By Susan Dunn
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Additional resources for 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election amid the Storm
While the president was ruminating Hamlet-style over how and in what direction to lead, Hitler and his Nazi army acted. On April 9, 1940, German troops advanced across the undefended border of Denmark. Offering no resistance, within a few hours Denmark fell to the Nazi grip. At the same time, there was another surprise attack in Norway: Nazi destroyers emerged from low-lying clouds, torpedoing gunboats in the port of Narvik. All along the coast, German vessels disgorged thousands of infantrymen who invaded Norway’s port cities.
But that day, Roosevelt’s minister in The 36 Walking on Eggs Hague reported to Washington that Germany had issued ultimatums to the Dutch and Belgian governments; an assault on the two countries was expected within twenty-four or forty-eight hours. “I am much depressed and much occupied with world affairs,” FDR again wrote to Cudahy on May 8. ”83 On May 10, with blinding speed, German warplanes, parachutists, infantry divisions, and tanks burst across the frontiers of Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
No longer could the United States be considered invulnerable. From the fjords of Greenland, a Danish colony at risk of Nazi invasion, it was only hours by air to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New England. 94 With an emphatic tone of urgency, the president called on Congress to appropriate immediately more than a billion dollars for the army, navy, and air force and for the production of ships, tanks, and fifty thousand planes a year. The nation’s defenses had to be invulnerable, its security absolute.