Wednesday, December 29, 1943

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, December 29, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Canadians of the Eighth Army had taken Ortona after fierce fighting for eight days and were pressing forward through snow and sleet to the port of Pescara. Ortona was left in ruins by the Nazis as they evacuated, leaving debris and bodies piled high in the streets. The Battle of Moro Valley, as it came to be called, saw some of the bloodiest fighting thus far of the entire Mediterranean campaign. The bulk of the dead on the Allied side were Canadian, numbering 1,375 of the 1,615 killed.

The photos below show the fighting for the town, and the ruins in the aftermath.

On the Fifth Army front, the Nazis launched an attack down the western coast to Ponte di Garigliano, near the mouth of the Garigliano River, where a battle still raged. In the central region of the front, French Moroccan troops took a 3,000-foot mountain after heavy fighting. American troops moved in closer to the town of San Vittore along the road to Rome.

Amid false claims by the Nazis that the Allies had raided Rome within a mile and a quarter of the Vatican, a raid did take place on airdromes at Ciampino, south of Rome, and Centocello, east of the city. No attack on Rome, itself, however, had occurred since August.

After a Christmas lull, RAF Mosquitos again took to the air, bombing targets in western Germany and along the "rocket-gun" coast of northern France.

On Cape Gloucester on New Britain, the Marines advanced through enemy gunfire and a tropical storm to within a mile and half of the Japanese airfield, ultimate target of the landings which took place Sunday morning. To the south on Arawe Peninsula, Allied forces fought off an enemy air attack, knocking out 37 enemy planes.

Fully 230 Japanese planes had been downed since the landings on Arawe on December 15, against only thirty Allied losses. Moreover, it had been observed that the Japanese were sending fewer planes in attack waves, presumably because the combined Allied air and naval actions in the Gilberts and Marshalls to the north had made it more difficult for the Japanese to launch aerial attacks in defense of Rabaul.

The Domei news agency in Japan admitted that Japanese forces had withdrawn from the Chinese "Rice Bowl" in the Tungting Lake area in Hunan Province, but claimed nevertheless a strategic victory, contending that Japanese forces had killed 33,000 Chinese and captured another 15,000 while losing only 1,700 of their own troops.

Apparently satiated with sufficient numbers of killed and captured, the Japanese decided to let bygones be bygones and retreated to their original lines.

Perhaps, also, they had experienced quite enough Hunan cooking for the nonce.

It was reported from several European sources that Hitler had personally ordered the Scharnhorst to put to sea in a desperate gamble to support flagging U-boat success in the Atlantic and North Sea trying to interdict Allied shipping of supplies to Russia.

Meanwhile, it was announced that a British Naval battle was ongoing against German shipping in the Bay of Biscay off the southwest of France, sinking three German destroyers and crippling others. The bag brought to 42 the number of German destroyers or torpedo boats sunk since the beginning of the war.

Having already regained in just a week about half the territory taken in the five-week Nazi counter-offensive begun in November in the Ukraine, the First Ukrainian Army had moved to within ten miles of retaking Zhitomir, and within five miles of Korosten. The re-taking of both of those cities would effectively nullify all of the gains made by Field Marshal Fritz von Mannsteinís counter-offensive.

General Eisenhower's headquarters announced that General Sir Bernard Montgomery would lead the British ground troops in the coming invasion of the Continent. No American general had yet been designated to lead the American ground forces which would presumably, if Churchill's wishes held true, comprise approximately 70% of the invasionary force. Also named, to lead the naval forces, was Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey of the Royal Navy. He had planned the naval phases of the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Air Marshal Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory, head of the RAF Fighter Command, was chosen to command the aerial operations.

General Patton was reported to have been censored in his attempt to communicate his feelings on the new command structure, the unusual method of censorship having leaked out, albeit muddled, but apparently having something to do with the horns of a butting goat which he had reportedly tried to shoot with his pearl-handled revolver when it appeared for mess duty without its leggings.

