August 25, 2018

1947. Anecdote from the American Zone of Germany

Downs Reports from West Germany
"The hunger-winter of 1947, thousands protest in West Germany against the disastrous food situation (March 31, 1947). The sign says: We want coal, we want bread." (source)
From Building magazine, December 3, 1947:

Bill Downs, who went back over the American invasion route through Europe to gather human interest material for the C.B.S. Documentary Unit's "We Went Back," heard the following Nazi propaganda "anecdote" from various individuals in the American Zone of Germany:—

A hungry burgher heard that suspected Nazis, being held for questioning by the denazification courts, are relatively well fed. So he decided to get himself arrested.

On his first try he entered a baker's shop and intoned: "Heil Hitler." The baker silenced him, then whispered: "So you're one of us! Here's a loaf of bread."

The bread gone, the burgher repeated his effort in a butcher's shop. The butcher shouted: "Silence, you fool," then whispered: "Here are some sausages, sieg heil."

On his third try the now baffled burgher approached a policeman and shouted: "Heil Hitler." The policeman glowered, and growled: "It is forbidden to say such things." Then quietly he added: "There's a meeting to-night. Will you join us?"

August 24, 2018

1934. Mussolini Claims 21st Century Will Be "Blackshirt Era"

Mussolini's Long-Term Plan for Italy
Benito Mussolini delivering a speech in the 1930s (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism.

From The New York Times, March 19, 1934:
Mussolini Says 21st Century Will Be 'Blackshirt Era'
ROME, March 18 (AP) — A sixty-year program of internal expansion which in the twenty-first century will give Italy the "primacy of the world" was outlined today by Premier Benito Mussolini. That century, he said, would be a "Black Shirt era."

"In this age of plans," he said, "I want to lay before you a plan not for five years or ten years but for 60 years, carrying on to the twenty-first century, at which time Italy will have the primacy of the world.

"Italy has no future in the west and north. Her future lies to the east and south in Asia and Africa. The vast resources of Africa must be valorized and Africa brought within the civilized circle. We demand that nations which have already arrived in Africa do not block Italian expansion at every step."

Here, it was said, he was referring particularly to France.

Internally, Premier Mussolini said, the immediate objectives were the completion of swamp reclamation by 1940, new aqueducts and highways, plans to re-create Italian municipalities, complete rebuilding of 500,000 rural houses and repairs to 930,000 rural houses, a work of thirty years.

"Every rural person will have a clean and healthful house," he asserted. "Only in this way can the rush to the city be combated."

In the midst of great applause he said fascism "became universal in 1929."

"But in this phenomenon," he continued, "it is necessary to distinguish positive from negative fascism. Positive fascism knows how to destroy the old and rebuild the new, whereas negative fascism knows only how to destroy."

Significantly absent was any reference to relations with Germany, which have cooled over the question of Austrian independence. Regarding Germany's demands for arms he said:

"To pretend to eternally keep a nation like Germany disarmed is pure illusion, unless one has the objective of preventing by force of arms Germany's eventual rearmament. This game has a supreme stake, the lives of millions of men and the destiny of Europe. We have advanced the thesis that, without looking into infinity, one must recognize German rearmament."

"Reform of the League of Nations (demanded by Mussolini) has been almost universally accepted," he asserted, "and will be made when disarmament is settled.

"Heavily armed States will not disarm. An Italian memorandum states the problem in all of its reality. Europe has need of mutual comprehension or it is heading for its twilight."

Parliamentarism, he declared, could not fall lower than it has. Countries where it exists, he said, are in agony, and it is inevitable that the "corporative system" should supersede it.

The Premier concluded his speech with a stirring appeal to his followers to retain their faith and enthusiasm, saying "the creed of the bourgeoisie is egoism, while that of fascism is heroism."

An ovation lasting many minutes, during which the assembly sang the Fascist hymn, followed his speech.

August 17, 2018

1941. American Red Cross Nurses Recall U-Boat Attack on Dutch Ship

The Sinking of the SS Maasdam
Nazi Commander Reinhard Suhren aboard the U-564 submarine which sank the SS Maasdam in 1941 (source)
United Press article from July 1941:
Nurses Agree Sea Disaster Isn't Fun
Americans Whose Ship Was Torpedoed Say They've Had Enough Adventure
United Press Staff Correspondent

London — (UP) Excitement and adventure are all right if that's what you want, a group of American Red Cross nurses agreed last night, but being cast into the heaving Atlantic in life jackets during a cold rainstorm is "too much of a good thing."

The nurses were among the survivors of the Dutch steamer Maasdam, torpedoed in mid-Atlantic late last month by a German submarine.

Nine of the American nurses have arrived in London and six others were known to be safe.

Dr. John Gordon, head of the American Red Cross-Harvard hospital, disclosed that two nurses were still missing but said "we are not alarmed because in the confusion there is a possibility they are all right.

Lifeboat Sunk

Wearing borrowed Red Cross field uniforms, five of the nine nurses brought here told how their lifeboat sank in the rough seas, how eleven American marines en route to duty at the American embassy took care of them, and how they were "scared to death" by the sea battle they witnessed.

Shirley Rolph of Jamaica, N. Y., however, was not scared at first.

"Too much was happening to be frightened," she said. "We knew that trouble was around because depth charges were being dropped. Then I was knocked off my feet when the torpedo hit. Debris showered down and dazed me. I looked a mess. All of our faces were black."

Miss Rolph said the captain of another ship in the convoy which picked them up was "the most startled man in the seven seas" when he learned that a "bunch of women were swarming over the rails like pirates."

Praises Marines

Lillian Evans of Cambridge, Mass., told how "a big wave capsized our boat" and reported that "the marines were really wonderful, keeping calm and helping row the other boats." Her life jacket kept her afloat and she swam 200 yards to the ship which picked her up.

