Franklin Roosevelt fumbled his reelection mandate with a disastrous second term. Starting in 1935, the Supreme Court struck down many of his programs, particularly the National Recovery Administration, as unconstitutional; Roosevelt responded, in 1937, by pushing for the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill, which sought to expand the Supreme Court. The “court-packing” bill died in committee and triggered a massive backlash among Republicans and conservative Democrats (Roosevelt’s own Vice President, John Nance Garner, rebuked him during this debate). It provided ammunition for those, like financier Winthrop W. Aldrich, who raged that Roosevelt sought “to convert our government into an authoritarian one.”
This misstep, along with a sharp economic downturn in 1937, heartened Roosevelt’s opposition and derailed his hopes of further expanding the New Deal. The Republican Party, virtually pronounced dead after Alf Landon’s disastrous defeat, rebounded in 1938 to win 72 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate; should Roosevelt run for a third term in 1940, which few doubted, he seemed eminently beatable. Yet the onset of World War II deprived Republicans of a chance to strike against the New Deal’s excesses. Instead, the ferocious debate over intervening in the conflict overshadowed everything else.
The Republican Party split, as did the nation, over whether Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan posed a serious threat the United States. Robert Taft of Ohio, the Senate’s leading conservative, warned that “there is a good deal more danger of the infiltration of totalitarian ideals from the New Deal…than there ever will be from…the Nazis.” Taft was among several isolationists, including Thomas Dewey and Arthur Vandenberg, vying for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1940; but the convention chose Wendell Willkie, the Indiana businessman who’d sparred with Roosevelt over the Tennessee Valley Authority – and who’d also become a strident anti-fascist.
Willkie’s nomination, and Roosevelt’s ultimate victory (with the progressive Henry Wallace replacing Garner as his Vice President), didn’t end the argument. Ferocious congressional battles over military conscription, the Lend-Lease Act and other issues raged in the two years between Hitler’s invasion of Poland and Pearl Harbor. These arguments bled into everyday life, saturating the media, radio and workplaces, public places and kitchen tables nationwide. “There have been a number of fierce national quarrels,” Arthur Schlesinger asserted, “but none so tore apart families and friendships as this fight.”
The America First Committee became the isolationists’ public face. Founded initially by a coterie of Yale students – Kingman Brewster, later the University’s longtime president; future President Gerald Ford; Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and later Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver (whose future brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy, donated large sums to the group) – America First expanded to nearly 800,000 followers nationwide. They ranged from FDR’s conservative, corporate opponents (its director, Robert E. Wood, was chairman of Sears Roebuck, and Chicago Tribune publisher Robert McCormack served as a leading donor) to antiwar progressives like Norman Thomas, John T. Flynn and Gerald Nye, along with apolitical Americans who remembered the First World War and didn’t desire a sequel.
Initially, the Committee worked to repudiate the far right. America First’s leadership pointedly rebuked Gerald L.K. Smith and distanced itself from Father Coughlin, Joe McWilliams and others. Which proved easier said than done: Ruth Sarles, the journalist who managed America First’s DC chapter, complained that Coughlin’s Christian Front “wriggled like termites into various committee activities,” whether attending its meetings or selling Social Justice outside America First headquarters. Smith, who’d abandoned Huey Long’s progressivism for Jew-baiting, mocked them by running for President on the “America First” ticket in 1940. Few doubted that the organization, despite its protests, functioned as a “Nazi transmission belt” conveying extremist movements with all-American respectability.
Charles Lindbergh’s emergence as their leading spokesman reinforced these suspicions. The famed aviator retained the affection of most Americans for his daring transatlantic flight, the kidnapping and death of his son, and his glamorous (if privately strained) marriage to novelist Anne Morrow Lindbergh. But Lindbergh spent most of the ‘30s abroad, disillusioned with America (“between the…tabloid press and the criminal, a condition exists which is intolerable for us”) and angry at Franklin Roosevelt, with whom he’d sparred over an effort to nationalize airmail contracts in 1934. Lindbergh seemed peculiarly well-placed to package racially-tinged bitterness as plainspoken patriotism.
