The Lonely Eagle,
An Arsenal of Nazism
excerpted from the book
The American Axis
Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh,
and the Rise of the Third Reich
by Max Wallace
St. Martin's Griffin, 2003, paper
... Lindbergh had been invited to spend the weekend at the Cliveden
estate of Lord and Lady Astor. It was on this visit that Charles
Lindbergh became an unofficial member of the "Cliveden Set,"
a term that journalist Claud Cockburn had coined the year before
in the British periodical the Week. The "Set" referred
to a gathering of powerful politicians, bankers, writers, journalists
and aristocrats who regularly assembled at the Astors' Cliveden
country estate and at their London mansion in St. James Square.
Cockburn frequently portrayed the Astors' circle as a pro-German
nest of traitors, a Nazi Fifth Column. Today, they are more likely
to be referred to as the "Cliveden Myth" because of
Cockburn's pro-Communist bias and frequently exaggerated claims.
An old friend of Anne's mother Nancy Astor
was Britain's first female Member of Parliament and the archenemy
of her fellow Conservative politician, Winston Churchill. She
also had a long-standing reputation as an anti-Semite. Once, after
a 1938 Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, Conservative MP Alan
Graham chided Astor for bad behavior. Her retort was, "Only
a jew like you would dare to be rude to me.
The Astors were spectacularly well connected.
Nancy's brother-in-law John Jacob Astor was the owner of the powerful
London Times; their friends included King Edward VIII, British
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and the foreign secretary
Lord Halifax. And for a time, it appeared that an inordinate number
of visitors to Cliveden shared a common belief: that Germany was
Europe's best hope to contain the threat of Communist expansion.
That is not to say they were necessarily Nazis, as Claud Cockburn
charged, so much as to assign them the label that later became
synonymous with the Cliveden Set: "Appeasers."
Nancy's preference for visitors who agreed with her political
views was undeniable. According to her biographer Christopher
Sykes, "These friends were not traitors; they were not Nazis;
but until mid-March 1939, they were believers in, and ardent publicists
for, Chamberlain's Appeasement policy." Many were also undeniably
sympathetic to Adolf Hitler and his policies.
During the weekend in May 1938 that Charles
and Anne spent at Cliveden, much of the conversation centered
on Germany. At tea that Sunday, Lindbergh sat next to Lady Astor
who, he later wrote, wanted "a better understanding of Germany.
I was encouraged about the feeling of most of the people there
in regard to Germany. They understood the situation better than
most Englishmen do these days."
Four days later, he and Anne were invited
to lunch at the Astors' London home. Lindbergh's acceptance into
the Cliveden circle was confirmed. His luncheon companions that
afternoon were the American ambassador to France William Bullitt;
Nancy's friend George Bernard Shaw, who had recently expressed
publicly a great admiration for Adolf Hitler; Geoffrey Dawson,
editor of the London Times; and the man who was to become an important
political player in the events to come, American ambassador to
Britain Joseph Kennedy. The colorful American had been appointed
by President Roosevelt to the Court of St. James two months earlier,
where he and his young family had already made quite an impression
on the British.
Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, who was himself
becoming increasingly alarmed at the Nazi threat, Kennedy had
already formed strong views on the European situation that were
not necessarily in accord with those of the Administration. Only
six days earlier, Kennedy had written a private note to the isolationist
U.S. senator William Borah expressing his position on Hitler's
expansionism: "The more I see of things here," he wrote,
"the more convinced I am that we must exert all our intelligence
and effort toward keeping clear of any kind of involvement. As
long as I hold my present job, I shall never lose sight of this
Kennedy's views on Germany and Jews appeared
to mesh closely with those of Lady Astor, who had adopted the
ambassador as another member of her Set. Their correspondence
during this period offers a revealing insight into their mutual
attitudes toward the plight of European Jews. In 1938, Nancy wrote
Kennedy that Hitler would have to do more than just "give
a rough time" to "the killers of Christ" before
she'd be in favor of "launching Armageddon to save them.
The wheel of history swings around as the Lord would have it.
Who are we to stand in the way of the future?" Kennedy replied
that he expected the American "Jew media" to become
a problem in the near future and that "Jewish pundits in
New York and Los Angeles" were already making noises designed
to "set a match to the fuse of the world."
Documents that have surfaced in recent years reveal that [Joseph]
Kennedy's views deviated significantly from U.S. foreign policy.
