Wednesday, June 2, 1943

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, June 2, 1943


Site Ed. Note: Reports the front page, Pantellaria, Sicily, and Sardinia, were again bombed by the Allies, inflicting heavy damage, especially on Pantellaria, which had become the most punished target of the Axis during the previous three weeks since the end of the Tunisian Campaign.

An RAF spokesperson reported that 7,500 tons of bombs wound up being dropped on Essen, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, and Wuppertal during the last week of May, fully four times that dropped during the entire first four months of 1942. The unnamed source added that the successful raid on Leghorn the previous weekend by a hundred Flying Fortresses without a single loss indicated that the time was approaching when daylight raids on Italy could be accomplished at will without fear of reprisal.

First Lord of the British Admiralty, A. V. Alexander, told Commons that May had been the best month thus far in the war for U-boat sinkings. Without providing specific figures, he asserted that more sinkings had occurred in the previous year than in all of the previous two and half years of the war, that sinkings had increased by 25% in the previous six months over those of the six-month period prior to it. He indicated that the RAF and American bombing raids of German U-boat facilities had substantially reduced the U-boat traffic in the Atlantic in recent months, complementing the increased record of sinkings.

A report provides details of the sinking of one such U-boat by the Coast Guard cutter Spencer, occurring several weeks earlier in an undisclosed location off the East Coast. Forty members of the U-boat's crew were taken prisoner as the submarine sank amid blistering gunfire after being blasted to the surface with depth charges, or "baskets of eggs" as the Navy report called them, to prevent the raider from its attempt to cruise under the convoy and disrupt thereby the Spencer’s sonar detection devices by triggering the sound of the cargo ship’s engines to escape the pursuit by the sub.

The Navy officially reported between 1,500 and 3,000 Japanese killed on Attu in the twenty days of fighting there with only four prisoners captured. Decimated was the word most suited to the enemy’s forces, yet in understatement.

It was reported via Stockholm that German communiques indicated that the German military command expected no concerted American, British, and Russian combined offensive from East and West against Central Europe during the summer. It added, however, it probably would come by fall. The report asserted that the British and Americans lacked sufficiently trained troops to engage in more than commando-type raids during the summer.

That followed by two days a Berlin radio report that the invasion of Central Europe was expected on June 22.

The conclusion of Allied observers was that the Germans were in the dark as to when the attack would come and consequently were fishing for information by use of these varying predictions in the hope of triggering Allied reaction. The reports were coupled with the frank account that the Wehrmacht was incapable of any offensive during the summer, with admissions that the British and American bombing raids had significantly hampered war production in Germany and the occupied lands, France and the Low Countries. Such reports, the observers indicated, were product of the same motive, to ferret out Allied intentions.

With only 49 days' worth of coal above ground, the War Labor Board issued a directive to the coal miners and operators to cease negotiations as long as the miners were in strike mode, that the Board would not recognize any agreement reached while the mines were not in operation. Regardless, the miners and operators continued their negotiations. The Board referred the matter to President Roosevelt to take whatever action he deemed necessary to resolve the crisis.

Demonstrating the danger in the Atlantic even to civilian aircraft, at least when mistaken identity corrupted intelligence, actor Leslie Howard, known in America for his roles as the self-described philosopher-poet, Alan Squier, rendered obsolescent by modernity, in "The Petrified Forest", and as the scrupulously loyal and patriotic hero Ashley Wilkes, set in stark contrast to the swashbuckling, piratically profiteering anti-hero Rhett Butler, in "Gone With the Wind", was reported among thirteen passengers aboard a B.O.A.C. passenger airliner bound from Lisbon to England which had disappeared over the Bay of Biscay, apparently shot down. Last word from the pilot was that the plane was being attacked by enemy aircraft.

It turned out that the DC-3, Flight 777, was in fact shot down by a Luftwaffe Junker-88 under the apparently confused belief that the plane contained Prime Minister Churchill, at the time meeting in Algiers through June 3 with General Eisenhower, General Marshall, General Montgomery, and the other Allied commanders, to plot the final strategy for invasion of Sicily, to begin July 9.

Another theory, promulgated by Mr. Howard's now-deceased son Ronald, also a British actor, has it that Mr. Howard, 50 years old at his death, was, himself, the object of the attack for his supposed intelligence gathering activities and to strike a blow to British morale by killing one of the country's major actors, who had been outspoken in his detestation of the Nazis and in support of the British war effort.

At the conclusion of The Hinge of Fate, published in 1950 as part of his multivolume memoir, Winston Churchill expressed personal dismay over the fact that apparent confusion of the Nazis between the ill-fated flight and that of Churchill cost Mr. Howard and the other twelve passengers their lives:

Eden and I flew home together by Gibraltar. As my presence in North Africa had been fully reported, the Germans were exceptionally vigilant, and this led to a tragedy which much distressed me. The regular commercial aircraft was about to start from the Lisbon airfield when a thickset man smoking a cigar walked up and was thought to be a passenger on it. The German agents therefore signalled that I was on board. Although these passenger planes had plied unmolested for many months between Portugal and England, a German plane was instantly ordered out, and the defenceless aircraft was ruthlessly shot down. Thirteen passengers perished, and among them the well-known British actor Leslie Howard, whose grace and gifts are still preserved for us by the records of the many delightful films in which he took part. The brutality of the Germans was only matched by the stupidity of their agents. It is difficult to understand how anyone could imagine that with all the resources of Great Britain at my disposal I should have booked a passage in an unarmed and unescorted plane from Lisbon and flown home in broad daylight. We of course made a broad loop out by night from Gibraltar into the ocean, and arrived home without incident. It was a painful shock to me to learn what had happened to others in the inscrutable workings of Fate.

