Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Postblogging Technology, November, 1943: Caesar's New Clothes


My Dearest Wing Commander:

I have received your last, and will try to reply to your questions in --well, I was about to write something grandiloquent about "in the order of their importance," but that is beyond my garrulous nature. I leave the most important to last, let us say.

First, it looks like we will be a houseful for some time. As might have been expected, the Admiralty's decision to build some of the later freighter-aircraft ships as "assault carriers" has evolved in the typical way from the stage at which we cared when naval architects talked about ship stability to the point at which the specialisms have had each their say. Now there are vast amounts of new equipment to be procured and installed, and the vessels are expected to float vaguely upright, and so your eldest has been cut new orders that will keep him on the "West Coast Shuffle" at least through the New Year. At least I can look forward to sharing a berth on the Seattle and Los Angeles trains!

Second, the Santa Clara estate is surprisingly little touched by the ravages of war and old age. There is even a  boy's crashing tread shivering the old timbers. Although your youngest is, of course, rather older than when we left for Greenwich! The western verandah has come out to make way for an outdoor carport, a long overdue "improvement" brought on by your son's attempts on an invalid Lincoln that he inherited from a friend of mine, a minor movie star gone to war. (I draw a curtain over the trip up from Los Angeles, whose details would hasten your graying.)

Once again I salute my wisdom of four years ago in taking the master suite instead of my old bedroom. Not only does it seem so much smaller now, but little could I imagine in 1939 that we would end up hiring out the cabin to no less than three dockyard workers' families! You can imagine the bedlam in the back yard. The long and the short of it is that the outdoor kitchen is running by shifts and the ranch hands take their meals on the back verandah. Michael and Joan have elected for the back bedroom, keeping the hands a little quieter knowing that their boss is overhead and that he speaks Spanish. Joan by the way, is seeing to her mother and the house in Pasadena, where they are to retire to be closer to their grandchildren. 

Of Shiwa Ta-Wan you will have heard from your wife and daughter, and I say no more of the ruinous old pile overlooking us. Your son, and daughter-out-of-law will be staying there. This rather avoided a bit of a scrape for we three bachelors, who received many a stern look on "Mrs. J. C.'s" (if I remember my coy little code from 1939, she was "Miss G. C." then). She seems to have been shocked as much by the amount of food lying around as by the mess. She also took a dim view of the effort put in by the local girl who is acting as our after-school housekeeper. What can I say? Good domestic help is impossible to find, and she is well-mannered and attractive, in that  blonde Californian way. "Mrs. J. C."  has taken it upon herself to organise Grandfather's papers. Thank God. I was not looking forward to trying to find a lawyer in San Francisco who could be trained to read the old Hakka pirate writing! (Not to mention that he would then be equipped to read this correspondence.) 

This brings me to two final and more sensitive matters. First, Grandfather was apparently roused to a rare moment of coherence upon hearing your letter read. (Congratulations on receiving the RAF "contract" by the way!) Bill and David were summoned up to the big house to give a seminar. Grandfather had lapsed by the time they arrived, of course. Fortunately, they are well-used to their patron's eccentricities, and took in stride receiving instructions from his "translator." It does not hurt that she was looking very fetching indeed in a beige linen dress! They recommended --but enough of that for now.

Second, or, as I think in this rambling pile of digressions I have quite lost the thread, most importantly, there are the Earl's rather pointed questions about my dissent from our cousin-in-law's business plans. I understand his anxiety. As much as you have disabused him about "H. C.'s" legendary (alleged) business genius, he still speaks very much the received West Coast wisdom. Given our inherited real estate profile, the future of a very large share of the family's fortune is  linked to the prosperity of the Pacific Slope. So why do I dissent? 

Ordinarily, I would give my answer in the financial newsletter appended. However, I did not feel comfortable rendering Bill and David's recommendations even in Hakka characters, so have hauled out the family one-time pad, and given that I was transcribing anyway, this month's newsletter brings England up-to-date on the sordid side of our real estate business. That being said, just because I was "feeling like" transcribing does not mean that I was feeling like waxing eloquent, so I have appended my argument with "H.C" to the end of my news roundup. Knowing my tendency to wax on, I take the liberty of bolding those bits of news and comment of special relevance.

Flight, 4 November 1943

Leader: Wingate’s force in Burma was very romantic, but the point was the striking example of modern science and progress, since transport aircraft can supply troops now.

“War in the Air”

German bombers attacking Russian rail-, and bridgeheads in strengths of 50 or more, trying to hold up Russian advance. Our correspondent is not fooled by Middle East Command’s attempt to paper over the fiasco in the Dodecanese, of which I shall say no more. Unlike the press.

“The Rotol AGP,” which is a petrol generator set for auxiliary power generation aboard aircraft. My eyes pop at hearing 3,750rpm, 37 kW output. This is most impressive detailed mechanical engineering, and it uses a sleeve valve, perhaps the first time I have heard of this technology being put to meaningful work. One wonders why an aeroplane would need 37kW.

“Drop Tanks;” Carefully faired metal, paper and wood tanks extend fighter ranges. A picture of a Lockheed Lightning with two 150 gallon drop tanks is captioned with the information that an additional 300 gallons “approximately doubles” its range. Err. Assuming three hours in the air (at a cruising speed of over 300 mph, that is a lot of range!), the engines absorb 50 gallons/hour. The author adds that with drop tanks, the Spitfires of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit have flown over Koenigsberg, while another made a ferry trip to Tunis to photograph Italian targets, while Mosquitoes have flown from Scotland to Russia and then back between lunch and “early evening.” Apparently, the Russians, letting Allied solidarity take precedence over class solidarity, do not serve PRU pilots dinner.

The Economist,  6 November 1943


 “The Moscow Conference” happened.

“Restitution:” We cannot do without some war reparations, but they will be in the form of German goods and services to Russia, not money.

“The North East Coast:” Remember the tragedy of unemployment in Sunderland, Jarrow, Bishop Auckland and Durham? It’s hard to think back that far, but what if it happens again? Things should be done. Agricultural  and mining machinery? Also, and perhaps you will point this out for me to the Earl, “Electrical engineering, which is flourishing on Tyneside, could be expanded.” More housing is the greatest need.

