Saturday, December 25, 1943

The Charlotte News

Saturday, December 25, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports, contrary to rumors and the report of the expectations of the previous day, that General Eisenhower’s former post as commander of Allied forces in the Mediterranean had been filled by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson of the British Army, formerly commander of forces in the Middle East, rather than the second in command to Eisenhower, General Sir Harold Alexander.

General Alexander was said to be having, in an undisclosed location, a drink of some concoction made with goat's milk, together with General Patton, both toasting to each other's good fortune not to have to command at this juncture in history. What happened next was censored from the communiqués, the inexplicable words, "baa, baa," being the only thing which bled through the otherwise unreadable redacted material.

In Italy, the fierce battle for Ortona continued to rage, as the Germans sent in a parachute division to try to hold the city. The hand-to-hand and house-to-house combat being waged by the Canadians had been hampered by Nazi tanks being holed up in the cellars of houses, hard to root out, as one "military commentator" somewhat incongruously indicated, because "the more rubble falls on a tank, the stronger it becomes".

The Fifth Army captured two hills and high ground two miles east of Acqua-Fondola, but otherwise wet conditions limited activity.

The RAF and American bombers rested part of Christmas Day as it was announced that the combined raids of the previous day had consisted of 3,000 planes, the most sent to attack Axis targets in any single day thus far during the war, and, moreover, resulted in no losses.

Heading toward Polotsk in the Baltic sector of the fighting, led by cavalry and ski troops, the Red Army progressed fifteen miles down the Vitebsk-Polotsk railway, taking the heavily defended town of Gorodok. The capture, which took with it 2,000 Germans, removed a major enemy obstacle on the road to Vitebsk. Another 2,000 Germans were killed in the area southwest of Zhlobin as the Red Army repelled Nazi counter-attacks.

President Roosevelt, in yet another sign of the wear and tear on him from the extended trip abroad, was, for the first time during his term as President, spending the day in solitude with family at Hyde Park.

The heads of the three operating railway unions which had maintained their strike deadline of December 30, as well as the head of the non-operating unions, expressed a belief that they might yet be able to work out a compromise agreement on wage increases which could avert the strike. The Government meanwhile avowed that no harm would come to vital war industries from such a strike, as the Government would first seize the railroads and operate them, as it had the coal mines, until a solution to the wage impasse could be reached.

Adding to the country's potential labor woes regarding strikes by essential wartime industries, four major steel mills in Ohio reported 40,000 steelworkers of the United Steelworkers Union of the CIO to have walked off the job. The four mills belonged to Republic Steel, both in Cleveland and Youngstown, Youngstown Sheet & Tube, and Corrigan McKinney Works in Cleveland. Beyond the four plants, the full extent of the walk-out would not be known until Monday as the holidays represented scheduled vacation time for many of the 214 companies, employing a total of 350,000 workers.

And the wife and sister of notorious convicted moonshine bootlegger, Carl Lippard, were arrested for attempted assault on reporter C.A. Paul of The News. Mr. Paul had the previous day published a story on Carl Lippard and his likewise convicted uncle, Paul. Shortly before 8:00 p.m., the wife knocked on Mr. Paul’s door and asked him to step outside. He refused, instead insisting that she come inside, whereupon Mrs. Lippard threw a hissy-fit and, acting along with a male companion and apparently her sister-in-law, damaged Mr. Paul's front door.

On the editorial page, "Christmas" compares the fortunes of war in 1943 with those facing the country on each of the previous two Christmases, possessed of far fewer favorable talismans than the current Yuletide.

The piece concludes with a glimpse as well at the first Christmas of American involvement in World War I, that of 1917.

"Sickness" indicates that Carl Lippard would likely escape his prison sentence by serving it out in the hospital for his manifold illnesses, a list of which had been provided by his doctor. Heading the list were syphilis and diabetes.

Whether his wife and sister might also have been suffering from some of the worst collateral symptoms attributed to late-stage syphilis was not indicated.

"Attack" follows up on the story of the attempted assault, following phone and in-person threats of violence, by the wife and sister of Carl Lippard on C. A. Paul. The piece naturally deplores the incident and expresses a desire that the women would be prosecuted for misdemeanors for conduct, it says, which hearkened back to 1920's gangsterism, attempting to intimidate and even physically harm a reporter providing the public with facts on a story.

Samuel Grafton comments that he had noticed a trend in Washington suggesting a quieter election year in 1944 than during 1943. Now, the theme being preached by Congress was love, not carping over such minor inconveniences as a threatened strike by the railway workers. Indeed, the Congress had approved a wage increase for the non-operating unions and voted down a needed tax increase, so limiting taxes as to provide essentially a tax rebate to the American public. So it would go in the coming election year, he predicts.

Raymond Clapper discusses the speculation abounding regarding the status of General Marshall since his presumed previous appointment as Supreme Allied Commander to lead the cross-channel invasion of the Continent was terminated in favor of General Eisenhower. He relates the story behind the change, that it was brought about by the British War Cabinet, not by Churchill as previously reported during the week. Churchill in fact had insisted upon the appointment of Marshall at Quebec in August, insistence to which President Roosevelt reluctantly acquiesced. But the Cabinet had sought to limit General Marshall's power by imposing the restriction that he could not draw troops from other theaters to support the invasion of Europe. It left his power so eviscerated that the Americans refused to accept the terms. Under the prodding of Stalin at Tehran, the President and Prime Minister got together and agreed that Eisenhower would lead the invasion with full coordinated authority of disposition of troops from other theaters.

Dorothy Thompson finds significant the fact that the Soviets had abandoned the "Internationale" as their national anthem in favor of a nationalist theme. The "Internationale" was originially written for the socialist workers' movement in France in 1871 to represent union against oppressive government action, a movement which was sought to be spread worldwide.

