The Wartime Journals Of Charles A. Liondbergh

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Forty-three-years ago Charles A. Lindberghflew out of the West into immortality, a shining figure of hope and courage in a frivolous, uninspiring time. Yet within less than fifteen years all had changed. Lindbergh and his brilliant young wife had been the victims of an atrocious crime and had been driven into exile by a sensation-seeking press. Finally, as World War II drew on and Lindbergh came home to warn his country against getting into it, he became to many a figure of obloquy and sinister rumor. In his travels around Europe, studying its aviation, flying its fighters and bombers, he had seen many Nazis, hadn ‘t he? Was he pro-German? His resignation from the Air Corps Reserve was accepted with alacrity. President Roosevelt attacked him by name. He seemed to drop out of sight, although it was known he was doing something in military aviation. Such, roughly, was the public impression.

What Lindbergh was really doing and thinking he kept to himself, writing a detailed daily report on everything he saw and heard in his public and private life. He began his diary not long before the war, a war that, he says, “I felt would be catastrophic for our civilization, one that might still be prevented. Aviation constituted a new and possibly decisive element in preventing or fighting a war, and I was in a unique position to observe European aviation—especially in its military aspects.” The records of all this experience have just been published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., as The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh . Unrewritten although somewhat abridged, they cover the years 1938 through mid-lQ45; his travels and visits before the war; his dealings with the President; his part in the America First movement; his wartime work as an expert with Ford and United Aircraft; his experiences in action as an observer and a pilot (with one Japanese plane to his credit) in the Pacific; and the horrors he observed m Germany immediately after the war.

The appearance of this huge book is a notable event, not for the controversy that will certainly erupt, not for the genuine surprises it contains, not even for the skill and humor of the writing, but for the revelation it affords of General Lindbergh himself. The Journals show a man of action who is also a man of reflection; a scientist who worries about where our technology is taking us; a man who has maintained a consistent love of nature, his fellow creatures, and his country through experiences more shattering and, on occasion, more uplifting than those that come to most of us. AMERICAN HERITAGE is pleased to present the first excerpts from this remarkable book in the next few pages. —Oliver Jensen.

[ Weald, England, April 1, 1938 ]

Morning dictating and thinking. Consider plans for summer and next winter. Also try to look into future. Will there be a major war in Europe? If there is, will America become involved? What are the trends at home? In England? How much longer can this trend toward mediocrity continue? What has happened to the English? What will happen to our own people? Will Franco’s probable victory prevent a revolution in France? How can the French get out of the mess they are now in? What policy should I follow for my family’s future? The only sure thing is in giving them health and experience and education of the right kind. I must teach my children to know and to love the earth itself. If they can keep in contact with the land and the water and the sky, they can obtain all worthwhile that life holds. …

[ Weald, England, April 2, 1938 ]

… This country has neither the spirit nor the ability needed for a modern war. And the worst of it is that countless Englishmen will die needlessly because of lack of training and equipment. It is not only in aviation that they are behind. I sometimes wonder if history will not eventually show that the British Empire has already passed its greatest period. I cannot see the future for this country. The value of the Channel is passing with every improvement in military aircraft. The colonies are manufacturing their own products from their own raw materials. Even the quality of British goods is frequently mediocre. And the people show little sign of changing. They need an entirely new spirit if British greatness is to endure. …

[ Moscow, August 25, 1938 ]

… Visited the War College this morning to see the attention given to instructing all officers in the command and operation of aircraft. The Red Army considers its aviation to be of great importance. Consequently, considerable time is devoted to training officers in its potentialities.

Visit was to end at 10:00. We left at 11:30 after a heavy “breakfast.” I went to the airport and told the mechanics about servicing our plane. Had planned on servicing it myself but found the mechanics very able. The Russians have been extremely considerate about helping with such things. I like the people I meet in the majority of instances. But this system will not work. There has already been a great change since the Revolution, and it will continue to change for a long time to come. There would be far greater progress if they had not killed and pushed out so many of their best people. … They are an open, likable people, obviously suppressed by fear of getting into trouble. They love to talk and to discuss any subject not politically dangerous. Unfortunately, “politically dangerous” covers a wide ground. …

[ Near Paris, September 9, 1938 ]

… The Minister of Air, M. [Guy la] Chambre, came for dinner, and we talked of French aviation, German aviation, and that of the other countries in Europe. The French situation is desperate. Impossible to catch up to Germany for years, if at all. France is producing about forty-five or fifty warplanes per month. Germany is building from 500 to 800 per month, according to the best estimates. England is building in the vicinity of seventy per month. France hopes to have 2,600 first-line planes by April, 1940. Germany is probably building that many every three or four months. One is forced to the conclusion that the German air fleet is stronger than that of all other European countries combined.

