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Nye Tells the Future


On this date in 1944, Senator Gerald Nye made news by marrying Arda Marguerite Johnson in Iowa Falls. It had been less than a year since Nye’s first wife divorced him. Nye was a Cooperstown newspaper editor when he began his 20-year U.S. Senate career in 1925 when he was 33 … a Republican endorsed by the Non-Partisan League.

Nye gained a high profile as chairman of The Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, which examined the role played by wealthy corporations leading up to World War I. After probing the dealings of the bankers and munitions makers, the committee found evidence that the war was instigated by imperial ambitions in Europe and that the U.S. had been lured into the war by propaganda and corporate manipulation.

By spring 1937, seven out of ten Americans agreed that participating in WWI had been a serious and expensive mistake. Congress passed a number of neutrality laws, which created arms embargoes, and prohibited loans or credit to any country – friend or foe – that was waging war. American ships were even prohibited from trading with, or traveling to, any warring nations.

Nye didn’t forget what he learned from that investigation. As World War II heated up in Europe, Nye fought hard to retain America’s isolation; but, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everything changed. By the time of Nye’s second marriage, the country had moved from political neutrality to fighting all over the globe.

Five days after his wedding, the senator gave his farewell address. About his failure to win his latest bid for reelection, he said, “Clever propaganda such as can cause intelligent men and women to be made blind to truth and reason has been used against me.”

Nye told his fellow senators that upon their shoulders now rested the hopes of the “plain people” for “peace for our own” and called on them to keep the U-S out of World War Three by “minding our own business.” He talked about the foolhardiness of WWI and how time would tell whether the U.S. should have gotten involved in the present war in Europe. “I am sure...” he then said, “that within 20 years from now – perhaps within 10 years – we will be told that we must go into another...war to keep Russia from seizing control of the world.”

11 years later, the U.S. was fighting communism in Korea.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm