Bench Grass is a blog about the history of technology by the former student of a student of Lynn White. The main focus is a month-by-month retrospective series, covering the technology news, broadly construed, of seventy years ago, framed by fictional narrators. The author is Erik Lund, an "independent scholar" in Vancouver, British Columbia. Last post will be 24 July 2039.
Postblogging Technology, February 1944, I: A Dwindling Race
My Dearest Reggie:
The house, or rather houses, are a-whirl with the energy of youth this month. Our distant relative, the actor-turned-Signals-Corps-Captain (you know who I mean) has turned in a handsome apology for his behaviour over the last few months, admitting that he paid far too close attention to "Miss V.C.," and blaming marital troubles, now resolved, for the fact that he "was not himself." He will not, he told me, be making further domestic visits.
I was pleased to accept this resolution. For all of "Mrs. J. C.'s" suspicions --some confirmed, I will ashamedly own-- he is a winning young man with a bright future in politics, if he chooses to pursue it. This affair, if successfully prosecuted, would quite ruin those hopes, and make his father's old age even bleaker than otherwise. (It is odd, or, rather, telling that a divorce should be seen as fatal to one's electoral prospects, while the press will decline to press closely the investigation into any candidate's even most obviously questionable ancestry, but the precedent was set long before our time.) As little as I like the Engineer, I will not deny him the pleasure of seeing his son succeed in a field in which he so resoundingly failed.
But this did not resolve the matter of suitors pressing round "Miss V.C.," because apart from your younger son's obvious interest (speaks the wisdom of age) there is the matter of "Lieutenant A.," who now seems determined to press his own suit. As he is young, single, handsome, born to wealth and well-connected, I see no reason to object if he wishes to insert himself in our social whirl for as long as his Admiral's business keeps him in San Francisco. I have, however, intimated to him that Wong Lee's vigilance is not to be underestimated.
I also rather hope that he manages to obtain a slightly more modern auto for use social calling soon, however.
As for "Miss V. C.," and Wong Lee, for that matter, I am pleased, even if I must pretend otherwise, to report that he caught her in the main hall of Chi Wei Tao Wan the other night, trying to enter the west wing. As this would have involved removing the tarpaulin covering the Whale Man, it is rather a serious matter. Your wife still has not found anyone she deems competent to restore it. It may have stood too many seasons of Pacific storms since the Founder's son and daughter were carried through it to be introduced to their grandfather. In any case, I had to explain to "Miss V.C." that Grandfather is being kept isolated out of concerns for his health, and that she might be allowed to visit him by prearranged appointment if properly gowned, and that due to the condition of the main wing of the mansion and the state of preservation of the art in it, the covers must on no account be removed.
None of this was convincing, of course. Indeed, I was as unconvincing as I dared to be, hoping that she would realise that the "appointment" would be a ruse, giving us time to make Grandfather up, while pointing her curiosity towards the furnishings of the main hall. I have, however, given an undertaking to her parents not to lead her curiosity. When she asked me about the Chinese practice of giving out monetary presents at the Lunar New Year, I had to suppress my temptation to dwell on the significance of red envelopes and the like, and instead claim entire ignorance.
I could add to this picture of domesticity by painting your youngest and Wong Lee's son posing in their cadet uniforms and of your daughter-in-law in all of her radiance, but since I include photographs, words will not be needed, and I do not, after considering the last number of Fortune, trust myself not to descend into autumnal despair. I could also make some technical comments, but will refrain for a few paragraphs yet, though I will get them out of the way in the first section, as the second section is devoted to investment prospects in insurance, and will, I expect, bore all and sundry.
3 February 1944
“Technical Training” The paper makes
no apologies for reverting to this subject again. Your eldest takes this as
proof positive that the editor, like your correspondent, Reggie, has never been
“Where are the Chiefs?” Where is the
next generation of chief aircraft designers? Are American and German
educational institutions superior to British? The paper does not think so, but others do.
in the Air
Long range aircraft clash in the Bay
of Biscay in a “strange development in a strange war.” Heavy bombing continues
in that part of France of which the paper is not informed as to whether or not
it will be the site of the invasion, attacking unidentified targets. Lest we
who watch the great events from outside are left entirely mystified, the paper
allows that German resistance has been entirely of AA, the fighter arm having
been withdrawn to conserve its strength. Everyone is pleased that Leningrad has
been liberated again for the first time. The USAAF now numbers 2.3 millions. It
would seem to me difficult for the army to contain such an overgrown organ, but
I am reliably informed by a very highly placed admiral (you may guess just
whom) that it can and must, since the idea of an independent air force is a foolishfancy. American paper Iron Age reports
that Allied jet interceptors will go into service soon, and that twin-enginedultra-long range fighters equipped with Allison engines are in production at General Motors.
They are to escort B-29s. It is reported that “long range
Mustangs” are escorting American bombers all the way to Brunswick and Hannover
US night fighter squadrons have
flown Beaufighters. £600 million have been spent on airfields in Great Britain
since the war began. More than half a million aircrew personnel have been
trained in Canada under the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme. Accidents in
American aircraft factories in 1943 have cost the lives of 18,000 workers.
Coningham is to be AOC No. 2 Tactical Air Force, continuing his famed
partnership with General Montgomery. Mr. H. A. Jones, official historian of the
last war in the air, is to be the new Director of Public Relations at the Air
Ministry. Mars gets more press.