M. la Chambre apparently realizes this fact. The French are also deficient in antiaircraft guns, and the people of Paris are not equipped with gas masks. Yet the French Army is apparently ready to attack on the old Western front if Germany invades Czechoslovakia. It is suicide. The opportunity of stopping the extension of German control to the east passed several years ago. An attempt to do so now will throw Europe into chaos. It would be much worse than the last war and would probably result in a Communist Europe. …

[ London, September 21, 1938 ]

… Lunch with Ambassador and Mrs. [Joseph P.] Kennedy. (Before lunch we were introduced to six of their children.) Talked with Ambassador Kennedy for an hour after lunch. We discussed the crisis and the aviation and general military situation in Europe. Everyone in embassy is extremely worried. Hitler is apparently ready to invade Czechoslovakia and has his divisions on the border. Hitler told Chamberlain [according to Kennedy] that he (Hitler) would risk a world war if necessary. Kennedy says England is ready to fight, even though not prepared. Chamberlain realizes the disastrous effects of a war with Germany at this time and is making every effort to avoid one. English opinion (Kennedy) is pushing him toward war.

It is a terrible situation. The English are in no shape for war. They do not realize what they are confronted with. They have always before had a fleet between themselves and their enemy, and they can’t realize the change aviation has made. I am afraid this is the beginning of the end of England as a great power. She may be a “hornets’ nest” but she is no longer a “lion’s den.”

Phoned Lady Astor at Sandwich. She invited us to come there this week or to Cliveden next week. Very much worried about situation. …

[ Berlin, October 18, 1938 ]

… Attended a men’s dinner at the American Embassy in the evening. Ambassador and Mrs. [Hugh R.] Wilson were at the Embassy when I arrived. Mrs. Wilson left before the dinner. The guests included Marshal [Hermann] Goering, General [Erhard] Milch, General [Ernst] Udet, the Italian Ambassador, the Belgian Ambassador, Dr. [Ernst] Heinkel, Dr. [Willy E.] Messerschmitt, Colonel [Truman] Smith, Major [Arthur] Vanaman, the American naval attachés, Minister [Adolf] Baeumker, and various other German officers and members of the American Embassy. There were two tables. Ambassador Wilson sat at the head of one and I at the head of the other.

“The English are in no shape for war. They do not realize what they are confronted with.”

Marshal Goering, of course, was the last to arrive. I was standing in the back of the room. He shook hands with everyone. I noticed that he had a red box and some papers in his hand. When he came to me, he shook hands, handed me the box and papers, and spoke a few sentences in German. I found that he had presented me with the German Eagle, one of the highest German decorations, “by order of der Führer.”…

Goering asked why we had gone to Russia; what the hotels were like; whether many Russians stayed in the hotels; how the Russian cities compared to other cities; and many other questions. I talked to him frankly about what we saw in Russia and the impressions we had during our trip. I told him that Anne and I were treated with the utmost hospitality by the Russians and that we met many very likable people among them; that we went to Russia to see what the conditions were and that we found our trip extremely interesting; that the Russian hotels were not as good as those in other countries; that the cities were hardly comparable to the cities of Germany, France, and England, because the life and atmosphere was entirely different; that I did not think the conditions now existing in Russia are at all good; and that the people did not seem to me to be well fed and happy.

