Tuesday, February 23, 1943

The Charlotte News

Tuesday, February 23, 1943


Site Ed. Note: From London came the report on the front page this date that Prime Minister Churchill's acute catarrh was about the same.

He was said to be writing some lines while laid up, albeit slightly nasally imparted, conveyed by his Home Secretary: "I look at you all, see the love there that's sleepingÖ"

He was still, when last observed, working on the thing.

From Algeria came the report that Rommel had been stopped dead in his tracks below Thala northwest of Kasserine Pass by British and American tanks. Forty panzer tanks, twice the force with which the attack was begun, had also been countered by American tanks and aircraft in an Axis strike toward Tebessa on the road past Djebel Hamma, causing the German column to retreat from whence the sally began.

While the fighting was reported as still ongoing, optimism ran high that Rommel would have to retreat. This time, unlike the previous week's vain hopes that Rommel would not attempt an offensive into Algeria, the prediction proved accurate.

The sinking of two privately owned passenger-cargo ships, four days apart, both by German U-boats earlier in the month, was announced by the Navy, taking the largest combined toll of American lives of any sinkings thus far in the North Atlantic theater of war, a total of over 850 people out of 1,400 aboard the two ships. The freezing weather had contributed to the large number of deaths, as many who had escaped to lifeboats were found frozen the following morning; the quick sinkings of the ships, each within thirty minutes, had also been a factor accounting for the heavy loss of life.

As the report broke the previous evening, the President in his speech commemorating Washington's Birthday cautioned Americans against undue optimism of imminent victory in the European war, that a long war still lay ahead despite the good news from the Russian front. He analogized the situation to that extant at the time of victory by General Washington over General Burgoyne at Saratoga in New York in 1777, after which the Patriots rang prematurely the bells of victory over the British.

He congratulated Josef Stalin, the Red Army, and the Russian people on their victories and "supreme sacrifice".

Meanwhile, the Red Army continued its accelerated push to beat the spring thaw, now obtaining territory within 25 miles of the Sea of Azov.

On the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Red Army in Russia, Premier Stalin spoke to his people, saying that Russia was bearing the brunt of the European war for want of a second front in Europe, but nevertheless was waging the fight victoriously, having dispatched four million Germans since Hitlerís Operation Barbarossa began June 22, 1941.

That statement, of course, concerning the absence of a second front in Europe, while, strictly speaking, accurate, was deceptive in its omitting the import of the second front in Africa, drawing off about a third of the troops and most of the Luftwaffe previously installed on the front for the protection of southern Europe against the threatened invasion after the Allied Operation Torch landings of November 8.

The statement may be viewed historically in either or both of two ways: as a mere propaganda tool against the Allies of the West, England, the Fighting French, and the United States, one meant to stimulate and perpetuate the fervor of the Revolution, placed in the freezer of time to await post-war dissemination; or, as stimulus to fight the harder, by imposition of the idea that the fight was being waged alone, without chance of relief or salvation from the Allies of the West. Perhaps, it was a combination of both motives, in a state which had its organs of the press controlled by the Soviet Government.

It is the supreme difference between a democracy, even in wartime, and a totalitarian state, the continued freedom of speech, thought and press, even if limited during this world war obviously by the need to maintain military secrets actually known and imparted by the military or executive branch to individuals, not merely those intuited by those with a higher sense of the whole picture. The press in the United States, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, had felt the overseer's breath of censorship too hard upon their necks and reacted in editorials accordingly, such that, eventually, by this point, a year later, censorship had obviously loosened measurably. As well, reports from the front, previously delayed, especially those from the Pacific, were now being supplied the press more contemporaneously with the occurrence of the events on which communiques and reports were based.

Certainly, regardless of censorship, self-imposed or imposed from without, there was no need for the woman in Denver to have cut out her own tongue in reaction to her self-confessed blaspheming of the Lord. A good tongue lashing at herself in the mirror would have been quite sufficient and far less cumbersome to the gendarmes and medical personnel who had to take care of the self-sacrificing one. Next time, lady, lay off the wine. Or, just get a gun and save the mess.

Or wait for good Doctor Browning to perform the exorcism.

Representative Harold Cooley of North Carolina's Fourth Congressional District took to the floor of the House to protest the presence on the roof of the Capitol Building of wooden .50-caliber anti-aircraft guns and dummy soldiers manning them. He believed that these guns were, as with his employing wooden ducks during his duck hunting exploits, liable to attract ducks; then, where would they be? With only wooden guns to shoot back?

A Congressman shot back that the problem in his estimate was not so much wooden guns as wooden Congressmen, an apparent reference to Congressman Cooley's putative mentor, Charlie. For, wouldn't it be the case that Charlie would now be quite aware of the wooden guns and dummies on top of the Capitol and thus more likely to feel far the bolder in attacking Congress?

Congressman Cooley had a ways to go in expressing the zen of his duck hunting woodsmanship. For, how did the ducks become the enemy planes? Did he think, when in the blind, that the ducks were going to shoot him should he not first shoot them?

All of this debate took place during consideration of a billion dollar bill for Naval coastal defense.

