The Charlotte News

Friday, June 19, 1942


Site Ed. Note: A good example of how typical foreign policy, that of any nation in any time, appears after the fact, when the facts are, more or less, mostly less, known, is provided in the little piece on the editorial page following the piece by William L. White--son of William Allen White, the Emporia, Kansas newsman--anent the new entries to the Army Air Corps and the roles of each to afford the kind of strike force needed to combat the enemy, not present in Hawaii or the Philippines at the time of Pearl Harbor.

Yet, with some diligence, sometimes even that which is abstruse and, even beyond that, obtuse, can become somewhat clear.

Mr. White concludes that for all the advancements in airplane technology, still the single most effective advance was in strategy, that of the surprise air attack, catching the enemy’s planes on the ground, as had been the case at Pearl Harbor and in the Doolittle Tokyo raid. He indicates that the Japanese, for all of their initially demonstrated air superiority, obtained mastery only by this strategy, not by technology, largely achieved by copying the German, American, and British engineering.

In the post-war world, some of the copying would be in reverse, as we are ironically reminded by the title of the White piece. In the documentary film by Erroll Morris, "The Fog of War", former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara discusses his time at Ford and the development of a safer passenger vehicle protecting, as does a simple cardboard egg carton, its contents. To that end, isolating engineering variables to effect more integral bodies and frames in this era preceding the computer model, egg cartons filled with eggs were dropped down stairwells to test comparative rigidity, ascertaining how many flights up each type of carton could be dropped without exposing the yokes.

In those days, the Germans, especially at Mercedes-Benz, were renowned for their solid, safe automobiles.

But the reason the title brings to mind this reverse exchange of technology is not so much the verb as its object. Mr. McNamara, while an executive at Ford, before becoming its president, just before being called upon by the President-elect in late 1960 to be the new head at the Pentagon, was the principal exponent of a cheap economy car which could compete with the new Japanese and German imports coming across the puddle, Volkswagen, Toyota, Datsun, and the French entry, the Renault Dauphine, (the latter of which we used to call in those days, quite innocent of our malaprop, the "Dopefiend", just as we unabashedly rhymed Renault with "exalt"). In any event, the car at Ford for which Mr. McNamara was responsible for hatching was the Falcon.

And a much superior car it was to the alternative provided the marketplace by General Motors that same introductory model year of 1960, the rear-engine competitor to the Bug which, while lower-slung and sleeker than its German archetype, was nevertheless unsafe at any speed and given to flippers, just as with that which the piece in "Visitin’ Around" indicates happened to the unfortunate lady who was injured badly "when it stopped flipping". (In the latter case, however, perhaps one of the chickens from the coop bit her as she went over the cliff. That can happen out that way.)

In any case, whether the President-elect took a test drive in a Falcon during 1959-60 and liked it so well that he decided to give Mr. McNamara a job interview, we don’t know. But stranger things have happened.

The only thing we shall say further on the Falcon is that in the winter of 1959, we had always liked Fords so well that we decided to set forth our own design for a brand new automobile which we proposed that Ford should put on the market. We drew it up for them and gave it the name "Reanek", (omitting the "c", we thought, giving it a special patina of éclat, like the Galaxie), and didn’t even ask for compensation for our night's effort. (Just what our nomen actionis meant, we have no idea and didn’t then, but it sounded good to us. Hey, look over some of the names they've provided those Japanese widgets. We’ll bet you that you don’t know the meaning of "Corolla" or "Prius" either. And is it pronounced Fall-con or Fal-con?) Whether our papa, pursuant to our request, duly mailed to Ford our design and it subsequently became the Falcon, we don’t know. But stranger things have happened.

If so, and you bought a Falcon, don’t blame us. We weren't ourselves at the time.

And we had nothing at all to do with the other one by Chevy.

Raymond Clapper writes today of continued criticism of the press, that it was out to destroy Congress and was tantamount to the French press before the fall. Mr. Clapper points out that it was the sell-out of France by its leaders which precipitated the fall and that the press merely followed on, having been bought and sold. He reminds that a vibrant press will never destroy Congress but only keep it honest and responsive to its duties to maintain the trust of those who elected each of its members to office.

