A Small World of Little Americans: The $1 Diplomacy of Wendell Willkie's One World

John M. Jordan


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 173-204

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A Small World of Little Americans: The $1 Diplomacy of Wendell Willkie's One World

John M. Jordan*

In 1943 political contention dominated the American scene. Citizens wondered about the purposes of the war, commentators argued over the meaning of "liberalism," a three-term president geared up for a controversial fourth election, and the shape of the world after the war became a frequent topic of discussion as that war looked increasingly winnable. In the midst of this confusion Wendell L. Willkie published One World, his call for an interconnected postwar global order. More liberal than Franklin D. Roosevelt on issues involving civil rights and civil liberties, Willkie also stood far removed from the foreign policy orthodoxy of his own Republican party as it was moved from isolationism to a self-interested internationalism by Arthur H. Vandenberg. Willkie's outlook thus defied conventional categories as he presented to the readers of One World a globe noteworthy for its similarity to America's western frontier. The postwar world thereby became recognizable and, by implication, safe enough for his particular style of internationalism.1

As Willkie argued for freeing colonies from (usually) British rule, he homogenized their citizens into what might be called little Americans, many of whose descriptions in One World. bear a striking resemblance to the young Willkie. He defused the radical prospect of a pluralistic cacophony of newly independent nationalists

  • * John M. Jordan teaches in the Expository Writing program at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. His book on the technocratic origins of midcentury American liberalism is forthcoming. He would like to thank Robert Dallek, David Hollinger, and Robert Schulzinger for commenting on various drafts of this article. A grant for travel to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York, was provided by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
  • 1 Little has been written on the postwar planning book/jeremiad/blueprint as a genre of social commentary. See, however, two contemporary assessments: Henry Steele Commager, "World Planners, Then and Now," New York Times Book Review, July 18, 1943, p. 1, and Hans Ernest Fried, "America's Foreign Policy: The Great Debate," Public Opinion Quarterly, VII (Winter, 1943), 720–26.
  • INDIANA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY, LXXXVIII (September, 1992). © 1992, Trustees of Indiana University.
by making all the foreigners in the book sound American in their postcolonial aspirations. In the end Willkie's call for diplomatic recognition of what is now termed the Third World was complicated by his deracinated portrayals of the very peoples whose diversity he ostensibly praised; alternately prescient and naive, the text of the book ultimately celebrates America more than global self-determination.

Despite competing with better-known and more astute writers—Henry R. Luce, Henry A. Wallace, James Reston, Herbert Hoover, Walter Lippmann, and Sumner Welles, among others—Willkie watched his one dollar book sell a million copies faster than any nonfiction work in history. The book struck several divergent popular chords. Did readers favor Willkie as a 1944 presidential candidate? Were they intrigued by his tales of faraway countries? Did they entertain hopes for a peaceful postwar order based on a successor to the League of Nations? Or was Willkie's self-confidently unconventional persona appealing in its own right? Readers bought and read the book for many reasons, but Willkie chose to see the book's success as an endorsement of his politics that was never manifested in polling places. The internationalist tract is ultimately more important for what it tells about Willkie's domestic agenda: he understood political popularity and civil rights better than he comprehended the world outside American borders. The book succeeds best when the discussion intersects one of these two areas of expertise and falters when Willkie treads onto diplomatic grounds.

The son of small-town Indiana lawyers, Willkie witnessed firsthand the exuberant growth of America in the twentieth century. Stints spent working in a factory, managing a flophouse during the South Dakota land rush, and driving a horse-drawn stagecoach for tourists in Yellowstone National Park preceded his graduation from high school back in Elwood. After being a sometime campus radical at Indiana University, which granted him a bachelor's degree, Willkie taught history in Kansas before returning to Bloomington for law school. He served without seeing combat in World War I then settled in Akron. There Willkie became involved in Democratic politics, and eventually he joined a firm doing utility law for Northern Ohio Power and Light Company. The holding company behind his primary client brought Willkie to New York in 1929, and in January, 1933, he was named president of the firm, the Commonwealth and Southern company.2

  • 2 The most recent biography of Wendell Willkie, written by a journalist rather than an academic, is Steve Neal, Dark Horse: A Biography of Wendell Willkie (Garden City, N. Y., 1984). More comprehensive is the somewhat dated study by

While the job presented substantial challenges, Willkie soon earned respect as a tough opponent of Roosevelt's plans for a Tennessee Valley Authority. Eventually forcing the government to buy out C&S for over $78,000,000 in 1939, Willkie established a name for himself as a spokesman for the private ownership of public utilities with a series of essays in popular magazines. After the buyout he joined a New York law firm and mounted the "dark horse" presidential campaign—as a Republican, admittedly of recent vintage—of 1940. His vote total was not surpassed by a Republican until Dwight D. Eisenhower won in 1952, and the party regulars spent much of the next four years worrying about how to prevent a repeat performance.3

Despite his status as a party outsider, Willkie benefited from historical trends in the media in winning the nomination. As the Depression wore on, newspaper support for Roosevelt, never overwhelming, declined further. According to Editor and Publisher the count of major papers supporting FDR declined from forty in 1932 to thirty-six in 1936 and twenty-three in 1940. By this time Willkie had made close allies in the highest levels of the news business, including Time-Life's Henry Luce; Gardner ("Mike") and John Cowles, who published the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, Des Moines Register, and Look magazine; and Arthur Hays Sulzberger from the New YorkTimes. Many columnists and reporters also took a liking to Willkie, who loved bantering with them in long bull sessions. His colorful nature, lack of protective functionaries, and frequent disdain for ceremony made him seem a "breath of mountain air in a hot, stale room," as one reporter wrote. On his trip around the world, according to the same report in Look, Willkie "disregarded protocol, cracked corny American jokes at state dinners, slapped the Shah, or King of Kings, on the back and called him a great guy—and everybody liked it." The Cowles publication exaggerated: plenty of reporters saw Willkie only as a politically inexperienced lightweight.4

  • Ellsworth Barnard entitled Wendell Willkie: Fighter for Freedom (Marquette, Mich., 1966). A recent collection of essays, Wendell Willkie: Hoosier Internationalist, ed. James H. Madison (Bloomington, Ind., 1992), appeared as this article was in press. The best of the books published by Willkie's contemporaries is Joseph Barnes, Willkie: The Events He Was Part Of, the Ideals He Fought For (New York, 1952).
  • 3 For examples of Willkie's prewar writing see "Government and the Public Utilities," Vital Speeches, I (February 11, 1935), 292–99; "Political Power," Atlantic, CLX (August, 1937), 210–18; "Brace Up, America!" Atlantic, CLXIII (June, 1939), 749–56; and "What Helps Business Helps You," Nation's Business, XXVII (June, 1939), 78.
  • 4 Barnes, Willkie, 232–33; Edmund Stevens, "What Foreign Correspondents Think of Willkie," Look, VIII (October 5, 1944), 32. Concerning Willkie's political experience and acumen Harold J. Laski wrote Franklin D. Roosevelt: "I thought him shrewd, very agreeable, and warm-hearted; but incredibly inexperienced in political argument and unaccustomed to the exploration of what Holmes used to call

Within the Willkie cohort political and personal ties intersected with Sulzberger and Luce. The New YorkTimes endorsement of Willkie in 1940 made him only the third Republican in fifty-six years to get the paper's editorial vote; the other two were William McKinley in 1900 and William Howard Taft in 1908. When One World came out, the New YorkTimes review by Harold E. Stassen turned out to be among the harshest as the Minnesota governor found "weakness in…[Willkie's] tendency to be dogmatic and belligerent…."5 Arthur Sulzberger wrote Willkie an apology and included a blurb for the book on the editorial page of the paper, thus softening the potentially damaging press. After 1940 the Sulzbergers and Willkies spent social time together. The peripatetic Willkie, forever turning down speaking engagements, even found time to help Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, the wife of the New YorkTimes publisher, run a Girl Scout meeting.6 In her memoirs she portrays Willkie at rest in telling detail:

We became acquainted with the Willkies after he lost the election. As I came to know him better, I realized that the defeat followed the pattern of his career. He never seemed to win anything….

