Congressional Trip: NYC and Flying to England via Lisbon
The Congressmen landed at La Guardia Airport at 5:00 PM on Nov 14th. I had arranged for limousines to meet them and myself and we drove down the East River Drive and directly to have tea with Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at her palatial house at 640 5th Ave. Since most of them had never been in New York, I thought this would impress them and it certainly did. They were welcomed to NYC with red carpet treatment.
Then at 8:00 PM we went to the Pierre Hotel to dine with the host of our trip, Mr. Marshall Field, as listed in the itinerary.
On Nov 15, 1941 at 8: AM we left from La Guardia's Marine Airport headed for Bermuda. We were flying on one of the 'Clipper Ships' that Pan American Airways used widely at that time. We would take off and land in water. We'd fly all day and then land and spend the night on land. Bermuda, the Azores and on to Lisbon where the US Minister, Mr. Fish, met us.
I had wanted to stay at the beautiful old Avis Hotel but our Legation made reservations at the Palace Hotel in Estoril. Later they told me that the Avis Hotel was on their "black list."
It was an eerie feeling to see German and Italian planes at the airport. One sensed the presence of spies all over the city. Several friends had warned ; me that there were often delays of several days in Lisbon before the plane to England took off because of weather or whatever.
Anxious to insure that the Con gressmen were kept happy, I asked a friend of mine, John Braganza (his family had ! been Portugal's Royal Family) to give me a letter to some friends of his who might entertain the group in case of delay. We were delayed, so I telephoned j Baron and Baroness Von Freisin, as John Braganza had recommended, and they invited us for tea and/or drinks. They had a charming house in Estoril and a few delightful friends of theirs were also present. It was a most civilized occasion, but I began to be worried as Baron Von Freisen said to a couple of Congressmen, "Look Europe is now free of communism, the British Empire is intact, so why do you bother with it? Think of the vast expense if you should get involved."
I was frantic as the purpose of the trip was to help persuade Isolationists of the necessity of beating Hitler.
Our plane was delayed another day and before I could prevent it, two of theCongressmen invited the Von Freisens for dinner the following day and they accepted.
I expressed my fears to the Congressmen, but the dinner was on and our Minister, Mr. Fish, and Averill Harriman, as well as Major Fred Anerson [later Maj Gen and head of the 8th Air Force] were at the dinner.
My fears were borne out, as the Baron and Baroness went around the room in opposite directions to give the same Hitler line to each of the Congressmen. We took off the next day for Bristol, England but I was in despair. With the best of intentions of keeping them socially entertained, I had subjected them to two articulate Nazi agents before we even got to England.
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