I love these press conferences. A gaggle of reporters crowded around me hoping to ask questions.
I am somebody.
Hands raising, my heart pounding, and sincere interest in what I have to say.
This is why I ran for office. People want to listen to me, now.
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman. How was your trip Mr. Chairman? Reporters yell above each other, hoping to get my attention.
How can they not know by now I only pick guys who ask questions I like?
“Fine, my trip was fine. Our boys in the Navy are doing a splendid job. They’ve learned how to slap the Japs. I can tell you, our boys have never been in better spirits.”
These guys sop this stuff up.
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman . . . Is there anything to the rumors our torpedoes are malfunctioning?”
Laughing jovially, I pause for a moment.
Damn, I was about to call on Stan! He’s got the softball I am prepared to answer.
Our torpedoes. . . no problem.
“Oh, no, nothing to it. That’s just rumor started by some misinformed or ill-willed person wanting to shame our brave fighting boys. Our torpedoes are working just fine. Just last month our boys in the Silent Service sank more than 20 ships, for 83,000 tons.”
Not great numbers, but it's what we have with these lousy torpedoes.
“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, I have a question.”
“Yes, Stan, good to see you.”
“You too, sir. What did you learn of reports U.S. submarines are at risk from the Japanese because they are good sub hunters?”
“Nothing to that! Our boys are perfectly safe, because they know what they’re doing.”
Thanks for the softy you lousy rat.
“A Follow-up, Mr. Chairman, are you at all concerned about Japanese Depth Charges?”
Damn it Stan, I told you no follow-ups.
Jap depth charges. . . yeah, Navy told me Japs don’t set them right.”
“Not at all, Stan, the Japs don’t set their depth charges deep enough to hit our boats. I’m not worried at all about the safety of our fine sub crews.”
Another reporter chimes in, “How about logistics, are our boys in the Pacific getting everything they need to win this war?”
Oh, what a softball! I like this guy.
“Yes, oh yes! We are sending so much war material out there, it’s getting so our boys must keep shooting just to not get buried by it. They’ve even got ice cream at every major base and on the ships. Imagine, ICE CREAM whenever ya want it. Now that’s how to fight a war, ain’t it boys!”
I love this job!
Congressman Andrew Jackson May
In June 1943, after just returning from a trip to Hawaii for briefings on the war against Japan, Congressman Andrew Jackson May, Chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, revealed to reporters Japanese anti-submarine practices were ineffective, because they set their depth charges too shallow to hit U.S. submarines. This little bit of highly actionable intelligence was then published in newspapers across the country, newspapers the Japanese read. Upon learning of their error, the Japanese immediately reset their depth charges to deeper depths.
At the end of the war, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, commander of the U.S. submarine fleet in the Pacific, linked Congressman May's statement to the loss of 10 submarines, with 80 men on each boat, for a total of 800 lost lives. The Congressman kept his seat in the following election, although karma caught up with him later. He lost the 1946 election due to a bribery scandal surrounding his campaign. In 1947, May was convicted on charges of accepting bribes for his influence in the award of munitions contracts during the war. May served nine months in prison before receiving a full pardon from President Truman in 1952.
The 800 men killed as a direct result of his comments could never be pardoned. They are still out on patrol somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean.
This is an excerpt from Threads of The War, Volume IV, which you can buy here.