THE ANTI-WAR WARRIORSnby Ruth Sarles BenedictnBack in 1941 some members of the Senate and Housentook an unpopular route to serve their country, theirnbeliefs, and their priorities in a cause that was hopeless.nMany of them were not reelected.nThey were the men (no woman of the few then innCongress stands out) who fought against the United States’nentry in World War II and against what they perceived as thenpro-war measures of the Roosevelt administration. To me,nwho as a representative of the America First Committeentalked with a few of them daily, they were brave men ofnprinciple who were willing to challenge a popular President.nThey were honorable men who understood that theirngovernment had the obligation to protect and defend thennation and its interests, which they in turn as elected officialsnfelt obligated to help interpret.nThere was Senator Burton K. Wheeler (Democrat-nMontana), leader of the noninterventionists, approachablenand brisk, who could quickly rally saddened colleagues afterna legislative defeat; Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr.n(Progressive-Wisconsin), the bright, thoughtful man of thenfamous Wisconsin family; Senator Robert A. Taft (Republican-Ohio),nthe intelligent, reserved son of another famousnfamily; kindly Senator George D. Aiken (Republican-nVermont), whose down-to-earth common sense was refreshing;npeppery Senator Hiram Johnson (Republican-California);nand many others — Senators Gerald P. Nye (Republican-NorthnDakota), Bennett Champ Clark (Democrat-nMissouri), Guy Gillette (Democrat-Iowa), John Danahern(Republican-Connecticut), D. Worth Clark (Democrat-nIdaho), Charles W. Tobey (Republican-New Hampshire),nArthur Capper (Republican-Kansas), C. Wayland Brooksn(Republican-Illinois), Henrik Shipstead (Farmer/Labor-nMinnesota), to name a few. And on the House sidenCongressmen Karl E. Mundt (Republican-South Dakota),nPaul Shafer (Republican-Michigan), John Vorys (Republican-Ohio),nHamilton Fish (Republican-New York), andnDewey Short (Republican-Missouri).nYou can’t pin down the exact number of noninterventionistsnthat existed in Congress. The number obviouslynvaried, depending on the subject of the legislation. Noninterventionistsnwere no more monolithic than interventionists.nMost military appropriation bills passed without recordnvotes, a few with overwhelming “ayes.” On the sweepingnLend-Lease bill, which authorized the President to providenmilitary articles and information to any country “whosendefense the President deems vital to the defense of thenUnited States,” the “no” vote was 165 in the House, 31 innthe Senate. In the last important vote before Pearl Harbor,non the question of revising the Neutrality Act to allownmerchant ships to arm and sail with cargo and passengersnthrough war zones, the “no” vote was 194 in the House, 37nin the Senate. In one of the strategy-planning sessions thatnbrought out the noninterventionists on a Sunday afternoonnor late on a weekday, 100 came from both houses; innanother, 70; in still another, 30-40.nRuth Sarles Benedict writes from Washington, D.C.nPerhaps the least understood fact about these men wasnthat most of them favored a strong national defense andnsupported it by their votes. As General Marshall, testifyingnbefore a Senate committee on July 1941, said: “As to thencooperation of Congress in matters of national defense,nthere has been no question at all for a long time. Congressnhas met our every demand, and, as I say, those demandsnhave been in terms of billions.” From 1933 to the end ofn1941 Congress approved in regular and supplemental Navynappropriations over $1.5 billion more than requested in thenPresident’s budget estimates, and some $9.5 billion morenthan the President had requested in regular and supplementalnWar Department appropriations.nIt was partly to serve the anti-interventionist members’ ofnthe Senate and House that the Research Bureau of thenAmerica First Committee was set up in Washington early inn1941. The bureau was also to keep America First officials innChicago informed about the mood and actions of Congressnand to relay Washington “gossip” about the administration’snintentions and reading of public opinion on issues of warnand peace. The bureau had two distinct functions: (1) toncirculate on Capitol Hill and to get information about, andnplant ideas for, pending or potential legislative action andnspeeches; and (2) to produce a series of position papersnentitled “Did You Know?” — which set forth the antiinterventionistnposition on important issues.n1 was the bureau’s free-floating lobbyist who spent herndays visiting noninterventionists and their staffs, while JamesnLipsig, a New York lawyer, along with Cushman Reynoldsnand Kendrick Lee, all three experienced activists, producednthe “Did You Know?” information leaflets. We all workednlong hours. My research for the Chicago office and fornmembers of Congress went on into the evenings. The threenmen never took a night off, and set up a ping-pong table forna daily one-hour’s release from their labors. All three werenaccomplished researchers, knew how to find informationnquickly in a town papered with resources, and were wise tonthe needs of elected officials.nThis single-focus kind of life we lived handed us a fewnminor surprises. While working late one night in the officenwe shared with the Washington chapter of America First,nthere was a sudden scratching sound from the front window.nSeveral teenage boys were happily painting a huge swastika ^non our window. We rushed out and shooed them away, andnspent a couple of hours scrubbing the window so the dawnnwould not display a repeat of the tag the Friends ofnDemocracy had pinned on America First — “The NazinTransmission Belt.” And there was the time when we, alongnwith the Washington chapter, were searching for a roomiernoffice. We went with a real estate agent to look at an officennear the Capitol. As we approached, we blanched. Inscribednin concrete over the door was the name of the building —nGermania. We backed off. Somebody (was it a savvy agent?)nsquealed, and the next week a weekly magazine carried annasty story. Around eleven o’clock one night, 1 heardnfootfalls outside the window near my desk. I called for mynco-workers and we rushed into the alley but found no one.nnnDECEMBER 1991/23n