I now have read 655 pages in the Memoirs of Cordell Hull, carrying the story up to mid-1939.
This period has been interesting as it has dealt with U.S. relations with Japan during Japan’s expanding invasion of China. During this period Japan repeatedly harassed U.S. civilians and military forces stationed in China. Most notable was the sinking of the gunboat Panay by Japanese aircraft in 1937.
Hull also has deals with the Roosevelt administration’s reaction to Hitler’s annexation of Austria and then the demise of Czechoslovakia following the Munich conference.
While Hull was an early advocate of U.S. rearmament in the face of the threat from Germany, Italy and Japan, he and FDR were limited in their actions by the power of isolationists. These isolationists wanted the United States to withdraw further from any involvement with the growing aggression overseas.
The isolationists were represented most famously by Charles Lindbergh and in Congress by senators Hiram Johnson of California, Gerald Nye of North Dakota and William Borah of Idaho.
Especially painful for Hull was the isolationists’ blocking the removal of an arms embargo from neutrality legislation in 1939. Hull had ample evidence from U.S. diplomats that the House’s action encouraged Hitler to continue with his plans for war. Because of the isolationists’ vote, Hitler was convinced that the U.S. would not supply Britain and France with armaments. Thus he felt safe in planning to invade Poland, figuring that Britain and France would not have the strength to oppose him.
I finished reading just as Germany and the Soviet Union had signed their nonaggression pact in August 1939.
On my other favorite topic, errors in grammar or usage, I started noting errors that I hear spoken on news programs. So far I have noted two errors, both involving a failure to conjugate properly the verb to be:
“There is just five providers,” heard on the CBS Evening News by a reporter.
“Was there any co-conspirators?” heard on an MSNBC interview.
I will report more about these topics in future posts.