The Charlotte News

Monday, September 11, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Cash's comment in "In the Pit", that syndicated columnist Dorothy Thompson, who had the honor of having Hitler kick her out of Germany in 1934, was "as personal as ladies usually are" in her attacks on the Third Reich, is ironic on two counts. First, Cash, himself, more and more as the war went forward, exasperatedly chronicled the movements of the "rat-like man" and his Nazi regime in a quite ad hominem manner; witness the very personal remark below in "Marking Time" referring to Hitler as a child expecting his will to be obeyed on all occasions. Cash raged so at the Housepainter that, as it was later recounted by members of the News staff, he on more than one occasion threw newsprint bearing Hitler's likeness on the floor of the newsroom and stamped it with his foot, and not just for theatrics; the very personal animus was quite real. (Cash's objectivity on the German people as a whole, however, even as to U-Boat commanders, is demonstrated in "Beau Geste", below--though it may be the only recorded occasion in which Cash gave a positive comment to one among the number of the "Nazi swine". And indeed, within a very few days he would be ascribing this seeming act of magnanimity to an orchestrated propaganda campaign from Berlin to attempt to humanize the Nazi.)

Second, a female member of the News recounted in the early 1980's to Cash's second biographer, Bruce Clayton, that Cash was "too personal" and further implied that he was a bit chauvinistic in his approach to women. Whether perhaps she had chronicled away this very day's editorial on Ms. Thompson in a file drawer labeled "irksome", from which later to replenish this latter opinion, is irrelevant, but mildly interesting for the general notion that such offhand comments years after the fact to biographers on any person are often gathered from scant personal contact with the subject and the most miniscule of perceived faux pas, and sometimes on comments registered purely in ironic fashion or merely to balance off large-hand praise to recoup the dignity of objective journalism. (The particular person in question also had many positive things to say of Cash and, of course, mild criticism is fair play when asked to comment in such situations.) But perhaps drawing the reader's attention to this commentary is too personal and so we shall desist from any further irony on the whole non-affair. (Though we must not submit timidly as una castrata--and so...)

In fact, Cash, on more than one occasion, bestowed the highest kudos on the writing and journalism of Ms. Thompson. (See, for example, Cash's by-lined editorial from the book-page, "Dorothy Thompson Hits the Nail on the Head on Foreign Affairs", from just two weeks earlier, August 27,1939.) By contrast, he despised the isolationist point of view of General Hugh S. "Ironpants" Johnson, (also a lawyer), considered him usually facile, and never hesitated in saying so. (See, for example, Cash's book review of the General's book in "Hell-Bent for War", April 17, 1941, and numerous editorials in 1940 blasting the isolationist General's not-quite-daily column.)

In The Pit

Wherein We Stick Out Our Own Necks A Bit

The passage between General Johnson and Dorothy Thompson (see his column for Sunday and Miss Thompson's column in Friday's News) is an admirable instance of the pot and the kettle.

Ironpants, we confess, fills us with glee with his crack to the effect that the lady appears sometimes to "think that the issues of war are her and Hitler." She is quite as personal as ladies usually are, and hopping mad about it.

Moreover, she stuck her neck out to giraffe proportions when she sneered at the General as a military expert. He is, of course, no great authority on tactics, but, as a professional and distinguished soldier, he does inevitably know more about military matters than does Miss Thompson or any layman who has not made an intensive study of them.

On the other hand, he covers far too much territory when he advises us that "I saw us get into the World War from the official side. I don't have to guess--I know how it happened." In fact, he was from Oct. 1, 1916 until April 1, 1917, assistant to the law officer, Bureau of Insular Affairs. And that job was certainly not the ringside seat which he insinuates it to have been.

The General's thesis is taken from the early revisionist literature of the 1920's, and has it that we went to war in 1917 against all sense and all our interest because of mass hysteria generated by cunning British propaganda, aided by the machinations of such men as Walter Hines Page. Miss Thompson is correct when she infers that few sober students of the question now subscribe to any such over-simplified view.

Incidentally, it is amusing to observe that acceptance of the General's contentions would make us out to have been even bigger morons than Miss Thompson's demand for censorship infers that we are.

