Election 1944: Berle calls Dewey ‘dishonest’ for hurling Communist charge (10-14-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 14, 1944)


Berle calls Dewey ‘dishonest’ for hurling Communist charge

White House also replies to 10 charges made by Republican candidate

Washington (UP) –
Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle Jr. today accused Governor Thomas E. Dewey of being “surprising dishonest” and simultaneously the White House made available a list of “facts” seeking to refute 10 specific charges made against the Roosevelt administration by the Republican presidential candidate.

Mr. Berle, in a letter to President Roosevelt, accused Mr. Dewey of attempting “to play fast and loose with the American public” in his recent charge at Charleston, West Virginia, that the administration wanted to establish a Communist system in this country.

The documented list of “facts” was obviously intended to refute charges made by Mr. Dewey in his Oklahoma City speech last month.

Both sides quoted

It consisted largely of Dewey quotations from speeches or remarks of administration leaders, including Mr. Roosevelt, followed by “facts” consisting of more complete texts of the same speeches or explanatory statements.

Issued without comment, it was apparently designed to show that Mr. Dewey’s 10 charges were based on brief excerpts from longer statements which in their full context did not bear out his accusations or implications.

Mr. Berle wrote the President to accuse Mr. Dewey of having “ripped a single sentence” from a 1939 memorandum by Mr. Berle to the Temporary National Economic Committee and using this “single sentence” in “a surprisingly dishonest effort to claim that your administration was secretly trying to set up a Communist system.”

Program outlined

Mr. Berle said Mr. Dewey quoted the sentence – “over a period of years the government will gradually come to own most of the productive plants of the United States” – as the “doctrine” advocated by the Roosevelt administration. Actually, Mr. Berle declared, “the entire memorandum showed the exact contrary.”

He said the memorandum included this “clearly-stated” program:

In a democratic organization of economy, the obvious end should be to permit and require private initiative to do as much of the work as it can, consistent with maintaining the national economy on a reasonably even flow, distributing the burdens and benefits meanwhile so that no class will be unduly favored, no class unduly burdened, and a maximum of opportunity be provided for everyone to use his abilities usefully with corresponding reward. It is the definite function of the financial system to make this possible at all times.

Mr. Berle said Mr. Dewey knew him “well” after he “asked and got my help in getting him the independent nomination which made possible his election as District Attorney in New York.”

Mr. Berle added:

He knows, as does everybody else, that, while I want a finance system that takes care of little people as well as big, I have never been a Communist.

The list of Dewey statements and “the facts: began with Mr. Dewey’s attribution to Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, the statement that:

In 1940, the year after the war began in Europe, the United States was in such a tragic condition that it couldn’t put into the field a mobile force of 75,000 men; the Aemy was only 25 percent ready.

Testimony cited

The document showed that Gen. Marshall testified on May 1, 1940, before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee:

We could put into the field at the present time, as a mobile force, about 75,000 men of tegular establishment… to be promptly reinforced by 25,000 men from the Enlisted Reserve.

It also quoted Gen. Marshall as testifying before the Truman Committee on April 22, 1941:

In February 1940, I talked in a meeting before a historical group I didn’t have any preparation; I just went into it and talked – one statement I made was that, compared to the Navy, which is 75 percent mobilized at all times, we at best were not over 25 percent prepared in the Army.

Well, that was just for the purpose of illustrating the difference of the national policy.

It was in no way a criticism. It was the national policy that the principal buildup would be behind the oceans and behind the Navy, that our great task was the development of a successful mobilization.

The document said Mr. Dewey quoted Gen. H. H. Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces, as saying: “Dec. 7, 1941, found Army Air Forces equipped with plans, but not planes.”

After making this statement in a report to the Secretary of War on Jan. 4, 1944, Gen. Arnold, according to the document, went on to say that:

When the Japanese struck, our combat aircraft strength was little better than a corporal’s guard of some 3,000 planes; of these, only 1,157 were actually suited to combat service…

‘Growing every hour’

Gen. Arnold said, too, that on Dec. 7, 1941:

We may not have had a powerful air force, but we knew that soon would have one. We had the plans and our organization was growing every hour. We knew that we had done everything in our power, everything permitted by us as a peace-loving nation to prepare to defend that nation against cruel and cunning foes.

It also quoted Gen. Arnold as having said:

The resourcefulness and energy of our people would have been of little avail against our enemies if the Army Air Forces had not begun preparations for war long before Pearl Harbor. By Dec. 7, 1941, we were in low gear and were shifting into second.

