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How large our air force should be in actual numbers depends, of course, upon conditions in other parts of the world. Because of the existing European crisis, I should say that we would be wise to construct as rapidly as possible a total air force of about 10,000 thoroughly modern fighting planes plus reserves. This number would, I believe, be adequate to insure American security regardless of the outcome of the present European war. Whether our air force should be increased or decreased in the more distant future will be decided by circumstances which we cannot now foresee. But an industry capable of building and maintaining a 10,000-plane air force would, I believe, have adequate flexibility to meet any emergency with which we might be confronted in this hemisphere.
Accompanying this expansion of our air force should be the construction of aviation bases in Newfoundland, Canada, the West Indies, parts of South America, Central America, the Galapagos Islands, the Hawaiian Islands, and Alaska Secondary bases might be placed in parts of Greenland but, in my opinion, Greenland is not of primary importance from the standpoint of aviation bases.
Since many people are discussing the possibility of an air invasion of America, I would like permission to bring a few points to your attention in this connection. It is first necessary to establish clearly the difference between an air invasion where troops are landed, and a bombing raid where there is no attempt to establish a base on enemy territory. I will treat these two problems separately, for they are entirely different.
There has never been an invasion of enemy territory by air alone. The two outstanding examples of what might be called a partial air invasion were furnished by the German occupations of Norway and Holland. But in each of these instances, the landing of troops by air was carried on simultaneously with a ground army invasion on a major scale. The maximum number of troops that could have been transported and supplied by air would have been ineffective without the immediate support of a ground army. If air invasion alone could be successful, it would have been used by the Germans against England many months ago.
It is important to note that the transport of troops by air in Europe has been over a distance of a few hundred miles at most. An air invasion across the ocean is, I believe, absolutely impossible at this time, or in any predictable future. To be effective in America, enemy aircraft would have to operate from bases in America, and those bases would have to be established and supplied by sea. Aircraft alone are not capable of carrying a sufficient quantity of material.
Claims have been made that America might be subject to air invasion by way of Alaska or Greenland, where the distance between land is short. But such claims overlook the difficulties of climate and terrain in these semiarctic areas. If air routes to Asia and Europe through the north were preferable to the greater overwater distances farther south, they would have been used years ago by commercial air lines.
It is, of course, essential for us to maintain defense bases in Alaska. I believe that we should wage war with all of our resources if an invasion of Alaska or any other portion of America were attempted. But a sudden air invasion of this country by way of Alaska is out of the question. The conquest of Alaska would necessitate the movement
of troops and supplies by ground and sea, the defeat of our own forces, and the establishment of enemy bases. Even if that could be accomplished, there is little likelihood that the wilds of Canada could be crossed and the United States invaded by an army based upon remote Alaskan outposts of Asiatic or European powers.
If an enemy were planning on an invasion of America, I believe that the route over Greenland is one of the last he would consider. I spent several weeks in Greenland in the summer of 1933, surveying the coasts for air bases, and studying the conditions that would be encountered in operating a northern air route. I came to the conclusion that of all the possible air routes between America and Europe, the one over Greenland would be the most difficult to establish and operate. Except for a rugged and mountainous strip around the coast, Greenland is covered with ice. The climate is uncertain and severe, the summer season is short, and the seas are filled with ice during the entire year.
The question of transoceanic bombing is, as I have said, entirely different from that of air invasion. It is, of course, perfectly possible, today, to build bombing planes that could cross the ocean, drop several tons of bombs, and return to their starting point. Transoceanic bombing raids could do considerable damage on peacetime standards, but they would have very little effectiveness on wartime standards. The cost of transoceanic bombing would be extremely high, enemy losses would be large, and the effect on our military position negligible. Such bombing could not begin to prepare the way for an invasion of this continent. If England is able to live at all with bases of the German air force less than an hour's flight away, the United States is not in great danger across the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is such bombing ineffective theoretically, but from a practical standpoint it is interesting to note that not a single squadron of transoceanic bombing planes exists anywhere in the world today.
