Fight for Freedom

William Allen White established the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA) in May, 1940. Members of the CDAAA argued that by advocating American military materiel support of Britain was the best way to keep the United States out of the war in Europe. The CDAAA disagreed strongly with the America First Committee, the main pressure group supporting complete neutrality and non-intervention in the war.

The main concern of the CDAAA was to “Aid the Allies.” However, they also adopted several concrete goals: the sale of destroyers to Great Britain; the release by the U.S. government of Flying Fortresses, pursuit planes, and mosquito boats to Great Britain; the use of convoys to safely escort Allied supplies; and the revision of the 1935 Neutrality Actto arm U.S. ships for defense against Axis attacks. The CDAAA played an important role in the passing of the Lend-Lease Act on 11th March, 1941. The legislation gave President Franklin D. Roosevelt the powers to sell, transfer, exchange, lend equipment to any country to help it defend itself against the Axis powers. A sum of $50 billion was appropriated by Congress for Lend-Lease. The money went to 38 different countries with Britain receiving over $31 billion.

However, the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies refused to support military intervention in the war. William Stephenson as the head of the British Security Coordination (BSC), found this frustrating and he encouraged William Donovan and Allen W. Dulles, with the support of BSC agent, Sydney Morrell, to establish the pro-intervention Fight for Freedom (FFF) group in April 1941.

Members included Ulric Bell, (Executive Chairman), Peter Cusick (Executive Secretary), Allen W. Dulles, Joseph Alsop, Henry Luce, Dean G. Acheson, Rex Stout, James P. Warburg, Marshall Field III, Fiorello LaGuardia, Lewis William Douglas, Carter Glass, Harold K. Guinzburg, Conyers Read, Spyros Skouras and Henry P. Van Dusen. The group also contained several journalists such as Herbert Agar (Louisville Courier-Journal), Geoffrey Parsons (New York Herald Tribune), Ralph Ingersoll (Picture Magazine) and Elmer Davis (CBS). At its peak, the FFF headquarters at 1270 Sixth Avenue in New York City had an office staff of twenty-five.

A leading figure in the FFF was the Reverend Henry Wise Hobson of Cincinnati, Ohio. In a radio address on 18th April, 1941 Hobson, outlined the basic beliefs of the organization stating, “We believe that the present world conflict is an irreconcilable struggle between dictatorship and freedom, and that if dictatorship wins in the present area of conflict, there will be little hope for freedom. We therefore represent all citizens who share our convictions that this is our fight for freedom in which we must play our part.”

Fight for Freedom group monitored the activities of the leading isolationist organization, the America First Committee. Leading isolationists were also targeted and harassed. When Gerald Nye spoke in Boston in September 1941, thousands of handbills were handed out attacking him as an appeaser and Nazi lover. Following a speech by Hamilton Stuyvesan Fish, a member of a group set-up by the BSC, the Fight for Freedom, delivered him a card which said, "Der Fuhrer thanks you for your loyalty" and photographs were taken.

In October 1941, the British Security Coordination attempted to disrupt a rally at Madison Square Garden by issuing counterfeit tickets. H. Montgomery Hyde has argued that the plan backfired as the AFC got a lot of publicity from the meeting with 20,000 people inside and the same number supporting the cause outside. The only opposition was an obvious agent provocateur shouting "Hang Roosevelt".

Another BSC agent, Sanford Griffith, established a company Market Analysts Incorporated and was initially commissioned to carry out polls for the anti-isolationist Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies and Fight for Freedom group. Griffith's assistant, Francis Adams Henson, a long time activist against the Nazi Germany government, later recalled: "My job was to use the results of our polls, taken among their constituents, to convince on-the-fence Congressmen and Senators that they should favor more aid to Britain."

As Richard W. Steele has pointed out: "public opinion polls had become a political weapon that could be used to inform the views of the doubtful, weaken the commitment of opponents, and strengthen the conviction of supporters." William Stephenson later admitted: "Great care was taken beforehand to make certain the poll results would turn out as desired. The questions were to steer opinion toward the support of Britain and the war... Public Opinion was manipulated through what seemed an objective poll."

Michael Wheeler, the author of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America (2007): "Proving that a given poll is rigged is difficult because there are so many subtle ways to fake data... a clever pollster can just as easily favor one candidate or the other by making less conspicuous adjustments, such as allocating the undecided voters as suits his needs, throwing out certain interviews on the grounds that they were non-voters, or manipulating the sequence and context within which the questions are asked... Polls can even be rigged without the pollster knowing it.... Most major polling organizations keep their sampling lists under lock and key."

The main target of these polls concerned the political views of leading politicians opposed to Lend-Lease. This included Hamilton Stuyvesan Fish. In February 1941, a poll of Fish's constituents said that 70 percent of them favored the passage of Lend-Lease. James H. Causey, president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Social Sciences, was highly suspicious of this poll and called for a congressional investigation.

Primary Sources

(1) Henry Wise Hobson, radio broadcast (18th April, 1941)

We believe that the present world conflict is an irreconcilable struggle between dictatorship and freedom, and that if dictatorship wins in the present area of conflict, there will be little hope for freedom. We therefore represent all citizens who share our convictions that this is our fight for freedom in which we must play our part.

(2) Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History (1948)

There was a curious and revelatory episode in which I happened to he involved on the Sunday when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. I was scheduled to attend a Fight for Freedom rally in the Golden Gate Ballroom in Harlem. It was an insufferably hot day and there was no pretense at air conditioning in the ballroom. When we went in there was a picket line outside (obviously a Communist one) with placards condemning Fight for Freedom warmongers as tools of British and Wall Street Imperialism. Pamphlets were being handed out urging a Negro March on Washington to demand Equality and Peace! The

Communists were very active among the Negro population in these days and since. We went through the picket line and conducted the meeting, the principal speakers being Herbert Agar and Dorothy Parker, and when we left the Golden Gate Ballroom, an hour and a half later, we found that the picket line had disappeared and the March on Washington had been canceled. Within that short space of time, the Communist party line had reached all the way from Moscow to Harlem and had completely reversed itself (or rather, had been completely reversed by Hitler). The next day, the Daily Worker was pro-British, pro-Lend Lease, pro-interventionist and, for the first time in two years, pro-Roosevelt.