLB. However, the board enjoyed considerable success
in the weeks that followed despite the vague wording of its mandate.
In its first settled strike, that of Pennsylvania hosiery workers
and only a few days after the formation of the board, the "Reading
Formula" was enumerated. The Board would hold elections in which
the employees, by secret ballot, would select representatives
to bargain with employers about wages, hours, and working conditions.
Company and the Budd Automotive Manufacturing Company openly defied
the NLB; it became obvious that a legal statute with significant
sanctions was required.
The Wagner Act of July, 1935 would create a National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB) with more teeth in it to enforce collective bargaining
and prevent unfair labor practices. Burns, Lion,
pp. 215-217; Davis, New Deal, p. 257; Bernstein, Turbulent
Years, pp. 173-185.]
The American Federation of Labor (AFL) boycotts all German-made
products in protest against the actions of the Nazi government.
Germany announces its withdrawal from the League of Nations
and from the Geneva Disarmament Conference.
US Assistant Secretary of State Jefferson Caffery leaks a fallacious
story to the United Press about the Moscow Bolsheviks fomenting
a revolution in Cuba. The UP doesn't bite.
later FDR invited the Soviets to send a representative to Washington
to discuss re-establishing diplomatic relations. The patrician old
hands in the State Department had done everything possible to block
FDR's recognition of the Soviet Union. Coming principally from privileged
backgrounds and educations at Yale or Groton-Harvard, they had a
built-in anti-communist reflex. Coupled with this was their deep-seated
anti-Semitism and the belief that most Bolsheviks were Jews.
with the enthusiasm of the State Department for Israel, may find
it hard to believe the level of anti-Semitism that existed there
before World War II. Weil, A Pretty Good Club,
pp. 69-71; 39-44.]
and the Infrastructure: FDR establishes the Civil Works Administration
(CWA) with the goal of emergency employment of millions of men for
the winter months building and improving roads, schools, playgrounds,
sewer systems, airports and parks.
It would be administered by Harry Hopkins.
[In the months
since the start of FERA and the CCC Frances Perkins had continued
to remind FDR of his pledge for a large-scale public works program.
As far back as 1930, and before Keynes came out with his economic
theories, she had argued that large government expenditures on the
infrastructure would provide needed jobs and prime the pump for
an economic recovery. From the start of FERA Hopkins was unhappy
with doling out money to the destitute unemployed because of the
damage it did to the recipient's self-image. Work relief, he said,
"preserves a man's morale. It saves his skill. It gives him a chance
to do something socially useful."
So he combined
with Secretary of Labor Perkins to persuade FDR to set up the Civil
Works Administration, using funds from Ickes' slow-moving Public
Works Administration. Hopkins promised to have four million men
at work by Christmas, and that number was amazingly reached in mid-January.
In the less than four months of the CWA's existence about half a
million miles of secondary roads were built and 40,000 schools were
built or improved. CWA developed more than 300 airports, cleared
waterways, dug sewers and swimming pools, and improved parks. West
Point engineer Lt. Col. Lee praised Hopkins' "loose fluidity of
organization. . . . It enabled him to engage for employment in two
months nearly as many persons as were enlisted and called to the
colors during our year and a half of World War mobilization, and
to disburse to them, weekly, a higher average rate of wage than
Army or Navy pay."
every county and town in the United States, providing succor during
one of the severest winters on record. When Hopkins went to Congress
in mid-January to ask for another million dollars for the rest of
the winter, the record low in Washington of six below zero helped
persuade the legislators. Also they had received letters from constituents
applauding the program and Hopkins' philosophy that work that earned
money was what people needed, not the tickets for groceries that
were detrimental to their self-esteem.
By mid-January over four million people were working on CWA projects;
for many it was the first cash they had in their pockets in over
The Republican National Committee accused Hopkins of "gross waste"
and "corruption;" conservatives particularly criticized the work
projects found for 3000 artists and writers "boondoggles"
the beginning of the Federal Arts project. Haste was a priority
for social worker Hopkins. When he was approached to fund a project
with "long-term benefits," he growled that people "don't eat in
the long term they eat every day." Schlesinger,
Coming, pp. 269-271; Sherwood, pp. 50-64; Burns, Lion,
p. 196;.Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 305-314;Cohen, pp. 217-218,
The king, Nadir Shah, is assassinated. His son, Zahir Shah, born
1914, ascends to the throne for a reign that will last forty years.
was basically governed for the first twenty years by Zahir Shah's
two uncles and for the next ten by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan.
The uncles, wishing to avoid dependency on either Britain or the
Soviet Union, turned to Germany for the needed aid and expertise
to build factories, roads, hydroelectric plants, and communication
By the beginning of World War II Germany was Afghanistan's most
important foreign country. Yet Afghanistan declared neutrality during
World War II. It acquiesced to a British-Soviet demand to expel
non-diplomatic Axis personnel from the country by expelling non-diplomatic
personnel from all the belligerent nations.
After the war
Prime Minister Shah Mahmud relaxed the strict press censorship and
a "liberal parliament" was elected in 1949. Kabul University started
a student union which fostered political debate and produced plays
that criticized both Islam and the monarchy. The government then
cracked down, closed the opposition newspapers, outlawed the Student
Union, and arrested many opposition leaders. Nyrop,
pp. 48-57; Griffin, Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 88, Cooley,
Unholy Wars, pp. 10-11.]
2500 workers at the Hormel meat-packing plant in Austin, Minnesota
stage the first successful "sit-down strike" in the United States;
they not only stop work, but also refuse to leave the work place.
days Hormel agreed to submit the workers' wage demands and "speed-up"
complaints to binding arbitration. A previous "sit-in" had been
attempted by the IWW at General Electric in Schenectady, New York
in 1906, but was not successful. Bernstein, Turbulent,
of the Soviet Union: The United States recognizes the Soviet
Union 16 years after its revolution. William C. Bullitt is
was finally achieved due to the rise in power of the Japanese Empire,
although American diplomats hastened to assure the Japanese that
recognition of the Soviet Union was not an anti-Japanese act. 13
Before initiating negotiations FDR had ascertained that in
a survey of 1139 newspapers, 63% favored recognition, citing the
trade benefits likely to be gained. In the agreement the USSR agreed
to protect the freedom of worship of American nationals in the USSR
and to refrain from sponsoring revolutionary activity against the
American political system.
not recognized the infant USA until 33 years after its revolution.
Catherine the Great, like many other European monarchs of her time,
had feared the "republican virus" might be contagious! Dallek,
Japan had proposed a Japanese Monroe Doctrine
for Asia, claiming that Theodore Roosevelt had once advised such
a doctrine because "Japan is the only nation in Asia which understands
the principles and methods of western civilization." And of course
TR had used troops in the Caribbean to enforce his conception of
the Monroe Doctrine in actions similar to those of the Japanese
Empire in Manchuria and China.
LaFeber, The Clash, pp.177-178
Prosecution: It takes a New York jury less than an hour to convict
the notorious captain of the bootleg industry, Waxey Gordon, on
four counts of income tax evasion. The judge commends the prosecutor,
31-year-old Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey: "Never in this
court or any other court has such fine work been done by revenue
agents and government attorneys."
later Dewey made his first national radio address, blasting political
corruption: "In the decade of unequaled prosperity prior to 1930,
the American people sold their birthright. [Tr: The
prohibition amendment.] The cold, clammy hand of politics
descended firmly on local police departments and prosecutors' offices
and ruled them to the benefit of politicians and criminals. Conceived
in corruption and flourishing on graft, municipal government in
the United States was left to its own devices to bankrupt our cities
and surrender our citizens to the rule of the underworld." Smith,
Dewey, pp. 139-140.]
ends when the 36th state, Utah, ratifies the Twenty-first Amendment
to the Constitution which repeals the Eighteenth Amendment
which had been ratified in 1919.
[The sale of
alcoholic beverages in US was again legal. In anticipation of this
Joseph P. Kennedy later to be named head of SEC and ambassador
to Great Britain had acquired franchises for US importation
of Haig and Haig scotch, Gordon's gin and other prestigious labels
and had warehouses stocked with cases ready for sale. Mobsters such
as Frankie Costello, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky joined him in
the race for such licenses.
Not content with running a legal and less profitable liquor business,
they soon converted their well-organized syndicates to control prostitution,
gambling and the commerce in narcotics.]
Commercial Attaché Miller includes in his dispatch :
--- a description of the Luftschutz, protection of the population
against air raids. Eventually every dwelling will be provided with
a bomb-proof and gas-proof cellar.
--- Reichminister Darré has forbidden any discussion of the controversial
new law which prohibits farmers from selling or mortgaging their
--- German households have been warned not to spend money on luxuries
for Christmas; they should give that extra money to National Socialist
charities for distribution to the poor. Miller,
Via Diplomatic Pouch, pp. 100, 103, 114.
in Bucharest: Romania's Prime Minister, Ion Duca, is assassinated
by a member of the fascist Iron Guard days after he had outlawed
the terrorist movement.
[In his years
as foreign minister Duca had been a strong supporter of the Little
Entente Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in resisting
Hungary's expansionist ambitions. He supported actions to combat
the growing anti-Semitism in Romania which had been exacerbated
by the return of King Carol's Jewish mistress, Magda (Elena) Lupescu,
to the country.
After the assassination the Iron Guard was reconstituted and the
ties to the German Nazis were strengthened. In July, 1940 the Soviet
Union forced Romania to cede the territories of Bessarabia and Northern
Bukovina. In August Germany forced the transfer of half of Transylvania
to Hungary. In September the Iron Guard forced the abdication of
King Carol II in favor of his son Michael. (The king and Lupescu
fled to Portugal.) German troops entered the country in October
and in November Romania formally joined the Axis.]
Battle of the Place de la Concorde: Over 40,000 demonstrators
fill the Place de la Concorde and attempt to storm the bridge leading
to the Palais-Bourbon where the Chamber of Deputies is meeting.
There the conservatives and Communists combine to scream, "Resign!"
at the new premier, Edouard Daladier. The rioters have been instructed
(by their leaders and the right-wing press) to disperse the Deputies,
take possession of the Chamber, and declare an authoritarian regime.
been asked to form a new government after his fellow Radical-Socialist,
Camille Chautemps, had resigned in fear of the mobs that had been
rioting for the past weeks over the long-term complicity of the
government with the swindler, Stavisky.
The rioters were members of right-wing leagues that had formed after
the Depression came to France in the autumn of 1931.
If Italy had
Blackshirts and Germany had Brownshirts, these French toughs wore
blue shirts, black berets and jackboots. There was the Croix de
Feu, originally a group of decorated war veterans that morphed into
a virulent anti-Communist paramilitary organization. The Cagoule
was a secret organization within the Army sponsored by Mussolini.
Its members, les Cagoulards or "hooded ones," were outright terrorists,
dynamiting and murdering opponents. They aimed to overthrow the
republic in favor of a fascist regime. The oldest group was L'Action
Française, a survival from the anti-Dreyfus days at the turn of
the century, that was monarchist, Catholic, anti-Semitic and bent
on the overthrow of the fragile Third Republic and a return to the
peace and stability of the 18th century. From
1871-1914 the Third Republic had 50 governments, each lasting an
average of a year. After 1918 the average length in office would
drop to six months. Shirer, Collapse, p.
The Third Republic survived this impasse. Daladier received three
votes of confidence before the Chamber hastily adjourned with the
threat of the advancing mob and the evacuation of wounded police
to their very Chamber. A counter-attack by the police cleared the
Place de la Concorde and, for some unexplained reason, the leader
of the Croix de Feu pulled back his forces when victory was within
reach. Among the rioters there were 16 deaths and 655 injured. (The
toll would have been higher but the police muskets had been withdrawn;
they had only sabers and revolvers.) The police suffered one death
and 1644 wounded, many from razor blades attached to sticks with
which the demonstrators attacked the horses and the legs of the
cavalrymen. The riot would be called "the bloodiest encounter in
the streets of Paris since the Commune of 1871."
It left France irrevocably split between the anti-republican Right
and the Left whose factions would soon attempt to unite in le Front
Populaire. Shirer, Collapse, pp. 199-230.]
Bank of Washington is incorporated with a capitalization of $11
intent was to extend credits to the Soviet Union. This foundered
when the USSR refused to pay interest on its World War I debt, but
the bank was important as the first step in the federal government
replacing the bankers as the organization financing the nation's
exports. Hull, p. 303; LaFeber, p. 179.]
Committee: The Senate establishes the seven-member Munitions
Committee under the chairmanship of Gerald Nye (R-ND) to investigate
the armaments industry and the excessive profits they made during
World War I. It is additionally mandated to make recommendations
for legislation for a future wartime industrial mobilization that
will prevent such profiteering and possibly include nationalization
of the industries.
[This was in
response to a tremendous pacifist movement in the country spearheaded
by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the
Fellowship of Reconciliation to "take the profits out of war." Erich
Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front had
sold over two million copies in the first two years of the decade.
A Fortune magazine article, "Arms and the Men" was reprinted
in the May, 1934 Reader's Digest; the April Book-of-the-Month
Club selection was Engelbrecht and Hanighen's Merchants of Death
which charged that the world's six largest munitions manufacturer-
from Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia plus Krupp in Germany
and duPont in the US- had conspired to promote war in the interest
of their greater mutual profits.
By 1939 70%
of Americans would believe that it had been a mistake for the US
to enter the war. Davis, New Deal Years,
pp. 550-556. Wiltz, In Search of Peace; Shogan, Hard Bargain,
Protest: On the anniversary of the US entry into the Great War
twenty-five thousand college students stage a one-hour boycott of
classes in the Student Strike against War.
was just a minority of the college population, the strike and accompanying
anti-war demonstrations drew much attention as this was the largest
student protest to date in US history. A similar strike in 1935
drew 175,000 students; over 500,000 participated in 1936 in the
strike called by the American Student Union.]
win: Senator Hiram Johnson's bill to deny further loans to governments
in default on payments of their debts from World War I is passed.
all US allies except for Finland. Many in France and Britain referred
to Uncle Sam as "Uncle Shylock" for the United States insistence
on repayment of a money debt to nations who had suffered far greater
human losses in the war.]
Amau Ejii of Japan's Foreign Office issues a warning that Japan
enjoys a "special position" in China and will oppose "any attempt
on the part of China to avail herself of the influence of any other
country in order to resist Japan."
statement" implicitly referred to the military advisors and airplanes
that the US had been sending to China. LaFeber,
Longshoremen Go on Strike: After months of refusal by the shipping
industry to negotiate with the International Longshoremen's Association-AFL,
twelve thousand workers on docks from San Diego to Seattle vote
to stay home from work.
demands: a raise in pay from 85 cents to a dollar an hour with $1.50
a six-hour day, a 30-hour week, and a union hiring hall.
had originally been scheduled for March 23rd, but had been postponed
at FDR's request for mediation. Representatives of the Industrial
Association and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce the
real powers in the city announced that there was nothing to
negotiate; the strike was a Communist insurrection which must be
put down. In San Francisco several hundred strikebreakers responded
to the employers' advertisements, and the usual violence and threats
On May 13 the
Teamsters refused to haul "hot cargo" anything unloaded by
the strikebreakers. Soon the docks were clogged with cargo that
could not be moved, and merchant ships with cargo that could not
be unloaded were filling the harbor. Boyer and
Morais, pp. 282-289.] (See entry for July
The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) is established to regulate
the stock exchanges and the issue of new securities. [New regulations
prevented the establishment of "pools" by which a group of brokers
created an artificial demand for a stock, then "selling short" and
making a huge profit after the price had risen sufficiently. Also
outlawed was the buying of stocks "on margin."
The Brain Trust
14 and liberal newspapers were outraged
when FDR disclosed his selection for the first chairman of the five-member
15 board Joseph P. Kennedy, a
man who had made a fortune on Wall Street by such practices in the
20s, indeed as recently as the Libbey-Owens-Ford pool in the summer
of 1933. He also had made important financial and courier contributions
to the election campaign. FDR defended his choice as a man who "is
able, loyal and will make good." When further pressed, he responded,
"Set a thief to catch a thief."
an excellent job, ironically restoring public confidence to Wall
Street, and winning the praise of those stock brokers who had so
vigorously opposed the legislation. Beschloss,
Kennedy and Roosevelt, pp. 82-95.]
was the name given by the newspapers to FDR's group of advisers.
Some of the principal ones were professor of government.Raymond
Moley, economist Rexford G. Tugwell, corporation law expert Adolf
A. Berle, Jr., speech writer Sam Rosenman as well as Henry Morgenthau,
Jr., Henry A. Wallace, Lewis W. Douglas, Jesse Jones and Harry Hopkins.
One member was Ferdinand Pecora, the hard-nosed New
York prosecutor who had been the chief counsel to the Senate Committee
on Banking and Currency. For over a year Pecora and the committee
called the leading bankers of the day to the stand. In the first
week Charles Mitchell and Hugh Baker of National City Bank (now
Citicorp) testified to their stock manipulations and were forced
to resign their positions. Their colleague in these adventures,
Anaconda Copper CEO John D. Ryan, met with a mysterious death before
his turn on the stand. The revelations of their misdeeds made front
page news all over the country; Time
magazine coined a new word: Banksters. (Too bad there was no television
then!) Only one person did jail time Richard Whitney, president
of the New York Stock Exchange. The hearings led to the establishment
of the SEC and the enactment of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act and
other regulatory legislation that would keep the bankers and Wall
Street on a leash until the 1990s, an event that Pecora predicted.
Jackie Corr, "Ferdinand Pecora: An American Hero," CounterPunch,
January 11, 2003; Ferdinand Pecora, Wall Street Under Oath: The
Story of Modern Money Changers (1939).
the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.
an amendment to the Smoot-Hawley Act, the bill in effect repealed
Smoot-Hawley by authorizing the President to enter into trade agreements
with other countries and raising or lowering the Smoot-Hawley tariff
rates as much as 50% without any congressional action or approval.
Secretary of State Cordell Hull had shepherded the bill to passage;
he believed that closed trading blocs (such as the Japanese and
Germans were creating) would lead to political blocs and eventually
war. He had been much disheartened when FDR failed to ask for this
legislation in the first Hundred Days. Traditionally, in economic
matters, the Democrats espoused free trade and the Republicans advocated
tariffs. This reciprocal trade agreement, including the most-favored-nation
formulation 16, became the basis of
US trade policy for the rest of the century. Hull,
Memoirs, pp. 352-365; Davis, New Deal Years, p. 131.]
Hull said, "The phrase is not of the happiest. It gives an impression
of getting or giving favored or special treatment. It simply means:
I won't treat you any worse than the person I treat the best of
all, provided you don't treat me any worse than the person you treat
best of all."
in Venice: Hitler achieves his long-desired meeting with fellow-dictator,
Benito Mussolini. On Austria, they agree that both should support
Engelbert Dollfuss and his government; that new elections should
be held as soon as possible; and there should be no union
Anschluss between Germany and Austria. They agree to
disagree on the treatment of the Jews, the League of Nations and
cooperative arrangements with France and Great Britain. The foreign
press view Mussolini as the dominant character; cartoons show a
giant Mussolini towering over a pygmy Hitler. Ridley,
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is established to supervise
radio, telephone and telegraph communications.
Douglas Miller, the commercial attaché in Berlin, cables his superiors
in Washington: "The only sales of American staple products now going
on in German ports are sales of petroleum products by a few of the
large oil companies. . . . The American interests plus the British
Shell interests together control the great bulk of the filling stations
in Germany and are supplying a commodity which Germany cannot very
well produce herself. . . . The free ports of Germany are full of
merchandise which is offered for sale in only foreign exchange.
. . ." Miller further reports that Germany hopes to establish barter
agreements whereby American lumber and cotton can be imported in
exchange for German manufactured goods. No US manufactured goods
or tobacco wanted, as Germany has a huge trade deficit with the
United States. Miller, Via Diplomatic Pouch,
Housing Administration (FHA) is established to insure loans for
the construction, renovation and repair of private homes.
bank mortgages were insured by the FHA at low interest rates with
only a 5-10% down payment. Previously banks had typically required
a 50% down payment for a ten-year mortgage, thus essentially prohibiting
home ownership for the majority of the population. The FHA was the
first step in the creation of pattern of home ownership that would
distinguish the United States from countries in Europe. Polenberg,
One Nation Divisible, p. 131.]
- The Night of the Long Knives: Captain Ernst Röhm and the leaders
of his SA are purged in a coordinated effort by Heinrich Himmler
and Reinhart Heydrich's SS men and Hermann Göring's personal bodyguard.
Hitler personally rouses Röhm from bed in a vacation hotel south
of Munich and arrests him. In groups of four they are placed against
the wall in Stadelheim and Lichterfelde prisons and shot. These
walls are soon completely covered with blood and human flesh.
story would be that the SA was planning a coup. The true story is
that the army and Hitler's conservative business backers had demanded
that the violence of the Brownshirts, now numbering two and a half
million or six times the size of the Wehrmacht, be stopped. Their
terror tactics had been essential in Hitler's rise to power
the elimination of the Communists, the Reichstag fire but
they were now an impediment.
a deal with the top army generals: he would eliminate the SA, and
the Wehrmacht would support Hitler for president upon the death
of Hindenberg and not the restoration of the monarchy, as some of
the generals had wanted. Hitler took advantage of these bloody 24
hours to have numerous other troublesome people dispatched, including
the three who set the Reichstag fire and ex-Chancellor von Schleicher
who had been conspiring with Röhm.
In the 1957
Munich trial of Sepp Dietrich and Michael Lippert it was said that
"more than 1000" had been killed in the Blood Purge, or the Night
of the Long Knives. Shirer, Rise and Fall,
pp. 219-226; Pool, Hitler and His Secret Partners, pp. 59-86;
Paul, Hermann Göring, pp. 140-143; Heiden, The Führer,
pp. 561-603; 719-772.
first biographer and a reporter for the Frankfurter Zeitung,
wrote that "the blood purge gave Hitler absolute mastery of his
party and of Germany . . . the pattern was set and the weapon forged.
Having enslaved his own people, Hitler was ready to use the techniques
he had learned . . . to enslave the Continent. The shots in the
Stadelheim prison were the first shots of the Second World War."
p.773. Mussolini was shocked by the
massacre. Ridley, p. 241.]
Strike in San Francisco: Labor calls for a "general strike"
the first in American history to support the longshoremen
on strike in San Francisco. (See entry for May 9,
1934.) The city is shut down almost completely for three
was the police and police brutality. On July 3rd eight police cars
(on orders from the mayor and the Industrial Association) attempted
to escort five cargo-laden trucks out of a warehouse. The police
captain on the running board of the lead car flourished a revolver
and yelled, "The port is open." A thousand pickets converged on
the police with bricks, stones and clubs; the police responded with
bullets and tear gas. The battle went on for four hours with scores
of citizens watching from the hills above the waterfront. The fight
resumed on the 5th with ILA pickets reinforced with members of other
unions they believed that "If they win this, there'll never
be another union in Frisco." Many college and high school students
played hooky for the day to join in on the side of labor.
At the end
of the day California Governor Merriam ordered in two thousand National
Guardsmen. Strike leader Harry Bridges: "We cannot stand up against
police, machine guns, and National Guard bayonets." The employers
thought they had won, yet many were later dismayed by the funeral
procession down Market Street for the fallen strikers. A union band
played Beethoven's funeral march as 35,000 workers walked behind
the coffins, hats held across their chests. In union halls throughout
the Bay Area they voted for a general strike. William Green, the
national head of AFL forbade the strike, but 160 local unions with
a membership of 127,000 voted to join the general strike scheduled
for July 16.
The city came
to a standstill. The factories were deserted, no street cars were
the workers were staying home. The strike committee allowed deliveries
of milk, bread and ice; nineteen restaurants were allowed to stay
open. Newspapers continued to be printed, and the telephones worked.
Physicians received gasoline for their cars. The governor dispatched
3000 additional troops. The police department swore in mobs of vigilantes
as special police. These thugs went to work wrecking union halls,
clubs of the foreign-born, progressive book stores, the office of
the Western Worker, the Communist Party headquarters and the ILA
soup kitchen. The regular police watched, but did not interfere.
Sometimes they completed the destruction after the vigilantes had
moved on. They arrested 500 men and women, mostly street people,
claiming that they were Communists.
and the municipal judge who released them said, "I am disgusted
that this good old town should have acted like a pack of wolves."
San Francisco newspapers, with one exception, attempted to inflame
the public by equating the strike with "revolution" and warning
of dire consequences should the strike succeed, at the same time
failing to print any of the strike committee's releases which gave
the reasons for the strike and listed the grievances. The San
Francisco Chronicle: "The radicals have seized control by intimidation.
What they want is revolution." Papers elsewhere agreed. The Los
Angeles Times described the strike as a "Communist-inspired
and led revolt against organized government."
The New Republic called their coverage "deliberate journalistic
malpractice." The strike continued until the 19th when the more
conservative members of the General Strike Committee prevailed.
The ILA continued
its strike however. On the 30th the longshoremen went back to work
and the employers settled:- the longshoremen got their union hiring
hall, the six-hour day, the thirty-hour week and a significant raise
in pay. Harry Bridges, the local leader who had defied the national
head, was elected president of the local San Francisco ILA and later,
president of the West Coast District. Harry Bridges became a marked
man after his success in raising wages and lowering work hours.
Several groups labeled him a "Communist" and demanded his deportation
to his native Australia, the American Legion being the first.
papers were quite legal, so the only charge the persecutors could
bring was that he was a member of the Communist Party. On four different
occasions federal authorities or juries found Bridges not then or
ever to have been a Communist. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy
called the efforts to frame Bridges "a monument to man's intolerance
to man." Boyer and Morais, pp. 282-289; Seldes,
Freedom of the Press; Bernstein, Turbulent Years, pp.
in Vienna: Hitler attempts a putsch; over 150 SS men dressed
in Austrian Army uniforms break into the Chancellery; and Chancellor
Engelbert Dollfuss is shot in the throat from a distance of two
feet. The radio station is seized; it broadcasts the "news" that
Dollfuss has resigned.
the Austrian Nazis had been preparing the country for a German takeover.
They had blown up railroads, power stations and government buildings
and murdered supporters of Dollfuss' clerical-fascist regime with
dynamite and weapons supplied by Germany. However, after the assault
on the Chancellery Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg,
the Minister of Justice, was able to regain control and the perpetrators
who had been expecting a visit from Dollfuss that day, sent his
vacationing family home in a special plane accompanied by a detective.
He mobilized four divisions at the Brenner Pass. (Only a month earlier
he and Hitler had pledged to respect Austria's independence.) Hitler
had to hastily retract an exultatory news release and substitute
one that expressed regret at the "cruel murder." The Anschluss
would have to be postponed. Shirer, Rise,
pp. 279- 280.]
President, Paul von Hindenburg, dies, aged 87: Three hours after
his death a new law is announced (which had been enacted by the
cabinet the day before)
the offices of President and Chancellor are combined. Adolf Hitler
will take over the powers of both head of state and Commander in
Chief of the Armed Forces and will henceforth be known as Führer
and Reich Chancellor.
had each of the men and officers of the armed forces swear an oath
of "unconditional obedience" to him personally. William Shirer remarks
that up until this time the generals "could have overthrown the
Nazi regime with ease had they so desired."
Hitler suppressed the part of Hindenburg's will in which he expressed
his hope for the restoration of the monarchy. Rise
and Fall, pp. 226-227.
does not believe either Hindenburg's death or the "unconditional
obedience" oath was that significant. The secret cabal of generals
still controlled the army and the original deal with his financial
backers remained in place as well as their seats in the cabinet.
Pool, Hitler and His Secret Partners,
pp. 86-88. Joachim Fest disagrees, believing that the
oath (which was in violation of both the constitution and the Oath
Act of 1933) inhibited many officers from joining future plots against
Hitler. Plotting Hitler's Death, pp. 55-56.]
S Truman of Independence, Missouri wins the Democratic primary race
for the Senate, thanks to the support of the Pendergast machine
in Jackson County where he receives nearly half his total vote.
opponent, supported by the St. Louis machine, failed to get a single
vote in some of the Kansas City precincts.] McCullough,
Truman, pp. 210-212.
Instead of holding elections for a new president as required by
the constitution, a plebiscite is held to endorse Hitler's assumption
of the office. 45 million Germans voted.
38 million voted "yes"
4 million voted "no"
1 million deliberately defaced their ballots. Pool,
Liberty League is incorporated.
