Monday, July 12, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, July 12, 1943

FOUR EDITORIALS

Site Ed. Note: With lightning speed, General Montgomery's Eighth Army, reports the front page, was streaking north along the east coast of Sicily, having taken Syracuse and its harbor facilities, and approaching Catania, 30 miles to the north, one-third the distance to Messina from Syracuse.

General Patton's Seventh Army, formerly Army II Corps, had likewise established a bridgehead to the west, north of Gela, 10 miles deep and 25 miles long. It had successfully secured the towns of Gela and Licata, and had also captured two airfields nearby.

Fully two thousand prisoners, mostly Italian, had been captured by Patton's and Montgomery's forces since the invasion began Saturday. Another report asserted the number to be as high as four thousand.

The American paratroopers to the west had successfully assaulted the Italians lines from behind, causing defenses to crumble quickly. The same was true of the glider-borne troops landing in advance of Montgomery's infantry and armored forces in the east. That, despite proclamations by Berlin radio that the gliders and paratroopers were ineffective and had been sliced to pieces by Axis defenders.

The Canadians had taken Pachino and secured the entire peninsula in the middle of the 100-mile arc, and were steadily advancing with light opposition toward the mountainous terrain beyond the coastal plain, where, it was believed, they would likely encounter greater opposition. They had captured a third airfield near Pachino.

Canadian Press correspondent Ross Munroe, continuing on the inside page, provides a personal account of his landing at Pachino, as well the voyage preceding, with the Canadian troops, or "Canucks" as he occasionally refers to them. The weather had cleared for the landing and the moon was full after a typical summer Mediterranean storm had blown through on the approach, leading to speculation that the landing might be postponed. Ships, estimated at 2,000 in the convoy, clogged the sea as far as the eye could see.

Once on the beach, Italian coastal defenses proved light, consisting only of barbed wire and a few machine-gun nests which "folded up like a concertina." Casualties were therefore light. The Canadians had already taken 700 prisoners, including fifteen officers, during the first day.

The landing forces and paratroops had not been informed of their target until they were half-way across the sea to the destination.

As the landings were taking place, bombing missions continued to hit airdromes and supply trucks in the area of Catania, Milo, Sciacca, and Gerbini, and also struck the ferry transport facility on the Italian mainland at Reggio Calabria, from which trains were carried from Italy to Messina, the only railhead on the island. The captured landing strips were already secure and affording bases for bombing missions.

Navy ships also contributed to the blazing offensive, bombarding Pozzallo into quick submission, a town between Syracuse and Ragusa.

Allied sources in North Africa placed the enemy forces defending Sicily at twelve divisions, ten Italian and two German. Berlin radio had provided the estimate of Allied forces at seven divisions, two American, four British, and one Canadian. No official word had been provided by the Allies as to the number of troops involved in the landing force.

Berlin was downplaying the initial effectiveness of the invasion, claiming, along with Rome, that a massive counter-offensive had been launched against the Allies, while the Italian print press called it a decisive moment in Italian history, reporting the invasionís implications as grave to the Italian people.

As Hitler had repeatedly asserted to the Herrenvolk that the continent was invulnerable to invasion, German morale, already at a low ebb, was thought to be now at its nadir, as reported on another inside page.

Tension was palpable throughout Europe as the Axis prepared for potential invasions at other points. Because of the recent strikes on Crete and movements of British troops in Syria during the previous month, the Balkans were thought to be the most likely place next to be struck.

Another piece provides the command structure for the forces, ground, air, and naval, involved in the invasion of Sicily, the primary infantry and armored commanders being, of course, Patton and Montgomery.

In the Pacific, American bombers hit Munda again, as ground troops were reported within three miles of the crucial airbase, the prime objective on New Georgia.

Fierce fighting was reported to be continuing in the area of Kursk and along the 200-mile bulge from Orel to Belgorod. Under the command of Field Marshal Guenther Von Kluge, the Germans had, according to Russian sources, gained no significant ground in the first week of the offensive. German sources claimed that, thus far in July, 28,000 Russians had been taken prisoner, with 1,640 tanks and 1,400 guns destroyed. The Russians, on the other hand, claimed to have destroyed 2,500 German tanks and 1,068 planes during the previous week.

Berlin radio finally acknowledged that the Robin Moor, the first U.S. merchant ship which fell victim in the war, on June 9, 1941, had in fact been sunk by German U-boat, as it sailed in the South Atlantic, to deliver non-military goods to ports in Africa. The sinking had always been imputed to the Nazis but they had until now disavowed blame for it.

And, a report told of the success of the "Squeeze-it" and the "Squeeze-ola", two devices invented by an Army major from Atlanta. The "Squeeze-it" tested the pressure with which the marksmen in training squeezed the trigger on his rifle. The "Squeeze-ola", applying Pavlovian technique, provided the soldier a good swift kick in the rear end with an attached paddle whenever he pulled the trigger with too much pressure, likely to hinder aim.

All he really needed, instead of the "Squeeze-ola", was General Patton standing behind him. Voila! Expert marksmen.

On the editorial page, "The Sirens" warns against over-optimism to be gleaned from the glowing reports thus far coming from Sicily, that the road might yet turn cruel and harsh, inflicting numerous battle casualties to the Allies, before the mission to Messina was accomplished.

"Simple Fact" describes an exchange between the President and a reporter re John L. Lewis, in which the reporter initially asked the President what he would do if the U.M.W. leader refused to sign the contract approved by the War Labor Board, to which the President responded that he didn't know, asking the reporter in turn what he would do. The unnamed reporter then curtly replied, "I'm not the President."

