The Charlotte News

Thursday, April 17, 1947


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Governor Beauford Jester of Texas had issued a proclamation of emergency regarding the Texas City disaster which had begun the previous day at shortly after 9:00 a.m. when the Grand Camp, a French ship loaded with ammonium nitrate, caught fire and exploded, spreading to the nearby Monsanto Chemical Plant, which also exploded. The fires continued to rage and the spreading flames threatened to ignite oil refinery tanks nearby containing high octane gasoline.

New explosions, starting this date at 1:10 a.m., had occurred, triggered initially by two large explosions on the Liberty ship High Flyer, also carrying ammonium nitrate and berthed nearby the Grand Camp, causing the further spread of oil fires and a secondary oil tank explosion at 3:25 a.m. A Houston Police Department captain on the scene directing rescue work had ordered 400 rescue workers to leave the dock area just five minutes before the High Flyer blew up.

William C. Barnard, Associated Press reporter on the scene, describes his personal experience at feeling the impact of the two explosions from the High Flyer, which came seconds apart, as he had just walked into a building where the toll of casualties was being tabulated. He saw steel fragments shooting into the sky and falling onto the sidewalk and pavement, "falling like rain" on the dock area. A piece of shrapnel cut the right leg off a man standing right beside him and he, with the aid of a nurse whose head was bleeding, applied a tourniquet. The still conscious man said nothing, did not even moan.

Two dozen cots were soon filled with newly injured and still conscious men, each of whom remained silent, though some grimaced in pain. A rescue worker whose leg was severed told of trying to crawl under a car but being prevented by the fact of too many people being there already.

Another volunteer, who was standing a hundred yards from the High Flyer, was knocked down, he said, and then rolled under a car, until all of the debris stopped falling. He then saw several men lying on the ground.

A nurse with eight broken ribs counted herself lucky as one man near her had his eye poked out and another lost his foot.

The death toll was now thought to run to 650, with 3,000 injured. The Red Cross had stated that 364 bodies had been embalmed and 400 were known to be dead.

An earlier plan to stop the fires with explosives was abandoned by noon this date. But fresh smoke and flames were emanating from the fires and a new tank was reported to have collapsed. The Deputy Mayor of Texas City stated that DDT would be used as a protective measure to contain the fire.

Only one instance of looting was reported, a man who had allegedly taken $6,000 in cash and was arrested.

Hal Boyle, reporting from the scene, found it to resemble the results of the bombing of the Ploesti, Rumania, oil refinery during the war. At 7:15 a.m., he was flying over Texas City for the third time. One part of the town was a "two-mile wide torch", while the living area was deserted. Smoke spiraled to 3,000 feet in the air.

The President urged every Government agency to cooperate in relief of the disaster. Pursuant to the request, the Civil Aeronautics Board authorized all planes to operate at will in providing assistance and emergency supplies.

Senator P. the B. Pappy Wilbert Lee O'Daniel of Texas had introduced a resolution to have the explosions investigated. He expressly refrained from suggesting any deliberate act causing the fire which led to the explosions. But he also implied that he had suspicions that the disaster, along with other apparent accidents of late, involving trains, fires, and explosions across the country, could have been the result of "Communistic underground activity", as before the country's entry into the war.

The president of the National Federation of Telephone Workers stated to a closed meeting of hundreds of striking workers that he was hopeful that a settlement in the nationwide strike might be reached before the following Monday, which would mark the beginning of the second week of the strike, as a longer strike would begin to take its toll on the workers. But he cautioned that there were no negotiations at present either with Bell Telephone or the Government to effect a resolution.

Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach had put forth a plan for settling the dispute this date, a proposal which A.T.&T. had claimed to have accepted in principle, but which Mr. Schwellenbach stated they had rejected by putting forth numerous modifications.

In Brighton, England, a man who had made an offering to St. Anthony in the hope of obtaining employment, stole the money back from the church offertory box because, he said, he was dissatisfied with the wages of the job for which he had been hired and thought St. Anthony had thus let him down.

