The main lesson history teaches us is to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. There’s also an old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Perhaps the two notions have something in common because we continually prove that history does indeed repeat itself.
I bring up these axioms because of our recently purchased book, “Those Angry Days,” by Lynne Olson. As an integral addition to our World War II collection it offers a remarkable and unappreciated look at American history in the two years prior to our entry into that historic conflict.
A huge battle raged between interventionists and isolationists, and the book focuses on the leading protagonists, Franklin Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh. Most people do not recall the two sides’ vicious clash of ideas because any decision to enter the war became moot after Pearl Harbor.
Lindbergh was a national hero when he became the first man to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic in 1927. He and his wife Anne were constantly in the news afterwards, most notably for the tragic kidnapping and murder of their son, Charles, Jr., in 1932.
The Lindberghs lived much of the 1930s in Europe and Charles became enamored with Germany and its military aviation program. One thing led to another and he stumbled into being the chief spokesperson for the isolationist movement after war broke out in Europe in 1939. It’s been debated whether he was a Nazi sympathizer, anti-Semitic, or simply naïve but he was unapologetic for anything he ever said or did in his life.
On the other side was the interventionist Roosevelt who understood the Nazi menace and all the evil that went with it. However, the assumption that he was gung-ho for war and doing everything possible to get us into the conflict is a myth. FDR was actually a very cautious and reluctant advocate for war.