The Charlotte News

Monday, July 14, 1941


Site Ed. Note: Initially, we note three more dangling facts as to Cash's death which should be appropriately plugged into the analysis of the last few days:

First, Mary stated to Joseph Morrison in 1964 that Josephus Daniels's phone call on July 4 to FDR concerned at least in part the need for expediting her egress from Mexico, resulting from her passport being locked in the safe deposit box by Cash on the morning before his death.

Second, the consular report obtained by Morrison in 1965 on Cash's death elaborates beyond the death certificate, saying: "Applicant's mind became impaired and he hanged himself in one of the local hotels." It then makes reference to the death certificate. It does not, however, make reference to any autopsy or autopsy report. And of course the death certificate did not refer to any impairment of the mind or suicide, only "asphyxiation by hanging" as cause of death.

Third, the decision of Cash to spend a year in Mexico appears not to have been reached on his own. On September 8, 1940, Cash wrote Alfred Knopf a letter indicating that he wanted to write a biography on Huey Long, felt it would be a short project which would bring him some further recognition and income, and serve as a pot-boiler therefore for the novel, or novels, which he intended to write. As to the latter, he indicated that initially he was contemplating a multi-volume set on the Civil War, dividing it up by battles, much as Shelby Foote's later saga was in non-fiction, culminating at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Richmond and Appomattox. He indicated, however, that he felt this latter project was too ambitious as a first novel and that instead he would concentrate his efforts on a character named Andrew Bates, born 1900 to a cotton mill family in piedmont North Carolina, beginning with the story of his grandfather, starting about 1880. But in the meantime, the biography on Long, he thought, could be financed by a Guggenheim through which he would spend a year in New Orleans researching and writing it, along with the novel. He said nothing in this letter about Mexico.

Cash indicated that he would be in New York during the week of September 16 or 17 through Sunday, September 21. By way of reply to Mr. Knopf's inquiry about new writers around Charlotte, Cash responded with a recommendation for Mary, not yet his wife of course, and John Orr Allison, a former navy seaman who was full of sea stories, honor graduate from Chapel Hill and Lyons, but "plagued with all the devils of neuroses". (Some years after Cash's death, Mr. Allison committed suicide with a necktie.)

Mr. Knopf replied on September 9 approving of the novel writing plans, albeit instructing that it should be no longer than 100,000 words, not the 150,000 to 200,000 Cash estimated. He invited Cash to set up an appointment with him when in New York to discuss the matter further.

Then, in October, 1940, Cash put forth his third and finally successful Guggenheim application, indicating his intention to write the novel on Andrew Bates while living in Mexico; he expected the novel to be complete by January 1, 1942 (perhaps anticipating then that the grant might begin in January, 1941). "The place has been chosen with an eye to both my journalistic future and my hopes for a career as a writer. It seems to me that Americans who deal in the printed word are going to have to pay a great deal more attention to Latin-America in the future than has been the case in the past. And Mexico City seems to me to be the best place to get acquainted with it." Alfred and Blanche Knopf and Jonathan Daniels co-sponsored Cash for the grant, awarded in mid-March.

We mention these three dangling threads because as to the first one, if Mary's statement is correct--and we have no reason to doubt it as Daniels did record in his memoirs a phone call on July 4 to the President, though it does not mention Cash--, then why, pray tell, would Daniels bring such a relatively mundane matter up with the President of the United States, that is a suicide of an American writer in Mexico and the need to obtain proper documents to get his wife out of the country? That was a matter for the State Department, and surely Daniels had as much pull at State as at the White House without bothering the President in such a troublesome time for the country, in a practical state of war.

But if Daniels believed Cash had been murdered by Nazi agents or if Cash had been informally working as an analyst on information obtained by the government, if he had been involved in seeking to penetrate the Mexico spy ring as a journalist and relaying information about it back to the government, then such a phone call directly to the President three days after Cash's death makes much better sense.

As to the second fact, the consular report's added material regarding suicide appears to be hearsay, not a factual conclusion reached in writing anywhere by the physician examining Cash's body, at least nowhere on the death certificate. Why did the American Consul elaborate, rather than sticking to the language of the death certificate?

The third fact suggests that the idea to live in Mexico came about during Cash's visit to New York, whether with the Knopfs or someone else, but not strictly by his own decision. As we have pointed out before, Mr. Knopf wrote on September 9 that the firm had contracted years earlier with Hermann Deutsch of New Orleans to write such a biography on Long; in fact, however, this book did not come out until 1960. We mean to imply nothing except the possibility that more was discussed in New York than mere books.

But this part of the puzzle is entirely speculative at this point and thus we present it dangling, and, for now, leave it so.

On the editorial page of this date, Congressman/Colonel Ham Fish, having reported to Fort Bragg since receiving orders July 2, for thirty days of training with the "Singing Engineers, "Hysterical South?" now seeks to disabuse this leading isolationist of his stated opinion that the newspapers of North Carolina were hysterically mongering war when in fact, according to Fish, the two oceans afforded quite enough buffer to ward off any incipient enemy threat. Not to worry.

But as the editorial suggests, and as Cash had pointed out many times, the airplane, the aircraft carrier, U-boats, and island hopping to afford air and submarine bases for refueling and supply, had rendered these earlier insular theories anachronistic. Hours, not days, now separated Europe and America, Japan and America. Indeed, the symbol of Lindbergh at the forefront of the America First isolationist movement highlighted this very idea. Just before the turn of the century, Admiral Alfred Mahan had become a leading proponent of the notion that control of the seas would determine who would win in time of modern warfare. General Pershing had concurred. (See "Sea Prophet", October 1, 1940, "Can Be Done", January 7, 1941, "Free Hand", January 12, 1941, (wherein is described, sub rosa, how the old joke about Jamaica, as hidden in the proposed continued isolationism of Cotton Ed, if carried through, would have led--well, to that which it did lead, Pearl Harbor), "The Star Witness", January 24, 1941, (wherein is described the entreaties by Colonel Lindbergh to Congress and the American people to ignore the evidence and the experts--including Joseph Kennedy who had recently testified that no decent peace could be had with Nazi Germany--, and to give in to his wife's Wave of the Future, refuse aid to Britain as it only would prolong the war inevitably to be lost to vastly superior German air power), "Private Life", February 3, 1941, and "A Puzzler", February 7, 1941.)