Lavinia Fulton of Amherst, Mass., in the same boat, didn't try to swim but hung on until she was picked up. When the torpedo hit, she said, the nurses put on their life jackets first and then secured their money and passports, "which we all saved." She said "We didn't hear the explosion but rather felt it."

Her experience aboard the overcrowded ship which picked them up, Miss Fulton said, made her more appreciative of some of the comforts she had always taken for granted.

"I slept in a real bed last night," she said. "It certainly looked good."

August 16, 2018

1968. Republicans Gather in Miami Beach for the National Convention

Reporting from the Republican National Convention
Bill Downs interviewing then-Vice President Richard Nixon in the 1950s
Bill Downs

ABC News

August 3, 1968

This is Bill Downs in Miami Beach.

Even during Prohibition days, elbow-bending at political conventions was as important as arm-twisting. The Republican National bash is no exception.

There are some 40 hotels in the Miami Beach area which are housing the 27-hundred delegates and alternates and their friends and families. And in virtually every one of these delegate centers there is that peculiar political institution known as the "hospitality suite."

Hospitality suites range from the smoke-filled backroom where single delegates are regaled with arguments, alcohol, and branch water, to the really big operations such as in the hotel headquarters of candidates Nixon, Rockefeller, and Reagan—where whole ballrooms are equipped to provide hors d'oeuvres and a variety of potables for a couple thousand people at a time.

The amount of liquor consumed at an American political convention always has been immense since the first one was held more than a hundred years ago. But strangely enough, no one has ever figured out whether there is any relationship between an ounce of whiskey drunk and the way a delegate votes.

Because Miami Beach is a resort and vacation city specially designed for the entertainment of visitors, this GOP convention site has an extraordinary number of facilities for any Republican who would wet his whistle. There are a plethora of bars and nightspots ranging from the neighborhood saloon to the plushest of supper clubs. And in August, the hot sun and humid weather cooperate to keep everyone's thirst in constant demand.

So if one counts the myriad "hospitality suites" which dispense free booze throughout the delegation hotels plus the community's high number of commercial whiskey parlors, then by any toper's standard, Miami Beach will be the "wettest" city in the country during the time the Republicans are in town.

This is not to say that Republicans are more partial to the bottle than anyone else—heaven forbid. But traditionally the stein of beer, bourbon, and branch water, and in more recent times, the martini—such libations have been to the national political convention what axle grease was to the wagon wheel, what the buggy whip was to the sulky, what octane is to gasoline.

In recognition of this fact of American political life, the Florida Citrus Commission and the Puerto Rican rum industries this year got together for a bit of mutual promotion. They invented the "Favorite Sun Candidate"—the sun spelled S-U-N. The Favorite Sun Candidate is being boomed as the official drink of the GOP convention. It consists of a mixture of island rum and local orange squeezings, and is very good to you and for you, say the promoters.

All we can say is that we need time for research and development of these claims.

For example, what is the most effective mixture for impressing delegates; what proportion of rum in how much orange juice does a candidate need to change a Nixon delegate to a Rockefeller or Reagan. If we had the answer this weekend, we could name the ballot and the man who will win next week at convention hall.

Lacking this research data, we can only make this prediction from the convention punch bowl: the winner will be a Republican.

Bill Downs

ABC News

August 6, 1968

This is Bill Downs at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.

Among the delegates to this confused Republican lovefest is a Georgia attorney named Anthony Alaimo. Besides being a member of the GOP Platform Committee, Alaimo is a World War II flyer who was shot down over Germany and thrown into a war prisoner's camp. It was the same POW camp made famous in the movie "The Great Escape"—and Delegate Alaimo helped dig the tunnel that figured in that escape drama.

The point of this story is that many reporters we've talked with may have to consult with Anthony Alaimo before the convention is over, because a lot of them are out of expense money and they're getting in so deep that they may have to tunnel under Miami Beach's Indian Creek back to the mainland and freedom. Otherwise they may have to spend the next four years until the next Republican convention washing dishes to pay off their debts for bread, board and entertainment expenses.

It's not that reporters and delegates don't expect to get hit in the pocketbook by the locals who take advantage of the people trapped by a convention. It's just that it's hard to get used to paying a dollar and a half for a hot dog, even if it is trimmed with a garden salad and pickle. And it's irritating to pay from 50 to 75 cents for a pack of cigarettes which before the GOP deluge were selling for 40 cents in the machines—which all have disappeared, it seems. Cheeseburgers in the beach hotels range from a buck and a half upward, depending on how chichi the establishment.

And one innocent copy boy went searching for a pair of swimming trunks intending to sneak off to a hotel pool when the boss wasn't looking. He'll either become a nudist or the world's greatest reporter, because the cheapest trunks he could find in an exclusive resort haberdashery cost 17 dollars.

Actually, price gouging here in Miami Beach is at a minimum, with most hotels sticking to their summer rates and prices.

In fact, few Republicans seem to know it, but the Florida Hotel and Restaurant Commission has 26 inspectors patrolling the beach hostelries, bars, and taverns assigned to see that the GOP delegates do not get gouged—at least too much. The commission has an office open day and night, and in case you're a delegate here and listening, if you have an overpriced complaint the Miami Beach number is 538-XXXX.

ABC News also has this story almost exclusively. The Republican wingding is not the only convention in town. Believe it or not, the National Funeral Directors Association also is meeting here. Their convention center is at the Bayfront Auditorium, and instead of featuring delegates and candidates, the Funeral Directors Association concentrates on the tools of its trade: sleek modern hearses, embalming fluid, and the latest thing in caskets.

For a while there we thought we might get the two conventions confused with each other. But then Monday Governor Reagan decided he wasn't a dead duck after all and changed things—if only a little bit.