'AMERICA HAS NO SENSE OF DANGER'
Buchman was shocked by New York. 'America has no sense of danger,' he told his friends. 'She doesn't know what it means to have the front line right in her own backyard. London does. It's right in St James's Park, just a mass of trenches. You talk about peace, but it is a selfish peace, not a battle to rouse the country.' He felt that something dramatic had to be done to awaken a nation so vast and so complacent, and decided to hold mass demonstrations in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
The Mayor of New York declared 7-14 May 1939 to be 'MRA Week', and the largest hall in the city, Madison Square Garden, was taken for 14 May. On that night 14,000 people cheered the speakers' procession, headed by kilted Scots pipers. As with most public meetings he held, Buchman had picked out one person who was coming and planned the whole occasion as if he were the only person to be present. He reckoned that if that person was affected, everyone would be. That night his target happened to be the City Sanitation Commissioner, with whom he had talked the day before. He thought twelve young Scots - workers, unemployed shipyard men and students - would be particularly effective for him. They spoke early on for a minute each. 'MRA for me means I stop sitting on my machine when the boss isn't looking and I stop driving his car like a fire-engine,' said one of them. Bunny Austin, who had gathered the support of American sportsmen like 'Babe' Ruth and Gene Tunney, was warmly received, and Lord Salisbury, Tod Sloan and three generations of the Antrim family spoke by direct telephone link from London. The newspapers gave the occasion front-page treatment, but tended to miss Buchman's point by calling it, in I all good faith, a 'peace meeting'. 'You've got to get a sense of battle,' he told his people afterwards. What effect the meeting had on the Sanitation Commissioner is not recorded.
Three weeks later a second demonstration took place in the staider setting of the Constitution Hall, Washington. Two hundred and forty British Members of Parliament had sent a message which read in part: 'Only if founded on moral and spiritual re-armament can democracy fulfill its promise to mankind and perform its part in creating mutual understanding between nations...'*
(* The Daily Telegraph (26 June 1939) headlined its report of the British MPs' message: 'Community of Ideals: Washington and Westminster'.)
Buchman spoke briefly. 'America is not without her problems in business, the home, in industry, in civic and in government life,' he said. 'We need a rededication of our people to the elementary virtues of honesty, unselfishness and love; and we must have the will again to find what unites people rather than what divides them . . . The future depends not only on what a few men may decide to do in Europe, but upon what a million men decide to be in America.'1
Harry Truman, by now a Senator, read out a message from President Roosevelt: 'The underlying strength of the world must consist in the moral fibre of her citizens. A programme of moral re-armament, to be most highly effective, must receive support on a world-wide scale.' All the Washington papers reported the meeting on the front page, the Post's headline declaring, 'First Anniversary Finds Moral Re-Armament World Force'.2
Next day Truman read an account of the meeting and messages from ten Parliaments into the Congressional Record, adding, 'It is rare in these days to find something which will unite men and nations on a plane above conflict of party, class and political philosophy.' As Buchman sat in the gallery of the Senate listening to Truman word was brought to him that the British Board of Trade had granted incorporation of his work under the name 'Oxford Group'. Elated by these two events, he was aware that he must keep his feet on the ground. 'When you have a day like this', he commented that evening, 'you have to live in the midst of the world and keep direction.'
Roosevelt had several old friends working with Buchman, but a more immediate reason for his interest perhaps lay in the recent action of one of his severest press critics. Moved by his contact with Moral Re-Armament, he had, over a private lunch in Roosevelt's study, apologised for the bitterness and bias of his writing. The apology was accepted. The writer remained an independent critic of the Administration but wrote more constructively, appreciating the President's many difficulties. Roosevelt, in his personal capacity, lent Moral Re-Armament discreet support. 'Though some at one time may have laughed at MRA,' he told Austin, 'today it commands great respect.'3
In the next weeks Buchman addressed the National Press Club in Washington; received his second honorary doctorate, this time of Laws from Oglethorpe University in Georgia; spoke with deep emotion at Bill Pickle's funeral in Pennsylvania; and held a week's training session for some hundreds at Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Then he travelled, via Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis, to Los Angeles, where his third, most publicised blow was struck at a meeting in the Hollywood Bowl on 19 July.
