Saturday, July 17, 1943

The Charlotte News

Saturday, July 17, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The Eighth Army under he command of General Montgomery, reports the front page, was still threatening Catania along the east coast of Sicily, having moved, as reported the previous day, to within fifteen miles of the key harbor town, taking along the way Lentini and Scordia, towns at the entrance to the Catania plain. Some British troops had penetrated into Catania's suburbs.

In the center of the east-west line, the Canadians took Caltagirone, a town about twenty miles inland from Gela, and Grammichele, six miles east.

Vermicelli had not yet been captured. Neither had Calzone.

General Patton's Seventh Army to the west, fighting alongside French Goumiers from Morocco, covering their left flank, had come out of the hilly terrain which originally greeted them just beyond the coastal plain on which they had landed a week earlier. This redoubtless Army had penetrated as much as thirty miles inland in its relentless drive north.

Meanwhile, Allied bombing raids continued to harass supply lines across the Messina Strait from Reggio Calabria and San Giovanni, both heavily bombed. As well, in the north of Italy, RAF bombers flew nighttime raids over the Alps to destroy electrical supply stations to cut off Italyís rail lines and thus its north-south supply route from Germany. Three of four stations hit were near Bologna.

The Germans were thought to be regrouping their forces at the foot of Mt. Aetna, inland.

In the first reply to the joint ultimatum of FDR and Churchill demanding Italy's surrender or face bombing into complete annihilation, Rome radio stated that Italy had been part of the Axis too long to turn back now, that no peace would be Italy's even after surrender, that the struggle in the war was one of life or death for Italians. The reaction came after leaflets containing the ultimatum had been dropped over Rome by Allied bombers. Some newspapers in Rome had reprinted the message.

In the Solomons, American bombing raids continued apace on the Japanese airfield objective at Munda. Fully 300 tons of bombs had been dropped on the target since July 3. There was no new report on the ground operations, moving, at the last communique, within three miles of the base.

The Russians added 122 tanks and 76 planes to their burgeoning bag of kills during the previous thirteen days, as they continued to pummel Orel, the northern point of the German summer offensive line. The Russians now claimed to have killed or captured 62,000 Germans during the thirteen-day period, an increase of fully 8,000 over the previous day's total.

A piece provides the various infantry division commanders fighting in Sicily: Maj.-Gen. Lucian Truscott, commanding the Third Infantry Division; Maj.-Gen. Terry Allen, the First Infantry Division; Maj.-Gen. Middleton, the 45th Infantry Division; Maj.-Gen. Hugh Gaffey, the Second Armored Division; and Maj.-Gen. Matthew Ridgway, the 82d Airborne Division. Only two of the five, General Allen and General Middleton, were over the age of 50.

General Ridgway, after having succeeded General MacArthur as commander of United Nations forces in Korea in 1951, subsequently became Supreme Allied Commander of Europe under President Truman in 1952 and then Army Chief of Staff under President Eisenhower, from 1953 to 1955, when he retired from the Army.

On the editorial page, "For President" reports that Wendell Willkie had thrown his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination in 1944, that the prospect of Robert McCormick, bitter-end isolationist publisher of The Chicago Tribune, becoming the Republican nominee, had apparently put the spurs to Mr. Willkie's determination to give it another go after his general election defeat to FDR in 1940.

The editorial waxes fond of Mr. Willkie's policy stands, both foreign, favoring internationalism post war, and domestic, essentially favoring continuation of the New Deal but without the bureaucratic waste, inefficiency, and extravagance which had become hallmarks of it, at least in a large portion of the public mind. The piece rates Willkie's chances good to win the nomination and even to beat FDR, regardless of whether the war was won or not by election day.

The country, it offers, was growing steadily tired of President Roosevelt after over a decade as Chief Executive and he was subject to defeat by a strong Republican nominee. Mr. Willkie presented such strength.

He had ingratiated himself to the American public as a trusted household name with his runaway best-seller of the spring and summer, One World, positing his post-war formula for insuring the peace without further global conflict, favoring a strong United Nations organization to foster and preserve the peace.

Both Mr. Willkie's health and political fortunes would decline, however, over the ensuing year and he would drop out of the race after a crushing defeat in the early Wisconsin primary, finishing fourth. He eventually died a month before election day.

"Faster, Faster" predicts that, with the drive through Sicily going like fits of greased lightning--or perhaps expressed by a more colorful simile from within the idiom of General Patton--, Sicily might surrender within days and Italy within weeks. Appearances suggested that the Axis might be abandoning the Football of Italy and fighting only a rearguard action, as it had all the way across North Africa during November through January, until its stand in Tunisia. The real fighting would likely be reserved for the mainland.

It would not run quite that fast as there would be plentiful broken field running during the next month. But within that month, Sicily would indeed be conquered.

The quick progress, the piece further forecasts, bode ill for Hitler throughout occupied Europe.

With casualties relatively light thus far in the ground offensive, it expresses the hope that such might continue as the pattern, with air superiority laying down such a carpet of bombs in advance of the landing forces, and with the armadas delivering the troops and supplies so well protected during the landing, that the usual perils accompanying such operations might be minimized.

