Letters from readers (7-14-41)

LIFE (July 14, 1941)


Sinking of Zamzam


Reading your story of the sinking of the Zamzam (LIFE, June 23), I was getting furiouser and furiouser with the Nazis until I came to your description of Raider Captain Rogge:

…a tall, strongly built, handsome man in the middle 40’s with wide-spaced eyes and beautiful manners.

Why not print a picture of the handsome captain?

Westport, CT


Captain handsome

LIFE photographer David Scherman says that Captain Rogge is like what Grand Admiral Raeder would like to believe all his young captains are like. While shaking hands and bidding goodbye to Captain Smith of the Zamzam, he said:

You and I are seamen and understand. I’m sorry I had to sink your ship but if our positions had been reversed, I should have expected the same.


The Tamesis which sank the Zamzam is not the Tamesis that Lloyd’s Register lists as being built in Danzig in 1939. The Barber Line has a ship of that name which was built in Danzig in 1939. It docked in San Pedro, Calif. on Saturday, May 3, 1941, after a trip to the U.S. from Manila, Philippines, via Hong Kong. I was down to meet the ship. She is painted black but has her name marked clearly on the bow.

I learned from passengers that she was followed by a German raider for three days but was successful in losing her. The Tamesis is a fast freighter and the information given me is that Germany is interested in capturing her for her own use rather than sinking her.

Santa Monica, CA

The identity of the raider which sank the Zamzam is still uncertain, but it is true that she was not the real Tamesis. The latter, a motorship, was built in Danzig in 1939 for the Wilhelm Wilhelmsen Line of Oslo and taken over by the Norwegian government-in-exile after the Nazi invasion. She now operates the U.S.-Far Eastern run on the American-owned Barber Line. Her sister ship, the Tirranna, whose ship’s bell Zamzam passengers noticed on the raider, was reported lost months ago off the East Coast of Africa.


After reading Mr. Murphy’s graphic story of living conditions for the captured Zamzam passengers on the German ship Dresden, I decided to forego our regular Sunday roast.

Instead, I cooked my own version of “Glop,” macaroni baked with canned tomatoes, grated cheese (a piece too hard to use for any other purpose) and a couple of slices of bacon and onion.

When I told my husband that it was “Glop,” he ate it with gusto and asked for more. We are sending the money saved thereby to the U.S.O.

Hamden, CT


On June 23, the American Export liner Exeter arrived in New York with 53 survivors of the Zamzam, including two of my friends, Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Barnett of Ridgewood, N.J. I was fortunate enough to go down the bay of the cutter to meet them before the boat docked. Thinking that they would be interested in seeing Dave Scherman’s swell pictures of the sinking in LIFE, I took a copy along with me.

Boy! Were we robbed when the survivors learned that the pictures got through!

New York, NY


Enough is enough. Why put up with anymore of these Zamzam and Robin Moor incidents? If those birds want to start something with us over here, I think you will find all Texans more than ready to meet them halfway. Hell, this has gone far enough. Let’s get at 'em.

Brownwood, TX

English tribute


While spending leave at Oxford University, I came upon the following words inscribed on a plaque in the Chapel of New College:

In memory of the men of this College who coming from a foreign land entered into the inheritance of this place & returning fought & died for their country in the war 1914-1919.

Prinz Wolrad-Friedrich zu Waldeck-Pyrmont
Freiherr Wilhelm von Sell
Erwin Beit von Speyer

I offer this quiet manifestation of what I have found to be a typical English characteristic in contrast to a German radio announcement on the day of our arrival in England that our transport had been torpedoed and sunk.

Lieut., Canadian Army (Overseas)
Nottingham, England

Irish “Sikh”



The world’s only Irish-American Sikh checks up in the enclosed picture of the approved method of beard curling as portrayed in LIFE, June 23. John J. O’Connor of New Rochelle grew his beard during a recent illness. The turban was designed and executed by his wife who isn’t a Sikh either.

