Monday, March 29, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, March 29, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page imparts the major news of Erwin Rommel's retreat from the Mareth Line north, as General Montgomery's Eighth Army broke through at three key positions along a 25-mile front, at Mareth, Matmata, and Toujane, destroying the remaining Axis strong points along the line of fixed fortifications to the sea.

Furthermore, destruction by the Axis of their own airfields protecting Gabes indicated an intent to abandon the port, being heavily bombarded by Allied air and naval forces, and to flee north to join General Jurgen von Arnim's forces protecting Bizerte and Tunis, the last Axis strongholds in North Africa.

Attempting, however, to cut off this retreat were the forces of General "Two-Gun" Patton, as DeWitt MacKenzie refers to him, who had just taken Fondouk during the weekend, on the road to Sousse, as well as the other flanking force of General Montgomery which had moved into El Hamma, twenty miles west of Gabes, north of the Mareth Line.

Heavy fighting by General Patton's forces was reported in the last heights between El Guettar and the sea. "This is more and more getting to be an old-fashioned world war," declared one officer, who complained of increasing encounters with enemy barbed wire, machine gun and mortar fire.

Not only enemy fire but also the elements interfered with progress as heavy dust storms struck the area of fighting on Sunday, choking and blinding the men.

The RAF, meanwhile, conducted on Saturday night the largest raid yet of the war on Berlin, dropping 900 tons of bombs. Another raid on the Nazi U-boat nest at St. Nazaire along the French coast was also successful the previous night, while American heavy bombers struck the railroad yards at Rouen during the day on Sunday.

In retaliation for the Berlin raid, the Luftwaffe conducted a small raid on southern England, directly bombing a school’s clinic along the coast, consistent with the policy of targeting primarily civilian installations in small raids during the previous two years since the end of the Blitz.

Jonathan Daniels, son of Josephus and formerly the editor of The Raleigh News & Observer during the elder's time between 1933 and October, 1941 as Ambassador to Mexico, had been appointed by FDR to become his administrative assistant, serving in a "fact-finding" role on undisclosed matters.

Mr. Daniels served in the post through the end of the war, being appointed FDR's press secretary to replace Stephen Early at the beginning of the fourth term in January, 1945, and continuing in that capacity under President Truman. In 1947, Truman appointed him to become a member of the United Nations subcommittee on prevention of discrimination worldwide against minorities.

Meeting W. J. Cash at a Charlotte book fair in spring 1938, Daniels befriended the Charlotte newspaperman who had remarked to someone at the book fair that his long-awaited book on the South was "nowhere near finished". Remaining Cash's friend until his death in July, 1941, he had in fall 1940, along with Alfred and Blanche Knopf, co-sponsored Cash for the Guggenheim Fellowship which took him to Mexico. Daniels also had been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1930, on the strength of both his newspaper work and his first novel, Clash of Angels. His grant came in the same year Thomas Wolfe received the prestigious award for Look Homeward, Angel, distinguishing the two as the first North Carolinians to receive Guggenheims.

A sample of the writing of Jonathan Daniels, "Democracy is Bread", appearing in The Virginia Quarterly in 1938, suggested the roots of what became the reactionary resistance to the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950's and 1960's, indeed had been, for time immemorial, that which spawned the necessity for something called a civil rights movement, that which was at base an ordinary Southerner, ill-fed and lacking in education, ready at the first sign of outside agitation to his intransigent ways, based or rationalized usually on some ill-conceived conceptualization of Biblical teaching, including rendering verboten any attempt to organize labor into unions, spoiling thereby the wages for everyone, to act with the same terrible force the hungry boy used on occasion, by way of deterrent, to keep down them d'nged uppity niggers and nigger-lovers, the rope of the hungry man's master, the lyncher.

Mr. Daniels had counseled economic focus on the region to try to ameliorate its manifold ills of the mind and body and spirit.

On the editorial page, "Victory Closer" echoes the prevailing belief that the North African campaign was drawing fast to a close, with Rommel now trapped in between General Patton, General Montgomery, and the deep blue sea.

It again warns, however, in "True Sacrifice", that the thick of battle was now beginning for Americans, to precipitate casualties in steadily increasing numbers.

