The Charlotte News

Sunday, May 28, 1939


Not Proved

Facts Are Needed Before We Conclude Squalus Was Sabotaged

Rumors of sabotage in connection with the disaster of the Squalus are increasingly flying about. And the story of Alfred G. Prien, machinist's mate second-class, who was in charge of the controls which submerged the ship, lends it plausibility--as one possibility. Prien maintains he carefully checked the lights which indicated whether the air valves were closed or not, before venting and flooding the ballast tanks; that when the startling news came to him that water was pouring into the engine room, he checked them again; that he continued to stare at them even when the boat tilted and flung him across the room--and that indubitably they were burning brightly. Theoretically that would be impossible-- unless the valves were closed, since the contact which controls the lights was at the base of the valves.

If sabotage there has been, then it should be--and for that matter will be--relentlessly tracked down, and the facts made public. And if a government of a foreign power is involved in it, the Government of the United States should exact the most terrible retribution in its power--and it has plenty of power for such retribution without steaming the fleet out to wipe the offending flag from the seas.

But it is just as well also to remember that all this at present is mere conjecture. There are other possibilities. Without reflecting on the truthfulness of sailor Prien, it is conceivable that he is mistaken--that the fault was his. It is possible, too, that there was a failure of material in the valves. Or that a fault in the wiring caused the light to signal falsely. Nothing certain can be known until the ship is raised and carefully gone over by an inquiry board. Meantime, it would be silly to wax hysterical on the basis of a mere surmise.

Fight Films

Dempsey Has A Case Opposing The Ban On Them

The old Manassa Mauler, Jack Dempsey, turned up before the Senate committee last Thursday. Not to be investigated about anything--for a wonder--but to enter empathetic plea in favor of the bill to legalize interstate transportation of price fight films. The ban, he said, cost him two million smacks in his day--senselessly.

And in fact it does seem absurd to forbid the transportation of these films--a thing that almost, though not entirely, prevents their being shown. Prize fighting is on exhibition almost daily in most of the states. In some of its branches, it may be and probably is a shabby racket. But thousands of people enjoy seeing it--and the notion that it is brutalizing seems to be mainly entertained by the sort of people who dream of a world in which all males will be got up like Little Lord Fauntleroy. In reality, like baseball, it probably serves a socially useful purpose--in affording a harmless outlet for certain primitive male impulses that cause trouble when they are too much inhibited. Anyhow, there the thing is, to be enjoyed by anybody who has a cash price. And to forbid the films is simply to say that what may be seen firsthand is verboten at secondhand--not precisely a masterpiece of logic.

In fact, the law appears to have got into existence back in 1912 only because of the idiotic race feeling stirred up by the championship of the Negro, Jack Johnson. We have got beyond such nonsense these days when another Negro is a champion and a good one. And it seems silly to hold to a law which had such an origin.

Going Home

The Italians Leave Spain But Musso Holds On To His Advantages

A total of 19,400 Italian troops are being removed from Spain to Italy this week, according to the official announcements. That these are all the troops there is not certain. But such a strong pro-Loyalist correspondent as Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times seems to be inclined to think that the official claims are correct. So at last, Italy has kept her word, a hundred times given and a hundred times broken.

What explains it? Several things. One of them is that the Spanish people have consistently demanded it--and that Franco, who confesses to having shot 688 prisoners since March, now believes that he has a population sufficiently cowed to hold them in check. Another is that many prominent Italians are reported as saying privately that Britain and France have been successful in at least partly neutralizing Spain, as far as another war goes. And what goes with that is the consideration that Italian land forces in Spain might prove to be a liability rather than an asset if war came. For the chances are that the French Navy would cut their lines of communication with the mother country in short order. Spain's chief military value to Italy is as a naval and air base--and it is manifest that Mussolini means to retain and even extend those advantages.

He has at length, that is, kept a promise but not one that cost him anything.


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