Monday, December 23, 2013

Postblogging Technology, December 19443: I'll Be Home For Christmas

Happy Christmas from Santa Clara!

I apologise for including snapshots of the neighbours, but the pictures that I include are a great deal easier to parse than the family writing!

My Dearest Reggie:

I know that it is my invariable practice to wrap up the family news with an overlong restatement of my investment strategy, buttressed with the last month's news in scientific progress ("research and development" as we are saying now) and such economic, military and political news as seems relevant. You will find, as far as precendent goes, that this is a somewhat truncated entry due to my having left my copies of Fortune, Aviation and the month's run of The Economist in a certain library just to our north in a state of high dudgeon a week ago, but there is more than enough material for the boring parts, as you shall see.

As for habits, they are made to be broken. After a long and difficult month, I am finally in the Christmas spirit this holiday eve, and with a variegated feathered flock a-roast in the back under the supervision of your wife (Bill and David are most grateful for their Christmas gift), I shall endeavour to share the celebrations with you.

All of this was inspired in part by Mrs. J. C.'s blessed event, in part by potentially more dispiriting war news, which I think I will reserve a few weeks in the hopes that it will blow over. The long and the short of it is that we will have the Captain and Mrs. here with us on the West Coast for an indefinite extension, as the Engineer Vice-Admiral has conceived a lively concern about his newest pets that will only be assuaged by investigations on the ground. I am torn between rejoicing and trepidations, but I repeat myself, and I really should finish this letter. The indomitable mother-to-be has led the youngsters on a hike up the mountain. I have begged off with the excuse of fearing a recurrence of gout.

But it is only an excuse, as you will have realised by my mention of that certain library, it being you who forwarded the Earl's instructions to seek the Engineer's guidance concerning Cousin H. C.'s persistent requests for investment in his steel plant. See how I nickname him so respectfully? You, who know me so well, will seek out the irony and suspect that I imply that this honour is as empty as every other "achievement" of the life of his (real) father's son.

The Earl, of course, thinks that the son of the man whose oh-so-successful American life we helped launch will owe us dispassionate advice. I dissent on two grounds. First, gratitude is an odd thing, and in the Engineer's father's heart, I suspect that events in Batavia came long ago to be seen not as Great-Great-Grandfather sweeping a hanging crime under the rug, but rather as an excuse for Great-Grandfather's imposture: that the Engineer has aligned himself with our cousins across the divide of 1823.

So much for the incestuous concerns of our house, because, much more importantly, the Engineer is certainly bitter about this Administration, and dear Cousin H. C. owes virtually everything to it. This, at least, is my excuse for maintaining my side in our difficult interview, in which he did his best to encourage me to invest in the steel enterprise before dismissing me on the grounds that he was "busy" With his memoirs, or with coupon clipping, or with what other vital enterprise having to do with his legacy, I do not know. In any case, Wong Lee, whom I took as my driver on some mad impulse, had to lead me to the car by the shoulder, or I think that I should have burst back into the Engineer's study with some "wisdom of the staircase" that might have descended into fisticuffs.

In many ways, Wong Lee is a wiser man than I, hard as it is to tell when one's eyes go first to that kris scar. A more unlikely male nurse it is harder to imagine: but that is why Grandfather kept him around, I suspect, back when Grandfather was still making decisions. And his boy, who accompanied him, is smart as a whip, always with a "Number One Son" quip on his lips, as big as his father and as fair of face as his mother. (You remember Chang Wei, do you not? I believe that we had to make her a Peruvian to get her into the country. . . .)   I suspect that I am meant to conceive a desire to do a favour for the young man, which will be vouchsafed to me at the right moment. I shall not require much persuading.

Enough of this, then, especially as I owe you a month's worth of the "big" magazines yet. I shall even be able to cover the end of the month, in the unlikely event that major war news troubles the week between Christmas and New Years.

Flight, 2 December 1943

This splendidly modern building is the new “Shakespeare Memorial Theatre” in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Amongst aviation firms, not only Boulton & Paul, but apparently Parnall and Sons have reason to be proud. 

Leader: Roy Chadwick, of Avro, proposes that postwar airliners will all be pressurised, but most will cruise at less than 200mph. “Flying wings” and jets are still ten years out, or so Chadwick says. Frederick Handley-Page disagreed. Jet propulsion is closer, he pointed out. There was argument about Edward Warner’s recent Wright Memorial Lecture, in which Warner suggested that the advantages of high flying are overrated. This will not be true with jets. If fuel-efficient compressors can be developed. Which Chardwick thinks they will be . . .  in 10 years.

