Thursday, May 13, 1943

The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 13, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The last remnants of fighting southwest of Cap Bon and Tunis had now ended, reports the front page. Even General Jurgen von Arnim, Nazi commander in North Africa, was among the estimated 175,000 prisoners taken by the Allies during the previous few days. The General had declined terms of unconditional surrender but the gesture was academic. The surrender, the defeat, was complete. Italian commander Giovanni Messe was also among the prisoners.

The last bomb dropped by the Allies in Africa fell the previous morning, nearly three years after the British dropped their first load on the continent at Tobruk, June 11, 1940. Focus of air attacks would now be transferred across the Mediterranean.

General Eisenhower explained the subterfuge employed by the Allies to draw off the Nazi infantry and armored strength to the south, where the German generals expected to meet the Eighth Army which was amassing in strength in that position. Instead, the First Army, plus parts of the Eighth, struck in force from the west against Tunis, as the Americans and French struck from the south and west against Bizerte.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson gave praise and primary credit to General Eisenhower for the strategic planning which led to the victory in Tunisia, comparing its importance with the victory by the Russians at Stalingrad in late January.

In the wake of the news of Allied victory in Tunisia, reaction through occupied Europe was swift and decisive. Underground violence erupted in Belgium and the Netherlands and quickly spread as "wildfire". German troops were attacked and killed, trains carrying Nazis were wrecked by sabotage, Nazi trucks were demolished. In Poland, Yugoslavia, Norway, and Greece, similar outbreaks of armed uprising, if not as massive, were reported. The Dutch government-in-exile in London for the first time gave advice by radio to Dutch soldiers not to register for compulsory internment sought by the Nazis. The Nazis wanted the soldiers out of the way in case of Allied invasion, fearful that they might aid the Allied effort.

To add to the woes of Nazi Germany, another large Allied bombing raid hit Duisburg the night before, the largest thus far in the war in tonnage, comprised of over 1,500 tons. The Cologne thousand-plane raid at the end of May, 1942 had dropped 1,500 tons of bombs, as had the raid on Dortmund the week before, on May 4, 1943. The latter raids, however, involved four-motor bombers dropping four-ton bombs and so not as many planes were involved as in the Cologne raid. Thirty bombers did not return from the Duisburg raid, suggesting as many as 600 planes participating, although Allied losses during bombing raids had been on the increase in recent weeks from the usual 5% rate, approaching 10%.

On the editorial page, "Prescription" takes issue with Dorothy Thompsonís piece in which she asserts that the failure of the Allies to provide a clear prospectus on which post-war Europe would be governed undermined the insistence toward underground activity in occupied countries to overthrow the despots from within. The News editorial says it isnít so, that the Allied war effort would be welcome by the oppressed peoples of Europe with open arms and tears of joy, would sweep into its democratic fold all the divided and starving masses disgusted with Fascism and Nazism.

Ms. Thompson goes further, however, not addressed in the editorial, to advocate a United States of Europe, that its time had come and was the natural outgrowth of a general sense of European unity.

Perhaps, in this instance, both Burke Davis and Ms. Thompson were correct, as their two positions appear not to be mutually exclusive. Indeed, The News was correct; the occupied countries did greet the military might of the Allies as they came rolling in to chase out the Hun warrior from their midst. That is hardly surprising.

But, post-war, there was, to say the least, a lengthy debate, one dubbed the Cold War, to determine the manner in which all of Europe would be governed, whether democratically or part free and part under the yoke of totalitarianism. Would it not have been better to have laid these plans, as Ms. Thompson suggested, more clearly in the open prior to the end of the war so that not only the peoples of Western Europe would have known that they were fighting for democracy but that the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union would have believed that their quest was tending toward the same goal? Did the piecemeal recipe followed by the Allies, liberating Europe country by country and then turning over the governments to interim military leaders, not plant the seeds of distrust with respect to the Soviets, effectively laying the groundwork for the Cold War?

Raymond Clapper examines the relations between trade unions and management in Sweden and finds them remarkably cooperative when compared to their loggerheaded counterparts in the United States. There was no John L. Lewis in Sweden, though the union leaders had all the concerted power politically of which Mr. Lewis had ever dreamed, by way of their control of the ruling party, the Social Democrats. Yet, they did not abuse that power. They got along with management and management respected and toasted labor. Strikes, in consequence, were not an issue, despite the absence of anti-strike legislation. To avoid wartime inflation which hit Sweden in the First World War, the Swedish Trade Union Federation agreed with management not to seek wage increases for the duration. Instead, periodic adjustments were made to wages to meet increases in costs of living, at first labor agreeing to accept 75 percent of the increase, more recently having agreed to 60 percent.

