Two Kinds of Courage
by Revilo P. Oliver
MY REVIEW of Donald Day‘s Onward, Christian Soldiers in Liberty Bell, January 1983, requires correction at three points.
When I wrote, I did not know that Day’s book, in a more complete form, had been published in Sweden in 1944. The parts missing in English were translated from the Swedish version by Paul Knutson in The Rest of Donald Day, Liberty Bell, June 1984, and reprinted as a separate booklet.
In his introduction to Onward, Christian Soldiers, Walter Trohan reported that he had vainly tried to obtain for Day a modicum of justice from an editor of the Chicago Tribune, who refused because he was “preoccupied with his own great man image.” I naturally took this to be a reference to the famous Colonel Robert McCormick, the owner and publisher of the Tribune, which was the foremost American newspaper during his lifetime, although under his successors it so deteriorated that today it is little better than its competitor, the Sun-Times, which is now owned by a Jew named Murdoch. Colonel McCormick was naturally proud of his accomplishment and justifiably thought of himself as a great man in an age of pygmies, and it seemed to men who had been associated with the Tribune, as it did to me, that Trohan’s phrase must be a reference to McCormick, and that the chronological difficulty was simply the result of a printer’s error.
Investigation, however, showed that Mr. Trohan was still alive, although the person who answered inquiries about him in the offices of the Tribune seemed not to know it, and Mr. Trohan said that he had referred to one Donald Maxwell, who inexplicably became an editor of the Tribune after the death of the Colonel, and who, strange as it seems, did cultivate a “great man image.” Well, Pekinese never mistake themselves for Great Danes, but human beings have imaginations that can do unbelievable things for them.
In my review, I quoted the late Westbrook Pegler’s disparaging remarks about Colonel McCormick, whom he accused of “cruelty to Donald Day” and of being “a pompous fraud,” with the implication that he was subject to blackmail by the alien government in Washington because the files of the Army contained a record of cowardice. That may be a more serious error.
A friend has written me about a purported biography of Colonel McCormick recently published at Carpentersville, Illinois, Poor Little Rich Boy, by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Veysey, who were at one time on the staff of the Chicago Tribune. It is, my friend says, an odd book and omits some very important episodes in the career of its subject, containing, for example, no mention of Donald Day and no mention of Colonel McCormick’s close and trusted associate, the late Frank Hughes, the author of Prejudice and the Press (New York, Devin-Adair, 1950), a fundamental study of the corruption of the American press at that time. My friend believes that what happened to the Tribune during the “near anarchy” that followed the death of its renowned publisher “would make Watergate look like the theft of an eraser from a kindergarten classroom,” and that the odd omissions in the new biography conceal clues to a major scandal.
The biography does contain mention of an incident that may be the source of Pegler’s remark. It appears that when Colonel McCormick in 1915 visited, as an American observer, the front lines in France that were being defended by the British Army, he was escorted by Field Marshall Sir John French to a position near Arras that was being held by a detachment of the celebrated Coldstream Guards. When the German artillery began a heavy bombardment of that position, the British officers were astonished to see the tall American colonel bolt for cover. Mr. and Mrs. Veysey quote Colonel McCormick’s account of the incident, without indication of their source:
I was very much afraid. I did not resist by a very large margin my desire to ask my conductor to move to a safe place. This confession is not easy to make, but is put down with the hope that other boys will be instructed in courage as I never was. I never did learn to enjoy the crash of shells nor was I overwhelmed with a desire to rush into a shower of machine-gun fire. But I never again approached the point of disgracing myself on the firing line. Physical courage varies with the individual but can be improved, like piano playing and polite conversation, and is a more desirable accomplishment for a man than either. We in America have got to teach courage and not cowardice.
The confession, evidently made publicly in writing or in a radio broadcast, does evince one kind of courage. If this is all that Pegler had as a basis for his implication, he was wrong. A man cannot be blackmailed for what he has publicly admitted.
The question whether Colonel McCormick did or did not secretly give some support to his greatest foreign correspondent after the latter was marooned in Finland by the crypto-Jewish government of the United States remains unresolved. It is, of course, possible that the Colonel did arrange to have money sent to Donald Day, necessarily through devious channels, as Mr. Hughes believed, and that the remittances were intercepted by amateur or governmental thieves.
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Source: Liberty Bell magazine, October 1986