From Headquarters

by Lieut Col Harold E Hartney (AF Res)

Down here at headquarters, two unfortunate misconceptions , based upon plain ignorance, worry many of us but not your correspondent. The first is that this war is being bungled by the United Nations, and the second, that Great Britain is not going "full out."

Both of these ideas are as silly as they are dangerous. When a bandit gets loose in one's town and is shooting up the place, one does not stop to criticize the police force or blaspheme his neighbor who is trying his best to shoot him down. The job is to get rid of the outlaw first, and argue later.

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As I write, many are fearful that the Russians will collapse; that this will be followed by an invasion of Britain and her consequent capitulation, and that then the Axis will have in their control 1,350 war vessels while we in the United States will have but 350 available. They shudder when they picture the Atlantic and the Pacific both under the domination of the Axis.

Shame on all these crepe hangers!

The losses suffered so far are the price we had to pay for unpreparedness. They are the cost of gaining time — time to help us get mobilized and in production, time to enable Russia to get ready for her treacherous, double-crossing enemy.

Hitler was delayed at least six weeks on his invasion of the Caucasus and this delay alone was worth all the losses Great Britain and the United States have suffered to date.

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Col Dudley Watkins, chief of the Proof Section, Proving Ground Command, AAF, has the distinction of having six sons (including Sgt Robert Watkins, torpedoed at sea and lost) in the armed forces of the United Nations; Capt T H Watkins is commanding officer in an attack squadron abroad; Lieut John Watkins is at an advanced training depot here in the United States; William and Woodruff Watkins are in the RAF; Lieut Dudley Watkins, Jr, is at an ordnance proving ground.

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We had only two generals in the air forces in World War I. Now we have 83 — five lieutenant generals, 23 major generals and 55 brigadier generals.

The youngest general in the American Army, General Kuter of the Army Air Forces, uttered the best remark I have heard since my last column, at a recent press conference. He said: "The Japs are caught between two Chennaults," referring to General Chennault in China and his son in Alaska.

General Arnold commented the other day that Tokyo should be informed of the fact that we have plenty more Chennaults (one is at Biloxi, Mississippi, and another is in the Navy) all rarin' to go.

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The female spotters are doing pretty well even though one the other day, on seeing a P-38 going over, called up and reported "couple of fast planes going over with their wings embraced around each other."

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Too bad the publicity in Alaska and at Midway had to come through Navy channels where Naval officers are in supreme command; the story direct from the Army Air Forces has yet to be told.

Major General Harmon is credited with a remark almost as good as Kuter's and one that will go down in history. He said: "The Navy is the first line of defense but the Air Forces is the first line of offense."

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Many people write me enlisting advice or aid in obtaining appointments. One wrote me last week, and when he had no reply within seven days, he wrote, "You evidently did not pay any attention to my letter, for I have not received my commission."

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Another officer in Colonel Ennis' Air Forces Public Relations Office who was in the US Air Service during World War I is Maj Nathaniel F "Niel" Silsbee, chief of AFPRO's information and education division. The story goes that while Niel was writing a weekly newspaper column, various magazine articles, etc, his close contacts with the aircraft industry brought him so much information that his requests for dope from the War Department were so detailed, Colonel Ennis finally threw up his hands and decided to bring Niel in and let him answer his own questions and, incidentally, build up a much needed set of information and research files for general use.

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Our old friend, Col "Chuck" Kerwood has just completed an industrial morale-building film for use in airplane factories. It is called Combat Report and the boys in the Chief's office noticed that Chuck still had some grease paint on his cheek when he reported back.

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Congratulations to Lieut Col Joe Edgerton, the hardest working man in Colonel Ennis' organization! Merit wins promotion in this war and none won greater general acclaim than Edgerton's move up another rung on the ladder.

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"Billy" Street, now a brigadier general, keeps hours about the same as he did in 1921, leading the New York-Nome, Alaska flight. Arranged an appointment for a friend of mine this week and Billy made it for 7:30 AM The last one I had made with him was for 7:30 PM.

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A change is very noticeable here. It is as if "no loitering" signs had been put up along the thoroughfares. People on the streets, however hot and dusty, walk along with spirit and energy; their faces serious, but not heavy. They look as if they had their shoulders to the wheel and as if they were getting used to it. It is always an inspiring sight to me, these dense moving throngs of workers, and the cross section of types is essentially American. As I watch them I cannot but look across the lawn of the White House, to the study windows of the president, where lights burn till the early morning hours every morning. However late his fellow executives may work or overwork, here is one whose days are never long enough, whose appointments are never finished and at whose energy and determination the most hardened toilers gasp.

Yet the strain of heavy news on the battlefronts, the growing pace of production, and the thinning of the ranks of our uniformed friends, is visible on all sides. Not that it is somber for a minute. It is a stimulating influence, like marching orders; and everyone here is more and more affected by what I call a sense of emergency. As they have less time for their personal lives, people have eliminated unnecessary motions, false situations and words. People are simpler in wartime, kinder as the weight of responsibilities and sympathies for others touch their minds. One comes to the point in conversation quicker; speaks more readily from the heart.

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We heard the Queen of Holland address Congress. It was an impressive sight. Unlike the applause that heralded the appearance of Churchill at his recent visit, Wilhelmina entered in silence. All arose and remained standing until she had reached the stand. Then irresistible applause broke out. The sight of Queen Wilhelmina's lonely figure, steadfastly and courageously "on the job" in spite of her immense losses, touched every heart there. She spoke magnificently, with a simplicity that is particularly her own, and when, at the close a voice shouted in dutch, "Long live the House of Orange"; she gave a quick, happy glance at the galleries while wave upon wave of spontaneous applause rolled over the House. There was not a dry eye among us.

This column was originally published in the October, 1942, issue of Flying including Industrial Aviation magazine, vol 31, no 4, pp 42, 110, 112.
The original column is illustrated with a thumbnail portrait of the author.
The photo is not credited.