Monday, July 19, 1943

The Charlotte News

Monday, July 19, 1943


Site Ed. Note: For the first time in the war, reports the front page, continued on the inside page, Rome had been bombed by the Allies. Though its suburbs had been previously hit, the Eternal City itself had been spared to this point for its religio-historical importance to the world. No more. The San Lorenzo marshalling center for rail traffic, just five miles from Vatican City and three miles from the Roman Forum, had been a primary point in the supply and reinforcement route for the ongoing Battle for Sicily. Thus, it became the central target of the raid. Also hit were the Littorio rail yards for freight traffic.

Leaflets were dropped in advance of the bombs telling Romans that every effort would be made to avoid damage to any Catholic facility or to historical buildings.

The raids were conducted by American Flying Fortresses and Liberators. Because the raids were conducted in daytime to insure best accuracy, no RAF planes participated. The pilots for the mission had been specially trained and schooled with detailed maps of Rome to insure to the extent possible that bombs would be dropped only on the specified military objectives.

Mussoliniís headquarters had been purposefully located only blocks from the Vatican. He had previously threatened that if Rome were bombed, then his own troops would bomb historical and religious sites, then blame it on the Allies. The leaflets dropped by the American bombers warned of this potential ruse and not to be deluded.

In Sicily, General Patton's Seventh Army moved forward eight miles from its line the previous day, capturing Caltanisetta in the central area of the island, just ten miles southwest of Enna, the strategic center of Sicily where all roads met. Caltanisetta also was a key road junction. The town was 28 miles from the southern coast of Sicily and 37 miles from the northern coast. Italians formed the greatest number of prisoners, surrendering by whole units in some cases. In one instance, an Italian company shot their German commander and then surrendered.

The Canadians captured Piazza Amerini, fifteen miles east of Caltanisetta, and were edging toward the Nazi defenders grouping around Mount Etna.

General Montgomery's force continued to lunge forward as well, taking Ramacca, twenty-two miles from Catania. They had also moved to within three miles of Catania as reported the day before.

The Allies captured more prisoners, increasing the total to 25,000, 23,000 of whom were captured by the Seventh Army.

In the Pacific, the Allies attacked two Japanese flotillas, one comprised of three ships, the other of six, attempting to take supplies to Munda. While the Navy had thus far been successful at cutting off the supplies to New Georgia, the Japanese nevertheless showed no signs of surrender.

On Saturday, a 200-plane strike force had sunk seven enemy ships and destroyed 49 planes in the area of Buin-Faisi on Bougainville. This time, two destroyers, a cargo ship, and thirteen Zeros were destroyed.

Ground forces were also continuing to plow through the jungles during rainstorms to try to reach the airbase at Munda. Japanese tactics included enemy patrols at night which made a lot of noise with firecrackers and other such noisemakers in an effort to exaggerate their numbers and to try to keep the Americans awake.

The Russians reported destroying 137 planes and 78 tanks on Saturday in the area of Orel.

On the editorial page, "Holy City" speculates on how the bombing of Rome might be greeted in Italy and within the Catholic world. It concedes that the bombing could unite Catholics worldwide against the Allied effort. But, regardless, it suggests, the benefits of the raid would outweigh their detriment. For bombing Rome meant eliminating quickly Italy from the war.

The ruthless determination by the Allies to end the war was now on display and the editorial gave praise to the operation.

"Hospital Board" finds the new board appointed by Governor Broughton, though initially the subject of criticism for too much of its membership having been part of the old guard, now possessed of an opportunity, with the resignation of heavily criticized Dr. J. R. Saunders from the Morganton facility, to revitalize the hospital for the benefit of the state and patients. The piece expressed hope that the new doctor in charge would be young and vigorous.

"OPA Victims" suggests the death penalty for gas rationing violators rather than the piddly two-month suspension of licenses of service station operators found guilty of selling rationing coupons to customers or other like circumventions of the rationing system. Ditto, for owners and operators of other types of establishments seeking to beat the rationing system.

Check that. It recommends only stiffer penalties: life imprisonment.