New York, NY

“A Man on a Mountain”


John Cudahy’s report, “A Man on a Mountain” (LIFE, June 23), is one of the most illuminating character sketches that has ever appeared in the pages of your magazine. These few paragraphs turn the Hitler we think of – a monstrous, unearthly, insuperable creature – into a living, breathing human being, very much like ourselves. And being human, he’s bound to slip up somewhere, sometime; when he does, Heaven help Hitler!

Daytona Beach, FL


The Pittsburgh Press (July 14, 1941)

Wives, mailmen, internees hike too, she tells soldiers

Editor, The Pittsburgh Press:

So the poor soldier boys had to march 15 miles for yoo-hooing? Well, here’s averages – The housewife walks eight miles a day. The mailman, 15 miles. The internee 25 miles.

The yoo-hooing soldier boys marched 15 miles one day and one fell by the road. Poor soldier boys.

Poor General Lear. He was raised in an age when women were bundled women and men had respect for them. Now see what’s happened – maybe he’s jeopardized his career and everything, just because of an out-of-date attitude.

This is 1941. Women wear shorts. They know how to take care of themselves.

Men, don’t show your feelings. Especially men, don’t be gentlemen. Congress might punish you if you do.

2804 Voelkel Ave.

If Ben Franklin were alive today

Editor, The Pittsburgh Press:

After this particular Fourth of July season when the warmakers and international schemers and idealists are doing their best to sell the American people on war, it would be well to think where that talented and versatile group of men who made Independence Day famous might have stood on our chief problem of the day, war or peace.

For my part I can easily imagine wise old Ben Franklin counselling us:

You have grown to be a great nation by building up your immense natural resources while other hands schemed and bickered and fought. You, more than any people on earth are possessed of the geographical advantage of position and raw materials which if used properly will make your country militarily impregnable.

You must depend upon your inborn love of freedom to strengthen your minds and hearts against the insidious attack of foreign ideologies. Your course as a nation will not be easy if a strong and unscrupulous power gains domination over Europe but your position now is not too dissimilar from that of the patriots in 1776 who used the isolated position of America and its remoteness from Europe to the best advantage.

For you to attack Europe as a means of defense would be as if the French and Indians had marched out from behind their trees in close rank to attack Braddock and his men. European politics have always been treacherous, insincere and mad.

Once the United States becomes obsessed by the escapist idea of letting out grave internal problems slide to take a hand in the European strip poker game, your people under the rigorous regime necessary to conduct an aggressive war will all too soon become disillusioned of those ideas of human rights which have distinguished you from all other nations ever since July 4, 1776.

And if I have interpreted his life correctly Patrick Henry might again say:

If these words be treason, make the most of it.

Brackenridge, PA

‘Millions for defense, but nothing for appeasement’

Editor, The Pittsburgh Press:

Despite the Lindberghs, the pacifists and other appeasers to the contrary, history bears out the fact that appeasement always fails. Although the present World War furnished the most glaring examples of appeasement failures – Russia being the latest in the long series of such failures – yet, I would like to use an example from our own American history.

For this excellent example, let us take our own war in the Mediterranean. Prior to that war, the Tripoli pirates had plundered our ships and exacted tribute from us to the extent of $2 million. This, incidentally, suggests that America in those benighted days out-Lindberghed even Lindbergh in her efforts at appeasement!

But the real point at issue is this: Did this relatively large amount of tribute really appease the pirates? According to the history books, it certainly did not appease them; but greedy and unsatisfied, they demanded more and more tribute from our country, and when at last we refused to pay the additional tribute or graft, the Tripoli government then declared war on us – a challenge which our country was forced to accept.

To make a long story short, America sent her warships against the Barbary pirates, defeated them and made it safe for our ships to sail the Mediterranean.

From this Tripoli affair, our forefathers learned the truth of the saying: Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute; or as we now say, for appeasement.

Is not the parallel between the pirates and Hitler quite deadly? Just as appeasement failed in the Mediterranean, so it is also failing in Europe. Therefore, if we attempt to pacify Hitler, or try to negotiate a peace with him, we will fail as surely as did our country when it tried to appease the Tripoli pirates.