Clark Lee, in Chapter 3 of They Call It Pacific, tells of his orders from the Associated Press to remain in Manila in late November, 1941 to cover the expected imminent outbreak of war. After having looked forward to catching his ride to the United States for the first time in over five years aboard the President Coolidge, still in port upon his arrival in the Philippines from Shanghai, he was disappointed at the news but understood its import: war was nigh and coming on them fast, notwithstanding General MacArthur's forecast that it would not come until the first of the year. Whenever it might come, Mr. Lee's 34 days in the U.S. since 1934 would have to await another time to enjoy further extension.

He proceeds to take the reader on a tour of the military wherewithal, and overly optimistic preparedness, of defenses of the Philippines, as well as on a journey through Philippine life of the time.

The latter was presented in sequel and contrast to his disturbingly frank portrait, contained in Chapter 2, of the often cruel treatment of the native Chinese citizens of Hong Kong by the British, especially British businessmen, whose behavior reflected a condescending attitude that the natives were little more than coolies or stock animals, the passive acceptance of such treatment by the native population being suggestive of complete psychological subjugation to the British attitude and to British rule. He had pointed out that some of his friends in Hong Kong had related to him of the supposed prediction in 1841 by a Chinese historian that Hong Kong would remain under British rule for 100 years.

By the close of the chapter, it was 2:00 a.m., December 8 in Manila, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor on the other side of the dateline. Mr. Lee was awakened by a call.

On the editorial page, "FDR's Ghost" argues that blame for the current coal mining crisis lay squarely with President Roosevelt's consistent stand in the corner of Labor during the previous ten years. Labor, it contends, had become so inured to the President's cajoling that it felt it could take advantage of the war's demand for coal, hobbling in the process, if necessary, the war production effort, even bringing it to a screeching halt, holding the country hostage to enable its demands for higher wages.

The piece parenthetically states that it contends in the abstract no objection to the demands of the miners, believes that they are entitled to higher wages, but that the timing for the demand and the method being utilized, eschewing the War Labor Board as a means to arbitrate the impasse while continuing on the job, was anti-patriotic, even treasonous.

It concludes that the miners should be forced back into the mines at the point of a rifle and bayonet and continued work enforced by a phalanx of soldiers surrounding the mines, operated by the Government since May 1.

With the entire war production, based on steel, in turn based on coal, at stake within 49 days, did the piece not have a point, no matter how anti-democratic under normal conditions the proposed action might sound? Obviously, it runs afoul of the Thirteenth Amendment banning involuntary servitude--even if the miners were not, strictly speaking, to be made slaves, but rather paid workers in an industry which they had chosen initially for themselves.

But, since the declarations of war provided the President with all necessary powers to effect the prosecution of the war effort, did it not include drafting of labor? a matter already discussed during the previous year, to authorize the Manpower Administrator Paul McNutt to so draft labor in every vital war industry, even to redistribute it so that the farmers, labor starved by the exodus of labor to the city, could return to less strained methods to achieve the substantially increased food production required by the war.

At the end of the day, however, would resort to such force, to implement the no-strike pledge made in February 1942 by Labor, have not provided too much fodder for the Nazi propagandists to proclaim loudly that the Americans had to force their own labor at gunpoint to participate in an hypocritical system of "democracy"?

Samuel Grafton looks at the problems of trying to win the war exclusively through use of air power, that bombing campaigns were overly sterile and remote in their approach to war, could not, as with ground troops, effect a respect for democracy, could not cultivate underground movements, could not distinguish between friend and foe in letting loose bombs indiscriminately, bound to hit both at once when let fly over heavily populated areas, (a favorite ploy of the Nazis, to stimulate negative propaganda against the Allies and thereby to tamp down underground resistance, being deliberately to locate factories near residential neighborhoods), could not effect surrender of masses of people, and finally rested on the dubious premise that total destruction was a way to bring about surrender.

On the latter point, Mr. Grafton offers Stalingrad as Exhibit A to the contrary. (He might also have added London during the Blitz, even if the destruction there was only vaguely similar in certain neighborhoods to the true total destruction of Stalingrad as a city.) He then offers contrast between Stalingrad and the experience of France, where surrender was accomplished with virtually no destruction, merely on the threat of it, by ground troops.

He stresses the illimitable significance in the war of air power and its use in weakening the enemy to the point that hundreds of thousands of lives would no doubt be saved by its sustained use. He merely questions, and finds doubtful, the Churchill premise offered in the recent speech to Congress that air power alone might achieve the victory.

