Tuesday, March 2, 1943

The Charlotte News

Tuesday, March 2, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page neglects any mention of the end of Gandhi's 21-day fast, but it ended with Gandhi still very much alive and well. There would, no doubt, have been a bold headline had it been otherwise.

The largest air raid yet of the war on Berlin foreshadowed what appeared, according to Captain Harold Balfour, Undersecretary of State for Air in Great Britain, as the beginning of the end, sounding a brace of bells to herald the occurrence soon of an Allied invasion of Europe.

Instead, the public advice was no doubt an intended feint, to induce Hitler to draw off troops from North Africa or, at least to diminish their reinforcement in favor of the Channel defenders.

The nighttime raid on Berlin dropped 900 tons of bombs. Based on the 19 planes not returning against an average rate of loss of five percent, it was comprised of about 400 planes.

In Tunisia, the Allies re-captured Sbeitla as forces in the north repelled successfully two more Nazi attempts to capture Beja.

General MacArthur reported a fourteen-ship Japanese convoy departing Rabaul on New Britain, apparently headed for Lae or Salamaua on New Guinea, though its precise destination remained unclear.

For the first time in several weeks, Russian General Semeon Timoshenko, hero of the 1941-42 winter counter-offensive, was mentioned in the communiques, having led an eight-day successful new offensive in the northwest sector of Russia, taking back 900 square miles of territory against the experienced troops of the German 16th army. The fighting took place west of the Valdai Hills, located midway between Leningrad and Moscow in a sparsely populated region dotted by small villages, 300 of which Timoshenko had retaken in the move. It was the first major fighting in that region in a year.

At a "Stop-Hitler" rally held in Madison Square Garden, Lord Halifax, British Ambassador to the United States, described a program being initiated by Britain to enable Jews in Bulgaria to obtain safe haven in Palestine, primarily in aid of children, but to be expanded to include adults as well. The program was designed to save 29,000 children within the ensuing year. Wendell Willkie and William O. Douglas spoke at the rally, the former urging expansion of the program to include Jewish refugees from Hungary and Rumania.

While obviously laudable, it was a program which should have been undertaken seven years earlier. For most Jews in Europe, children and adults, it was now too late.

And, perhaps standing as an apt metaphor for this hapless world at war in 1943, a weaving wanderer of the night, an Army private out on the town in Charlotte by day, is chronicled in a piece without a by-line. The observer finds the idle waif stopping to feed a drafted draught horse on ice some peanuts and offering a taste of the soldier's nut-brown draught, as the soldier, chest packed with decorations, clung for balance to a pole.

The Old Grey Mare wasn't what it used to be.

The iceman did cometh, however, and piloted the animal on down the street as the soldier paid his parting devoirs to the animal, staggering on into the night of war, as the animal showed no signs of failing to hoe the line despite its having supped on the nectar of Hector from the soldier's cupped hand adequately to gain a taste.

The horse, however, having had a chance to let the stuff meander around its palate a bit, was heard of course to murmur as it faded out of sight, "Next time, add a little more rye to the barley, pal, or season the oak a little more and let it age longer. That was the worst home brew I ever tasted."

On the editorial page, a piece from The American Mercury by William Bradford Huie discusses the forecasted coming to power in 1944 of the Republican Party and urges it therefore to articulate clearly its purposes and intent in forming a peace and a post-war world. It focuses on the new Republican star on the horizon, young Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who, subsequently, ran many times for public office.

The piece was simply off the mark by a ways, but is interesting for those who enjoy living within the frame of the hypothetical: what if and what might have been.

Samuel Grafton provides another paradox, this time stressing the former isolationists' view, as espoused by Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana, openly expressing concern for the prospect of Russia going beyond its borders into Central Europe and its portent for Soviet aggression, while simultaneously suggesting that Stalin's recently expressed intent not to go beyond its borders was renunciative of Russia's obligations to the United Nations, damned, in other words, should they do, damned should they not.

