The Charlotte News
Saturday, May 8, 1943
Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of the final taking the day before at 4:15 p.m. of Bizerte by the Americans under the command of General Omar Bradley, five minutes after the British under K.A.N. Anderson had taken Tunis, as the French took Pont du Fahs, to the east of Tunis. To round out the united effort, the 11th Hussars detachment of the Eighth Army, bearing the Red Desert Rat insignia, were the first patrol to advance into Tunis. This Rat Patrol also had been the first into Bengasi and into Tripoli during earlier operations in Libya. The First Army detachment, the Derbyshire Yeomanry, lost “by a head” to the Rat Patrol the competitive race to be first into the capital city.
American tanks were strewn with flowers by gleeful residents of Bizerte. A similar scene greeted the British in Tunis.
It was disclosed for the first time by General Eisenhower that General Bradley, previously second in command to General Patton, had taken command of Army II Corps in the north of Tunisia on April 17 when operations were transferred from Maknassy in the central region. The reason for the change in command, explained General Eisenhower, was that operations in the north were essentially infantry, Bradley's specialty, whereas operations in the central region had been primarily armored, Patton's area of command expertise.
Patton's whereabouts was undisclosed. He was last reported by name in the dispatches on May 1 taking the 2,000-foot precipitous height of Djebel Tahent, Hill 609, thirteen miles southwest of Mateur, a key operation which started the current offensive leading to the final breakthrough into Bizerte. Once Hill 609 was captured, allowing the Americans to shell and then take Mateur, vital rail and highway junction in the north, all Axis resistance quickly retreated and faded in the area in front of Bizerte, 18 miles from Mateur, an area dominated by Lake Bizerte and Lake Achkel to its immediate west.
Similarly, to the south on the approach to Tunis, the fall on Wednesday, May 5 of Djebel Bou Aoukaz to the British First Army had opened the plain before Tunis to the crush of the Allies.
A piece on the inside page tells of the maneuvering by the British First and Eighth Armies in a feint to draw the bulk of the remaining Nazi armored forces to the south of Tunis in an expected Allied attack in that area, east of Bou Arada aiming at Pont du Fahs, where the British had been gathering forces for two weeks. The while, other detachments of the First Army, supported by Eighth Army units and patrols, advanced into Tunis by way of the open road through the valley from Medjez-El-Bab, encountering only light resistance, quickly cutting off attempted retreat by the Nazis from Tunis to their last point of evacuation at Cap Bon Peninsula. That left in a box the Axis armored divisions concentrating on defense of Pont du Fahs, fighting British armored divisions well to the south of Tunis, in the area of Bir Meherga.
The hastiness of the Axis retreat along open roads meant that Allied air attacks produced easy results.
It was reported by some of the estimated 10,000 captured prisoners that elite units of Germans had been flown into Tunisia from Sicily as late as three days earlier.
Senator Francis Maloney of Connecticut welcomed the news of the victory in Tunisia and the imminent clearing of the Mediterranean for transport of goods and materials and troops, with the prospect that it would also help relieve the oil shortage in the United States by enabling significantly shorter routes than around Africa for supplies to Russia and also could enable supplies of oil from the Near East.
In the Caucasus, the Red Army was reported to have Novorossisk encompassed on three sides, heavily pounding the arc, after taking Neberdjayevskaya, nine miles from Novorossisk, the last Nazi stronghold in the Kuban River Valley before the Black Sea. The Russians had already two days earlier plunged forward with a thrust severing, north and south of the Kuban River, the German and Rumanian Axis forces from one another.
And, taking most of the betting prize out of the one and three-sixteenths mile Preakness, Count Fleet easily won the second leg of the Triple Crown, leading pole to pole, and finishing eight links ahead of Blue Swords, also Kentucky Derby runner-up. Vincentive was third. Johnny Longden rode astride the victorious critter, as in the Derby the week before. The Hertz Hurricane won a $43,000 purse for its owner, Fannie Hertz.
Most of the other horses didn't want to stray from the paddock to challenge the favorite this time. Two days earlier, the field was reported as prospectively the smallest since 1889 when only two horses went to the post, smaller than the six-horse field in 1939. As of Thursday, only two other horses had definitely entered the race, with a third expected by post time. Those included the second and third-place finishers plus Slide Rule, third-place finisher in the Derby, the complement of the final field.
On the editorial page, "Climax in Tunisia" celebrates the near end of the Tunisian campaign with the report of the sooner than expected fall of Tunis and Bizerte to the Allies. It recaps the campaign from the days of the of the first dispatches in November announcing the Allied landings in Operation Torch during the night and early morning hours of November 7-8. The campaign climaxed nearly three years of fighting in North Africa by the British, primarily that of the Eighth Army.
There were still clean-up operations to be done, but for the most part, victory was now decisively with the Allies. The Axis had been driven from the southern rim of the Mediterranean and forced back into Central Europe where the remainder of the fighting in the European war would take place.
Raymond Clapper reports from Sweden that one of the primary reasons anti-Nazi sentiment there ran high was that the Nazis had insisted on blockading Sweden from receipt of imports of much needed supplies, especially foodstuffs. There was no apparent strategic reason for the blockade, instead appeared as just another incident indicative of the Nazis' penchant for bullying the smaller neighbors of Germany--as Neighborhood Bullies always do. The end result was only ill feeling toward the bully.
Samuel Grafton points out that in Europe the war was out of Hitler's hands. In France, where French peasants were hoarding grain from the Reich, in the Netherlands, where the Nazis were desperately trying to intern into military service 400,000 Dutch citizens, even in Germany itself, where openly disgruntled reaction had been observed to the closing of 300,000 small businesses to enable conscription of shopkeepers into the Wehrmacht, the signs were all consistent: the Reich and its power over the masses of Europe were decaying from the inside.
The Luftwaffe had been put forth by German propagandists as an insuperable force, but in Tunisia it had been devastated, personnel of the Luftwaffe having been found fighting with the infantry.
In Norway, delays in the Nazi occupiers' requisitioning of workers were regularly precipitated by the deliberate failure correctly to fill out employment slips, requiring the incessant repetition of the task.
The tale was one told over and over again throughout history: take from any people its liberty and harness it to a military machine for its supposed delayed gratification in some other place down the road and the people will find ways to rebel. For to take away joie de vivre is to take away the élan vital of life itself, leaving nothing in its stead but the will to resist to the death such a movement.
Dick Young returns to the Saturday page after a week's absence, looking forward to a cooperative new government in Charlotte, in what would become the last term thus far in history in which a mayor and city council of Charlotte would serve in time of world war. After the previous two Tuesday elections, Charlotte had a new mayor from the People's group and a majority city council from the Citizens' group. Mr. Young's hopes were pinned on the absence of such strident differences in the latter days of the previous Council, the so-called Seven Iron Dukes and Four Blocks of Granite, as evidenced in the earlier stages of their tenure.
Would they cooperate? Stay tuned, with baited breathlessness.
And, Tom Jimison registers from Rockingham his thoughts on Mother's Day, proclaims that in his youth all days were mother’s day, not just one Sunday of the year. After chronicling why that was, he defiantly refuses to wear any white flower to allow to the world that his mother was demised.
She wasn't, he contends, and, to prove it, could still hear her telling him so from up in Heaven with his old pa.
Mr. Jimison would proudly wear a red rose to church on Sunday, per his mother's insistent directions to him.
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