During a visit with German ambassador Herbert von Dirksen three
months earlier, Kennedy had assured the ambassador that Roosevelt
was unflinchingly opposed to the Nazi regime only because his
informants were ill-advised and afraid of the Jews. He promised
von Dirksen-who subsequently called Kennedy "Germany best
friend in London"-that he would enlighten the President himself,
a task that would be made easier if only the Nazis would conduct
their anti-Jewish measures a little less publicly. When German
documents were seized by the Allies after the war, the gist of
the two diplomats' conversation became clear from a cable von
Dirksen had sent to his superiors after meeting Kennedy. On the
Jewish Question, von Dirksen reported, Kennedy believed that:
It was not so much the fact that we wanted
to get rid of the Jews that was harmful to us, but rather the
loud clamor with which we accompanied this purpose. He himself
understood our Jewish policy completely; he was from Boston and
there, in one golf club and in other clubs, no Jews had been admitted
for the past 50 years... such pronounced attitudes were quite
common, but people avoided making so much outward fuss about it.
Now, Kennedy believed a stark warning
by Lindbergh might tip the scales against military action by Britain
and France. Lindbergh was eager to comply and spent all night
drafting his report, which he delivered to Kennedy the following
day. Fully aware of his potential influence over world events,
his warnings were even more ominous than before, and hit closer
I feel certain that German air strength
is greater than that of all other European countries combined..
. and that she is constantly increasing her margin of leadership
.... If she wishes to do so, Germany now has the means of destroying
London, Paris and Prague. There are not enough modern war planes
for effective defense or counter-attack in England and France
combined. In the air, France's condition is pitiful. Although
better off, the British air fleet cannot be compared to their
German counterparts ... I believe that German factories are capable
of producing 20,000 aircraft per year. Her actual production is
difficult to estimate. The most reliable reports I have obtained
vary from 500 to 800 planes per month... Judging by the general
conditions in Russia, I would not place great confidence in the
Russian air fleet... Germany, on account of her military strength,
is now inseparable from the welfare of every civilization, for
either to preserve or to destroy it is in her power... To protect
themselves in the air England and France are far too weak ....
I am convinced that it is wiser to permit Germanys eastward expansion
than to throw England and France, unprepared, into a war at this
In effect, he was saying that it would
be military folly for France and England to stand up to Germany,
as they appeared now on the verge of doing. With little effort,
Germany would wipe London and Paris off the face of the map and
then conquer Czechoslovakia and probably the rest of Europe anyway.
Unless the two countries backed off and met Hitler's demands,
it would be suicide.
On September 29, Chamberlain, Hitler, Mussolini, and Daladier
convened in Munich to resolve the crisis. It was the city in whose
beer halls and smoky cafés Hitler had clawed his way to
power, never daring to dream that he would one day hold the fate
of nations in his hand and have the great European heads of state
contorting to his will. Just after noon, the four leaders gathered
at the Führerhaus to determine whether the immediate future
held war or peace. At Hitler's insistence, the Czech prime minister
was not invited to participate. Earlier in the day, the Führer
had held a private strategy session with Mussolini during which
he had explained to his Italian ally his plan to "liquidate
Czechoslovakia." If the talks failed, Hitler declared, he
would resort to arms. At any rate, he added, "the time will
come when we shall have to fight against England and France."
Ii Duce heartily agreed .
The results of Munich were pre-ordained.
Neither Chamberlain nor Daladier was in any mood to risk a war
and Hitler, recognizing this, bullied his guests throughout the
day, winning concessions on one point after another. Shortly after
1:00 A.M., the four leaders affixed their signatures to an accord
that gave Hitler virtually everything he had asked for.
On October 1, Chamberlain returned to
England triumphant. The country was deeply relieved. Peering out
a second story window of his Downing Street residence, he was
greeted as a hero by Londoners convinced that he had single-handedly
averted war by his last-minute diplomatic coup. After acknowledging
the cheers of his countrymen and a rousing rendition of "For
He's a Jolly Good Fellow," the Prime Minister waved a copy
of the Munich agreement-its ink barely dry-and declared, "Peace
for our time." The Times echoed the sentiments of the nation
when it wrote, "No conqueror returning from a victory on
the battlefield has come adorned with nobler laurels."
Only a lone, heretical voice could be
heard resisting the consensus. Four days after Chamberlain's return,
Winston Churchill-at the time languishing in the political wilderness-rose
in the House of Commons and declared:
We have sustained a total and unmitigated
defeat, and France has suffered even more than we have .... We
are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which
has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves
to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central
and Eastern Europe upon which France has relied for her safety
has been swept away... they should know that we have sustained
a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel
far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed
an awful milestone in our history... and that terrible words have
for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies:
"Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."
