Thursday, December 16, 1943

The Charlotte News

Thursday, December 16, 1943


Site Ed. Note: In a rarity for wartime news, a local story grabbed the largest typeface of the day on the front page. A Tampa-bound Tamiami West Coast Champion streamliner derailed at 1:10 a.m. amid snow and ice at Buie, N.C., in the vicinity of Lumberton, killing at least one person and injuring several. Forty-nine minutes later, a northbound Tamiami East Coast Champion collided with the wreckage strewn over the tracks, causing the deaths of 75 to 100 people. In all, another hundred were injured among the passengers of both trains. Many of the passengers had been soldiers returning home on leave for the holidays.

No immediate cause of the initial derailment was provided, nor why the second train was not apprised within the space of fully forty-nine minutes of the derailment by signal somewhere along the line.

In August and September, there had been a spate of train accidents in one two-week period. At the time speculation was that they were the result of smaller crews being forced to run longer hours because of wartime pressures on rail traffic, aging rolling stock, as well as certain union strictures on minimum crews combined with many skilled railway engineers and trainmen having joined the service.

At the same time, Government and railway union officials announced that a railway strike would likely be averted by efforts at mediation, before the December 30 deadline set by the five railway unions for resolution of wage issues.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson announced that through the end of November, 131,098 American casualties had been suffered by the United States since the beginning of the war on December 7. The bulk of those casualties, 98,594, of whom 15,344 were killed and 35,049 wounded, had been suffered by the Army, including the Army Air Force. Of the 32,504 casualties of the Navy, including the Navy Air Force and the Marines, 13,983 had been killed and 5,868 had been wounded. Over half of the Army wounded had been either returned to duty or discharged from hospital care.

The Secretary also announced that a December 2 raid by thirty Luftwaffe bombers had sunk seventeen Allied merchant ships at Bari Harbor, Italy, killing an estimated 1,000 men, including at least 37 U.S. Navy enlisted men. The destruction had sent half the complement of shipping in the harbor to its bottom in what was described as one of the worst disasters for shipping in a protected port facility since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Supplies had already been offloaded from the ships and thus were for the most part not harmed. Nevertheless, the temporary loss of the key supply depot for the British hampered Adriatic operations for two or three days.

Secretary Stimson indicated that, though the Allies possessed strong air superiority in southern Italy and the Mediterranean, the Germans had significantly increased their air strength in the area during recent weeks.

Following a raid on Arawe, a principal harbor on New Britain, an invasion by the Allied forces appeared imminent or had possibly already begun. Principal objectives for invasion were the primary harbor and air facilities on the island, Rabaul, Cape Gloucester, and Gasmata, each of which had been bombed repeatedly in recent weeks. Rabaul was a primary supply depot for the Japanese south of Truk to supply Japanese troops on New Guinea and on Bougainville.

In Russia, the Red Army was said to have slowed the German counter-offensive west of Kiev and taken the offensive in some areas of that sector.

Another large American bombing raid had taken place on undisclosed targets in northwest Germany, this time against light enemy opposition. Likely targets were Emden, Wilhelmshaven, or Bremen. No bombers were reported lost.

In an area southwest of Zagreb in Croatia, the Nazis had pushed through Yugoslav Partisan defenses and made considerable headway. In a neighboring district, as well as in Slovenia, Dalmatia, and Bosnia, the Partisans had fared better, either pushing back German defenses or holding the line against enemy thrusts.

It was announced by the White House that FDR had returned safely to the United States from the Cairo and Tehran conferences, by way of Carthage and Sicily. The President had been gone for four weeks.

Winston Churchill, however, remained in the Middle East, suffering from his second bout of pneumonia within the year, his first having occurred in February.

Hal Boyle reports of the anxiety and alienation experienced by soldiers returning home, causing them, counter-intuitively, to long for return to action at the front. Part of the explanation, he suggests, was conscience, that they believed they had no business experiencing the luxuries of home while their fellows still crouched in foxholes amid bullets and bad weather on the front. The soldiers complained also of their old friends and families being out of touch with the war, that they really appeared to have no idea that there was a war ongoing over there.

He reports also further on Harvard professor of international politics and history, Dr. Bruce Hopper, currently acting as historian for the Eighth Air Force and adviser to the newly created Fifteenth, continuing to see the horror of life to come, lest there be for some fifteen years into the future continued collaboration of the United States and Great Britain with respect to Germany and its police state created by Hitler. No such state, he contends, had ever disintegrated from within, for the very fact of its taut tightrope controls on freedom of thought, speech, and thus any consequent action to enable ridding itself of the bloody peril, especially during the cold winter period of its discontent.

An inside page reports of the prospective fortieth anniversary celebration of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kill Devil Hill on December 17, 1903.

Among the pictorial representations of the history of manned flight is an artist's conception of the “Future Flivver”, a personal helicopter for every growing family.

It would, by 1960, however, still only be a Flivver, a Falcon, simply one powered by flubber. The Jetsons were still a year or so away in their Stingray.

Now, now we are fortunate if we can still afford gas at all, let alone a helicopter.

