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1945 Letter to FJA 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post 1945 Letter to FJA
The following undated single page of a letter from RAH to FJA consoling him on death of his brother appeared on Ebay today. [Alden Ackerman is shown in Company D of the 42nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, fighting in Belgium in January 1945.]
“As for persons who are guilty not merely by sins of omission but who actively threw their weight against us, like that traitorous little bastard Joquel, I have no words to describe them. It is a bitter thing that he should be alive while your brother is dead. It would be well for him to stay out of my sight when this is over. As for any of them, unless they have fought this war in every way they could to the best of their ability, I will not meet them socially when this is over. I will not shake hands, speak, sit down, nor eat with them.
I am not alone in this opinion. You will find that my opinion is shared by Carnell and by Franklyn Brady. You will find it shared by many others of the grown-ups who know that a war is going on and know that it is not a game nor a joke nor a piece of fiction but a tragic business in which men like your brother Alden meet their deaths, too young and too horribly.
Forry, I want you to dedicate yourself to Alden’s memory. To be faithful to him we now have two jobs to do. The first is to win this war as quickly as possible. You can do that by volunteering for something more useful than you are now doing. General Lear has said that he needs thousands of limited-duty clerks and such behind the lines in Europe to release able-bodied men for action. Or, perhaps, a re-examination will find you no longer limited in duty. In either case a WAC can edit your camp paper. The second job is, now and after the war, to see to it that it shall not happen again. There are many ways to do that and each must select his own -- political activity of every sort, writing intended to stir people up, the willingness to combat race hatred, discrimination, limitations of civil liberty, generalized hates of every sort, whenever and wherever they show up. But I am damn well sure that fan activity is not the way to serve Alden’s memory. Fandom has had a chance to prove itself and it has failed. I find the mags crowded with escapism and other nonsense; I find that fans now call themselves “Slans” (God save us!) on many occasions. I find many other evidences of group paranoia and of psychotic infantilism -- and unwillingness to face up to adult problems and to cope with them. Forry, you may write the most inspiring things for a better world possible; if you direct them to this group, they will be worthless in carrying on with Alden’s unfinished work, for they will fall on sterile ground. I am not generalizing; there are few adults among them and there was a fair percentage before the war. I do not indict any who are carrying their load. But there are many (and you know that I am right) who are doing nothing and did nothing to save your brother’s life. A bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks! It is time you quit associating with them and tackled the problems of the real world.
We are very fond of you, Forry. You are a fine and gentle soul. This is a very difficult letter to write; if I did not think you were worth it, I would not make this effort. This letter is for your eyes only; the ideas in it you are free to use but the letter is for you only.
I am very sorry your brother was killed; You may be sure that Leslyn and I will be faithful to his memory with all our strength.
Love,
Bob


Thu May 27, 2010 12:53 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
Interesting, and relatively abrupt, change of view on fandom there. He even hints at it there with his "before the war" point. Read or listen to the Denvention GoH speech to see what I'm talking about.

Who is "Joquel"?

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Thu May 27, 2010 2:29 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
georule wrote:
Interesting, and relatively abrupt, change of view on fandom there. He even hints at it there with his "before the war" point. Read or listen to the Denvention GoH speech to see what I'm talking about.

Who is "Joquel"?

Arthur Louis Joquel II -- caled "the tooth" LASFS fan in the early 40's. I don't know what specifically Heinlein is referring to here.

Also discovered the first page is also posted, and I'll get around to transcribing it shortly.


Thu May 27, 2010 5:34 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
Swinging wildly and in the dark, I can only note that in the early days of the war (from the very late 1930s to Pearl Harbor and even beyond) there was a minority in the US that thought Hitler was a dandy fellow doing good things to clean up rotten old decadent Europe. Overt and latent anti-semitism played a part, but mostly it was admiration for a real standup guy doing the hard job of showing the slovenly old world how to be modern... etc., ad nauseum, omelet, eggs.

Some surprising names were in this list, perhaps first among them Charles Lindbergh. I don't believe he ever did fully recant his statements.

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Thu May 27, 2010 8:18 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
JamesGifford wrote:
Swinging wildly and in the dark, I can only note that in the early days of the war (from the very late 1930s to Pearl Harbor and even beyond) there was a minority in the US that thought Hitler was a dandy fellow doing good things to clean up rotten old decadent Europe. Overt and latent anti-semitism played a part, but mostly it was admiration for a real standup guy doing the hard job of showing the slovenly old world how to be modern... etc., ad nauseum, omelet, eggs.

Some surprising names were in this list, perhaps first among them Charles Lindbergh. I don't believe he ever did fully recant his statements.

Ford, too, I believe.

There's a subject I want to understand some day, but it's going to take a lot of research: exactly why was it that the fascists of both Italy and Germany were seen as a "healthy" new phenomena when they came on the scene in the 1920's. As late as 1932 HGWells was referring to them as "magnificent" (In the Experiment in Autobiography).

Now, I know a little something about Wells's orientation, so if I can figure out what he was talking about, I might get a better handle on the larger political situation of the times.

This is one of those little gaps in the historical picture that is hard to deal with because the picture you pick up from general history reading seems complete -- until you encounter one of these anomalies.


