Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941

By United States Department of State | Go to book overview
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IX
EUROPEAN WAR 1939

United States Rearmament

IN HIS ANNUAL message to Congress on January 4, 1939, President Roosevelt declared that while a threatened war had been averted, it had become increasingly clear that peace was not assured; that throughout the world there were undeclared wars, military and economic, and threats of new aggression, military and economic. The President said that storms from abroad directly challenged three institutions indispensable to Americans: religion, democracy, and international good faith. He warned of what might happen to the United States if new philosophies of force were to encompass the other continents and invade our own; and that we could not afford "to be surrounded by the enemies of our faith and our humanity".

The President declared that the world had grown so small and weapons of attack so swift that no nation could be safe so long as any single powerful nation refused to settle its grievances at the council table. He said that acts of aggression must not be allowed to pass without effective protest; that there were "many methods short of war, but stronger and more effective than mere words" of bringing home to aggressor governments the sentiments of our people. He spoke critically of neutrality legislation that might actually give aid to the aggressor and deny it to the victim. (124)

Eight days later the President, in a special message to Congress, called for immediate steps to strengthen the defense of the United States. He asked Congress to appropriate, "with as great speed as possible", more than half a billion dollars for Army and Navy equipment, particularly for military and naval aircraft. These planes, he said, would considerably strengthen the air defense of continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Canal Zone. The President likewise recommended the training of additional air pilots and urged that steps be taken to prepare industry for quantity production of war materials. These recommendations, which the President characterized as "a minimum program for the necessities of defense", were substantially enacted into law. (125)

For several years agencies of this Government had been studying the problem of the acquisition of stock-piles of strategic and critical materials not produced in the United States or produced here in

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