As local conflicts reignited in Europe during the early 1930s, suggesting the possibility of a second world war, a bipartisan concern spread through Washington, D.C. that “merchants of death” would again drag the United States into a struggle that was none of its business. One of the best-known and deeply informed critics was U.S. Marine Corps Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler, who published “War is a Racket” in 1935. Indeed, the time was ripe for a full congressional inquiry.
Where is Gerald ‘The Giant Killer’ Nye When We Need Him?
To lead the seven-member special committee, the Senate’s Democrat majority chose a Republican: 42-year-old North Dakota Sen. Gerald P. Nye (1892-1971). Typical of western agrarian progressives, Nye energetically opposed U.S. involvement in foreign wars.
He promised, “When the Senate investigation is over, we shall see that war and preparation for war is not a matter of national honor and national defense but a matter of profit for the few.”
According to peace activist Dorothy Detzer, Nebraska Sen. George Norris said, “Nye’s young, he has inexhaustible energy, and he has courage. Those are all important boons. He may be rash in his judgments at times, but it’s the rashness of enthusiasm.”
In the 1920s, as chairman of the Public Lands Committee, Nye uncovered the fact that Warren G. Harding’s interior secretary Albert B. Fall had uncompetitively leased a government oil field to Mammoth Oil Company in return for contributions to the Republican National Committee. The resulting scandal gave Nye the nickname of “Gerald the Giant-Killer.”
The Nye Committee conducted 93 hearings and questioned more than 200 witnesses.
The Nye Report was published on Feb. 24, 1936, and was scathing. The committee found that the munitions companies, almost without exception, engaged in questionable favors and commissions — in effect, a form of bribery of foreign governmental officials or of their close friends in order to secure business. The attendant bribery of governmental officials created a corrupt officialdom, something that is overwhelming in this post-9/11 era.
The sentiment of the American public in this pre-brainwashed period was neutrality and peace-seeking. But even with American hearts in the right place, the committee reported that between 1915 and January 1917, the U.S. lent Germany $27 million and, in the same period, lent to the U.K. and its allies $2.3 billion — almost 100 times as much.
In a speech, Sen. Nye argued that “the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were at the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable.”
The report suggested that manufacturers of armaments had unduly influenced America’s decision to enter the war in 1917.
“The committee finds, further, that munitions companies engaged in bribery find themselves involved in the civil and military politics of other nations, and that this is an unwarranted form of intrusion into the affairs of other nations and undesirable representation of the character and methods of the people of the United States,” the report states.
The committee documented the huge profits that arms factories had made during the war. It found that bankers had pressured U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to intervene in the war in order to protect their loans abroad. Also, the arms industry was at fault for price fixing and held excessive influence on American foreign policy leading up to and during the Great War [World War I (WWI)].
In the post-WWI period, the Nye Report revealed, “The munitions makers scare nations into a continued frantic expenditure for the latest improvements in devices of warfare. The constant message of the traveling salesman of the munitions companies to the rest of the world has been that they now had available for sale something new, more dangerous and more deadly than ever before and that the potential enemy was or would be buying it.”
The report accused specific European munitions companies of supporting Hitler’s move to power and active armament.
“It will remain for commissions with full powers in the large European nations to report on the provocative activities of their companies, particularly to investigate the statements made in the French Chamber of Deputies, that Skoda in Czechoslovakia, a subsidiary of Schneider-Creusot, financed the Hitler movement to power, which, more than any one other event, can be credited with causing the present huge rearmament race in Europe, so profitable to the European steel, airplane and munitions companies,” the report states.
The report also explored arms sales skulduggery in South America.
“The statement of a Federal Laboratories salesman that ‘the unsettled condition in South America has been a great thing for me’ is the key, and also, ‘We are certainly in one hell of a business where a fellow has to wish for trouble to make a living.'”
Colombia and Peru, at the time of the Leticia Incident, were each kept well informed by the munitions companies of the proposed purchases of the other nation. The evidence of the Colt agent in Peru was that the Vickers agent, after unloading a huge armament order on Peru, had boasted to the Peruvians that he would sell “double the amount, and more modern, to the Chilean Government.”
When a limited amount of material, such as machine guns, was available, Bolivia could be forced into ordering them on the threat that unless she acted quickly, Paraguay would get them. Killing the back-country Indians of South America with airplanes, bombs and machine guns boiled down to an order to get busy because “these opera-bouffe revolutions are usually short-lived, and we must make the most of the opportunity.”
The report uncovered skulduggery in which a munition company planted fear-mongering stories in the Lugenpresse. Some things never change.
“At the time a naval bill for $617 million was before Congress, the president of the Bath Iron Works in Maine asked the publisher of a string of newspapers to reprint a Japanese war-scare story, although the Chinese source of that story had been thoroughly discredited editorially by the newspaper originally publishing it, the New York Herald Tribune. He thanked the publisher for playing up the scare story,” the Report on Naval Shipbuilding states.
Ultimately, the Nye Committee came to an end because he exposed a key stooge: President Woodrow Wilson. Nye suggested that Wilson had withheld essential information from Congress as it considered a declaration of war.
Democrat leaders, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Carter Glass of Virginia, unleashed a furious attack against Nye for “dirt daubing the sepulcher of Woodrow Wilson.” Standing before cheering colleagues in a packed Senate Chamber, Glass slammed his fist onto his desk until blood dripped from his knuckles.
Nye was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Neutrality Acts that were passed between 1935 and 1937.
He helped establish the America First Committee.
Then, he turned his ire toward war-mongering Hollywood films. At a 1941 Senate subcommittee hearing investigating, Nye said that those “responsible for the propaganda pictures are born abroad.” He accused Hollywood of attempting to “drug the reason of the American people” and “rouse war fever.” He was particularly hostile to Warner Brothers. Naturally, and par for the course, this criticism earned him the “anti-Semite” epithet.
In April 1943, a confidential report by Isaiah Berlin (direct descendant of Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Hasidism) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the British Foreign Office stated that Nye “is a notorious fire-eating Anglophobe isolationist and fascist.” What a mean-spirited and nasty piece of work, considering Nye was instrumental in helping Herman Stern, a North Dakota German-Jewish emigrant businessman and his wife, Adeline, bring more than 125 Jewish refugees to the U.S. during the 1930s and ’40s.
In November 1944, Nye was defeated in his re-election attempt. He had served as senator from 1925 to 1945. Later in life, he turned to issues of the elderly and was liked and respected by the Kennedy brothers.
Winter Watch Takeaway: The great unheralded largely memory holed Gerald Nye deserves admiration and credit for standing up to the Crime Syndicate system that was overwhelming the planet, for his devotion to the America First cause – and for peace.