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Religion: Byrd of Peace

3 minute read

Taciturn by profession, when retired to private life sailors often make inspired and voluble crusaders. Anti-alcohol and antinarcotic groups found this so years ago when the late Rear Admiral Richmond Pearson Hobson barnstormed for them against liquor and drug evils. The Emergency Peace Campaign, best integrated organization of its kind, evidently had a like idea when last week it launched its No Foreign War Crusade with Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, U. S. N. retired, at the helm. During the next two months E. P. C. will send speakers into 2,000 U. S. communities. This week, on the 20th anniversary of the day (April 6) that President Wilson signed the joint resolution of Congress declaring a state of war to exist between the U. S. and Germany, Admiral Byrd will open the drive from the White House, broadcasting with Mrs. Roosevelt.

Admiral Byrd got out of Annapolis in 1912, out of the Navy in 1916. Re-enlisting during the War, he was put in charge of U. S. air forces sent to Canada to patrol the east coast against submarines. Out in civil life again in 1926, he put martial affairs behind him for good, took up exploring. It was while he was self-marooned in a hut at Advance Base, 123-mi. south of Little America three years ago with his now famed defective oil stove, that Sailor Byrd, deathly ill from monoxide poisoning, turned his thoughts full force to peace. Having written his will while maintaining a spuriously cheerful radio contact with his base camp lest men be lost hurrying to his rescue before the polar sun came up, the slight Virginian noted in his diary: “The distance and detachment of this place seem to soften human follies. Others take on added significance. But from here the great folly of all follies is the amazing attitude of civilized nations toward each other. It seems a great madness. If this attitude is not changed, I don’t see how our civilization, as we know it, will survive. … If I survive this ordeal, I shall devote what is left of my life largely to trying to help further the friendship of my country with other nations of the world.”

Emerging after seven months at Advance Base, Admiral Byrd came home to a hero’s welcome, rested up and embarked on a lecture tour to pay off his expedition’s $100,000 deficit. When the long tour ends in May, the Admiral, who, while changing trains in his blue uniform has sometimes been taken for a porter or stationmaster, will have told 1,250,000 people in 250 cities about the South Pole. It was during a lull in this tour that Hero Byrd again thought of peace. He publicly promised last summer to “start my work for international amity.” Three months ago he wrote a letter to Nicholas Murray Butler urging a six months’ “moratorium” on war, soon thereafter accepting Mrs. Roosevelt’s invitation to open the No Foreign War Crusade from the White House.

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