War in the Air

The Battle of Berlin continues. Twelve thousand tons have been dropped so far this year. Berlin’s Gauleiter estimates that 8 to 10,000 have been killed. The paper splits the difference on the "morality question." The debate, apparently, is between those who have suffered at German hands not having much sympathy; and those of a more sympathetic bent who accept the grim necessity. Pathfinders find their way to the target in spite of overcast by “some method.” A secret weapon, in other words. I suppose that I shall have to turn to the funny pages to discover radar and radio beacons. Or perhaps it is that secret weapons are in the air, notably the ones that the Germans threaten to unleash on Britain. (A strategic bombardment rocket, it is supposed, and page over there is a surprisingly detailed drawing of a hypothetical rocket weapon presumably based, the text below suggests, on Fritz Opel’s “rocket-assisted cars." These, we are told, led to a rocket-powered aircraft experiment. Meanwhile, “U.S. Fighter-bombers” strike at air bases in Holland and northern France. As do Whirlwinds escorted by Spitfires, while “Mediterranean Command” attacked Toulon and Sofia, while RAF Wellingtons attacked Turin. In the Pacific, the attack on the Gilberts went unbelievably well.

Yes, Reggie, that is just what we are hearing down on the Bay. 

That's the brand new Lexington aircraft carrier. Or 27,000 tons of brand new warship, on fire and steaming out-of-control within machine gun range of a fortunately not-machine-gun-equipped  atoll. That's my candid shot from a page of the After Action report, which is classified, but not not severely, given that the Navy was shopping it around the West Coast yards. The Captain of the Lexington has blood in his eyes, on the grounds that the ship was only saved from the consequences of a single aerial torpedo hit by an improvised manual steering gear introduced into the system by his crew. I suspect that there is more to the story than that. In any case, if you are wondering what is taking your son up to Seattle over the next few weeks....

Well, actually, I do. It is hard to imagine Nimitz or King seeking out a British engineer's opinion, even one with experience of the analogous problems suffered by Illustrious. I have warned your son that this is probably politics, and that he is being sent off to show someone up by being all plummy and British  --the path is still open to lay the blame off on poor Captain Stumpf!-- but he just smiled and told me that he had, after all, been educated by the Poor Clares. So was I, I said, and they never smoothed my rough edges. He answered that, after all, they had had him for an additional four years, to which I had no answer.

Here and There

Blue Star Lines is the latest shipping company with liner interests to change its corporate charter to authorise itself to run an airliner. It is quite the trend!

Articles: “Rocket Research.” British amateurs did experiments with rockets in the 1930s, and we can tell you about them. Unlike any work that might or might not have been done in any other countries for any other reasons! They can be automatically controlled with clockwork mechanisms!

The “Aircraft Types” series covers two Lockheed transports, the C-56 and C-57 covered by the Lockheed Lodestar nickname. Also, an Avro Lancaster transport variant, the York.

“Microgram Service: How Airgraph Letters are Handled” Using the new microprinter, great masses of documents are turned into miniatiurised pictures and sent by air mail. This is an ad for the Williamson Cameras’ micro-printer by the way. It’s even perfect for blueprints! Which is exactly what American machinists say when they see these things. Better than nothing, I suppose. 

“Keeping Them Warm: Anti-Icing System Uses Engine Exhaust Heat.” The system installed on several Consolidated types is shown. The actual circulating fluid is atmospheric air and the amount of heating is automatically controlled, as are so many things these days.

“Native Weapon:” Australia’s new, indigenous fighter, the Boomerang, is too secret to be revealed in any detail, but here are pictures that make its secrets perfectly obvious!

“Russian Aircraft Materials:” a translation of a highly complimentary German report. The quality of Russian compressed-wood and phenol-formaldehyde glued plywoods is impressive and improving rapidly. I am sure that this is something that you are paying close attention to, Reggie, given your plywood interests in Port Alberni.


“Technical Training: Purely A Matter of Finance” “Thirty Year Old” writes to comment on the recent comments of Mr. Biles of Blackburn Aircraft, Ltd, to the effect that the industry will need many more theoretically-trained aeronautical engineers after the war. The writer points out that after the last war, the market was flooded with B.Scs who could not find work appropriate to their direct and indirect investment in their education. What father is going to finance this? If it is in the public or industry interest, the public or industry bloody well better finance it.

