Leon pulled a pamphlet from his briefcase by the side of his seat and put it on the table in front of Anthony. “Defend America First!” was printed in bold letters across the top. At the bottom in smaller print, the phrase “America First Committee.” — Moonlight, Chapter 8
As written in Moonlight, the America First Committee (AFC) was in fact founded by R. Douglas Junior, heir to Chicago’s Quaker Oats fortune, at the Yale Law School on September 4,1940. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the American public generally supported non-intervention in the war in Europe. At its
peak, the AFC had about 800,000 members in 450 chapters, with its strongest support coming from the Midwest. In that respect, it was very realistic that Anthony in Rose of Anzio could have been among those who were behind the AFC’s organization.
Support for the American First Committee was very broad across the political spectrum. Aside from the wealthy and powerful business men and politicians mentioned in Part 1 of this Blog series and in Moonlight, its members also included representatives of the arts and entertainment industries such as novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E.E. Cummings, Walt Disney, and actress Lillian Gish. The group appealed to many leaders of the younger generation too, including future presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford, future Peace Corp. director Sargent Schriver, and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, and Gore Vidal.
America First Committe – promotional materials, 1940
The AFC mainly supported four principles/beliefs:
- The United States must build an impregnable defense for America.
- No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America.
- American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European war
- “Aid short of war” weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.
The America First Committee was ultimately dissolved on December 10, 1941, three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the debate in America focused so much on Europe, the conflicting groups of isolationists and interventionists never expected the debate would end as a result of the war developments in the Pacific.
To read the interview with R. Douglas Jr. on his views as to America First: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mfdip.2004stu01/?st=gallery