Friday, December 17, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, December 17, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports further on the train accident at Buie near Lumberton, worst in the history of the Southeast, indicating that 79 persons had been killed, including 47 soldiers, and some fifty to a hundred others injured. Four steel coaches had collapsed into the space normally occupied by one car, under the battering force of collision of the New York-bound Tamiami East Coast Champion. The previous day’s story had described the coaches as being crushed as matchboxes.

In war news, in the Pacific an invasion of Arawe Peninsula in the southern portion of New Britain was taking place, thus far against limited Japanese resistance. The invasion of the island opened a pathway through the straits separating it from northeastern New Guinea, already under the control of the Australian troops fighting under General MacArthur.

The initial assault on Arawe was through Orange Beach. The invasion was preceded by a Texas unit under the command of Captain Edward Wright of Dallas which sought to open an initial beachhead by landing in rubber rafts on the northern part of the peninsula to cut the Japanese line of retreat. But under a hail of enemy machinegun fire, the advance unit was unable to effect the landing, winding up on a coral reef, with a quarter of the men wounded.

The invasion marked the end, warned high ranking officers in the American military, of the time of limited American losses in the war. The offensive was beginning, both in the Pacific and in Europe, and Americans thus would need prepare themselves for increasing numbers of casualties.

RAF bombers dropped more than 1,500 long tons of bombs yet again on Berlin after a two-week respite in bombing the city. The British lost 21 bombers in the raid. It was the sixth raid on Berlin in the previous month and the 41st of the year. It followed a daylight raid by American Flying Fortresses and Liberators on Bremen.

It was announced that French troops, equipped with American arms and uniforms, had recently joined the Allied forces fighting in Italy, and, in marked contrast to their Italian counterparts also now fighting with the Allies, had quickly secured several hilltop positions. Apparently, the French troops had been straightened out by their commanders as to the proper enemy, that they were no longer fighting the Italians, but only the Germans. Many had recently expressed to A. P. reporter Joseph Dyan, (or, perhaps Hal Boyle, for it is not nice to fool Mother Nature), that they were eager to engage the Italians to obtain retribution for the stab in the back in June 1940 at the fall of France. The French troops had been trained by General Henri Giraud.

Fighting otherwise on the Fifth Army front and by the Eighth Army was limited to securing positions already held.

Indicative of the peril of the Nazi fighting forces in Italy, the Nazis had reinforced their winter defense lines with mountain troops from the Leningrad sector and other infantry troops from Russia. These types of replacements, because of the mountainous terrain being defended before Rome, were likely to become the norm as opposed to motorized divisions. German morale, nevertheless, was said to be nowhere near cracking, especially the arrogant, indoctrinated Hermann Goering Division fighting against the Fifth Army.

For the second consecutive day, the First Ukrainian Army under General Nikolai Vatutin had made headway in the area of the Teterev River, 55 miles west of Kiev, and appeared to have stopped the Nazi counter-offensive of the previous five weeks in that area. General Ivan Konov’s Second Ukrainian Army meanwhile continued its twin drives on the rail junction at Smela and on Kirovograd.

Hal Boyle reports of the daring of cameramen covering the war, in one instance standing astride a catwalk over open bomb bay doors as flak flew in every direction, a round piercing the ship’s fuel tank, spraying aviation fuel over the cameraman, who simply hoped there would be no spark to ignite it. He changed his clothes at 20,000 feet and 36 below zero.

Major John Craig had been a dare-devil throughout his adult life, capping oil wells until age 21, using the money to travel the world, hunt wild game, search for buried treasure, go deep-sea fishing, winding up in the tentacles of an octopus, and then turning to documentary films of the war after honing his craft memorializing the other adventures. His crew, some of whom had received Purple Hearts and one even a Silver Star when he manned a machinegun during a mission, had captured the only footage of the Ploesti oil field raid in Rumania.

As it was announced that Churchill was improving in his bout with pneumonia, FDR returned to Washington for the first time in a month, receiving a warm welcome from Congressional leaders. He deferred making a speech regarding the results of the Tehran and Cairo conferences until his annual message in January. Majority Leader Senator Alben Barkley indicated that the President would, however, deliver a worldwide address on Christmas Eve.

No doubt, it would begin: "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a Nazi or Japanese mouse. The bright red stockings were hung by the bright red chimney with care, so that old St. Nicholas might descend through the air, and bomb all non-surrendering enemy industrial fireplaces, albeit with utmost care."

Something like that. Stay tuned.

On the editorial page, "Censorship" deplores the fact that the Army, or some local unit thereof, had taken upon itself to bar the press from taking pictures of the Atlantic Coast Line train wreck near Lumberton. M.P.'s had shown up at the scene and even arrested one photographer, while barring a reporter from the morgue at Red Springs. It was unclear whether the Army personnel were acting at the sole direction of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad or that they had initiated the censorship on their own. But the War Department indicated it authorized no such interference with the press.

The piece speculates as to whether there might have been negligence involved on the part of the railroad in failing to warn the northbound train of the derailment of the southbound, but states that there was as yet no such information available.

The implication was that the railroad might have been trying to cover up the fact of such negligence to avoid multiple lawsuits, as the greater loss of life appeared to have been the result of the second train colliding with the first some 49 minutes after the initial derailment, obviously adequate time to have alerted the second train of the wreck ahead. But did the snow and ice impact the ability to relay the signal, or of the engineer of the second train to see it in the dark?

"The Leader" expresses sadness at the news of Winston Churchill’s illness at a time when his leadership skills were invaluable to the world.

