Election 1944: Midway hero charges Tobin’s men beat him for silence on vote (10-2-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 2, 1944)


After Roosevelt spoke –
Midway hero charges Tobin’s men beat him for silence on vote

Lieutenant says he forced two attackers to ‘hit the deck’ n hotel fight

Washington (UP) –
Lt. Randolph Dickins Jr., 23, said today that he and a friend battled a group of Teamsters Union shriller guests at the Statler Hotel the night of Sept. 23. shortly after President Roosevelt made his first 1944 campaign speech at the banquet, because they were attacked for refusing to state their political affiliations.

Lt. Dickins, six feet two inches tall and a hero of the Battle of Midway, has been a patient at the Naval Medical Hospital in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, since July 28.

He told his story in the conference rooms at the Naval Medical Center to a group of newsmen. The Navy, he said, had left up to him the decision whether he wanted to tell about the incident.

Punishment threatened

Lt. Dickins said one of the men in the group that attacked him and his friend – whose name he did not disclose – had charged him with beating “a personal friend of the President” and threatened that higher authorities would punish him severely.

It had been reported that Daniel J. Tobin, president of the Teamsters Union, was knocked down in the melee. Lt. Dickins, however, said he was not aware of the identity of any of the six men he remembered striking in self-defense.

Mr. Tobin, in New York, described as “a criminal falsehood” reports that he or his aides had been involved in the altercation.

Fails to recognize picture

A picture of Mr. Tobin was shown to Lt. Dickins but he said the likeness did not register and that he did not remember hitting any man wearing glasses. Mr. Tobin wears spectacles.

Lt. Dickins told his story slowly and in a straight-forward manner as though he were making a formal Navy report.

Several hundred gather

He began:

At about 23:30 (11:30 p.m.) my friend – I am not going to mention his name – and I arrived at the Statler Hotel with the intention of going to a naval officers’ dance which we understood was being held on the mezzanine lounge of the hotel.

Upon arrival, we perceived several hundred men congregated outside the ballroom and upon inquiry we found that the dance had been postponed in preference to a speech which had just been made by the President.

While we were on the mezzanine lounge inquiring as to the whereabouts of the dance, several of the group of men accosted us, telling us that they were members of the Teamsters Union and that the President had just made a fine speech.

They then asked my friend and me what political party we belonged to and who we would like to see get elected in November.

We reported that it was none of their business; that it wasn’t their affair. They then seemed to get rather angry at the fact that we didn’t come out and state that we were for our Commander-in-Chief. We again told them it was none of their business.

Surrounded by more

During this period, we were surrounded by an increasing number of these men who kept firing questions at us as to what the men on board ships of the Navy felt about their Commander-in-chief. We reiterated we didn’t know and it was still none of their business.

These gentlemen seemed to be in quite a feverish state of mind and several of them accused us of being disloyal to the service and our Commander-in-Chief. My friend and I at this time attempted to leave and go about our business. But by this time, quite a crowd had congregated around us and it was almost impossible to move.

These men then asked us what the services felt about the unions and whether the Armed Forces felt that the unions were doing their part. We told them we know nothing about it and didn’t care to say anything.

Held by several men

During the latter part of this conversation my friend became separated from me. In glancing around to find out where he was, I perceived that he had been pushed down into a chair and was being held there while several men apparently seemed to be arguing with him.

This was immediately followed by some fellow about six feet tall who shouldered his way up to my friend and took a swing at him while he was still seated.

Perceiving that my friend was in a rather helpless position, I attempted to go to his aid. Immediately I was grasped from behind and while pinioned, one of the group that was near me hit me in the left eye, thus preventing me from getting any nearer to my friend.

Lifts ‘my leg’

Infuriated at the attack, I lifted my leg in such a manner as to force the fellow who was holding me from behind to release me. I then proceeded to attack the man who had hit me in the eye.

While fighting this man I was constantly surrounded by other men of this group who kept swinging at me.

I knocked the first man to the deck and was immediately attacked by another man to whom I proceeded to do the same.

I finally found myself near my friend who was being held down inside a telephone booth. He was still fighting his attackers from a sitting position.

‘A temporary stop’

At this moment a man and several bellhops shouldered their way into the melee and brought the fight to a temporary stop. This man apparently was the manager of the hotel.

He then proceeded to tell my friend and me that he couldn’t expect much more than this from the Navy and that this was a typical gesture of gratitude by the armed services. He then threatened to call the Shore Patrol during which time my friend and I tried to leave.

We found ourselves unable to do so because of the crowd around us and in a few minutes the Shore Patrol arrived and we were escorted out of the hotel to Shore Patrol Headquarters. I think that’s just about it.

Fighting resumed

Lt. Dickins said the fighting resumed on a minor scale when he and his friend endeavored to leave after the hotel management’s attempt to intercede.

He continued:

While leaving the hotel with the Shore Patrol, one of the members of this group endeavored to get our names from both ourselves and the Shore Patrol officer. Upon refusing to divulge our identity, this man told me that I had beaten up a personal friend of the President and that he was going to take the matter up with the higher authorities and see that we got severe punishment.

During the whole fight I was not aware of the identity of these men and I am still not aware of them.

He said his attackers ranged in age from 30 to 70 and that he struck about six and knocked down about four or five.

‘All too hasty’

“Were any of these elderly?” he was asked.

“I don’t know, it was all too hasty,” he replied.

William Duff, assistant manager of the Statler who was on duty the night of Sept. 23, said an unidentified man approached him some time after Mr. Roosevelt had returned to the White House and told him: “There is some trouble brewing upstairs and you’d better send somebody up.”

The time, according to hotel record, was about 11:15 p.m. The President had departed at 10.35 p.m.

Mr. Duff saw no fighting and nothing to indicate anyone was intoxicated. But he got the impression, he said, that “the officers were not in agreement with the other men as to the value of the teamsters’ union.”

Pushed, he says

He said he asked the officers what the trouble was and one of them replied, “You’d better let us handle this in our own way.” When he continued to question them. Mr. Dutt said, the officers “began pushing me around.”

Mr. Duff, gray-haired and elderly, said he asked the officers to stop and they did.

Mr. Duff said he went to Mr. Tobin’s suite later about another matter but did not mention the scene in the corridor to him because “as far as I was concerned nothing had happened.” Mr. Duff said he did not see Mr. Tobin at any time in connection with the incident.

At the White House, Presidential Secretary Stephen T. Early said he “never heard of” the disturbance until a newspaper reporter called him yesterday.

Phone call denied

He said the reporter insisted his paper “knew for a fact” that Mr. Tobin in a telephone call on the night of the dinner asked Mr. Early to call the Shore Patrol and to “suppress” news of the incident.

Mr. Early said this was not true. He said Mr. Tobin did not call him and that he knew nothing of the incident until yesterday.

I find this report very disturbing. Servicemen who have fought on battlefields around the world being attacked by a mob because they would not share their political preferences is wrong on every level.

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