Monday, December 20, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, December 20, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Incidentally, in rendering our assessment that had both the northbound and southbound Tamiami streamliners, which became entangled at Rennert, N.C. on December 16, 1943, been on time, the terrible accident which killed 74 people would not have, in all probability, occurred, you might think that we forgot to include the forty minutes between the derailment of the southbound train and the collision with its wreckage by the northbound train at 1:30 a.m. For, strictly based on the trainman's pocket watch, the Tamiami southbound would have derailed at 11:45 p.m. had it been on time, and the northbound Tamiami would have collided with the wreckage nonetheless at 11:50 p.m., had it been on time, the on-time scheduling actually exacerbating the problem by having the two trains ordinarily passing parallel and tangent on closely adjacent tracks during the 17-mile stretch where the tracks so ran. Thus, instead of 40 minutes within which to provide the signals to the northbound, there would have, all critical points on the map of events remaining the same, only been five minutes in which to do so.

Under that scenario, of course, we reaffirm the fact that the New Deal, for all its sloth and bureaucratic entanglement, nevertheless outshone on any day Fascism with its insistence on pinpoint accuracy and running the trains down the line on time, come Hell, ice, or high water. In addition to casting awry, if not asunder, any untoward attempt at sabotage, be it of domestic or foreign agency, the New Deal's clear scheduling blunders actually provided the fireman 35 minutes extra time within which to provide the signal.

And that is, indeed, significant. For the January, 1944 I.C.C. report indicates:

The fireman said that soon after his train stopped he proceeded southward to provide flag protection on the northward main track. He had a lighted white lantern and a lighted red lantern and one fusee, but he forgot to take a supply of torpedoes. There was an ample supply of torpedoes and fusees on the engine. When he saw the reflection of the headlight of a train approaching from the south he was about 100 feet south of the front end of his train. He immediately attempted to light the fusee, but, because of snow on the ballast, he slipped and fell and broke the fusee in such a manner that it could not be ignited. He then gave stop signals with the lighted red lantern, but No. 8 passed him at a speed of about 85 miles per hour, and there was no indication that his lantern signals had been seen by the enginemen.

So the question then arises: Why on earth did it take the fireman nearly forty minutes, from "soon after" the time of the derailment until the approach of the northbound, to walk a distance of a mere 100 feet down the southbound track? Unless by "soon after" he meant about thirty-five minutes lag time in undertaking to deploy signals, that discrepancy appears to be a significant fly in the ointment. Either the fireman was severely mistaken in his recollection of the time frame and sequence of events or there is a timing problem with the trains as stated in the report.

But, the astute among you will say, the times were automatically provided by the tripping of the last signals along each direction of track, after Pembroke northbound, and after Rennert, southbound. True enough, the report so indicates. But, it was also snowy and icy at the time. Were the signals, electro-mechanical devices of the day, frozen so as to cause their inaccuracy, either in the case of one or in the case of both? Or, was it simply the mistaken impression, apparently unchallenged, of the fireman? Plainly, it did not take him nearly forty minutes to walk 100 feet, even in snow, unless, perhaps, he were climbing Mount Everest or the Himalayas generally. Yet, he had no reason deliberately to misrepresent the truth of the matter, for delaying in undertaking to deploy the signals for upwards of forty minutes represents as great a deficit in reasonable care as would taking nearly forty minutes to walk 100 feet, something even a cripple, even in snow, could likely accomplish without difficulty in far less time.

In any event, we posit, therefore, that there is an alternative scenario in which the northbound train, being on time, would have surpassed the point of the derailment and cleared the parallel portion of the track, while the southbound also ran on time. But, we are not going to impart it to you at the present. Besides being top secret, hidden deep within military intelligence of the time, and secretly maintained to this day in a little known facility, Barracks 51, located at Fort Bragg, which, in fact, we were permitted the estimable privilege of visiting between the ages of three and five, for honing of our already deeply impressive scholarship, the reasoning behind such a factual nexus requires more time and space than we are prepared today to occupy in imparting this particular scenario. But, we assure you, on our honor, that it does exist and, with a little imagination, you may see it, too.