Beau Geste

A Lone Galahad Turns Up In The Submarine Ranks

It is an interesting and illuminating contrast furnished by the cases of the British freighters, Olivegrove and Manaar, both sunk by German submarines last week.

In the case of the Manaar, the sub commander set himself to do his best to emulate the example of the swine who sank the Athenia. First he hurled a torpedo into the ship without the warning required by international law save in cases where the danger to the sub is too great. Then he turned his guns on the crew as they sought to escape in lifeboats.

The commander of the sub which got the Olivegrove, on the other hand, might have stepped out of the pages of Morte d'Arthur. He gave the ship due warning, waited until the lifeboats were launched and had drawn safely away from the doomed vessel, then sent a torpedo into her. Afterwards, he courteously gave the men in the boats their bearings, even offered to tow them, and when that was declined, fired two rockets so that ships in the vicinity might know they were in danger--rockets which promptly brought the U.S. liner, Washington, to their rescue.

Altogether a notable gentleman.

Marking Time

Allies Jockey For Position Behind Hitler's Hopes

The curious character of this war on the Western Front seems to depend on two things: (1) Adolf Hitler's eagerness to avoid a battle to the death with England and France just now; and (2) diplomatic maneuvering for position on the part of the Allies.

Hitler's aim all along has clearly been to take Poland swiftly, confront the Allies with the fait accompli, offer "generous terms" under which he would actually annex only about a third of Poland and "guarantee" the remainder, and let England and France off for some nominal concessions in the way of colonies, or perhaps with no concessions at all save that of letting him have his way with Poland.

Curiously enough, the vast propaganda for this "appeasement" scheme seems to be directed, not at England, the original home of "appeasement," but at France which never did think much of the general idea. It was to this purpose of persuading France and splitting her off from England, thus forcing the latter to yield, to which Goering addressed himself in his speech Saturday. It is to the same purpose that Mussolini's newspapers are now turning. Day and night the air over France is filled with incessant chatter from the German and Italian radio stations which pictures Germany as an innocent set against another innocent (France) by the wolf, England: asks Frenchmen plaintively and chidingly if they really want Germans and Frenchmen to die by millions over a little spot of ground in Poland: assures Frenchmen "most sincerely" that Hitler wants nothing of France: and attempts to stir French resentment by alleging that England is leaving France to hold the whole military bag.

And it is to the same purpose that the Red army is being called up in Russia, which may still not mean really to fight. With the offer of appeasement goes the threat of throwing the Red armies on France if she does not yield.

It is a cunning scheme--one which, if it worked, would give Hitler an enormous victory. On the basis of his belief that a nation which once yields ignominiously will go on yielding ignominiously, he probably hopes that it would mean the total collapse of resistance to him, and that he would hereafter take over by piecemeal the whole of Europe and its possessions without ever having to fight a serious war. But it is immensely unlikely that it will work. It represents the curious infantile thinking of Hitler, who believes as thoroughly as any child that he can always make the world obey his will and that words will always somehow magically prevent his own doctrine of force from being applied against him.

England made her position amply clear yesterday. And the French are good realists, who thoroughly understand Mr. Hitler and his methods.

Meantime, however, the Allies are clearly not yet ready to disillusion him entirely. One reason is that he almost certainly will fly into a temper when he does realize that he has willy-nilly placed his neck at stake, and loose terrible air attacks on London and Paris. The English and French slowness in developing air attack is probably explained in part precisely by the need for maintaining their fleets intact for grim retaliation when he begins that.

But the most important reason for the Allied slowness is the need of time in smoking out Mussolini. So far as Poland goes, it may as well be recognized that the only hope for her is the ultimate smashing of Germany. If necessary France will try to break the Siegfried Line at all costs. But barring a lucky chance, that is likely to take a great while. The French army much prefers to attack through Italy, suspects that it is going to get the chance, and so quite reasonably does not want to waste its strength in a determined move against the Line until it is plain that there is no other course. Nor can the British navy decide its course until Mussolini is driven into the open one way or the other. And finally, the whole question of what course Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Greece will take hangs on the same point.

(See map of Siegfried Line and Maginot Line.)

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