Friday, May 14, 1943

The Charlotte News

Friday, May 14, 1943


Site Ed. Note: For the first time since October, the headline war news on the front page does not concern North Africa, turning its attention to an American landing on the island of Attu in the Aleutians, accompanied by heavy bombing raids on Kiska, in an effort to drive the Japanese from the northern islands off Alaska.

Nevertheless, news continued to arrive from Tunisia. Harold Boyle of the Associated Press provides an overview of the campaign since November, chronicling the progress of “green” American troops into battle-toughened veterans in the time between the debacle during the Faid Pass to Kasserine Pass maneuver of Rommel in February to the Allied taking of Maknassy, El Guettar, Gafsa, and Mateur by Patton's Second Army Corps, and its further success under the command of General Bradley, together with the French, taking Bizerte the week before.

During the latter stages of the campaign, the Americans fought as a unit, not divided as before the successes at El Guettar and Gafsa. The young soldiers had learned that only courage and the will to fight in the face of the enemy, requisite though these qualities were, nevertheless were not enough: it took the discernment to know the limits of their own fighting capability and how best to exploit weaknesses of the enemy, how best to attack them. Patton had counseled never to attack anti-tank guns head-on, but only by flanking maneuvers. They had failed the lesson at Tebourba and at Medjez-El-Bab, rolling tanks into marshy ground in bad weather. And they had paid the price.

The cruel lessons of battles lost and those hard fought and won were now in their store for the times ahead when invasion of the Continent would come.

The full weight of American bombing raids launched from the southern Mediterranean rim were now being unleashed for the first time on Italy without the necessity of dilution by North African raids. The result was the largest concentrated bombing effort to date on Italy, with hits being made on Sardinia, Augusta and Messina on Sicily, and at Naples and Reggio Calabria on the mainland, as well as strikes on the island of Pantellaria, 45 miles east of Cap Bon, midway between Cap Bon and Sicily. Twenty Axis ships were reported sunk or damaged by American Liberators at Augusta on Sicily.

Unrelenting bombing also continued on Germany, stretching the continuous raids across two full days. American bombers hit the northern coastal area of Germany, probably Wilhelmshaven, Kiel and Emden, though Berlin radio did not specify the targets. Allied reports indicated that during the previous day American bombers hit Meault and St. Omer in northern France. The night before, an RAF raid had struck Berlin, the Ruhr Valley, and Czechoslovakia. Thirty-four planes did not return from that latter raid.

It was reported from Bulgaria that King Boris had sent an urgent message to Hitler: Send Help! The underground was having its way. Heinrich Himmler was said to be dispatching more Gestapo agents immediately to Sofia. Natasha was said to be pleased.

Things fast were coming apart now along the Rim of the Wheel of the Axis. Next, were the spokes.

And, we offer another re-printed installment from "See Here, Private Hargrove", as originally appearing in The News in fall, 1941. In this segment, Private Hargrove is awakened suddenly by a nudge to encounter a viciously coquettish young lady with ideas of her own about who was going to be her boyfriend and who was simply a silly, good-for-nothing maker of silly faces, such as Private Hargrove, an ugly old stick-in-the-mud, who unfortunately had to accompany the young lady to have her picture taken with one of her suitors who was not at all her boyfriend, Johnny, to which vitriolic descriptions of himself Private Hargrove stood, adamantly and with military mien, his ground, by making silly faces and sticking out his tongue right back at this vicious coquette.

Life at Fort Bragg in 1941 was obviously a more rigorous and nightmarish experience than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Whether General Patton was in the running as one of her potential boyfriends, she failed to indicate.

Whatever the case, wethinks the lady diddeth protest too much.

On the editorial page, "Supermen" tells the tale of surrender and defeat of the once feared and insuperable Aryan soldier of the Axis. Now, they were scurrying, tail tucked between their legs, as fast as they could skedaddle into the pens, oinking the way.

The editorial suggests that the result was characteristic of the German fighting man, even from the days of the end of World War I. When things were going well, he fought bravely, proudly, determinedly. But as soon as the battle was plainly lost, he gave up. There was no fighting to the last man. Such, opines Mr. Davis, was not the stuff of the British Army who would never have surrendered Bizerte and Tunis without a last stand. They would have fought, as the Russians defended Stalingrad, to the last man, to the last relentlessly stubborn dragoon, to the last kullah, until the Sniders squibbed no more.

Of course, in reality, understandable pride and brag over the first decisive Western Allied victory over the Nazis at this crossroads notwithstanding, the truth in the Tunisian scenario was more closely akin to the idea summed up in microcosm in the piece by A. P. reporter Daniel De Luce on Tuesday, wherein he described the tall blonde German sergeant stating to him, while trying to surrender to Mr. De Luce, that his men were out of food, munitions, and benzine. They had nothing to eat and nothing with which to fight or by which to motor around. And they were in the North African desert. There was little choice left but to surrender. The supply lines had been stretched too distant, too thin, for too long, and the Allies' persistent efforts in bombing raids had interdicted those supplies effectively through the six months preceding surrender. The failure to take the oilfields of the Caucasus had cost the Reich generally in seeking to slake its drowning thirst for oil. The soldiers of the Afrika Korps could do little but kick the desert sand in the faces of the overpowering Allies by the time the final confrontation came.

