Father Charles Edward Coughlin (pronounced COG-lin, October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979) was a Canadian-born Roman Catholic priest at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower Church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as more than 40 million tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. While initially a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, Coughlin grew disenchanted with Roosevelt and what he claimed were undue "Jewish" influences in capitalism. Thus, he began praising Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. As World War II began in Europe, the Roosevelt Administration and the Catholic Church made efforts to rein in Coughlin. By 1942, with the U.S. fully committed to the war, Coughlin lost his momentum completely. He continued his radio show and publishing his newspaper, Social Justice, until the Roosevelt administration forced the cancellation of both.
Coughlin continued on as a parish priest until retirement in the 1960s.
Charles Coughlin in Joe Steele
Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1935) had initially supported President Joe Steele's Four Year Plan on his radio show. However, by 1934, Coughlin had soured on Steele and was publicly very critical.
At their trial, the Supreme Court Four identified Coughlin and Louisiana Senator Huey Long as being part of their conspiracy with Nazi Germany to harm the United States. Coughlin was immediately taken into custody. He went meekly, showing off his handcuffs and quoting from the Twenty-third Psalm.
Coughlin entered a guilty plea at his military tribunal, despite the efforts of his attorney, Levine (who'd also attempted to defend the Supreme Court Four). The head of the tribunal, Colonel Walter Short, accepted the plea, and immediately asked the other members of the tribunal if they needed to "haggle" over the sentence. While Captain William Halsey and Major Carl Spatz were silent, Lt. Nathan Bedford Forrest III advocated for the death penalty, which Short promptly passed.
Coughlin's attorney's attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court, which declined on jurisdictional grounds. When they asked Steele for clemency, Steele refused. Coughlin was executed in the same spot as the Supreme Court Four. He began a Hail Mary, but was shot after uttering "Ave". The officer who oversaw the execution finished it: "Ave atque vale." Journalist Charlie Sullivan used a pun on that quote for a headline: AVE ATQUE VOLLEY.
Coughlin's role is essentially the same in the short story.
- References to Historical Figures in Turtledove's Work, for more minor references to Coughlin in Turtledove's work.
- Joe Steele, pg. 122.
- Ibid., pg. 62.
- Ibid., pg. 105.
- Ibid. pg., 112.
- Ibid., pgs. 123-125.
- Ibid., pgs. 125-126.