Wednesday, March 31, 1943

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, March 31, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The British Eighth Army, says the front page, had captured Metouia and Oudref, respectively, eight and twelve miles north of the Gabes Gap. (The Hayes Gap was not yet reported as captured.) The seizure of the two towns provided the Allies control of the crossroads between the main coastal highway and the road from El Guettar and Gafsa.

One part of General Patton's forces meanwhile slugged their way through dense minefields east of El Guettar.

As another column of Patton's forces, having proceeded toward the coast after taking Mezzouna, flowed down the Gabes Road, they found mostly Italian stragglers who the Germans had left behind as their rearguard, characteristic Nazi behavior throughout the North African retreat--mostly Italians eager to surrender to the Americans. The fact was indicative of Rommel's fast-beat retreat north to escape entrapment and seek joinder with General Jurgen von Arnim's forces securing Tunis and Bizerte.

No report was made on the progress of the Patton column to the north heading toward the Axis airbase at Kairouan and the coastal objective beyond it at Sousse.

General K. A. N. Anderson's First Army fighting in the north with Moroccan Goums, had captured Sedjenane, forty miles west of Bizerte. The Goums had advanced even further, about six miles east of Sedjenane.

Elmer Davis, head of the Office of War Information, optimistically predicted to the press that Rommel was nearly washed up in Tunisia, his forces there being in lesser numbers than those of the British at Dunkerque in spring, 1940, that the whole of it should be annihilated or captured soon enough to permit invasion of the Continent by the end of 1943.

His prognosis was, if anything, quite understated. Rommel, by this juncture, was conditioned to the fait accompli afoot, that defeat was inevitable, facing superior Allied forces. Even Berlin acknowledged now the hopelessness of the situation, as Italy prepared nervously for invasion. Rommel was simply trying to delay as long as possible the inevitable rout and, in the process, to take with him as many Allied soldiers and portions of their equipment as he could, to diminish the strength of the Allied expeditionary force.

From an underground newspaper in Norway, Free Trade Unions, it was reported that as much as a quarter of the Norwegian labor force was absent from the job, most the result of starvation during the Nazi occupation.

Meanwhile, 3,000 Nazi soldiers searched the hills of Rjukan for saboteurs who had bombed the Norsk hydro-electric plant there.

The Nazis forbade vacationing in the coastal sector of Norway, beginning April 1, out of emergent concern for an imminent Allied invasion.

Things were not going so well for the little Nazi in Norway. They had the Norwegian blues, quislin' for the fjords.

The House defeated the Ruml pay-as-you-go tax plan favored by the Republicans, set to forgive 1942 taxes. Republicans quickly fell in behind two compromise measures, one to enable a 6% reduction in tax for early payment, combined with a 13% surtax on the highest bracket of taxpayers, or another by which half of the 1942 tax would be forgiven, the latter having been proposed by North Carolina Democrat, "Farmer" Bob Doughton.

On the editorial page, Burke Davis, unusually devoting the entire column to one piece, examines the alleged growing problem of juvenile delinquency abroad the country, reported as especially being prevalent in the larger urban areas. The stories ranged from roving gangs of teenaged girls in saddle shoes and streaming locks, smoking, drinking, looking for soldier boys with whom to cavort, to looting football squads stealing all the merchandise a store had to offer, to students running a “Casino” even at Charlotte’s own Central High, generally pervaded by notions of increased disobedience to elders, truancy, theft increscent in waves of delinquents threatening the foundation forms of Western civilization itself.

You name it, brother, it was on the rise. The world was coming to an end.

No, says Mr. Davis. It was just the ordinary incidents of youth at work, no better, no worse, than that which had preceded by the decades, even if sped by the times since the Roaring Twenties, 15 to 17 year old boys driven by the angst of becoming soon cannon fodder in a war thousands of miles from home fires burning, girls driven by human sentiment and concern to try to save them from themselves.

Nevertheless, he concludes, if blame there were to be imputed and imposed for such conditions, its hairy-headed hammers had to fall on parents delinquent in their duties, not on the heads of the children and adolescents, simply, for the most part, being children and adolescents.