Time, 6 December 1943

 “Manpower: The Last Shortage.” The “manpower shortage” has actually been critical for some time, but trends are towards relief. The paper says, anyway. The all-time employment peak was actually hit last winter, and the trend has been downwards ever since. There are 2 million fewer non-farm workers now than when the “crisis” was discovered. The government and services have acted. Small weapons factories have been closed in the Mid-West, saving 30,000 jobs, while the navy pulled a major contract out of West Coast yards. Now Boeing has a surplus of labour. B-17 production is up 10%, all war production up 4%. With victory on all fronts in the news, employers are beginning to think not of meeting contracts, but of the cost of severance pay on D-Day. Fat cheques and good-bye to Oakland, the workers are saying, very loudly, below my office windows.

“Inflation: Report From the Front:” The railway workers get an 8 cents an hour increase over stabilisation commissioner Vinson’s veto. The OPA’s power to regulate oil prices has been taken away by Congress, which has also ignored most of Morgenthau’s tax increases. But a compromise has been wangled over farm subsidies explicitly tying them to wage increases.

“Report on Tarawa: The Marines’ Show.” The fighting spirit of the Guadalcanal veterans of the 1st Division fought its way through the hell of Betio, which was made worse by the fact that the water was too shallow for the LCAs to beach. Many a man expressed a wish for more than his service standard $25 life insurance policy. Some people say the fighting at Betio (on Tarawa) was "hell." Others that it was a cakewalk. The operative question being just how many Marines have to be killed before a cakewalk turns into Hell. Rather a lot, it seems.

“The Admirals.” The average age of United States admirals is 57, and he is an Annaopolis graduate, whereas the average age of generals is 51, and only 45% are West Point graduates. The Navy has 202 flag officers. There are 6 full admirals (King, Nimitz, Halsey, Stark, Ingersoll, and Reeve. There are 21 Vice-Admirals, average age 58, including one Engineering Duty Only, five aviators, 1 aviation observer. There are 153 Rear Admirals, not counting staff corps (supply, medical, dental, engineering). Twenty five are EDOs, 33 are aviators, 2 are aviation observers. There are 23 comodores, including 1 EDO, 6 aviators. The USN has superannuated admirals that include many aviators, albeit all qualifying through postwar flying training, unlike our own Admirals Portal and Bell-Davies, and they have a rather dismissive title for Engineering Branch admirals. 

“World Battlefronts: Balance Sheet:” The Gilberts have fallen at what the paper calls a light price of American lives, giving an airfield suitable for heavy bombers. We go on to clarify: “Of 2000 to 3000 men who stormed the Tarawa Beach, only a few hundred came through the hail of Jap lead without dead or injury. No ship losses were announced (Rear Admiral Henry Maston Mullinix was reported [MIA].) Unless Mullinix took a wrong turn on his morning constitutional we can assume that a flagship was lost. Or instead of assuming, you can ask a dockyard man and be told that the Navy is looking at underwater protection for the "jeep" carriers. The appropriate underwater protection, I told them, was to keep torpedoes and mines away from those tinder boxes..

 “General Electric’s famed Physicist-Chemist recently predicted that man would some day speed up to 5000 miles an hour in a vacuum tube. Meanwile, Westinghouse did a thing for the press the other week where it showed fluorescent lamps lit by “a high-frequency radio beam generated by a physicians’ ordinary diathermy set. Westinghouse admitted that this was  a stunt and that wireless electric power “might” not be commercially viable for years. But the FCC is reserving a part of the postwar radio spectrum for wireless heating and cooking." A heat lamp was shown. Also sterilising lamps, a shatterproof lightbulb, a compact new sun lamp for easy tanning, and a 10,000 watt mercury vapor lamp. More business for electrical engineers! I am not sure how electric cookers are an improvement over electric ranges, and I cannot see the use of "wireless lamps" but a device for home tanning has pretty profound implications for the American colour bar. Not that I expect Time to notice that.

The Press: “In the Windy City,” where the  Tribune has been abusing workers at Chicago’s Studebaker aircraft-engine plant as loafers, malingerers, gamblers and Communist-led,the Sun went out and found that it was actually Colonel McCormick who is a very bad person! Whatever sells papers, I suppose.

“Postwar: Frozen Future.” Time advertises the Fortune story (which I will get to in a few weeks) about how manufacturers “expect to put electric refrigeration into practically every one of the nation’s 40,000,000 housing units. Or two, with one a “home freezer.” More on ready-cooked frozen foods of the future.

