Saturday, March 6, 1943

The Charlotte News

Saturday, March 6, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Confirming that yesterday's report of Allied bombing of Japanese survivors in lifeboats was not a misprint, the front page details the "annihilation spirit" which prevailed among the Allied airmen at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. One pilot was reported to have dropped his load of bombs on three lifeboats containing 200 Japanese soldiers and then radioed headquarters, "No survivors."

They were not taking any prisoners this trip.

Mopping up operations continued amid the smoke and wreckage of the ships below; no survivors among the estimated 15,000 Japanese aboard the sunk transport ships were spotted. It was to their advantage that they not be.

In Tunisia, the British had to abandon Sedjenane, falling back seven miles to Tamera. Meanwhile, however, the American forces broke through at Pichon in the Ousseltia Valley, twenty miles west of the Nazi base at Kairouan.

Not reported publicly, as it would not be until March 18, was the relief this date of Maj.-General Lloyd Fredendall from command of Army II Corps in central Tunisia, after General Eisenhower had received from Maj.-General Ernest Harmon a negative report on Fredendall's performance at Kasserine Pass. Among his many cited blunders were the failure properly to coordinate and communicate with the British command in the northern sector, neglecting to lay land mines during the retreat through Kasserine Pass to slow Rommel's advance, and the splitting of his forces into small groups which enabled the more experienced Nazis to chew through them in ways which his appointed replacement, Georgie Patton, now intended to chew through the Nazis. In appointing Patton to command Army II Corps, Eisenhower recommended him for promotion to Lieutenant-General. Neither lapses nor defeat would any longer be tolerated in the arena.

Time covered the change in command in its March 29 issue, providing a colorful biography of the new American commander in central Tunisia. The expurgated words in the piece, we assume, had to do, respectively, with squirrels and donkeys.

Well, we see the lions trembling before the cloud of dust in the distance, even if perhaps only the domesticated one provided Churchill in London yesterday. Yes, sure enough, here he comes, Old Blood & Guts, standing up in his Jeep, siren blaring, riding-strop astride his hip next to the pearl-handled revolvers, and so we best look sharp now and move along quickly. We haven't even strapped on our leggings or so much as prepared lunch.

On the editorial page, William Allen White writes from his Emporia Gazette in Kansas of his last meeting with the President a few days earlier. He found the President mostly fit, filled out quite a bit, yet appearing to fatigue after long, uninterrupted speech. Mr. White, a Republican, finds FDR up to the task of continued leadership in the office which he describes as a "man-killer".

Apropos linguistically of the day when General Patton would assume command of American forces in Tunisia, White divides Republican opponents of the President into two groups, those who said swiftly, in staccato fashion, "That God damn Roosevelt," and those who said it with more relish and gusto, lengthening the syllabication of the words as they spoke, "That Gaw-ud da-yam Roosevelt!" He counted himself in the former group of staccato, milder Republicans--those, we assume, with only a switchblade in hand rather than possessed of a saber dispossessed of its scabbard.

The statement that the office was a "man-killer" combines with the editorial by Raymond Clapper regarding the unimportance of speculation on whether FDR would seek a fourth term, to become unwitting, unintended prophecy.

Mr. Clapper, however, turns his attention deliberately instead to the death of the White House peanut vendor, Greek immigrant Steve Vasilakos, who, since the Administration of Theodore Roosevelt, had been an institution in front of the executive mansion, so much so that The New York Times ran an editorial on his death. This fact combined with the Supreme Court's overturning the conviction on legal error of George Sylvester Viereck, convicted of not providing information as a registered foreign agent, to give Mr. Clapper, more than the speculation on whether there would be a fourth term, a conviction that the democratic spirit in the country was alive and well, that notwithstanding the pressures and constraints placed upon the republic by over a year of unremitting warfare.

