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Be Practical — Ration Globaloney

February 9, 1943 — US House of Representatives, Washington DC


MR. SPEAKER, may I take this occasion to thank the people of Fairfield County in Connecticut who elected me to this body? I am sensible of the honor they have paid me and proud of the privilege of serving them. I am particularly grateful to them today for they have given me this opportunity to speak on a most vital question — America’s destiny in the air.

There is before this House a resolution to form a permanent standing committee on civil and commercial aviation, domestic and overseas. I know I am not fit by experience in this body to debate the organizational merits of creating such a committee. The jurisdictional jealousies or ambitions, the outside political pressures or necessities which militate either for or against it, are today as much Greek to me as they are to the public. But this I know, that the airplane hasbeen the most dynamic instrument of this war and that the airplane will surely be the most dynamic instrument of the peace. The question of America’s place in the present and post-war civilian air world is for this reason the most important question which confronts us today. If we fail to answer it intelligently, although the United Nations will win the war, America can lose the peace. The need for a strong congressional committee made up of the ablest civilian aviation experts in this House is, therefore, urgent and grave.

Often, since I came here, I have heard the charge hurled back and forth across this aisle by each party that the other has failed to clarify America’s war or peace aims. This charge is also thrown at the administration, sometimes in good faith, sometimes to make political capital. For my part, I am resigned to facing the fact, with whatever fortitude and patience I can muster, that there is a vast area of specific war and peace aims which can never be clarified, stated or proposed, and certainly not enjoined upon the world, until we know what goes on in the mind of Joseph Stalin. The fixing of territorial boundaries, the stabilization of currencies, the integration of economies, the establishment and tutelage of those democratic European governments with which the United States and Great Britain and most of the United Nations would certainly prefer to deal, even plans for postwar policing and disarmament, are questions which all await the ukase of the master of Moscow and the gallant conqueror of Stalingrad. Not until we know whether we are to meet and confer with iron-hearted Stalin, or like-minded men, on the Vistula, or on the Rhine, or on the Seine, or at the great wall of China, or on the Yellow River, or in Tokyo, can we, or our other allies, realistically plan a post-war world. Let us pity and not condemn Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill that they find themselves, like us, floundering in a sea of uncertainty. Let us try to understand that in such a situation they have no choice but to indulge in monumental generalities and noble catch-alls, like the Atlantic Charter and virtuous platitudes like the Four Freedoms. Indeed, it would be infinitely dangerous, prestige wise, for Great Britain and ourselves to propose specific international settlements today which Stalin might specifically dispose tomorrow. The very proof that the State Department and the administration are facing this melancholy fact is their long, protracted official silence on precise international post-war aims. But hard as peace terms and war aims are for ourselves and the British to see in the Russian penumbra. I do not intend to say that we and our leaders must think nothing. Indeed, it is impossible to do so. Nature abhors a vacuum, even in the heads of statesmen. However irrational, thoughts do rush in. Today it is unfortunate that into many of the bone encased vacuums created by Stalin or by our refusal honestly to face the fact of Stalin in our post-war thinking, there are rushing two extreme ideas: on the one hand, there is a revival of isolationism.

Many people are naturally disgusted, not with the difficulty of wrestling with the gigantic post-war problems we know we must face, but with the impossibility of discovering on what or whose terms we will do the wrestling. It is quite understandable that such naturally outraged people should propose, as the only “realistic solution,” that we should wash our hands once again of all Europe’s problems the day this war is over, make ourselves as domestically strong as we can, and when the next war comes, just improvise and play it off the cuff, as we did the two previous times. Then there is the other extreme group — the all-out post-war cooperationists. In a noble effort to formulate some master plan and some master economy which will cozily embrace not only our own capitalistic democracy but the British Empire and its colonial system, and Russia and its totalitarian system, the all-out post-war cooperationists have begun to shoot the works, at least verbally, for a bigger and redder and more royal New Deal for the whole world. Nevertheless, even between such extremes as the old isolationists and the New Deal Utopians there is a solid area of agreement. Both agree, and all Republicans and Democrats agree, on what America does not expect to get at the peace table. We do not expect and do not want one inch of territory outside our own possessions. We desire neither to grab other people’s land nor to dominate any race on earth. We believe that the world believes that in this we are utterly sincere. So that is what we do not want. What do we all agree that we expect to ask at the peace table — all of us on both sides of this aisle? We shall all demand henceforth to be secure from attack.