After talking about Russia, Goering turned the conversation to aviation, to Germany’s plans and accomplishments. He spoke of the performances of present military planes and of the quantity of production. He said the new Junkers 88 bomber (which no one we know has seen) is far ahead of anything else built, and that he would arrange that it be shown to me. Goering said the Junkers 88 did 500 kilometers per hour and that it was not “a magazine figure,” but an actual speed of 500 kilometers. He said they expected to have a plane which would make 800 kilometers per hour in the near future (at critical altitude). …

During all of this conversation Goering sat in a large armchair in the corner of the room. He spoke at length, then sat back and frequently closed his eyes while the translation was going on. Then he would speak again. He was wearing a blue Air Corps uniform which, I was told later, was of a new design. Some of the air officers (German) were laughing because they had never seen it before. Apparently, Goering has the habit of turning up unexpectedly in new uniforms. The last time I saw him, two years ago, he was wearing a uniform of white and gold. …

“My admiration for the Germans is constantly being dashed against some rock such as this.”
[ Rechlin, Germany, October 21, 1938 ]

… After landing we were escorted to a line of four planes: the JU-88, the Messerschmitt no, and two Messerschmitt log’s. … Major Vanaman and I were asked not to mention the fact that we had been shown the Junkers 88. We next inspected the Messerschmitt no. Then passed on to the 1091 was to fly. I got in the cockpit while one of the officers described the instruments and controls. The greatest complication lay in the necessity of adjusting the propeller pitch for take-off, cruising, and diving. Then there were the controls for the flaps, the retracting gear, for flying above two thousand meters, for locking and unlocking the tail wheel, and for the other usual devices on a modern pursuit plane. After studying the cockpit, I got out and put on a “chute” while a mechanic started the engine. Then, after taxiing slowly down to the starting point, I took off. The plane handled beautifully. I spent quarter of an hour familiarizing myself with the instruments and controls, then spent fifteen minutes more doing maneuvers of various types (rolls, dives, Immelmanns, etc.). After half an hour I landed, took off again, circled the field, and landed a second time; then taxied back to the line. The 109 takes off and lands as easily as it flies. …

[ Illiec, France, November 13, 1938 ]

The Times (England) carries a long account of the Jewish troubles in Germany. I do not understand these riots on the part of the Germans. It seems so contrary to their sense of order and their intelligence in other ways. They have undoubtedly had a difficult Jewish problem, but why is it necessary to handle it so unreasonably? My admiration for the Germans is constantly being dashed against some rock such as this. What is the object in this persecution of the Jews? …

[ Washington, D.C., April 20, 1939 ]

… Went on to Munitions Building, and then to the White House in time for a 12:00 appointment with the President. A crowd of press photographers at the door and inane women screeching at me as I passed through—a disgraceful condition to exist on the White House steps. There would be more dignity and self-respect among African savages. …

I went in to see the President about 12:45—the first time I have ever met him. He was seated at his desk at one end of a large room. There were several models of ships around the walls. He leaned forward from his chair to meet me as I entered, and it is only now that I stop to think that he is crippled. I did not notice it and had no thought of it during our meeting. He immediately asked me how Anne was and mentioned the fact that she knew his daughter in school. He is an accomplished, suave, interesting conversationalist. I liked him and feel that I could get along with him well. Acquaintanceship would be pleasant and interesting.

But there was something about him I did not trust, something a little too suave, too pleasant, too easy. Still, he is our President, and there is no reason for any antagonism between us in the work I am now doing. …

Roosevelt gave me the impression of being a very tired man, but with enough energy to carry on for a long time. I doubt that he realizes how tired he is. His face has that gray look of an overworked businessman. And his voice has that even, routine tone that one seems to get when mind is dulled by too much and too frequent conversation. It has that dull quality that comes to any one of the senses when it is overused: taste, with too much of the same food day after day; hearing, when the music never changes; touch, when one’s hand is never lifted.

Roosevelt judges his man quickly and plays him cleverly. He is mostly politician, and I think we would never get along on many fundamentals. But there are things about him I like, and why worry about the others unless and until they necessitate consideration? It is better to work together as long as we can; yet somehow I have a feeling that it may not be for long.