It was reported also that final plans for the invasion of Europe were mapped out by Eisenhower and his new assistant commander, Air Marshal Tedder of the RAF, during the Cairo Conference with Churchill and FDR. The two military commanders remained behind after the four-day conference, ending November 25, to finish the planning phase.

During a press conference at the White House, FDR confirmed the report, as set forth in the Cleveland Press and picked up by Raymond Clapper in his column Monday, that he wished the term "New Deal" laid to rest as the stress now was for winning the war, and, furthermore, "Old Doctor New Deal", as he called it, had served its purpose in curing the patient of its woes. He listed a series of programs which had benefited the country during the New Deal phase of his Administration and challenged critics to indicate which program they would choose to set aside should the patient suffer a relapse. When then asked by a reporter whether that meant he would run for a fourth term, he deflected the question in good nature by calling it "picayune" and premature, alliteratively opting for another p-word, having already resorted to a couple, while apologizing for the perhaps excessively pedantic preternaturalism.

Father of the future Vice-President and President, who served the country admirably for 16 years in those positions, Democratic Congressman Albert Gore of Tennessee, having volunteered for Army service, had reported for induction.

Meeting with General Somervell, assigned to operate the railroads until the wage dispute could be resolved, the three remaining operating unions, the firemen, enginemen, and conductors, who had not yet agreed, as had the engineers and trainmen, to call off the scheduled December 30 strike, agreed to follow suit. There would be no strike on December 30 of the operating unions.

Hal Boyle tells of the harrowing return of a Flying Fortress from dropping a load of bombs on undisclosed targets out of an Italian base. The 27-year old pilot, Lt. Harvey Bevier of Omaha, was already unhappy about the 300 flak holes riddling his aircraft when suddenly his tail gunner reported a plane following closely to their rear, within 25 feet, and implored the pilot to take evasive action. He bucked and pitched the plane to create air currents which finally shook the trailing craft from their tail. Only later did Lt. Bevier discover that it was not an enemy plane but one of their own which had been placed on automatic pilot as the crew bailed out moments earlier.

Pilot Bevier had now completed his allotment of 50 missions, all since mid-June, and was therefore retired to ground duty. He described to Mr. Boyle the heavy flak he had encountered during bombing missions over Rome, Naples, Messina, and Palermo.

"Funny thing about that flak; you get so you play with it. You move over in formation because for some reason the air just feels hot under you, then you see the flak burst right where you would have been. Or sometimes you lift a wing up and a second later you watch a shell whiz by. It would have hit you if you hadnít pulled up that wing."

When asked how it felt to be done with his missions, he had a sip of wine and said, "It feels comfortable. It feels comfortable."

On the editorial page, "Anglophobe" again takes to task Burton Wheeler of Montana, one of the leading pre-war isolationists in the Senate, for his newest anti-British campaign, to have Britain supply at least half the troops for the invasion of the Continent.

Sounding superficially good and fair, the proposition, as the piece points out, would have delayed the invasion by months because of the fact that insufficient British personnel were present in Great Britain to do more than act as rear echelon support. Only one-third of the total invasionary force would actually cross the Channel, with the remaining two-thirds staying in Britain for support. To do what the Senator wanted would result not only in substantial delay in the action but also would cost lives of Americans fighting in Italy, as well as those of the Allies fighting in Russia and Yugoslavia and in the underground in the occupied countries.

"Freight Rates", without taking sides, lays forth two opposing views on whether inequality between freight rates charged across regions by the railroads, free of Interstate Commerce Commission regulation, was unfairly bleeding the South.

Vice-President Wallace had stated that the South paid substantially more than the North on trips of the same distance, and thus the Southern farmer typically received far less of a percentage of the price of produce than his counterparts in other regions of the country.

The vice-president of Southern Railway, however, indicated that, despite the convening of a special I.C.C. investigation of the differential in freight rates, he was aware of no single Southern industry which had raised any protest against them.

