The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Pro-Red Orchestra In the USA, 1941

October 1941 polls register a gain in aid-to-Stalin sentiment

The faddish aspect of this all-out help for Stalin was spreading in the U.S.A. at this moment as well, even provoking U.S. News to ask the following question of its readers: “Should U.S. Divert its Entire Arms Production to Britain and Russia for the Next Three Months?'(101) At a time when Americans were being whipsawed by pro-war propagandists into fears of imminent invasion themselves by the seemingly omnipresent and ubiquitous Germans, and the domestic “defense” agitation was indicating that elements of the newly conscripted American armed forces were conducting maneuvers in part with wooden and other play-style “weapons,” it posed a contradiction for the pro-war enthusiasts. The industrial system did not seem to be capable of providing the military of the main belligerents abroad and the U.S. too with all the martial hardware they required.

The responses of the prominent political, military and other personalities were indicative of some of the conflicts sweeping opinion at the time, nevertheless. Senators Capper of Kansas and Overton of Louisiana and Rep. Karl Mundt of South Dakota, of the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees, respectively, said no. But Capper and Mundt were for sending as much as could be spared to the British without undermining U.S. defense, while stipulating that of that total the recipients would have to decide how much was then to be sent to the Communists, “since Russia is an ally of Britain.” In the process, they cautioned, “let us not have Uncle Sam become the generalissimo of the war nor the bedmate of Communism.” Major General William H. Haskell, Commander of the 27th Infantry Division, also joined the “nays,” saying that the weapons were needed here first of all: “I feel it is of major importance to carry forward the training of our own armies.”

But James W. Gerard, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany prior to American entry into World War I, Rep. May of Kentucky, Chairman of the House Committee of Military Affairs, were for it, as well as Hiram Winternitz, Jr., President of Charles Dreifus Co., of Philadelphia. The latter insisted: “It seems to me that the diversion of practically all of our production of military goods for the next few months to Britain and Russia, particularly Russia, would be sound practice.” Also favoring this was Lewis G. Harriman, prominent Buffalo banker and president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He expressed himself in complete harmony with such a diversion, fearing that Russian loss to the Germans would delay and make immensely more difficult the ultimate victory of England, while sure the argument “that such help would make Russia itself presently a greater menace to us seems too remote to cause concern.” Dean Paul Andrews of the University of Syracuse College of Law favored the idea in principle but thought that the percentage of such allocations to Britain and Russia should be determined by technical people. Dean Andrews' views were additionally agitated by his fear that the Germans were about to capture all of South America while disposing of the Soviet Union.

David Lawrence apparently was not as carried away with euphoria as some of the respondents to the U.S. News query concerning the desirability of shipping off the total of three months' American war production to Russia, or to Britain as Stalin’s agent. One of their requests, that they acquire “large quantities of tools and machinery to equip new war industry east of the Ural Mountains,” temporarily got lodged in his craw, but not for long".(102) Though not too sure that aid to Russia involved a commitment to help the Bolsheviks develop long-term heavy industrial potential far from the war fronts (he did not take up the massive aid to the Soviet of this kind in the previous 25 years), his fears soon washed away, partially as a consequence of his October questionaire and the mounting bad war news from the new Eastern Front. By October 24 U.S. News was sure that two-thirds of the industry in Western Russia was already in Hitler’s grip, and editorially it declared with some agitation, “Russian industry in the Urals must be supported by an immense quantity of supplies from Britain and America if resistance is to continue.” Gratification was also expressed over a recent Roosevelt statement that vast supplies of war goods were underway to Russia, all promised by Hopkins at Moscow too be delivered by the end of October 1941.(103) And at the end of November its war industries executive readers must have been cheered to learn that “A large United States military mission” was being “quietly organized to go to Russia,” and would leave “soon,” for Archangel, to gather first hand information “about how this country can help Russia."(104) The months of wary ruminations about the wisdom of direct involvement in Russia’s war fortunes were giving way to exactly the reverse, undoubtedly nurtured by the steadily growing involvement of the Roosevelt camp into matters which promised eventual belligerent status somewhere, and probably in several places.

Apparently a barrier to this scheme had been overcome in a short time since an early fall complaint had been circulated about Stalin’s reserve and secrecy, and his refusal to allow any U.S. or British observers anywhere near any of the fighting or almost anywhere else. Hence had come about the joint mission of U.S.A.’s Averell Harriman and Britain’s Lord Beaverbrook to seek for more frankness on Stalin’s part.(105) Of this noted visit, more later.

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