Wednesday, April 14, 1943

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, April 14, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Wes Gallagher of the Associated Press reports on the front page his observations of the last stand by Rommel and von Arnim on the line in front of Tunis and Bizerte in the final battle of the North African campaign. He estimates that there are still 100,000 men, mainly German, within the arc of the line, based on estimates of 170,000 still extant a couple of months earlier. (As late as three weeks earlier, accounts in The News had consistently stated the number to be about 250,000 in Tunisia, with the beginning of the thrust against the Mareth Line during the last ten days of March, and that, of late, after casualties and the taking of prisoners, there were about 190,000 remaining.) Mr. Gallagher sees these last vestiges, regardless of actual numbers, to be the most determined of the ground forces, as the prisoners taken by the Allies had numbered 8 to 1 Italian.

Moreover, General von Arnim had spent considerable effort in recent weeks, during Rommel's pertinacious and stalling retreat, in preparing the final Tunis-Bizerte defenses with anti-tank ditches and mine fields. He concludes that the length of the campaign to take Tunis and Bizerte will be determined in large measure by the continuing sustenance of the morale within the contingent of remaining Germans.

That Rommel and von Arnim were under orders to fight to the last was by now accepted by Allied headquarters. The effort was to delay for as long as possible the final evacuation to afford as much time as possible to prepare defenses along the southern European coast, to build the Mittelmeer.

He finds German air power now considerably overwhelmed by that of the Allies, citing recent examples of German Junkers ditching in the sea without a fight before RAF and American pursuits. The Luftwaffe had lost, he says, 318 planes in two weeks, 1,253 since the beginning of the Tunisian campaign. That rate of loss could not be long endured.

The Royal Navy, he observes further, would act as a snare for any attempt at escape, either by transport or U-boat, that the only option for the remaining troops, not so far having been diminished in any significant numbers by evacuation, was to turn and fight to the last, per Hitler's orders.

Lewis Hawkins, also of A.P., suggests that 150,000 troops remained under Rommel and von Arnim, and, depending on determination to delay, it could take a few weeks to a few months, until July or August, to finish the campaign.

Another report from Tunisia relates that a U.S. Army photographer, in a hurry to get to the action, stopped to ask a British soldier directions. The soldier asked him why he wanted to know and the photographer told him, apparently in Pattonesque terms, that he had no time for such silly questions: where was the front? The photographer then learned from another soldier that he had been conversing with General Montgomery as to directions. Whether he got them or not is not imparted.

The most recent communiques from Tunisia indicated that the previous day's Algiers radio report of the capture of Enfidaville was premature, as fighting for the town by the Eighth Army continued. The main thrust, however, was now against Rommelís natural mountain barrier, 40 miles inland, to which he had dispatched the remainder of his forces fleeing from Sousse during the weekend. Djebel Bou Hadjar was the immediate objective sought by the British, a mountain 32 miles west of Enfidaville and 25 miles northwest of Kairouan, the latter taken several days earlier.

The First Army continued to push from the west on what was shortly to become labeled by the Allies as "Coffin Corner", the area surrounding Tunis and Bizerte. They had now advanced to within 40 miles west of Tunis, complementing the approach by Montgomery to within 50 miles from the southeast at Enfidaville.

To the extreme north of Rommel's defense line, near Cape Serrat, west of Bizerte, the French attacked Axis forces.

Meanwhile, American Flying Fortresses destroyed 51 of 112 Axis planes on the ground at the Sicilian airfield at Castelvetrano. Twenty-two of 106 more enemy planes were destroyed at an airfield at Milo, also on Sicily. In addition, eleven more enemy planes were shot down in scattered fighting in Tunisia and as the Fortresses returned from the raid on Sicily. The RAF attacked Spezia, on the west coast of Italy, 50 miles southeast of Genoa.

On New Guinea, another Japanese air raid, of about the same size as the previous three in the Pacific during the previous ten days, 100 planes, hit Milne Bay on the easternmost tip of the Papuan Peninsula. The Japanese had, in 1942, sought to land at Milne Bay as an initial thrust toward taking Port Moresby, to combine with their infantry seeking to penetrate through the Owen Stanley Mountains from the northern coast of the peninsula. The current bombing raid, General MacArthur reported, was repulsed with the same success of the other three raids, which had resulted in the loss of over a third of the Japanese planes.

From French Morocco came a report that a Moroccan sheik had presented an unnamed U. S. Army general with a boar. He didn't know how it should be prepared for eating and so sent it to the Red Cross. They cut it up and passed its carcass through a meat grinder to produce boar burgers.

--Meat's in the skillet, head's in the churn, if that ain't a bore, I'll be durned.

--But, which way is it to the front, General?

As that news hit the prints, OPA announced that domestic meat price ceilings set to go into effect the following day, had been postponed until May 17 to allow further evaluation of the ceilings which, as stated, would have allowed dramatic increases in meat prices, even if the former ceilings had been so low that some chain retailers were simply unable to offer the meats at all.

On the editorial page, pieces compliment the beginning of the new bond drive to raise 13 billion dollars to supplement the war budget and then the efforts of local spring planters busy providing their own food by way of Victory Gardens.

"New Threat" examines the reported accumulation of an estimated 200,000 Japanese troops in the islands north of Australia and suggests that this concentration, along with the new Japanese air offensives in New Guinea and around Guadalcanal, provided stark evidence of a new determination by the Japanese to renew their offensive operations in the area. Yet, this time, unlike a year earlier, the piece reassures, they would be met by far stiffer Allied air resistance and, based on the early reports, could expect significantly higher percentages of losses per raid. Though the way would be long to victory, nevertheless, it concludes, victory was promised by the new strength evidenced by the Allies in the theater.

