This list of resources related to our co-founder, Hamilton Fish III, in the years just prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, is generated to provide further information that adds to the commentary on Fish in Rachel Maddow’s podcast, Ultra, released in the fall of 2022.
There are vast numbers of books written about the time period in question. Scholars and journalists debate to this day who bore responsibility for what. Our Library has created a collection of some of the nonfiction literature for this era.
Resources listed that are available online include news reports from the 1930s and 1940s as well as books, articles, letters, speeches, and YouTube footage.
Two scholars wrote History PhD dissertations about Hamilton Fish III: Dr. Richard Hanks in 1971 and Dr. Anthony Troncone in 1993. These are both extremely thorough and painstakingly researched and documented. The links to the PDFs are included below.
Hanks, Richard Kay. Hamilton Fish and American Isolationism, 1920-1944.
University of California, Riverside. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1971. 7130373.
Dr. Hanks died in 2018.
Troncone, Anthony. Hamilton Fish Sr. and the Politics of American Nationalism, 1912-1945.
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1993. 9401926.
Dr. Troncone is a retired history professor at Dominican University.
Hamilton Fish III is a footnote in most books about the period, which is why the dissertations above are valuable in providing a longer look at his career, beliefs, and actions. His own recollections are in his Memoir of an American Patriot. The most critical comments about Fish appear in O. John Rogge’s The Official German Report.
Brewer, Susan A. To Win the Peace: British Propaganda in the United States During World War II. Cornell University Press, 1997. In-depth study of the British role in the transformation of America from inherently isolationist to a wartime ally to a “post-war global leader dedicated to international cooperation” (p. 4). Even during the war, mistrust in the U.S. of Britain’s colonial empire and practices was high (p. 59). Concluding chapter, “The Artillery of Propaganda,” provides an excellent summary (pp. 234-243).
Chadwin, Mark Lincoln. The Hawks of World War II. University of North Carolina Press, 1968. Republished in 2012.
Account of the evolution of a group of influential politicians and public figures (including Robert Sherwood, the playwright and FDR speechwriter) who began aggressively advocating for U.S. entry into World War II, first as the Century Group in 1940 and then as the Fight for Freedom Committee in 1941. Details the assertion by the Fight For Freedom Committee in a August 26, 1941 press release that Fish allowed William Pelley, leader of the Silver Shirts, an American pro-fascist and pro-Nazi organization, to distribute antisemitic materials, including the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, under his Congressional mailing privilege (or “frank”), further alleging that when contacted, Fish replied that “there’s been too much Jewism going around anyway” –– a claim vehemently disputed by Fish (pp. 214-215).
DFPL Collection and at no cost on the Internet Archive.
Cole, Wayne S. America First – The Battle Against Intervention 1940-1941. University of Wisconsin Press, 1953; republished 2018.
Extremely detailed account of the America First Committee (AFC), formed in 1940 and disbanded in December 1941, based on records of the AFC. Mentions Hamilton Fish III as a speaker for America First; he was not an actual member (p. 79) and says AFC convinced him to sponsor a referendum in his district on going to war (p. 55-56). Mention of Hill and Viereck and unused franked envelopes being taken to America First headquarters (pp. 222-227).
Available as ebook for purchase and at no cost on the Internet Archive.
Conant, Jennet The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 2009.
Account of the British Security Coordination (BSC) covert operation in the U.S. to which Roald Dahl was recruited. Hamilton Fish mentioned as one of their targets for misinformation (p. 79).
On order for the DFPL Collection.
Devine, Robert A. The Illusion of Neutrality, University of Chicago Press, 1962, republished in 2015.
Excellent scholarly analysis of the U.S. foreign policy experience with, and approach to, neutrality, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s failed efforts in 1917 to achieve “collective security” through the League of Nations. U.S. joined 1929 Kellogg-Briand Pact; antiwar congressmen proposed different types of arms embargoes. Focuses on Fish’s role as fighter for neutrality. Describes Fish’s 1931 resolution to embargo arms to all belligerents in times of war, as well as a multilateral treaty banning the export of arms to any foreign nation, i.e. ending the international arms trade; bill died from opposition by munitions companies (pp. 27-30).