Fifteen thousand people were turned away after 30,000 had packed the arena. The setting was dramatic, with four great fingers of light, to represent the four moral standards, piercing the velvet sky behind the Bowl. 'A preview of a new world' was Buchman's theme. The Los Angeles Times reported: 'They came in limousines. They arrived in jalopies that barely chugged along the traffic-jammed roads leading to the Hollywood Bowl. They came afoot, in wheel-chairs, in buses, taxicabs. One and all, they came marvelling. The Bowl rally brought together all the strength of the vast movement - leaders from Burma, London, East Africa, Australia, China and Japan - and showed 30,000 persons how it might work.'4Half-way through the meeting twenty burly press and camera men elbowed their way on to the already crowded press seats because William Randolph Hearst, reading of the crowds on his teletype at San Simeon, had seen that his papers were missing a big story.
Louis B. Mayer, who had the week before given a luncheon for Buchman, sent up a note asking if he could speak on behalf of the film industry. A school teacher from a small town in Nebraska, who had never before addressed an audience larger than the pupils in her one-room schoolhouse, described how a new spirit had taken hold of her hard-hit area and how honesty about farm relief cheques had created a new atmosphere in the community. Her story was made the basis for the film Meet John Doe,with Gary Cooper.
At the end of the rally Buchman announced the next stage of his strategy - a mobilisation, over the days of 1, 2 and 3 December, of one hundred million people listening' - prepared to face personal, national and international issues in the light of God's will for the world. He envisaged speakers from different countries linked by a world-wide radio network. The suggestion first came from 'Manny' Straus, the public relations man from Macy's Departmental Stores, who said, 'Everyone has some MRA in them, even if it is only one per cent. The thing is to increase the per cent.'
But when December came, Europe was at war. The Nazi-Soviet pact in August 1939 took Buchman by surprise. 'The Communists are the strategists!' he exclaimed. 'Look at France. The serpent of Communism has coiled so long in her breast, and the Communists have turned the tables by shaking hands with Hitler. Where is France's future now?'* Just before war actually broke out, he voiced his distress. 'War means the suicide of nations. Everybody loses. There is no such thing as the winner of a war. As for Hitler - if he starts it, he will repent at leisure.'
(* Nikolai Tolstoy writes in Stalin’s Secret War (Jonathan Cape, 1981, p. 114): ‘Astonishing as it may seem, the French Communist Party's anti-patriotic campaign was directed by Hitler himself...French Communists' support for Stalin's ally played a significant and perhaps crucial role in the destruction of the French will to resist.' Anthony Cave Brown and Charles Macdonald, in The Communist International and the Coming of World War II (Putnam, 1981, pp. 528-9 and 536), state that Comintern propaganda was one of a number of factors which reduced the French Army by the spring of 1940 to 'a nerveless, soulless body, a castle made out of cards'. They write that this was particularly true of the 9th Army, drawn mainly from the 'Red Belt' of Paris, and that this army was placed in an apparently non-crucial sector of the front line, precisely where the German panzer divisions chose to make their major attack.)
As the crisis grew Buchman was particularly concerned about his colleagues in Britain. On 1 September he cabled them: 'You are all in our constant, loving, prayerful thoughts. Guard against unnecessary danger. Ensure Tod Liz Sloan maximum care in home outside London. Remember that in times of difficulty and danger the temptation always is to take the lesser course and do the lesser thing. Regard your work as essential service.'
When the news finally broke that war had been declared, Buchman and others were sitting with a Los Angeles hotel proprietor in his private apartments. At first Buchman was stunned. One Briton broke down in tears. Their years of effort to avert the conflict were over, and they could see nothing ahead in their minds' eye but the cities of Europe lying in ruins.
Then after a time, Buchman looked up and said, 'Someone, some day, is going to have to win the peace.'
