Wednesday, April 7, 1943

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, April 7, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Prime Minister Churchill told Commons, according to the front page, that the British had scored a new major victory in Tunisia by hitting hard at Wadi El Akarit, twenty miles north of Gabes, forcing the Axis into another major northern retreat. The attack was preceded by a massive barrage from big guns begun at 4:00 a.m., one of the largest such cannonades of the war to date in North Africa. Within seven and a half hours of the beginning of the assault itself at 4:30, the Akarit line established by Rommel was broken and Rommel's forces on the run. The British captured 5,000 prisoners, mostly Italian.

Meanwhile, two of Patton's forces, one operating at Djebel Kreroun, nine miles east of El Guettar, forty miles west of the Eighth Army, the other eleven miles north of Maknassy at Djebel Maizila, 28 miles from the coastal avenue of Axis retreat, forty miles north of the fighting east of El Guettar, made further headway in their efforts to link with the Eighth Army, choking off Rommelís forces in a trap. Djebel Maizila was a height overlooking the Maknassy to Sidi Bouzid supply route. Another Patton offensive a few miles away attacked Axis-held positions on heights at Meheri Zebeus. Patton possessed more and heavier big guns for battery fire than Rommel and the resultant capability for pounding the enemy kept it largely silent after initial exchanges of mortar rounds. Likewise, efforts by the Axis at air strikes had proved both unsuccessful and costly, as on Saturday alone fourteen German Stukas were shot down by American Spitfires.

A report tells of the role of the P-40 Warhawk in the air war over Tunisia, bagging 34 Luftwaffe planes in just five days.

Fighting continued on the Russian front on the outskirts of the Black Sea port town of Novorossisk in the Kuban River Delta. Fighting was hampered by mud from the thawing riverís overflow but the Russians nevertheless trudged forward, seeking to push their quarry into the Black Sea.

The British announced a plan, alternative to that just unveiled by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, that which would become in July, 1944 the International Monetary Fund to regulate currencies through the gold standard, to establish a World Bank as clearing house for regulation of international trade. The proposal, formulated by British economist John Maynard Keynes, was similar to the American proposal except that the prospective bank would be without assets whereas the American proposed fund would have five billion dollars in assets, about 40% of which would be contributed by the United States.

Ultimately, both plans, with modifications to each, would separately be implemented, the World Bank becoming established out of the United Nations conferences of 1945, the I.M.F. before it, in July 1944. The Bank establishes policy through a vote of 85% of its member nations, but the United States, holding in excess of a 16% interest, has a veto power over any action. The Bank is especially dedicated in purpose to providing for one of the Four Freedoms, freedom from want, by making loans to developing nations and other nations undergoing hardship. The longest serving heads of the Bank, each of whom are appointed to five-year terms by the President of the United States, have been Eugene Black, serving from 1949 to 1963, and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, serving from 1968 to 1981.

In Raleigh, the curator of the North Carolina Museum of History dubbed four of its most poisonous snakes on exhibit, "Hitler", "Mussolini", "Tojo", and "Hirohito". Hitler was a cane-brake rattlesnake. Mussolini was a cottonmouth moccasin. Tojo was a timber-rattler. Hirohito's namesake unfortunately was clipped off at the bottom of the page. We'll venture a guess: copperhead.

In any event, somewhere between the pumpkin tossed by the headless horseman at Ichabod Crane, the cottonmouth rattler before the bridge over the River Styx in Marjorie Rawlings's Cross Creek, and the cane, not to mention the small snake to which he made allusion on occasion, wielded by Mahatma Kane Jeeves in various skits and skittles, surely there is, vis à vis the surnamed nomenclature supplied by the North Carolina History Museum to its four most poisonous snakes of 1943, a parable for modern times.

On the editorial page, "New England" looks into the future relations between the United States and Great Britain and finds that the post-war environment would be not only conducive to but would hold as requisite a new cooperative relationship between the two countries as never before. England now had such an expanded industrial capacity by war that it was now competitive with that of the United States. Englandís hopes were now pinned to a new equality for its society, no more rich and, hopefully, no more poor, certainly no more empire interests abroad as in its often briganding past. The piece suggests that, inescapably, the pattern would be example for America.

"By the history books, we will soon be singing the same chorus."

And so, by the 1960ís, it would be, both literally and figuratively. "I want to hold your hand" had more meaning than just the narrow scope of the verse might suggest.

The piece quotes Churchill: "We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except the politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges."

"No Cussin'" suggests changed times between the American soldier of the distant past, pre-Revolutionary, and those of the day of World War II. It compared the quoted outlook on the subject by General Washington, who frowned on the new practice of cussing, to the unquotable of the most notorious cusser of them all, General Patton.