Returned to Munitions Building [for a meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics]. … First, the regular routine business, then a demonstration of new developments by Dr. [George W.] Lewis. Afterward, I brought up the question of research facilities. I asked how we expected to catch up with military developments abroad (in aviation research) with our present facilities. … I made the point that while we could not expect to keep up with the production of European airplanes as long as we were on a peace-time basis, we should at least keep up in the quality of our aircraft. …

[ Lloyd Neck, Long Island, September 1, 1939 ]

Off train [to New York] at 7:40 Daylight. Huge headlines across all papers: GERMAN TROOPS ENTER POLAND . The war has begun! What will England and France do? If they try to break the German Western Wall, I think they will lose unless America enters the war. In that case, if we go in, Europe will be still more prostrated after the war is over. And I don’t know what will take place in this country by that time. Why did England and France get themselves into such a hopeless position? What has happened to “democratic” leadership? If they wanted to fight a German eastward movement, why in heaven’s name pick this particular set of circumstances to fight over? They are in a hopeless position militarily, and Danzig, Poland, and the Polish Corridor are not banners which will encourage the Allied armies to attack on German soil. And the English talk of stupid German diplomacy! It is “The Charge of the Light Brigade” again. Somebody blundered. …

[ Washington, D.C., September 14, 1939 ]

Taxi to Navy Building for 9:00 meeting of special committee in NACA offices. …

I talked to [General Henry H. “Hap”] Arnold about my intent to speak over the radio tomorrow night. It was the first time I had mentioned this to him, although he knows how I feel about the entire situation. Arnold suggested that it would be advisable for me to discontinue my present status in the Air Corps while I am taking active part in politics. I agreed thoroughly, but did not know I had any status in the Air Corps, since I have received no pay except for my first two weeks of active duty last spring. …

[ Washington, D.C., September 15, 1939 ]

… Truman [Smith] and I went into the bedroom, where we could talk alone. He told me he had a message which he must deliver, although he knew in advance what my answer would be. He said the Administration was very much worried by my intention of speaking over the radio and opposing actively this country’s entry into a European war. Smith said that if I would not do this, a secretaryship of air would be created in the Cabinet and given to me! Truman laughed and said, “So you see, they’re worried.” [Smith was an Air Corps officer, former attaché at Berlin.]

This offer on Roosevelt’s part does not surprise me after what I have learned about his administration. It does surprise me, though, that he still thinks I might be influenced by such an offer. It is a great mistake for him to let the Army know he deals in such a way. Apparently the offer came through [Secretary of War Harry Hines] Woodring to General Arnold, and through General Arnold to Truman Smith. Smith told me that Arnold, like himself, felt they must pass the message on since it came from the Secretary of War’s office. Smith said he asked Arnold if he (Arnold) thought for a minute that I would accept. Arnold replied, “Of course not.”…

I went on the air at 9:45 E.S.T.

[ Lloyd Neck, Long Island, June 21, 1940 ]

I went for a walk after lunch through the woods and along the beach. It seems I spend most of my time these days thinking. My mind is not on the trees and birds and clouded sky as I would wish it to be, but on the war and chaos of these turbulent days. I wish I could be either wholeheartedly in the war and fighting for true beliefs and ideals, or else far enough away from it mentally and physically to be able to see the forest when I walk through it, and to feel the beauty of wind-rippled water without having part of my mind thinking of politics and bombing planes and plans. Here, at this moment, I feel in contact neither with the world of men nor with the world of God. What can be done to bring this country back? What has happened to America? To the character of the pioneer? To the courage of the Revolutionary Army? To the American destiny that we once had?

Spent the evening reading Father’s Why Is Tour Country at War? [1917] and [Herbert A.] Fisher’s History of Europe .

“ There was something about him I did not trust, something a little too suave, too pleasant, too easy.”
[ Lloyd Neck, Long bland, April 25, 1941 ]

… Deac Lyman phoned in the late afternoon to tell me that Roosevelt had attacked me personally in his press conference. A few minutes later [Edwin S.] Webster phoned and said that, among other things, Roosevelt had implied treason in connection with my name.

I sent for the afternoon papers. The President’s attack was more than just a political attack, for he did so in connection with my commission in the Army. If it had been only a political attack, without any connection with my commission, I would pay little attention to it. As it is, a point of honor is at stake, and it may be necessary to tender my resignation. But I don’t like to resign, for my commission in the Air Corps has always meant a great deal to me, and I would prefer to hold it.

