The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 8, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Dorothy Thompson's assessment of the presumed innocence and patriotic purpose of the short-wave broadcasts being sent overseas proved overly optimistic as demonstrated by the brief culled below from the New York Times of July 1, 1941. A key relay station for inimical short-wave broadcasts between North America and the Abwehr in Hamburg was in Mexico.


It is reassuring to learn that at least one well-organized
espionage plot has been cut off at its roots. The arrest of
thirty-two alleged spies in a round-up by the Federal Bureau
of Investigation indicates that the national authorities are
awake to this danger and that they have been keeping a careful

There is no doubt as to which Government these agents were
serving. Twenty-five of them are Germans. The activities
of the ring seem to have been widely varied, including trans-
mission by short-wave radio of information on British ship-
sailings, collection of data on our rearmament program and
even attempts to send abroad a model of some of our secret
military devices. For two years the individuals involved,
whether at work in defense plants or sheltered in consular
offices, have been kept under observation.

We have no Gestapo in this country and do not want one.
Self-constituted spy hunters are almost as intolerable. The
F.B.I., acting within strict legal regulations, is fully
competent to deal with the spy menace. Of its capability
in this field we now have fresh evidence.

Real Culprits

Embassies, Not These Soldiers, Deserve U.S. Wrath

The 21 Italians convicted at Wilson yesterday of violating U.S. laws in sabotaging the motors of the freighter Villeiperces, could not have gone unpunished because of the effect such an example would have on other potential saboteurs.

Nonetheless, one can hardly avoid feeling pity for them. There is nothing vicious about these men, as their photographs--totally lacking in the fanaticism which distinguishes photographs of Nazis--clearly prove.

Simply, they were caught in the middle. As the captain of the ship testified, he was ordered to disable the engines by the Italian Embassy. If he had refused, he would have exiled himself. And when he in turn ordered the crew to carry out the job, no man could refuse under penalty of being charged with mutiny and treason.

Worse even, both captain and crew would have counted on the attentions of the strong-arm squads which Mussolini and Hitler maintain in this country, under the direction of their embassies.

In point of fact, the men probably acted both from motives of loyalty and motives of fear.

But the real culprit in this case is the Italian Embassy, and behind it the German Embassy--which probably suggested the move in the first place. The poor devil of a captain and his sailors must take the rap alone because diplomats are not subject to arrest and punishment.

But we may well ask how long the United States is going to continue to tolerate the masquerade of centers of sabotage, spying and subversion behind the facade of legitimate diplomatic establishments.

Road's End*

Fate at Last Catches Up With Confident Espositos

The Esposito brothers may still nourish hope, but the chances seem to be that they are near the end of their road.

All their adolescent and adult lives they had lived by robbing and murdering, and had somehow got away with it without suffering any great penalty. But they waxed too confident and overdid themselves last January when they held up a payroll in the elevator of a New York midtown building, dashed out to the street, killed a policeman and dangerously wounded a taxi driver and a bank employee who had courageously sought to grab them.

Even after that they were still confident. The mouthpiece, they boasted, would spring them. And in court they raged and stormed and screamed and moaned in an effort to convince the jury that they were insane. But psychiatrists know well what insanity is and told the jury that these men were simply faking, unconvincingly. And so they were sentenced to die, as they richly deserved.

Even then they seemed to have retained hope and confidence. And yesterday when the police were removing them to Sing Sing they staged a fierce attempt to break away--only to be clubbed into submission and dragged inside the gates.

Now they sit in isolated and separated death cells waiting for the electric chair on June 16.

Sentimentalists sometimes argue that such men are purely the victim of circumstances (these were slum products). And that may be so. Certainly society has its responsibility in the case. But a mad dog is in some sense the victim of circumstances, too. However, nobody argues that, once he has developed, he must not be gotten rid of with decision and dispatch.

Busy Agency

ABC Forces Have Active Reasons To Get Bootleggers

At Fayetteville ABC officers, assisted by local and military police, arrested 80 bootleggers in a gigantic round-up.

