FDR and the Outbreak of the War

 

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> American History > FDR > Winds of War
War Breaks Out

Initially, Franklin Roosevelt had intended to retire after his two terms in the Presidency.  The drastic world situation convinced him that he had no other alternative but to stay in office.  Roosevelt was unanimously drafted to run for re-election.  Roosevelt campaigned on a platform of full support to Great Britain, while at the same time promising that American boys would not have to fight.  His Republican opponent, Wendel Willkie, also supported full aid to Great Britain.  Roosevelt won easily receiving 25 million votes to Willkie's 22 million.


Roosevelt had talked about retirement after his second term.  There was, however, no democratic alternative. In light of the war, Roosevelt became convinced that he had no choice but to break the traditional 2 terms of Presidency and run again.  At the Democratic convention in Chicago, Roosevelt won renomination on the first ballot against his opponents Farley and Garner.  The Democratic convention passed a platform that stated: " We will not send our armed forces to fight in lands across the sea."  Roosevelt convinced them to add: "except in case of attack".  The convention nominated Henry Wallace for Vice President at Roosevelt's suggestion.  

The Republicans nominated a liberal internationalist to run against Roosevelt, Wendel Willkie.   Roosevelt ran on a platform of maximum aid to Great Britain, while at the same time pledging to keep American boys home.  In the midst of the campaign, Roosevelt proposed the first peacetime draft in American history.  The draft did not become an issue, as Willkie supported it.

Another of Roosevelt's actions did, however, become an issue. Churchill asked Roosevelt for 50 old World War I destroyers that the US had mothballed.  After much hesitation, Roosevelt agreed to a transaction in which Britain would give the United States five bases in the Western hemisphere in return for the destroyers.  Roosevelt took this action without Congressional approval.  Willkie attacked the action.  Roosevelt repeatedly promised that American boys would not have to fight overseas.  At one point Willkie hearing Roosevelt make his pledge of "your boys are not going to be sent into a foreign war, stated to his brother: "That hypocritical son of a bitch!  This is going to beat me."  Roosevelt won, easily receiving 25 million votes to Willkie’s 22 million.

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