Monday, April 12, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, April 12, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of the taking, without opposition, of Sousse, 27 miles southeast of Enfidaville, by the British Eighth Army, now joined with part of Patton's Army II Corps. Rommel had already pulled his troops inland 40 miles to the ridge running north to Enfidaville and from there northward 90 miles toward Cape Serrat, a position taken recently by the Fighting French. Cape Serrat, not labeled on the accompanying map, is 35 miles west of Bizerte.

The action meant that the Eighth Army had captured fully 125 miles of coastal road territory since moving through the Akarit line the previous Tuesday. They were now but 67 miles from Tunis.

On Sunday, the British First Army had taken the principal Nazi airbase facility at Kairouan, a primary Muslim shrine in Tunisia. The Allies' entry was greeted by cheers from the Muslim and Jewish residents. Jews, formerly forced by the Nazi occupiers to wear the Star of David, were reported to be taking off the badges of discrimination and throwing them deliberately into the dirt.

Further fighting by the First Army extended into the plains northwest of Kairouan against light opposition offered by Rommel's battered forces.

Patton, meanwhile, sent a column to take the Faid Pass without opposition, offering another way through to the Tunisian coastal plain, already exposed to the north by the taking of Fondouk Pass on Saturday.

Hitler and Mussolini concluded their four-day meeting, said to have been held in the Fuehrer's headquarters, which narrowed speculation as to locale, previously centering on Brenner Pass, to virtually anywhere in Central Europe. A Berlin broadcast, picked up in London, reported that the Fuehrer and Il Duce discussed the possibility of bombing New York City, a mere 20-hour flight via the new Henkel-177 bomber.

--Better watch out, New York. Das Fuehrer is on de way in his Henkel-177 with maybe two, three tons bombs. He will be there in twenty hours to take command of your city. He will be guided by U-boot. Better give up, now. He speak Bronx, too. This all, according to reliable journal, La Tribuna Illustrada, Italian newspaper. Germany your friend. Give up, now.

A reclassification of draft eligible men was announced by War Manpower Administrator Paul McNutt and Selective Service Director, General Lewis Hershey. All men between ages 18 and 38 who became fathers prior to September 15, 1942 would continue with deferments for dependents. But, those who became fathers subsequently, numbering some six million, were now to be reclassified I-A, except in cases of extreme hardship or employment in essential war industries. The action was necessary to fill the established quota of a total of 10.8 million men to be inducted into the armed forces by the end of the year. It was estimated that the pool of able men within the age bracket was only fourteen million, half of whom were already inducted. And of the remainder, 3.2 million, would be deferred for reasons of employment or hardship.

The reason for the date of September 15 was not explained in the report, but we might guess that it is because the slightly over nine-month ordinary term of pregnancy would take it back to December 6, 1941 for the act of procreation to have taken place--said the doctors, probably, anyway. Those who were perspicacious in those days, read the newspapers thoroughly, and saw the handwriting on the wall, were the lucky ones. Otherwise, a late term meant that your faint hope was a kind local doctor who might determine that you had flat feet and too high blood pressure to be useful as cannon fodder in combat. For many of the older men in the category of new fathers, such was the case.

--But, doc, I gotta entertain the troops, don't I? Somebody's got to do it. C'mon. By the way, I've been walkin' heya a little peculiarly lately. Think I might have a corn on my big toe or somethin'. Army boots might inflame it, give me blood poisonin', high fever, and then I might infect the whole Army, lose the war all because of a corn. Crazy, huh? I also been haviní these dreams, you know? like, where I'm beatin' these rubber ducks with a stick, a big red stick, all bloody like. Can't figure that out, either. Last night, I just drifted off, and the first thing you know, there it was, a big rubber duck threateniní me. Every time I hear the word "kill", I think I'm bein' threatened, you know? Even if somebody reads in church that Bible passage, you know, where it says, "a time to kill", I just feel threatened, got to react right then. Just like a big rubber duck, waddlin' about, threatenin' me. Got to beat it with a stick, you know? Yeah, that's right, a big red stick.

On the editorial page, "The Finale" looks at the weight of Allied armament stacked against the Axis in Tunisia and the closing net on Tunis and Bizerte, finding Rommel's time short before he would need ditch into the sea. It predicts that the Axis would fare worse than even the British in the debacle of Dunkerque. The resulting Allied victory would end a phase of the war, leaving no extra-continental outposts for the Axis to use as buffers and extraterritorial defenses. Henceforth, the war would be fought in their own backyards, in Italy, in France, and in Germany. The piece stops short, however, of predicting Allied victory anytime soon.