It neither involves space ships nor either train leaving its rails prior to the point of the derailment of the southbound nor some miracle fix to the apparently defective track which precipitated the chain of events leading to the collision.

Here is a hint.

Perhaps, if you cannot figure it out on your own, we shall provide the answer for you by Christmas, provided you are good in the meantime. By then, you will have received your electric train from Santa, thus being better inured to circumstances which may instruct your vision to that which we are suggesting. And, in the meantime, you will have in mind the Presidentís Christmas Eve speech by which to aid you even further.

The front page reports that the Fifth Army had captured San Pietro after three costly days of fighting with the stubborn German defenders. The Army was now moving toward San Vittore, the next major defensive position on the road to Cassino. The Eighth Army also had made gains on the Adriatic coast and advanced a mile further inland, capturing the village of Consalvi, six miles from Orsogna, knocking out five German Mark IV tanks, the largest tanks being used in Italy, bringing the total since the beginning of the Battle for the Sangro River to 43 tanks, of which thirty had been Mark IVís.

The Russians had forced the Germans to evacuate Kherson, the southern bridgehead of the Dneiper River, leaving the Nazis only one natural defensive barrier to the west, the Bug River, thirty miles away, on the way to Odessa in the southern Ukraine.

In the north, the Red Army made significant gains in the Nevel sector, as white-clad ski troops moved to within 57 miles of Polotsk, key rail junction near the old Latvian-Polish border.

In Kharkov, the bodies of three Nazi Gestapo officers and a Russian traitor, the latter of whom had acted as chauffeur for the Gestapo during its occupation of Kharkov, were hanging in the public square, having been executed following their confessions of guilt before the first war crimes tribunal convened during the war. Their testimony confirmed their participation in atrocities, which included the murder of numerous civilians in Kharkov. Their only defense had been that they were following orders. The tribunal refused to recognize the defense and found them nevertheless guilty of war crimes.

The Communist Party organ, Pravda, warned that Hitler and his henchmen would face a similar fate. German radio made no mention of the trial or the testimony of the men admitting the Kharkov atrocities.

One of the unsettled questions among the United Nations was whether war crimes applied only to those giving orders or also to those effecting the order. The question had been debated in the British Parliament, but no firm answer had been reached by the United Nations Commission meeting in London since the October Moscow Foreign Ministers Conference had formed it as part of the Moscow Declarations.

In the Pacific, advances on New Britain on the Cape Merkus Peninsula expanded the American bridgehead to six miles from the beaches of Arawe, where the landing of troops had begun the previous Wednesday, bringing Allied forces within the vicinity of the Japanese airstrip on Arawe.

On Bougainville, American forces pressed an advance on the Torokina River on the eastern flank of the Empress Augusta Bay beachhead, where the Marines had initially landed at the beginning of November.

Mediterranean-based Flying Fortresses and Liberators had the previous day conducted a bombing raid on Innsbruck, Austria, just north of the Brenner Pass, and Augsburg, twenty miles northwest of Munich. The raid inflicted heavy damage on the Innsbruck railway yards. The mission had cost sixteen American bombers, but some of the crews were believed to have bailed out over friendly territory.

Further American and British raids from England also were directed at northwest Germany against as yet undisclosed targets.

A German broadcast out of Oslo contended that a large munitions ship had blown up there, causing the worst disaster in the history of the Norwegian port city.

In a first for reporting war news on the front page, at least since the very early days after Pearl Harbor, an expressed notation appeared of a censored paragraph in association with a report that Admiral Harold Stark, U.S. Naval Commander of forces in Europe, had returned to Washington to begin preparations for the invasion of the Continent.

