The Charlotte News

Tuesday, September 5, 1939



Site Ed. Note: For a visual overview of Europe in September, 1939, see enlargeable map.

The War

British, French Need Time To Arrange Their Attacks

To most observers on this side of the water, the war in the West will seem to be getting underway with surprising slowness and lack of vigor.

So far as Hitler goes, that was perhaps to be expected. For many months, to be sure, we have heard German threats and ominous British predictions that, if war came, London would lose 100,000 people to air bombers in the first month of the war, that Paris would suffer much the same fate. But in fact neither city has yet been touched. Perhaps that is in part explained by the fact that Hitler knows well that when they are bombed, Berlin will be bombed--and fears for the effect on the morale of the German nation which has not been prepared for such eventualities as the British, and French.

What predominantly explains it, however, seems to be Hitler's hope to complete the conquest of Poland in a few weeks, and then negotiate a peace in which the British and French will accept the fait accompli.

But the sinking of the Athenia does not at all fit with any such program. The launching of a new unrestricted submarine campaign is exactly the move which would be best designed to stir up the Allies to bitter-end resolution and win them the active support of the United States. Yet there seems to be no reasonable doubt, now that the passengers have begun to report, that it was a submarine, and not a mine, which destroyed the ship. Just possibly, it was not a German submarine but that of another power interested in stirring the war to the bitterest possible pitch.

In the absence of evidence, however, that is mere speculation. What is more possible is that a German submarine commander lost his head and pulled a boner. In any case, we shall not be long in doubt. For if a new submarine campaign is in the cards, there will of course be other cases soon.

Matter of fact, we do not even know that the war is proceeding as slowly as it seems to us, for we do not really know what is transpiring on the Franco-German border.

And if it is true that the French are moving slowly, then it is probably with reason. Gamelin is a cautious and methodical soldier, who does not like to sacrifice his men uselessly as Joffre and Sir John French, as well as Foch and Haig, often did, and who remembers well the lesson of the last war, that nothing can be gained by mere blind rushes against powerful positions. He faces such a position in the Siegfried Line--which the Germans claim is impregnable and which may actually prove so in the event. If Gamelin is to take it, he needs all the strategy of which he is master, and to do that he undoubtedly needs time to feel out the weak spots and arrange his troops into position for the blow or series of blows.

We do know that the British attack on Wilhelmshaven yesterday was executed with a surprisingly small force of bombers. But it is quite possible that this was a feeler, designed to test out the feasibility of some scheme looking to the clearing of the North Sea and the opening of the Baltic. Perhaps the British are playing with the idea of attempting to force the German North Sea fleet to a choice between being systematically disabled in the Jade Basin, or of making a dash for the Kiel Canal and the comparative safety of the Baltic--a move which would give the British Navy a chance to destroy them as they came out of the mouth of the Weser. Perhaps, it is something else they are up to. But it is not likely that they are indulging in mere desultory operations.

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