That we were rapidly building up our strength at that time has been erased from the minds of many people by succeeding events.

Didn’t start from scratch

But due in large part to the initiative of our Commander-in-Chief, we did not start this war from scratch.

The document said Mr. Dewey quoted Senator Harry S. Truman as saying on the floor of the Senate Aug. 14, 1941, that the responsibility for “the shocking state of our defense program” could be laid to the White House.

The “facts” said the discussion followed a Truman speech “chiefly” about “camp construction and raw materials” and that Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg (R-MI) asked Mr. Truman “where the final authority rests in respect to priorities and curtailments?” Mr. Truman said the committee was trying to find out.

White House blamed

Mr. Vandenberg then said: “In other words, the Senator [Truman] is now saying that the chief bottleneck which the defense program confronts is the lack of adequate organization and coordination in the administration of defense?” Mr. Truman agreed and Mr. Vandenberg asked, “who is responsible for that situation?”

“There is only one place where the responsibility can be put,” Mr. Truman said according to the Congressional Record as quoted by the document.

“Where is that – the White House?” Mr. Vandenberg asked.

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Truman replied.

Courage questioned

Mr. Dewey was next listed as having quoted from a Truman magazine article published in November 1942 concerning the “lack of courageous, unified leadership and centralized direction at the top.”

The document pointed out other portions of the article at length, including a passage:

Chaotic conditions in war production are by no means a thing for which the administration or the men in charge are alone to blame. Leadership implies “followship.” And up to now we, who have been free in finding fault, have shown ourselves poor followers. If we wish to correct the situation, the power lies with us.

Mr. Dewey also used this Truman quotation: “After Pearl Harbor, we found ourselves woefully unprepared for war.”

Rubber question stressed

The document offered additional quotations from a Truman report to the Senate, saying that “the Senator was talking only about disputes between agencies with particular reference to rubber.”

Mr. Dewey also used a line from the fourth term nominating speech made by Senator Alben W. Barkley (D-KY), who was quoted as saying, “When the treachery of Pearl Harbor came, we were not ready.”

The document says Mr. Barkley in the same speech praised Mr. Roosevelt as “the man who saw and warned the people against approaching danger.”

The document then went into four statements by Mr. Roosevelt and used by the Republican candidate. One was a line taken by Mr. Dewey from a message to Congress by the President in 1935:

There is no ground for apprehension that our relations with any nation will be otherwise than peaceful.

Another quotation given

In the same annual state of the nation message, the President said, according to the document:

I cannot with candor tell you that general international relationships outside the borders of the United States are improved.

Mr. Dewey quoted part of a 1937 speech by the President in which Mr. Roosevelt said:

How happy we are that the circumstances of the moment permit us to put our money into bridges and boulevards… rather than into huge standing armies and vast implements of war.

‘Must make will prevail’

The document pointed out that in this “quarantine-the-aggressors” speech, Mr. Roosevelt followed that sentence in this manner:

I am compelled and you are compelled, nevertheless, to look ahead. The peace, the freedom and the security of 90 percent of the population of the world is being jeopardized by the remaining 10 percent who are threatening a breakdown of all international order and law.

Surely the 90 percent who want to live in peace under law and in accordance with moral standards that have received almost universal acceptance throughout the centuries, can and must find some way to make their will prevail…

Mr. Roosevelt’s May 14, 1940, press conference statements about a two-ocean Navy were the basis of this Dewey statement:

It was in January 1940 that I publicly called for a two-ocean Navy for the defense of America. It was that statement of mine which Mr. Roosevelt called, and I quote his words: “Just plain dumb. Then as now we got ridicule instead of action.”

50,000 planes asked

The document offers a partial transcript of this press conference in which the President called a two-ocean Navy “an entirely outmoded conception of naval defense.”

It added a footnote saying that the conference dealt largely with Mr. Roosevelt’s message to Congress asking for 50,000 planes a year and an Army-Navy appropriation of $896 million, “but Dewey said nothing about the message.”

‘Soothes the people’

The concluding phrase of the document deals with Mr. Dewey’s statement:

When Hitler’s armies were at the gates of Paris, Mr. Roosevelt once again soothed the American people with the jolly comment: “There is no need for the country to be ‘discomboomerated.’”

This, according to the document, occurred during a May 1940 news conference when the President, discussing the public response to the need for preparedness, said he thought the people understood “the seriousness of the situation,” but that at the same time he wanted them to realize that “we are not going to discombobulate or upset, any more than we have to, a great many of the normal processes of life.”