The Charlotte News
Monday, July 8, 1940
Site Ed. Note: Here, as with the previous day's editorial on the presidential election in Mexico, "Trouble Spot", and the entry on July 5, "Appeasers", Cash asserts with purpose his increasing concerns over the activities of Fifth Columnists and isolationists in the United States as well in Latin America. In his earlier book review of January 29, 1939 on Nazi Spies in America, Cash had dismissed the importance of such "white trash" "cattle" in the United States, but noted the greater problem extant in Mexico. But by this point, eighteen months later and eleven months before he would enter Mexico to write about Andrew Bates, Cash has reversed position and vehemently excoriates the activities of such spies. One has to wonder why the about-face. The news reports of the time do not reflect an increasing report of sabotage during this interim. And of course Cash's worst lashes are aimed not at saboteurs in any event but at the purveyors who worked more subtly, by glad-handing "appeals to greed", appeals no doubt Cash had seen at close hand growing up in communities where the Ku Klux Klan maintained check by such methods--promise 'em everything, give 'em a mental prison.
But had Cash actually witnessed what he thought were the actions of the Bund up close? Perhaps on one of his frequent trips to New York in the thirties to visit with the Knopfs, in Washington or Baltimore where he would stop over on the way up and back on the train to visit with his old friend Gerald W. Johnson, or indeed around Charlotte, itself, a city in which it was fairly easy to blend among the easygoing populace and become lost in the mingle while remaining only a couple hundred miles from key military bases like Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, an easy drive and back on an unnoticed weekend?
In any event, Cash may have been ahead of the learning curve on Herr Doktor Westrick. Westrick was hired by Texaco in New York apparently shortly after France fell, June 22. Torkild Rieber, the chairman of Texaco at the time, was a Nazi sympathizer and had thrown a lavish party at the Waldorf to celebrate the fall. Eventually, British intelligence exposed Westrick as a spy seeking information on the aircraft industry. Rieber was fired and to recover goodwill, Texaco began its famed Saturday operas. (See The Nation, December 2, 1996) Die Walkurë, anyone? No doubt, Cash being fond of Wagner, listened in early 1941 as these operas began broadcasting--including in fact as one of its first offerings, Die Walkurë.
And as testimony to Cash's sometimes not completely accurate memory when pressed into trying to recall verbatim quotes, even some of the seemingly simpler, he slightly mangles to ill effect John Paul Jones' putative pronouncement which is said instead to have been, "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight." But, recall that this was before the age of television, and early in the talking picture and radio age, and therefore memory of learned history was based more on print media than so much auditory or visual aids, print being in the long-run likely a superior form of learning if sometimes a little less easily grabbed from the long-term banks to match with a quote of this and that quotable learned in our more memory-adept grammar school youth. Then again, John Paul may well have said, somewhat less rhythmically, "I have not begun to fight yet." No camera, no recorder, and, in the midst of battle, we can fairly well say, no precise stenographer took down the words verbatim. So, maybe Cash mangled with a purpose.
Whose Manners Call for State Dept. Attention
While the State Department is warning German diplomatic and consular agents to keep their mouths shut about American policies, it might be in order for it to turn its attention to getting rid of Herr Doktor Gerhardt Alois Westrick.
Herr Doktor Westrick is a former law partner in Berlin of Franz Van Papen. Von Papen, you will remember, was kicked out of this country during the last war as a German troublemaker.
And Herr Doktor Westrick is the same stamp. Ostensibly his business in this country is that of a "trade agent." But he discharges his function by visiting soft-headed American businessmen, persuading them that there is something in it for them if they set up a clamor for us to be sensible and trade with Hitler--on Hitler's terms. Those terms are (1) that the American Government shall lend (i.e., give) Hitler five billion dollars in gold with which to pay for our surpluses; (2) that our Government shall abandon its "hostile attitude" toward the Nazis and "co-operate" (i.e., throw the door wide open to Nazi propaganda); and (3) that our Government shall not enter into an "arms race" with Hitler--which is to say that it shall not rearm.
It is all a part of the Hitler scheme to lull us to sleep by appeals to greed and fear and sentimentality until he is ready to take over the Western Hemisphere. Nonetheless, the evidence indicates that this fellow gumshoes about quietly, moves from hotel to hotel and lives under assumed names, is having a good deal of success with his sucker-bait. It is a polite form of sabotage, and one a good deal more dangerous than blowing up factories.
Do you suppose Germany would stand for such activities on the part of an American? She even throws out newspaper men who won't hew to the Nazi line. And why this fellow who is here on a passport as a guest, who has no diplomatic status and no claim on our tolerance, should be allowed to continue his cunning work is beyond us.