What luck it is to find myself opposing my country’s entrance into a war I don’t believe in, when I would so much rather be fighting for my country in a war I do believe in. Here I am stumping the country with pacifists and considering resigning as a colonel in the Army Air Corps, when there is no philosophy I disagree with more than that of the pacifist, and nothing I would rather be doing than flying in the Air Corps. …

[ Lloyd Neck, Lung Island, April 27, 1941 ]

… Have decided to resign. After studying carefully what the President said, I feel it rs the only honorable course to take. If I did not tender my resignation, I would lose something in my own character that means even more to me than my commission in the Air Corps. No one else might know it, but I would. …

[ Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Decembers, 1941 ]

… I find it impossible to keep my mind off the war or to concentrate on writing. How did our Air Force and Navy let the Japanese get to Hawaii so easily? What have the Japanese losses been? And ours? I am not surprised that the Japs attacked. We have been prodding them into war for weeks. They have simply beaten us to the gun. But the radio reports indicate that the attack on Hawaii was a heavy one. Have we sent so many of our planes and so much of our Navy to the Atlantic that the Japs feel they are able to get away with an attack on Pearl Harbor? …

The President spoke at 12:00. Asked for a declaration of war. Senate passed a declaration of war unanimously. Only one “no” in House. What else was there to do? We have been asking for war for months. If the President had asked for a declaration of war before, I think Congress would have turned him down with a big majority. But now we have been attacked, and attacked in home waters. We have brought it on our own shoulders; but I can see nothing to do under these circumstances except to fight. If I had been in Congress, I certainly would have voted for a declaration of war. …

“What luck it is to find myself opposing my country’s entrance into a war I don’t believe in, when I would so much rather be fighting for my country in a war I do believe in.”
[ Washington, B.C., January 12, 1942 ]

… Taxi to Munitions Building. Sentries all around, and a pass necessary to get in. Taken to [Secretary of War Henry L.] Stimson’s office after about a ten-minute wait. Stimson was seated at his desk. Greeted me courteously. …

Stimson said he would speak with complete frankness, that he would be extremely hesitant to put me into any position of command because of the views I had expressed about the war. He said he did not think anyone who had held such views should be in a position of command in this war because he did not believe such a person could carry on the war with sufficient aggressiveness! Stimson said he doubted very much that I had changed my views. I replied that I had not changed them and that I felt it had been a mistake for this country to get into the war, but that now we were in the war my stand was behind my country, as I had always said it would be, and that I wanted to help in whatever way I could be most effective.

Stimson then referred to my speeches and showed that either his memory or his information was very confused in regard to what I had said. He spoke about my advocating an alliance with Germany and about my antagonism to China! I told him I had not advocated an alliance with Germany and that I certainly felt no antagonism to China; but that I had said, and still thought, that the greatest danger to this country lay in Russia and Japan. (In the case of Russia I am thinking of their system rather than of their military danger.) …

I told Secretary Stimson I was extremely sorry that my political viewpoint left him with any doubt as to my loyalty to my country. (Stimson had mentioned the question of loyalty somewhere in our discussion.) He hedged at this, saying it wasn’t exactly a case of doubting loyalty, but that he doubted that with my views I would have the feeling, “the aggressiveness,” for a position of command. I replied that, everything considered, it seemed it would be best for me to turn to the aviation industry and try to make my contribution to the war through some industrial project. …

[ Detroit, September 4, 1942 ]

… Arrived Willow Run at 8:45. Mr. Ford opened the door to my office and walked in about 9:30—no advance notice, as usual. Harry Bennett arrived about ten minutes later. Half hour with them discussing the war, labor problems, etc. Then all to airport, Bennett driving. Looked over turntable for swinging 6-24 compasses. Then picked up [Charles E.] Sorensen, and the four of us drove around the area east of Willow Run airport to select a location for a permanent Army base and consider the possibility of lengthening the runways. Then, Bennett still driving, we went on to the engineering laboratory at Dearborn.

Sorensen brought up the question of our production schedule and the quality of workmanship at Willow Run—said we were ahead of schedule and that our workmanship was just as good as that of other companies. He tried to get me to agree with him and put me in a corner where I had to say bluntly that we were not making schedule and that the workmanship on the first bombers that went through Willow Run was the worst I had ever seen. Sorensen is not used to having anyone oppose him, and I have seen him bluff his way through a difficult situation time and time again. He tries to get a man to agree with him either out of fear or courtesy, and then constantly reminds him of the fact that he once agreed. The only way to handle Sorensen is to say exactly what you believe when he asks a question, and I did. Henry Ford listened quietly and apparently enjoyed the situation very much! …

[ Detroit, September 9, 1942 ]

… Radio call from Bennett asking me to meet him at the Rouge administration building. Bennett wanted to talk to me about Ford’s desire to improve the armor-plate installation in the 6-24. It is obviously inadequate, and pilots returning from the combat zones report the situation as serious. (General Arnold: “When we send the B-17's out on a mission, they come back. When we send the B-24's out, a lot of them don’t.”) Ford wants to set up an experimental department on the Ford airport at Dearborn, bring an entire 6-24 fuselage there from Willow Run, and turn the problem of armor plate over to me.