Often, Lindbergh sounded reasonable, worrying that in a new war, “we could lose a million men, possibly several million of the best of American youth.” But these warnings rang hollow from a man who’d praised Hitler as “a great man…[who] has done much for the German people,” who’d accepted an aviation medal from Hermann Goering, and whose wife wrote a garbled book, The Wave of the Future, considered by most an apologia for fascism. In the coming conflict, Lindbergh argued, America “must be as impersonal a surgeon with his knife.” After all, the war served no purpose so noble as “defend[ing] our white race against foreign invasion;” better to stay out.
Many observers thus struggled to differentiate between “respectable” isolationists and pro-Nazi cranks like McWilliams and Smith. How much weight did America First’s repudiation of extremists carry when Colonel Lindbergh, their star speaker, announced that “the Jewish race” posed “the greatest danger to this country…in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government”? And when its directors included Henry Ford, he of the Dearborn Independent, and Avery Brundage of the US Olympic Committee, who’d barred Jewish athletes from the 1936 team in accordance with Nazi wishes? Even moderate and progressive America Firsters wrestled with the fact their efforts, if not intentionally pro-Nazi, nonetheless helped the fascist cause.
The conflict between America First’s neutral posturing and pro-fascist rhetoric provided detractors with endless ammunition. Dorothy Thompson, a New York Post columnist who’d waged a one-woman crusade against Hitler since her expulsion from Nazi Germany, lectured Lindbergh that “there are such things in the world as morality, as law, as conscience, as a noble concept of humanity.” President Roosevelt publicly branded isolationists “copperheads” (in reference to pro-Southern Democrats in the Civil War) and privately told Henry Morgenthau, his Treasury Secretary, that “I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi.”
These debates became elementary after Pearl Harbor; America First immediately dissolved, and with a few grumbling exceptions (Senator Gerald Nye asserted that “we have been maneuvered into this by the President,” triggering seven decades of conspiracy theories) political opposition vanished. The only Congressional vote against war was Jeanette Rankin, a progressive Montana Republican who’d previously opposed the First World War. Nonetheless, as America prepared to confront the Axis, the far right maintained its vocal opposition to Roosevelt. And Roosevelt’s advisers struggled on how to address them.
Initially, Attorney General Francis Biddle treaded cautiously. He remembered Woodrow Wilson’s excesses during the First World War and sought to avoid “the extravagant…prosecutions for sedition” for more reasoned, dispassionate lawmaking. President Roosevelt, nonetheless, was adamant, demanding to know “when are you going to indict the seditionists?” J. Edgar Hoover, never enthusiastic about civil liberties, compiled on his own a list of potential enemies for custodial detention. Faced with such pressure, Biddle decided to use the Smith Act of 1940, heretofore used mostly to prosecute Communists and labor leaders, as a weapon against fascists.
There were, of course, real Axis agents in the United States, from saboteurs intercepted by the FBI to propagandists. Most prominent was novelist and poet George Sylvester Viereck, who spread German propaganda even after Pearl Harbor and maintained a loose network of pro-Nazi Americans. Among his contacts were Laura Ingalls, the famed aviatrix (and cousin of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder), and George Hill, aide to the arch-conservative New York Congressman Hamilton Fish; both of them received prison sentences. Japan, meanwhile, funded a group called the Pacific Movement of the Eastern World, which attempted to forge an alliance between Japan and African-Americans against white imperialists.
In many cases, the Roosevelt Administration acted precipitously in sorting real threats from loudmouths. There is arguably no greater abuse of civil liberties in American history than Executive Order 9066, when Roosevelt authorized the arrest and internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans without trial, oversight or due process. Biddle’s hand-wringing over how to handle domestic fascism pales in comparison. Even so, Biddle brought some 215 prosecutions, from the far right to radical leftists and others who expressed opposition to the war. As typical in wartime, many cases were lodged on legally spotty grounds against anyone deemed a potential enemy.
Some caught in the dragnet were harmless cranks. One was George W. Christians, a Chattanooga businessman who founded the Crusade White Shirts. Dave Tabler characterizes Christians as “an odd combination of comedian and sinister revolutionist,” matching flamboyant attacks on Roosevelt with gaudy dress (a Klan-like robe emblazoned with a crucifix) and crack-brained pronouncements. He once wrote the German Chancellor a whimsical Christmas letter: “Dear Adolf, it seems to me the time has come to think about how we are going to divide up the British Empire.” The FBI dismissed his organization on the grounds that “Christians appears to be the only member.” Which didn’t stop Christians from receiving a five-year prison term.
