Originally created 11/22/04

'The Plot Against America' fiction and fact



A contrast between the historic fiction of Philip Roth's novel "The Plot Against America" and "A True Chronology of the Major Figures" that Roth wrote as a postscript to his book:

FICTION: Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh wins the Republican nomination for president in 1940, campaigns in the "Spirit of St. Louis" and defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a landslide. Lindbergh gets 57 percent of the popular vote and carries 46 states, losing only New York and Maryland.

REALITY: Roosevelt wins an unprecedented third term in November 1940, defeating Republican Wendell L. Willkie by 449 to 82 electoral votes.

FICTION: After becoming president, Lindbergh travels to Iceland to meet with Adolf Hitler and "signs 'an understanding' guaranteeing peaceful relations between Germany and the United States."

REALITY: Roosevelt is inaugurated Jan. 20, 1941. "In March, Congress passes his Lend-Lease Act, authorizing president to 'sell, transfer, lend, lease' armaments, foodstuffs and services to countries whose defense he deems vital to the defense of the U.S."

FICTION: Lindbergh signs the "Hawaii Understanding" in Honolulu with Japanese officials, "extending American recognition to Japan's sovereignty in East Asia and guaranteeing that the United States would not oppose Japanese expansion on the Asian continent."

REALITY: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. "After emergency address by president (Roosevelt), Congress... declares war on Japan the next day."

FICTION: Gossip columnist and newscaster Walter Winchell is assassinated in Louisville, Ky., in 1942 while campaigning as a Democratic candidate for president. His death touches off riots.

REALITY: In 1933, Winchell "begins public attack on Hitler and American Nazis" and "coins neologisms 'razis' and 'swastinkers' to ridicule the Nazi movement." In 1940, "his annual salary of $800,000 places him among the highest-paid Americans." Winchell "fades into near obscurity in mid-1950s" and dies in 1972.

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Source: "The Plot Against America" and postscript, "A True Chronology of the Major Figures," by Philip Roth.