Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'Running against New York City' secret of OSRD and NAS wartime success in Washington

In 1940 New York City and New York State were at the very height of their power in the United States.

At that time, they even retained a very significant chunk of the American population - which translated into things like crucial electoral college votes.

They held an even greater percentage of the nation's wealth and financial lending clout, its best research facilities and research libraries, its biggest and most varied industrial base (from light to the heaviest of industries), its media and cultural arbitors of national taste.

It was also filled with immigrants of all sorts, with uppity Harlem Negroes, priest-dominated Roman Catholic Italians and left wing Jews : everything the rest of America : mostly native-born, white, Protestant Anglo Saxons raised in small towns feared and disliked.

FDR had lot of New Yorkers in his regime : particularly lots of lefties and Jews - it was in fact one of the main reasons why he was so disked in Washington.

But for the war effort, he recruited rock-ribbed Republicans to run many important agencies, hoping their presence would bring 'their kind of people' on board to defeat the evil Hitler.

In those days, the highest concentrations of Republicans weren't found in business offices but in universities - particularly among the senior scientists.

So no surprise that his most egghead/ivory tower oriented agencies were run by Republicans.

The most successful of these (the OSRD's nuclear committee and NAS COC penicillin committee for example) quickly realized that while their being a small town WASP Republican was good news in Washington politicians' eyes it was not enough.

They were also some of them damn dome-headed eggheads, alway out of touch with rural realities.

More was needed to win the bureaucratic war between New Deal and Republican oriented agencies over congressional funding, influence and support.

So they worked hard to ensure that as few New York City boys as possible were added into their governing councils.

They couldn't get away with having no one from New York State - so they tried for token New Yorkers - ones without dominating Alpha Male personalities : bench warmers.

Now unlike FDR himself, comparatively few truly successful people made a career and a name for themselves in the states) were they were born and raised.

J Robert Oppenheimer was raised in the very heart of enemy territory, on Manhattan Island itself, but he had become a born-again Westerner so he is hard to fit in one slot.

If Harold Urey (nuclear) and Alphonse Dochez (penicillin) fitted the token New Yorker role in not having commanding personalities in committee, neither were actually born and raised in New York City where they now lived and seemingly represented in these key national power structures.

But look over the key figures in the atomic bomb and penicillin efforts and see if you don't agree with me ....

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