Friday, February 19, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, February 19, 1943

FOUR EDITORIALS

Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Rommel's forces had temporarily halted before the retreat of American forces toward and into Tebessa.

It represented, however, only the hours of calm before the storm at Kasserine Pass, the fighting for which began between Rommel and the British First Army forces of Lt.-General K.A.N. Anderson together with the U.S. Army Second Corps, commanded by Maj.-General Lloyd Fredendall the previous day.

The apparent goal of Rommel was to capture Tebessa, twelve miles inside Algeria, reorganization point for the French and American forces retreating during the previous five days of fighting along the line from Gafsa and Sbeitla, after unsuccessfully trying to re-capture Faid Pass. Ostensibly, Rommel hoped to gain supplies and capture an airbase west of Tebessa, to provide the Luftwaffe a point of operations inside Algeria.

Optimistic reports of the previous two days issued from the U. S. Army that Rommel intended only a widening corridor to enable breathing room for Tunis and Bizerte and his troops guarding the Mareth Line, rather than offensive operations, were therefore erroneous.

Such reports continued even unto this date, as Rommel feigned a stalling operation before launching the assault on Thursday morning, having received his orders to proceed. Rommel apparently favored a full frontal assault on Tebessa through Kasserine Pass but was ordered to separate his forces in two and attack also through the Sbiba Gap to the north. His nemesis, Luftwaffe General Albert Kesselring, under whose command Rommel had refused to serve in favor of General von Arnim, had putatively formulated the battle plan, to the alleged consternation of Rommel. (This latter scenario may have been simply the result, however, of mixed communiques or later Nazi versions of the battle.)

The map below provides the directions of the fighting through Kasserine and Sbiba.

Meanwhile, General Montgomery and the British Eighth Army had taken, without serious opposition, Foum Tatahouine, a key point in the Matmata Range along the southern flank of the Mareth Line, running apparently, however, into resistance 30 miles north of the point.

Associated Press reporter Harold Boyle reported from the Tunisian front on the "strategic evacuation", as the soldiers termed it, of the Sbeitla-Feriana valley, scorching the earth as they went in the dead cold of the desert night, heading for Tebessa in Algeria. The young hail-hearty Americans didn't like the idea of retreating and wanted to obtain their front back to the fight. But orders were orders. They needed to regroup and obtain reinforcements. Private Michael Higgins of New York City related of his friend, Sergeant, who had withstood with the Private 32 buzz-raids by Stukas. Sergeant's sister, Hester, a friend of Private Tom Reed of Springfield, Ky., had likewise been his companion seeking cover from the blows of the Luftwaffe.

The parentage of Hester and Sergeant, however, was seriously in question. The soldiers didn't want to talk about it. Hester and Sarge may have been in-laws, as well as siblings.

Ah woe, ah me, déshonorer et le scandale sur la famille.

Mr. Boyle, as had Ernie Pyle, when last we heard from him, refers to a quarter-ton "peep" which was a Jeep. They give us the willies. Not really.

From the Russian front, the reports were that the Soviets had moved to within thirty miles east of Orel, as they also pursued retreating Nazi forces, apparently seeking sanctuary at Poltava, 84 miles west of Kharkov, in the heart of the sugar-producing region. The vital rail supply route to Taganrog, second line retreat of the Nazis from Rostov during the winter of 1942, had as well been severed.

As a bonus, here is a map of the various commodities associated with the cities and areas of the Ukraine, the region presumed to be next on the agenda for the Russian Army's continued mighty onslaught to the west, in the rush to maintain the moment to re-capture territory ahead of their worst enemy, Spring Thaw.

There is also on that page the story of the man who had sued Duke Power Co. for contracting malaria from mosquitoes proliferating on Lake James near Asheville, claiming the company was negligent in allowing the reproductive habits of mosquitoes to abound unabated. The jury found in favor of the defendant.

Lend-Lease administrator Edward Stettinius reported that supplies to the Russian front generally had increased by ten percent in January compared to December and by twenty percent in foodstuffs. No ships had been lost in the process, indicative of a lessening menace by U-boats along the northern route to Murmansk and Archangel.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek and FDR held a joint press conference in which Madame Chiang added a coda to FDR's remark that getting supplies through to China would be accomplished as soon as the Lord would let it occur, saying that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Whether she was referring to the Lord helping China or the United States was left unclear in the story. Based on a quote on the editorial page from a Chinese newspaper editorial, it was more likely in reference to the latter.

Madame Chiang, it should be noted, was sister to T. V. Soong, China's Foreign Minister who had been counseling in October the establishment of a central governing council for the United Nations to coordinate political policy, to prevent future world war and to set forth plans for rebuilding war-torn countries at war's end.

Prime Minister Churchill was reported to have been confined to his bed at 10 Downing, suffering from acute catarrh of the upper respiratory track.

The dissemination of this news may have led Erwin Rommel to attack at El Guettar a month later, on March 23. Or, Rommel may have simply been by then gently serenading his troops with a new song which, according to later highly hoed historians, came to him in a dream in which he saw a man on a horse with a pearl-handled pistol strapped to his waist, carrying a Bible in his canvas sack, wearing a silver-gold football helmet, singing the song which Rommel sang to his men: "While My Guettar Remnants Sleep". In the dream, the masked singer, it was said, suddenly transformed into a knight, had his name emblazoned on the flank of the white charger on which he rode: George Patton Browning.