Several years ago, the ABC forces just about cleaned out the bootleggers of Fayetteville, according to reports from there. But the great expansion of Fort Bragg has tempted many to re-enter the field again, mainly as peddlers of pints after the closing hours of ABC stores.

The drys will point to that, no doubt, as evidence that legal liquor control does not really do away with the bootlegger. But the ABC authorities are obviously out to put them down with a stern hand, if the thing is humanly possible.

One thing is clear, at any rate. Under the legal set-up, there is an agency which is actively concerned with fighting the growth of illicit trade. In so-called dry territory, the local police are supposed to be similarly concerned, of course. But, with other and generally more important tasks before them, they are invariably inadequate to the task. Can you imagine a round-up of 80 bootleggers in Charlotte? Certainly not, though there are hundreds of them here.

And if you really want to appreciate the working of the two systems, just try to imagine Fort Bragg located near Charlotte--with the flood of new bootleggers super-imposed on the army which has already had so sinister an effect upon the life of the city. If anybody seriously supposes that the local police could cope with that situation, he supposes that Mrs. Partington had a simple and easy task in conquering the Atlantic with her broom.

Site Ed. Note: Traffic running willy-nilly was one of the longstanding pet peeves of The News during Cash's tenure; see, for instance, "But Without a Pouch", January 4, 1938, "Piling Up the Odds", March 25, 1938, "Traffic War", January 23, 1940, "Hazard", February 7, 1940, and "No Hope", December 11, 1940. What appeared somewhat comical in the abstract, however, turned terribly tragic in the instance described below, right outside the hotel where Cash, upon arrving in Charlotte to take his post writing editorials, first resided in fall, 1937. Cash never owned a car, barely could drive one, lived only four blocks from work, and so readily identified with the hapless pedestrian.

The Walker

He Becomes Increasingly Open Game In Charlotte

The body of the woman killed in front of the Selwyn Hotel Tuesday night was picked up fifteen feet beyond the crosswalk at West Trade and Church. So was her injured son.

The man who struck them at first denied that he was driving the car, admitted he was only after extensive questioning.

We have no disposition to pre-judge the case. Possibly, the dead woman and the boy were jaywalking, though no evidence to that effect has appeared. And perhaps the driver of the death car was just unduly frightened in his denials.

Nevertheless, it is clear under any view that the car in question was being operated at a speed which was wholly incompatible with the safety of pedestrians. Even jaywalking on the part of a pedestrian does not give an automobile driver carte blanche to kill him. On the contrary, the driver is under the duty of constantly bearing the probability of jaywalkers in mind.

But it is not only jaywalking that endangers the pedestrian's life in this town. It is worth his neck to step into the street at a proper intersection on the green light, though he is legally supposed to have the right away.

A practice has grown up under which impatient drivers apply a burst of speed just as the light turns, and whips around the corner to head off pedestrians. Then others follow, bumper to bumper. Result is often that the pedestrian cannot cross the street at all or must cross it by leaping and jumping like a kangaroo--usually to find himself in the middle as the light turns again.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina has explicitly defined the automobile as a deadly weapon. And anybody who uses it in this reckless fashion is potentially a murderer and ought to be dealt with as such.

Snide Game

Republicans in Congress Put Their Politics First

With the exception of Senator Austin and a few others, the Republican Party is putting on an exhibition of obstructionism in Congress which more than justifies the impatience Mr. Clapper expressed in his column yesterday.

Among them, as among the Democrats, are a few honest isolationists--i.e., men with a vested interest in the isolationist position or pacifist-radicals from the Middle West, who have now turned appeaser and want to buy Hitler off by betraying Britain.

But the overwhelming majority of them are simply bitter-end partisans who are out to sabotage the policy of the Administration, who would be out to sabotage any possible policy of the Administration. They are isolationists and appeasers simply because the Democratic Administration is not.

They know, quite as well as anybody, that what they are doing is giving active aid and comfort to Adolf Hitler. They know well that these resolutions are not going to pass. They know that the sole purpose they will serve is to delay effective aid to Britain.

But if that course wrecks the Administration, they apparently don't mind if it wrecks the nation also.

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