Prosecutors also targeted black nationalists, many of whom considered Japan a noble colored ally against racist America (ignoring Japan’s brutality towards China and other Asian nations). Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam told his flock that “it was Japan’s duty to save you” and enthused that war meant “the Japanese…[would] slaughter the white man.” The Ethiopian Pacific Movement, founded by Marcus Garvey protégé Robert O. Jordan (loosely affiliated with the aforementioned Pacific Movement), announced that “Japan…will force the United States out of Asia and into the Atlantic Ocean.” Jordan further expressed a wish to see “President Roosevelt picking cotton and Secretaries [Frank] Knox and [Henry] Stimson riding him around in rickshaws.” Both men served prison sentences for their seditious bombast.
Prosecuting cranks like Christians and black leaders like Muhammad (the latter always an easy target) proved easier than targeting better-known hatemongers. While William Dudley Pelley, Fritz Kuhn and Joe McWilliams served jail sentences during the war for different charges, other notables went untouched. Father Coughlin’s radio program and newsletter were muzzled, but he never faced prosecution despite the Christian Front’s plots to overthrow the government. Nor did George Van Horn Moseley, a point man in two separate conspiracies, receive any trouble. Gerald L.K. Smith was named in an initial round of indictments but ultimately dropped. Corporate plutocrats like Henry Ford (who allowed his subsidiaries to continue working for the Nazis after Pearl Harbor) went untouched.
Nonetheless, after several years of legal wrangling, prosecutor O. John Rogge presented thirty indictments in January 1944. Those named offered an eclectic cross-section of the Far Right: Lawrence Dennis, the slick, mixed-race “intellectual” fascist; Gerald Winrod, the Jew-baiting “Jayhawk Nazi”; Elizabeth Dilling, who organized the Mothers’ Movement against intervention while railing against “New Deal dictatorship, Red treason and war”; James True, whose “kike killer” club became Jew-baiters’ weapon of choice; Joe McWilliams, extracted from a mental institution for trial; George Deatherage, General Moseley’s co-conspirator; Nazi propagandist George Sylvester Viereck; and several leaders of the German-American Bund (though not Fritz Kuhn, already imprisoned for financial improprieties).
James Wechsler, writing for PM, remarked “seldom have so many wild-eyed, jumpy lunatic fringe characters been assembled in one spot.” This was Rogge’s intent; he adopted the theory, espoused by Arthur Derounian’s Under Cover and Justice Department officials alike, that the far right was a well-organized conspiracy (rather than a loose network of like-minded groups). Having prosecuted crooked Louisiana Democrats to great acclaim, Rogge thought a spectacular mass trial would conveniently neutralize all seditionists at a stroke. His strategy backfired spectacularly, forcing the government to present a case it couldn’t win.
On April 17, 1944, Judge Edward C. Eicher began preliminary hearings in Washington. The amiable Eicher watched helplessly as the courtroom descended into a circus. Henry Klein, a defense attorney labeled “an anti-Semitic Jew,” demanded the right to subpoena President Roosevelt and his cabinet, along with Winston Churchill and Rudolf Hess. One defendant, Edward Smythe, failed to appear; the next day, FBI agents dragged him into court, having arrested him near the Canadian border trying to flee the country. Another, Lois de Lafayette Washburn (a descendant of the French aide to George Washington), lectured that “we are here to defend…freedom from tyranny” and defiantly flashed the judge several Nazi salutes.
Things grew worse as the attorneys wrangled over jury selection. Incredibly, Judge Eicher blocked Jews from serving on the jury on the grounds that they’d be prejudiced, while accepting Lawrence Dennis’s suggestion to appoint Southern jurors. Henry Klein spent recesses distributing anti-Semitic literature to reporters and prospective jury members. Albert Dilling, Elizabeth’s ex-husband and attorney, petitioned the Senate to oversee the trial; James J. Laughlin, representing Mr. Smythe, received a contempt citation for demanding that Eicher recuse himself. One defendant, eighty-nine year old publisher Elmer Garner, died before trial.