She concludes that Russia was effectively now abandoning an international approach to workers' revolt, to enable instead revolutionary nationalist movements throughout Europe, from France to Yugoslavia. The result, she contends, was liberating and had brought great prestige to the Soviet Government.

And, a little unusual for the page, a dialogue is related between a Hollywood reporter and a prolific actress, Anne Gwynne, the reporter giving her a bit of a punstrous time, urging her, for instance, her to begwynne at the beqwynning regarding the origin of her family name.

Anyway, she explained that her latest film was with Donald O’Connor and Noah Beery, Jr. We have been unsuccessful in locating the title of this gem, but probably it was something akin to "The Seven-Year Country Rockfished Triangular Steering Wheel".

Drew Pearson relates of the President's breaking the tradition of not only his own presidency but those of several of his predecessors by spending it away from the White House, going to Hyde Park to be with only his close family. His four sons were in the armed forces and not at home. Besides that bit of grey, was added the problems with the stubborn railway unions, the prospect of a hard congressional year ahead, having just gone through one, and bracing for the prospective bloody battle on the warfronts.

Mr. Pearson concludes that it would be an unhappy Christmas for the Chief Executive, his eleventh since entering the White House, (not the tenth as stated by Mr. Pearson and on the front page). Also, it appeared from the facts and the increasing frequency with which the President took visits to Hyde Park, that he would likely not be seeking a fourth term--which, as Mr. Pearson had uncannily and eerily projected three weeks earlier would only result in a severe headache for the President.

Despite the somewhat apparent funereal pall hanging over the holiday, FDR, says Mr. Pearson, would still, according to his statements to the press, traditionally read aloud, as he did every year, Dickens's A Christmas Carol, probably this time, he said, to Eleanor.

So, we suggest, tomorrow, it being Sunday, Boxing Day, that you get with your chosen loved one and read aloud A Christmas Carol, and trade off parts, attempting to sound alternately as either Franklin or Eleanor Roosevelt, depending on your whim--or both at once if you are so inclined to attempt it.

And, of course, you may wish to film your diligence thusly done and then place the result on Youtube for all to enjoy. There are stranger things there.

To get you started on the correct track, the President stopped by our offices last week on his way back to Washington and obliged us with this precious voice recording of the first paragraphs of the classic story. He was tired from his long journey overseas and thus in a great hurry, so apologized for having to preempt the exercise rather quickly. We apologized in return and insisted that we did not mean to harry him. He then had called to mind the fact that his recitation of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", transmitted to us via shortwave and related back to you in writing the other day, was actually mistranscribed. The last word was "hare", as no poet, he went on, worth his or her salt would seek to rhyme the same word twice. It would, he said in an exasperated tone of voice, be as seeking to offer as rhyme "hound dog" and "found dog". Rather, one would, for instance, say instead, in appropriate rhyme, "hoarfrost" and "doorpost".

In any event, we would not wish to fall victim of being stabbed in the heart by a stake of holly, as was the warning issued by Mr. Scrooge upon anyone daring to say, "Merry Christmas". So, we shall simply utter quietly, Feliz Naviedad.

The answer, incidentally, to the problem regarding the Tamiami streamliners which wrecked at Rennert near Lumberton on December 16, 1943, we suggest, is that the time frame of forty minutes between the derailment of the southbound train and the collision by the northbound train with two of the three derailed cars of the southbound is simply in error. We posit that the northbound train arrived not long after the derailment, perhaps within five to ten minutes. We propose therefore that the northbound was actually scheduled to be at the point where the accident occurred some thirty to thirty-five minutes before the derailment had it been on time. That is a more logical conclusion than that the trains were scheduled to run such that they passed over the 17-mile parallel section of track at the same time, obviously at high speed, potentially creating a hazard and allowing for saboteurs to make easy pickings of not just one but two trains loaded with soldiers. Thus, if the trains had been on time, the northbound would have cleared the point of derailment before it occurred.

We posit further that the time discrepancy was either the result of frozen timing devices along the checkpoints of the track or was deliberate misstatement of the facts on the part of the Government. The motive under such a latter scenario, explaining the presence of Fort Bragg M.P.'s to keep the press away in the initial hours after the collision, could have been to avoid panic running through the population regarding sabotage by Nazi agents, thus causing the public to refuse to ride the rails at a time when the tires on their automobiles and gas to run them were at a premium. Not to mention the potential for complications with the railway workers threatening strike, perhaps causing them to demand higher pay because of the factor of increased risk to their lives and well-being. Not to mention further the fact that to admit the collision to have occurred within a few short minutes of the derailment would have caused questions and blame regarding the fact of the trains not running on time, could have moreover provided propaganda to the enemy that, unlike the Fascists, the Americans could not run their trains on time, costing thereby the lives of 74 persons, including 47 soldiers.

If instead the accident could be laid off on plain negligence of a couple of trainmen at the front of the train, on the fireman in particular taking forty minutes to obtain the simple signal devices from the front of the train and then walk 100 feet southbound down the tracks to set them up for the northbound, then the damage could be limited to one idiot, swinging a dim lantern, who obviously couldn't walk. There would likewise be no room for criticizing the late running of the trains if thirty or thirty-five minutes were added to the time interval between the derailment and collision.

Other less pedestrian explanations, involving physics and even the theory of relativity, the curve of the earth, etc., might be provided, but we opt for this more straightforward approach, not impugning the Government's credibility in the process. For if it had been the case that there had been sabotage of the track causing the initial derailment, the last thing the Government wanted to admit was that fact, for the reasons stated.

And, we trust that the discerning among you, the careful readers or listeners, as the case may be, understood the hint for solving the problem, provided in the Christmas Eve speech by the President. If not today, to-morrow.

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