Doddering we seem still to be, forgetting the recent past as surely as the more long-term, as the polar cap and Greenland’s ice sheet continue to melt away apace. The ice has not forgotten that it is melting. Neither has the ocean currents into which it melts, nor the land which is destined to receive, in quenching thirst, the steadily increscent lap-laps.

But the automobile companies and the Government have not yet taken the emergent steps necessary to insure the future. There has yet to be a revolution in automobile engineering, manufacture, and marketing of sufficient attraction of the general public’s imagination to undo the damage done by the past full century of man’s tramping about the planet as if he owned the place at his whim, will, and fancy. Mother Nature continues to be quite upset and is threatening to hurl us off into outer space, lest we get the clues and be more compliant to her indomitable Will.

Will Santa bother even to make the effort this year to accomplish the tracks of his once-glistening sleighbell journey around the great Globe on the eve of Christmas?

On the editorial page, "Man's Rights" celebrates the 152d anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791. The piece cites several recent episodes in American life which demonstrated the rights in process, especially freedom of speech and the press.

Nothing was mentioned about the "right to bear arms"--probably because, with a world war ongoing, the editors were sensible enough to understand that everyone cannot have and bear arms lest the world wind up in irretrievable paranoid delusion, alienated from itself, eventually collapsing into guerilla warfare, leading to civil war, and then, finally, world war.

"Willkie Hoax" finds the claims lodged in a recently published book, One Man--Wendell Willkie, by C. Nelson Sparks, trying to undermine the 1944 candidacy of Mr. Willkie, were both unsupported by fact and flimsy at the outset. Example was that a letter attributed to Harry Hopkins had favored the candidacy of the president of SMU for the Senate seat held by Tom Connally of Texas, a Senator disfavored by the Administration for his anti-New Deal stands. Mr. Sparks contended that the letter implied that Mr. Hopkins could feel comfortable in either an FDR or Willkie Administration, and that the White House desired Willkie to be the candidate in 1944 because of his stands close to those of FDR and because he would go along with continued application of the New Deal programs to the South.

Assuming the dubious proposition that those implications at all logically follow from the purported letter offering White House support to a person willing to run against Senator Connally, the problem was that the president of SMU did not even know Mr. Hopkins and had no interest in running for office.

"Comeback" finds reassurance in the survival of the vital traits of North Carolinians inherent in a story from Burke County where a woman of about 65 outran revenue agents in search of a still and was able thus to warn a neighbor of their approach that he might destroy the evidence of moonshining. It was a normal day, concludes the piece.

Whether the Burke County woman’s fast feat had anything to do with the news of pending execution having been pronounced against the hapless Tom Robinson for the 1934 kidnapping of Mrs. Speed-Stoll in Kentucky, home of bourbon, whiskey, and rye, as well as bluegrass and Whirlaway, we don’t know.

"The Soldier" uses the only predictive reference point available for wartime voting in America, the Civil War election of 1864, to provide some index as to how soldiers might vote in 1944. It finds that in the thirteen states, excluding New York, which allowed absentee voting in the North, fully 77 percent of the soldiers voted for the newly named Union Party of Abraham Lincoln against General George McClellan. In the general population, by contrast, only 53 percent had voted for the incumbent President.

Thus, it was predicted that, just as in the Civil War, the soldiers in 1944 would "vote as they shoot” and cast their lots with the Commander-in-Chief they knew as opposed to one they did not know.

The Republicans therefore--and though not mentioned this day, Southern Democrats, having been included in an editorial the previous day as disfavoring the notion of absentee soldier voting, based on States’ Rights notions--appeared none too anxious to have six million servicemen cast their absentee ballots.

Some say, of course, that there were really three Lincolns. One was the War Lincoln. Let us call that one a 1949 Premier, a black one. Then there was the prospective post-war Lincoln. Let us term that one a 1952 Capri, dark grey with a white top, never realized. Then, there was, some say, the third Lincoln, the more poetic, the compassionate, the passionate, the reading-by-the-firelight in the one-room cabin in Kentucky, or beneath the White House gaslight, as was the case, the spiritual Lincoln, the one who had successfully debated Senator Stephen Douglas on the question of slavery during 1858, seeing through the eyes of Douglass, especially at Freeport, where Senator Douglas was forced, for the sake of his own political hide, to admit that citizens of a territory could exclude slavery for its concomitant need of police action to enforce it, a matter of local determination. That latter Lincoln was the Lincoln who on occasion of relaxation enjoyed, perhaps, a night out at the theater to see a whimsical play, one with plentiful plays on words, to appeal to his keen sense of the reading, that of the true man. Let us style that third one the Ford’s Lincoln Continental, 1961 model, deep blue, albeit with a 1963 grille. Have you of the moment all three Lincolns at once in mind and then you, it might be said, have the far thing, the whole Lincoln, all at once. That, perhaps, explains the 1864 vote.

But, kill that Lincoln, boy or girl, and you shall surely carry that weight and then, by it, by its umbrellas unfurled in the glowing summer sunshine, hang surely thus with the conspirators of that Day, be it bad to some or good to others, and whether formally indicted or not.

