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Arthur Goodfriend Papers

Little Arthur and the Big War: April-June 1940

Arthur Goodfriend
9 East 41 Street
New York City

Little Arthur was disappointed in the Big War. . .it was all beer and skittles.

Handshaking, baby kissing and pretty girls. So he sailed to Europe to shake things up. . . all day long. . .and all night long. . .people listened to the radio.

There were a lot of Italians on board-and they all prayed for PEACE. But who cares what the Italians want?

The Azores arrived on schedule. . .and the Albert Teschler of Hamburg, blockaded by the British, proved there was a war after all. The Albert Teschler, Hamburg, off Ponte Delgada.

Meanwhile, the Nazis, worried about Little Arthur's arrival, got very busy in Norway. . . and in Lisbon, Portugal, everybody did nothing but stand around before the bulletins reading about the great big war.

Two gray destroyers met Little Arthur outside the Straits of Gibraltar early one Sunday morning, and escorted him safely to the big Rock, where hundreds of ships awaited inspection and convoy.

The Saturnia waited at Gib for four hours, while the British Navy removed the mail-and the British officials lunched on hors d'oeuves and Chianti as guests of the Italian government. From Gib on, the Mediterranean was a peaceful lake, except for an occasional warship.

Spain, Majorca and Minorca hadn't changed a bit since the Spanish War, or so it seemed to Little Arthur, on board ship twenty miles away. Genoa vived the duce, read the war news anxiously, cursed the "tedeschi" nude its breath, and looked more beautiful than ever in the Spring sunshine.

There was little traffic, and most autos used gas bags instead of petrol. From Genoa, it was a mere overnight ride to Basel, and a box seat for the big, bad war.

When little Arthur arrived in Switzerland, he almost died of fright. For everywhere he looked, he saw guns, barbed wire, bunkers, tank traps and German soldiers. Only they really weren't German soldiers at all. They were Swiss soldiers.

Basel nestled prettily on the Rhine, surrounded on the East by the hills of Germany's Black Forest, on the West by the Vosges of France-and in all directions by sandbag forts. Arthur started to feel very, very close to the war.

For 35 centimes, little Arthur took a trolley ride from France to Germany. First he watched the poilus patrolling the frontier at St. Louis. Fifteen minutes later, he was in Riehen, watching the German soldiers across the street in Lorrach.

Occasionally, in the still hours of the night, Little Arthur heard the big guns booming. A nazi bomber landed at Basel Airport and was interned. He climbed the tower at Gemperturm, and studied the invisible Siegfried and Maginot lines. He remained amazed at the idea of Switzerland mustering an army of 600,000 soldiers from a population of 4,000,000. He became accustomed to the barbed wire, barricades, sentries, tank posts and verbot signs on the streets of Basel. He drank martinis with British and German spies and beautiful bar maids in the "Drei Koemgen." He dined deliciously on asparagus in Langesheim.

Meanwhile the Norwegian battle hotly rages. Little Arthur felt that he was getting results. To prove it, on the 125th day of the war, an editorial actually appeared in an English newspaper with a caption reading "Wake Up."

To ensure further action, little Arthur left Basel at 7:45 PM and arrived at Pooturroy [sic] on the French border at 10 PM. While poilus with long bayonets watched, other poilus removed all his baggage. Inspectors counted his money and sifted his belongings.

By 11 PM, the train to Paris was off. . . All of a sudden Little Arthur noticed something strange. . .he was in his first BLACKOUT.

Little Arthur arrived in Paris at six in the morning. He glimpses, en route, a normal French countryside, except for anti-aircraft emplacements in the Parisian suburbs. Arrived at the Sare de l'Est, hundreds of weary poilus poured from the train, on leave from the Maginot line, or released from service because it was still a very quiet big war.

Everything in Paris looked different. Little Arthur couldn't figure out why the Arc de Triomphe, the Place Vendome, the Madeleine, the Inalides [sic] and everything else were all there, only strangely unfamiliar. Then one day it dawned on him. . . SANDBAGS to say nothing of the "abri." Otherwise, as Maurice Chevalier says in the Casino de Paris, "Paris, c'est tonjone la Paris." [sic]

Little Arthur saw fewer soldiers than in Switzerland, but more pretty girls. Food had never been more delicious. The Ritz Bar is all the gayer for a bit of khaki. There are barrage ballons in the Tinleries and anti-aircraft in the Luxembourg, but the nannies form a ring of baby carriages around the guns.

Little Arthur went to the American Club to hear Munster Koht of Norway. People shake their heads in sympathy at his sad account. When he is finished, the chairman thanks him and announces the guest speaker for next week-Maurice Chevalier.

To Little Arthur, the war once again seemed very far away! BUT NOT FOR LONG. . .on his very first night in Paris, there was an [article on Nazis bombing Paris] Next morning all was quiet in the Rue de la Paix-until at ten o'clock, came Paris Midi with news. . . [headlines]

Little Arthur thought the end of the world had come. But he was mistaken. That night Maurice Chevalier sang "Ma Pomme" as usual at the Casino de Paris. Josephine Baker danced as nice as ever and business in Paris went on as usual.