Notes of the Week

Pay-as-you-earn income tax is here. The paper is pleased. “The Secretary and the Viceroy.” The White Paper on the famine previewed in Parliament by Amery, the SoS India to the effect that the famine is due to the incompetence of the government of Bengal. The paper is not pleased. Food must be found for India. Latins are excitable. Some in Labour think that coal must be nationalised to secure the supply for the winter. As for the miners, they want a 6 pound/week minimum wage (notice that Mr. Lewis has won an increase of $1.50/day), the release of miners from the Forces, and the abolition of dual control. Meanwhile, the threat of a winter coal shortage is being met by “expedients.” Output will be 5% lower than last year, 190 million tons vice 200. At best it will be an uncomfortable winter. At worst, if the Coal Board in Washington was correct in warning that the coal needs of the Mediterranean cannot be met from American supply, it will be more serious than that.

“Strikes and Arbitration:” The London dockers’ strike, which lasted a week, was over the pay of danger money for handling some classes of goods. How circumspect in this month of official commitment to the Second Front. Are munitions meant? The London docks will be loading a very great deal of it, I imagine. In the West of Scotland engineering industry, it was over “rate for the job” for women (allegedly) hired to do men’s work.

“Sugar and Jam:” From the next ration period, the two coupons will be interchangeable with the thought that sugar will be favoured in the summer to promote preservation, and fruit in the winter, to make allow people to eat more jam. Remember turnip jam?

From Larderlove, where Karon Grieve shares good recipes for turnip jam.

“The Billion:” This week for the first time, notes in circulation exceed 1000 million, an American billion. It’s a milestone. The paper will use the American version of "billion" from now on.

American Survey

The GOP is ahead in all local elections. Mr. Dewey is now well positioned for "other things." “Coal Must be Mined;” a temporary solution to the strikes has been found, with a compromise wage increase of $1.50/day and temporary Government control of the mines; but some abatement in the cost of living is needed if there is to be wage stabilisation. 

“The Civilian Slice:” Is to be increased. “Early in October, the President of the Society of Tool Engineers revealed that many shell factories have been ordered to return to civilian production.” Production of trucks, tank trucks and repair parts has been stepped up, and the Atlantic coast petrol ration increased. Quotas on butter and cocoa have been increased, and coffee has come off the ration. Just in time to save the war effort! The first signs of let-up in the meat shortage have been met by requests from the packers to increase the ration, good news for readers of Aviation, some of whom, by which I mean, "me," are getting a little tired of relentless salivation over vanished beefsteak. Do Americans know how to cook anything else? Some parts of the war production effort, notably munitions, are said to have overrun the their target. Yes, I remember them digging up 1913 quotes to that effect in 1915.

“The Food Position:" The current $800 million price support programme could be usefully increased next year by Congress, the President suggests, and Readers’ Digest recently published an article by Louis Bromfield with the ‘haunting’ title, “We Aren’t Going to Have Enough to Eat.” This is not true, the paper says. Food production has risen steadily, from a basis of 100 in 1936 to 126 in 1942 and 132 in 1943, with hopefully a still larger increase next year as 380 million acres are ploughed vice 364 this year. It is, however, true that food consumption has fallen 5% below the fat year of 1941, and with Service men eating more, and food aid exports, there is a sense of shortage. The farm lobby’s campaign against subsidies, controls and food aid export is pernicious and ought not be indulged.

 Senator Wheeler’s bill for the drafting of fathers has been delayed 90 days to allow all the single men to be taken. The paper decries the Senator’s unsavoury accusation that Government work is a refuge for draft dodgers is indignantly decried. The President presents a bill to provide for the educational needs of returning veterans. Small saver participation inthe Third War Loan drive has proven disappointing, with only $2 billion of $17billion of bonds in the E and F series designed to appeal to them taken up.

Germany at War

 “Air-War Economy” more than half of Germany’s big towns have been bombed in 1942 and 1943. A very speculative estimate of a million killed and missing and 6 million evacuated comes from a neutral source. The paper is cautiously optimistic about the impact on German war production.

Business Notes

Equities down for the first time since early 1942; ‘rally in rails’; Australia repays its sterling debt; there has been excess profits and waste in the munitions industry. Is there to be cooperation or competition in international rubber? Will the excess profits tax finance reconstruction? Durham coal production has failed to meet its targets in every week this year and output per man-shift has declined from 22.82 cwts to 19.21. The men are older and more  tired, and the strain of the war is beginning to tell. There is a shortage of young men, and now they are being “directed” into the mines at the rate of 150/week. Housing in miners’ villages is inadequate for this influx, and many “necessitous” and marginal mines are being worked. Voluntary absenteeism is lowest in the country at below 2.5%, but involuntary has ballooned to over 7%. 

Flight, 11 November 1943

Leader: “Administrative Innovation.” The Air Ministry pretends that it is of no great account that two observer officers have been advanced to the command of bomber squadrons. But how unthinkable this would have been in the last war! Or recall how “some RAF circles” reacted to the Admiralty’s 1937 announcement that observers were eligible for the command of flights or squadrons, and that in multi-seat aircraft the senior officer was in command of the aircraft.

“War in the Air” Pays tribute to the Pathfinders, who blazed the trail for the recent successful raid on Dusseldorf. Which is to say, we now admit that there are Pathfinders. See below.

Here and There 

A two-speed, two-stage Merlin has been in quantity production at Packard Motors and is being installed in new production P-51s being built in Burbank and Texas.

 Frank Murphy, “Victory Through Air Power: Mastery of the Air by 'Air Battleships:' Jet Propulsion Favoured: Some Thoughts Evoked by the Film.” This appears to be the title of the piece, which is a reflection on Mr. Disney's recent film version of Seversky’s Victory Through Air Power. Mr. Murphy's thoughts are as unimpressive as title and author's fame suggests, but "jet propulsion" pricked up my ears. Again, see below.

“Hercules Progress:” I might be skeptical about the practical value of the sleeve valve, but there is no doubt that Bristol has put a great deal of work into its potential for making the action of an internal combustion engine even more head-scratchingly complex.   

“Aircraft Types: Invader (A-26). The paper really is shameless in borrowing material from Aviation.