Italy Models Hers After That of Captain Fracasse
Italy's role in the war seems to be modeled on Captain Fracasse, a character out of her own folk comedy. He is a terrific fellow, this Fracasse. He boasts in a great voice that he drinks blood, he puffs out his cheeks, beats his breast, rolls his eyes ferociously, and is perpetually just about to eat somebody alive--having first taken good care to arrange that somebody shall grab him and hold him at the crucial moment.
Thursday the great Italian battle fleet from the bases in the west--a fleet that certainly far out-numbered and outweighed the British squadron which dispatched the French squadron at Oran--was supposed to be thundering to the scene of battle "under forced draught." But it never got there despite the fact that the British waited around hopefully and patiently. And Winston Churchill in the House of Commons taunted it with its marvellous discretion, repeated his insulting offer to guarantee it free passage through the Straits of Gibraltar if it would come out into the Atlantic and fight an equal British force.
A dashing, brave fellow, this Fracasse--if you pick him a legless, armless and toothless man to battle against.
Behind Which It Is Easy To See Dr. Goebbels
To anybody who has watched the Nazi propaganda machine closely, there is not much doubt about the explanation of the Barry hoax story.
There is a chance, of course, that it might have been the spontaneous work of some crank or fool with a misplaced sense of humor. But it is not likely that such a person would have known the whereabouts of the Barry as accurately as the sender of the SOS knew them.
What we probably have here is another move of the same sort as those "warnings" by the German Naval Command that this or that American liner was to be sunk by British submarines, disguised as Germans, to get us into the war.
We shall probably be told in short order that the message was actually sent out by the British in the hope of stirring up rage against Germany and perhaps even causing an incident of some kind. And in any case, leaving a residue of resentment in the minds of many people. All to the purpose of getting us into the war. Adolf Hitler is very tenderly concerned not to get us into war just yet.
And it may be that we shall be told this, not directly by the Nazis but by natives. There are in this country many people, some of them important publicists, who eagerly serve as mouth pieces for every German propaganda story--on the ground that it promotes what is called "isolation."
German purpose in using such a hoax would of course be to appeal to these people, to spread the idea that the British are plotting to get us unnecessarily into war and are themselves our true enemies, to confuse the American people and make them doubtful of where our real interest lies.
A Man's Birthday Reminds Us of a Notable Fight
Saturday was the birthday of John Paul, known to history as John Paul Jones, the founder of the American Navy and its tradition. Which is as good an excuse as another for recalling the battle in which that tradition was laid down.
It was off Flamborough Head, on the east coast of England, the 23rd of September, 1779. Master Jones had a squadron of four ships. His flagship was a wornout, unseaworthy merchant Indiaman palmed off on him by the French. Formally she had been the Duras, but Jones had renamed her the Bonhomme Richard, after Franklin's Poor Richard. She had 21 twelve-pounders on the side, three eighteen-pounders aft near the water line.
In the afternoon Jones intercepted a fleet of British naval stores being convoyed from the Baltic by H. M. S. Serapis and H. M. S. Countess of Scarborough. One of Jones' ships captured the latter quickly. But in the early moonlight evening, Jones found himself before the Serapis, alone. The British man-o-war had 25 guns to the side, ten eighteen-pounders.
To reduce the odds, Jones chose to fight in close quarters, before long came up broadside to the Serapis and lashed the two ships together. The guns could not be run out full-length: their muzzles touched. But from the first the Britisher had all the best of it. Two of Good Man Richard's eighteen-pounders exploded at the first shot and one by one the 21 guns on the side next to the Serapis--the only ones which could be used, of course--were silenced. Shot from the Serapis tore through the rotten sides of the Richard, turned her into a sieve with the moonlight passing all the way through her. She had been leaking to begin with, now she was sinking. An under-officer fell into panic, tried to strike the flag, released 300 British prisoners. But Lieutenant Dale knocked him out with a pistol-butt, drove the prisoners to the pumps. Captain Richard Pearson of the Serapis inquired if Captain Jones were not ready to surrender. Said Master Jones:
"I have not begun to fight yet."
And a great speech had passed into history.
Meantime, the musketmen whom Jones had thoughtfully stationed in the rigging of his ship had begun to get in their work. Faced with the fact that to service the guns of the upper deck meant sure death, the gunners abandoned them. A lucky shot from one of the last guns of the Richard brought down the mainmast of the Britisher. Burning pitch poured down upon her upper deck from the rigging of the American, setting her on fire. A bucketful of hand grenades thrown down a companionway touched off cartridges on her lower decks, littered them with dead and dying.
And at that moment the Alliance, one of Jones' ships which was commanded by a Frenchman, came up. Captain Pearson hauled down his flag, though four of his guns were still firing and though his ship was sound.
Two days later, the old Bonhomme Richard, made immortal in old age, sank quietly beneath the waves.
By universal consent, the action was the most remarkable naval feat in the record.
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