Against the transferred Maginot Line and its seamless array of pillboxes overlooking the beaches of Normandy eleven months hence, however, the landings would not be easy and the casualties suffered by the Allies would be high.

Raymond Clapper similarly examines air superiority and its contribution to the swift success thus far in Sicily, accompanied by few casualties. The air was so much dominated by the Allies that their greatest danger, says Mr. Clapper, was from friendly fire, as the new A-36 Mustang's resemblance to the Luftwaffe ME-109 made it a confusing potential target for Allied anti-aircraft gunners both from ship and shore.

The American pilots stated that they were so in control of the skies that they did little other than tip one another's wings as they flew uneventful sorties. The Axis was in hiding, the roads on Sicily being virtually deserted of troops and truck transports. The Allied planes had to search to find any target at all.

Mr. Clapper, having sat around listening to the pilots and crews talking shop in between missions, relates a couple of quick stories of heroism and bravery, taken as matter of fact nevertheless, as everyday existence, among the fly boys telling them--the pilots and crew who kept piloting their plane or firing their gun despite life-threatening injuries, the co-pilot who brought his crew home with one arm at the controls, the while using the other to prop up the dead pilot.

Samuel Grafton discusses the ad hoc process thus far evidenced by the Allies in trying to establish democracy in the territory invaded, the haphazard efforts, with varying results in North Africa. He counsels that the effort should be henceforth to liberate the people of the lands invaded, rather than trying to bring democracy to them, an ephemeral concept, not capable of being brought to anyone, but only to be achieved and enjoyed by a people through their own will.

Mr. Grafton suggests that enabling the free input of the people through encouraging free speech was the only way to insure the establishment of democracy in lands accustomed to authoritarian rule for either one or two decades. Establishing such a principal precept should be the first order of business after military victory, not the propping up of leaders identified as compromises between anti-Fascists and Fascists, the case in North Africa with the tedious compromise in leadership afforded Admiral Darlan before his assassination Christmas Eve, then turning to Giraud, and now to government by a committee formed by compromise between the De Gaulle and Giraud factions.

It would, he believes, prove too difficult for the military commanders to distinguish between the anti-Fascists and Fascists, the democrats being often so independent of mind that they might be reluctant to cooperate with the military, while the Fascists, habituated to obeisance to authoritarian rule, might prove willingly compliant and offer themselves as staunch allies.

Thus, the marketplace of ideas should be the arbiter by which the scoundrels of the past were separated from the democrats of the future by the people of the land thus liberated, not by handpicking selectmen to govern as in the case of North Africa.

Drew Pearson tells of Italian friends of the President urging that a diplomatic mission composed of Americans of Italian extraction, including pan-oceanically popular film director, Frank Capra, be sent to Italy to act through the Vatican in persuading unconditional surrender by the Fascist Italian regime. Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Ciano, envoy to the Vatican, might act as an emissary through whom peace tenders could be made.

Mr. Pearson believes that the President could be persuaded, even though holding the notorious Count in disfavor, to grant him leave to preserve his reported wealth of fifteen million dollars in exchange for such aid in waging peace, provided the consequence of holding forth such an olive branch potentially were to save thousands of American lives.

He concludes his daily stew by analyzing the domestic food shortage, finding it not to be that at all but rather a food glut. Yet with convoys now being less harassed by the former U-boat menace in the Atlantic, more goods and supplies, especially food, were getting through to the war zones. That left less to be consumed at home, even though food was being produced on the American farm at record levels.

We note, incidentally, that Baron von Richthofen is again mentioned on the front page as having taken over as commander of Axis air forces over Italy and Sicily. We draw attention to the fact as we committed a faux pas on July 6, one of most egregious impolitesse, (misspelling his last name, to boot), in naming him as the World War I flying ace of Germany. That laurel belonged instead to his cousin, killed in a dogfight in 1918--whether by some Charlotte drunken Norwegian dogcatcher from Bath, not being revealed.

It would have been a feat nonpareil, one which even Hitlerís scientists could not conjure from their macabre experiments with humanity, for the original Baron to have somehow been revivified and appeared in Italy as the new Nazi air commander in 1943, one certainly outshining the accomplishment of General Homma in continuing to command Japanese forces in the Philippines even weeks after he had committed suicide in March, 1942.

We thus amend our former misshapen view of German aerial war history and duly and humbly apologize to any Germanophiles among you.

There are occasional penalties, inducing too quick and casual assumption of knowledge of events and personages, from having listened, ineradicably, too much to Pop 40 radio hits during the 1960's.

We shan't make the same mistake twice, however; Leif Erickson, an A. P. correspondent covering the Munda operations, as also mentioned on the front page, eventually became a well-known actor, appearing, in fact, in an American tv series during the 1960's, many years after his enduring fame was first solidified by putatively discovering America--though that latter claim is heavily debated by historians, some of whom contend in the vortical dispute, see, to have been percipient witnesses to the first landing on American soil by a European, that by Amerigo Vespucci.

All through the night...ah me, one after 909, komm gib mir deine, in the New York mine.

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