At Hillandale we used to play a lot of parlor games—Chinese checkers, backgammon, gin rummy. Wendell would play all day long and lose every time. He always made some silly mistake. But he never got discouraged, and the bleary-eyed soul who had played with him all afternoon or evening would at last have to quit. Wendell never quit first. He would just cry, "I'll win the next time!" I got to the point of cheating to let him win.7

Willkie also came to know Henry and Clare Boothe Luce. Russell Davenport, the managing editor of Fortune, joined the Cowles brothers as one of Willkie's closest advisers. Luce, as Davenport's boss and a political buff, accordingly viewed the Willkie phenomenon at close range. After encouraging Henry Luce to enter electoral politics, Willkie told him, "Journalism…is fine but ‘this is the Sport of Kings!’ " As the author of a competing and less successful

  • his ‘inarticulate major premises.’ He reminded me a bit of John Morley's remark on T.R.—‘as I watched his remarkable energy I could not help suspecting that his opinions sprang rather from physical than from mental exertion.’ But his gesture of sympathy did good here." Laski to Roosevelt, February 18, 1941, President's Personal File 3014 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York).
  • 5 Barnes, Willkie, 233; Harold E. Stassen, "Report on a Wakening World," New York Times Book Review, April 11, 1943, p. 1. The review was apparently part of a pattern. Freda Kirchwey of The Nation told Claude G. Bowers, Roosevelt's ambassador to Chile: Willkie "is very bitter about Stassen. He told me about two or three specific instances of Stassen's perfidy, rather minor instances but illuminating as well." Quoted in Bowers to Roosevelt, June 12, 1944, President's Secretary's File B.26 (FDR Library).
  • 6 Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger to Willkie, no date, Wendell L. Willkie Papers, (Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington); Arthur Hays Sulzberger to Willkie, April 13, 1943, ibid.
  • 7 Susan Dryfoos, ed., Iphigene: Memoirs of Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger…(New York, 1981), 205.
postwar book, Luce later turned on Willkie, as did his wife, herself a congresswoman from 1943 to 1947.8

While Willkie's relations with newspapermen shaped his politics, his personal and editorial life bore the imprint of another woman of letters: Irita Van Doren, the longtime editor of the New YorkHerald Tribune book section and Willkie's lover and adviser. Reading and writing more widely and creatively under her influence, Willkie developed more diverse friendships, a more confident writing style, and a deeper appreciation for the humanist tradition of arts and letters. The ex-wife of Carl Van Doren, Irita was friendly with several of the era's most respected writers, including Stephen Vincent Benét, Sinclair Lewis, Carl Sandburg, James Thurber, and Virginia Woolf. Her skill as an editor was matched by a soft-spokenness that made her "by far the kindest" of the "kind-hearted editors I have known," according to Malcolm Cowley. Through her Willkie became friends with William L. Shirer and John Gunther, two journalists who no doubt expanded his understanding of world affairs.9

Without Van Doren One World would probably never have been written. In 1938 Willkie passed on to her an invitation from William D. Howe at Scribner's with an addendum: "This is the fourth suggestion from Publishers [sic] that I write a book….I am still afraid of the critics and since I can't get an advance promise of kindly treatment posterity must therefore be forever deprived." Over the following years signs of Van Doren's presence appeared repeatedly as references to Keats, Ortega, and Shakespeare enlivened the prose of the former utility industry spokesman. Willkie apparently came to enjoy writing, scrawling over multiple drafts with a blunt black pencil. Good editorial assistance made the process easier. In addition to Van Doren, Willkie drew on Joseph Barnes, a reporter and editor with working knowledge of French and Russian who over the years worked for the New YorkHerald Tribune, the Office of War Information, Simon and Schuster, and Sarah Lawrence College. Willkie wrote Barnes, who had been on the One World trip under OWI auspices, that the book was "great fun, although hard work, but I could not have even started to do it without the two of you [Barnes and his wife Betty]."10

  • 8 Robert T. Elston, The World of Time, Inc….: Vol. II, 1941–1960 (New York, 1973), 71; Neal, Dark Horse, 291.
  • 9 On Van Doren see Neal, Dark Horse, 38–44; Cowley quoted in ibid., 39. Willkie's commitment to the humanist tradition can be seen most clearly in "Freedom and the Arts," an address delivered at Duke University and reprinted in The Humanities After the War, ed. Norman Foerster (Princeton, N.J., 1944), 1–9.
  • 10 Willkie to Irita Van Doren, May 27, 1938, Irita Van Doren Papers (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.); Willkie to Joseph Barnes, March 26, 1943, Joseph Barnes Papers, ibid.

As his writing was improving, Willkie positioned himself ideologically for the global vision of One World. During the early 1940s Willkie took stances—considered by some to be of dubious electoral judgment—in favor of civil rights for minorities and civil liberties for the unpopular. In 1940, for example, he protested harsh treatment of American dissidents no matter how odious their views. For a future Republican presidential nominee to call Eugene V. Debs "in the belief of many people, a great man" and to invoke the names of Sacco and Vanzetti indicated a fierce commitment to civil liberties. "Now, you may hate Nazism as much as I do," he wrote. "But even a Nazi is still entitled—in America—to fair treatment under the law." Willkie acted as he advocated, defending an admitted Communist, William Schneiderman, before the Supreme Court. After taking the case without compensation, he won, much to the disgust of Republican regulars. Racial tolerance was an equally high priority. In "The Case for the Minorities" Willkie first stated a number of passages that would be repeated in One World. Citing a "crawling, insidious anti-Semitism" as evidence, he decried the historical tendency for societies to find in their minority populations convenient scapegoats in times of strife. A number of speeches outlined a farsighted and humane stand on African-American rights.11

Willkie traveled to Great Britain on Roosevelt's behalf in early 1941 during the Lend-Lease debate, and both men were pleased with the results. When the opportunity for a wartime trip around the world presented itself a little over a year later, Roosevelt and Willkie had plenty of grounds for agreement. Roosevelt had little to lose by sending the increasingly liberal opposition leader on a tour of great propaganda value. He thought Willkie needed tutoring in foreign affairs while admiring his instincts—to a point. Sending Willkie abroad also could help Roosevelt reach out to moderate Republicans for support of his ill-defined war aims at the same time that the opposition party was denied its most prominent spokesman. Leaving America—on official business—from August to October of 1942 allowed Willkie to bow out of the potentially messy situation of having to support Republican congressional and gubernatorial candidates, many of whom he openly disliked. As the president's personal emissary, one not carrying State Department credentials, Willkie was allowed at once to proclaim wartime unity

  • 11 Willkie, "Fair Trial," New Republic, CII (March 18, 1940), 371; on William Schneiderman see Barnard, Wendell Willkie, 400–405; Willkie, "The Case for the Minorities," Saturday Evening Post, CCXIV (June 27, 1942), 14. On African-American rights see "Race Hatred Broadcast, July 1943, C.B.S.," Van Doren Papers; and Willkie's untitled speech to delegates of the War Time Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, July 7, 1944, Willkie Papers.

ROUTE OF WILLKIE'S PLANE, THE GULLIVER, AUGUST-OCTOBER, 1942 Reproduced from Wendell L. Willkie, One World (New York, 1943). Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.



and to speak with the candor to which he had grown accustomed in the previous few years. The range and depth of his travels both reinforced some previously impressionistic ideas and thrust the formerly provincial midwesterner into the flux of global decolonization. The trip itself, a remarkable enough experience, was thus transformed by Willkie's naive yet upbeat outlook into a postwar planning text of considerable appeal.12

The journey brought the wide-eyed Willkie into contact with an imposing segment of world leadership: General Bernard L. Montgomery, Charles de Gaulle, the young Shah of Iran, Joseph Stalin, Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and Chou En-Lai. Willkie's portfolio consisted of letters of introduction from Roosevelt, and even these Willkie sometimes lost; the undelivered letter to Stalin was eventually found and now resides in the Library of Congress. Flying in an unarmed bomber around the world in the middle of a war was thought to generate positive press—controlling enough friendly air space for the trip to proceed made the Allies look powerful—but the trip was tiring and often dangerous given the pace of the itinerary and the primitive runways and avionics involved; General Joseph W. Stilwell reported that Chinese weather forecasting was "of crystall [sic] ball variety and completely unreliable." Years later, Mike Cowles, like Barnes an OWI official on the trip, recalled that it "was cold and noisy on that plane and very uncomfortable." He and Willkie played endless games of gin rummy as both men wore gloves, hats, coats, and mufflers.13

The trip included visits to many developing areas of the world, areas that would be "hot spots" in the decades to come. Stops in Iran, Egypt, Jerusalem, Russia, and China allowed Willkie to hear advocates of both decolonization and imperialism plead their cases. With his campaigner's instincts, however, Willkie also walked about and got repeated earfuls of advice and reasoning from the citizen on the street, and these conversations appear to have made a substantial impact. The affable bear of a man made friends quickly—in England a pub owner had opened on Willkie's behalf the champagne he had been saving for the end of the war—and his

  • 12 Roosevelt later wrote Rollins College President Hamilton Holt: "although I liked him [Willkie] personally, I did not feel that he had much knowledge of the world and that he would have had to have learned about the world in the school of hard experience. This would have been a rather dangerous experiment in 1940." FDR to "Hammy," November 20, 1944, President's Personal File 345 (FDR Library). For another view of Roosevelt's reasons for sending Willkie abroad, see James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (New York, 1970), 276.
  • 13 Joseph W. Stilwell report of September 28, 1942, in Map Room file B49 F4 (FDR Library); Mike Cowles quoted in Donald Connery, "‘One World' Revisited," Vista, VIII (April, 1973), 26. Spellings of the names of Chinese officials are as reported in One World.
partiality to the cause of the go-getter drew him to enterprising men and women of many lands who probably reminded him of his own kinetic past. In his travels Willkie experienced firsthand the brotherhood of the striving, and it was the pent-up energy of this constituency that he sought to tap in his postwar outlook.

