St. Mihiel—Dress Rehearsal

St. Mihiel was . . . an exciting experience to a young replacement, Lieutenant Maury Maverick, who had just reported to the 28th Infantry, 1st Division. Maverick, a brash Texan from an influential family, was a man who seemed to relish living up to his last name. He never missed a chance to ridicule the war in general and his own role in particular. His insouciance sometimes got him into trouble, but he performed his duties conscientiously.

As the first day’s battle approached, Maverick found himself in charge of the ammunition train of his battalion. Though in command, he had little idea of what he was supposed to do. He had been given no orders, not even a map. His sole consolation was that he had a horse to ride. When the First Army jumped off in the early morning hours of September 12, the infantry battalions of the 28th went forward so rapidly that Maverick and his command could not keep up. Trying to bring his ammunition train forward to find the rifle companies, he found his way blocked by congested traffic. Telling his men to stay where they were, he left the main road and struck out cross-country to find a way forward.

Suddenly Maverick found himself face-to-face with a band of German soldiers. So frightened was he that he nearly fell off his horse, expecting to be “shot full of holes.” His first day of battle, it flashed across his mind, would be his last!

Maverick’s life was probably saved by the fact that many Germans, at least in that sector, were thoroughly discouraged with the war and had little stomach to fight. To his amazement, therefore, nobody shot him. The enemy—he counted twenty-six of them—dropped their guns and raised their hands in surrender. “Kamerad! Kamerad!” they shouted as they inched closer to the befuddled American. At a respectful distance they stopped. An officer stepped forward and in bad English pleaded with Maverick to save the lives of his men. By now, Maverick later wrote, he began to feel “very brave and patronizing.”

Maverick had a job to do, and he tried to get rid of his new captives. Pointing to the rear, he shouted, “Beat it!” But they would not “beat it.” Making themselves understood, they said that if he turned them loose they would be shot by other Americans. By now completely over his fright, Maverick now looked on his captives as only pitiful. Two of the younger Germans were crying. Maverick’s pride, which had succeeded his fear, was now transformed into “brotherly love.” He acceded to their pleas.

Maverick led his captives back to the main road, some of them marching so close to him that they seemed like “a pack of hunting dogs with a huntsman.” One soldier even offered him a piece of sausage. When they finally came upon a larger group of prisoners marching to the rear, Maverick was able to turn his charges loose. Knowing no German, he dismissed them with a terse “Allez!” The leader saluted him stiffly and clumsily, but gratefully.

The wry Maverick later mused to himself about his incident:
If I had ridden back on my horse, having him curvet and prance, and had shouted that I had captured twenty-six Germans, I could have gotten a crowd together, made a record of it—and gotten a batch of medals. Since my uncle was in Congress, there would have been no limit.
Maverick’s time would come later. St. Mihiel was only his introduction to infantry combat.

Despite the quality of the opposition the Americans faced, legends grew from the St. Mihiel offensive. One had it that two prominent generals of World War II, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, met briefly on the battlefield, exchanged a few words, and went their ways.

Secretary of War Newton Baker was also on hand to witness the product of his efforts in action. And from Washington President Wilson sent a cable to Pershing:
Accept my warmest congratulations on the brilliant achievements of the Army under your command. The boys have done what we expected of them and done it the way we most admire. We are deeply proud of them and of their Chief. Please convey to all concerned my grateful and affectionate thanks.
Most remarkable of all, however, was the reaction of Pershing himself. Talking with his intelligence officer, Brigadier General Dennis Nolan, Black Jack confided that “the reason for the American triumph lay in the superior nature of the American character. Americans were the product of immigrants who had possessed the initiative and courage to leave the Old World . . . to make a mighty nation out of a wilderness. Americans had the willpower and spirit that Europeans lacked.” The American soldier, he went on, with military training equal to that given a European, “was superior to his Old World counterpart.”

Those words seem strange to a modern-day American, but a key to Pershing’s makeup is the fact that he believed them. The next few weeks would give him time to reconsider his views on the matter.

John S. D. Eisenhower, Joanne Thompson Eisenhower, Yanks: the Epic Story of the American Army in World War I

Yanks: The Argonne

First Day, October 4

The attack of the 1st Division jumped off on schedule, at 5:25 a.m. The tanks, which had been held back to prevent signaling the imminence of the attack, immediately joined the lead ranks. The 1st Brigade, following their rolling artillery barrage and utilizing what swales they could to protect them from fire from the Argonne, attacked over the ground that had once been occupied temporarily by the 35th Division. The sight of American corpses, wounds bandaged, left out to die by the Germans, enraged the Americans, inspiring them to take additional revenge. There was also evidence of the carnage that had befallen the various patrols sent out two nights earlier. Despite heavy fire from all directions, the 1st Brigade took its first objective, the northern edge of the Montrebeau, by 7:00 a.m. A half hour later the 2d Brigade was on its first objective also, despite heavy resistance.

After a half hour to pause and regroup, the 1st Brigade continued its attack across the Exermont Ravine, headed for the heights beyond. Elements of the 16th Infantry, along the main road, entered the town of Fléville. The cost was high. The 3d Battalion, 16th Infantry, had crossed the line of departure that morning with twenty officers and eight hundred men. By the time it had secured its second objective it was down to two officers and 240 men. And fire continued from the west. The nearest friendly troops on the left were two kilometers to the rear.

To the right of the 16th Infantry, other regiments had made less progress. But orders were for each infantry unit to push forward on its own, and artillery support had decentralized to create four independent regimental combat teams of infantry and artillery. Despite the fact that the 18th was halted at Beauregard Farm just across the Exermont Ravine, and the 28th at La Neuville-le-Compte Farm to its right, the front remained continuous.

The tanks proved to be a great help in reducing German machine gun nests. Forty-seven of them had started the day with the division, one company with the 1st Brigade, two companies with the 2d Brigade, and one company in reserve. Yet so fierce was hostile fire that only three tanks remained at the end of the day; 84 percent of the tankers were casualties.

The soldiers on the ground saw the operation from a different perspective. Lieutenant Maury Maverick, of the 28th Infantry, for one, has left a vivid account of the Exermont attack.

After his easy capture of twenty-six frightened Germans at St. Mihiel, Maverick had undergone a sobering baptism of fire as his regiment, part of the 2d Brigade, had pulled into line at Exermont four days earlier. While Maverick was conferring with his company commander, Captain Frank Felbel, they heard a shrieking noise, then a dull explosion. Suspecting gas, they quickly donned their masks. Groping in the dark, Maverick stumbled over the body of a dead American. When he removed his mask, Maverick winced; the man stank. He was probably one of those men of the 35th Division who had been killed three days earlier. The next morning, in position, Maverick was jarred by the burst of a shell close by. One man was dead; another lost a leg and both arms. Maverick was buried in dirt. He was afraid to move for fear that he would “fall to pieces.” But he was unhurt.

As Maverick’s company was preparing to jump off at 5:30 a.m. four days later, on October 4, he could hear the various lieutenants shouting at their men, “God damn it, don’t you know we’re going over the top at five thirty-five?” On the German side there was only silence, a vacuum. Maverick began to hope that the enemy had retreated. When they jumped off on schedule, however, they discovered that the Germans, at least a rear guard of machine gunners, were still there. Forewarned by the American shouting, they could not have been surprised at the timing of the attack.

The Germans were veterans; most of the Americans were not. But the Yanks advanced bravely into the barrage of steel and fire, and their ranks dwindled fast. Of a company of two hundred, half were dead or wounded within a few minutes. Captain Felbel was one of the dead.

Maverick took command. When he counted the survivors, he found that the company had not a single sergeant left. Three of the four platoons were commanded by corporals; the fourth was commanded by Private Quinn, recently reduced for being absent without leave, but a veteran soldier. Maverick recorded his confusion:
At this moment of five-thirty-five, everything happened that never happens in the story books of war. We literally lost each other. There were no bugles, no flags, no drums, and as far as we knew, no heroes. The great noise was like a great stillness, everything seemed blotted out. We hardly knew where the Germans were. We were simply in a big black spot with streaks of screaming red and yellow, with roaring giants in the sky tearing and whirling and roaring.
Still Maverick and his men—what was left of them—pushed ahead. His walking stick did him no good; when he came to a ditch, he fell in it. Still there was nothing to do but keep going. Maverick later recalled holding his head down so that any shell fragments would hit his steel helmet, only to discover that he was not wearing a helmet at all. He borrowed one from “a poor fellow who had no further use for it.” It was too small, but there was no shortage of dead Americans who had no further use for their helmets.

On they went. Then a shell burst over Maverick’s head, and a piece of it tore out part of his shoulder blade and collarbone. On the ground but still conscious, Maverick was amazed that it seemed less than five seconds before a Medical Corps man was dressing his wound. He looked for the runners who had been with him a minute before. “The two in the middle had been cut down to a pile of horrible red guts and blood and meat, while the two men on the outside had been cut up somewhat less badly but no less fatally.”

