• U.S.

Letters, Oct. 12, 1942

14 minute read
TIME

To America’s Conscience: Sirs:

Enclosed please find a letter I received from my son stationed somewhere overseas. . . . This letter already has proved its worth in the plant where I am employed. After the employes of our plant read this letter, the sale of bonds went over the 90% mark and we were awarded the Treasury’s flag.

M. MERSON Allentown, Pa.

Dear Dad:

What is going on there? Yesterday, my July 13 issue of TIME arrived. Today, as I read it, it makes me sick and bitter, and fills my mind with unanswerable questions. The drive for scrap rubber is a “disappointing failure”; the sale of war bonds is $200,000,000 per month below Government expectations; aggressive war must wait until after the November elections; steel laborers seek a dollar-a-day increase in wages.

What kind of a game is this that is being played in those United States? Is that our invincible, our proud country ? While all over the world men are being shot to pieces, other men—the steel, the aluminum, the textile, the rubber workers—are quibbling about dollars, and Washington is still activated by politicians.

Where is that common sense of which we Americans were once so proud? So they want a raise because the cost of living has risen; but isn’t it evident to even the most selfish that any increase in consumer purchasing power must necessarily add still more to that cost of living? Or maybe the true fact underlying this “greatest” war effort is the very simple fact that everyone is out to get whatever he can from this unprecedented opportunity. With the aspects of inflation clearly in view, our selfish, bigoted “patriots” are willing to risk chaos and defeat—yes, defeat —because they won’t believe there is a war in progress that might engulf them; they argue over something that in reality does not exist.

But those smug, complacent people are playing with human lives! The trickle of beautiful planes comes over and we look up and say to each other: “Just think of what a thousand, five thousand of them could do.” You don’t feel that; we do. The seamen whose ships have been blown from under them talk of the useless waste because helpless boats are not convoyed. You haven’t spoken to such men, I have. The stunned, half-dead sailors adrift for weeks on a raft—you haven’t seen them, I have. And “little steel” asks for an increase in wages.

Where is the conscience of America? Must another generation of young men suffer the same disillusionment as the previous generation did? Having been born in 1916, the last war is real to me only in what I have read and heard, and in what you have told me. …

And all the while, the young gallant sailors and marines and soldiers are dying in the Pacific, and in Ireland the boys wait with the realization that they may be next. And we in the outposts who feel guilty because we are so far from the actual fighting, we sit and rot in stinking, malarial jungles and have time to think—and my mind becomes corroded with what I read. Those boys who are about to die, those who may be maimed, those who may live a lingering death with tropical disease, they ask so little. They will fight for you if you but give them the weapons. They will die so that you may have pretty homes and happy families, but don’t let them lose faith.

Personally, I think we shall win this war but only after tens of thousands of people have been needlessly killed, but let me offer this warning: If this generation of soldiers returns home to a collapsed and chaotic economic system due to inflation or any other cause that might easily have been prevented had the people but realized the dangers of their shortsightedness, we shall not stand docilely on street corners selling apples; we shall not ashamedly wait in line to receive bread. The American soldier is not a child who can easily be fooled, Dad; he is too well informed.

Is it asking too much of civilians to give up a little of their comfort so that some one else might win security for them? The President speaks of more & more sacrifices. Sacrifices—hell! Is it a sacrifice to defend one’s self against impending disaster? What a ludicrous and tragic situation that soldiers must beg, actually beg, for arms to defend people who, by their very actions, don’t seem to give a damn. The fine American institution of the Sunday motor trip is far more important than a boatload of supplies to the tankmen and aviators in Egypt. Sacrifices? Look to the Chinese people and learn what the word truly means.

To you, Dad, I would give a firm handshake, and to Mother, a tender kiss, for I am very proud of you both. America is not the land of your birth but, in your wisdom and devotion to this country you love, you have become finer, more worthy citizens than a good majority of people who can trace their citizenship back several generations. Although Christianity is not your avowed faith, in your daily lives you prove you are better Christians than many of those fine people who every Sunday attend that beautiful church on the corner several blocks away.

Yes, Dad, tell them that my mind is sick and bitter. Tell them that I want to believe in my country but find it increasingly difficult to believe in its people. But who will listen? Who will want to listen to a solitary soldier crying out for justice? Who is interested in mere words when big money can be made—and the boys are dying in the Pacific?