[Businessmen and conservatives from both parties united in the Liberty
League to oppose FDR and his policies. Some charter members were:
Alfred P. Sloan and William Knudsen from General Motors, oil magnate
J. Howard Pew, the duPont family, Sewell L. Avery of Montgomery
Ward, Edward Hutton of General Foods, and the major Democrats of
the 1932 "Stop Roosevelt" campaign Al Smith and John W. Davis
(who had been rivals for the 1928 nomination), John J. Raskob, and
the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Jouett
Hoover was asked to join, he declined, remembering who had financed
the smear campaign against him, saying that he had "no more confidence
in the Wall Street model of human liberty, which this group so well
represents, than I have in the Pennsylvania Avenue model upon which
the country now rides." When a reporter asked FDR to comment on
the newly-formed Liberty League, he replied: "An organization that
only advocates two or three of the Ten Commandments may be a perfectly
good organization, but it would have certain shortcomings in having
failed to advocate the other seven or eight." Wolf,
was to the right of Alfred M. Landon, who would be the Republican
nominee in 1936. It soon became clear that its main purpose was
to spin out political propaganda attempting to define the New Deal
and the "alphabet soup" programs as a conspiracy to subvert the
Constitution and substitute a socialist or communist state. Schlesinger,
Coming, pp. 486-7; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 400,
from Germany: Adolf Hitler gives the American journalist, Dorothy
Thompson, twenty-four hours to leave Germany.
in 1931 in a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post,
Thompson had been warning the American public of the imminent collapse
of the Weimar Republic and the danger of the National Socialist
Party. Hitler possibly singled her out for expulsion because she
had described him as a mediocre person in her 1932 interview, "I
Upon her return to the States she became the foremost American spokesperson
in the war against fascism, using her column in the New York
Herald-Tribune as a pulpit. Three-fifths of her output 1938-1940
attacked the Nazis and the cowardice of the democracies, according
to calculations by The New Yorker. Kurth,
American Cassandra, pp. 159, 199-204, 280.]
the Democratic candidate for governor of California, visits FDR
at Hyde Park and leaves believing that FDR will publicly endorse
his candidacy and his program of "production-for-use."
the author of The Jungle and other muckraking novels, had
been a lifelong Socialist until he changed his party registration
the year before. His Program to End Poverty in California (EPIC)
involved combining idle factories and idle workers into "production-for-use"
communities, the repeal of the state sales tax and substitution
of a steeply graduated income tax with greatly increased taxes on
large incomes and large property holdings with a special tax on
voted for Sinclair in the primary than for all of his eight opponents
combined, or for the winner of the Republican primary. Sinclair's
program was so popular that most of the campaign expenses were raised
from admissions to rallies where he spoke and from sales of his
campaign literature, such as "I, Governor of California, and
How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future." Schlesinger,
Upheaval, pp. 112-117. Davis, New Deal Years, pp.402-405, 409.]
"Kidnapping": A ten-dollar gold certificate from the Lindbergh
ransom money turns up at the Corn Exchange Bank in Manhattan. Unlike
the many other bills that have appeared since Lindbergh's go-between
gave $50,000 to a man named "John" in a Bronx cemetery, this one
can be traced to its passer. A filling station attendant had written
the license number of his customer on the bill.
[On the morning
of the 19th Bruno Richard Hauptmann, an illegal German immigrant
and unemployed carpenter, was apprehended by police shortly after
leaving his home in the Bronx. He was taken to the police station
where he was interrogated, beaten, and held without sleep or food
for over thirty hours before the public learned that a suspect holding
$14,000 of Lindbergh ransom money was in custody. Hauptmann admitted
to possession of the money, but said he was keeping it for a friend
who had died recently in Germany.
He denied having written the ransom notes, or received the money,
or kidnapped the baby. He had strong alibis, including employment
records for the dates of the kidnapping and the passing of the ransom
money. A handwriting expert stated that the ransom notes were not
written by him. However, on the 26th the Bronx grand jury indicted
Hauptmann for extortion.
The next day
the ambitious District Attorney Samuel Foley told the New York
Times that Hauptmann was "one of the chief perpetrators of both
the abduction and the extortion, and could possibly have been the
man on the ladder." If there was no extradition request for Hauptmann
from New Jersey, he could be ready to go to trial in two weeks!
Ahlgren and Monier, pp. 128-134; Behn, pp. 197-236.]
"Kidnapping:" A Flemington, New Jersey grand jury returns an
indictment against Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the murder of the
Lindbergh child after a meeting that lasted all of four and a half
records of Hauptmann's employer had mysteriously disappeared, so
went the alibi. The handwriting expert reversed his opinion from
his testimony in the Bronx. And there were several dubious identifications,
the most significant being that of Lindbergh who had testified
in the Bronx two weeks earlier that he would not be able to identify
the voice that had said four words from a distance of 200 feet.
On this day he was certain that the voice was that of Bruno Hauptmann.
Ahlgren, pp. 135-137.
in Marseilles Filmed by Fox Movietone News: Minutes after his
arrival in France, King Alexander of Yugoslavia is gunned down by
members of the Croatian fascist group, the Ustashi. Louis Barthou,
the French foreign minister, and four spectators are killed by bullets
from "unknown revolvers" of the same caliber that the police use.
group had been trained in fascist Hungary, Yugoslavia issued charges
against Hungary. The assassin who jumped onto the running board
of the slow-moving car and did most of the shooting of the king
was a Bulgarian. He was killed on the scene by the mob and the police.
A French court sentenced the three captured Croats to life imprisonment.
The Ustashi ringleader, Dr. Ante Pavelic, was sentenced to death
to Italy where he lived as a guest of Mussolini's government. The
Croatian training camps were re-established there. After the Wehrmacht
conquered Yugoslavia in April 1941, Croatia was made a "sovereign"
state run by the Ustashi and Pavelic.
Although possibly not an intended target, Barthou's death was most
advantageous for Hitler. Barthou, born in 1862, had served in one
French cabinet post or another since 1894. He was very concerned
about Hitler's fascism and re-armament and had started negotiations
for a mutual security agreement between France, the Soviet Union
and Czechoslovakia as a buffer against Germany's aggression. He
was succeeded as Foreign Minister by Pierre Laval who distrusted
the Soviet Union and would collaborate with the Nazis.
about sponsorship of the Ustashi plot fell on Mussolini (who had
financed a previous attempt on Alexander's life), Hitler (especially
after the assassinations of Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss and Romanian
Prime Minister Duca), and the French police (for their inadequate
policing and random firing into the crowd accidental or planned?)
Shirer, Collapse, pp. 239-243.
fears internationally that another world war might break out as
over the 1914 assassination. Italy threatened to go to the defense
of Hungary if she should be attacked by Yugoslavia and the Little
Entente. But as Czech Prime Minister Bene said, "Wars on a large
scale are not started by the small powers, but by the interference
of great powers." Italy and France had no wish to go to war with
one another; Anthony Eden, as mediator, ironed out the dispute.
Ridley, pp. 243-244.]
in Florida: Claude Neal, a "Negro" laborer, is lynched in rural
Jackson County, Florida 17 in the early
[He had been
arrested for the rape and murder nine days earlier of Lola Cannidy,
a young white woman, who had been a childhood playmate and was the
daughter of one of his employers. The autopsy indicated that the
victim had been strangled, had received a blow to her head and had
had sexual intercourse recently, but had not been raped. The rumor
in the black community was that the real perpetrator was a white
A mob seized
Neal from the jail in Brewton, Alabama where he had been placed
for safekeeping and transported him on back roads across state lines.
(This was a death penalty felony according to the new Lindbergh
Kidnapping Law.) A crowd of over two thousand, alerted by newspapers
and AP dispatches, were waiting at the Cannidy home to view the
lynching. Some had brought picnic suppers.
The size of
the crowd deterred the abductors from their promise to deliver the
victim to the girl's father. Instead they killed him themselves
at another location, first cutting off his genitals and forcing
him to eat them, then slicing off toes and fingers. Then followed
several half-lynchings in which Neal was let down from the tree
just as the rope was about to choke him to death. The four men delivered
his body to the Cannidy home, dragged behind one of the cars.
would-be lynchers then attacked the corpse with knives and bullets
before torching the shacks of nearby black residents. Before dawn
they strung up Neal's mutilated corpse on a tree near the county
courthouse in Marianna. (A photograph was later sold as a postcard.)
By noon the now-enlarged mob was wreaking vengeance on any black
person they could find in Marianna, attempting to empty the county
jail, even looking for domestic servants in the richer white neighborhoods.
More than 200 blacks were injured before the Florida National Guard
arrived in the late afternoon.
account was given to a NAACP investigator who made friends with
one of the four men who tortured and eventually killed Neal. Before
he died he confessed that he had, indeed, killed Lola Cassidy. They
had a consensual sexual relationship for several years, until Lola
became engaged to a white man. When she told Neal they would have
to sever the relationship and that she would tell on him if he ever
spoke to her, he got angry and killed her.
mob leaders were well-known, no one was ever prosecuted for Neal's
barbarous death or for any of the other mob violations. While local
newspaper opinion commended the lynching, indignation and denunciation
of the people and government of Florida escalated in editorials
and telegrams with the distance from the scene. Major news coverage
(including front page stories in The New York Times) kindled
national outrage and increased pressure for the passage of the Wagner-Costigan
Anti-Lynching Bill, which specified fines of five thousand dollars
and five years imprisonment for state or local officials who failed
either to protect their citizens from a lynch mob or to prosecute
lynch law violators.
however, failed to bring the bill to a vote. Attorney General Homer
S. Cummings refused to act on the Neal kidnapping and transfer across
state lines, saying the Lindbergh law did not apply as there was
no "ransom or reward" involved. James R. McGovern,
Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal; Dray, At the
Hands of Persons Unknown, pp. 344-353.]
Jackson County, in the panhandle of Florida, in 1934
had a staggering rate of unemployment, no public libraries, and
the highest illiteracy rate of any county in the state. Dray, p.
Election: Reversing the usual midterm election outcome, the
Democrats substantially increase their numbers in both the House
(from 313 to 322) and the Senate (from 59 to 69; one of the newcomers
is Harry S Truman from Missouri.) The majority in the House is now
322-103 and 69-25 in the Senate. This is regarded as a personal
victory for FDR.
There is a
similar sweep in the state elections; only seven states elect Republican
governors. Only one incumbent Republican governor is re-elected:
Alfred Landon of Kansas who becomes the immediate favorite for the
presidential nomination in 1936.
legislators were ideologically further left than those of the Seventy-Third
Congress and, indeed, further left than FDR. They demanded more
government intervention, thus providing the votes and some of the
impetus for the legislation of the "Second Hundred Days."
Upton Sinclair was defeated for governor after a campaign that was
unprecedented for maliciousness and dishonesty"the first all-out
public relations Blitzkrieg in American politics," according to
historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Sinclair was pictured as a Communist,
anarchist, believer in free love, even an enemy of the Boy Scouts.
Documents were fabricated to demonstrate his endorsement by the
Communist party, his trampling of the American flag, his pleasure
that American sailors had died in an explosion on the battleship
Over $10 million
was spent to defeat him- which was twice the sum spent nationally
by the two parties in the 1932 presidential race. Much of that money
was raised by MGM's Louis B. Mayer who persuaded his fellow producers
to join him in forcing their actors, writers and directors to contribute
a day's salary each to the gubernatorial campaign. 18
Most of this money went into the production of fake newsreels
and still photos defaming Sinclair. By mid-October it was clear
Sinclair's candidacy was doomed without some endorsement from FDR.
This endorsement was not made, much to the relief of FDR's advisers.
Schlesinger, Upheaval, pp. 118-121. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 425-427.]
While most studio employees cooperated under the
threat of blacklisting, there were holdouts: James Cagney, Jean
Harlow and Katharine Hepburn refused to pay the "Merriam tax." Several
screenwriters raised money for Sinclair, and Charlie Chaplin campaigned
for him. Ironically, anger at the studios' high-handed tactics radicalized
much of Hollywood, hastening the formation of the guilds and causing
some people to join the Communist Party.
Governor Merriam ran for re-election in 1938, the Hollywood Left,
led by actor Melvyn Douglas and writer Philip Dunne, mobilized to
help defeat him, raising money and holding rallies. Cuthbert Olson,
who had been elected to the state Senate on the EPIC ticket in 1934,
became the first Democratic governor of California in forty years.
Mitchell, Campaign of the Century.
fascist coup in the United States by the Morgans and duPonts is
averted by testimony given by whistle blower Marine Corps Major
General Smedley Butler to the congressional McCormack-Dickstein
made the front page of the New York Times the next day: "Gen.
Butler Bares 'Fascist Plot' to Seize Government by Force". Archer,
Union and the Great Terror: Sergei Kirov, the communist party
boss of Leningrad and a full member of the Politburo, is murdered
by the NKVD, as Stalin fears him as a potential rival for the party
leadership. (Hitler's "Night of the Long Knives" had not passed
unnoticed in the Kremlin.) Kirov's death marks the beginning of
[A month before
the murder Stalin had set up a Special Board with himself at its
head to pass sentence on "persons deemed socially dangerous." After
the murder he started a national orgy of Kirov commendation, blaming
the murder on the "Zinoviev faction," and the Great Terror began.
reign of terror ended in 1939, an estimated 10 million people in
the Soviet Union were executed- or died in labor camps- including
all of the original Bolshevik leaders (Rykov, Bukharin, Zinoviev,
Kamenev, etc.), the Chief of the Red Army, the Commander in Chief
of the Red Navy, and 70% of the central committee members. Zinoviev
and Kamenev had been part of the original troika that shared power
with Stalin after the death of Lenin. Medvedev,
Let History Judge, Bennett, Conspiracy, pp. 82-84.]
A skirmish occurs at the Wal-Wal oasis, eight meters from the border
with the Italian colony of Somalia. Fifty Italian soldiers and 150
Abyssinians are killed.
had been pushing the border between the two countries since 1928
and had occupied the Wal-Wal oasis, the only source of water in
the area, for more than four years. He was hoping to produce a provocation
that would justify his annexation of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia)
an adventure in the minds of Italians ever since their ignominious
defeat by the Abyssinians in 1896.
an apology and compensation from Ethiopia plus punishment of the
Ethiopian officers responsible for the incident. He refused to submit
to mediation with a barbaric country like Ethiopia which still allowed
slavery. Ridley, pp. 245.]
Japan renounces both the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the
London Naval Treaty of 1930.
The trial of
Bruno Richard Hauptmann opens in the tiny (pop: 2700) town of Flemington,
New Jersey. Seven hundred reporters and photographers descend upon
the town including such famous names as Edna Ferber, Walter Winchell,
Kathleen Norris, Fannie Hurst and Adela Rogers St. John. The press
and the public are pronouncing Hauptmann guilty before the trial
begins.Bookies are taking bets, not just on the outcome of the trial,
but its duration, the identity of the next witness and so on.
was grossly unfair on the order of the Sacco-Vanzetti trial
of 1921. (See entry for August 23, 1927 )
The voir dire was a farce. The potential juror who, when
asked if he had formed an opinion about the case, replied "Not more
than anyone else" was made foreman of the jury. The New
York DailyMirror hired a defense attorney for Hauptmann for
$10,000 in return for a daily feed to the newspaper. Ed Reilly was
an alcoholic, an incompetent lawyer who missed many opportunities
to introduce evidence for the defense but provided great copy
for the Mirror.
was allowed no discovery, no deposition of any of the 90 witnesses.
(Discovery would have revealed the many witnesses who had changed
their testimony. And that the handwriting on the ransom notes had
been positively identified as belonging to another person.) There
was no money for the expenses of an adequate defense, as the state
had seized all of Hauptmann's assets, including his life savings,
as "evidence" when he was arrested.
was as prejudiced against the defendant as Judge Thayer had been
in the Massachusetts trial. He made a mocking summary of the evidence
presented by the defense, ending each point with, "Now, do you believe
that?" in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
not given an interpreter, as woud be mandatory today. As he struggled
to understand one question and then find the words to express his
answer in English, the relentless DistrictAttorney Wilentz would
fire a second question at him. So Hauptmann was never given the
opportunity to really explain his side to the jury. Seated next
to Wilentz at the prosecution table was Charles Lindbergh, who frequently
gave him directions. Wilentz exploited his presence; the emotional
core of the trial became the American Hero vs. the German Immigrant.
Ahlgren and Monier, pp. 138-149.]
Agreement: In the hopes of maintaining Italian support against
possible future German aggression, the French cede a sliver of French
Somaliland to Italy and agree to certain concessions regarding Italian
citizens in the French colony of Tunisia. They further give Italy
part ownership of the Ethiopian Railway and, with it, essentially
a free hand in the dispute with Abyssinia.
wanted France's support in maintaining the independence of Austria
in case Hitler should make another attempt at a coup. Although the
French Foreign Minister, Pierre Laval, did not specifically acquiesce
to Mussolini's planned adventure in Africa, Mussolini got the nod
and wink that he needed to know that France would not interfere
with his war. On February 28th Italy sent two generals and a large
number of troops to Eritrea to prepare for war against Abyssinia.
Shirer, Collapse, pp. 242-243; Ridley,
Refining Company v. Ryan : The Supreme Court decides, 8-1,
that the section of the National Industrial Recovery Act which authorized
the president to prohibit the inter-state shipment of petroleum
produced in excess of the quotas fixed by the states (the so-called
"hot oil") was unconstitutional because it gave legislative power
to the executive branch. The lone dissenter is Associate Justice
Benjamin Cardozo who is also the only Justice who was not a former
corporation lawyer. Davis, New Deal Years,
The decision is seen as a warning signal that the Supreme Court
will soon axe the entire NIRA and possibly the entire New Deal program.
Hall, Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court,
The "show trials" of Zinoviev and Kamenev begin in Moscow.
In his regular Sunday night address to a radio audience of thirty
million, Father Charles E. Coughlin attacks the League of Nations
and the World Court. He warns the country that the administration
is conspiring to deliver the country's sovereignty into the hands
of the same wicked international bankers who had tricked the country
into war in 1917 and who want to "keep the world safe for inevitable
slaughter." (He names the Rothschilds, the Morgans, the Warburgs
and Kuhn, Loeb.) His isolationist and anti-Semitic diatribe produces
50,000 telegrams to senators opposing US membership in the World
Swing believed that this single broadcast and the resulting flood
of telegrams "topped the scales" against the US participation in
the World Court. He thought that a favorable vote might have led
to membership in a reorganized League of Nations. Swing,
had originally been a New Deal supporter, but by 1934 he was calling
it the "Jew Deal" and blaming the Jews for both the Depression and
the increasing world tension. He organized uniformed pro-Nazi groups
complete with arm bands, flags and salutes not unlike the
German-American Bund, the American version of Hitler's Brownshirts
organized by Fritz Kuhn and published a nasty anti-Semitic
hate-sheet called Social Justice.
In 1936 he called for a third party to defeat the "anti-God" and
issued a not-so-subtle plea for the assassination of FDR and other
New Deal leaders. Davis, New Deal Years,
pp. 294, 495-496, 539-540, 575-577, 639, 647.]
The isolationists in the Senate prevail, and FDR's request that
the US adhere to the World Court is defeated.
mild proposal had aroused strong opposition from the Hearst newspaper
chain, columnist Will Rogers, and Senators Hiram Johnson (R-CA),
Huey "Kingfish" Long (D-LA) and William Borah (R-ID) as well as
the dependably isolationist Father Coughlin. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 495-6.]
Wallace: Writing in Collier's magazine, the foremost
progressive member of FDR's cabinet expresses the vision held by
most social liberals of a cooperative commonwealth in which need
and usefulness for society would replace the profit motive: "The
day will come when this world will be more secure, when people who
ask only to live a good life here and make a living will not be
driven to meanness and to littleness, to a calculated denial of
their highest capacities, and to hate. We live by these ancient
standards of withdrawal and denial in a world bursting with potential
abundance. The fears, coupled with the narrowness and hatred of
our forefathers, are embodied in our political and educational institutions
and bred in our bones. It will only be a little time that we can
work ourselves free." Markowitz, p. 1.
Kidnapping Case: The 42-day "Trial of the Century" ends, and
the case goes to the jury. A crowd of ten thousand surrounds the
courthouse chanting, "Kill Hauptmann!" After less than twelve hours
of deliberation, the jury emerges with a verdict: Bruno Richard
Hauptmann is found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced
to die in the electric chair.
was based on nine pieces of evidence or testimony:
--- Part of the ransom money was found on Hauptmann and in his home.
--- He was identified by Cecile Barr as the man who had passed her
a Lindbergh ransom bill at her movie theater on November, 26 1933.
(However, that was Lindbergh's birthday and several people could
have testified to their presence at a party in his home that evening.)
--- Jafsie Condon's phone number was found written inside a closet
in Hauptmann's house. (However, Hauptmann had no phone, so this
was an illogical place to keep a phone number. There is some evidence
that the number was written there by a reporter for the New York
Daily News during a press tour of the Hauptmann home.)
--- Charles Lindbergh confidently identified Hauptmann as the one
who had shouted
"Hey, Doctor" on April 2, 1932 in St. Raymond's Cemetery. (This
was in contradiction to his statement to the Bronx grand jury in
September that he would be unable to identify a voice spoken from
a block away.)
--- A cab driver identified Hauptmann as the man who had given him
a note to deliver to Dr. Condon. (Yet earlier he had been unable
to describe this man for the police.)
--- Dr, Condon identified Hauptmann as "Cemetery John," the man
to whom he had given the ransom money. (Yet at the Bronx line-up
he categorically said that Hauptmann was not "Cemetery John"
and subsequently garnered several headlines by claiming to have
spotted the missing man.)
--- Three witnesses placed Hauptman in the vicinity of the Hopewell
estate in the days before the "kidnapping." (One was partly blind
and eligible for Public Assistance; a second, when originally questioned
by the police, had denied seeing anyone in the vicinity. He came
forward later in hopes of claiming the ransom reward. He was promised
$150 up front by the prosecution plus $35 a day for expenses and
a share in the reward money. The third man did not tell his story
to the police until after Hauptmann had been arrested and he saw
his photograph in the paper; yet he was unable to pick out Hauptmann
from a photographic lineup and he failed to describe his automobile
--- Seven handwriting "experts" testified that the handwriting on
all the ransom notes was Hauptmann's. (The defense had their own
expert who testified that Hauptmann had written none of the notes;
with a little more money they could have hired six more. Handwriting
analysis is not a science. Before Hauptmann's arrest several handwriting
experts had told the police that the nursery note was not written
by the individual who had written the subsequent ransom notes.)
--- The most outlandish testimony came from a "wood expert" who
claimed that some of the wood for the ladder had been purchased
at a lumber yard in the Bronx near Hauptmann's home and that ladder
side rail "16" was actually a floor board from Hauptmann's attic.
Ahlgren and Monier, pp. 143, 160-189.]
did agree that Hauptmann could not have written the signature "J.J.
Faulkner" on a bank deposit slip exchanging nearly $3000 of the
ransom money shortly before the gold certificates became illegal.
Behn believes that Faulkner was Jacob J. Nosovitsky, a notorious
forger and con-man, who saw the nursery "ransom note" that was passed
around the underworld by Lindbergh's deputies, copied the style,
and extorted the $50,000.
had a fascinating history. While a member of the Communist Party,
he did undercover communist investigations for both the US Department
of Justice and Scotland Yard from 1917 into the 1920s. Hired to
investigate the Bolshevik conspiracy in Mexico by two Red-phobic
capitalists and finding none, he proceeded to document a phony one,
including reports allegedly sent to Zinoviev. He further capitalized
on these exploits by a series of articles for the Hearst papers,
"Confessions of an International Spy," in which he detailed his
J. Edgar Hoover, who had had many dealings with Nosovitsky and had
intervened with immigration authorities to gain his re-admittance
to the United States, confirmed in 1935-36 that Nosovitsky was "J.
J. Faulkner". Behn, pp. 358-375.]
America: The House Special Committee on Un-American Activities
issues a report which claims that the Nazis are using foreign agents
and Fascist right-wing groups in America to mount a pervasive propaganda
campaign to disseminate propaganda and foment subversion. Laurie,
Propaganda Warriors, p. 47.
with Germany: The League of Nations ends its administration
of the Saar and the area returns to German sovereignty following
a January plebiscite in which 90% of the people voted for reunion
with Germany, rejecting either a continuation of League administration
or union with France. [Hitler proclaimed publicly that Germany had
no further territorial claims on France, meaning Alsace and Lorraine.
Shirer, Rise, p. 283.]
Dictators?: General Hugh Johnson, the former head of the NRA,
lambastes Senator Huey Long and Father Coughlin at a banquet at
the Waldorf-Astoria, alleging that they were co-conspirators in
a campaign to gain dictatorial power in the US. He describes them
as "the Pied Pipers . . . the Louisiana dictator and this political
padre . . . You can laugh at Father Coughlin, you can snort at Huey
Long . . . but this country was never under a greater menace."
the rhetoric on the floor of the Senate the next day, focusing more
on FDR than on Johnson. Long was one of a group of progressives
who from the beginning of the New Deal had urged more radical measures:
nationalization of the banking system, large taxes on private fortunes,
payment of the veterans bonus, etc. Long was particularly critical
of the NIRA. FDR retaliated by refusing to consult him on the distribution
of patronage in Louisiana.
Long then made
a political comeback with the publication of his autobiography,
Every Man a King, and his Share Our Wealth Plan. The plan
provided for confiscatory tax codes that would put a ceiling of
$3 million on individual wealth; the government would grant each
needy family enough for a home, a car, and a radio plus a guaranteed
annual income enough to maintain them in comfort. Even though statistical
studies demonstrated that confiscation of all fortunes larger than
one million would yield no more than $400 for each family that was
worth $5000 or less, the plan was immensely popular and Share Our
Wealth clubs sprang up nationwide nearly thirty thousand clubs
and a mailing list of 7.5 million people. Huey Long had his eye
on running for president in 1936 on a third-party ticket, financed
by some very wealthy people who hated FDR.
Piper speech actually enlarged Long's public forum, as NBC gave
him some national air time to make a rebuttal which only increased
his following. Political commentator Raymond Gram Swing described
the Johnson speech as "a demonstration of political feeble-mindedness."
Brinkley, Voices, pp. 4-7, 59-74; Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 497-498, 501-502; Winkler, p. 103.]
Rearms: Hitler announces that Germany has secretly developed
an air force in defiance of the Versailles Treaty and will no longer
be bound by the disarmament clauses of that treaty. He is starting
the conscription of an army of 36 divisions, or about half a million
men, twice the size of the French Army stationed in France. Shirer,
Collapse, p. 244.
Herbert Hoover had been raising money internationally since 1918
to re-arm Germany and to install Hitler in power in order to overthrow
the Bolshevik regime in Russia. Judge, p. 112.]
v. Alabama: The Supreme Court unanimously reverses the conviction
of Clarence Norris- the African-American who had been re-convicted
of the rape of two white girls in the 1931 Scottsboro case.
Charles Evans Hughes argued that the systematic exclusion of African-Americans
from grand juries and trial juries denied defendants such as Norris
the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Hall, pp. 599-600.]
Initiated by France, representatives of the French, British and
Italian governments meet to condemn Germany's announced plan to
rearm. In what Shirer terms "an empty gesture" they pledge to support
Austrian independence and the Locarno Treaty. Shirer,
Rise, p. 285.
in US: Marking the anniversary of America's entrance into the
Great War, 175,000 students in colleges and universities across
the United States join in a strike in which they pledge never to
engage in an armed conflict.
at least 100,000 students on strike in five major cities: Boston,
Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington. In New York City 30,000
students left their classrooms. In Reed College inOregon and at
Vassar the entire student body went on strike. Most remarkable were
the spontaneous demonstrations in small colleges that had not been
visited by representatives of the strike organizing committee
a thousand students from three small colleges in Jackson, Tennessee,
for example., left their classrooms at 11 AM and marched through
the streets of the town.
year the strike organized by the National Student League and the
League for Industrial Democtacy had attracted 25,000 students and
startled the nation. Previously student demonstrations were events
that happened in Europe. The sponsorship for the 1935 strike was
enlarged to include various church groups and the American Youth
Congress. The opposition, of course, characterized the strikers
as "radicals." But their political orientations were diverse and
many were ignorant or unsympathetic to radical ideology. They were
typically united in opposition to both the ROTC and to fascism.
Wechsler, pp. 171-181.]
A record dust storm inundates five mid-western states.
Egan, The Worst Hard Time.
May 1, 1935
Legislation: After a six-day Senate filibuster the sponsors
of the Wagner-Costigan Anti-Lynching Bill agree to accept adjournment
so that major New Deal measures may be legislated.
against the bill were James Byrnes and Cotton Ed Smith of South
Carolina, Hugo Black and John Bankhead of Alabama, and Tom Connally
of Texas. Although similar legislation proposed in 1937 and 1938
also failed to pass, the number of lynchings in the South declined
precipitately after the publicity attending the Claude Neal killing
from twenty-eight in 1933 to six in 1938 and two in 1939. [
See entry for October 27, 1934.]
