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From our archives: Looking back at Hitler’s ‘great mistake’

What we thought: 75 years ago

Published: Monday, June 2, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
(U.S. Navy)
The USS Squalus sits in dry dock after being raised and towed to Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine following its sinking on May 23, 1939, off the Isles of Shoals. Twenty-six men drowned in the partially flooded sub, but 33 men were saved by Navy rescuers who used the new McCann Rescue Chamber. A Telegraph editorial praised the seaman who closed a bulkhead door at a key moment in the crisis.

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials and articles from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following items appeared in the Telegraph between June 1 and 3, 1939.

Unredeemed Czechs

Someday it may prove to have been Hitler’s great mistake – the seizure of Czechoslovakia.

The Rhineland, the Saar, the Sudetenland, even Danzig, perhaps, there is an argument here. All these were German in population and spirit.

But Czechoslovakia, despite all the talk of “ancient German living room,” was and is peopled by Czechs and Slovaks. There is evidence that they do not take kindly to the efforts to Germanize them, any more than Italians incorporated into the old Austria-Hungarian empire before the World War responded to similar efforts.

In Poland, in France, and in other countries, refugee Czechs are organizing into Czech legions when the law permits, or joining the armies of those countries when it does not. General Lev Prchala, last Czech governor of Carpathia, hints that should war break out, even the Czechs still under the German fist in the homeland “would know what to do.”

Thus, it may come to pass that Hitler’s great mistake will have been the one in which he violated his own stated principle: that all he wished was to bring into the Reich the adjoining German peoples.

The Czech state, a healthy body when it existed by itself, may prove a cancer when absorbed by the body of the Reich. – June 3, 1939


People often wonder why men in a military or naval service must undergo such long training. It often seems that “squads right” and “hit the deck” might be learned in less time than is given to them.

So they could. But what can’t be learned so quickly is a habit of discipline that acts automatically and correctly in an emergency when there is no time to think.

Such a moment came to Electrician’s Mate Maness on the trapped submarine Squalus. He had charge of the bulkhead door between the flooded after battery room and the control room.

In an emergency, his duty was to close the door. Though he knew some of his own shipmates were in the flooded compartment, Maness did his duty.

Had he stopped to think too long, he might not have done it. And the whole crew, to a man, might have been lost.

But Maness was trained to act, and he acted.

That men may so act under such circumstances is the whole purpose of military training and discipline. – June 1, 1939

The judicial election

On Monday, the voters of this, the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, will elect three judges of the circuit court. The Republican Party has nominated three candidates for those positions. They are men of high standing and great ability and should be elected. The Telegraph recommends the straight Republican ticket in Monday’s election.

Two of the candidates are men of proven ability on the bench. Judge Harry Edwards of Dixon is unquestionably one of the outstanding jurists in Illinois. Judge Leon A. Zick of Oregon, another fine judge, has had many years of experience on both the circuit bench in this district and as county judge in Ogle and Lee counties.

Harry E. Wheat, of Freeport, has made a splendid record as state’s attorney of Stephenson County and has high standing as a lawyer. He also will render fine service as a circuit judge if elected.

The Fifteenth District is normally a strongly Republican district and for many, many years elected all three Republican judges. The trend at present is back to the Republican Party, and all Republicans should make it a special order of business on Monday to get to the polls and register their vote for all three of the Republican candidates. – June 3, 1939

One touch of nature

Those of us who live in the city are apt to forget the wonder of weather and the vital importance of sun and rain to millions who still live close to the earth.

In the city, it doesn’t really matter much whether it rains or shines. A trifling inconvenience, perhaps, some slight change of plan, or some momentary interruption. That is all.

But among people who work on the land and in the earth, rain or not-rain means the difference between the success or failure of a whole year’s work.

That is why only those who have lived in the country can fully appreciate the drama of an incident at Kintyre, North Dakota, the other night when Gov. John Moses was delivering a high school commencement oration.

Suddenly, in the midst of his own oratory, he stopped, lifted a finger. There was a hush in the school auditorium.

“Listen,” said the governor. “Hear that? Isn’t it wonderful?”

It was raining.

And everyone present, including the speaker himself, knew that nothing he was saying, nothing he could say, equaled in importance the blessed patter of the rain. – June 3, 1939

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