One of the largest conceits of American history is the mythology still surrounding Franklin Roosevelt. While it has become fashionable on the Right to implicate Roosevelt for all sorts of anti-American nastiness—and mind you, often with good reason—quite a lot of the criticism is limited to his manipulation of the economy and the intentional stretching of the Great Depression in order to maintain power.
Not too many Americans today think much about his military efforts, except perhaps to take a popular and largely debunked conspiracy theory about what we knew about Pearl Harbor prior to the attack. Yet, Roosevelt was such a consummate crafter of his own image that one can easily see examples of his personality on the military side. Indeed, a theory regaining ground suggests that when Americans were no longer buying the Great Depression as a reason to re-elect Roosevelt—“the economy should have started recovering by now”—he switched America to an existential crisis of World War II. The comments usually follow that Roosevelt intended to go to war…he just did not know against whom.
This sort of criticism is scarcely believable, but serious pieces of it are quite valid. Historians have whitewashed the genesis of war with some story about Roosevelt helping out Britain and France but otherwise staying out of the war…until those nasty Japanese surprised us and forced our hand. The reality is that Roosevelt was no reluctant commander—in fact, he had begun moving America toward a war-time emergency situation well before 1941. Moreover, when the Japanese did attack, the entire country was largely mobilized without our even realizing it.
Some time ago, the Czar was moving furniture around the basement. Quite by accident, we lifted an old work bench and dislodge the surface of the work bench. Under it, trapped between the work surface and the support frame below it, was a nearly complete edition of The Chicago Daily News
, dated Friday, March 14, 1941. This is 270 days before America entered the war, but the entire newspaper reads like something from the middle of the war. The Czar is listing all war-related headlines below. Ask yourself: is this a neutral country suffering an economic failure, or is this a country already militarizing?
- Big German Ports Bombed (headline, p. 1) To be fair, the battles between Britain, Germany, and Italy were legitimately news. The Czar will not comment further on these stories unless they involve the United States.
- Nation to Hear F.D.R. Tomorrow On Defense Work (p. 1).
- U.S. Plan Impels England To Hope Canada Will Free British Assets for War Use (p. 2)
- Britain Sending Agent to U.S. To Speed Shipping (p.2)
- Work Progresses On Plane Plant (p. 3), recounting how a plane assembly plant is being built near Midway Airport in Chicago at a record pace, even though no one seems to know what type of planes are to be built there.
- Powder Plant Ready 3 Months Ahead of Time – Mammoth Mill Specially Protected From Blasts and Air Attack (p. 3)
- Boys Who Haven’t Gone Are Busy Little Soldiers (p. 3), explaining why many Army draftees are still assigned to training bases.
- Registry Books Open Monday For Defense Trades (p.4) discussing how unemployed workers might be drafted for training in defense-related work, solely as a “reservoir” of interesting skills that could, you know, prove useful someday.
- House Group Approves Stiff Sabotage Penalties (p. 5)
- West Point Cadets To Study More German and Spanish (p. 5); Spanish because there was a real possibility of war with Franco as well as Hitler. (p. 5)
- New Dive Bomber For Navy To Have 350-Mile [sic] Speed (p. 5)
- Biggest Crisis Job: Telling U.S. “Meaning” of Defense (p. 5)
- Gen. Mud Meets Match As 33d Arrives In Camp (p. 6), explaining how severely muddy conditions at Camp Forrest, TN, were so bad that men were doing calisthenics in their barracks.
- Medical Center to Train 1,000 Men At Camp Grant (p. 6)
- U.S. Convoy To Aid British Is Advised By Legion Chief (p. 6)
So we are only six pages into the newspaper, and you can see the sheer number of stories related to defense. The stories continue, of course, throughout the rest of the first section and basically stop only with the radio listings.
The purpose here is to condition Americans to the inevitability of war. The stories range from new weapons, how fun and exciting military training is, how industries are converting to manufacturer equipment and weapons, how the folks at home can help the defense industry, and more.
Does this sound like a neutral country, or a country itching
to go to war? Now let us go back a bit to the beginning of this essay: a crazy theory states that Roosevelt intended to go to war as soon as he could as a means of saving the economy—already showing signs of recovery despite new Deal manipulations to lengthen the misery—so that a militarized America would keep re-electing Roosevelt rather than switch horses in mid-stream.
You are most welcome to your own impressions; but looking at an ordinary newspaper on an ordinary day almost 300 days before a surprise attack, you have to despair to read so much pro-military propaganda. Unless of course, the theory is correct—that Roosevelt was mobilizing for a major war, and was merely waiting for an invitation to join.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.