We shall urge, wherever possible, a political climate in other nations, in which liberty may thrive. And I believe we desire at all costs to preserve our American living standards, seeking anxiously and ever to bring those of other nations up to ours, but not ours down to theirs.

To the realization of these minimum peace demands of ours America’s position in the post-war air world is the key.

What was America’s international air carrier position in 1941 before Pearl Harbor? We all know the answer. It was tops. But for the record, let us note that in October 1941 our American system, Pan American Airways’ route-miles, were roughly two and one-half times greater than B.O.A.C. — British Overseas Airways Corporation. We had 99,000 miles of route as against the British systems’ 39,000. There are no reliable statistics on annual plane miles for the foreign carriers for 1941, so comparison is impossible. However, on a yearly basis, in early 1939, before the outbreak of the war, Pan American was flying more air miles than all the major European countries put together. The European countries were serving almost as many countries and colonies, however; Pan American served 38, B.O.A.C. 31, K.L.M. — the Dutch lines — 27, Air France, 15.

It needs no argument now to prove that our pre-Pearl Harbor domestic and overseas commercial carriers were crucial factors in our ability militarily to prepare this continent for a successful global war. But for the existent routes and volume of our civilian air operations, both at home and overseas, this war might already have been lost. Four years ago, in January 1939, President Roosevelt said:

“Civil aviation is clearly recognized as the backlog of national defense .  .  .  The country’s welfare in time of peace and its safety in time of war rests on an economically and technically sound air transportation system, both domestic and overseas.”

Four years after this war is over that statement will still be true. Transport pilots, mechanics, airport and ground personnel, meteorologists, communications experts, transport planes, messenger aircraft, and all their related production and repair facilities and personnel are now accepted as forming part of a modern country’s air power. In times of peace it is impossible to attempt to maintain such personnel and equipment fully trained when not required by actual military service. Thus, an air commerce program complementary to and coordinated with military defense plans is vital for the future.

Yet, what is our civil air-carrier position today, with peace, so we are often told, just around the corner? Part of both our domestic and overseas aviation is still entirely civilian staffed and controlled. But the transport service, being operated by the military, every day is being expanded.

Now I have heard in this House both the advocates of the standing committee for civil aviation and those opposed to it, announce repeatedly that the total militarization of our air lines is a vital military necessity. I, along with some perhaps in this House, and many outside of it, feel that this is not true. I wish there were time to give you the most interesting support to my arguments, by reading those advanced by British members of Parliament as late as December 17 last in the House of Commons, when they hotly debated the question of the increasing militarization of their own overseas civilian air system. I say “increasing” because although Great Britain has been at war over 3 years, the British overseas merchant airways structure has continued to operate in many parts of the globe, with civilian personnel, and civilian administration. And today, even in combat zones, B.O.A.C. operates as a purely civilian organization, subject only to military priorities, like all transportation in wartimes.

Furthermore as you will see, by referring to the debate in Parliament on civil aviation which I have placed in the Record, there is the liveliest dispute in progress today about the urgent need, not only of planning ahead, but building up now with equipment and personnel the British overseas airway structure. Fortunately for the British, they, unlike ourselves, have wisely preserved everywhere the skeleton of their commercial carrier routes around the globe. On the very day the shooting stops, the British naturally desire to be in a position to put muscles and flesh on their international airways system. And perhaps even fat in some places — with lend-lease planes. I deeply applaud the wisdom of this policy. I wish it were ours and that there were here in Congress a committee which would see to it that it should be. But, because of the increasing militarization of our carrier systems it is not. And in a war no one dast sass the general. But it is surely for us here to consider at once, as the patriotic members of the British Parliament are doing now, the ways and means by which we may rehabilitate our overseas civilian airways. Again, I draw your attention to the full account of the debate in Parliament on December 17 on civil aviation, which is now in the Appendix of the Record.