B. J. Hurren, “Backbone of the
Fleet.” Hurren proposes that aircraft carriers are now the backbone of the
fleet. Pictures of Indomitable and
Biterillustrate. The Americans, we are told, have announced that they
launched 65 aircraft carriers in 1943, including 6 27,000 ton Essex-class, 9 light carriers of 10,000
tons, and 50 escort carriers. Work continues on 3 45,000 ton carriers to
operate twin-engine bombers. So, apparently, the actual totals are only secret
from the American press. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. Major Seversky
supposes that aircraft carriers are too vulnerable and are doomed when faced
with land-based air power. Mr. Hurren disagrees and supposes that even though x
superbombers might be purchased for the price of y medium bombers flying from
super-carriers, the fact that they are on ships might make them more useful. Pressed to
say something actually interesting and original, Mr. Hurren proposes that
torpedoes are quite useful aerial weapons, and more suited to the sort of
planes that fly from aircraft carriers, and further supposes that a single-seat
“torpedo fighter” such as the Blackburn Dart of days gone by might be quite
feasible with plants such as the new Napier Sabre as its power plant (1,2, 3, 4,etc.)
This strikes me as a weak
justification for a class of warship that must serve twenty years or more to
justify the expense. Far be it from me to dissent from the noble cause of
building ever-larger warships, though!
“Studies in Recognition” More
pictures and silhouettes in aid of telling one plane from another. Or, as they
say in the business, ”filler.”
In a morale-boosting parade, the
Japanese exhibit models of their latest Donryubomber, Shintei reconnaissanceaircraft and Shoki fighter. Gnome-et-Rhone
is developing various new engines, and the Arsenal an aircraft made of “improved
wood.” My attention is alive, once again, to the mention of new wood products,
with all that it implies for house construction here in America. If the houses
are not to be cheaper, will they instead be larger? Good news, it seems to me,
to the makers of home furnishings. Or, at least, as it can be with the postwar
depression staring us down. The postwar era will be a strange one.
Though I do not think anything so
preposterous as air-delivered fruit is on the way!
“Air Observation Post” Britain, too,
has a cheap aeroplane that can support the army, the Taylorcraft Auster. More
interesting than the brief ad for the industry is the revelation that they are
attached to individual medium artillery regiments and flown by Army captains,
who spot for the guns and correct them via radio, i. e., spoken voice
communications. This will be the oldest of old news for you, Reggie, but I want
to highlight the electrical engineering advance implied by this for the Earl.
Lighter, more powerful radios, acoustic arrangements, higher frequencies in
regular use… The implications for radio entertainment and even industrial use are
Major F. A. de V. Robertson, “Heavy
Bombers and Pathfinders: Britain’s Conquest of the Weather.” So desperate is
the paper for copy that the oldest of old warhorses are decanted from whatever
liquor cabinet they have been hiding in had put to work. The correspondent of
much punctuation supplies a two page summary of the air war to date with
exactly the kind of insight and detail you may expect. I suppose I should apologise in advance if you
correct me and tell me that the Major is an indefatigable journalist who
regularly does the air force station round up in the North Country, and that
you have yourself shared the most confidential “gen” with him on strict
discretion. But I rather doubt I need have bothered.
“Charley Chan” A Chinese
officer –born in Singapore, actually—is flying for the RAF. The tone of the paragraph
may be guessed. "Charlie Chan" is substituted for his actual name, both by his brother officers and, less forgiveably, the paper.
B. J. Stedman, “the Student’s Point
of View,” Aeronautical engineers are being overtrained. Or possibly
undertrained. I would have to read the article to be sure, and that I will not
do. Even had I not become quite sufficiently conversent with the opinions of
young engineers when I was one, thank you very much, I now live with two at
either end of the spectrum, by its more expansive definition.
Economist, 5 February 1944
“Dominions and Republics” The paper
is upset that Mackenzie King has rejected the current worthy initiative for the
Commonwealth, and then it was a beautiful morning, with mist filling the valley
below, and our mothers were with us, Reggie, so young, and we younger still,
and a cowboy, the most –I’m sorry, I think that I drifted off there.
“Words and Meanings” Oh, you talk
about “free enterprise” and on the other hand “government control,” but what do
“Representative Government” Let’s
talk about electoral reform!
“The Regional System” Regional
trading blocs would be a good thing.
of the Week
Russia is revising its constitution
to make the Union more enticing to the Baltic states. Pay-as-you-earn advances
in the income tax system. The premier has screwed up the Brighton by-election.
Latins and the Balkans are excitable. The new report on Kenya is damning. White
settlement has been a horrible blunder. India’s future is total political independence under British supervision. Half a step, ever half a step forward in the matter of allowing non-Britons to govern themselves without British assistance. Publicly-funded research and development is good, because it has
as its end an increase in labour productivity in private industry. The TUC comes out in support of industrial training.
“How Ready is the Right?” A section
of American labour swung too far to the left in the 1930s, and a section of
American business is in danger of swinging to far to the right now,
says Charles E Wilson, Executive Vice-President of the War Production Board, and before that President of General Electric, to the National Association of Manufacturers annual convention. It certainly looks like the GOP is poised to make big gains in 1944, and then the sky will fall, unless it does not.