Willkie, Barnes, Cowles, and the military crew took off from Mitchel Field in New York on August 26, 1942, just in time to miss the Labor Day start of the off-year election blitz. The party proceeded first, via Brazil and the then-secret United States air base at Ascension Island, to the North African front. Here Willkie surveyed the scene with Montgomery, who convinced the American to proclaim an Allied victory at El Alamein despite substantial evidence to the contrary; the decisive advance for which Montgomery became famous did not occur until over a month later. It was not the last time that Willkie would violate diplomatic convention with his candor, nor would it be the last time that he was used, sometimes unwittingly, as a mouthpiece. Meanwhile, British dismay at Willkie's advocacy of decolonization quickly became apparent: "What I got," he wrote, "was Rudyard Kipling, untainted even with the liberalism of Cecil Rhodes."14

The Gulliver, a converted B-24 Liberator, hopped across the Middle East after leaving Cairo. Willkie gave the Shah of Iran his first airplane ride, heard from both Jews and Arabs about their concern for the future of the region, and observed the "growing spirit of fervid nationalism," which he also called a "yeast" of change. He met with de Gaulle, whose lack of modesty is tangible in the book, and then with the British high commissioner for the region, who "explained with infinite patience and good humor the distinctions an American finds it hard to see between a colony and a mandated area." Willkie noted the tensions between colonialism's order and freedom's disarray and hoped for something "pragmatic" in the middle. With frightening prescience he wrote that "it all added up to the conviction that these newly awakened people will be followers of some extremist leader in this generation" if they were not granted some degree of self-government, education, and religious freedom.15

After commercial flights in and out of Turkey, where even a transport plane with military markings would have violated neutrality, Willkie flew to Russia. He apparently enjoyed his stay there and benefited from an allegedly free choice of itinerary. His visit to a packed Bolshoi ballet performance, after which he kissed the ballerina, was greeted with the same chants of "Willkie! Willkie!

  • 14 Barnes, Willkie, 293; Wendell L. Willkie, One World (1943; reprint, Urbana, Ill., 1966), 15. For details concerning the trip see Neal, Dark Horse, 233–59; and Barnard, Wendell Willkie, 347–81.
  • 15 Willkie, One World, 22, 18, 23, 25, 31, 34.

WlLLKIE TOURS THE BAZAARS OF BAGHDAD Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Willkie!" that had been the trademark of the 1940 campaign. As was his style, he talked at length with journalists, workers, and soldiers, and the account in One World of one such discussion proves revealing. Trying to persuade a shop foreman of the injustice of a suppressed freedom of speech and the financial folly of non-interest-bearing bank accounts, Willkie engaged in "hot colloquy," ending with the assertion that "actually you've got no freedom." The man replied that freedom was a relative phenomenon: compared to his parents and grandparents, the young Russian was thankful for his opportunity to read, write, and advance his lot. Willkie had the last word in the debate, asking, "How can you ever have political freedom and economic freedom when the state owns everything?" But Willkie continues the story in his book, reporting an overheard conversation between Gulliver's pilot and Barnes:

"Listen, don't let's get away before you explain to that fellow that Mr. Willkie was just trying to get him to talk. Sure, we in America like what money will buy and want to get ahead a bit, but it's not only money that makes us work. This insignia on my shoulder brought me a big raise in pay when I got it. But at the same time I got this ribbon here," pointing to the ribbon of the Distinguished Flying Cross, "and that didn't bring a cent. You tell him that I'd give the rank and the pay raise back for nothing, but I wouldn't give away the ribbon for a million dollars."

The net effect of the account is to make the Russian point of view much more plausible while not portraying Willkie as any less of a Republican capitalist.16

The emissary visited with Stalin several times during his stay, and the respect and admiration that resulted appear to have been mutual and genuine. Willkie called Stalin "a hard man, perhaps even a cruel man, but a very able one," one who "has few illusions." Noting the Soviet leader's "robust" sense of humor, the

  • 16 Willkie, One World, 68–69. Willkie wrote Malcolm Bingay, August 17, 1943: "I greeted the ballerina without plan or purpose or foresight. She was merely a beautiful and lovely creature who had given an extraordinary performance in my honor. Consequently, I presented to her a bouquet of flowers. She put forward her beautiful cheek (unfortunately, not her lovely mouth) and I kissed it." Copy in Barnes papers.

WILLKIE VISITS "DEPRESSED AREAS" ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF BAGHDAD Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

American reported that the two did laugh together at what Willkie called "unsubtle jokes and repartee," which would have made diplomats skilled in banalities blanch. Stalin picked Willkie's brain on industrial productivity and lodged a persuasive protest against protracted delays in the opening of the second front by the United States and Great Britain. He found a sympathetic listener, ultimately coming to the judgment that "you know I grew up as a Georgian peasant. I am unschooled in pretty talk. All I can say is I like you very much."17

At the state dinner honoring him on his last night in Moscow, Willkie reported later, he drank fifty-three vodka toasts with the Soviet leader in the Kremlin and eventually found himself in a tense situation. After a toast to the pilots in the war, Stalin stood and complained loudly about Winston Churchill, who had intercepted a shipment of Lend-Lease P-38 Lightning fighters allegedly intended for the Russians. The British ambassador protested that there was more to the story than that, but Stalin said nothing as Willkie quickly intervened. He apparently smoothed feathers on both sides with a pointedly worded toast to wartime unity. Leaning across the interpreter, Stalin told his American guest after the remarks, "I like [your] plain-spokenness, but you wouldn't have stolen 152 planes from me." What Stalin meant by "stolen" is unclear; United States policy did, however, favor the British, who received more advanced aircraft than the Russians got. For his part the British ambassador told Barnes the next morning: "Wilkie's [sic] interruption saved me last night. I could not have replied to Stalin. Stalin spoke the truth." Willkie left Moscow for the province of Yakutsk convinced that Russia was "a force that cannot be bypassed in any future world."18

The Yakutsk section of One World explicates most clearly the notion, present throughout the book, that the world was simply an enlarged America. The citizens' energy and self-confidence reminded Willkie of "the romance of our own Western development." During an earlier day trip he endured a fourteen-hour jeep ride over rugged terrain that made him understand more vividly "the stories my father used to tell me of conditions in pioneer Indiana."

  • 17 Willkie, One World, 83, 85. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., reported that an unfavorable portrayal of Willkie in Pravda had upset Stalin. Knowing that the aftershock of a public apology would ruin Willkie's political stock in America, Stalin was thought to be deciding on whether or not to send a private apology. Mike Cowles to Willkie, February 18, 1944, Willkie Papers.
  • 18 Barnes, Willkie, 301–303; Barnes to Henry A. Wallace, October 28, 1942, quoted in Wallace diary, typescript (used by permission of the University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City). Willkie, One World, 87. Barnes also told Wallace that the American ambassador to Russia "barely escapes the use of the word 'senile.’ He…can do very little except hug his own authority…. The top-flight Russians have an absolute contempt for him." Wallace diary, October 28, 1942.
Muratov, a district official who "talked like a California real-estate salesman," was "a man who would do well in America." He reminded Willkie of the enterprising Americans who helped fuel "the robust days of great development in this country," men who "were chiefly interested in getting things done." The key to peace and prosperity, Willkie asserted, was wartime cooperation that would flow into postwar trade and mutual development. "Frankly, there are many things in Russia that we can admire—its vigor, its vast dreams, its energy, its tenacity of purpose." In a revision of the Frederick Jackson Turner thesis, perhaps, Willkie expanded the frontier to include the globe, with the psychic and resource benefits accruing to a complacent, depressed America. A vast field of opportunity, with risk takers at the ready, would energize the postwar order.19