Samuel Grafton finds Hitler now praying without effect to Wotan. The nation of shopkeepers, which the Fuehrer and his Propaganda Minister had once labeled Britain, and their ragtag brigades of American democratic lawyers, salesmen, vacuum cleaner demonstrators, house painters, bookkeepers, dentists, farmers, teachers, what have you, had just delivered to the Nazi the haymaker, pummeling him to the canvas in a knockout punch in North Africa, dispelling forever the insuperability of the magical powers attributed by some to the House-painting Fuehrer and his entourage of misfits and thugs. The resistless, professionally trained Hun warrior was now running, surrendering, before the shopkeepers and vacuum cleaner salesmen, turned soldiers. Hitler was dialing Wotan on the telephone, but Wotan was not responding to the call.

"Old House" laments the passing of a Charlotte landmark, the antebellum Phifer House in the 700 block of North Tryon Street, the locus of the last meeting of the cabinet of the Confederacy on April 26, 1865--even if, technically, as the piece adds, it met again under a sassafras tree in Fort Mill, S.C. The editorial suggests that with the tearing down of the old manse would pass into the misty ether the last of the ghosts of the Confederacy from downtown Charlotte's past. It rates it a shame that the hant could not be preserved for future generations to enter and muse as to what took place there in those final desperate days of retreat and surrender.

The Phifer House, incidentally, stood two blocks diagonally southeast from the Frederick Apartments where W. J. Cash finished writing The Mind of the South, after he moved from his first Charlotte residence at the Selwyn Hotel in early 1938, continuing in residence at the Frederick through his delivery of the manuscript to Knopf, July 27, 1940.

One can easily imagine the writer's romantic intrusion, his doppelganger, on a windy fall evening, with a hint of rain in the air, walking by the windswept old house and musing with its ghosts, asking them to explain to him why they fought such a desperate battle to preserve such a fruitless and peculiar institution at such cost to the region for decades afterward, even into the present time of 1938. One can even strain a little and see the cold, gray-steel eyes of Jeff Davis piercing back at Cash in a nearly blank stare from within one of the windows, the shutters on either side banging relentlessly against the handcrafted brick now crumbling back to the red earth which had formed them some years before 1865, the clap, clap, clap in steadily rapacious rhythm, miming the insistent martial step, the hopeful but fatalistic echoes of the drummer's marching taps by which his elders proceeded down the road of Death onto the final ground whereon the battle of Armageddon would be joined. And, from behind those blankly staring eyes, the manifestation speaks softly, irresolutely, to tell his distant kinsman by way of his first marriage to General Taylor's daughter, the sad, ill-fated Sarah: "I don't exactly know at this point, I don't exactly know. Perhaps, it was the call to glory which ignorance of an age always beckons youth to pursue to an end lacking of all but the dust of the distant ages and the bitter rue which desolation brings. But it is a tragic story, bang my cane to the floor, tragic. And one which you ought consider writing up, distant kinsman."

An African-American sailor writes The News, his favorite newspaper, he offers, which through his mother he continued to receive regularly from back home during his Navy training at Port Chicago, across the Bay from San Francisco, in Contra Costa County. He relates of the differences he had noticed between Charlotte, the South generally, and California, that the people did not make an issue on the buses of where they sat, whites filling from the front, blacks from the rear, that, instead, all simply entered the bus and took the seat nearest and most handy, without regard to color or race. He wondered why the folks back home could not do likewise, could not simply recognize a human being as a human being.

He informs that he was a reader of C.A. Paul's column, "On the Square"--a reference to Independence Square. He then concludes his letter with an intriguingly mysterious invitation to observe: "If you will notice on the Square where the busses stop, you will find my statement about the respect of women and the crowding of whites on busses to hold true in Charlotte."

As we have before said, ghosts surely reside in these old prints.

Stonewall Jackson's widow, Anna, who had married Jackson in 1857, his first wife having died in 1854 while giving birth, resided in Charlotte, some ten blocks from the Phifer House, in her latter years from 1863 to her death in 1915. Charlotte had been her childhood home; her father, Robert Hall Morrison, had been the first president of nearby Davidson College between 1837 and 1841.

Incidentally, the automobile which we drove three times non-stop across the breadth of the country along the corridor of I-5 and I-40, through Barstow, Kingman, don't forget Winona, Gallup, Amarillo, and onward to Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Asheville, Altamont to Altamont and beyond, around Christmas a few years ago, we purchased at a little garage not but a mile or so down the road from Port Chicago.

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