"The Tribune" takes another swipe at isolationist Robert McCormick's Chicago Tribune for being a bastion for anti-Americanism. A reader had sent excerpts of four stories: one claiming the South to be solidly anti-New Deal; another claiming that the New Deal had pushed for a "Gestapo" bill to provide for the death penalty for hostile acts against the U.S.; a third indicating that the military were the worst of the food hoarders; and a fourth, that the Russians were providing to the Japanese food, steel, and weather information of Alaska, such that the U.S. should stop aiding Russia until it stopped aiding our enemy--and thereby risk losing the whole war, freeing Japan's homeland defenses, defending against possible invasion from Russia, to join in the effort to pummel the U.S. in the southwest Pacific, freeing Hitler's forces mired in the mud of Russia, dying by the tens of thousands, to defend France and Italy against Allied invasion. The editorial finds little value in The Tribune, either in time of peace or war.

Samuel Grafton again examines the many paradoxes being advocated by Republicans and anti-New Dealers, on the one hand, saying isolation was dead, on the other, that states' rights had to be preserved as sacrosanct.

A piece from The New York Times examines the coming invasion of the Continent by the Allies, speculating on where and when it might occur. It concludes, erroneously in this instance, that it would likely be diffuse, several feints from many different directions to confuse and occupy and spread the enemy, enabling a feint quickly to become a major assault when weak resistance enabled a force to exploit the situation.

While sensible in the abstract, with the wide dispersion of forces, most of whom training in England under the American flag yet to be battle tested, split between the long distances between the Mediterranean coast and the English Channel, combined with the massive convoys necessary to transport men and supplies for such a large-scale invasion, as a matter of practicality, the prediction of The Times was not to become the reality. The forces in Tunisia had been battle-tested and scarred. More would soon join them for the Italian campaign. Those would form the battle-tested troops for the Normandy landings 14 months hence. It would have to be done one stage at a time, not in a single putsch, Nazi-style. The Nazis had trained their armies and air forces for six years before entering Poland. The Americans had only been training a massive Army and Air Force for a bit over a year. And the Americans, their men and equipment, given the lessons of Dunkerque, were sine qua non for a successful invasion of Europe, just as they were now proving positively in North Africa.

But, as a feint, itself, the Times piece perhaps was busy playing coy.

Raymond Clapper again takes aim at the closed meeting of the United Nations food conference, scheduled for the following month in Virginia. He finds the subject of the particular conference, per se, the post-war distribution of food to war-torn and depressed countries, not be so much an issue of concern for its secrecy. But should it be harbinger of a general trend, causing the entire series of conferences predicted to follow to be held in secret, away from the prying eyes of a free press, it would become bad precedent for freedom generally in the post-war world.

He assures that FDR was not an enemy of the press, but, in this instance, had thus far undertaken, for the sake of expediency, a wrong-headed approach to this first conference to be held for substantive post-war planning by the United Nations. He hopes that the press-exclusion policy might be changed before the conference began.

An excerpt from a booklet, "Battle Stations for All", published by the Governmentís Office of War Information, headed by Elmer Davis, seeks to shame American hoarders by indicating, with some detail, the many hardships being endured by Allies, especially in Britain, China, and Russia.

It tells of an American observer on an English commuter train who had a long conversation with a Briton about the bulge in his pocket which the man identified, upon inquiry, to be the result of an egg held close to his vest. He proceeded to tell at length of how he might eat this precious egg, in various delectable manners, as it would be the only one he would be blessed to have during the week. Whereupon, the train lurched and the egg turned to cracked pieces of shell and yolk in his pocket, crushed against his briefcase. Seeing the result, the man literally burst into tears crying.

The booklet's article goes on to tell of the equally sorry plight, even worse, of the enemy, the Japanese, whose government hoarded food for emergencies, reducing the individual's daily ration to seven-tenths of a pound of rice, no meat. Germans had less than the dearth experienced by Britons.

Hoarding, it concluded, deprived everyone of a fair share of the curtailed supplies of American food, contributed to inflation for everyone, including the hoarder--not to mention also interfering with adequate supply of the military.

It might have said that he who hoards was the Walrus.

But, then, in subtle combination, there was also, in addition to Sam Grafton's piece, the "Side Glances"Ö

As bonus, catching our eyne as it whizzed by on the machine, here is the sports page of the day--recounting, among other things, the rise of Count Fleet, favorite and eventual winner in not only the upcoming Kentucky Derby, but also the other two legs of the Triple Crown. The horse, dammed by Quickly, damsired by Haste, sired by Reigh Count, grandsired by Sunreigh, great-granddammed by Miss Malaprop, great-great-great-grandsired twice by St. Simon and also by Le Sagittaire, was owned by the wife of rental car magnate, John D. Hertz.

No mention was made on the editorial page, but this date marked the seventy-eighth anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, belonging to the ages in the early hours of that Good Friday's following morning.


Dowlas, filthy dowlas: I have given them away to
bakers' wives, and they have made bolters of them.


Now, as I am a true woman, holland of eight
shillings an ell. You owe money here besides, Sir
John, for your diet and by-drinkings, and money lent
you, four and twenty pound.


He had his part of it; let him pay.


He? alas, he is poor; he hath nothing.


How! poor? look upon his face; what call you rich?
let them coin his nose, let them coin his cheeks:
Ill not pay a denier. What, will you make a younker
of me? shall I not take mine case in mine inn but I
shall have my pocket picked? I have lost a
seal-ring of my grandfather's worth forty mark.


O Jesu, I have heard the prince tell him, I know not
how oft, that ring was copper!


How! the prince is a Jack, a sneak-cup: 'sblood, an
he were here, I would cudgel him like a dog, if he
would say so.

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