While Russia impressed Willkie the capitalist, in China he had his heart stolen and judgment blurred more completely than anywhere else on the trip. Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek placed their bets on Willkie as a political leader with a future, and they gave him a series of elaborately staged parades and lectures that did much to obscure the political situation and little to clarify it. Crowds of people holding American flags—often upside down—lined his motorcade route after weeks of slum clearance, arm twisting, and other preparations. Willkie apparently questioned the official version of the story before succumbing to the flattery. Crowds that Generalissimo Chiang later called "a spontaneous expression of the Chinese people's profound attachment to the United States" were anything but; just the same, "they never failed to move me deeply," the envoy reported. As Chiang convinced Willkie with his deceptions—about the extent of corruption in the country, about the strength of the military, about the Chinese Communists—Madame Chiang charmed the American completely. She flirted, he flirted back, and the two became something of an item, much to the disgust of the American diplomatic corps. Once again Willkie bypassed the foreign service structure—he snubbed the embassy and stayed in quarters provided by the Chinese—and operated on his own electoral instincts. As the ambassador, Clarence E. Gauss, cabled the secretary of state,

Mr. Willkie has not held public office, nor, apparently, has he traveled extensively abroad. His attitude at Chungking was perhaps more that of a visiting prominent American politician than of a distinguished American acting as a "special representative of the President." Chinese officials and other Chinese familiar with the United States were somewhat amused at what they described as the American political

  • 19 Willkie, One World, 100, 55, 97, 98. In his review of the book Malcolm Cowley wrote, "Willkie shows us a more appealing side of American democracy," based on an "underlying notion that…people are pretty much alike in all countries…." Cowley, "Last Man Around the World," New Republic, CVIII (April 19, 1943), 513.
campaign technique of Mr. Willkie during his visit. Others not familiar with the United States or foreign countries were somewhat confused and startled but interested and friendly.

How Gauss knew is an open question. He told his visitor in the presence of "high Chinese," "One thing I am proud of, Mr. Wilkie [sic], is that in twenty-two years in this country I have never learned the language."20

As Willkie was being chastised by the diplomats and pitied by Stilwell, who saw him being taken in, the envoy himself was in the midst of an infatuation worthy of an adolescent. He spent hours alone with Madame Chiang, trying in part to convince her to fly back to America with him in the Gulliver. Even though the gossip columnist Drew Pearson may have exaggerated, his account does not vary widely from others. Willkie, he wrote in his memoirs, told Barnes and Cowles that "there was never anything like this before. It was the only time he said he had ever been in love." Willkie found it difficult to say good-bye to the beautiful, Wellesley-educated object of his affections. As Pearson reported the incident, "Willkie went in. The door closed;…[the Gulliver travelers] waited. They waited one hour and twenty minutes. She accompanied the party down to the plane and as he was about to get on the plane, she jumped into his arms. Willkie picked her up and gave her a terrific soul kiss." She later did come to America to address Congress on aid to China, and Willkie introduced her to a Madison Square Garden rally for United China Relief. Afterward he spent time with her at the Waldorf-Astoria and sent her flowers under three men's names: his, Barnes's, and Cowles's.21

The Chiangs succeeded in selling Willkie their version of the truth, for the China section of One World contains the book's most serious errors of both fact and interpretation. The section on the army is perhaps the most telling example of his misunderstanding or misrepresentation:

The picture many Americans still have of a Chinese army as a band of professional ruffians whose generals are experts at dickering with the enemy was probably never anything more than a caricature of military affairs in a disunited, technically backward country. Today, it is not even a caricature. Military China is united; its leaders are trained and able generals; its new armies are tough, fighting organizations of men who know both what they are fighting for and how to fight for it, even though they markedly lack any quantity of modern fighting equipment. In China, just as in Russia, this is truly a people's war.

  • 20 Willkie, One World, 128; Chiang Kai-Shek to FDR, October 6, 1942, President's Secretary's File B.27 (FDR Library); John S. Service to Clarence E. Gauss, November 14, 1942, File 032, Willkie, Wendell, Record Group 52 (National Archives, Washington, D.C.); Gauss to secretary of state, October 8, 1942, ibid.; Barnes to Wallace, October 28, 1942, Wallace diary.
  • 21 Drew Pearson, Diaries, 1949–1959, ed. Tyler Abell (New York, 1974), 388; Neal, Dark Horse, 257.

WlLLKIE AND INTERPRETER AT CHENGTU, CHINA Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Willkie had seen, with Stilwell, shameless bartering between the Chinese and Japanese troops near Sian. The "people's war" was in fact being fought by peasants, not the sons of the aristocracy, peasants who were roped together as they marched to the front. Once there, over half of the Chinese army was undersupplied to the point of starvation.22

But Willkie was also correct in ways he could not foresee. The "organizations of men who know both what they are fighting for and how to fight for it" were the Communists who would take over the country six years later. Willkie did meet at length with Chou En-Lai, leaving with the impression, soon unthinkable, that "their movement is more a national and agrarian awakening than an international or proletarian conspiracy." At the same time the Nationalists continued to use Willkie for their own purposes. One of

  • 22 Willkie, One World, 145; Neal, Dark Horse, 257–58. That the creation of an illusion was purposeful is clear in a letter from Finance Minister H. H. Kung to Roosevelt on October 7, 1942: "I am sure that having seen the facts in China with his own eyes he will be able to give you a correct picture of China's war efforts as well as of her problems and needs." The last word is of course the operative one. President's Secretary's File B.27 (FDR Library). On what he labels The Great China Hoax, the larger selling of China to the American public in which One World is but one episode, see Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (New York, 1989), 162. For a more general view see Michael Schaller, The U. S. Crusade in China, 1938–1945 (New York, 1979).
his speeches was seriously mistranslated by the same Hollington ("Holly") Tong who so impressed Willkie in One World. When the American spoke of a "dream" of a new world order, his Chinese audience heard the word for "illusion." "The Chinese people," in Willkie's phrasing, became the "Chinese nation" or "China" in translation. Even though he had been secretly advised beforehand that "on no account" should he miss visiting with Chou En-Lai, who was closer to the pulse of politics, Willkie ignored the forces of poverty and corruption that fueled Mao Tsetung's revolution.23 From China Willkie flew home via Siberia, Alaska, and Canada, landing in Minneapolis on October 13. The trip had covered 31,000 miles in forty-nine days. Willkie briefed Roosevelt at the White House before beginning to draft a radio address conveying his impressions of the trip. That October 26 speech, his "Report to the People," received a Hooper rating of 48.0; an estimated 36,000,000 Americans heard the speech, which was twice as many as the highest-rated commercial program that year could claim. Many listeners no doubt tuned in out of curiosity, for in a pretelevision age when journalists were censored, plainspoken "news from the front" would be welcomed. Former isolationists worried over and newly aroused internationalists hoped for the possibility of a successor to the League of Nations, so many citizens listened for news of this nature. Still others may have wondered about Roosevelt's aims in sending Willkie abroad. The speech apparently articulated the aspirations of many Americans. Clare Boothe Luce was but one voice in the chorus of approval when she sent a telegram reading simply, "Last night the world heard the message of a global Abraham Lincoln." The Christian Century called it "A Battle Cry for Freedom," claiming, "It was a victory—for humanity!" Such overwhelmingly positive response to Willkie's message of internationalism, postwar harmony, and anticolonialism led him to begin to consider writing the book that he originally wanted to title One War, One Peace, One World, according to Barnes. But before the book could appear, Willkie got entangled in more controversies.24

  • 23 Willkie, One World, 130, 138; John S. Service to Clarence E. Gauss, November 14, 1942, File 032, Record Group 52 (National Archives); unsigned, undated memo to Willkie from Chinese source, Van Doren Papers: "Chou En-Lai is the only man who can give you the Communist version of the truth and he will give it soberly and sincerely. There is more truth in it, much more I fear, than in the Kuomintang version. On no account miss him."
  • 24 Barnes, Willkie, 310–12; Clare Boothe Luce to Willkie, October 27, 1942, Willkie Papers; "A Battle Cry for Freedom," Christian Century, LIX (November 4, 1942), 1343. On the cultural aspects of the isolationist-internationalist debate in this period, see Robert Dallek, The American Style of Foreign Policy (New York, 1983), 130ff.; and Dallek, "How We See the Soviets," in Shared Destiny: Fifty Years of Soviet-American Relations, ed. Mark Garrison and Abbott Gleason (Boston, 1985), 88–92.

