The Silver Legion of America, commonly
known as the Silver Shirts, was an American fascist organization founded
by William Dudley Pelley on January 30, 1933, coincidentally, the same
day Adolf Hitler, whom Pelley admired, seized power in Germany.
American Silver Shirts
The Silver Legion’s emblem was a scarlet
'L'. It stood for Loyalty to the American Republic, Liberation from
materialism and, of course, the Silver Legion itself.
The uniform of the Silver Legion members
consisted of a campaign hat, blue corduroy trousers, leggings, tie, and
silver shirt with a scarlet "L" over the heart. Pelley hoped to seize
power in a 'silver revolution' and set himself up as dictator of the
predicts that “one cometh
after him” who would succeed. This is generally conceded to refer to
Crowley’s student C.S. Jones, who did indeed uncover a key to the text
some years later. The cipher or ‘code’ implied by the key was recorded
by Jones in his magical diary for October 31st, 1918. A careful reading
of this footnote reveals that the letters A, L and W, in some sequence,
form the first three letters of a cipher.
Since the number Eleven is more
than hinted at in The Book of the Law itself as a ‘key’ it theoretically
is easy enough to note that, in standard alphabetical sequence, there
are eleven spaces between A and L, and another eleven between L and W.
But many decades were to pass
before a group in England calling itself the OAA, and its American
counterpart, QBLH, were to complete the sequence and “obtain the order
and value of the English Alphabet” as called for in
The Book of the Law
“This key we have
been considering,” says an article in Thelema in 1980, “can be
understood from either of two courses. 11 is the number of
when we number every 11th letter of the Alphabet, we arrive with ALW…P.”
Rituals of the Men in Black, by Allen Greenfield
By 1934, the Silver Shirts had about
15,000 members. Most members were of the lower classes. The movement's
strength dwindled after 1934. Four years later, the Silver Legion's
membership was down to about 5,000. In 1941, the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war on the United States
by Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy led to the immediate collapse
of the Silver Legion.
A fictionalized depiction of the
Silver Shirts forms a large part of the plot in the thriller The
Night Letter by Paul Spike.
The Silver Shirts are also a
British political movement in Harry Turtledove's American Empire and
Settling Accounts series of alternate history novels. They are
likely an analog of the British Union of Fascists, as Oswald Mosley
is a prominent leader.
The Millenarian Right: William Dudley
Pelley and the Silver Legion of America by John Werly (Ph.D. diss.
Syracuse University, 1972)
Ribuffo, Leo Pual, Protestants on the
Right: William Dudley Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod and Gerald L.K.
Smith, two volumes, Yale University, 1976 Liberation magazine,
January 1936, New York City Library
Spivak, John L., Secret Armies: The
New Technique of Nazi Warfare, Modern Age Books, New York, 1939.
Yeadon, Glen (2008). The Nazi Hydra
in America. Progressive Press. pp. 700. ISBN 0-930852-43-5.
William Dudley Pelley
William Dudley Pelley
Description: Age, approximately fifty years; height, five feet, seven
inches; weight, 130 pounds; has black hair mixed with gray; heavy
eyebrows; wears mustache and a vandyke; has dark gray eyes, very
penetrating; has straight Roman nose; wears nose glasses; dresses
neatly; distinguished looking; good talker; highly educated; interested
in physic research.
Capias has been issued by the Judge of the Superior Court of Buncombe
County for the arrest of the above-named party for sentence on
conviction of felony, making fraudulent representation, and also for
violating the terms of a suspended sentence on another charge by failing
to remain of good behavior, and by engaging in, among other things,
Arrest and notify LAURENCE E. BROWN, Sheriff, Asheville, N.C.
William Dudley Pelley (March 12, 1890 –
June 30, 1965) was an American extremist and spiritualist who founded
the Silver Legion in 1933, and ran for President in 1936 for the
Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, William
Dudley Pelley grew up in poverty. He was the son of William George Apsey
Pelley and his wife Grace Goodale. His father was initially a Southern
Methodist Church minister, later a small businessman and shoemaker.
Largely self-educated, Pelley became a
journalist and gained respect for his writing skills, his articles
eventually appearing in national publications. Two of his short stories
received O. Henry awards, "The Face in the Window" in 1920, and "The
Continental Angle" in 1930. Following World War I, Pelley traveled
throughout Europe and Asia as a foreign correspondent. He
particularly spent a great deal of time in Russia and witnessed
atrocities of the Russian Civil War. His experiences in Russia left
him with a deep hatred for Communism and Jews, whom he believed were
planning to conquer the world.