LEE

(Det. 120th Signal Radio Intelligence) A.P.O. 869 New York City

Ex-Bubbleblower

Sirs:

In speaking of Millais in your Sept. 21 issue you point out:

“Bubbles became one of the most famous of British paintings; Pears’ became one of the world’s biggest soap firms.”

You neglect to point out an interesting sidelight: what became of Bubbles as opposed to Bubbles. If I am not mistaken, Bubbles also became famous and is today Admiral [Sir William Milburne] James, Royal Navy, Commander in Chief, Portsmouth. In any case I know that the admiral is known to most of the men in “Pompey” Barracks as “Bubbles.”

WALLACE J. BORKER

Ensign U.S.N.R. (formerly attached to Royal Naval Barracks,

Portsmouth, Hants)

Tacoma, Wash.

¶Ensign Borker is correct. Admiral James at three (in 1885) was a winning curlyhead whose passion was soap bubbles. His grandfather, the great Pre-Raphaelite Painter John Everett Millais, one day bribed little Willie to pose for him in exchange for hearing a fairy tale. An excellent likeness, the painting was finished in several weeks —minus soap bubbles. Those were painted from less evanescent crystal spheres.—ED.

Due Credit

Sirs:

… I liked everything in the article [“Calhoun of Serfor,” TIME, Sept. 14] except that portion about the Mayor’s “old lady.” Just where they dug up that part of the article I do not know, but I suspect my enlisted chauffeur, Chief Machinist’s Mate Rafsky. The story is perfectly true and as such is okay by me, except that I would rather have spoken of the Mayor’s “wife” if that article had to be published at all. I mention this from the standpoint that they are two lovely people, well along in years, and I hope that they will not consider this a slap or a reflection on them. That is my only point in taking exception to that portion of the article, but as I have previously stated, it is perfectly true.

However, thank you for the courtesy and for the honor. In accepting this article, I would like to state that instead of giving the credit to Calhoun or Billy Calhoun, I do wish that they had put the credit where the credit was due, and that is “to the officers and men of the Service Force.” The article would then have been more true, as it is indeed they who performed the work and not I.

W. L. CALHOUN Vice Admiral, U.S.N. U.S. Pacific Fleet

Air-Power Admirals

Sirs:

Since my father is Rear Admiral John Sidney McCain, I read with particular interest your comments regarding him in the Sept. 28 issue of TIME. Without arguing the merits of the conclusions drawn by TIME on the McCain-Towers shift, I would like to advert to TIME’S statement: “. . . But like many other so-called air admirals, he got an airman’s rating late, is not an airman by profession, but a battleship admiral with pay-and-a-half and a flying suit. Since his air training at Pensacola in 1936, at the age of 52, Battle-shipman McCain has had little to do with air developments.”

In my opinion these sentences leave an unfair inference. I believe in justice to my father it should be pointed out that since leaving Pensacola the only commands he has held have been in aviation. For TIME’S information his known assignments since Pensacola were: C.O. Fleet Air Base, Coco Solo, C.Z.; C.O. the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Ranger; C.O. U.S. Naval Air Station, San Diego; and Commander, Aircraft Scouting Force. Moreover, the Navy tells us that he has been in actual combat with the enemy. Thus, it would seem that while he has had no armchair or laboratory contact with “air developments” he has had considerable peacetime and some combat flying experience. I would not debate TIME’S comment that my father has a “flying suit”—however, I would like to add that all the available evidence points most emphatically to the fact that he uses it for its intended purpose.

JAMES GORDON MCCAIN

Washington

Sirs:

This is probably not the only letter you will receive regarding the article (TIME, Sept. 28) on Admiral Towers’ appointment as Commander, Pacific Air Forces. Inasmuch as the article itself does not hold water, many others not too closely connected with the Navy will spot its weakness.

Your article leads off with the premise that ability to pilot an airplane, and a log full of solo hours is, ipso facto, a prime qualification to think in terms of air strategy. On the other hand, it would be assumed from your article that nothing less than a few thousand hours with a stick in hand can give a Naval officer the ability to direct the grand strategy that involves the use of aircraft units of the Fleet.

