John T. Flynn

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John T. Flynn
John T. Flynn
Born John Thomas Flynn
(1882-10-25)October 25, 1882
Bladensburg, Maryland
Died April 13, 1964(1964-04-13) (aged 81)

John Thomas Flynn (October 25, 1882, Bladensburg, Maryland – April 13, 1964) was an American journalist best known for his opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and to American entry into World War II. In September 1940, Flynn helped establish the America First Committee (AFC).[1] He was also the first to advance the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory.[2]


After graduating from Georgetown Law School, Flynn chose a career in journalism. He started at the New Haven Register, but eventually moved to New York; there he was financial editor of the New York Globe. During the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote articles for such leading publications as The New Republic, Harper's Magazine, and Collier's Weekly. He became one of the best-known political commentators in the United States. Like Oswald Garrison Villard, another key figure in the Old Right, Flynn was a leftist with populist inclinations during this period. He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for president but criticized the New Deal. In 1939, he predicted that Social Security would be under water by 1970, and insolvent by 1980.[3]

The 1930s[edit]

Consistently at all stages of his literary career, Flynn opposed militarism. He was a key advisor to the 1934 Nye Committee, which investigated the role of the so-called "merchants of death" (munitions manufacturers and bankers) in leading to U.S. entry into World War I.

By 1936, Flynn had publicly broken with Roosevelt. He was already drawing comparisons between the centralist features of the New Deal on the one hand, and Benito Mussolini's policies on the other: "We seem [he wrote] to be not a long way off from the kind of Fascism which Mussolini preached in Italy before he assumed power; and we are steadily approaching the conditions which made Fascism possible."

Flynn was one of the founders of the America First Committee which opposed Roosevelt’s foreign policy. Eventually he became head of the New York City chapter, which claimed a membership of 135,000. The Committee charged that Roosevelt was using lies, deception and aggressive policies like arming merchant ships [4] to ensnare the United States into another war. It mounted campaigns against Lend-Lease, the Selective Service, and other initiatives by Roosevelt.

Although Flynn distanced the Committee from the claims of extremist and anti-Semitic groups, such as the National Union for Social Justice, his old pro-war leftist allies cut him off, and The New Republic pulled his regular column, "Other People’s Money." His 1940 book, Country Squire in the White House "placed [Flynn] on the White House enemies list."[5] Flynn chafed under the counterproductive controversy brought by prominent America First speaker, aviator Charles Lindbergh, whose 1941 speech in Des Moines said of Jews, their "danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government."

World War II[edit]

The America First Committee disbanded in 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Flynn turned increasingly against New Deal liberalism, which he regarded as a "degenerate form of socialism and debased form of capitalism." In 1944 he wrote a sharp critique of the American drift toward statism: As We Go Marching. This essay warned of an unholy alliance influencing U.S. foreign policy, and included these words:

The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.[6]

In September 1944, Flynn published a forty-six page booklet entitled The Truth about Pearl Harbor.[2] In the booklet, Flynn argued that Roosevelt and his cronies had been plotting a war against Japan since January of 1941 and that the sanctions which the Roosevelt Administration had emplaced on Japan during the year were intended to provoke the nation into attacking the United States.[2] Flynn also alleged that Pearl Harbor's able Navy and Army commanders, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short, were intentionally given wrong instructions from Washington headquarters so they would be caught off guard after the President found out that the Japanese were going to attack the base.[2] This booklet would mark the beginning of Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory.[2]

Four years later, Flynn followed As We Go Marching with another and rather similar book, The Roosevelt Myth. By 1950 he was describing himself as a liberal in the classical liberal tradition of small government and free markets.

Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War period, Flynn continued his opposition to interventionist foreign policies and militarism. An early critic of American involvement in the affairs of Indochina, he maintained that sending US troops would "only be proving the case of the Communists against America that we are defending French imperialism."

Flynn became an early and avid supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy. This was in part because Flynn (even in his early left-wing views) had always been firmly anticommunist and in part because McCarthy shared Flynn's dislike for the Washington/New York establishment.

In 1955, Flynn had a formal falling-out with the new generation of Cold War conservatives when William F. Buckley, Jr., rejected one of his articles for the new National Review. This submission had attacked militarism as a "job-making boondoggle." Flynn retired from public life in 1960. During his last years (he died in 1964) some of his books were promoted and reprinted by the John Birch Society.

For many years Flynn made his home in Bayside, New York in a large compound overlooking Little Neck Bay, with a house and a separate building he used as a broadcasting studio. He was a neighbor and friend of Mrs. James J. Corbett, the widow of boxing champion "Gentleman Jim" Corbett.

His son, Thomas Flynn, was an influential figure credited with helping to save New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s.[7]

Books by John T. Flynn[edit]

  • God's Gold; the Story of Rockefeller and His Times[8] (1932)
  • Country Squire in the White House[9] (1940)
  • Men of Wealth; the Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day[10] (1941)
  • The Truth About Pearl Harbor and the Final Secret of Pearl Harbor (1944)
  • Meet Your Congress (1944)
  • As We Go Marching[11] (1944)
  • The Epic of Freedom (1947)
  • The Roosevelt Myth[12][13] (1948/rev 1956)
  • The Road Ahead; America's Creeping Revolution[14] (1949)
  • Communists and the New Deal: Part II (1952)
  • While You Slept: Our Tragedy in Asia and Who Made It[15] (1953)
  • America's Unknown War: The War We Have Not Begun to Fight (1953)
  • McCarthy: His War on American Reds, and the Story of Those Who Oppose Him (1954)
  • Betrayal at Yalta (1955)
  • The Decline of the American Republic and How to Rebuild It[16] (1955)
  • Militarism: The New Slavery for America (1955)
  • Fifty Million Americans in Search of a Party (1955)
  • The Lattimore Story (1953)
  • Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn[17] (1996); posthumous essay collection
  • Investment Trusts Gone Wrong! (Wall Street and the Security Markets)
  • The Thought Police; an Episode in Radical Bigotry

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

By John T. Flynn[edit]

About John T. Flynn[edit]