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For The Record  

FTR #448 The Coup Attempt of 1934

Record­ed March 7, 2004
Lis­ten:
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NB: This stream con­tains both FTRs #448 and #449 in sequence. Each is a 30 minute broad­cast.

  • Lis­ten to the BBC Radio pro­gramme: The White House Coup
  • In obser­va­tion of the 70th anniver­sary of the event, this pro­gram recounts the 1934 fas­cist coup attempt in the Unit­ed States. Appalled at Pres­i­dent Roosevelt’s New Deal, pow­er­ful indus­tri­al­ists and financiers grouped around the Mor­gan indus­tri­al and finan­cial inter­ests attempt­ed to recruit World War I vet­er­ans into an army of insur­rec­tion. The goal of the con­spir­a­tors was the over­throw of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy and the insti­tu­tion of a fas­cist gov­ern­ment. Because they select­ed Marine Corps gen­er­al Smed­ley Buter to lead the coup, the attempt was foiled. Although a crit­ic of Roo­sevelt, But­ler (a two-time win­ner of the Con­gres­sion­al Medal of Hon­or) betrayed the coup plot­ters to the Pres­i­dent. Fol­low­ing a bad­ly atten­u­at­ed Con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion by the McCor­ma­ck-Dick­stein Com­mit­tee, the mat­ter was laid to rest. It is worth not­ing that proof of the plot was con­crete and well-doc­u­ment­ed, but none of the plot­ters was impris­oned, because the con­spir­a­tors were among the most pow­er­ful and pres­ti­gious indus­tri­al and finan­cial mag­nates in the coun­try.

    Pro­gram High­lights Include: The role of Gen­er­al Dou­glas MacArthur in the con­spir­a­to­r­i­al process lead­ing up to the coup attempt; MacArthur’s rela­tion­ship to the House of Mor­gan; the role of the Du Ponts in the coup prepa­ra­tions; Rem­ing­ton Arms’ agree­ment to pro­vide weapons to the con­spir­a­tors; the sym­pa­thy of key Gen­er­al Motors exec­u­tives for the coup attempt; the pro­found sym­pa­thy on the part of the con­spir­a­tors for Hitler and Mus­soli­ni; the crit­i­cal aid giv­en by the coup plot­ters’ asso­ci­at­ed busi­ness inter­ests to the Third Reich; the domes­tic fas­cist orga­ni­za­tions orga­nized and financed by some of the con­spir­a­tors and the busi­ness­es that they ran; the main­stream press’ cov­er-up of the sto­ry and its sig­nif­i­cance. Note that this pro­gram is excerpt­ed from Radio Free Amer­i­ca Pro­gram #10, record­ed on 7/11/1985. For more infor­ma­tion on the MacArthur group in the mil­i­tary and its fas­cist ten­den­cies, see RFA#’s 10–13—available from Spitfire—as well as FTR#’s 426, 427, 428, 446.

    1. One of the main ele­ments in the sto­ry of the 1934 coup attempt is the piv­otal role of a group of pow­er­ful indus­tri­al and finan­cial interests—many of which were open­ly sup­port­ive of Hitler and doing busi­ness with the Third Reich—in orga­niz­ing the plot. Mem­bers of the Du Pont fam­i­ly, exec­u­tives with Gen­er­al Motors (con­trolled at the time by the Du Ponts), key fig­ures in the Mor­gan bank­ing con­stel­la­tion and mem­bers of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers attempt­ed to trans­late their hatred of FDR and his New Deal into action. (Note that the Mor­gan bank­ing inter­ests financed the Du Ponts’ indus­tri­al oper­a­tions to a con­sid­er­able extent. The Mor­gan inter­ests were the pri­ma­ry ele­ment in financ­ing the Du Ponts’ estab­lish­ment and oper­a­tion of Gen­er­al Motors. Pin­ning their hopes on Marine Corps Major Gen­er­al Smed­ley Butler—a two-time win­ner of the Con­gres­sion­al Medal of Honor—the con­spir­a­tors sought to enlist unem­ployed and des­per­ate World War I vet­er­ans into a fas­cist army of insur­rec­tion, mod­eled after the French Croix de Feu (“Cross of Fire”.)
    (Trad­ing with the Ene­my; by Charles High­am; Dell [SC]; Copy­right 1983.)

    2. Because he had sup­port­ed the grant­i­ng of a promised bonus pay­ment to World War I vet­er­ans, Butler—a “sol­diers’ general”—was the coup plot­ters’ even­tu­al choice to lead the con­spir­a­cy. The plot­ters pre­ferred Gen­er­al Dou­glas MacArthur (a son-in-law of Edward Stotes­bury, a key Mor­gan part­ner), but MacArthur had opposed the bonus and then led the bloody sup­pres­sion of the “Bonus Army” that assem­bled in Wash­ing­ton D.C. to demand their promised pay­ment. Accord­ing to But­ler, MacArthur was aware of the plot, and was involved in the plan­ning. (Idem.)

    3. Weapons for the actu­al coup were to have been pro­vid­ed by Rem­ing­ton Arms, also owned by the Du Ponts. The Du Ponts admired Hitler, and both Du Pont Chem­i­cals and Gen­er­al Motors were heav­i­ly involved in busi­ness enter­pris­es in Ger­many that con­tributed to the Third Reich’s war prepa­ra­tions and also helped to finance the Nazi Par­ty. (Idem.)

    4. In addi­tion to their enthu­si­asm for Hitler and Mus­soli­ni, many of the plot­ters and their asso­ciates were very active in the estab­lish­ment, financ­ing and oper­a­tion of domes­tic fas­cist groups. The Du Ponts helped to estab­lish the fas­cist Lib­er­ty League, the bru­tal Black Legion and the asso­ci­at­ed Wolver­ine Repub­li­can League to help break labor unions and ter­ror­ize work­ers in their var­i­ous indus­tries, par­tic­u­lar­ly Gen­er­al Motors. (Idem.)

    5. When gen­er­al But­ler exposed the con­spir­a­cy and the sto­ry broke in the papers, the con­spir­a­tors dis­missed the reports, the McCor­ma­ck-Dick­stein Committee’s report was sup­pressed for sev­er­al years and the plot­ters got off scot-free. No one was ever impris­oned for their role in the trea­so­nous insur­rec­tion, despite con­crete evi­dence of their guilt. (Idem.)

    6. In addi­tion to their attempt­ed over­throw of the con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty, many mem­bers of what author Charles High­am calls “the fra­ter­ni­ty” insti­tut­ed labor poli­cies that were dia­met­ri­cal­ly opposed to Pres­i­dent Roosevelt’s eco­nom­ic agen­da. (Idem.)

    7. Pres­sure by the con­spir­a­tors helped to get MacArthur re-appoint­ed as Army Chief of Staff, a high­ly unusu­al devel­op­ment. The pro­gram presents an inter­view with for­mer Speak­er of the House John McCor­ma­ck, who co-chaired the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee that inves­ti­gat­ed the coup. He affirms the accu­ra­cy of the charges made by But­ler, and the grave dan­ger that the plot posed to the repub­lic.
    (The Plot to Seize the White House; by Jules Archer; Hawthorne Books [HC]; Copy­right 1973.)

    8. MacArthur’s father-in-law (key Mor­gan part­ner Edward Stotes­bury) helped to finance domes­tic Amer­i­can fas­cist groups. (1000 Amer­i­cans; by George Seldes; Boni & Gaer [HC]; Copy­right 1947.)

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