“Plight of the White Collar Worker.” The point here is that “Little Steel is dead,” and therefore the cost of living is set to skyrocket (It has
already increased 25%. Or 50%, if you prefer impressions to statistics.) It is noted that only 40,433
applications for wage increases for white collar workers out of 1,219,000 in
one particular region, and concluded that white collar workers (and
receivers of fixed income, our correspondent adds, innocently) are getting it in the neck. “Any substantiation of
these difficulties” should be brought to the attention of the paper by its alert readers, as they would bolster arguments for more effective control of the
cost of living against the loud cries of the inflation bloc, which apparently spreads its malevolent influence through the American body politic.
“The Bottom of the Barrel” Every
available pre-Pearl Harbour father between 18 and 34 may have to be inducted in
the first six months of 1944, says General Hershey, director of Selective
Service, in a speech to the National Automobile Dealers’ Association. If this
is not enough, there may have to be reclassification. “Bottom of the barrel” is
a relative concept, after all.
“Stand Up and Be Counted,” the
President tells Congress in the matter of the soldiers’ vote. The House has
already moved for an unrecorded vote, so that, some will unkindly suggest,
no-one will have to go on the record as opposing votes for soldiers. Republican
resistance, inspired as it was by fears that the military vote would re-elect
the President, does not look good on them.
“Pacific Atrocities” Revelation of
Japanese atrocities may impact MacArthur’s election campaign, and, of
course, justify the wisdom of barring
released Japanese detainees from returning to the Pacific coast, where
presumably people are much more retaliation-prone on account of the sea air.
“The Soviet War Economy” Russia has
paid for the war out of what would be in a capitalist economy war profits, at
the expense of what used to be its main source of revenue, a “turnover tax,",
the decline of receipts of which indicates the extent of consumption decline.
“Germany at War” The paper makes fun
“How Many Houses” Is the ten year
plan realistic? The paper does not know. Is planning for short term emergency
construction adequate? The paper suspects not, and calls for more planning. Good thing the Germans are
not getting ready to lob rockets at England in vast numbers, or more building
would be called for instead of more planning!
The paper is watching the Washington
talks on currency for insight into future exchange rates and mechanisms. Good.
Electricity distribution is under discussion. There ought to be a large-scale
oil-refining industry in Britain, as importing petroleum makes more sense than
trying to synthesise it from coal or whatnot. Hear! Hear! Although, again, the
Earl needs to be cautioned about the poor chances of our getting our Burma
interests back. Even if Mountbatten gets off his ass and makes a campaign
out of it, turmoil in India makes holding onto Burma unlikely, in my view. We shall see how our position develops, but oil is not of much use without investment capital. I wonder if there is more oil to be found along
the Mackenzie River?
Persia announces that it is shifting the backing of its
paper currency from the crown jewels (officially assessed at 2.65 millions) to
gold. This is pursuant to importing enough gold. Some of that will come from
South Africa and America, but it is likely that a great deal is already in the country as a result of
Allied gold imports into the country to sop up purchasing power left over from
the Allied expenditure in the country. While much of that gold has served its purpose
by going into hoards, some will have leaked through to the National Bank.
The price of coal has gone up effective Feb 1st.
Further price increases are being negotiated. Engineering wages may be going
up, or be rationalised, or both. Labour is also an issue in the building
industry, where efficiency is declining due to a shortage of young workers, and
indiscipline is for some reason on the increase since the introduction of the
Essential Work Order. The manganese shortage has been alleviated.
10 February 1944
“The Attack on the Marshall Islands “
Was delivered by carrier forces as well as Fleet Air Wing 2 and 7th
Army Air Force, with all shore-based aircraft under the command of one Vice-Admiral
J. H. Hoover. .
Curious about the name, I discover that he was born in 1887 in Ohio, graduated
73rd out of 86 from the Naval Academy, specialised as a submariner, made
commander in 1926, switched over to the air branch and made captain in 1935.
Talk around the Bay is that he is able, fit and aggressive, but aloof and not
well liked, except by the Spruance circle.
Other leaders note that the Free French
are flying war planes, surprising all, and, still more surprising, a popular aviation
American paper has said cutting things
about British aeroplanes.
in the Air
In addition to the above, it is
noted that planes have been involved in the fighting in Burma, have attacked
the Rumanian oil fields, and have
attacked the transportation facilities behind German lines. Dr. Goebbels
falsely claims that 750 German aircraft dropped 1000 tons of bombs on London on
the night of 21 January, whereas in fact only 90 raiders crossed the coast. On
the other hand, Bomber Command’s six heavy attacks on Berlin delivered 9300
tons of bombs –and cost 200(!) aircraft. The USAAF made its first thousand
plane raid last week. The Germans are supplying the Shpola pocket on the
Eastern Front by air again, while the Russians have made a strategic air attack
on Helsinki. Reports from Sweden are that it was a heavy attack. The paper
supposes this was to encourage the Finn peace party.
Royal Marine squadrons will fly with
the Fleet Air Arm. A B-24 Liberator named Heaven
Can Wait, defied irony by not crashing last week. General Smuts has
been given a “giant four-engined Avro” in appreciation of his services. The “Standard
Exhibition,” in the words of Minister of Aircraft Production Sir Stafford
Cripps, celebrates “the man who makes the thing that oils the ring that works
the thingummy-jig.” Several Russian parachutists, who had disguised themselves
as pastors and in that capacity preached sermons in several factories in
Estonia, were turned in to German authorities for preaching without permission.
Ration coupons are offered to those turning in worn rubber boots for
reconditioning. Americans talk in hilarious ways. Mr. Harry R. Sheppard,
Representative from California, supposes that the Administration favours
Pan-American Airways at the expense of good old American free enterprise.