Devine, Robert A. The Reluctant Belligerent: American Entry Into World War II. McGraw-Hill 1965; Second Edition Lume Publications 2015.
Shorter overview of U.S. foreign policy between 1933 and 1941. Explains Neutrality Acts, Kellogg-Briand Pact, arms embargoes, Plan B for Japan. Hamilton Fish mentioned as one of the isolationists espousing unilateralism, the belief that the U.S. should go it alone in world affairs (p. 17).
Available for purchase online.
Dunn, Susan 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election amid the Storm. Yale University Press, 2013.
Excellent account of fraught period of 1939-1941; relates Roosevelt’s transformation from isolationist to interventionist; challenges to FDR’s reelection; emphasizes FDR’s skill as a politician and leader; Wendell Wilkie’s positive contributions after losing the 1940 election; Lindbergh’s descent into anti-Semitism, role of Hans Thomsen in manipulating Viereck. Fish’s isolationist positions noted (pp 215-216); also Hill distribution of mail and relationship with Viereck (p. 324).
Dunn, Susan A Blueprint for War: FDR and the Hundred Days That Mobilized America (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series). Yale University Press, 2018.
Shorter version of 1940 book above.
Available from DFPL as e-book
Fish, Hamilton. Memoir of an American Patriot. Regnery Publishing, 1991.
Fish’s own account of his actions. Account of his service in World War I; letters to his father; consistent antiwar position. Chapter 21: “Speaking Out for the Jews.” Chapter 22: “Vendetta” addresses 1938-1941 period.
(Note: Fish wrote a total of nine books including titles on Lafayette, Communism, Nuclear Proliferation, and FDR. All are in the DFPL Collection.)
Frye, Alton. Nazi Germany and the American Hemisphere 1933-1941. Yale University Press, 1967.
Scholarly and dense portrayal of the extent of German propaganda in the Western Hemisphere starting after WW I, including the role of Hans Thomsen, German Charge d’affaires in D.C. in employing George Viereck and Prescott Dennett. Fish’s office staff involvement (p. 160).
Gallagher, Charles R. Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front. Harvard University Press, 2021.
Account of the plot of Father Coughlin and his followers to gather arms and plot a takeover of the Federal government. No mention of Hamilton Fish III.
Gurock, Jeffrey, ed. America, American Jews, and the Holocaust. Part of a series entitled American Jewish History. Taylor & Francis, 2013.
Describes the first voice in Congress condemning Hitler’s treatment of the Jews on May 24, 1933 as coming from Congressman Hamilton Fish (p. 216).
Available for purchase online.
Hart, Bradley. Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States. Thomas Dunne Books. 2018.
Well-written book with an extensive bibliography. Main focus is on American corporations collaborating with Germany during WWII. Chapter 4 covers Hamilton Fish III.
On order for DFPL Collection
Hoke, Henry. Black Mail. Literary Licensing, LLC 1944 reprinted 2011. This link is to the PDF.
Short book detailing the franked mail that was arranged by George Hill. Includes titles of Fish speeches and other congressmen that were distributed.
Johnson, Niel M. George Sylvester Viereck, German American Propagandist. University of Illinois Press, 1972.
Biography of a poet and journalist, George Vierek, who became a pro-German propagandist employed by the German government, and was ultimately sent to prison for failing to properly register as a foreign agent. Vierek was also tried for sedition. Viereck, who was paid by the Nazi government, was a close contact of Fish. He is described differently in different sources, as either a German nationalist who was not particularly anti-Semitic, to a propaganda mastermind. Describes Viereck’s influence on Hamilton Fish III; says Fish and other congressmen had no direct ties to Germany (p. 221).
Mahl, Thomas A. Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States 1939-1944. Potomac Books, 1997.
