These are questions which have taken considerable of the Gazette staff’s time for the past week or so, and the result is not substantial.

Everyone who knows Martha’s Vine­yard knows that the Island people are strong believers in rallying around the flag, both in a literal and figurative sense. The record of enlistments from the Vineyard in times of national stress proves that the feeling is not confined to talk. And the Vineyard also owns many foreign-born residents from various countries who retain a fondness for the land of their birth regardless of how completely they have become American citizens. This is the background of the recent tales.

When the feeling against the inva­sion of the low countries by the armies of Germany had reached a high pitch, a whisper began to circulate that the Vineyard had been the scene of Fifth Column activity. Rumors were heard to the effect that pictures had been taken, maps had been drawn, and re­marks had been uttered in favor of Hitler and his principles, if any.


But Who Heard It?


The shooting of a former resident as a spy in Canada was said to have been reported over the radio. A wild knock­down and drag-out fight in an Island business place was said to have fol­lowed a pro-Hitler outburst, and it was even reported that the principal in this affair was being haled before the court at Edgartown on Tuesday of this week to answer for his un-American conduct.

The Gazette staff representative has asked questions galore and of many people, including the authorities. The search has led through devious trails and has unearthed a train of contra­dictory reports which, placed end to end, would reach the length of the European battle line and back again.

First of all, the radio report as to the execution of the spy. Perhaps it may have been heard. The Gazette in­vestigator is able to say that of no less than twenty, or maybe a hundred, or a thousand, persons supposed to have heard the broadcast and to have repeated it, all deny the responsibility and maintain that they heard it from someone else. This sort of thing goes on and on.

Second, the supposed fight. Police said they had neither heard nor been able to learn anything of it. The pro­prietor of the establishment where the incident was supposed to have occurred declared that the person in ques­tion had never said or done anything objectionable at his place, and had not been there at all on the night when the disturbance was supposed to have taken place.

So the trail appears to end. Perhaps there was a radio broadcast reporting the execution of a German spy in Canada. If this was true, custom has changed since the World War when many spies were captured but none was executed on this side of the Atlantic. Undoubtedly there will be those who will rise in indignation upon reading this article and declare that they know the spy story to be true. If so, the Gazette will welcome their evidence — the Gazette has been unable to find any at all.


Announces Offer of Reward


The reported victim of assault for alleged pro-Nazi utterances bears no marks of violence so far as can be seen. He appears to be busily engaged in attending to his own business, and says that he did not learn of the sup­posed incident until several days after its reported occurrence. He is suffi­ciently concerned to have announced an offer of $100 reward for evidence leading to the conviction of the per­son who started the slanderous story which represented him as disloyal to America.

A veteran of the German army in the World War, during the years of his residence on the Vineyard he has been received and honored by former members of the A.E.F. and the Army of Occupation who apparently saw nothing about him or his attitude to inspire distrust. He and his wife are American citizens, and have been heard to say, many times, “Thank God we live in America.”


Editorial: False Witness


This is certainly a good time not to believe all one hears. The Vineyard has been rife with sensational stories this past week, and investigation shows that there is not a shred of truth in them. A former resident of Edgartown, it has been blithely reported, has been executed as a spy in Canada. The man in question happens to be an American citizen, and if he had been brought to trial as a spy the story would have been on the first page of every daily newspaper.

More damaging have been the stories concerning two persons still on the Vineyard, depicting them as taking part in disloyal alter­cations. These tales, too, are false. The incidents said to have taken place did not happen at all. Our spirit of fair play ought to be awak­ened and kept awake during these times of world suffering and persecution of minorities.

It is unlikely, to say the least, that any Fifth Column will be found working on Martha’s Vineyard. This is a peaceful Island, thoroughly patriotic and more vigilant in its patriotism than any other community we know, and it can hardly rank as an important military objective in time of War. We have no secrets to be ferreted out. How absurd it was during the World War when one could not build a concrete tennis court without being suspected of preparing a gun emplacement, no matter how unlikely the place, and when one could not take a pair of binoculars to the South Beach without being a marked person, suspected of mysterious traffic with enemy submarines.

The truth is more important in times of stress than ever before; and the worst enemy of truth is the silly gossip circulated among credulous people. These stories which go the rounds never have any ascertainable beginning; they have always just been heard from someone who heard them from someone else. To be entitled to belief, any report ought to have a definite, verifiable source.



From the June 7, 1940 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:


This Should Clear the Air for Next Spy Story


The former Edgartown resident who — so the story has been going the rounds — was executed in Canada as a German spy, wrote a letter on June 3 which was received early this week by a Vineyard merchant.

“If that man is dead, his letter came a long way for three cents,” observed the merchant.

In the past week or two many vari­ants of the spy story have been cir­culated. The statement that the form­er Vineyarder was executed has been vouched for by traveling salesmen, by people who heard it from other people who heard it over the radio, and by individuals who always have inside in formation about everything.

The Gazette is glad to be able to announce conclusive proof that the central figure in the tale was alive and well as recently as June 3, that he was apparently proceeding with ordinary pursuits, and that he and his family were nowhere near the Canadian border. This should set this particular matter at rest and clear the ail for the next spy story.