John Thomas Flynn (October 25, 1882 – April 13, 1964) was an American journalist best known for his opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and to American entry into World War II. In September 1940, Flynn helped establish the America First Committee (AFC) which he abandoned when Pearl Harbor was attacked, switching to support of the war effort. He was also the first to advance the Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory.


After graduating from Georgetown Law School, Flynn chose a career in journalism. He started at the ''New Haven Register'', but eventually moved to New York; there he was financial editor of the ''New York Globe''. During the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote articles for such leading publications as ''The New Republic'', ''Harper's Magazine'', and ''Collier's Weekly''. He became one of the best-known political commentators in the United States. Like Oswald Garrison Villard, another key figure in the Old Right, Flynn was a leftist with populist inclinations during this period. He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for president but criticized the New Deal. In 1939, he predicted that Social Security would be under water by 1970, and insolvent by 1980.


Consistently at all stages of his literary career, Flynn opposed militarism. He was a key advisor to the 1934 Nye Committee, which investigated the role of the so-called "merchants of death" (munitions manufacturers and bankers) in leading to U.S. entry into World War I. By 1936, Flynn had publicly broken with Roosevelt. He was already drawing comparisons between the centralist features of the New Deal on the one hand, and Benito Mussolini's policies on the other: "We seem e wroteto be not a long way off from the kind of Fascism which Mussolini preached in Italy before he assumed power; and we are steadily approaching the conditions which made Fascism possible."

America First, 1940–41

Flynn was one of the founders of the non-interventionist America First Committee, the first nationally organized coalition of the many politically wide-ranging groups which opposed America's entry into World War II. Flynn and the America Firsters accused FDR of falsely claiming that he wanted to keep America out of the war, while in reality pursuing a number of increasingly militant policies to help Britain in every way possible, in violation of the neutrality treaties which had been passed by isolationist Senators earlier in the 1930s. Flynn soon became head of the New York City chapter, and, largely through his efforts, quickly claimed a membership of 135,000. As Roosevelt rolled out a series of policies to give "all help short of war," America First mounted campaigns against them, on the grounds that each of them, in fact, did constitute war: first, the nation's first peacetime draft – Selective Service, begun in 1940, then Lend-Lease which allowed the British, near bankruptcy, to continue to buy the food and arms they needed as they reached their second year of resisting Nazi invasion single-handedly. Both these passed in Congress, but America First gained enormous momentum in a nation riven by the entirely contradictory wishes to both support the British yet stay out of the war, with 850,000 members within a year of its founding. In September, 1941, Flynn organized a Senate subcommittee investigation led by Senator Wheeler, into the movie studios for creating pro-British and pro-interventionist "propaganda" in more than 50 Hollywood films., with studio heads Jack Warner and Daryl Zanuck compelled to testify.

