Thursday, January 28, 1943

The Charlotte News

Thursday, January 28, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reported, in addition to another raid on Duesseldorf, the fourth Allied raid on Germany in two nights and a day, that Secretary of War Henry Stimson declared that 1,258 American casualties had been incurred thus far in the Tunisian campaign.

General MacArthur, while not providing specific numbers, indicated that Allied forces which had taken back Papua New Guinea from the Japanese had suffered half the casualties of the enemy, atypical, he noted, for offensive operations in which the aggressor usually suffers far more than the defender.

Riots and other unrest were reported in Bulgaria when Germany demanded ten divisions from them to fight in Russia. The Bulgars counted the Russians as their kin and allies ever since they were granted sovereignty by Russia in 1877. They warned Germany that the Germans were in for trouble should Bulgars be impressed into Nazi uniforms.

Now, even upstart Balkan nations were telling Hitler and Goebbels to take a hike.

Meanwhile, Goebbels told the German people that the way of it in Russia, the reason for the defeats, was that the Russians had tricked them by moving towns, renaming towns, erecting new towns, building secret railroads not on maps.

--Them Roosians don't play by the rules. You invade their country and they start tricking you. How unfair can it get? Mommy, mommy, they're bad. They're just bad. Evil. Evil. Mean, mean, mean. Commies, Commies, mean bad old Commies.

On the editorial page, "Minor Key" suggests the absurdity of critics of the Casablanca Conference who carped at the exclusion of Stalin and Chiang Kai-Shek, suggested that De Gaulle and Giraud met only superficially for the sake of appearances and resolved nothing. In antagonism to the laudable ends of such an Allied meeting, contends the piece, the critics' argument devolved to a reductio ad absurdum: that it was better not to have had a conference at all to discuss Allied strategy than to exclude Stalin and Chiang; that it was better not to attempt rapprochement between De Gaulle and Giraud than to come away with a cordial but vapid accord signifying nothing concrete; that the whole thing was simply a show to garner press attention to Churchill and FDR, never minding the personal risk to both from flying into a combat zone.

"Last Straw" comments wryly on the bill before Congress to grant equal rights to women, wondering at the notion for the fact that it appeared women already enjoyed equal rights.

Before the reader shouts hosannas at the progressive Congressman or Senator who had the perspicacity, at least three decades ahead of his or her time, to sponsor such a bill, it would be best to read the fine print: one of the co-sponsors was Robert Rice Reynolds. By reputation, the Senator was one of the biggest womanizers on the planet, certainly on the Hill. Perhaps the fine print of the bill, which the editorialist had not read, gave women the right to be as equally impressed as men by men with big red noses, resembling W. C. Fields. We don't know. We haven't read it either. But, whatever it said, it didn’t pass. It should have at least provided equal rights to every woman to own the Hope Diamond or its equivalent, or to come up sometime and see Bob.

From the Greensboro Daily News came high praise to Tom Jimison's participant-observer expose a year earlier of the sordid conditions prevailing at the mental hospital at Morganton, while questioning why the annual North Carolina press awards had omitted recognition of him, as well as The News for its initial presentation of the series.

The unspoken answer of course appears obvious enough: the series was by a former mental patient, even if also a lawyer and a former journalist. You can't give a press award to a former mental patient. Then the news would start to get crazy or nutty or something.

Prefatory to Chapter 22 of They Were Expendable, we refer you to this thirty-minute, three-part film made contemporaneously during the war by Elco of Bayonne, N.J., manufacturer during the war of some 400 PT-boats, including PT-109. The film provides a detailed view of the process of construction of each boat, from the fitting of the hull upside down on the warehouse floor to final testing outside in New York Harbor. Woodworkers, sailors, and woodworking sailors alike, not to mention pilots and astronauts, will no doubt find interest in this swift-running, free and easy, well-narrated little industrial film.

Chapter 22 begins with Kelly lamenting the fact that their wooden boats were gone, for the Japanese invaders to Cebu had little fire-power, just a destroyer, two transports and two 100-foot long inter-island steamers, the lead among which had only one three-inch gun on its bow which it popped regularly as it approached the landing point.

The enemy troops came into the city at 10:00 a.m., April 10. Two Zeros provided cover, strafing any car seeking to get onto the road leading to the country. The landing party distributed leaflets offering substantial rewards to the native population for turning in Americans, dead or alive.