“Fiscal: Mr. White’s White Paper.” There is to be a World Bank to finance the world’s postwar reconstruction. I will believe it when I see it.

“Retail Trade: Record November.” This will surely not come as news, although the extent of of the record –201% above the 1935—39 average, up 21% over last year, is still astonishing. “But we are still below the last-gasp before-Christmas rush a year ago.” A few weeks on, I can report that while it has been a busy month for the men folk, and the expectant mother, we have been able to lean heavily on  Wong Lee, surely one of the oddest of persons seen loaded down with parcels in the queue at Magnin’s. . . .

"Production: “Navy Bean Soup” is the Navy’s obscure nickname for carbon dioxide fire extinguisher cartridges, which have buoyed National Foam from a gross of $500,000 in 1942 to $6 million this year.
Music: “Record Shortage.” Last year, U.S. record manufacturers hit an all-time production record with 136,000,000 discs. This year, production is down “at least 50%.” Causes include lack of manpower, rationing of shellac (which comes from India); wear and tear on nonreplaceable machinery, and lack of transportation and packing facilities.  Meanwhile, orders are up to three times their 1942 rate. I am skeptical that this reflects more than retailers ordering everything in the catalogue so that something will be delivered, but I am heartened by the thought of re-equipping the industry. Electrical engineering products go into record manufacturing, too, you know!

Radio: “Cousin Emmy;” at CBS station KMOX in St. Louis is famous! (Mountain music is big in Oakland, and not just in the places reached by this 50,000 watt station with 2.5 million steady listeners. The appeal of acts such as Cousin Emmy and Her Kin Folks may elude you and me (she apparently gives people a taste of “the natural twang of real mountaineer goings on” every morning at 5:25. She plays the banjo, “gui-tar,” French harp, and sings, all at the same time. Also, she yodels and dances and sings gospel songs, and sells cough drops and hair dye. Which is how she takes in $850/week. Sneer at her, but not her money!

Flight, 9 December 1943

 “Harrissing” Berlin: It’s a deliciously subtle play on words, dear cousin. We are indirectly told that there have been doubts expressed about the merits of the current Berlin offensive by way of quotes of Archibald Sinclair’s defence of it in the House. “3-in Guns in Aircraft.” B-25s carry 3" guns. Cousin Emmy would make a joke about critter-hunting now. "Those are big critters," she'd say. That fly. Or something

. “Aeronautical Science School:” Sir Roy Fedden has “seen too much of the lavish way in which training and research are treated in the United States of America.” He wants something big and impressive. But is there money for it? Will it be a school for practical engineering or an “academic hot-house?” Opinions differ!

War in the Air

Sinclair’s statement in the house: from 1 January 1943 to 6am on 30/11, 2,189 British bombers operating from this country have been lost over Europe, while US 8th Air Force has lost 829. This news is simultaneous with that of news of von Papen’s visit to the Pope to invite an intervention in favour of a bombing armistice. Many raids have been made, and Bomber Command’s diversionary tactics were quite successful in protecting a raid on Leipzig the other day. A major German U-boat offensive was just broken, in the course of which a B-24 captained by a son of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longmore was lost. The Japanese made a daylight raid on Calcutta. “There were some casualties among the civilians in the crowded city.”

Article: “Lancaster I and II: Interchangeability of Power Eggs Applied to One of Our Four-Engined Bomber Types.”  Not terribly relevant, but I took a plan-view picture showing “the way that the bomb load is supported by a  beam built into the structure.”

This is old news to you, Reggie, but let me pause for a moment and meditate on the existence of a girder, in an airplane which flies, that can take a 12,000lb load in suspension.

Here and There

The paper has a vacancy for a junior artist with drawing office or art school experience.

The Canadian Director-General of Aircraft Production is back in Ottawa, where he forecast a “20 percent bigger Lancaster in 1945.” Fairey has a new chairman, in the absence abroad of Sir Richard Fairey. “Another U.S. Record;” American ‘warplane’ production set a new record in November by topping the 9000 mark, it has been reported. (More on that. . . .) Another day, another prediction of postwar trans-Atlantic commercial flying.

