DEFENSE MEASURES OF THE UNITED STATES 1940


President Roosevelt's Request for 50,000 Planes

IN JANUARY 1940, when the European war was still in a period of lull, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a national defense appropriation of $1,800,000,000. By the middle of the following May, the rapid development of military events in Europe impelled him to request further appropriations for national defense. In an address to Congress on May 16, 1940, he said that the brutal force of modern offensive war had been loosed in all its horror; that new and swift and deadly powers of destruction had been developed which were wielded by men who were ruthless and daring; that no old defense was so strong that it required no further strengthening and no attack was so unlikely or impossible that it might be ignored. The President said that we had had before us over and over again the lesson that nations not ready and unable to get ready found themselves overrun by the enemy; that so-called impregnable fortifications no longer existed; that an effective defense required the equipment to attack an aggressor on his route "before he can establish strong bases within the territory of American vital interests".

The President said to Congress that he should like to see the United States "geared up to the ability to turn out at least 50,000 planes a year"; furthermore, he believed "that this Nation should plan at this time a program that would provide us with 50,000 military and naval planes". He made a request for $1,000,000,000 to procure the essential equipment for a larger and thoroughly rounded-out Army, to replace or modernize Army or Navy equipment, to increase production facilities for everything needed for the Army or Navy, and to speed up to a 24-hour basis all Army and Navy contracts. In making this request the President reminded Congress that our ideal and our objective still was peace. Nevertheless, we stood ready "not only to spend millions for defense but to give our service and even our lives for the maintenance of our American liberties".

In a message to Congress on May 31 President Roosevelt made an additional request for appropriations of over a billion dollars for national defense and asked for authority to call the National Guard and the necessary Reserve personnel into active military service. He declared that "the almost incredible events of the past two weeks in the European conflict, particularly as a result of the use of aviation and mechanized equipment", necessitated further increases in our military program. No one could foretell the future, he said, but American defense must be made more certain so long as the possibility existed that not one or two continents but all continents might be involved in a world-wide war. He again emphasized the necessity for expansion of facilities for the production of munitions.

These requests for appropriations were promptly met by the Congress, as also was the President's request of July 10 for $5,000,000,000 more for the rearmament program. The President's request for authority to call the National Guard and Reserve personnel into active military service was granted in a resolution approved August 27, 1940. However, the legislation provided that the personnel ordered into active Federal service under this authority should "not be employed beyond the limits of the Western Hemisphere except in the territories and possessions of the United States, including the Philippine Islands".

Secretary Hull's Address of June 20

Secretary of State Hull delivered an address on June 20, 1940, describing in unmistakable terms the existing danger to peaceful nations. He said that there were at work in the world forces which sprang from "godless and soulless lust for power which seeks to hold men in physical slavery and spiritual degradation and to displace a system of peaceful and orderly relations among nations by the anarchy of wanton violence and brute force". Never before, he said, had these forces flung so powerful a challenge to freedom and civilized progress; never before had there been a more desperate need for freedom-loving men and nations to gather into an unconquerable defensive force every element of their spiritual and material resources, every ounce of their moral and physical strength. The Secretary said that no more vital test had ever confronted the American people; that difficult and dangerous days were ahead; and that our national independence and cherished institutions were not immune from the challenge of the lust for power that already stalked so much of the earth's surface. We could successfully meet this challenge, he declared, if we retained unimpaired an unshakable faith in the everlasting worth of freedom and honor, of truth and justice, of intellectual and spiritual integrity, and an immutable determination to give our all, if necessary, for the preservation of our way of life.

Habana Conference

The rapid developments in the European war during May and June 1940 resulted in increased danger to the peace, security, and welfare of the American Continent. In order to prepare to meet this danger the Foreign Ministers of the American republics assembled at Habana in July. There they consulted regarding measures with respect to three sets of problems: the possibility of the transfer of sovereignty of certain islands and regions in the Americas from one non-American state to another non-American state; the threat of subversive activities in the American nations directed from outside the continent; and the grave economic difficulties and dislocations resulting from the war.

At Habana there was formulated an arrangement for the provisional administration by an inter-American organization of any non-American possession in the Americas in case of a danger of change in its sovereignty. It was agreed that each of the 21 republics would take measures to prevent subversive activities directed from abroad against the internal life of the American republics and would exchange information regarding such activities. The Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee, which had been provided for at Panama in 1939, was instructed to cooperate with each of the republics in the study of possible measures for increasing domestic consumption of its own exportable surpluses, to provide increased markets among the American nations for these surpluses, and to create instruments for the temporary storing, financing, and handling of any such commodities and for their orderly marketing.