Still Maury Maverick stayed with his company, for the simple reason that there was nobody else to take over. He found four more runners and kept going. After an hour, however, he had lost so much blood that he was getting weak. He could carry on no longer—though he could still walk. He turned the company over to Private Quinn and headed for the rear.

John S. D. Eisenhower, The Greatest U.S. Army Stories Ever Told: Unforgettable Stories of Courage, Honor, and Sacrifice, Iain C. Martin, Ed.

"God Damn It, Don't You Know We're Going Over the Top"

“God damn it, don’t you know we’re going over the top at 5:35,” Lieutenant Maury Maverick yelled to his company of the 28th Regiment as it formed up and prepared to attack past the eastern edge of Montrebeau Wood. A fiercely independent Texan, he would serve in the 1930s as a Democratic congressman from San Antonio and coin the term gobbledygook to describe the language used by President Roosevelt’s government bureaucrats. No gobbledygook passed Maverick’s lips as he paced up and down the lines in the predawn darkness of October 4. The enemy lines were silent—some said they had already retreated, but Maverick had the unsettling feeling that they were just waiting. Sure enough, “the Germans simply waited, and then laid a barrage of steel and fire.”
At this moment of five-thirty-five, everything happened that never happens in the story books of war. . . . There were no bugles, no flags, no drums, and as far as we knew, no heroes. The great noise was like a great stillness, everything seemed blotted out. We hardly knew where the Germans were. We were simply in a big black spot with streaks of screaming red and yellow, with roaring giants in the sky tearing and whirling and roaring. I have never read in any military history a description of the high explosives that break overhead. There is a great swishing scream, a smack-bang, and it seems to tear everything loose from you. The intensity of it simply enters your heart and brain and tears every nerve to pieces.
At the beginning of the advance, Maverick’s company numbered two hundred men. A few minutes after the attack started, half of them were dead or wounded. As the last remaining officer, he took command of the company. The next highest-ranking soldier was a corporal.

With “nothing to do but keep on going,” Maverick tilted his head into the storm. Giving the Doughboy’s tin helmet more credit for stopping power than it deserved, he held his head down in hopes that it would deflect enemy bullets. Then he had second thoughts. What if a bullet hit him in the chin and tore off his jaw, leaving him horribly disfigured for life? He held his head up, and reconsidered. What if a bullet hit him in the mouth and knocked out all his teeth, or cut through his eyes and left him blind? Glancing up, he realized in a moment that his helmet was gone. In the excitement that morning he had worn it on top of his cap. It had slipped off without his feeling it.

“This was no time to be worrying about hats,” he told himself. “We had to advance.” Ahead, he saw trees interlaced with immense coils of barbed wire. In the middle, a single lane passed through the wire. In that lane lay dozens of American corpses—a death trap. Certainly a German machine gun waited on the other side. “I did not want to go through that lane. But the men began to waver a little and I figured it would not be right for me to lay down or stop, so I moved ahead. I said to myself, ‘This is one of the finest dilemmas I have ever been in. I must go through that lane, call for my men if I don’t get killed, and get a hat. I need a hat. I need a hat.’ “Maverick picked through the lane, stopping briefly to try on helmets from dead soldiers, and emerged safe on the other side. A German machine gun was there, sure enough, but its occupants were dead, one of them slumped over his gun. Maverick formed his men to resume the advance through the woods when a shell burst over his head, ripping out a large piece of his shoulder blade and collar bone and knocking him to the ground. A medical man joined him, and applied bandages.
As he lifted me from the ground, I looked at my four runners, and I saw that the two in the middle had been cut down to a pile of horrid red guts and blood and meat, while the two men on the outside had been cut up somewhat less badly, but no less fatally. It reminded me of nothing I had ever seen before, except a Christmas hog butchering back on the Texas farm.
Maverick’s 28th Regiment, and the 26th Regiment to its right, continued to advance over broken, machine-gun and sniper-infested country. They traversed the eastern end of Exermont Ravine and fought bitterly to capture two heavily fortified farms. Machine-gun emplacements made of logs overgrown with moss and shrubbery took a heavy toll. The veteran 1st Division troops expertly infiltrated between the German strongpoints and destroyed them before moving on. There was much bayonet work too, with no prisoners taken on either side. Eventually, they seized their objectives. But as the regiments had advanced well ahead of the 32d Division, German artillery methodically flailed their right flank. Being first was not always best.

Overall, the Big Red One had advanced about one and a half miles, farther than any other division on October 4. Its losses had been severe—2,057 casualties in one day—but the 1st Division had upheld its reputation as the most hard-driving unit in the AEF.

Edward G. Lengel, To Conquer Hell: the Meuse-Argonne, 1918

The War Lords of Washington

This wasn’t the war. This was an exercise in top-level organization, a test run for the American economy, a trial marriage between the bureaucracies of government and business which made strange bedfellows out of the career men of Washington, New York, Detroit, and way stations; it was the War Production Board, crowned with dignity and power and fixed a little lower than the angels, properly busy in the air-cooled halls and offices of the modernistic Social Security Building, engaged daily in conferences, in arguments-by-telephone, in the fabrication and distribution of innumerable pieces of paper. The war that was fought here was a cold, bloodless war—a conflict of theories, of ideas, of programs, of orders—and while a good many feelings were hurt, first and last, nobody was actually getting killed.

But the trouble was that the other war, the real war, wouldn’t stay put. The real war was tragedy and pain and death, and it was being fought by human beings, and the bits of paper that were being shuffled endlessly in the Social Security Building were due to turn up some day as the justification for somebody’s bloodshed and agony; and the terrible question, “What are we really fighting for?” kept coming up for answer, demanding attention from men who would greatly have preferred to take their patriotism straight and let others worry about the abstractions. Yet the abstractions were at the heart of it, somebody had to work them out, the answers had to be found right here in WPB, and no sooner were items like the role of the dollar-a-year man and the handling of army procurement disposed of than the same problem would bob up again in some other guise. As, for example, in the matter of patent rights, technological advances, and industrial processes.

These are often fairly dull, unless you happen to be a technician, an economist, or an industrialist, but in the spring and summer of 1942 they offered the busy men in WPB one more chance to look the idea of an all-out war in the face and decide whether or not they could go for it. As usual, they found that they could not. For all-out war deals in absolutes; it means the last curtain and the final bugle call for Things as They Were; it means that this carefully formalized exercise in the Social Security Building might suddenly go haywire and become a swiftly-humming machine for building a new heaven and a new earth, so that the intangibles which men are dying for will transcend in value the sacred rights of custom, of property, and of Our Two Million Stockholders. And all of these matters were bound up in this question of patent rights, technological advances, and industrial processes.

It began innocently enough, as so many wicked things do, when a couple of Catholic scientists from Cincinnati visited Washington one day in March, 1942, to call on Maury Maverick, former congressman, former Mayor of San Antonio, and at that time the chief of WPB’s Bureau of Government Requirements.

The two visitors were Monsignor Cletus A. Miller and Dr. George S. Sperti, both from the Institutum Divi Thomae, a Catholic institution for scientific research. They were interested, at the moment, simply in finding a means to protect public health during the war; Maverick’s bureau, which was responsible for screening the requests made by state and city governments for materials and equipment, was their port of call because it was up to Maverick to determine whether a city water works, for instance, could have chemicals for water purification purposes. Thus the two men sat down to talk with Maverick, and presently they discovered that they had ideas in common about the necessity for an all-out war and ways and means of achieving it. As a successful inventor, Dr. Sperti had discovered a thing or two about the difference between perfecting an industrial device or process and actually getting it used; and before long the three had stopped talking about public health measures and were discussing the way in which scientific skills and techniques are sometimes monopolized in industry, the way in which such monopolies can interfere with an all-out war effort, and the importance, for war and for peace, of finding some way to take the shackles off the nation’s productive power.

(And why should three men who sat down to talk about filtration plants and chemicals find themselves discussing big industry, monopoly, and the American dream? This was none of their business, as men’s business was gauged in the spring of 1942; the war was being fought by and with big business, and nobody had asked these three to worry about the prospect that it might turn out to be fought for big business as well. The Social Security Building’s war was Detroit and Pittsburgh and Chicago and Los Angeles, not to mention Wall Street, and the time to worry about monopoly was far behind anyway….Except that this other war, the war in which the ordinary human being was proving once again his eternal and incomprehensible readiness to die for something bigger than himself, was going on too, and these three men somehow felt that they had to do a little thinking about what the ordinary human being was going to be given in exchange for his life. If all he stood to get was what would trickle down, ultimately, from the high centers of power, then he was being sold down the river and it was time to do something. And what better place to start doing it than right here in Maverick’s office?)

