Digest>Archives> June 2009

Idyllic Time and War Warnings

By Timothy Harrison


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The Look girls are shown scaling the dunes on the ...

Founded in 1937 Look Magazine was at one time the second largest circulated magazine in the United States followed only by Life magazine, and its circulation was ahead of its close rivals, the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. Look concentrated more on photos with brief captions than it did on articles and it was very successful at it. When it was forced out of business in 1971 because of rising postal costs, it still had an amazing 6.5 million subscribers.

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Just a few months before the outbreak of World ...

However, its August 26, 1941 issue took an unusual editorial stand, while still having time to promote Cape Cod and Nantucket as a playground for any one that could afford to vacation there. At that time America was still seemingly equally divided between those who wanted us to be involved in the war against Hitler and his allied nations, and those who wanted us to stay out of it.

Many American’s wanted to deal with their own economic problems while hoping that the problems in Europe would stay in Europe and a magazine like Look found itself striving for a happy medium. Look tried hard to maintain this image in an amazing balance when they published their sixth in a series of vacation guides titled "Look takes two girls to Nantucket." Look hired young radio actresses Ann Eden and Bonnie Donahue to be photographed having fun vacationing on Nantucket.

However, following this frivolous seven page layout in the magazine, which included numerous photographs of the girls having fun at various places on Nantucket, which included the girls enjoying the beach and life at Great Point Lighthouse, Look magazine’s owners drew their line in the sand when they published a full page editorial titled BEWARE, which warned its readers that "Hitler was planning to conquer America."

As part of a history lesson here; it was Roosevelt’s pressure that convinced Congress a few years earlier to dissolve the United States Lighthouse Service and merge it into the United States Coast Guard under the ruse of a cost saving measure, when it fact it allowed for additional funds from an isolationist and even perhaps a pacifist Congress to be allocated to the Coast Guard to help build up our nation’s defenses, because Roosevelt knew that war was inevitable.

The Look editorial, showing images and quotes from the Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of State and President Franklin Roosevelt began with a dire warning to Americans saying that while many American’s wanted to continue the academic debate, whether or not the Nazi danger, which had engulfed the populations of many nations into labor slaves, was a real threat to America or not. However, as the editorial said, "Unless our brains have ceased to react to danger signals, we must conclude that the very independence of the United States is at stake."

The editorial ended with these words, "We are disunited and, instead of being aroused by that, we act as if the controversy splitting us into two camps were a lofty debate between two equally patriotic groups. Proud of our freedom of speech even in periods of serious peril, we indulge with great gusto in the arguments between isolationists and interventionists.

Such discussion, we are told, constitute the very mortar that cements democratic strength. Actually the contrary is true. The present spectacle - pro-and-con pages in large circulation newspapers, mass meetings in huge auditoriums, national radio hook-ups for prominent exponents of these controversial views, polite editorials, endlessly arguing, full-page advertisements trying to "sell" us - all this customary techniques of electioneering demonstrates only one thing: Hitler has opened his campaign of conquest against the United States of America."

Proving how much we can learn from studying history, Look’s editorial was right on the mark. A little over three months later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the debate ended.

This story appeared in the June 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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