Travel agents, bus, rail, and airline moguls, night club owners, and fills de joie all over Western Europe are gleefully looking forward to the greatest influx of summer tourists since the Ottoman Empire pushed at the walls of Vienna.
A summer in Western Europe will be fun. It will also be, according to many people, educational. Certainly no one will begrudge them that. Only one thing can kill this collective merriment, education, and prosperity. A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of the Red Army, just on the far side of the Iron Curtain.
Suppose the Russians do attack this summer? A hardy few discount this possibility entirely. The majority of Americans abroad, however will find it difficult to forget that the Red Army, in many places, is only a few hundred miles away. The seasoned traveler will give the situation some thought before he packs his luggage.
In the event of war, the main Russian thrust will probably be directed against the N.A.T.O. forces at the Rhine line. Smaller forces will be thrown against Finland, and the satellite armies of Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, backed up by Red Army regulars, will descend on Yugoslavia.
N.A.T.O. strategy, at last word, will be to retreat all along the western front in a sweeping are, giving up northern Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in that order. This retreat will leave Denmark in a precarious position, and will give the Russians access to the narrow straights of the English Channel.
Only three countries in Western Europe will be temporarily safe; Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. Of these, the last is the least feasible as a point of repair, since the Communist Party inside the country is both the largest in Europe and the most active. Still, Italy is a much better prospect than either Germany or France. With Yugoslavia to act as a buffer. It is unlikely that the Russians will turn their attention to Italy before they have conquered Germany and France.
Spain and Switzerland are both fortresses, although for different reasons. Spain, the farthest country from the Red Army, has the Pyrenees; and Switzerland is necessary as a neutral point of exchange for spies and currency.
In the event of war, travel will be difficult. The communist underground will probably dynamite the key bridges, so that rail transportation can almost be discounted. Escape by air is the best idea, if one has the nerve to risk running into a MIG. Oceanic travel will of course be enhanced by the Russian submarine fleet. The best idea there is a small, inconspicuous boat.
While in Europe, Americans should register at the American Embassy in every city they inhabit for more than three days. It is a good precaution to keep in touch with the travel situation through a handy travel agency. A minute of indecision may mean a life. Above all, remember, women and children first.