The great threat, it now developed, were the PARACHUTISTS all Paris kept one eye on the sky, and the other on the dinner table. There were serious restrictions on food and drink. On certain days the people had to be content with entr?e Cote Berez and Champagne. Little Arthur, unable to endure these privations, flew to London in a neatly camouflaged plane.

He passed several hospital ships at a channel port. Compared to London's-Little Arthur discovered-Paris' blackout was a fireworks display. All night long Little Arthur wandered through the blackout looking for his hotel. Exhausted, he crept into an empty doorway and slept until morning in a corner. Next day, when he awoke, he discovered he had been asleep in the doorway of his own hotel.

Little Arthur got his first glimpse of battle dress-and went on record against it. "How do they expect an army to win a war without sex appeal?" he demanded.

Rationing was very strict. In Simpson's, for instance, only one steer was permitted each customer. Headlines screamed when Leopold betrayed Britain. Panic seized London. But there was no need for alarm. The Hyde Park anti-aircraft boys had the situation in hand.

Little Arthur couldn't figure out where London got enough hot air for its balloon barrage-until he visited Hyde Park corner. There were still plenty of Communists about, damning the government for the war and demanding free speech. "What have you got?-and where else could you have it?" tub thumped Little Arthur. The crowd went wild with a "hear-hear!"

Little Arthur spent a delightful weekend in the country in an English garden. At 7 AM he was awakened with tea and biscuits. At 9 there was breakfast-coffee, bread, butter, kippers, bacon, eggs and marmalade. From 10 to 12, he weeded the garden and watched the lupins grow. At noon there was a joint and sweet washed down with bittle. In the afternoon he napped in the sunshine, only to be awakened for tea and cake and sandwiches at four. Tea blended into supper, with an expectant hush settling down on everyone at nine, when the BBC had its inning, molesting the peace with news of a strange, far off war. "The RAF was heroic," said the announcer, "one machine taking on forty Germans, another fifty, another seventy. One hero took on 250 German bombers single-handed. Our retreat is being carried out heroically." Everybody sat back pridefully-and inspired by the military news, decide to play darts.

On Sunday, May 26, 1940, Little Arthur went, with all of England, to church. And while the lorries rumbled past the doorway of the little Puttenham Church, on the way, with men and guns, to the coast, he prayed with the others- "That is may please thee to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to help us forgive them. To give them repentance for their misdoings, and a readiness to make amends. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies be at peace with him."

The Germans took Calais. The Germans took Boulogne. The Germans took Abbeville and Rotterdam and Boulogne. Guns could be heard across the channel, and the Maginot line was gored.

And following the good old custom, letters appeared in the English newspapers. And there were editorials too. And racing news, too. The grim facades of London's Mayfair bloomed into a riot of colorful "FOR SALE" signs.

And most of the best people were evacuees, leaving Little Arthur all to himself in a big, lonely town. Not that there weren't diversions.

There was the Royal Academy show, with lots of pictures that itched for a few trifling additions. There was Victoria Station-and refugees coming in from Belgium and the Netherlands. . . And there were midnight departures from Victoria and Waterloo. There were plenty of the war's funniest posters to laugh at. . . There were machine guns on Admiralty Arch to look at and wonder about. . .

There were WAAFS and WACS and WRENS and also beautiful girls to flirt with. There were aliens whose faces made fascinating studies as they were marching off to be interned. . . There were war motives to be studied, such as one young lady's: "Let a German soldier just lay a finger on my new silver fox and I'll tear his eyes out." There were gas masks to buy and lines to be stood in-for exit permits, alien registration cards, ration books, identity cards, visas.

And there were always the newspapers. . . Newspapers whose headlines buoyed the people up. . . And subheadlines that kicked them in the pants Gamelin disappeared, but the British weekend survived. . .There was Brighton to go to on sunny Sundays. . .and boat trips down the Thames. . .and many, many, plays each consisting of a Hitler impersonator, a bronzed RAF hero, a vulgar evacuee, a female impersonator, and chorus girls with terrible legs.

Competition ripened among the newsboys. . .and always bad news was counter attacked by good news. When the troops started returning from Flanders, Little Arthur went down to Whitehall to enlist. "Nothing doing," said the Sergeant Major, "You're too old: 25 years is maximum." So little Arthur, who was 32, hobbled back to his hotel, and regretfully packed his bags, and left London to join [Headline: 600 Americans Crowd to Port for Refugee Ship]

And so, while British troops were embarking at Kunkirk, American refugees embarked at Galway, in high dudgeon over the service, the fares, the crowding and the government.

To give the voyage that final fillip, a choice item appeared in the morning newspaper. . . Thereafter, submarines were observed by hundreds of passengers. There was hardly a wave without its periscope.

Only Old Glory fluttered between disaster and little Arthur, and constant storms ripped even that into remnants.

But Little Arthur couldn't say a word.

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