It was wholly characteristic of Maverick that the discussion should have taken this turn. In the early days in Texas, Maverick’s family name had been turned into a common noun meaning an unbranded critter that is out on the plains on its own hook, answerable to no one, and the noun fitted the man himself. He was short, stocky, swarthy, intensely irascible, and inordinately loyal—both to people and to ideas—and he was a scrapper who lost all his inhibitions in the clinches. The dollar-a-year men, for the most part, would have liked to look on him as a comic figure (he looked on most dollar-a-year men as figures out of the bad place, so that made it even) except that they felt he was too dangerous to be funny. He was an unconverted New Dealer, in whose eyes Roosevelt’s one mistake was his reliance on captains of industry to help win the war—a mistake which, Maverick felt, was all too likely to be fine for monopolists and bad for ordinary folk who had to do the fighting.

So when the conversation got onto the problem of the monopolist, Maverick decided to take steps. After spending a good deal of time comparing notes and working out ideas with Monsignor Miller and Dr. Sperti, he prepared a memorandum on the matter. The whole business was outside of his field, but the war was still young and it hadn’t been won yet, and Nelson was showing a refreshing willingness to consider any idea, no matter where it came from, that promised to bring victory more quickly; and, anyway, Maverick was a maverick and the range hadn’t been fenced in yet. So Maverick sent his memo off to Herbert Emmerich, then executive secretary of WPB, outlining “a plan for the organization of the scientific research laboratories of the United States in a co-operative research program to meet the problems of shortages of materials and to assist industry and government in war production.” The memo proposed that WPB set up a bureau to organize commercial and industrial research operations, and warned that it would be important to distinguish between “those problems which benefit private industry only and those problems which benefit the nation in the total war effort.”

This memo was passed on to Nelson, who liked the idea. There existed, then and throughout the war, a most effective organization of scientists to help the Army and Navy develop new weapons—the Office of Scientific Research and Development, under Dr. Vannevar Bush—but there was nothing like it on the non-combatant side. If the military men needed a new explosive, a new range finder, a new fuse, or anything similar, Dr. Bush’s organization could quickly bring the best scientific and laboratory skill of the country to bear on the problem. But there was no way to bring about a similar mobilization of talent for purely industrial problems, and there was no way to make sure that devices or processes which might be developed during the war would be made readily available to all manufacturers who might need them. Clearly, industrial production could be speeded and victory could be brought nearer if there were, on the industrial side, a good counterpart to Dr. Bush’s organization. Accordingly, in mid-April, Nelson appointed a committee to look into the matter and recommend a course of action.

Nelson made Maverick chairman of this committee. Other members were Dr. Charles I. Gragg, a consultant to the chairman of WPB, on leave as member of the faculty of Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration; Harold Stein, an officer in WPB’s Division of Civilian Supply—the old Leon Henderson organization that made so much trouble for the auto industry eight months earlier; Lessing Rosenwald (the Rosenwald), chief of WPB’s Bureau of Industrial Conservation, and Dr. C. K. Leith, technical consultant to WPB’s Materials Division, in private life a geologist on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin. These men were instructed to find out what kind of office or bureau WPB should set up in order “to make use of the scientific resources of the country,” to keep abreast of industrial research, and to take action on inventions, new developments, and so on.

Late in April, 1942, then, these five men sat down together to examine what was currently being done along these lines and to see whether more should be added to it.

It was easy enough for them to conclude that WPB needed a much more vigorous direction and co-ordination of industrial research and development. What was already being done was good as far as it went, but it was clear that it did not go far enough. Dr. Leith pointed out that he himself was at the head of “an inadequate center, where there are only twenty of us” for the clearance of research problems. Ever since July, 1940, he recalled, the Defense Commission and its successors had been using the National Academy of Sciences for technological assistance, sending requests for aid to the Academy and getting the answers from scientific committees which the Academy would thereupon call into being. In addition, he said, WPB had from time to time used the services of such government agencies as the Bureau of Mines, the Geological Survey and the National Bureau of Standards; further, the several WPB branches and divisions were constantly asking for research of various kinds in industrial and university laboratories—the laboratories, for instance, of General Electric, Westinghouse, General Motors, Chrysler, the Mellon Institute, California Tech, and so on. There ought to be a much better integration and direction of the whole process, he said, with some such sum as $5,000,000 for a war chest; this board should take charge of all general requests for scientific research work, should be headed by an outstanding professional in the field, and should avoid setting up new committees or administrative units that might duplicate the work already being done by the WPB industry branches and divisions.

So far, so good; this was a war of technologies, and all five men on the committee agreed that America’s technologies had better be good. But at that point the agreement ceased. For it was one thing to agree that all scientific and technological resources must be used; it was quite another to determine exactly where those resources existed, how they were to be discovered, and in what way they could best be harnessed. All of these resources “must be used”; and precisely what do we mean by “used”? Used how, by whom, for whose benefit? The answers to these questions determine, ultimately, who really runs the country. The committee split in two, with Maverick, Gragg, and Stein in one group and Rosenwald and Leith in another, and the split was permanent.

What the Maverick group was shooting at was a completely new approach to the whole problem. It believed in the removal of all the invisible impediments that stand between the age of scientific achievements and the fullest possible use of those achievements. What it was actually demanding was production-for-use translated to the entire field of industrial research and technological advance. Stein brought the point of view out clearly at one of the early committee meetings.

Industrial scientists and technicians, he said, were guided by the profit motive—that is, they looked for products or devices which would make money for their own corporations. Okay, they had to play it that way; the corporations are in business to make money, that’s how we operated. But there was a war on now, and the war emergency needed something which the profit motive couldn’t supply—“ideas of a revolutionary sort,” as Stein put it, the determining factor regarding which being “not whether they are desirable for making money,” but whether, all factors considered, they are desirable for the country as a whole, which might be quite a different matter. And he added:

“We have reached the curious point in our course where we have to think about things which in normal times would appear ridiculous.”

True as four-ply gospel, but was there ever found on land or sea a human organization less prepared than this War Production Board to “think about things which in normal times would appear ridiculous”? How far do you gentlemen think you are going to get with this idea, anyhow?

Much farther than anyone would suppose; so far, in fact, that they almost got away with it. But first there was the committee itself to deal with. The committee was fully agreed that WPB should have an office to take responsibility for industrial research and development. But how should the men who would run that office be selected? Should they be technicians or laymen? Technicians, argued Dr. Leith, “because this is not a business matter” and because the office would be dealing with purely technical problems; laymen, argued Maverick, because the office would really be dealing with social problems and its responsibilities would be social rather than scientific.

Maverick undertook to illustrate with a case from his own experience as Mayor of San Antonio. They had had a civic orchestra, he said, which had fallen on evil days. Its governing body was composed of cultured and talented folk who knew a great deal about music but who did not seem to know very much about keeping an orchestra solvent.

“We finally got the most ignorant man in town and put him in at the head,” said Maverick. “He had never been anywhere, and these cultured people had been to New York and many other places. But he made a howling success of it. Then he died, and the cultured people got control of it—and it went broke again. So you have to have—“

“What,” interrupted Rosenwald, “is the moral of that story?”

“The moral of that story,” said Maverick, “Is that you have got to have a few people who are not specially trained along a certain line, and if you get all those men on a committee you look at it purely from a technical and research point of view, and not according to economic, business, and social problems.”

Dr. Leith protested that even so Maverick had not made his most ignorant man the conductor of the orchestra; but Stein got the argument back from Texas by remarking that what they were really up against was “the necessity for making decisions which the technicians are afraid to make.” Synthetic rubber, for instance; the basic questions about that highly crucial program should be decided, not by the men who knew exactly how synthetic rubber is made, but by men who felt the terrible urgency of the situation and were resolved that the best technical processes should be used no matter whose vested interests or postwar expectations might be hurt.

Tied in with this there was a subsidiary question which revolved about the same central issue: Assuming that we must greatly intensify industrial research, do we continue to rely on the research agencies that are now doing the job, merely giving the program better direction and a broader scope, or do we reach out to enlist the researchers who are not now being used at all—the men in the laboratories and experiment stations at small colleges and universities, the lesser research laboratories in private industry, the unattached scientists and inventors who have not yet been put to work in the war effort? Dr. Leith felt strongly that the established channels of industrial research were competent to do the job and ought not to be disturbed; Maverick argued heatedly for bringing in all of the little fellows.

Now this, dressed up in a different costume, was essentially the same breath-taking specter that had arisen to terrify the godly at the time the Reuther plan was up for consideration. This, again, was the proposal that the nation, beset by great dangers, increase the total of its strength by finding and using to the full all of its previously unused sources of strength. Beyond any ism or manifesto, this idea is revolutionary; for it presupposes a readiness to play the game in an entirely new way, an imaginative confidence that the nation will transcend itself by committing its future, without reservation, to the belief that it has at all levels the stuff that makes for greatness. Ultimately, it is this affirmation: What we are now is less than the shadow on the wall of what we can be if we trust ourselves.

All in all, a large idea for a modest committee of five overworked men; too large to be resolved, obviously. What the committee did, at last, was send to Nelson a dead-pan report which recommended the establishment in WPB of an Office of Technical Development empowered to co-ordinate active research projects, to use all available research facilities, to sponsor tested projects, to disseminate scientific information, and to give full consideration to all new proposals. This would fit either the Maverick or the Leith point of view, depending on the way in which the recommendation was put into effect. The report contained little hint of the deep disagreement which had split the committee.