It is a document worthy of the minutest study of every Member of this House, for it shows the power, sagacity, and daring of British statesmen, which equally with the lion hearts of her sons, have made and kept the Empire great and strong. It also shows their desire to cooperate with us in the air, a thing they can do happily if they can persuade us shortly of their points of view. Make no mistake. Our far-sighted British cousins have already clearly seen the vision of the air world of tomorrow. They have seen that the masters of the air will be the masters of the planet for as aviation dominates all military effort today, so will it dominate and influence all peacetime effort tomorrow. Perhaps the Russians have seen this too, although we have no way of knowing. Certainly the Chinese know, because I have discussed it with many of them, that when peace comes it will then be too late to plan about America’s future role in the air. The shape of all post-war air policy is being beaten out now on the anvil of war. The British, the Russians, the Chinese have searched the face of the heavens. They know what the air world of tomorrow looks like. Do we? Yes, some of us do.

It is a picture that has deeply entered the imagination of almost everyone in this country under 30 years of age. Young America is totally alive to the potentialities of a post-war air world. Today boys in grammar schools and high schools can give you details on air routes, on plane types and performances, both commercial and combat, that would not only amaze you, but leave you bewildered, for while they explained they would seem to be talking in another language. They are. They are talking the language of tomorrow, the language of the air. They do not even think in the same geographical terms that you and I do. For instance, they know that the direct route from Detroit to Tokyo is not west to San Francisco and across the Pacific to Hawaii — but north, over the Pole. You think Bombay and Singapore are south and west of us, as we sit here. Grammar school boys can tell you today that the best way to get to them is to fly north from Chicago, across the polar cap — in 40 flying hours. Incidentally, they never think in land miles, they think in flying hours. They know because they keep up on these things, that Lt. Gen. Hap Arnold flew from Australia to San Francisco in 7 minutes under 36 hours.

They know that, from the heart of the “isolationist” Middle West, which is ironically enough the geographical air hub of America’s international post-war air traffic, there is not one important city in the whole world, in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America that cannot be reached by air within 48 hours. These grammar school and high school boys share this vision of the air world with all the pilots and the ground crews of our air force today, the thousands upon thousands of our young pilots, civilian and military, who have already felt the almost divine thrill that comes of man’s mastery of the air. To you, and to me, aviation may seem “just another business.” To a pilot it generally becomes a way of life, a philosophy. He is not far wrong. He looks at the globe, and he does not see as you and I do, a land-and-water world. He sees an air world. He does not think of the airplane as something that parallels shipping lines, and railroads, and trucking highways. Why should he? He knows such a concept was long ago outmoded and betrays the user of it today as totally ignorant of the meaning of the air. Try to tell an American pilot who has flown the towering Himalayas, the vast trackless wastes of Tibet, the deserts and jungles of Africa, and who dreams tomorrow of taking part in the great air traffic that will burst across the Polar Cap — that he must be or ever will be “regulated” with reference to railroads and shipping, and he will laugh in your face. There is only one barrier in the use of the airplane, and that barrier is man’s own inability to breathe and to keep warm in the stratosphere. This is a technological conquest which is not far off. Our American pilots also know that America, which produced the Wright brothers and Lindbergh and Rickenbacker, and scores upon scores of air pioneers and heroes, has not only the men and the tools, but the technical genius and the industrial capacity — in short, everything it takes, to let American pilots and passengers go everywhere in the world. For the post-war air policy of these hundreds of thousands of young air-minded Americans is quite simple. It is: “We want to fly everywhere.”

Now let us consider America’s existent international air policy — the policy under which 5 years ago we became the foremost overseas commercial air power in the world, and under which we have gone nearly everywhere. And I know — because I have flown nearly everywhere in this world in the past 3 years with American civil pilots on American civil planes with the American flag painted on them.

