Friday, March 12, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, March 12, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of another attempt of the Axis forces in the north of Tunisia under the command of Jurgen von Arnim to make thrusts against Tamera, again unsuccessfully, with the apparent goal of occupying the attention of the First Army to prevent it from aiding the Eighth Army in the south, as more Allied air strikes were reported there against the Mareth Line defenses of Rommel.

The previous night, RAF bombers, perhaps as many as 200, had attacked Stuttgart, home of Porsche. A few less Tiger tanks therefore might be delivered up to the fronts. U.S. bombers meanwhile conducted a daylight raid on Rouen, France.

The State Department confirmed its receipt of reports, without expression as to their reliability, being circulated through Europe that Herr Hitler had suffered a complete nervous breakdown, accounting for his absence from public view during the previous two months, including the celebrations of the twenty-third anniversary of the founding of the Nazi Party in February and the 10th anniversary of the coming to power of the Party in Germany in late January. Five weeks earlier, speculation ran that he was dead.

Herr Hitler, we venture, had suffered his nervous breakdown, if not death, decades before 1943. Any noticeable change in his condition might actually have provided the West some encouragement, that the demons were being exorcised. An ostensibly calm exterior is by no means necessarily signal of a sane mind underneath it.

All Nazi forces were reported to have withdrawn from Vyazma, the railway center 130 miles west of Moscow, after encircling movements by the Red Army had engulfed them and cut them off from supply during the previous few days. The Nazis, however, let loose a barrage of bombs in their wake, destroying much of the city, their modus operandi. Nazi reports contended that the city was abandoned for want of further strategic significance; the fact was that the German armies were collapsing before the Russian onslaught in every contested city and village since November 18.

To show their tender spirits, the Nazis had left standing the historic relics of the city at its center, including a cathedral, used by Napoleon as headquarters during his 1812 invasion, and two hospitals. Apparently, Adolf, in his state of non compos mentis, had nevertheless recalled his leaning on the balustrade above Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides, July 1, 1940, and was deeply moved by his exemplar's sparing of the cathedral, chose thus to emulate his involuntary mentor.

German communiques claimed that the Nazis had pierced Soviet positions defending the recently recaptured Kharkov, the Ukraine's steel capital. The Nazi offensive, severely outnumbering the defending forces, was being compared in the reports to that launched against Stalingrad the previous summer. Indeed, the city would fall again to the Nazis March 16, just four weeks after its recapture by the Soviets.

A report from London, titled "Roof Over Britain" supplied details of the ostensible defection of Rudolf Hess on May 10, 1941, when he took a small plane in Bavaria and flew to Glasgow, landing on a farm. The report indicated that when he was threatened with return, he protested, tending to undermine speculation that his defection had been a ruse merely to try to effect a negotiated peace between Germany and Britain before the fatal strike on Russia began June 22. Or, did it?

Bounding Burt Wheeler, former isolationist from Montana, introduced an amendment to the bill to defer necessary farm workers from the draft, seeking also to defer fathers of children under 18 years of age as condition for the bill's passage.

Harry B. Rowe (whose middle name may have been Beau) announced on behalf of OPA that rationing of beef, pork, lamb, and mutton, along with butter, cheese, fats and cooking oil, would begin March 29, to add to all else being rationed, even if by April 1, pleasure driving could again be undertaken in the east.

Or was it something else scheduled for April 1? Cans? Spare tires?

Coffee was mentioned yesterday, so it wasn't that.

Sugar is long gone, with the Philippines. Rubber, with Malaya and the Indies.

In any event, with mutton rationed, we suppose Rameses down in Chapel Hill could rest easy for the time, despite confrontation from slavering-lipped, voracious students, slightly out of their cups.

Restaurants, rationed on supplies, could nevertheless feed the gluttonous to their heart's content, as there was no rationing on the diner's bill of fare. Also exempt were milk, bakery goods, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, not frozen, and other specialties, such as relish.

Whether swords were rationed by OPA is not indicated.

We can pretty well see the average domestic refrigerator door with its various rationing clippings from local newspapers throughout the land, studied assiduously by the domestic engineers of the household, to figure out this complex morass of data to be ingested and borne in mind at the market each trip, undertaken by bus.

From a tax collector in Cleveland, assigned to war plants to aid workers in filling out their tax returns, came word that "thousands of workers" had demonstrated a rebellious attitude and vowed not to file at all. No reason for the refusal was provided. Was there an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and mischief afoot in the country among Labor? Or, was it just one miffed tax collector out to cause a stir? Stay tuned.

Unfortunately, Herblock joined the Army and thus his cartoons, we are informed, have gone with the wind, effective this date, for the war's duration, replaced by Dorman Smith. We shall miss Mr. Block's eloquence, as well his occasional tendency toward prophecy. But, of course, he would be back, and for a long time to come after the war, sometimes greatly to the consternation of politicians in Washington and elsewhere. He passed away in October, 2001, just short of his 92d birthday.

On the editorial page, Raymond Clapper finds the pulse of Washington to be solidly opposed to the remarks of Ambassador Standley, anent the supposed misleading of the Russian people on the amount of Lend-Lease aid being supplied the Soviet Union. Mr. Clapper, however, adds that a New York Times piece had supplemented the debate by pointing out that the Ambassador had actually intended no imputation of dishonesty to the Soviet leadership, but rather was asseverating to urge the Soviets to openly assert appreciation to the United States for the aid, to foster improved relations between the two mutually suspicious and, in some part, naturally antipathetic, powers.