It is an age-old story, of course. Anyone who believes naively that this time of World War II was something, since untold without analogue in contemporary experience, out of a story book of innocence and uniformly patriotic goodness, ought read this particular piece thoroughly, with a discerning eye, understanding thereby that this time was as any other, no better, no worse. There was no super-patriotism at work in the country; there was no super-unity. While there was an upsurge in the appearance of those qualities in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, they exhibited themselves in fleeting duration, lasting about two months, quickly disappearing then behind the arras of the passing parade of events and the realization of hardship, the incipient sacrifice of life to come in warfare, returning more or less to the hum-drum daily quest for raison d'etre amid the elements of ordinary society seeming at odds at times with basic human survival.

These were not the good old days, as we have many times stressed, as we, as many times, were led to believe coming of age. There is no such thing. They were days and nights, full of awe and wonder, but full of angst and dissatisfaction, wealth and poverty, mostly middlin', trying to survive, trying to believe--in something.

The movies, the more contemporary fed from those produced in society's stressed past in need of okeh morale, depicting the time as romantic and without peer for bravery, while not complete hogwash perhaps, border on it. Even General Patton sought the refuge of cover when the Messerschmitts flew low overhead. That was reality, the basic human instinct for survival.

Saying that, we do not diminish at all the genuine life and limb sacrifice made by genuine heroes of that war, some of whom still survive among us, some of whom are still our public servants.

The description Mr. Davis provides is little different from that of which we recall occurring around us in our own youth in the 1950's and 1960's. Indeed, turn around quickly and you will see little much different from today.

Samuel Grafton looks at the recent elections held in Demark, soundly rejecting their Nazi occupiers, and wonders, with his glance turned to Italians, why they had no vote of their own, why they fought with the Nazis in North Africa while the Danes were allowed to stay home, to vote. The answer, he suggests, is self-evident: the Nazis feared four million stubbornly defiant Danes before they feared forty million compliant Italians, that Italians, the Black Shirts, kept each other in striding time with the Nazi boot-kickers. He counsels less smiling by the slave to the master.

Time was fast approaching when the Allies would make it a respectable pastime to throw brickbats instead at the Axis occupiers in Italy, including the minions of their own, obeisant to the Fascist will of their immediate puppeteer, the manipulative thumbs of the soon-to-be deposed Mussolini.

Raymond Clapper examines the practicality of allying with both Great Britain and Russia after the war to maintain in check Germany on both its flanks, to avert a recurrence of world war emanating, per the previous two, from Central Europe. He finds that, while sentiment in America may have been for neither allied country, just as neither country may have had sentiment for America, so is there little mutual sentiment involved between a fire insurance company and its insured. Yet, to form the alliance was the practical contingency to withstand exigencies, to assure mutual sustenance through time.

Dorothy Thompson again focuses on the speech of Prime Minister Churchill of the Sunday, a week earlier. In this installment, she looks at his stress on internal post-war security of Britain through his proposed "Four-Year Plan" for public works, rebuilding and stabilizing the infrastructure of the country and its economic well-being, insuring full employment and social welfare of the people.

Americans, despite Britons being the target of this part of his speech, had, she indicates, taken a substantial interest in this prospective planning for its potential example for America. Yet, many found suspicion in the conceptualization of Britain as Tory-controlled, ignoring the while that Labor had for long been an accepted part of Britain's governing body and that the concept of laissez-faire had its origins in that isle across the pond, that the British concept of planning therefore was not so much foreign to that of America as it was merely an advanced version of what America, by fits and starts, had sought since the latter nineteenth century and the coming of the Industrial Age in the country.

This form of social and economic planning to provide social insurance against want, with proper room left for private interests to flourish under a capitalistic form of free enterprise, she offers, had kept revolution from occurring in Britain for 400 years. Thus, it recommended itself to America.

The rather fuzzy paragraph in the topmost part of the column furthest to the right, though more Labor-oriented than Tory, is, to save your eyes and the necessity of an unnecessary visit to an optometrist, as follows:

"But, this [laissez-faire] economy, has been, historically, unable to avert cycles of glut and scarcity, boom and depression--and in those cycles, the whole [British] nation has suffered--industrialists and merchants, farmers and workers. For the workers, the question had become one of naked life, or, at the least, dependence upon public charity. So that it is out of the workers that insistence has come for the maintenance of continuous employment and insurance against hazard. But experience--and the British are an empirical people and not a theoretical one--has proved that this is impossible without planning."