A 1935 Gallup poll indicated that a majority of southerners favored
legislation to make lynching a federal crime. The anti-lynching
leaders in the 1930s were Walter White and the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil
Liberties Union, the feisty Ida Wells-Barnett and The Nation and
The New Republic magazines. McGovern, pp. 135-148;
O'Reilly, Nixon's Piano, p. 121.]
Pact of Mutual Assistance: The two countries sign a five-year
agreement in which each pledges to come to the aid of the other
in the event of an unprovoked attack that is, if the Council
of the League of Nations certifies that it is an aggression. (It
took the League a year of investigation to condemn the invasion
of Manchuria in September, 1931.) Also the other Locarno treaty
powers Great Britain and Italy must agree that an act
of aggression has taken place.
emasculated the treaty that the murdered Foreign Minister Barthou
had initiated. As Pierre Laval, the successor foreign minister said,
"I've extracted the most dangerous things from it. I don't trust
the Russians." Even so, by autumn the conservatives were vehemently
opposed to the pact, fearing that the Communists were about to take
over France and the pact was helping them. They started echoing
the German propaganda about Germany being encircled by enemies.
Better, they said, France should have an understanding with Germany
and Italy who are dedicated to saving the world from Communism.
Shirer, Collapse, pp. 244-247.]
FDR establishes the Works Progress Administration (WPA) by executive
order. It will handle smaller relief works projects than those of
the PWA and be administered by the dynamic Harry Hopkins.
[It soon became
the largest employer of labor in American history. Unspent funds
from Ickes' cautiously-administered PWA were allocated to WPA, thus
increasing the feud between the two New Deal aides. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 469-471.]
Mutual Assistance Pact: The Soviet Union promises to come to
the aid of Czechoslovakia in the event of an attack, provided that
France does so as well. The accompanying Air Pact calls for the
establishment and equipment of airfields in Czechoslovakia to which
Soviet planes will have free access. Hitler accuses the Czechs of
providing the Russians with an air base 800 miles closer to Germany
Bonus: FDR goes before Congress to deliver his veto of the Patman
Bill, which would have allowed veterans to cash in their bonuses
prior to 1945. Such a federal expenditure at this time, he says
(and his words are broadcast by network radio) would be inflationary.
House found the votes to override his veto, but it was sustained
by the Senate on the next day. Davis, New Deal
Years, pp. 513-514.]
The Supreme Court in Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United
States unanimously declares the NIRA to be unconstitutional
that the government can not require code compliance on firms engaged
in local industry that have no effect on interstate commerce.
came four days later in a carefully staged press conference. When
asked by a reporter if he had any comments on the decision, he pointed
to a stack of telegrams from businessmen throughout the country
that he described as "pathetic appeals" for action.
He then lashed out at the Court's "horse-and-buggy definition of
interstate commerce" and its notion that national problems could
be solved by forty-eight separate states.
however, saved the administration from an embarrassing dilemma.
The Act was due to expire in mid-June and legislation to extend
its life for another two years would have been difficult to pass.
To the dismay of the liberals it had favored the big business corporations
and the development of cartels. Yet the businesses that had profited
from it also excoriated it. And there had been widespread cheating
of the "National Run Around" in anticipation of the Supreme Court
verdict. Hall, p. 757; Davis, New Deal Years,
pp. 514-519, 507; Burns, Lion, pp. 222-223.]
June 4 -
August 27, 1935 The so-called "Second Hundred Days" actually
85 in number during which the major reform measures of the
New Deal will be passed.
intended to adjourn in June, as customary, to escape the heat and
humidity of non-air-conditioned Washington. However, FDR demanded
that they stay until several "must pass" pieces of legislation had
been enacted: the labor bill, Social Security, the banking bill,
and the Wheeler-Rayburn utilities holding company bill. Two weeks
later, he added a fifth, tax reform. Davis, New
Deal Years, p. 522.]
Naval Agreement: Germany will be allowed to build a navy (including
submarines) but it must be limited to 35% of the Royal Navy's tonnage.
France is upset by this and becomes suspicious of Britain's intentions
regarding Germany and Hitler.
negotiated this treaty which violated several clauses of the
Versailles Treaty without consultation with France and Italy,
her Stresa allies. France considered this a treacherous act, which
it was. The British government, upset by Germany's decision to re-arm,
fell for the bait offered by Hitler: "The German government
recognizes the overpowering vital importance, and therewith the
justification of a dominating protection for the British Empire
on the sea. . . The German government has the straightforward intention
to find and maintain a relationship with the British people and
state which will prevent for all time a repetition of the only struggle
there has been between the two nations. Germany has not the intention
or the necessity or the means to participate in any new naval rivalry."
essentially gave Germany a free ticket to build all the warships
her shipyards could accommodate and destroyed the Stresa alliance.
In 1940 Britain would regret those added destroyers, cruisers and
U-boats. Shirer, Collapse, pp. 249-250,
Rise, pp. 286-290; Brendon, p. 305.]
Legislation: Rep. Martin Dies (D-TX) blames the Depression on
the foreigners and introduces legislation to further reduce the
immigration quotas, saying, "If we had refused admittance to the
16,500,000 foreign born who are living in this country today, we
would have no unemployment problem." Divine, American
Immigration Policy, p. 86.
The Wagner Act: The National Labor Relations Act is signed by
[It had passed
the Senate 63-12 on May 12th after an impassioned espousal by its
sponsor, Robert Wagner (D-NY), who described the disparity between
the recovery of labor and business: wages had increased only 28%
in the past two years while major corporations' profits had increased
42%. "The real income of the individual worker employed full-time
is less than in March, 1933. The average worker's income in 1934
was $1009, or $813 less than the amount required to maintain a family
of five in health and decency."
previous New Deal attempts at labor-management "mediation," this
was a pro-labor bill that defined unfair labor practices, supported
the right of workers to join labor unions, and provided for a board
that would supervise workers' elections. The principal opponents
of the legislation were, predictably, the US Chamber of Commerce
and the National Association of Manufacturers. FDR had refused to
endorse the bill when it was before the Senate, but after the Supreme
Court killed the NRA and, with it, the Section 7(a) that feebly
endorsed collective bargaining, FDR was forced to put the NLRA bill
on his "must" list.
by the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation
in 1937, this Act played a crucial role in the unionization
of industry and the improvement of life for blue-collar workers.
It is considered, along with the Social Security Act, as one of
the two most significant long-term benefits of the New Deal.
additional significant consequences of the Wagner Act: Industries
abandoned their belligerent anti-union practices, such as strike-breaking,
spying, anti-union private police. The appeal of Marxism for workers
was undermined when the federal government, albeit in a capitalist
system, legalized collective bargaining and provided the machinery
for peaceful elections in the workplace. The law further guaranteed
the workers freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of
association. Turbulent Years, pp. 786-795
points out that this act was, until later amended, not all that
useful for African-Americans. The industries in which they were
principally employed were rather pointedly excluded, thanks to the
manipulations of the Southern Democrats. The Baltimore Afro-American,
in a 1940 editorial endorsing Willkie, asked: "If he [FDR] believes
in a ceiling for hours and a floor for wages, why does he permit
the Georgia Warm Springs 19. . . [to]
pay colored women workers $4.50 a week for long hours?"
Davis, New Deal, pp. 525-529; Katznelson, When Affirmative Action
was White, pp. 22-23, 27.
points out that Roosevelt "didn't start out as a labor man." As
Assistant Secretary of the Navy in World War I part of his job was
to prevent unions from striking in the shipyards. Alter,
"FDR's Unfinished Business," Los Angeles Times, September
3, 2006. ]
The newspaper is referring to the spa where FDR
had gone since 1924 for treatment of his polio-afflicted legs. He
provided funds to upgrade the foundering spa and built a small home-
later dubbed "The Little White House" where he stayed on his
frequent visits to Warm Springs and where he died in 1945.
Relief - The Federal Writers' Project: FDR expands the WPA to
include a project for unemployed writers, editors, historians, researchers,
photographers and illustrators.
had to first prove that they were unemployed and in need of relief
paupers. Next they had to demonstrate a talent for writing or some
other skill needed for publishing a book. More than 7500 people
journalists, novelists, poets, photographers, PhDs were employed
by the project before its closure in 1939. Some collected oral histories,
including those of ex-slaves. Folklore and folk songs were recorded,
including the Negro convict songs that John Lomax collected from
the chain gangs of the Deep South that would incur the wrath
of Congressman Martin Dies of Texas. The Oneida Language and Culture
Project collected life histories of the Wisconsin tribe and revitalized
a language that was close to extinction. Over 300 publications resulted
from the Project.
is best remembered for the American Guide series collectively
written time capsules of all 48 states plus Alaska, the District
of Columbia, Puerto Rico and numerous cities. Most of the work was
anonymous with only the administrators and supervisors (who didn't
have to be paupers) receiving acknowledgement. However, it is known
that the Guide for Deerfield, Massachusetts was written by Conrad
Aiken and the one for Galena, Illinois by Nelson Algren. 20
Guide was the first to be published in January, 1937
quickly followed by the Guide for Washington, DC. They were widely
reviewed and met with fulsome praise:
Bruce Catton described the Idaho Guide as "not merely a comprehensive
and readable guide" but also "a bit of literature worth reading
for its own sake and reflecting vast credit on everybody concerned."
Bernard De Voto, editor of the Saturday Review of Literature,
called it "an almost unalloyed triumph."
reviewed the first five guides in the New Republic: "Future
historians will turn to these guidebooks as one who would know the
classic world must still turn to Pausanias' ancient guidebook to
not everyone was pleased with the Guides. Southerners were unhappy
with the space given to Negroes and their accomplishments. A Wisconsin
congressman was incensed at the factoid in the Washington D.C. Guide
that revealed that George Washington's step-grandson, George Washington
Parke Curtis, had bequeathed a tract of land in the district "to
his colored daughter. Maria Syphax."
Traveler described the Massachusetts Guide as an "insult" to
the state. There were thirty-one lines devoted to the Sacco-Vanzetti
case (in a book of 675 pages) whereas the Boston Tea Party had merited
a mere fourteen lines. The front-page headline: SACCO VANZETTI PERMEATE
NEW WPA GUIDE. Too many passages were deemed to be pro-labor and
anti-establishment with too much space given to child labor, the
Boston police strike and the 1912 textile workers' strike in Lawrence.
Several mayors threatened to ban the book. The headlines caused
the first printing to sell out quickly and Houghton Mifflin proceeded
with second and third printings.
It was after
the House Committee on Un-American Activities was formed [see
entry for May 26, 1938] that the Writers' Project came under
heavy political pressure. Chairman Martin Dies (D-TX) held hearings
throughout August and September, 1938 that attempted to prove that
the Projects, especially the one in New York City, were "hotbeds
of Communists" that fomented labor unrest and class warfare.
of repentant ex-Communists included a feeble man of seventy, described
as a "paranoid personality," who had joined the Communist Party
in order to establish his credentials as an informer. With such
evidence Dies was able to proclaim that one-third of the Project
employees were members of the Communist Party. (Actually this may
have been true for New York City, but New York represented 10% of
the employees of the Project.)
not in session, so news was scarce: the New York Times gave
more than 500 inches of column space to Dies' pronouncements and
those of his witnesses. A Gallup poll indicated that 60% of the
respondents were familiar with the work of the Dies Committee; of
those 75% favored the continuation of the investigations. Henry
Alsberg, the charismatic director of the Project, was eased out
of office, and federal funding for the project was ended in 1939
(although some states continued sponsorship of their Projects until
When John Steinbeck
packed his camper "Rocinante" for his 1960 Travels with Charley
preceding the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election, he included copies
of WPA Guides the original ones, not the updated versions
for all the states he planned to visit. He wrote that the "complete
set comprises the most comprehensive account of the United States
ever got together and nothing since has approached it." Taylor,
Soul of a People; Mangione, pp. 5, 206-297, 216-220, 256-265,
writers who later would become well-known (plus a few already notable):
Jack Balch, Saul Bellow, Maxwell Bodenheim, Arna Bontemps, John
Cheever, Jack Conroy, Edward Dahlberg, Floyd Dell, Ralph Ellison,
Kenneth Fearing, Zora Neale Huston, Claude McKay, Tillie Olsen,
Kenneth Rexroth, Philip Rahv, Meridel LeSueur, Jim Thompson, Margaret
Walker, Richard Wright, Frank Yerby and Anzia Yezierska. Many of
these, especially Ellison and Wright, were proud to acknowledge
the substantial support the FWP had been for their careers. A few
others either downplayed the importance of the FWP or actually denied
their pwn participation.
Here and There: Following the denunciation by Senator
William H. King (D-UT) of Hitler's actions and his demand for a
commission to investigate Nazi persecution of Jews and Catholics,
the NAACP in an article in the Pittsburgh Courier asks that
Senator King explain how "America can, with good grace, protest
against what is happening in Germany or anywhere else outside the
United States, as long as we do nothing about the lynchings in our
own country?" The NAACP reminds Senator King that at least the Nazis
have "not yet sunk to our own level of burning human beings at the
stake." Dray, p.338.
Security Act is signed by FDR.
[The United States was the last industrial country to legislate
old age and unemployment insurance programs for its citizens. This
act, less sweeping than those in most other countries, provided
for federal payment to the elderly and to survivors to be financed
from payroll deductions. (FDR was adamant that there should be no
financing of the old-age pensions from the general revenue as in
Europe. This, despite the dramatic increase in the average age in
the US since 1920 due to the curtailment of immigration and the
declining birth rate.)
insurance was financed jointly by the federal government and the
states, which resulted in a disparity of payments between the wealthier
and the poorer states. National health insurance, a feature of most
European countries, was not included due to pressure from the American
Medical Association. The conservatives attacked the bill as violating
the American traditions of thrift and initiative. Dr. Francis Townsend
21 condemned the bill as inadequate.
In truth, initially
only half of the work force of 48 million Americans was covered
by its provisions, and the payments were not sufficient to live
on. The bill could not have been passed without the votes of the
Southern Democrats. In an effort to prolong the Jim Crow denial-of-
opportunity social structure of the South, they mandated that certain
work categories- farm labor and domestic service- be excluded from
coverage. These two categories comprised 75% of the black labor
force in the South and 60% of the black labor force in the United
has pointed out that this legislation, as well as other New Deal
acts, gave the white population benefits that were withheld from
blacks. It was not until 1954, when the Republicans controlled the
White House and both houses of Congress, that these occupations
were finally given coverage. But African-Americans still could not
catch up with the first enrollees, as the program required five
years of contributions before any benefits could be received. Miller,
Intimate, pp. 373-374; Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 523-525;
Katznelson, When Affirmative Action was White, pp. 22-23,
was an elderly physician (born in 1867) forced into retirement by
the Depression. He proposed a plan, the Old Age Revolving Pension
Plan, whereby the government would give a pension of $200 a month
to every retired American over 60 with the stipulation that all
the money must be spent in the next 30 days. It would be financed
by a federal sales tax. (The tax would have paid only a fraction
of the total cost- which would have amounted to nearly half the
GNP!) The idea occurred to him when he saw some elderly women scrounging
in garbage cans for food scraps. His Townsend Clubs soon numbered
five million people; twenty million people signed a petition to
FDR demanding Townsend's pension plan. The Social Security Act was
an attempt to defuse this movement.
Act is signed by FDR.
[The Act revised
the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, establishing governmental control
over money supply and credit by giving the Federal Reserve Board
the authority to determine discount and prime interest rates. The
Act was attacked by both those who favored laissez-faire in banking
and those who advocated nationalization of the banks.
It passed the
House without difficulty, but nearly failed in the Senate until
FDR put the bill on his "must pass" list in June. Until then, as
with the Wagner Labor bill, he had done nothing to endorse its passage.
Davis, New Deal, pp. 537-541.]
Act- the Public Utilities Act- is signed by FDR.
[Public utility holding companies were required to register with
the Securities and Exchange Commission and submit to regulation.
The SEC was empowered to kill off those companies that could not
demonstrate that they were performing a useful function. There had
been a demand for such legislation as far back as 1926 thanks to
the exorbitant rates, the mergers based on corporate greed rather
than social or economic need, and the use of utility company money
to influence elections.
companies, however, with Wendell Willkie in the lead, formed an
immensely powerful lobby the utility company lobbyists in
Washington outnumbered the representatives and senators and
were able to delay this legislation for several years and nearly
defeat the Title I clause. The bill was finally passed, virtually
in the form requested by FDR, after Senator Hugo Black (D-AL) exposed
the underhanded machinations of the utilities lolobby which included
a whispering campaign that FDR was insane, the sending of letters
and telegrams signed by names garnered from city directories, and
the expenditure of more than a million dollars.
Most of the
great utility empires were broken up into regional companies in
the next three years, and more reasonable rates prevailed. Title
I provided for the abolition of holding companies that had been
established for the purpose of "leverage" to enable financiers to
control an empire of utilities with a minimum investment of capital.
These holding companies "milked" the operating utilities, thus inflating
rates to the consumers. They also conducted propaganda campaigns,
bribing textbook publishers and teachers to bring false statements
to the classroom. A 1926 best-selling book by William Z. Ripley,
Main Street and Wall Street, had exposed many of these practices.
Davis, New Deal, pp. 529-537.]
Tax Act of 1935 is signed by FDR. [In asking for this legislation,
FDR had said: "Our revenue laws have done little to prevent an unjust
concentration of wealth and economic power. . . . The transmission
from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance,
or gift is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the
American people. . . Such inherited economic power is as inconsistent
with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power
was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established
The Act increased
taxes on inheritances and gifts and raised the top surtax rates
on individual incomes from 59% to 75%. The bill was condemned by
the conservatives, earning FDR increasing animosity from the Hearst
newspaper empire and the wealthy. FDR defended his actions to them:
"I am fighting Communism, Huey Longism, Coughlinism, Townsendism
to save our system, the capitalistic system [and to succeed] it
may be necessary to throw to the wolves the forty-six men who are
reported to have incomes in excess of one million dollars a year.
This can be accomplished through taxation."
of income distribution was not changed. In fact, the share of the
top one percent increased through the rest of the 1930s. Ironically,
FDR had put the brakes on what could have been genuine wealth redistribution
by NOT including in the Social Security legislation- health insurance
and old age pensions paid out of the general funds. Davis,
New Deal, pp. 541-548.]
FDR signs the Neutrality Act of 1935 which mandates an embargo on
arms and munitions (but not on oil or the raw materials for making
weapons) against any belligerent nation.
[FDR had proposed
that the president have the discretion to impose the ban on aggressor
nations while permitting shipments to countries acting in self-defense,
but the isolationists in Congress refused. Shogan,
in the United States: Senator Huey Long of Louisiana dies of
gunshot wounds from an attack two days before at the state Capitol
in Baton Rouge. [The assassin was Carl Weiss, a young Baton Rouge
physician, whose father-in-law was a judge targeted by Long for
elimination in the next election. Long's last words: "God, don't
let me die! I have so much to do!" Davis, New
Deal Years, pp. 574-575.]
The Nazis enact the Nuremberg Laws which deprive the Jews of
German citizenship, forbid marriage or sexual relations between
Jews and "Aryans," and prohibit Jews from employing female Aryan
servants under thirty-five years of age.
[Jews had already
been forbidden to hold public office, banned from the stock exchange,
and excluded fromteaching, civil service, journalism and radio,
theater and film. Shirer, Rise and Fall,
p. 233. ]
Italian troops invade Abyssinia (later: Ethiopia) from Eritrea
and Italian Somaliland, aided by imports of US oil and other raw
materials not covered under the US Neutrality Act. The accompanying
air raid on Adowa causes heavy civilian casualties; the first bomb
falls on a building marked with a red cross that is used to store
of Nations voted that Italy "had resorted to war," but the sanctions
eventually imposed were relatively harmless ones and did not include
oil. (From October to February US oil exports to Italy rose from
6% to 17%. If Romania and the Soviet Union Italy's main suppliers
had embargoed oil, US oil corporations were more than ready to supply
the difference.) Much cheating occurred, and the League had no means
to enforce its sanctions. This would be the death knell for the
using poison gas allowed by the UK to transit the Suez Canal22
and indiscriminate bombing, penetrated deep into the country in
two months. The Abyssinians defended themselves as best they could
with camels, spears, ancient muskets and drums. By May 5, 1936 fascist
troops were in control of the whole country; Emperor Haile Selassie
fled abroad 23 to avoid the extermination
of the Ethiopian people, and the King of Italy proclaimed himself
the Emperor of Abyssinia.
Mussolini abrogated the Franco-Italian Pact of the previous January
24 and the potential Franco-Italian-British
anti-German front. Hitler, courting British goodwill, sold arms
to Haile Selassie and banned exports of tin, aluminum and other
war matériel to Italy. Shirer, Collapse,
pp. 242-250; Ridley, pp. 262-.269, 274.]
The British government held the majority of the shares in the consortium
which owned the Suez Canal. Mussolini made it clear in diplomatic
circles that if the Suez Canal should be closed "for repairs" he
would order the Italian navy to open it. This would mean war and
the British people did not want war, so the logical sanction against
Italy was not employed. Ridley, p. 256.
Haile Selassie testified before the League in Geneva on June 30,
1936: "I decided to come ...to give Europe warning of the doom that
awaits it if it bows down before the fait accompli....If a strong
government finds that it can with impunity destroy a weak people,
then the hour has struck for that weak people to appeal to the League
of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history
will remember your decision... What answer am I to take back to
my people?" The League's answer four days later was to rescind all
sanctions against Italy. Case closed. Davis, New
Deal Years, p. 596.
Mussolini claimed that Pierre Laval (then foreign minister of France)
had given him a "free hand" in Abyssinia in a secret addendum to
the Franco-Italian Agreement of January 7, 1935.
FDR acknowledges that "Ethiopian and Italian armed forces are engaged
in combat" and warns the public that the Neutrality Act is in effect
and that Americans who engage in "transactions of any character
with either of the belligerent nations do so at their own risk."
He adds that "tempting trade opportunities may be offered to our
people to supply material that would prolong the war...." and makes
a moral plea that exporters voluntarily refrain from such sales.
However, "the American Government is keeping informed on all shipments
consigned to both belligerents."
[FDR and his
aides had discussed asking for legislation to enlarge the list of
embargoed items on the recently-passed Neutrality Act to include
those raw materials needed for war. Knowing that this would not
fly with the isolationist public, FDR settled for asking manufacturers
for this "moral embargo."
American shipments to Italy of refined copper, scrap iron and scrap
steel more than doubled that of a year before. Oil exports for the
last quarter of the year were tripled. At this time the US produced
more than half of the world's oil; the industry had unmarketable
surpluses and was not about to heed any moral embargo.
If the League
had voted for an embargo on oil to Italy at its November 29 meeting,
FDR would have been obliged to have the US embargo oil also. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 584-585; 588-592.]
CIO: Under the leadership of John L. Lewis, the president of
the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), the leaders of seven additional
AFL unions join together to form the Committee of Industrial Organization:-
--- Sidney Hillman of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America,
--- David Dubinsky of the International Ladies' Garment Workers
--- Thomas McMahon of the United Textile Workers of America,
--- Thomas H. Brown of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union,
--- Harvey C. Fremming of the Oil Field, Gas Well and Refinery Workers
--- Max Zaritsky of the Hat, Cap and Millinery Workers, and
--- Charles P. Howard of the Typographical Union.
the longtime (since 1924) president of the American Federation of
Labor, was immediately apprehensive about this "organization within
an organization." Lewis and the others had been agitating within
the AFL for industry-wide organizing as opposed to the established
AFL model of trade and craft guilds. The CIO secretary answered
that the CIO sought only to "organize the unorganized" and promote
industrial organization in affiliation with the AFL; not to be a
rival or "raid" any established unions.
escalated to the point that the AFL expelled ten unions in the fall
of 1936 the UMW and the first five unions named above plus
the United Auto Workers, the United Rubber Workers, the Flat Glass
Workers and the Iron, Steel and Tin Workers.
The CIO went on to organize industrial workers in industry-wide
unions (steel, rubber, automobiles, textiles, etc.) abandoning the
guild philosophy of the AFL. By this time there were 5 million workers
in unions and the numbers would continue to grow, especially in
the auto and steel industries. The CIO merged again with the AFL
in 1955. Davis, New Deal Years, p. 630-631;
Bernstein, Turbulent. pp. 386-431.]
Kidnapping Case: The public is astounded when New Jersey Governor
Harold Hoffman announces that he is going to the New Jersey Board
of Pardons to ask for a commutation of Bruno Hauptmann's death sentence
to life imprisonment.
[The governor had not been swayed by the "evidence" presented
at the trial and believed Hauptmann to be innocent, especially after
an early summer visit to Hauptmann in his prison cell. They talked
for over an hour, Hauptmann stoutly maintaining his innocence.
He said he was a skilled carpenter and never would have made a flimsy
one like the one shown at the trial. And from a board in his attic?
the press that he had "serious doubts" about the case.
He hired an investigator to examine the police evidence and discovered
exculpatory evidence about the witnesses. He examined Hauptmann's
attic with the wood "experts," and found that rail "16"
did not fit and could not have come from the attic. When District
Attorney Wilentz and Polic Chief Schwartzkopf refused to meet him
at the Hauptmann house to discuss the "wood" evidence,
he accused them of fabricating the evidence.
Two days after
this announcement Charles Lindbergh told his wife to start packing
and to be ready to leave the United States on "24 hours' notice."
Four days after
Hoffman's announcement the Supreme Court turned down Hauptmann's
appeal; his execution was now set for the first week in January.
Many people in New Jersey were already unhappy with Governor Hoffman
because of his tax legislation. With this announcement the criticism
turned nasty and the governor received death threats. Ahlgren
and Monier, pp. 168-170, 187, 190-193.]
Hoare-Laval Pact is leaked to the press: In exchange for a truce
in Abyssinia, Great Britain and France would allow Italy to receive
two-thirds of the country- the most productive parts. Abyssinia
would be given a narrow "corridor for camels" to the Red Sea; except
for this it would be land-locked.
Laval, also acting as Foreign Minister, wished to subvert the League
sanctions against Italy in the hopes of keeping Mussolini in alliance
with France against Hitler. Let him have Abyssinia, after all it's
in Africa, not Europe. So he inveigled the British foreign minister,
Sir Samuel Hoare, to agree to this pact, at the same time secretly
phoning Mussolini for his agreement to the specifics.
public was outraged, labeling the proposal an "appeasement" of Italian
aggression. (George V is alleged to have joked: "No more coals to
Newcastle and no more Hoares to Paris.") The Baldwin cabinet which
had originally agreed to the plan now rejected it and Hoare was
forced to resign. He would later return to the cabinet under Neville
Chamberlain's government. On December 28th a resentful Mussolini
abrogated the Franco-Italian Pact of January 7th and resigned from
Stresa and the potential Franco-Italian-British anti-German front.
not only the possibility of Italy as an ally against Hitler but
also the League of Nations as a barrier to aggression. Laval, too,
was forced to resign six weeks later, even though the conservatives
blamed Great Britain for pushing Italy out of an alliance with the
west. Britain was pursuing sanctions, they said, not out of any
support of League principles, but to pursue their imperial interests
in Africa and protect the headwaters of the Nile River. Americans
were disgusted with the Hoare-Laval deal; this only increased their
isolationism. Shirer, Collapse, pp. 248-250;
Ridley, pp. 265-267.]
The ex-president, continuing his post-presidency career of assailing
the New Deal and attempting to justify his presidency, says in a
speech to the John Marshall Republican Club in St. Louis: "What
happened on March 3, 1933 was an induced hysteria of bank depositors.
The banking structure at large subsequently proved to be sound .
. . The truth is that the world-wide depression was turned in June-July
all over the world. That was before the election of the New Deal.
. . . There was no panic before the election of November, 1932.
When did they become frightened? They became scared a few weeks
before the inauguration of the New Deal on March 4, 1933. . . .
They were frightened by the incoming New Deal. . . . It was the
most political and most unnecessary bank panic in all our history.
It could have been prevented. It could have been cured by simple
co-operation. Perhaps this reminds you of an ex-vice-president in
2009? Lyons, pp. 312-313.
Exile: The Lindbergh family Charles, Anne, and three-year-old
Jon secretively sail for England on the SS American Importer,
two weeks before the scheduled execution of Bruno Hauptmann, the
convicted kidnapper of Charles, Jr., the family's first son.