Hey Tony, what's the deal here?

A report from Ottawa that Princess Elizabeth would announce her engagement to Lt. Philip Mountbatten, formerly Prince Philip of Greece, on her 21st birthday, four days hence, could not be confirmed in London, as the Royal Family continued to travel in South Africa.

Hey, Phil...

In Beverly Hills, actor Lawrence Tierney, who had played the title role in the film "Dillinger", was sentenced to spend four weekends in jail for violation of probation on his fourth arrest for drunkenness in recent months.

Joseph Alsop, in a special column appearing on page 7-A, opines that Henry Wallace was unfair in tracing his appeasement of Russia back to President Roosevelt. Mr. Alsop advocates release of the personal correspondence between Winston Churchill, FDR, and Josef Stalin following Yalta in February, 1945, if for no other reason than to pretermit Mr. Wallace's attempt to take on the Roosevelt mantle, resemblant to "nothing so much as Milton Berle playing 'Hamlet' in the robes of Edwin Booth."

Mr. Alsop appears to jump the gun, instead describing a freshman Congressman from California who had yet to jump, but soon would, the national candlestick, waxing long, far too long, into the future, casting a giant shadow across the landscape.

Columnist Thomas L. Stokes, finding Mr. Wallace to have every bit the right to speak in England against the Truman Doctrine which Winston Churchill had a year earlier at Westminster College, in warning of the "iron curtain" descending over Eastern Europe, has the better of this argument.

Mr. Alsop,—while presenting a cogent argument for the continuity between the latter policy of FDR, subsequent to Yalta, and that of President Truman, albeit interrupted in the latter case by several months of readjustment in the new Administration, marked notably by the replacement of Edward Stettinius with James Byrnes as Secretary of State at the end of June, 1945 followed by Potsdam, before resumption of a tougher line with the Soviets on Eastern Europe in the wake of the atomic bomb blasts and end of the war—, avoids the key topic which Mr. Wallace was seeking to underscore, that being the President's complete circumvention of the U.N., so highly touted two years earlier, not even affording it first crack at attempting to resolve the problems in Greece resulting from the vacuum to be left by British evacuation. While the President had contended on March 12, in his address to Congress inaugurating the policy, that time was of the essence and that the U.N., facing a March 31 deadline, could not act with adequate speed on the issue, he did not even give it a chance, thereby appearing, to a degree, as a kowtowing lackey, an obsequious errand boy, subject to British will, impressed by the genteel accent, perhaps, rather than seeking the substance behind the veil, in true Missouri fashion.

On the editorial page, "Local Victory on the School Front" finds impressive the four-to-one majority vote of Charlotteans to raise property taxes to support teachers, supplementing the recent state legislative hike in salaries by 30 percent.

There had been no active opposition and the PTA had actively organized support for the measure, but those facts did not fully explain the overwhelming majority. It meant that Charlotte residents wanted better education and educational facilities for their children and understood that the way to that end was through more funding for education.

The editorial posits that the same was true of the people of North Carolina as a whole, the difference being that they had not been asked to register a vote on the matter. The Legislature had exercised too much fiscal caution in its legislation.

It predicts that many other cities in the state would follow the lead of Charlotte in the coming months. It would also be a hot issue in the next statewide campaign in 1948.

"The Coming of Unhatched Chickens" tells of job applications already being submitted to the County Commissioners for positions on the three-person ABC Board which would operate the ABC liquor stores should the June 7 referendum on the matter pass. From among the thousand or more applicants who would ultimately seek the positions, it was necessary to get the best qualified persons, lest the system wind up being no improvement over the extant bootlegging operations.