On the editorial page, Dorothy Thompson elucidates the shape-shifting Tarnhelm being orchestrated in Germany by Herr Doktor Goebbels, presumably to avoid the consequence of inevitable war crimes trials after defeat, posed in terms of German nationalism rather than the vaunted Aryan myths of Supremacy--now that the Final Solution had been ongoing for a full year and, most of the Jews having been eliminated from the Fatherland and fast being so from its satrapies, no more scapegoats available save the Supreme Savior of Germany, Hitler himself.

Goebbels was busy propagandizing in his speech that the harsh measures necessary to maintain order in the occupied lands would not be hallmark of things to come in the Greater Germania, post-war, when Germany had won, fulfilling the prophetic, martyred late Fuehrer's dream that all good little Nazis would have their own four-banger Volkswagen to drive on the autobahns at unlimited speeds in Happy-Happy Land, Blondie in the front, Blondie in the rear.

Hitler had been relegated to a secondary status, even the requisite "Heil Hitler" of yester-months no longer being broadcast on German radio. The compulsory introduction by Nazi Party leaders provided usually to radio speakers holding forth in occupied lands was now kaput as well.

Lt.-General Kurt Deitmar of the German High command gave a broadcast in which he compared the present losses in Russia to the those of Frederick the Great during the Seven Years' War, saying that now was a time for regrouping as had Frederick, that the war was not lost, only the battles, even if the grand objective, the Caucasus oil, as with Frederick's failure to take Bohemia and its mineral riches, had been lost. He also alluded to Napoleonís rule of war that good generals must routinely change tactics annually to stay ahead of the enemy.

Ms. Thompson interprets this speech to be one presaging the end of Hitler's rule of Germany, albeit whether by "heart attack", "killed in action", or simply for the nonce maintaining him as a scapegoat, to hang out to dry should there come a complete shattering of the German Wehrmacht in Russia, still unclear. She concludes, however, that Hitlerís days as the Supreme God of Germany were done.

Raymond Clapper warns of German peace overtures through neutral countries, seeking to test the mettle of the United Nations in standing resolute in the commitment made at Casablanca to insist on unconditional surrender of the Axis. He strongly urges no biting.

Samuel Grafton again lets loose his cudgels on the U.S. policy of coddling Vichy, this time with stress on the supposed advantage gained from doing so by the acquisition of the plum just handed the government by the Vichy French at Dakar, the rust-bucket Richelieu, wounded 35,000-ton French battleship now in the New York Naval Yard scheduled for refitting. He finds it rather an imbalanced slate, with such characters as Nogues still in positions of leadership. To assure rapprochement with his new-found allies from America, Nogues had explained that in order to insure cooperation with the Nazis so that they would not invade North Africa, he had ordered the killing of Americans landing during Operation Torch.

Mr. Grafton cautions that the British and, of late, the Russians had formed alliances with the Free French of De Gaulle, and that America's cozy arrangement with the Vichyites promised problems post-liberation of France, that the French people were not so malleable or gullible as assumed apparently by America's leadership.

He concludes that if the price for Richelieu was such a beautiful friendship with Louis and his Vichy-Fasci friends, at the expense of alienating the democrats of France who should, under all rational lights, be installed to lead France post-war, then bon voyage back to from whence it came.

Richelieu did see some service with the British Navy in 1943 and 1944.

Ominously, it served as troop transport for the French to re-colonize Indochina in September, 1945 after the Japanese surrender and extrication of occupation forces there since late July, 1941. The ship also saw action in the ensuing eight-year war in French Indochina between the French and Viet Minh forces of Ho Chi Minh, ending with Ho's victory at Dien Bien Phu in spring, 1954, precursor to American involvement in Vietnam, beginning with military and civilian advisers in 1958, combat troops being sent in earnest in early 1965 in the wake of the U.S.S. Maddox incident of August, 1964, lasting until the "honorable peace" established by the Paris Peace Accords of January, 1973.

"Early Defeat" casts aside notions that the American troops in lightly defended territory along the Sbeitla-Feriana valley and into the Thelepte plains to Tebessa were being forced into retreat because of inexperience before the veteran, battle-tempered Nazi forces. Instead, it accurately forecasts that American firepower, when brought to the front in central Tunisia, combined with the might of the British First and Eighth armies along the coast, would smash Rommel's Afrikakorps in the face once and for all.

But, to accomplish this end would still require the ultimate weapon, the swift boot-kick in the rearguard of the American infantry and armored commanders and their troops, to translate greenery into the searest action of audacious sagacity, soon to be the defining trait of these young men being battle-tested for the first time in their lives. That is to say, it would take General Patton, who, it was reported at the beginning of the week, had been decorated by the Sultan of Morocco, being removed from purely defensive, ceremonial duties and transported in his siren-blazing command chariot to the frontlines in Tunisia to give in kind to Rommel that which the Desert Fox was beginning to dish, leading the battle personally, at Kasserine--having miraculously recovered from his bullet wound and serious illness in Berlin earlier in the week, touch and go as it was, said the doktor, thought to be any minute on the verge of a sudden heart attack.

"Ah, Wilderness", regarding the Legislature's new wine legislation leaves out any mention of party-wine. What happened to the party-wine measure? That's very troubling, very troubling.

The New York Times peers into the revolving future and finds, in the year 1950, the Chinese historian Hi Ho Hum chanticleering anent proposed congressional revision of tax rates, regressively to their 1941 status, checked back considerably from their 1943 rates of progressivism.

Not provided was the title of the work which, by diligent research in several libraries, we were able to find. It was "The Taxman Cometh". Hi Ho Hum's sequel work, a bestseller in 1951 in Nationalist China, if pirated from a British work by a chap named Mitch Price Miller-Seeger, was titled, "And Your Byrd Can Soong Ai-ling", based on a theme from Goethe's "Dance of the Dead", as translated by Rudyard Kipling.

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