The Army colonel and the thousand Filipino soldiers under his command were determined to hold off the invaders for as long as possible, to insure the full destruction of all facilities useful to the enemy. When Kelly departed at 2:30, the city was half in flames, the Army having scorched the earth well, and the colonel’s small army was holding its own.

The general had already gone inland to Camp X, located in the hills, to which all the roads, save one from Toledo, where another Japanese party was landing, had been blown. Kelly wondered aloud to the Army men why the enemy wouldn't attack Camp X, was told that it was too far into the hills, and with no available roads, only footpaths, the Japanese wouldn’t deem it worthwhile; when he questioned them about the Toledo road, they contended that the Army would shortly obliterate it. Camp X was secure and safe.

Kelly, however, was unimpressed with the description of Camp X, its hundred soldiers and a few rifles guarding it; besides, his trigger finger wouldn’t bend at the joint from the previous shrapnel injury received on patrol off Bataan. So he decided to hike, along with some civilians who were plantation owners, forty-two miles to the other coast to seek a boat to a neighboring island.

They camped out on the land, trying to get their souls free, ate off banana leaf plates, received native hospitality along the way, spent nights in pig and chicken shacks.

At dawn of the second day, they saw three bombers in formation crossing overhead as they hid in the shack beneath swaying palms. Suddenly, somebody saw the star, the American star, not the Rising Sun, on the bottoms of the wings. Everyone was stunned for it was the first time they had seen American aircraft over the Philippines since December 7. The three bombers were followed by others of a new type which Kelly later ascertained were B-25's.

Kelly realized that this complement comprised the air umbrella from Australia promised them for the morning after the mission to Negros Island to sink the cruiser. That was April 9; this was April 12. But even if all they could do now, with the enemy having gained its foothold, was to harass them, it was better that they had arrived late than not at all. He heard them dropping bombs on the Japanese invaders to Cebu, even if Cebu, like Bataan, had already fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Kelly eloquently imparts the status of "the little guy", the ordinary soldier or sailor doing his duty, never being allowed to understand the bigger picture of the war as developed by the brasshats elsewhere, never provided insight to why they were expendable, why they were expended, why the bomber death planes riding shotgun in the sky had not arrived sooner, in time to save Cebu, in time to save Bataan and Corregidor, the latter soon to follow in inevitable surrender. Maybe it was bad weather. Maybe it was the time of year. He hoped so. But he didn't know and so got mad.

Maybe it was the time of man.

During the afternoon, they ran into some troops coming down the hill from Camp X, explaining that it had fallen during the night. The road to Toledo had never been bombed as promised and a Japanese tank and supporting infantry had wiped out the lightly defended camp in quick order.

Kelly expressed his gratitude for the help they received along the back country from the natives, always willing to lend a hand until it hurt. He learned more, he said, of the kindness of the Filipino people during this journey than in all his months in and around Manila. The more "Americanized" they were in the city, the worse they tended to be in their treatment of others.

Perhaps, young Lieutenant Kelly in this latter observation was speaking more universally, of people living under crowded urban conditions contrasted with those on the open land in the country.

They finally came to a small village held by twenty Filipino soldiers with little ammunition, merely awaiting the inevitable intersection with time when the Japanese tanks would come rumbling down the ten-mile paved road from one of their landing points; one tank had already skirted the edge of the village two days earlier but decided for some reason to turn around and go back. The young soldiers stood at the ready to evacuate, wearing their civvies below their military uniforms. No dynamite to blow the bridges: they waited.

With their aid, Kelly and his civilian entourage found bancas to row to the neighboring island to which they set out at dusk. When they reached it, soaking wet from the sea spray hitting them in the surface canoes, they were glad to be greeted by native guards with homemade rifles and not enemy soldiers.

Meanwhile, Ellie sings "Oh, Happy Day" at the sight of some victuals left for the Curse, unknown to her, sleeping in the stall next to her on her mat of cardboard in the basement, while Sergeant Hitler leads the glider crew over the target in Germany where they intend to blow up Mosquito Boats in Town X, Dinkelsburg, where Sergeant Hitler was born, all as Clark Kent has imparted to him news to pass on to Superman, that the Speedline Railway is in danger of disaster from the Ross Conkling gang, (who had dropped the "g" obviously to confuse everyone), another caper to be foiled and resolved amelioratively by the Man of Tomorrow.

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