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American Forum Of The Air – Should America remain neutral if war breaks out? – April 16, 1939 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Neutrality in America and the distant possibility that there could be another war, some 17 years after the last one ended. The last one; the “War To End All Wars” as it was referred to and what was slowly turning into a mockery by 1939.
Although no shooting war had begun, the crisis over Czechoslovakia and Germany the year before had many concerned this was no end in itself, but rather a preview of coming attractions. Germany had lost the war and had faced a dramatic upheaval at home with the slow, but steady rise of Nazism, culminating with the election of Adolf Hitler and his assumption to the seat of power and the subsequent re-emergence of Germany as a force to be reckoned with at some point.
Between 1935 and 1937 the U.S. Congress passed three “Neutrality Acts” that tried to keep the United States out of war, by making it illegal for Americans to sell or transport arms, or other war materials to belligerent nations. Supporters of neutrality, called “isolationists” by their critics, argued that America should avoid entangling itself in European wars. “Internationalists” rejected the idea that the United States could remain aloof from Europe and held that the nation should aid countries threatened with aggression.
In the spring of 1939, as Germany, Japan, and Italy pursued militaristic policies, President Roosevelt wanted more flexibility to meet the Fascist challenge. FDR suggested amending the act to allow warring nations to purchase munitions if they paid cash and transported the goods on non-American ships, a policy that favored Britain and France. Initially, this proposal failed, but after Germany invaded Poland in September, Congress passed the Neutrality Act of 1939 ending the munitions embargo on a “cash and carry” basis.
The passage of the 1939 Neutrality Act marked the beginning of a congressional shift away from isolationism. Over the next 2 years, Congress took further steps to oppose fascism. One of the most important was the 1941 approval of Lend-Lease, which allowed the United States to transfer arms to nations vital to the national defense.
The following is a discussion/debate over the issue of Neutrality, as it was broadcast as part of the American Forum Of The Air series in April of 1939.
To many, it seemed to be inevitable we would be involved in a shooting war at some point – but there was, many also thought, hope that an all-out war could be avoided. Only time would tell.
Here is that episode of The American Forum Of The Air from April 16, 1939 from Mutual.
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