I told Bennett that if we were to put adequate armor plate on the 8-24, the first thing we would need would be close Army co-operation, that we would have to have data on where enemy bullets were hitting, what their penetrating power was, how much weight we could devote to armor plate, etc., etc.—data that only the Army could furnish. One of the difficulties in working with the Ford organization is that once they get an idea, they want to start in right now and get action tomorrow, if not today. Their policy is to act first and plan afterward, usually overlooking completely essential details. Result: a tremendous increase of cost and effort unnecessarily. …

“ I had to say bluntly that we were not making schedule and that the workmanship on the first bombers that went through Willow Run was the worst I had ever seen.”
[ Solomon Islands, May 24, 1944 ]

Arranged to go on a reconnaissance and strafing mission this afternoon along the northeast coast of New Ireland. … We fly along the coast at 2,000 or 3,000 feet at first, looking for signs of new Japanese activity. Then down 200 or 300 feet above the jungle. …

We cut inland to avoid a Japanese airstrip where strong anti-aircraft positions have been reported. … More miles over the tree tops, zooming up now and then for a few seconds to get a better look around, and then down again before there is time for someone to train a gun on us. Out to the coastline—four Corsairs abreast, racing over the water—I am the closest one to land. The trees pass, a streak of green; the beach a band of yellow on my left. Is it a post a mile ahead in the water, or a man standing? It moves toward shore. It is a man.

All Japanese or unfriendly natives on New Ireland—everything is a target—no restrictions—shoot whatever you see. I line up my sight. A mile takes ten seconds at our speed. At 1,000 yards my .5O-calibers are deadly. I know just where they strike. I cannot miss.

Now he is out of the water, but he does not run. The beach is wide. He cannot make the cover of trees. He is centered in my sight. My finger tightens on the trigger. A touch, and he will crumple on the coral sand.

But he disdains to run. He strides across the beach. Each step carries dignity and courage in its timing. He is not an ordinary man. The shot is too easy. His bearing, his stride, his dignity—there is something in them that has formed a bond between us. His life is worth more than the pressure of a trigger. I do not want to see him crumple on the beach. I release the trigger.

I ease back on the stick. He reaches the tree line, merges with the streak of green on my left. I am glad I have not killed him. I would never have forgotten him writhing on the beach. I will always remember his figure striding over the sand, the fearless dignity of his steps. I had his life balanced on a muscle’s twitch. I gave it back to him, and thank God that I did so. I shall never know who he was—Jap or native. But I realize that the life of this unknown stranger—probably an enemy—is worth a thousand times more to me than his death. I should never quite have forgiven myself if I had shot him—naked, courageous, defenseless, yet so unmistakably man. …

A beautiful night. I walk out under the stars. They are new here, and those I know are upside down. The Southern Cross is high, and the North Star is below the opposite horizon. I wonder what Anne is doing, and the children. Asleep, of course. It is not yet dawn at home. …

[ Owi Island, Western Pacific, July 21, 1944 ]

The Japanese stronghold on the cliffs of Biak is to be attacked again in the morning. Several hundred Japs are still holding out in caves and crevices in an area about 300 yards wide and 1,000 yards long. So far, they have thrown back all of our attacks, and inflicted nearly one hundred casualties on our infantrymen. …

If positions were reversed and our troops held out so courageously and well, their defense would be recorded as one of the most glorious examples of tenacity, bravery, and sacrifice in the history of our nation. But, sitting in the security and relative luxury of our quarters, I listen to American Army officers refer to these Japanese soldiers as “yellow sons of bitches.” Their desire is to exterminate the Jap ruthlessly, even cruelly. I have not heard a word of respect or compassion spoken of our enemy since I came here.