In Viereck v. U.S., 318 U.S. 236, the Court decided 5 to 2 in favor of reversal based on an improper instruction to the jury that if they found that Viereck failed to supply supplemental information required by statute as a registered foreign agent and undertook the subversive propagandizing alleged against him, they did not, in order to convict, also have to find that he performed the conduct on behalf of a foreign government rather than only for himself. Because the wording of the statute was framed as requiring conduct on behalf of a foreign government before the supplemental information was required, the instruction was deemed erroneous, necessitating reversal of the conviction.

Incidentally, the Court found fault, though not per se reversing pursuant to it, with the prosecutor's closing argument, which it found had unduly appealed to prejudice and bias of the jury, error not deemed waived by the untimely objection of defense counsel for it having fallen fairly within the sphere of prosecutorial misconduct which the trial court should have corrected sua sponte, that is, on its own motion to strike the statements, cautioning the jury against consideration of it, with due weighing also by the court whether the error was sufficiently egregious to warrant a mistrial.

The impermissible statements were:

In closing, let me remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that this is war. This is war, harsh, cruel, murderous war. There are those who, right at this very moment, are plotting your death and my death; plotting our death and the death of our families because we have committed no other crime than that we do not agree with their ideas of persecution and concentration camps.

This is war. It is a fight to the death. The American people are relying upon you, ladies and gentlemen, for their protection against this sort of a crime, just as much as they are relying upon the protection of the men who man the guns in Bataan Peninsula, and everywhere else. They are relying upon you ladies and gentlemen for their protection. We are at war. You have a duty to perform here.

As a representative of your Government I am calling upon every one of you to do your duty.

It was deemed inappropriate thusly to appeal to patriotic fervor in seeking a verdict of guilty.

The dissent, surprisingly, of civil libertarian Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas found the wording of the statute not dispositive when its purpose plainly encompassed requirement of registration for any foreign agent and thus also required the disclosure when sought of any information deemed relevant by the Secretary of State regarding activities pursuant to that conduct, the fact whether the agent believed that information withheld was not related to activities in which he engaged for the foreign government but only to acts in his own behalf being irrelevant to the primary thrust of the statute. Thus, the instruction was not erroneous.

Justices Robert Jackson and Wiley Rutledge took no part in the decision, Justice Jackson, likely because of his prior role as Attorney General during the original seeking by the Justice Department of the indictment against Viereck, and Justice Rutledge, undoubtedly because of his just having assumed the high court bench.

Samuel Grafton takes issue with Congress's consideration of a bill to defer farm workers from the draft to enable greater food production, finding it wholly inconsistent with the establishment of a sufficient fighting force to undertake a second front, communicating simultaneously therefore the logically inconsistent message to Russia that America preferred to consider domestic food production ahead of providing desperately needed relief to the Russian ally.

"One and All" likewise finds this policy completely an inefficient manner in which to solve the dearth of farm labor, pointing out yet another problematic aspect of the proposed bill, that it would inevitably drain off from war industries employees who wished to avoid the draft.

Of course, the simple answer there would have been to grant a deferment also to those in war industries. But then, where would the Government have found the soldiers?

"The Rescue" discusses the adumbration of the proof finally for Mrs. Roosevelt's statement to the press the previous August for which she stood corrected when first asserting that there were ceilings on eggs. Now she was, with 20-20 foresight, proved correct. For, as of March 1, ceilings had been finally imposed on eggs by OPA, whether the chickens liked it or not, for the fact of their product's prices rising steadily through the ceiling. The egg layers were extra busy, explains the piece, with production up from 53 to 57 billion eggs, with nine percent more layers at work on the farms than in 1942.

But, while the piece does not expressly disclose it, the truth of the matter was that the layers were letting down on the job. The number of eggs had not increased commensurate with the number of layers. The increase in eggs was seven percent, while the increase in layers was fully nine percent. Where is the efficiency in that? The result might have thrown the corn-hog ratio into virtual apoplexy. The Truman Committee should have immediately gotten to work finding the fox in the henhouse. Maybe even the Dies Committee.

Maybe some of those layers were still in training, as with the soldiers.

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