From FRANCIS McCULLAGII NEW YORK.
As I was quietly drinking coffee a short time ago in a New York cafeteria and listening at the same time to a German waitress from Berlin telling me of the enormous damage inflicted on that city by the R.A.F.. I was astonished to hear the ominous drone of big bombers and then the banshee wail of a siren rising high above the usual noises of the street. For a split second I feared that my brain was giving way, but then the sight of people in the streets running for shelter reassured me, and I soon learned that we were having " a vast air raid test " under the supervision of Lieut.-Gen. Drum, First Army Commander, and the immediate direction of Major-Gen. James E. Chaney, Commanding General of the Air Defence Command, and some 24 other officers. Not only die' soldiers take part in it, but also 10,000 civilians and Coast Guardsmen, who manned 700 observation stations located on house-tops, barn roofs, and skyscrapers throughout New York
State and New England.
The manoeuvres lasted four days and were based on English experiences. Searchlight batteries and anti-aircraft guns were in action against the 14 or 15 enemy bombers which attempted to invade the skies over God's Own Country, and those skies were protected moreover by 35 swift pursuit planes based on five air-fields.
I refrain from any detailed description of this sham raid, seeing that (presumably) your readers know all about the genuine thing, but I should like to say that the headlines and the photographs in the newspapers are tremendous. " Raid on City by Bombers Repulsed," shriek the Hearst newspapers in a concerted yell that runs all the way from New York to San Francisco. One photograph represents two American legionaries on top of a roof at Freeport L.I., both looking like Arctic explorers, for it is very cold here at present. Deputy Observer Adrian Vernon points with warning, gloved finger and shouts, " There they are—bombers I" while a superior officer shouts the warning into a telephone.
NO BLACK-OUT—AND WHY
A New York Times photograph shows us a flight-lieutenant, a veritable he-man in zero-weather costume, climbing masterfully into his Curtis P-40 pursuit plane to take off in search of hostile aircraft spotted on Long Island. His back is towards us, but so is his face, for he has swivelled round his head to look menacingly upwards at the enemy. Above the 103rd floor on the roof of the Empire Building, half a mile high, legionaries keep watch for a squadron nearing New York. Outside a tent in White Plains, other veterans of the Legion scan the skies for invading craft.
In the defence of New York there wee omitted one essential feature of air raid defence as England knows it, the black-out. But Mayor La Guardia, the originator and guiding spirit of these far-flung preperations, has announced on the part of the Civil Defence Council (to be designated hereinafter as the C.D.C,) that this omission will be made good from next month, not all at once throughout New York's 313 square miles, but gradually over small sections of the city during a period of half a year.
A complete black-out over all New York would be risky on account of gangsters, hold-up men, kidnappers, and suchlike gentry. While walking along the aristrocratic Fifth Avenue last week I got mixed up in a crowd gathered round a sntall but significant perforation in the great glass window of a Woolworth store. It had been made only a few moments before by the bullet of a gangster who had been cornered in ehe building after he and a companion had killed a cashier and a policeman. In complete darkness such gentry would have the time of their lives.
So would hostile bombers, for the streets would be so packed that nobody could move, since Lower Manhattan, contains in its skyscrapers many more people than it could accommodate in its streets and open spaces. So great is the overcrowding here at lunchtime that all the big businesses have had to arrange that their numerous employees cat inside the building. An air raid attack by day or night would therefore mean thousands trampled to death and tens of thousands killed by bombs or flames or falling buildings. New Yorkers think that their new steel-framed skyscrapers would stand up to it better than the old brick mansions of London, hut on the other hand they might constitute funnels up which the flames could roar with a fury which no amount of water could extinguish.
THOSE SIX POLICEWOMEN
The American authorities arc studying all these questions seriously. and Mayor La Guardia of New York has formed the C.D.C. to which 1 have just referred which sits behind closed doors in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Six policewomen have just been added to the regular police details guarding all approaches to that mysterious, closed chamber, and they are doing their work so well that the City Councilmen have difficulty sometimes in getting into their offices. Why they have received this reinforcement of policewomen is a carefully guarded secret. Other measures are being taken to impress the Councilmen with the delicacy of the in. terriational situation. One of those measures takes the shape of a pamphlet given to each member of the C.D.C. by the City Tunnel Authority, a pamphlet bearing the sinister title " If it comes," and describing the steps to be taken in the event of a Nazi air raid on New York City.
Among the useful' admonitions which it contains are the fallowing: " Do not be frightened. Walk, never run, in the event of any emergency. Learn to keep calm, Pay no attention to rumour-mongers. Do not listen to gossip. Do not become panicky. . . . So keep cool. . . . Don't be alarmed! Just use common sense." To people who happen to find themselves al home when the Nazis come overhead, the following advice is given: " Don't eat until the danger is over. Don't smoke. Don't light matches. Put out the lights— they may guide enemy planes. Close windows tightly. Pull down shades." Assuring the public that the city's Emergency Board is doing everything possible for protection, the pamphlet adds: " if we keep our heads
and follow Instructions we have nothing to leaf."
The front cover shows the Empire State Building and mid-town Manhattan with 19 planes flying towards it. The back page shows 20 more planes, and an airplane centred in the seal of the Mayor's Emergency Board.
These activities of our energetic Mayor have no connection with the sham air raid ; they are meant to prepare the people of New York for a real air raid, which the Mayor apparently expects any day.
All over the United Stales, citizens and the armed forces of the Republic are equally on the qui vice. The farmers of the Middle West have asked the War Office for anti-tank guns (of all things in the world). In Massachussetts the people are excavating air raid trenches. The army is feverishly practising with tanks, parachutist formations, ski troops, and even roller skates. Roller skating is only indulged in, however, as " one way of keeping democracy's defenders fit." At Perth Amboy Arena, which boasts of having America's largest skating surface, the soldiek of Fort Hancock's Coast Artillery Corps are rolling along to rollicking skate music. This is a sport, of course, but the parachuting and the ski-ing are military exercises, carried out on a large scale, and they look grand on the movies.