Behind the Lines

A Swiss paper reports the details of new German secret weapons, rocket shells with a range of 200km weighting from 2 to 20 tons, the average weight being 12. The smaller types have been satisfactorily trialled, but the larger ones are giving difficulties. Jean-Herold Paquis, a military commentator on  Paris radio, reports that the Germans have doubled their fighter force since January and put three new types of aircraft into service, of which two are fighter-bombers, whose speed reaches 434mph. The third is a giant machine capable of transporting lorries. AGotha 244 is pictured. A neutral source says that several towns in southern Fance and in the Balkans have been evacuated. Japan is pushing to increase aircraft production. The Germans now have a centralised Air Defence Command (Fluko), staffed by the best of the best of the Luftwaffe’s signalling units, and from the women’s auxiliary services. “They must have iron nerves,” German radio reports. No flighty dames here!

Aircraft Types

Curtiss AT-9 “Jeep;” Beechcraft AT-10 “Wichita”. Unimpressive small trainers.


“Pitch Panic” the story of how De Havilland Co. raced to change both Spitfires and Hurricanes from two-pitch to constant-speed airscrews in time for the  Battle of Britain. Tw-speed props could be delivered faster, so were specified for Blenheims, Spits, Defiants, Hurricanes, while other aircraft, such as the Welllington, Beaufort, Stirling and Whirlwind got constant-speed units. D.H. was asked to do its  first experimental on-site conversion on 9 June, and was ready four days later. By 20 June the plane had been put through its paces and on 22 June DH got verbal direction to convert in the field all modern SE fighters on first priority. The conversion was easy, because the airscrews had been designed with constant speed in mind, but pipes and engine reservoirs and cockpit controls all had to be installed, and the screws did have to be dismantled to move the index pins. DH made the qull shafts for driving the cs units per Rolls-Royce drawings at the Gipsy engine factory.  Outside contractors such as M.R.C. Ltd, which did pilot controls, did a fine job. The actual work was done by picked teams of fitters at each station, initially under DH instruction.  DH engineers worked 105 to 110 hours a week to get this done.

And then, mysteriously, a few years later, all the engineers in Britain died of heart attacks. I am an old and cynical man, Reggie.

“Blind Landing in Mid-Atlantic” S/Lt (A) R. A. Singleton and observer Lt. Cdr J. Palmer (A) managed to land on board in 50 yard visibility with lighted paddles. Something strange is going on here, as Palmer is by now long past active flying, and in fact seems to be commanding HMS Eglington.One wonders just why this story gets press, and what we are to infer of Lt. Cdr. Palmer.

“Atlantic Record” of 11h 35 minutes set by B-24 piloted by Captain Richard Allen. Do I smell a “Blue Riband” coming on?

Time 13 December 1943

“Foreign News: The Known and Unknown” Have you heard that there was a big powers conference at Teheran? That “unconditional surrender” was agreed upon, and that there are various uncertainties about the postwar world? You have? Well, then, you shall have very light reading in the fields of politics and foreign affairs for the rest of this month!

For my part, I notice that Fat Chow is in Herat, suddenly trying to negotiate passage to Erzerum through great masses of NKVD and Indian Police.

“India: While the Paddy Ripens:” the Bengal famine will not end until the rice harvest, and there is not the manpower to harvest the paddy, and the Bengal Provincial Government reportedly refuses to ask the army to help.

“Foreign News: Raw and Unrestrained:” British womenfolk are complaining because of a critical shortage of wearable underwear. The title of the piece has a clever double meaning, if you will pardon me for reusing a joke until it is well past wearing out and can no longer support its own weight.

Other Foreign News: Frenchmen, Yugoslavs, Argentines and Icelanders(!) are excitable. 

“Foreign Trade:” American heavy industry, haunted by the nightmare of being overbuilt and underdemanded in peacetime, are ecstatic about a proposed 3-year Russian $10 billion order to rebuild their heavy industry, perhaps paying for it with Russian petroleum. America is so far reluctant to buy Spain’s record olive oil harvest in spite of the edible fats shortage.

“Fiscal: Compensatory and Mr. Chase:” Will the national debt of $300 billion bankrupt the United States? Where will the money to finance postwar full employment come from? Stuart Chase has a brilliantly written answer (the paper says) to these questions in the form of his new book, Where’s the Money Coming From? “Stripped to its bones, the Chase compensatory economy is nothing but old-fashioned pump-priming on a vast scale, through self-liquidating public works and expanded social security,” with high taxes in boom times to cover spending in the lean. The concern is that it will be hard to keep taxes high in good times. I cannot help but notice that someone is optimistic about the postwar economic scene. Guardedly.

“Aluminum: The Boy Grew Older:” a war-boosted industry is getting bigger. H.C.’s play in Columbia Metals, however, is unlikely to play a big part in this unless the war goes into 1946.