Now that war had come Buchman had no doubt that it had to be fought and won. There was no comparison between the 'demoniac force', which he had tried to exorcise, and the democracies, however lacking in God's grace they might be. He had always considered patriotism and nationalism as being as different as health and fever. But he believed there should be an extra dimension to patriotism. 'A true patriot', in his view, 'gives his life to bring his nation under God's control.'5 He believed that a force of such people had just as particular a part to play in war as in peace - and would also be needed to bring reconciliation after the fighting ended.
Hundreds of MRA men and women enlisted; some were soon to die. But for the moment there followed the 'phoney war' when no bombs fell on Western Europe, and Americans inferred that the war scare was being overplayed. Those months strengthened America's traditional isolationism - Jefferson's policy of 'Friendship with all nations, but entangling alliance with none'. Roosevelt took this tradition into account, for he knew that he could only be re-elected in 1940 as 'the President who kept us out of the war'. Neither the invasion of France, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, nor Dunkirk, nor the Battle of Britain, altered the basic fact that America as a whole was strongly against becoming involved in Europe's war.
Buchman's announced campaign on the days of 1, 2 and 3 December 1939 took place under these new circumstances, and again emphasised unity between Britain and America. Radio networks covering large areas of the world carried the voices of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Democrat W. B. Bankhead, who stated that 'Moral Re- Armament must become the mainspring of our national life and the touchstone of policy at home and abroad'; and of Republican Senator Arthur Capper from the isolationist state of Kansas who urged that America 'read the handwriting on the wall and throw every energy and influence we possess behind this cause'.
Over the BBC Home and Commonwealth Services, the Earl of Athlone replied from London in a speech which was relayed throughout America. Lord Athlone quoted 'A Call to Our Citizens' recently issued by 550 British Mayors and, after outlining the principles of Moral Re-Armament, continued, 'In fresh and whole-hearted acceptance of them now lies our moral strength for these dark days - the answer to our fears and to our griefs, our one sure hope for a new world.'
Lord Athlone had expressed Buchman's view exactly. Buchman was determined that if America came into the war, she should prosecute it with as clean hands as possible; and that, when peace came, she should use her power for the creation of a better world. But this involved working for a new quality throughout American life.
At first the extremes of both left and right in America had a common cause. As Russia was still allied to the Nazis, the American Communist Party opposed America entering the war - and so received the strong, though involuntary, support of right-wing isolationists intent on keeping out of the war for quite different reasons. The Communists' immediate programme was to hinder production in war industries through strikes, especially in the aircraft arsenal of America, the West Coast.
Buchman already had links with labour there through the mass meetings he had held, and Senator Truman's recommendation had opened further doors into the industry. Seattle business men offered to give a lunch for Buchman with a leading banker in the chair, and asked if there was anyone he would like invited. Buchman immediately replied, 'Yes, Dave Beck and the other labour leaders.' Beck, a controversial figure, then West Coast head of the Teamsters' Union, did not normally get asked to lunch by bankers. But he and his colleagues were invited, and they came.
On 29 December 1939 the Seattle Star, in a full-page editorial, invited Buchman to hold a round-table conference of all the elements in their city which, it wrote, had 'come out of the thirties with a black eye'. ‘The Star apologises publicly for the mistakes it has made in the past... and offers its hand to competitors and all others who want honestly and consciously to help build a new Seattle,' the newspaper added. The Boeing Aircraft Company, Seattle's major industry, then gearing up to produce the B17 Flying Fortress bomber, was in turmoil, due partly to break-neck expansion and partly to the ideological confusion spread by the Communist leadership of the local branch of the machinists' union. At the round table initiated by The Star Buchman met the District President of the Union, Garry Cotton, who invited him to speak to 5,000 of his members. The meeting was crowded, as Cotton assured his guest it would be, since under union rules there was a five-dollar fine on absentees. Buchman introduced workers from Britain's shipyards and factories as well as from other American aircraft plants. From this developed a training programme for the Boeing branch, and shortly afterwards, Cotton's leadership prevented a strike in Boeing which would have halted production of aeroplanes on the whole of the West Coast.6 At the Lockheed Company in Los Angeles a similar Moral Re-Armament training programme was launched in the largest union local branch in the country, with 35,000 members.7
Buchman's influence with these aircraft unions challenged Communist plans for industrial slow-downs. The Communists denounced him for co-operating with their greatest enemy, the armament manufacturers. This continued until Hitler invaded Russia. Then, for the Communists, the war industries and the armament makers became overnight the saviours of democracy and 'the Fascist Churchill' became the heroic friend of the Soviets. Their description of Moral Re-Armament also changed, if not so beneficially. From being a 'militarist pro-British spy network', it became a 'pacifist, anti-union organisation' busily interfering in American war industry and fostering mysterious peace moves.
