In 1939 the notion of America going to war over issues taking place in Europe was abhorrent to many Americans. In 1939, it was only 22 years since America entered World War 1. The idea that this was going to happen again was a rallying cry for many – groups like America First sprang up in protest to our tacit involvement by way of supplying arms and supplies to Britain and France. The motives ran the gamut,from a legitimate desire for the U.S. to stay out of a war it essentially had no part in, to a desire for the U.S. to align with Germany and the Axis and insure the defeat of Britain and France over what some Berlin-leaning critics were calling The Imperialists and warmongers.
Critics like Wisconsin Governor Phlip LaFollette, whose father Senator Robert LaFollette Sr. was vilified for his opposition to American involvement in World War 1, which ended when the U.S. entered the war in 1917.
Much as his father opposed US entry into World War I, Phil La Follette also strongly opposed, like most other Americans, US entry into World War II. However, once war was declared, he abandoned his opposition and joined the U.S. Army, serving on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur.
This address, from October 3, 1939 was given as a plea to maintain our Neutrality and not dismantle the Neutrality Act which was passed in 1925, as a measure to prevent what had happened in 1917.
We managed to maintain a somewhat neutral position during the first two years of the War, dismantling those portions of the amendment which prevented the U.S. from providing arms and supplies to allied nations. Bit by bit we were getting dragged in, but its important to be reminded that America wasn’t eager to get into another European War, particularly after we were so adamant about making World War 1 “the war to end all wars”.
Here is Philip LaFollette’s address from October 3, 1939.