[A few days
before, Lindbergh had given an exclusive story to Deac Lyman of
the New York Times with the understanding that the story
should not run until 24 hours after the Lindberghs' departure. So
the public only learned that the Lindberghs were gone in a four-column
story the next day, the content carefully framed by Lindbergh in
advance: LINDBERGH FAMILY SAILS FOR ENGLAND TO SEEK A SAFE, SECLUDED
RESIDENCE; THREATS ON SON'S LIFE FORCE DECISION.
many editorials censuring Governor Hoffman already a pariah
to most people for having so badgered America's Hero that
he had to leave his own country to raise his family in peace. Ahlgren,
States v. Butler: The Supreme Court delivers another blow to
the New Deal by ruling that the tax that commodity processors had
to pay under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was unconstitutional.
tax raised the money to pay the subsidies to the farmers who had
agreed to limit crop production, the 6-3 vote essentially killed
the AAA. Justice Stone in his often-cited dissent called the majority
opinion "a tortured construction of the Constitution" and rebuked
his conservative colleagues for their judicial arrogance: "Courts
are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have
the capacity to govern. . . . [T]he only check upon our own exercise
of power is our own sense of self-restraint, . . . "
25 in his majority opinion had implied
that Congress and ultimately the people lacked the capacity for
self-restraint. However, similar tax provisions in the Social Security
Act were upheld the next year, and Congress enacted a new Agricultural
Adjustment Act for five commodities with the payment for the subsidies
coming from the US Treasury, rather than the processors. Hall,
pp. 111-112; Burns, Lion, pp. 231-232, 342.]
Justice Roberts was known as the chief swing man on the Court, voting
on the liberal side of a question almost as frequently as on the
right. Many felt he should have recused himself, as the attorney
for Butler was former Senator George Pepper, an intimate friend
of Roberts who had persuaded Hoover to nominate him to the Supreme
Court- and before that had urged Coolidge to name Roberts as government
prosecutor in the Teapot Dome case, which first brought him into
national prominence. Chief Justice Hughes voted with the majority,
as he feared that a 5-4 decision on such an important case could
lead to a popular demand for restraints on judicial power. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 607-611.
V of England dies. [The next day the new king, Edward VIII,
met with a cousin, the Nazi agent Duke of Coburg, and expressed
a wish for an Anglo-German alliance and a desire to meet with Rudolf
Hess and Hitler either in England or Germany. He confided his intention
to be a politically active king. This was most unconstitutional
behavior Great Britain's monarch is permitted only to advise
and consent, not to make policy. A copy of Coburg's report to Hitler
came to the desk of Stewart Menzies, deputy to the chief of British
intelligence. Less than two months later the Nazis, possibly emboldened
by Coburg's soundings, re-occupied the Rhineland. Cave
Brown, "C", pp. 181-182
Sit-Down Strike in Akron, Ohio: Several tire builders at Firestone
Plant One husky mountaineers from Southern Appalachia
lay down their tire irons and stop work at precisely 2 AM. One of
them throws the switch to stop the assembly line machinery.
[By 3 AM the
rest of the tire builders on the late shift had signed cards to
join the United Rubber Workers of America (URWA). Soon the whole
plant had ceased to function. Some departments joined the sit-down
and the union; others were stalled by the lack of production from
the tire builders. On the third day of the strike, with Plant Two
threatening to strike in sympathy, Firestone acceded to most of
the union's demands.
The tire builder
who had been fired after he accosted the rate-maker a company
employee who was setting a faster pace which would determine the
new "rate" at which the men would have to work was rehired.
(The pace was already back-breaking. The weight output per man had
increased from an index figure of 100 in 1914 to 250 in 1922, to
506 in 1929, to 681 in 1931. There the government report stopped,
but every tire worker knew that the speedup had escalated significantly
to go back to the old rate and give three hours' pay for every day
of the strike. The demands of earlier strikes at the three main
rubber companies, following the adoption of an NRA code for the
industry in December, 1933, had been sabotaged by the AFL leaders
or the company unions.
later a spontaneous sit-down occurred at the Goodrich Tire Company,
protesting an announced speedup. The URWA signed up the strikers
and Goodrich capitulated rather quickly on terms similar to Firestone.
(Both companies were locally owned.)
a different story; it was controlled by a board of directors on
Wall Street. Paul Litchfield, the company president, told the URWA
negotiators that no "nonsense" like the Firestone settlement would
happen at Goodyear. Bernstein remarks that "Goodyear was to rubber
what General Motors was to automobiles, and its president Paul W.
Litchfield, was the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. of the rubber industry.
The two men, in fact, had been classmates at M.I.T." (See
February 14, 1936 for more on Goodyear.) McKenney,
pp. 117-118; 251- 271. Her book, Industrial Valley,
reads like a diary of Akron from January 1, 1932 to March 21, 1936.
It recounts the bank failure, reactions to world events, numbers
on the relief rolls, society balls in West Hills, the misery index
in South Akron and East Akron,
the people frozen to death who could not afford to heat their homes,
the bankers on trial (and acquitted) as well as a blow-by-blow description
of the rubber industry unrest and strikes. Bernstein,
Turbulent, p. 589.]
Punishment in New York City: At 9 PM 165 plainclothesmen simultaneously
raid 41 houses of prostitution in Manhattan and Brooklyn, taking
88 prisoners. The four major "bookers" men who farm the prostitutes
out to the madamsand
several of the combination bosses are separately arrested the same
Thomas Dewey did not order the raid with the intent of closing down
"the world's oldest profession" in his city; it was a device to
bring down the "combination" that had brutally organized the prostitution
industry. (He had not anticipated that he would be able, after interviewing
arrestees, to connect the city's racketeering boss, Charlie "Lucky"
Luciano, to the combination.)
combination sent a bondsman to pay the prostitute's fine and she
was released within hours. This time the grand jury ordered the
prostitutes and madams held as material witnesses. When confronted
with the possibility of seven years in prison, most agreed to testify
for the prosecution. In his press conference on Groundhog Day Dewey
described how the prostitution ring operated, taking in $12 million
a year. "We've got the whole New York prostitution ring in custody
right now," he said, not mentioning Luciano, who was hiding out
in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
extradited to New York in mid-April to stand trial with eight other
defendants bosses and enforcers of the combination and bondsmen.
On June 5th all were found guilty on sixty-two counts of compulsory
prostitution. Luciano received the most severe sentence30
to 50 years and ended up in Clinton State Prison in Dannemora
in the far north of the state.
the prostitutes from custody, the paternal Judge Philip J. McCook
interviewed each of them separately, had them swear that their testimony
had not been coerced and gave them their $3 per day paychecks for
their time as material witnesses.
To the consternation of most of them, McCook enjoined them to meet
with some women waiting in an adjoining room "warm-hearted
women" from various charitable institutions who wanted to help them
find jobs, be protected and "not be forced back to doing anything"
that they did not want to do. Poulsen does not record how successful
these well-meant interventions were, but implies that most of the
prostitutes returned to $2 houses.
For more on Luciano's career, including his control
of the mob from his prison cell, see June 7, 1936, August 24, 1939,
February 9, 1942, May 12, 1942, July 10, 1943 and February 10, 1946.
Poulsen, pp. 66-85. ]
Sit-Down at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company: At 3 AM the tire
builders of Goodyear Plant Two shut off the power to their machines
and sit down, protesting the layoff of seventy men as part of Goodyear's
preparation for the installation of the eight-hour day.
their marathon card game was interrupted by the arrival of Goodyear's
personnel director flanked by a crew of guards (with holstered revolvers
prominently visible) and nine foremen and supervisors. He gave the
men thirty minutes to return to work and turned on the machinery.
Only three men rather timidly complied. After a near-confrontation
with these workers, the rest of the tire builders went back to playing
later the personnel director turned off the current and thanked
the nervous three, telling them to report to work the next day.
He told the 137 card players that they were fired and would never
be re-hired. The Goodyear contingent left, locking in the strikers
who were not released until the next day.
annual statement made the front page of the Beacon Journal on Monday
the 17th: Their profits for 1935 were nearly $5.5 million, nearly
a million dollars more than in 1934. There was talk of little else
in the union hall that day. An evening meeting called to discuss
the plight of the 137 + 70 laid-off men quickly escalated into plans
for a strike of Goodyear Plant Two. By 11 PM that evening enough
pickets were in place to prevent the entry of the midnight shift.
And the number of pickets continued to grow despite the sub-zero
weather. As workers, arriving by the busload, learned of the strike,
they shouted "Hurrah!" and made no attempt to enter the plant but
joined the picket line.
Within a few
days the spontaneously organized strike became a serious one, thanks
to the expertise of Jim Keller, the Communist Party section organizer
for Akron. A leaflet listed the demands:
--- retention of the six-hour day, no layoffs,
--- no more speedups,
--- no wage cuts, and
--- a signed agreement with URWA.
The leaflet detailed the immediate causes of the strike and included
the government report on the speedup. (See January
29, 1936) The leaflet gave the following warning: "It would
be the sensible thing for the company, for Mayor Schroy and the
city government, not to attempt terror against the strikers. If
they do, they will bear the responsibility for a general strike
which is sure to develop--- if the methods of Sheriff Flower are
This was a
reference to the November, 1935 strike at the Ohio Insulator plant
in nearby Barberton where the sheriff and a Colonel Johnston had
gas-bombed the pickets, including women and children in the street
and in their yards and homes that bordered the plant. McKenney,
to negotiate with the strikers as long as the plant entrances were
barricaded. On the fifth day they secured an injunction against
mass picketing which a frightened police chief refused to enforce.
On the sixth day the CIO came to town to advise the newly-formed
union. The AF of L yelled "Foul!"- the URWA was their union.
Firestone workers continued building tires but taxed themselves
to supply food and loudspeakers for the strike. Thousands of WPA
workers stood ready to shut down their projects in case of violence
to Goodyear picketers. On the eighth day the Akron chief of police
stopped an attack on the picket line. It was clear that the city
of Akron would be shut down if the National Guard was called in.
And the National Guard, facing law suits from their actions in Toledo
the previous year during the Electric Auto-Lite strike, refused
to come to Akron unless there was already blood running in the streets.
The local radio
station started giving time each night for both sides to make their
case to the public. Editorially both newspapers opposed the strike,
but both gave fair reporting to both the union and Goodyear. The
company continued its refusal to negotiate. By the twentieth day
secret negotiations had begun between the company and the union.
Goodyear did an end run by publicly announcing the five elements
of a "peace proposal" they had offered the union.
advised by the CIO, did not dare risk public censure by flatly refusing
this very weak offer, so they accepted two of the five points and
said further negotiation was needed. Goodyear declared their offer
was final, rescinded the offer to rehire the strikers and announced
that the plant would be reopened. Ex-Mayor Sparks announced the
formation of The Akron Law and Order League a vigilante group
covertly sponsored by the three major rubber companies that
would protect Goodyear's 13,000 "loyal workers" who would be returning
to work. In his radio addresses he claimed that the union members
described as "chiseling leeches, labor agitators, radicals, Communists,
can't be called citizens, and it is stretching a point to call them
Americans" had been arming themselves with revolvers and gas
The next day
the Akron Beacon Journal condemned this group with a front-page
editorial: "NO ROOM FOR VIGILANTES!" That night the union had an
all-night radio broadcast. Members were asked to have "listening-in"
parties at their homes, and to be ready to come to the rescue of
the pickets should there be violence at the barricades before an
attempted re-opening of the Goodyear plant.
There was no
vigilante action; Goodyear managed to make some reasonable proposals
and the strike was settled on March 20th. The union had most of
their demands met and got a de facto recognition from the
company. The sit-down became the most advantageous tool for labor
and would be widely used in the coming months in the auto and steel
industries- and in the rubber industry to cement the gains made
by this historic strike. McKenney, pp. 273-369;
Bernstein , Turbulent , pp.593-602
v. Mississippi: The Supreme Court rules unanimously that
criminal convictions based on confessions elicited by torture and
cruelty violate the fundamental right to a fair trial based on the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
of three African-Americans accused of killing a white planter in
Kemper County, Mississippi two years earlier were thereby reversed.
Chief Justice Hughes wrote that the original court transcript "reads
more like pages torn from some medieval account, than a record made
within the confines of a modern civilization which aspires to an
enlightened constitutional government. . . . The rack and torture
chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand. . . . . It
would be difficult to conceive of methods more revolting to the
sense of justice than those taken to procure the confessions of
these petitioners, and the use of the confessions thus obtained
as the basis for conviction and sentence was a clear denial of due
process." Dray, pp. 315-317.]
v. Tennessee Valley Authority: The Supreme Court upholds
the constitutionality of the Act, 8-1, finding that Congress has
the authority to construct dams and to sell their byproduct, electricity.
had been brought by the preferred stockholders of the Alabama Power
Company, a corporation which had tried for decades to obtain the
hydroelectric resources of the Tennessee Valley. Hall,
The Neutrality Act of 1936 is passed. It extends the provisions
of the 1935 act until May 1, 1937 and adds a prohibition against
the granting of any credits or loans to belligerent nations.
in the Senate and McReynolds in the House (D-TN) attempted to add
a clause giving the President the power to prohibit exports to any
belligerent nation of strategic raw materials such as oil and cotton
in excess of the amount "normally" exported to that nation. The
isolationists were prompt and loud with their opposition and they
prevailed. Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 593-595.]
- Rhineland: Hitler's troops march into the demilitarized Rhineland
in violation of Articles 42 and 43 of the Versailles Treaty and
the Locarno Pact of 1925 and against the advice of his generals.
had plenty of advance warning that Hitler was planning this.
Sarraut's government was a caretaker government, marking time until
the elections at
the end of April, and indecisive, to put it kindly. After Foreign
Minister Anthony Eden made it clear that any military action to
resist German troops moving in must come from France, the French
government decided if this should happen they would immediately
consult with the British, Belgians and Italians about a common action
in support of the Locarno and Versailles treaties. (Hitler stated
that the Locarno Pact had been abrogated already by France when
that country signed a mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union.
New York Times, March 8, 1936, A1.)
army could have easily driven the Germans out; in fact, the German
generals were prepared to retreat in face of any hostile action.
Hitler later revealed that German troops would have retreated from
the area had there been any resistance, as he "had no army worth
mentioning, [not even enough] to maintain itself against the Poles"
who were ready to invade Germany from the east if the French had
been willing to attack the German army and drive it back across
testified at Nuremberg, "Considering the situation we were in, the
French covering army could have blown us to pieces." But the British
were off for a long weekend and unavailable for consultations. The
Sunday papers in France inveighed against any action: "We do not
have to march against Hitler with the Soviets!" The military stalled
on making plans, claiming nothing could have been done short of
full-scale mobilization and the people didn't want war. And so nothing
zone the area west of the Rhine and a strip 50 kilometers
wide east of the Rhine was France's first line of defense
against a sudden German invasion as in 1914. (In 1919 Marshal Foch
had demanded that France be given all of Germany west of the Rhine
as a defensive measure. The Treaty Commission had devised the demilitarized
zone as a substitute.) France had made alliances with Czechoslovakia
and Poland based on the rapidity with which she could cross the
Rhineland and strike swiftly at the Ruhr, the heart of Germany's
industry and armament works, should one of her allies be attacked
it is incredible that France allowed the remilitarization to go
unchallenged. Perhaps Hitler could have been stopped and World War
II averted. Davis, New Deal Years, pp. 595-596;
Shirer, Collapse, pp. 251-284.
Early in March,
1940, Robert Murphy escorted Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles
on the French segment of his "Peace Mission" to Europe. When they
visited President Albert Lebrun, Murphy had one question for the
aging man: "Do you believe that the French Government could have
upset Hitler's plans if it had opposed by force his illegal occupation
of the Rhineland in 1936?" Lebrun answered yes, and added: "But
we were just too tired." The previous year1935 had been
the first year in which the number of deaths exceeded the number
of births in France, just one more fallout from the devastating
number of casualties that France had suffered in WW I. Murphy,
In 1935 the
United States Army ranked sixteenth in size in the world and did
not have one combat-ready unit. Ambrose, Eisenhower,
"Kidnapping" Case: Bruno Richard Hauptmann dies in the electric
chair at the New Jersey State prison, executed for the abduction
and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr.
been a stay of execution ordered by Governor Harold Hoffman while
he tried to convince the Board of Pardons to commute the sentence
to life imprisonment. In this period he received a letter from "J.J.
Faulkner" declaring Hauptmann to be innocent.
The handwriting matched the signature on the bank deposit slip and
also the handwriting on all of the ransom notes (except the first
one found on the window sill.) (For entry on "J.J.
Faulkner, see February 13, 1935.) Behn, pp. 273-349, 371-375.
continued their censure of Governor Hoffman; he did not win re-election.
But he never regretted his actions; until his death he passionately
believed in Hauptmann's inniocence. Ahlgren, pp.
v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo: The Supreme Court, 5-4, strikes
down a New York state minimum wage law for women and children. Justice
Piece Butler, writing for the majority, maintains that the right
to contract for wages is protected by the "due process" clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment and state governments should not be permitted
to interfere with any contracts for labor. Justice Stone accuses
the majority of acting on their "personal economic predilections"
and remarks that there is "grim irony in speaking of the freedom
of contract of those who, because of their economic necessities,
give their services for less than is needful to keep body and soul
a most unpopular decision; All but 10 out of 344 newspaper editorials
condemned it. For the New Dealers the decision was a tipping point.
First the Court overturned the Railroad Pension Act of 1934, second
Schecter in May, 1935 had ruled the NIRA to be unconstitutional,
and then Butler in January, 1936 had destroyed the agricultural
program. In the NRA decision the Court decreed that federal wage
legislation was an invasion of rights reserved to states; now Morehead
was prohibiting the states from acting, despite wage legislation
already enforced in seventeen states.
asked newspaperman Isidor Feinstein soon to be known as I.
F. Stone to write a muckraking book detailing the history
of the Supreme Court and its special interests and specious reasoning.
His 127-page The Court Disposes underwent several revisions
dictated by changing circumstances. So it did not appear until June,
1937 after the court-packing scandal and the Court's self-dictated
change of heart. Even after all these years, the book is an enlightening
It begins by
describing a major difference between the United States and "other
representative governments: the US has a Supreme Court where the
majority of the justices have the power to overrule legislative
decisions no matter how thoroughly debated or widely approved."
Izzy Stone closes his book with: "Democracy must curb the Supreme
Court or the Supreme Court, instrument of our great concentrations
of economic power, will destroy democracy. This is the choice before
the American people." Hall, p. 562; Guttenplan,
pp. 98-103; Feinstein, pp. 11-12, 127.]
Léon Blum becomes premier of France.
[In the April 26 elections the parties of the Popular Front had
won the majority, and Blum's Socialist Party emerged as the largest
single party. Although the Socialist and Communist leaders made
it clear that they did not consider the victory to be a mandate
for revolutionary change, they did promise a long over-due "New
Deal" for France: higher wages, collective bargaining rights, a
40-hour work week, paid vacations, curbs on financial speculations
and "democratization" of the Bank of France so it would serve the
needs of all the people and not just the "Two Hundred Families"
of the elite.
was mainly comprised of Socialists and Radical-Socialists (who were
neither radical nor socialist, but members of the rural petite
bourgeoisie.) The Communists chose not to be represented as
they feared Blum would be swayed by the Radicals, yet they promised
to support the new government "loyally and without reserve." The
cabinet was unusual for the number of relatively young men and,
in a country where women could not vote, the presence of three women,
including Mme. Irène Joliot-Curie as Undersecretary for Scientific
right characterized the whole government as "Bolshevik."
Blum was confronted on the first day by the extreme anti-Semite
Xavier Vallat: "For the first time this ancient Gallic-Roman country
will be governed by a Jew. I have to say aloud what everyone is
thinking silently that to govern this peasant nation which
is France it is better to have someone whose origins, no matter
how modest, spring from the womb of our soil rather than have a
subtle Talmudist." (Vallat would find his calling under the Vichy
government when he was made the director of the General Commission
for Jewish Questions and administered the census that identified
the Jews for transport. After the war, he was tried and imprisoned.)
Black, IBM, pp. 313-325.
press launched a wave of anti-Semitism reminiscent of the Dreyfus
Affair forty years earlier. "France under the Jew" was the headline
in Charles Maurras' L'Action Française the day after Blum
took office. "We now have a Jewish government." Yet Blum was successful
in fulfilling the pledges of the Popular Front.
In the first
week he concluded the Matignon Agreement between the association
of employers and the General Confederation of Labor (CGT.) The one
million striking workers agreed to evacuate the plants and end the
strikes in return for a 7-15% increase in wages. In the next ten
days the Chamber passed legislation similar to that passed in the
Hundred Days in the US in 1933. Said the Minister of the Interior,
"We have had a peaceful revolution. Not a machine has been broken,
not a drop of blood has been spilled. It has been the most formidable
social upheaval the Republic has ever known."
Shirer, Collapse, pp. 285-296.]
Prosecution: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, the head of the Mafia
in New York, is convicted of pandering forced prostitution
and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison.
Mafia's basic business of illegal distilling and rum-running became
obsolete when Prohibition ended. Luciano (characterized by Alfred
McCoy as "one of the leading criminal executives of the modern age")
then re-organized the old Sicilian Mafia and led the mob into the
prostitution and heroin rackets with great financial success.
Bureau of Narcotics had enough evidence to convict him on drug charges,
but the Bureau and Dewey felt the prostitution rap would be more
likely to "offend public sensibilities and secure a conviction."
McCoy, Politics of Heroin, pp. 28-30.
had been called from private practice in July, 1935 and appointed
as special prosecutor to clean up the rackets in New York City.
He accepted with the conditions that he be given a staff of twenty
lawyers and complete independence from the do-nothing office of
the District Attorney. New York City was in thrall to the racketeers
and the tribute they demanded from all the city's major industries.
For instance, it was twice as expensive to unload and crate a railcar
of poultry as in Philadelphia; twenty cents was added to the cost
of every barrel of flour entering the city.
success came with the arrest and conviction of twenty-nine of the
most notorious loan sharks in October, 1935. (If you borrowed $5
one week, you had to pay back $6 the next week or get a beating.)
In February Dewey's surprise arrests of the four main prostitution
bookers followed by the simultaneous raids on 41 whorehouses brought
an unexpected dividend: several people identified Lucky Luciano
as the head of the racket. Luciano was the "boss of all bosses"
but Dewey had not guessed that he would be so personally involved
with prostitution, as opposed to the industrial rackets or that
so many witnesses would be willing to name him. (The prostitutes'
endurance of a long incarceration instead of the usual quick $300
bail from their bookers may have been an incentive.)
Smith, Dewey, pp. 174-206.] For more on Dewey's crime-busting
career, see November 2, 1937.
Convention in Cleveland: Governor Alfred M. Landon of Kansas,
the only serious contender for the presidential nomination, is named
on the first ballot. [
oil millionaire, was the leader of the liberal wing of the Republican
He had supported Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party in 1912.
In the 1936 campaign he repudiated the endorsement of the Liberty
League. In his whistle-stops he promised to keep what was good about
the New Deal but would administer it better.
Most of the
campaign rhetoric would be supplied by the Old Guard in Congress
and by John Hamilton, the national chairman, who warned that under
Social Security Washington would issue dog tags for every American
man, woman and child. He also predicted victory in November "because
every Rolls-Royce I see has a Landon sticker." Smith,
Dewey, p. 219.]
Convention in Philadelphia: FDR accepts the nomination for a
second term: "Political tyranny was wiped out in Philadelphia on
July 4, 1774. [New inventions since then] combined to bring forward
a new civilization and with it new problems for those who sought
to remain free. For out of this modern civilization economic royalists
carved new dynasties . . . the whole structure of modern life was
impressed into this royal service . . . the privileged princes of
these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for
control over Government itself. . . . Against economic tyranny such
as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized
power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism
for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to
end it. Under that mandate it is being ended. . . . There is a mysterious
cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other
generations much is expected.
This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
had better not make any blind dates," riposted the acerbic Dorothy
Thompson, writing for the anti-FDR New York Herald-Tribune.
The party platform included some isolationist rhetoric: a pledge
"to work for peace, to take the profits out of war, to guard against
being drawn, by political commitments, international banking, or
private trading, into any war that may develop anywhere." Shogan,
pp. 44-45. ]
Agreement: The new Austrian Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg,
signs an agreement with Hitler's government which on the surface
seems to be most beneficial for Austria. Germany recognizes Austria's
sovereignty and promises not to interfere in its internal affairs.
Austria acknowledges that she is a "German state" and pledges that
her foreign policy will reflect that fact. But there are some secret
provisions that will be a trap for Austria. Schuschnigg agrees to
amnesty Nazi political prisoners and to appoint representatives
of the "so-called National Opposition" [read, Nazis]
to positions of political responsibility. Shirer,
Rise, p. 296.
Gypsies are arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp.
Civil war begins as the Falangists a religiously inflamed
coalition of royalists, insurgent military, wealthy elite and clerics
attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected Spanish Republic.
Their leader is General Francisco Franco.
initially reluctant to get involved, but after intercession from
some German businessmen he agreed to send planes on the 26th to
ferry Franco's troops from Morocco to the mainland. Without this,
the coup would have had no chance, since the Spanish navy was "communist,"
as Franco put it to Göring meaning, loyal to the Republic
and unwilling to transport Franco's forces.
sending massive supplies to Franco as soon as he learned that France
had sent supplies to the Loyalists. This then became a proxy war
in which Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, supporting Franco, tested
their troops and new battle weapons while the Soviet Union hesitantly
supplied the Republicans, or Loyalists.
immediate reaction had been that France must send whatever arms
it could spare to aid the fellow democracy on her southern border.
When news of the aid leaked, the reactionary right erupted. Blum
was labeled a "traitor" by L'Action Française. Many of his
opponents favored Franco, the devout Catholic and anti-Communist
the Spanish war could turn into a general European war, withheld
armaments from both sides, calling this policy which obviously
favored Franco"non-intervention." Foreign Secretary Anthony
Eden bludgeoned Premier Léon Blum to stop sending supplies to the
also feared that taking sides might cause Germany and Italy to attack
France. Ironically, as Shirer puts it, "an insignificant amount
of French aid in July would have enabled the government in Madrid
to stamp out the rebellion quickly. But Blum was too taken aback
by the uproar on the Right and the panic on the left to realize
this, until it was too late."
Puzzo calls the French decision not to aid the Spanish Republicans
"the most important single act in the history of the diplomacy of
the Spanish civil war." Offner, American Appeasement,
pp. 154-155; Shirer, Collapse, p. 300. Foreign
correspondent Herbert Matthews maintained that the British hypocritical
policy of "non-intervention" was "primarily instrumental in handing
victory to the rebels [Franco]." Matthews, p.
Neutrality Act had not defined the position of the US in a civil
war, but it was unofficially neutral. With the outbreak of the war
there had been a "popular, uncontrolled explosion against an oppressive
ruling class" and against the church which supported the monarchy,
landowners and army. (Matthews says the hierarchy in Spain "was
more papist than the Pope.")
church burnings and murders of priests and nuns. Madrid soon restored
law and order and halted these excesses but not before the Vatican
had thoroughly inflamed American Catholics against the Loyalists
in favor of a Franco victory. (The atrocities on the other side
were systematic, carried out brutally as a "policy of terrorism
and revenge." Matthews, p. 15.)
the Glenn L. Martin Company against selling eight warplanes to the
Spanish government. [For additional information on
US neutrality in the Spanish War, see entries for August 14, 1936
and January 8, 1937.] There were international
brigades of nearly 60,000 volunteers from 55 countries who went
to fight with the Republicans, including the American "Abraham Lincoln
Battalion." The international brigades were the brainchild of French
Communist Party leader Maurice Thorez; they were sponsored by the
Soviet Union with an international recruiting center established
in Paris. Novels by André Malraux and Ernest Hemingway L'Espoir
and For Whom the Bell Tolls describe the war from the
internationals' point of view.
26, 1996 the Spanish government gave Spanish citizenship to the
Brigadists, fulfilling a promise made during the war. At the time,
roughly 600 remained alive.
By Spring, 1939 Franco's forces had won, one million people had
been killed, and a frankly fascist and totalitarian government had
been installed that would rule until Franco's death in 1975. The
US recognized the Franco government on April 1, 1939. Dallek,
p. 127; Shirer, Collapse, pp. 296-306; Matthews, p.15; spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPinternational.htm.]
Games in Germany: Berlin is cleansed of all anti-Semitic signs
until the games are over and the foreign visitors have left.
FDR issues a secret memorandum to intelligence officers on Oahu:
All Japanese ships docking at Oahu are to be met; every Japanese
citizen or non-citizen who meets these ships or has any connections
with the ship's personnel is to be identified and secretly "placed
on a special list of those who would be the first to be placed in
a concentration camp in the event of trouble."
Stinnett, Day of Deceit, pp. 83-84.