What was that policy, specifically? It was the policy of the “sovereignty of the skies.” Historically, this policy was adopted by most nations at the Versailles Conference. The principle of international law it recognized was “sovereignty of the skies” over a nation’s own territory, and denial to free access to its airports. The principle was laid down, of course, largely for reasons of self-defense, and since that time it has only been dispensed with by any given country to another country or countries, in consideration of reciprocal air services, or other offsetting material economic gain, arrived at by unilateral or bilateral agreement. That was our policy, too, and operating under it and the free enterprise system — civilians of this Nation managed to build up, as we know, the greatest overseas volume of commercial operations, the longest mileage routes, and heaviest passenger lists in the world — with only the British close and very friendly contenders.

So until this hour, the sovereignty-of-the-skies policy has stood us in excellent stead, both commercially and militarily, and—I hope diplomatically.

Is that policy being challenged today? It is. By what? And by whom? It is being challenged by the advocates of a new policy, which we are beginning to hear a great deal about, called the Freedom of the Air. (I refer you again to the debate in Parliament which I have placed in theAppendix. For you will find all the things I discuss today there discussed from a British point of view, which is precisely the point of view they should be discussed from in the House of Commons.)

Now what is freedom of the air? In its ultimate extension by accurate definition, freedom of the air is the internationalization of all air space by international consent. Put into practice, it would mean that the civilian and commercial planes of any nation could fly, with impunity and without question, over the harbors, rivers, and mountains and all the land of any other nation. Freedom of the air, or internationalization of sky-space, would mean precisely that British planes in transit to Sydney from London, from Montreal to Kingston or Trinidad, could fly over the U.S.A. Russian planes, in transit to Mexico via the all-important Polar Cap, could fly over Canada, and the U. S. A. Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, Dutch planes, or the planes of any other nation which could afford to subsidize air carriers could fly over this country at will. Since the technical possibilities of constructing ever longer-ranged flying cruisers is no longer questioned by anyone, it is likely that all nations would not only be very happy to fly over America, but would be perfectly able to do so.

We already know the danger in war of the enemy airplane to a nation’s home front. It is elementary, or should be, that human nature being what it is, and some nations forever greedy and contentious, to grant this free transit, this free look-see to all nations of the world, might be very unwise, from our point of view.

And I doubt that the people of this Nation will countenance any such wholesale abandonment of the “sovereignty of American skies,” deeply as we trust our British allies today and tomorrow, and as we may, I hope, trust all our Allies tomorrow. But does anyone in America advocate such a course? I ask at this point unanimous consent to insert into the Record Appendix an article from the London Times of December 29 last. It is called Post-War Air Lines, and its subtitle is “Right of Innocent Passage,” which turns out to be one aspect of Freedom of the Air. This article, written by the London Times correspondent in Washington, claims:

There is good reason to believe that the United States Government is already seeking an understanding to cover the field of commercial flying after the war.

It then outlines this alleged understanding between our Government and the British, and suggests that our administration is even now negotiating with the British a freedom of the air policy. Can this be possible? One does not like to think that a complete reversal of a country’s historic policy, a reversal that must affect profoundly the destiny of our country, the very lives of our children, can be in process of negotiation without any public debate or consideration. And yet we have some proof that such a new policy is in the minds of people in high places in this administration.

I call your attention to a recent article written by the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Henry Wallace, which has just appeared in the American magazine for March. It is called What We Will Get Out of the War. Now, in passing, I would like to say that I am a great admirer of some of Mr. Wallace’s ideas. He has a wholly disarming way of being intermittently inspiring and spasmodically sound, and certainly in his American magazine article there is much that all men of good will must agree to. However, one usually finds that the higher the plane Mr. Wallace puts his economic arguments upon the lower, it turns out, American living standards will fall. Mr. Wallace’s article in the American magazine is on a very high plane, indeed. In ithe does a great deal of global thinking. But much of what Mr. Wallace calls his global thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still “globaloney.” Mr. Wallace’s warp of sense and his woof of nonsense is very tricky cloth out of which to cut the pattern of a post-war world.

I give you an example of what I mean from Mr. Wallace’s article. After much sound and inspired talk about post-war needs, among which he names great global air highways, and an enormously increased international air commerce, Mr. Wallace makes this statement:

When this war ends we shall be only at the threshold
of the coming air age. Freedom of the Air means to the
world of the future what Freedom of the Seas meant to
the world in the past.

