Washington Memo


Washington Memo


Washington Memo


THANKS partly to Exercise Muskox but largely to the Army Air Forces, Washington and the American public are gradually becoming more familiar with the geography of northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland. The Air Forces' thesis is that in the next great war, if there is one, the first heavy blows—perhaps the decisive—blows— will be struck through the air across the north polar regions. it is advertising this thesis to build up popular support for its plan for a permanent regular Air Force of 400,000 officers and men and about 5,200 planes. Give almost any air officer around Washington a chance to talk and he will promptly produce a polar projection of the northern hemisphere. Of the 70 groups whioh the Air Forces want, 25 are long-range bombardment. By long-range bombers, the Air Forces now mean the B-36's, with which they soon expect to be equipped. The B-36 is to the H-29, the long-range bomber used against Japan, what the 13-29 was to the B-17, or Flying

Fortress, used against Germany. With an equivalent bomb load, the B-36 is supposed to have a range of 8,000 miles, as against 3,000 for the B-29. From bases in Alaska, Greenland, and northern Canada, the B-36’s could make a round trip to most of the important cities in northern Europe and Asia. Air Force specialists point out, however, that if the B-36’s carried atomic bombs, it would be economical to send them on one-way trips. After dropping their bombs the crews might fly on to friendly or neutral territory or bail out and allow themselves to become prisoners of war. This is on the hypothesis that one B-36 with an atomic bomb would pack as much destruction as at least 100 B-36’s with ordinary explosives. If you sent 100 B-36’s on a round-trip mission with ordinary explosives you would expect to lose at least one—probably more if the enemy had strong air defenses. So, it is argued, you could afford to expend one B-36 per atomic bomb. The Air Forces program calls for 25 groups of fighter planes, most of them long-range, and smaller numbers of light bombers, transports, and special types of aircraft. In Continued on page 72

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addition it contemplates an organized reserve and National Guard units, which would specialize in the operation of short-range fighters for home defense, and transport and reconnaissance planes.

The air planners regard even the B-36 as a transitional weapon. Most of them believe that the long-range assault weapons of the future will be rockets and robots. But all their efforts to divine or to design the future sharpen their interest in the Arctic air and therefore in bases, for attack and defense, along the northern periphery of the Western Hemisphere.

Of all the branches of the armed services, the Army Air Forces have the strongest hold on the public imagination. At present their 70-group, 400,000-man program has a better chance of approval and adequate financing than any other part of our interim or postwar military program. The Air Forces, like the Navy and the ground forces, are in chaotic state just now as a result of rapid demobilization. They are especially short of trained ground crews. But they expect to be in good shape, at the 400,000 level, by next Jan. 1. They don’t need to talk so much about the polar regions to win popular backing now. But that is a part of the world in which the Navy probably couldn’t do much, and the role of the ground fighting forces probably would be very limited. It’s therefore an area to which the Air Forces can stake out an almost exclusive claim. If they can drive home in the public mind their thesis that it is critically important, they should have a further advantage over the other services in obtaining a steady flow of appropria lions.

General Carl A. (Tooey) Spaatz, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, has put Lieut.-Gen. Harold L. George in charge of relations with Congress and the public. General George also is head of the Air Transport Command, which he built up during the war from nothing to a system of temporary airlines which stretched around the globe. He was chosen for the public relations task chiefly because he is one of the most persuasive of the top airmen, but his personal contacts with the civilian aviation industry also was considered. He writes and speaks well.

The Navy, too, is Arctic-conscious, as it showed by sending the aircraft carrier Midway for a late-winter cruise off Greenland. It plans to give attention to developing equipment and techniques for cold weather fighting. But

its carrier-borne planes are of shortrange, and even the most ardent supporters of the Navy do not suggest that it will ever be possible for surface vessels to manoeuvre at will over the polar icecap.

The Navy has been showing signs of uneasiness about its future, fighting President Truman’s plan to create a single department of national defense, in which it fears it would be outweighed and gradually submerged by the strategic Air Forces and the Army. Its opposition was so vigorous and so open that the President publicly admonished it for “lobbying,” although he left the way open for the admirals to express their views frankly before the committees of Congress. However, the Navy’s campaign had already gone so far and been so effective that it now looks as if the President will have to be satisfied with a compromise. Instead of a single department there may be a central planning and co-ordinating agency under the President. The Army and Navy would remain in separate departments headed by officials of Cabinet rank, and a new department would be created for the strategic Air Forces, which are now attached to the Army. If the central co-ordinator were given enough power in wiping out duplications, such a plan might work well enough.