World War II

On December 7, 1941 – the moment he heard about Pearl Harbor – Flynn wanted the America First Committee to disband, and throw their support entirely toward the war effort – which it did, on December 11, 1941. Flynn had by then turned entirely against New Deal progressivism, which he regarded not as liberal at all, but as a "degenerate form of socialism and debased form of capitalism". In 1944 he wrote ''As We Go Marching'', a sharp critique of the American drift toward what he termed "statism":
But when fascism comes it will not be in the form of an anti-American movement or pro-Hitler bund, practicing disloyalty. Nor will it come in the form of a crusade against war. It will appear rather in the luminous robes of flaming patriotism; it will take some genuinely indigenous shape and color, and it will spread only because its leaders, who are not yet visible, will know how to locate the great springs of public opinion and desire and the streams of thought that flow from them and will know how to attract to their banners leaders who can command the support of the controlling minorities in American public life. The danger lies not so much in the would-be Fuhrers who may arise, but in the presence in our midst of certainly deeply running currents of hope and appetite and opinion. The war upon fascism must be begun there.
The essay warned of an unholy alliance influencing U.S. foreign policy, and included these words satirizing the view presented by advocates of foreign wars:
The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims, while incidentally capturing their markets; to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples, while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.
In fall 1944, Flynn completed a 25-page document entitled ''The Truth about Pearl Harbor'' which so impressed publisher Robert McCormick that he had it printed in its entirety, beginning on the front page of the October 22 ''Chicago Tribune'', in hopes of influencing the upcoming election. Flynn argued that Roosevelt and his inner circle had been plotting to provoke the Japanese into an attack on the U.S. and thus provide a reason to enter the war since January 1941 and that the sanctions which the Roosevelt Administration had placed on Japan during that year were intended for that purpose – the oil embargo, specifically – whose lifting was attached to conditions it knew Japan could never agree to. Flynn also alleged that Pearl Harbor's able Navy and Army commanders, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and General Walter Short, were left without proper warning that conditions had deteriorated to this extent with Japan, so they would be caught off guard. Flynn had the article reprinted in pamphlet form, distributed out of his office, and this would mark the beginning of Pearl Harbor advance-knowledge conspiracy theory. Shortly after his brief tenure working with the GOP for the 1944 presidential elections, Flynn learned that GOP candidate Dewey had allegedly gotten hold of highly classified information that America had broken the Japanese naval code early in 1940 – long before the attack on Pearl Harbor – but, at the administration's request, not made this information public. Besides lowering his opinion of the GOP as too weak to fight his nemesis, Roosevelt, Flynn further reasoned that meant FDR must have known in precise detail that the attack was coming and deliberately withheld this information from the now-disgraced commanders in order to create an outraged demand for war. Flynn added this information to his booklet, retitling it "The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor," which again ran as a front-page story in the ''Chicago Tribune'' and became a booklet printed and distributed by Merwin K. Hart's National Economic Council. Flynn's allegations led to a new congressional investigation of the attack, for which Flynn became chief investigator. However, two Republicans joined the Democrats on the committee in creating a report that ostensibly vindicated Roosevelt. While U.S. and British cryptologists had made some progress in decrypting the Japanese Naval Code by late 1941, the code was not broken until late May 1942, before the planned Japanese invasion of Midway Island.

Cold War

During the Cold War period, Flynn continued his opposition to interventionist foreign policies and militarism. An early critic of American involvement in the affairs of Indochina, he maintained that sending US troops would "only be proving the case of the Communists against America that we are defending French imperialism." Flynn became an early and avid supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy. This was ironic because Flynn "had long ridiculed the idea that communism was a threat to America", dismissing American Communists as a tiny handful of fractious, isolated radicals who were too busy attacking each other to attack capitalism. In March, 1943, he wrote that fighting communism in America was "a waste of time", when the real issue was fascism, his argument in his next book, ''As We Go Marching'' (1946).

Personal life

For many years Flynn made his home in Bayside, New York in a large compound overlooking Little Neck Bay, with a house and a separate building he used as a broadcasting studio. He was a neighbor and friend of Mrs. James J. Corbett, the widow of boxing champion "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. His son, Thomas Flynn, was an influential figure credited with helping to save New York City from bankruptcy in the 1970s.