But, Mr. Clapper indicates that the Times had concluded the entire matter to be indeed, as reported Wednesday from the mouth of Republican Senator Wiley of Wisconsin, a tempest in a teapot, even if the Times based its conclusion on a different assumption from that of the Senator. The Times reported, as confirmed by an Associated Press reporter on the scene in Russia, that Pravda had reported to the people the precise amount of aid being received by Russia from the United States.

So, assuming the truth of the latter, it would appear Ambassador Standley was simply off the reservation and due the criticism heaped on him for stirring up trouble, regardless of motive, where there was none.

Dorothy Thompson writes of the production crisis on farm output, so bad that Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard had compared the food shortage in the United States to that of Great Britain which depended on imports for 40% of its agricultural goods, having to feed 46 million people, a bit over one-third the population of the United States, from an area the size of New England. She blames poor planning and too little planning for the problem, citing the failure adequately to remedy the farm labor migration to the higher paying war industry jobs, the failure to curb waste, for example, in restaurants where all the butter and bread a diner wished was still being placed without reserve on tables, at no extra cost, whether requested or not, where also great helpings of meat and potatoes fattened patrons who had to eat otherwise scant helpings from ration coupon books, thus fulfilling the need for accomplishing, at all costs, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Georges Robert, High Commissioner to the French Antilles, and the fate of Martinique since it was announced Monday that all food shipments to the island had been suspended, are the subjects of "An Ending". The editorial says that M. Robert had been historically Fascist-leaning, and so asserts the time nigh to cap the matter and seize Martinique from the clutches of its Vichy captains, to stem the flow of Axis propaganda to South America and also remove one stumbling block to open shipping lanes to and fro the Latin states.

The piece, however, makes a troubling statement, quite inconsistent with the facts of the previous four months since the November 8 landings in North Africa: "It is comforting to learn that all the sly business of hoodwinking Laval and Petain was dropped when our troops landed in Africa; we no longer had need of the walking ghost of France."

But that statement flies directly in the face of the controversial appointment of Admiral Darlan as head of French forces in Algeria in exchange for his cooperation in ceasing relations with Vichy and declaring for the Allies, inducing the Vichy forces to do likewise, as well as being contradicted by the fact of the appointment of Vichyite Marcel Peyrouton to the political head of Algiers in the wake of Darlan's assassination Christmas Eve, by the jailing in late December of many democrats as the Vichy-allied remnants were allowed to remain free.

Samuel Grafton's piece, as with his continuing editorialization on the subject since he was first carried by The News in latter December, implicitly contradicts the statement, if finding pleasure in the concomitant report released Monday, that General Henri Giraud had repealed anti-Jewish laws extant under Vichy administration, if tempered by its being worthy of classification only as a canapé, that is to say a little piece of brie and a little piece of salami, rather than the whole entrée. They needed a complete do-over, dehors amity with Axis sympathizers, in North Africa, not just the piecemeal plan of ad hoc ministrations as problems arose, this one having been the result of the publication of the anti-Jewish laws by a Vichyite, Maurice Boumy, a director of the government general in Algiers.

Yet another crisis, unresolved, had also arisen with regard to French outrage voiced over an American broadcast offering support for Russia and playing at its conclusion "The Internationale", barking not heard when, under Axis control, radio stations had played without restraint, "Horst Wessel Lied".

Mr. Grafton indicates the general sentiment to be a need to convince the French of their common interest with the United Nations, inclusive of Russia, not just an expedient alliance with the United States and Great Britain because they happened of the moment to be outnumbered.

"Wage Rise", remarking sardonically on State Representative Frank Sims's $600 per diem for two days of work in the Assembly, consequent of his duties in the Navy, hauls to mind again this piece, indited when he was Judge Frank Sims, enduring much public controversy regarding his hearings then into alleged police department misconduct. Some fellows, it seems, in the minds of some toadiers at least, can't win for providing decent service to the people, regardless of capacity.

Ditto as to the alignment between another piece, one by Cash, on that same page referenced above,1 and the piece next door to the one on Assemblyman Sims, titled "The Patriot", all about a doggie, breed untold, who followed the British Eighth Army throughout its triumphant chase of Rommel back across North Africa, post October 23. Still persisting, despite the odds against her, Lady, (perhaps with the sub nom., "Queenie"), was wished luck by The News. We shall be mindful as to whether she surfaces again. Perhaps, she shall somehow link up with the American soldier's Sarge in central Tunisia and, suo jure, start a family, that is, unless Hester should become jealous and they all wind up in a bloody massacre at El Guettar. Ah woe, ah me.

In any event, we cannot help but think that perhaps somewhere out there in the lonely desert stretches this March night of 1943, there was some British soldier under the command of General Montgomery, perhaps sipping his bottle of wine while plucking his weeping guitar, maybe singing something along the line, "Lady and I look out tonight on desolation row…"

The quote of the day is from Pope's translation of Homer's The Iliad. The rest of the line: "Unnerves the limbs, and dulls the noble mind."

And, we remind again that on this night of March 12, 1943, Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" had its debut in Cincinnati under the baton of the Orchestra's maestro, Eugene Goossens. We shall keep an eye peeled to determine whether Dorothy Thompson makes mention of it at some point, after her thematic piece, appearing Wednesday, setting forth the attributes characteristic of the paradigmatic "Common Man" of the world and his role models, emulated as a result either of his own puppetry or honorably obtained admiration or a mix of each, the "Uncommon Men", some mere pitchmen drummers, some sparked by the imagination to inspire others.

By the way, some rich and famous family had a kid this date in history; they know who they were.

1 Should you doubt, the whole editorial page is now here.

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