In the early 1940s a debate arose in the U.S. about its involvement in the Second World War. In one of his longest radio broadcasts, Roosevelt pushes for more public support to increase U.S. aid to its Western allies and for greater involvement in the war. Many believed it to be strictly a European war. Knowing his plan might be unpopular with the public, Roosevelt drew on the fear of his audience and called upon their patriotism to help convince the nation that greater involvement in the war was imperative.
Worried that Britain might fall under Nazi rule, President Roosevelt stressed to the nation that Hitler’s true goal was world domination and the Nazi Army would not stop with Britain. Roosevelt went on to say, that the advance of Hitlerism should be stopped before it reaches the west. Roosevelt outlines the government’s plan to thwart the Nazi advance in his speech and asks for all citizens to actively take part in what he called “Civilian Defense”. This plan called on the private sector for the immediate increase in arms production and for articles of defense to have undisputed right of way in every factory or industrial plant in the nation. Roosevelt also called for an increase in shipbuilding to help defend transport ships that delivered much needed aid to Britain and other allies. Roosevelt declared that the U.S. would do all in its power to prevent any Nazi bases in range of the Western Hemisphere from developing. He also compelled other nations to become more involved, at this point, before the threat is at their doorstep. Roosevelt draws his speech to an end and states, “The nation will expect all individuals and all groups to play their full parts, without stint, and without selfishness, and without doubt that our democracy will triumphantly survive.”1
However, the idea of increased involvement in the war had to be sold to a public that had already spent an extra 7 billion dollars in aid with the Lend-Lease-Act of 1941. Many groups, such as the American Legion and the League of Women Voters, had already begun to rally against increased U.S. involvement. Roosevelt accuses his opponents of cowardice and asserts that “We must not be defeated by the fear of the very danger which we are preparing to resist. Our freedom has shown its ability to survive war, but (it) our freedom would never survive surrender.”2 Roosevelt attempts to strengthen his argument by describing what America could become, should it fall under Nazi rule. If Hitler should prevail, all labor laws such as minimum wage and maximum work hours would be gone and Hitler would decide wages. Roosevelt maintained that government funds would switch focus from education, housing, public works, health and flood control to armaments and military funding. Our right to worship would be threatened, according to Roosevelt, if Germany should prevail. Roosevelt’s use of fear to motivate the public to support the government’s position on involvement in the war was not the only tactic he employed.
Roosevelt believed that the best way to defend the west against Nazi advance was not by land but by sea. “The Axis powers can never achieve their objective of world domination unless they first obtain control of the seas…… and to achieve it, they must capture Great Britain.”3 Roosevelt went on to say that if the Axis powers fail to gain control of the seas, they would ultimately fail in their world conquest. He makes note of the connection between freedom of the seas and an allied victory against Nazi Germany. Roosevelt stressed the urgent need for American ships to replace the merchant ships of Great…