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Susan Green

May-Garsson Steal Is a Small Part
of War-Time Profiteering Scandal

(5 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 31, 5 August 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The only defense that the principals in the wartime munitions scandal brought to light by the Mead investigating committee appears to have is “heart attack.” First Murray Garsson, one of the Illinois munitions profiteers, runs away to Havana with a “spasmodic heart,” where he nevertheless enjoys his daily swims. Then Representative Andrew J. May, Democrat from Kentucky, chairman of the important House Military Affairs Committee, the political link in the graft chain, suffers a real or convenient “heart attack” that prevents him from appearing before the Mead committee. What else is there for such people to do but try to escape responsibility for their loathsome deeds?

Murray Garsson and his brother, Dr. Henry M. Garsson, received a war contract of $5,000,000 with an advance payment of $1,000,000 before they had even organized a corporation to produce anything. While the ordinary workers in munitions plants were minutely investigated, apparently war contracts were handed out to anyone who knew the right people. From nothing, the Garssons organized not only their first corporation on money advanced by the government, but they built a combine of nineteen interlocking companies which received $79,000,000 in government contracts.

In this network there was plenty of room for shifting assets and for all kinds of tricks to reap the fullest harvest from the war. The Garssons and their associates paid themselves salaries up to $500,000 annually, with lavish traveling expenses as well as dividends from the profits of their nineteen corporations. While workers’ wages were frozen below the cost of living, while they were paying heavy taxes but of these frozen wages, wartime millionaires were born.

Greasing Their Way

The expense accounts of these war profiteers tell the story of how they greased their way in Washington. There are items of $10,000 for Murray Garsson’s entertaining in Washington; of $2,213 for gold fountain pens, pen and pencil sets, cigarette lighters; of $10,822 for liquor; of $16,000 for a banquet to celebrate an “E” award wangled through Representative May. Then there was what has come to be known as “Operation Pierre.” Representative May and generals and top men in the Army left the jobs for which they were being paid to join the Garssons in an extensive and expensive celebration of the wedding of a daughter at the Hotel Pierre in New York. This absenteeism cost the honored guests nothing, for even their hotel bills were paid by the generous Garssons.

However, crossing the palms of the right people cannot be done unless the would-be millionaires get an “in” to the right people. Here’s where Representative-of-the-People May enters the picture. He was the “guardian angel,” the political link between the aspiring Garssons and the War Department. As chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee he is powerful enough to ask officials handing out war orders to “scratch his back” because they knew they might want him to scratch theirs.

So May used his influence to get the Garssons those $79,000,000 in war contracts, beginning with the $5,000,000 contract and $1,000,000 advance. He kept these profiteers in liquid funds. He obtained an Army “E” award for a Garsson plant against the opposition of the Army Ordnance of the district, simply by telephoning Under-Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, now Secretary. The award followed, and with it more large contracts, for an “E” award was not valued for sentimental reasons but for what tidbits of war business it brought.

Representative May also did other favors for the Garssons. When Captain Joseph H. Garsson, son of Murray Garsson, was under court martial for disobeying a command, May went straight to Eisenhower to get the charge dismissed. The May touch was felt throughout young Garsson’s army career. Drafted as a private, within a month he was in officers’ training. Young Garsson also revealed that his Army superiors were under orders to keep him from dangerous combat duty.

How Much Did May Get?

These are no puny favors that May extended, and for such favors the rewards must be commensurate. Just what May took for himself may never be known. However, one dirty deal has come to light in the Mead committee. The phantom Cumberland Lumber Company was organized in May’s district in Kentucky by these very Garssons, with May as fiscal agent, and some $46,000 went through May’s hands for lumber that was never delivered. Of course, all parties concerned deny “with vehemence.” It remains to be seen how May will explain this non-existing lumber transaction if and when he testifies before the Mead committee. At any rate there is a record of at least one telephone conversation with the Washington agent of the Garssons in which May demanded his “cut.”

Though the Garsson-May scandal produced a front-page furor, it is really small potatoes. For here is involved only $79,000,000 of contracts out of a total expenditure for war materials of somewhere around $325,000,000,000. Two-thirds of all the juiciest war contracts went to one hundred of America’s leading corporations, not to upstarts like the Garssons. Big business had its fists in the fleshpots of war. How far is the Mead committee willing to go in exposing the pillars of American industry – as , well as more of its own political brethren?

Here the intricacies of smelly politics come in. Senator Mead will be running for Governor in New York State this fall against Governor Dewey, of crime-busting fame. A little war graft exposure by Mead will serve him well as campaign material. But there is something more definite.

A Political Scandal

Wayne Johnson, attorney for the Garssons, is active in New York Democratic Party politics – and has been opposed to Mead for Governor. In fact, Johnson, former assistant treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and manager of O’Dwyer’s successful campaign for New York City mayor, is reported to be a potential candidate for Governor on the Democratic ticket.

Is this perhaps why the small-fry Garssons were chosen – so that discredit might fall tin a political opponent? And is this as far as Mead cares to go in exposing war contract scandals? At any the, the Republican Party members of the Mead War Investigating Committee want to push on, feeling that the more scandals are exposed the more will the Democratic Party suffer – and forgetting that the people may remember such post-World War I scandals as Teapot Dome under the wings of Republican “guardian angels.”

In the meantime the Democratic Party is running this same Andrew J. May for re-election in the primary in his Kentucky district on August 3 with no opposition – just as if nothing at all had happened. Again this same Andrew J. May is permitted to remain as chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee – as if nothing had happened – and as such is engaged in no less important business for humanity than legislation on atomic energy!

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