Well, let us examine this. What did Freedom of the Seas mean to the world of the past? It certainly did not mean international peace. And it is a desire for international peace which, above all, inspires Mr. Wallace’s plea for Freedom of the Air. As Freedom of the Seas prevented neither World War No. 1 nor No. 2, there is no reason to suppose that Freedom of the Air would prevent World War No. 3.

Now, I realize it is worse than bad taste — it is a cardinal sin in certain New Deal circles — to ask what the freedom of anything has meant, means, or may mean to the welfare of this country. Nevertheless, I would like to consider exactly what freedom of the seas meant to the United States of America in the world of the past. For freedom of the sea, by Mr. Wallace’s own definition, meant the internationalization of American ports, as, again by his own definition, freedom of the air means internationalization of American airports and air space. I cast my mind back to a week in 1929, when I lived high up in a hotel whose windows overlooked New York Harbor. What did I see in port? The great, sleek, shiny, queenly ships of the Cunard and White Star Lines, of the French, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish, and Russian lines. And not only the shiny and beautiful passenger ships with their supercargo space, but swarms upon swarms of little grimy merchant ships of all the powers, great and small, jamming our wharves. And out in San Francisco, from the hill you could see the lovely Canadian Line boats, the slick liners, and multitudinous craft of the Japanese and Russian merchant marine. But where, oh where, in either port, was America’s merchant marine? You know the answer as well as I do.

America’s merchant marine had languished, and all but died, in the effort to compete, under the policy of freedom of the seas and internationalization of ports, with all the cheap labor, low-operating cost, government-subsidy countries of the world. By 1937 less than 30 percent of our own ocean-going dry cargo trade was being carried in American bottoms. Outranked in old and new tonnage by Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy, our merchant marine was indeed in a sorry state when this World War broke. This was a tragedy, not only for us but for our gallant allies. How many precious British, Dutch, French, Russian, Chinese, Norwegian, and Allied lives have already been lost in this World War No. 2, of which shipping is the bottleneck, because of the insufficiency of our merchant marine, no man can tell.

Freedom of the seas, in neither World War No. 1 nor 2, left us in a position to defend our sea lines effectively. Furthermore, the squeezing out of our merchant marine by heavily subsidized merchant marine lines of other nations was one of the contributing factors to the growth of the isolationist mind in this country. Men who go down to the seas in ships quickly come to learn the ways of the world. And men who go up in the skies in ships

today have learned, too. Our pilots returning from all the continents of the world will yearn to keep America out of another world war—and they know how: by keeping America on wings all over the world. And yet, and yet, shall I stand on a plain, say in the heart of the gentleman from Kansas’ fair land, in the year 1949, and see at the great central terminus that may be there the air liner Queen Elizabeth put in, the Stalin Iron Cruiser, the Wilhelmina Flying Dutchman, the Flying de Gaulle, the airships of all the nations on earth — perhaps even those of the German and Jap. But shall I scan, like Sister Anne, the skies in vain, searching for the shape of an American Clipper against the clouds? Shall freedom of the air, like freedom of the seas, in the year ’49 or ’59 have made it impossible not only for America’s merchant airway systems to compete in the air against the low-cost countries of the world, but for America to protect her sky lines?

Now, I believe that the shipping analogy can be pressed too far, for reasons that concern the national economy of our British cousins. The British Isles live by export trade. We do not. Therefore, there was and is much reason for admitting to them a greater measure of the world’s heavy-cargo shipping trade. The situation in the air is different in this respect and in many others, too. I only draw this freedom of the air and sea analogy since Mr. Wallace himself has seen fit publicly to slice another piece of globaloney off the apparently inexhaustible ration he keeps in his mental larder.