It was, suggests Mr. Grafton, characteristic of the mentality which had led to isolation, xenophobic fear of Communism as the worst and only real bogey in the world worthy of claptrap to breed backdraft to the conflagration, while viewing the threat of Fascism and Nazism with little more than either an indifferent wave of the hand or, alternatively, a warm embrace and fond receipt of a pat on the back from Herr Hitler, maybe even a decoration--for distinguished service to the Reich.

Raymond Clapper discloses that Clare Boothe Luce had clarified her thesis: It was not her position, as had been interpreted loosely by the press and foreign observers from her literal words, that America should control all post-war commercial airspace, but rather that reciprocal cooperation through the forming of mutual pacts with Great Britain should be the order of the new day.

The world breathed a sigh of relief.

"Idle Dreams" seeks to dampen the hopes pinned by many on the new age to come after the war, ascribing to it Millennial change accomplished overnight by virtue of documents of surrender from the Axis nations. Burke Davis punctures its balloon, sees that as a fool's game, that the post-war world would be not unlike that which preceded the war, only then saddled with a huge debt to be repaid by future generations in the form of high taxes, with the nearly insuperable task before it of rebuilding the destroyed nations of Europe, of Asia and the Pacific, the need to feed, clothe, and house those dispossessed and orphaned by war in nations whose economies and manufacturing base would no longer be found as but scattered, smoldering ruins on the wayside.

It would, he predicts, be a long, cold road ahead, not one painted yellow, with all dancing merrily along the way, hand in hand, to Oz.

And, of course, he was correct in one sense, incorrect in another. Many changes did come of the war, some good, some not so. Many of those technological improvements have served to hound world society as much as help it, the atomic bomb, the rocket, space-age plastics, super-highways, electronics, computers, for instance. But should we ascribe evil to the inventions or to the uses of them when placed in hands bent on unleashing destructive urges among mankind out of them?

Dreams, proper dreams, we suggest, reside only in the realm of ideas and ideals, principles, and their realization, not in material acquisition or technological progress, even if the latter obviously can be beneficial in affording better the realization of ideals, provided put to that use and viewed in that perspective.

The presence of the atomic bomb and its delivery device, the rocket or jet airplane, each offensive Nazi inventions at their seminal inspiration, may be viewed collectively as mutual deterrent to world war, incentives to peace and understanding among nations, transitorily abroad the world stage, until man may safely be found, generationally, to have renounced war between nations--should such an ideal be possible, given man's inherent composition governed at its frailest by instinct to protect territorially the home, the person, and the person of significant others, restrained only by the subtly evident assumptions of protection and defense afforded by each of society's basic institutions. Or, these technological acquisitions from the war may be seen as comprising the ultimate evil, to enable finally and fatalistically, at the right moment, man to commit collective suicide, at the hands of Herr Hitler and Herr Doktor Goebbels, manipulating the world's collective instincts from the grave.

Which are they? Are they something else entirely? Could they be safely packed away in boxes and forgotten by mankind? If so, would we better off or inevitably consigned to repeat the nightmares occasioned in the past by those too quick to believe they had the answer, too slow in their learning process to understand that no fallible human stuck in time with other fallible humans, all living within the mortal coil, may for long have any answer whatsoever, short of simply understanding and being, applying the understanding to seek to resolve problems of the time?

For to have answers is to be Hitler and Goebbels, who had all the answers for Germania and the world: destroy one's enemies and live together in self-righteous uniformity, militaristically inculcated, militaristically managed at the tip of a pistol, should anyone dare depart for a moment the regimented program of cohesive cooperation.

Yet, there are those today in the United States who believe precisely that they have all of the answers, especially for the recalcitrant who fails to see it their way.

To enable them to achieve the necessary understanding that they do not have the answer is indeed a dream to be fathomed and sought for realization.