Congressman Cooley served admirably on the Agricultural Committee for many decades, through 1974. Maybe that was where his expertise better lay.

A thief of eleven million gas rationing coupons, while being questioned by police on the matter, suddenly had a stroke of conscience in New York. Over the radio came a report that American troops had been slaughtered for want of gas in North Africa. Louis Mongo, the gas rationing coupon thief, suddenly jumped up and confessed, red-faced, to his wayward course.

Odd thing was, the report, while at the time faked by the police broadcasting short-wave from the adjoining room, would subsequently turn true.

Best not fake reports in the process of a sting.

That rumor in 1969, for instance, regarding the singer-songwriterís supposed death is a good example, as it, no doubt, infused to the subconscious and conscious mind of a very troubled young man the idea on which later he acted in murdering in cold, cruel blood the "dead" singer-songwriter's putative "rival", former partner, transmuted in the young man's mind, subconsciously or otherwise, to Rocky in the Dakotas.

Think before you act. That includes cute games by the police which then draw publicity. Publicity stunts often lead to death for someone, as then no one trusts anyone anymore. Stings are for the movies. Leave them there. The ends of law enforcement never justify the means of making the country a paranoiac mess. That is what started things off in Germany in the thirties, just little practical jokes, with a little wit attached. That is what started Watergate--at O'Hare Airport, Halloween, 1960.

And for those who had trouble reading, there is a chart of the cans which one could obtain for the 48 points per household per month. Nevertheless, San Francisco grocers met in protest as the system appeared too complicated to implement, addressed a letter to OPA chairman Prentiss Brown asking for a watered-down, simpler version. Whether they addressed the letter in pictures or words was not indicated.

On the editorial page, Dorothy Thompson finds the defeat at Kasserine Pass of the American and British contingents to be at least partially the result of inferior American tanks to the German Mark VI's, the Tiger I tanks designed and powered by Ferdinand Porsche. The Mark IV's, a medium-sized tank, had been the only ones thus far reported by the Associated Press as present on the front, but Ms. Thompson may have obtained her information from military sources, as she had a penchant for doing. Regardless, she asks rhetorically why it was that American tanks were not up to par with German tanks, when Russian tanks had taken their toll of the Germans on the eastern front. She believes that the contest between Donald Nelson's War Production Board and the Army and Navy, themselves in competition for planning wartime production, had led to the debacle at Kasserine.

Was she correct? Was it instead the inevitable inefficiency in assembly-line production resultant of quick re-tooling taking place in Detroit the previous year, begun February 1, 1942, to produce tanks, planes and troop carriers in record numbers off former civilian automobile and truck assembly lines, the while training autoworkers to build those tanks and planes and troop carriers, set against the near decade of experience in war machine production by the herrenvolk of Germany?

Perhaps the answer comes clear to anyone who has ever driven both a Ford and a Porsche. As long as you can keep the Porsche on the road and running, it will beat the Ford any day.

But, should you, for instance, get stuck in dire straits in a Porsche, using it as a four-wheel drive substitute one day out there on the western plains, for instance in Wyoming, you will need employ someone else's Ford trucks, two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, banging each othersí rear ends out of mud holes, to get you out. Failing that, for the ball coming off the hitch when at 4:00 a.m. it is discovered that the nut fell out somewhere along the way, the manager of the motel recommended by your young hosts will give you a free ride next day in his International Harvester Scout, finally to extricate you from the muddy wash. And then you will need their generosity in loaning you their tools and rides to acquire parts, those that they do not by serendipity already have in their stock, to get you back on the road after a week in their fair community to reach your originally sought destination, the Little Bighorn--as planned, no doubt, by the Fates on the 101st anniversary of the second day of the battle.

Then all involved will understand from you how the war was won.

Quick history lesson from that college dude from the East.

When the rain washes you clean, you'll know.

Anyway, thanks again for the hospitality out there that week 33 years ago. And even when we die, we shall never forget it.

Ms. Thompson finishes by saying: "Money counts for nothing in this war. What counts is the amount of sweat, blood, and tears expended. How many more defeats must be suffered before we realize the kind of age we live in."

But, it would not take so much a new machine to win it. It would only take General Patton banging the infantry's rearguards out of the mud holes and into the fight.

"A Lesson" picks up the issue of the defeat at Kasserine and wonders aloud whether the problem might have been too much reliance on American command decisions and not enough on the input of the more experienced British commanders, a simple matter, in other words, of good old American pride interfering with sensible rationale for conducting the war in Tunisia. Mr. Davis suggests that American commanders would not wish to be saddled with the label of being the weak link in the chain of command, thus should become reasonably cooperative with the advice of their British cousins, possessed of three years of fighting behind them in North Africa.

He informs that expected casualties of the war now were estimated to be 100,000 Americans per month, even implying that the casualties at Kasserine may have reached that number.

Fortunately, that figure never became fact during the war.

The casualties at Kasserine Pass vary quite a bit by differing accounts. The First Armored Division reported 1,401 casualties while the Germans reported 989 of their own, including 201 killed, plus the loss of 20 tanks and 61 armored vehicles, while taking 4,026 Allied prisoners. The Germans claimed to have captured only three tanks and 61 armored vehicles at Kasserine, but the totals for the drive from Faid Pass since Valentine's Day claimed 235 tanks.