In FDR's "I hate war" speech at Chautauqua, he attempts to foster
a "moral embargo" on arms for the Spanish civil war: "[W]e have
sought steadfastly to assist international movements to prevent
war [including a treaty to deal with the manufacture of arms and
the international traffic in arms] . . . We shun political commitments
which might entangle us in foreign wars. . . . We are not isolationists
except in so far as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from
war. Yet we must remember that so long as war exists on earth there
will be some danger that even the Nation which most ardently desires
peace may be drawn into war. I have seen war. I have seen war on
land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. . . .
I hate war. . . .
It is clear
that our present policy and the measures passed by Congress would,
in the event of war on some other continent, reduce the war profits
which would otherwise accrue to American citizens. Industrial and
agricultural production for a war market may give immense fortunes
to a few men; for the Nation as a whole it produces disaster. It
was the prospect of war profits that made our farmers in the West
plow up prairie land that should never have been plowed, but should
have been left for grazing cattle. Today we are reaping the harvest
of those war profits in the dust storms which have devastated those
war-plowed areas. . . .
if war should break out again in another continent, let us not blink
the fact that we would find in this country thousands of Americans
who, seeking immediate riches- fools' gold- would attempt to break
down or evade our neutrality. . . . To resist the clamor of this
greed, if war should come, would require the unswerving support
of all Americans who love peace. If we face the choice of profits
or peace, the Nation will answer- must answer- 'We choose peace.'
It is the duty of all of us to encourage such a body of public opinion
in this country that the answer will be clear and . . . unanimous."
General Douglas MacArthur accepts a commission in the Philippine
Army (and the rank of field-marshal) in an elaborate ceremony wearing
a sharkskin uniform of his own design. Ambrose,
Eisenhower, I, p, 107.
The American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.) expels ten unions
a million of its members- because of their affiliation with the
Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO).
Security and the "pay-envelope" campaign" of the National Association
of Manufacturers: FDR in a magnificent campaign speech in Madison
Square Garden answers Alfred Landon's insinuations about Social
Security and the "pay-envelope campaign" of the NAM:
years this nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing,
do-nothing government . . . The nation looked to government but
government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf
and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker
and three long years in the breadlines! . . . Powerful influences
strive today to restore that kind of government with the doctrine
that the government is best which is most indifferent. . . .
have these forces been so united against one candidate . . . They
are unanimous in their hatred of me, and I welcome that hatred.
I should like it to be said of my first administration that in it
these forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match.
I should like to have it said of my second administration that in
it these forces met their master. . . .
men with their backs to the wall would descend so far below the
level of decent citizenship as to foster the current pay-envelope
campaign against America's working people. . . . They tell the worker
his wage will be reduced by a contribution to some vague form of
old-age insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that
for every dollar of premium that he pays for that insurance, the
employer pays another dollar.
That omission is deceit. They carefully conceal from him the fact
that under federal law, he receives another insurance policy to
help him if he loses his job, and that premium is paid 100 percent
by the employer and not one cent by the worker. That omission is
deceit. . . .
imply that the reserves thus created against both these policies
will be stolen, by some future Congress, diverted to some wholly
foreign purpose, they attack the integrity and honor of the American
Government itself. Those who suggest that are already aliens to
the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their
lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence."
later admitted that the assault on Social Security had been one
of the major mistakes of his campaign. Davis,
New Deal Years, pp. 642-644. The rate of unemployment
was 17%; down from 20% at the beginning of Roosevelt's first term.]
Axis is formed.
[In May of 1939 Mussolini and Hitler concluded a formal military
alliance. Their cooperation in support of Franco in the Spanish
civil war had caused them to forget their old differences over Austria
and Hitler's opposition to Mussolini's conquest of Ethiopia. Ridley,
Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon for the presidency by a landslide-
523-8 in the Electoral College, with only Maine and Vermont having
a Republican majority. Landon receives less than 38% of the popular
vote. FDR wins in 104 of the nation's 106 cities with populations
of 100,000 or more. The House and Senate will both be more than
75% Democratic in the next session 333 out of 425 House seats;
76 out of 96 Senate seats.
vote (with 83% of the eligible voters voting):
Thomas .4% (Socialist Party candidate)
Browder .2% (Communist Party candidate)
very popular governor, failed to carry his own state of Kansas.
Jim Farley, the Democratic chairman, had inquired how many workers
would need to be added to the public payroll to persuade Kansans
to forsake their normal Republican voting pattern. In the last two
weeks of the campaign 26,723 WPA workers were hired, the figure
given by the local Democratic committeeman.
of the nation's newspapers had supported Landon and accused FDR
of dictatorship. The Literary Digest conducted a straw poll
of its readers and predicted Landon would win by a huge majority
the magazine ceased publication the next year.
William Lemke (R-ND) was the candidate of the newly-formed Union
Party of the demagogic left:- Gerald L. K. Smith, the Townsend movement,
the remnants of Huey Long's Share Our Wealth Society, and Father
Charles E. Coughlin. The charismatic "radio priest" had promised
to deliver 9 million votes for Lemke against "that betrayer and
liar, Franklin Double-Crossing Roosevelt." Lemke received less than
Coughlin had been forced by his archbishop to publicly apologize
to FDR for calling him a liar. Davis, New Deal
Years, pp. 639- 647; Winkler, p. 115.]
from the Vatican: At the end of his month-long visit to the
United States, Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli visits
FDR at the Roosevelt estate in Hyde Park.
was signed but FDR agreed to send a personal representative, Myron
Taylor, to the Vatican and asked that the radio priest, Father Coughlin,
be muzzled. Two days later Father Coughlin announced on air that
this would be his last broadcast. Cornwell, Hitler's
Pope, pp. 174-176.]
On the second day of the Battle for Madrid the Republicans are cheered
by the sudden appearance of a parade of 2000 soldiers in corduroy
uniforms and steel helmets, the first contingent of the International
ultimately number 40,000 volunteers from 52 countries, most notably
Great Britain, France, Yugoslavia , Poland, Belgium and Austria.
Many were political refugees from Germany and Italy. Carroll,
and Italy formally recognize the Franco regime in Spain.
and Japanese leaders sign an "anti-Comintern" pact, pledging
to fight communism. A secret provision provides that if the Soviet
Union were to attack either Germany or Japan, the two nations would
consult as to how they might "preserve their common interest." [With
this shield Japan's warlords felt free to start the war with China
in July, 1937. LaFeber, p. 181.]
Millions of people worldwide are glued to their radio sets as
King Edward VIII tells his people that he has abdicated his throne
in order to be with "the woman I love."
He will henceforth be known as the Duke of Windsor. His brother,
the Duke of York, succeeds him as George VI.
had been forced by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Lord Beaverbrook,
the owner of the London Daily Express. They disapproved of
the King's mistress, American-born Wallis Warfield Simpson, because
of her two divorces and an unsavory dossier of past spying for Russia
and current sympathy for fascist Italy, a previous lover having
been Italy's Count Ciano.
Even less widely
known at the time than these charges was the prime minister's reluctance
to have a king who wished to play a political role rather than being
a figurehead. Higham, Duchess of Windsor. After
World War II began, FDR ordered surveillance on both the Duke and
Duchess of Windsor because of their "Nazi sympathies" and the suspicion
that the Duchess had given secret information to Foreign Minister
Joachim von Ribbentrop, another of her former lovers. Beschloss,
The Conquerors, p. 135.]
Lincoln Battalion: The first 86 volunteers sail from New York
City on the Normandie to begin their fight for the Spanish Republic.
They would go by train to the French-Spanish border and then cross
the Pyrenees on foot.
they would number nearly 3000 and about one-third of them would
die in Spain. Most were blue-collar workers; about 500 were students
or teachers; one-third were Jewish Jews were in the majority
for the women volunteers and most were members of the Communist,
Socialist or Socialist Labor parties.
All but two
states were represented; over 80% came from the country's eleven
largest cities. They ranged in age from 18 to 60; the median age
was over 27. There was also the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish
Democracy which enlisted 150 American doctors, nurses, technicians
In the years
of the Cold War and repression in the United States following World
War II, many Lincoln veterans, even after having fought in America's
war against Hitler and Japan, would be regarded with suspicion,
find it difficult to find or keep a job and would be labeled "premature
anti-fascists." Carroll, Odyssey of the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade, pp. 14-19.]
Flint, Michigan: Automobile workers at the General Motors Fisher
Body plant begin a sit-down strike. Completely ignoring the Wagner
Act, GM and its executive vice president, William Knudsen, have
refused to recognize the union or negotiate any of the union's demands
--- recognition of the United Auto Workers Union
signed agreement for all GM plants nationwide
--- a 30-hour week
--- an increase in the minimum wage
--- regulation of a reasonable speed of production.
[The two major
complaints were the ever-increasing speed of the assembly line
which caused many men to drop at their posts from exhaustion
and the company's refusal to recognize the union and engage in collective
bargaining, as mandated by the Wagner Act.
In the following days sit-ins were staged in SM plants in Indiana,
Ohio and Wisconsin.
By the end of the first week of 1937 General Motors had been forced
to close assembly lines of Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Buicks and Cadillacs.
Alfred P. Sloan,
the head of General Motors, denounced the sit-ins as a Communist
attempt to "Sovietize" the auto industry as "a dress rehearsal for
Sovietizing the entire country." "Join the CIO and help Build
a Soviet America" was the title of a pamphlet distributed by
the National Association of Manufacturers 2,200,000 copies.
Its author, Joseph Kamp, a member of the pro-fascist Constitutional
Education League, was later indicted for conspiracy to undermine
the morale of troops serving in World War II and also for contempt
of Congress. Boyer and Morais, p. 317.
organized UAW was audacious in tackling GM as the first of the Big
Three automobile manufacturers. Bernstein rated General Motors as
the "largest manufacturing corporation in the world." In 1937 it
would gross $1.6 billion the combined budgets of Michigan,
California, New York, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. It employed a
quarter of a million people; its industry share was 78%. It had
made a profit every year since 1921; its rate of return on net capital
investment was 18%.
Nearly a quarter
of its common stock was held by the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and
Company; the two companies had interlocking directors and virtually
identical policies and structures. Bernstein,
Flint, a company
town, soon turned into a city under siege. GM encouraged the formation
of a "citizen's group" to try to evict the workers from the three
plants they had seized.
"Flying squadrons" of union workers arrived from all over the Middle
West to join the thousands of auto workers, wives and children on
the picket lines who were defending the sit-in workers with a wall
11 the police attempted to stop wives from delivering food to their
sit-in husbands. A riot broke out and 27 people were injured. This
prompted the newly-inaugurated governor, Frank Murphy, to call out
the National Guard
to protect those on the picket lines from police violence, but not
to evict the sit-in workers from the plants
the usual act of such officials.
At the end
of January Governor Murphy was served with two court injunctions
to use the National Guard to evict the sit-in workers. (The first
was thrown out when it was learned that the issuing judge held $150,000
of General Motors stock!) Murphy refused to honor the injunction;
instead he forced Knudsen to sit down with John L. Lewis, the head
of the CIO, and talk.
would last for 44 days. The UAW evacuated the plants, the strikers
marching into the streets for a community celebration. GM recognized
the union as the spokesman for its members; Knudsen said, "Let us
have peace and make cars."
a specialist in assembly line production. In 1940 FDR called him
to Washington to be the director of the national defense program;
on January 16, 1942
the War Department drafted him into the army as a Lieutenant General
to be director of production. See entry for February
11, 1937. Boyer and Morais, pp. pp. 298-309; Davis, Into the
Storm, pp. 88-89; Bernstein, Turbulent Years, pp. 509-551.]
and Spain: FDR signs the Pittman-McReynolds bill, introduced
two days earlier, which prohibits the export of arms, munitions
and implements of war to either side in the Spanish Civil War.
[Thus a legal
embargo was added to the "moral embargo" which FDR had called for
in August. In December, after an American exporter shipped $3 million
worth of airplanes and engines to the Republican government, FDR
said publicly that this was an "unpatriotic" act and the State Department
through the Berlin embassy actually apologized to the German government
for their inability to prevent the shipment.
By the spring
of 1938 there was considerable sentiment to repeal the embargo and
assist the Republican government, allowing it to purchase war goods
on a cash-and-carry basis. Initially FDR favored the resolution
introduced by Senator Nye on May 2. However, a furor was raised
when his intention became known, and FDR decided not to offend the
American Catholic hierarchy and the British and French who continued
to support non-intervention. So the embargo remained in place.
In 1939 both
FDR and Senator Pittman admitted to Ambassador Claude Bowers that
the embargo had been a mistake and the legal government of Spain
should have been supported. Historian Bowers had been a vehement
and consistent critic of administration policy. Assistant Secretary
of State Sumner Welles would write in 1944 that US foreign policy
during the Spanish civil war was "of all our blind isolationist
policies, the most disastrous." Offner, American
Appeasement, pp. 156-159.]
of a nation . . .:" FDR and Garner are inaugurated for their
In his inaugural address FDR says: "In this nation, I see tens of
millions of its citizens...who at this very moment are denied the
necessities of life. I see millions denied education, recreation,
and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.
. . . I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for
you in hope- because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice
of it, proposes to paint it out."
Court: FDR sends his "court-packing" plan to Congress, proposing
that the Supreme Court be increased by as many as six members should
any of the over-70 Justices decline to retire. His principal targets
are the "Four Horsemen" Justices Willis Van Devanter, Pierce
Butler, George Sutherland and James McReynolds born in 1859,
1866, 1862 and 1862 respectively and who are all railroad or corporation
attorneys and have consistently voted against all New Deal economic
and social legislation.
was also virulently racist and anti-Semitic. When Justice Brandeis
spoke in conference, McReynolds would leave the room. There is no
group picture of the 1924 term, as McReynolds refused to be photographed
next to Justice Brandeis. Hutchinson and Garrow,
The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox. (Knox was McReynolds'
law clerk for the 1936 term.)
the plan was expressed immediately, and not just by the usual New
Deal opponents. Progressive senators such as Wheeler of Montana
and Norris of Nebraska, Chief Justice Hughes and Justice Brandeisand
the influential editor William Allen White were harshly critical
of the proposal. (Roosevelt's proposal was not unconstitutional;
Congress had changed the size of the Supreme Court more than once
in the nineteenth century.)
version, the Supreme Court Retirement Act, which merely offered
the Justices retirement at full pay when they reached age 70, was
passed on March 1st.
Then at the end of March the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision
upholding a minimum wage law in Washington state Justice Owen
J. Roberts had split from the conservatives with whom he had previously
voted. However, this decision had been reached before FDR announced
his proposal. Justice Roberts was responding to Roosevelt's overwhelming
victory in the 1936 election., not to his later threat, despite
In May Justice
Van Devanter announced his decision to retire FDR would finally
have the opportunity to nominate a justice! And a few days later
the Court approved the Social Security Act. The proposal left a
stain on Roosevelt's record; it brought about a coalition of conservative
Republicans and southern Denocrats that was able to thwart progressive
legislation. McElvaine, pp. 284-286.]
Trail-blazing Victory in Flint, Michigan: William Knudsen and
Alfred P. Sloan are forced to capitulate after a 44-day sit-in strike
of workers at their General Motors plants in Flint. In the first
ten days of February GM has been able to produce only 141 automobiles;
the strike has paralyzed GM production nationwide, thanks to critical
components that come from Flint.
CIO head John
L. Lewis has gained all the demands of the UAW and then some:
--- The UAW
is recognized as the sole bargaining agency.
--- There will be no more piece work, only straight hourly wages.
--- A 30-hour week, a 6-hour day and time and a half for overtime.
--- Mutual agreement on "speed of production."
--- A minimum pay rate "commensurate with an American standard of
---Reinstatement of all employees unjustly discharged.
year wages for UAW workers increased from thirty or forty cents
an hour to a dollar and they continued to rise. In the long run,
GM also profited from the pay raise to the auto workers, as finally
those who made the cars could afford to buy one themselves.
was the big winner. Sit-ins
sprang up in five-and-dime stores, hotels, restaurants and all sorts
of factories. The workers won contracts, union recognition and higher
wages. The open shop was just about finished. Chrysler
negotiated with the UAW soon after the labor victory at General
Motors and signed a similar agreement.
chairman of the board at U.S. Steel, to the surprise of many did
not wait for a sit-in but on March 2nd negotiated a 10 % wage increase,
a 40-hour week and union recognition with John L. Lewis. An article
in The Nation suggested that Taylor was really a stooge for
what the House of Morgan wanted continuous production with
healthy contracts coming from Great Britain, no ruinous loss of
production such as GM had experienced at Flint, and an avoidance
of an exposé by the LaFollette Committee of the spies, gangsters,
personnel fakers and other unfair managerial practices at US Steel.
Benjamin Stolberg, "Big Steel, Little Steel, and
the C.I. O." The Nation, July 31, 1937.
Firestone and RCA soon signed similar contracts. Ford Motor Company,
Goodyear Rubber and the "Little Steel" companies were the principal
industrial holdouts for the open shop. "Little Steel" was the name
given to a collection of independent steel companies that together
constituted 25 % of steel production in the United States.
( They were: Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Youngstown Sheet and Tube,
National Steel Corporation, Inland Steel Company, American Rolling
Mill Company and most importantly for its leadership in combating
the demands of labor the Republic Steel Corporation.) Boyer
and Morais, pp. 309-32 ; Davis, Into the Storm, pp. 89-91.]
Congress passes a joint resolution which places an embargo on
shipments of arms to Spain, thus closing the loophole in the Neutrality
Act of 1935 which had not addressed the problem of a civil war.
v. US : The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality
of the National Firearms Act. [To reduce the use of machine guns
by gangsters Congress had passed this 1934 act which allowed firearms
to be transferred only upon payment of a transfer tax. Harry Anslinger
would seize upon this gimmick to control the use of marijuana in
a similar piece of legislation. Musto, The
American Disease, p. 222.]
A Gallup poll finds that 71% of Americans believe that it had been
a mistake for the United States to enter into World War I. Smith,
Dewey, p. 302.
Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation:
The Supreme Court, 5-4, sustains the constitutionality of the National
Labor Relations Act- more commonly known as the Wagner Act- which
guaranteed the right of workers to organize in unions and prohibited
employers from firing or discriminating against employees because
of union membership or union activities. Henry Ford's public response
to this decision: "We'll never recognize the United Automobile Workers
Union or any other union."
Liberty League and employers' attorneys had crippled the action
of the NLRB with a multitude of identically worded injunction pleadings
and challenges to the constitutionality of the Act. After this decision
employers directed their attention to Congress, demanding amendments
to the Wagner Act, lessened appropriations for the NLRB, and investigations
of the Board. The press generally joined in the propaganda onslaught
against the Board. Bernstein, Turbulent,
German and Italian bombers, fighting on the side of rebel General
Franco against the Republic of Spain, destroy the historic Basque
city of Guernica. They machine-gun the fleeing survivors, killing
1600 and wounding 900.
deliberate terror bombing of civilians horrified the world; Pablo
Picasso painted his famous Guernica for the Spanish pavilion at
the Paris World Fair which opened that summer. In 1946 Air Marshal
Gõring testified that Guernica had been the dress rehearsal for
the Nazis' bombing of cities in World War II.
poll taken earlier in the month duplicated the results of a January
Gallup poll: nearly 24% of Americans questioned were pro-Loyalist,
less than 12% were pro-Franco, but two-thirds had no preference
as to either side. FDR was privately pro-Loyalist, but loath to
do anything about the neutrality legislation which perforce favored
(Nor was Texaco
punished for flagrant violations of the law tankers loaded
with oil ostensibly bound for Antwerp were diverted mid-Atlantic
to supply Franco. Not a drop went to the Republicans.)
Eleanor Roosevelt was overtly and fervently pro-Loyalist. In May
she actively supported the efforts of the Board of Guardians for
Basque Refugee Children to transport 500 homeless and orphaned Basque
children to the US and provide families willing to take them in.
The Catholic hierarchy was adamantly opposed. Rep. John W. McCormick
(D-MA) did the bidding of his church, denounced the refugee-rescue
plan as a Communist plot, and persuaded the State Department to
refuse to issue the necessary visas, thus consigning the children
to their probable deaths by exposure and starvation.
Davis, Storm, pp. 121-125; Thomas, The Spanish Civil War,
With the old neutrality act due to expire at midnight, FDR signs
the Neutrality Act of 1937. In addition to extending the prohibition
on both sales of arms to belligerent nations and granting of loans
or credits to these nations, it also forbids American ships from
transporting arms into belligerent zones. An additional two-year
provision that warring nations must pay cash for all non-military
goods purchased in the US and carry them away in their own ships
gave the name "cash-and-carry law" to this Act.
a German dirigible making its first transatlantic crossing of the
season, bursts into flames just before landing at Lakehurst, New
Jersey. Thirty-six passengers and crew die in the fire.
of the fire was believed to be an explosion of the enormous quantities
of hydrogen that enabled the dirigible to be airborne. The next
year Germany built a sister ship modified to use non-combustible
helium. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, a confirmed Hitler-hater,
refused to permit sale of helium to Germany, saying Hitler would
be sure to use the dirigible militarily, so the Graf Zeppelin never
saw commercial service. Shogan, pp. 163-164.
later retired NASA scientist Addison Bain, a big believer in the
possibility of hydrogen for clean energy, demonstrated that the
fire really began with a buildup of static electricity which ignited
the outer panels of the dirigible which had been doped with a combination
of zinc oxide and powdered aluminum (to reflect light and heat and
prevent the hydrogen from expanding.) One clue had been that all
observers saw orange-red flames; hydrogen burns with an almost invisible
blue flame. www.pbs.org]
Baines Johnson, the newly-elected representative from Texas'
Tenth District, enters Congress, becoming at age 28 its youngest
candidate, he had started his campaign immediately upon reading
the obituary of his predecessor. He fabricated an issue, falsely
claiming to be the only contender who backed FDR's plan to pack
the Supreme Court, thus gaining FDR's attention and favor and garnering
much valuable publicity.
Johnson's brashness and energy and the Tenth District would prosper
as a result. For example, in 1938 Johnson persuaded FDR to make
an exception to the Rural Electrification Agency's mandate and have
the new, cheap electricity made available to Johnson's too-sparsely-settled
district. FDR explained to the power commissioner: "There's no rule
that doesn't have an exception. And besides, John, those people
down there breed pretty fast, you know." Steinberg,
Sam Johnson's Boy, pp. 109-120, 132-133.]
No Prosecution: J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson lead a series
of FBI raids on Baltimore brothels as part of their tracking of
the money that flowed from prostitution and illegal booze to the
racketeers and from them to the local law enforcement and politicians
for protection from prosecution.
about the last interest of the FBI in investigating organized crime.
Shortly after this, Director Hoover would be proclaiming broadly
that "organized crime doesn't exist." Anthony Summers submits this
explanation for the obvious falsehood: At some point in the late
'30s Meyer Lansky showed Hoover some photographs the Mafia had obtained
of Hoover and Clyde Tolson engaged in homosexual activity, and was
thus able to blackmail Hoover into ignoring the evidence of the
Mafia's existence and crimes. Summers, Official,
chapters 7, 21, 22. ]
Court Roster: Justice Willis Van Devanter, one of the "Four
Horsemen" who consistently voted New Deal measures unconstitutional,
announces his retirement.
Rockefeller, America's first millionaire and possibly also her
first billionaire, dies at the age of 97.
[He was known
for the rapacious business practices by which he had dominated the
world's oil production and distribution until the Supreme Court
required the dissolution of his Standard Oil Company into 27 entities
in May, 1911. In the early years of the century he was the personification
of the evil business man, thanks to muckrakers such as Ida M. Tarbell.
Later he justifiably acquired fame as the country's greatest philanthropist
with his major contributions to medical research, the University
of Chicago and black education. Chernow, Titan:
The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.]
Machine Co. v. Davis : By a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court upholds
the constitutionality of the Social Security Act of 1935 an
important victory for the New Deal and a decision that causes FDR
to drop any further schemes to pack the Court. (Also a demonstration
that the Justices read the newspapers and are not totally insensitive
to public opinion. Justice Owen Roberts provides the pivotal fifth
The Battle of the Overpass, Ford Motor Company: Leaders of the
UAW, having received a permit to distribute union handbills at the
gates of the Rouge plant, cross the overpass and arrive at the gates
before the change of shifts. They are met there by a group of goons
many of them ex-convicts from the notorious "Ford Service
Department" headed by Ford's chief enforcer and intimidator, Harry
Bennett. Two of the men are professional wrestlers; one is a professional
on the overpass, the UAW delegates are subjected to an unmerciful
back was broken; Walter Reuther was repeatedly picked up and thrown
down, kicked in the face and body and then thrown down a series
The goons pulled the coat of overweight Richard Frankensteen up
over his arms and then kicked and punched him in the head, groin
and kidneys until he was a bloody mess.
Several others were also severely injured, including women.
This was typical
of Ford Service Department attacks on strikers and disobedient Ford
workers; what was different this time was that there were photographers
present and their pictures appeared in newspapers and magazines
around the country. Public sentiment was overwhelmingly on the side
of the union. The NLRB found Ford in violation of the Wagner Act
and ordered the company to stop interfering with union organizing.
Ford was not
deterred. It was not until April 1941 that the union workers took
a decisive action: they spontaneously shut down the plant, sabotaged
some equipment, and forced the company to hold a vote on unionization.
The UAW-CIO received more than 70 % of the more than 78,000 votes
cast; 27 % wanted a more conservative union; and 3 % agreed with
Henry Ford that there should be no union. Ford
Motor Company Chronology: www.hfmgv.org; Bernstein, Turbulent, pp.
Kingdom: Neville Chamberlain becomes the new Prime Minister,
following the resignation of Stanley Baldwin after the abdication
of Edward VIII.
[He came to
office with almost no experience in dealing with international leaders,
little understanding of foreign affairs or of history, and soon
would disregard or overturn previous treaties the Balfour
Declaration, the Anglo-Irish Treaty and bypass Parliament
and his own cabinet in setting policy, as in the disastrous meeting
with Hitler. Olson, Troublesome Young Men.]
Memorial Day Massacre in South Chicago: The statistics: Ten
Republic Steel strikers are killed, most of them shot in the back.
Thirty more suffer gunshot wounds; twenty-eight are beaten so severely
that they require hospitalization. Three police are injured, none
contract successfully negotiated with US Steel in March, the Steel
Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) turned its attention to the
"Little Steel" companies.
A strike against three companies Republic Steel, Inland Steel
Company, and Youngstown Sheet and Tube was called on May 26th.
The second two companies closed their plants and prepared to outwait
the strikers. There was no attempt to employ strikebreakers and
the picketing was peaceful.
This was not
the case at Republic's South Chicago plant. Tom Girdler, the president
of Republic, felt betrayed by Myron Taylor of US Steel. [See
entry for February 11, 1937.]
No way would he sign with the CIO and have a part in "handing America
over to Communism." The three companies had spent nearly $45,000
on munitions machine guns, rifles, revolvers, tear gas and
its South Chicago plant with cots and food supplies and planned
to keep the plant running with the scabs housed inside. When the
walkout began, the Chicago police, completely in cahoots with Republic
Steel, entered the plant to remove all the union employees and prevent
a sit-in. When the ousted SWOC employees attempted to form a picket
line around the plant, the police forced them to move two blocks
away from the plant despite a legal opinion that the police should
not interfere with peaceful picketing.
subsequently "allowed" a token group of six to eight men to picket
in front of the gate. Further demonstrating their allegiance to
Republic Steel, the police helped unload supplies for the strikebreakers.
Some of the police would eat and sleep inside the plant.
On that fateful
Sunday of May 30th about a thousand SWOC members and sympathizers
marched toward the plant in formation behind two American flags.
They believed they had the mayor's assurance that they could form
a peaceful picket line. Instead they were confronted a short distance
from the plant by a double line of police who ordered the group
to disperse "in the name of the law." Those in the forward ranks
argued their rights.
Both sides engaged in profanity and name-calling. The
police were armed with Billy clubs, tear gas and guns. The picketers
were unarmed, but as the tensions rose, some scrambled to find rocks.
When someone toward the rear heaved a stick toward the police, the
Louis Dispatch described the scene after viewing the Paramount
News film: ". . . suddenly, without apparent warning, there is a
terrific roar of pistol shots, and men in the front ranks of the
marchers go down like grass before a scythe. The camera catches
approximately a dozen falling simultaneously into a heap. . . .
the police charge on the marchers with riot sticks flying. At the
same time tear gas grenades are seen sailing into the mass of demonstrators,
and the clouds of gas rise over them. Most of the crowd is now in
flight . . . In a manner which is appallingly businesslike, groups
of policemen close in on those individuals who did not run. They
go to work on them with their clubs. In several instances, from
two to four policemen are seen beating one man . . . . A man shot
through the back is paralyzed from the waist down. Two policemen
try to make him stand up, to get into a patrol wagon, but when they
let him go his legs crumple, and he falls with his face in the dirt
. . ." Women and children were also beaten. Many were arrested;
the patrol wagons were loaded with twice their designated capacity.