The covering memo which Maverick sent to Nelson was not dead-pan, however. With a lofty disregard of normal government formality (after all, Maverick was the man who invented the word “gobbledygook” to describe regular governmental language), he headed the memo: “Report of Scientific Committee; Recommendations for Office of Technical Development; It is Bloody Urgent.” Then he went on to insist that WPB “must openly, freely, and honestly go into the matter of patents and new processes: and that it must approach the whole problem with the determination not to allow “certain special interests or individuals to get a superior interest over the public and the single will to victory.” And just to give Nelson a fill-in on the current rumor that the five committeemen had been having quite a time with one another, Maverick added this paragraph:

“I can report to you now and authoritatively that the general relations of various elements who have been ‘talking about each other’ are much better now than when we started the committee hearings. However, I detect certain undertones of underground conflict wherein certain persons refer to each other by the like. In MY opinion, certain persons referring to ‘politicians’ are THEMSELVES politicians, while there is much to be gained with the spirit of the Three Musketeers, we can win the war; and yet I must warn that there is much more to these hearings than would appear on the surface.”

Having said which, Maverick closed his memo with the reiteration: “But the matter is bloody urgent, and I choose my words with care.”

Dr. Leith was quite aware that Maverick was trying to put some backspin on the committee’s innocent report. In a letter to his own superior, Alec Henderson, who was then in charge of WPB’s assorted materials branches, Dr. Leith noted that “Mr. Maverick has transferred his effort to Don Nelson to get immediate action along the line of his philosophy,” and added:

“A plan is being drawn up by one of the members of the Planning Board who is in touch with Maverick to establish a corporation with large funds to take over and promote new technological inventions and ideas and keep them out of the hands of business.”

Quite correct. The Maverick committee might have turned in a compromise report, but Maverick’s underlying idea had been picked up by a man who at that moment drew a great deal of water around WPB —Robert Nathan, author of the Victor Program and head of Nelson’s official brain trust. Not long after becoming chairman of WPB, Nelson had made Nathan head of a three-man Planning Committee with broad authority to formulate and propose for the chairman such policies and programs as Nathan thought necessary; and the Planning Committee was now taking Maverick’s plan and giving it some top-drawer elaboration.

Specifically, the Planning Committee presently recommended to Nelson that the Office of Technical Development be established as Maverick’s group had proposed; but it further urged that there be set up under this office a War Research Development Corporation, with a capitalization of $100,000,000 and with complete authority to carry on scientific research in a wide variety of fields, to test new industrial processes to build pilot plants and to construct factories for the exploitation of processes or techniques which needed to be brought into full-scale operation. The Office of Technical Development would be the skipper of the operation, sifting technical ideas and suggestions and determining just what the country’s important unfilled needs might be; aggressive development along the lines thus indicated would then be undertaken by the Corporation, and there would be a broad-gauge program not merely to provide industry with new processes and products but to make sure that the new processes and products were extensively used once they were provided.

This really added up to the most far-reaching, fundamental change that had yet been proposed by anyone in connection with the war program. If the Reuther plan had reached into the office of industrial management, this one reached straight into the board rooms and the counting houses. For what this proposal actually said was substantially this: If there is, or by any exertion of our best intelligence can be, any technical means whatever for increasing the productivity of our industry, then our government is going to see to it that it is used to the absolute maximum no matter what this does to competitive relationships, profit-and-loss statements, or who-owns-what. Period.

And Donald Nelson, the solid and conservative man of business from Chicago, promptly accepted the proposal and prepared to put it into effect. In his Vincennes speech he had said that fear of change was not going to hold him back. Perhaps he really meant it.

Perhaps other men did too, for that matter. Have a brief look at the Planning Committee which formulated and recommended the proposal.

The Planning Committee had three members. Its chairman, Nathan, was a kiver-to-kiver New Dealer, having come to the defense organizations from a spot as career economist and bright-young-man in the Department of Commerce. The second member, Thomas Blaisdell, was another New Dealer, drafted by the defense agencies from the National Resources Planning Board, the very seal and symbol of all that was abhorrent in government planning. But the third member was a crusty gentleman of the Republican persuasion named Fred Searls, Jr., and he was a solid and substantial mining engineer from private industry, about as much of a New Deal theorist as Senator Taft. Searls indorsed the new program along with the theorists, and in a letter to Nathan, written June 7, 1942, he explained why.

Previously, Searls said, he had opposed the Maverick plan, partly because of his own close friendship with Dr. Leith. Now, however, he was all for it; he had been forced to change his mind by facts recently uncovered “establishing the buck-passing procedure which has for the past several months successfully prevented utilization of the Schmidt process for the continuous nitration of glycerin by the Western Cartridge Co., which has a most urgent need for the use of this process.”

Western Cartridge, Searls pointed out, was making a special explosive, on government contract, for rockets and other new weapons. To make this it desperately needed to use the Schmidt process, but in spite of the fact that there was a war on there seemed to be a great many reasons why the process could not be made available by its owners. Searls himself had done a good deal of work on the case and he was frankly fed up; he was convinced, he said, “that this whole situation is based on the fact that Western Cartridge does not belong to the ‘club’” of high-powered corporations which held the Schmidt process. Acidly, Searls declared that “to further hamper the efforts to get production from them (i.e., from Western Cartridge) which cannot be had elsewhere, though the fear of giving them information that they might utilize commercially in competition with others after the war, should no longer be tolerated.” And he concluded that “you can put me down as backing Mr. Maverick in his belief in the necessity for revision of the present setup.”

It was exactly the point Searls touched on—the possible postwar effect of a genuinely all-out effort—that was upsetting people just then. It was easy to agree that WPB must have a center to direct scientific and technical research on production; the real question was whether such a center should have limited or unlimited objectives, because if the objectives were unlimited the changes in production processes which would occur were practically certain to bring changes in the very basis of the production mechanism. But the striving for unlimited objectives is, by definition, an essential part of an all-out war; and America’s all-out war effort was in the hands of the War Production Board, most of whose big-wigs could face practically anything except the prospect of postwar change.

Nevertheless, Nelson had accepted the proposal just as Maverick and Nathan had outlined it. It remained to find a man who could run the new show.

This quest was a tough one. The fate of the whole venture would depend on the selection of a man who would be in charge. He had to be someone who was unassailable; a man with a good technical background but one who, as Stein had said, would be capable of making decisions the technicians were afraid to make; neither a New Dealer nor an industrialist with corporate ties; a man of unquestioned competence, acceptable both to the sponsors and to the opponents of unlimited production measures. If such a man could be found and installed, the long fight would be over; the very qualities that insured his approval would mean that he would take the Maverick-Nathan thesis and develop it to the hilt.

Nelson’s choice finally fell on Colonel Royal B. Lord, of the Army Engineers. Lord seemed to fill all of the specifications. A regular army man with a brilliant record, he had been detailed to the Board of Economic Warfare, where he was then serving as assistant director, to the great satisfaction of the exacting Milo Perkins. The choice suited Nathan and Maverick to a T; they had seen a good bit of Lord when he served on a committee to study the possibilities of large cargo aircraft, and they liked the way he handled problems, his receptiveness to new ideas, and his obvious ability as an organizer and an executive. Lord’s own concept of the job ahead is revealed in a letter he wrote to one of Nelson’s assistants that summer, discussing the Office of Technical Development: “I am convinced that the Director of the Office should not have strong affiliations with large industry in view of the many criticisms that may be directed at this individual if patents or processes are commandeered by the government from industry.” At the same time, Lord’s record and his prestige were good enough to insure that the opposition would not quarrel with his nomination. Nelson wrote to Milo Perkins, who agreed to surrender Colonel Lord to WPB; then Nelson wrote to the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, and asked that Colonel Lord be officially detailed to WPB as Director of the Office of Technical Development.

At which point a monkey wrench fell into the machinery. The War Department, thus reminded of Colonel Lord’s existence, discovered that he could on no account be spared. On August 10 General Marshall wrote Nelson that “the shortage of experienced regular army officers will not permit the detail of Colonel Lord at this time.” The War Department, said the General, had been concerned for a long time over the number of army officers who were on duty with civilian agencies, filling jobs which might just as well be filled by civilians, and steps were being taken to recall those officers for duty with the troops. It did not appear, the General continued, that the job Nelson had in mind for Colonel Lord really required an officer of Engineers. Therefore—sorry, no dice.

This did not simply mean that Nelson was out one director for his new office; as things worked out, it meant that the whole argument over the scope and functions of the proposed office was to be reopened. What had been a closed issue suddenly became wide open again.