Fri May 28, 2010 6:02 am
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
Here is the first page of that same letter, dated January 28, 1945:
01/28/45 RAH letter to Forrest J. Ackerman (from 311 S. Hicks Street, Phila 1 PA) Dear Forry,
Our hearts are sore at your loss and there is nothing we can say to relieve your personal anguish. Your brother died a noble and heroic death. It is my belief that he did in fact die to make a better world; it is for
us who live on to see to it that a better world is accomplished. I am heartened that you regard it as your duty to
follow through on his unfinished work.
I will not be able to supply an article for the fan publication you propose to publish in his memory. I dislike to have to tell you that I will not be writing for you, under the circumstances, and I feel that you are entitled to a full explanation. Forry, every day I am writing things which are, literally, dedicated to Alden, and to the many, many others who have died and are dying. My daily writings are dedicated to getting the war won quicker with the fewest number of deaths of our own. My writings are laboratory instructions,
engineering reports, letters to manufacturers, and other things having to do with the tedious work of scientific research for war. It takes up all of my energy and all of my imagination[,] and I have none left over for other
matters. If I had any energy left over, I would know that I was not doing all that I could do and I would then, in truth, be disloyal to your brother’s memory.
(I have, not a belief, not a conviction, but knowledge of personal survival. You said on your post card that you wanted to discuss the matter with us someday. We will be honored to do so.)
Forry, you have sought my advice on matters which worried you in the past. You have not sought my advice in this matter, but I am going to presume on our old friendship to offer you some. I know that you are solemn in your intention to see to it that Alden’s sacrifice does not become meaningless. I am unable to believe that fan activity and fan publications can have anything to do with such an intent. I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war. By the fan mags I learn that many of these persons, who are so readily self-congratulatory on their superiority of ordinary people -- so many, many of these “fans” have done nothing whatsoever to help out. Many of them are neither in the army nor in war work. Many have found this a golden opportunity to make money during a war boom -- by writing, by commercial photography, through the movies, or by other worthless activities -- worthless when compared with what your brother Alden was doing. These bastards let your brother die, Forry, and did not lift a hand to help him. I mean that literally. The war in Europe would have been over if all the slackers in this country had been trying to help out -- would have been over before the date on which your brother died. The slackers are collectively and individually personally responsible
for the death of Alden. And a large percent of fans are among those slackers. Alden’s blood is on their hands.


Fri May 28, 2010 7:09 am
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
That is an amazing letter.

My guess would be Joquel went pacifist.

Also, I think the term slacker is a WWI term, more than it is a WWII term. Not sure.

Robert


Fri May 28, 2010 10:24 am
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
JamesGifford wrote:
Swinging wildly and in the dark, I can only note that in the early days of the war (from the very late 1930s to Pearl Harbor and even beyond) there was a minority in the US that thought Hitler was a dandy fellow doing good things to clean up rotten old decadent Europe. Overt and latent anti-semitism played a part, but mostly it was admiration for a real standup guy doing the hard job of showing the slovenly old world how to be modern... etc., ad nauseum, omelet, eggs.

Some surprising names were in this list, perhaps first among them Charles Lindbergh. I don't believe he ever did fully recant his statements.


Aside from making the trains run on time, the Fascists and the Nazis were admired by many for calling a spade a spade, so to speak. Fascism and Nazism were corporatist political systems, under which the people existed to serve the state, the Leader, and the corporations. That belief system fit in well with the Robber Baron monopoly/oligarchy culture that existed in the U.S. prior to the onset of the Great Depression and the democratic socialist reforms championed by FDR. In addition, many in polite society openly espoused the value of eugenics and held firm belief in the superiority of "blood" and racial purity. When the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and genocides demonstrated the logical conclusion of such belief systems, it for the most part put an end to such extreme views among (most) of the upper crust.

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Fri May 28, 2010 10:35 am
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
We are missing the obvious: they were admired because the Depression seemed to have vanished from those countries. It had not, here in the US.


Fri May 28, 2010 10:37 am
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
The fascists, like the communists, at least early on had a patina of scientific rigor and efficiency they were trying to sell as part of the package. Just the very idea of objective standards applied to political and social problems appealed to people early on --as indeed, it still does; there are still splinter parties of that type around, and whenever a main party politician appeals to "run government like a business" they are at least stroking that instinct even if gas chambers and castor oil are no part of their program.

And of course all that in the context of a clearly failed world economic system. Every intelligent person was looking for a "new way" just then. I'll give anyone a pass for being a communist before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. And maybe even for being a fascist prior to Krystallnacht (I'd have to think about that one harder and look at some dates --but off the top of my head that feels about right for a "well meaning dupe who didn't have the benefit of historical hindsight" demarcation point). At least from a distance and thus with limited ability to see the ugly developing details up close.

It took awhile to figure out #1 how much snake oil was involved in making the claims in the first place and #2 how such "objective" standards could be used to justify the most frightful things on the largest scales without a quiver to the conscience.

This has largely come down to us as the rather weak beer phrase "making the trains run on time", but of course the claims and attempted scope were far broader than that.

One can see the appeal if you haven't had the benefit of history as to the mirage. It gives the superficial appearance of a third way between benevolent (if you're lucky) personal whim despotism and chaotic democracy by holding out a third standard pretending to be objective to apply to.

Except of course in practice it turns out that it can be just as corruptible as the kind of faux democracy that the "Democratic/People's Republics" used to engage in. And to offset the weak beer "make the trains run on time", we have Churchill's classic other side of the coin formulation uttered in 1940 --"the lights of perverted science".

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"Hey, if I'm going to pass on the timeless wisdom of the ages in a Sig, that pretty well qualifies, in my experience." --Geo Rule


Last edited by georule on Fri May 28, 2010 2:06 pm, edited 5 times in total.



Fri May 28, 2010 12:58 pm
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