| The War That Came Early |
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
|Appearance(s):||The Big Switch|
|Affiliations:||US State Department|
Jerome Beard (b c 1880) was an American consular services officer responsible for American nationals distressed while traveling in Sweden. In 1940 he was somewhere in his fifties (meaning his date of birth was in the 1880s). Despite his name, he wore only a thin pencil mustache and was completely bald on the top of his head.
During the war that began in 1938, he was grateful to be stationed in one of the few European countries that had managed to maintain its neutrality. Though a German invasion of Sweden was not entirely outside the realm of possibility, Beard agreed with the assessment of the American ambassador and military attache at the Stockholm embassy: that Sweden's small but modern armed forces would deter Germany, already fighting at numerical disadvantages on several fronts, from violating the country's neutrality.
Like his colleague Constantine Jenkins before him, Beard was forced to endure frequent demands for assistance that was impossible to render from Peggy Druce, who had been stranded in Europe since 1938. Druce suggested that Beard urge the German and British governments to cooperate on her behalf. Beard explained that, while such a thing may have been possible during World War I, there was too much animosity between the current British and German governments to make such a meeting possible, and that the likelihood of his being able to broker such an arrangement between the Germans and French was more remote still.
He did offer the countersuggestion that Peggy travel from Sweden to Poland to Romania to Egypt through the Suez Canal, and finally book passage to the Americas from East Africa. Beard warned Druce that this proposal was risky: She could become caught in the crossfire between German and Soviet forces in Poland; she would need to travel from Poland to Romania by way of Slovakia, a country which was so firmly ensconced within the German sphere of influence that she would have to risk the ire of Nazi officials; and both Slovakia and Romania could conceivably be invaded by the Soviets. Even after getting through the Suez Canal, Peggy would still run the risk of passing through the combat zones between Britain and Italy in Somaliland and Abyssinia. Nevertheless, Peggy was so eager to return to America that she asked Beard to help her make arrangements for this dangerous journey.