The Charlotte News

Monday, March 2, 1942


Site Ed. Note: The front page and "Semi-Final" in the editorial column of the date tell of the 85,000-man invasion by the Japanese of Java during the weekend. The editorial indicates that the Allied military commanders were holding out only faint hope for an Allied stand on the last fortress in the Netherlands East Indies, now defended by American, British and Dutch contingents. Its main purpose, as with the rest of the fighting in the region, from the Philippines southward, was to forestall the Japanese invasion force, inflict as much damage as possible for as long as possible before retreating to the last stronghold in the South Pacific, Australia, there to await reinforcement by the new production taking hold in America. The Japanese would have to move around to the southeast of Australia to capture the nation-continent, as its population centers, Sydney and Melbourne, were defended by the 2,000 mile northern outback, with only lonely Darwin in the northern territory having any significant population.

A front page report states, "The fog of war and sketchy communiques obscured the exact status of the savage battle [for Java], but the available details were not calculated to inspire optimism."

It is the first time we have encountered that phrase, "fog of war", in the war reports of this era. It reminds us to remind you that if you have never viewed the 2003 Errol Morris documentary "Fog of War", with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as its centerpiece, focusing discussion primarily on Vietnam, but also stretching back to Secretary McNamara's time serving under Curtis LeMay in World War II and the planning in 1944 of the bombing of Tokyo, then you should. Or, if you have, take the time to view it again. It is, in our estimate, one of the better documentaries of its type ever made. Any member of Congress, any military leader, any president, contemplating military action in the future should first view, at least once, this documentary for a refresher course on a supreme lesson from recent history. The added material on the disc version is also exceptionally instructional.

The main point, from whence the title derives, is that once the shooting starts, the fog of war sets in, its density tending to obstruct not just honest communication from the front to the military and civilian command posts, but also reason in the process, both that of the public and the military and political leaders. The precognitive conceptualization of not only how to win a war but how to get out of the situation once won, must be sought ab initio, with due flexibility of plans and strategy factored in for unforeseen events in the meantime--before the bullets begin flying, not afterward. War is not wading into the stream to see how far the current of technological advance might carry the country over a less advanced system of weaponry of the enemy. It is, once embarked upon, a full-scale commitment, or it should not be undertaken at all. The lessons communicated by the film and by Mr. McNamara are profound, made even more so by the lessons endued the country from the present Iraq War.

On other fighting fronts, the front page reports that Rangoon, the key to the Burma Road, now abandoned except for weary British defenders, appeared ready to fall as Japanese fighters closed within 30 miles. The Japanese were bombing the Andaman Islands south of Burma as well.

Christmas Island, south of Java, had also been hit over the weekend.

In the Philippines, MacArthur's men fought hard still to hold Bataan, now being bombed by airplanes with markings apparently indicative of German origin, black with a white cross.

London sources believed that transfer by the Luftwaffe of numerous planes to bases in Norway suggested an imminent attack on American forces holding Iceland, where they had been since late summer of 1941. The purpose would be to interrupt shipping to Britain and slowly strangle the nation to make it ripe for an invasion, or even to make invasion an unnecessary prerequisite to force its capitulation to terms of surrender.

And even the Nazi stooge press had admitted that along the 2,000 mile front in Russia, from Leningrad to the Crimea, the Nazis were forced into defensive positions, albeit struggling to report a few isolated bits of daylight to their otherwise miserable winter of discontent spent with the Red Army, Arctic temperatures, and the concomitant lice, for all of which they were sent to battle in June quite ill-prepared.

Paul Mallon writes of the new Red propaganda sweeping the land in the wake of the fall and winter success in Russia against the Nazis, now seeking to capitalize--if that word may be used with dim recognition of its antithetical nature vis à vis socialism--, on the sudden popularity of Papa Joe by taking to task certain anti-Reds as forming the core of what the President recently had termed the Clivedens of America, The Daily Worker including among its putative membership J. Edgar Hoover, Adolph Berle and Breckinridge Long of the State Department, and Evalyn Walsh McLean, The Washington Post's heiress (whose daughter the previous summer, replete with the prospect of inheritance from her mother of the Hope Diamond, had married none other than Robert Rice Reynolds, Senator from North Carolina and Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee--the same who, by the implication of the report from the The Hour quoting Fifth Columnist Gerald L.K. Smith from his announcement of formation of "The Inner Circle" of the "Committee of One Million", was likely the confidante to Mr. Smith who suggested a conspiracy afoot to bring the United States sovereignty to nil and reduce it once again to a vassal state within the British Empire). Mr. Mallon thinks that the Clivedens the President had in mind were likely otherwise than on this membership list from The Daily Worker, though perhaps not excluding Senator Reynolds who may have been excluded from The Daily Worker.

Dorothy Thompson also writes of Fifth Column activities and the probability, as she had also suggested during February, that various accidents since 1940, including the recent welding fire aboard the dry-docked Normandie, being refitted from a sleek French passenger liner to a supply ship when the "accident" occurred, were more likely the result of sabotage by American Bundists.

"Confidence" speaks again of the delicate balance necessary between accurate war reporting and the need for secrecy, at least for a time, to avoid enemy awareness of Allied successes and consequent detection of ship and plane movements. It appears to say that, but for the OFF snowjob afoot, the American people would feel more cheery about the progress of the war. Yet, a few short weeks earlier, the column had darkly opined that too much optimism was being bred by not enough grim news from the war fronts. So...

In Charlotte, moderate snow was predicted.

In our own time and place in 2009, it snowed five inches where we happened to be on March 2. Now, a week later, it is properly spring, having started for a few days on its path that way a full month ago. Such is weather.

Speaking of semi-final...well, we get ahead of ourselves by a few weeks, and so we shall resist.

We stress again that getting out into the fresh air and running those laps and pressing the icy ground with those push-ups in the first couple of weeks in the frost of January must have done you good, now that it is March. Witness the results of yesterday.

Spring break has arrived.

We took ours last week, as you will note, and so, this week, we shall do double duty to catch up by the first of next week.

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