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Carl Davis

Sen. Truman Hits Back at N.Y. Times

(September 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 38, 20 September 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Some weeks ago the Senate’s Truman Committee made public the results of its investigation of the Curtiss-Wright subsidiary, the Wright Aeronautical Corporation of Lockland, Ohio. The committee found that this company had been selling the government “defective and substandard plane engines by falsifying tests, forgiving inspection reports, and by eight other practices designed to by-pass Army specifications.”

The New York newspaper PM called the Truman Committee revelations “The Most Shameful Story of the War.” This was a mild characterization, as the Truman Committee’s presentation of its bill of particulars demonstrates. The company, in “producing and causing the government to accept defective and substandard material,” employed the following “good business” tricks:

Falsified tests, destroyed records, improperly recorded results of tests, forged inspection reports, failure to segregate substandard and defective material, failure to destroy or mutilate such defective and substandard materials, changed tolerances, and skipped inspection operations.

In its original report, the committee stated that the situation was far worse than it had disclosed, but in high regard for the morale of the nation is purposely toned down its revelations.

Press and Patterson Defend Company

At that time, Under Secretary of War Patterson tried to come to the defense of the company. Together with the big business press, which either played down the report or criticized it altogether, the Under Secretary announced that the facts were not nearly as sensational as Senator Truman would make it appear to be. But Senator Truman came right back, saying that the report was “the most favorable and the least critical that the committee (could) render and at the same time fulfill its duty ...”

As it turned out, the War Department had to go along with the Truman Committee. It acknowledged the facts in the case and proceeded to “rectify” the bad situation at the Wright plant. The big business press thought it the better part of valor to fay off the case.

Not so with the New York Times, that pretentious, lying sheet which carries its own halo in its hands and editorial columns. It was determined to get back at the Truman Committee for exposing a large advertiser and, therefore, a source of lucrative income. That is only part of the story. The Times, as a big business, ran to the defense of another big business. These outfits stick together to defend their common interests – profits! And it doesn’t make much difference HOW profits are made.

It sent one Turner Catledge to Lockland to do a series on the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and to determine why there had been a slump in production. This Mr. Catledge soon discovered the reason. It was the “false” report of the Truman Committee! This report hurt the morale of the company, and it just could not do its best under the circumstances.

The tenor of Mr. Catledge’s report was followed up in an editorial of the Times, which, while it praised congressional committees, and even put in a good wqrd for Senator Truman, made sure to add that his committee was more interested in headlines and sensations than in real facts. Proof? The report on Curtiss-Wright.

Senator Truman Replies to the Times

But Senator Truman retorted:

“The facts are that they were turning out phony engines and I have no doubt a lot of kids in training planes have been killed as a result. The committee was conservative in its report, in order to prevent too much alarm over the situation. But if I had my way some of the people responsible would be stood up and shot.

“If the Times would rather see boys killed than to see the engines turned out properly, I’m certainly surprised at its attitude. I don’t belong to that class. The committee has no axe to grind except to get efficient production, and we don’t sell advertising to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.”

As for an explanation of why production took such a sharp drop at the plant, Truman denied that it was fear on the part of the company that it might be pounced on by a congressional committee.

In this specific case, the Wright Corporation had six months in which to alter its murderous methods.

“How much time do they want?” asked Senator Truman. “Curtiss-Wright had six months. If the Times wants faulty planes and faulty materials, I can’t help that ... the Times is just talking for its advertisers.”

He charged the company with responsibility for the decline in production, stating that its purpose was to discredit the Truman Committee and thus cause its report to be looked upon with suspicion.

It should be added that the Truman Committee merely investigated the company. It has no powers of prosecution or indictment. That is in the hands of the Attorney General (Mr. Riddle). But to date there has been no sign or information that anything will be done to Curtiss-Wright. After all, this monopoly is not like the young Baltimore welder who, for one error or another, received an eighteen-month prison term. It was not suspended, either, as in the case of the Anaconda Company of Indiana.

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