“The Bf109G:” This is news, at least somewhat. Apparently the first examples were recovered in Tunis. The salient point is that Daimler-Benz has a new engine, the DB605, which gives 1350hp for takeoff vice the old DB601’s 1200. This strikes me as a rather small increment after the boggling increase from the c. 550hp of a decade ago!

“Behind the Lines” reports that the Germans are exploring a ‘sonic altimeter” based on the depth locator principle. Which sounds preposterous. Ha! "Sounds." 

“Blazing the Trail:” Air CommodoreD. C. T. Bennett, CBE, DSO, is now noticed as having been wearing the Pathfinder Force Badge in a June 17th visit to a Bomber Command station in Yorkshire. Air Commodore Bennett was born the youngest son of a grazier in Toowoomba, Australia and is 33. I am feeling old, and inadequate. Again, it is official. There is a Pathfinder Force.

Ad: “Planning for Power.” I shan’t include the uninspiring artwork, I only draw your attention to the fact that some flea-bitten firm called “Herbert Terry and Sons” is representing its research office as an empyrean realm of men in white laboratory coats and benches in the pages of Flight. Bristol may talk of tax breaks for research, or Hiduminium. That I can take in stride. When a spring maker is on about its research efforts,"research and development" is officially a "fad."

Flight’s publishing office advertises the availability of a second edition of G. Geoffrey Smith, Gas Turbines and Jet Propulsion for Aircraft. This has been advertised in Flight for some weeks now. Giving authorial creditor to the line editor rather strongly suggests that the actual prose originates in a Government shop. Given that we are to hear nothing of "jets" officially, I imagine that I have stumbled across some vast state secret, and I hope that the Gestapo's foreign press section is particularly dense.

The Economist, 13 November 1943


“Unscrambling Politics;” Mr. Churchill has given a masterful speech that is the preview of the next King’s Speech, probably the last before Germany is beaten and quite possibly the last before a general election. This seems hopeful.

“The American Temper:" The Moscow Agreement has American internationalists in full flood; but don’t count the isolationists out, either! On the one hand this, on the other that, Mr. Wilkie this, American anti-English sentiment that.

Notes of the Week

“Three Voices;” Stalin, Hitler and Churchill have all given big speeches this week. They mirror the war in their way, says the paper. “Russia, triumphant, warlike, national but Socialist still; Germany in retreat, gloomy, and mystically frenzied; Britain resolved, confident, and half aware of the morning after victory, now assured.”

“The Air Front;” Stalin said nice things about the bombers. Churchill laid stress on its effects. And Air Marshal Harris gave a talk.

“Climax in the East,” the fall of Kiev.

“Reciprocal Aid;” the President recently said that Lend-Lease makes up 12% of the American war effort, and British reciprocal aid 10% of its. Well, a few numbers shall certainly lance all inter-Allied acrimony!

“Domestic Service in Hospitals” the campaign to recruit nurses is ongoing, and the shortage is made worse by the need to do non-nursing duties. More ‘domestic staff’ is needed. Also, who is to fetch my coffee? (For I am Californian, now.)

“Rewards for Service” given the predicted shortage of teachers, might not service personnel be invited to train for it? And shouldn't we try paying them? A new compensation scheme is needed.

American Survey

“Thunder of a Distant Boom” is another boom in agriculture in its incipient stages, asks Our Correspondent in Iowa? It could be! Booms are bad, as they threaten ownership by the men who work the farms. Farmland price appreciates. Speculators and rich people somehow intrude themselves between  farmers who sell to relatives.  “Thousands of Iowa farmers sold out at boom prices last time . . . and retired to live in southern California on their incomes from mortgages, even though it made hard the lot of the next generation of farmers, thus burdened with the debt for grossly overcapitalised farms.” But wait. The "men who work the farms" pay a mortgage that by itself supports their parents in retirement? That is quite a farm! And does the "boom" not meant that they will now be able to sell their farms at 'inflated' prices and retire to the palm trees in their turn? Our Iowa Correspondent seems a bit wet to me.

“The Omens for 1944:” The GOP sweep was even more complete than first thought. The Republicans are convinced that this is predictive. Wilkie says that the country is tired of the Administration. The GOP now controls the majority of state governorships, with all the rewards that will bring them. The surrender to Mr. Lewis will reward Republican challengers in farm states. The Economist certainly gives Wilkie a great deal of press.

“The High Price of Coal” To get the miners back to work, the reward was $1.50/day. The concession that lunches will be cut to 15 minutes, with the miners paid at time-and-a-half for the quarter hour, is but a fig leaf. The Administration’s failure to sustain the War Labour Board is folly, and the way is open for a CIO-led assault on the wage structure, starting with the steel industry.

“Lend Lease Debt” The Truman Committee turns its attention to lend lease. More inter-Allied trouble, in particular over rubber? Or is the committee to be moderate and sane?

“Eire’s Wheat Supplies” are threatened in spite of an increase in ploughed acreage. A guaranteed and increased price for wheat will promote its growing. Yes, we have seen this play before. Government's view of what counts as an adequate price of wheat (or, in Bengal, rice) so rarely coincides with the farmer's.

Business Notes

.. . Of which I note only “Fruit Production.” The Ministry is stepping in, because too much orchard land has been lost. Although the details suggest that in practice more will be lost. But ministry direction means  science! Unproductive orchard land is to be grubbed, and all will be for the best in this best of all possible worlds. Turnip jam. The mouth fails to water.

Flight, 18 November 1943

Ad: Republic: “Our Backyard is the Stratosphere.” The P-47 operates above 40,000 feet. Reggie, my 17-year-old day scholar litters the house with "pulps" dedicated to daring far future adventures in the blackness of space. But we are already halfway there!

Leader: “Crippling Japan:” while the Japanese cope with MacArthur’s attacks on Rabaul, rushing aircraft and cruisers there, and cripples back, the Americans have commenced work on two35,000 ton aircraft carriers, with another to follow next year. “And the Americans build fast.” Well. Remember the last intended 35,000 ton capital ship laid down the midst of a war and how  that turned out?