Besides alienating the British with his anticolonialism, Willkie made life difficult for the Roosevelt administration by calling for swifter action on the second front to relieve pressure on the Russians. Meanwhile, Republicans were reluctant to endorse his brand of globalism so soon after their romance with isolationism and before Arthur Vandenberg helped move the party toward a different sort of internationalism at the Mackinac Island conference of September, 1943. Finally, Willkie was censored for his stern criticism of the deal General Eisenhower had struck with the Vichy stooge Jean Darlan in order to give Roosevelt time to calm and diffuse other critics of his administration's cynical expediency. As of November, then, when he was being challenged and often misquoted on his postwar ideas, Willkie is said to have begun thinking of a book.25

Additional evidence for such an assertion comes from a series of exchanges between Willkie and Forrest Davis, a writer doing a story on the trip for the Saturday Evening Post. Davis approached Willkie in the guise of a political supporter, having apparently worked for Willkie's 1940 running mate, Charles L. McNary. At some point in late November or early December, Willkie told Davis many stories from the trip, which the reporter then used to draft an account highly critical of Willkie's behavior. Willkie responded to Davis's follow-up questions with a cautious letter dated December 7. He wanted to be sure that "everything you said about my views…were [sic] to be subject to my revision." In defense of his seeming paranoia Willkie started: "I have a notion that the Administration through many sources…is trying to give very definite misrepresentations about the trip. Naturally, when I knew you were close to the State Department, I have been a bit worried about your approach." Davis sent Willkie a draft of the story on January 7 with requests for both commentary and recollections of Willkie's remarks in the Kremlin.26

Willkie read the draft and exploded. Davis had written that Willkie had not known of the internal politics of the second front decision, had blurred the lines of his role as a personal envoy of the president, and had become "the champion of Russia and Asia against the West," thereby ceasing to be "the embodiment of wartime political unity in this country." These statements may have irritated Willkie because of their political implications, for such assertions would condemn him in a wartime election. He called Davis, who kept a stenographic transcript of the conversation that he passed on to Adolph Berle at the State Department with the

  • 25 Barnes, Willkie, 311–12. On Willkie and Republican foreign policy see Robert Divine, Second Chance: The Triumph of Internationalism in America during World War II (New York, 1967), especially 103–106.
  • 26 The complete Willkie-Forrest Davis correspondence is in the Barnes Papers.
remark, "That is a dangerous man and unaccountable." Willkie charged, "If the President told you I was ignorant of the second front when I left on my trip, he is a damned liar." He further claimed that one of the Office of War Information men on the trip "got a clearance from Washington before I issued the statement" in Moscow in support of quicker action to aid the Russians.27

Willkie may also have tried to squelch Davis for reasons of editorial exclusivity: he may have been afraid of having his own book "scooped" by a major magazine. One World was well underway by the time of the Davis exchange, and even though Willkie would establish a charitable fund with the book's proceeds instead of accepting royalty payments, he still probably wanted to protect his juiciest material. He drafted letters to Davis, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Roosevelt himself asking that the Davis piece be suppressed. "I do, however, urge you not to publish the references to Mr. Stalin in his relationship with me," he wrote to Davis, "or anything he is presumed to have said in my presence, or I in his. For, as you have written them, they contain inaccuracies and serious misconceptions. Their publication can only do harm." The Stalin quotations, of course, helped Willkie sell over a million copies of his own book a few months later.28

In the writing of One World Willkie received some astute advice, much of which he disregarded. A letter from the columnist Joseph Alsop, at the time working for the Lend-Lease office, reveals some probing criticisms that Willkie chose to evade. Alsop wanted to explain "why I think your recent line has been so wrong," doing so in four stages. First, he disagreed with Willkie on the importance of decolonization, arguing that it would be but one of many issues to be addressed after the war; after "all the moral hogwash has been thrown down the drain," it was a "minor problem." Second, Alsop defined "moral hogwash" as "any thinking on international problems…that does not consider them solely in light of America's interests." The subjugation of colonial peoples had had little global impact in the past, Alsop asserted, except that they made Britain rich—"on the whole a good thing." After liberation the internal weaknesses of the former colonies would make them important global players, especially when revolution would align them with Russia. Third, the domestic implications of such misguided internationalism would reinforce the isolationist political right.

  • 27 Draft of Davis article, pp. 3, 3A, Barnes Papers; Davis to Adolph Berle, January 10, 1943, File 032, Record Group 52 (National Archives); Davis transcript of Willkie call, January 8, 1943, ibid.
  • 28 Handwritten draft of letter from Willkie to Davis, January 8, 1943, Barnes Papers. See also Willkie to Davis, January 8, 1943, Official File 4040 (FDR Library); Willkie to FDR, January 8, 1943, ibid.; Stephen T. Early to Willkie, January 15, 1943, ibid.

If for windy moral reasons we are to adopt a policy which will in fact encourage a great extension of Russian influence, I can see only two possible results: A) The country will become frightened, and turn in upon itself, which will result in a homegrown Fascism; or B) Again from fright, we shall resort to a particularly brutal homegown [sic] imperalism.

Finally, Willkie had been urging wartime leaders to forge in the heat of combat a plan for postwar cooperation. Alsop disagreed: "it seems to me perfectly idiotic to try to make this agreement specific." He, like many observers, thought Willkie noble but naive for trying to bend America to a moral agenda in wartime. "I think you have been far too much influenced by the fair things you saw in Moscow and Chungking…. [The Russians] are a powerful and a brave people, but it is difficult to imagine Stalin and his subordinates worrying about moral questions."29

Alsop's critique paralleled that of Walter Lippmann, whose contribution to the postwar policy genre did not sell nearly as well as the work of the far less realistic Willkie. Both journalists had more confidence in imperialistic Britain as the European anchor of an Anglo-American alliance than in the goodwill of liberated colonies. Alsop and Lippmann endorsed, in short, a sphere-of-interest internationalism that recognized differences in objectives, methods, and cultures among sovereign nations. National interest, in their view a valid criterion for decision making, thus took precedence over the fuzzy but appealing moral brotherhood present in what might be called universalist internationalism. Willkie may have been the first major politician to realize the looming importance of what is now the Third World, coming to his conclusions in stubborn defiance of intellectual and political fashion, but he failed to account for nationalist self-interest as a motivating factor, at home and among the foreign countries he romanticized.30

Willkie's faith in international goodwill alienated him still further from the leadership of his party. He widened the gap—from Vandenberg in particular—by stressing, as Alsop warned him not to, the need for agreement on postwar peace plans with nations that more seasoned observers predicted would become enemies after the Nazis were defeated. The loneliness of his position, and his commitment to it, left Willkie with either an uphill intraparty battle against politicians he detested and had alienated or a direct appeal to the same masses that had packed the galleries at the 1940 convention. How much the book was in fact an electoral maneuver and how much of it grew from genuine moral conviction is

  • 29 Joseph Alsop to Willkie, November 30, 1942, Willkie Papers.
  • 30 Walter Lippmann, United States Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic (Boston, 1943); Paul Carter, Revolt Against Destiny: An Intellectual History of the United States (New York, 1989), 234; Dallek, American Style of Foreign Policy, 133.
of course impossible to determine, but the success of One World must have at least tempted Willkie into thinking about 1944.31

The text of One World presents a series of contradictions. Willkie found a world of diversity yet blandly converted it into a global version of the World War II movie where the Brooklyn Jew, the Iowa farmboy, the Boston Irish kid, and the Italian from Chicago all pull together to defeat the "krauts." He wrote a book on postwar foreign policy less expert than the studies by Luce, Lippmann, Hoover, and many others, and he outsold them all. Attacked for relying on ghostwriters, Willkie claimed the book was entirely his after acquiring long sections of description and analysis from two experienced reporters. Travelogue blends into political tract, recollection into advocacy, yet the whole melange somehow coheres. As James Tobin noted in an unpublished analysis, Willkie eschewed ponderous point-by-point legalistic argument in favor of vivid illustration. "One World," he argued, "was, in effect, a global field trip in which Willkie, the eager teacher, pointed excitedly to each new sight, providing lessons about the need for an internationalist peace." Making the distant appear safe by transforming it into a global America, Willkie presented internationalism as an exercise in frontier neighborliness, not abstruse diplomatic intrigue.32

Willkie wrote, in essence, two books. The first, consisting of the first nine chapters, describes and comments on his trips to specific nations. His opening provides a powerful statement of basic premises: the technology of flight and communication had interconnected the people of the world, so American policy could no longer rely on oceans or sheer distance as an excuse for ignorance of foreign culture and politics. In the first two pages Willkie set the tone for the whole voyage: the world was not exotic or remote but hospitable and proximate. "The net impression of my trip," he proclaimed, "was not one of distance from other peoples, but of closeness to them." His travels were "no more arduous than the trips an American businessman may make any day of his life to carry on his business." Implicitly rejecting or neglecting both American and foreign nationalism, Willkie argued, "what concerns