491 Norton St.

Agrees with Lindy on need for leadership

Editor, The Pittsburgh Press:

I agree with Mr. Lindbergh when he states that we need new leadership in America. We need that leadership because our present leaders are not carrying out the wishes of the great majority of the people to work for peace. The present administration at Washington has for the past two years – since the revision of the neutrality laws in 1939 – been at war. Mr. Roosevelt has on many occasions stated that this government will never accept a Nazi victory. If this government pledges itself to the defeat of Germany that can mean only one thing – war.

The fact that Mr. Roosevelt is at war does not mean that we, as a free people, are also at war. On the contrary, Mr. Roosevelt has been dealt a stinging rebuff by the American people, who have not yet totally recovered from the scorching received in the last European war. Realizing this fact, the administration has set out to sell the present European war to the American people. That is why every speaker for the administration when making an address invariably tried to arouse the American people into a fighting mood against Germany.

These speeches have had an effect upon all Americans. At least according to a recent Gallup poll, approximately 80% of the people believe that we will be at war. It is significant to note that an approximate 80% of the voters are also against entering the war. To me, these two polls indicate the people have lost faith in the ability or the desire of Mr. Roosevelt to accomplish the one purpose for which he was elected President for a third term.

4207 Windsor St.

Feeling ashamed of U.S. leaders

Editor, The Pittsburgh Press:

There are times when even children have a right to be ashamed of the acts of their parents, yes; perhaps justified in hating them.

It seems that the time is approaching, when every honest, respectable America has a right to feel ashamed of the acts of our leaders.

Surely no real principle is involved in this universal murder-crusade. One day we are led to believe that we are fighting for a just and righteous cause alongside of our friend, next day we are asked to stab him as our enemy. What an irony?

Is it not the bestial craving for selfish power among the leaders of the nations that has placed us in this devilish mess?

If President Roosevelt and his rubber-stamp Congress had any conscience at all, they had all reason to blush.

223 Long View Dr.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 14, 1941)


Editor, the Post-Gazette:

Since the second war started in Finland, very little has been said about her difficult position.

Finland declared herself against Russia in war defense, after four days of continual attack from the Soviets. Finnish people were machine-gunned, cities were burned and destroyed. Could Finland stand such a brutal attack?

She was in a most distressing position between Soviet Russia and Germany. She could not fight both. Russia attacked her for the second time since 1939. Her declaration of war defense put her into the conflict, but not as an ally of Germany. Finland was attacked brutally by Russia in 1939; she fought heroically and won the admiration of the American people. Her feelings against her perpetual aggressor are so strong, as was stated once before, that the prospect of an alliance with Soviet Russia would be strong enough to turn the political stomach of even the most cynical Finn. The entire population of the territory taken by Russia preferred to move and leave all their property in less than 24 hours rather than remain under the Russians. Finland is still an independent country and one of the few democracies existing in the world.

A recent article appearing in a New York paper stated that:

Finland has no love for the Reds, neither has it any affection for the Nazis. All it has been asking of the world was to be let alone and allowed to work out its own future according to its own democratic principles. The Nazis may promise it that much, but any such promise will become worthless whenever Der Führer wishes to ignore or break it. The choice that had to be taken was a choice between evils. A world which has admired the heroism of the Finns can at least understand, even though it may deplore, the choice they have made.

Finland can be remembered for her integrity. She will never enslave herself to any power which will be a dishonor to her nation. America has learned to believe in Finland’s promises. She has always kept them and has never let America down. We in America hope that Finland will always defend her democratic ideals and her rights. But Finland will never fight for any other interest than her own. Don’t let Finland down. She has no choice, she wants to live free and independently. She will fight unto death to remain free if necessary.

Chairman, For Finland, Inc.
Pittsburgh, PA
July 11, 1941

Abuse of authority

Editor, the Post-Gazette:

I have read your editorial on the “Yoo-Hoo” incident, and it is evident that the writer was never required to march 15 miles on a dusty road in the boiling sun, or has no sympathy for ordinary soldiers. I was in the last war and on many occasions saw men who were not thoroughly seasoned faint, and fall down from exhaustion on a march of only a few miles, and whether or not any of the 350 men, more or less, were injured by that march is beside the point, for it was ordered by a general with no sense of fairness, and for that reason alone, unfit to fill a position where he can abuse his authority.