Lord Rothermere supposes that American might require a
production of 5500 aircraft per year, post war. Others find this exaggerated.
“A Russian Dive Bomber: The
Twin-engined PE-2 Does 335 mph at 16,000ft: All-electric operation of Auxiliary
Services” A translation of an article in the Swedish paper Flyg details this very
serviceable, albeit virtually unarmed, three seater. It has no fewer than 18
electric motors, including one for the pump that operates the hydraulic
undercarriage retraction. Pilots report that it handles well, but does not suffer
fools gladly. Or shorts, I would imagine.
“Germany’s ‘Secret Weapon’” is to be
a crewless, radio-controlled winged bomb with rocket propulsion, but requires
an elaborate launching mechanism which Allied bombers are attacking, although
it can also be launched from the air.
A. Gouge, “Flying Boats” In the
paper’s next number, Mr. A Gouge considers whether a two-horse or four-horse
carriage is right for you. That may not be fair, but I am in a mood, as I have
just learned that I am expected to make a transcontinental excursion to
discover whether Cousin H. C.’s new plant in Buffalo might produce the new
Boeing flying boat profitably. I am not sure why he tapped me, as he cannot be
in any doubt as to how I will advise him on the merits of the plan itself. I
suppose he trusts me to report on the industrial side objectively, which I
should take as a compliment.
Several previous correspondents are
confused about how airscrews work, and how rockets can fly according to Newton’s
Second Law. Something about action and? In any case, pedantic confusion is met
with pedantic elaboration. Other letters discuss burning water and broadcast
electric power. For all its fussiness, Flight
is a young man’s paper, if more technically literate than the ones who write into your youngest's beloved "pulps."
The Adler automobile factory was
destroyed by sabotage involving explosive and incendiary bombs, although the
notice goes on to mention that it was carried out by five men armed with
revolvers, which seems a curious way for bombers to carry out their work.
German aircraft workers are now on 11 hour days. A new German aluminium alloy
of “sufficient” resistance to corrosion (versus soap water as well as seawater,
the usual standard) is on the market. “Sufficient.” Encouraging! It is reported
that 500,000 German evacuees from Berlin have been sent to western Poland. It
looks as though they shall be returning soon! Two German night fighter aces are reported killed in action.
The Germans are using more single-seat fighters as night fighters.
Economist, 12 February 1944
“the Public Service” Should be more
scientific, like the new REME, only for people trained in economics.
“Baltic Vacuum” Germany has pretty
much destroyed the social order of the Baltic states. I particularly notice,
and am particularly moved, by the
paper’s offhand observation that the “Aryanisation” of the middle classes of
Latvia and Lithuannia, which were primarily Jewish, has meant the destruction
–[and here the “off-hand” comes in] and
probably also the physical extermination—of the greater part of the middle
classes.” Though I notice this because of the grim implications of
“extermination.” The rural classes are more numerous, their problems in many
ways more pressing, and proper solution of them key to reincorporation of the
Baltic states into the Union.
Principles of Trade, III: “Prices
and Markets” A page and half of labour
delivers forth a product in the form of journalistic insight which the market must now value at its worth. Which, since it broadly implies that British wages must be kept down, would seem to be high for this paper.
of the Week
“Hazard and Caution” The war in the
East is reaching “a new climax,” as it does very nearly every week. The paper
is finally convinced that the Germans will not counterattack successfully. The
only question now is whether the Germans will be able to restore a front, or whether Russian troops will enter
the “powderkeg” of the Balkans soon. The paper is disappointed with the lack of
progress in Italy, but still hopes for great things. The paper has decided that the Government win in
Brighton was by an insufficient margin. There should be more planning for
housing. Turkey is still neutral. Latins are still excitable. So are school
officials and everyone else concerned with them. There should be more planning
for demobilisation. The paper is given furiously to think by manganese.
“Four Midwestern Papers” Our Iowa
Correspondent reads the Des Moines
Register, Cleveland Press, Saint Louis Post-Despatch and Chicago Tribune, and is apparently paid for it. The liberal papers are disappointed that the
Administration supports too many right-leaning and imperialist people. The Tribune thinks that foreigners are
inherently Communistic. The eternal Senators Lodge and Borah still haunt the Hermit Kingdom of the West.
‘American Oil Diplomacy” America is afraid of running out of oil, and wants more access to Middle Eastern supplies.
“The Sorest Point” A Church of England newsletter recently
suggested that President Roosevelt ought be re-elected, leading the entire
Republican press to make this unconscionable interference in American affairs
front page news. The paper thinks this was over-reaction, and suggests it in
its usual patronising tones. The paper is not helping as much as it thinks it
“Sweat and Taxes” the proposed federal budget does not raise taxes by as
much as is expected. Mr. Wilkie thinks they should be raised more. The informed
opinion continues to think that the whole thing will never pass through the
legislative process, anyway.
“The Soldiers’ Vote” The House defeated the
President’s proposal. The Senate defeated the House proposal. The Senate
proposes a compromise that will give the President the substance of what he
wanted, if not the whole.
“The Falange Economy” Is a mess.
“Middle Eastern Oil” is to be had.
“Student Unemployment in Eire” It
seems odd that more university and professional education has not led to employment
for many Irish graduates for the last five years or so, but it has.