And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning
of the reckoning.
To reporters, Churchill announced, "We
had to make a decision between the shame and the war. We have
chosen the shame and as a reward we will receive a war."
Hitler responded insolently: "Once
and for all we request to be spared from being spanked like a
pupil by a governess." But Churchill's words were quickly
proved prophetic. Within five months, Germany had broken all its
promises. Most of Czechoslovakia lay in Nazi hands, demonstrating
the hollowness of Appeasement policy. More important, the Munich
Pact bought Hitler precious time to strengthen his military machine
and prepare for the war that Chamberlain naively believed he had
If Lindbergh's assessment of Germanys
overwhelming military superiority had been accurate, then Munich
would indeed have represented the diplomatic triumph that Chamberlain
heralded on that fall day in 1938 when he announced to the world
that he had achieved "peace with honor." Indeed, had
Lindbergh been correct, Britain and France would have surely suffered
a quick defeat on the battlefield if war had been waged during
the fall of 1938.
Within months after the end of the Second
World War, however, Lindbergh's 1938 warnings were found to be
completely and spectacularly wrong. Goring and his Nazi hosts
had so thoroughly deceived their American visitor that he had
swallowed and propagated one of history's most damaging lies,
a deception destined to have disastrous and tragic consequences
in the years ahead.
When German military records were seized
by the Allies in 1945, they revealed a grim set of statistics.
In his 1938 report prepared for Joseph Kennedy, Lindbergh had
estimated German air strength at 8,000 to 10,000 planes. He believed
Germany was producing between 500 and 800 planes per month and
was capable of producing 20,000 planes per year. However, German
Quartermaster records captured after the war reveal that in fact
Germany possessed only a fraction of this number slightly over
3,307 planes, and many of these were not operational. While Germany
still boasted the largest individual air arsenal, the combined
British and French air forces possessed more than 4,000 planes.
Lindbergh had reported it would take England, France, and Czechoslovakia
many years to catch up to Germany, which he was certain had more
planes than all the European countries combined. In reality, they
were never behind.
Of course, numbers alone don't tell the
whole story. Lindbergh had trumpeted the quality of the Luftwaffe
as far superior to the obsolete French, British and Czech arsenals.
Indeed, officials at the French and British air ministries knew
that their fleets were woefully unprepared to wage a war in the
fall of 1938. Years of neglect and failure to modernize had reduced
their respective air capabilities to disastrous levels. Against
the state-of-the-art arsenal described by Lindbergh, they were
convinced that it would be impossible to defend against Luftwaffe
bombers. "Germany now has the means of destroying London,
Paris and Prague," Lindbergh wrote Joseph Kennedy in his
September memorandum. Again, he turned out to be completely wrong
in his assessment. In fact, captured records later revealed, the
German air force was as unprepared in 1938 as its French and British
In August 1938, the Luftwaffe officer
responsible for operations against the British Isles told his
superiors that Germany's capability to attack Britain would amount
to "pin pricks." At the time of the Munich Crisis, General
Helmuth Felmy, commander of the German Second Air Force, told
the High Command that, given the means at his disposal, "a
war of destruction against England seemed to be excluded.""
Moreover, the state-of-the-art German air force described by Lindbergh
after his inspection tours also turned out to be a myth. Like
the RA} much of the Luftwaffe fleet was obsolete and was undergoing
a major overhaul in 1938. Rearmament was not going smoothly by
the time of the Czech crisis. German testing of the new fighters
and bombers heralded by Lindbergh revealed severe weaknesses,
including design problems, a shortage of spare parts, inadequate
range, poor pilot training and high accident rates. A German "after-action"
report on the Czech crisis acknowledged a severe "lack of
readiness in maintenance of flying equipment as well as in technical
personnel . As late as May 1939, the Luftwaffe chief of staff,
Hans Jeschonnek, warned the German High Command, "Do not
let us deceive ourselves, gentlemen. Each country wants to outstrip
the other in air armament. But we are all roughly at the same
The inflated numbers and exaggerated readiness
reports were key elements in a charade masterfully orchestrated
by Hermann Goring and his air ministry, using Truman Smith, Lindbergh,
and others as pawns. The two Americans had been completely taken
in by their amiable Nazi hosts; as intended, they had passed on
the false intelligence to Allied military and political leaders
who used the bogus data to formulate their response to Hitler's
aggression. The German ploy stands as one of the greatest disinformation
feats in history...
