The Charlotte News

Saturday, September 19, 1942


Site Ed. Note: The front page tells the story of a soldier in training in England who, while cleaning his gun, shot a bullet through his toe. He was given the finest of medical care, says the piece, by the Charlotte Medical Evacuation Unit. No doubt, he was. But the question we have, and we confess to naivete about guns in asking it, is why does one leave a gun loaded while cleaning it. Whether this was S.O.P., we have our doubts. Well, stranger things have happened. Perhaps, he forgot to unload it before trying to clean it. There was no immediacy of threat of being sent to any front and so there is no reason to suspect deliberation in the self-inflicted wound. Just a slip of the finger somewhere.

The Russians, having only three weeks earlier announced German casualties in the range of 1.1 million since May 1, now claimed 1.3 million in the Caucasus. Whether the heavy fighting in and around Stalingrad had in this short interim taken another 200,000 lives, a plausible notion, or whether the numbers were simply propaganda estimates, is impossible to determine.

And, somehow on a 90 degree Saturday of this the last weekend before autumn 1942, we find the horse and buggy story to be a little suspect as not so much a horse story but a fish story. But then again, we weren't there. Many strange things were going on, including the fact that in Norwalk, Conn., the town's entire supply of gas rationing coupons were stolen, approximately 2,000 gallons worth, probably by someone named Nottapedestrian Neither; including the ousted from Ostead Belgians along the Belgian coast out of the Nazis' fear that another Dieppe-type raid would strike there; including the putting out to ride the residents of East Riding in Yorkshire to enable full military occupation of that North Sea bounding town; including a flash flood gushing fully sixteen feet of water in just three hours into the town called Spring Valley in Wisconsin, fortunately sparing the lives of all in its path if not their homes and belongings; including, as Raymond Clapper's piece tells, the appointment by the President, pursuant to the general recommendation of the Baruch Rubber Rationing Committee, of a man who had spent his entire business life in the railroad business, admitting that he knew absolutely nothing about rubber--and, no doubt, for good reason; including the plans by the team of Henry Kaiser and Howard Hughes to build three huge Geese for air transport, to be comprised of about half wood and half plastic--with yet another to be half the middle part of the plastic part by the end of the eighteen million dollar fiasco. Including Jonah probably in the belly of a whale somewhere in the Pacific, while Daniel fought in the lion's den within the sandy stretches of the desert abaft the Mediterranean.

And including the probability that the angels were at watch over the Navy airmen who crashed their plane a half-mile off Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, losing only one of their eight-man crew.

"Grim Tale" on the editorial page reports, after a month of ballyhoo over the supposed success of the commando raid at Dieppe, the finally received casualty figures, showing 3,350 of the 5,000 Canadians who primarily conducted the raid to have been lost, (as it turned out, 1,200 of whom were killed, the rest captured or wounded). The Canadians were said to be angry over that high ratio for the negligible results achieved.

While many lessons came from the raid which two years hence would make the Normandy invasion successful, if also extremely costly in lives, the Dieppe raid itself was an unmitigated disaster for the Allies, one on which a false face suggesting success had been pasted for the time being, albeit in the well-meant cause of preventing loss of morale on the home front with so much other bad news from the European theater in Russia dominating the headlines of the time, even if punctuated by the nearly nightly raids, weather permitting, of the RAF over France and Germany. As brave and death-defying as those air assaults were, apt to have five percent of the men going out never to come home again, they nevertheless seemed somehow less teeth-gritting, less manfully willing to confront face to face the enemy in his own backyard, than did the derring-do of this Dieppe raid, that in itself breathing into its story the lifeblood of guts and glory, consonant with time immortalized tales of the valiant warrior meeting shield to sword and sword to shield of his blood curdling enemy despite the fear instilled by its mere thought in the ordinary, the untested, the lacking in that selfless quality which characterized these soldiers who hit the beach, mortal flesh exposed before a steady fusillade of machine gun fire issuing from the concrete pillboxes sheltering the enemy above them.

"Racket, 1942" compares, quite appropriately, the tactics of then little known racketeer Jimmy Hoffa with those of the strong-arm goons of the 1920's, only now, in 1942, the methodology being classified under the politer rubric, "labor practices".

All of that tolerance by society of this coerced submission, however, would eventually wear thin and finally evaporate entirely as stories became public that the strong arms of the goons had dipped for Boss Hoffa's personal aggrandizement into the Teamsters' trust fund set aside for the members' retirement. Hauled in 1957 before the McClellan Rackets Committee in the Senate, of which John Kennedy was a vocal member and Robert Kennedy, the committee's chief majority counsel, as well including among its equally bipartisan eight-member composition Senators Sam Ervin, Frank Church, Homer Capehart, and Barry Goldwater, Mr. Hoffa would emerge with the indelible reputation of a crook--that culminating, after repeated unsuccessful efforts by the Kennedy Justice Department to convict him on various charges, in a jury verdict in 1964 in Nashville for jury tampering and in a separate trial for embezzling union funds, sending the crook away to prison in 1967 for thirteen years; until, that is, President Nixon came along, for unknown reasons, to commute his sentence to time served in 1971, on condition that he abstain from further union activities until 1980.

But on an afternoon in July, 1975, as Mr. Hoffa sought an inroad back into the union leadership, he suddenly vanished into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again.

That little piece titled "A Proper Dane", ostensibly inapposite to anything else on the page or in the news of the day, somehow nevertheless finds its coordinates along the tangent leading to Mr. Hoffa, his trucks, and his bulldog-dane ways which ultimately were repaid him in kind.

Or, do we have it a little wrong as to the identity of the "Proper Dane"?

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