Carefully researched and documented investigation of British covert operations in the U.S. by history professor at Case Western Reserve University. Chapter 6 ( pp. 119-126; 136) is entitled “The Destruction of Hamilton Fish” and details the ways in which undercover British agents Sanford Griffith and Christopher Emmet worked with journalists including Drew Pearson to defeat isolationist Fish in the elections of 1940, 1942, and 1944.
Available online at no cost from the Internet Archive
Olsen, Lynne Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941. Random House New York, 2013
Examines the conflict over American involvement in WWII between the years of 1939 – 1941 through the contentious, often acrimonious, conflict between FDR and Charles Lindbergh. Delves into the conflict highlighting stories of diplomats and military officials working to sabotage FDR’s efforts to turn national opinion towards joining the war to help the British, FDR’s use of the FBI to monitor isolationists’ activities, and his approval of covert British operations to discredit anti-war groups and plant propaganda in the US media.
Rogge, O. John. The Official German Report: Nazi Penetration 1924-1942; Pan-Arabism 1939-Today. New York, Thomas Yoseloff Publishers. 1961.
Rogge was the second prosecutor in the 1944 sedition case brought against Nazi agents in the U.S. and then dismissed. He traveled to Germany after the war, examined German documents and spoke to some officials. Offers his take on how Viereck influenced Fish (p.170) and other Congressmen. Chapter 6 is on Viereck, (pp. 130-172). Lists speeches sent with franked mail; only one speech sent and franked by Fish entitled “No Convoys No War!” (pp. 160-163).
Rare book; available through Interlibrary Loan
Ross, Steven J. Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America. Bloomsbury Publishing 2017.
Tells the story of the vast spy operation Germany had in California (because of location of aircraft and destroyer factories) and two Jewish Americans, Leon Lewis and Joseph Roos, who developed a counter-spy network, with agent, Sylvia Comfort. No mention of Hamilton Fish III.
Schiffrin, Andre, ed. Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of America’s Leading Comic Artists. The New Press, 2009.
Contains cartoons about Hamilton Fish III’s isolationism.
On order for DFPL Collection.
Smith, Geoffrey S. To Save A Nation: American ‘Extremism,’ the New Deal, and the Coming of World War II. First published by Basic Books, 1972; reissued 1992 by Elephant Paperback.
Smith is a Canadian professor. Discusses how far-right “thugs” and fascists discredited more mainstream antiwar voices.
United States. Congress. House. Special Committee on Communist Activities in the United States. Investigation of Communist Propaganda: Report, Pursuant to H. Res. 220. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1931.
This is the Fish Committee Report, summarizing 56 volumes of hearings held around the U.S. in 1930. . Available online from the HathiTrust. Also available are the six volumes of all the hearings, which can be searched for key words.
United States Government. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.
The transcripts of the trials at Nuremberg after WW II were placed into eleven volumes. These are available on the Internet Archive. This is the link to Supplement A, and an interview with Herbert Von Stempel about German propaganda and Viereck (pp. 549-564). “Viereck tried to give me the impression that he had good relations with a number of senators and congressmen—Lundeen, Hamilton Fish, Senator Holt, and Stephen Day—and maybe more, but I do not remember all the names.” Only mention of Fish.
West, Nigel, ed. British Security Coordination: the Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas 1940-45. London, St. Ermin’s Press. 1998. Compilation of notes and reports by William Stephenson on British spying in the U.S. before and during WWII. Describes how the British fabricated news polls and placed slanted news stories with friendly columnists, including Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell. They also started the Fight for Freedom Committee (FFF), which carried out misinformation campaign operations especially targeting Hamilton Fish III (pp. 74-76).
Young, Nancy Beck. Why We Fight: Congress and the Politics of World War II. Book contains a few references to Fish as an “anti-restrictionist” on immigration, supporting a liberal refugee policy; includes his efforts to pass anti-lynching legislation.
Available through Interlibrary loan.
Fish, Hamilton “Will An Arms Embargo Keep the US Out of War?”