The piece finds the colloquy signal of a growing feeling in the country that FDR was not minding domestic matters with the Big Stick at his command and should endeavor again to do so, that it was his final responsibility to make Mr. Lewis hew the line.

"The Guarantee" tells of the Government's efforts to insure that the returning soldiers, all eleven million thus far slated for the war effort, likely to include fifty-eight million by warís end, would have their pre-war job at pre-war pay. A law had already been passed to require employers to hold open such positions vacated to join the services, and Federal agencies were being set up to enforce the requirement.

Samuel Grafton seeks to ferret out the foreign policy with which most Americans had aligned themselves, as determined from their actions and reactions to news and elections. He finds three currents running through the majority view thus revealed: 1) an earnest dislike for countries who stirred up disputes regarding borders and a strong willingness to receive into the brotherhood nations which eschewed such conflict; 2) a desire to sell goods worldwide after the war, coupled with a realization that the quid pro quo for such free trade would be the necessity to purchase the goods of other countries as well; and 3) a genuine sentiment for industrial development of underdeveloped nations, the bringing to the proverbial jungle modernity on an assembly-line scale and efficiency.

Raymond Clapper examines and compares the personality attributes and drawbacks of General Giraud and General De Gaulle, as viewed through the lenses of both the French and the other Western Allies, the British and Americans.

General Giraud was efficient and acceptable to a broad base of French military and civil officials in North Africa, but yet had the limitation of not being fully acceptable to the Free French citizenry or the average foot soldier not previously marching to the beck of Vichy.

General De Gaulle, by contrast, was well-suited to the latter role, as the leader of the Free French and the leader most recognized by the French citizenry as carrying the banner of liberation from the Axis into the post-war world. Yet, General De Gaulle was viewed as too independent and nationalistic, too much of a prima donna, to be received by the British and American command structure with complete comfort.

Hence, thus far, as awkward as it had been to orchestrate, the Allies had opted to embrace both men, replete with their two discrete general staffs, affording both the coequal seats of leadership on the French Committee of National Liberation.

Mr. Clapper asserted that the visit of General Giraud to the United States would likely result in recognition of the Committee as the de facto government of France.

But the President had on Friday indicated that the U.S. would not recognize the Committee as the legitimate government of France, and that no government could be so recognized until the French were liberated from the Axis. The Committee had issued a statement agreeing with the President's position, that it did not purport to be the governing voice of France, but only an interim body to achieve order among the otherwise disparate French forces during the war. Apparently, this news had not reached Mr. Clapper when he provided his editorial from North Africa.

The editors provided a brief history of the Solomon Islands.

Drew Pearson, with his "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column appearing, rather than in its usual place inside the newspaper, uniquely on the editorial page, in lieu of vacationing Dorothy Thompson, writes of FDR being in the process of weeding his garden of the various conflicts which had arisen in the previous six months with the new Congress, as it adjourned for the summer hiatus of 60 days. He remarks, somewhat propitiously, that Secretary of Commerce Jesse Jones and Vice-President Henry Wallace might be the subject of some of the weed-pulling for their recent unpopular public controversy on which was more inefficient at procurement of raw materials for war production, the Wallace-led Board of Economic Warfare or the Jones-led Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

Mr. Pearson then turns to the charming ways of Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce.

And then to dispelling the rumor which had been circulating that General Eisenhower had been quarreling with General George C. Marshall over when to launch the invasion of Sicily, Eisenhower supposedly favoring more immediate invasion of Europe after the victory in Tunisia. Mr. Pearson says that the rumor was not true, that General Marshall and General Eisenhower were as happy together as clams, that General Eisenhower had revered General Marshall as the greatest military strategist in the Army since World War I. Nor was it true, he says, that General Eisenhower was snug with General MacArthur, his former commanding officer in the Philippines when Eisenhower was his chief of staff. To the contrary, General MacArthur had chafed at the notion of his former low-level assistant now being in command of the North African theater of war.

The Chapel Hill Weekly was on record as urging The News to make bolder its proclamation as "The Livest Newspaper in the Carolinas", recommending it extend its claimed geographic influence to encompass the world, much as had The Chicago Tribune or even Billy Arthur's small newspaper at Jacksonville, which he had credited in the recent Collier's piece on his editorship as being "the only newspaper in the world that gives a whoop about Onslow County."

Whether, incidentally, there is any plausible connection--beyond, that is, the connection of the popular song of the time--between the "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle" of the Dorman Smith cartoon and the "Victory Belle Jingle, Jangle, Jingle Revue" which had been in the offing as entertainment for the troops the prior September in Charlotte, we posit as being without foundation. But there it is, for your jingling, jangling edification and imagination.

And, we note that, as of this date, we lose our old dear friend, the daily quote--usually culled from Bartlett's--apparently for the duration, though we have yet to check beyond another three months down the road. (At least we don't have to worry about cutting off the top margin of the editorial page any longer, always a close fit.)

To commemorate the passing of the daily quote, we provide two previous quotes of the day:

From February 4, 1940--the full page of which, by the way, we only provided for the first time on June 21, 2010, after first putting forth in June, 2002 the note and only the editorial column, without the benefit of viewing the full page or the quote--

"Shed no tear! O shed no tear! The flower will bloom another year."--John Keats, "The Faery Song"

And from the last quote of the day, Saturday, July 10, 1943--

"I came up stairs into the world, for I was born in a cellar."--William Congreve, Love for Love, Act II, Sc. 7

There are many other quotes adorning the top of the editorial page through the years which exceed those for purpose and poignancy, perhaps, but we note only the two for now. The reason for the former is obvious enough. Maybe the latter strikes us, not only because it was the last quote of the day to appear, but also because a great deal of what has been written here thus far in our notes has been set down from within a basement, even if not quite a cellar.


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