It is not the willingness to kill on the part of our soldiers which most concerns me. That is an inherent part of war. It is our lack of respect for even the admirable characteristics of our enemy—for courage, for suffering, for death, for his willingness to die for his beliefs, for his companies and squadrons which go forth, one after another, to annihilation against our superior training and equipment. What is courage for us is fanaticism for him. We hold his examples of atrocity screamingly to the heavens while we cover up our own and condone them as just retribution for his acts.

A Japanese soldier who cuts off an American soldier’s head is an Oriental barbarian, “lower than a rat.” An American soldier who slits a Japanese throat “did it only because he knew the Japs had done it to his buddies.” I do not question that Oriental atrocities are often worse than ours. But, after all, we are constantly telling ourselves, and everyone else who will listen to us, that we are the upholders of all that is “good” and “right” and civilized. …

[ Camp Dora, near Nordhausen underground V-2 rocket factory, Germany, June 11, 1945 ]

… On the mountainside above the camp we saw a low, small, factorylike building with a brick smokestack of very large diameter for its height. … At one end of the building were stacked probably two dozen stretchers, dirty and stained with blood—one of them showing the dark red outline of a human body which had lain upon it.

The doors of the building were open. We stepped in. On our left, through another open doorway, lay a black, peasant-type coffin, a white cross painted on top. Beside it on the concrete floor, covered carelessly with canvas, lay what was undoubtedly a human body; and beside that, another coffin. We moved on into the main room of the building. It contained two large cremating furnaces, side by side, the steel stretchers for holding the bodies sticking out through the open doors. The fact that two furnaces were required added to the depressing massproduction horror of the place. …

“What is barbaric on one side of the earth is still barbaric on the other.”

Here was a place where men and life and death had reached the lowest form of degradation. How could any reward in national progress even faintly justify the establishment and operation of such a place? When the value of life and the dignity of death are removed, what is left for man?

A figure steps in through the door—a man in prison costume. No, a boy; he is hardly old enough to call a man. The prison suit bags around him, oversize, pulled in at waist and hanging loosely over shoulders. He moves out of the brighter light so that I can see his face more clearly. He is like a walking skeleton; starved; hardly any flesh covering his bones; arms so thin that it seems only the skin is left to cover them.

He speaks in German to Lieutenant Uellendahl, pointing toward the furnaces. “Twenty-five thousand in a year and a half.” He is Polish, he says in answer to our questioning, seventeen years old. He motions us to follow him and walks into the room we first saw. Stooping, he lifts the canvas from the form lying beside the coffins. It covered an ex-prisoner like himself, only thinner, lying, also in prison dress, half curled up on an Army stretcher.

It is hard to realize that the one is dead, the other living, they look so much alike. A few days growth of dark hair bristling from the head, hunger-chiseled features, burning dark eyes, for the eyes of the dead man are open. The most striking contrast between them lay in the expression on the dead man’s face. Never, I think, have I seen such tranquillity; as though at last, after living through hell on earth, peace had been found. Looking at that face, I realized that in death the spirit had triumphed over the man-built inferno we were in, that even a Nazi prison camp could not remove all the dignity from life and death.

“It was terrible. Three years of it.” The face of the young Pole is screwed up in grief and anguish of his memories. He points to the body—“he was my friend and he is fat! ”—and recovers it with the canvas.

We walk outside. I do not notice where the boy is taking us. We have stopped near one corner of the building. I am staring off into the distance, my mind still dwelling on those furnaces, on that body, on the people and the system which let such things arise. Suddenly I realize that Lieutenant Uellendahl is translating. “Twenty-five thousand in a year and a half. And from each one there is only so much.” The boy has cupped his hands to demonstrate the measure. He is looking down. I follow his glance. We are standing in front of what was once a large oblong pit, probably eight feet long and six feet wide and, one might guess, six feet deep. It is filled to overflowing with ashes from the furnaces—small chips of human bones. …

A trail of these ashes runs over the side of the filled-up pit where we are standing. They were dumped in carelessly, as we would dump the ashes from coal into a pit at home. And the pit was dug as a man would dig a pit for coal ashes if he cared nothing for the appearance of the grounds around his home—not very far from the furnaces and where the ground appeared easy to dig. Nearby were two other oblong mounds which may have marked other pits. The boy picks up a knee joint which had not been left in the furnace long enough and holds it out to us.