The trial finally commenced on May 17th. Prosecutor Rogge presented a fiery opening statement accusing the defendants of joining “an international Nazi conspiracy” and that they were “equivalents of Quisling in Norway and Laval in France.” He further elaborated that “while it is true that many Americans in good faith opposed our steps to prepare ourselves…and to help fight the Nazis, the defendants cannot be identified with such persons.” Instead, “the intent of the defendants was not a patriotic one, not an American one, but an intent…to promote the Nazi cause throughout the world.”
The defendants responded to Rogge’s statement with unrelieved vitriol, heckling him, showering him with laughter and Bronx cheers and generally turning the courtroom into a zoo. Edward Smythe, who refused to take anything seriously, shouted “Three cheers!” each time Rogge mentioned groups affiliated with Smythe, drawing laughter from his co-defendants. When Rogge alleged that the defendants planned to anoint an “American fuhrer,” they hooted “Who? Who?” like a parliament of racist owls. Once the prosecution rested, Laughlin moved that the Judge strike Rogge’s entire statement from the record.
Two days later, defense attorneys began their presentations. Many recapitulated to hysterical tirades about Jews, Communists and FDR with little bearing on their innocence. Henry Klein’s incessant whining about “Jewish International Bankers” led Eicher to cite him with contempt. Albert Dilling repeatedly tried to introduce The Protocols of the Elders of Zion into the record. Lawrence Dennis proved most eloquent, comparing Rogge to the Soviet Judge Vishinksy, himself to Alfred Dreyfus and complaining that “Pearl Harbor did not suspend the Bill of Rights.” The jury sat open-mouthed, amazed at the madness unfolding before them.
Defense rantings mattered less than the government’s mistakes. Rogge’s decision to prosecute a massive conspiracy case proved a fatal error, as defense attorneys easily poked holes in his claims of collusion. For instance, Rogge argued that Gerald Winrod was a Nazi agent due to a one-time visit to Germany, a claim so flimsy that his attorneys easily dismissed it. Prosecution witnesses misremembered details (an intelligence agent repeatedly invoked Elizabeth “Dillinger”) and mangled substantive facts; one woman, presented as an “expert” on fascism, didn’t realize that Father Coughlin published Social Justice. Defense attorneys easily smeared one key witness, an undercover FBI agent, as an agent provocateur.
Rogge proved more effective prosecuting the German-American Bund; there, the line between Berlin and America proved easy to substantiate. Peter Gissibl, a Bundist-turned-informant, testified that the Bund had approached many of the defendants “because we thought they would create a favorable atmosphere towards Germany.” Gissibl, along with William Luedkte, not only demonstrated the Bund’s foreign connections but suggested tantalizing links between Hitler and several American rightists, including Father Coughlin and defendants George Deatherage and Joe McWilliams. Without hard evidence backing these assertions, however, even this promising line of investigation evaporated.
Rogge also presented convincing evidence of contacts between Deatherage, General Moseley and William Dudley Pelley. One witness, Henry D. Allen, was a Silver Shirt leader from California who detailed a plot between Pelley and Deatherage to create an “American Nationalist Confederation.” Rogge also introduced an effusive letter from Pelley to Moseley urging an alliance with Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh; “the weapons are in our hands to hurl this overseas crowd of subversionists out of the country.” Yet even this boomeranged on Rogge; neither Pelley (convicted in a separate case) nor Van Horn Moseley were on trial, and the prosecutor couldn’t convince the jury of its relevance.
The trial dragged on for months, becoming a massive embarrassment. In June, James J. Laughlin moved to declare a mistrial after he was indicted for forging defense documents in an unrelated case. Henry Klein suddenly abandoned the case and fled to New York, leaving his client without an attorney. Judge Eicher cited so many defendants with contempt that Albert and Elizabeth Dilling formed an “Eicher Contempt Club” whose members wore a badge reading “ECC” into court. Even Lawrence Dennis grew exasperated by these events, at one point requesting that the Judge submit his co-defendants to psychological examination.