“War in the Air” Allied fighters and light bombers conducted 500 daylight sorties on a recent day over Northwest Europe on a recent day without seeing a German fighter. The Germans are conserving their forces against heavy bomber raids and the coming invasion. As to whether the sweeps are worth interception, I can only notice (yet another) picture of a “cannon attack on a railway engine in Belgium.” 

The recent attack on Wake involved the largest concentration of aircraft carriers ever assembled, the United States Secretary of the Navy reported, and give the lie to the idea that carriers must operate out of range of land bases. This inter alia of a notice that the U-boat war will be taken over by land-based Navy squadrons, which I read as mainly salient for confirming that United States naval aviators will have access to squadron command berths. Worth knowing for the youngest's sake, if his ambitions remain firm.

 As to the mighty concentration, I note that United States Navy appropriations are not really secret. Three fleet carriers survived the first year of the war, Ranger because she is not deemed suitable for Pacific operations. The Naval Expansion Act of 17 May 1938 authorised two new aircraft carriers, with a third appended later, and the July 1940  Two-Ocean Navy Act ultimately authorised ten more to the same design and 8 to be converted from 10,000 ton cruiser hulls under construction. While I suppose that an East Coast miracle (I can tell you that no miracle workers stalk the shipyards of this coas) might have rushed the Two-Ocean Navy order into service, I think it more likely that it is the three Naval Expansion carriers and some or other of the light carriers, with perhaps some glorified freighters. In which case, while I congratulate their courage in steaming into harm’s way, I suggest doing so with a weather eye to just how many land airfields they might choose to tangle with. 

“Here and There” notes the American announcement that deliveries exceeded 8000 aircraft last month, and that, with Allied totals added, makes the United Nations 3-1 winners on the production front. 

Lord Brabazon promises that the British aviation industry has nothing to fear from American production after the war. This seems optimistic to me. There is a reason that the American industry has flocked to Los Angeles, and it is much the same reason that the film industry flocks to Hollywood, with hardly any time to even come up to San Francisco and “make time with our girls,” as your son puts it. “And him a married man!”

Also ‘Here and There’ is news that Sir George Thomson, FRS, has been appointed chief scientific advisor to the Air Ministry. It is noted that “he will work in consultation with Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the RDF maven. Excuse me? How did an atomic scientist pip W-W out of the post?  One assumes that it is a matter of being his (grand)father’s son.

“Luftwaffe’s ‘Most Surprising Discovery,’” speaking of carriers of great names, Carl Zeppelin writes that German  investigators have discovered that only the lead American bombers carry their famed bombsight, and that the bomb load of Fortress-type bombers is slight, “as nearly a third of their weight-carrying capacity is used in armour,” which I assume is some winsome rendering out of the German of “arms and armour.” 

Behind the Lines

Notices that the Rumanians have announced a parachute corps. Candidates must be physically fit, of Rumanian “ethnical origin,” and, if possible, proficient in at least one foreign language. As someone of pure and unblemished English origin myself, I parse this as “Handsome, swell, and a good liar.” Look for the next generation of Rumanian leaders to be former paratroopers, in short. The first German pictures of the “havoc caused by the attack of Lancasters on the Mohne and Eder dams on May 17th” is included. Finland is starting a new lubricants industry to make industrial grease out of animal fats due to the curtailment of German deliveries. Due to acute shortage of housing, the Reichs Commissioner for Housing declares 17, including Berlin and Vienna, “closed,” preventing relocation there.

The Economist, 20 November 1943.

“Lord Woolton’s Task;” Lord Woolton’s appointment to the Cabinet as Minister for Reconstruction is a positive move. His record as Ministry of Food follows him, and a more difficult task lies ahead!

Notes of the Week

“Labour and the Nation” Labour is trying to set up its position for the eventual general election. French and Italians continue to be excitable Latins.“Retreat and Counter-Stroke” the battle around Kiev is ongoing, with a German counter-attack perhaps even aiming at retaking Kiev. God, I hope not.

American Survey

“The South and the World” The South is isolationist. Before 1941, it led the states in percentage of volunteers. Now it does not, despite the South's natural martial valour. Perhaps we might question our premise? But no. The South has views on tariffs. And Mr. Wallace. The South is moving right. The country is moving to the right. The President is moving to the right….

American Notes

“Coal and the Little Steel Formula” The Administration’s position is that the wage reward was within the terms of the “little steel formula,” because all of the increase in pay is compensated by increased production. The paper is not convinced; and now the railway operators’ union has “revolted” and asked Congress to overrule the Stabilisation Director’s ruling that they can’t have more money.

“A Drop in the Bucket” is an increase of $2 billion on the revenue side of the new budget. There are increases in excess profits tax, effective income tax rates, and in excise and some other special taxes, but the paper scowls over Congress's unwillingness to tax in proportion to the nation's need.

“Hey Diddle Dilling,” Mrs. Elizabeth Dilling has crashed, Anti-Saloon League style, a Chicago talk on Lend-Lease given by assorted usual suspects of the British Commission and the paper. (One does not have to agree with Mrs. Dilling to take her point, here.) The Sun blames the Tribune for fostering a “Black Network” of crypto-fascists. It sounds like Chicago has a vigorous press rivalry to which the paper pays far too much attention.

Gogo and Gopo” Mr. Baruch has been put in as head of a new unit of the Office of War Mobilisation which is in charge of “war and  postwar problems of adjustment.” That is, of disposing of Government-owned war plant., whether Government Owned and Government Operated or Government Owned and Privately Operated. After WWI, much was sold at fire sale prices and scrapped with enormous waste. The Chamber of Commerce recommends that this experience not be  repeated.

The World Overseas

“Roumanian Anxieties:” are understandable given that Kiev is only 150 miles from the Bessasrabian frontier,  “From Kherson to Odessa it is 100 miles, and to the mouth of the Danube 250 miles," but a good harvest has relieved some pressure on the government. 

Letter to the Editor: “Marine Insurance;” Basically an answer to what all we shipowners have been hearing about windfall profits from casualty insurance.

The Business World

“the Durham Coalfield” with 100,000 workers, the field has produced 1/7th of Britain’s needs. The decline has already been noted elsewhere. I keep coming back to this, because apparently there is a real possibility that the poor will freeze this winter. It seems distant here, save when caught in a Bay fog, but it is rather alarming nonetheless.