The seriously wounded were shoved in with the others, and patrol
wagons with wounded strikers took roundabout routes to hospitals.
the LaFollette Committee would call the police attitude. "Wounded
prisoners of war might have expected greater solicitude." After
the massacre, the strikers protested the police brutality. Predictably,
the Chicago Tribune alleged that these communist sympathizers
had attacked the police and had intended to storm the plant to remove
A protest meeting
of 4000 concerned citizens was held at the Civic Opera House on
June 8th; one of the speakers was a professor at the University
of Chicago, Paul Douglas, who later was elected to the US Senate.
The Senate LaFollette Committee found that
--- the police had no right to limit the number of pickets at the
--- the march would have resulted in a peaceful picket line in front
of the gate, not a plant invasion
--- the marchers' provocation of the police did not extend beyond
abusive language and the throwing of a few isolated missiles
--- the force used to disperse the marchers was far in excess of
what was required
--- the deaths and injuries were avoidable on the part of the police.
News never released its film publicly, claiming that it could cause
"riotous disturbances" in the theaters! This at a time when gangster
films were so popular? Six more strikers lost their lives at a Republic
picket line in Ohio. Little Steel would not sign contracts with
SWOC-CIO until 1942 and then only under compulsion by the War Labor
suggested in the first months of the strike that the strike call
for Little Steel was precipitate and that the leaders failed to
understand the culture of steelworkers, assuming them to be proletarian
like mineworkers. Big Steel, he alleged, had capitulated so easily
because the tycoons feared what the LaFollette Committee could discover
about the "number of gangsters and spies and personnel fakers employed
by Big Steel." Boyer and Morais, pp. 312-328;Benjamin Stolberg,
"Big Steel, Little Steel, and the C.I.O." The Nation, July
31, 1937; Davis, Into the Storm, pp. 89-90; William Bork,
"Massacre at Republic Steel." www.kentlaw.edu; Howard Fast, "An
Occurrence at Republic Steel, www.trussel.com.; Bernstein, Turbulent,
pp. 485-490. ]
in the Pacific Ocean: Amelia Earhart's plane fails to make the
scheduled landing on tiny Howland Island in the Pacific on
the last leg of her round-the-world flight.
Guard cutter that was waiting to refuel the plane heard her engines
and started what became a two-week search by the battleship USS
Colorado and the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. No trace
was found of the plane, Earhart, or her navigator, although remains
later found on Gardner Island, 350 miles to the southeast, suggest
that the plane may have landed or crashed there.
of the world-famed aviation pioneer fueled several conspiracy theories.
An Australian tabloid speculated that the flight and disappearance
were a ruse to allow the US navy to explore the Marshall Islands
to see if the Japanese were militarizing their mandated territory.
William Manchester contended that Earhart saw illegal fortifications
that the Japanese were building in these islands and that her plane
was forced down and she and her navigator were murdered. The
Earhart Project (www.TIGHAR.org) ; Manchester, Glory and the
Dream, p. 150.]
Japanese and Chinese troops open fire on one another on the
Marco Polo Bridge outside Tientsin.
[This was the
beginning of Japan's war against China. By the end of July Japan
was in control of the entire Tientsin-Peking (later Beijing) sector.
In August the Japanese invaded Shanghai; a fierce street-by-street
battle for the city lasted until the end of November. According
to Bergamini, the "provocation" at Marco Polo Bridge had been planned
in detail by Emperor Hirohito's General Staff over a year earlier
under the direct orders of the Emperor. Bergamini,
p. 6; Chang, pp.33-34.]
on Palestine: In response to the growing number of Arab-Jewish
clashes in the British mandate, the British Government publishes
the Peel Report which recommends that Palestine be partitioned between
the Jews and the Arabs.
[The Jews accepted
the proposal; the Arabs rejected it, being unwilling to give up
even the smallest part of the land. Bregman remarks that in retrospect,
this was a "grave error of judgment" as their insistence on having
all the land resulted in their losing it all.
Bregman, p. 9.]
of 1937: This is the date for the beginning of a recession given
by Christina Romer, a longtime student of the Great Depression.
The National Bureau of Economic Research calls May the beginning;
oth agree that it ended in May, 1938.
establish an exact date for the beginning of a recession is like
trying to pinpoint the exact moment at which a fog starts rolling
in. The Dow-Jones average 190 in August started falling,
reaching 115 in October; from Labor Day to the end of the year two
million people lost their jobs. (More than half of them had been
laid off from the WPA.) Steel went from 80% of capacity to 19% in
contributed to this profound slump:
--- Backup orders had been filled by August and new orders were
not being created;
--- Two billion dollars had been taken out of the economy with the
new Social Security payroll taxes with no benefits yet returning;
--- The Federal Reserve system had tightened credit;
--- Most importantly, federal spending had been sharply curtailed
in the Spring.
With the seeming "recovery" in early 1937 production was over
1929 levels and stock prices and profits were up FDR's latent
fiscal conservatism kicked in. He had the WPA rolls cut drastically.
The PWA was virtually closed down.
He also listened
to those who feared that inflation was coming, thanks to the heavy
government spending. One prominent person who feared inflation was
the wealthy Joseph Kennedy. He confided to a friend that he "lay
awake at night" fearing that "Roosevelt's Inflation" would deplete
his fortune and he would have nothing to leave to his children!
occurred at a time when there were still nine million people unemployed,
or 14% of the civilian work force. Leuchtenburg,
Roosevelt and the New Deal, pp. 243-245; Blum, Roosevelt
and Morgenthau, p. 173; McElvaine, pp. 297-299.
passes the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 with little debate on an
had been reluctant to get his Bureau of Narcotics involved in restricting
the use of marijuana because, as he said, the stuff grows "like
dandelions" and in all 48 states. (Marijuana, of course, is not
a narcotic.) However, racist propaganda against Mexicans and blacks
became coupled in the Depression with cannabis use by minorities,
and several states enacted laws against its usage.
to use these fears as a weapon to get the rest of the states to
sign onto a uniform narcotics law, so he promoted the Devil Weed
from a minor problem to a threat as great as heroin. After the Supreme
Court declared the control of firearms by means of a transfer tax
to be constitutional (3/29/37), he had similar legislation introduced
in Congress to make non-medicinal use of marijuana illegal and to
require a license and tax from all physicians and pharmacies dispensing
were a farce. Anslinger's exhibits were newspaper clippings containing
anecdotal horror stories. There were no representatives from the
Public Health Service or the Children's Bureau to substantiate his
allegations. A representative from the American Medical Association
was the only person speaking in opposition to the legislation.
The New Deal Democrats on the committee were angry at the AMA for
its opposition to Social Security and universal health care. They,
therefore, refused to consider his objections and were only too
happy to vote against him. Gray, pp. 75-81; Brecher,
pp. 413-419; Musto, pp. 224-229.]
Court Roster: FDR, in his first chance to name a Supreme Court
justice, nominates Senator Hugo Black of Alabama. (Davis implies
that FDR might have preferred Solicitor General Stanley Reed, but
wanted even more a candidate that would totally gall the conservatives.)
a controversial choice because Black, although an ardent New Dealer
in the Senate, had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan as a younger
man. Senatorial courtesy dictated that Black be confirmed and so
he was, 63-16, after a six-hour debate on August 17. However, while
the Blacks vacationed in Europe the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran
a series of articles indicating that Black's 1926 "resignation"
from the Klan had been a phony one designed to insure his victory
in the primary race for the Senate. There were immediate calls for
Black's forced resignation from the Court, and FDR was much embarrassed.
On his return
to the US Mr. Justice Black diffused the opposition in a radio address
October 1st (surpassed in ratings only by Edward VIII's abdication
speech) in which he attacked religious bigotry in the United States
and said his membership in the KKK had been brief and had ended
before he entered the Senate. He said he had joined because most
of the jurors before whom he tried cases were members. (Virtually
all politicians in the Deep South in the early 1920s belonged to
He became one
of the leading liberals on the bench until his retirement and death
in 1971. He was a major defender of freedom of speech and the rights
of the accused during the McCarthy period. Simon,
The Antagonists, pp. 98-9; Davis, Storm, pp. 107-9.]
The US State Department urges all American nationals to leave China
and cautions that all who remain do so at their own risk. In July
1937 there were over 10,000 Americans in China, including many missionaries.
By November there were 4,600 left. Utley, p. 188.
17th the Chinese had mistakenly bombed Shanghai, killing 1700 civilians,
including 3 Americans. This prompted a huge outcry from the isolationists
demanding that the Neutrality Act be observed and all Americans
required to leave China. A Gallup poll indicated that 44 % of Americans
favored withdrawal from China.
At the same
time there was a vocal contingent within the State Department warning
that Japan was bent on domination of eastern Asia and the western
Pacific. Stanley Hornbeck,
in particular, was adamant that Japan must be stopped and that the
US must build more battleships and strengthen her position in the
Pacific. Utley, pp. 11-13.
the Navy's request to send more ships to help evacuate Americans
as he feared Japan would see this as a provocation. He also declined
to enforce the Neutrality Act in the undeclared Sino-Japanese War,
as such enforcement would aid the Japanese. Dallek,
Roosevelt and Foreign Policy, p.146.]
Embargo to Far East: US government-owned ships are forbidden
to carry arms to either Japan or China by executive order.
Other ships flying the American flag may continue the trade but
at their own risk.
Wichita, a government-owned freighter that was taking nineteen
bombers to China, was recalled. Roosevelt and Hull feared a stop-and-search
order from the Japanese that could have led to either an unwanted
confrontation or a humiliation. Dallek, p. 147;
Utley, p. 13-14.]
makes a much-heralded state visit to Germany. Together the two
dictators address a mass rally at a field that had been constructed
for the 1936 Olympic Games.
visit some Nazi officials questioned the lack of anti-Semitic legislation
in Italy. Wasn't Mussolini aware of the Jewish menace there? Mussolini
replied that he was less concerned about Italy's 70,000 Jews than
the one million blacks in his new empire in Africa. He related that
the five Italian women who had been charged with having intercourse
with a black man had been beaten and sent to a concentration camp
for five years.
year later Mussolini promulgated his racial laws which were much
milder than the Nazi version:
--- all Jews who had taken up residence in Italy and its dominions
since 1919 were to leave within six months;
--- no Jews could be teachers or university students although
those currently enrolled could complete their studies;
--- Jews could not employ more than 100 persons nor own more than
50 hectares of land.
A Jew was defined as someone both of whose parents were Jews, or
a person of mixed parentage who had adopted the Jewish religion.
(This was in comparison to Nazi Germany where one Jewish grandparent
would do the trick.) The Jewish population of Italy was small, less
than seventy thousand. Most were Sephardic Jews whose ancestors
had fled Spain in the 15th century expulsion. The 19th century Italian
Risorgimento had wiped out all anti-Semitic laws.
Ridley, Mussolini, pp. 285-292.]
Speech: In Chicago to dedicate the Outer Bridge, a PWA project,
FDR delivers his "quarantine the aggressors" speech, obliquely referring
to the hostilities in Spain and China: "The peace, the freedom and
the security of ninety per cent of the population of the world is
being jeopardized by the remaining ten per cent who are threatening
a breakdown of all international order and law. . . . When an epidemic
of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and
joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health
of the community against the spread of the disease."
FDR had not specified what action he recommended, the negative response
was immediate and fierce. The pacifists accused him of war-mongering,
and the isolationists threatened impeachment. The major newspapers
with the exception of the Chicago Tribune and the Hearst
empire and most of the public heartily approved of the speech.
. (The speaker's platform faced a Chicago Tribune warehouse;
there publisher McCormick had painted the word UNDOMINATED in letters
ten feet high. Brinkley, Washington, p.
The next day
the League of Nations condemned Japan as an invader of China and
suggested a nine-power conference to meet in Brussels in November.
Secretary of State Hull and others within the department were opposed
to any concrete measures, such as non-recognition of the aggressors,
economic boycotts or an embargo. Indeed, the Foreign Service officers
at the State Department had cut "quarantine" from the speech draft;
FDR promptly replaced it. Japan refused to attend the conference.
Burns, Lion, pp. 318-319; Freidel, pp. 263-268;
Weil, p. 77; New York Times, October 7, 1937.]
of 1937: Over seven million shares are traded on the New York
Stock Exchange, reminding people only too forcefully of a similar
October Tuesday in 1929 when over sixteen million shares were traded
and investors lost over $30 billion in the following two weeks.
been other indicators that the economy was not in good shape
commodity futures were sinking, unemployment was rising, and business
index figures were declining. FDR got conflicting advice on what
to do about this new recession from his principal economic advisors:
Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau wanted curtailed government
spending and a move toward a balanced federal budget.
the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, blamed the recession
on the sharp reduction in relief and expenditures for public works
in 1937 as compared with 1936. Also, 1937 saw the beginning of Social
Security taxes, $2 billion that would otherwise have gone into consumer
spending. Eccles advised renewed government spending and suggested
that the Federal Housing Authority undertake an expanded residential-construction
program. He enjoyed reminding people that, when the Crash occurred
in 1929, the federal budget was in balance. Davis,
Storm, pp. 137-143.]
in New York City: Fiorello LaGuardia decisively defeats the
Tammany Hall machine by 450,000 votes in his election for mayor.
In the borough of Manhattan crime-buster Thomas E. Dewey wins election
as District Attorney with his vote count running ahead of LaGuardia.
run his campaign with a series of radio broadcasts in which he gave
colorful case histories of New York racketeers Luciano, Schultz,
Gordon and so on and their alliance with a look-the-other-way
District Attorney's office. None of the racketeers"was ever convicted
of spitting on the streets by the District Attorney."
broadcast described the luxurious life style of Albert Martinelli,
the County Clerk of New York, and then recounted the criminal histories
of the men that Martinelli had appointed to the county committee
and as election inspectors, citing thirty-two Martinelli associates
with criminal pasts.
devoted a column to Dewey's victory and suggested that he was a
solid presidential prospect for the Republicans. Dewey further enhanced
his national reputation by his overhaul of the District Attorney's
office, the innovation of a Voluntary Defender program to provide
pro bono counsel for the poor, the acceptance of lesser pleas
for first offense by youthful offenders, and the indictment of many
notables, including Wall Street tycoon Richard Whitney.
By the summer
of 1938 a Gallup poll indicated that Dewey was the first choice
for presidential candidate by 3% of Republican voters. (Senator
Arthur Vandenburg of Michigan was the leading contender.) Hollywood
was turning out film after film based on Dewey's exploits
Bette Davis in Marked Woman, Chester Morris in Smashing
the Rackets, among others. Smith, Dewey,
must increase its Lebensraum living space,
Hitler tells his foreign minister, Baron Konstantin von Neurath,
and his military chiefs in a highly secret meeting. He plans to
begin by incorporating Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Reich.
He would like to accomplish this peacefully, if possible. If not,
countries, France and Britain, might offer objections but they are
currently weakened: France by her internal problems and Britain
by rebellions in India and Ireland, and therefore unlikely to take
up arms at this time. However, he believes war to be inevitable,
and the military must be prepared for action at "lightning speed"
as early as 1938.
[At the conclusion
of his two-hour monologue, Hitler asked his audience for their comments.
Most were reticent to offer objections. Not so for three of them:
The highly esteemed army commander, General Werner von Fritsch,
who had been responsible for the reconstruction of the German army,
questioned Hitler's bland assumption of French vulnerability. Both
he and Minister of War Werner von Blomberg were horrified at the
prospect of being at war with both France and Britain.
mentioned the weakness of the unfinished German fortifications in
the west, especially in contrast to the "strength of the Czech fortifications
which had now acquired a structure like a Maginot line which would
gravely hamper an attack." The two generals excoriated Gõring for
his mismanagement of the Four-Year Plan; thanks to him, they said,
the army was lacking the matériel needed to fight a war.
Neurath, a career diplomat whom Hitler had retained as assurance
to the West of a continuation of foreign policy, questioned Hitler's
belief in the likelihood of an Anglo-Franco-Italian conflict in
the near future.
All three men
were out of the picture by February 4th. Himmler aided in the dismissal
of Fritsch by framing him on a charge of homosexual activity. Gõring
encouraged the widowed Blomberg to marry a young woman "lacking
in social standing," and then surfaced a police dossier on her,
thus forcing Blomberg's resignation. (She had been arrested, but
never convicted on the charge of posing for pornographic pictures.)
A former champagne salesman, Joachim von Ribbentrop, became the
new Foreign Minister. Hitler took over personal command of the army
and sacked fifteen of the top generals. Shirer,
Collapse, p. 327; Rise, pp. 303-321; Parssinen, The
Oster Conspiracy of 1938, pp. 8-14, 21-25, 30-33.]
joins Hitler and the Japanese in the anti-Comintern pact.
[The next month Italy formally withdrew from the League of Nations.]
Hitler has an informal, off-the-record meeting with Lord Halifax,
a British cabinet minister and close ally of Prime Minister Neville
Chamberlain. (Halifax had been invited to Germany for a hunting
trip by the Luftwaffe's head, Hermann Gõring.) In the course of
the meeting Halifax says that the British do not believe that "the
status quo had to be maintained under all circumstances" and that
changes would have to be made "sooner or later" in Danzig, Austria
and Czechoslovakia, providing it can be done peacefully, thus proving
to Hitler that he had been right when he had told his generals that
Britain had already written off the Czechs.
Anthony Eden was alarmed at what Halifax had so freely given away;
Chamberlain was pleased with this "very successful initial contact"
with Hitler. Parssinen, pp. 15-20.]
The three-week conference in Brussels ends with no action taken
either to aid China or to restrain Japan.
that the conference may have thwarted a major opportunity for peace
in the region, as Japan had made some proposals to China in October
to end hostilities. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek had turned them
down, believing that the western powers would come to his aid at
the conference. During the conference the military odds changed
drastically: the Japanese conquered Shanghai and the demoralized
Chinese forces were retreating in panic toward the capital of Nanking.
After the conference ended, Chiang attempted to negotiate on the
previous terms, but the Japanese increased their demands and the
war continued. Divine, Reluctant Belligerent,
breaks the news in the New York Times that Joseph Kennedy
will succeed Robert Bingham (mortally ill in a Baltimore hospital)
as Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Beschloss,
Kennedy and Roosevelt, pp. 152-157.
- The Panay Incident: On China's Yangtze River six Japanese
airplanes repeatedly bomb and strafe a group of American ships,
sinking the USS Panay which is loaded with diplomats, journalists
and American citizens who have fled the bombing of Nanking and the
anticipated arrival of Japanese troops from Shanghai.
were killed and seventy-four others were wounded; survivors hid
in the reeds along the riverbank until nightfall as protection against
the circling planes. Two Socony-Vacuum oil tankers were also sunk.
(The day before a British gunboat, the Lady Bird, carrying
British refugees had been fired on at the same spot; a British sailor
later the Panay survivors were rescued by the USS Oahu
and the Universal newsreel cameraman was able to send home some
shocking footage. Moviegoers were more incensed by the scenes of
the Panay sinking than reports of the horrendous Rape of
Nanking then in progress. The holiday season was marred by fears
that the US could become involved in the Sino-Japanese War.
E. Borah (R-ID) spoke for the isolationists when he said he was
"not prepared to vote to send our boys into the Orient because a
boat was sunk that was traveling in a dangerous zone." When the
Japanese government formally apologized for the "accident" and "mistaken
identity" and agreed to pay an indemnity of $2.2 million, the American
public was mollified and relieved.
is no question but that the attack was deliberate and ordered at
the highest levels. The day had been cloudless; there were several
very large American flags spread flat across the top deck. FDR had
persuaded the newsreel company to cut out the length of film which
showed several Japanese bombers shooting at the gunboat at nearly
deck level, a scene which could have produced a clamor for revenge
similar to the 1898 "Remember the Maine."
It is quite
likely that FDR did not want it revealed to the American public
that the Panay, equipped with the most sophisticated communication
devices, had anchored fifteen miles upstream from Nanking and was
collecting intelligence and sending messages to the Chinese Nationalist
commander, Chiang Kai-Shek. Chang, pp. 73, 107,
146-149; LaFeber, pp. 186-187; Bergamini, pp. 24-28; Freidel, pp.
290-293; Davis, Storm, pp. 154-158
to Bergamini, the furore over the Panay forced Emperor Hirohito
to cancel a planned attack on Hong Kong and to postpone the assault
on Canton for ten months.
FDR, over Hull's objections, suggested an Anglo-American naval blockade
of Japan of all
raw materials, postulating that this would bring the empire to a
halt in 12-18 months.
The British Admiralty was enthusiastic about the proposal, but it
was torpedoed by Prime Minister Chamberlain. Utley,
pp. 30-31; Toland, Rising Sun, p.49.
to the Panay bombing FDR instructed the army and navy to
update Operation Orange, the old contingency plan for war with Japan.
He asked Congress for a 20 % increase in the strength of the navy,
a bill that passed after much debate in May, 1938. Freidel,
of Nanking: The Japanese capture Nanking, the new capital of
China since the Nationalists overthrew the Manchu dynasty in 1928.
before the fall of the city Chiang and all the senior officers had
departed upstream to establish a provisional capital at Hankow.
Trapped inside the walls were 90,000 soldiers and half a million
civilians. The 50,000 Japanese soldiers entered Nanking with orders
from their commander, Prince Asaka, Emperor Hirohito's uncle, to
kill all prisoners of war.
Japanese managed this by stealth and in stages, taking groups of
a few hundred prisoners at a time to outlying spots and then massacring
For seven weeks
the army indulged in an orgy of raping, looting and killing civilians.
Over 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered and as many as 80,000 women
raped. Stores and homes were methodically looted for treasures that
went into the Army's war chest; then the arson squads came and torched
them. More than a third of the city was incinerated.
records the barbaric excesses: bayonet practice and decapitation
contests among the soldiers, raped women whose body parts were sliced
off, family members forced to commit and watch incestuous acts,
people who were buried up to their necks, etc.
of Nanking" would be one of the bloodiest episodes of World War
II with more people murdered than the combined totals of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, more than the deaths in the firestorms caused by the
air raids on Dresden or on Tokyo. There were more civilian casualties
in seven weeks in Nanking than in Great Britain, France, or the
Netherlands during the entire war.
And the casualty
number would have been even higher had it not been for the exceptional
heroism of the 22 foreign nationals, mostly German and American,
who stayed behind to form the International Committee for the Nanking
Safety Zone 27 which somehow managed
to feed and protect 200-300,000 people in very limited quarters-
about half the population that had remained in the city. Chang,
pp. 5-6, 40-43, 81-104, 139; Bergamini, pp. 34-48.
Their elected leader was John Rabe, a German who had worked for
Siemens in China since 1908. His meticulously kept diaries serve
as one of the best records of the bestiality of the Japanese and
also of the extraordinary humanitarian efforts made by him and the
others in the group. He was also a staunch Nazi in this case;
"humanitarian Nazi" is not an oxymoron and wired reports to
Hitler asking him to curb his ally.
to Germany in April, 1938 with a motion picture film of the atrocities,
of which he sent to Hitler. Soon after his first public screening
of the film, he was arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated. He
was released only after a promise never to discuss Nanking again;
Siemens was forced to send him out of the country to Afghanistan.
In the postwar years he was extremely poor and as a former Nazi
couldn't find work or receive a pension. Chang,
pp. 109-121, 138-139, 189-194, 176-189, 386, 406-410.]
sources who claimed that Prince Konoye ordered the Rape of Nanking
in the expectation that this brutality would force the Chinese generals
to overthrow Chiang. When this did not happen, he called off the
slaughter and Prince Asaka was returned to Tokyo on February 10.
In the trials that followed the war, the prosecution avoided indicting
Prince Asaka, who was in command at Nanking. (The Supreme Commander,
General Douglas MacArthur, had orders from Washington not to involve
or indict the emperor or members of his family.
who during his trial denied vigorously that his subordinate Prince
Asaka was in any way responsible, told his chaplain that the Rape
was a "national disgrace" and the real culprit had been Prince Asaka.)
Instead the frail and tubercular General Matsui Iwane, who visited
Nanking only briefly and made a futile effort to halt the rapes
and killings, took the fall for the prince. Matsui was one of the
seven class-A war criminals to be hanged by the order of the International
Military Tribunal of the Far East.
was arrested; he swallowed potassium cyanide on the morning that
he was supposed to report to Sugamo prison and left a note saying,
"I have made many political blunders since the China Incident for
which I feel deep responsibility, but it is unbearable to me to
be tried in an American court as a so-called war criminal
Akira, who commanded troops who participated in the Nanking atrocities,
was tried and executed. Baron Hirota Koki, who was foreign minister
during the Rape of Nanking and the premier of the cabinet that planned
the invasions of Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, also received
a death sentence. Colonel Hashimoto Kingoro, who held various commands
during the Rape of Nanking, was sentenced to life imprisonment and
paroled in 1954.
Yet the Japanese
failed to absorb the responsibility for atrocities such as those
in Nanking. The 1937 "incident" rates two sentences in current Japanese
"While battling the fierce resistance of the Chinese armed forces,
the Japanese army occupied Nanking and killed numerous Chinese soldiers
and civilians. This incident came to be known as the Nanking Massacre."
Chang, pp. 148, 206; Bergamini, pp. 46-47; Brackman, pp.28-29, 48-51.
a controversial topic in Japan in 1972 following the publication
of eye-witness accounts of survivors of all Japanese wartime atrocities
by the well-acclaimed journalist, Katsuichi Honda in his book, Chugoku
no tabi A Journey to China.
That controversy continues today. The CEO of a nationalist publishing
house says that the Massacre "is an unresolved issue. We may not
know what happened in our lifetimes." Nobukatsu Fujioka, a best-selling
author and professor at Tokyo University, maintains that "What really
happened at Nanjing was very close to what happened in Paris between
the Germans and the French . . . a bloodless takeover of the city.
. . . War-crimes types of killings were infinitely close to zero
of A Public Betrayed report that death threats caused Honda
and his family to move, to put a false name on the gate of their
new home. He wears a white wig, sunglasses and a bulletproof vest
whenever he appears in public. Gamble and Watanabe,
the Rape of Nanking: US Army Intelligence intercepts a message
from the Japanese Foreign Minister to his ambassador to the United
States in which he details the necessity for stonewalling the American
Embassy staff that was trying to return to Nanking: "If they do
return and receive unfavorable reports on the military's activities
from their own nationals, and if the diplomats, on receipt of such
complaints, forward the reports to their home countries, we shall
find ourselves in an exceedingly disadvantageous position. We believe,
therefore, that the best policy is to do our utmost to hold them
here as long as possible. Even if this should cause some hard feeling,
we believe that it would be better than running the risk of a clash
on the scene." Chang, pp. 148, 206; Bergamini,
The Ludlow Amendment bill which has been bottled up in committee
since its introduction in 1935 by Representative Louis Ludlow (D-IN)
is brought to a floor vote as a result of the war scare over the
Panay. The proposed amendment to the constitution would prohibit
Congress from declaring war without the prior approval of a majority
of the nation's voters except in the case of an attack. It fails
to receive the required two-thirds by the very narrow vote of 209-188
only after heavy lobbying against the measure by members of FDR's
isolationist votes come from Republicans in the Midwest, Democrats
in the South and German communities in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
poll of November, 1935, at the height of the Ethiopian War, had
found that 75% of the people who had formed an opinion of Ludlow's
proposal approved of it; 25% disapproved. Its acceptance declined
in the polls of subsequent years, yet a majority remained in favor.
Davis, Storm, p. 156.
Nye (R-ND) boasted this year that the threat of war in Europe was
less than at any time since the Treaty of Versailles, "thanks to
America's refusal to encourage the warmongers in the British and
French governments." Smith, Dewey, p. 277.]
- The Oster Conspiracy against Hitler Begins to Form: Colonel
General Ludwig Beck, chief of the General Staff, meets with Admiral
Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Abwehr (military intelligence)
and his assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Hans Oster, on the day after
General von Fritsch had been confronted by the "evidence" of his
homosexual encounter. They agree that the attack on Fritsch is the
beginning of an attack on the army itself, and that this clumsy
attack to frame the army head provides an opportunity for action
main military ally, the commander of the Berlin military district
was ill and hospitalized, Oster sent "missionaries" to all the division
commanders in the provinces, giving them exculpatory details, as
colleagues within the Gestapo had leaked the whole scheme to him.
However, he failed to arouse them sufficiently to lead a putsch.
decided as early as 1934 that Hitler must be overthrown. The son
of a parson,
his primary motivation was a moral one: Hitler's treatment of the
Jews. He quietly began organizing a body of civilians and military
officers who agreed that Hitler must go.