Colonel Lord had been the one sure-fire choice. His removal from the scene meant, in effect, that Nelson had to shop around for a man, and in the process of shopping around all of the pressures for putting in a safe and sane man to do a safe and sane job would automatically be renewed. Lacking a director, the new office could not be formally set up; as long as it was not set up, the decision to set it up along the Maverick-Nathan line was not final; and if that decision was not final the various contestants were right back where they started, with the difference that the opposition was now thoroughly aroused while the proponents of the plan were obliged to fight with one hand because they had other pressing matters to attend to.

Nelson could not give more than a fragment of his attention to the Office of Technical Development in that August of 1942. The famous “rubber crisis”—which, by the way, was just the sort of thing an Office of Technical Development would have headed off—was just coming to a boil, with the Baruch Committee preparing its report. More urgent than this, even, was Nelson’s bitter argument with the War Department over the feasibility of the war production program—an argument which not only consumed most of Nelson’s attention but took practically all of Nathan’s and the Planning Committee’s. After having resisted for so many months all attempts to get the sights raised, the War Department had finally plunged ahead in patriotic fervor and raised them clear up to the moon. Instead of calling on the economy for much less than it could do the Department was now calling on it for much more than it could do, and it was translating this call into firm contracts specifying fixed delivery dates and quantities of material. Nelson and Nathan were fighting desperately to persuade the military men to grasp the simple industrial fact that to put a genuine overload on the nation’s productive system would be disastrous. They had to show the Army men that industrial capacity was limited, while at the same time they sought to make an unlimited effort to increase that capacity.

And this was more of a handicap than the new project could carry. There never was a chance to get the War Production Board to sponsor such a far-reaching venture unless Nelson himself could make a continuous, overriding drive for it; and after the Army pulled the plug by removing Colonel Lord it simply was not possible for Nelson to make that kind of drive. The Office of Technical Development remained a paper creation, and the original report of the Maverick Committee came to look more and more like a preliminary study which ought to be supplemented by a report from recognized scientists and technicians; and at last, by mid-September, the battle had been lost and Maverick was sadly writing to Monsignor Miller, “insofar as this particular operation is concerned I have done all I can.”

For by this time Nelson had pulled in his horns. Sometime in September, one of Nathan’s assistants on the Planning Committee staff took a draft of the proposed order setting up the new office over to the War Department, to discuss it with an opposite number in the Army Air Force, and it came to the attention of Under-Secretary of War Patterson, who reacted promptly and sternly. Patterson wrote a sharp note to Nelson, protesting the whole scheme on the ground that it would duplicate work already being done and would make it harder to maintain secrecy about new scientific developments in the military field. Nelson’s reply, on October 1, disclosed that the WPB chairman had dropped the fight. The projected order, he told Patterson, “never had my approval and was merely a suggestion proposed by Colonel Lord as a basis for fuller consideration.” WPB, he added did some kind of central scientific group to pass on new production processes; and, he concluded, “to review the whole mater and provide recommendations upon which I may make a decision, I am having this whole question studied by a small but highly competent committee of scientific people from whom I expect a report shortly.”

That did it. The most ignorant man in town was not going to run the orchestra, after all. The small but highly competent committee was the kind of group Dr. Leith had been urging from the beginning. Its chairman was Dr. Webster N. Jones, Director of Engineering at Carnegie Tech, and its members were scientists and technicians from outside of WPB; and on October 12 it submitted a report stating that WPB should have an Office of Technical Development, under a competent director, to “coordinate technical efforts,” pass on new ideas and processes, make use of existing research personnel and facilities, and so on. As a final kicker, the report stipulated that the office should “start with a modest appropriation and should be allowed to grow as its effectiveness is demonstrated.”

In the end it was so ordered. Early in November the new office, now named the Office of Production Research and Development, was formally opened under the directorship of Dr. Harvey N. Davis, president of Stevens Institute of Technology. There was a last minute effort to save some vestige of the original idea, by inserting in the administrative order a proviso that “the director shall secure from the Alien Property Custodian information on foreign patents and shall make full utilization of patents important to war production.” But this was stricken out, as was another paragraph that would have required the director to “make a comprehensive survey of national research facilities, including laboratories, scientists, engineers, and technicians, so that these resources may be utilized most effectively in the war production program.” The program went ahead, did a considerable amount of useful work before the war ended, and disturbed nobody; and the War Production Board was not, after all, compelled to “think about things which in normal times would appear ridiculous.”

In the end Maverick had the last word, after all, although by that time matters had reached the stage where words did not make any particular difference. He became chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, and in 1946 he transmitted to the Senate Small Business Committee a report of the Corporation entitled “Economic Concentration and World War II.”

This report showed that during the war the government spent nearly one billion dollars for scientific research in industrial laboratories (exclusive of money spent on atomic research). This money went to some two thousand industrial organizations; the ten largest got two-fifths of it—say $400,000,000—and the 68 largest got two-thirds of the total. After pointing out that this centralization of research would almost inevitably increase the existing concentration of economic power—since the peacetime uses and applications of the technical knowledge gained at government expense would be enormous—the report of Maverick’s corporation continued:

“Obviously, the companies in whose laboratories this research work has been carried on will be its chief beneficiaries, not only because of their direct acquaintanceship and knowledge of the research but also because of patents. The investigations of the Subcommittee on War Mobilization of the Senate Military Affairs Committee show that over 90 per cent of the contracts made between government agencies and private industrial laboratories for scientific research and development placed the ownership of patents with the contractor, the government receiving a royalty-free license for its own use…. This means, in effect, that the large corporations which carried on the great bulk of the federally financed wartime industrial research will have control, through patents, of the commercial applications of that research.”
Maybe it really was bloody urgent, at that.

[Released December 27, 1945. Dated November 1, 1945]

Dear Maury:

As you know, in line with my reorganization plans, the Smaller War Plants Corporation's functions are being transferred to other agencies. But there is one more job I would like for you to do for small business. It is in connection with little business in world trade.

Sometime ago I authorized you to take a trip to the countries of the Pacific. The purpose of the Mission was to make a report to me concerning the development of small business in these countries and the possibility of stimulating international trade between them and small businesses at home. Particularly, I am interested in the development of American small business in the field of international trade.

The countries to be visited by you are the Philippines, China, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

It is assumed, of course, that you will work closely with representatives of the Department of State in each country which you visit.

I want to congratulate you on the job that you have done as Chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation and for the work you have done for small business.

With best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours,
Bruce Catton, 'It Is Bloody Urgent'

The Diga Relief Colony, 1932-1933

One of the most original and thoughtful of the people engaged in Utopian thinking during the Great Depression was Maury Maverick of Texas. He established one of the more ingenious self-help communities in his home town of San Antonio, Texas. This community was short-lived, as were most communities in this period, but Maverick made a sincere effort to alleviate the suffering of the poor, but mostly of the world war veterans who were affected especially by the hard times of the 1930s.

He was a member of one of Texas's oldest and most famous families. His grandfather, like many Texans, emigrated from the South just before the Texas Revolution. He acquired large landholdings during the Texas Republic period, and he served in both the Texas Congress and in the Confederacy.

Samuel Maverick's lasting fame is because his name became synonymous with unbranded cattle. In 1847 he had let his cattle roam free, but in 1854 he and his eldest two sons rounded up these strays and drove them to a market site. Gradually the word "maverick" was used not only for unbranded cattle, but for any independent individual who does not go along with a group or party. The term has been used especially to describe many people in politics.

Maverick attended San Antonio schools, the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Law School. During the First World War, he served in the Twenty-eighth Infantry and saw action as an officer in the Argonne offensive. He was wounded critically on two different occasions, injuries that caused him serious health problems for the rest of his life and probably contributed to his premature death in 1954 at age fifty-eight.

Maverick went into politics in the 1930s. He first served as tax collector of Bexar County (1930-1934), with San Antonio as its seat of government. He was congressman from the Twentieth District from 1935-1938, and he was mayor of San Antonio from 1939-1941. He was always too liberal for his constituency to be able to be reelected on a long-term basis. During the Second World War, he served as chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation from 1941-1946.

While he was tax collector of Bexar County, Maverick became concerned about the plight of the unemployed, both in his community and across the state of Texas. He first examined the unemployment and relief conditions in San Antonio. He found that Texas was a magnet for transient men, women, and children who were roaming about the country seeking a job and some moderate climate, much like Southern California and other states across the Deep South, especially Florida and the Southwest.

Then he bagman to branch out on day trips out of San Antonio. What he found appalled him. As he said, "Literally nothing was being done for the unemployed. Every side trip I took indicated this. So to get some more knowledge, I struck out on a real hobo trip." He was accompanied on his trip by two close friends from San Antonio. He describes this trip in detail in his autobiography.

All the while, Maverick was watching with interest the efforts of the world war veterans to obtain early payment of a bonus for their service that had been approved int he 1920s. The bonus was issued as an annuity that the men would receive in 1945 at a time when they mostly likely would be retired. In the hard times of the thirties, the veterans began to demand early payment. Political leaders in Washington showed little interest in the issue since they were not willing to incur the debt required to pay the bonus.

