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York War Bond Speakers Warn against Fascism and Racism

Perhaps my generation and those younger have an idealized image of America during the World War II period. We might look back and envision a county united. The addresses given by the distinguished authors who spoke at the June 22, 1944 “Books and Authors” War Bond rally and dinner in York clearly show that was not the case.

John Roy Carlson had recently spent four years undercover, infiltrating fascist and neo-fascist groups in the United States, the basic for his book: Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America — The Amazing Revelation of How Axis Agents and Our Enemies Within Are Now Plotting to Destroy the United States.

A Gazette & Daily article the next day said “In his travellings among the fascist underworld in this country, Carlson claimed that each one of these anti-democratic bands, no matter what the title of their group, discouraged the purchase of War bonds, realizing that without the support of the American people, their battle would be won.”

Carlson could have been expected to warn against fascism, having researched the groups so thoroughly. Perhaps more surprisingly, another of the best-selling authors, Vincent McHugh, whose book, I’m Thinking of My Darling, was a comic romance, spoke in the same vein.

McHugh talked of how “the ‘kink’ in people’s minds, which makes them pick on ‘someone who is lower in the social order, someone who can’t strike back,’ was attributed to a feeling of guilt, fear, defeatism or insecurity.” He “asserted that ‘this business of one American hating another is getting worse.’”

The article goes on: “Mr. McHugh described the various hates against minority groups which show up in particular sections of the country… . He stated that the people who refuse to believe the evidence that men are created equal and continue to blame the ills of the world on a single racial group are being as ridiculous as if they were saying that ‘redheads cause all our troubles–or bumble bees–or Jersey cows.’”

Author Edna Ferber also talked about the need for unity. After outlining the history of the American people, Ferber said: “We are all immigrants or sons of immigrants, whether Daughters of the American Revolution of one of the last emaciated, frightened refugees who stepped off the boat at New York or Boston harbor yesterday.”

So even in times when we should have been pulling together, there was dissent. Perhaps the lesson is that, because we are free, fascist and racist groups can rear their ugly heads, but then we can see them for what they are and counter their ideals with decency.

Click here for my previous World War II posts.

Stop by at York County Heritage Trust, 250 East Market Street, York to see From Front Porch to Front Lines and learn more about World War II and other wars of the 20th century.