In other words, to avert the prediction by Karl Marx in Das Kapital that capitalism, by its own inertia, big business gobbling up small business, would collapse every forty years or so into economic depression, and, upon doing so enough, would, with moneyed capital and thus political power in the society concentrated in a small elite leaving an enormous, deprived proletariat, fall into revolution to provide for the workers of the society. It was his basic argument for the superiority of a socialist economy over that of capitalism. That prediction, forestalled only by a vibrant middle class with both sufficient stake in the political process and sufficient economic comfort not to engage in revolution, quite nearly came true in the early 1930's after the Republicans' subservience to the robber-barons and wealthy industrialists led the country to unprecedented laissez-faire extremes in the name of cultivating votes and accumulation of private wealth and power, inevitably would have, undoubtedly, had it not been for the New Deal and its programs for social planning and social insurance.

That for which Ms. Thompson was arguing was not so much to try new experiments imported from Great Britain as it was to counsel the increasingly Republican Congress not to abandon post-war, as was being discussed, the path forged by the New Deal simply because first the prospect of war and then the war itself had brought a new prosperity to the land in the previous four years; that the programs of the New Deal would need be not only sustained but broadened after the war to accommodate the many returning veterans who would inevitably expect a return to old jobs, finding them held by new workers accustomed to the wages and fully trained to do what the veteran once did. A new period of readjustment therefore had to be expected and social insurance had to be provided to meet it, without the old baggage of rhetoric immersing itself in harangues against "socialism" and the warnings of God against the deviltry of a "welfare state", that is the part and parcel leading idle hands to become instruments of the Devil incarnate.

We do not mean to place in her column words not there, but we gather from reading her offerings for awhile that such was the extended theme, and one, if so, with which we wholly agree.

Lt.-General George C. Kenney, commander of the Southwest Pacific air forces, who had just recently won the stunningly overwhelming victory in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, capturing few prisoners, gunning down some of them floundering helplessly in life rafts, was quoted as saying that the morale of his men was high, "…in fact so high, it scares me."

Us, too, General.

In the "Side Glances": Is he contemplating, perhaps, compensating for the loss by eating the dog?

And, maybe we are moronic, but we are having a devil of a time filling in a couple of missing syllables at the bottom of the first column of the pieces and bits of humor out of The Louisville Courier-Journal. What is the completion of that, in cruel insouciance and burning insordescence, partially obscured line, "…she appeared to be turning her school lessons on civil ______-ment over in her mind"?

The missing syllables run either 5 or 6 letters.

We thought, "deport-ment"? Doesn’t really fit the subject.

If, however, one were French, maybe "depart-ment". But, despite the presence of Versailles Road in Lexington, we know of no great French enclave in Louisville, its eponym notwithstanding, which might go so far as to equate the study of American civics lessons with that of France; one would need probably move to New Orleans for that equation.

If the study had been of civil defense, we might naturally assume "equip-ment". But that did not seem inherent in the drift.

If the young lady had been studying how to keep her boyfriend from the draft, then perhaps the inadvertent ellipsis would be filled with "defer-ment". Likewise, however, we didn't see anything about conscription or beating it.

"Entrap-ment"? Seems much too legal.

"Impair-ment". Maybe, but we see no dots.

Ah well, despite its being right at the tip of our memory banks, we cannot for the life of us get anything reasonably to fit. It mustn't be meant to be. We had better go to the store and find us a lifetime warranted fountain pen and see if it might have the answer before the alarm clock goes off again and wakes us from our sound sleep.

Besides, by the time we got to school, they had given up on compulsory civics and made all that sort of thing optional--as is fairly evident today among the populace at large, who seem all too often not very understanding of how the departments and branches work and function with one another in offsetting balance.

We took it though, civics, that is. It was a course, however, at our high school labeled, simply, "Everyday Government". (Indeed, we scored, out of a possible 100 percentiles, 103--so well, in fact, did we do that we were permitted independent study in the library.)

But it was not "civil" something or other "-ment". And so we don't know what that missing part is.

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