Regardless of numbers, the operation to this date was considered a resounding defeat of the Allied forces in the Americans' first test before Rommel. Portents were therefore not good, but Mr. Davis suggests that there should be no gnashing of teeth as after Pearl Harbor, thereby losing valuable time in waging the fight for trying to figure out from commanders summoned before Congressional committees that which was amiss.

Mr. Davis grimly cautions, not unlike Ms. Thompson, that the ground lost could only be re-gained through the spilling of American blood.

Raymond Clapper looks back a year to his impressed notes gleaned during his visit with Madame Chiang Kai-shek in China, finding her then witty, vivacious, gracious, and charming. He believes his impressions were not overly drawn based on the reception she was receiving in Washington thus far during her visit. He quotes her from the previous April as having said that she was "hitting from the shoulder" as she talked at length about the movement in India for independence and the question then poised of whether the West would give up extra-territoriality, a question resolved in October, with the confirming treaty signed by the British and Americans in January.

Mr. Clapper says that Helen Hayes might one day be employed to play the part of Madame Chiang in Washington, but could never do so well as the actual article in person. He opines that even Clare Boothe Luce was not so impressive to the Washington establishment as the diminutive First Lady of China.

Whether, incidentally, someone, circa 1970, decided that Ms. Hayes should perform therefore in that movie about the airport, the title of which slips our memory, somehow thus fusing the exploits of Ms. Luce regarding the freedom of the friendly skies with the casting in 1943 by Mr. Clapper of Ms. Hayes as Madame Chiang, we donít know. But there it is, Byrd and all.

He continues, describing the joint press conference reported Saturday between FDR and Madame Chiang, during which she sought to supervene the parley with the President by means of her catchy insertion anent the Lord helping those who help themselves--at which point, reports Mr. Clapper, the President terminated the exchange and asked for questions from reporters.

She amply lived up to the subsequent moniker applied by Harry Truman after the war to her husband, "Cash My Check", by urging increased munitions be sent to enable the fight to proceed, a fight which had been proceeding with air support, the "Flying Tigers", largely comprised of American flyers, under American General Claire Chennault's command, since the outbreak of the war with Japan in mid-1937. She was obviously a shrewd saleslady.

Query whether Madame Nhu and her daughter, Le Thuy, were about the same task, as obviously they appeared to be, to garner positive press attention to their casus belli, qua Madame Chiang in 1943, for the purpose of cajoling with some vague form of ad hoc diplomacy the stubborn Americans unwilling to commit combat forces to defend South Vietnam's corrupt and despicable regime against the Communists of Ho--when tragedy befell their ears, tragedy which they then decided, with quite a bit more than a little influence from their new American friends on the Hawkish right, to mirror retributively to the United States.

Thus, the American combat involvement in Vietnam?

Did somebody read the "Visitin' Round" in early 1963, or have it stuck in their subconscious from having read it in 1943, and thought that'd be cute to emulate? Do you see?

Ditto for the "Side Glances".

Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi, notorious racist, was nevertheless genteel when it came to the wish that the spontaneous and elaborate demonstration in expression of approbation by the House of Madame Chiang's speech, not be excluded from the record.

Tangled does the web become, says Confucius.

Samuel Grafton continues his worthwhile campaign against obscurantists in the country and in the Congress by exposing the practice being employed by some Democrats in the House of taking a walk during key votes, allowing certain anti-Administration measures to pass by unanimous Republican majorities. He cites one example in which the banks were said by the obscurantists to be exposed to ruin should the Department of Agriculture's plan to loan farmers at below bank interest rates, with easy terms of repayment, 225 million dollars to provide incentive for increased production at a time when the war effort desperately needed it and the labor shortage was inhibiting crop output by the exodus of farm labor to the more profitable city war industries. Save the banks, said the obscurantists, by not allowing the Government intrusion on their foreclosure-bound loan practices as practiced during the Depression.

He suggests less walking, more facing the issues squarely, either voting of record yea or nay, so that the voters might properly assess their Congressmanís performance in a democracy.

Whether this notion became the backbone for Harry Truman's daily constitutionals, as a reminder to take exercise only when the Constitution called for it and not to avoid facing issues squarely at the buck, we donít know.

Herblock demonstrates succinctly how Nazism, and its pre-indicant condition, obscurantism, always works.

"Minorities" begins with sympathy for the protests of a small number of property owners with parcels adjoining the land newly dedicated for a public park for the exclusive use of African-Americans, the first such recreational facility in Charlotte, though the African-American population was 30 percent of a city of slightly more than 100,000. The editorial, however, balances the protests of this small band against progress of the city as a whole when such a substantial minority were without public recreation facilities in a time of segregation, finds the protests therefore subordinate to the overriding interests of the entire community.

"Last Fling" marks without advice the reckless behavior apparently being followed among many of the community's male youth whose assigned numbers were imminently bound for General Hershey's fish bowl in Washington, insisting upon their last remorseless, hedonistic brouhaha before being "Gone With the Draft".

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