The veterans argued that early payment would keep them and their families from starving and that by putting so much money in circulation, the economy would be stimulated and the Depression would end. Despite their lack of understanding of the economic system, they made a compelling argument for millions of hungry and unemployed people. When Congress failed to act, a large contingent of the veterans marched on Washington in 1932 to demand action. Even though a newly elected congressman from Texas, Wright Patman, led the congressional fight, he was not able to prevail on his colleagues to pay the bonus.

The veterans in Washington did not know what to do. President Herbert Hoover and other national leaders appealed to them to return to their homes. A large number of veterans did leave Washington, but another large number settled down in Washington to wait for Congress to act, arguing that it was just as easy to starve in the shadow of the Capitol as it was to return home. Finally, in frustration and fearing an insurrection, Hoover ordered the military to remove the veterans from their shantytown.

Nothing could have been worse for Hoover's reelection chances or to make the veterans more sympathetic to a large segment of the American people than helpless veterans, who fifteen years earlier had fought for their country, being forcefully evicted from the nation's capital. The agitation continued, and the bonus was finally paid in 1936.

After his San Antonio experiment ended, Maverick ran for and was elected to Congress from his hometown. Once in that body, he became an ardent New Dealer, supporting almost all of Franklin Roosevelt's programs, even his controversial plan to "pack" the Supreme Court to obtain more favorable rulings from that body.

In 1936 Maverick became peripherally involved in a student movement originating at Princeton University. A group of Princeton students was upset about the early payment of the world war bonus in 1936. These young men created an organization they called the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW), an effort to caricature the real Veterans of Foreign Wars. They argued that since they would be the veterans of the next war, they should receive their bonus in advance since they would not be around to collect the bonus when the war was over.

Maverick was greatly amused by the student movement, and he tried to show his support for the group. He even spoke to a meeting of the student VFW at Princeton in April 1936 in which he praised them and advocated that they should seek all the money from the government that they could. He even promised to introduce legislation in Congress to pay the early bonus, but it is not clear if he actually did so.

Maverick proved to be too liberal for many of his constituents, but he did have enough support to be elected mayor of San Antonio where he served from 1939 to 1941. Maverick died an early death when the aftereffects of his wartime service took its toll. He died, still in his fifties, on June 7, 1954.

His early experience in running a self-help community helped to explain a lot about the man, and his community was a good example of the Utopian thinking and community building during the Great Depression.

The economic crisis of the thirties was so serious that new or unusual attempts to ease the suffering of the unfortunate was common. The creation of communes, cooperatives, and self-help communities, supported by private groups or local public agencies, occurred in many places. One of the most interesting and successful ventures was in San Antonio, Texas. The immediate stimulus for Maverick's San Antonio experiment was President Hoover's decision to evict the Bonus Expeditionary Force from Washington in the summer of 1932. With most hope for the early payment of the bonus shattered, the dispersed veterans faced a bleak future. Concluding that starvation at home among friends and in familiar surroundings was the better alternative, many began the long journey home. One group of the marchers managed to return to San Antonio to find the city already over-burdened with destitute people. At first little improvement seemed possible for them.

San Antonio was a poor choice to take refuge from the economic crisis. A study made in the 1950's revealed that San Antonio had the worst record among Texas cities in providing public relief. Therefore, at first glance, the returning veterans had little hope for improvement. Despite the disadvantages, they did find a champion in the Tax Collector of Bexar County, Maury Maverick.

Maverick, himself a veteran of the First World War, had long been active in veteran affairs. Although he did not go to Washington with the Bonus Army, he supported the bonus demands, and he followed events in Washington very closely. Concerned about the method of eviction, he telegraphed a protest to President Hoover, comparing the episode to the Boston Massacre. He warned the President that conditions were very similar to the period just before the American Revolution. He further exhibited his concern when he sent fifty dollars, contributed by his mother, to the mayor of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where a group of marchers were staying temporarily. He told the mayor, "I commend your manly attitude for right and justice. The country applauds you."

Maverick's personal attitudes and his professional activities made him very much aware of the need for relief. As Tax Collector of Bexar County since 1930, he had ample opportunity to witness at first-hand the effects of the depression. After his election as Commander of the Sam Houston Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in October 1932, he was particularly concerned about the plight of all veterans and their families.

By the summer and fall of 1932 the condition of the San Antonio veteran was reaching the desperate stage. Matters of housing and unemployment, coupled with the increasing number of veterans returning from Washington made the situation very serious. In one week of September, the San Antonio Express reported sixteen eviction cases involving veterans. With few alternatives, some thirty veterans and their families simply moved into one of the city parks. City officials were concerned but little was done immediately.

It was at this time, apparently, that Maverick became involved. During a visit to the park, he was appalled to see people living without shelter, with improper clothing, and with almost no food. He was particularly distressed by the sight of the children, many of whom were ill. Mrs. Maverick said he felt something of a personal obligation. He was living comfortably despite the depression, but after seeing the children, he had trouble sleeping.

As local citizens became more concerned, action was finally taken in October. On October 5th, an executive committee of all veterans organizations in the city was created to care for the indigent veterans. For a short time, the committee spent much of its time and energy in dealing with the political implications of the veterans camp. Maverick, who had become an early leader in the work, received major support for his position when Governor Ross Sterling commissioned him on October 9th to represent the state in dealing with the veterans in San Antonio. The issue was finally settled locally on October 18th when Mayor C. M. Chambers appointed Maverick as Director of the War Veterans Relief Camp. The decision was not unanimously supported, however. Two members of the committee, fearful that Maverick would use his position for personal political gain, resigned to protest his appointment. One of the two, Dr. Ivey Stansell, declared that Maverick was no friend of the veteran and further stated, "I cannot under any circumstances be a party to allowing anyone to use the veterans for cheap newspaper publicity or for political purposes. . . ." Despite the objections, Maverick remained in control.

Ignoring as much as possible the political tempest, Maverick had already acted to alleviate the suffering of the veterans. One of the first actions was to move the camp from the totally inadequate location in Covington Park to the city fairgrounds at Exposition Park, where conditions were only slightly better, according to Maverick. The shelter available consisted only of barns and stables previously occupied by horses or cows.

Maverick spent most of his time at first in seeking public support. R. R. Rogers, the Camp Commander throughout the life of the experiment, proved to be a very able man on whom Maverick relied heavily for the day-to-day operation of the camp while he concentrated on obtaining the needed equipment and supplies. Maverick proved to be a very good solicitor. He acquired cast-off equipment from Fort Sam Houston and other local military bases; drugs came from local wholesalers; Dr. T. N. Goodson, Bexar County Health officer, took care of the camp's medical needs. Food was donated by businesses, charitable organizations, and private citizens.

At this time the camp was little more than a transient way-station where meals and temporary lodging were provided. Within a short time, however, a more permanent population developed, and the needs of the camp increased. To meet the growing demand for supplies and equipment, Maverick, as he put it, became very good at "chiseling" needed items.

A favorite and successful method of obtaining food was the "Grocery Ball," a public dance sponsored by the VFW where the admission price was the donation of some food item. Several of these "balls" were conducted at no cost since the hall and the musical entertainment were also donated. This meant, as Maverick liked to emphasize, that one hundred percent of the proceeds went to the aid of the veterans. On one occasion, the San Antonio News reported that a grocery ball netted two tons of food.

From the beginning Maverick realized that the Exposition Park location was inadequate. If the camp were to have any permanence, more adequate facilities would be needed soon. After searching the city, Maverick found an unused site with rail facilities, several buildings, land for garden and truck farming, and plentiful water. Some five miles from the city on Frio City Road, it seemed ideal. He was able to lease the thirty-five acres from the Humble Oil Company for one dollar per year. By the end of November, the move to the new location was completed and the name of the camp was changed to Diga Colony.

The change in location signalled a change in the nature of the camp. It now took on an air of permanence. While in the city it had concerned itself with immediate relief for impoverished veterans; now it resembled a community that might last indefinitely. More importantly, the structure, organization, and atmosphere of the camp changed. No longer was it to be a charity colony; it now developed into an original self-help community.

The first order of business was to build the community physically. From the Missouri Pacific Railroad Maverick obtained a number of boxcars which were moved to the site and converted into living accommodations. Land was put under cultivation; a medical clinic was established; a kindergarten was created for the younger children. The older children were bussed into San Antonio to attend the public schools.

The physical development of the colony was made possible by the talents of the residents. As Maverick liked to emphasize, the people attracted to Diga were not tramps or hoboes in the traditional sense. They were skilled people whose talents were no longer needed. Therefore, the camp not only provided relief, he believed, but it also helped restore self-respect by allowing the residents to use their own skills to build their own community. By March 1933 the colony reported sixty-five trades and professions among the 150 residents. By this time the colony had branched out into many other activities; it boasted, among other things, an auto repair shop, a blacksmith shop, a shoe repair shop, a commissary, and a carpenter shop.

One of the most publicized activities was the growing of mushrooms. The German-born wife of one of the residents, experienced in the mushroom culture, grew them on a large scale in the basement of one of the buildings. This unusual activity received much attention and attracted visitors from many places unfamiliar with the process. Not only did the mushrooms enrich the diet of the colony; for a time Diga sold them to several local hotels.