That evening, millions of Americans gathered around their radios
to hear the first shots in an epic battle that would become known
as the Great Debate. At 9:45 P.M. a thin, nasal voice announced,
"I speak tonight to those people in the United States of
America who feel that the destiny of this country does not call
for our involvement in European wars. "
For half an hour, in a compelling speech
that appealed as much to emotion as reason, Lindbergh raised the
specter of unprecedented bloodshed: "We are likely to lose
a million men, possibly several million-the best of American youth.
We will be staggering under the burden of recovery during the
rest of our lives." After warning that involvement in a European
war "may lead to the end of Western civilization"-the
recurring theme of his correspondence for months-he uttered the
speech's most memorable line, cautioning his listeners against
heeding emotional appeals about the plight of the Europeans: "We
must be as impersonal as a surgeon with his knife." It is
this cold phrase that was singled out in most of the press coverage
the next day. Little attention was given to a cryptic passage
buried near the end of the address. In it, he advised his listeners
to be wary of the propaganda they were bound to encounter in the
months ahead: "We must ask who owns and who influences the
newspaper, the news picture, and the radio station. If our people
know the truth.. . this country is not likely to enter the war.
We must learn to look behind every article we read and every speech
cent of Americans favored repealing the arms embargo. The isolationists
were determined to reverse this trend. J On October 14, Lindbergh
returned to the airwaves to deliver his second address, entitled
"Neutrality and 'War." Sounding more confident than
in his first radio address a month earlier, he announced, "Tonight,
I speak again to the people of this country who are opposed to
the United States entering the war which is now going on in Europe."
He proceeded to outline a four-point proposal that would continue
the arms embargo on "offensive" weapons but offer the
European allies all the "defensive" weapons America
could spare. As many later noted, this policy was next to useless
against a German army well stocked with its own extraordinary
offensive arsenal. 'Without an offensive military capability to
strike back at its aggressors, it would only be a matter of time
before the Axis smashed through any defense England and France
Moreover, Lindbergh's proposal would prohibit
the United States from extending credit to the cash-starved European
nations, making even the purchase of defensive weapons next to
impossible. Nevertheless, the most striking chord of this speech,
one that would not escape notice, was a passage that appeared
to crystallize his increasing obsession with race, nurtured in
the laboratory of Alexis Carrel. Since returning to America, Lindbergh
had again reunited with Carrel, spending considerable time with
his mentor. The two were making plans to establish an "Institute
for the Betterment of Man" at the Lindberghs' old Hopewell
estate, where their common ideas about eugenics and spiritual
development could be advanced, harnessing what Carrel called the
"weapons of knowledge and thought which are so abundantly
available." Now, Lindbergh was sharing those ideas with the
American people for the first time:
Our bond with Europe is a bond of race
and not of political ideology. We had to fight a European army
to establish democracy in this country. It is the European race
we must preserve; political progress will follow. Racial strength
is vital-politics a luxury. If the white race is ever seriously
threatened, it may then be time for us to take our part in its
protection, to fight side by side with the English, French, and
Germans, but not with one against the other for our mutual destruction.
It was as if Lindbergh perceived the European
conflict merely as a misguided internecine battle between racial
In stark contrast to the reaction from
his first radio address a month earlier, the attacks commenced
almost immediately. On the floor of the Senate the following day,
where a debate over amending the Neutrality Act was well under
way, one Senator after another lined up to denounce Lindbergh's
speech. Senator Key Pittman, the powerful chairman of the foreign
relations committee, told his colleagues, "The most unfortunate
part of Colonel Lindbergh's statement is that it encourages the
ideology of the totalitarian governments and is subject to the
construction that he approves of their brutal conquest of democratic
countries through war."
A number of senators pointed out the remarkable
similarity in wording between Lindbergh's radio address and a
recent talk by Herbert Hoover. But the harshest words were reserved
for his distinction between defensive and offensive weapons. That
morning, Major General John F. Ryan, commander of the U.S. Army
27th Division, had labeled this distinction as "nonsense."
The military aim of the Allies, he declared, was to smash aggression
at its source, not to limit its action to defensive measures.
Attacks began to pour in from the liberal
press. The popular and tenacious syndicated columnist Dorothy
Thompson-one of the few pundits to have criticized his first speech-called
Lindbergh "a somber cretin," a man "without human
feeling," a "pro-Nazi recipient of a German medal."
Lindbergh, she wrote, dreamt of being "an American Führer."