(Many of these were more concerned about Hitler's reckless foreign
policy bolting from the League of Nations, announcing conscription,
establishing the Luftwaffe, occupying the Rhineland, etc., policies
which they feared would lead to war than his domestic brutalities.)
numerous emissaries to Britain with the message that there was a
German opposition to Hitler in need of support. When Canaris took
command of the Abwehr in 1935, he promoted Oster whom he
had known since 1931, sheltered him, and allowed him to recruit
anti-Nazis within the organization. Yet he would waffle on his own
commitment to a conspiracy. Parssinen, pp. 5-8,
Nuys Anti-Lynching Bill dies thanks to a bitter filibuster led
by Senator Richard Russell (D-GA.)
Adolf Hitler in a speech to the Reichstag declares himself the protector
of all the "oppressed Germans" on the borders of the Third Reich.
"Over ten million Germans live in two of the states adjoining our
frontiers [seven million Austrians and three million 'Sudeten Germans'
in Czechoslovakia] . . . It is unbearable for a world power to know
that there are racial comrades at its side who are constantly being
afflicted with the severest suffering for their sympathy or unity
with the whole nation, its destiny and its Weltanschaung.
To the interests of the German Reich belong the protection of those
German peoples who are not in a position to secure along our frontiers
their political and spiritual freedom by their own efforts." Shirer,
Rise, pp. 332-333.
Maury Maverick (D-TX) tells it like it is in a speech to Congress:
"Now we Democrats have to admit that we are floundering. . . . We
have pulled all the rabbits out of the hat, and there are no more
rabbits. The Republicans need not rejoice, because they never had
any rabbits or even ideas. The truth of the matter is that
at the present time we are a confused, bewildered group of people,
and we are not delivering the goods.
administration is getting down to the condition in which Mr. Hoover
found himself; it looks as if we are beginning to feel that the
way to prosperity is to stop spending altogether, and that in some
way, magic or otherwise, prosperity is going to pop up around the
corner sooner or later." Henderson, pp. 165-166.
(1895-1954) was possibly the most radical of the representatives
entering Congress in January, 1935. Definitely he was the most outspoken,
taking a very individual stand in defense of civil liberties, civil
rights, public power and in opposition to the Supreme Court's presumption
of authority to rule on social and economic legislation that had
been enacted for the "betterment of the people." In his first term
he was chosen by columnists Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen as
"Congressman of the Year." 'Maury's Mavericks' was the term given
to a group of about 40 newcomers who cooperated to steer New Deal
programs to the left and to complain vociferously in 1937 when many
spending programs were halted. Henderson, pp.
He was also
the grandson of Samuel A. Maverick (1803-70), a Texas pioneer who
left his calves unbranded. The calves became known as "mavericks";
from there the word evolved to include lone dissenters, or people
who followed their own principles rather than the rule of the herd.
Joseph W. Stilwell in China: "Since Japan cannot pull out and
China refuses to quit, the prospect of a long drawn-out struggle
increases. It is possible for China to win."
now realizing they could be bogged down in a no-win war, approached
Secretary of State Hull to mediate a settlement. Hull and FDR preferred
to see this endless conflict continue until the Japanese people
overthrew the military and thus declined to mediate. The possibility
that Japan, instead of giving up the struggle, might intensify its
militarism and attack the US as the cause of its difficulties never
seemed to have occurred to Hull and FDR. Utley, pp.
- Anschluss: German troops and SS units march into Hitler's
Austria and are greeted by enthusiastically cheering crowds and
makeshift swastika banners. It would be labeled the blumenkrieg
for the flowers bestowed upon the occupying army. (Motorcyclists
and drivers of open vehicles had been ordered in advance to wear
goggles, so as not to be blinded by the bouquets tossed at them.)
After he receives
word that his troops had been received with cheers rather than bullets,
Hitler flies to General Guderian's headquarters near the Austrian
border. A specially equipped six-wheel black command car then takes
him on a triumphal entry into Austria and a drive to his native
village of Branau and then on to Linz and Vienna.
cheers and "Heil Hitlers" surpass even what he is accustomed to
at home. By the time he reaches Vienna he has decided on outright
annexation of Austria rather than leaving Austria independent but
with a Nazi-controlled government which had been his original plan.
Anchluss is proclaimed that night in Vienna.
12th Hitler had summoned Chancellor Schuschniggsuccessor to
the assassinated Dollfuss to Berchtesgaden to discuss "points
of friction" from the 1936 Austro-German Agreement. Once there the
chancellor was confronted with an ultimatum: certain pro-Nazis must
be made Minister of the Interior (in charge of police and security)
and Minister of War, an exchange of officers made between the German
and Austrian armies, and preparations made "for the assimilation
of Austria into the German economic system," or Hitler's armies
generals were on hand to complete the intimidation. The chancellor
felt forced to agree, but that was the beginning of the end. The
Austrian Nazis began rioting, dynamiting, and generally creating
havoc, hoping to provoke the police into killing some of their members
and thus bring about a nationwide Nazi uprising and perhaps an intervention
from Hitler. They continued with their demands for a plebiscite
on Anschluss- union with Germany. The new chief of security only
speech of February 20, Schuschnigg made one of his own in which
he said concessions to Hitler were at an end. Austria would never
voluntarily give up its independence. "Red-White-Red [the
Austrian national colours] until we're dead!" On March 9th
he announced there would be a national plebiscite on the 13th on
whether they wanted a "free and German, independent and social,
Christian and united Austria: Ja oder nein."
got wind of this, he became enraged. He mobilized his troops and
ordered the cancellation of the plebiscite, the resignation of Schuschnigg
and the appointment of Minister of the Interior Seyss-Inquart as
Chancellor. Once assured of Mussolini's support, the invasion was
of the plebiscite is generally accepted as the impetus for the Anschluss.
Parssinen, however, presents some evidence that Hitler exaggerated
the crisis as he needed a distraction from the Fritsch court-martial,
due to start that day with the defense well-primed with details
of the Himmler frame-up. Parssinen, pp. 32-33,
In the first
few weeks after the union the "orgy of sadism" against the Jews
was, according to Shirer, "worse than anything I had seen in Germany."
Rise, p. 351. Orchestrated by Adolf
Eichman, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, the executions
and expulsions of Jews were accomplished more expeditiously and
more completely than in Germany. Construction was begun in August
for a huge concentration camp at Mauthausen for Austrian Jews, Social
Democrats and intellectuals.
later 99% of the Austrian electorate voted "yes" to a different
Do you accept Adolf Hitler as our Führer, and do you thus accept
the reunification of Austria with the German Reich? The Anschluss
was complete. Hitler had gained seven million new subjects and a
strategic position. His armies faced Czechoslovakia on three sides,
and Vienna was the gateway to the Balkans. Britain, France and Italythose
past guarantors of Austrian independence had done nothing.
The Treaty of Saint Germain which Austria had signed with the victorious
Allies in 1919 prohibited any such reunion with Germany. Shirer,
Rise, pp.322-353; Bailey and Ryan, p. 16; May, pp. 57-62.]
Union proposes to France and Great Britain that they hold a
conference, with or without the League of Nations, to explore means
of halting further German aggressions.
Chamberlain, bent on appeasement with the authoritarian powers,
quickly rejected it. France took its cue from Britain and replied
that the interesting proposal would "require thorough study and
the French Ambassador to Moscow, urged that the proposal be accepted
in order to guarantee Soviet assistance for Czechoslovakia, the
country obviously next on Hitler's list. He also believed it was
"urgent to begin military talks with the U.S.S.R."
Shirer, Collapse, p. 330.
It was in
this period that Dr. Carl Goerdeler, the former mayor of Leipzig,
made one of his many trips to London and Paris with his usual message:
"There are many Germans who oppose Hitler and we need your support.
Please oppose any further Nazi aggression." Officials in the British
Foreign Office were leery of Goerdeler, and thought he was "over-optimistic"
about the possibility of an army coup against Hitler. Sir Robert
Vansittart, the chief diplomatic advisor to the BFO, pointed out
to Goerdeler that what he was doing amounted to nothing less than
high treason. Some French and British officials suspected that he
was really an emissary from the Nazis. Fest, pp.
72-74, Parssinen, pp. 33-35. ]
that he will convene an international conference on the European
refugee crisis. Feingold, Politics of Rescue,
and Czechoslovak Republic: Hitler calls Konrad Heinlein and
other leaders of Czechoslovakia's Sudentenland to Berlin for a conference
with Rudolf Hess, his major advisor, and Joachim von Ribbentrop,
his new foreign minister. Hitler tells Heinlein that he intends
to "settle the Sudeten German problem in the not-too-distant future."
He promises to make Heinlein his Viceroy.
asks that the Sudeten German Party (which is actually the largest
in the multi-party Czech political panorama) make increasingly sweeping
demands which would be "unacceptable to the Czech Government." (Hitler
had feared that Heinlein was about to make a deal with the Prague
to these orders, but also tells Hitler that truckloads of rifles,
ammunition and machine guns are arriving at military installations
in the Sudeten area. An Italian press attaché in Prague, he says,
claims to know of a secret Comintern plan for agents disguised as
Sudeten Germans to provoke a conflict with Czechoslovak soldiers
in early May. May, pp. 61-63.
was a crescent-shaped area the western and northern boundary
of Bohemia from Germany. The inhabitants were 90% ethnic Germans.
Their ancestors had lived there since invited in by Bohemian kings
in the 14th century. (There were German enclaves scattered throughout
Czechoslovakia; in that multi-ethnic country nearly a quarter of
the citizens were Germans.)
In the dismantling
of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire at the end of the Great
War, the Sudetenland was included in the newly-formed Czechoslovak
Republic to secure the "unity of the Czech lands." The mountainous
area provided a natural barrier to neighboring Germany. This natural
border protection had been augmented by a concrete continuous fort
built into the mountainside, very similar to France's Maginot Line.
Germans were an unhappy bunch. In the Hapsburg Empire they had been
part of the privileged majority. Denied a seat at the table that
drafted the 1920 constitution, they were now a disliked minority,
overlooked for civil employment and distribution of land to the
landless. The constitution had guaranteed their civil rights, but
local Czech authorities frequently trampled them. People were especially
upset by the expropriation of border lands to build the security
The Great Depression
affected the Sudetenland more severely than the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Their industries- paper, textiles, toys, glass objects were
export-dependent and the outside world was no longer buying their
goods. The unemployment rate in Sudetenland was five times that
of the rest of the country. These conditions, with the advent of
Hitler in Germany, provided the perfect Petri dish for the growth
of the Nazi party. Wikipedia.]
of 1937-38 - The Government Priming Pump is Activated: Responding
to the precipitous stock market slump of March 25th, FDR finally
accedes to Harry Hopkins and other advisors who have been urging
renewed government spending to combat the decline in the economy.
FDR asks Congress for a $3.7 billion spending and lending program.
The restored PWA would get nearly a billion dollars; Hopkins would
get $1,4 billion for WPA; additional sums would be allocated for
low-cost housing, parity payments, the National Youth Administration
and the Farm Security Administration.
had worsened in 1938. There were now four million workers unemployed
and steel had lost two-thirds of its business. FDR met with business
leaders who were not helpful. Business Week, opposed to any resumption
of government spending, expressed Big Business' hands-off attitude:
"It would be infinitely better for us . . . to rattle along as we
are for a few months, and let the upward restoration come in the
slow and hard way, by restoration of confidence."
In early April
Harry Hopkins and Aubrey Williams confronted FDR at his retreat
in Warm Springs with data and arguments for the necessity of a return
to major government spending. They won him over. Secretary Morgenthau
, concerned about increasing the deficit, lamented to his staff
that "the cards are stacked against us. They have just stampeded
him . . . He was completely stampeded. They stampeded him like cattle."
Morgenthau tried to resign in protest, but FDR-his friend, neighbor,
and idol- cajoled him into remaining at his post.
In his fireside
chat the night before his message to Congress FDR explained that
he had waited to see whether "the forces of business itself would
counteract" the economic setback that the country was facing. Lacking
that, "aggressive government steps" would now be necessary to insure
economic recovery and the preservation of democracy. "Democracy
has disappeared in several great nations, not because the people
of these nations disliked democracy, but because they had grown
tired of unemployment and insecurity."
rose with the presidential request. By 1939 the major economic indexes
had returned to their early 1937 marks. It seems that "confidence"
had been restored. Throughout most of the rest of the 20th century
the Keynesian prescription* for curing
a recession--- government spending--- has been used and with good
results. Now in 2011 the party in control of the House of Representatives
demands major cuts in spending during a three-year-old recession
with major unemployment figures- ostensibly to reduce the deficit.
Leuchtenburg, pp. 256-257; McElvaine, pp. 298-299,
307; Davis, Storm, pp. 219-233.]
Marriner Eccles nor Harry Hopkins was influenced by the new theories
of John Maynard Keynes. The British economist's landmark book, General
Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, did
not receive much attention until after the war when Keynes' economic
theories became the economic policy for the major industrial nations.
Repudiating the dictum that "supply creates its own demand", Keynes
held that demand - consumption and investment combined-is the important
variable. When there is high unemployment and idle factories, government
spending is needed to restore economic balance. His book recommended
large government spending, usually on public works, in such economic
conditions. Keynesianism fell out of favor with governments in 1979
when the ideas of Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and then
Milton Friedman of the Chicago School took over. In the past several
years there has been a revival of Keynes' ideas.
Hitler orders General Keitel, the chief of OKW Supreme
Command of the Armed Forces to begin planning for an offensive
against Czechoslovakia. He does not intend for this to be an "attack
out of the blue" as that might cause hostile world opinion and lead
to a "serious situation." Rather it should be "lightning action
based on an incident" such as the murder of the German minister
in Prague during an anti-German demonstration.
German troops supported by the air force breaking through Czechoslovak
defenses at many points, and possibly headed for Pilsen rather than
Prague. He wants a victory within four days, a fait accompli
before the western powers can get organized for a military intervention.
Keitel brought him Plan Green, a rather general description of the
attack that Hitler had described. It begins: "It is not my intention
to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future without
provocation, unless an unavoidable development of the political
conditions within Czechoslovakia forces the issue, or political
events in Europe create a particularly favorable opportunity which
may perhaps never recur." May, pp. 63-65.
in Czechoslovakia: Konrad Heinlein, the head of the German Sudeten
Party, gives a speech to his faithful in which he makes two demands
of the government: Sudeten Germans must be given legal autonomy
within the state and "complete freedom to profess adherence to the
German element and ideology."
was acting under orders from Hitler despite his assurances to the
British that he was acting independently in his rabble-rousing
which had a marked similarity to the provocations of the Austrian
Nazis prior to the Anschluss. Parssinen,
of economic power: FDR sends Congress a special message. "Unhappy
events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty
of a democratic people. The first truth is that liberty is not safe
if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point
where it becomes stronger than that of their democratic state itself.
. . . The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not
safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce
and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard
[He gave some
--- One-tenth of one per cent of all US corporations received half
of the net income of corporate America and owned 52 % of the country's
total corporate assets.
--- 47 % of American households had incomes of less than $1000 a
--- Yet the 1½ % of the population at the top of the income ladder
received a total equivalent to the combined incomes of the bottom
--- Three-tenths of 1 % of the population received 78 % of dividends
reported to the IRS.
FDR asked Congress
to appropriate money for a thorough study of this unwholesome concentration
of economic power, to revise and strengthen the anti-trust legislation,
and to prevent mergers and consolidations of corporations that are
not in the public interest. Congress setup the Temporary National
Economic Committee which held hearings and published papers from
December,1938 through the Spring of 1940. Much important information
was gathered, but no legislation emerged to deal with the problems
that FDR had outlined. Davis, Storm, pp.
- The "May Crisis": The government, observing German troop concentrations
near its border, assumes an invasion is imminent and mobilizes the
[The next day
Britain and France sent diplomatic notes to Hitler warning that
they intended to support their Czech allies. Ribbentrop assured
them accurately, for once that no invasion was contemplated;
these were merely routine army Spring exercises.
This near-approach to war frightened Chamberlain and reinforced
his appeasement policy; the next day Halifax telegraphed the French
not to count on British support should there be war with Germany.
It appeared to the world that Hitler had backed off because of the
Anglo-Franco threat; this probably infuriated Hitler and possibly
accelerated his timetable. Parssinen, pp. 36-38; May, pp. 85-87.]
Un-American Activities Committee is established to investigate
un-American groups from right to left. Headed by Rep. Martin Dies
of Texas, the committee will concentrate on the radical Left.
especially targeted. In 1938 hearings were held throughout the country
before labor board elections in an effort to steer workers to the
AFL and away from the "red" CIO. Boyer and Morais,
- Plan Green: Hitler to his generals: "It is my unshakable will
that Czechoslovakia shall be wiped off the map." He predicts correctly
that France and Britain will accept an invasion of Czechoslovakia
provided it is accomplished quickly; he sets the date as no later
than October 1st. He further instructs the generals to start preparing
for war with the West, giving them "up to four years for preparations."
Parssinen, pp. 38-39.
Japanese planes bomb Canton, China.
indignation flared against Japan when it learned that 1500 civilians
were killed and 2600 more wounded in this raid and the one of June
4th. A major protestor was the American Committee for Non-Participation
in Japanese Aggression, a well-funded group of former missionaries
to China. FDR responded with increased military aid to China and
a request to US manufacturers of airplanes to have a "moral embargo"
on sales to Japan.
By the end
of the summer such sales had virtually ceased. Although Japan could
no longer buy planes from the US, there was no embargo on parts
to repair them, gasoline to fuel them or on scrap iron for their
bombs. LeFeber, pp. 186-187; Utley, pp. 36-37.]
The London Times editorializes that the Sudeten Germans "ought
to be allowed by plebiscite or otherwise to decide their own future,
even if it should mean their secession from Czechoslovakia to the
Reich." This from the unofficial voice of the government was more
than appeasement; it was taking the initiative for Hitler. Parssinen,
out Germany's Max Schmeling
in the first three minutes of the first round of a heavyweight championship
boxing match billed as the "Battle of the Century."
before when Schmeling had defeated Louis, Germans crowed that his
victory was due to Nazi superiority and "colored inferiority." The
blacks and whites holding anti-fascist placards who filled Yankee
Stadium were uproariously delighted to witness Schmeling's ignominious
however, was no Nazi. He had refused to join the Nazi party and
to discharge his Jewish manager in the United States. In revenge
Hitler had him drafted into the paratroopers and sent on suicide
missions. It was not known until many years after the war that Schmeling
had rescued the two teenage sons of a Jewish friend during Krystallnacht
and later managed to smuggle them to America.]
Aeronautics Authority (CAA) is established to regulate air traffic.
FDR signs the Fair Labor Standards Act, thus establishing the right
of the government to set minimum wages, maximum hours and other
(The working codes of the NIRA had been lost when the Supreme Court
declared that act to be unconstitutional.) The use of child labor
is outlawed in interstate commerce. Initially the maximum work week
is 44 hours and the minimum wage is 25 cents an hour. In two years
the standards will be 40 cents an hour and 40 hours work a week.
Congress will have to pass legislation for any future changes in
the minimum wage. (The original legislation had called for the Secretary
of Labor , with advice from an appointed board, to make any changes
in both wages and hours.)
the more cautious Walsh- Healey Act, passed in June 1936, had required
that the government buy all goods and services costing more than
$10,000 from manufacturers who operated with an eight-hour day and
a forty-hour week with pay for overtime and no child labor. There
was considerable opposition to the more far-reaching act in the
spring of 1938. It failed to reach the floor, thanks to the conservatives
on the House Rules Committee. However, Senator Claude Pepper of
Florida was having a tough primary race. FDR encouraged him to endorse
the wages and hours bill enthusiastically. He won handily over four
strong opponents and the bill was brought to a vote. It passed only
after southern conservatives had amended the original bill to deny
coverage to domestic workers and farm laborers as they had done
with the Social Security Act and NIRA.
irregularly raised the minimum wage in 1955 it was one dollar;
in 1961, $1.25 and equal pay for the two sexes; in 1966, $1.50 and
farm workers were included;
in 1974, $2.30 and domestic workers were included; in 1977, $3.35;
in 1989, $4.25; in 1996, $5.15 and in 2009 the last raise was to
$7.25. Many states, such as California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois
and most of New England have enacted minimum wage rates higher than
the federal rate. Many cities, especially in the western part of
the United States, have passed "Living Wage" ordinances that specify
minimum hourly wages at $3-7 above the federal rate. McIlvaine,
pp. 303-304; Cohen, pp. 306-307; Wikipedia.]
- The Siegfried Line: Hitler calls General Wilhem Adam, the
commander of the western front, to Berchtesgaden and demands that
the border, virtually unfortified on the German side, be made ready
by October 1. There should be ten thousand concrete bunkers and
eighteen hundred gun emplacements to protect eleven divisions. Adam
flatly tells him that this cannot be done in this time frame. Hitler
tells him, "Do it."
[By the end
of the summer the fortifications were far from complete. The prospect
of French divisions racing into Germany practically unopposed thanks
to Hitler's folly would bring Adam and other generals into the ranks
of the conspirators. Parssinen, pp. 49-51, 63,
Representatives from thirty-two nations meet at the suggestion
of FDR to investigate possibilities for the emigration of "political
refugees" from Austria and Germany.
contained a clue for how the conference would end: "No country would
be expected or asked to receive a greater number of immigrants than
is permitted by its existing legislation." Including the United
States! Any discussion of British Palestine was specifically excluded
from the agenda; no country stepped forward to offer a substantive
refuge. (FDR had hoped that large numbers of Jews could be resettled
in Africa or Central and South America.)
The only concrete
achievement of the conference was the establishment of a permanent
Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees that would negotiate with
Germany on the behalf of those wishing to leave. The conference
had been called because of the pressure
the State Department had been getting from journalist Dorothy Thompson
and "certain Congressmen with metropolitan constituencies" to admit
more Jewish refugees; the conference was seen as a way to stave
off the pressure.
article in the April issue of Foreign Affairs was widely
credited with spurring FDR to take some sort of action. The American
public, however, was largely indifferent to the refugee problem:
a Fortune poll indicated that 67% of Americans favored keeping
the refugees out "with [economic] conditions as they are." Another
poll showed 48% of Americans believing that the persecution of Jews
in Europe was "partly" their own fault. Thompson,
"Refugees: A World Problem," Foreign Affairs, XVI (April,
1938) pp. 375-378; Thompson, Refugees, Anarchy or Organization.;
Breitman and Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry,
pp. 59-62, 76-77, 102-104, 228-231.]
Revolt in the German Army: General Ludwig Beck, chief of the
general staff, meets with General Walther von Brauschitsch, the
new commander in chief of the army, and suggests that, if Hitler
can not be dissuaded in his projected war against Czechoslovakia,
all the generals should resign en masse. Brauschitsch agrees to
the plan and calls a meeting of the generals for August 4th.
[Beck had sent
an emissary to London with the instruction, "Bring me back certain
proof that England will fight if Czechoslovakia is attacked, and
I will put an end to this regime." His emissary was unsuccessful
in securing such a pledge. At the August 4th meeting all the generals
agreed that war with the western democracies would be a disaster.
Beck read his memo in which he said that officers would incur a
"blood guilt" if they failed to act.
He told them
their "duty to obey" ends when knowledge, conscience and sense of
responsibility forbids them to carry out certain orders. "If their
advice and warnings are ignored in such a situation, they have the
right and duty before history and the German people to resign."
While a few generals agreed that they would resign, there was no
consensus. Two of the generals denounced this opposition to Hitler
and one, Walther von Reichenau, tattled to Hitler about the meeting.
Fest, pp. 3, 81-82; Parssinen, pp. 64-65.]
"Mediator" Goes to Prague: Chamberlain announces to the House
of Commons that Lord Runciman, a shipping magnate who had previously
served in the cabinet, was going at the Czechs' request to try to
mediate the differences between the Czech government and the Sudeten
Germans not as the representative of the British government,
but acting only in his personal capacity.
there had been no such request from the Czechs; Runciman was going
at Chamberlain's request; and he was going to pressure the
Bene government to accept the Sudeten demands. In other words,
let the Czechs lop off a section of their country so the world may
avert war. Nevertheless, the mission was useless, as Heinlein, under
Hitler's orders, had refused every compromise offered by the Czech
government. Parssinen, pp. 59-60, 80.]
General Ludwig Beck, chief of staff of the German army, resigns.
[As he said
afterwards, "If I wanted to preserve even one spark of self-respect,
I could not have acted otherwise
. I sat in the seat of Moltke and
Schlieffen previous revered chiefs of staff and had
an inheritance to administer. I could not quietly observe how this
band of criminals let loose a war." Hitler was overjoyed, as Beck
was the one general that he feared: "That man would be capable of
acting against me."
Beck did not insist on publicizing his resignation and no mass resignations
of generals followed. Beck continued to advise the conspiracy group,
however. He was suspected by Himmler as early as 1943, but not arrested
and executed until July 20, 1944. General Franz Halder, whom Hitler
appointed army chief of general staff to replace Beck, also assumed
Beck's role as leader of the conspiracy within the army. Oster continued
as the unofficial head of the plot, coordinating the actions of
the different groups and making the final plans. Parssinen,
pp. 67-68, 77-78; Fest, pp. 82-82, 202, 276-279.]
"I come with a rope around my neck," Oster and Beck's emissary,
Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin, tells British officials as he pleads
for an open pledge to assist Czechoslovakia in the event of war.
He tells them that the invasion is set for September 27 or before.
perceived by Chamberlain to be a Jacobite, a traitor. TheBritish
Foreign Office persisted in seeing Hitler as a passive person surrounded
by moderate and extremist factions despite Kleist's insistence that
Hitler was the only extremist.
His one sympathetic
audience was with Winston Churchill who had been out of the government
since 1929. As a backbencher, his letter to Halifax predicting that
the Oster-Beck planned coup could "bring a new system of government
within 48 hours. . . Such a government, probably of a monarchist
character, could guarantee stability and end the fear of war forever"
fell on deaf ears.
were not enamoured of the Weimar experiment. Many of them also felt
Germany had been dealt with shamefully at Versailles and wanted
some readjustment of boundaries, but only through negotiation. Parssinen,
pp. 59-60, 80.]
Meeting at Number 10 Downing Street: Called home from their
summer holidays by the deepening Sudeten crisis, the nineteen men
present discuss whether or not Britain should announce that a German
invasion of Czechoslovakia would bring a British declaration of
war against Germany. While German military experts believe that
the Czech army could hold out for three months, Halifax and Chamberlain
are certain that nothing could stop Germany from overrunning Czechoslovakia.
does acknowledge that more is at stake than just Czechoslovakia
concern with the attempt of the dictatorships to attain their ends
by force. But then asks whether it is "justifiable to fight a certain
war in order to forestall a possible war later." Halifax believes
it unlikely that any peace reached after such a war would be able
to recreate Czechoslovakia in its present form. He and Chamberlain
discount the statements of the "moderate Germans" who have visited
that a viable coup awaits only a British promise to intervene.
Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, disagrees: "If war came, Czechoslovakia
would fight bravely and well and the French would go to their assistance."
[So no unequivocal
warning was issued to Germany. In fact, Chamberlain had in mind
his Plan Z, a rather egocentric fantasy in which he would fly to
Germany unannounced on the eve of the invasion and dissuade Hitler
from his folly. Parssinen, pp. 88-92.]
Warning is Almost Sent to Hitler: Halifax has a change of heart
after a meeting with Theo Kordt, the German Ambassador to the Court
of St. James, who had repeated the previous assurances that Hitler
could be overthrown and war averted if only Britain would warn Hitler
that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would result in French and British
intervention and another world war. (His brother Erich was a distinguished
lawyer and the leading member of the resistance circle within the
reminded Halifax that the 1914 war could have been averted had then-Foreign
Secretary Sir Edward Grey warned the Kaiser definitively that Britain
would come to the aid of France in the case of a Franco-German war.
after a grudging consent from Chamberlain, composed just such a
warning message to Hitler and sent it by courier to Ambassador Sir
Neville Henderson to deliver to Hitler. In an incredible act of
insubordination Henderson refused to deliver the warning.
His excuse? That Hitler was a madman and another warning after that
of May 21 could "push him over the edge." When Chamberlain heard
this, he withdrew his consent for the warning. Parssinen,
- Chamberlain's "Plan Z': Chamberlain, after a brief discussion
with his cabinet, telephones to Hitler: "I propose to come over
at once to see you with a view to try to find a peaceful solution.
I propose to come across by air and am ready to start tomorrow."
"thunderstruck" by this proposal. The conspirators were crestfallen;
the plot was in place and ready to go upon Hitler's announcement
of mobilization for war. Churchill wrote in his column the next
day, "We seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame.