"Improvement" cites as a significant signpost on the road to recovery the fact that Dr. J. R. Saunders of the State Hospital at Morganton had for the first time in the institutionís history fired an attendant and turned him over to the authorities for striking a patient.

Morganton had a long history of abuse of patients, as brought to light by Tom Jimison and The News in the January-February, 1942 series adduced by lawyer-minister-reporter Mr. Jimison, providing an account of the many deficiencies in care he had witnessed during his year-long voluntary commitment at the institution, ending in May, 1941.

The attendant had been charged with misdemeanor battery and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 30 days suspended jail time and given a fine. The editorial thought this punishment too light, but nevertheless praised Dr. Saunders and the institution for taking action.

If you are wondering, incidentally, where Mr. Jimison got to and why his pieces on the editorial page disappeared, after being regularly present there during the year and a half or so after the series appeared, it may have been that his health was suffering. He would pass away in early September, 1945. His most recent piece had appeared August 11, 1943, though we do not know whether he might yet appear again.

Samuel Grafton examines the tossing overboard of the phrase "New Deal" by the President and finds it hardly surprising given that no new social legislation had been put forth by the Administration since 1937.

The President had during the previous year pushed Vice-President Wallace into the background and had accepted the August "resignation" of Undersecretary of State Welles who had run into decisive conflict with Secretary Hull, so much so that, as reported by Drew Pearson, Mrs. Hull had convinced the Secretary, for preservation of his own authority in the Administration, to deliver to the President an ultimatum that either he would quit or Sumner Welles would be fired.

Mr. Grafton finds the trend to have been to get rid of the liberals in the Administration to effect amity with the conservatives for the purpose of effectively prosecuting the war in reasonable harmony. It was a process which had obtained in the Coalition Government of Churchill, in the coming together finally of De Gaulle and Giraud in their combined leadership roles of the French in North Africa, and in the Partisan revolt in Yugoslavia which combined groups from left to right on the political spectrum.

While it was conceivable to view the Roosevelt decision to abandon the New Deal as one which was simply motivated by crass political self-preservation for the increasing unpopularity of the system of Federally controlled social programs, Mr. Grafton elects instead the view that it was for achieving unity of purpose in the war effort, something necessary and wholly good for the world.

Raymond Clapper insists it more urgent than ever to create a United Nations council to act as a cohesive and permanent governing body to guide Allied policy both during the remainder of the war and after it, rather than continuing to be dependent on four "old men", the loss of any one of whom could change the dynamic of the partnership struck at Cairo and Tehran.

He remarks that Roosevelt had restructured the Democratic Party around his own leadership and that the Party otherwise was as decrepit and disorganized as it had been prior to 1932, that no one appeared on the horizon for the Democrats to be handed the mantle worn so well by Roosevelt, meaning inevitably that when Roosevelt left office, the Republicans could take control of the reigns of government with little worry of the Democrats for some time to come.

The death of FDR less than three months into his fourth term, of course, would change that entire picture insofar as the perceived dearth of Democratic presidential timber. No one obviously would have predicted at this juncture that within 16 months, then-Senator Harry Truman would be President, a man without a college degree, a former haberdasher and judge, suddenly thrust by the happenstance of mortality into the position of leading the country in its final days of the war in Europe and then attempting to effect the end of the war in the Pacific, as much brutal fighting there still apparently lay ahead, perhaps for another year or more--but for the plans set in place by FDR, at the urging of Professor Einstein's letter of August 2, 1939, which led to the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb.

We again ask the rather useless, even silly, question, whether FDR would have deployed the atomic bomb to end the war in Japan. Given FDR's approval of the relentless Allied bombing of Germany, of the literal torching of Tokyo in early 1945, there can be no serious contest of the proposition that he would have ordered the bomb deployed to save American lives--not to mention, on balance, Japanese lives, military and civilian.