In that latter editorial and in "Black Market", caviling against the housewives of the country who, during the weekend, had displayed their piggy sides, 50,000 strong in Cleveland, by raiding the meat lockers abroad the land, the column warned that the country was going to have to learn to make real sacrifices, that what it had been called upon thus far to do was a skimption by comparison to that which lay ahead. "Black Market" found it inconsonant with such a realization for the hoarding ladies to have attempted the jump on meat rationing which had gone into effect this date--limiting each person to 16 points worth of meat, two pounds of steak or three and a fifth pounds of hamburger, for instance, per the chart, per week.

Add 'em up, move 'em out.

That, while Patton's men fought bravely to inch forward against machine-gun nests and mortar fire in Tunisia, glad by the end of it to taste anything at all, even sand.

On all counts, these editorials waxed grim omniscience.

"Powder Puff" joins the theme of toughness by counseling penal treatment for those engaged in flouting the unscheduled blackout during the previous week, leaving lights brightly shining in its wake. It warns that such careless behavior, during the actual event, could cost hundreds or thousands of people their lives and so finds it anomalous that such violators had been arrested during the scheduled blackouts while, thus far, none had been taken into custody for the unscheduled version. It points out reasonably that it was that unscheduled mode which bode ill for the community in the event of an actual attack with failure of compliance.

Raymond Clapper makes mention of the thirteen billion dollar bond drive, to which "True Sacrifice" directs its primary attention, the effort being not only to raise money for the war but also to curb excess spending to head off inflation. He focuses on the gradual replacement of men with women in key war industries as men went off to war, women now helping to fill the shortage in personnel being experienced especially in the shipbuilding yards, though hiring apace each day. He cautions the industrialists against engaging in profiteering activity or such practices, laid bare by the Truman Committee, of Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation in Pennsylvania, the falsifying of tests to allow shipment of defectively manufactured steel plates to fill Navy contracts.

Samuel Grafton finds the Ruml Plan--the pay-as-you-go tax plan, trumpeted most loudly by the Republicans in Congress, based on forgiving the current year's taxes in order to begin the scheduled regular payments during the year--to be a partisan tempest in a teapot, so much ado about bookkeeping, even if the Administration opponents had contended that strict adherence to this plan would leave a shortfall in government revenue while others contended that it would benefit most the wealthy by forgiving their greater share of the ordinary annual tax liability.

Certain compromise formulations, such as deferring the payment of taxes for 1942 until later years while providing a 5% reduction for early payment, had now run into roadblocks in Congress, as reported on the front page, the Republicans being joined by many Democrats to seek to push through this plan, claimed to be favored by 80% of the country.

Dorothy Thompson again examines the speech by Prime Minister Churchill of a week earlier on Sunday, stressing his conceptualization of a post-war Council of Europe to counter-balance a similarly constituted Council of Asia, designed as a method by which Europe might be effectively governed as a unified entity, without the post-World War I defects of Balkanized sovereignties left to be gobbled up at whimsy by the greater powers. To offset such a repeated untoward outcome, Mr. Churchill had suggested alliances between the smaller nations in Europe to provide them a voting bloc equal to the larger countries within the proposed Council. He believed that this united Europe had to be inclusive of both Great Britain and Russia to effect lasting peace and prosperity.

Seeing Mr. Churchill as an inspired realist in setting forth these goals, she concludes her piece by referencing his pastime, bricklaying, using it as a metaphor for the concept that a good foundation must first be laid before the house may be soundly built upon it. She suggests that Mr. Churchill understood the concept well.

Having laid some brick ourselves, especially during the summer of 1974 while watching the House Judiciary Committee hold hearings preliminary to returning its Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon, the latter being delivered up for vote just as we were laying rows of patio pavers on top of the cube formed from the bricked foundation walls we had set along a sloping hill in May--still extant today, without a single crack through, lo, these many years--we, too, think we have some understanding of Mr. Churchill's notion.

Incidentally, some years earlier, during the spring of 1959 in Shelby on Sumter Street, just a few houses away, by coincidence, from the residence of Nannie and John Cash, we had obtained some initiation to the craft of masonry by observing for a couple of afternoons a gentleman laying apace some bricks for the foundation wall of a carport. We have never forgotten it.

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