Hoover was of the strong opinion that the best thing the United States and the West could do as regards the European war was to stay out and allow Hitler and Stalin to go at each other. He made many comments in this regard, starting with his observations that Roosevelt was slowly but purposefully taking actions to move the U.S. into the conflict. In April 1941, in the wake of the Lend-Lease bill, Hoover conveyed his view:
The American people, he wrote, “do not realize that they have been pulled into a war without any constitutional or democratic process – but they will realize it before six months are over.
He predicted that U.S. convoy ships would be lost to German submarines; this would involve losses in U.S. life. Propaganda would increase in both the U.S. and in Britain. Support would come from “the New York intellectuals.” His final prediction was most arresting:
“Western civilization has consecrated itself to making the world safe for Stalin.”
After Hitler turned his troops against Russia in the summer of 1941, Churchill offered Britain’s aid and support to Russia.
No longer was the world conflict an unambiguous struggle “between tyranny and freedom….The alliance of the British with the Russians against Germany destroyed “that illusion.”
Hoover remained content to let Hitler and Stalin fight it out. He was against any U.S. involvement.
On June 20, Hoover dedicated the building at Stanford University that would come to be known as the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. “The purpose of this institution is to promote peace. Its records stand as a challenge to those who promote war….As war sanctifies murder, so it sanctifies the lesser immoralities of lies.” Sadly for Hoover, a few weeks later, 176 members of Stanford’s faculty signed a petition asking Americans to give Roosevelt “unified support” in the current “national emergency.” The faculty demanded “a more dynamic policy of action” against “the totalitarian menace.” Hoover exploded in dismay:
“The confusion of mind in American intellectuals over the United States supporting Communism is almost beyond belief. And that is what these Stanford professors are doing. I wonder if it ever occurred to them what would happen to the world if we entered the war and brought victory to Russia.”
Hoover was convinced that Roosevelt was doing everything in his power to get the United States into the war.
By September, he was convinced that FDR and his associates were “certainly doing everything they can to get us into war through the Japanese back door.”
And the day after Pearl Harbor, Hoover said to a friend, “You know and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bitten.” In a sense, this book was born on December 7, 1941. Hoover was convinced that Roosevelt, by its trade restriction and other provocations, had driven the Japanese government into a corner. He was positive he could demonstrate that the war in the Pacific could have been averted.
I have elsewhere covered this subject of Japan and Pearl Harbor, in reviewing The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. My comments can be found here:
History will ask some stern questions of Mr. Roosevelt’s statesmanship. It will list his promises to keep out of war; the deceptions in Lend-Lease; his undeclared wars on Germany and Japan; his alliance with Communist Russia; his refusal of repeated opportunity for peace in the Pacific; his campaign of a dozen fictions of frightfulness; and finally it will ask questions of his good faith with regard to the Constitutional processes of our Republic. They will not be answered by a single reference to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
Sadly, in this, Hoover was sadly mistaken. It is true that many individual revisionist historians have taken up these questions and more. In their studies, they have concluded that Roosevelt was deceptive at best, forgiving him of this as, in the Machiavellian world, this is what leaders do.
However, in the hearts and minds of American folklore, Roosevelt remains a hero, both in peace and in war. Perhaps this must remain so, because to seriously address the issues Hoover raises would be overwhelming to the narrative that is U.S. involvement overseas. It seems a bridge too far for too many.