The Charlotte News

Friday, June 27, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Robert Rice Reynolds, now turned versutiloquous but as much the numb-hand as ever, is back in The News editorial column after a conspicuous absence since Cash's departure May 29. Now Bob is proclaiming, as Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, "We cannot help ourselves by helping Russia," in direct contradiction to the policy simultaneously enunciated by the State Department through Undersecretary Sumner Welles, that "[a]ny request for aid [by Russia] will be given as favorable consideration as possible." The News continues its traditional thrust and parry with its favorite home-grown Senator, reiterating its stand in the spring, usually voiced in Cash-authored pieces, along with other North Carolina newspapers, that the Senate should have set aside traditional seniority rules and not elevated Reynolds to such a key post when his views had been continually contrary to those of the Administration on foreign affairs, when his entire curriculum vitae spoke of perfidious Albion and in favor of Germany. Bob's personal hamstringing continued even in so important a post as he now occupied, the hope to the contrary voiced by The News in late May to no avail.

The military experts, of whom Hugh Johnson speaks, who predicted a German victory in one to three months, failing which would mean Hitler's loss of the war, were not far off in their prophecy, Johnson's dismissal of them as being bandwagon jumpers notwithstanding. (What they did not take into account, what nobody apparently took into account at the time, were the multifarious vicissitudes of weather.) Johnson proceeds to carp that the military experts in Washington, not even sufficiently apprised of the facts by their eyes and ears abroad to be aware as late as a week earlier of the planned June 22 invasion of Russia, could not therefore be trusted to provide appropriate advice on which action by the country should be premised. Johnson continues to advise a wait-see attitude.

We remark on the piece because it suggests the notion that a collateral, perhaps unplanned, purpose of the invasion of Russia was to test the element of Big Lie surprise on the Western press and military experts, both that in Great Britain and the United States. That, plus the desire to flex muscles before the world and prove also to the citizens at home that their sacrifice was worthwhile by virtue of a still virile, not to mention virulent, fighting force, might partially account for Hitler's desire to go to war regardless of Stalin's reported willingness to concede to virtually any demand in advance of the invasion to avoid it.

The Japanese, no doubt, took note: for if 180,000 Nazi troops might camp out on Stalin's front sidewalk as the press and military advisors ignored the situation as an improbable signal of impending attack on the Soviet Union, then their continuing incredulity to Axis affinity to the Big Lie theory, as well as Axis willingness to execute it with increasing and boundless temerity, might be so expected to continue such that, too, a carrier task force might proceed across 5,000 miles of open ocean from Japan to Hawaii without being seen for what it was, invisible, if not to the naked eye, to the fogged inner muddle which appeared now to pervade both Britain and America. The normal function of the sands contained within the pineal gland perhaps is diminished in times of extreme stress, until, at least, the adrenals kick in to substitute action, fight or flight, for sight.

And, while we empathize with the letter writer insofar as his frustration with the isolationists of the time, we disagree strongly with his suggestion that freedom of speech must be curtailed in time of war, declared or undeclared, and that anyone voicing dissent in time of war is a traitor. Indeed, it is in such a time that our Constitution, far from being suspended, must enjoy its greatest strength, if it is to have any vitality at all, so that dictators do not find positive reinforcement from curtailment by their enemies of their own domestic freedom, to stimulate further in them the very sort of disruption to actuate the enemy's demise from within in reaction to the perceived threat from without. To curtail freedom in time of war, especially the basic freedoms embodied in our First Amendment, is to serve the dictator seeking that very goal.

Who then is the traitor? the exerciser of the freedom or the one trying to take away or limit the freedom on the pretext of national security?