Buchman's people were, meanwhile, introduced from one industry to another all across America, and found themselves in demand in aircraft and steel plants, and later in shipbuilding yards. His manpower was always at full stretch, and without those he had brought from Britain he could have undertaken little.
The outbreak of war, however, did raise the question of where the Britons' duty lay, and this presented them with a dilemma. Ought they to return to Britain and enlist in the armed forces? Or should they remain in America doing the work which they were doing? In September 1939 they sought the official view upon British subjects in the United States and seem to have been advised by the British Consul-General in San Francisco, Paul Butler, and by the Consul in Seattle, C. G. Hope-Gill, to remain in America.8 In May 1940 this advice was repeated for Britons generally in America* but by now Butler and Hope-Gill had reassessed MRA's position and were strongly representing to the Embassy in Washington that Buchman's British colleagues be called home. Their reasons, according to Foreign Office files recently released, were a mixture of representations which had come to them from "local" sources and some fantastic errors of identity.9* It is clear that, after much minuting to and fro at the Foreign Office, the Consuls were overruled by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, though officials took measures to conceal that he had intervened.*
(* New York Times, 31 May 1940: 'Britain Gives Mission to Nationals in US — Rejects Service Offer but Bids them Cultivate Good-will'.)
(* For example, Hope-Gill alleged that the Dutch woman, Charlotte van Beuningen, who was subsequently decorated by Queen Wilhelmina for her heroism in the Resistance, was a 'Nazi agent'. 'It has also been pointed out', he added, 'that Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Holland were the most heavily "morally rearmed" countries in Europe and that the leader of the Movement is probably of German origin.' (A 4219, 21/8/1940.)
(* A3942/26/45 Public Record Office. In August 1940 William Jaeger applied for a renewal of his passport. It was granted on the grounds that (a) the war effort did not require his return: (b) to deny renewal would be discriminatory and would involve the Foreign Office in controversy in Britain and America. This appears to have been the occasion of Lord Halifax's memo, and a further case referred from Seattle was decided on this precedent. (A 4219, 17/9,1940.)
Quite apart from the official view, however, each individual had to decide for himself where his duty lay. 'I support you whatever you decide,' Buchman said. Many of them found if the most difficult decision of their lives. On the one hand there was the natural call to return to family, home and country, and the certainty of being understood. On the other was their conviction that the result of the war would depend upon America, where there was a job to do for which they had been trained in a way that few others had been.
Reginald Hale, the erstwhile Isis cartoonist, a British territorial officer of four years' experience and a passionate soldier, writes that by inclination and training he longed to rejoin the colours as fast as he could, but that he came to the conclusion that 'as a Christian, as an Englishman and as a soldier' his duty was to stick with Buchman at all costs. 'I could not expect that all my friends would understand and I did not blame them when they wrote harshly to me. But for me, my course was clear.'10
Most of the others made the same decision. The British Government of the day seemed to agree with them. Bunny Austin, who had returned to Britain before war began, and William Jaeger sailed to join Buchman in December, after consulting the Ministries of Labour, Defence and Foreign Affairs. They were granted exit permits and never asked to return. Yet they, like those already with Buchman, were to be chased by reporters and denounced in sections of the British press for many years.*
(* The assault on Austin was to continue long after the war was over, in spite of his later service in the American Air Force, and untruths about him are still believed by many to this day. He had to wait until 1984 to be restored to membership of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon.)