Even more damaging was an article by the
popular First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt signaling her approval of
some of the recent media assaults on Lindbergh's speech. In her
widely read nationally syndicated column, "My Day,"
Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, "We were all interested in Mr. 'Walter
Lippmann's column of a few days ago and in Dorothy Thompson's
column yesterday. She sensed in Colonel Lindbergh's speech a sympathy
with Nazi ideals which I thought existed but could not bring myself
to believe was really there."
Lindbergh's much-criticized remarks on America's racial bond with
Europe were merely a preview of an article he had been working
on for the conservative magazine Reader's Digest, whose isolationist
founder DeWitt 'Wallace had told him recently, "No one in
the country is able to exert a deeper influence on public opinion
than yourself."" The article was published in the November
issue under the title "Aviation, Geography and Race,"
written ostensibly to illustrate the senselessness of a war with
Hitler. The disturbing racial ideas that had been germinating
in Carrel's laboratory and nurtured during Lindbergh's growing
fascination with the Third Reich appeared to coalesce in this
In it, Lindbergh posits aviation as a
precious tool to be shared exclusively by the western nations
as a "barrier between the teeming millions of Asia and the
Grecian inheritance of Europe-one of those priceless possessions
which permit the White race to live at all in a pressing sea of
Yellow, Black and Brown."
To Lindbergh, the war that mattered is
a war that "the 'White race is bound to lose, and the others
bound to gain, a war which may easily lead our civilization through
more Dark Ages if it survives at all."
Continuing on this undisguised racist
theme for three and a half pages, he argues that aviation can
be the savior of European culture if only the great white nations
come together instead of tearing each other apart: "We, the
heirs of European culture, are on the verge of a disastrous war,
a war within our own family of nations, a war which will reduce
the strength and destroy the treasures of the White race."
But this tragedy is preventable, he argues,
if only we can build a "Western Wall of race and arms"
to hold back "the infiltration of inferior blood." The
answer rests on an "English Fleet, a German Air Force, a
French army, an American nation, standing together as guardians
of our common heritage." Finally, he concludes with a plea
not to "commit racial suicide by internal conflict. We must
learn from Athens and Sparta before all Greece is lost.""
All white people, then, appeared to have
common cause with the Germans in the world that Lindbergh envisioned.
This didn't sound like the everyday socialized racism of so many
ordinary Americans, but rather the intellectualized racism of
the Nazis, as his growing legions of media critics were quick
to point out. Nonetheless, most Americans continued to pose intervention,
and Lindbergh was still a hero to millions.
On May 20 , the day after Lindbergh's air defense speech,
the President was having lunch with his treasury secretary, Henry
Morgenthau. After a brief discussion of this latest radio address,
the President put down his fork, turned to his most trusted Cabinet
official and declared, "If I should die tomorrow, I want
you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is
A year earlier  former U. S. Ambassador to Germany William
Dodd, Truman Smith's old nemesis, told a reporter aboard a U.S.-bound
ship that "Fascism is on the march today in America. Millionaires
are marching to the tune. It will come in this country unless
a strong defense is set up by all liberal and progressive forces...
A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist
state to supplant our democratic government, and is working closely
with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. Aboard ship a prominent
executive of one of America's largest financial corporations told
me point blank that if the progressive trend of the Roosevelt
administration continued, he would be ready to take definite action
to bring fascism to America."
In 1925, shortly after Ford Germany incorporated its first operation
in Berlin, the company hired Albert to handle its relations with
the German government. He had represented the company's interests
ever since.' Joining him on the new Ford Germany board was Sorensen,
Edsel Ford, and Albert's fellow German, Carl Bosch, who also happened
to be the genera manager of a company called Farben, the gigantic
chemical and pharmaceutical colossus that would soon emerge as
the backbone of Hitler's economic base.
As part of the new restructuring, IG Farben
was awarded 15 percent ownership in Ford Germany and Bosch was
appointed to the board of directors. In exchange, Edsel was appointed
to the board of Farben's U.S. subsidiary, American IG Chemical
Corporation (later renamed General Aniline & Film), where
he sat until 1941. The arrangement officially married the world's
largest auto company with the world's largest chemical manufacturer.
It was a relationship the Ford Motor Company was anxious to downplay
in later years, especially when the full extent of Farben's activities
emerged after the Second World War.
