Before the United States entered World War II, there was a popular movement to keep the U.S. out of the fray. The controversial America First Committee (AFC), founded in September 1940, was the foremost U.S. non-intervention pressure group against American entry into World War II. George T. Eggleston (1906-1990), a cartoonist, author, yachtsman, editor and isolationist, became embroiled in the America First controversy during the 1940’s.
From the late 1930s until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eggleston was very active in the America First movement with Charles Lindbergh. Eggleston edited Scribner’s Commentator, an ultraconservative magazine that helped lead the opposition to the United States’ entrance into the war in 1940 and 1941. The magazine’s format was about twenty digest-type articles, about half of which were devoted to nature stories and human-interest features.
There was no mistaking, however, the fundamental focus of Scribner’s Commentator, which was to present the case against involvement in World War II in as many ways as possible. The cover featured a prominent foe of intervention – often Charles Lindbergh – with a laudatory biographical sketch or an article written by the individual frequently found inside. The magazine’s sister publication was The Herald, a weekly newspaper with the masthead: “The National Newspaper for an Independent American Destiny.”
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee canceled a rally with Lindbergh at Boston Garden “in view of recent critical developments,” and the organization’s leaders announced their support of the war effort. Scribner’s Commentator folded as well. The last issue, dated January 1942, featured General MacArthur on the cover and called for “the complete victory of our armed forces over those of our enemies all over the world.” Eggleston joined the naval reserve in 1943 but federal prosecutors took him before a grand jury and relieved him of his military commission.
Eggleston recounted some of the harassment against him in his book, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the World War II Opposition: A Revisionist Autobiography, published in 1979. He wrote about leaving the Navy after Walter Winchell, the syndicated columnist and radio commentator, urged Americans to start a letter-writing campaign demanding his removal from the service. It wasn’t until after World War II, when the passions of the period had cooled, that Eggleston was able to get an honorable discharge.