Certainly they had nothing material to gain from staying. They worked very long hours without pay, and money, even for survival, was often short. Of one period in Seattle, Hale writes, 'I had breakfast one morning with Buchman and he ordered one breakfast, halving with me the poached egg and toast. Another morning five of us English pooled our wealth and found we had fifteen cents. We ordered three cups of coffee and asked for two extra cups. That was breakfast. We lived three miles from where the morning meeting was being held. The other four hitched a lift but I elected to walk. I got lost and arrived late. The leader of the meeting asked me why. I was tired, hungry and fed up. "I'm late because I didn't have the bus fare." About three hundred pairs of eyes came round and stared at me. The leader of the meeting went round all fifty from overseas and asked how much money we had. We couldn't have raised $20 between us. From then on our friends in Seattle knew that MRA was financed by faith and prayer. Until then it was a theory.'11 These painful decisions taken by most of Buchman's British colleagues, and a few from Scandinavia and elsewhere, enabled Buchman to continue his nation-wide programme in America. But what kind of programme would arouse Americans? And how could it be presented in a way which would make them ready and anxious to listen?
These questions haunted Buchman during the first months of 1940, constantly on the move between New York, Washington, Florida, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In each place he was spending time with his resident teams and meeting people at all times of the day and night. His secretary, Dr Morris Martin, records him as 'very tired'. 'These are exceptionally heavy days,' he noted on 9 January, 'spent with an at first unresponsive team. Also every lunch and dinner with someone uses a lot of energy.' Always Buchman was struggling to see what to do next. 'I feel as if I were in a thick forest,' he said to a friend one day. 'I don't see the way out.’12
Buchman felt dissatisfied, too, with the spiritual progress of many of his closest fellow workers. 'I feel Mike has blinkers,' he once said to a group of them with typical, if infuriating, frankness. 'I wish he would throw them into the sea and shake the nation. John is wonderful - but hopeless if he has to change the children's diapers. He's born to feed on ambrosia. Lovable Jimmy - he's got fears, bundles of fears. Ken is still too smooth - let's have the rough side of the nutmeg.' 'I wish you had fifteen children,' he said to another. 'It would make you less of a pedant.'
Sometimes his approach was even more abrasive. After a day when some letters had missed the mail, his secretary notes, 'Frank dressed Mike and me down thoroughly. It was one of those occasions when everything brought up in evidence is unjust, wrong and irrelevant, yet the charge is correct and thoroughly deserved. There is a gigantic, Olympian quality in F's wrath that is something to be experienced to be believed. It certainly produces change. When he is most irritated it is with people who he feels should know better. He suffers fools astonishingly gladly, but is intolerant of sloppiness in those around him.'13
Gradually Buchman became convinced that an adequate plan for their work in America would only come to birth if his team found deeper spiritual roots. So, in July 1940, he stopped all the diverse activities in which they were engaged and gathered them in a group of holiday cottages and shacks beside Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It began, typically, when he was offered a five-room cottage in which to take a few days' rest. Within ten days he had fifty people with him, and as neighbours got to know him and saw the numbers growing they offered more cottages, cabins and beds. A former bootlegger called Globin lent his disused casino for meetings and later a whole floor of his near-empty hotel. Off-duty sailors found themselves in hammocks slung between trees, and Boston and New York ladies slept on camp beds, sometimes five to a garage. It finally turned into a three-month training exercise for several hundred people.
Buchman deliberately set about welding these already committed people into a united force. The perspective of the war in Europe sharpened their thinking and dedication. Alan Thornhill, for instance, although a clergyman and one who had undergone a great enriching of his spiritual experience during ten years with the Oxford Group, had never systematically studied his life in order to allow God to clean out every last corner. 'I had a good friend, a Scot called George Marjoribanks, and felt I should tell him all the murky details. They would not have made a lurid book, but I found it terribly hard on my pride, and it turned out to be very important for me. It was painful and I felt utterly rotten and told George so. It was the death of self. Though I had valued what I had learnt from Buchman, I had never till then felt wholly committed to God and to work at Buchman's side. God focused it around my longing to return to Britain. The decision to stay in America was the hardest I'd ever taken - but I knew it was God's will.'