I have, up to this point, attempted to show that aviation strengthens the defensive position of America. First, because it is impossible for an enemy to invade this continent by means of aircraft alone; second, because transoceanic bombing is indecisive; third, because our own air force makes it more difficult than ever before for an enemy to approach our shores. However, I believe that we are faced with the reverse situation when we contemplate sending our military forces abroad. Almost every advantage we have in defense would be a disadvantage to us in attack. It would then be our problem to cross the sea in ships, and force a landing against the established air bases of our enemy.
If one studies the situation objectively, it becomes obvious that there are three great centers of air strength in the world today; the United States, Germany, and Japan. Up to the present time, we have led in the development of commercial aviation, Germany has led in the development of military aviation, and Japan has led in the development of aviation in the Orient.
Since Oriental aviation is far behind that of western nations, one might say that there are two great aviation powers: one in America, and one in Europe. Personally, I do not believe it is possible for either America or Europe to invade the other successfully by air, or even by a combination of air, land, and sea, unless an internal collapse precedes invasion. In this sense, aviation has added to America's security against Europe, and to Europe's security against America.
One might sum the matter up by saying that aviation decreases the security of nations within a continent against each other, but increases the security of the continent as a whole against foreign invasion.
That aviation will have a great effect on the future relationship of nations is beyond question. But we in America are possibly the most fortunate of all peoples in this respect. We have a country and climate well suited to the development of aircraft. We have natural resources, great industries, and a national psychology ideally adapted to the tempo of the air.
In conclusion, I would like to say that aviation is to us unquestionably an asset. It greatly strengthens our position and increases the security of this entire hemisphere from foreign attack.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Fish.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, that was the clearest and most interesting statement on aviation defense I have ever heard.
I would like to ask you, Colonel Lindbergh, is it not a fact that for the last 20 years you have been spending practically all of your time in a study of aviation?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Since 1922 I have spent a majority of my time in the study of aviation.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, will you state to the committee if you have held any offices in connection with aviation, with the Federal Government?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Yes. For some years I was a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. I am now a Reserve officer, not on active duty. Most of my activities in aviation have been in the commercial field.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, you made a study of aviation in Soviet Russia, did you not?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Yes; in 1933 and in 1938, and on the east coast, in 1931.
Mr. Fish. And you made a report as a result of that inspection, did you not?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Several reports, to various officers of the American Government.
Mr. Fish. And time has confirmed your observations, is that not a fact?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I believe now that they were almost inexcusably conservative.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, you also made a study and an inspection of the German air force, is that not a fact?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Yes; it is.
Mr. Fish. And as I remember, you stated at the time, the German air force was growing rapidly and was one of the best in the world; is that not a fact?
Colonel LINDBERGH. The best in the world at that time; yes, sir.
Mr. Fish. And time, again, has substantiated your statement in that respect?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I believe so.
Mr. Fish. And that knowledge that you gave to the rest of the world could have been acted upon freely, if they had accepted your statement at that time; is that not a fact?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Well, I believe it would have been advisable for other countries to have increased their air activity at that time. That was the substance of my statement.
Mr. Fish. After they had read your statement in regard to the strength of the German air force.
Colonel LINDBERGH. Right; and there were also other statements confirming that.
Mr. Fish. And it would have been helpful to some of the nations if they had done that?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I believe it would have been advisable at that time.
Mr. Fish. In fact, Colonel Lindbergh, you were affording indirectly a great opportunity and rendering a great service to those nations, and to our own, in the matter of preparation, is that not a fact?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Well, I would prefer to let some one else answer that, sir.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, the Secretary of State testified before this committee and said that Germany, if it won the war, could easily attack the United States; he said attack the United States. Do you believe that any country could easily attack the United States?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I personally do not see how it is possible as long as we maintain a reasonable strength in our Army, Navy, and air force, for any country successfully to invade the United States or South America.
