Saturday, September 18, 1943

The Charlotte News

Saturday, September 18, 1943


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports victory in the Battle of Salerno after seven days of fierce fighting as the Germans had retreated from the area in the face of the combining forces of the Fifth and Eighth armies.

Three islands off the Bay of Salerno were also seized by the Allies, Ischia, Pousa, and Procida, to combine with the island of Capri, seized a few days earlier.

In the first engagement with Hitler's best troops in a concentrated effort to resist an Allied invasion, the victory at Salerno was significant.

Italians interviewed in North Africa by Clark Lee, Associated Press correspondent, believed that Mussolini was no longer considered by even the Fascists as anything but a liability, someone who was mentally ill. His rescue by the Gestapo from internment by the Badoglio Government therefore was viewed as inconsequential. No one would any longer follow him under any conditions.

He was said to have been given to emotional outbursts during his initial days after arrest on July 25, but eventually settled down and began to write a prolix justification for Fascism and his actions as Il Duce, even if never resigning himself to the fate of confinement and loss of power.

On the Pacific front, the airdrome at Lae on New Guinea fell to the Allies after a concerted air and infantry attack. General MacArthur described the victory as a major step on the way to his avowed return to the Philippines.

On the Russian front, the capture of Bryansk, former base for the veteran second squadron of the Nazi Second Tank Army, according to Pravda, had nearly completed the re-occupation of the Orel Province and had opened the gates to White Russia, 70 miles west of Bryansk. The Germans, in massive retreat, were reported desperately constructing new defenses along the Dneiper, from Smolensk to Kiev.

In his speech to Congress the previous day, the Presidentís appeal to Rumanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians to revolt against their German oppressors was expected to touch off the dynamite ready to explode in those countries. The statement also appeared to signal an imminent Allied invasion of the Balkans.

The previous day's massive explosion at the Norfolk Naval Air Station which killed 24 persons and injured 250, was attributed by an eyewitness to a train of six small trailers pulled by a truck carrying depth charges. One of the trailers caught fire and shortly thereafter, as a fire truck approached, the entire train exploded. The disaster would have been worse by far had it occurred just five minutes later as a mess line of soldiers would have been assembling in the immediate area of the blast.

A map on the inside page shows the gradually shrinking German sphere of influence in Europe as Hitler's empire and would-be extension of his empire in Russia was now ringed on all sides by the Allies.

On the editorial page, "The Record" chronicles the erratic decisions of the Congress on the issue of the draft since it was originally imposed in September, 1940. The piece suggests that the record does little to instill confidence that the Congress would adhere to Army and Navy protocols for the draft as it began the debate on whether to allow the induction of fathers to begin as scheduled on October 1. Sometimes, they had subscribed to the calls of the President; but, at other times, they had taken their own course.

Raymond Clapper points out the critical importance of a victory by the Allies in the Battle of Salerno, that it would send a loud message to both Germans and members of the underground in occupied nations that Hitler could not resist, even with his best armored divisions thrown into the breach, an amphibious invasion by the Allies.

After the disaster at Dieppe in August, 1942 in which British and Canadian commando forces were decimated, the Allies sorely needed such a victory to instill morale and to prove to the enemy that a French invasion would likely also be successful. The landings in North Africa and on Sicily had seasoned the Allied troops in amphibious operations but were scarcely resisted, primarily by Italian units who barely put up a fight. But Salerno was different. The Germans were pouring into the front everything they could muster, albeit still hampered by interrupted and destroyed supply and communications lines with the north. A failure at this juncture by Hitlerís forces would send a ripple effect throughout Europe.

It would also, says Mr. Clapper, have repercussions in the war between China and Japan, sending the message to Chiang Kai-shek that the American forces would ultimately succeed in defeating Japan as well, thereby delaying any possibility that Chiang might enter into a unilateral treaty with Japan in exchange for Formosa and Manchukuo, his minimal demands, however unlikely it was that Japan would ever acquiesce to such demands.

Italy, predicts Mr. Clapper, would be the test of whether the war in Europe would last about another year, until October, 1944, as he predicted it would, or would bog down into prolonged engagement.

Drew Pearson analyzes the career of Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle, one of the best and brightest of the Brain Trusters in the Administration, describing him as being previously a principal of the clique in the State Department who had been passionately anti-Russian.

Apparently, however, he had now changed with the Russian war taking its turn against the Nazi during the winter and spring. Previously he had voiced pessimism over the Russian front, believed it was hopeless and that the hope for victory in Europe lay instead in encouraging revolt from within the occupied lands. Thus, he had counseled working with Admiral Horthy in Hungary and Count Ciano and the King in Italy, as well as certain Fascist leaders in other countries in Europe. Now, however, he reckoned the Russians to be worthy allies to the West and thus counseled support of the Soviets, even indicating that after the war, as far as he cared, the Russians could control all of Eastern Europe.

Yet, Mr. Pearson questions whether this new attitude by Mr. Berle, known generally as a progressive, would erase deep-seated suspicions held of him by Russia regarding his previous policy stands, positions which had included support of a year of delay in providing much needed oil refineries, approved by the President in July, 1941, but successfully held up by the State Department, as well as providing approval to the dispensing of visas to known Fascists and Fascist supporters plus others antagonistic to Russia while denying such favored status to Russians.

Dorothy Thompson criticizes the failure to take political advantage of the military successes being enjoyed in Italy. She suggests that the rescue of Mussolini from captivity is not to be dismissed as an inconsequential act: it had betrayed a lack of foresight by the Allies by allowing an important symbol of Fascism to escape the clutches of the Badoglio Government and in the process allowed the myth that Mussolini was invincible to persist among those previously loyal to his regime.

One of the great problems now in Italy to be faced by the Allies, she continues, was the tension created by the unconditional surrender of Italy when poised against the desire of the Allies now to have Italians fighting in the war against Germans. It was a horse being directed in two directions at once.

To convey to the average Italian the Allied position effectively, the Allies had to adopt some new strategy other than to adhere to support of the House of Savoy and the Badoglio Government, both now reportedly in exile. For both had not carried with them the anti-Fascist spirit necessary to win the hearts and minds of Italians wishing to oust from their land the German occupier and the Fascist natives. Ordinary Italians saw Badoglio and the King as being one with the forces which had brought Mussolini to power.

She thus concludes: "The average Italian therefore, now that the war rages around him, has to choose between a defeated Fascism and an undefeated Fascism. I submit that we can hope for nothing from that alternative."

Why did the war in Europe drag on longer than most knowledgeable observers were predicting in these cautiously optimistic times of late summer, early fall 1943? Why did the war in Italy persist through the time of surrender of Germany in early May, 1945? Time will provide the answers.

And just what the Side Glances of the day might have suggested to a post-war, or even a wartime, audience, we dare not consider.

Elvis checks in to say that it only meant that Johnny and the Colonel had a good vibration goin'. Johnny be good.

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