Not even the British among themselves make the case for freedom of the air, a policy which currently they are showing some disposition to urge upon us in terms of heavy export trade. Rather do they make it in terms of their own national defense, passenger traffic, mail revenue, and rapid cargo, and of their political, moral, and cultural prestige. They know that the transport carrier plane will never supplant for heavy tonnage the railroad and the ship. Nor the short hop mobile truck or bus. They know that a vigorous, far flung civilian air carrier, constantly increasing the volume of operations and route mileage, is the single most persuasive instrument for a national defense policy, and for the social, political, and economic, and above all, moral and spiritual integration and rehabilitation of the post-war world. And this above all they know, and this is what we Americans must all get quickly and clearly in our heads, that when peace comes it will be too late for any great nation to plan for its future role in aviation. The future of every nation in the air today is being given shape inexorably by military and civilian policies now being practiced in the very middle of the war. Great Britain has for many years urged their Government to press for freedom of the air, and internationalization of ports. They have done so because in the view of patriotic Britishers they see the prestige, defense, and commercial advantages which will accrue to them by the resultant increase of their domestic production of planes and their volume of operations, made possible by their comparative wage scales. In the urging of this policy of freedom of the air you may be quite sure many low labor scale nations of the world will follow the British suit. For all, yes all, the cheap labor standard nations of the world will today and tomorrow have much to gain from exercising the freedom of anything we have, whether it be our soil, our harbors, our airports, our air space.

We have seen who is challenging our historic American air policy of sovereignty of the skies. Now, who is defending sovereignty of the skies? Well, until this moment no one in a high place in government has spoken out clearly in its defense, as we know they will, when they understand theimportance of it to our Nation, and to the preservation of peace in the post-war world.

Why have they not spoken out yet? Well, it is, no doubt, owing to the confusion and delay that have sometimes prevailed in this administration on clarifying policies important to America’s enlightened self-interest. For there is not a shadow of doubt that this country claiming complete control of its own vast skies, and behaving with decency and dignity like the great creditor nation it is, by cooperating to the utmost with the United Nations to liberalize world air policy, could keep the air supremacy it now has, and take henceforth in the skies that position of enlightened democratic leadership Great Britain held and still holds on the seas. Is there some good and honest reason why we should not do this, other than that it would seem impolite to certain of the other United Nations? Well, make no mistake; I believe that we should maintain our position of international civil air supremacy for the greatest and best of all reasons: Our responsibility to the whole world and to ourselves, to assume democratic political leadership in this hemisphere and cooperate elsewhere with the United Nations in leadership, requires and demands a commensurate civilian air position. I want the people who elected me to know where I stand on this. But I do not mean by civil air supremacy that this country should monopolize the air traffic of the world. We are strong, and not only can we afford to be generous for the peace of the world, we must be. I have every desire to see the British Overseas Airways Corporation shoving us so closely in many regions of the world that there will always be the same cause for friendly rivalry and healthy competition as there is today. And I have every hope that the air commerce of all the United Nations will expand constantly.

Early last month the President appointed an interdepartmental committee which in turn appointed a working committee to study our international air policy, for present and post-war needs. Under the chairmanship of Adolf Berle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, are to be found on these committees a real body of American air experts: Robert Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air; Artemus Gates, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air; Wayne Chatfield Taylor; L. Welch Pogue, Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board; Thomas Burke; Chief of the Divisions of International Communications William Burden; Lt. Comdr. Malcolm Aldrich; and Col. Harold Harriss.

We eagerly await, and the Nation eagerly awaits the findings of those committees. Meanwhile, one wishes that Mr. Berle would require them at every meeting to read a paragraph from a magnificent speech delivered in Maryland last week, by his chief, Sumner Welles:

“It can never be made too clear, nor reiterated too often, that the foreign policy of the people of the United States, exactly like their domestic policies, should only be determined from the standpoint of what the American people believe is their real, their practical, self-interest. Our foreign policy must not be — and in the long run never will be — based upon emotional altruism nor sentimental aspiration. What we should all of us be asking ourselves day in and day out is, not only what policies this country should adopt after the war in order to make sure that our security and our best interests are safeguarded, but also what this country of ours could have done in the past in order to prevent, or at least to make less likely, the rise of the conditions which have permitted the outbreak of this great struggle in which we are now engaged.”