The remedy of course is the very sort of open forum allowed by The News, to enable all viewpoints sought to be heard to be discussed, cursed or encouraged. That is why America, through all of its fitful starts and caviling among its own citizens, nevertheless finally coalesced to become the catalyst for winning the war. The fact that it was clumsy and slothful in doing so is indicative not of inefficiency but of vital democracy, incident to which must be that very deliberative sloth in going to war or undertaking any such fateful decision affecting all citizens of the society, lest it become the dictatorship which the democracy, by definition, for its lifeblood and sustenance, by its checks and balances, seeks to avoid. That we should go to war at any time based on a trumpeted pretext, based on a Big Lie, makes us little better than Mussolini's Italy, Tojo's Japan, or Hitler's Germany.

Installment 23 of Out of the Night tells us of Jan's further attempt at Communist organizing in Great Britain, now stressing Scotland, but once again being expelled by Scotland Yard. (Why do they call it Scotland Yard and not England Yard?) Thus, he is crossed off the list of eligible comrades for assignment to Britain. He is then sent to Holland to help organize a Communist strike aboard Dutch ships, with an eye to creating confidence in Indonesian Communists to overthrow Dutch colonial rule, thereby creating problems for the British, French, and Dutch in the Pacific in the hope of keeping them occupied and far away from potential invasion of Russia, something, according to Jan, the Communist Central Committee incessantly feared. So the plan is set afoot, the Rotterdam, on its way to Rotterdam from New York, carrying the Dutch Olympic team, is picked as a target on which to initiate the strike through a staged mutiny, as inspiration to the general strike. All goes as planned. Eventually, however, according to pattern, the Dutch retake the Rotterdam, haul it to port where the Communists aboard are arrested for mutiny. Three weeks later, in September, 1932--not long before the election in Germany which would seat sufficient Nazi Party members in the Reichstag to enable Hitler to become Chancellor, as hedge against the Social Democrats' taking control--Firelei gives birth to Jan's son, who they name Jan--which is a little strange since the senior Jan's real name was Richard Julius Herman Krebs, but no matter.

In any event, in addition to resembling Plumbers' tactics, the methodology described for stranding Dutch shipping sounds similar to that which Captain Gainard had to endure while skipper of both the Algic and the City of Flint. But whether, strictly speaking, the strikes described in those latter instances were the result of Bolshies or Nazis or both, is hard to discern. Often, the membership was one and the same, having been trained, as Jan, in the same milieu. Regardless of party membership, following the pattern of official response, the Algic strikers were tried and convicted in Baltimore for mutiny, just as in the case of the Rotterdam.

Meanwhile, Red Ryder and Little Beaver seek to effect escape from Li Sing's ship headed for China; the means is, naturally enough, a bow and arrow. Popeye settles into a polite conversation with Mrs. Jones after disabusing her of the belief that he was an underwater traveling salesman. Bumstead throws away the expensive little fish he caught at the Watergate--it's the cover-up that gets you. Tops continues to harass women, probably high from too many marbles. Jesse becomes exercised in the face of Gutman's impatience with his reticence regarding the business he needed to discuss with Easy--something apparently about machine guns produced by his employer, McKee Industries. Probably some Green Street op. And Smilin' Sally seems to be uttering the same lines as Dancing Dotty and a few other similarly alliterative lovelies before her. Does Fleischmann's Yeast in a little tomato juice not only offset Vitamin-B complex deficiency but also induce a strange parroting complex in the bargain?

One more thing--that "mustard plaster", which Clapper notes was taking place at the Office of Production Management, conjoins with yesterday's editorial, "Aluminum", on the discrepancy between ready availability of sheets of the supposedly scarce cryolite derivative to nightclubs in New York and the deprivation of it in the form of pots and pans to the average homemaker, to suggest to us something. Just what, we can't yet precisely articulate. Nevertheless, without our ever having first read these post-May, 1941 pages or even laid eyes on them prior to late last month, there it is. Go figure.

Little did they know that those nightclubs in New York, on an instant's notice, upon being attacked, could fly right away to the chosen target: Tokyo. The ladies' pots and pans, though necessary implements in peacetime, usually couldn't fly further than their husbands' heads. Perhaps in that, the discrepancy at least is explained.

Just where, however, the static electricity comes into play, we shall have to see. But the aluminum and thus the importance of Greenland, appears clear--or does it?

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