Biography and History

The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies was a propaganda organization formed in May, 1940 by William Allen White of the Kansas City Emporia Gazette and Clark M. Eichelberger of the League of Nations Association. White and Eichelberger envisioned the Committee as a means of determining and molding public opinion throughout the country regarding the United States' position on aid to the Allied cause. Upon formation the Committee's concern was only to “Aid the Allies.” However, throughout its tenure the Committee 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 passage of the Lend-Lease Bill in Congress; the use of convoys to safely escort Allied supplies; and the revision of the 1935 Neutrality Act to arm U.S. ships for defense against Axis attacks. At no time did the Committee ever ask for a declaration of war, although by October 1941, with the sinking of the destroyer “Reuben James”, committee policy did recognize that active participation in the war was quickly becoming inevitable.

White and Eichelberger organized the Committee through a telegram sent out under White's name asking a group of people for their support of the Committee. The response was quick and positive, and during the next few days support from across the country poured in forming the basis of the National Committee of the organization with William Allen White as the chair and Clark Eichelberger as the executive director. White served as the National Committee Chair from May 1940 to January 1941 when he resigned due to ill-health and age, as well as disagreements within the Committee on policy matters. After White's resignation Ernest W. Gibson became the Committee Chair until called to active duty in the spring of 1941. At this time Clark Eichelberger took over the position until the dissolution of the Committee in January 1942. The Executive Committee of the Committee to Defend America was formed with Hugh Moore as the chair and Frederick C. McKee as the treasurer. Other members of the Executive Committee were Thomas K. Finletter, Frank G. Boudreau, Lewis W. Douglas, all of New York City; and Mrs. Emmons Blaine of Chicago, Illinois. With the resignation of White the Committee made an effort to restructure itself and enlarge both the Executive Committee and the National Policy Committee in an effort to democratize the policy-making procedures of the Committee.

The National Committee headquarters operated out of the New York City office. Robert F. Duncan (Assistant to Clark Eichelberger, National Director) was in charge of running this office. Other regional headquarters were established in San Francisco, CA, Boston, MA, Chapel Hill, NC, and eventually in Chicago, IL in order to more easily facilitate the organization and maintenance of the state and local chapters. In addition to a small paid staff in New York City, 4,350 people worked as volunteers at the National Headquarters. The National Headquarters Office was divided into the following divisions: Administrative Management; Executive Committee; National Committee; Fund Raising; State and Local Committees; Publicity; Radio and Speakers Bureau; Women's Division; College Division; Youth Division; and Labor Division.

Although the National Committee eventually grew to number approximately 600 members, the State and Local Chapters formed the backbone of the Committee to Defend America. State and Local Chapters were formed in every state, as well as in the U.S. Territories of Alaska, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands and in Canada. In addition to the State and Local Chapters other divisions and committees were formed for various sectors of the membership. These included the Historians Committee, Scientists Committee, Artists Committee, Writers Committee, Women's Division, Labor Division, College Division, and Youth Division. Most of the members of these various committees and divisions were members of their local chapters, but also participated in the more specialized committees. An “Americans in Britain” chapter was formed in England, and the Committee garnered support from people all over the world. The smaller, specialized committees which did not have their own division in the National Committee Office were supervised by the State and Local Committee Division or the Administrative Management as appropriate.

The Committee to Defend America supported itself through fund-raising activities and voluntary contributions from its membership. Contributions averaged $25.00 per individual, although one contribution was as large as $10,000.00, and the smallest was $.12 in food stamps. The Committee kept in touch with its membership through printed newsletters, flyers, pamphlets and newspaper advertisements, as well as through radio spots and rallies. The Women's Division sponsored song and poster contests in an effort to raise the visibility of the Committee to an even higher level. Buttons, stickers, matchbooks, and car plates were also made available to the general public to raise funds. In addition to Field Representatives sponsored by the State and Local Chapter Division, the Committee also sponsored well-known individuals to speak on behalf of the Committee's aims.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese the Committee to Defend America acknowledged that its work had come to an end, at least in its present incarnation. Committee members agreed, though, that there was still work to be accomplished, specifically to prepare the United States for the peace to come after the war. The Committee to Defend America joined with the Council for Democracy to form Citizens for Victory: To Win the War, To Win the Peace. This organization was not as active nor as well known as the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. By this time people were caught up with actual war work and could not be as easily persuaded to think about the future. Though the Committee to Defend America dissolved itself for all practicable purposes in January 1941, the official cessation did not occur until October 1942.

Source: From the finding aid for MC011

  • Committee to Defend America By Aiding the Allies Records. 1940-1942 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC011

    The Records of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA) document the Committee to Defend America from its inception in May 1940 to its official dissolution in October 1942. In January, 1942 CDAAA merged with the Council for Democracy to form Citizens for Victory: To Win the War, To Win the Peace. The Committee to Defend America was a propaganda organization that worked to persuade the American public that the United States should supply the Allies with as much material and financial aid as possible in order to keep the United States out of the war. During its year and a half tenure the Committee successfully garnered support from across the country and from other parts of the world.

  • Fight for Freedom, Inc. Records. 1922-1942 (inclusive), 1939-1942 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC025

    Fight for Freedom, Inc. (FFF), a national citizen’s organization established in April 1941, was a leading proponent of full American participation in World War II. Believing that the war was a threat to American freedom and security, FFF boldly and vehemently championed the interventionist cause, advocating that all necessary measures must be taken to insure the defeat of Adolf Hitler and the German Army. In addition, FFF worked to preserve fundamental American freedoms at home. An offshoot of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, FFF was supported by average citizens, as well as prominent educators, labor leaders, authors and playwrights, clergy, stage and screen actors, newspaper men, and politicians. Acting as a clearinghouse for information related to American intervention in World War II, FFF monitored the activities of the leading isolationist organization, the America First Committee, and many of its key individuals such as Charles A. Lindbergh, Burton Wheeler, and Gerald Nye. From its headquarters in New York City, FFF spread its message through an extensive network of state and local branches, as well as through heavy reliance on local newspaper editors supportive of the interventionist cause. Pearl Harbor effectively ended the isolationist-interventionist debate, and by early 1942 FFF had disbanded.

  • Adlai E. Stevenson Papers. 1861-2001 (inclusive), 1952-1965 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC124

    The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers document the public life of Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate, and United Nations ambassador. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, writings, campaign materials, subject files, United Nations materials, personal files, photographs, and audiovisual materials, illuminating Stevenson's career in law, politics, and diplomacy, primarily from his first presidential campaign until his death in 1965.

  • Hugh Moore Fund Collection. 1922-1972 (inclusive), 1939-1970 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC153

    The Hugh Moore Fund Collection consists of the files that belonged to Hugh Moore relating to his strong interest in the areas of world peace and world population. Moore established The Hugh Moore Fund in 1944 as a means of funding a number of organizations relating to these interests. Some of the materials in this collection pre-date 1944; these are the papers of organizations to which Moore belonged and which The Hugh Moore Fund supported.

  • Freedom House Records. 1933-2016 (inclusive).

    Call Number: MC187

    The Freedom House Records document the organization's activities in advocating freedom and democracy throughout the world. The records provide an invaluable insight into an organization that evolved from an answer to Hitler's Braunhaus to a diligent monitor of freedom worldwide.