My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have war thrown
in a little later on even more adverse terms than the present."
Parssinen, pp. 121-126; Fest, pp. 92-94.]
and Hitler Have a Second Meeting in Bad Godesberg:
Hitler escalates the demands that he made on the 15th in Berchtesgaden
which Chamberlain had compelled the French and the Czechs to accept:
a plebiscite of the Sudeten Germans over remaining in Czechoslovakia
or incorporation into the Reich. (Chamberlain
had acted without consultation with his cabinet or the French
or the Czechs when he told Hitler that for him personally
it made no difference "whether the Sudeten Germans stayed in Czechoslovakia
or were included in Germany." Parssinen, p. 129.)
is demanding that German troops occupy all of the Sudetenland immediately,
starting on the 26th and to be completed by the 28th. The plebiscite
will be held in November. And the claims of the Hungarian
and Polish minorities must be settled before he will sign any treaty
of nonaggression with this restructured Czechoslovakia.
occupation of the Sudetenland and the question of the Hungarian
and Polish minorities had been designated by the British cabinet
as "deal-breakers" and Chamberlain had pledged to return to London
rather than discuss them. But he stayed and discussed and deluded
himself that Hitler had made a major concession by agreeing to delay
the occupation until October 1st.
He told his
cabinet that he didn't believe the differences in the Berchtesgaden
and Bad Godesberg proposals justified Britain going to war. He further
believed Hitler was speaking the truth when he said that "if the
present question could be settled peaceably, it might be a turning
point in Anglo-German relations." The cabinet adjourned in the late
evening of the 24th without having reached a decision to mobilize
the armed forces.
in Berlin, a conspiracy within a conspiracy had developed. Many
of the leaders including Beck, Goerdeler, and Canaris were unalterably
opposed to the idea of assassination. But Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz,
the leader of the raiding party that was to guard General Witzleben
when he entered Hitler's residence to arrest him, felt that Hitler
needed to be killed: "A Hitler alive is stronger than all of our
He and Oster
agreed that this would happen during the arrest. The conspirators
had reached agreement on the political structure of a post-Hitler
Germany: a British-style constitutional monarchy with Prince Wilhelm,
the son of the crown prince as the possible ruler. They were awaiting
Hitler's declaration of war and his return to Berlin to start the
coup "The bird must return to the cage." Parssinen,
Resolve Stiffens: In Britain, Halifax tells the morning meeting
of the cabinet that he has changed his mind; he is disturbed that
Hitler has conceded nothing and is "dictating terms, just as though
he had won a war but without having had to fight. . . . So long
as Nazism lasted, peace would be uncertain." He further speculates,
possibly with the conspirators in mind, that a war might help to
bring down the regime. His statements energize more cabinet members
to disagree with Chamberlain.
The Czech president
sends a letter to London by Ambassador Jan Masaryk:
"My government wishes to declare that Herr Hitler's demands in their
present form are absolutely and unconditionally unacceptable. .
. . The nation of St. Wenceslas, John Hus and Thomas Masaryk will
not be a nation of slaves."
reports to the cabinet's third meeting of the day about his meeting
with Premier Edouard Daladier of France: The French cabinet has
rejected the German memorandum, believing that Hitler's "object
was to destroy Czechoslovakia and dominate Europe." If Hitler attacks
Czechoslovakia, France will fulfill its obligations. Parssinen,
Rant at Berlin's Sportpalast: The Führer is apoplectic over
the rejection of his Bad Godesberg demands. Speaking to an audience
of faithful Brownshirts and Blackshirts next to the large banner,
"Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer" he screams about the "Czech
reign of terror," the burned-out villages. He declares, "We want
no Czechs" but we will have the Sudetenland by October 1st. If Bene
will not turn it over by then, we will take it. Bene has the choice
peace or war." Parssinen, p. 152.
to War in Europe: In Germany Sir Horace Wilson, sent by Chamberlain
for one last attempt at a peaceful solution, hears Hitler's ultimatum:
"If the Czechs have not accepted my demands by 2 PM on Wednesday,
September 28th, I shall march into the Sudeten territory on October
1st with the German army." Wilson replies: "If France, in fulfillment
of her treaty obligations, should become actively involved in hostilities
against Germany, the United Kingdom would deem itself obligated
to support France."
orders seven divisions of assault troops to positions along the
Czech border. In hopes of raising the public fervor for war he has
the Wehrmacht parade through central Berlin. Journalist William
Shirer notes the reaction of the public as Hitler appears on the
balcony of his residence to review the troops. No cheers, no applause.
"Hitler looked grim, then angry, and soon went inside leaving his
troops to parade unreviewed. What I've seen tonight almost rekindles
a little faith in the German people. They are dead set against war."
trenches are being dug in parks, anti-aircraft guns put in place
and gas masks distributed. 28 The Prime
Minister in his radio address to the nation remains hopeful that
despite the preparations for war, it may be avoided. "How horrible,
fantastic it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on
gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between
people of whom we know nothing. I am myself a man of peace from
the depths of my soul." However, he says, if Hitler's real aim is
the domination of Europe, then Britain must try to stop him. He
authorizes the First Lord of the Admiralty to mobilize the fleet
an action that has more effect in Berlin than all the previous rhetoric.
France calls up the reserves.
his raiding party in apartments near Hitler's Wilhelmstrasse residence
and tells the men that whether or not Hitler or his SS bodyguard
offer any resistance, they must provoke an incident and kill Hitler.
He anticipates that tomorrow will be the day of the coup. Parssinen,
pp. 153-161; Shirer, The Nightmare Years, pp. 352-353; Fest,
Based on misinformation about the prowess of Gõring's Luftwaffe
that had been spread by Charles Lindbergh, both military intelligence
and the public expected London to meet the fate of the Basque villages
in the Spanish Civil War. However, in 1938 no German bomber was
capable of making a loaded round-trip to London from Germany. Parssinen,
- Plans Delayed: Mussolini intervenes after a frantic intercession
from Chamberlain. He cautions Hitler against mobilization and proposes
a four-power conference Britain, France, Germany and Italy
to be held the next day.
Plan Green had depended upon surprising the Czechs, but now they
were fully mobilized and ready with 34 divisions. Also, although
he would refuse to admit it to his generals, he knew that his nine
divisions behind a partially built Siegfried Line would not hold
back the potential 23 divisions of the French for very long.
In the afternoon
session of the House of Commons Prime Minister Chamberlain was recounting
the events of the past two months, preparing the hall (including
the Queen Mother and other notables in the jammed Visitors' Galleries)
for the message: "If France becomes involved in a war with Germany,
we shall feel obliged to support them" when he was handed
the invitation to the Munich conference the next morning. There
was much applause and shouts of encouragement as he read the message
aloud, and then took his leave to prepare for the trip. A few were
silent Anthony Eden, Harold Nicolson, Leo Amery, and Winston
who had spent the day in suspense waiting to hear from General Brauchitsch
that the mobilization had been ordered, were crushed to learn in
late afternoon about the Munich conference. "Our revolt is done
for," said Hans-Berndt Gisevius, one of the principal civilian conspirators.
After the Munich Conference the conspirators burned their plans
in Witzleben's fireplace; only a small core would stay active to
plan any future plots against Hitler. All felt betrayed by Chamberlain.
A very good chance to eliminate Hitler and his future atrocities,
to say nothing of World War II, had been lost. To quote Gisevius:
"Chamberlain saved Hitler." Parssinen, pp. 163-166,
172; Fest, pp. 96-101.
May visit to Rome Hitler had told Mussolini about his plan for the
Sudetenland and had received Mussolini's assurance that there would
be no opposition from Italy. Mussolini made it clear to French and
British diplomats that if Europe went to war over Czechoslovakia,
Italy would fight on the side of Germany. However, Mussolini was
sure that the British and French would back away from war. As he
said in a speech on the 24th,
"It would be absurd and criminal to cause the deaths of millions
of Europeans to enable Master Bene to maintain his mastery over
eight different races." Ridley, pp. 287, 295-296.]
Conference: Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and Daladier agree:
The Sudeten German areas of Czechoslovakia will be ceded to Germany
in exchange for Hitler's pledge of no further German territorial
felt he had won a victory of "peace in our time." Many others, including
the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, charged "appeasement."
The Czechs, who were not consulted, felt they had been sold out
by the Allies. The Soviets were also not included in the conference
despite the fact that they had offered to support the Czechs.
A poll taken
the week after the conference showed that a majority of Americans
approved of the Pact. But not all: Historian Claude Bowers, the
American Ambassador to Spain, was furious and wrote Secretary of
State Hull that "the rape of the Czechs is the most shameless thing
that has happened since the partition of Poland." Chamberlain has
brought England to "its darkest hour" and France is now a "second-rate
nation" with its alliances and collective security destroyed. Offner,
American Appeasement, p. 272.
of people in the Western democracies were joyful that war had been
avoided; Hitler was not. He was angry that the agreement and "that
man Chamberlain" had deprived him of his triumphal entry into
Prague. On September 30th he ordered his generals to prepare occupation
plans for the remainder of Czechoslovakia.
It was thought
for many years that the Munich Agreement had given the Allies a
badly-needed year in which to re-arm; later scholarship has shown
that Hitler's war machine was not ready in 1938 and that the year's
delay in the outbreak of war helped Germany more than Britain and
France. Germany's tempo of war preparations was far greater than
that of the democracies; in short time Germany would take over the
Czech Skoda works, Czechoslovakia's vast stores of military equipment
and her 35 divisions of men.
the western democracies lost the Soviet Union as an ally. And the
Third Republic lost its soul. As Ambassador Coulondre wrote, "The
accord of Munich did not provoke the fall of France. It registered
it." Shirer, Collapse, pp. 407-12; Lamb,
Drift, pp. 262-273; Parssinen, p. 168-169.
the US Ambassador to Great Britain, claimed credit for the treaty
for having influenced Chamberlain to trust Hitler. Stevenson,
Intrepid, p. 82. Actually Chamberlain was influenced
by a report from his Secret Intelligence Service: "What Should We
Do?" stated that a deal with Germany "might not prove to be uncongenial,"
as Hitler was proposing to "disintegrate" the Soviet Union and would
guarantee Britain's supremacy overseas. Cave Brown,
"C", pp. 190-191.
Prior to the
conference FDR had assured Hitler that the US had "no political
involvements in Europe." This declaration from the nation that had
entered World War I "to keep the world safe for democracy" undoubtedly
strengthened Hitler's hand in dealing with the Allies. Shogan,
agreement is debated in the House of Commons: First Lord of
the Admiralty Alfred Duff Cooper resigns from the cabinet, saying
he would have used "the language of the mailed fist" with Hitler
rather than Chamberlain's "sweet reasonableness." Churchill: "We
have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and . . . France
has suffered even more than we have . . . . Czechoslovakia recedes
into darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association
with the Western democracies."
To cries of
"Shame!" and "Nonsense," Churchill reviews paths that could have
been taken, ending with: "And do not suppose that this is the end.
This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first
sip the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered
to us year by year unless
by a supreme recovery of our moral health and martial vigour, we
arise again and take our stand for freedom, as in the olden time."
The agreement is approved, 366-144. Parssinen,
- Blumenkrieg #2: The Czechs evacuate the Sudetenland and the
German troops march in; flowers are thrown to the troops. The partition
involves 3.2 million Germans and 10,000 square miles of Czech territory
that is incorporated into the Reich.
1- Bene resigned as president of rump Czechoslovakia; he later
fled to London and established the Czech government in exile.
2- The Popular Front government of France fell over controversy
about the Munich agreement; the French cabinet moved sharply to
3- Poland absorbed Teschen, acquiring 400 square miles of territory
and 240,000 citizens, less than half of whom were Polish.
4- The Czechoslovak government was forced to grant autonomy to the
the new premier was Monsignor Joseph Tizo, a Nazi.
5- The Ruthenian area was given full autonomy and renamed Carpatho-Ukraine.
6- The Hungarians demanded and got a strip of territory in southern
7- On October 20th the Czecho-Slovak government outlawed the Communist
then terminated the alliance with the Soviet Union, and adopted
anti-Jewish laws. www.indiana.edu/~league/1938.htm.
8- Hitler came into the possession of the Skoda munitions industry,
more than 1500 Czech planes, 500 antiaircraft guns, 450 tanks, 43,000
machine guns, one million rifles and more than $29 million worth
of Czech gold. Olson, p. 260.]
Protest: Arthur Mitchell (D-IL), the lone African-American representative
in Congress, rises to protest the German treatment of the Jews.
the second African-American to be elected to Congress in the 20th
century. He changed his party registration and played Uncle Tom
to the Chicago Machine for their support to defeat three-term Republican
Representative Oscar DePriest for his seat in South Chicago in the
1934 election. His first term was notable for his loyalty to the
Machine and opposition to the NAACP.
In his second
term he began representing his constituents, supporting the NAACP's
anti-lynching bills and suing the railroads that had forced him
into a segregated car when his train reached Arkansas. That suit
was successfully won in the Supreme Court which ruled that the railroads'
actions were in violation of the Interstate Commerce Act. Mitchell
chose not to run for re-election in 1942, now persona non grata
with the Machine. Nordin, The New Deal's
Lindbergh receives the Service Cross of the German Eagle, the
highest award the Third Reich can give to a civilian. It is personally
presented by Hermann Göring.
exile in England since the re-investigation of the kidnapping of
his baby son, Lindbergh and his wife, Anne, had taken up with the
rabidly pro-Hitler Cliveden Set and were favorite dinner guests
for Lady Astor. They made several trips to Germany where they were
lionized and taken on carefully guided tours of airfields and airplane
factories. The Lone Eagle got to fly a new Messerschmitt 109.
reports of the size of the Nazi air armada ten thousand planes,
the correct number and half of those unserviceable went to
the chief of the US Air Force. A decision to take up residence in
Germany was canceled after Krystallnacht; Lindbergh returned to
the United States in 1939 as a principal lecturer for General Robert
Woods' isolationist America First organization. He did battle against
the "warmonger" Roosevelt, urging America not to intervene in Europe's
wars, and saying that her oceans would protect her. He had Hitler's
word that America would not be threatened. Behn,
Lindbergh's pro-fascist The Wave of the Future was published
in 1939. Higham states that the book was inspired by their close
friend, Lawrence Dennis, who was indicted by a grand jury in 1942
on charges of sedition. After the war it was discovered that Dennis
was indeed a paid Nazi agent. American Swastika,
pp. 56, 67.]
FDR meets secretly with economic envoys from Premier Daladier of
In case of war, FDR suggests, France could get around the US Neutrality
Act by creating airplane assembly plants in Canada close to the
border to which American companies could slip parts, thus producing
5000 planes a year. Freidel, Roosevelt,
Prime Minister Prince Konoye declares a "New Order" for East Asia:
Chiang no longer speaks for China and Japan will reconstruct North
China. The "Open Door" is no more.
Ambassador Grew had lodged a protest to Japan along with a veiled
If Japan continues to restrict American interests in China, the
US may be compelled to impose its own discriminations against Japanese
commerce with the United States. Following the Konoye "New Order"
declaration the hard-liners Stanley Hornbeck, John Carter
Vincent and Walter Adams advocated economic sanctions as they
believed that Japan menaced important American interests. Utley,
State Hull and Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, disputed what response
to make until December 30. Then Hull sent Japan a note calling Japanese
actions "arbitrary, unjust and unwarranted" and saying that the
US would never "assent" to such a "New Order" in China a considerable
retreat from the US position in October. LaFeber,
p. 189; Utley, pp. 43-49.]
Elections: As is typical in off-year elections, the opposition
party increases its strength: The Republicans gain 81 seats in the
House, six new Senators, and eleven governors, including John Bricker
of Ohio, Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, and Harold Stassen
of Minnesota. Outside of the Solid South, the Republicans win a
majority of the votes, or 8-10% above their disastrous 1936 showing.
[In New York
Herbert Lehman was barely re-elected, and then only with the help
of 400,000 American Labor votes and 100,000 Communist votes. His
opponent Tom Dewey carried every county but one outside New York
City; Lehman's margin of victory was 65,000 votes out of 4.5 million.
FDR had weighed in for his protégé and successor as governor, saying
that Dewey had "yet to win his spurs." FDR compared "old-time Republicans"
with Fascists and Communists who threatened American democracy and
implied that Dewey was their captive.
called himself a "New Deal Republican" and campaigned for reforms
in the spirit of the old Republican Progressives, such as Teddy
Roosevelt. Alf Landon, also a moderate Republican, was one of the
first to urge Dewey to seek the governorship and also to challenge
FDR in 1940. Landon believed that an FDR victory in 1940 could be
"the last free election in America."
A few days
after the elections Dewey was first choice for the presidential
nomination in a Gallup poll among 33% of Republicans, far ahead
of Vandenberg, Hoover, Landon, and two freshmen Senators, Robert
Taft and Henry Cabot Lodge. With this Dewey became the head of the
Republican Party nationally. Smith, Dewey,
pp. 265-276; 653-654.]
- Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, takes place
throughout Germany. The pogrom organized by Reinhard Heydrich results
in the burning of synagogues, the pillaging of Jewish-owned stores
and the arrests of 20,000 Jews.
who participated had been inflamed by anti-Semitic speeches of Hitler
following the death of a German Embassy official in Paris by a Jewish
exile, Herschel Grynzpan. In America, Dorothy Thompson's moving
plea for a fair trial for Grynzpan led to the spontaneous establishment
of a international fund for his defense.
The army generals
were silent, still licking their wounds from the aborted coup. Senior
naval officers, however, lodged protests and sought an audience
with Hitler; they were told that the SA district leaders had just
"gotten out of control." Fest, p. 104.
Ambassador Hugh Wilson home from Berlin for "consultation"- and
refused to allow him to return. Hitler similarly recalled Ambassador
Hans Dieckhoff; neither country formally broke diplomatic relations.
Offner, American Appeasement, pp, 272-273.]
FDR signs a secret memorandum authorizing the French government
to inspect and purchase American warplanes provided that these purchases
not "interfere with US new orders this spring."
[He had been persuaded by his friend, Secretary of the Treasury
Morgenthau, to allow purchase of the new P-40 pursuit plane, reminding
FDR of his own statement that the French and British were
"our first line of defense." Morgenthau wanted to sell them the
newest and best planes "or tell them to go home, but don't give
them some stuff which the minute it goes up in the air it will be
shot down." Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries,
II, pp, 64-59.]
- Hitler's Threat: "If international Jewry should succeed, in
Europe or elsewhere, in precipitating nations into a world war,
the result will not be the bolshevization of Europe and a victory
of Judaism, but the extermination of the Jewish race."
Poliakov, Harvest of Hate (1956) quoted in Cornwell, p. 278.
the Union Address: To the distress of isolationists such as
Senator William Borah (R-ID), FDR calls on the democracies to be
prepared, warning that neutrality and appeasement are no defense
against aggression. He asks that the clause in the Neutrality Act
requiring an arms embargo against belligerent nations be repealed.
The next day his budget will ask for $1.3 billion for defense out
of a $9 billion total.
in Great Britain: A New York Times article reveals that
there is little evidence that "Britain is better prepared for her
potential enemies than at the time of Munich. Crowded centers of
population remain dangerously undefended against air attack; the
civilian population does not yet know what to do or where to scurry
for shelter if a German bombing fleet should roar over London."
were no bomb shelters under construction, but the RAF was building
only fighter planes, no bombers. The RAF was not allowed to increase
production to the German level Sir Horace Wilson, Prime Minister
Chamberlain's Karl Rove, explained to the air minister as
Germany could take it as a signal that Britain had decided to sabotage
the Munich Agreement.
was opposed to any expansion of the army then at 180,000 men
plus 130,000 Territorials. Germany has "no more intention of aggression
than we have . . . we are now piling these ruinous armaments under
a misunderstanding." At the time of this statement to the House
of Commons the German Army totaled more than 3 million men. There
was only a four-month supply of sugar and wheat in Great Britain.
Olson, pp. 185-187.]
The secret deal to sell American bombers to the French is exposed
when a Douglas bomber crashes in California, killing the pilot and
injuring his French passenger, demolishing a number of automobiles
and injuring several observers on the ground.
Committee on Military Affairs immediately held secret hearings about
what this foreign air expert was doing in this state-of-the-art
plane. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau was forced to
reveal the history of the French mission; he said Treasury was involved
to give jobs to Americans in otherwise idle factories, and noted
that Congress had been dilatory in funding planes for American defense.
He told them that sixty-five million dollars to hire American workers
was "good stuff."
the committee and refused to send them any copies of his authorization;
Morgenthau also told them: "Since your request relates not to one
but to many confidential communications, written and oral, between
the President and departments of the Government . . . I am not at
liberty to comply with it." FDR was widely reported as having said
that America's frontier was on the Rhine, which he vehemently denied.
got their 200 Douglas and Martin bombers before the end of the year,
however, and the experience readied the aviation industry for the
mammoth production that was to come. In retrospect Edward R. Stettinius,
Jr. Secretary of State, 1944-1945 said that the French
orders were "almost revolutionary in their effect upon our aviation
industry, and laid the groundwork for the greater expansion that
was to come." Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries,
II, pp. 71-78.]
and the Atomic Bomb: At a theoretical physics conference in
Washington Professor Niels Bohr (visiting from Copenhagen) and Enrico
Fermi discuss the implications of the Hahn-Strassman bombardment
of uranium the previous month in Germany. 29
Their calculations indicate that this "fission" of the uranium
atom into two elements lower in the periodic table should release
a tremendous amount of energy 200 million electron volts,
or 20 million times the energy of an equivalent amount of coal.
suggests that neutrons released during the explosion might result
in a chain reaction further increasing the energy to astronomical
had the Archimedesean insight that that Hahn's slow neutron bombardment
of uranium had affected only the 235 isotope which is quite rare
only 1 out of 139 nuclei. He published the results in Physical
Review, February 1939. Experiments to confirm the Hahn-Strassman
results began at every nuclear laboratory worldwide.
The March 18
issue of Nature contained the confirmation by Frédéric Joliot-Curie's
lab in Paris. This article caused physical chemist Paul Harteck
to alert German Army Ordnance to the possibility of a revolutionary
new weapon. By June 1940 the basic facts about the release of atomic
energy were known in every scientific community in the world. Bernstein,
Uranium Club, pp. 1-13.]
Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman had bombarded uranium with slow neutrons,
causing a split into barium and what turned out to be an isotope
of krypton. This puzzled Hahn, a radio chemist, who wrote his old
colleague, nuclear physicist Lise Meitner, now a refugee in Sweden.
He offered her three-way credit if she could come up with an explanation
of his results.
It just so
happened that Meitner's nephew, Otto Frisch, also a physicist and
also a refugee working with Neils Bohr in Copenhagen
was visiting his aunt for the Christmas holidays. Together they
figured out the theoretical implications of the experiment in Berlin,
notified Otto Hahn, and Frisch gave Bohr the news just as Bohr was
leaving for the United States. The Frisch-Meitner paper was published
in Nature in the February 11, 1938 issue. Neither Meitner
nor Frisch shared in the Hahn Nobel Prize as indeed they should
have. Bernstein,Uranium Club, pp. 9-12.
The Catalonian Front Collapses: The French government reluctantly
opens its borders to the frightened and fleeing Republicans of the
[At first only
women, children, the elderly and wounded Loyalist soldiers were
admitted. The camps, hastily-constructed for the 240,000 refugees,
lacked shelter and proper food and water supply. Many people slept
on the beaches; many died from neglect, including the poet Antonio
Machado. Beginning on the 5th of February 250,000 soldiers of the
Republican army crossed the border, were disarmed and sent off to
concentration camps such as Argelés sur Mer and St. Cyprien. Thomas,
pp. 575-576; The Volunteer, vol 21, No 2, pp.7-8.
By April 1,
1939 Franco's proclaimed "Day of Victory" more
than 500,000 Spaniards had fled to France, trudging through the
snow-covered mountain passes, enduring strafing and shelling from
Nationalist planes. On arrival in France they were treated like
criminals, families were separated, their meager possessions confiscated.
Life photographers and newsreel cameras were there to record
heart-wrenching scenes of what Susan Sontag has called the "first
media war." Only months later with the start of World War II, many
more people in many other countries would flee hostilities and become
a designation created at the end of the wardisplaced persons
or DPs. In 1999 the UN reported that in the 20th century 50 million
people had become Displaced Persons, or one person in 214 on the
planet. The Volunteer, March 2009, pp.
Attorney General Frank Murphy establishes a group within the Department
of Justice to study the civil rights provided by the Constitution
and congressional legislation and to conduct prosecutions against
violators of civil rights.
the Civil Liberties Unit, then changed to the Civil Rights Section,
it investigated complaints about lynchings and recommended passage
of federal anti-lynching laws.
After Pearl Harbor it was politically important to prevent terrorism
against African-Americans to counteract Japanese propaganda and
insure the continuation of black labor in the war effort.
went so far as to make "confidential checks" on some of the more
outspoken segregationists, such as Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge
and Congressmen John Rankin of Mississippi and Martin Dies of Texas,
to see whether they were reiterating the Japanese message. McGovern,
pp. 145-146; O'Reilly, pp. 122-125.]
Pope Pius XI dies of a heart attack. He is succeeded to the papacy
by his long-term closest aide, Eugenio Pacelli, who takes the name
papers of Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, the prefect of the Vatican
Library, which were opened after his death in 1972, contained two
amazing revelations: Pope Pius XI had ordered the drafting of an
encyclical protesting anti-Semitism Humani Generis Unitas
and Mussolini had arranged for the murder of the pope to prevent
Pius XII never
published the encyclical nor revealed its existence.
Bob Keeler, "Silence of the Vatican: Some Clues," Los Angeles
Times, February 6, 1998; Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky,
The Hidden Encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Harcourt Brace, 1998.]
The Japanese occupy Hainan Island which is separated from China's
Canton Province (now Guangdong Province ) by a narrow strait.
a strategic location from which to interdict shipments going to
China. It would be a most important base if Japan were to move south,
as it would dominate the northern part of the South China Sea and
mitigate the effectiveness of the British base at Singapore. Utley,
In 1988 Hainan, an island the size of Belgium, was designated as
a separate province and a "special economic zone." The caverns of
the nuclear submarine base are large enough to hide twenty nuclear
ballistic missile submarines from satellite detection. In 2003 China
announced the establishment of state-of-the-art cyber warfare units
at the naval base for offense and defense in cyberspace. Clarke,
p. 57; Wikipedia.]
Prosecution and Presidential Prospects: District Attorney Thomas
Dewey wins his second trial against James J. Hines, the leader of
the Eleventh District in New York City and the single most powerful
man in Tammany Hall.
convicted of accepting $200,000 in bribes from the late mobster,
Dutch Schultz, and served five years in prison. Dewey's poll numbers
for the Republican presidential nomination rose to 50%, way ahead
of Vandenberg and Taft. Gallup ran a poll in May matching Dewey
with FDR: Dewey emerged victorious, 58-42. This was pretty amazing
for an almost 37-year-old prosecutor. Smith, Dewey,
Civil War is over: France and Great Britain recognize the government
of General Francisco Franco.
Sit-Down Strikes: The Supreme Court outlaws the sit-down strike
in NLRB v. Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. The Court refuses
to uphold an order of the NLRB requiring reinstatement of workers
fired after a sit-down strike in February, 1937. Chief Justice Hughes
inveighed against the sit-down: "It was a high-handed proceeding
without shadow of a legal right . . . The employees had the right
to strike but they had no license to commit acts of violence or
to seize their employer's plant . . . As respondent's unfair labor
practices afforded no excuse for the seizure and holding of its
buildings, respondent had its normal rights of redress [including]
the right to discharge the wrongdoers from its employ . . .
[In the summer
and fall of 1936 there had been several unsuccessful efforts to
get the small processing plant to negotiate a contract with the
union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers.
The company employed a spy and isolated the work place of the union
head from the other workers. Finally, in February 1937, the workers
sat down in two of the buildings. The company got an injunction,
the sheriff and his deputies drove the sit-down workers out of the
plant, and the company promptly fired them.
had committed wholesale violations of the Wagner Act, but the Chief
Justice chose to address only one side of the dispute. The sit-down
was becoming less approved by the public and was probably on its
way out as a tool for labor anyway. However, the sit-down had been
the indispensable tool in the unionization of the automobile industry.
In 1936 CIO unions were relying on the tool of the sit-down in a
score of industries maritime, shipbuilding, textiles, oil,
shoes, retail trade, hospitals and so on, Despite the condemnations
of the sit-down by Green and the AFL Executive Council, several
AFL unions had used the sit-down. Hall, p. 491;
Bernstein, Turbulent, pp.500-501; 678-680.]
in another file,
Roosevelt Presidency: March, 1939 - Pearl Harbor