Silver Legion of America
|Chairman||William Dudley Pelley|
|Founded||January 30, 1933|
|Dissolved||December 7, 1941|
|Headquarters||Asheville, North Carolina|
|1936 Presidential Ticket||Christian Party|
|Membership (1934)||15,000|
|Part of a series on|
The Silver Legion of America, commonly known as the Silver Shirts, was an underground American fascist organization founded by William Dudley Pelley that was headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina and announced publicly on January 30, 1933.
A white-supremacist, antisemitic group modeled after Hitler's Brownshirts, the paramilitary Silver Legion wore a silver shirt with a tie along with a campaign hat and blue corduroy trousers with leggings. The uniform shirts bore a scarlet letter L over the heart: an emblem meant to symbolize Loyalty to the United States, Liberation from materialism, and the Silver Legion itself. The blocky slab serif L-emblem was in a typeface similar to the present-day Rockwell Extra Bold. The organizational flag was a plain silver field with such a red L in the canton at the upper left.
By 1934, the Silver Shirts claimed about 15,000 members. Circa 1935, a Nazi agent befriended mining fortune heiress Jessie Murphy, convincing her to contribute cash, and the use of her ranch, recently purchased from screen cowboy Will Rogers, to the Fascist movement. The Silver Shirts began construction of the Murphy Ranch, situated on a secluded 55 acre site in the Los Angeles hills, meant to serve as a fortified world headquarters after the expected Fascist global conquest.
Silver Shirt leader Pelley ran for President of the United States in the 1936 election on a third-party ticket. Pelley hoped to seize power in a "silver revolution" and set himself up as dictator of the United States; the presidency remained in the hands of incumbent Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. By around 1938, the Silver Legion's membership was down to about 5,000.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, local police occupied the "world headquarters" bunker compound and detained members of the 50-man caretaker force. The declaration of war on the United States by Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy led to the rapid decline of the Silver Legion.
In popular culture
- A fictionalized depiction of the Silver Shirts forms a large part of the plot in the thriller The Night Letter by Paul Spike.
- The Silver Shirts are also mentioned in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Mother Night.
- The character of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, loosely modeled after Silver Legion founder William Dudley Pelley, was elected U.S. President in 1936 and became the dictator of America in the cautionary 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here. Some literary scholars contend instead that the Windrip character was modeled after Louisiana politician Huey Long, who was not associated with the Silver Shirts.
- The Silver Shirts are also a British political movement in Harry Turtledove's American Empire and Settling Accounts series of alternate history novels. They are likely an analog of the real-world British Union of Fascists, because Oswald Mosley is a prominent leader.
- The Silver Shirts appear in James Lee Burke's novel Dixie City Jam, a novel in the Dave Robicheaux series.
- Silver Shirts are also mentioned in James Ellroy's novel Perfidia
- Silver Shirts are mentioned in William Faulkner's novel The Mansion.
- The Silver Legion of America is a political party in the video game Hearts of Iron IV. The in-game USA can turn into the Silver Legion led "Free American Empire" if a fascist coup occurs.
- Christian Party (United States, 1930s)
- Ulrich Fleischhauer
- German American Bund
- Murphy Ranch
- Political uniform
- http://www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/THR-SS1.PDF "The Silver Shirts: Their History, Founder, and Axtivities". August 24, 1933
- Van Ells, Mark D. (August 2007). "Americans for Hitler". americainwwii.com. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "Heil Hollywood: The Los Angeles bunker from which Hitler planned to run Nazi empire after the war". Daily Mail. London. 18 March 2012.
- It Can't Happen Here
- Allen, Joe "'It Can't Happen Here?': Confronting the Fascist Threat in the US in the Late 1930s," International Socialist Review, Part One: whole no. 85 (Sept.-Oct. 2012), pp. 26–35; Part Two: whole no. 87 (Jan.-Feb. 2013), pp. 19–28.
- Ribuffo, Leo Paul The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.
- Spivak, John L. Secret Armies: The New Technique of Nazi Warfare. New York: Modern Age Books, 1939.
- Werly, John The Millenarian Right: William Dudley Pelley and the Silver Legion of America. PhD dissertation. Syracuse University, 1972.
- Yeadon, Glen. The Nazi Hydra in America. Joshua Tree, CA: Progressive Press, 2008.
- Photo of a Silver Legion of America meeting in the 1930s:
- The Holocaust Chronicle: PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust, page 89
- The American Jewish Committees' archive on the Silver Shirts:
- Atlas Obscura article on Rustic Canyon's Murphy Ranch
- Silver Shirt Legion of America Washington State Division Records. 1933-1940. 0.37 cubic feet (3 reels microfilm). At the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.