“Government: Permission Or Else:” Parkland Sportswear Co. of Dallas has been fined for raising the pay of its 47 employees in disregard of the regional War Labor Board. And this is national news because the WLB is actually enforcing the regulation, I suppose.

“Timely Figure:” A condensed English version of the Four Classics occasions the paper to discover that Confucius was a great man. Not great enough to warrant studying the actual texts, but a great man. . .  

Flight, 16 December 1943

Thackery is to diesel engines as oranges are to movie stars!


“Close Air Support:” The Allies have air superiority in Italy, but are not blitzkrieging. Does that mean that Allied CAS is much less efficient than German in the old days? Why, no, the paper says. “Allied Air Supremacy:” fighter pilot wastage has been less than expected, says C. G. Power, Canadian Minister of National Defence. So resources are being redirected to training bomber pilots.

War in the Air

Wintry weather in Italy has cut down on air operations in support of the troops there, while the Germans have pulled out in the air. In the Pacific, more on the American carrier attack on the Gilberts, although it is also noted here that first production priority has been shifted from aircraft to landing craft.  A joint statement by Roosevelt and Churchill notices that the quantity of shipping sunk by the enemy has fallen to the lowest level this last month since May of 1940.

Here and There

There is now a US-India air freight service; six new airfields have been added in East Anglia; the US industry will deliver its 150,000th aircraft in time for the anniversary of Pearl Harbour. “Microgram” is not the same as “Airgraph,” which exclusively denotes the service which Kodak provides for the GPO. The paper regrets the error.

Microgram or Aerograph, it is very Research and Development!
C. A. H. Pollitt, “Will There Be a Place for the Flying Boat: A Critical Revierw of the Saro Report.” No, there won’t. They’re boats. Get over it, paper. Time for pastures new.
“Fortress Evolution:” the new B-17G, with a chin turret, represents the latest stage in the evolution of this venerable ship. It is noted that the “10 ton load” can be achieved by hanging 4000lb bombs off each wing rack, but this is well beyond a safe takeoff limit. Take that, American cousins!

“More Rotating Wings:” Greyhound has applied to run 78 helicopter routes covering 49,000 air miles. And they even brought Igor Sikorsky in to testify that it was actually possible! In two-an-a-half years or so. The paper finds this to be optimistic.

Behind the Lines

The German press wants you to know that the Luftwaffe is still active in Italy, attacking partisans. Up around Bergamo. It is apparently presumed that maps of Italy are hard to come by. A Swedish newspaper reports that the courier plane carrying diplomatic mail forthe Hungarian legation in Stockholm is now mysteriously five days overdue. (Last week’s number also noticed this.) Hungary has a “satellite industry” now in service of German war production. 

Aircraft Types: The MiG-3.; and Mitsubishi KB-98 ‘Karigane.’

“High Command Changes:” ACM Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferte has retired as Inspector General of the Air Force, and AVM Sir Christopher Brand. Joubert has agreed to be employed by the air force at the lower rank of Air Marshal, perhaps in India.


“Russian Land” The Russians have an air force, too!

“Engine Cowlings:” a précis of the MAP report on German practice.

Time, 20 December 1943

International News: There as an international conference! In Teheran! And another in Cairo, for which the President of Turkey was present, adroitly doing the stay-out-of-World-War-II-mazurka! Fat Chow writes that he is pretending to be a Kirghiz princeling to play on the sympathies of Turkish nationalist . . The Furhrer is a second rate fellow. Brazil is having inflation.

“Foreign News: Coal: A Dilemma” The paper notices that the mines are still a problem, emphasising low morale in the mines and mentions, by-the-by, what The Economist won’t, that conscription for mine labour will fall heavily on mining families and that families that aspire to get their sons out of coal mining are upset that coal-owners get something out of it, too.

“The Hate Debate:” Civil war amongst the Democrats, it is proposed, is occurring! It is suggested that southern Democrats would like to see a Republican Presidential/Senate/House victory in 1944, giving the party four years to purge the New Dealers, who have excessively "coddled"  Coloureds, labor and the poor. Now, I am a squire, and you are -well, apparently the phrase for inherited wealth her in the New World is "self-made man," but whatever. But we --I think-- still remember that in a democracy, you have to get most people to vote for you to win an election, and that most people are not rich. Oh, true, one of the things that these New Dealers do is to“attack” the poll tax, and one might place one's hopes on lifting the poll tax high enough so that only the rich can vote. Now we shall look at the Democratic record in the last 80 years of national elections and find that, yes, this is a strategy. A terrible, terrible strategy, but a strategy. The paper goes on to add that this rush to political suicide is inspired by the “group tactlessness” of the White House inner circle. Theat is to say, the President’s aides were cutting, and this is a perfectly sound reason to plan to lose every election from now on forever.