My guess is that the girls’ feelings were not hurt in the least, not those wearing shorts, and only that puffed-up old general who wasted to show his authority would ever have thought of punishing all those boys because a few were at fault.

Remember also that the government is not trying to make gentlemen out of these men, but hard-fisted fighters that are not supposed to dwell too much on the finer things of life, but killers instead, so if you cannot say anything nice about them, don’t throw any mud at them. Yes, we must have discipline in the army, and let it apply also to the officers who have the power of life and death over our boys, and don’t expect too much of those who have to suffer the real hardships. Had your boy been in this group, your view would have been entirely different.

Please give this space in your paper, as it comes from one who has gone through the ordeal of being a private, and as a result lost an opportunity to the something better, and don’t attempt to intimidate our congressmen because they show some interest in the welfare of the draftees.

Pittsburgh, PA
July 11, 1941


Editor, the Post-Gazette:

Is it possible the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is blind to the fact that not all the soldiers involved in the yoo-hoo incident were guilty, and violated no military discipline, yet all 350 were forced to walk 15 miles through a broiling sun that the great wrath of a grouchy, golf-playing old general might be appeased?

The few congressmen referred to in your editorial seem to at least have a sense of justice, and since when, pray tell me, has the United States Army added the playing of golf to military activities?

This deplorable incident would seem to indicate that the men in the army would be better off if at least one general would devote the remainder of his natural lifetime to golf.

No, Mr. Editor, let’s call a spade a spade and brand this action by General Lear for exactly what it is, not military discipline, but iron-handed brutality of which Adolf Hitler and his gang would be ashamed.

I suspect the editor does not have a son in the United States army, and that if he had, this little yoo-hooing incident would have been different, oh, yes indeed, much different.

Coraopolis, PA
July 11, 1941

Editor’s note:
We have, it appears, a great deal more confidence in the ability and willingness of our draft army to “take it” than Mr. Smith or Mr. Fugate, authors of the above letters. An Associated Press dispatch from Memphis quotes a spokesman for the Second Army as stating the soldiers affected by General Lear’s disciplinary order had considered circulating a “round robin” asking Congressmen and other critics of General Lear to “lay off,” and that these men were perfectly willing to take their punishment like good soldiers. That conforms to our own belief in the quality of the young men in our selective citizen army. They didn’t ask for, and don’t need any embarrassing sympathy, even though it comes from well-meaning critics of army discipline.

Yoo-hoo case

Editor, the Post-Gazette:

When I read about the punishment meted to the weary and footsore soldiers of the Thirty Fifth Division’s “doghouse battalion,” I wondered if the young ladies who were playing golf clad in shorts didn’t feel a little guilty, too.

The general is to be commended for enforcing higher standards for the army. But isn’t there something we mothers and fathers can do? The morals of the soldiers are criticized almost everywhere. The U.S.O. is working hard on a program to help uplift the environment, but after all, our boys are not being trained for peacetime in a co-ed school.

Let’s appeal to our young ladies that they dress themselves in modest clothing and conduct themselves in a modest manner that they, too, may help raise the standard of our soldier boys. There is more than one way of being a soldier.

Clairton, PA
July 11, 1941


Editor, the Post-Gazette:

There is no profit holding Iceland in peacetime, that’s why it was under the sovereignty of little Denmark. Had it been an area rich in trade and natural resources, it would long ago been under the domination of England, France or Italy.

But in wartime, it is well situated to harass commerce to and from northern Europe. But that is expensive and there is nothing in Iceland to repay the cost.

So the thirty odd thousands of soldiers the British kept in Iceland to keep the Germans out could be more profitably employed elsewhere if we took over. And, of course, to the extent our navy goes in there the English navy can be used in other parts of the world, especially in the East.

No, the United States will not stay permanently in Iceland, now will anybody else except the Icelanders who love their country and their freedom.

Pittsburgh, PA
July 8, 1941