Articles * “Edward L. Bernays: The Science of Ballyhoo”. ''The Atlantic Monthly'', May 1932.
“Two Rackets of the UN”
''The Freeman'', March 1955. pp. 368-370 Books * ''Investments Trusts Gone Wrong!: Wall Street and the Security Markets''. New York: New Republic, 1930. ** Reprinted: New York: Arno Press, 1975. * ''Graft in Business...''. New York: Vanguard Press, 1931. 318 pages. *
God's Gold: The Story of Rockefeller and His Times
'. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1932. *
Country Squire in the White House
'. New York: Doubleday, 1940. *
Men of Wealth: The Story of Twelve Significant Fortunes from the Renaissance to the Present Day
'. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1941. *
Meet Your Congress
'. New York: Doubleday, 1944. *
As We Go Marching
'. New York: Doubleday, 1944. * ''The Epic of Freedom'' Philadelphia, PA: Fireside Press, 1947. *
The Roosevelt Myth
'. New York: Devin-Adair Publishing Company, 1948. ** Spanish: ''El Mito de Roosevelt'' Barcelona: Libreria Imperis, 1948. * ''The Road Ahead: America's Creeping Revolution''.
New York: Devin-Adair Publishing Company, 1949. * ''Communists and the New Deal: Part II'' New York: American Mercury, 1952. *
The Lattimore Story
'. New York: Devin-Adair Publishing Company, 1953. Also available fro
Hathi Trust
While You Slept: Our Tragedy in Asia and Who Made It
'. New York: Devin-Adair Publishing Company, 1953. * ''America's Unknown War: The War We Have Not Begun to Fight'' America’s Future, 1953. * ''McCarthy: His War on American Reds, and the Story of Those Who Oppose Him''. 1954. *
The Decline of the American Republic and How to Rebuild It
'. New York: Devin-Adair Publishing Company, 1955. 212 pages. * ''Fifty Million Americans in Search of a Party''. 1955. Book reviews
“America’s Day of Infamy”. Review of ''The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor'', by Rear Admiral R. A. Theobald
''The Freeman'', May 1954. (pp. 26-27
Full Issue available
Pamphlets *
The Truth About Pearl Harbor
'. Great Britain: Strickland Press, 1945. *
The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor
' October 1945. * ''The Thought Police: An Episode in Radical Bigotry''. New York: John T. Flynn, 1946. *
The Smear Terror
' New York: John T. Flynn, 1947. 30 pages. Originally published serially in the Chicago Tribune, beginning Sunday, January 12, 1947. * ''Betrayal at Yalta''. America's Future, 1955. *
Militarism: The New Slavery for America
' America’s Future, 1955. 15 pages. * ''John T. Flynn Replies to his Critics''. New York: John T. Flynn, 195-. Published Posthumously *
Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn
'. New York: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1996. 199 pages.

Further reading

Articles * Ellis, Kenneth M
“The Smear Terror of John T. Flynn”
''Federation to Fight Fascism'', No. 32, May 10, 1947. * Raimondo, Justin
“John T. Flynn: Exemplar of the Old Right”
''The Journal of Libertarian Studies'', Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1992. * Young, Adam
“A Tribute to John T. Flynn”''lewrockwell.com''
January 31, 2003. * Beito, David T.
"Happy Birthday, John T. Flynn"
''History News Network''. October 25, 2005. * Riggenbach, Jeff
“John T. Flynn: Revisionist Journalist”
''Mises Daily'', Ludwig von Mises Institute, October 29, 2010. * Moser, John E
“The Ideological Odyssey of John T. Flynn”

' Books * Radosh, Ronald.
Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism
' New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978. . * Moser, John E. ''Right Turn: John T. Flynn and the Transformation of American Liberalism''. New York: NYU Press, 2005. . * Stenehjem, Michele Flynn. ''An American First: John T. Flynn and the America First Committee''. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1976.Chester, Edward W
Review of ''An American First: John T. Flynn and the America First Committee''
by Michele Flynn Stenehjem. ''History: Reviews of New Books'', Vol. 4, No. 7, May/June 1976, p. 141. .

See also

* Classical liberalism * Critics of the New Deal * Minarchism * Old Right


External links

Guide to the John T. Flynn papers
at the University of Oregon.
Online archive
at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. * {{DEFAULTSORT:Flynn, John T. Category:1882 births Category:1964 deaths Category:20th-century American journalists Category:20th-century American male writers Category:20th-century American non-fiction writers Category:American anti-war activists Category:American conspiracy theorists Category:American foreign policy writers Category:American male journalists Category:American male non-fiction writers Category:American political journalists Category:American political writers Category:Georgetown University Law Center alumni Category:Journalists from Maryland Category:Journalists from New York City Category:Non-interventionism Category:Old Right (United States) Category:Opinion journalists Category:People from Bayside, Queens Category:People from Bladensburg, Maryland Category:Writers from Maryland