“This Is Not Our War!” (8-4-1940)

It was the biggest anti-war rally in the history of Chicago.  A crowd of 40,000 gathered at Soldier Field–to keep America out of World War II.

Fighting had begun eleven months before.  Germany invaded Poland, causing Britain and France to declare war on Germany.  Officially, the United States was neutral.

But Germany was led by Adolf Hitler. And as his armies swept over Europe, more and more Americans were becoming convinced that Nazi aggression had to be stopped. Otherwise, America itself would be threatened.

Some people were not convinced that war was the answer. They remembered how the U.S. had been dragged into the First World War. So today these isolationists were turning out in force. Their spokesman was the country’s greatest hero, aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh had kept to himself in recent years.  The kidnap-murder of his infant son had deeply affected him.  Now he had a reason to return to the spotlight.  The Soldier Field rally was the latest stop on his nationwide anti-war tour.

Speaking to the crowd and to the nation via radio, Lindbergh said that the U.S. must chart its own course.  It wasn’t in our interest to get mixed up in other countries’ squabbles.  It really didn’t matter who won a war on another continent.

“In the past, we have dealt with a Europe dominated by England and France,” Lindbergh said.  “In the future, we may have to deal with a Europe dominated by Germany.”  So what!  America could easily defend itself if attacked.  We should keep our defense strong, and not waste our resources on foreign adventures.

Lindbergh was joined on the podium by other speakers–members of Congress, civic leaders, news commentators, and a 91-year-old veteran of the Civil War.  The message was clear.  The European war was none of our business.  Western civilization would survive, whatever the outcome.

From Chicago, Lindbergh moved on to other cities.  He continued to speak out against the war, and to draw enthusiastic crowds, almost to the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Once the U.S. entered World War II, Lindbergh supported the war effort.  But his reputation never really recovered.





5 Responses to ““This Is Not Our War!” (8-4-1940)”

  1. 1 Garry August 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Lindbergh was a pro-Nazi anti-Semite.
    He really only supported the war against Japan.
    His views & beliefs didn’t change, even after the war.
    New evidence has come up in the last 15 years showing that Hauptmann didn’t kidnap the child, but that it may have been an inside job, by an insane sister-in-law.
    An even newer claim is that Lindbergh himself was behind the “kidnapping” & killing, because of his pro-Nazi beliefs in eugenics, because the child was born seriously malformed & brain damaged.
    With everyone involved dead & no evidence left, we will never know the truth.
    The trial of Hauptmann was such a disgusting circus, with numerous stations broadcasting it live & multiple still photographers in the courtroom, it was the direct reason trials weren’t broadcast for decades.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt August 5, 2014 at 6:42 am

      The more I learn about the kidnapping, the more I think Bruno was a nasty, disagreeable, opportunistic man–who was innocent of the crime.

  2. 3 Alzo August 4, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Lindbergh is an example of a paragon caught on the wrong side of history. Robert E. Lee comes to mind, as well as William Jennings Bryan. Few of them have a chance to reconstruct themselves as George Wallace did in his dotage. It’s easy to smugly dismiss these people at this late date, but the fact remains that we weren’t there.

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt August 5, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Whenever I began teaching a history course, I’d make a similar point to the class on the first day–we can’t totally judge people from the past using the same standards we would today, since the era was so different. (But at the same time, those few people who courageously rose above their times should be celebrated even more.) I only wish I’d thought to use Wallace’s late-life apology as an illustration the way you have. Very perceptive!

    • 5 Garry August 5, 2014 at 7:30 am

      Lindbergh went around Nazi Germany & was an honored guest of Hitler & Goering.
      He never changed his mind on his views, he just buried them after the war.

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