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Sam Adams

Exposing More Merchants of Death

Now It Is Curtiss-Wright

(July 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 29, 19 July 1943, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The newspaper PM calls it “The Most Shameful Story of the War.” It would” have been more correct to have added the words: “So Far.” There were others before the Truman Committee bared the facts of the fraud which the Curtiss-Wright Corp. perpetrated. There will be many more before this war is over.

We are sure that “shameful” is not the appropriate word to use in this case. It would have been better to call it one of the biggest steals of the war or better yet, “The Most Murderous Story of the War, So Far.”

What are the facts in this case? The Wright Aeronautical Corp. plant at Lockland, Ohio, turned out “defective plane engines with the cooperation of the Army Air Force inspectors”!

The Truman Committee found that the company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Curtiss-Wright Corp., has been selling the government “defective and substandard plane engines by falsifying tests, forgiving inspection reports, and by eight other practices designed to by-pass Army specifications.”

The committee learned that Army inspectors cooperated with the company for fear of losing their jobs; that they were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not accept engines which were leaking gasoline.

In secret sessions, the committee took testimony, but it remarked that during its investigation, “most of the representatives of the Army Inspection Section displayed an undue regard for the well-being of the Wright Aeronautical Corp. and too often seemed to be motivated by a desire to protect the company and its interests.”

In this connection, PM points out that “Air officials, ‘apparently led by the chief inspector for the force, Lieut.-Col. Frank C. Greulich,’ tried to cover up by misrepresenting the facts, attempting to intimidate witnesses introducing evidence prepared specially for the investigation, and otherwise impeded the Senate investigators, the committee charged.”

Schemes of the Company

Some readers will remember that this company was up for investigation once before. At that time a special board was set up, headed by Lieut.-Gen. William S. Knudsen, who was former director of the OPM, to investigate conditions at this plant. While this board found some of the facts cited by the Truman Committee, it did not agree that they were serious! As was to be expected, Big Business Leader Knudsen whitewashed Curtiss-Wright!

But here is what the Trumann Committee did find when it said the company was “producing and causing the government to accept defective and sub-standard material.” The company used the following ways to get around the government:

  1. By falsifications of tests.
  2. By destruction of records.
  3. By improperly recording results of tests.
  4. By forging inspection reports.
  5. By failing to segregate substandard and defective material.
  6. By failing to destroy promptly or mutilate such defective and substandard material.
  7. By orally changing tolerances (the maximum allowable errors in machines) allowed on parts.
  8. By circumventing the salvage committee set up to pass on the usability of parts outside tolerances.
  9. By allowing production to override the inspectors’ force, thereby destroying morale of both company and Army inspectors.
  10. By skipping inspection operations.

The Truman report also disclosed that the company would not cooperate with inspectors, argued about defective material and constantly counterposed the interests of the company (read: profits!) against defective materials.

The Press and the Under Secretary

All in all, you have here one of the dirtiest schemes by a monopoly firm to increase its profits no matter what the consequences.

How did the big business press treat the Truman report? With virtual silence. The report was buried on the inside pages. There were no screaming headlines! There were no charges of treason! There were no demands by a reactionary Congress that Curtiss-Wright officials be charged with treason and sent to jail! There were no special bills introduced by the anti-labor champions in the Senate and the House.

What we did find is that the yellow press rose up as one in support of this giant monopolist corporation.

That pious hypocrite among the big business press, the New York Times, went out of its way to excuse the company by referring to its crooked ways as “detailed errors.” After all, says the Times, when a company has orders of more than four billion dollars (out of which it is now making and will continue to make enormous profits) a few mistakes will be made!

Under Secretary of War Robert Patterson likewise jumped to the defense of the company, saying of the report that it was “much less sensational than some of the inferences drawn in recently published statements.”

One might well ask: What does the Honorable Under Secretary want? Scores of dead airmen before this matter becomes serious?

But Patterson did acknowledge the correctness of the Truman report by his transfer of Army inspectors from Lockland.

The big business press and the Under Secretary of War are obviously arm in arm with big business. How they unite under criticism! How they defend each other when under attack!

Can you imagine what the press and responsible officials would say if labor was making a fight for higher wages at Curtiss-Wright? You’re right! There would be no limits to their fierce denunciations of the workers.

Truman Report Toned Down

Patterson says the facts are not nearly as sensational as the Truman Committee report. But the Truman Committee says that in view of the shocking charges and the effect it might have on morale, the report was “the most favorable and the least critical that the committee can render and at the same time fulfill its duty to the Senate and the public ...”

In other words, the situation is even worse than pictured by the toned-down report of the Truman Committee,

What will Curtiss-Wright get for this fraud? A light censure and perhaps a light fine? Remember the Anaconda Wire case! It too defrauded the government and the soldiers at the front by sending out defective communications wire. For such treachery, to which it pleaded guilty, the company and its officials were fined a few thousand dollars!

We suppose that Curtiss-Wright will also plead guilty under the legal term of Nolo Contendere, get its fine, and go merrily along its way. After all, its ten schemes to defraud, says Patterson, are not so sensational. We have no doubt that it must be a widespread practice. For what are the lives of American soldiers compared to blood-soaked profits?

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