The President is the commander-in-chief in the management of this war. He is the undisputed boss. Military officers advise, the President presses the button. Each day his interest centers more specifically on war moves. Harry Hopkins is his right hand man with Leon Henderson and Donald Nelson czars in themselves but, nevertheless, subservient to FDR. This group is the over-all joint general staff and it corresponds to Churchill's war cabinet in Great Britain. Admiral Ernest J King and Generals Marshall and Arnold are the next in rank. They advise the President on strategy but he makes the decisions.
In peacetime the man who controls the "dough" is usually the biggest shot of all, but in wartime, Jesse Jones (close friend of Hopkins and Henderson but disliked by some New Dealers) does not carry the power he had before Pearl Harbor. Office of Civilian Defense, largely because it had no appropriations to speak of, gave Mrs Roosevelt and Mayor La Guardia such a setback that they may still be trying to get on their feet when the armistice is signed. Henry Wallace is busy on the floor of the senate and misses out on inside conferences a good deal lately but is full-out and au fait with our policies and determination to win quickly. Cordell Hull still is a balance wheel on diplomatic affairs with Sumner Wells taking the limelight more and more at State Department conferences. Frank Knox works like a Trojan and 74-year- old Secretary Stimson is just as careful as he was before the Japs jumped us. Henry Morgenthau watches taxes and financing but by no manner or means can he be looked upon as a "glassy-eyed banker."
On a debate over the air recently between some congressmen on the subject of air power there were some amusing statements made; amusing if they were not so serious.
Smug Congressman: "But you will admit that our 'John Doe' type of fighter is the best in the world, far better than the German Messerschmitt."
Congressional air power crusader: "Maybe; but we have only built five of them and they have never flown in service while the Germans have 5,000 Messerschmitts proven in battle."
There is a growing feeling here that the public should be more fully taken into the confidence of the administration. "No more coddling. Losses should be admitted at once," it is said. It is quite safe to predict that the pendulum will swing the other way and, instead of reams of script on one or two daring exploits broadcast to prevent the jitters, the losses will be played up boldly and the public given some jolts that will unify the nation for better effort and awaken it to the seriousness of a full-out globular war.
Johnny "Q" Public is still blinking his eyes over something that he still cannot understand. Recently the CAA announced that it trained pilots for $365 each. The next day one of the defense agencies announced that it cost them $20,000 to train a pilot!
The reorganization of the War Department is definitely one more step towards the so-called "Separate air force." The crusaders for the latter rejoice in the fact that the General Staff is being cut down and at the same time reorganized so that air power now is about 50-50 with land power in that half of the General Staff will be experienced airmen. Unity of command appears closer than before for the simple reason that the policy so far has been to put an airman in supreme command of each theater of warfare.
Unity of command was more or less taken for granted by the late William Mitchell. Few realize that he advocated unity of command from 1918 on but feared that the voice of aviation therein would go unheeded unless aviation had some rank, obtainable only through a separate air force with a cabinet officer for air. Still fewer realize that at one time (before World War I) General Mitchell was opposed to a separate air force. His testimony before various committees is being dug up as are Ethelbert Nevins' compositions. They are accepted as pearls of wisdom as avidly as Nevins' music which, when he was alive, was considered "just another brain-wave of a dizzy composer."
Production still worries the serious men both in and out of official service. The Truman Committee, striving to be constructive, will welcome suggestions from experienced men; particularly a plan that is of long range, all-embracing and will not curb the present program.
A good military band playing the Sambre et Mense or The Star Spangled Banner during lunch hour and not blasting loud speakers might help to relieve the monotony and aid production for our aircraft factory boys who in some places work 10 hours a day, seven days a week.
A year ago we heard a fine young lad say, "It is as hard to get into the Air Corps as a flyer, as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." If things keep on the way they are going it may be as easy to attain such a position as for a camel to walk through a circus tent.
If the streamlined reorganization of the War Department works (fundamentally nothing more or less than setting up an organization where no man has more than three lieutenants or subdivisions) it will be followed by a similar streamlining of the whole Government and each of the many agencies. Following out the plan of the War Department the President, instead of having some 70 lieutenants reporting directly to him, would have only his cabinet and the head of his own immediate White House staff.
They say an army is never licked until it ceases telling good jokes and stops singing Tipperary. One good story going the rounds down here should be cabled to General MacArthur.
"Take a letter to the Commanding Officer, Ferry Command, War Department," said an overworked Major to his Smith College graduate stenographer. The letter came back addressed "Commanding Officer, Fairy Command," etc.
More Washington taxi philosophy:
Passenger: "Quite a lot of confusion down here, eh, driver?"
Driver: "Ah, buddy, we should have more doughboys digging in the trenches and less front guys digging in the dough."
