Now Why Would He Suggest That?
When World War II broke out in Europe in September of 1939, few Americans though it necessary to become directly involved, but most thought the U.S. should lend support to Britain and France in the fight against Hitler.
Some Americans, however, thought it best to do absolutely nothing at all in the war. One of the principal spokesmen for this group was famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was a key figure in the “America First” movement. This organization brought together pacifists, pro-fascists, communists (at least until June 22, 1941), isolationists, conservatives, liberals, and others opposed to American participation in the war. Following the war it was determined that the America First movement had received covert financial support from German sources, though it cannot be shown that Lindbergh was aware of this.
Despite the work of the “America Firsters,” as the war dragged on, and particularly after the Fall of France in June of 1940 and during Germany’s air assault on Britain, public opinion began to shift, seeing Hitlerian Germany as a threat not only to the Old World, but to the New as well.
As public opinion shifted, Lindbergh’s opposition to the idea of providing assistance to the Allies suggested that he was either strongly in sympathy with the Nazis or was acting irrationally. For example, on January 23, 1941, Lindbergh spoke against the Lend-Lease Act before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and recommended that the U.S. negotiate a non-aggression pact with Germany.
Somehow Lindbergh managed to overlook Hitler's’ record with regard to treaties:
- The Locarno Agreements of December 1, 1925, formalized frontiers in Europe, including the demilitarization of the Rhineland, which was broken when Hitler sent troops in on March 7, 1936
- The Kellogg-Briand Pact of August 27, 1928, on the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy,” broken by Hitler upon the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939
- The Third Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, ratified by the Hitler regime in 1934, and broken during the first days of the invasion of Poland, with the mass slaughter of prisoners-of-war and civilians.
- The Polish-German Non-Aggression Pact of January 26, 1934, abrogated by Hitler on April 23, 1939.
- The Munich Pact of September 30, 1938, broken by Hitler on March 15, 1939, when he occupied Bohemia and Moravia
And this leaves out the Treaty of Versailles, of June 28, 1919, which among other things set restrictions on German military forces, and was broken even before Hitler came to power.
So either Lindbergh wasn’t paying attention, or had other reasons for rejecting opposition to Hitler. His actions during World War II suggest the latter; he served as an advisor to the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, and actually shot down at least one Japanese airplane, but refused any role in the war against Germany.
Anthony Wayne (1745-1796) was one of the finest combat commanders of the American Revolution and during the early Republic. But he was a diamond in the rough as it were, for his education was by no means the best.
On one occasion during the Revolutionary War, Wayne, having managed to get hold of several cases of fine wine, invited some of his officers to dine with him, after which they would open some bottles to drink to the fortunes of America.
With the dinner over, the bottles were opened and placed on the table.
In a loud voice, Wayne told the assemblage, “Come, my brave comrades, fill up your glasses — here's to old ‘Bon repos’ forever.” The officers were surprised, but taking him at his word – for “Bon repos” is a French idiom for “Good night” – downed their drinks, inverted their glasses on the table, and rose to leave.
At this, Wayne said, “What's all this, gentlemen? What's all this?”
One officer responded, “Why, did you not drink ‘Bon repos’ or 'good night'?”
“What? Is that the meaning of it?”
“Well then,” said the general, “a fig for ‘Bon repos’ and take your seats again; you shall not stir until we have started every drop of our drink.”
Wayne had often dined with General Washington, who always ended the evening with a toast to “Bon repose.” As one author put it, “General Wayne, who, fortunately for America, understood fighting much better than French, had somehow or other taken up the notion that ‘Bon Repos’ must have been some great warrior of old whom Washington wished to honor.”