"'The Bombshell' Was a Harbinger" finds the record-breaking around-the-world flight of the converted A-26 bomber, which had landed after 79 hours in New York at La Guardia and been surrounded immediately by young girls greeting the crew as heroes, to be remindful of the flight of Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The pilot, William Odum, had humbly protested when his boss, Chicago manufacturer Milton Reynolds, had called him the best pilot in the world. Mr. Odum stated that it was a routine flight which airlines would soon be making regularly.

The editorial says that the fact that it was 1947, not 1927, was brought home by the necessity of the flight's detour by 5,000 miles to avoid flying over Russian territory. Soviet officials had stated that they could not service aircraft because of wartime damage still under reconstruction.

The flight had left the feeling, nevertheless, that things would work out after all. There should thus be no begrudging Mr. Reynolds if suddenly his ballpoint pen company issued a new model called "The Bombshell".

A piece from the Christian Science Monitor, titled "'The Devil Can Cite...'", says that it feels more comfortable with the Communist Party out in the open, with a full page ad in metropolitan newspapers, making the case for why the party should not be outlawed.

Communists were not liberals as they proclaimed themselves to be, nor should be confused with American Socialists. The civil liberties which they defended in their ads to argue for their right to exist had little to do with the Moscow regime which they actively supported and from which they received their marching orders.

The piece nevertheless, in a time when honest liberals were threatened, believes that it would be a clumsy method of expressing American freedom to outlaw the Communists. The effort had given them the opportunity to wrap themselves in the Bill of Rights.

The editorial urges that it was better to keep them above ground than to force them into some other form and, at the same time, forge their unity.

Drew Pearson discusses the split among Republicans regarding the House Appropriations Committee effort to cut funds for irrigation and reclamation, alienating thereby seventeen House Republicans of the Western states. They had threatened to vote with Democrats if the effort persisted. They had pointed out that irrigation and reclamation efforts in the West had been fathered by the Republican Party when Theodore Roosevelt was President, from 1901-09, arguing that the party's power would be weakened in the seventeen states impacted by such cuts if the economizing measures were passed.

But Committee chairman John Taber of New York, a fiscal conservative, claimed that the Department of Interior had, during the New Deal, used irrigation and reclamation to enter the field of public power and "socialization". He blamed Interior therefore for putting the projects in jeopardy. His effort was to reduce the funding of Interior for public power development, contending that only Boulder Dam, a Republican project, had become a self-supporting entity.

Most of the Western Congressmen left the meeting determined to fight for reclamation, though some had expressed the recognition that it would be unwise to split the party over the issue.

Henry Kaiser, whose automotive industry competitors had been predicting with glee a year earlier his failure in his effort to enter the industry, was now being asked by the heads of Packard, Studebaker, and Nash for advice, and he was loaning some of his key personnel to them for the purpose.

The DNC had tried unsuccessfully to hire away from the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association former Philadelphia Record ace political writer "Tip" O'Neil. Mr. O'Neil, not to be confused with Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill of Massachusetts, future Speaker of the House, had been walking the picket lines in the prolonged Philadelphia Record strike, which ultimately, on February 1, had forced the newspaper to close, when the Manufacturers Association hired him.

Marquis Childs offers his critique of Henry Wallace in England, criticizing the President's new foreign policy toward Greece and Turkey. He finds the former Vice-President to be out of touch with American political life and to have shredded the last of his political capital in the country, as Americans would not tolerate seeking a jury before a foreign people.

The President would not respond to Mr. Wallace as he did not wish to provide him sensational headlines and give him that which, as coneyed in his Liverpool speech recently, he seemed to want, martyrdom.

Republicans probably hoped that Mr. Wallace would continue his campaign and that it might damage the President's 1948 effort to be elected.

Mr. Childs thinks that Mr. Wallace's Cassandrian approach to the aid issue was premature, predisposing some extreme elements to view the policy as doomed to fail, when it could become a worldwide beacon for democracy, aiding recovering countries.