Officers in the Army, Navy and foreign services all wear their uniforms now that the war is on. Slacks are regulation but somehow your correspondent cannot get used to them. They say the practice of wearing slacks originated in the ranks of the flyers. But wouldn't snappy breeches and high boots give a better military bearing and be more practical than slacks and low shoes on muddy airbases?
Ted Parsons (LaFayette Escadrille) whom a good many of our readers will recall as active in the days of the American Flying Club (post-war haven for world war flyers) is back in the Navy as a lieutenant commander. So is Rutledge Bary, who was a major in the Army Air Corps reserve until 1936.
Some of the other old timers back in the service are Powell (27th Aero); "Phil" Bush (Spad 73 Escadrille Duellan, Group de Combat 12 the Storks); "Madam" Alden Sherry (94th Aero) Tommy Hitchcock (LaFayette Flying Corps); "Sonny" Whitney (of turf and "Pan Am" fame); Rufus Rand (LaFayette Flying Corps and one of the organizers of Northwest Airlines). In the halls of the Chief's office, one also sees Hugo A Kenyon, C Barney Faith and Chester C Bassett (all of the LaFayette Flying Corps); Rex Gilmartin, Paul Zuckerman, Norman G Sweetser, Meredith Roberts (of the US Air Services, AEF), "Bim" Boyer (RAF) and George F Campbell. On a percentage of membership it would appear that the Early Birds have a larger proportion of their men back in harness. The members of this exclusive outfit are Americans who flew before World War I.
Here are some of those now on duty: Col Stedman Hanks of flight strip and Ferrying Command renown; Maj Ernest Jones, Gen M F Harmon, Gen H H Dargue (missing); Maj Hugh Watson on duty at Newark Air Corps Maintenance; and the indomitable warhorse PGB "Bud" Morriss is on his way in, and Hitler, as a result, is beginning to frown.
Lunching at an Air Force Officers club here this month your correspondent noticed paintings of famous French, British and German aces of the last war. Mighty fine sporting feeling that. The spirit of chivalry still abides in the Air Forces.
Washington still is running true to form (as in the days of market tips just before the 1929 crash); the barbers and boot-blacks have all the answers.
Of the 1,000,000 Class 3-A registrants (deferred for dependency only) in all the United States about 150,000 are suitable as prospective officers.
Our transport pilots and their navigators will find that they must be ace high in their celestial navigation abroad. The radio ranges in this country are wonderful (Col William H Murphy, the air officer who built the first radio range at Wright Field, was killed in action December 7, 1941), but when a pilot is over the sands of Africa or the South Sea Islands and calls by radio for direction or bearing he is apt to get in reply "Heil Hitler." Therefore, brush up on your celestial navigation, you big-ship navigators.
Had a chat with the American Minister to Luxemburg who was in an air raid October, 1939, and again in August, 1941. He states that the latter was about as different in intensity from the former as day is from night. Huge bombs now are used by the RAF. He states that a blackout is almost useless as the modern form of bombardment is preceded by a huge 10,000,000,000 candlepower flare dropped from 20,000 feet. This burns for 20 minutes and lights the whole city with day-like brilliancy. In the last raid on Cologne the warden of a big shelter, thinking the raid was over, came out to be greeted by a 2,000-pounder close by. Going back into the shelter he found every man, woman and child dead; some sitting up, some lying as they had slept. Apparently a complete lung collapse had been caused by the bomb's concussion, but the Germans permit no postmortem nor air raid death notices. The American official firmly believes that such bombing will play a big part in polishing off the Nazis. "What avail us if we do capture Capetown and yet have to put up with this hell?" one German of high standing asked him.
Today saw two Naval officers riding bicycles so far away from Rock Creek Park that one could not determine whether they were just out for exercise or setting an example for those of us who smugly ride in automobiles.
The use of models for aircraft identification to augment silhouettes is growing apace. The Navy arranges for their construction and furnishes them to the Army, utilizing the services of boys and girls throughout the country, under the supervision of the Office of Education. Apparently all this activity stems from the work of one of the fighter squadrons of the RAF. Operating the models like marionettes the observer follows a reflection of the model in a large mirror. The latter is moved back and forth to simulate distance and the student "calls the shots." Thus he not only identifies the plane but is taught how to hold his fire until the size of the plane in the mirror is equal to the size of the full-scale plane in actual flight at 200 yards. The first crude device was built by a sergeant in one of the RAF units on the front with a hammer, a few nails, a large mirror, some cloth and boards. It works like a charm. Necessity is not only the mother of invention, but also the daddy of perfection in most flying developments.
This column was originally published in the May, 1942, issue of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 30, no 5, pp 40, 82, 84.
The original column was illustrated with a thumbnail portrait of the author.
The photo is not credited.