|The Man With the Iron Heart|
POD: May 29, 1942;
Relevant POD: May, 1945
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Affiliations:||Milwaukee Sentinel (until 1945)|
Tom Schmidt was an American newspaper journalist. His experiences in occupied Germany, particulary his observances of the activities of the German Freedom Front and the uncertain response from the government and the military, turned him against occupation.
A Milwaukee native, Schmidt was working for the Milwaukee Sentinel in Germany immediately after Victory in Europe Day. His interactions with the troops, as well as his own personal experiences, led him to believe that the GFF was doing more harm than American officials wanted to admit. An interview with General Dwight Eisenhower helped confirm those suspicions in late 1945.
Shortly after this interview, Schmidt was passed a copy of a film by his paramour, Ilse. The film featured kidnapped American soldier Matthew Cunningham begging for his life. Schmidt helped spread the film. In response, the US Army had Schmidt sent back to the States.
Schmidt wound up landing on his feet, however, taking a job with the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper that had been critical of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal right from the beginning. The paper's stance stayed sharply anti-Democratic even after the war ended. While Schmidt had considered himself a New Dealer, the opportunity was too good to pass up. In time, Schmidt became one of the Administration's harshest critics, routinely questioning the President's decisions, both in print and at press conferences. At the first conference Schmidt attended, he managed to needle Truman on several points, although he privately acknowledged that Truman did have the strength of his convictions.
Nevertheless, Schmidt was increasingly frustrated by the Administration's apparent inability to do anything right when it came to defeating the GFF. When Reinhard Heydrich slipped through the American Army's hands, Schmidt wrote a highly critical column of Truman. At the next press conference, Truman compared Schmidt to Westbrook Pegler.
Schmidt continued to earn that reputation, and the administration did much to help. When a major at a press conference described a successful capture of a GFF cell leader, Schmidt was publically unimpressed. In response, the major questioned the patriotism of the entire media, angering Truman allies and foes alike.
Schmidt attributed the phrase "Silent Majority" to Truman, after Truman stated in a February, 1947 press conference that most of the American people supported his view. Truman himself didn't say it, but Schmidt found his interpretation catchy.
On July 4, 1947, Schmidt covered a gathering of "unofficial Washington" in Lafayette Park. After suffering through a boring speech by baseball-owner Clark Griffith, Schmidt was surprised and a little horrified by the speech given by Senator Everett Dirksen. Dirksen informed the crowd that Indianapolis City Councilman Gus van Slyke had just been assassinated. Dirksen connected this act to Truman, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Schmidt feared that the crowd might turn into an angry mob and storm the White House. It didn't, much to Schmidt's relief.
A few weeks later, Schmidt tried to get permission to return to Germany. United States Navy Captain Ollie Weyr turned him down. Weyr went off the record to criticize Schmidt and other members of the press critical of the U.S. military. Schmidt was disappointed that he could not return to Germany, and he did not agree with Weyr's fundamental criticisms.
Weeks later, Schmidt attended President Truman's press confederance announcing the death of Reinhard Heydrich. Schmidt quickly saw that Truman wanted to keep troops in Germany, despite the GFF leader's death, and so continued his editorial attacks on Truman. In the last weeks of 1947, Schmidt interviewed a few soldiers returning state-side. One soldier, Gil Atkins, convinced Schmidt that his position had been the correct one.
As the 1948 election neared, Schmidt was prepared to remain one of Truman's most ardent opponents.