Monday, December 27, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, December 27, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Marines established two beachheads on northern New Britain at Cape Gloucester, at Borgen Bay, one to the east of Gloucester and one to the southwest. The action, initiated at 4:30 p.m. Christmas Day in Washington, Sunday morning at 7:30 in the Pacific, was undertaken without loss to the Marines. In covering the landing, however, the Navy lost one small escort ship and suffered damage to three others, while losing seven planes. Fully 36 Japanese bombers and 25 fighters were shot down in the vicinity of Cape Gloucester, while another 71 to 90 planes were shot down in the vicinity of Rabaul.

The action complemented the beachheads already established December 1 on Arawe Peninsula to the south, and provided the Allies with complete control of the Vitiaz Strait, to the northwest of Arawe, between New Britain and northern New Guinea.

In Italy, the Fifth Army attacked through heavy rains to take the heights of Mt. Samucro, on the road to Cassino, while moving closer to taking the village of San Vittore.

Eighth Army Canadian troops continued to face fierce resistance in their attempt to take the town of Ortona on the Ardriatic coast. Entering the eighth day of fighting, the Germans were holed up in basements and sewers, causing access to them to be especially difficult. Five miles inland from Ortona, Indian troops completed their taking of Villa Grande. The Nazis were busy razing Tollo, two miles southwest of Ortona, in preparation for its evacuation.

In Russia, the First Ukrainian Army under General Nikolai Vatutin advanced to within twenty miles of Zhitomir, cutting the Kiev-Zhitomir road, reversing a key Nazi position which had supplanted in early November a Russian bridgehead west of the Dneiper River, having accomplished the feat then with eight panzer divisions and a large infantry force, most of which was now either decimated or pushed back to the west.

In the north of the long Russian front, the Red Army continued to press the fight against Vitebsk, moving to within eight miles of the city.

The Royal Navy announced the sinking off Norway of one of the last available German capital ships, the 26,000-ton Scharnhorst, previously immobilized by British bombers at Brest in March, 1941, of which the column made mention at the time of the sinking of the Bismarck, May 27, 1941--the last or penultimate day on which W. J. Cash worked for The News before departing for Mexico City.

The Scharnhorst had been seeking to attack a supply convoy, indicating the desperation now of the Kriegsmarine, usually relying on U-boats and planes to attack convoys. Whether any of the men aboard the ship, estimated at 1,400 were rescued, was not known. The sinking reduced the available surface vessels of Germany to a mere two pocket battleships of 10,000 tons each, plus some small cruisers.

General Eisenhower, named formally by FDR on Christmas Eve to be Supreme Allied Commander for the cross-channel invasion of the Continent, predicted flatly that the war in Europe would be won in 1944. Indeed, the President had virtually promised the same thing in the Christmas Eve fireside chat. Both were wrong, of course, but only by four months.

A new version of the Helldiver dive-bomber, already in use since mid-1942, was introduced into the Navy. Among many new innovations were folding wings, enabling two bombers to be placed at once on carrier elevators to the deck, cutting deployment time considerably.

Hal Boyle tells of the fliers in the Army Air Corps and their having to grow up fast, focusing on the youngest commander in the Air Corps, a 28-year old former life insurance salesman from Missouri who now commanded a thousand men in the “Liberandos” (having nothing to do with Marlon Brando; perhaps, however, Lee Marvin). The commander, Colonel Kenneth Compton, had just three days earlier flown his own 15th mission in his plane “Big Nig”, the 200th for the Liberandos, hitting Tattoi airdrome at Athens. Col. Compton had been home only four months since 1940.

General Doolittle then threw a party for the Liberandos.

President Roosevelt returned to Washington after the weekend at Hyde Park, spent reading A Christmas Carol to Mrs. Roosevelt, to try to avert the threatened strike on the railways and to stop the already beginning strike in the steel industry, it having spread from the four companies in Ohio to encompass companies in seven states in the steel nexus, with 135,000 workers having failed to show up for work Monday. The steel workers wanted a 17-cent raise in per hour wages which would junk the so-called Little Steel Formula, previously established by the War Labor Board in early 1942.

And Governor Olin Johnston of South Carolina, having received a letter from a constituent asking whether he could use his office to obtain for a Charleston war industry worker a scarce alarm clock, obliged, sending the letter on to OPA who then obtained for the man his alarm clock.