Business Notes

Mr.Montagu Norman is to be recommended for election as Governor of the Bank of England this year, as he has been since 1919. “Coal Output” has increased by 88,600 tons for the last four week period, but is still 216,000 tons under the weekly average of this time last year.

“Larger Clothing Sales” follow the release of more clothing ration coupons, remarkably enough.
“Wages in the Cotton Industry” in more amazing news, there is upward pressure on wages.
“Home Flax” this encouragement scheme has not gone well/

Flight, 25 November 1943

Leader: “Thorny Questions:” Are we to have commercial flying boats or not? (There is an article later. “Gigantic flying boats are structurally efficient, I say. “Efficient!” The last man to make a house with a stone axe must have felt much the same way as he vainly made his arguments. ) “The Fall of Leros:" I break my embargo because the paper asks where might be the carriers which took part in the Salerno landing? “They may be reserved for another landing behind Kesselring’s lines.” Secrecy! Is another glorious victory on order? And by that I mean, will Eighth Army somehow be able to break free of its trenches and advance to the relief of the beachhead again? 

War in the Air

Bombing of the mountain routes into Italy, with many striking pictures of martial supplies, including whole aeroplanes, shattered and scattered about ruined trains.

“Gatwick Airport” is being built.

Here and There reports that Mr. W. H. Eisenman, national secretary of the American Society of Metals, is reported to have told a luncheon in Winnipeg that “After the war, people will buy helicopters for $1500, learn to fly them in five to ten minutes, and be home for dinner at the rate of 130 mph.” “What a swell lunch that must have been."

Behind the Lines reports that the Japanese have begun parachute instruction at the kindergarten level.  The Japanese are an odd people. On a more serious note, the Romanian Ministry of Air declares the confiscation of all stocks of butyric acid and butyl acetate. Householders must be queuing up now to render theirs to the Ministry.
“Fluid Drive:” modern aircraft hydraulic systems are very complex, and in many remarkable ways quite similar to electrical systems. I imagine that a great deal of math is involved.

Ad: mistreating an SKF roller bearing is much like smoking in a powder store. For some reason. Ad: The Timken Tapered Bearing is one of many roller bearings that come in many highly machined and varied forms. Cf. "Schweinfurt."

The Economist, 27 November 1943


“Great Illusions” Cordell Hull says that the UN will be kind of like the League of Nations. The paper thinks that collective security under such a scheme is an illusion. 

Notes of the Week

“State Assets” HMG has accumulated lots of stuff, and net, it is easier to say that the war has led to a distortion of the nation’s domestic capital than a decline. Overseas is another matter. See my precis of Fortune, below.

“The Future of Exports” America needs to import more stuff.

“World Needs” More productivity per unit labour, above all so that people can pay for, and consume more. See Mr. McGraw, below.

“Slow Motion in the East” the German counterattack continues.

“The Gilbert Islands:" Admiral Nimitz announces the fall of the islands after a short and remarkably successful American combined operation. The paper points to a threat to the Caroline and Marshall Islands and to Nauru as well as to Truk, and notes Radio Tokyo discussing nervously the upcoming “battle of fleets.” The paper sees a pre-emptive spiking of the guns of the Pacific Firsters complaining about the diversion of American efforts to Europe. Can we also look forward to a "decisive fleet battle" involving aircraft carriers to test the controversy between Mahan and Richmond?

American Survey

“War Plans in the Far West:" With the index of production at 200% of the 1935—39 average, the development of American war production is a  matter of pride. But what happens during readjustment? Will communities have to give up their war plants? Provo, Utah does not want to give up its steel plant, which cost $200 million in public money. Dreams of post-war industrial development in the West face obstacles, the paper admits, but the thought is that it is only political folderol holds them back. 

The paper adds that there is the dream of an unleashed torrent of consumer demand. Individual holdings in saving banks have now reached $31 billion, with another $19.5 billion in war bonds. The pent-up demand for consumer goods might support plants in areas where they are right now marginal.

American Notes

“Favourite Sons” A tortuous tour through the likely course of the GOP primaries end with the observation that it will be Dewey, of course.

“Freedom to be Fascist:" it would do the paper good to  just not read the Chicago press. Good God. General MacArthur really is the best that the conservative wing of the GOP can field.

“Inflation Front:” The anti-subsidy bloc in Congress cavalierly votes to end this main bulwark against inflation by 278-118. This comes up against Presidential veto, at which point the question is whether the bloc can find a two-thirds majority. “As Raymond Cooper points out, the fight against subsidies is really a fight against price control as a whole." Translation: Congress will make a great show of voting against subsidies for the sake of the rubes, and slink away when there is a serious question of putting more pressure on the feeble anti-inflationary barriers is felt. 

The Paper tries to scare us (all numbers in American billions):

Second Quarter

Total Income
Total Personal Taxes
Total Disposal
Quarterly Addition to Inflationary Pressure

"Quarterly Addition to Inflationary Pressure" is the paper's coy way of saying that there is money burning holes in American pockets. Which, I have to admit, is true. This American Christmas is going to be something!
Family photograph from the publicity website for Walter Ford Carter's book, No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love. I'm a bad person for mainly noticing the opulence of the setting. Amazon.

But with two pregnancies well-advanced in the back yard, I have to wonder just how much more the old town will be painted, at least from these quarters, next year.

The Business World

“The Dollar Problem –I” the high value of the dollar reflects the steady influx of foreign-owned investment into the United States, as shown by the Department of Commerce’s enormous new study. Gold kept flowing into the States because it didn’t want to stay in Europe, and this is more a cause of the trade imbalance in the 30s than American tariffs, perhaps. Perhaps.

Business Notes

“Coal Consumption” these late November days are foggy and damp, and it is not surprising that people are using more fuel. Compared with the corresponding period in 1942, 13% more gas, 12% more electricity. The Minister of Fuel pleads for conservation. Will fuel be rationed this winter?

“EMI Reserves” Close reading of the new format that Electrical and Musical Industries has chosen for its financials suggests that there is a healthy profit margin for their products, one that will continue through the postwar period of eager replacement.