One suspects that, when push comes to shove, a more practical spirit will flourish in Democratic circles.

Flight, 23 December 1943


“The Shape of Things to Come” aviation folk working 16 hour days have to take a breather sometime, and when they do, they talk about postwar aviation. Some even say that the flying boat has had its day, but they are mad. Sigh. There is also much of interest in the Miles “X” type, which only seemed mad five years ago, but now looks like an acceptable compromise between the conventional types envisioned for the next ten years by Chadwick (which Handley-Page said no-one would buy), and the unconventional types thereafter, perhaps including the all-wing type.

War in the Air

In the Battle of Cherkassy, the Russians made “effective use of airborne forces.” Unless some spectacular news breaks in the next few days, I suggest that this is a generous use of the word "effective." Also, there was bombing and close support on the Eastern Front, unlike in Italy, where the weather sucked. In the Mediterranean there were air attacks on the Brenner Pass and Innsbruck to further isolate the Itality theatre.  MacArthur has invaded New Britain, and the Americans acknowledge heavy casualties in the German air raid on two ammunition ships unloading at Bari. “More jet propulsion” is the caption of a picture of German Nebelwurfers firing in Russia.

“Teaching Air Photography” the paper visits “the R.A.F.’s oldest photographic training establishment.” (Historic pictures.) Number 1 School of Photography got its start in 1915, with Moore-Brabazon as its motivating spirit. Stereograms are a big deal, and so are multi-printers.

“Jet Propulsion:” A Swiss expert speaks.

“The Miles ‘X’”. It doesn’t exist. But if it did exist, it would be amazing, a sentiment from which I cannot dissent. You know what else would be amazing if it only existed? Father Christmas's sleigh. Imagine the ratio of loaded to unloaded weight it must have. At least Miles is not proposing to build it. That sounds more like a Sikorsky job.

Behind the Lines

Japanese ramping up production and trying to do a better job of building combat effective aircraft to offset the American numerical superiority. Germans have the Me 323
Aircraft Types Boeing 314 and Sea Ranger.

Service Aviation has a picture of F.O. S. E., Sukthanker receiving his DFC. A member of the Pathfinder Force.

Time, 27 December 1943 (Yes, I received proofs of this a little early. The publisher has yet to drop me from the advance circulation list after I was added over the "Kaiser expose" matter in the fall.)

China: Nine Tings of Yü

“A well-informed traveler from Chungking” tells the press of a story suppressed in China, of Marshal Chiang being presented with a set of nine bronze tings, the familiar symbolic precursor to . . . well, I hardly need to explain it to you. The Marshal rejected them angrily, the paper reports, imagining that this is to the credit of the Marshal. Why, one wonders, do Westerners never imagine that wu jen are capable of ironic comment?

“India: Death in Bloom:” Bengal now has ample food, but the privation-related disease of cholera, dysentery and dropsy are on the march.

“Foreign News; One More Close Call:” The paper notices, and is concerned about, the Prime Minister’s recent bout of pneumonia. That will happen when old men are tasked with such arduous travels. Which is not to say that dread does not grip me, too.

“Tristan da Cunha: The Lily Maiden:” the main title will allow the future archivist to group this with all the other Tristan da Cunha-datelined stories. But I should not joke, because the lily maiden in question is the figurehead of the Admiral Kampfanger of the Holland-America Line, reported overdue In New Zealand five years ago, with a crew of 16 and 44 boy cadets aboard, all lost to the world for five years, and now forever, a price demanded by the sea that pales only because of the war that has come since. How many have been swallowed by the sea? And how many of them, spit forth from a sea-change, made wondrous strange? Family history always makes me pensive.

“FEPC vs the Railroads:” First on the returned President’s agenda is the Federal attempt to desegregate the Southern railroads. The Southern railroads made the expected response, but the head of the FEPC pointed out a national shortage of 850 locomotive firemen, even though Coloured firemen were unemployed. Also on the rails, the strike question. In spite of the pay increase, 145 million railway employees are ready to walk off the job at Christmas time, and the country is not happy, especially with Bing Crosby crooning his latest crime against sentiment from every radio.