"The Justices" praises the State Bar Association for importuning the Legislature to rein in the long corrupt justice of the peace system in the state by making the justices subject to appointment by the superior court judges, replacing with a salary the fee system paid by the parties and their fines, limiting their numbers, and dividing the civil case load from the criminal.

The piece describes the powerful resistance to any changes to the system by the justices themselves, forming a powerful lobby with the Legislature. It was now hoped, with the State Bar behind the effort, the system would finally be overhauled As is, it stood as an embarrassment to the state and to its justice system.

Eventually, in the 1980's, with some justices found guilty of accepting bribes, the system was eliminated entirely.

Samuel Grafton explores the implications of the invasion of Sicily to the concept of the resistless Festung Europa. The verdict was that it was now kaput. Not only were Sicily and thus the mainland of Italy clearly vulnerable, but the rest of the Continent, too, appeared less daunting to invasion than prior to July 10. It was no longer necessary to discuss winning the war solely by air power; the invasion had made it plain that the war could only be won by relentless ground fighting supported by air and naval cover. And, in so doing, it could be won relatively swiftly and with fewer than the previously anticipated rate of casualties.

Mr. Grafton offers, moreover, that the successful invasion of Sicily had eliminated the possibility that the war might end in an armistice with Hitler in control of much of the territory he had gained since 1938, his last gasp hope of the previous six months. It was plain that the Allies would accept nothing short of unconditional surrender and that they were capable of enforcing the conditions necessary to achieve it, just as in Tunisia. Russia had proved the Nazi offense not invulnerable; Sicily had already shown its defense likewise porous.

The operation was not simply against an island, as some detractors were minimizing its impact. It was the first major blow to Fascism, both psychologically and militarily, and the results would ripple throughout Europe to instill new life to the underground.

Raymond Clapper tells firsthand of the grimy, dusty airmen coming in hot and tired from a mission to Sicily or Italy and back to their base in North Africa. Flying at an altitude of only 300 feet, cloaked in protective gear, was hot work. They were disheveled and appeared as a workmen after a full day at hard labor. No talk preceded their daily custom of first getting coffee and doughnuts from the Red Cross tent under an olive tree. Once refortified, the talk flowed of the mission, but always only shop talk, never braggadocio.

They told of one of their squadron having bailed out of his fighter, landing in a Sicilian town. Italian soldiers immediately spotted him and gave chase. The pilotís fellow fighters then started skimming the rooftops, strafing the soldiers every time their fellow airmen ducked around a corner.

The sorties were never ending, sometimes requiring two per day, always everyday.

Mr. Clapper credits the young airmen and their commanders as being the real revolutionaries of the war. They would make it possible, he predicts, eventually to outlaw war from the planet.

Drew Pearson describes rumors emerging from Italy and Sicily that the Italians were uneasy with the Germans, as had been the case for some time, that it might lead to quick surrender to the Allies. He also addresses the analogy between Sicily and the unreconstructed American South, as suggested by a piece appearing July 10, authored by Richard Massock. Mr. Pearson further describes Mr. Massock's encounter with Italian soldiers in a restaurant who at first snarlingly mistook him and his fellow American journalists for Germans, then turning on a dime and expressing the warmest admiration for President Roosevelt once informed that they were American. He finds Sicily's anti-Fascist reputation to be a contributing cause to the Allies being able to move so fast through the territory, no doubt being aided by local Sicilians in the effort.

He then looks at the liberal expense account of the senators headed to North Africa, China, Australia, and England, to examine the air bases built by the United States on foreign soil and whether they ought be turned over to the sovereignties holding them six months after the war. The senators had discovered, however, that their expenses could not be paid by the government outside the Western Hemisphere. Senator "Happy" Chandler was reported to be unhappy.

Finally he reports that some pig moonshiners in the United States had taken to the practice of slaughtering their own right in their backyards.

The practice needed to be stopped as proved by the case of Grillis Grill in Jackson, Mississippi. The owner, Theologus Grillis, had slaughtered a diseased hog when he ran short of pork. He was fined $5,000 for slaughter without a license.

Whether the government also grilled Gus's grill depends on what the meaning of "Grillis" is.

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