Notwithstanding the increasing subsidies granted to students, which has led to
more graduates than ever, more positions have failed to materialise. Perhaps this is the fault of the young, who harbour dreams beyond their station of escaping country for the city. Or perhaps it is the fault of Irish society, for Our Correspondent in Dublin notices the levelling policy of the Irish
government, which has prevented a new class of rich to appear to replace the
old class of landed aristocracy. Without high fees, solicitors and doctors
cannot make money. This is obviously why there is unemployment amongst graduated
engineers, journalists, architects and clerks. Fortunately, the Irish, acting on the advice of the Reverend Swift, have contrived a solution, in the form of higher student
fees. These will soon do away with the obnoxious surplus of educated Irish.
“Short Term Housing Policy” the
paper has some ideas about what it should be. I continue to wonder if the paper
is paying attention to the technical press.
“Youth in the Mines” The young
“optants” being forced into coal mining really should be going down into the
pits singing the praises of the wise elders who sent them there. After all,
they are to have, in effect, a wage increase, and there is to be training, and
medical examinations (compulsory physical training?). It will be admitted that
safety is not the best. One in four boys under 18 used to be killed or injured
during their employment before the war, and during it, the number has tended to increase. Perhaps
an unreasonable and morbid fear of death is the reason that youth employment in the pits fell from 108,000 in 1930
to 66,000 in 1940? No, more likely it was the lack of security and low wages, which the paper is prepared to address by any means not requiring wage raises or guarantees of future employment. Perhaps
there should be youth clubs in the pithead villages, while a comprehensive national solution to the problem of decaying industries is sought.
Latins are excitable.
“Higher Wages –Less Coal” The most
recent award of an increased minimum wage in the pits has not met the demands
of better-paid miners for a commensurate increase, and they are upset. It is
all very well for them to demand a higher wage, though. Who is to pay for it,
apart from coal-users?
“Building Society Interest Rates” If
it is to be seriously expected that we are going to build as much housing as is
required, perhaps something should be done about pushing mortgage rates down
from their current 5%, as the Halifax Society has just done, in going to 4.5%.
“American Building Methods” Lord
Portal, Minister of Public Works, has commissioned a study which shows that
American housing costs are a comparative 75 compared with 100 in Britain, in
spite of American wages being between 3.5 times as high as British (craftsmen)
and twice (labourers), and construction materials similarly more expensive. The
explanation is much higher American productivity the study says. Looking at the
comparison of cost of building materials (100 to 110—160), I would suggest that
the more likely explanation is that the study was cooked.
And now I turn to the monthlies:
This month’s line editorial has a new format. I had to page over three times to
find James H. McGraw, Jr.’s signature on “Free Enterprise: Incentives and
Taxation.” Junior wants us to know that there are three ways of making a
living: getting on someone’s payroll; “lending one’s savings to business
interests;” and “starting, or helping to start, a business enterprise.” “Three
of four of us fall into the first group. We are job-holders.” Is this an editorial“we?” Or is Junior included? As he also enrolls himself in the next two groups, it may well be the editorial we. On the other hand, he does work for, own, and manage McGraw-Hill, so he does belong in all three categories.
point is that, after the war, the Federal Government will have to raise each
year about 20 billion in taxes, three times the amount required before the war,
and six times that required in the Twenties. In the Twenties, Federal tax
receipts were about twice as large as total corporate profits in a good year.
After the war, they will be tree times, and it will be that much more difficult
for the Federal government to raise revenues without discouraging investment.
Or, as Junior puts it, “diminishing the number of jobs.”
“We must understand the forces that
determine the level of employment and consider the tax progam in relation to
other measures designed to create jobs.” Junior prefers income taxes to
“hidden” consumption taxes, and calls for a “somewhat” progressive tax system.
Among other suggestions (lower corporate income taxes, lower rates on
dividends, reducing the high income marginal rate to 60 of 50%, income
averaging, extending depreciation times), Junior calls for the elimination of
excise taxes, even at the expense of high income taxes, in order to promote
consumption and provide a market for “our vast industrial capacity.”
Aviation Editorial Leslie E.
Neville, “Jet Propulsion spurs More than Imagination” While it will be a while
before there are jet bombers or helicopters all over the place, much progress
has been made. But Germany is in the hunt, too,
so more details than that are not to be revealed. That said, speculation
is fine, and every effort should be made to push forward towards their “fullest
utilization in the achievement of human progress."
The paper does not go in for
prediction, but General Eisenhower does. “With our attacks backed by full
home-front support, the General says, the Nazis will fold in 1944 with no
further ifs or howevers.” This will be accomplished, the paper grudgingly
admits, with a large “walking army.” Airpower advocates have lost their chance
to win the war with bombing alone. Nevertheless, air power is the main margin
of victory, through strategic bombing and tactical. In the strategic field,
recent times have seen the introduction of feint attacks and bombing through
overcast, which is less accurate than visual bombing, but, “to put it grimly,
gets within city limits.” The paper notes that this innovation (whatever it is)
will be important to postwar civil aviation.
Bombing will get ever heavier. The
UN built 150,000 a/c in 1943, and could “better 200,000” in 1944. The air war
in Italy suggests that tactical air power is less effective than it was in
1940, because soldiers, “especially German soldiers,” have lost their fear of
airplanes. The big move against Japan is under preparation right now. It only
looks like an island-hopping campaign because of relative lack of resources,
but we still note that while bombing Japan is in the cards, it will not be done
via either Chinese or Russian bases.