Speech by Hamilton Fish III, 1939. Uses some of FDR’s own arguments for not supplying arms to parties in global conflicts.
Fish, Hamilton. Letter from The National Committee to Keep America Out of Foreign Wars. 1939. Argues against lifting the arms embargo preventing the US from selling arms to belligerent nations. An example of what might have been mailed to constituents.
Letter From Henry Stimson Sec. of War to Hamilton Fish III regarding Black troops. February 19, 1944
Letter From Israeli Ambassador Noshe Arad praising Fish’s support of Israel and the Jewish people upon Fish’s birthday in 1988.
Jewish Peoples Committee. Press Release, August 28, 1941. For Immediate Release. [On the use of Congressman Hamilton Fish’s franking privilege to mail anti-Semitic literature.]
New York: Jewish Peoples Committee, 1941. One of Congressman Fish’s envelopes had been used to mail an anti-Semitic pamphlet from William Dudley Pelley to the Fight for Freedom Committee, addressed to the “Fight for Jewdom Committee.” States that Fish had claimed the envelope must have been stolen from his office.
The New York Times
The Times has many, many articles about Hamilton Fish III, mostly short. These are some that are useful, but there are many more. Listed in chronological order.
November 2, 1930 – Describes Hamilton Fish, Jr. speaking at a Zionist rally in support of the Jewish Homeland established by the Balfour Declaration; he had sponsored that legislation in Congress in 1926.
May 25, 1933 – Describes a resolution from Fish asking FDR to raise the issue of Hitler’s treatment of Jews.
November 16, 1933 – Fish accused of meeting with Nazis regarding the anti-Bolshevik book “Communism in Germany;” Fish denies charge of meeting but had signed endorsement of book along with many others.
January 31, 1938 – Fish speaks at anti-Nazi rally at Carnegie Hall.
October 3, 1938 – Article reports on the 1938 German Day rally in Madison Square Garden at which Hamilton Fish III spoke. The headline is “German Day Rally Splits With Nazis.”
August 13, 1939 – Describes Fish’s arrival in Berlin after meeting with the British and French foreign ministers, on his way to the conference in Norway.
August 14, 1939 – Article reports that Fish met with Ribbentrop.
August 16, 1939 – Reported from Norway where Fish has arrived for conference, describes Fish’s brief meeting with Ribbentrop and Fish’s unsuccessful proposal for peace talks.
August 18, 1939 – Oslo Conference rejects Fish’s peace proposal. Fish: ”I am isolationist as regards war but non-isolationist as regards peace.”
August 20, 1939 – Oslo conference approves peace proposal; also recommends haven in Africa Jewish refugee proposal from Congressman Fish.
October 10, 1939 – Article includes Fish’s defense of the Ribbentrop plane ride when challenged by a Democratic opponent.
April 4, 1941 – Brief article reporting that Fish said if the President “puts us into war despite pledges” he should be impeached.
June 1, 1941 – Article on the use of propaganda by both Americans and Germans – no Fish content.
July 3, 1941 – Photograph of Colonel Fish going to Fort Bragg for service, joining with a Black engineering regiment.
December 9, 1941 – Article covers House vote in support of FDR’s declaration of war. Subhead says: “Fish is Among those Pledging Unity.”
January 8, 1942 – Jury selected for George Hill trial for perjury. Focus on speeches by Senator Lundeen that were written by Viereck.
January 9, 1942 – Brief article on George Hill’s trial for perjury; lists some of the items in mail bags, including speeches by Senators Wheeler, Clark, and Nye.
January 12, 1942 – “Say Hill Ordered Mail Bags Moved.” Part of Hill trial for perjury.
February 20, 1942 – Article describes George Hill testifying that Fish introduced Viereck to Hill.
February 21, 1942 – Article contains Fish’s testimony at trial – denies knowing Viereck was a German agent.
August 7, 1942 – Article describes a personal financial transaction Fish had with General Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic and efforts to relocate Jewish refugees.
