The Charlotte News

Wednesday, December 4, 1940



Site Ed. Note: For Cash's poetic rendering of the battle of the Jervis Bay, mentioned below in "Sea Toll", see "Sea Fight", November 14, 1940.


A Note Concerning a New Contributor To The News

It was a pleasing story Pertinax had on the front page of the News yesterday. For a long time after the fall of France to the German tyrant, it looked as though the French might be going to take it lying down--for the first time in their history. But now the old spirit is plainly coming back up and it bodes no good to the Nazi swine. The day may come that revolt in France will help destroy Hitlerism and assure the French of full payment for the crime that has been committed against them.

Pleasant, too, it is to see Pertinax's name in the News, under the auspices of the North American Newspaper Alliance. André Géraud, who writes under the pseudonym, is one of the ablest and most trustworthy of French journalists. For years he was very close to the French Foreign Office, and foretold in advance that Adolf Hitler was planning to make war in 1939 and that the Italians really meant it when they said they would join in his attempt to enslave the world. It is only a pity that the French Foreign Office did not heed Pertinax's warning and act upon the information it gave him.

Right now he is out of France and in the United States--a reasonable precaution in view of the fact that Adolf Hitler actively dislikes him. But he maintains his contacts in France, and we look forward to his dispatches with the expectation that they will continue to be pleasant and enlightening reading.


Too Gentle

Major Instances of Sabotage Call for the Death Penalty

Under a bill signed by the President Monday, people who willfully damage or destroy national defense materials will be liable to punishment ranging up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

This represents a great tightening of the law against saboteurs, but it is doubtful that it goes far enough yet. In some cases, the death penalty might well be the punishment most likely to discourage the practice. Saboteurs whose acts result in the killing of persons are, of course, already subject to being tried for murder. But there are other instances where death seems the fitting reward.

If what Martin Dies has been talking about is authentic and not merely another piece of hokum in Martin's build-up to get a million dollars out of Congress, it is an illustration of what we are talking about. According to Dies, Germans in an airplane factory in this country five times sabotaged an important Army test plane. The sixth time the sabotage was not discovered in time and the plane was destroyed, presumably with loss of life. If so, these Nazis are subject to trial for murder. But if not, then they still deserve the death penalty. It was not their fault that they did not commit murder in all six attempts. And ten years and a $10,000 fine bear no proper relationship to the crime.

We are faced with an utterly vicious foe, bent on achieving his aims by the most ruthless methods. And squeamishness in dealing with his agents is simply silly.


Sea Toll

Britain's Shipping Losses May Be Her Worst Problem

According to German claims in Berlin, as reported yesterday by the Associated Press, German submarines alone on Monday sank 17 British merchantmen, totaling more than 131,000 tons, and an armed auxiliary cruiser of 17,000 tons. In addition they claimed the probable sinking of two other merchantmen--a total claimed for submarines during the day of 160,000 tons.

Yesterday also the British announced the score for the week ending November 24. That week, the Admiralty said, the British lost 87,975 tons of merchant shipping. The Germans had claimed 118,020.

It may be taken for granted that the Germans are exaggerating. Lying is their natural metier, and is moreover a carefully calculated weapon in the war of nerves. In the battle of the Jervis Bay, they claimed to have sunk the whole convoy of 38 merchantmen guarded by that gallant auxiliary cruiser. But the evidence indicates that all but three or four ships got away.

Nevertheless, even if the British are telling us the exact truth, the toll of merchant shipping exacted by submarines, bombers and armed raiders is certainly as serious as English Government spokesmen have been saying. Average for the last few months, according to Admiralty estimates, has been about 64,000 tons a week. The figures cited for the week of November 24 represent an increase of nearly 25 percent over that.

Continued through a year this rate of destruction would dispose of nearly five million tons of merchant shipping. The British had 21,000,000 tons of shipping of all kinds, including hundreds of small coastal vessels when the war started--in view of gains from the seizure of vessels belonging to nations conquered by Hitler, perhaps had about as much still when France fell.

At the outbreak of the war, they had a replacement capacity of 900,000 tons annually--now claim two million, though it is likely that much of this is on paper. And it is to be remembered that the losses are mainly confined to the large ocean-going vessels. Five-million tons may well be a third or more of such shipping available to Britain. And it has been estimated that the loss of the third of her ocean-going bottoms would spell the defeat of England. For many of the ships, it is to be borne in mind, must ply to far away ports on voyages that take months.

Moreover, it would be rash to assume too confidently that the British are telling the full truth about the losses, for they are very reluctant to let the Germans know the exact facts and are afraid of the effect of announcements of too-startling losses on the morale of their own people. Almost certainly, they lied in the last war on this score. Admiral Sims, who was sent to England on a naval mission as soon as we declared war in 1917, is authority for the statement that the submarine actually took toll of more than 900,000 tons of British merchant shipping in April that year. The Admiralty had announced losses only about a fourth as much. But Sims was in position to know.

Altogether, the evidence bears out the view that if England is to survive she must have more ships shortly. She has placed orders here for 60 new merchantmen, but it will be more than a year before they can be ready, at best. If she is to get immediate aid from us, it must be in the shape of our own merchant ships already on hand and foreign merchantmen--German, Italian, Danish, etc.,--now lying idle in New York and other harbors.

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