Before the National Socialists took power,
many ,Farben executives, including Bosch, had fiercely opposed
the Nazi program. But only three weeks after Hitler was appointed
Chancellor in 1933, a number of Germany's leading industrialists
met with Hermann Goring and SS Chief Heinrich Himmler to discuss
how business could find common cause with the new regime. The
Nazis promised to eliminate trade unions and any other obstacles
that interfered with unfettered corporate profits in the Third
Reich. Soon afterwards, IG Farben contributed 400,000 reichsmarks
to the National Socialist Party's political "slush fund,"
the largest contribution to the Nazis by any German company. Thereafter,
it remained Hitler's single most important corporate ally. According
to the report of a wartime U.S. government investigation:
Without I.G.'s immense productive facilities,
its intense research, and vast international affiliations, Germany's
prosecution of the war would have been unthinkable and impossible;
Farben not only directed its energies toward arming Germany, but
concentrated on weakening her intended victims, and this doublebarreled
attempt to expand the German industrial potential for war and
to restrict that of the rest of the world was not conceived and
executed "in the normal course of business." The proof
is overwhelming that I.G. Farben officials had full prior knowledge
of Germany's plan for world conquest and of each specific aggressive
act later undertaken.
... in June 1936, Ford Germany-with the full knowledge and approval
of Dearborn-entered into an extraordinary barter agreement with
the German Ministry of Economics, whereby it agreed to divert
a good deal of its American imports to other German companies
in return for greater access to foreign exchange funds. This way,
according to a subsequent U.S. government investigation, Ford
Germany was instrumental in the Reich's war Preparations.
Until 1937, virtually all of the German
company's manufacturing operations were devoted to civilian passenger
vehicles, trucks and tractors. However, one of Heinrich Albert's
first priorities upon being appointed chairman of the board in
June 1937 was to secure for Ford a portion of the Nazi regime's
lucrative rearmament effort.
At Albert's behest, the company dispatched
a well-connected employee named Ernst Posekel to Berlin with a
mandate to establish favorable relations with "the authorities
competent for the placing of official orders."° His efforts
proved successful. During the spring of 1937, the German War Ministry
approached Albert with a proposal to begin manufacturing vehicles
for the army. The first government order was to be a special military
truck built exclusively for the Wehrmacht (German army). However,
negotiations bogged down when Ford officials, who had voiced no
objections to the idea of manufacturing vehicles for the German
military, refused to honor the regime request that the trucks
be built according to German design standards. This was not the
way the company did business. Ford vehicles had always been built
according to a Ford design. The government also required that
the vehicles be manufactured in a designated "safe zone"
in the middle of the country, near Berlin. If war broke out, this
would help safeguard the plant.
After weeks of negotiation with the government,
the issue became moot when the Nazi High Command instead asked
the company to manufacture a troop carrier rather than a truck.
Ford would be permitted to design the military vehicle to its
own standards. In mid-April 1938, Sorensen attended a Ford Germany
board of directors meeting in Cologne and cabled Dearborn with
the message that the "German plans are turning out very satisfactory."
Four days later, with Sorensen in attendance, the board finally
approved the scheme to manufacture German military vehicles. The
agreement was finalized with the High Command a few weeks later,
paving the way for a long-lasting business relationship.
Premises were leased in Berlin and, beginning
in 1939, the plant began turning out thousands of military troop
carriers. Soon, additional orders from the Luftwaffe as well as
contracts for other army vehicles and spare parts began to pour
in. Eager to keep on the good side of Hitler, the board of directors
voted to send the Führer a birthday gift of 35,000 reichsmarks
in April 1939. There is no record that Dearborn registered any
objection to this gift. In fact, although not present at the meeting,
Edsel Ford and Charles Sorensen were still members of the board
when Ford Germany made the decision.
Meanwhile, the Cologne plant was also
in full production. After Ford committed to manufacturing for
the military, the company had as many government orders as it
could handle. According to an internal company report, Ford Germany's
business with the Nazi authorities "developed extraordinarily"
during the third quarter of 193 8.47 Dearborn was delighted by
the company's success. Business was so good that in September
1938, the American plant shipped one thousand trucks, cabs and
platforms to be assembled by Ford in Cologne for the use of the
German government and military. In a 1941 letter to the Reich
Commissioner for Enemy Property, Albert boasted that these trucks
were used in the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia.
Thus, by the time Germany invaded Poland
in September 1939, Ford had become a vital cog in Hitler's military
machine. After the war ended and American authorities scoured
the records of Ford Germany, a U.S. army investigator would conclude
that "even before the war a portion of German Ford had, with
Dearborn c consent, become an arsenal of Nazism...
The American Axis