“Ban Facts:” London and Washington’s unwillingness to be straight about the devastating German air raid on Bari harbour is not reassuring. Surely the people can “take it?” So how did the explosion of two ammunition ships kill more than a thousand service men without sinking any more ships? A puzzler. To those who have already forgotten the last war, and more than suggesting why this is being so carefully concealed. Shall we see gas used on the Italian front soon?

“Catastrophe: Why?” A railway accident at Buies, N.C. kills 72 Christmas travellers in a gruesome scene. It was a failure of signals to alert the Tamiami East Coast Champion of a derailment ahead. The paper is not impressed. The Engineer would be even less so. The signals just have to work.

AP photo illustrating the NewsObserver anniversary story.

“Wartime Living: Minimum Comfort:” There is not enough coal to go around, due to John L. Lewis’s strikes and shipments to Europe. Say some. Plus a shortage of labour and machinery. Others suggest that it is because of distribution problems. Coal is shipped by rail, and the rails are slow in winter, when coal is wanted. Which is why coal is often short in the winter. Solid Fuels Administrator Ickes, however, is gloomy, because this shortage is unusually severe. He says that while Britain has become used to ‘no coal for comfort,” America enters 1944 on a ‘minimum comfort’ standard. Fair enough in California. But in Michigan?
 “U.S. At War: The Bobbie Pin Front:” people miss these. And many other “indispensable doodads.”

“U.S. At War: You Can Get Something:” At this point, Christmas shoppers are basically buying anything they can get, since everything they want is out of stock. “Decent lingerie –in both senses—is especially in demand.” I am a little perplexed about what this sentence seems to imply about indecent lingerie. Wong Lee did not set out to buy lingerie, but given the way the stores were picked clean, I may be receiving some, if only because I put my foot down on giving any from the glum  pickings-over of his expeditions. Ah, well, at least by measure of money spent, this will be a generous Christmas, and I did manage to find tyres for your namesake son's car, bringing it that much closer to "roadability."

“Food: Meat Moratorium:” appears to mean the opposite of the strict reading, as the fall slaughter was “near-record,” and the OPA may be forced to temporarily lift the rationing of pork.

Battlefronts” Amphibious assault takes location on New Britain, carrier task force raids Rabaul and Truk, USAAF Liberators raid the Marshal Islands in preparation for operations there.

“Battle of Russia: The Push?” The question marks says it all.

“Army And Navy: In This Total War:” Recruiting for the WACs and WAVES has been very disappointing. Possible things to blame include male chauvinism;  female careerism The New York Daily News. The British had to go for conscription. Should we? This is an interesting question. Where are the lady volunteers?

“Army and Navy: Shining Planes” Henceforth, US planes will not be painted except where tactical considerations require. Tis, it is suggested, is partly for weight saving. A bomber might save 70 to 80lbs. Excuse a shipyard man, but isn’t there another reason why one might skip painting? To save labor?

“Transport: Failure in ‘43”: Truman Committee warns that only a generous quantity of new equipment and replacement parts can prevent a critical transportation breakdown in 1944.” There is mention of rails, tyres and airliners, but not what the Rennert accident reveals as essential, more and better signals equipment. Well, the less attention it gets, the more room there is for first moving investors? In fact, I broached this to Bill and David. And while they rolled their eyes and explained that they cannot be into everything, they did offer me the name of an acquaintance made down on the water with a bug in his brain about improving rail traffic control that he works on when he is not fitting radar to ships. Or we could just drop some money into Westinghouse, although I am skeptical, as we certainly could not mobilise the capital to have a place on the board of so colossal an enterprise.

“The High Cost of Ceilings:” Ceilings on textile prices have squeezed out low-cost producers of cheap socks, work clothes, aprons, dresses. Secret inflation! As the paper sees it.

“No Time on Their Hands:” the national radio networks have basically sold their entire time table, and profits are up 20%. Notice that the paper has already complained about paper shortages. No relief for advertisers there. 

..And I hear adolescent feet stamping below. The sojourners have returned, and I suspect that Christmas Dinner is imminent, with hopefully enough food to keep even young bodies abed to a reasonable hour.

Wishing, in this happy moment, for one of Mr. Wells' time machines so that you can read this as I write it, looking forward to the unwrapping of gifts on Christmas morning. Unless with the time shift that is actually happening in England? Or is it the other way around.. You know that I could look this up.

Or I could descend to greet my family. Ah, well, it may be too late to say Happy Christmas, but best of the New Year, Reggie!

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas to Reggie, H.C., and all the gang. I trust that next year will bring them more joy.