Martin Dies – Ferreting Out Subversives – October 27, 1939
In the years following World War 1, there had been the threat of a takeover or violent revolution in America from one extremist group or another. In the days at the end of World War 1 it was the Communist threat based on the Russian Revolution, which had just taken place. Communist spies, bomb-throwing anarchists, subversive groups were all feared to be hitting our shores. In the years marking the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, the threat of Nazi and Fascist spies, bomb-throwing provocateurs and subversive groups springing up all over the country, gave rise to the fear that – now we had Nazis and Fascists to contend with.
In the years just before World War 2 – and at the beginning of the conflict in Europe, where Germany and Russia had reached a non-aggression pact (for the time being), the possible threat of subversive activity became an alarm.
Enter: Martin Dies. Texas politician and Democratic member of the House, Dies had the support of former Texan, Senator and then-vice-President John Nance Garner, to head up the House Special Committee To Investigate Un-American Activities in 1938. And he immediately went to work.
The Dies Committee struck fear in the hearts of those German or Russian-leaning groups – certainly the German-American Bund, The KKK, The American Nazi Party and The American Communist Party were all targets of the Dies Committee.
As time went on, the investigations became more all-inclusive, and a number of people who were innocent got wrapped up in intrigues and innuendo – much the same as the later HUAC incarnation under Joseph McCarthy.
But in October of 1939, there was a war being newly waged and the fears of many would be a strong possibility it would end up on our shores.
On this October 27th, 1939, Martin Dies delivered the keynote address at the 110th Convention of The New York City Federation of Women’s Club.
Since Dies had become a noteworthy figure over the previous months, his address was carried over network radio from coast to coast. The message was simple and the drama was high.
Here is that complete address.
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