Friday, March 1(, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, March 19, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of the continued offensive by General Patton, sending his men marching through knee-high mud and rain, to take El Guettar, twelve miles southeast of Gafsa, taken Wednesday. El Guettar, as had been Gafsa, was captured with little opposition, the enemy forces having already fled the town in advance of Patton’s arrival. (You would, too.)

Patrols were fanned out toward the Gulf of Gabes, toward Maknassy and Mahares, to squeeze the corridor between the forces of Rommel and von Arnim. (No patrols yet were reported, however, headed for Milner; nor were any Corvettes yet evident on the scene, even if it was now Friday night.)

The map shows the area of renewed Allied effort, El Guettar having restored the territory held by the Allies in the northern sector of Tunisia two months earlier.

To the south, below the Mareth Line, the Eighth Army under the command of General Montgomery was slowly pressing the issue to bottle up the Axis forces and deposit them in the drink.

German broadcasts predicted a flanking maneuver by the Eighth Army around the Mareth Line.

In the deepest penetration yet inside German territory by American fliers, a squadron of Flying Fortresses and Liberators attacked Vegesack, a submarine base near Bremen, laying their bombs with success as a boon to mankind and then fending off a hundred enemy aircraft, "Focke-Fulfs" and Messerschmitts, effecting their escape. (Eh, what's up, Doc?) The Flying Fortress "Suzie Q", mentioned in a column during the previous couple of months or so as one of many aeroplanes with applications of appellations colorful, reported a possible bag of five enemy aircraft.

In a wide-body sweep, the broadest yet of the war in the Pacific, stretching over hundreds of miles, General MacArthur sent bombers on missions over the island of Timor, to the west off Australia, and to the Japanese strong points remaining in New Guinea, Madang and Salamaua, as well as to Gasmata on New Britain, to the northeast of New Guinea.

Lt.-General Hap Arnold, head of the Army air forces, was promoted for the duration to brevit full general.

French Guiana, home of Devil's Island, announced its swing to the side of General Giraud from Vichy, indicative of a move likewise perhaps by Martinique, Guadeloupe, and the other islands within the French West Indies. (We're still here, you…)

In shark-infested waters off the coast of Brazil on March 2, 241 passengers on a torpedoed and quickly sinking passenger ship, the Alfonso Penna, flying the flag of Brazil, were hailed by the crew of the Italian submarine which had fired the fatal shell and offered sanctuary aboard. Scores of female passengers, however, chose instead to dive into the perilous sea and the certain fate awaiting them rather than accede to the captivity also promised by the offer of help. Eventually, an American oil tanker picked up the remaining survivors.

In Alabama, there was, reported in picture and brief story, probably telling many a tale into the future, a parachutist up a tree.

On the editorial page, "Up, Patton" praises the appointment of the column's "favorite general" to the command of the American infantry forces in Tunisia. In a piece titled "Fireball", appearing November 20, the column had presaged the appointment.

It speculates on whether General Fredendall would be continued as a subordinate in the theater, or whether he was being disciplined for his loss at Kasserine Pass, despite an heroic recovery, which the column had praised in "Victory Coup", March 2. It expresses hope, albeit in vain by this point, that General Fredendall would be maintained in the theater while also predicting, quite accurately, that General Patton would become "America's No. 1 hero" from the command position.

Now, of course, and since 1970, it is very difficult for anyone not living through World War II to imagine and separate out any Patton besides the one portrayed by George C. Scott so vividly and ineradicably in the film, President Nixon’s favorite war film.

It is likewise, probably, hard for a yet younger audience, not born or of very much age in 1970, to imagine an actor or actress refusing to accept the Academy Award. But, that is precisely what Mr. Scott did, to many catcalls and to some praise for his bold statement, in protest of what he regarded as the reward by the Academy more typically than not of mediocrity, a sentiment which we find agreeable.

General Patton, himself, understood that warfare is, in great measure, theater, and acted his part with aplomb. But there is a grave difference, obviously, between actual warfare fought with and against live bullets and the special effects of war films, even if once in a long while, the two conjoin to make real combat of the twilight zone.

Jan Maysaryk, Czech minister of Foreign Affairs, proved, in his abstracted quote, to be a half century ahead of reality in predicting the need ultimately for a European union to coordinate trade and political policy and avert future warfare. His analogue by which to enable his precognition was, we assume, sub silentio, the United States, even if many Americans might hurl catcalls and hisses at the notion of it actually achieving any realization of much unity. Nevertheless, for the most part the concept has served to avoid civil war, and, thus far, to avoid the precipitation of any world war, even if some might beg to differ on the advent of World War I as having its genesis from wealthy industrialists. But, if so, that was not the consequence of any national policy of a Western country, rather from the impact of inadequately restrained capitalism chafing against a world growing up too fast in an age of new gadgetry on the land, on the sea, and in the air, apace of itself down the road, in need of catching up with its own shadow cast imperiously, perilously, and pixillatedly to the future.

Dorothy Thompson offers an analysis of J. P. Morgan posthumously, finding him to have been a Liberal in terms of his support for international trade, opposition to isolationism, and support of New Deal monetary policies during the 1930's. She thus inveighs against the more conventional notion that he was a cold capitalist, merely out to make a buck at any cost to the world and society at large.

We are not so sure about her charity.

It is to say that while the Devil is a bad thing, he has his saving points in occasionally cooperating for his own survival in transacting ostensibly good results, the criminal, for instance, who, for mutual survival, saves his fellow man in a hurricane because both happen to occupy the same piece of driftwood and both are needed to counterbalance it to keep from slipping into the deluge, to exalt the worth of the pari-mutuel window tender who, at the last moment before the bell starting the day's last race, places on the 20 to 1 long shot the bet consisting of the worker's last vestiges of wages, previously held on reserve for his young child's higher education, to the initially happy thanks of the bettor feeling lucky, who then, having lost the bet, proceeds to the woods and hangs himself.

In other words, we don't recall hearing of J. P. Morgan, after the Crash in 1929, making strong appeals to humanitarian notions, of preserving the country by sharing the wealth, by dividing up his own concentration of reserved well-being, earned by betting against others, and sacrificing as an example to provide mutually for the general welfare. Had he so wisely done, setting an example worldwide for others of his financial wherewithal, World War II might well have been averted.

In any event, the little squib below the editorial column causes us to refer you to this and this. Not to mention this, the hail-hearty spirit of which, we offer, suggests in its continuity why we won the war.

Our papa, when we were very young, used to sing us a little ditty, sometimes around Shelby, even if of an entirely different tune and with lyric accompaniment, which simply went, "Sally in the garden, Sally in the garden, siftin', siftin' sand."

He also used to tie up his tomato vines to stakes in the front yard, albeit behind the shrubbery, utilizing old, worn out silk hosiery. Occasionally, when spotting it, people would ask us what that was all about. We would just respond that he grew of age during the two world wars and the Depression and made do therefore with whatever he had on hand so that nothing would be wasted. Now, however, in light of recent revelations here, we suspect that, in actuality, he may have been making some sort of political statement, embracing the entire last century, ninety percent of which he managed to see, often to his dismay but never to his resignation, firsthand.

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