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MILLARD E. TYDINGS, Maryland
FREDERICK HALE, Maine ELLISON D. SMITH, South Carolina
JAMES J. DAVIS, Pennsylvania RICHARD B. RUSSELL, Georgia
HIRAM W. JOHNSON, California HOMER T. BONE, Washington
W. WARREN BARBOUR, New Jersey HARRY FLOOD BYRD, Virginia PETER G. GERRY, Rhode Island RUSH D. HOLT, West Virginia CHARLES 0. ANDREWS, Florida GUY M. GILLETTE, Iowa ALLEN J. ELLENDER, Louisiana SCOTT W. LUCAS, Illinois
JOSEPH W. MCINTYRE, Clerk
NOMINATION OF COL. WILLIAM FRANKLIN KNOX FOR
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
TUESDAY, JULY 2, 1940
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:30 a. m., in room 318, Senate Office Building, Senator David I. Walsh (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Walsh (chairman), Tydings, Bone, Byrd, Gerry, Holt, Ellender, Lucas, Hale, and Johnson.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order, gentlemen.
At the request of several members of the committee and also at the request of Colonel Knox himself, he having expressed a desire to have an open meeting, the committee decided to hold the meeting open.
Colonel Knox, will you come forward, please!
STATEMENT OF COL. WILLIAM FRANKLIN KNOX
The CHAIRMAN. Colonel, will you give your full name, please?
The CHAIRMAN. Now, Colonel, is there any statement you desire to make to the committee before we ask you any questions!
Colonel Knox. Senator, if you will be so good, I naturally want to offer my public statements and editorials, and a chance to define a speech I made in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 24, 1939, last fall, shortly after the outbreak of the war, and then define my views on the war threat briefly. I will ask you to indulge me to read
some excerpts from that speech, and then buttress that with a few editorials which elaborate and enlarge on this speech in Cleveland. This is only an excerpt of the speech on the subject Our Economic System in Peace and War. The invitation to address the chamber of commerce came before the war was declared. The speech had to be rewritten after the first attempt to include war conditions, and this, as I say, is an excerpt from it:
I am one of those who refuse to believe we will actively participate in this new war-certainly not to the extent of sending an army overseas. And if we do not do that, all these trumped up fears of a wartime dictatorship and the destruction of both our democratic institutions and our free enterprise economy are fantastically unreal.
I think we are, all of us, too much disposed to compare conditions in the United States now at the outbreak of the second World War with conditions as they were in the United States 25 years ago. They are totally different. The most striking difference lies in the fact that, as a nation, we know much more about war in Europe and our relations to it now than we did then. First of all we are infinitely more wise and disillusioned in 1939 than we were at the outbreak of the other Great War. We have lost something of the rather naive idealism which possessed us then. We are not so susceptible to slogans designed to build up a war spirit. We are far more familiar with the international practices of other nations. We are more realistic. We know now that we actually went to war in 1917 because Germany was killing our people and treating our rights on the high seas with contempt. With the wisdom that comes from experience, we know that the phrases, “a war to preserve democracy,” or “a war to end all wars” were afterthoughts—rhetorical incitements to our war spirit. We will not fall for this form of incitement so readily again. We are far more in the mood to heed the wise words of Washington who, in his Farewell Address, adjured us in disputes with other nations to think of our own country first. So much for the contrast of our state of mind in 1917 and in 1939.
On the material side, we know that war, even a victorious war, does not contribute to national well-being. We know now what happens to war profits. We are thoroughly aware of the economic consequences, even of victory. We know to a certainty that we are better off if we remain at peace than if we go to war. So much for the contrast of our economic thinking between those days in 1917 and the days we are living through now.
One would be lacking completely in candor and frankness to fail to say at this point that despite the change which has come over our attitude toward active participation in war in Europe, enlightened opinion throughout the country, in overwhelming proportions, opposes and detests both the philosophy and practices of Hitler and his Nazis in Germany. We may, or we may not, support the pending proposal for the repeal of the arms embargo, but whatever our posture on that question, the American people as a whole do not fear the effects upon ourselves or our institutions of a British-French victory. And we do gravely fear the effects upon us of a German victory. But despite these pro-British and pro-French sympathies, we must, if we are wise and intelligent Americans, think first of the interests of the United States, and what policy best serves those interests. To that we should give our undivided, united support. That is exactly what every other country in the world is doing.
Now, thinking of our own country first, surely entails, primarily, putting ourselves in such a state of readiness for whatever danger may be threatened that we can successfully protect and defend our rights. In a world upset and demoralized as this one unfortunately is, to do less than this is to be false to our first obligation under the trust imposed upon us as the guardians of American liberty and American institutions.
How can we do this? Let us first give thought to our unusual geographic position in the world. We have the priceless possession of an insular position. Our insular position is not like that of England, dependent upon a narrow strip of water, easily bridged by air. It is provided by two wide oceans. Air transport, no matter what developments the future may bring, will never have sufficient carrying capacity to be a real menace to our security, provided we control the seas upon which warships might, conceivably, bring great air armadas within striking distance of our shores. If, by our sea power we can