Which leaves…? Aircraft production in 1944 will not “much” top 10,000,
but weight per worker will increase from 28lbs/month in 1941 to 60 in 1944,
with employees in the industry at 1.6 million plus in 1943 compared with 48,000
in 1938. 14.9 billion in value was procured in 1943, 7.2 in airframes, 4.2 in
enginers and propellers, and 3.5 in spare parts. This was up double from 1942,
and characterising the industry as a “20 billion dollar business,” people are
being accurate if everything is toted up. However, there will be a 2 billion cut
in the aircraft production budget in 1944, notwithstanding the 110,000 a/c
production foreseen by T. P. Wright of the Aircraft Resources Control Office.
This, note, is down from some projections of a 12,000 a/c/month projection
still held in some quarters. But the B-29 is huge, man, huge. On the West
Coast, 26,636 warplanes were delivered last year, up more than 50%, with
airframe weight up 72%. This is especially remarkable given the manpower
shortages on the West Coast.
Some financial highlights: Beech did
97 million in book last year, up from 29 million the previous year; Boeing wage
rates are up 27% since Pearl Harbor; Consolidated Vultee made lots of planes;
So did Curtiss-Wright; Douglas deliveries are valued at 1 billion dollars and
employs 200,000. Packard delivered $350,000,000 worth of Rolls-Royce engines,
150% of highest sales figures for automobile engines in a peace year.
Herb Powell, “’43 Output Doubled the
Miracle” tells us that, well, we doubled the miracle of production, or more.
Although the numbers also suggest a levelling off at under 9000…The increase in
money cost tracks weight better than numbers, though.
Edward M. Greer and Harry J. Marx,
“Pressure Control in Aircraft Hydraulic Systems, Part II,” is a full discussion
of unloading valves.
The rest of editorial in this number is taken up by Aviation’s “Aircraft Directory of 1944.” On the basis of what I have seen this month, I would greatly appreciate full coverage of Japanese developments, as they, unlike the Germans, appear to be pursuing extensive prototyping. It will be very interesting to see if they can defeat a super-bomber offensive with their new planes. Unfortunately, the Japanese air forces have not extended their cooperation to the paper, and I move on to Fortune. Once again, the Luce papers have put together a very interesting feature story, although unfortunately not nearly so optimistic a one as the story of the "cold war."
An aviation-themed cover, but as my Fortunes are in a great stack on the old reading desk in the morning window of the den, I see the Chesterfield Cigarettes ad on the back cover of the January number as I contemplate the title, and it is far more interesting in the sad and wintry mood cast by the February rains. Bottle
blondes smoke Chesterfields. I just bet they do, boys.)
“Fortune’s Wheel” looks back on the
first issue of the paper in February of 1930 and notes an article on a “A Budget
for a $25,000 Income in Chicago." Even the paper is slightly embarrassed at the kind of periodical it was trying to be at its launch, as it wryly notes that the article might have been much
ado about nothing with a federal income tax of only $830!
Letters to Fortune include “a representative sample” of letters from Jack and
Heintz’s 7600 "associates." The manuscript of the Fortune article was sent to the company for comment, and read over the
loudspeakers on the factory floor. The staff is upset about all the vile calumny &tc. “We
have kept unauthorised absenteeism down to zero,” writes one Edmund J. Pohnay. Yes, Mr. Pohnay, you have, and we salute the firm for its innovative use of the word "unauthorised." This might be a case for "honesty engineering."
He is so honest that the girls can't stop looking at him!
Ladd Haystead is back on his regular beat. His point is that we need
a land-use policy? In 1935, Oklahoma had 213,325 farm operators, but nowadays
the best guess is that there are 160,000, and contrary to what someone,
somewhere might say, this is not because of tenants being tractored out, but
because of all the erosion, as land was cultivated that should
have been left in grass. And now it is happening again! “50 million acres of
our lands are completely eroded, 50 million very seriously damaged, 100 million
half or more of the topsoil is gone, and on another 100 million erosion is
actively underway.” Therefore, Horace J. Harper, Professor of Soil Science at
Oklahoma A&M thinks that we need a legislative land use policy. He suggests
tax rebates for ranchers to encourage putting the land in grass.
I am torn between launching a hearty "rafter cheer" and fear of giving the game away. Although there does not appear to be much scruple on that front over here right now, so perhaps I should just leap onto my chair right now. Not only that, but the lawyers tell me that the rebates will go through the leasehold agreements to us, instead of sticking to our tenants, as have the war's other windfall profits.
Ad: The Bituminous Coal Institute
assures us that coal miners are now well-paid, safe, living in fine homes, and
not at all “in hock to the company store.” As some might believe. They are no more than 10% (well, 12%) in hock to the company store!
“The beginning of a war is no time to liquidate a war economy.”
Eliot Janeway has bestirred himself to write a column, and on the night
before Christmas, yet! Nation and readership can only be happy that he got his shopping done early. Or perhaps he has bethought himself of the
bills come February.
In the spirit of inversions logical in which specialises Janeway, he tells us that the upshot of the Teheran
Conference is not that the war in Europe is about to end, but rather that it is
about to begin! Russia has made a vague commitment to come into the Pacific
War, and the British have made a vague commitment to a cross-Channel invasion
some time in 1944. Japan will have to be defeated in time and at great cost, after Germany is beaten.