London newspapers reported the continued flood of American troops being shipped to Britain, "strap-hanging" across the Atlantic on crowded troop transports. The implication was that German fears of an imminent invasion of the Continent were accurate, even if still five and a half months premature.

A coup by nationalist anti-U.S. forces in Bolivia had overthrown the Allied-friendly government there.

Further cuts in paper for newspapers, magazines, and book publishers were announced by the War Production Board, the result of paper still being consumed at a greater rate than wood pulp was being produced. The new regulation, however, while reducing the ensuing first quarter allotment of newsprint by 23.6 percent, would gauge the availability of newsprint to the size of circulation of the newspaper.

Hal Boyle writes of the conduct of the mess hall at the front, particularly one under the direction of a lieutenant who had developed a knack for requisitioning plentiful eggs when in Tunisia earlier in the year. He had traded powdered eggs with the local merchants to obtain fresh eggs at four cents each when the going price was twenty cents, and managed to acquire thereby enough to feed two eggs everyday to the whole outfit to which he was assigned. Presently, in Italy, he was feeding 200 officers of the Fifteenth Air Force, but because the Nazis had killed most of the chickens before departing the southern Italian peninsula, he had been unsuccessful in obtaining fresh eggs. He was, however, working on a plan to fly them from Tunisia on the basis of his old barter medium utilizing powdered eggs. The Tunisian merchants thought him a fool.

Powdered eggs. You know when you've had them.

On the editorial page, "Tax Ceiling" discusses the promulgated twenty-second amendment to the Constitution, never ratified, to limit Federal taxes to 25% of gross income. Fifteen state legislatures had approved the amendment. Seventeen others were necessary to meet the mandatory number of two-thirds of the states required for the initial step toward submission of a formally proposed amendment for ratification, requiring approval by three-fourths of the states.

The editorial thinks it a wise move, that after 25%, the law of diminishing returns applied to the revenue to be derived from taxation, a theory proved out in the late twenties when revenue was less at 46% tax rates than earlier at 25%, the reason being the diminution of incentives on the part of business to invest and grow and thus create new employment with more employees thus paying taxes on higher incomes. That the drive had begun toward its ratification at the beginning of 1943, says the piece, underscored the notion that the American people were not in favor of confiscatory taxes, even in time of world war.

"How & Why" discusses the Atlantic Coast Line rail disaster at Rennert, finding unconvincing the engineer's statement that everything possible had been done by the southbound crew to avoid the collision from the northbound train in the forty-minute interval between 12:50 a.m. and 1:30. The piece calls for an immediate investigation, focusing on the many conflicting stories issuing from eyewitnesses to the wreck.

"Of Justice" finds contempt for the international lawyers voicing "namby-pamby" concerns over fine points of jurisdiction with regard to war criminals. The result of just such concerns after World War I, points out the piece, was to allow to go unpunished the Germans who had started the war, leaving them to be tried and punished only by friendly German tribunals. The piece opines that the Soviet solution at Kharkov, to impose summary execution after a brief trial by military tribunal, was the proper method by which to deal with war criminals, letting the fine points of law be hanged along with the guilty.

Of course, it is easy to understand from the time in which this editorial was written the emotion behind it. But the Allies ultimately opted for a far more orderly and civilized process at Nuremberg, and, for the sake of preserving the dignity of democracy and demonstrating to the world its greatest virtue of insuring justice to all, even to the most despised of human beings, it was the correct process. The Soviet method in this case was reactionary and, while fulfilling the emotive need for retribution felt throughout the free world at the time, served little in the end toward setting example of an ideal of justice. Likewise, it might be said, neither had the execution of the German saboteurs convicted and sentenced by the military tribunal, confirmed by the President, in August, 1942 in the United States.

But, it was world war, and world war engaged on a scale never before seen and by the most vicious savages as heads of state modernity had ever known in the industrialized world, bent on control of the entire world and enslaving it to their will by the use of tactics borrowed from 1920's Prohibition-era gangsters, over-layered with mass inculcation of emotional appeals to either Pan-Asian supremacy in the Pacific or Aryan supremacy in Europe.