Roger Russell's father bought this "Stromberg-Carlson radio-phonograph console" sometime before 1943, but his father thought it worthwhile to move in '43, in spite of a shift in FM frequencies that would soon require its classic looks to be ruined by a console-top frequency shifter.

“Light Metals” In his monthly munitions production report for July, Donald Nelson of the US War Production Board state that the production problem for magnesium and aluminum has been overcome. Mg production is at 35 million lb/mo compared with 500,000 before the war, while annual production of Al is at 1.7m tons, with production of both set to further increase. 

And now I turn to the monthlies.

Aviation, November 1943

Front cover: A Pratt & up to ten tons each." I am reminded of your complaints about American bragging, Reggie. Although, of course, the B-24 does carry 10 tons, all disposable lift taken together. Just not 10 tons of bombs, unlike the Halifaxes and, now, Lancasters to which your unit attends. Will the "Mossies" be offended if I do not mention them? Wood they? I am sorry. I shall stop now. 
Whitney ad celebrates the B-24. “From July 1 to October 1, 1940, the enemy dropped 18,900 tons of bombs on England. In July 1943 alone, allied bombers dropped 26,000 tons on Germany. Consolidated B-24 Liberators, carrying

Line editorial: James H. McGraw II asks: “Free Enterprise: How Does it Work?” Which is not a rhetorical question addressed to a particularly starry-eyed Fabian, but rather an opportunity for Mr. McGraw to explain that while America was founded by daring entrrepeneurs on the basis of  freedom, private property and progress. ("The Second," mind you.) But here he takes an unexpected turn. Waste and unemployment are sobering proof that our economic mechanism is still far from perfect. 

Now, on to substance: Our production per man hour has been increasing at the rate of 2.5% per year. Improved machines and greater efficiency have more than tripled output per hour of work since 1900. Looking to the future, this annual rise indicates that our production per hour of work will double in the course of he next 25 to 30 years. This means that we can have twice our present volume of goods and services per capita or an equivalent of more production and more leisure. But only with free enterprise. 

In a compelling demonstration of efficiency of free market capitalists, the full editorial is repeated on the next page.

Over to “America at War: Aviation’s War Communique No.23.”

We head off this month’s communique with a complaint about modification centres. “Difference between the totals of delivered planes since the first American models, and the total now in use on all fronts, is amazingly high.” And I quote. …"Army and Navy are begging for more planes, faster. It is doubtful they will have enough even on Hitler’s judgment day.. . . “ More must be done to get production up to the 10,000/month target. “The Army called a conference in Washington of war industry bosses, labor and the press. The Navy has just set in motion a new incentive program by which it will try to jack up the fighting spirit of management and workers on the home front. Behind closed doors, during the Army’s conference, war goods producers were told some very disturbing facts about our losses of materials and the punishment our soldiers are taking. The story of our airmen’s battles is notwhat it sounds like in the newspapers. The whole truth cannot be told becausethe facts would be useful to the enemy. . . . Other military observers from overseas say the Germans have a fighting chance of stopping the Allied bombing attack. . . . At home, the industry is at a production plateau of 7600/month. Manpower and design changes are the same old bottlenecks. Labor needs to be found in other sectors." America's war effort requires very choppy prose, too.

Lou Leavitt, “Let’s Be Calm about Helicopters.”

John Foster, Jr. (associate editor), “Design for Survival;” and Raymond L. Hoadley, “Cancellation Demands Action –And Quick.” Twin articles on the theme of how mismanaged contract cancellations spell D-o-o-o-m to the industry unless Congress Acts Quickly.

William J. Morrison (Chief Field Engineer, Simmonds Aerocessories), “Engine Control Achieves Simpler Piloting.” It does, you know.

E. C. Hartmann, “Prescriptions for Head Cracks on 24ST Rivets,” Rivets of this type are used for highly stressed parts because they are the strongest of commercial aluminum alloys, but they present special difficulties. Rivets of this type age-harden rapidly at room temperature and consequently become more difficult to drive as the interval of room temperature between heat treatment and use increases. Therefore, they should be either driven immediately after heat treatment or refrigerated. In spite of these best practices being normally employed, head cracks will often show up in rivets driven when too far age-hardened. Cracked rivets are often drilled out and replaced on detection during inspections. This is of dubious value. What is needed is a better standard for condemning rivets on head crack grounds. Our tests were limited to a single batch of commercial rivets and not all that comprehensive, but we conclude that head cracks are nothing to get too upset about. I

So, in sum, more head-cracked rivets should pass inspection. I was going to add a clipping here telling inspectors to stop rejecting Alclad sheets  for nicks, but I seem to have misplaced it, and so confidence in the squadrons soars!

More usefully, there are recommendations on reheat treatment. Factories must better organise workflows, and provide ample refrigeration space. We have an electric icebox now. It is quite nice, and our housekeeper frequently announcers her parents' intention of buying one after the war.

E. V. Gustavson, “Engineers Made to Order.” Vega has established special courses to adapt the inexperienced and unskilled to specific production jobs. In cooperation with California Institute of Technology, Warren G. Furry, Vega staff engineer, is giving a 52 week course on aircraft engineering fundamentals to forty engineering employees. All subject matter is “college level,” and includes mathematics, including calculus, (your eldest rolls his eyes at this), aerodynamics, and structures, plus shop work. All students attend classes at CIT for 9 weeks full time on payroll, alternating with 9 weeks in the shop. All candidates selected from applications were women, and were chosen for “personality, adaptability and leadership” as well as other qualifications. Of 130 initially successful applicants, 75 had college math through trig, “some two dozen” through calculus. Of the 20 initially selected, six had college degrees, 2 had 3 years of college, 3 2 years, four 1 year, while 4 had finished high school and 1 had 7(!) years at an art college. Age range was 18 to 49, 14 were single, 5 were married. The longest any had worked at Vega was 18 mos. It is broadly implied that laboratory and office employees were favoured over line workers.

Incidentally, this program follows on an earlier one that increased Vega’s engineering staff from 60 to 300 in a few short months by employing persons from other industries who had been trained as civil, mechanical and electrical engineers. One wonders what civil, mechanical, and electrical firms are doing for engineers.

