A Mission for Military Preparedness
Declaring War on Germany
“I am a hater of war and a devoted lover of peace, but, sir, Mr. Chairman, in my hour of seclusion and study I have to the best of my humble capacity held up the lamp of the past to the face of the future, and I call God to witness that I would be recreant and faithless to my conscience and to the people who have honored me with their suffrage, and the hundred million American citizens of this Republic, which you and I and my other colleagues represent in this the greatest law-making body on earth, if I did not proclaim as far as my voice will reach that I am fully convinced and realize that peace to be had must sometimes be battled for. That to be preserved it must be guarded and protected, and that to be protected it must be surrounded by impregnable barriers.”
Editor's Note: On May 27th, 1916, Carl Vinson gave a speech on the House floor advocating for the United States to strengthen its Navy. He argued for a bill that would increase spending on the Navy by $49,000 and create the largest Navy shipbuilding program the United States government had ever undertaken. For two years, Vinson had watched alongside the rest of America as World War I wreaked chaos and destruction on Europe. This event convinced Vinson that in order to preserve the nation’s security and peace more broadly, the government needed to invest in its defense infrastructure.
This speech was the first time Vinson publicly articulated his policy of military preparedness; a policy fundamentally shaped by the advent of World War I. He argued that the failure to create and maintain a strong navy and military would cost far more than the expenditures he proposed.
A little over a year after Vinson made this speech, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered World War I. Vinson voted in favor of declaration of war and fully supported all wartime measures President Wilson proposed, including his call for a draft. After World War I, Vinson continued to remain dedicated to the principles and values laid out in this May 27th speech. Throughout his 50 years in Congress, Vinson was committed to ensuring the United States was prepared to meet any threat to its security.