‘I can't speak for others,' Thornhill adds now, 'but for me there is the clearest connection between personal purity and creativeness. I felt a great sense of peace and clarity.' Within a few weeks he had written a play - completed in thirty-six hours though he had never written one before - called The Forgotten Factor. The play dealt with the relations between and within the families of an industrialist and a labour leader at a time of industrial crisis and suggested the importance of a change of attitude from 'who is right' to 'what is right'. It was to be performed to over a million people in dozens of countries, often playing a part in settling conflicts of various kinds.
Buchman held a meeting each morning. They were wholly unpredictable. One day he arrived with a peach in one hand. 'Every woman should he like this,' he said. 'But some of you are like this,' and he opened his other hand to disclose a prune. He felt that some of the women in his team had become dry in spirit because they had not given God unconditional control of their lives, and were therefore not free personalities. 'It meant fearlessly tackling some of us dominating American women,' one of them said later. 'But it was done so delicately, with such hope.'
On occasion Buchman's method was far from delicate. Phyllis Konstam, Bunny Austin's actress wife, had come to the Hollywood Bowl and had found a measure of personal change during that visit. She returned home and later came back to Canada on an evacuee ship with their daughter. She came briefly to Tahoe from there. 'I arrived in a belligerent mood, furious that Bunny had not crossed the country to meet me on arrival,' she wrote later. 'The man who focussed my fury was Frank Buchman. I had been used to getting my own way. If I could not get it by temper and tantrums, I would get it by charm or tears. None of these had any effect on Buchman and this increased my anger. I hated everything about Tahoe and everybody in it. Used to wafting around in glamorous clothes and expensive restaurants, my fury increased when I was put on a house-keeping team and found part of my job was cleaning out the lavatories.
'One day, unable to contain myself any longer, I went to find Buchman to tell him what I thought of him. He saw me coming and turned his back on me and walked away. I had never been treated like that in my life. I raved and berated Bunny.
'One afternoon Buchman sent for me and told me what he thought of spoiled, selfish, bad-tempered women and the effect they had on their husbands and children. He looked me straight in the eye, and said: "This is love and it's going on." That afternoon I went for a walk with Bunny . . . We were crossing a field. Bunny, wearied by my nagging, lay down on a plank of wood and flung his arms out. I looked down on him and suddenly caught my breath. The plank was an old piece of fencing. It had a cross-piece nailed across the top. Bunny was lying stretched out on a cross.
'I realised for the first time how I crucified him with my selfishness. I began to realise the courage of a man like Buchman who cared enough to tell me the truth and to cure the things in my nature which made me so difficult to live with. When he said it was love, it was precisely what it was.’14
Her husband wrote of another aspect of Buchman's approach: 'Like a true surgeon Frank knew the necessity of bringing healing. I too had been spoilt and selfish. One day the necessity for change was made clear to me by a friend. I deserved the corrective, but healing had not been brought about. I remained in an unhappy state. Frank sent for me. He looked at me with compassion and spoke three words, "Don't stay bleeding." Then he prayed. I wish I could remember that prayer. I only remember the sense of healing and peace which came into my heart. I went out of the room a different man.'15
During the time at Tahoe Buchman often brought up in the full morning meeting the personal faults he had observed in his colleagues. Bremer Hofmeyr, the former Rhodes Scholar from South Africa, had borrowed a hammer from a local resident and not returned it. Buchman spent much of one morning underlining the sloppiness of some of the men and what such negligence would do to the confidence of the community. Alan Thornhill, when his turn came to be fireman for the night, vaguely thought his job was to prevent fires - and no fire was lit to make the breakfast porridge the next morning. This hardly called for comment.* A cook for what turned out to be a disastrous dinner for a special guest hardly dared appear next morning. To her astonishment all Buchman could say was, 'That soup!' and dissolve into laughter. But often Buchman felt that these minor mistakes needed serious discussion, for they could be a key to making intelligent but impractical individuals into whole personalities. It was the old Gospel principle of 'He who is faithful in little is faithful in much.'
(* Thornhill's own comment was: Oh, son of Oxford's dreaming spires, You really are a smart one. You thought your job was stopping fires, When you were meant to start one!)
Hofmeyr, who found such treatment particularly painful, told me why he thought Buchman sometimes handled close friends so roughly. 'He was concerned with training two hundred people. All got the impact, all learnt the lesson. When he was sailing into anyone, you felt it could justly be you.'