At this meeting the representatives of the 21 American republics declared "that any attempt on the part of a non-American State against the integrity or inviolability of the territory, the sovereignty or the political independence of an American State shall be considered as an act of aggression against the States which sign this declaration".

Shortly after the Conference, on August 6, 1940, Secretary Hull, who represented the United States, said it was strongly believed at Habana that "the military and other sinister activities on the part of some nations in other large areas of the world present real possibilities of danger to the American republics". He said it was universally recognized that a threat to any important part of the Americas meant a threat to each and all of the American nations; that it was therefore agreed that full and adequate preparations for continental defense could not be taken too soon.

"We Cannot Pursue Complacently the Course of Our Customary Normal Life"

In his statement of August 6 Secretary Hull warned that vast forces of lawlessness, conquest, and destruction were moving across the earth "like a savage and dangerous animal at large" and that by their very nature those forces would not stop unless and until they recognized that there existed unbreakable resistance. He expressed the firm conviction that what was taking place in many areas of the earth was a relentless attempt to transform the civilized world into a world in which lawlessness, violence, and force would reign supreme as they did a thousand years ago.

The Secretary said that "the one and only sure way" for our nation to avoid being drawn into serious trouble or actual war and to command respect for its rights and interests abroad, was for our people to become thoroughly conscious of the possibilities of danger and "to make up their minds that we must continue to arm, and to arm to such an extent that the forces of conquest and ruin will not dare make an attack on us or on any part of this hemisphere". To this end, the Secretary stated, each citizen must be ready and willing for read sacrifice of time and of substance, and for hard personal service; in the face of terrific problems and conditions "we cannot pursue complacently the course of our customary normal life".

Exchange of Destroyers for Bases

An important step for the defense of the Western Hemisphere was taken early in September 1940 when an agreement between the United States and Great Britain was concluded whereby Great Britain received fifty over-age United States destroyers, and the United States acquired the right to lease naval and air bases in Newfoundland, in British Guiana, and in the islands of Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and Antigua. President Roosevelt reported to Congress that this agreement was not in any way inconsistent with our status of peace; that it was not a threat against any nation; that it was "an epochal and far-reaching act of preparation for continental defense in the face of grave danger". The President said that the value to the Western Hemisphere "of these outposts of security is beyond calculation". He considered them essential to the protection of the Panama Canal, Central America, the northern portion of South America, the Antilles, Canada, Mexico, and our Eastern and Gulf seaboards. This Government later announced that the resulting facilities at these bases would be made available to all American republics for the common defense of the hemisphere.

During this month the United States took another important step for national defense. On September 16, 1940 was enacted the Selective Service and Training Act. For the first time in its history the United States adopted compulsory military training of manpower when the Nation was not at war. The act included a provision that persons inducted into the land forces should not be employed beyond the Western Hemisphere except in United States territories and possessions.

Treaty of Alliance Between Germany, Italy, and Japan

In 1934 and 1935 reports had reached this Government that Japan and Germany were contemplating or had consummated some sort of an agreement for joint action. In 1936 those powers had joined together publicly in the Anti-Comintern Pact. A year later Italy had become a party to this agreement. During the next three years it had become clear to the world that these three countries were pursuing a common pattern of aggression in both Europe and the Far East. On September 11, 1940, in a conversation with French Ambassador Henry-Haye, Secretary Hull declared that for several years the United States had pursued the fixed policy of basing all utterances and action on the assumption that "Hitler was out to become the ruthless and utterly destructive conqueror of Europe, and that the Japanese military clique was bent on the same course in the Pacific area from Hawaii to Siam".

On September 27, 1940 Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a far-reaching treaty of alliance. In that treaty it was provided that Japan recognized and respected the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe; that Germany and Italy recognized and respected the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia; and that the three countries would assist one another with all political, economic, and military means when one of the powers was attacked by a power not then involved in the European war or in the Chinese-Japanese conflict. The last of these provisions obviously was aimed directly at the United States.

On the day the alliance was announced Secretary Hull said that its consummation did not substantially alter a situation which had existed for several years, that the agreement had been in process of conclusion for some time, and that the announcement merely made clear to all a relationship which had long existed in effect.

In a conversation on September 30 with the British Ambassador, Secretary Hull declared that the three-power alliance had come about primarily because of "Hitler's effort to divert attention from his failure to invade Great Britain and to preserve his prestige by a sensational announcement of something that already existed". The Secretary said it was certain that Japan would assume that, whether or not the United States and Great Britain had definite agreements in regard to naval and air bases in the Pacific including Singapore, the special relations between these two countries were such that they could overnight easily establish cooperative relations for the mutual use of all these bases. The relations among Germany, Italy, and Japan, each having a common objective of conquering certain areas of the world and each pursuing identical policies of force, devastation, and seizure, had been during recent years on the "basis of complete understanding and of mutual cooperation" for all practical purposes.