  • 31 Vandenberg remained adamant about winning the war before discussing the peace. He wrote one constituent: "The most responsible opinions in our Government (and this does not exclude our own State Department) believe that we might easily disunite the war effort by prematurely seeking to unite the peace effort…. Axis strategy could achieve no greater gain than to split axis enemies apart while the shooting still goes on." Vandenberg to Harold Titus, April 23, 1943, Arthur H. Vandenberg Papers (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor).
  • 32 James Tobin, "Why We Fight: Versions of the American Purpose in World War II" (Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, University of Michigan, 1986), 69.
them must concern us, almost as much as the problems of the people of California concern the people of New York." This often provincial internationalism permeated the entire trip and much of the book. At the same time Willkie's portrayal of a pluralistic world living in commercial harmony represents the triumph of ethnic cosmopolitanism at home: for the world to be an America writ large, that America had to embrace ethnic diversity. Ironically, the domestic failures of civil rights to which Willkie was so attuned could be conveniently overlooked by readers who could applaud the fulfillment of diversity's promise in Peking or Beirut but not in Atlanta or Detroit.33

The second section, chapters ten through fourteen, contains the larger argument for making One World a reality. Willkie detected a "reservoir of good will" toward America, a reservoir that both constituted a vital resource and needed replenishment. This task could be accomplished with a series of actions. First, Willkie saw a need for the Allies to establish ground rules for peace while yoked together in military necessity. These rules should contain provisions, he continued, for an international organization, "a common council in which all plan together." He called for rapid decolonization of foreign outposts of empire and equality for the American minorities who historically had served as scapegoats in domestic politics. What results is uneven. Prescience and discernment follow on the heels of shortsightedness and gullibility. Captivated by magnetic personalities much like his own, Willkie frequently accepted assertions on faith. Funding for this international realignment was never discussed. In fairness to Willkie, however, his vision was more quickly undone by events than by its own failure of logic. The globe would shrink, but spy satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles, not trade routes and cultural exchange, would more frequently be the agents.34

At the time of the book's publication, of course, the cold war had not yet defined the course of postwar internationalism, so Willkie contributed to what was still a live, and lively, debate. The responses to the book, like Alsop's criticisms of the ideas behind it, illustrate much about the tenor, media, and premises of the discussion over the shape of the postwar world. Books such as Willkie's did not generate postwar policy, but neither did such policy evolve in a vacuum. The critical and popular responses to One World, then, can be viewed as contributions to a political debate and as artifacts from a world very different from the present one.

One World quickly drew substantial attention from reviewers. Nearly all had something positive to say, although the various critics

  • 33 Willkie, One World, 1–2; Dallek, American Style of Foreign Policy, 136–37.
  • 34 Willkie, One World, 178.
differed in the extent of their confidence in the plausibility of Willkie's postwar blueprint. Many contrasted the 1943 internationalist Willkie with the naive candidate of 1940, finding growth of some nature and often referring to the "education" of Wendell Willkie. Finally, many reviewers used their positive assessments of Willkie's well-intentioned foreign outlook as a springboard for pointed questions about the direction of his domestic program.

Reviewers of the book debated the degree of Willkie's gullibility and realism. Malcolm Cowley doubted "that anybody during the whole trip sold him a bill of goods," while William L. Shirer, in a friendly review, argued, "There is nothing naive here…he…shows he knows what the score is." Adam Clayton Powell stated confidently, "Willkie knows the world because he knows the people." On the opposing side Max Lerner found some "profound naivetes," and George N. Shuster asked about Willkie's slight of "more than a quarter billion folk who inhabit Europe proper." Harold Stassen found both an imbalance between the "wrongs" of British colonialism and the "evils" of communism and too much willingness to "accept his samplings as being absolutely correct samples." Reinhold Niebuhr wondered, with many others, how liberty could be "kept from becoming suicidal" in the interdependent world Willkie foresaw. Nevertheless, most critics praised One World for many things, among them Willkie's "restraint and utter sincerity," the "crispness of his excellent narrative," his "courage and candor," his unique position as an "honorable and alert conservative," and the "calmness of faith in the resources of humanity to ameliorate its condition."35

Countless reviews expressed surprise at and approval for the somehow "new" Willkie. The New Yorker's Clifton Fadiman was impressed by "his profound educability, a quality rarely to be found in big businessmen." Norman Thomas saw "a kind of moral leadership," Niebuhr a gain "in moral stature since his defeat in the election." The Commonweal editorial board "used not to think much of Wendell Willkie" before the trip, but "we think more of him now." One World "might be described as a chapter in the education of Wendell Willkie," began the review in Current History, which went on to speculate that "the [party] bosses consider Willkie

  • 35 Cowley, "Last Man Around the World," 513; William L. Shirer, review of One World,New YorkHerald-Tribune Weekly Book Review, April 11, 1943, p. 1; Adam Clayton Powell, review of One World, The People's Voice, June 5, 1943; Max Lerner, "Willkie's World," PM, April 8, 1943, p. 2; George N. Schuster, review of One World, Political Science Quarterly, LVIII (September, 1943), 428, 426; Stassen, New York Times Book Review, April 11, 1943, p. 1; Reinhold Niebuhr, "Mr. Willkie's Two Odysseys," Nation, CLVI (April 24, 1943), 604; Frederick Sherwood Dunn, "The World and Mr. Willkie," Yale Review, XXXII (June, 1943), 786; Edward Weeks, "The Eagle's Eye," Atlantic Monthly, CLXXI (May, 1943), 123; T. V. Smith, review of One World, Ethics, LIV (October, 1943), 58.
too liberal and forward-looking. That is a good sign, though it might well mean that it will cost him the Presidential nomination in 1944." Just after hearing the "Report to the People" address, Lerner wrote in the New Republic that Willkie's "simple morality and clear social analysis may seem…[to Republican party regulars] the sheerest sort of lunacy." Six months later Lerner "tried to imagine what [Thomas E.] Dewey or [John W.] Bricker would have seen on a trip of this sort," arguing in his PM column that Willkie "is head and shoulders above every other Republican mentioned." The economist Walton Hamilton, who reviewed the book in the Progressive, "would breathe a bit more easily if a speech half as realistic and a third as brave should come from the White House."36

Observers of the unpredictable Willkie wondered how his radical plans for decolonization and global cooperation would affect his domestic agenda, which many still associated with big business Republicanism. Earl Browder hoped Willkie would "give us an equally strong book on domestic problems before next year." Lerner complained that Willkie had ignored the "imperialism of our corporations and cartels and peak manufacturers’ associations." Both T. V. Smith, the University of Chicago philosopher-congressman, and Niebuhr wondered about the significance of the exchange between Major Richard Kight and Joseph Barnes in which Kight spoke of the irrelevance of money and the symbolic import of the Flying Cross. "I may be wrong," wrote Niebuhr,

but I think the old Mr. Willkie conducted the debate with the Russian superintendent, while the new Mr. Willkie found it necessary to add his pilot's refutation of his commercial creed. It was probably the political and circumspect Mr. Willkie who allowed his pilot rather than himself to give expression to sentiments which the traditional devotees of the "American way of life" must regard as rank heresy.37

After Willkie dropped out of the 1944 presidential race early in the primary season, curiosity as to his domestic intentions of course became moot. His commentary on that year's party platforms, An American Program, enjoyed only tiny sales and did little to stir the heated emotions that One World did, probably because Willkie had died by the time it came out. But the failure of the domestic book should not detract from the substantial public impact

  • 36 Clifton Fadiman, review of One World, New Yorker, XIX (April 17, 1943), 79; Norman Thomas, "Willkie's World," Common Sense, XII (June, 1943), 223; Niebuhr, "Mr. Willkie's Two Odysseys," 604; "Willkie Sees the World," Commonweal, XXXVIII (April 30, 1943), 45; Alvin Adey, "Willkie Learns," Current History, IV (May, 1943), 220–21; Max Lerner, "The Education of Wendell Willkie," New Republic, CVII (October 26, 1942), 537; Lerner, "Willkie's World," 2; Walton Hamilton, review of One World, Progressive, May 10, 1943, n.p.
  • 37 Earl Browder, review of One World, Daily Worker, April 18, 1943; Browder, review of One World, New Masses, XLVII (April 27, 1943), 17; Lerner, "Willkie's World," 2; Niebuhr, "Mr. Willkie's Two Odysseys," 606; Smith, review of One World, 59.
of Willkie's call for global humanism. E. B. White recalled that One World "wasn't a very good book, but a very important book, one that will take its place on the permanent shelf of this hopeful, groping planet." The massive popular response, while failing to vault Willkie over the obstructions of the Republican party, did serve to spur public debate over the purposes of the war and the prospects of peace.38