But Buchman, now as always, was unpredictable. He shook with rage one day because a cook had once again produced tough meat. The next day he appeared at the kitchen door holding a tiny wild flower for her. “Here you are,' he said. 'This is "self-heal".'
Most of the lessons of those days were drawn out of simple things. Buchman inspected a cottage which was to be returned to its owner and found an obstinate rim round a bath. 'It was like that when we came,' protested the culprit.
'Always leave things better than you find them,' Buchman replied and got down on his knees and cleaned the bath himself.
In fact, quite apart from spiritual needs, the team with him - many of them university men and women, 'ladies' who had done little housework for themselves and men who had done none - needed a full course in housekeeping and economy. A lorry went down to the towns to buy in the cheapest markets, and every cent was guarded.
The end result of the time at Tahoe, according to Reginald Hale, was 'a force-in-being, like a regular army, capable of fighting anywhere any time'. 'Most of us', he explains, 'had experienced God's power to change our lives. But at Tahoe we had a corporate experience of Christ. Together we accepted the finality of His victory on the Cross to break the power of evil in our lives and in the world. As we became irrevocably committed to Him, we found our petty divisions of nationality, class, language and points of view just dropped off. Committed to Him, we were committed to each other also.'16
Workers from West Coast war industries would drive all night to spend a day with Buchman and his friends at Tahoe. Among them was John Riffe, a 250-pound steelworkers' leader from San Francisco, whom his union president called 'the roughest, toughest man in the steelworkers'. Buchman had first met him at a weekend round-table in June, a month before going to Tahoe. On that occasion Riffe had argued hotly with Buchman that he had no need of change. 'That's fine,' Buchman had replied. 'Maybe there's someone else you'd like to see different.' Several names had immediately leapt into Riffe's mind, including a steel industrialist with whom negotiations had broken down, colleagues in his own union, and his wife, Rose. 'That's the point,' Buchman had added, 'to learn to change your enemies and make them into friends.' They had spent the rest of the evening together, and Riffe had gone to bed with the final thought that if he listened to God he could find out how to make people different.
Next morning early there had been a knock at the Riffes' door, and Buchman had appeared with a steaming pot of coffee. 'I thought you might like this before you start your quiet time,' he had said, with a twinkle. 'Quiet time' was a new term to Riffe and he had asked for an explanation. 'A time to let God tell you what to do.' Riffe went back into his room, but not to sleep. The thought of that steel executive and the deadlock between them had kept coming into his mind. 'Take the initiative with him. Get off your high horse. You know his hands are tied. Be honest. Make him a decent offer - and apologise.' Later that week he had tried it, and within forty-eight hours an unexpectedly generous settlement had been reached.
Now the Riffes came to Tahoe, still curious. At dinner they were served by two girls. 'Who are they?' asked Mrs Riffe. When Buchman replied that they were the daughters of Will Manning, owner of the Manning's chain of restaurants on the West Coast, John Riffe exploded, 'Good God! My union is planning to picket that outfit.'
Mrs Riffe added, 'I would never serve the way they're doing.'
'Nobody asked you,' replied Buchman.
Riffe wondered again if he had fallen into an anti-labour plot, but next day at dawn the Manning son took him out fishing. The two men came back with three small fish and an understanding of each other's problems. Next weekend Riffe returned with six of his executive committee including James Thimmes, who later became Vice-President of the United Steelworkers of America and, with Riffe, played a significant part in the settlement of the national steel strike 1952.17
On 23 August Buchman told his friends that he thought a new 'handbook' or manual was needed. A first draft of this new book was written by an Oxford Doctor of Philosophy. The text was then streamlined by a varied group to cut out every unnecessary word. 'It has got to be simple and put pictorially to capture America,' said Buchman. 'It has got to be almost ABC.' The handbook was entitled You Can Defend America. It called for 'sound homes - teamwork in industry - a united nation', and for America to become a nation governed by God. The final product, only 32 pages, was simply but vividly illustrated by Hale.