A Complicated Package

The British loan met stiff opposition in Congress, in spite of the fact that informed opinion almost unanimously has urged its approval. With a handful of exceptions, the leaders and experts of the commercial and financial worlds have endorsed it. All branches of organized labor have endorsed it. All the leading farm organizations have endorsed it. Probably 80% of the principal editorial writers, columnists, and radio commentators have endorsed it. Yet the popular opinion polls indicate that less than a majority of the rank and file of voters consider the loan necessary or desirable, and Congress is hesitant.

One of the difficulties about the proposed credit is that it is neither a straightforward business proposition, by normal standards, nor a gift. If you call it a business proposition, the man on the street asks why, if the Government can lend money to Britain at 1.65% and agree to forego the interest entirely in certain years under specified conditions, it can’t lend money to veterans or other citizens on the same terms.

The American negotiators may have made a mistake in wrapping this complicated agreement up in one package.

It might have been easier to obtain Congressional approval for a straightout gift of, let us say, one billion dollars. The rest of Britain’s needs might then have been met by a regular ExportImport Bank credit at the usual rate of two per cent.

Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, the leading Republican spokesman on international affairs, made a strong plea for approval of the loan, before leaving to attend the Foreign Ministers’ conference at Paris as an adviser to Secretary of State James F. Byrnes. But many members of his Party would not follow his lead and there are also some Democratic dissenters.

A good deal of the grass-roots opposition is traceable to the feeling that Britain is not as seriously in need of financial aid as the proponents of the loan assert. Also, the traditional anti-British groups, such as the IrishAmericans, are becoming vocal again. As Catholics, they are against Russia, too, but their anti-British prejudices are so ingrained that some of them find it hard to think of a strong Britain as a bulwark against the threat of Communism.

The labor unions are beginning largescale campaigns to enroll members in the southern states. The CIO has announced that it intends to raise $1,000000 for its drive. The rival AF of L says less about money, but has prepared elaborate plans for organizing southern workers.

Either of these campaigns, standing alone, would have sharp political as well as economic repercussions. For the expansion of union membership is a threat to the hierarchy of manufacturers and landowners which controls so many of the southern states. The Political Action Committee of the CIO is working hand in hand with CIO union organizers.

One of the first duties imposed upon a new member is to register for voting and, in those states in which it is a prerequisite, to pay his poll tax. The poll tax is one means by which the electorate in many of the southern states has been restricted. It is only a small sum annually, but enough to be important to workers on small incomes. In some states it is cumulative, so that to qualify for a ballot a voter may have to pay the tax for several years back in one lump sum.

The status of the Negro is also involved in these southern organizing drives. Negro workers are numerous in the so-called “rough industries,” such as shipbuilding and lumbering, in custodial jobs around factories, and in some of the building trades. The CIO enrolls them freely. The AF of L craft unions are less hospitable to

Negroes, but here and there have let down their barriers.

Although to some extent the CIO and the AF of L have their respective spheres, they overlap at a number of points. These rival drives are certain to lead to sharp jurisdictional controversies and probably a good many strikes. Although prohibited by law from trying to influence their employees, either against unions or in favor of any particular union, many southern employers, when convinced that unionization is inevitable, will give the AF of L such covert aid as they can.

Both the ruling political groups and the AF of L leaders inveigh against the Communistic taint of the CIO. The CIO unquestionably has its Communistic wing, although the managers of the CIO drive are trying to keep organizers with direct Communist associations out of the South.

One byproduct of these campaigns will be a larger vote in the Congressional primaries and elections this summer and fall. But it is by no means certain that this will work to the immediate advantage of the progressive elements in the South. The threat from the CIO side will stir the conservatives to greater efforts, and they will capitalize to the utmost on the perils of Communism and of Negro domination. In

some districts, also, CIO support of a candidate may lead the AF of L unions to back his opponent.

In the longer run, however, unionization will weaken the grip of the Southern Bourbons, who, on domestic issues, are usually at loggerheads with the national leadership of the Democratic Party. In combination with the Republicans they control both Houses of Congress and are presently blocking most of President Truman’s homefront legislation, as they did much of Roosevelt’s after 1937.

The defeat of half a dozen outstanding Southern conservatives might temper the others and thus ease Mr. Truman’s difficulties in Congress— provided, of course, that the Democrats come out of the fall elections with a majority. The Democrats almost certainly will retain control of the Senate. But the Republicans profess confidence that they can win a majority of the House, and the Democrats are not too sure about the outcome.

Mr. Truman’s personal popularity remains high. Even his political opponents can’t help liking his good humor, forthrightness, and unquenchable optimism. Nobody hates him. But he still has to convince a great many people that he is big enough for the job, and that is not an easy task for a successor to Roosevelt.