One writer compared One World to Uncle Tom's Cabin, arguing that these two books both indicated and served to encourage ground swells of ideological transition: the "average man has just come to realize that he is passing out of one age and into another." As with Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, "the success of Mr. Willkie's book similarly presages a world-conscious America of tomorrow…which is a distinctly hopeful sign alike from America's and the world's point of view." Another columnist theorized that because "the big [book] market is the American public whose sons have gone off to war," Willkie's plan for peace attracted people who were paying for the success of the war effort; "if there is in…[One World] the key to warding off future wars, they want to know it. These are mighty good reasons for buying a dollar book." Such analyses were frequent, as were expressions of appreciation that Willkie was so practical. Fearing that the envoy had come home "with an unworkable and unrealistic plan," the editor of the KnoxvilleJournal found out otherwise and reassured his readers that One World was "no mush-and-milk Utopia." Willkie's legacy as a successful businessman may have contributed to such sighs of relief, especially among observers who resisted New Deal meddling.39

Simon and Schuster included with some copies of One World a response card for the buyer to fill out and return. A handful of these survive, giving an admittedly skewed picture of what citizens made of Willkie's ideas. One newspaper story involving the response cards asserted that women clerks thought Willkie was "‘a swell guy' and like [d] the glint in his eye in his portrait on the jacket." But the article's conclusion expressed admiration for the intelligence of selected responses which proved that "some women, if not enough, are forgetting personal preoccupations and thinking hard about a better world." Willkie was a ladies man of sorts, and the news of his own affair with Irita Van Doren was widely known in the pre-Gary Hart political environment of the 1940s. The cards

  • 38 Wendell Willkie, An American Program (New York, 1944). Willkie's foreword is dated September 25, 1944; he died October 8. E. B. White quoted in Connery, "‘One World’ Revisited," 46. On the lack of defined war aims see Fussell, Wartime, 133; and Tobin, "Why We Fight," passim.
  • 39 William J. McNally, "The Success of ‘One World,’ " MinneapolisMorning Tribune, May 1, 1943, in Van Doren Papers; B. J. Lewis, no title, AlbanyKnickerbocker-News, May 6, 1943, in ibid.; Guy L. Smith, "One World: No Mush-and-Milk Utopia," KnoxvilleJournal, no date, in Willkie Papers.
that survive, however, show that the men and women who read the book were more serious than the newspaper report suggested.40

One respondent thought "every American who can read should read it and read it out loud to those who can't read." Others approved of Willkie because he spoke out even at the cost of his political career. One unidentified reader called him "a statesman—not a politician," while another echoed Clare Boothe Luce's characterization: "I think he is the Abraham Lincoln of the post-war world." This perception of the book's globalism—"the whole human race really is one family"—was an extreme reading of Willkie's message but one with which he might not have been uncomfortable. Miss Hettie Gray Baker identified the author as "the man who is, I hope, destined to be the first president of the World Federation."41 Such a federation was the nightmare of Hoover, Vandenberg, and other Republicans who saw any international peacetime cooperation as a potential loss of American sovereignty. Willkie never aligned himself formally with either the Federal Union favored by Mrs. Thomas Lament, Lewis Mumford, and Max Lerner or with the other global government plans, but his book could be, and apparently was, read approvingly by partisans of that view. The book's popularity rested, finally, on its outline of a world where no more American blood would be shed abroad—a goal that internationalists and former isolationists could share—and on its travelogue descriptions, hopeful humanism, and self congratulation that all the world wanted to emulate American traits.

With so many reasons to buy the book, Americans did so, and One World held a distinctive place in publishing history. While it was, in its time, the third American nonfiction book to sell a million copies, after Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) and the H. G. Wells Outline of History (1920), Willkie's book was the fastest seller, reaching the million mark in only seven weeks. It was serialized in American newspapers with a combined circulation of nearly seven million and condensed in several magazines. Foreign translations into numerous languages—including Portuguese, Hindu-Urdu, and Chinese—soon appeared, and the book became a best seller in Germany after the war. In contrast to Herbert Hoover, who privately made large wholesale buys of his own book, The Problems of Lasting Peace,

  • 40 "Women Read Willkie's Book with Man, Not Ideas in Mind," New YorkHerald-Tribune, May 2, 1943, clipping in Van Doren Papers. In terms of Willkie's reputation as a womanizer, it is worth noting that Mary McCarthy's short story, "The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt," was thought by some to be based on Willkie. See McCarthy's The Company She Keeps (New York, 1942), 79–134.
  • 41 Response cards in One World scrapbook, Van Doren Papers.


Copyright © 1943 by The New York Times Company. Reprinted by permission.

Willkie apparently did not pad his sales figures with large inside purchases of books for donation.42

With any book that sells a million-plus copies, the question of money must be raised. Willkie enjoyed a comfortable wealth from his days as the head of the Commonwealth and Southern group of electric utilities, so he did not need income from book royalties. Instead, he insisted that these funds be put into a separate account to be used for the work of putting the ideals of the book into practice. A little over a year after publication, Mike Cowles reported that $150,163 in Simon and Schuster royalties had been deposited. Only two disbursements can be detected, each of $5,000: one to the Council on Foreign Relations and one to the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Willkie died in October, 1944, just after these grants were made, so he was unable to direct the bulk of the funds to the projects he held most dear.43

Another $25,000 of income was reported from the sale of the move rights to One World. The cinematic endorsement of universalist internationalism began with Darryl F. Zanuck's highly skewed film biography entitled Wilson (1944). The League of Nations defeat was explained by the Senate's spiteful ill temper, leaving the former president a martyr to the cause of peace. Willkie, a member of the Fox board of directors at the time he sold the rights to One World to that studio, had backed the Wilson film and soon heard even greater success predicted for his story. "I feel strongly," Zanuck wrote Willkie,

that we have created visual propaganda for world unity in such a manner that even our most severe critics will find nothing to accuse us of. The script is powerful, humorous, most unusual, and told in very good taste…. We have a show—a real solid entertaining show. This is no dull, ponderous preachment, nor has it anything to do with the stereotyped documentary films now flooding the market; yet for all our entertaining values we have never once compromised with your theme of One World. No punches have been pulled.

He admitted, however, that "certain dramatic liberties have been taken here and there." There is no indication that Willkie objected, in principle, to these proposals, but the movie was removed from the Fox pipeline even before Willkie's death despite Zanuck's enthusiasm

  • 42 Barnes, Willkie, 315; newspaper serialization specified in document in Willkie Papers; Gary Dean Best, Herbert Hoover: The Postpresidential Years, 1933–1964 (Palo Alto, Calif., 1983), 213. Herbert Hoover and Hugh Gibson, Problems of Lasting Peace (Garden City, N.Y., 1942). The hand-to-hand circulation of Willkie's book was well documented in several archival sources, and many readers reported that each copy was read by several people. On the commotion at Simon and Schuster during the book's phenomenal sales—"the staff checks up on…[the sales figures] from moment to moment, the way people keep looking at the thermometer on a hot day"—see "The Talk of the Town," New Yorker, XIX (May 15, 1943), 14.
  • 43 Gardner ("Mike") Cowles to Willkie, May 5, 1944, Willkie Papers; Willkie to Cowles, June 19, 1944, ibid.; Cowles to Willkie, May 18, 1944, ibid.
for Spencer Tracy to play the lead role. "The situation had changed," Zanuck's biographer reports him as saying. No other explanation ever appeared, but the stillbirth of Willkie's 1944 campaign could not have been commercially encouraging to the shrewd moviemaker.44

The various treatments and screenplays, now in the Library of Congress, provide a glimpse into Zanuck's thinking. Compare two versions of the ending:

The music has started before this and is now beginning to swell…The banners fill the screen and the music rises to a triumphant climax as we show the united world marching shoulder to shoulder and in step at last—with a job to do and sorrow to be endured—but with hope and faith in the future………


[early treatment of One World, September 22, 1943]

In a later version the Willkie character ends the movie with a brilliant campaign speech to the widow of a soldier killed in the war, followed by words of agreement from Montgomery, Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Stalin, and other figures from the film.