The somewhat uncannily parallel results of 1944 had FDR beating Dewey by 53.3 to 45.9 percent of the popular vote, but overwhelmingly winning in electoral votes, 432 to 99. The total result in 1864 was 55.1 to 44.9 and also a sweep in the electoral college, 212 to 21. While the 3.6 million vote majority for FDR was theoretically the result of the overwhelming majority of soldiers casting their ballots for the President, we have no immediately available statistic to confirm it. Perhaps, later.

Dorothy Thompson warns that Jan Christian Smuts, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, had made a valid point in his evinced concerns about the position of Great Britain in the post-war world, caught between two major emerging world powers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Whereas Prime Minister Smuts recommended extending the British Commonwealth onto the Continent, probably to encompass Norway, Belgium, and Holland, Ms. Thompson takes the approach that a balancing force in Central Europe would likely emerge to prevent any power squeeze of Great Britain.

If not formally defined by agreement among the Allies, Italy, France, and Germany, comprised in combination of 175 million people, would likely find some unity in the post-war world to fill the vacuum left after the war and establish such a balancing force. That could prove sinister, as with the alignment in Europe by late 1940.

She opines that a Commonwealth of Europe would solve the problem inherent in the post-war world, preventing a contest between the Anglo-American powers and Russia, a struggle in which Russia could prove dominant.

Of course, to a great degree, the problem was obviated by the supervening balance of power, the advent of nuclear technology at the end of the war, shaping the future world in its image, a mushroom.

Without its threat, however, would another world war have occurred, despite the United Nations organization, some twenty or thirty years later? The question, of course, has no answer and is thus useless. But, plainly, the world’s most terrible weapon ever created had, for all its manifold faults and evils, nevertheless a stabilizing force on the worst ordinarily repressed instincts of man as a collective group, which may well have saved the world from further conflict on the scale taking place in the world wars.

Raymond Clapper returns to the topic of freedom of the press and its loss at Tehran and Cairo. Reporters were held in Cairo, he indicates, while the Tehran Conference proceeded. Reporters, he reminds, had gone along on the invasion of Sicily, having been apprised of the operation and sworn to secrecy in advance of the invasion. Mr. Clapper himself had flown on one of the missions to bomb Rome. Other reporters had accompanied the Marines recently in invading Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. Having proved in those and like scenarios their trustworthiness, there was no reason, he concludes, to exclude reporters from these latest historic conferences in Cairo and Tehran.

The trend had been set at the United Nations food conference during the summer at Hot Springs, Va., and carried over to the Atlantic City relief conference, had subsided at the Quebec Conference between FDR and Churchill in August, but now had resurfaced.

Samuel Grafton, because he hadn’t commented on King Emmanuel of Italy for a couple of weeks, offers a piece, he says, just to keep the anti-king wheels greased so that no one would suggest that he was softening his attitude toward the former Fascist-sympathizer. He compares the Allied attitude of friendliness toward the King, while ignoring support for the Italian underground, to the exact opposite approach of the Allies with respect to Yugoslavia, where the Partisan forces of Tito received unflinching support in their fight against the native Yugoslav Chetnik forces supporting the Nazis. The Allies should likewise, says Mr. Grafton, provide support for the Italian guerilla forces and eschew it for the likes of King Emmanuel.

Drew Pearson reports of Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard seeking a bill from Congress to inhibit the speculative purchase of farm land, primarily undertaken by investment houses and insurance firms to make a killing during the war, consequently driving up the price of farm land, taking it out of the hands of individual farmers. His proposal was to exact a 90 percent tax on sales of farm land occurring within two years of purchase.

Mr. Pearson points out that such a boom had occurred during 1919-20, right after the end of World War I, and was a chief cause for the farm failures of the late twenties and early thirties. The bulk of AAA relief payments were still being paid, not to family farmers, but to banks and investment firms which owned the largest chunk of farm acreage, much of which in that earlier period had been accumulated through foreclosures.

He next turns to the Elk Hills oil deal controversy involving an illegal contract between the Navy, lessor of the field, and Standard of California, its lessee. Elk Hills previously had been the object of one of the kickback leases of the Teapot Dome scandal which rocked the Harding Administration, and then some. Even though the Justice Department attorneys had determined the contract to be illegal, the Attorney General, Francis Biddle, had been cajoled by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who arranged the contract, and Secretary of the Interior and petroleum administrator Harold Ickes, to tread more softly in his denunciation of the contract, which would otherwise result in Standard Oil having to forfeit its interest in the field.

Consequently, General Biddle went to the Congress and soft-peddled the matter, suggesting only that he had “grave concerns” over the validity of the contract.

Finally, Mr. Pearson reviews the problem of synthetic rubber corsets, soon set to replace the displaced natural rubber once most commonly constituting corsets. But concern had emerged regarding whether synthetic rubber would uphold its hot load of leaded lugs in the industrial workplace, in which ladies had become more commonplace than before the war.

We have a better solution, ladies: exercise, eat more wisely, and lose the fat, Loretta.

Because, when the objective perceiver cannot tell the difference between the cravat and the astroid Belt of Orion, well...

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