1919 November 28

Red Scare Proposal for Radicals: “Ship ‘Em or Shoot ‘Em”


At the height of the Red Scare (1919-1920), General Leonard Wood, one of the top leaders in the U.S. Army, declared on this day that the solution to political radicals in the U.S. was to “ship ‘em or shoot ‘em”; in short, deport them or execute them. General Wood spoke in Kansas City and gave a wide-ranging attack on political radicals and labor unions. He even blamed the recent Omaha race riot (see September 28, 1919) on the radical I.I.W., an assertion that no historian has ever confirmed. Wood at the time was running for the GOP nomination for president in 1920, but he did not succeed.

The major events of the Red Scare were the two Palmer Raids, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, on November 7, 1919 and January 2, 1920, in which alleged radicals and foreign-born labor union leaders were indiscriminately rounded up by the Justice Department.

Learn more: Christopher Finan, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (2007)

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