“Side Slips” has a story about a pilot who self-administered first aid from his “Doc’s kit” while bailing out and on his survival dinghy, about a “hand written note” in a Washington elevator that said that the odor was from the elevator just being oiled, a relief on a day when temperature and humidity were both pushing 100. Which apparently means that Washington is a fetid swamp. A “route application to end all route applications” has been filed with the CAB that will allow the lucky recipient to fly from anywhere to anywhere in the country. That would be Cousin "H. C.," I imagine. Side Slip makes an extended joke about Globe Aircraft leasing the grounds of the Fort Worth Exhibition, and its relation to the steak that Side Slip no longer eats because of the meat shortage.

“Make Your Reservations Early,” United Air Lines has an incredibly complex and efficient system for dealing with reservation requests. They have “two-way telemeter” equipment, so that all the branch offices can communicate with each other simultaneously. There’s  a picture of a women putting a sheet of paper into a gigantic contraption that leaves me none the wiser of the details, which manage to make booking a seat on a plane seem complicated..

“Piloting Big Bombers is Big Business”. Nine weeks in cockpits, classes and mechanic’s overalls aren’t enough to make you a four-engine pilot. You need executive ability. A four-engine pilot is a business-man of the air! Someone protests too much.

Aviation News

From the front we have news that the Germans are losing more aircraft than they produce, and they are also getting more fighters up than ever. Salerno would not have been taken without planes.

“War Department Gives out Uncomfortable Facts,” is another summary of the big Army press conference. The manufacturers are sure that it is labor’s fault! “Manpower, Design Changes Slow Production, But Efficiency Pushes Plane Rate Near 8000.” So. Is the industry hoarding labour? Donald. W. Douglas points out that with a mere 4.4% increase in manpower, we are putting out 44% more aircraft over the first 7 months of the year. We’re not hoarding, says the industry. It only looks that way due to design modifications.

Blaine Stubblefield, Washington Windsock, reports that people are asking where the Navy liquid-cooled engine, promised months ago, might be. Never mind that one! There’s another one coming that is even better! The Maritime Commission is making auxiliary aircraft carriers because it has the berths. Boeing Vancouver is giving a retroactive pay increase of 6-7 cents/hour. In unrelated news, the company has found only 60 women to fill the 600 berth dorm it built in hopes of employing that many women. I have seen that dorm, which is at the Vancouver Airport, and and the sooner it is levelled to make way for something that people will live in, the better.

Aviation Manufacturing News: Interchangeability of parts still has a long way to go says SAE, on American aircraft, world’s best. I thought I’d throw that in, as it has gone unmentioned for pages on end. Douglas is hiring Chinese students who can’t speak English to work on the assembly lines, by using labor brokers in San Francisco. In Long Beach, it is putting high school students on the assembly lines. (They will attend class at the factory half days.) the Navy scheme for incentivising labor, alluded to above, involves tracking the serial numbers of aircraft involved in famous victories so that the people who made them can celebrate their work. I am not sure that this will actually prove much of an incentive.

Aviation Abroad: It is officially noted that British warplanes are cheaper than American. British aircraft production is going so high that they’re running out of test pilots!

Fortune, November 1943

“About Agriculture,” are farm prices reaching their peak, notwithstanding consumer fears of runaway inflation ahead? The author thinks that what is really happening is that people are buying tax writeoffs, both in terms of livestock and in land. That is bidding up prices, and, ironically, attempts to inflation hedge are driving inflation. Also, refrigeration will allow us to eat all sorts of exotic stuff, such as rijstaffel

Yeah, I don't think so.
I suspect the next bit, about frozen, ready-to-eat dinners is a more prescient forecast of postwar American dining. What about the beef shortage? Currently, we have 38 million head. This is up from the 1930s, but in 1890 we had 45 million head to a population of 62 million. 38 million for a population of 133 million is a huge drop. Also down, lamb crop, mainly for lack of good shepherds.

Ad: “Gluing Wood with Radio Waves.” Radio waves excite vibrations in water molecules, producing heating that sets glue down in the middle of thick sheets of plywood.

Eliot Janeway, “Trials and Error: The West Looks West, and finds foreign policy no abstract subject.” Or proper capitalisation. There are two possible foreign policies in view from San Francisco, as the author writes "this 1 October, 1943." One is of an alliance with Britain, the other with "the progressive forces of Asia." T. V. Soong and Marshal Chiang count as progressives, Reggie! Dewey’s declaration for a British alliance hurt him out here in the West. Wilkie, on the other hand, is popular because WWII is thought of in the west as a Pacific war, thus a war of color, “Wilkie’s Negro policy hasn’t hurt him in spite of alarming growth of conditions that are making this area a new racial danger zone.” (That's code for eastern trash are flocking to the "the shipyards.")

I borrowed this image from a political blog. I hope "crazyuncle" doesn't object.

People in the West, Janeway hastens to add, think of the Negroes as our own India, an obstacle in the way of prestige in Asia. In order for the Pacific century to be achieved, however, we need more than civil rights, in places far away from northern California. In fact, we need heavy industry out west.  Now that's quite a jump, and this is what I had in mind when I talked about the conventional wisdom out here. Janeway thinks California needs steel, aluminum, magnesium, alloys and double tracked transcontinental railways must be double-tracked. Finally, he concedes that there must be new housing.

The paper has sent a correspondent to Britain, who makes his first report: “Britain’s Balance Sheet: 1.” To create  siege economy, Britain has produced more, consumed less, sacrificed her domestic capital and devoured her assets abroad. Here is a fascinating counterblast to The Economist's stout denial that the war has cost Britain domestic investment.

The Cost of War to Britain (millions of pounds 1938 purchasing power)
Government Expenditure
Maintenance and increase of domestic capital
Overseas disinvestment

In brief, in 1938, the gross national income was about $22 billion, of which the government spent $3.4. In the last year, of a gross national income of $27, the government spent 14. We note that all of this production has been done under the difficult conditions of blackout, bombing and manpower shortage. People talk about the production of American yards, but British yards are actually more efficient. La! 