August 9, 1942 – Analysis of Fish’s likely victory in primary.
August 10, 1942 – Article describes Wendell Wilkie urging voters to defeat Fish.
August 15, 1942 – Describes a coalition of Democrats and Republicans trying to defeat Fish in 1942, including Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb and Montgomery B. Angell from Garrison.
November 3, 1942 – Article describes speech by Democratic opponent accusing Fish of collaboration with Viereck.
January 4, 1944 – US brings charges under 1940 Sedition Act/Smith Act. Named Viereck, Silver Shirts, German-American Bund, Father Coughlin. Congressmen not named.
May 27, 1956 – Article describes the release of wartime documents that appear to tie Fish to a Republican isolationist ad possibly paid for with German dollars. Fish said his committee had paid for the ad itself, not with German money.
August 1, 1957 – Similar article to 1956.
April 6, 1977 – “Hamilton Fish: A Congressional Saga.” Profile by Anna Quindlen of Hamilton Fishes III, IV, and V (age 25). Regarding HF III, “His new bride – his third – wants to build him a library-museum in his birthplace of Garrison, NY with some of her substantial money.”
July 23, 1997 – “How Nazis Tried to Steer U.S. Politics.” Article about Hans Thomsen; HF III not mentioned but his photo was used with article. The New York Times retracted the implication that HF III was connected with the Nazis; see below.
August 7, 1997 – Editor’s Note. Correction to July 23rd article implying HF III had Nazi connections. “…research has found no evidence that Mr. Fish had any connections with the Nazis or was directly influenced by them.”
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Still publishing today, in the pre-war years the JTA had short reports on news items first appearing in other publications that were of Jewish interest. .
August 4, 1933 – Fish in Congress and Thomas Desmond in Albany introduce resolutions calling on Hitler to end persecution of Jews.
December 6, 1933 – Fish testifies he has no connection to Nazis.
January 27, 1938 – “Congress Gets Resolution on Rumania; Framed by Kin of Official Who Voiced Protest in 1872.” In Congress, Fish raises treatment of Rumanian Jews.
January 31, 1938 – Fish speaks at anti-Nazi rally at Carnegie Hall with many prominent Jewish leaders.
May 3, 1938 – “Congressman Fish Favors Cutting Diplomatic Ties if Reich Seizes U.S. Jews’ Property.” Fish calls for retaliation against Germany for seizures of U.S Jewish-owned property.
November 27, 1938 – “Anti-Bund Laws to Be Sought in Congress, Fish and Legion Reveal”
August 28, 1941 – “Anti-Semitic Propaganda Carried in Franked Envelopes of Congressman Fish” – Describes accusation by Fight for Freedom Committee that Fish’s frank was used to send out a Pelley publication that advertised the Protocols of Zion. Pelley was the leader of the Silver Shirts. Fish denies his involvement; says he is not an anti-Semite.
July 28, 1944 – “Hamilton Fish Casts Slur on Jews in Campaign Statement.” Fish referred to “a certain people” in part of his district, saying they would not vote for him.
October 22, 1946 – Report of non-publication of John Rogge report. Article says that Rogge’s report recommends prosecutions for sedition be dropped.
These articles require a paid subscription.
September 22, 1941 – “Don’t Enter War on a Fake Issue, Fish Warns US.” Statement of isolationist goals.
July 30, 1942 – “A Hard Man to Smear.” Editorial defending Fish, citing his progressive legislative record and wartime service.
March 3, 1943 – “Asks for Inquiry into Handling of Vierick Case.”
Sept. 23, 1943 – “Legion Leaders Admit Muddle in Fish Attack.” Confusion around the condemnation of Fish at American Legion convention.
May 3, 1944 – “Legion Group Acts to Retract Rep. Fish Smear.” The American Legion had condemned Fish for the Viereck incident; an investigation led them to reverse their conclusion. A neighboring small article says the GOP renominates Fish for his seat in 1944.
