"I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler who built a front line of defense against the Anti-Christ of Communism. . . . Think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to God. . . . Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last bewildering problem."
Those words, spoken six years ago and never retracted, rose last week from the files of the New York World Telegram to plague their speaker, Dr. Frank Buchman. They also plagued 28 of his followers, all draft-age aliens, who were the center of one of the few big foofooraws yet kicked up about administration of the Selective Service Act.
The Buchmanites were seeking draft deferment on the grounds that their Moral Re-Armament organization (successor to Buchman's sin-&-tell Oxford Group) was necessary to the nation's wartime morale. Prompt to disagree were New York Local Board No. 17 and the district Appeals Board. Yet somehow the Buchman men had managed to find friendlier ears on more exalted heads.
Of the 28 morale-engineers one was Norwegian, one a Dane, one a Canadian, the rest Englishmen out of reach of their own nation's draft laws. Among them: Tennist Henry Wilfred ("Bunny") Austin. Last summer they were classified 1-A. They were facing induction in November when Brigadier General Ames T. Brown, New York Selective Service director, ordered the cases reopened after an MRA leader approached him with an introduction from Representative James W. Wadsworth of New York, co-author of Selective Service.
In draft files were statements from Senators Truman, Burton, Representative Lea and many another Congressional bigwig recommending hearings for MRA workers, or at least endorsing the vaguely stated precepts of MRA. By last week those statements were causing many a headache.
Said General Brown: "I understand that national headquarters of Selective Service looks with favor on Moral Re-Armament." He had precedent: Major General Lewis B. Hershey, national draft director, had granted a defense-occupation deferment to an MRA worker in June 1941.
Said General Hershey: "No group deferments will be granted MRA or any other group." He also said that his 1941 finding that Buchmanism was "an essential element of our national-defense program" was "no endorsement of the work or policies of this movement."
Paunchy, sharp-chinned Frank Buchman, ailing in a Saratoga Springs hotel, was mum.
Nucleus of his morale workers was a group of apple-cheeked eupeptic ex-athletes and British students who entered the U.S. on visitors' visas before the war. They have been stumping defense plants with a series of playlets aimed at morale-building and improving labor-management relations by MRA. Mainstay of their repertoire was You Can Defend America (TIME, May 25).
Last week it looked as though they might have to take the title to themselves literally. New York Local Board No. 17, reconsidering the cases on General Brown's orders, stuck to its guns. In London the Sunday Pictorial, under a headline BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE, said: "How can we expect Americans to admire British youth when in their midst are such examples [as] these pampered male refugees?"