Q: Was FDR worried about Lindbergh?|
AS: I don't think he was worried about him that early. I think that Lindbergh
began to emerge as a factor in the political debate after the outbreak of war
in Europe. Up to that point Lindbergh appeared to be a patriotic American who
had come back with this presumably useful intelligence about the magnificent
German air force. There had been kind of an odd episode in which he had
accepted the Nazi decoration. On the other hand it was understood in
Washington that this had been a surprise to him. The medal was presented by
Marshall Goering at a stag party at the American Ambassador's Residence and it
would have been embarrassing to reject it. So that wasn't taken too seriously.
Lindbergh himself oddly was totally unrepentant about receiving the Nazi
decoration, never returned it, even during the war.
Q: Why do you think he never returned that?
AS: I think he was a very stubborn fellow, and he was a man deeply convinced he
was right about everything, and very hard to move. In August 1939, he was
having dinner one day with a right-wing radio commentator of that period named
Fulton Lewis Jr., and they were talking about the dangers of war in Europe.
Lewis, who was an isolationist, was much impressed by Lindbergh's concern about
a war and American involvement in such a war. He said, "you ought to say this
on radio," and Lindbergh said, "well I don't know about that." But then war
broke out a few weeks later. Lindbergh called Fulton Lewis and said, I have a
statement I'd like to make. So he proceeded in the autumn of 1939, in a flood
of speeches, interviews, articles, to explain why he thought the war was a
great mistake. And his general points were first that there was no moral issue
in the war. It was totally a balance of power war, and it was a useless war.
It was to be regarded as a fratricidal war. The real threat, he said, were the
great Asiatic hordes. The white race had to hang together. That Germany was
predestined for great air power, Britain a great sea power, France a great land
power, United States. These four countries must stand together against the
Asiatic hordes, and the Asiatic hordes are, presumably, led by Soviet Russia.
And he said, "race is what binds us to Europe, not ideals." And so democracy,
in his view, was not an issue. I mean there's no point in going to war to
preserve a balance of power that would benefit England, and it was useless to
have people of the white race quarreling among themselves when they should be
uniting against the Asian hordes.
Q: That was a terribly sort of racist attitude in the conflict and he
shared those views.
AS: I don't know where that came from. I suppose he got a lot of it from
Alexis Carrel, the French biologist who had a kind of racial mysticism of a
sort. And he may have imbibed it unconsciously with all the racism of Nazi
Germany. But he did use the word race and think in terms of race. And the
basic argument that he made was, at this stage, the white race should not be
divided inconsequentially and that Germans, French, Britain, and Americans must
unite against the hordes.
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