The Charlotte News

Tuesday, January 19, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports unusually above the headline a summary of the day's war reports. General Montgomery's Eighth Army was pursuing Rommel to within 40 miles southeast of Tripoli, at Tarhuna. The day before, the closest British force was reported still 100 miles from the Libyan port.

Another column had pushed along the coast road through Misurata to Zliten, 90 miles from Tripoli.

The plan apparently was to drive both columns either headlong as pincers to capture Tripoli or to use the coastal column as the capturing vehicle while the other bypassed Tripoli to cut off Rommel's approach to Tunisia.

As the Eighth Army had swept, uncontested, through and beyond Misurata, a central narrows on the coast between the sea and marshes which would have provided Rommel the best position for a stand before Tripoli, it now appeared, accurately, that Rommel was simply conceding Tripoli and was instead concentrating on shifting as much manpower and equipment as he could into Tunisia to shore up the forces of General Walter Nehring, Rommel's senior officer to whom he had refused to subordinate himself, apparently the dilemma over who would command joint operations now having been reconciled.

From the northern Russian front, in the vicinity of Leningrad, news came for the first time in several weeks, indicating, significantly, that the Soviets had recaptured the fortress town of Schluesselburg, 22 miles east of Leningrad, a transportation depot, opening up a five-mile wide land corridor to Leningrad and ending the blockade of that key city endured since August, 1941. During the siege, the only means of supply to the cityís million inhabitants had been either by air transport or over the frozen winter ice of Lake Ladoga.

In the Ukraine, the Russian armies moved to within 118 miles of Russiaís primary steel city, Kharkov.

Finally, from New Guinea came word that MacArthurís forces had captured Sanananda, the last toehold for the Japanese on the Papuan Peninsula.

In contradiction to the editorials of Dorothy Thompson and Raymond Clapper appearing the previous day, Clement Atlee, Deputy Prime Minister, future post-war Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Labor Party leader in Commons, stated that the differences in the British and American positions on the favored leadership of the French in North Africa should not be exaggerated, that, regardless, the French were cooperating with the British and American military leadership and fighting alongside the other Allied forces cohesively. Secretary of State Cordell Hull remarked that, while he had not read Mr. Atlee's statement, it sounded consistent with the mutual understanding he believed existed between the two governments.

Ms. Thompson and Mr. Clapper, however, had indicated in their editorials a sharp variation in positions, that the British favored General De Gaulle as the leader politically of the French, establishing in North Africa a government-in-waiting to take over France once it was liberated, while the State Department desired the retention of General Giraud, and no government-in-waiting per se, but rather giving free latitude to the French to determine their own leadership once Nazi occupation had been extricated.

General Sherman Miles announced that 17-year olds would be permitted for the first time to enlist in the Army, but would not be called to service until at least six months after their eighteenth birthday. In October, the Congress had authorized the draft of 18 and 19-year olds for the first time in the war.

The President ordered, for the sake of national security, the end of the three-week strike of anthracite coal miners, primarily in Pennsylvania, pursuant to the previous directive from the War Labor Board, issued January 15. Thus far, 5,000 miners had returned to the mines, but 12,000 remained on the picket lines. Implicit in the President's order was the use of military force if necessary to secure the mines and end the labor stoppage, as he had done in two previous episodes involving recalcitrant strikers in critical war industries.

And from Kansas City came a report that a tavern customer and a janitor in a burning building led to safety three women gasping for breath amid smoke by improvising a mask out of a handkerchief filled with snow. Something to remember in case of fire: grab any handy ice or soak a rag in water if no snow is available.

The editorial page begins with "Great Day" hearkening the news of the end of the siege of Leningrad as beckoning optimism that the war with Germany might soon conclude. This news was bolstered by the good news from North Africa, where Tripoli appeared ready to fall, the continuing advance of the Russian armies in the Ukraine and in the Caucasus, and by the reports of further progress being made in ridding Stalingrad of the remaining 50,000 Nazi troops still holed up in its confines.

"The Answer" contrasts both the ongoing British criticism of the sloth with which the rain-bogged battle in Tunisia had been proceeding for the previous month and a half and the early criticism in America of the war effort, prior to the successes in New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and the beginning of the North African offensive, with the now laudatory spirit being conveyed most usually by Americans.

The piece accepts as reasonable British Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham's explanation in defense of the decision of the Allies not to include in their initial invasion on November 8 the considered and rejected plan to take the key Tunisian port of Bizerte, for the fact that the operation would have been too costly in terms of ships likely lost against the heavily defended position with its key supply depot for the North African Axis operations.

Raymond Clapper plumps for sending Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to North Africa to effect political unity in the apparently divided North African French leadership.

Unknown to the public and press, for security reasons, FDR and Churchill were in their fifth day of a ten day meeting in Casablanca with Generals Giraud and De Gaulle to effect just this sort of rapprochement and to plan the final strategy to finish the Tunisian and Libyan campaigns, ridding North Africa of all Axis presence, and to plot strategy for achieving the ensuing step, to invade and take Sicily, to be the first foothold on the continent since the disaster of Dunkerque in June, 1940.