The premise is not axiomatic, and if it were, the obvious choice of Generalissimo of the U.S. would be Charles A. Lindbergh, a choice which I think you will agree could be improved upon. . . .

While air power has been a powerful weapon in the war to date, it has yet to be demonstrated, and may never be, that air power, shorn of the coordination of other units, can win or hold any post. Even the Japanese, in their conquest of Wake Island, found it necessary to employ many ships, and lose several, to overcome a garrison of a few hundred men with a very small air complement.

Your article implies that Admiral King and the other Naval officers now at the top cannot be the Navy’s best choices because of their lack of flying background from early commissioning. You evidently overlook the fact that the conduct of the Navy in the war is not solely a matter of flying Navy bombers against Japanese garrisons in the Pacific. There are also the minor matters of convoys to England and Russia, convoys along our Atlantic frontiers, the anti-submarine campaign along the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts and the submarines of our own that are taking a toll of Japanese shipping in their own back yard. If & when a second front is established, a Navy which can think in terms of ships as well as aircraft will be a vital component of the many forces that will have to be employed.

It would seem, then, that the highest posts in the Navy should be held by men who have demonstrated that they can think in terms of all the branches of the service. The Navy is proud that it is not a “one-man show.” There could be several choices for the top billet. Admiral King happens to be the Navy’s idea of the best. Can you nominate any other who would far surpass his overall abilities?

This is written on the stationery of Admiral King’s headquarters, merely because, as an enlisted man, I happen to be assigned duty in that large office. I don’t know the Admiral—only see him occasionally from a distance. But like hundreds of thousands of my fellows, I have untold faith in him to lead us to victory in this struggle.

THEODORE HOFELLER Yeoman, First Class, U.S.N. Navy Department Washington

> That U.S. naval aviation has much to be proud of, TIME well knows. That it is at least doubtful whether air power has had its share of attention in the Navy is also true. TIME trusts that all such doubts will speedily be removed. For Admirals King and McCain, all Americans wish only the fullest success in all their efforts.—ED.

Straightener

Sirs:

… In TIME, Sept. 21, you state: “The U.S. could have gotten along without most of this fiber, could really use the peanuts, soybeans, and hogs which might have been grown instead.” Please let us put you straight on this.

Peanuts are out for the typical cotton farmer as FSA co-ops are allotted all of the available pickers for this crop. Most cotton land around here is entirely unsuited for this crop anyway and likewise over a large part of the cotton belt. The shortage of wire fence is keeping down the production of hogs in the South, and this land is not all suitable to the production of hog feeds.

The shortage of machinery is holding down the production of the soybeans you suggest we might be using. . . .

But we can all produce cotton, the one perfect wartime crop that produces food, fiber and shot. Compound lard, high explosives, stock feed, clothing, plastics, isinglass for planes and thousands of other products are produced from cotton. Very few articles can be made from soybeans that cannot also be made from cotton seed. We can grow more pounds of cotton seed per acre than we can soybeans, and we can harvest the cotton seed.

No wonder the “Solid South” is sometimes unreasonable as the entire rest of the nation is unreasonable concerning the South.

R. A. PICKENS Pickens, Ark.

— The Solid South does not solidly bear out Reader Pickens’ argument—as evidenced by the South’s increased production in soybeans, peanuts, hogs, cattle, corn, other diversified crops. —ED.

Talent Scout

Sirs:

Congratulations on the fine example of TIME’S good journalism in the sketch of the late Conde Nast [TIME, Sept. 28].

However, you omitted what to many must stand out as his most notable accomplishment. This consisted in locating and employing editorial talent, either inexperienced or undeveloped in other publishing jobs, but under Nast’s influence later to become nationally famous. There were Bruce Barton, Frank Crowninshield, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Clare Boothe Luce and Edmund Wilson, to mention only a few; while the bright young women copywriters have overflowed into Fifth Avenue’s swankiest shops to such an extent as to have definitely influenced the whole school of current department-store advertising.

Somehow Mr. Nast seemed to have had the ability to develop the best of those who entered his employ to a degree not to be found in any other magazine-publishing enterprise of our generation.

H. A. WHIFFLE

Atlanta, N. Y.

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