European Front


TERROR by air, the weapon upon which Hitler counted so heavily for swift triumph, is being turned against him in one of the swiftest reversals in the history of warfare. Only eighteen months ago he reiterated his resounding boast that Germany would hurl ten bombs against her opponents for every one sent against her.

This is but the prelude. Before July has passed, the tonnage of bombs blasting Hitler’s Fortress Europe may be doubled. On the downgrade in manpower, overtaken in the production of ordnance, distanced in available resources, Germany is being swamped in the battle for the skies.

German plane production was estimated late in May, by British experts, at a maximum of 3000 planes a month. This is but little higher than Russia’s, less than Britain’s, and less than half America’s.

Nazi air personnel is deteriorating in spite of efforts to find replacements by conscripting Dutch and Belgian youth to fill out ground forces and release Nazis for duty aloft. Captures in Tunisia revealed men in their middle forties manning units of the Luftwaffe. The training period for Nazi airmen has been cut from months to weeks.

The wobbling Luftwaffe

American planes this spring give Russia an approximate equality with the Luftwaffe, because of the superior quality of Russian flyers. Their average stands at two and a half Nazi planes for every Russian plane lost. In Western Europe and in the Mediterranean theater this “quality gap” is wider. Germany is losing more than four for one in the Battle of Italy, and almost four for one in Western Europe. These German losses are attributable chiefly to two causes: green pilots and waning morale.

The multiplication of great raids signals the approach of the tornado. So does dedication of the enormous new American bomber base in Britain. So do the step-up of British production, by more than 55 per cent in weight of finished planes, and the advent, on the European scene, of new American bombers which dwarf even the Flying Fortress.

Allied air personnel accumulates without the least letdown in quality. From the Empire pool in Canada airmen have been moving into Britain in a steady stream since early May, while the United States is speeding toward the 900 squadrons and 2,450,000 personnel which will bring the American air force to its full complement by the close of this year.

Oil for our planes

Another vitally important asset favoring the United Nations is facility in fuel supply. Clearance of the Mediterranean permits British and American air forces to draw on two vast supply centers: the Americas and the Middle East. Oil from the Americas must be transported through the hazardous waters of the Atlantic, but sea routes from the East are secure almost all the way to French North Africa. Iran’s available supply is represented by a production total of 112 million barrels a year. Arabia, Haifa, and Egypt add 35 million barrels more.

Now the whole Mediterranean and Southern European war against the Axis can operate on a supply independent of American sources, permitting concentration of American oil for blows against Hitler from the West.

Coördination of air and ground forces for attack, worked out by the RAF in the North African campaign and by the American Tactical Air Force under General Doolittle in Tunisia, provides the last essential for full air collaboration in crashing Germany’s stronghold. Every sign points to an assault delivered against the Nazis on the ground in Europe. Few in Europe believe air attack will suffice with Germany, so long as the Nazi Party reigns over the Reich with a Gestapo army of more than a million.

The slave states

Every subjugated country is near famine. A Nazi draft of all farm hands for work on the land in Germany adds to the extreme crisis gripping Belgium. Bread is so scarce that bandit raids for ration coupons have become common. The number of sick and diseased civilians is appalling. More than 23,000 cases of tuberculosis are reported officially in Brabant. There were 12,087 in Liége at the end of April. According to estimates of the Belgian Medical Association, 80 per cent of all children in that country among the lower and lower-middle classes are now in a pretubercular condition, because of wretched living conditions and hunger.

Medical supplies are so deficient that paper surgical dressings are being used among civilians throughout most of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. “Hunger dropsy” is prevalent. The imminence of famine in Holland is admitted by the Germans themselves. It is explained by months of cumulative food shortages, the looting of vegetable crops by the Germans, and confiscation of four fifths of all the country’s meat supply for use in Germany or by the German army of occupation.

The war against doctors

To add to the catastrophe, a war is being waged by the German authorities and local quislings against medical associations throughout conquered Europe. Approximately 97 per cent of all members of the famous Dutch Medical Association suspended practice a few weeks ago in the course of this struggle, rather than accept membership in the Dutch Nazi Medical Corporation—which combines medicine with police spying and German political indoctrination. The resulting chaos forced the Nazis to back down, but the battle is far from over. A similar contest is wrecking the medical system of Belgium.

Notice that Hitler, far from withdrawing troops to the Alps from the Italian peninsula, is sending new divisions south to join his already substantial contingent there. Outsiders may speculate as to whether the lords of the Third Reich will withdraw, without stubborn resistance, from Italy. The German High Command and the Nazi Party chiefs know that this retreat would be suicidal.

Retreat would open the whole Balkan flank of the Reich. Worse: it would concentrate the entire German Army and the population of Central Europe, eventually, in a restricted target area already crowded with 11 million imported “slaves” and prisoners of war. That would wreck Germany’s privileged food supply position abruptly. It would also cut her off from essential raw materials now available to her all over Europe.

The Berlin-Vatican feud is but part of the broader picture of awakening political interests in Europe which dissolution of the Comintern emphasizes. New stress on Russian nationalism does not mean diminution of Russian interest in post-war reconstruction plans. Stalin has buried a dead horse, to clear the way for a more compact policy of collaboration and to remove lingering distrusts.

Observe, however, that the Third All-Slav Congress assembled at Moscow ten days prior to the announcement of the Comintern’s demise. That meeting makes it clear that Russia intends to cement her ties with the Slav nations of Eastern and Southeastern Europe as an insurance policy. A reasonable approach to peace arrangements will evidently find her willing to collaborate. That is her primary interest. Attempts to deny her equality of role, or to override her interests, may find her prepared to go her own way, together with more than a third of the population of Western Europe, which has Slavic antecedents.

Beneš of Czechoslovakia

The key figure in Moscow’s endeavors to bring about sane reconstruction of Europe is President Eduard Beneš, exiled leader of the stubborn Czechs. As spokesman for a Slav republic long friendly with Russia, Dr. Beneš possesses an enviable reputation. His abilities lift him well above most European statesmen.

Slight of stature, mild of countenance, sagacious and penetrating of mind, disarming in speech and swift of decision, he is that rare phenomenon among movers of high policy—a leader who combines faith in man with acute political judgment, rich experience with a habit of telling the truth, the patience of Job with creative vision.

Beneš’s prophecies are famous — not less so because they were treated with contempt by statesmen in London and Paris who later discovered truth in disaster. While he bears the stamp of the philosopher and the prophet, in action and policy he is practicality itself. Twenty years as unchallenged director of his country’s foreign policy attest to his clear common sense.

These are his equipment today as he seeks to make his country a bridge to better understanding between Russia and the West.