Now we come to his point, which is that it is foolish for Washington to start liquidating
the war economy at this point. It is an understandable foolishness, “[f]or Washington, having lost leadership and initiative in the
country, is reflecting the war-weariness, the self-delusion, and the greed into
which the home front has degenerated," and it will be admitted that it is not actually happening. The war effort is not actually being liquidated. The emergent surpluses of some goods, the end of seven day
weeks in the shipyards, even unemployment in some marginal groups –these are simply to lead labour to prepare for the deflation it anticipates, as Washington has no
plan for a program that “will absorb the impressive capacities being released
for other use.”
For example, back when the steel surplus came into sight, Don
Nelson suggested that refrigerators might be made again. But now they are not
to be made, because other raw materials are still short. Engineers could have
designed refrigerators that did not use these materials, but no engineers were released
for this work.
The upshot is that “panic is reaching acute
proportions on production lines, where people are slowing down because they are
afraid to work themselves out of jobs.” This is hurting attempts to reduce
turnover, the workers being so afraid of losing their jobs that they
change jobs. Also, small business will be hurt worse than big business by
cancellations, and big business will keep government-owned plants on good
terms and drive small firms out of
business. Janeway is, oddly, particularly upset that the US Steel plant in Utah
might close and leave the West Coast dependent on Pittsburgh again. Except for Cousin H. C.'s plant, which has the advantage of being near where the people actually are.
Finally, Janeway ambles to a conclusion. Of course Washington is not liquidating the war economy; but because it looks as though that is what is going on, the people are self-liquidating it! To conclude in true Janeway fashion, up is down! White is black! War is peace!
Honestly. I could write a better national affairs column than this. The one sure thing is that if Eliot Janeway says that the war is long before us, while General Eisenhower tells us that it will end by Christmas, then Christmas it is!
Kearney and Trecker ad tells us that
the nation’s output per man hour increased 34% in the last 12 years, or
2.5%/year. Manufacturers who want to keep step and produce more peace products
more cheaply must invest in machine tools such as the ones we make. Word to the
Insurance Company of North America
tells us to “…Protect what you have” under this free enterprise system of ours. As I have already extracted a Curtiss Machine Tool and a "Youth Advertising" spread on this somewhat-hysterical theme, I content myself with summarising the conclusion that buying casualty insurance is related to efforts to prevent this
country from being “bossed from outside,” or “undermined from within.” There is, I think, reason for the American casualty insurance industry to be concerned with the way things are going, but it is a somewhat perverse and paradoxical concern that will be quite entirely satisfied if the average American can be persuaded to start borrowing again, and, as tedious as I am on the subject, I believe that housing may be a way of persuading him to do this.
As to the ostensible concern of the ad, The Fortune Survey for
the month is all about labor unions. They are not popular. Except among Coloureds. Although they are more popular amongst people who vote Democratic than rich people who vote Republican.
Job Before Us
This month’s topic is colonies. They’re bad, but the Luce papers feel the need to hedge their bets. The voice of
dependent peoples will depend on the contribution they make. Then they reverse hedge. "Post-colonial powers" such as America, Russia and China (exclamation marks all around) expect dependent peoples to see progress under the
benevolent tutelage of imperial powers. The Caribbean is a
great experimental laboratory for sorting all of this out, and there America (or the Luce papers) have learned that racism is bad for
“Public Regulation No Dilemma” It isn’t, you know.
“What Should Germany Pay” War
reparations require careful handling, especially as the landscape has been pretty thoroughly razed.
“How’s Your Renegotiation?” The
renegotiations/excess profit law is controversial!
“Mr. Lincoln’s Formula” More about
Lincoln Electric, the only company whose workers have received as much money as
those at Jack and Heintz.
“Two Billion People: A Portfolio
Showing the Population of the World, Now, and in 1970”
This is the gloomy article to which I referred. You will pardon me if I
think the survival of the race a little more important than some of the other features in this number of the paper, such as a fine article on the wonderful character of the (very) late President Lincoln. This is a subject that is easily summarised in pictures, which you will see pasted to the back of the first page, unless this package was too much jostled in its Atlantic transit. Two billion people is a great many people, but not that much more than there are in the world today, and probably as many as there will ever be, if the chart is correct.
A summary view is that in primitive societies,
death and birth rates were both high, holding population at a virtual stasis.
An improving economy brings lower death rates, and, consequentlally, rising population.
In Europe, where the Industrial Revolution wrought a demographic revolution,
population increased 189% during the Nineteenth Century in spite of high
emigration rates. The skyrocket of US population is due to immigration as well
as high birth rates. Yet during this
period, the population of Asia increased by only 98%.
In the second stage of the cycle,
high levels of living begin to compete with reproduction. Social pressure and
the independence of women, later marriages and birth control cut down birth
rates until they again approach death rates and the natural increase
diminishes. Industrial Europe, the British dominions, and the United States
have reached this stage and their populations are growing more steadily and
probably will become stationary or begin to decline in another generation. War
will almost certainly accelerate the process of natural decline in Europe. The
recent rise in birth rates in England and the U.S. presumably is the usual
early-war phenomena (war brides, war
babies). It will not greatly change the long-term trend.
Of note is that Japan is also in the second stage of the cycle. It had a gradually declining
birth rate in the thirties, and the growth of its population will terminate at about 75 millions in about 1970. Thus there is no racial exception. Asian countries can, and will, enter the "second stage," precisely as they achieve peace and progress. The Soviet Union, which alone has both an industrial economy and a rapidly
increasing population, may defeat this general picture, and will continue to grow on momentum alone to over 200
million in 1970, with the graphical projection (pictured) showing 251 million. It does not take into account war losses.