Mr. Fish. And you base that also on the fact, do you not, that our air force as a defensive weapon could keep enemy ships and enemy transports away from our coasts?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Working with the Navy and with our coastdefense guns, I believe the air force would make it practically impossible for a foreign navy to do serious damage or to land an expeditionary force of any size on our coasts.
Mr. FISH. Your statement agrees, I believe, with the admissions of the Secretary of War, who said that we were not in fear of an invasion by a navy or by an army, but by an air force through South America.
Colonel Lindbergh, is it not a fact that more than a year ago-and you will probably know the exact date-you either made a statement or a radio address urging our Government to acquire air bases in South and Latin America?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Well, I have been urging the acquisition of air bases in South America and elsewhere in this hemisphere for a long time. I think that is vital to our national defense. I believe we must have air bases from, roughly, the Hawaiian Islands to Bermuda; from Alaska to Labrador, or, to be more specific, Newfoundland; and from Canada to South America.
Mr. Fish. Did you not specifically state about a year or more ago that you thought-and did you not urge specifically that this Government acquire, as soon as possible, air bases in South America?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Yes; that is right.
Mr. Fish. And you still believe that that would be vital to the protection of the Panama Canal and to our own national defense.
Colonel LINDBERGH. Very vital; yes.
Mr. Fish. Testimony before the committee, Colonel Lindbergh, was to the effect that if there is an invasion, which seemed to be in the minds of the witnesses probable, the invasion would be through
South America, by air. Now, Colonel, you have already stated that we should acquire these bases which up to now we have failed to do. What would be our position if foreign nations sought to acquire military or naval air bases in South America?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Well, I believe without question we should go to war with all of our resources, if there is any attempt to establish a foreign base in North or South America.
Mr. Fish. In other words, Colonel Lindbergh, you are an upholder and defender of the Monroe Doctrine?
Colonel LINDBERGH. To that extent at least.
Mr. Fish. Against invasion by any armed force, or the establishment of military or naval air bases on this continent?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Right.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, Admiral Woodward, commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the other day stated that he thought we should acquire naval bases along the coast of South America and said that if we did, we would be invincible or impregnable from attack either through the Atlantic or the Pacific. Would you care to state your views on that?
Colonel LINDBERGH. As to the acquisition of naval bases and their positions, I feel that I would prefer to leave that to an experienced naval officer.
Mr. Fish. Colonel Lindbergh, you believe-or do you believethat we have the greatest navy in the world today?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I believe that is probable today; yes, sir.
Mr. Fish. And backed by a powerful air force, you think that no aggressor nation could successfully attack the United States or this continent, if we had those bases?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I think that is correct; yes, sir.
Mr. Fish. And therefore you still advise the Congress and the Government to acquire bases immediately in South America?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Very strongly, particularly in the northern portion of South America.
Mr. Fish. And as I understand, if any foreign nation sought to acquire aviation or military or naval bases in South America, you believe we ought to send our Navy there immediately, and our marines, and stop it; and if necessary go to war?
Colonel LINDBERGH. Go to war with all that is necessary to stop such an invasion.
Mr. Fish. I thank you.
Mr. JOHNSON. Colonel Lindbergh, the American people recognize you as one of the world's foremost aviators and they are still thrilled by a certain achievement of yours of some years ago. We are glad to have any information pertaining to aviation based upon your knowledge, experience, and study.
However, your opinions with reference to military defense and naval operations have been acquired only onsofar as your knowledge of defense pertains to aviation; is not that true, largely?
Colonel LINDBERGH. I have made no claim, sir, in regard to other knowledge.
Mr. Johnson. The gentleman from New York, Mr. Fish, asked you if we did not have the greatest navy in the world. I think that is recognized as being the fact. But is it not also true that we have the longest coast line of any nation on earth to defend?