This kind of activity was exactly what Maverick hoped to achieve. The sale of produce and the barter of goods and services could make the colony independent. He believed it could succeed permanently only if it were free from outside control. Donations were solicited, but he continued to await the time when the colony would not need outside support.

Physically, the growth and success of the colony was astounding. In January 1933 Maverick reported the total value of the colony to be $39,000. This included forty-two homes valued at $21,000, a dining room valued at $2,000, shops worth $5,000, a water and sanitary system valued at $5,000, and animals worth $5,000. He further stated that all this had been accomplished within three months with no significant cash outlay. The publicity agent of Diga probably overstated the success two months later in an article for the Semi-Weekly Farm News when he wrote, "Thus the time has definitely passed when Diga was forced to assume the role of an orphan child, stretching forth a lean, weak hand for the city's alms.

For the residents of Diga, daily life and routine changed, partly because of the strict controls placed on them. Maverick, the non-resident Director, kept himself closely informed of developments from the daily census and the daily report prepared by Colony Commander R. R. Rogers. Organized along military lines the residents had to answer daily roll call, were assigned daily duties, and had to have a pass to leave the camp. Since the only excuse for a child's absence from school was illness, the parents were responsible to colony authorities for any infractions. Violation of the rules was subject to punishment, including expulsion from the camp. The records indicate occasional disruptions that resulted in expulsion for such violations as the failure to contribute wages or compensation to the colony treasury, and drunkenness, among others.

Despite the restrictions the residents benefitted in many ways. For those fortunate enough to live there a proper, though not elegant, diet was provided for their children, and reasonably comfortable housing was available. To many of the residents the acceptance of a few rules governing conduct seemed a small price to pay for such security in a world of insecurity.

Perhaps the most beneficial effect was that Diga helped to restore pride and to build morale. Residents could point with pride to what they had accomplished with their own hands. They had helped themselves, and no longer did they need to be ashamed of their misfortune.

Culturally, the colony also prospered. Musical groups were organized and often provided the entertainment for dances and other activities. At the peak of its existence Diga had its own mimeographed newspaper, the Diga Colony Gazette, "punlished [sic] ever so often." It was poorly done and was often childish and sometimes in bad taste. Seldom did it contain news or comment of significance. Yet, its very existence indicates a degree of permanence and development not often found in such communities.

Obviously, the Diga Colony that emerged in the new location was very much different from the War Veterans Relief Camp at Exposition Park. Not only did Diga concern itself with improving the living conditions of the individual veteran; it also took on ideological overtones. In its own small way, Diga was a challenge to the existing economic system.

The idea for Diga was Maverick's alone. Influenced by the League for Industrial Democracy, he coined the name Diga which he explained was "an anagram of the letters which stand for 'Agricultural and Industrial Democracy.'" He said it also meant that average citizens were given the "chance to dig ourselves out" of present conditions.

Diga's existence reflected the Texan's adherence to what Richard Hofstadter called the "agrarian myth." The belief in the innate value of rural life regained followers during the depression; the "back to the farm" movement was discussed widely and practiced occasionally. Certainly a part of Diga's existence was based on this idea. Maverick exhibited this sentiment where he said that "the only thing in which we can place any trust is Mother Earth." The motto of Diga also emphasized the agrarian tradition: "Civilization begins and ends with the plow." Diga was, however, more than a part of the "back to the farm" idea.

Under Maverick's leadership the new colony was communal in nature. Property was owned in common and everyone who received government compensation or who earned money in outside jobs was required to deposit a portion in the common treasury. Maverick declared, "The basic foundation of the colony is that he who does not work shall not eat. . . ." The records of Diga show the strictness of the policy; those who did not conform were expelled.

Maverick also attempted to create a society in which money was unnecessary. He was very proud that the colony was built with almost no monetary outlay; he was hopeful that the skill and products of Diga could be bartered in such a way that money would never be needed. In this matter, he failed. He said he tried to convince the residents that money was "just a snare and a delusion," that money "is merely a medium of exchange." He was never able to convince them that money has no value in itself. As he put it, "My barter vaccination didn't take."

Capitalism, as it had traditionally been practiced in this country, was to Maverick one of the basic causes for the economic crisis of the thirties. He hoped, therefore, to find an alternative to, or at least an acceptable modification of, capitalism.

To accomplish his goals, Maverick attempted to instruct the residents in some basic economics and politics. He claimed at one point that no attempt was made to control political ideas. As he put it, "Any person can be a capitalist, communist, democrat, socialist, or even a republican." Despite this disclaimer, he said in his autobiography that he subscribed to "various socialist and liberal papers, including The American Guardian. . . ." He also lectured the residents of the values of cooperation. They listened politely, ignored the periodicals, and grumbled that the Director was too radical.

Maverick was never able to penetrate the traditional American reverence for capitalism. He could repeat over and over that "human rights shall always be superior to property rights," or he could tell his friends that he "would take over any ism on earth if it would relieve conditions and protect the people." Yet, the impact of his views on the residents of Diga was minimal.

Maverick concluded that the people really had no ideological concepts other than an ingrained respect for the "American way." He best described them in the following manner:
They had been suffering, hungry, without work, and were still suffering and without work. That seems to have been all they understood. As for any philosophy of government, they never heard of philosophy, and they thought government was something that sent you to war, made you pay taxes, or if it was a good one, paid bonuses and pensions.
To radicalize people of this type was virtually impossible, as Maverick sadly learned. The residents had few ideological objections to the community because they had few convictions of their own. He explained their lack of sophistication about politics and economics in the following statement:
None had ever heard of socialism—except as some vague thing that was "bad." As for Communism, all they knew was that it was Russian, unpatriotic, and sinful. As for the word "collectivism," it was just a word that had gotten misplaced. In many contacts, I found that their idea of "capitalism" was a state of society in which you can be hungry for a while, but you will finally get a good job, and possibly have others that can either go hungry or work for you.
As most Texans at that time, and perhaps as most Americans, they were basically pragmatic. He believed they would espouse virtually any cause if it offered relief; when conditions returned to normal, or even improved slightly, they reverted to their earlier views. Although Maverick made the following remarks about the transient population in general, he felt the same about most of the veterans at Diga: "What sickens me is that some of the men who rode the rods and have gotten jobs are now as reactionary as Du Ponts."

Despite Maverick's inability to bring about a permanent change, Diga, during its short life, did achieve a great deal. It provided relief for a number of people, ranging from about thirty at the beginning to 171 at its peak on January 14, 1933. More than that, however, Diga also provided some assistance, mostly in food, to veterans living in the city. Diga was also successful enough to obtain federal funds. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation, after January 1, 1933, contributed to the Diga Colony $150 per month or the equivalent of $3.00 per family. Robert Kelso, field director of the RFC, called Diga "one of the most effective demonstrations of self-help for the unemployed" he had seen in the country. Just how long the RFC aided the colony is not known.

Despite its accomplishments, Diga was doomed to ultimate failure although the exact date of its death is not clear. An undated clipping in the Maverick papers indicates that the colony was still in existence as late as October 1933. At that time a group from Diga asked Governor Miriam Ferguson to remove R. R. Rogers as Colony Commander because of mismanagement and discrimination against some residents. Maverick was no longer associated with Diga at this time.

Several important factors contributed to its failure. Maverick later said, "Two economies cannot exist side by side within a given area, especially a money and non-money one." Such ventures represent only a "patchwork economy" and cannot succeed in proximity to capitalism. "It has to be one or the other." Colonies and utopias can be successful, he believed, only if they are based on a religious faith or if they are isolated enough that they are not directly in contact with the rest of society.

Human nature being what it is, voluntary cooperation is a tenuous undertaking at best. As Maverick said, "Not a man in the crowd understood cooperation for the common good." Without such an understanding or some common bond, such as religion, petty jealousies and bickering are most difficult to overcome.

Diga failed also, he believed, because it was make-shift economics. As a small unit in a large nation, Diga could do little to correct the evils of capitalism. What happens in one part of the country has its impact everywhere else. "When a system is dead, it can't be revived, any more than you can revive the whole body by trying to revive the ears, toes, or hands of a corpse." Therefore, his efforts, he concluded, were doomed from the start.

Other than these reasons, however the failure of Diga can be attributed to other more immediate factors. Maverick was the dominant personality from the beginning; his constant involvement kept things on an even keel. This important presence was removed in April 1933 when he journeyed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for treatment of an old war wound. Without him the colony undoubtedly suffered. Another factor in undermining Diga was the increasing involvement of the federal government in relief. The RFC provided limited relief, but particularly significant was the massive direct federal aid available after Roosevelt took office. The presence of federal jobs helped undermine many self-help colonies.

Maverick was disappointed with its failure, but he was not sorry that he had undertaken it. He believed that Diga was valuable as a phase in the "story of the development of the American mind," and that it had influenced his own thought. Maverick further concluded that the colony was a great experience "because it involved doing a necessary work—and also was a laboratory that proved to my mind the utter futility of makeshift economics."