No one but a malfeasant thief in public office would mind a probing press into the governmental functioning of elected and appointed officials of government, be they local, state, or Federal. Each, whether appointed bureaucrat, elected, or tenured civil servant, has a duty to every citizen of the society to do his or her job diligently, honestly, fairly, and impartially, every day, every minute for which they are being paid. Any objection to being held honorably to those tasks signifies a need to retire from the present position and to let someone eager to do the job have at it. Then the retiree can duly carp.

It is true, of course, that the yellow press, seeking scandal to sell newspapers and magazines and earn tv ratings, carry the formula too far, using the Fourth Estate’s mandate instead to probe into the private lives and peccadilloes of those in prominent office, often to the point of such absurd scrutiny that the "reporter" becomes little more than a gadfly, a self-appointed protegé of Joe McCarthy, out to make a name at the expense of others.

It is something else again, however, to inquire and criticize substantially regarding the manner in which the job of the elected or appointed official is being performed.

Speaking of each of which roles, the criticule, the critique, and the fairly and unfairly criticized, "A Failure", in the editorial column, points out and bemoans the fact that 433,000 men, 250,000 of whom were physically fit, could not pass a fourth grade equivalency examination and thus had to be rejected from service in the Army.

There would be nothing worse than to have a fourth grade educational equivalency and to wind up in a foxhole somewhere in France with your life dependent on some third grader.

"Haven't taken geography yet, have you? Yeah, too bad. Probably not even writing in cursive. Look out, get your head down, here comes another 'un. --No, that's alright. Understood. I'll be glad to fill it out for you."

It would have been even worse, however, if, as obviously the case of champagne was in France, the press and the government had to struggle to meet fourth grade equivalency.

"Puddle-Jumpers" reminds that it had been a mere fifteen years since Charles Lindbergh first crossed the Atlantic with the Lindy Hop. Now, the hop was a thing of nearly steady routine.

How far the world had advanced in that fifteen years: now, it could use its freshly minted celerity in transoceanic travel to attack and kill each other and wage world war upon both those with and without an air corps.

Do we speak cynically? Not so. For consider that it was Lucky Lindy who brought to the booboisie within the United States significant popular approval for the Nazi cause and enabled thereby significant delay in the preparation of the nation for war and the provision of aid to the Allies, especially Great Britain, all until the war was nearly lost.

While obviously man had for centuries found plentiful bases on which to found warfare without being fed by the facility of the airplane, the new invention had gone far to exacerbate the ease with which the madness already extant within the bloodlines could be foisted on other nations—all in an afternoon’s work.

The front page reports of the third meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt, the second since the December-January meetings in Washington in the wake of Pearl Harbor. This conference, which would last until June 25, would follow up on the meetings held between the Allied military commanders in London as reported May 26, resolving first to invade North Africa and clear the Mediterranean of German and Italian forces before plunging into Sicily, all as prelude for the invasion of France still two years hence.

On this day and the following day, FDR and Churchill met privately at FDR’s Hyde Park residence on the Hudson to discuss strategy, and then joined with military leaders for the remainder of the sessions in Washington. Some of the American military strategists favored an invasion of France in the near future, to take advantage of the Nazi preoccupation with Russia during the new summer offensive. The consensus, however, was, as elucidated by Paul Mallon’s piece of the previous date, that there were insufficient troops yet congregated in Britain to do more than aid the RAF, relieve war-weary British troops in Libya, and support those guarding India’s borders against Japanese invasion.

At the conclusion of the conference, FDR appointed Dwight Eisenhower commander of the American forces in Europe, thus setting the stage for a good portion of the ensuing 18 years of history--right through to the cancellation of the Eisenhower-Khruschev summit in the wake of the shooting down over Soviet territory on May 1, 1960 of the U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers.

This third Churchill-FDR war council thus solidified plans for the first Allied step toward establishing a beachhead in Axis territory, that which became "Operation Torch", to fulfill the informal commitment made by both FDR and Churchill to the Soviets to establish against the Nazis a second front in 1942 to take the pressure off the beleaguered Russian Army.

Meanwhile this date, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov made a speech to the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, reporting on the two treaties formed with the Allies, the May 26 treaty with Great Britain, just as the military command was meeting in London, and the June 11 treaty with the United States. The thrust of the treaty with Great Britain was, first, to reaffirm and formalize the commitments made the previous July 12 in the mutual assurance pact, that both countries would aid the other in the war against Nazi aggression and would not enter into a separate peace with Germany. Second, the treaty established a tone of cooperation and assurance of abstaining from both acquisition of territory and interference with the sovereign government of other nations in the post-war world, indicating a commitment to those ends for at least twenty years into the future.