Of course, General Patton claimed to read his Bible every goddamned day while General Washington profaned Christmas by having his men attack the Hessians on Christmas night, 1776. Who was morally superior?

Moreover, General Washington had the good sense to understand that fighting a revolution against royalty was not going to serve to instill in men anything but the profoundest contempt for the very priggish ways against which they fought and which had served, in mandating civility, the most foul of systems in colonial times. He did not suggest any form of discipline to counteract the practice.

We did not fight and win the Revolution as gentlemen and ladies, nor by being in the least civil. That was the province of the Redcoats. You may be assured of it. If you don't like it, move to some other country, where your deconsecrative hyperbolic boor's highting will be better appreciated.

"Paper Relief" suggests that a committee, which included in its membership Wendell Willkie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and labor leaders Philip Murray and William Green, was not mindful of realities when it suggested sending millions of letters to Russia on June 22 from average American citizens to like Russian citizens in an effort to effect greater understanding between the two cultures. There was, says the piece, no room in the bottoms of ships tasked with the shipment of food and arms to the beleaguered country, that the better order for the day would have been to contribute food and clothing.

But, with rationing already in effect for a year on Americans, could anyone expect very much response to a call for food and clothing donations to Russia? The answer is self-evident in a country already mortally suspicious of the Communist world during two and a half alternately uneasy and tumultuous decades in international relations.

The effort of the committee's suggestion was to break down some of the icy barriers between the two societies in the hope of engendering and fostering better relations after the war. If room there was onboard ships in nooks and crannies for such letters, then what the harm?

The problem of course appears in how they were going to be translated and at what expense of time? And then there would inevitably be the need for oversight and censorship. Perhaps, on balance, The News had the better of the argument, good intentions of the committee to the contrary notwithstanding.

"The Big Job" takes a look at the depressed standing of North Carolina in relation to other states in overall education of its populace. In most categories, North Carolina ranked between 41st and 43d among the states. Nearly 6% of its population of age 25 or older had not even a first grade education. Another part exceeding a fifth of this age group had completed no more than one to four years of school. Thus, about 28% of that population born through the last year of World War I had no more than a fourth grade education.

Raymond Clapper supports the establishment of a means of control for international monetary exchange rates and stabilization of currencies. He points to Germany for the example after World War I, selling bonds on international markets to rebuild its infrastructure, then devaluing its currency and thus undermining the value of the bonds at time of negotiation. War-raked nations after the war would, without regulation, follow suit, prompting the sort of destabilization of currencies and world trade which eventually contributed to the collapse of financial markets prompting the Depression, one which had already preceded in Europe.

Mr. Clapper might have carried the argument further, into the realm of sociology, by indicating that the resulting alienation from hunger and want during the 1920's in Europe markedly had contributed to the rise of such offered panaceas to want, snake oil remedies, as that of Mussolini and Hitler, each promoting the mobilization of states into warring societies to achieve the dual purpose of full employment through compulsory service to the state while achieving empire extraterritorially, selling the idea of building war industry first through sacrifice of the worker at home, to be utilized to exploit masses abroad, to harvest, through their own impressed labor, their natural resources for the benefit of the former worker at home, now made a king with his own garage and Volkswagen to make the nice, formerly supplicant herrenvolk into the boot-kicking Storm Troops, conquerors of the world, for which their rightful Teutonic heritage made them most adept.

To avoid those repeated results, the United Nations were now seeking to lay the groundwork for what would become the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to form checks, similar to that of the Securities and Exchange Commission in prevention of the quick sell-off of stock and the resulting crash of Wall Street on Black Tuesday in October 1929, prompting a run on the banks and resulting bank failures, insured against under the first New Deal legislation by creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Criticism of these entities comes most often as a result of confusing their theoretical design with their practice by the fact of violation of their rules and regulations set up to achieve the enunciated goals. It is to blame the system of laws for the fact of criminals circumventing them with apparent impunity. It is not the system set up so much as it is the climate which permits the violation.

We need those cheap basketball shoes made by dollar a day labor in Indonesia, after all, and then sold cheaply at Walmart, do we not?

Samuel Grafton writes to Germans to tell them that their own prior strategy, mockish of fixed fortifications such as the Maginot Line, was contrarian to that being promoted now by their propaganda machine to attract both labor and the élan vital to continue morale at home to build the Mittelmeer designed by Reich architect Albert Speer, a wall along the southern Mediterranean. Their own Blitzkrieg and putsch had discovered and shown to the world the folly of fixed fortifications, the disastrous condition of having to await behind defensive lines for a thrust at any single point of incision, while the enemy on the offensive had the choice of targets at the weakest point in the leather-bound last. Now, the shoe was on the other foot and the enemy was on the offensive against Germany, as Nazi leaders sought to allay fears with cajoling enticements to the entifical notion that the Mittelmeer was now sine qua non to essential security and sustained existence.

