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America First Committee poster, 1940–1945

The America First Committee, an isolationist group formed in 1940, lobbied Congress against American involvement in foreign wars. The group was one of the largest antiwar organizations in the country with 800,000 members at its peak.

Hoover Institution Archives Poster Collection, Hoover Institution Library and Archives

America First Committee poster, 1940–1945

U.S. Neutrality during World War II

The brutality of World War I, the strength of the pacifist and isolationist movements, and the Nye Committee’s inquiry prompted Congress to approve a series of neutrality acts in the 1930s aimed at preventing U.S. intervention abroad. The laws banned arms sales to all belligerent nations and forbade loans or credits to all nations at war. Declarations of war in Europe in 1939 forced Congress to relax these policies, allowing nations at war to purchase war materiel from the United States on a “cash and carry” basis.

If we repeal it, we are helping England and France. If we fail to repeal it, we will be helping Hitler and his allies. Absolute neutrality is an impossibility.

Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, Constituent Correspondence, 1939