While it did not result in execution, was the 1970 court martial of Sgt. William Calley, born in 1943, for his conduct in the 1968 My Lai incident, a proper application of military justice, blaming the individual carrying out an order rather than the officers who initiated the policy and orders which led to the killing of 350 to 500 innocent South Vietnamese civilians, mainly women, children, and the elderly?

"Planner" regrets that George Ivey of Charlotte, owner of Iveyís Department Store, had resigned his position as chairman of the State Planning Board, responsible for planning post-war economic readjustment for the state, and suggests in his stead Dr. Howard Odum of the University of North Carolina, renowned sociologist and author of Southern Regions, a monograph which had examined in the 1930's the economic problems besetting the South and offered solutions, some of which were adopted by FDR and the New Deal.

Dorothy Thompson again looks at the views expressed recently by Union of South Africa Prime Minister Jan Christian Smuts, this time focusing on his contentions that the Allies had not yet established a cohesive policy for post-war Europe but rather had thus far focused only on liberating Europe while supporting governments which they selected.

Ms. Thompson offers the example of the French as problematic, and then provides a detailed account of the problem inherent in supporting King Peter in Yugoslavia. King Peter and his government-in-exile had supported the renunciation by the majority Serbs of their originally stated intention to establish democracy, instead supplanting it with authoritarian methods and centralization of power.

The history of Yugoslavia had lent itself to the emergence of Tito as a popular leader in a movement toward democracy, influenced heavily by neither capitalism nor communism. The bulk of the people were peasants, divided historically for their markedly differing customs and religions. The majority Serbs historically had been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and were predominantly Greek-Orthodox in religion, with Oriental forms of political institutions; the Croats and Slovenes had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and were predominantly Catholic, with no desire to live under Serbian rule. Thus, the centralization of power under the Serbian policy, supported by King Peter, had created a situation in which the tendency of rebellion erupting out of these historical-cultural differences had to be stemmed and chilled by authoritarian measures. The King had thus stimulated the counter-revolutionary movement under Tito as a means to rally the people to an apparently democratic movement, while shunting off into that movement, and thereby relieving, the proclivities toward rebellion.

Ms. Thompson concludes that unless soon a cohesive policy were put in place by the Allies for establishing democracy after the war in occupied countries, the Soviets would gain the upper hand in Central Europe as a popular alternative to a bungling Anglo-American ad hoc policy, providing support, for the sake of expediency, to unpopular rulers after liberation of each successive country.

It is ironic to note that Reverend Herbert Spaugh writes this day of the need for turning the "Arsenal of Democracy", as President Roosevelt had dubbed America in early 1942, into the "Arsenal of Christianity" after the war, to insure the post-war peace, in contrast to what he viewed was a sell-out by the politicians of the principles for which the soldiers, including himself, had fought during World War I, the concepts sought to be implemented by Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points.

For today, by contrast, the great voice of leadership of the Tea Party, the Grand Exalted Cyclopsian radio announcer, states that he believes that Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst Presidents in the history of the country, while he also plumps for some form of Christian principle by which to govern the land.

Theoretically, one would think that he saw eye to eye with Reverend Spaugh. But think again.

Well, you figure it out. But, the fact is that our Founders did not construct the founding principles of the government on the basis of one religion, indeed, realizing that to be anathema to democracy, as the Church of England had proved in the mother country, leading always in the end only to civil war, emotive violence and bloodshed regarding differences which are not easily susceptible to rapprochement from logical discussion and debate, being based inherently in emotion and cultural-familial tradition, not legal premises or factual premises subject to empirical or logical proof.

That is why we find the Tea Party movement an absurdity without any premise, other than being a lightning rod to which every stray Sparky in the country may gravitate.