Josef Stalin did not attend. Primarily, he wished to avoid being too cozy at this stage with the Allied leadership for fear of infringing the Japanese mutual non-aggression pact and potentially triggering an attack by them at Vladivostok, even if that prospect had considerably dimmed now that the war in Russia was going so badly for the Nazis and the war in the Pacific had begun to turn against Japan, necessitating their withdrawal of troops from China to send to the southwest Pacific.

In any event, done as if by order, Mr. Clapper's complaint was being met by the principals of each country involved in the United Nations effort, at least to the extent those countries wanted to participate and to the extent there existed a direct interest in the outcome of the European and Mediterranean conflicts.

Dorothy Thompson responds to the outcries of rage over the political appointment of Ed Flynn to become Minister to Australia with the reminder that one of two basic reasons had most usually provided the basis for appointments of diplomatic personnel, either political payoff or to send to some distant corner of the world some voice inconvenient to have around of the moment.

Samuel Grafton contrasts the Justice Department's determined effort in 1942 to weed out through indictments on charges of sedition Americans suffering from that which he calls "the sickness", that is succumbing to the easy allure of fascism, with that brand of diplomacy being practiced by the State Department in North Africa and elsewhere, whereby the attempt had been only to mollify the former adherents to fascist ways. He rejoices at the notion that this latter policy was becoming increasingly the object of open criticism, concluding that you can break eggs and make omelets with them.

Well, let us hope they cooked good omelets and stews, with the wind in from Africa.

From Southern Pines, author Struthers Burt writes the newspaper to report that "Captain" Gaston, lately a vocal opponent of liquor, had been arrested for impersonating a military officer. Mr. Burt greets the news in high spirits.

Perhaps, "Captain" Gaston needed to exchange apparel with young Mr. Coffey, unsuccessful at hiding his hirsuteness from the deputy-sheriff in Caldwell County looking for his masculine voice, absent during roll call at the local draft board.

Once such an exchange had been accomplished, all would have been swell. Deputy Goble would have found only a willing conscript at his beck and disposal, even if a bit over-eager to achieve rank. "Captain" Coffey would have had the excuse of having needed to find a proper uniform fit for him to wear into the service of his country prior to his reporting out of fashion for the winter draft.

And, the gendarmes, seeking the body of Mr. Gaston, would have found only another Ida, one either lost of her Ida or in need of a less rakish new habit.

As a bonus, we provide another map page from this day's News, showing the two most recent bombing routes followed from England during the raids of Saturday and Sunday nights, due east to Berlin, 550 miles, and southeast toward Boulogne in France. The report on the Berlin raid had described a 1,200-mile roundtrip. The 100-mile discrepancy in distance is likely the result of an evasive loop being followed to achieve a return corridor free from anti-aircraft flak.

This page also carries a preview of the appearance of the second teenage girl at the trial in Los Angeles of Errol Flynn for three counts of statutory rape against two seventeen-year old girls. The first girlís testimony, according to the report of last week, was full of inconsistencies and recantations. Apparently, so, too, was that of the second girl, as Mr. Flynn was acquitted ultimately on all three counts, with Flynnesque derring-do, panache, and savoir faire.

That latter piece being to satiate of the moment the rapacious tendency for the salacious endemic to those few still wedded to the second leg with which the editorial column's "Double Talk" concerns itself, the now long outmoded twentieth century preoccupation of the masses with Hollywood celebrity and what the latest scandal might be affecting its inhabitants. Was it farmers or Frances Farmer to whom the dinner companion was making reference? Ed Flynn or Errol? Hugh Grant, ex-minister to Albania and Thailand asking for "new blood" in the State Department, as Mr. Grafton elucidates? Or, somebody in Hollywood gone on another vampiric rampage along the Sunset Strip?

Well, we are glad to report a far more sophisticated country today than in 1943, what with its considerably higher rate of literacy and more widespread higher education abroad the land. Now, the country, rather than being preoccupied with what celebrity may have had a recent drunk driving arrest, a traffic accident running into a tree, which talk show host might fill which time slot, or which politician has fallen from grace for some scandalous youthful indiscretion of one sort or another, instead preoccupies itself with more lofty matter each day, studying the philosophical attributes of life itself, ontologically considering how being came to be, epistemologically, that is, and whether being will be in the future, conning poetry, ancient and modern, during the time of day when our frivolous parents' generation simply probably sat around on the chaise out in the sunroom putting together the hazardous frames within comic books and examining with assiduous diligence through magnifying glasses titillating, scintillating movie magazines and tabloid fare. It is nice to be able to exult in offering report of a greatly improved society, a new generation of Americans, removed from the fodder once populating yellow-journalistic publications and other varied media presentations of the past.

We grow as a country and we listen. The torch was passed to a new generation, the generation of the 1960's. We took that torch, we twisted it with relish and stuck it sententiously into the tawdry past with gusto. And now, hey, look us over, lend us an ear; we may be drowning in melting ice, but we are so much more sophisticated than you were, parents and grandparents and great grandparents.