Drew Pearson reports of Democratic Senator David Walsh from Massachusetts single-handedly, as chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee, holding up the Navy's request to send WAVES to take over office positions abroad so that men could be relieved of those tasks and sent to the fight. While the Army had sent a thousand WAC's to North Africa, the Congress would not permit WAVES to be sent to the Navy, even in Latin American countries where there was little or no war danger. Senator Walsh had reasoned that it was too dangerous to send women into battle zones.

Mr. Pearson next reveals some figures on strikes in the country, over 130 having taken place in November alone, with 91,000 man-days lost thus far in December. Not all the strikes, he records, were over wages. The white workers of the Western Electric plants in Baltimore had struck for the fact that there were no separate toilets for blacks and whites.

--You think we're goin' in 'ere with them? Like to pull a knife on us prob'ly, or at least give us some kind o' disease they carry, like the v.d., ye know?

The War Department took over the plants because of the toilet difficulties of the white workers. Still, only half had returned to the job. The others were stuck at home.

He concludes that strikes would likely only increase in the coming year for the fact that they had been largely successful. George Harrison of the Railway Clerks had reportedly said to the President, after the Chief Executive had given in to the demands of John L. Lewis and the UMW on higher wages, "For Gawd's sake, you give it to your enemies, why not to your friends?"

Actually, we heard that Mr. Harrison instead spoke these words.

A letter from Holcombe Parkes, Secretary of the Southern Railway President's Conference, responded to the editorial "Over-Hasty" appearing December 17. Mr. Parkes wanted readers to understand that the railroads were objecting not just to a directive regarding only railroad firemen, issued by the Fair Employment Practices Committee, that they hire without discrimination on race, creed, color, or national origin. The order had also directed the railroads to hire all employees, whether engineers, conductors, or anyone else, without discrimination. It was this all-inclusive order which the railroads found, according to Mr. Parkes, "impracticableÖimpossibleÖand utterly unrealistic".

--Now, ya'll Yankees, look heya. We can be reasonable now and hire a few dawkies to handle certain jobs on the rails that don't involve runnin' o' the train, supervisin' white men, or havin' too much intaaction on a plane of equality with white folks, especially our women. But if you want us to hire niggas to do more than carry baggage and tip their hats as poatas, ya'll must be completely crazy and out o' yo' minds. That just ain't gonna happen, not in this life, nawsuh. The white people would stop ridin' our trains. They'd a' soon walk. But we don't want you to get the wrong impression. We like niggas, as long as they jus' stay in they place.

Fifth Day of Christmas--five joled fengs.

The solution, incidentally, to our challenge of yesterday is that the first reference connected to fjords is obviously the sinking of the Scharnhorst off Norway. Though mentioned twice, we cannot give full credit to any answer which simply counted those references twice, for we did specify "separate" connections. The second is equally obvious: the inappropriate alarm clock. We need not go into detail. The third is Norwegian Wood. Likewise, we need not explain. But, we shall interject that for Samuel Grafton's mention of the famous quote of Marie Antoinette regarding cake, combined with the reference in our note to blood-letting cake and, by way of Bluebeard, the indirect reference to chopping off of bodily parts, and, further, because of our note of July, 2007 associated with April 27, 1940, regarding the manner of death of Jean-Paul Marat in the tub at the hand of Charlotte Corday, that one becomes rather painfully obvious. The fourth is, admittedly, a bit more obscure. It was based on a portmanteau. We need not condescend, however, any further to your abilities of discernment as we are certain that, even if you did not see it readily before, you may so do now without the least interference by obfuscation, our clue thus removing any rocky obstacles in fording that cold stream guard.

The prize for correct answers consists, of course, in four calling birds perched on your shoulders, pinin' for the fjords.

The dead dog, by the way, coupled with "rolling and heaving" within the editorial titled "Vessel" of April 27, 1940, is now here.

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