The sacrifice has been made in areas like imports, in the cessation of housing development, “the backbone of the recovery in the 30s,” and pushing beyond allowable cut on timber lands to save on timber, while old iron mines are reactivated. Labour has increased its productivity, but also its working hours. Treasury control has been good, more of the war has been paid for with tax receipts than in the United States, although the nation will be left with a debt of, so far, $1450/head, compared with 1030 for the United States to this point. The question, motivated by the table above, is how Britian will cope with the huge capital investment deficit in everything besides manufacturing plant, and the loss of foreign revenues?

Sherry Mangan, “State of the Nation: Minority Report." I am informed that Mr. Mangan is another literary heavy hitter, a translator of no mean repute, a recent reverse emigre from Paris,  and a Trotskyite, whereas Janeway only flirted with regular communism back in the thirties. Fortune certainly commissions interesting people to write for it! Mangan thinks that since prices and taxes are  rising, the middle class is getting it in the neck. Labor has been spared by the boon of overtime. But with the no strike pledge holding back pay increases, there must come a time when purchasing power begins to decline. Meanwhile, constant efforts to introduce piece rates, disguised as “incentive pay,” disgust labor that is coming to believe that “inflation is doing fine for itself without any wage increases.” Labor militancy is on the rise, as the UAW convention shows, independent labor parties will soon revive and separate from the Democrats as people realise that the old American social contract (that although depressions follow booms, production rises ever higher and each boom is higher than the last) wfails. A total lack of faith in the future will lead the workers to the barricades!

“A Yaleman and a Communist:” Emerson Electrics has the best labor record in St. Louis even though its union leader is a  communist! It’s because Yale man Stuart Symington is a great manager, and the shop steward, notwithstanding being a communist, is a great labour organiser. Emerson, by the way, builds ball turrets for B-17s. 

So, now, as promised, my dissent from "H.C." The substance, of course, is that we have refused to invest in his Fontana steel plant, which Mr. Janeway thinks has bright prospects, and that we are only committing a fraction of our orchard land to his "$5000 homes for veterans" schemes.

Here are my concerns: the whole objection to investing in heavy steel vice electrical engineering is an old one. Surely the Earl does not want me to go over this again? But, of course, it is more complicated than that. "H.C." thinks that demand for domestic steel will continue high into the postwar era because American will take a share of the postwar shipping boom. There is absolutely no chance of that.

Now, I may be dyspeptic, as I am still tired from last week's whirlaround. Men my age should not be asked to make flying trips to the Aleutians, and even my disingenuous soul rebels at being tasked with laying off the loss of ten men to bad welding when the role of poor steel is obvious at a glance.


Yet even if the Richmond and Portland yards prove to have a postwar future, my objection to the Fontana plant remains the same. The steel industry is globally overcapacity already, and the West Coast lacks inland water transportation, without which it is handicapped on cost control.

The second concern is housing. Of course there will be a housing boom in the United States after the war. The extent of it will depend on whether the professional pessimists are right in deeming Amerca to be a "mature," low-growth nation, or not. I am personally inclined to the pessimistic side right now, although hearing that the Russians have defended Kiev, or that Berlin has been levelled, or even that the Second Front has gone off may well cure that. You see how I have shifted there? It is not the prospects of the American economy that are the cause of this pessimism. It is a contagion from the war news --or, more likely, this miasma of fatigue that settles over people too-old for the work that they are doing.

So let us set the crystal ball aside for the moment as clouded by too many fears and not enough hopes and ask ourselves what the boom will look like. Well, the minimum that we can say, with Our Iowa Correspondent, is that Americans look at houses as capital investments to fund their retirement. (I have even had a pretentious real estate hustler quote de Tocqueville to me on this theme!) The scale of the investment is in proportion to the income to be saved; and when coal miners are getting $1.50/day wage increases, a $5000 house is setting sights too low to be worthwhile.

Oh, sure, there will be those in the family way who urgently need a house in 1946, and there are those who say that all of those wage increases will be eaten up by inflation. To that I point to Mr. McGraw's figures about labour productivity gains. The money has to go somewhere, and as long as labour is short, we squires will have to earn our share. By, I suggest, holding land off the market, taking its pulse, and releasing it in small quantities to match demand.

Again, though, as in all my conversations, I circle back. Houses mean roads and sewers.  Roads and sewers mean low-grade steel --especially if America decides to build "autobahns" with "cloverleafs." Now, I grant that there will be American autobahns in some places, notably Los Angeles, and the Fontana plant is well situated to serve them. Yet remember that much of our real estate portfolio was built up in service of the old droving trails. The needs of sheep headed from "the Oregon country" to Chicago, or of tallow-and-hide on the hoof headed for old Monterey and the Bay are not the needs of the modern automobile commuter. Is America seriously to be expected to build "autobahns" all the way along the great old transcontinental trails?

Well, fine, then. We have made most of our real estate money with "H.C" from roadwork to this point. We can continue to do it on an increasing scale if this mad vision of a national autobahn network is ever more than a pipedream. The last thing we need to do is to rush it by flooding the Spokane market, say, with house lots now. Will Fontana provide the steel to make cloverleafs in Spokane? I doubt it.

Whereas the one thing that I am sure that Americans will buy in the postwar is musical entertainment. If you see my point.


  1. Just for the record, the carriers that supported Avalanche were almost all back in Britain for the fall of Leros. Formidable stayed with the Home Fleet until late '44 when she set sail for points east. Lusty and Unicorn served with the Home Fleet until in Jan '44 they transferred to the IO. They joined Battler, which had already been transferred to the IO in October. The other three escort carriers supporting at Salerno (Attacker, Hunter, and Stalker) were all under refit in Britain so they could be used for future amphibious assaults, as our unreliable narrator darkly references, but not for something like Shingle- which wasn't yet a twinkle in WSC's eye[1]. They were undergoing refit to prepare them for Dragoon (still known as Anvil at this point), at the time expected to be in May '44. That deadline hanging over everyone's head explains a lot of the half-assed nature of the Shingle planning, IMO.

    [1]: The advance up the boot of Italy didn't come to a halt until after the German invasion of Leros, so I can be pretty sure that that wasn't the reason to preserve shipping.

  2. When he speculates mistakenly, it just adds versimilitude!

    Yeah. That's it. That's the ticket.