He wanted his boy to have the same kind of life he'd had—the same kind of life his father had and I had—the kind of life every kid has a right to. You know—that first Christmas he can remember—his first dog—the first time he went swimming naked in the river—maybe a fistfight at school—and his mother to put brown paper on his eye when he got home…Riding a plow-horse—and bobsledding in the winter. Swiping a punkin-head for Hallowe'en and dressing up in his mother's best sheets. Going bare-footed in the summer and stubbing his toes. Popcorn and a taffy-pull—spending his own money for Christmas presents. Belonging to the Boy Scouts and going off for a weekend in the hills. Getting his first shotgun and going after rabbits with Gordon and his dad. Hitting a three bagger for the high school team—putting on his first long pants, and walking home from church with his best girl and feeling pretty chesty. Going on a hay ride and finding he's holding hands with the wrong girl—when all the time he's really stuck on a little kid named Skip, who lives down the road and who he'd grown up scrapping with. Dancing in the drugstore with her, taking her home, kissing her—suddenly knowing what he wants and realizing that so does she. Suddenly knowing he's grown up and so is she—and knowing it's been pretty fine having these things—and wanting to pass 'em on—to his own son.


That's what it all meant, Janie. That's why boys like him are willing to go over there. Because they've known how good this world can be.

(very softly)

That's why he wasn't afraid to die.

[and so on for another twenty lines]

[second temporary screenplay, December 14, 1943]

When the cinematic Willkie told Janie that "People all over the world are crying tonight…Girls like you in China—and Russia—

  • 44 Cowles to Willkie, May 5, 1944, ibid.; Darryl F. Zanuck to Willkie, December 10, 1943, ibid.; Leonard Moseby, Zanuck (Boston, 1984), 215. On Wilson see Divine, Second Chance, 169–71.
in England," the clear implication that the whole world was like America reinforced the subtext of the book. But the juncture of global independence movements, domestic electoral ambition, and Hollywood melodrama remains a bizzare one, especially because the movie's release in an election year, with a box-office attraction like Tracy, would have entailed the portrayal of a controversial political figure by an adored movie actor.45

The entire episode is richly ironic. Zanuck, acutely attuned to trends in popular perception, dropped the movie project quickly and quietly once he sensed a shift in the breezes, his earlier enthusiasm notwithstanding. Serving as media consultants, Zanuck and the newspapermen could not envision a Willkie rebirth; they ascertained, and helped to create, his status as "cold news." While Willkie had met with foreign peoples on their own soil, mingling with them in streets and bazaars, Vandenberg and the other Republican leaders determined the fate of the postwar world at a remote enclave of the Midwest aristocracy. Adopting the name of a biting satirist's cynical character for his airplane, Willkie took a wide-eyed and naive stance toward the people he met: he apparently saw no irony in the plane's name. (On the other hand, such lack of guile is refreshing: today, a politician would call the plane something much more carefully calculated.) Finally, the very success of the book had to heighten Willkie's estimation of his chances at the same time that it solidified the resolve of Republican party insiders to defeat him.

There remains a temptation to call Willkie the father of the third world, a global Abraham Lincoln, or a visionary of the first rank. He was farsighted in his commitment to global humanism, to be sure, but equally myopic in his recognition of corruption and instability in the same developing nations he praised at the expense of Great Britain and, to an extent, the United States itself. Confusing international realpolitik for an expanded version of domestic politics as a necessary consequence of a shrinking globe revealed

  • 45 The film treatments can be found in Van Doren Papers. Compare the second screenplay with the New Haven Railroad advertisement of the period dedicated to "The Kid in Upper 4" as reprinted in Fussell, Wartime, 194:

    Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things—and big ones.

    The taste of hamburgers and pop…the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway…a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.

    The pretty girl who writes so often…that grey-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station…the mother who knit the socks he'll wear soon.

    Tonight he's thinking them over.

    There's a lump in his throat. And maybe—a tear fills his eye. It doesn't matter, Kid. Nobody will see…it's too dark.

    A couple of thousand miles away, where he's going, they don't know him very well.

    But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.

    And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.

    With new hope, peace, and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.

both Willkie's clumsy if sometimes courageous view of American politics and a limited willingness to appreciate nationalistic and clannish/tribal antagonisms sometimes thousands of years old. Nevertheless, his deeply rooted appreciation for the political ramifications of economic aspiration has been borne out by the events of the succeeding decades.

Willkie's timing made some of his mistakes understandable. As Barnes noted, Willkie grew up "in expansive phases of American business history, in the Indiana gas boom, in Akron rubber, in the electric power revolution, and the curse of bigness was never very much more than a slogan to him." Increasing the scale of both production and marketing had worked for him, so applying the same principles to the international (dis)order made a certain logical sense. In a war oddly depoliticized in some respects—Hitler was frequently condemned as a bully or a gangster, rarely as a fascist—Willkie made politics transparent, looking directly at the people while focusing through the structures of power. As one columnist put it, Willkie, who was impatient with "inconsequential details," worried only about "consequential concepts." He concluded, "This is the mark of a man whose thinking is rushing beyond that of his fellows. It is not good politics." It was the same strategy that had won him the nomination, merely expanded.46

Willkie's recognition of a global drive for freedom clearly evolved from his bold commitment to American civil rights, a commitment probably not shared by many readers who did approve of Russian go-getting and Chinese diligence. The "second class allies," fighting a war dictated from Washington and London, shared with American blacks a marginalized status in Willkie's eyes. "Would he accept political oblivion, if he had to, as the price for sticking to these concepts?" asked Samuel Grafton in the New YorkPost. "I am certain, as of this moment, that he would." The linkage of civil rights to universalist internationalism was not, however, completely persuasive; Willkie himself never publicly condemned the Japanese-American internment, and most reviewers of One World focused on foreign possibilities rather than domestic shortcomings. Neither the unfree masses of the colonies nor domestic minorities was a powerful constituency in the political realm Willkie thought was the "sport of kings." Willkie's close identification with big business—he had come close to defending profiteering by defense contractors early in the war—made his alliance with any other liberal elements unlikely. But his personal, if largely unshared, commitment to freedom as a fundamental concept endured from the early days of his political career.47

  • 46 Barnes, Willkie, 215; "Washington Wire" column in One World scrapbook, Van Doren Papers.
  • 47 Samuel Grafton, New York Post, October 16, 1943, quoted in Neal, Dark Horse, 283; Barnes, Willkie, 214.

In 1939, just as he was beginning to broaden his intellectual scope under Van Doren's influence, Willkie wrote a statement of his personal creed. Arguing that liberalism was being appropriated by highly illiberal forces, he denied that liberals could share a "universal" program and instead asked what "common denominator" held together "those of Liberal faith." The answer, he found, "seems to lie in the common purpose of liberals to make men free. For it is not the primary purpose of the liberal to make men secure or rich or powerful—but only to prevent such limitations upon freedom as insecurity, poverty and weakness may impose." How the practical prevention of such limitations could be accomplished was left unanswered. Even this seemingly laissez-faire version of freedom, however, could not dissuade later doubters. A letter to Willkie in the wake of One World asked pertinent questions about liberty, human nature, and politics:

This old saying about love thy neighbor as thyself is just plain Bull and never was practised and never will be.

You would have to kill 90% of the Southern people if you tried to bring about equality of people in the South.

You and Roosevelt is all wet about all these big things you are going to do for people all over the world.

Who is going to look after the people in Outer Mongolia, I think all they want is a dam good leeving alone.48

Obviously "making men free" and "a dam good leeving alone" represent two conflicting understandings of political equality. Willkie clearly endorsed an interventionist libertarianism more appropriate to domestic matters than foreign relations. While he was at times mistaken, confused, superficial, and self-righteous, the sales of One World suggest that Willkie was not alone in his hopes for an internationalist brotherhood, although the perceived evils of the Soviet state soon transformed public opinion: spheres of interest acceptable for Americans were denied the Russians who no longer

  • 48 "A ‘Conservative’ Business Man Reflects Upon Liberalism," November 13, 1939, typescript, Van Doren Papers; Charles E. Collins to Willkie, July 28, 1943, Willkie Papers. The American Institute of Public Opinion polled Americans after the release of One World. In what they called a "quite remarkable" finding, 42 percent (25,000,000 at the time) of citizens nationwide knew Willkie as the author of the book. When pressed for their approval or disapproval of Willkie, the respondents answered this way:
      Approve Disapprove No opinion
    Read book 76% 19% 5%
    Did not read book 52% 33% 15%
    The very existence of such a poll suggests that Willkie viewed One World as some sort of trial balloon as he contemplated his options for 1944. Letter from American Institute of Public Opinion, June, 1943, Van Doren Papers.
were the allies and comrades Willkie praised. Universalist internationalism quickly gave way to internationalism on American terms, a view equally flawed. But premature attention to that transition clouds the moment in the sun that One World enjoyed. At the same time that it suggests other protocampaign documents such as John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage or Ronald Reagan's General Electric commercials, the book captures the complexities and hopes of a distinct historical moment, one when the electromagnetic technologies of television and atomic energy had not yet contributed to a reorientation of American politics.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.