Insanity remained the order of the day. James True suffered a heart attack in July and never returned to court, even though his landlady testified that he’d discussed assassination plots against the President and once handed her a revolver urging her to “kill six Jews.” Elizabeth Dilling, who enlivened one hearing by screaming that a witness was Jewish because “all those kikes have big ears,” requested a recess in August and spent her vacation campaigning in Ohio with Gerald L.K. Smith. Joe McWilliams, meanwhile, left for Chicago and took a nondescript factory job; he, like True, never again appeared in court.
By now, the press lost interest in the case, with the Washington Post branding it “a black mark against American justice.” The ACLU’s leadership denounced the trial, with Roger Baldwin dismissing Rogge’s prosecution as an unconstitutional circus and Arthur Garfield Hays declaring himself “unreservedly opposed to the trial.” Politicians like Robert Taft began denouncing it as a “witch hunt.” Rogge, undaunted, vowed that he would continue his case “if it takes forever.” That promise, however, became void when Judge Eicher died from a heart attack on November 29; his replacement immediately declared a mistrial.
Though trials of individual defendants continued for two more years, the case was clearly lost. Eventually the Supreme Court stepped in; expanding on United States vs. Keegan, a decision rendered about another wartime sedition case, the Court charged that Rogge failed to prove “sinister and undisclosed intent” and could no longer prosecute. Rogge himself was dismissed from the Justice Department in 1946 for criticizing Allied handling of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials; active in civil liberties cases for decades (he defended David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, in his espionage trial), he warned that “now the fascists can take a more subtle disguise, they can come forward and simply say ‘I am anti-Communist.”
In a hapless postscript, progressive congressmen convened the Buchanan Committee in 1950, which investigated illegal lobbying practices. Its targets were mainly members of the far right, from Merwyn K. Hart, Elizabeth Dilling’s friend and benefactor, to young libertarian economist Milton Friedman. Dubbed a “New Deal Witch Hunt” by its opponents, the Buchanan Committee’s investigations attracted widespread ridicule and little attention. By this time, Communism had supplanted fascism as America’s chief enemy and public boogeyman; rehashing wartime sedition trials seemed old hat, even as Joe McCarthy and others plunged America into an anti-communist witch hunt.
It’s difficult to view the Sedition Trials as anything more than a shameful joke. Rather than prosecute each case individually, an approach which might have succeeded, Rogge and his staff insisted on a mass trial, predicated on a conspiracy that was, at best, difficult to prove, at worst nonexistent. Moreover, as historian Geoffrey R. Stone notes, the Trial “set an important political precedent for the Smith Act prosecution of Communists during the Cold War,” from the McCarthy era to antiwar demonstrators in the ’60s and ’70s. Hence the democracy’s perennial dilemma of adopting repressive methods against subversive, totalitarian opponents.
In other sense, however, it was a missed opportunity. The rhetoric and actions of Coughlin, Elizabeth Dilling, Gerald L.K. Smith and others showed millions of Americans, even during the nation’s most progressive decade, hungered for totalitarian rule. And the failure to successfully prosecute them or remove their toxins allowed many of their arguments to seep into mainstream political discourse. So long as there are reactionaries, bigots and corporate plutocrats willing to use and exploit them, America will never be rid of their influence.
Sources and Further Reading:
For general background on FDR and his presidency, I consulted popular biographies by H.W. Brands (Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (2000)) and Jean Edward Smith (FDR (2007)), along with Arthur Schlesinger’s three-volume Age of Roosevelt series (1957-60). David M. Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-45 (1999), an entry in the Oxford History of the United States, provides a detailed overview of the period. Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013) provides a revisionist approach to the era focusing on Roosevelt’s relationship with Congress.
George Wolfskill and John A. Hudson’s All But the People: Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Critics, 1933-39 (1969) was an invaluable resource for evaluating the political, corporate and media resistance to FDR. Leo P. Ribuffio’s The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War (1998) offers the best volume on the Old Right, with biographical sketches of William Dudley Pelley, Gerald L.K. Smith, Gerald Winrod and others. I also read Charles Higham’s American Swastika: The Shocking Story of Nazi Collaborators in Our Midst from 1933 to the Present Day (1985), a sensationalized and occasionally dubious account of Nazi sympathizers in America; Higham’s research is generally sound, but he often draws sweeping conclusions unwarranted by his own evidence.
