Friday, August 13, 2010

Umnak, 11 January 1945


My Pretty Plikka,
Last night we had an experience which could be conceived only by the master minds of the United States Army. Here on this womanforsaken island, miles and months from anywhere, we had inflicted upon us the semi-annual showing of the sex hygiene movie with detailed instructions of how to protect our health after sexual intercourse. It’s regulations and attendance was mandatory.
After the compulsory part of the movie was over, I ducked out and raced back to the hut, for tonight was symphony night and our Arturo was doing his best by Beethoven. I missed the first movement of the Fifth, but  because our station has the curious habit of filling up any spare time in the symphony hour by replaying the start of the program again, I managed to hear fate getting in his four knocks. Everyone else from the hut was at the movie, so I had the music all to myself.
Later I found another symphony program but just as the first movement of the Jupiter was well underway the boys came back from the show. Al Hesse left the program on but LaRue with loud wails turned it off and got a mystery drama with an odor of Roquefort. I couldn’t object because the hut agreement is that anyone has the privilege of tuning out mainland stations in favor of the programs over our local Army station. And though the program was bad it was followed by the poetry program which LaRue, in turn, could not dial away, though he wanted to. Which was lucky, for Ingrid Bergman was reading a group of love poems and a couple of humorous ones were marvelous.
And just a little while ago one of our shortwave foreign language (in the main Filipino Tagalog dialect, I believe) programs put on a program of American folksongs: Robeson, Marion Anderson, Tibbett, and Richard Dyer-Bennet, who did that wonderful one about the haunted house in the English field.
So you can see it has been a rather successful day. It may also have brought us winter, although I’ve been fooled often enough before so that I’m ready to hedge. One swallow does not a summer make, nor one snowfall…..
The January 8 edition of Time came today and it has one exceptionally good item, a reprint from the London Observer, which sheds more light on the Greek situation than do most commentators in fifteen minutes. The item, written by Stephen King-Hall, simply supposes that Britain had been invaded in 1940 and that the Americans had now liberated it and restored the Chamberlain government intact. The implication is that the British would welcome the Americans bearing gifts of former appeasers as their rulers in the same way that the Greeks welcomed the British when they brought back the old “manipulators of evil and referees of futility.”
I picked up that last phrase in “My Native Land.” Adamic quotes it from the conversation of a sixteen year old girl about the prewar European politicians. Until I’ve finished the book I’m not going to go into detail about it. Instead I’m going to talk about a book I read in New York and whose title I’ve forgotten. John-Boy told me to read it; insisted, in fact.  The author is G. Ferraro, a living Italian, and the subject was the reconstruction of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars and why the peace was kept for almost a century afterwards.
Ferraro is a royalist. He does not believe in the divine right of kings or any such nonsense, but what he does believe in is the legitimacy of kings. He feels that the post-Napoleon peace was kept mainly because the governments of Europe were legitimate and stable. In essence his theory is as simple as this: An agreement with either a military dictator or a pure democracy is not guaranteed. A dictatorship, being at most a temporary thing, can afford expediency, can afford to break the agreement. A democracy is bound only by the will of the people, and they can and do change their minds. But an agreement with a monarchy binds the monarchy and as long as the monarch or his legitimate successors are on the throne the country must feel itself bound.
This, it seems to me, is the crux of the British position in liberated Europe. The Foreign Office is composed of disciples of Ferraro who want to deal with government s they feel will abide by their agreements. It explains how the British with a figurehead king whom few can respect can wish to impose either monarchs or regencies on Italy and the Balkans, and it explains, I believe, the failure of our Allied propaganda to attack the emperor of Japan.
Personally, I find the Ferraro position a little silly. It is easy to point to monarchs who tacked with the wind—Alexander, Carol, Boris—and I cannot see the benefits of legitimacy, say, in the case of the House of Savoy which though definitely entitled to the throne has so smirched the reputation of the monarchy that the people have no respect for it.
But it does seem the only legitimate grounds on which intelligent men could support the theory of kingship in the twentieth century. And although they may have social astigmatism, the British foreign officials are intelligent.
On the same track, I think that you will find Ed Murrow’s interview, enclosed, another impressive proof that he is the best man in radio today. (And speaking of the radio there is now playing a Javanese song which makes me think of our long-mustached, long-missing Geoff.)
I’m sending along two more sections of the Aleutian work, the first of which I like a lot. [This was published in 1946 as Bridge to Russia: Those Amazing Aleutians, Murray’s second book, and republished in 1981 as Islands of the Smokey Sea.] The Baranof bit is going to be the longest in the book, I believe, and I’m not quite sure of how much detail I want to use. I must work it out as I go along. When I finish with him I have a nice piece in mind about Rezanov, who planted a colony of Aleuts in California, and then a bit about a couple of the Russian priests. That will wrap up the Russian history and American story of Aleutian occupation, up to the war, shouldn’t take a lot of telling. This is the most fun of anything I’ve written, Nunny, and I hope you like it. I’ve sent you seventy-four pages so far, which should be pretty close to half the total. Be sure to let Dad see these.
   ….
M

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