"Trial by Error" finds Hitler, not Rommel, to be at fault in Tunisia--by waging the entire war in the first place. The editorial specifically responds to the front page piece appearing Friday, by Associated Press reporter Don Whitehead, in which he had laid the loss of the Akarit line to Rommel's failure to recognize Montgomery's readiness to attack and on Rommelís maneuver to protect his flank from Pattonís approach, leaving the line itself without adequate protection, enabling the British to concentrate sufficient forces to take the two heights on opposite sides of the gap. The editorial thinks otherwise, that Rommel, being outmanned and inferior in armament, was left with little option but to turn and face what he believed was the force about to engulf his men otherwise, and then retreat north behind that flank. It was, concludes Burke Davis, instead the new strength of the Allies, working in combination, with proper equipment, which had been the key to the loss by Rommel. The mistake was Hitler's--September 1, 1939.

Samuel Grafton again criticizes the proposed effort post-war to educate Germans to democracy. It would not occur by such polite means, Mr. Grafton accurately predicts, but likely only after a civil war had served to oust all anti-democratic forces in Germany. For the only way Germany would be democratized was for it to choose democracy over fascism, and the only way for that to happen was for the society to come fully to grips with the fact that fascism was ultimately a self-defeating doctrine.

To what, then, was the equivalent of that civil war but the long 44-year division between East and West Germany? Not a civil war, you might suggest. But, wasn't it? even if steered in its various courses away from open conflict instead toward a cold, embittered stalemate, by the contentious totalitarian forces of the Soviet Union operating on the East and the U. S., Great Britain, and France, in concert, lighting the way for democracy in the West, the two sides thus presented in stark living contrast to enlighten even the most once determinedly obscurantist adherents to the former Nazi doctrine pervading everything German.

The Richmond Journal, presumably another offering from Tom Jimison, looks at the enduring permanency of the relentless conflict between age and youth, that the current outcries against delinquency were not novel, the only thing new being, perhaps, the overlayer of psychological and sociological nomenclature applied to describe youth's various characteristic vagaries and rebellions and adults' ordinary Pavlovian response patterns in frown and frustration at the same parade in which, to one degree or another, they had themselves participated as youth, simply then adorned in different circus and stage costumes and speaking with a slightly different rhythm and rime from that of their progeny.

Raymond Clapper gladly receives the news that the United Nations food conference, now set to begin May 18, would be an open affair to the press after all, not closed as the White House had initially proposed. The President, he says, had become so enamored of the efficiency enjoyed within the closed meeting, by the fact so recently of having experienced the secrecy of the Casablanca Conference during the latter half of January, that he had to be reminded by the press that, when military secrecy was not an issue, democracy called for nothing less than vrije toegankelijkheid. The White House had, to its credit, acceded to the pleas of the press corps and open the international conference would be.

The fifth in the "Heritage of America" series being presented by The News during the previous two weeks is from the 1937 work, A Book of Hours, by Donald Culross Peattie, naturalist and botanist, an essay titled "Five Ante Meridian", re the spin of the earth from darkness into day, as it slowly makes its annual passage around the sun, a timeless exercise in repetition of history and human consciousness of it by the change of the seasons.

Since the first in the series was an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benét's The Devil and Daniel Webster, (a.k.a., as a film, "All That Money Can Buy"), and since we have before on occasion mentioned or made allusion to another couple of movies in which Walter Huston had a substantial role, we present this extra page which caught our eyne as we spun the machine along its whirring way a few months ago. Take heart from it. There yet may be room for you, too, in a Hollywood movie, should you have flirt with the happy accident of fate--or turn of tragedy, as the case may all too often become. But, should it be so, regardless of its glory, infamy, humor, or pathos, remember that it is up there, not up there, between the "L" and "W", where we have to go.

Extemplo Libyae magnas it Fama per urbes:
Fama malum quo non velocius ullum;
Mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo;
Parva metu primo; mox sese attollit in auras,
Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubilia condit...

Monstrum, horrendum ingens; cui quot sunt corpore plumae
Tot vigiles oculi subter, mirabile dictu,
Tot linquae, totidem ora sonant, tot subrigit aures.

--The Aeneid, by Publius Vergilius Maro, circa 25 B.C.

Can't read it, huh? Get an education, then.

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