As "Free Hand", probably by Cash, had earlier pointed out a similarly burned-to-the-brain reminder, especially to Southerners, as contained in the Brady pictures, as passed in stories no more than a generation away from first-hand accounts, "Hysterical South?" suggests also that Southerners, of all people, could and would look to the memory of the Yankee invader for painful lessons on avoidance of fighting a war on one's own ground. But did such stimulation of nationalistic pride, pride of a sectional stamp in some ending at the Mason-Dixon line, a type of pride which would then illogically recoil incumbent to the war during the 1950's and 1960's, coalese in the attitude: "We fought Hitler and Tojo for 'em, and now they want to come down heya and tell us what to do all over again"?

Parenthetically, one might also have noted as a Northerner, based on the carnage at Gettysburg, the very same lesson from the obverse side of the cracked mirror.

Of course, there must also be limits to this notion of extension of lines in the water, in the sand, or wherever one might seek to draw them. Aid to allied combatants against a corrupt and murderous regime which extends itself actively beyond its borders is one thing; pre-emption based on speculative reports of threats of invasion is something else entirely, making the pre-emptive action the aggression, the bloody whiphand without excuse. It is 180 degrees opposite that which America did during the lead up to its involvement in World War II, which makes such a policy bottom arc into a full circle, right into Berchtesgaten. And such mentality, once it creeps into national policy, becomes increasingly pervasive in the mindset of every little person in the society seeking to vindicate some unseen personal wrong against an individual or class of people to whom the little person has borne a grudge since--well, since Watergate, or Vietnam, you name it. That person is a "terrorist" threatening me; get 'em before they get me.

The Hugh Johnson piece questioning Churchill's rebuke of Senator Wheeler for voicing opposition to Roosevelt's decision to occupy Iceland, if not entirely agreeing with the position of Senator Wheeler that military build-up equates to the inexorability of a shooting war, balks at Wendell Willkie's suggestion, now opposed to his own 1940 Republican campaign rhetoric, which he himself termed mere "oratory", that the Administration next occupy Ireland. No, says Johnson, as this would surely bring on a shooting war with Germany. Who's calling the shots, Churchill, or the President with the advice and consent of the Congress?

But the General fails, doesn't he? to advance the chains from the conditions extant in May, where the French coastal positions were heavily guarded and periodic bombing raids continued against Britain and Northern Ireland, to the then present conditions where the German defenses were weakened by the offensive punch having been concentrated in Russia for the nonce.

Perhaps, Wendell's suggestion wasn't such a bad one, given its timing. Germany, in all likelihood, could have done little more to engage America in a shooting war in July, 1941 than it could successfully prevent the increasing air attacks on German and French cities by the RAF. Their defenses had literally been reduced in some locations apparently along the French coast to wooden dummies as more and more panzer divisions, now as many as 200, or some three million men, were committed to the invasion of Russia.

As Cash had pointed out in one of his late editorials, "Eire's Stand", April 17, 1941, the occupation of Ireland would have extended British defenses in the Atlantic out 300 miles to the west, adding that much more ready protection against Nazi raiders attacking supply ships from America. The problem of course, as to Eire proper, was that it would antagonize anti-British feelings compounded over time for centuries. But would an American occupation have had the same impact? Ah, had the President been more Irish than Dutch, perhaps not. But Willkie--sounds a bit of an Irish lad, ay?

Since it never came about, it is merely another puzzler. Eire remained neutral throughout the war, enabled German and Japanese agents to operate at will in the country, protested the use by the Allies of airstrips and ports in Northern Ireland, thus avoiding much impact from the war--even as some of its more conscientious citizens nevertheless volunteered for the Allied cause.

In any event, as testimony to FDR's political brilliance in reaching out for cohesion in a time in which cohesion was needed as no time before or since in the country, he made his former political opponent Willkie his personal envoy to Britain, the Middle East, Russia and China in the latter months of 1941 and into 1942. Willkie, a former Democrat, became, after his defeat in the 1940 election, a leading proponent for liberalization of the Republican Party, especially with regard to its isolationist doctrine, going hand in hand with laissez-faire economic policies.

Installment 37 of Out of the Night tells of Jan's continued imprisonment in Hamburg, serving his thirteen year sentence. The Comintern begins to organize behind prison walls, utilizing leverage over guards who were former Social Democrats before illegally joining the Nazi Party. One word to the Gestapo and they would be in the prison as inmates, soon to be minus their heads. Through such blackmail, Jan manages to transfer to the cellblock in which the organizing activity is openly transpiring. As he rounds out thirty-two months of imprisonment in 1936, he learns that the once regular letters from Firelei had ceased because she herself had been arrested and sentenced to six years for treasonous activity against the New Germania.

Well, it's hot where we are and so time for a nice cool slice of watermelon packed with vitamin C, as we watch Pug, fresh off her yesterday's calling up all the Piggies, now gathering up all the Eggs. Right, George?

Anyway, there it is in juxtaposition again, bunion plasters this time and aluminium, as offered up by Ms. Nicol. Get out the code book.

How about a Yoo-Hoo to go with that slice of nice juicy rind? Maybe a Brownie instead?

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