Of course, I knew these things were going on; but it is one thing to have the intellectual knowledge, even to look at photographs someone else has taken, and quite another to stand on the scene yourself, seeing, hearing, feeling with your own senses. A strange sort of disturbance entered my mind. Where was it I had felt like this before? The South Pacific? Yes; those rotting Japanese bodies in the Biak caves; the load of garbage dumped on dead soldiers in a bomb crater; the green skulls set up to decorate ready room and tents.

It seemed impossible that men—civilized men—could degenerate to such a level. Yet they had. Here at Camp Dora in Germany; there in the coral caves of Biak. But there, it was we, Americans, who had done such things, we who claimed to stand for something different. We, who claimed that the German was defiling humanity in his treatment of the Jew, were doing the same thing in our treatment of the Jap. “They really are lower than beasts. Every one of ‘em ought to be exterminated.” How many times had I heard that statement made by American officers in the Pacific! “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”…

A long line of such incidents parades before my mind: the story of our Marines firing oh unarmed Japanese survivors who swam ashore on the beach at Midway; the accounts of our machine-gunning prisoners on a Hollandia airstrip; of the Australians pushing captured Japanese soldiers out of the transport planes which were taking them south over the New Guinea mountains (“the Aussies reported them as committing hara-kiri or ‘resisting’”); of the shinbones cut, for letter openers and pen trays, from newly killed Japanese bodies on Noemfoor; of the young pilot who was “going to cream that Jap hospital one of these days”; of American soldiers poking through the mouths of Japanese corpses for gold-filled teeth (“the infantry’s favorite occupation”); of Jap heads buried in anthills “to get them clean for souvenirs”; of bodies bulldozed to the roadside and dumped by the hundreds into shallow, unmarked graves (“where they’re so close we can’t stand ‘em, we have to bury ‘em”); of pictures of Mussolini and his mistress hung by the feet in an Italian city, to the approval of thousands of Americans who claim to stand for high, civilized ideals. As far back as one can go in history, these atrocities have been going on, not only in Germany with its Dachaus and its Buchenwalds and its Camp Doras, but in Russia, in the Pacific, in the riotings and lynchings at home, in the less-publicized uprisings in Central and South America, the cruelties of China, a few years ago in Spain, in pogroms of the past, the burning of witches in New England, tearing people apart on the English racks, burnings at the stake for the benefit of Christ and God.

“We won the war in a military sense; but in a broader sense it seems to me we lost it.”

I look down at the pit of ashes (“twenty-five thousand in a year and a half”). This, I realize, is not a thing confined to any nation or to any people. … What is barbaric on one side of the earth is still barbaric on the other. “Judge not that ye be not judged.” It is not the Germans alone, or the Japs, but the men of all nations to whom this war has brought shame and degradation. …

[ General Lindbergh writes to his publisher, December 18, 1969 ]

You ask what my conclusions are, rereading my journals and looking back on World War II from the vantage point of a quarter century in time? We won the war in a military sense; but in a broader sense it seems to me we lost it, for our Western civilization is less respected and secure than it was before.

In order to defeat Germany and Japan we supported the still greater menaces of Russia and China—which now confront us in a nuclear-weapon era. Poland was not saved. The British Empire has broken down with great suffering, bloodshed, and confusion. England is an economy-constricted secondary power. France had to give up her major colonies and turn to a mild dictatorship herself. Much of our Western culture was destroyed. We lost the genetic heredity formed through aeons in many million lives. Meanwhile, the Soviets have dropped their iron curtain to screen off Eastern Europe, and an antagonistic Chinese government threatens us in Asia.

More than a generation after the war’s end, our occupying armies still must occupy, and the world has not been made safe for democracy and freedom. On the contrary, our own system of democratic government is being challenged by that greatest of dangers to any government—internal dissatisfaction and unrest.

It is alarmingly possible that World War II marks the beginning of our Western civilization’s breakdown, as it already marks the breakdown of the greatest empire ever built by man. Certainly our civilization’s survival depends on meeting the challenges that tower before us with unprecedented magnitude in almost every field of modern life. Most of these challenges were, at least, intensified through the waging of World War II. …