And, also, it should be noted, we have absolutely no sense of humor, a sure sign of intellectual prowess and progress, as everyone certainly implicitly understands these days. We deplore irony because irony only serves to confuse and incite, not to infuse further with that sense of sophistication, with that sense of recitation, eradicating all sense of the absurd so evident, obsessively so, in the output of our more acculturated environs than ever before manifesting itself in our philistine past. And that is quite the stuff of serious erudition, not the bombastic, pretentious, repetitious, boorish circumlocution, and utterly roundabout, discursive, supercilious, recondite, querulous loquacity, utilizing words no one can comprehend now anyway, characterizing some ancien regime of nearly seven decades ago.

Chapter 14 of They Were Expendable finds Lieutenant Kelly's PT-34, with Admiral Rockwell aboard, appearing increasingly skeptical of Kelly's bona fides as a sailor, unsure in fact whether the skipper was even sane, stalled out completely by 4:00 a.m., with clogged engine filters. He informs the grumbling admiral that it would take thirty minutes to repair the condition, meaning they should rendezvous with the other boats in the designated cove among the forty or so islands of the Cuyos by 8:30, 90 minutes after sunrise. The admiral complained that he was wary of being spotted by enemy planes or ships by sailing that long into the morning daylight.

Air reconnaissance and pursuit by enemy destroyer persisted as concerns ever since during departure from the area around Cavite the previous night a signal light had flashed as they passed a Japanese sentry post on one of the outlying islands. So far, however, they had seen nothing of the enemy.

Once underway again, they reached by around 8:00 what appeared to be the designated rendezvous. But, to the admiral's consternation, there were no other boats in the cove when they set anchor. He wondered whether the other boats were lost, destroyed, or were simply in the wrong location for the meeting.

"My God."

Kelly reasons, however, that with women and children aboard, Bulkeley would have taken no chances on being caught in deep water by a pursuing destroyer. Only deep water was available in this cove. So, he reckons aloud that Bulkeley had transported General MacArthur and family to a relatively safer haven in one of the islands further along in the chain, with shallows of insufficient depth to permit entry by an enemy ship.

They dropped anchor, sent a man with semaphore flags to the top of a five-hundred foot hill to spot either the other boats or enemy craft, and set about the difficult task of refueling from the 1,000 gallons of spare fuel contained in the drums riding the wooden deck.

During refueling, they could not cook or have electrical power for fear that a spark could ignite the highly volatile 100-octane fuel. Breakfast, therefore, was delayed until noon.

At 5:30 p.m., the signalman on the hill indicated the presence of an approaching boat or ship. It was PT-32, a repaired boat which previously had been blown up while still back at Sisiman Cove off Bataan. Its rudder shafts had become unstable during the night cruise causing it to have to run only on two engines.

Its crew had spotted at dawn what they thought was a destroyer closing on their slowed position, dumped twelve of their twenty 50-gallon gasoline drums to obtain more speed, and, finally, hopeless against the narrowing distance from the steadily approaching craft, turned about, ready to fire both torpedoes at the presumed predator.

But then suddenly appeared, instead of enemy, the gray ghost of PT-41 with Lieutenant Bulkeley and General MacArthur and family, soaked to the skin and seasick from the rough seas stalking the night's voyage through the outer islands of the Philippines.

So much for the wasted gasoline tossed overboard to lighten their escape from the presumed inimical ship chasing them, sixty percent of their fuel supply gone to wet for the nonce the parched, salted lips of Davy Jones.

About that time in the story, Bulkeley arrived at the cove where PT-34 was parked, confirming on arrival Lieutenant Kelly's assumption of their whereabouts during the day. He described the exotic setting of the quarter-mile wide island where they drifted through the daylight hours, the landlubber passengers recovering from their seasickness, slipped in among swaying palm trees and clear emerald water.

There was no sunning allowed except on the boat, for they had to be constantly at the ready to raise anchor and get underway in case of enemy planes or ships entering the vicinity.

As the adults relaxed in the tropical sunlight, General MacArthurís young son busied himself with General Tojo, a monkey not on the passenger manifest.

General MacArthur, given the rough seas the previous night, and being told by Lieutenant Bulkeley that they would likely be even rougher the next night as they left the relatively sheltered and shallow water near the islands and entered the open ocean, had considered hopping a ride with a submarine, an alternative means of continued transport, planned for rendezvous in the Cuyos should the boats break down or wind up the object of enemy attack.

The General decided, however, upon further consideration, to stick to the plan arranged with the intrepid rowers of his entourage, entrusting his and his family's lives to Lieutenant Bulkeley's steady personal hand on the tiller.

And, as we have always said, said three years ago in conjunction with a note from early February, 1940, in fact, and say once again, especially to our fascist friends: when the going gets tough, the getting becomes according to Herblock.

And, yet again, if it is offensive, read it again.

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