The treaty also specified that the the Soviet Union and Great Britain would cooperate in insuring Nazi and Fascist aggression "impossible" of repetition.

Query whether the use of "impossible" gave tacit permission to the Soviet Union, at least in their own perception of the matter, to exert the oppressive controls it did during the Cold War over Eastern Europe. Did it allow the construction of the Berlin Wall in August, 1961? Or was it the case--as certainly Churchill believed it when he coined the phrase "Iron Curtain" in his speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri in early 1946, and as subsequent joint British and American foreign policy had as its foundational premise throughout the Cold War—that the Soviets were merely "Hitlerite aggressors" themselves in Eastern Europe, promulgating as rationale unfounded propaganda, that capitalists in America and Britain sought post-war establishment of an imperialistic presence in Europe to obtain economic and psychological control of the Continent to build from it an Anglo-American empire?

The June 11 treaty with the United States did not discuss the post-war world specifically with regard to territorial aggression but limited itself to assurance of economic cooperation without trade discrimination and affirmation of the similar goals set forth in the Atlantic Charter of August, 1941. The treaty primarily assured increased Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviet Union in the time ahead.

In his speech, Molotov stressed that a billion dollars worth of supplies had been earmarked for the Soviet Union by the United States in November, 1941, now set to increase to three billion dollars for the second half of 1942.

Returning to the piece by W. L. White, does it not suggest, sub silentio, how the arms race got going? just as the piece in the editorial column of yesterday, "The New Day", had suggested: to combat bows and arrows came the superior weaponry of guns, then tanks and airplanes, then superior tanks and airplanes, faster, more maneuverable tanks and airplanes, equipped with more accurate artillery, with greater firepower, longer range, bigger shot—eventuating in World War II in the singular tactic to beat all previous tactics, the kamikaze raid, that against which there was no defense, save a blast from the sky sufficiently strong to dispel the divine wind before its dauntless pilot, sake-bound, could set the blown missile on its irrevocable fatal course in fiery finality into the ship’s heart.

As Lafcadio Hearn presaged in 1896 in Kokoro the aftermath of Midway, Guadalcanal, and the steady encroachment thereafter on the superiority demonstrated so successfully for five months by the Japanese navy and air corps:

"This could mean only a peril greater than that of the Tartar invasion in the days of Hojo Tokimune, when the people had prayed to the gods for help, and the Emperor himself, at Ise, had besought the spirits of his fathers. Those prayers had been answered by sudden darkness, a sea of thunder, and the coming of that mighty wind still called Kami-kaze,--"the Wind of the Gods," by which the fleets of Kublai Khan were given to the abyss. Why should not prayers now also be made? They were, in countless homes and at thousands of shrines. But the Superior Ones gave this time no answer; the Kami-kaze did not come. And the samurai boy, praying vainly before the little shrine of Hachiman in his father's garden, wondered if the gods had lost their power, or if the people of the Black Ships were under the protection of stronger gods."

Yet, the lesson was not learned. Post-war, despite the treaties just signed by the U.S. and Great Britain separately with the Soviets to prevent the mistakes which had led to two world wars twenty years apart, the great race for bigger and better nuclear weaponry and means by which to deliver its warhead took its course for nearly half a century.

That which the treaties mutally signed by the Allies during the war were designed to prevent stalked the world after the war in unremitting terror nightly until the great signatories’ populations of the many islands of the world were benumbed and consigned to their Apocalyptic fates, sake-bound in the Divine Wind, deprived of provender and rational comfort so that their governments might engage continually in brandishing superior arms at their enemy only to find that by the time the arms were built, the enemy had already increased the ante with superior Black Ships.

All lessons can be lost unless repeatedly instilled from that which has gone before, that already learned, realizing its former hardship, its loss, its pain, its suffering, its Divine Wind myths insane, leading on to that which can never be properly undone or recompensed to those who lived through those earlier hot wars, fought in them, and especially to those who died in them.

Should anyone doubt the futility of such an arms race, nuclear or conventional, when engaged by countries abroad the world, we suggest presenting them with that little piece, as printed from The New Yorker, and encourage an understandong of its brutally frank and cathartic wisdom established in a mere 87 words, reading the whole of it without flipping the page. The concept is universal.

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