But, meanwhile, the international aviation score stands: We have been insensibly but steadily losing, not gaining, our commercial air supremacy abroad. Perhaps owing to the over-rapid scramble to militarize our air lines. Perhaps owing to the over-hasty contracts with Allied high commands, drawn up for lend-lease air material and facilities by our Army officials. Now, nobody can tell the Army or Navy much these days, and when battle fronts or war material are the moot question, nobody should try to. Our pride in the extraordinary job they have so gallantly done in the face of great obstacles is boundless, our confidence in their ability to win this war is overwhelming. But this House, which has at long last found its voice, has the right to use it to tell the Army and Navy this: We beg them to be most careful not to fritter away our best chance of winning the peace — which is post-war civilian, as well as military, control of the air.

Therefore, we should urge most emphatically that the Army and Navy work in closest cooperation with the State Department and the administration in all matters of Allied agreements on landing facilities and lend-lease air material, which may affect our post-war civilian air position. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars via lend-lease in terminal facilities, communications, weather control, and air-transport craft in foreign countries.

But, as Britain’s Under Secretary for Air, Captain Balfour, said in Parliament, “On lines which may have commercial value, all bets are off after this war.” Now, while we are vastly more interested in the question of a firm civilian air policy that will allow us to operate commercially the new planes we must blueprint now and build tomorrow, than in the ultimate disposition of lend-lease aviation facilities or existent planes, which will be obsolete in a short time anyway, I cannot see why, during the post-war rehabilitation period, our lend-lease transport planes should not be pressed into service, operating for a limited time from bases that our lend-lease money has built, as great mercy fleets under the American flag — flying food and medical supplies, technicians and doctors, and educators and scientists, and men of God to all the beaten, starving, destitute, plague-ridden, soul-hungry peoples of the globe.

In passing, it may be pointed out that the effective and relentless control of the production of Japanese and German aircraft, not only of a combat character, but commercial, plus a control of the volume of these countries’ civilian and military air operations and allied communication systems will for many years to come disarm them. And until that control is relaxed they will stay militarily impotent untilman, with his God-given but diabolical mind, invents some other more potent long-range precision instrument of destruction.

If the administration is working behind closed doors with United Nations representatives on the basis of a new air policy, I believe we Americans ought to know it. The time has come for the administration to redefine clearly what it believes our air policy is, or should be. Then it is up to the people to decide that they approve of it, and the State Department to negotiate those policies with all United Nations countries, in a generous manner, a manner consistent with our new and grave responsibility as the world’s leading air power. And above all, it is for us here to review laws and make appropriations which will implement this responsibility forcefully. To this end, we must assemble here in this House that able body of men, of aviation-minded experts, who already exist, and allow them relentlessly to apply their full energies, time, and thought to this all-important question.

If in the next few years thousands upon thousands of our young men, who have flown the highest mountains, the deepest rivers, and widest jungles, who have navigated the seven green seas, dyeing them red with their blood; if the great air ground personnel which has sustained them overseas, and the hundreds of thousands employed in our aircraft factories, suddenly find that a new national air policy has robbed them of their professions and jobs — well, my colleagues, we, and this administration, shall answer at the bar of history rather sooner than we expect to young America.

Furthermore, I do not hesitate to say, if out of indifference or lack of foresight, this administration and this Congress espouse the wrong air policy for this Nation, we shall have most efficiently laid the groundwork for America’s certain defeat in World War No. 3. Then, indeed the air over our heads will be full of the sound of wings — the wings of the chickens coming home to roost, but to roost uncertainly in these steel girders above us, as the bombs of the enemy send them squawking in terror, and us squealing with shame out of this great hall.

To paraphrase the words of our gallant ally and that greatest of patriots, Winston Churchill, who sees, as he should see, nothing inconsistent between fighting a war for democracy and defending the interests of the noble nation which nobly sired him, “We, gentlemen, were not elected by our constituents on either side of this aisle, to preside over the liquidation of America’s best interests, either at home or abroad.” The sky’s the limit of those interests. The time is now.



Source: Vital Speeches of the Day, Vo. IX, pp. 331–336.


Also: Luce, Clare Boothe. “America’s Destiny in the Air.” Congressional Record, House. 78th Congress, 1st session, February 9. Washington DC: Y.S. Government Printing Office, 1943, 759-764.