No. 181 NAI DFA Washington Embassy Confidential Reports 1940

Confidential report from Robert Brennan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(108/42/40) (Copy)

Washington, 21 May 1940

The pace of the German Army's progress in Holland, Belgium and France, involving an immediate threat to France and England created a feeling of consternation here which amounted almost to hysteria. Most of the newspapers saw immediate disaster for England and the cry arose of what would happen America if the British Empire were destroyed. Two reporters whom I met on separate occasions on Friday, the 17th, asked me seriously if I did not think it would be America's turn next almost as if the Germans were already on their way.

This mood was not helped by the feverish activity of the Administration. The President on Wednesday, the 15th of May, after a day long series of discussions with Army and Navy Chiefs and members of his Administration dramatically announced he would address a Joint Meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives on the following day. His speech was an appeal for a further billion dollars for defence, mainly aircraft, to meet a possible menace from overseas. His reception was tumultuous and it was obvious from the broadcast of the speech that his audience was in a very excited state. His proposals are being rushed through Congress at record speed.

The press was almost unanimous in backing up the President's stand. It was agreed on all sides that the President's demand for 50,000 planes as soon as possible, and 50,000 per year should be met. Walter Winchell1 screamed over the radio on Sunday night that he had expert opinion that America would have only one year to prepare.

In the midst of all this clamour, men like General Hugh Johnson who state it would be foolish to build 50,000 planes as they would be out of date in a year, and Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh2 who deplored the hysteria and said there was no danger for America except through the actions of the people who kept intervening in foreign affairs, seemed to be hardly heard in the general chorus of alarm. Incidentally many of the columnists came out openly for immediate active aid for the Allies.

1 Walter Winchell (1897-1972), American newspaper and radio commentator. Pro-Roosevelt and one of the first United States journalists to attack Hitler, his broadcasts were heard by an audience of over twenty million across America.

2 Charles Lindbergh (1902-74), pioneering American aviator who became internationally famous as the first person to fly non-stop from west to east across the Atlantic Ocean. In the years before the United States entered the Second World War Lindbergh was a noted 'isolationist'.

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