A musical revue, based on the handbook and bearing the same name, followed. This, as so often in Buchman's company, developed almost accidentally, starting from a series of sketches given at a birthday party. A little later Globin, the ex-bootlegger, also had a birthday, and Buchman invited him to come and bring his friends. 'Night clubs are his world,' said Buchman. 'Let's make this a floor show with tables around it in a circle.'
Marion Clayton, who had played in the film Mutiny on the Bounty, and Cece Broadhurst, the Canadian radio singer, beat the material from the original birthday party into shape. Globin brought his wife and a group of friends, including the Mayor of Carson City, Nevada's capital. Mrs Globin laughed so much, she said, that she hurt face muscles she had not used for years.
At the end of the evening the Mayor said to Buchman, 'That's the way to put patriotism to our people. You must bring the show to Carson City.'
'Fine. When shall we come?' said Buchman.
'Friday,' said the Mayor.
'We'll be there,' said Buchman. This was Tuesday.
The show played to a full house in Carson City on Friday. At the end, Hale went down to the best bar in town to fetch a telegram. 'Suddenly', he recalls, 'the bat-wing doors of the bar burst open and a big Irish gold-miner burst in. "Boys, have you been up the street?" he bellowed as the bar-stools swivelled. "I don't know what it's all about, but it's terrific! TERRIFIC!'"
From Carson City the show was invited to Reno. This would mean facing a more sophisticated audience, but Buchman, for whom everyone was a potential librettist, musician, actor or producer, saw no difficulties. So, shedding local references, the revue was launched on a career which in the next years took it back and forth across the country, reaching audiences who were perhaps unreachable through any other medium.
In November 1941 You Can Defend America was shown to delegates of the trade union conventions - the Congress of Industrial Organisations in Atlantic City and the American Federation of Labor in New Orleans, giving it a powerful send-off into American industry. Civilian Defence Councils of states and cities sponsored it, first on the West Coast and then in an extended tour in 1941 from Maine to Florida. The cast travelled 36,000 miles through 21 states and performed before more than a quarter of a million people. The General of the Armies, John J. Pershing, wrote a foreword* for the handbook in which he said, 'No patriotic citizen can read it without feeling its inspiration. None can fail fully to endorse its ultimate objective - the preservation of our precious heritage.' Army and Air Force bases and Naval shipyards asked for performances of the revue and distributed thousands of the handbook.
(* General George C. Marshall approached him to write it. In complying, Pershing, who had been American Commander-in-Chief in World War I, said he had broken the custom of a lifetime to do so.)
On 6 December 1941 a well-known Philadelphian, J. B. Kelly, father of the actress and future Princess Grace of Monaco, saw it in the Philadelphia Academy of Music where the city fathers and the Civilian Defence authorities sponsored it. His remark afterwards was typical of many: 'I thought I had all the patriotism I needed, but as I watched the play I felt here was a group of people who almost looked over my shoulder and read my mind and produced the answer I have been feeling America needs.'18
Early the following morning the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. America was at war.
1 Buchman, pp. 91-2.
2 Washington Post, 5 June 1939.
3 Austin and Konstam, p. 108.
4 Los Angeles Times, 20 July 1939.
5 Buchman, p. 25.
6 cf. Garry Cotton to General L. B. Hershey, Director, Selective Service System, 28 January 1943. Also Arthur Krock in New York Times, 28 February 1943.
7 Dale 0. Reed, President of the Aeronautical District Lodge No. 727, International Association of Machinists, to General Hershey, 7 February 1943.
8 Morris Martin and Reginald Hale, who were at the interviews in San Francisco and Seattle respectively.
9 Public Records Office, A 1134/26/45 (FO. 371.24227), A 4219 of 17/9/1940.
10 Hale, Vol. I, p. 74.
12 Martin diaries, 17 January 1940.
13 ibid., 6 February 1940.
14 H. W. Austin: Frank Buchman as I Knew Him (Grosvenor, 1975), pp. 86-7.
15 ibid., p. 87.
16 Hale, Vol. I, p. 77.
17 See William Grogan: John Riffe of the Steelworkers (Coward, McCann, 1959), pp. 33, 74-82.
18 Martin MSS.