Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies

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The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA) was an American political action group formed in May 1940. It was at the forefront of the effort to support a "pro-British policy" against Axis aggression, advocating American military materiel support of Britain as the best way to keep the United States out of the conflict then raging in Europe. Politically, they would be classified as being pro-intervention; that is, they strongly believed the United States should actively assert itself in the War in Europe. The CDAAA disagreed strongly with the America First Committee, the main pressure group supporting complete neutrality and non-intervention.

The CDAAA supported the Lend-Lease Act; they opposed the various Neutrality Acts of the late 1930s and sought their revision or repeal. The CDAAA was also influential in mobilizing public support for the Destroyers for Bases Agreement through six hundred local chapters and national radio addresses by individuals such as John J. Pershing and William Harrison Standley.[1]

When the No Foreign War Committee organized in mid-December 1940, its chair, Verne Marshall, said its mission was to counter the "propaganda" of the CDAAA, which had, he said, "the same public psychology as that which was carefully created during the war period preceding our declaration of hostilities in April 1917." He said his group aimed to force the CDAAA to provide details "specific, exact, and unequivocal" of what it meant when it called for "steps short of war".[2]

William Allen White, the group's national chair, in late October as the November elections neared, said his group remained non-partisan because both FDR and Wendell Willkie has backed providing assistance to Great Britain.[3] Following the election, on November 26, 1940, the CDAAA released a new statement of policy. It included support for "the maintenance of the lifeline between Great Britain and the United States", the "assumption by Congress of greater responsibility with the President" and the repeal of "restrictive legislation".[4]

Late in 1940 there were reports of differences of opinion in the group's leadership after William Allen White made remarks that some thought at odds with the CDAAA program. He said: "The only reason in God's world I am in this organization is to keep the country out of war.... If I were making a motto for the Committee it would be 'The Yanks Are Not Coming'." [5] New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wrote White a letter of protest, accusing him of "doing a Laval", referring to the French minister of state Pierre Laval, the principal figure in the French Vichy government's cooperation with Nazi Germany. Herbert Bayard Swope supported the mayor and said the organization as a whole, despite what White had said, takes as its priority "all possible aid to Britain and the allies".[6] Clark M. Eichelberger, the national director, denied any differences and said everyone in the group supported Lend Lease and opposed both appeasement and a negotiated peace. He quoted and endorsed White's statement: "appeasement is treason to democracy".[7]

Ernest W. Gibson succeed White as national chairman in January 1941.[8] The CDAAA by then had 700 local chapters. White had cited his age as his reason for resigning.[9]

After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1941, the CDAAA dropped the "by Aiding the Allies" from their name and became simply the Committee to Defend America (CDA). This was due to a strong aversion from many in the group to embrace Joseph Stalin and communism. They now viewed the Soviets as fellow fighters against Hitler and fascism: the Soviets were allies of immediate necessity, not true allies. The CDA always maintained an officially anti-Communist stance.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, effectively brought an end to both the CDA and the America First Committee. In January, 1942, the CDA merged with the Council for Democracy to form Citizens for Victory: To Win the War, To Win the Peace. This combined organization officially dissolved in October, 1942. The America First Committee officially dissolved four days after Pearl Harbor.

Prominent members of the CDAAA included Executive Secretary Ernest W. Gibson, Jr., Clark M. Eichelberger (National Director), Adlai Stevenson II, U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla), newspaper editor William Allen White, former federal Budget Director Louis W. Douglas,[8] Hollywood screenwriter and activist Philip Dunne, the historian Conyers Read,[10] and Herbert Bayard Swope.[6]


  1. ^ Richard Pious, "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Destroyer Deal: Normalizing Prerogative Power", Presidential Studies Quarterly. 42.1 (2012): 190–204.
  2. ^ "New Group Fights War Involvement". New York Times. December 18, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Non-Partisan Stand by Aid-Allies Group". New York Times. October 25, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "All U.S. Resources for Britain Urged". New York Times. November 26, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ "White Unit Widens British Aid Stand". New York Times. December 28, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Swope 'with' Mayor on White Criticism". New York Times. December 30, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ "White Group Split Denied by Director". New York Times. December 29, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Gibson Here as White's Successor, Surprised at Having Been Chosen". New York Times. January 13, 1941. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ "White Cites Call to Kansas 'Chores'". New York Times. January 5, 1940. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ Conyers Read, 1881–1959, Papers, 1892 – c. 1952 at, accessed 30 June 2013

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