Idle dreams? We think not. The Founders might then be said to have had no more than an idle dream. The dream, nevertheless, continues, despite the arrogant Royalists among us.

"Store Hogs", commenting on Herblock's caricature of the oinking crisis, takes a shot at pig housewives, encouraged by their curly-tailed husbands and children, who rushed into stores on a strange day to hoard merchandise subject to rationing, equating stupidly rationing with shortage, not realizing that rationing was designed to prevent shortage and enable adequate supply for everyone, without unnecessary inflation in the bargain, while also enabling the troops to be properly fed, clothed, and equipped with fighting machines.

"Victory Coup" celebrates what it accurately predicts would become but a footnote to the subsequent history written of World War II, the victory tide being turned by General Lloyd Fredendall on Rommel, 22 miles from Tebessa, which, if gained, would have enabled him to cut off the supply lines to the British First Army on the front in the north before Bizerte and Tunis. General Fredendall had, while scouting around the front lines, halted a column on the road and ordered it to defend the last ridge before Tebessa, proving to be then Rommel's last stumbling block, forcing his retreat back from whence he came via Kasserine Pass.

For it, General Fredendall would, however, within four days on March 6, be relieved by General Eisenhower of his duty on the front, in favor of General George S. Patton. The reason for General Fredendall's departure was the failure of the forces at his command to defend Kasserine Pass in the first instance, even if recovering in time to prevent a rout and unmitigated pilasters of disaster.

So much for eleventh hour heroics in the footnotes of history. General Patton would grab the headlines and, consequently, the imagination of the people.

Nevertheless, might one not analogize General Fredendall's observation with that of Major Gouverneur Kemble Warren standing on the rock with his binoculars surveilling the little area below him to his left in Devil's Den on the fateful morning of the second day of the Battle at Gettysburg? catching sight of the enemy preparing in stealth its assault on the heights of Little Round Top, seeking to achieve surprise in flanking the Union line, gaining the crucial high ground against insufficient forces to withstand, until Warren's reconnaissance summoned adequate defenders.

The United States News Service provided a piece on the mix of social detriment besetting society from the raft of workers being employed in war industries, mostly consequent of too much money in the hands of those too little experienced with it and too young to behave very responsibly. Between honky-tonk women, workers weaving their way home, and teenage girls running wild in the streets at night with money in their hands to spend for the first time, the larger cities with war industries in plenty were slowly becoming cesspools of crime, juvenile delinquency, and otherwise wanton activity. As a result, said one labor analyst, job efficiency was 70 percent of that before Pearl Harbor. High absenteeism, proneness to industrial accident, were in large part a function of these workers irreconcilable to work, habituated to play.

Yet, there were the cultural benefits to be observed among this set of nouveau petit bourgeois, with their discreet charms, if tinged with unwitting drawbacks inherent, often on unabashed display, among those with newly acquired wealth without the accumulated panache to grow along with it. As related, a factory worker, having stopped before the box office window to purchase tickets to a Broadway musical comedy, sought to know whether the balcony seats, condescendingly offered initially by the acutely perceptive ticket seller, were the best in the house. The purveyor of license to permit peerage into the smart set responded, "Orchestra seats are so-so."

We, ourselves, happened to have overheard the exchange and so can provide witness to the remainder of the conversation, not imparted by the piece. Someone in the queue, immediately to the worker's rear, swaying from side to side in his slightly ruffled white tuxedo, with a little spray of daisies peeking forth from the breast pocket, his black silk tophat tipped slightly to the left, quickly shot forth, "Well, then who occupies the boxes, the so-so so-'n'-so's or the Dead?"

Appearing a little impatient with his expressionless, non-plussed audience ahead of him, he turned back to the street, departing with the words, "Never mind this silly play. I have a fight to attend at Madison Square Deal."

Then, the ghost of Mr. Broun faded away once more into the night, laughing uproariously at the folly of human survivors.

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