It reminds of Tito and the Partisans. Read that history and you will see, Tea Partier, where you may be headed. We do not throw out the Constitution. Learn first what it says, how it all works together at once, and then participate in the democracy we have, rather than railing against it and seeking to supplant it with God only knows what.

Drew Pearson tells of the hypocrisy afoot in the Senate which had recently voted not to raise taxes appreciably to pay for the war and had been seeking ways to cut New Deal spending by cutting out various programs since 1941. A rider to the deficiency bill had been inserted by a small number of Senators to appropriate 9.9 million dollars to finish 24 airports across the country which had originally been authorized under the provisions of the Works Progress Administration but had been abandoned, the amount including an additional 2.3 million dollars in appropriations for seven new airports, which happened to be in the states from which hailed seven of the Senators on the Appropriations Committee or a subcommittee thereof.

The seven were Senator Lodge of Massachusetts, Senator Russell of Georgia, Senator Tydings of Maryland, Senator O'Mahoney of Wyoming, Senator McCarran of Nevada, Senator Nye of North Dakota, and Senator Overton of Louisiana, the latter two being members of the sub-committee only.

The Army and Navy had not wanted the new airfields; the Administration had indicated that they were unnecessary. Thus, the New Deal, for all the complaints of its big spending, was supplanted in its efforts to curb spending in this instance by Senators wanting to pad their political nests at home with eggs unnecessary to the general welfare of the country.

Raymond Clapper reports on the difficulty of the task ahead in the Pacific for the fact of the Japanese policy now being followed of entrenchment within their established island fortresses, the strongest of which, at Truk and in the Marshalls, were surrounded by dense coral reefs making landings difficult, as was evidenced at Tarawa. In the case of Truk, there was no beach on which to land as at Tarawa, as the island was dense with mangrove jungles and mountainous terrain. The Japanese Fleet was content to remain in port behind these protective natural barriers and force the Allies to fight their way in to get at them, a costly but necessary strategy for the Allies to follow.

Navy personnel returning to the United States were indicating that there was little opportunity to engage the Japanese at this juncture except through island-hopping, able to bypass some of the islands but not all, for the reason that strong Japanese positions could not be left to the rear of Allied advances, enabling supply lines to be interrupted. Thus, what lay ahead and loomed large for the Allies was grudging hand-to-hand combat on land, necessitating a long and bloody road to get to Tokyo.

Samuel Grafton takes on the Scripps-Howard news syndicate objection to Russia entering a cooperative treaty with Czechoslovakia, insuring the latterís territorial sovereignty and offering aid in its rebuilding effort after the war. The fear evinced by Scripps-Howard was that Russia was deviously plotting to take over Czechoslovakia, as with all of Eastern Europe, through this method of feigned cooperation.

But Mr. Grafton finds it illogical to assume such devious motives and to offer instead an alternative of a European Federation of the smaller nations, one from which Russia would be excluded. The model for such a plan was the Pan American Union. But, if the plan put forth for Eastern Europe held true, then, by analogy, the United States should not be involved in the Pan American Union.

He cites the fact that the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union had just concluded the agreement at Tehran which recognized, among other things, assurance of the sovereign independence of Iran. He suggests that such cooperation among the Allies should consistently be the goal, apart from paranoid isolationist tendencies to second-guess the motives of one or more of the Allies making the commitment.

The reader then comes naturally enough to the question of whether the tensions in Eastern Europe and elsewhere between the West and the Soviet Union ensuing the war came as a result of the Soviets doing precisely what Scripps-Howard feared, or whether it was as much or more the result of Western paranoia, stimulating the arms race, stimulating the perceived need of Russia to have buffer territories to protect itself from the more bellicose forces raising their voices regularly and loudly against Communism, during especially the period of the 1950's and 1960's.

The issue is thus joined, Limbecks and Tea Partiers. Have at it. Was Samuel Grafton a Comm-mmm-munist? Or were the Scripps-Howard editors Fascists?

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