Upon returning to the United States in
1920, Pelley went to Hollywood, where he became a screenwriter,
writing the Lon Chaney films The Light in the Dark and The
Shock. By 1929, Pelley became disillusioned with the movie
industry, and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
In 1928, Pelley said he had a
near-death experience, detailed in an article for American Magazine
called "My Seven Minutes in Eternity." In later writings, Pelley
described the experience as "hypo-dimensional." He wrote that during
this event, he met with God and Jesus Christ, who instructed him to
undertake the spiritual transformation of America. He later claimed the
experience gave him the ability to levitate, see through walls, and have
out-of-body experiences at will. His metaphysical writings greatly
boosted Pelley's public visibility. Some of the original members of the
original Ascended Master Teachings religion, the "I AM" Activity, were
recruited from the ranks of William Dudley Pelley’s organization the
Silver Legion. 
When the Great Depression struck America
in 1929, Pelley became active in politics. After moving to Asheville,
Pelley founded Galahad College in 1932. The college specialized in
correspondence, "Social Metaphysics," and "Christian Economics" courses.
He also founded Galahad Press, which he used to publish various
political and metaphysical magazines, newspapers, and books.
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was
appointed Chancellor of Germany. Pelley, an admirer of Hitler, was
inspired to found the Silver Legion, an extremist and antisemitic
organization whose followers (known as the Silver Shirts and "Christian
Patriots") wore Nazi-like silver uniforms. The
Silver Legion's emblem was a scarlet L, which was featured on their
flags and uniforms. Pelley founded chapters of the Silver Legion in
almost every state in the country, and soon gained a considerable number
Pelley traveled throughout the United
States and holding mass rallies, lectures, and public speeches in order
to attract Americans to his organization. Pelley's political ideology
consisted of anti-Communism, antisemitism, racism, extreme patriotism,
isolationism, pyramidology and British Israelism, themes which
were the primary focus of his numerous magazines and newspapers, which
included Liberation, Pelley's Silvershirt Weekly, The Galilean, and The
Pelley was also a committed Protestant
and opponent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, and founded
the Christian Party, running for president in 1936. His pro-fascist
advocacy angered Roosevelt and his supporters, and charges were drawn up
against the Silver Shirts in 1940. His Asheville headquarters was raided
by federal marshals, his followers there arrested, and his property
seized. Pelley was called to testify before the
House Un-American Activities Committee.
Despite serious financial and material
setbacks to his organization resulting from lengthy court battles,
Pelley continued to oppose Roosevelt, especially as the diplomatic
relationships of the United States with the Empire of Japan and Nazi
Germany became more strained in the early 1940s. Pelley accused
Roosevelt of being a warmonger and advocated isolationism, stances which
would give political ammunition to the enemies of fellow isolationist
Charles Lindbergh (according to A. Scott Berg's biography, Lindbergh
had never even met Pelley). Roosevelt enlisted J. Edgar Hoover and the
FBI to investigate Pelley for libel, and the FBI interviewed Pelley's
subscribers. Although the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 led Pelley
to disband the Silver Legion, Pelley continued to attack the government
with a magazine called Roll Call, which alarmed Roosevelt, Attorney
General Francis Biddle, and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
After stating in one issue of Roll Call that the devastation of the
Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was worse than the government claimed,
Pelley was arrested at his new base of operations in Noblesville,
Indiana and charged with high treason and sedition in April 1942. The
sedition charge was dropped, but he was convicted on other charges and
sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was paroled in 1952.
In his final years, Pelley dealt with
charges of securities fraud that had been brought against him while he
had lived in Asheville. Pelley died on June 30, 1965, at the age of 75
in Noblesville, where he is buried.
In the 1930s, Pelley predicted that his
Silver Legion movement would succeed in wresting America from Jews and
the Devil; he claimed the day of his ultimate victory would come on
September 17, 2001.
Scott Beekman , "Pelley, William
"45 Questions About the Jews",
William Dudley Pelley, 1939.
IMDb profile for William Dudley
Alex Abella and Scott Gordon, Shadow
Enemies, The Lyons Press, 2002, ISBN 1-58574-722-X, 320 pages, p.
Christian Kinnard—Beginnings of the I
Scott Beekman, William Dudley Pelley:
A Life in Right-wing Extremism and the Occult, Syracuse University
Press, 2005, ISBN 0815608195, 269 pages, p. 87.
Lobb, David, 'Fascist Apocalypse:
William Pelley and Millennial Extremism',Paper presented at the 4th
Annual Conference of the Center for Millennial Studies, November
Beekman, p. 125.
"Strange Doings in Nobleville", Time,
January 27, 1941
William Dudley Pelley at Find A Grave
Alex Abella and Scott Gordon, Shadow
Enemies', The Lyons Press, 2002, ISBN 1-58574-722-X, 320 pages, p.
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