On the editorial page, "New Anthem" comments, as had Dorothy Thompson on Saturday, on the switch of the national anthem of the Soviet Union from "The Internationale" to the new nationalist theme, "Republic of the Free". The piece concludes, as had Ms. Thompson, that the switch was significant and suggested a new approach by the Soviet Union, one stressing its own nationalist interests rather than concern for an international Communist labor movement.

The abolition in May of the Comintern, though not mentioned by either the column or Ms. Thompson, had also signaled such a sea change.

"Three & 1-2?" speculates on whether the President would seek a fourth term, indicates that insiders were saying he had not yet made the decision. The piece suggests that events, primarily whether the war would be won by the following November, would determine the likelihood of his winning the election should he decide to run. The editorial, however, gives the nod of approval, regardless of whether the war were won yet or not. Its strong belief was that the American people would wish the Chief Executive most familiar with the Allied leaders and invested with the confidence of the people to remain at the post-war peace table to work out the terms. Citizen Roosevelt would be less effective in the role than President Roosevelt, vested still with the power of the office.

Despite declining health during 1944, which would find the President appearing by the February, 1945 Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin as nearly a ghost of himself, the President would accede to the wishes of his party and the country to continue with his leadership for as long as possible, in the end costing him his life.

"The Flu" suggests to school officials that they carefully monitor the current flu epidemic before reopening schools as scheduled on January 3.

"Mystery" protests the accuracy of the South Carolina police statement that contraband liquor had flowed over the border from that state into Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, finding instead the Yuletide season to have been a dry one.

Maybe some of the populace read of Hal Boyle's recipe for a good time and requisitioned from the countryside some goat’s milk to adulterate their season’s toddy.

Samuel Grafton recommends action after the war against the Fascist governments in Argentina and the newly installed Bolivian government following a coup by the rightist National Revolutionary Movement. At present, he realizes, the British needed Argentina’s beef and the United States needed the previously committed tin ore from Bolivia. Thus, the Western Allies could not afford at present to take any drastic action, especially as their military forces were spread throughout the world. But after the war, he suggests three things to rid these vestiges of the system of government which had started World War II: to withhold trade until the Fascists were removed from power; to insist on assurances of proper wages and labor conditions in Argentina and Bolivia; and to grant asylum to émigrés opposing the Fascist governments.

Drew Pearson reports of two squabbles surfacing between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Cairo. The President, having been briefed by General Somervell on the ability to send a fighting force into Burma to effect reopening of the Burma Road, vital link for delivering supplies to the Chinese, sought from Churchill a commitment of British troops to do so. The Prime Minister, however, balked at the idea, indicating that Indian troops would not fight in Burma and that it would be unwise to allow Chinese troops, insufficiently trained for the terrain, to fight there. Churchill favored instead an operation to try to reacquire now heavily fortified Singapore and the Malay Peninsula.

The other point of dispute centered on Hong Kong, held for a hundred years by the British since the Opium Wars, prior to its fall to the Japanese in December, 1941. The President wanted assurances from the British that they would give the city back to the Chinese after the war. But the final draft of the Cairo Declaration stated only that the territory stolen from the Chinese by the Japanese would be returned at war’s conclusion to the Chinese.

Mr. Pearson also reports of stirrings in the Senate, led by Senator Langer of North Dakota, regarding the 70-30 split of Americans to British said to be demanded by Churchill for the cross-channel invasionary force. Says Mr. Pearson, Senator Langer would be asking why Churchill would not agree to return Hong Kong at the request of the President when the Prime Minister demanded that 70 percent of the force to invade Europe be made up of Americans for the reason of the great losses suffered by Britain in World War I.

Raymond Clapper opines that the President had acted too speedily in stating to a minister-turned-columnist for The Cleveland Press that he wished newspaper men would stop using the term "New Deal", as it had served its purpose and because its primary ingredients were firmly institutionalized, that the main objective now was to win the war. Mr. Clapper indicates that the President probably wanted to dissociate himself and his Administration from the worst aspects of the New Deal, inefficiency, over-spending, and over-bureaucratization.

But, for all its admitted faults, he adds, the New Deal had served the people well and left behind a great legacy, having transferred the seat of power in the country from Wall Street back to Washington.

Whether that upset the stomach of Louis B. Seltzer, editor of The Cleveland Press, who had hired Dr. Lupton, the columnist who revealed FDR's queasiness over the continued bantering about of "New Deal" in the press, was not discussed by Mr. Clapper.

Third Day of Christmas--three-pence trenchant. (Boxing Day was two curdled couves.)

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