The lamentation would prove quite premature. The stalwart 69-year old Churchill would live until 1965 and serve out the war in Europe as Prime Minister before being turned out in July, 1945, only to return for three and a half more years as Prime Minister between 1951 and 1955, when he retired at age 81.


"Cherry Chides" takes issue on one count of the criticism of North Carolinians by gubernatorial candidate Gregg Cherry and agrees with another. The piece found too charitable his stance that North Carolina had protested little the regulations placed on it by the war, as he had omitted the attempts by the state to obtain more rationed gas and its complaints regarding price controls. But it agreed with his chiding the citizens for being unwilling to take individual responsibility for stemming inflation while agreeing in principle of its need generally.

Mr. Cherry would become the next governor a year later.

"Over-Hasty" suggests that a good part of the nation would read Raymond Clapper’s editorial of the day and brand him a reactionary. The South, it believes, would largely agree with Mr. Clapper. The editorial agrees with him.

That which he argued was that the insistence of the President's Fair Employment Practices Committee that the railroads eliminate by December 30 all inequalities between the races in hiring and promotion practices, centering on engineers, firemen, and conductors, was too precipitous a directive to receive compliance amid the various complexities attendant with race and jobs on the railroads, that it would antagonize affable relations between employees and the railroads and between the railroads and the public. He predicts that the order would stir up more racial prejudice than it would eliminate. The railroads, he reports, were indicating that they would ignore the order, challenging the jurisdiction of the committee.

Mr. Clapper asserts it as another example of officious intermeddling by overzealous New Dealers lacking commonsense, creating enmity toward the New Deal. The result was a pervasive right-wing temperament in the country at present.

Yet, he wonders in conclusion whether the people were really ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go back to a time when wages were fixed by the length of the queue seeking employment outside the workplace.

Was it correct for practical purposes for the railroads to ignore the committee’s directive, to delay the process of curing inequalities in pay and promotion as between the races? Was the wartime stress on rail traffic a proper excuse for delaying the remedy of such inequities? especially when black men were dying right alongside white men in the war.

We think that both Mr. Clapper and The News, in this instance, while expressing sincere concerns, and not racist attitudes, did not fully reckon on balance with the more severe consequences to society by continuing to delay the process of slow integration until after the war. There would never be a time, in reality, when that process could occur without adverse reactions and even violence in the South. Eighty years since the Civil War with only slight progress in the South and elsewhere in the meantime, usually in the most educated quarters, or limited to Southern white paternalism present since slavery, should have informed the better lights that the forces of delay would continue ad infinitum if left to their own unrestrained wills and fancies.

The News, usually sensitive to the notion that States' Rights advocates were an intractable lot, to the point of brutality and murder, in their determination to block progress, accepts too easily Mr. Clapper's premises. Perhaps, the rail disaster near Lumberton had caused the editors to temper remarks on the issue.

A fair counter-argument might have been constructed from the fact related by Mr. Clapper that 80 to 90 percent of firemen on trains in the Southeast had been black prior to World War I, but that the percentage had dropped to 50 percent by 1929. A comparison of rail accidents between the two periods, while subject to many variables obviously, at least might have posed a starting point for finding that blacks had been competent in their positions. The absence of any mention of an issue of competence suggests that the reduction in numbers germinated not from any such alleged cause, but rather, as Mr. Clapper indicates, simply from restrictive regulations. The current dearth of sufficient numbers of experienced railroad personnel and apparently consequent accidents might have provided the ground, if argued shrewdly with a few statistics, for accepting blacks in such positions.

Or, would the dyed-in-the-wool racists of the day been so immovable in their position that even the thought of standing still and being crushed to death by the Tamiami northbound because of some white person's incompetence would not have been sufficient to stop the runaway train in the South?

Drew Pearson devotes his entire column to the work of the Sea Bees, the Construction Battalion. He explains their work on every battlefront, from Rendova Island, where they had established a road through heavy mud by cutting down a forest of palms and laying the trees side by side to form what the press described as a "corrugated roadway", to Salerno in Italy, where they had to carve roads through the beaches to enable the landing of trucks and tanks, to the "Guadalcanal-Bougainville-Tokyo Railroad", the label which the Sea Bees provided the railroad they built in the Solomons, replete with a fitting if yet unrealized point of destination. To-morrow.

Samuel Grafton finds Alf Landon's touring of the country disruptive and disingenuous. On the one hand the 1936 Republican presidential nominee was seeking to create suspicion of the Moscow Declarations by calling them mysterious, while on the other he plumped for Thomas Dewey, a mysterian if there ever was one, contends Mr. Grafton. Mr. Dewey had said nothing of the three recent conferences. Then came former President Herbert Hoover into the fray to clarify the words of the former Kansas Governor, that what he had in fact meant was that he merely wanted more information on the Moscow agreements, not that he opposed them. Mr. Grafton believes the whole thing confusing and apt to cause confusion abroad the land, while appearing to be a stalking horse behind which lay the old face of isolationism at work in its prodding.

A perennial letter writer believes that the United States should first clean up its own filth, namely syphilis, before plowing six billion dollars into aiding Latin America.

You tell 'em, P.C.

Only problem was, as had been pointed out December 3 by Samuel Grafton, the six billion dollar figure resulted from Senator Butler’s mistake. The actual figure was 600 million.

--Sweet Loretta Fat, she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan.

And the students at Mineral Springs High School in Winston-Salem could relax at Christmas. The gymnasium and library of the school had burned down. The gym was being used for classes after the primary building had already burned down in February. But, more than that, all school records were destroyed. And, of course, they did not have computers in those days.

You boys and girls thus get an early break for Christmas. That's the good news. But, come January, you must start over in the first grade--at least until he or she among you confess to the arson.

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