As Churchill had added, of course, that the concept was experimental and would not hurt at least to try.

Raymond Clapper examines the parts of Swedish society which he finds superior to that of the United States, the delivery efficiently of social services, the medical care, the subsidized housing, the non-combative labor relations with management, the ability to express advocacy for progress without fear of reprisal.

He makes special note of both the absence of censorship of his outgoing pieces in Sweden, contrasted with the ongoing United Nations Food Conference at Hot Springs, Virginia, largely closed off from press access, and the cleanliness of Swedish copper mining towns and miners' housing therein when contrasted with the abject conditions in which most coal miners worked and lived in the United States.

Finally, he offers a contrast which could not be duplicated in the United States, save perhaps, to a lesser degree, in the northern reaches of Montana along the Canadian border, that being the sunny nights lasting until midnight, with a dim glow pervading the entire night, affording the unaided reading of a newspaper, he reports, at any hour. These long spring and summer nights also afforded, he remarks, protection against surprise nighttime air raids by the Luftwaffe and so alleviated tension considerably during the six-month period of the year when children and adults alike played outside until midnight, counter-balancing the other six months when darkness predominated.

A piece from the United States News Service explains why there was a significant vacillation daily at present in the availability of gas along the East Coast. The recent flooding of the Mississippi River had taken with it part of the Arkansas linkage in the pipeline supplying gas from the Gulf States to the Atlantic Seaboard, and the pipeline was therefore significantly reduced in flow, even though effected of temporary repair. The consequent reduction in flow until the permanent repair could be completed several weeks hence, after subsidence of the flood waters, was 300,000 barrels per day, down from pre-flood deliveries of 1.3 million barrels.

Overarching the flood's temporary dissipation of supply, however, the piece points out, was the quadrupling of demand by the military for gas since January.

As the inside page the day before had indicated in a piece anent the beginning of hearings in Charlotte to adjudicate gas rationing offenses, the bombing raids in North Africa conducted under the command of General James Doolittle had, in just fifteen days at the end of the Tunisian Campaign, expended fully 16.5 million gallons of gas, compared to 14.95 million gallons consumed monthly by motorists along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. On average, if sustained--and stepped-up bombing raids on Italy since the fall of Tunisia suggested even greater consumption by the Allied airmen--, then the bombing campaign in the Mediterranean alone in a given month consumed over twice the gas of ordinary monthly consumption in just the twelve Atlantic Coast states. Added to this statistic was also the fact that bombers required 100-octane fuel, which demanded even greater quantities of crude to produce.

"World Vision" commends Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles for his recent speech at Durham in which he again, as at Arlington the previous Memorial Day of 1942, laid forth a comprehensive view for the post-war world, built on a primary premise of human welfare, the "new frontier", as he had phrased it a year earlier, with a comprehensive police force worldwide to enforce the premise.

The piece points out the universal tendency toward disconnection between that which is proposed by the Executive Branch and that which is ultimately passed into law by the Legislative Branch, but nevertheless finds the speech of Mr. Welles worthwhile in setting the tone which might ultimately put the quietus politically on the inevitably nay-saying voices of such Senators as Robert Rice Reynolds, Bennett Champ Clark, Burton Wheeler, Gerald Nye, and Robert Taft.

"Missing Link" finds it both incredible and lamentable that North Carolina stood still somewhere in the fin de siècle in terms of its participation in the coming age of air transportation.

Perhaps, in answer to the problem, appears the piece, registered somewhat in jest, from The Greensboro Daily News, anent the woman who had applied for a civil aviation license to operate an airline, comprised in this instance of conventional aircraft and autogiros, in order to link 73 towns in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. It was the autogiros which caught the attention of the newspaper. At the time, helicopters were still largely novelty items, especially in civilian application.

Whether the implication of the two pieces spliced together was that the autogiro business proposed by the young woman formed the "missing link" in air transportation to bring North Carolina up to speed, we leave to the reader to discern.

In any event, perhaps Miss Harris had partaken of her ample share of wine with dinner, after consulting with former Ambassador Joseph E. Davies's Russian translator in the nineteen toasts accommodated Premier Stalin, as reported the previous week during the former Ambassador's trip as special envoy to Moscow.

"Brains without purpose. Noise without sound, shape without substance... Petrified forest, eh? Suitable haven for me. Well, perhaps that's what I'm destined to become, an interesting fossil for future study."

"...She has heroic stuff in her. She may be one of the immortal women of France: another Joan of Arc, George Sand, Madame Curie, or Du Barry.

"I want to show her that I believe in her, and how else can I do it? Living, I'm worth nothing to her. Dead, I can buy her the tallest cathedrals, golden vineyards, and dancing in the streets. One well-directed bullet will accomplish all that, and it'll earn a measure of reflected glory for him that fired it and him that stopped it. This document will be my ticket to immortality. It'll inspire people to say of me, 'There was an artist who died before his time.'

"Will you do it, Duke?"

--Alan Squier, to Gabrielle Maple and to Duke Mantee, respectively, "The Petrified Forest", 1936

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