This is a partial list gleaned from Newspapers.com of reporting from mostly smaller local newspapers about events in 1938. Shows Fish’s very busy schedule with appearances in many states. Includes stories in two Black-owned papers describing Fish’s support for greater rights for Blacks in the military.
YouTube – Hamilton Fish III Interview with Jessie Grey 1976
Based on Stimson’s war memoirs, accuses FDR of goading Japan into war with US so that US could enter war against Germany. Refers to Hitler as a bloody murderer. Regarding Hitler and Stalin: “Let those two gangsters fight each other to the death.”
Radio: Studs Terkel Radio Archive – Hamilton Fish Discusses American History.
This is a 1 ½ hour interview by Studs Terkel with Hamilton Fish, undated but apparently from the early 1970s. Fish talks about the Fish Committee and the beginnings of his break with FDR, including his conviction that FDR gave the Japanese a “war ultimatum.” Fish expresses his anger at columnist Drew Pearson for writing that Fish was renting a house to the Nazis and making money off it. Also angry at his unnamed opponents for taking a photo when Fritz Kuhn spoke to him at an Albany conference and a photo was distributed to many Jewish organizations showing Fish and Kuhn together.
America First New York Chapter Newsletter. July 5, 1941. Example of an America First mailing. Focus is on survey of voters indicating respondents did not want to go to war. HF III was not a member of America First but spoke at their meetings. America First closed down immediately after Pearl Harbor.
Bate, Seth. Defending the Defender: Gerald Winrod and the Great Sedition Trial. Fairmount Folio: Journal of History, May 16, 2018. Detailed account of the issues inherent in the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (Smith Act) and the Great Sedition Trial of 1944. No mention of HF III.
Goodall, Alex ‘Red Herrings? The Fish Committee and Anti-communism in the Early Depression Years’
This is a long article from a University College London academic about Fish’s anti-communist committee investigation in the early 1930s. Worth reading by way of background. He is described as objecting to anti-Semitic remarks at his hearings. This is the final conclusion: “Fish’s efforts were uniquely hampered by bad timing. However, they also highlight many of the difficulties experienced by conservative anti-communists hoping to work with liberals who may notionally agree with their basic hostility toward revolutionary radicalism but disagree profoundly with the reasons why and the implications they draw from it. As a result, many figures – including Fish himself – have preferred to drift rightwards, rather than to the center, in search of allies who shared not only their antipathy to Communism but many of their prescriptions for defeating it. In Fish’s case, this led to a systematic shift during the rest of the decade towards an implicit defense of Nazism as the only force on the global stage capable of restraining Soviet Russia. While by the onset of World War Two his committee was already disappearing from memory, this new course would ultimately leave his name entirely blackened by history.”
Fish, Hamilton III. “The Menace of Communism.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Volume 156 Issue 1. 1931.
Fish’s summary of the Fish Committee report.
Usdin, Steve. When a Foreign Government Interfered in a U.S. Election – To Reelect FDR. Politico Magazine, Politico.com, January 16, 2017.
“The BSC’s work on Willkie’s behalf was an exception. For the most part, it focused not on promoting candidates, but rather on defeating elected officials who opposed American intervention in the war. Among those opponents was Rep. Hamilton Stuyvesant Fish III, a Republican and leading isolationist. By picking a high-profile target, the campaign against Fish was intended to “put the fear of God into every isolationist senator and congressman in the country,” according to a letter a BSC agent sent in fall 1940.” Article details some of the tactics used against Fish.
Description of Fight for Freedom, Spartacus Education.
Interventionist committee set up in 1940 with the encouragement of the British Secret Service (BSC).
Hamilton Fish III and the Harlem Hellfighters. Warfare History Network
Desmond-Fish Public Library. The 369th Infantry Regiment and Hamilton Fish
Introductory slide show.
TAPS. Hamilton Fish and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Boston Globe, January 16, 1923 – “Hamilton Fish Defends Negroes” Front page article about Fish demanding equal treatment for Black students at Harvard.