The Charlotte News

Wednesday, October 18, 1939


Site Ed. Note: Query was the sneak attack on the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow by U-boat, quite unexpected and undetected by the British Navy afloat there, as discussed in "German Feat", a precursor to Pearl Harbor?


Sims Strikes First Real Blow At Numbers Racket

Judge Frank Sims yesterday set an important precedent for dealing with the numbers racket when he clapped a sentence of six months or a fine of $1,000 on a young woman convicted in City Court of engaging in the racket. The News has long maintained that if the authorities really want to break up this business, the only possible way to go about it is the way the judge has adopted. That it ought to be broken is beyond question. So far as petty gambling goes, we believe it is ineradicable and comparatively harmless. Nevertheless, this organized business of petty gambling is plainly against the law and the law must be enforced. And what is a great deal more, this organized racket tends to concentrate large sums of money in irresponsible hands--a thing which has sinister implications far over and beyond any mere question of petty gambling.

Experience has shown, however, that, for reasons that need not be gone into here, it is impossible to convict the big shots in the racket. But the big shots are ultimately dependent on the runners and lesser fry generally. And these lesser fry can be caught and convicted easily. If, however, they are turned loose with merely nominal fines as has hirtherto been the rule, convicting them does no good--serves merely to strafe the least guilty for no purpose. But, if each time they are caught--and the whole body of them can be caught almost every day--they are given the stiffest sentences and fines possible under the law, then one of two things is bound to happen: either the big shots will pay their fines, with the inevitable result that they will shortly find their racket unprofitable; or they will refuse to pay them, and before long it will be impossible to find men willing to undertake the risks of the small fry jobs for the slight remuneration involved.

It was that logic which Judge Sims began to apply yesterday. It ought to be continued with unvarying consistency.

German Feats

Attacks At Scapa Flow Were Daring And Able

The announcement of the British Admiralty that the Royal Oak was sunk at Scapa Flow, and that four German bombers yesterday inflicted some damage on the training ship, Iron Duke, in the same harbor, is the most startling piece of information we have yet had.

For Scapa Flow is the primary base of the British Navy in the North Sea. The basin lies within the Orkneys, the islands directly north of Scotland, with Mainland and Hoy bounding it to the north and the west, and Ross Ness and St. Ronaldsha on the east. Other lesser islands on the south and west complete the encirclement. It is about fifteen miles long and eight miles wide.

Taking a submarine into it at night was an extraordinarily daring and skillful feat. There are a number of possible entrances, but all of them are narrow and dangerous. And indeed, it is difficult to understand how, if the British have the effective radio detection devices they claimed to have before the war, they could have been unaware of the presence and location of the undersea raider. Perhaps the best guess is that it was due to over-confidence--the failure to take proper precautions on the assumption that the submarines would not dare to come there in any case.

Just as puzzling is what happened in the Royal Oak case is the fact that the planes succeeded in penetrating to both Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth. In the one case, they had to fly about 450 miles, in the other about 500, from the nearest German bases--straight across the length of the North Sea. But in neither case did the British seem to know they were coming until they were at hand, despite the fact that the British Navy is presumably scattered all over the North Sea.


This Is A Libel Against Mr. Hoover's Judgment

We flatly refuse to believe the stories that Herbert Hoover is playing with the idea of running Lindbergh for President. For it is to accuse the former President of being so blinded by partisan zeal and age that he is reckless of the welfare of the country.

Lindbergh as a President in these times of stress would be an incredible calamity. His sole fitness for the job lies on the fact that he once flew an airplane across the Atlantic. The man is as completely without background or education or experience for this job as any other flier picked up at random. And he has exhibited the gravest faults of temperament and judgment. We have an unfortunate national penchant for assuming that because a man makes a success of anything--flying, making money, what have you--he is therefore evidently fitted for every other task, including that of government. It has cost us much grief in the past--as in the case of General Grant. But we do not believe that the country is silly and reckless enough for this, or that Mr. Hoover is silly and reckless enough to propose it.

Wanted: Proof

We Enter Some Questions For A Notable Witness

Before we accept the affidavit filed with the State Department yesterday by Mr. Gustav A. Andersen, to the effect that the Athenia was carrying large quantities of guns to Canada, we want a little more evidence. For it was made and filed at the instance of three bitter-end opponents of the repeal of the arms embargo: Representatives Case (Republican), of South Dakota; Brooks (Democrat), of Louisiana; and Pierce (Democrat), of Oregon.

The intended implication seems to be that Germany was justified in sinking the ship. It may be pointed out at once that that is a non sequitur. The ship carried passengers, was admitted by even Mr. Andersen not to be armed in the legal sense, and so required to be warned in any case. Moreover, Canada had not declared war when the ship was sunk, and so to carry guns to her was, under any view of the matter, perfectly legal--the sinking of the ship a crime.

Nevertheless, we want to know some things. First, who is Mr. Gustav Andersen? He is described to us simply as a travel agent in Evanston, Ill. But that seems a bit skimpy. Evanston, Ill. is a large town, essentially a part of the great city of Chicago, and hunting a Mr. Gustav Andersen in it, without an address, might be a long job. Precisely where does Mr. Andersen live? What is this travel agency of his? Where did he come from? What is his background?

Next, Mr. Andersen tells the State Department that Chief Officer Copeland of the Athenia himself told him that the ship was carrying a large cargo of guns. If so, Mr. Copeland is the most blab-mouthed officer we have heard of in the British merchant marine, and a man who takes absolutely no account of the effect on his passengers of telling them that he is carrying guns in wartime--a fellow who does not at all mind having a whole shipload of hysterical women and Nervous Nellies--in fact, dotes on it.

A braver man than that, indeed, is this Mr. Copeland--a man who takes no account of the stern British Military Secrets Act, and, according to Mr. Gustav Andersen, blabs right out to his passengers that the Athenia is being taken to Canada to be outfitted as a raider!

Somehow, we want to hear Mr. Copeland himself come forward now and tell us that.

And then, we want to hear some testimony from those passengers generally. Mr. Andersen assures us that "It was generally known among them" that the ship was carrying guns and was on her way to being outfitted as a raider. We take off our hats to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. Standing on their legal rights, they cheerfully board ships that carry guns and that are going to be transported to be made into warships, and take it all in their stride. An intrepid people, truly. Let's hear from them concerning this heroism.


A Little Inquiry Into This Might Not Hurt

Reported Senator Maloney, of Connecticut, that he has received threats of physical violence unless he votes against the repeal of the arms embargo, bears out what has already appeared.

Some of these threateners, of course, are crackpots, and are rightly ignored. But it might be well for the Senators and Congressmen to turn the letters of others over to the postal inspectors and the FBI. The right of the people peaceably to petition certainly does not include the right to threaten violence. An investigation into the background and inspiration of some of these threateners might turn up interesting information.

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