More than half the world’s
population lives in Asia, but low levels of living, high birth and death rates,
and overcrowding in the fertile river
valleys complicates things. It is estimated that China has 450 millions. India
is known to have 350. It is unlikely that these countries will enter the second
stage any time soon, so the indiscriminate blessings of science mean that their populations will likely increase quite dramatically. India is
projected by Hans Weigert, Professor of Political Science at the University of
Pittsburgh, to reach 500 million in 1970, and China, grant a quick victory by either Chiang's sorry lot or the Communists, will grow even higher, albeit in continuing immiseration until a virtuous dynasty finally emerge.
Picking numbers of the chart, I see that we expect peak populations of 39 millions in France and “England and Wales,” 45 million in Italy, 55 million
in Germany, 77 million in Japan, 145 million in the United States, the noted
200 or 251 million in the USSR.
Nor is this all. The idea of
“momentum” in connection with the forecast rise of the population of Russia
holds everywhere. As birth rates and death rates fall, the population of second
stage countries will get older. Conventionally, population distributions are
“age pyramids,” but in France and in England and Wales, they will by 1970 be
closer to lozenges (France) or ellipses (England and Wales.)
I confess to feeling a cold grip on my heart as I read. The American real estate market has been based since time immemorial on the premise of continuing population growth. There is room for more people, hence need for more homes. Where ranches and forests stand now, farms tomorrow. Farms today, suburbs tomorrow. Suburbs today, row housing and high-rises tomorrow, and so on. But what when the population levels off, or even begins to decline? It will not affect our situation in 1945, as buyers have not taken these frightful possibilities into account, but it does hint at troubles in 1970.
The one ray of hope here is that Fortune, in a typically American outburst of blind optimism, drafts great arrows of population movements on a world map, showing Russians to Siberia, and the Chinese to
Turkestan. The thought here at the paper is that it disapproves of the overcrowding in the parts of these countries where people want to live, and supposes that the allure of the frontier will draw the population to places where no-one would ever want to live. (At least, that is how I remember the Trans-Siberian, though perhaps your memories are conditioned by that lovely Buryat girl...) The thought here, as evening gives way to night here in Santa Clara at the end of a long day of compositing is that the arrows should point the other way. It may be inconceivable to the paper that the Chinese or, God forbid, the Indians, move in any numbers across the oceans
to an aging Europe, never mind America, but it is not as though our family will hesitate to sell them ranches overlooking Santa Clara!
Cable “The American Invasion of Britain Raises Some Social Problems” Americans are over-paid, and the girls like that. It is the end of the world. Or, wait, no, that was silk stockings. Now we have nylons, and we really are in the end times.
Now I must bring this around to sensitive matters. There has been considerable progress with your Christmas present. Bill and David have been drawn into a project to equip one of the new motor landing craft with a version of it for certain uses during the island-hopping campaign. They express, however, serious concerns about the fragility of the medium. They appreciate why the Admiralty chose it in the first place, but believe that an alternative must be found. You will be aware, none more so, given the work of your unit, that it is not being used where less demanding applications allow a simpler material.
At this juncture, we have a dead drop from Fat Chow, who confirms access to German work on a viable alternative. It is likely, avoiding specifics, that he will be able to get hold of a sample on false pretexts, at least as long as his luck holds out and he does not run into an actual Kalmyk prince in Berlin. I shudder to think at what might happen then, and it does not help that "Mrs. J. C.'s" sister has forwarded back an excised version of the tender letter Fat Chow sends her. Our hearts, as it were, are in our throats.
So: it now occurs that the reason that Wong Lee's son is to be permitted to progress to his commission is the same old seedy side of the American colour bar. The high ranks of the United States Navy are well aware that they cannot put scrubs and career lieutenants in charge of civilians who combine the talents needed to run vessels such as the special-purpose LCMs with the social handicaps that have kept them from reaching higher ranks themselves. (You may, from your own acquaintance, insert the expected anti-Semitic slurs here.) Nor, of course, is the experience of Tarawa any recommendation for putting a lower grade of man at the helm of such a vessel. Thus one looks for a tall and handsome, nobly-maned, athletic young man with, say, a summa cum laude in electrical engineering from Berkeley who have somehow not taken a United States commission as yet. Naturally, one finds them under the englobing trap of skin of the wrong colour.
Well, then, if one has such material to hand, might one not use it to command a particular L(anding) C(raft) M(echanized)? I am not so foolish as to think that our friends within the navy can have Wong Lee's son placed in command of so sensitive a project in San Francisco Bay, of course. But if the basic type were to be replicated overseas, if another of the same class were found to be required off Formosa, then would he not be the obvious candidate? (I rather like the symmetry in advancing the clan's fortunes by a little harmless double-dealing off Formosa again.) Given carte blanche to assemble its equippage on the far side of the world, and I think it reasonably certain that we will be able to produce a prototype of the equipment of which we have crooned promises to our noteworthy friend in New York, all out of Government Issue equipment! (Allowing for a moment that the Reich is a government, and that we get our sample from Fat Chow.)
The upshot is that you will find in these papers a contract for the refitting of Sparrow as an LCM tender at Vancouver. The rest, including the refitting of my cabin, I leave to your agents. Especially as I am now tapped to traipse the country in Cousin H.C's service again.
*Not one of my better crops, I will admit. I'll redo it next week, but it has a certain cheeky spirit....