Diga was somewhat unique when compared with other communities or when viewed in the context of Texas in the thirties. Despite their Populist heritage, Texans have often been conservative, nationalistic, and suspicious of new ideas. It seems very strange that Diga could exist and receive so much attention without significant public concern about its ideological implications. It seems more unusual that any elected public official, but especially Maverick, could lead an attack upon the economic system without arousing a public outcry. Diga's peaceful life may indicate that the depression was so severe that most people were involved in personal matters almost exclusively.

In the final analysis, Diga was an attempt by a small group of men, one in particular, to face a crisis greater than ever before with little experience to guide them. The result was a truly humanitarian venture at a time when humanity seemed to matter little.

Donald W. Whisenhunt

A Maverick in Washington

"Nuts!" said Maury Maverick, chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, "to hell with this! Take a letter--issue a bulletin!" The Directive read: "To everybody on my staff. Stay off this gobbledygook language. It only fouls people up. For the Lord's sake be short and say what you're talking about. Anyone using the words 'activation' or 'implementation' will be shot."

Everybody knew what Maury Maverick was talking about. Everybody usually does. That's why he's doing such a good job as the godfather of free enterprise in America. As chairman and general manager of the Smaller War Plants Corporation (SWPC) he fights the cause of the little businessman; leases him machinery; lends him money.

SWPC vigorously represents small business. Its job is to preserve the small business enterprises through the war-expansion program, and to plan for renewed civilian output and re-conversion after the war. Maverick means to see the job is done. He will brook no fuzziness, no Washington delays. Bluff and brusque in manner, the chairman says: "Small business isn't so small." By Department of Commerce reckoning the giant in Maverick's hands represents almost 90 per cent of American manufacturers. These "small business" firms account for 45 per cent of the workers employed and for 34 per cent of American business in dollar volume.

For that reason speed is the keynote of SWPC. There is no hip-hip-hooraying in the organization. Launching a series of weekly staff meetings, Maverick eliminated the early confusion through man-to-man talks. In one week the SWPC helped place approximately 350 contracts and 330 sub-contracts with a total value of 31 million dollars among small business men over the country. This necessitated seven hard work days for the chairman. "I mean to get results or get the hell out," Maverick says tersely, "and furthermore, every civilian alive who can read will know exactly what I am talking about. You can shock the people with the truth if they know what you are talking about."

Almost everything else in Washington was created by the Executive order of the President, but Congress created the SWPC June 11, 1942, handing the new prodigy 150 million dollars and named Maverick chairman on January 12, 1944, to spend it. That made Maverick very happy. Being a strictly "uplift" character, he's having a wonderful time uplifting small business. Zip, bing, goes a million dollars--government money. "Hot diggity," chortles Maverick, reaching for the next "cause" on his list.

The cause is just. Prior to March 9, 1944, according to the Truman Committee, about one hundred firms gobbled up 70 per cent of all war contracts. The 165 thousand small factories got the leftovers. Maury Maverick and his SWPC are out to change all that. Already much has been done. The small manufacturer can, without cost, receive assistance in solving any research problem. He has at his disposal, through the SWPC, 11 Science Advisory Committees, some members of which are also members of the National Academy of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Physics.

Another plan under way will make available to small industry some 45 thousand alien patents and patent applications seized since the outbreak of the war, which are available to small business through the SWPC and the Alien Property Custodian. "We mean to see that these patents never get back into the hands of the Germans or of any monopolies or cartels," says the hard-headed, San Antonio-born Texan.

Maverick is not against big business. He's sees nothing wrong if it is honest big business, but thinks the central government must do everything necessary for the preservation of small business. He also favors government spending to make the country what he considers it could be. What he considers it could be is not what many think it should be. Maverick's plan is to mark out the land in regional areas according to their potential. One section might be devoted exclusively to mining, another to cattle raising, another to manufacturing. For these sweeping plans he has been criticised severely.

He doesn't mind criticism. "No man who goes into politics can sit on Mount Olympus talking sweet philosophy and get elected," says he flatly. He admits that he has practiced demagoguery and that he might do it again, wind, weather, and the voters being propitious. "Further, I see nothing wrong with a Texan standing for what is right and being called a 'liberal.'"

Some critics have thumbnailed him in prussic acid, "show-off Maverick," "an eccentric," "a baffling phenomenon." Yet, one of his most severe critics admits: "Fundamentally, he is too honest. You cannot bully or cajole him into surrender on a point of principle."

It is his very simplicity which makes him appear complex. A large-bodied man of 48, built like a Texas bull, he is one of the frankest men alive. Mixed with a Don Quijote romanticism and the efficiency and hard-headedness of Henry Ford, these quirks manifest themselves in his stock-in-trade crusading. He has an abiding passion for art; a driving will to "do good." He hates living in Washington, thinks all cities are terrible. He bridles at routine and when hard-pressed or thwarted, his rages are famous; words flow from his mouth with the sting of a whiplash. Yet, he has a kind of tragic austerity. He peers at the world through thick-rimmed glasses--ready to attack or defend. He's good at both.

At the age of 17, while on his way by boat to the Virginia Military Institute, he wandered down into the steerage to see how "poor people" traveled. Invited to eat, he was assured the food was terrible. It was, but before he got much knowledge of the subject the steward discovered him, and calling him an "agitator" ordered him to eat First Class. "I felt like weeping the rest of the trip," he confesses, "but I had been told Mavericks never cry."

Later, he discovered that wasn't quite the truth. He cried plenty. It was during the first World War. Wounded and unable to guide his horse to the Allied lines, he ran into a squad of Germans--26 of them. "I was scared to death," he says, "my knees banged up against the horse. The tears wouldn't stay put. I think even the horse was scared. I knew I was going to be shot at any moment." Liverish with terror and worn out with bawling, he would have surrendered on the spot. "But they beat me to it," he says in amazement. "In the worst English I have ever heard, they begged me to save their lives." Very brave and patronizing now, he pointed to the Allied lines and said truculently, "Beat it."

To this day he is glad there wasn't a reporter around; thinks he might have got stuck on his medals. He was a good soldier. He received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. "Both are very pretty," he says fondly, "but I didn't deserve them."

The Maverick itch to crusade for the underdog is stronger than the Maverick urge for personal glory. He got himself involved with the Depression. Donning old clothes and letting his whiskers grow, he headed for the jungle of down-and-outers. He wasn't a good bum, but he meant well. Organizing a "colony" in San Antonio, he proposed that the men-of-the-road share and share alike with their booty, no matter how they had obtained it.

As long as the inhabitants had little money, the colony flourished; as soon as they got on their feet they moved on. When the government began to grant relief, Maverick was out of business. He still has respect for his lowly parishioners. "They were good people," he affirms, "no better and no worse than any other people. How can you talk to a man about having self-reliance and the initiative of our forefathers when he has to grow corn on a pavement? He isn't living in the country of his forefathers."

Maverick believes firmly that the government should remove worry from the minds of certain classes of people by a system of social security, old age pensions and conservation of natural resources through nationalization. "Rural American life is planless, headless and hopeless," says he.

When not in violent motion on SWPC business, Chairman Maverick spends his time writing historical pamphlets on such topics as the Great Seal, the Declaration of Independence, and various historical figures. He is seriously interested in American history, but not mawkish. He collects old books, historical documents, pill boxes and old coins. Likes to ride a horse, but not in a cowboy hat.

In Congress he was a militant uplifter, invariably in the front ranks of the progressives. He went all out for TVA, federal housing, slum clearance and the conservation of forests. While the press gave him front-page notices on stunts like riding a horse into the House of Representatives, he was busy with legislation. Through his efforts the Venereal Disease Bill and the Cancer Research Bill became law. "No human being should suffer for lack of medical care," he says. "There should be a law against it."

Many people fought the Maverick liberalism. He lost his next election. Certain critics, proclaiming it a political funeral, sent flowers to the deceased. The corpse expressed itself with a vigorous kick and popped up head of SWPC. It's a very cheerful and optimistic ghost. Through Maverick, the services of SWPC have spread throughout the country. Research laboratories, technical advise and highly trained men are available in each of its fourteen regional offices at strategic headquarters throughout the nation.

Plans are under way for post-war SWPC. Maverick thinks a great service can be performed in that period of instability, but would like SWPC made a permanent part of government. He wants small business to have an equivalent of the research laboratories of the big companies. SWPC already has the rudiments. Asserting his belief in free competition, he maintains vigorously that he abhors State Socialism, but sees nothing wrong with Government sharing in what used to be private business. Unless SWPC is extended by Congress, it expires July, 1945.

Warning against this, Maverick stoutly protests, "We cannot stop spending when peace breaks out. If we do not combine government spending with private enterprise, there'll be hell to pay. I have asked for 350 million dollars--and I mean to get it." Chances are he will.

Carol Hughes, Coronet, August 1944