David H. Bennett’s The Party of Fear: From the Nativist Movement to the New Right in American History (1989), Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyon’s Right-wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (2000), Arthur Goldwag’s The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right (2012) and Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab’s The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970 (1970) are among the general works on the American far right I surveyed for these articles.
I would also like to thank Philip Jenkins for his advice and assistance in locating sources, particularly for the articles on the Khaki Shirts and the Christian Front.
Finally, thanks to everyone here. When I started How We Got Here last year, this was one of the topics I most looked forward to covering, even if it took a long time to gestate. These articles didn’t quite take the form I expected, nor are they quite as comprehensive as I’d like, but all things considered I’m satisfied with how they turned out, glad that I’ve learned so much and deeply appreciative that they’ve found an engaged and interested audience on The Avocado. Thank you all for reading and commenting.
Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen’s The Bonus Army: An American Epic (2004) offers the best modern account of that movement. Henry Ford and the Dearborn Independent are covered in Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (2002); for the revival of the KKK, see Linda Gordon, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (2017). Literature on the Khaki Shirts is extremely sparse: I relied upon the brief accounts in Schlesinger, The Politics of Upheaval (1960) and especially Philip Jenkins, Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925-50 (1997), along with contemporary newspaper coverage. The Astoria riot and Terzani murder trial are recounted in Nunzio Pernicone’s Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel (2005).
My account of the Du Ponts and the American Liberty League draws mainly from Robert F. Burk’s excellent study, The Corporate State and the Broker State: The DuPonts and American Politics, 1925-1940 (1990). See also Schlesinger, The Coming of the New Deal; Wolfskill and Hudson, All But the People; and Kim Philips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal (2009). Jules Archer’s The Plot to Seize the White House (1973) provides a highly credulous account of the Business Plot; see Burk and Hans Schmidt, Maverick Marine: General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History (1987) for more measured analyses.
Huey Long’s inspired no shortage of biographies, but the standard work remains T. Harry Williams, Huey Long (1969). Father Coughlin’s exploits receive critical treatment in Donald Warren, Radio Priest: Charles Coughlin, the Father of Hate Radio (1996). Alan Brinkley’s Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin and the Great Depression (1982) does a fine job tying these men with broader social trends and protest movements. The National Union Party is the focus of David M. Bennett, Demagogues in the Depression: American Radicals and the Union Party, 1932-1936 (1969). For Smith, see Ribuffo, The Old Christian Right and Glen Jeansome, Gerald L.K. Smith, Minister of Hate (1988). Alf Landon receives highly sympathetic treatment in Schlesinger, The Politics of Upheaval.
Scott Beekman’s William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult (2005) adds little to Ribuffo’s brief but incisive sketch. Glen Jeansome’s Women of the Far Right: The Mother’s Movement and World War II (1996) discusses Elizabeth Dilling and her female compatriots; General Moseley is profiled in Joseph W. Bendersky, The Jewish Threat: Anti-Semitic Politics of the American Army (2000). The Black Legion receives astonishingly little attention from historians; Stephen H. Norwood’s Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America (2005) and Tom Stanton’s Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that Shocked Depression-era Detroit (2016) formed the basis for my portrait.
The German-American Bund has recently inspired lively accounts by Arnie Bernstein (Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund (2013)) and Steve Ross (Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America (2017)). For Meyer Lansky’s anti-Nazi crusade, see Bernstein and Rich Cohen, Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons and Gangster Dreams (1998). For the Christian Front, see John Roy Carlson (Arthur Derounian) Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America (1943); Higham, American Swastika; Warren, Radio Priest; and Stephen H. Norwood’s article here. Frances Sweeney receives attention in Norwood’s article and Nat Hentoff’s memoir Boston Boy: Growing Up With Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions (1986).
Lynne Olson’s magisterial Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 (2013) is the best account of America First and the battle over intervention. My account of the Sedition Trial draws variously from Higham, American Swastika; Jeansome, Women of the Far Right; Leo P. Ribuffo’s article in Michal R. Belknap (ed.), American Political Trials (1981); and Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terror (2004).