He does not believe that the 1799 Logan Act, forbidding any citizen from negotiating with a foreign government regarding an issue in dispute with the United States, had any application to the activities of Mr. Wallace, as Representatives John Rankin and chairman J. Parnell Thomas of HUAC had urged to the Justice Department. Nor did he think the State Department ought seek to revoke Mr. Wallace's passport, as had also been urged by some members of Congress. It would be a shame to grant him such easy martyrdom as he wished.

There were other American liberals with good New Deal credentials who had repudiated Mr. Wallace. Leon Henderson, former OPA head, was one such former New Dealer.

Dwight MacDonald, in his magazine Politics, had described recently "Wallaceland", that "region of perpetual fogs, caused by the warm winds of the liberal Gulf Stream coming in contact with the Soviet Glacier." The natives spoke "Wallese, a debased provincial dialect." Mr. Childs thinks Europeans ought be aware of how few Americans spoke this language.

It sounds a bit more like Mr. MacDonald, especially in his opening salvo quoting from the fatal vision of Macbeth, was describing George Wallace than Henry.

In the article, the author expresses, in what would prove, in time, to be more unwitting irony than intentional sardonicism, that possibly the greatest sentence ever set forth in Wallese, composed by Mr. Wallace, himself, was: "New frontiers beckon with meaningful adventure."

Samuel Grafton discusses from Manteo, N.C., returning to his channel bass fishing foray as during the previous summer, the bitterness of the Raleigh News & Observer, of Josephus and Jonathan Daniels, toward the Truman Doctrine, finding it bearing no resemblance to the Monroe Doctrine. Mr. Grafton advocates annual trips along the Eastern shore to dissolve the notion that only Communists had their doubts of the President's policy.

He did not think the temper of small-town America was liberal, as exampled by the North Carolina Legislature just having passed a measure banning the closed shop, similar to a measure passed recently in Virginia. The Legislature had also refused to pass a 40-cents per hour state minimum wage and 48-hour maximum hours law to cover employees not covered by the Federal law for being engaged in employment only in intrastate commerce, thus not within the power of the Federal Government to regulate. The anti-labor laws had, by strategy, been introduced from rural districts where there were no factories.

He tells of having caught, with two other fishermen, 22 channel bass of 40 pounds or more each. They used the screaming gulls to locate their fish. Others sought them out by small airplane, but that method resembled the notions too much of H. G. Wells in an age where a Legislature could turn down a state minimum wage of $19.20 for six days of work.

An old man in a truck had picked him up on Roanoke Island as he was walking along on a wet afternoon. He had spoken of the end of the war and how things were settling back down. Mr. Grafton suggested to the man that most of the men must have returned from overseas, but he replied that a lot of them had chosen to remain in the service to avoid worries over obtaining a job.

As he looked over the brown fields of Manteo, Mr. Grafton thought of the men in the Army finding security there in a confused post-war era, much as the country as a whole was also doing.

A letter writer tells of the Civil Aeronautics Board favoring Piedmont Aviation, a repair and parts and charter flight company, which had trained men for flying service during the war. They had sought and obtained a small passenger mail delivery service for which they were suited.

But flyers trained by Piedmont had gotten together after the war and pooled their assets to form an air service company for the state and had been operating for two years. They had sought a mail service to expand their operation, but it went instead to Piedmont, which now would have to hire new pilots and train them, a process which would take six months to a year. The writer's company could have been ready in three months. He feels that the CAB decision therefore had no rhyme or reason to it.

The routes provided to Piedmont crossed those of his company and it could not compete with the Government-supported operation. His company would have to close shop and, as veterans, they felt rooked by the Government.

A letter from the president of the executive committee for the Good Health Program thanks the newspaper for its support in the successful campaign to get through the legislature the first phase of the program, appropriating funds for the new four-year medical school and teaching hospital at the University in Chapel Hill and for building and improving hospitals across the state.

He reminds that plans were still subject to approval by the North Carolina Medical Care Commission and the U.S. Public Health Service before State and Federal funds would be available for the construction.

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