Stalingrad and the Donets River Basin offensive into the Kuban River Valley during the winter in Russia had been the trump cards matching those held by General Patton and General Montgomery and General Anderson in Tunisia, pairs of wild Deuces in tandem, operating to break the bridgeheads of the Nazis.

Next would come the wild Jokers, led by Kilroy.

"Signposts" states the obvious: that the Allies were preparing in the Washington conference to launch a major new assault soon, possibly one including an offensive in the Pacific launched out of India, indicated by the presence of General Wavell at the conference.

"Slandered" reacts to the curmudgeonly statement of Secretary of Interior and oil production czar Harold Ickes, who was quoted on the front page the day before, saying, with pointed and poniarded reference to Charlotte and southwestern Pennsylvania towns which had complained of gasoline in storage tanks in those areas going to waste, that he wished "pious communities that say they are willing to sacrifice for the war effort would show it rather than say it."

While admitting to the possible accuracy of the charge of piety, and the hypocrisy implied by it, in talking of sacrifice while complaining too much of war restriction, the editorial nevertheless warns Mr. Ickes against insulting the Hornet’s Nest that was Charlotte, that some Hornet liable as not might take a hankering to sting him back.

And that the real issue, anyway, said the piece, was the truth of the charge leveled by Coleman Roberts, head of the North Carolina Motor Club, that he had new evidence of such stored gasoline going to waste while undue driving restrictions were placed on motorists on the east coast.

Samuel Grafton again looks at the division of French leadership in North Africa, that the overwhelming majority of Frenchmen in the region knew the face and name and attitude of General Charles De Gaulle and preferred him for political leadership to the relatively unknown purely military mind of General Henri Giraud. It was to De Gaulle that Frenchmen looked for leadership, not Giraud. Yet, it was Giraud in political command in North Africa. Mr. Grafton warns that the Allies who had placed him in that position to the consternation of the French might have sown the seeds for future French division, just as the Continent was being prepared for initial invasion.

A piece from "Predictions of Things to Come" by Alexander Kiralfy offers that if Hitler could be vanquished by the end of 1943, then Japan could be forced to surrender by 1946. Of course, he misses on both the predicate of his Japanese prediction, and by at least five months, on the principal prediction for the fall of Japan. But, his facts and figures could not have foreseen their complete cancellation for mootness by the now ongoing Manhattan Project out in the desert sands of New Mexico, as made initially evident only to a few participatory scientists and privy observers on July 16, 1945, and then to the world and most assuredly to Japan on August 6.

At the time, fresh off the Tunisian victory and with the Russians appearing to be forcing Hitler completely out of their country, the thinking generally among the Allied nations certainly would have easily, if cautiously, supported such a prediction as to Hitler's imminent downfall.

Raymond Clapper listens to talk from Swedish visitors returned recently from inside the Third Reich and hears that most German military experts now were bracing only for invasion of the Continent, realizing that Germany could not defeat the Allies, that its only hope was to fight to a stalemate. Most observers predicted that Germany would be defeated by either the end of 1943 or the end of 1944, but could hold out no longer. The German people were not expecting retaliation for bombing raids as they understood that their planes had to be maintained in reserve against invasion.

One thing was clear: Hitler's mystique of invincibility was gone, kaput. It had ended when he failed to take Stalingrad in December and January. It had been engraved with iambic pentameter at the fall of Bizerte and Tunis, indeed, as that message had been clearly writ before it in the poetry urged to Commons by Mr. Churchill November 10 after the victory was complete in the Battle of Egypt.

As to the imminent Allied invasion of the Continent, military scuttlebutt in Germany predicted that it would come either through France or Belgium, along the area most probably between the coasts of Normandie and Bretagne, that based on the idea that the Allies, in order to maintain the flow of supplies, needed to be within 24 hours navigation time from their bases to the bridgehead they would establish on land.

It turned out to be a quite good prediction on paper--but for a year hence, not now.

By that time, Mr. Clapper would be four months in his grave, the victim of a mid-air collision over the Marshall Islands February 4, 1944, after the bomber in which he was riding on special assignment broke formation to afford him a better view of the the results of the bombing raid just undertaken.

And, "The Issue" favors Judge Siler running for Secretary of State of North Carolina with a platform plank opposed to the change of the name of the town of Hemp, North Carolina to Robbins. The "For Robbins; Against Hemp" committee could take a hike. Hemp it had been and Hemp it should stay, bad punning by the column notwithstanding, anent enough Hemp with which to hang one's self. (Residual hippies, however, left over from the 1960's and 1970's, take heed of the bad pun; you might need it someday. Remember "Kung-Fu". Sorry, but what is true is true. Only the facts, ma'am.)

Nevertheless, in 1943, demonstrating significant perspicacity in the process, Hemp became Robbins, named for the mill benefactor of the burg--and subsequently became the hometown of former Senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee John Edwards. Whether, by the 1990's, had he hailed from Hemp instead of Robbins, the factum might have bolstered his political fortunes even further, we make no definite assertion. What was was and what is is.

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