Nevertheless, the last and most difficult sheep to be shorn, as was said proverbially in the letters of yore, was the cobbler. Yet, "Ne sutor ultra crepidam." And, so, in Europe, as to Hitler and his Last, it would so be, and so into the future a Wall to pen those whom the Soviets, at least, held suspect as hell-spellbound still in the case of the Cobbler.

The fourth in the "Heritage of America" series presents an excerpt from You Can't Go Home Again, the 1940 posthumously published work of Thomas Wolfe, wherein the narrator, George Webber, tells of the Seeker who spans his foot abroad the grandly arching reaches of America's rivers and mountains and intervening plains, just a little ways across, once realizing the Rockies as his footstool, from shore to shore, amid the "ten thousand points of light" pricking through the night, through the pastures of plenty leading him along his way.

The passage travels more than merely space but also into time, into time not just of the past but into the dim future lying ahead of its present, even into the 1960's which Wolfe never would see in corporeal person.

But the future is there, nevertheless, unmistakably, ineradicably, transcendentally, all in a grasp of instant recognition of the hour which told us collectively that it was to be understood that, to be and to continue to be, required us either to understand the world about us and our individual and collective places within it and the interrelationships to foster closer connections or to perish from its worst unleashed energies set to wean us from our worst instincts, proven from time immemorial, by the concept of mutual deterrence effected through the staring eye of the cockatrice, cocked at any moment to unleash its destruction upon mankind.

As we have mentioned, on three separate occasions, within the last eleven years, we have taken the sojourn which George Webber recommends, all in short order, in the course of a little over 40 hours, coast to coast, I-5 down the central valley stretching through California night remindful of eastern North Carolina plains in our early years to age five, both hoed and planted with the crops to feed and clothe and defend the country, across the short but perilous stretch by the lonely orchards and onion fields of southern California, traversed by the only two-laned section of macadam astride the journey still enforced upon the traveler in post-modern times, then to join with the stretch of long, unremitting concrete beneath the sign on I-40 at Barstow in a cool Christmas Eve desert flat, reading a mileage indicator all the way east to Wilmington, and you're already a seventh of the short span of distance and time, the worst snake of the road across the whole of it now miles behind.

Three times, each just before Christmas, we took that journey alone across the country, once just after the counting of votes stopped short for its insistency toward democracy, yet moving onward without respite, and thereby came to realize how durably close the Narrows of New York Harbor, for instance, are to the steel-riveted spans which extend to join the once long hour's separation of the headlands of San Francisco Bay, from the soft expansive sands of the shores of Malibu to the ghostly parting waves rolling onward through time by Hatteras Light, being but a short drive of a day and two-thirds, beginning into the night--maybe a little longer in your woody, should you care to stop and play your guitar in Texas or Arkansas or in Memphis, Nashville's skyline passing by in the quiet of the city's morning, busy relaxing for a day or perhaps unwrapping presents under the trees.

Once your footstool is the Rockies, or, along the southern route, the Panhandle, it is no longer daunting but yet increased in its majesty before the mind echoing the visions seen in quick passing light streams whispering their night dreams to you as Christmas morning's unfocused December rays pierce your stinging pupils in a kind of sudden solitary craze, through the night and through the day, orbiting the earth, as the earth passes beneath your treads to enable the crossing of but slightly more than a tenth of its circumference without respite, and thus to say at the end of the beginning of its mission that you sought and that you found.

But, still, the soured cynics will say to you, even so, denying the while their own adventure, in their provincial encampments, their solitary losses of imagination and improvident silences and shuns to he or she who has been so audacious to desert and then seek rejoinder with the past into the present, to seek to teach: "Ah, my little, ignorant, naive fool, remember this, as someone said: You Can't Go Home Again."

We beg to differ, pupil. Read the book, for a change, and find out why.

And, in extension of the quote of the day of Monday, we offer the full text of the poem by Charles MacKay, "Clear the Way".

We read today in Newsweek the suggestion that the President's plan to abolish from the face of the earth all nuclear weapons is Pollyannish in its laudable goal.

We beg to differ. It only takes mutual agreement among all nations, the realization that we have, in 65 years of living with the threat of the Beast, grown mature enough as a world to let the basilisk slither back to the misty ethers from whence it was conjured at the bestial beck of Adolf Hitler.

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