The Secretary emphasized to the Ambassador that the special desire of this Government was to see Great Britain succeed in the war and that its acts and utterances with respect to the Pacific area would be more or less affected by the question what course would most effectively and legitimately aid Great Britain in winning the war.

Secretary Hull's Address of October 26

In an address of October 26, 1940 Secretary of State Hull warned that all peaceful nations were gravely menaced because of the plans and acts of a small group of national rulers who had succeeded in transforming their peoples into forceful instruments for wide-spread domination by conquest. The Secretary said that we were in the presence not of local or regional wars, but of an "organized and determined movement for steadily expanding conquest". The rulers of the aggressor nations, he said, had repudiated and violated in every essential respect the long-accepted principles of peaceful and orderly international relations; they adhered to no geographic lines, and they fixed no time-limit on their program of invasion and destruction; they cynically disregarded every right of neutral nations; they had as a fixed objective the securing of control of the high seas; they threatened peaceful nations with the direst consequences if these nations did not remain acquiescent while the conquerors were seizing the other continents and most of the seven seas. "Let no one comfort himself with the delusion that these are mere excesses or exigencies of war," the Secretary continued, "to be voluntarily abandoned when fighting ceases."

The appalling tragedy of the world's situation, the Secretary said, lay in the fact that peacefully disposed nations had failed to recognize in time the true nature of the aims and ambitions which actuated the rulers of the heavily arming nations. Recoiling from the mere contemplation of the possibility of another wide-spread war, he said, the people of the peaceful nations had permitted themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by the assurances made by these rulers that their aims were limited. The first need for all nations still masters of their own destiny was to create for themselves, as speedily and as completely as possible, "impregnable means of defense". This was the "staggering lesson of mankind's recent experience". As an important means of strengthening our own defense and of preventing attack on any part of the Western Hemisphere, the United States was affording all feasible facilities for the obtaining of supplies by nations which, while defending themselves against barbaric attack, were checking the spread of violence and thus reducing the danger to us. Under our "inalienable right of self-defense", he said, we intended to continue this to the greatest possible extent.

The Secretary admonished that nothing could be more dangerous for our nation "than for us to assume that the avalanche of conquest could under no circumstances reach any vital portion of this hemisphere". He stated that oceans gave the nations of this hemisphere no guaranty against the possibility of economic, political, or military attack from abroad; that oceans are barriers but they are also highways; that barriers of distance are merely barriers of time. Should the would-be conquerors gain control of other continents, the Secretary said, they would next concentrate on perfecting their control of the seas, of the air over the seas, and of the world's economy. They might then be able with ships and with planes to strike at the communication lines, the commerce, and the life of this hemisphere, and "ultimately we might find ourselves compelled to fight on our own soil, under our own skies, in defense of our independence and our very lives".

President Roosevelt's "Arsenal of Democracy" Address

In an address of December 29, 1940 President Roosevelt stated that the Nazi masters of Germany had made it clear that they intended not only to dominate all life and thought in their own country but also to enslave the whole of Europe and then to use the resources of Europe to dominate the rest of the world. The United States, he said, had no right or reason to encourage talk of peace until the day should come when there was a clear intention on the part of the aggressor nations to abandon all thought of dominating or conquering the world. Although some of our people liked to believe that wars in Europe and Asia were of no concern to us, the President said, it was a matter of most vital concern to us that European and Asiatic war-makers should not gain control of the oceans which lead to the Western Hemisphere. If Great Britain went down, the Axis powers would control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, and the high seas, and would then be in a position to bring enormous military and naval resources against this hemisphere. It was no exaggeration to say that all of us in the Americas "would be living at the point of a gun-a gun loaded with explosive bullets, economic as well as military".

There was danger ahead, the President warned, danger against which we must prepare. We were planning our own defense with the utmost urgency, and in it we must "integrate the war needs of Britain and the other free nations resisting aggression". He had, he said, set up a more effective organization to direct our efforts to increase our production of munitions. American industrial genius, unmatched throughout the world in the solution of production problems, had been called upon to bring its resources and talents into action. Manufacturers of peacetime articles were now making instruments of war. But, he said, all our present efforts were not enough. We must have more ships, more guns, more planes; we must be the great "arsenal of democracy".


Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp.79-86


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