Thursday, January 13, 1944

The Charlotte News

Thursday, January 13, 1944


Site Ed. Note: On the Italian front, reports the front page, French troops commanded by General Alphonse Juin, in their first foray into the fight, moved two-thirds of a mile in the mountains of Central Italy, twelve miles northeast of Cervaro, captured the previous afternoon by the Allies. The French captured several heights in the area, threatening the Cassino-Atina road.

Fliers, returned from the large American raid Tuesday on Halberstadt and Magdeburg in Germany, told reporters of the three-hour raid. The number of planes atrributed to the attack was increased from 700 to 1,200. The large number of losses was still unexplained but stated as acceptable, as plenty of planes were available to replace the 59 lost. No mention, of course, was made of the approximately 590 crewmen aboard those planes. They could not afford to think for too long in those terms and remain sane.

In Russia, the First Ukrainian Army broadened its hold on the Sarny sector, stretching the front in that area to 50 miles in width, threatening Rovno, Pinsk, and Kovel. Significantly, the Army had passed through the difficult terrain of the frozen Pripet Marshes and were approaching the high rolling ground beyond.

A report via Switzerland indicated that Count Ciano, executed Monday along with four other Fascists deemed by the Nazis as traitors, had actually gone to Germany, after the fall of his father-in-law from power in Italy in late July, willingly and at the invitation of the Germans, thinking himself a guest, not a traitor. He wound up at the unrefusable end of a bullet. Such was the treatment of foreign guests by Hitler and his pals.

Italians were said to have shed no tears at the executions but were nevertheless stunned by their celerity following immediately a quick trial. The report indicated that the executions were intended by the Nazis to strike fear into the hearts and minds of potential collaborators in any conspiracy to overthrow the Nazis--as if more murder would make much difference after the murders already committed throughout Europe many times over under such circumstances, for instance the June 1942 massacre of the male residents of the town of Lidice in Czechoslovakia.

In the Pacific, bombing raids were now being conducted on New Guinea from the northern side of the Owen Stanley Mountains out of airstrips carved from jungle territory won from the Japanese. Port Moresby in the south, used primarily as the launching pad for raids until the Allied victories of the previous year, was now practically deserted. The bombing missions launched from it often had run into foul weather, debilitating the mission as soon as it began. The newer fields afforded more efficient operations.

The President asked Congress for appropriation of another 100 billion dollars as a 1944-45 fiscal year operating budget, 90 billion of which would go to the war, which assumed that the war would be ongoing in full strength at least through mid-1945. Not a bad educated guess.

He coupled the request, however, with the hope that the European war might be won sooner, enabling a large portion of the requested money not to be spent.

Representative Albert Gore of Tennessee tendered his resignation to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn after the President had declared that members of Congress could not serve both in their elected position and in the military. Speaker Rayburn, however, asked him to withhold and first speak with President Roosevelt before finally resigning. After so doing, Congressman Gore relented from his resignation and agreed to stay on as a member of Congress, where the President had convinced him he was more necessary to the vitality of the country. Asked whether the slender working plurality in the House enjoyed by the Democrats, tenuous with some empty seats yet to be filled by special elections, was involved in the President's advice, Mr. Gore smiled and indicated he had no further response.

Hal Boyle discusses American cinema on which the soldiers were obtaining free, sometimes reluctantly, an education, starting with "The Great Train Robbery" and "The Birth of a Nation", plus some Fatty Arbuckle silents. They didn't care for most war films because they were overly patriotic and did not portray the fighting accurately.

They cited with particular displeasure, for instance, a film which went unnamed but which we happened ourselves serendipitously to have seen for the first time in July, 2009 and so know it to be "Sahara" with Humphrey Bogart, just released the previous Armistice Day. We liked the film, perhaps because of the way we found it, by happenstance, never having heard of it, just as it became relevant to the history of the war we were setting forth as it unfolded in the pages of The News. The soldiers, however, reports Mr. Boyle, did not like "Sahara" at all for its lack of realism, that no single Grant tank crew, as portrayed in the film, could starve out an entire armored battalion with just a little savvy action and access to water which the Nazis didn't have.

We took the film as using the tank and its crew metaphorically to tell a story of the desert war, one probably based on the brief service in the arena of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., though not so expressly stated by the film. We found it akin to "Flight of the Phoenix"--one valiant crew pitted against the desert elements, and, in the case of "Sahara", to complicate matters, also the German panzer divisions. There is a certain aesthetic challenge to be overcome in any film which has as its sole setting merely a desert waste, as a play set in one room. The action must thus rely primarily on movement of the characters and the wit and wisdom of their dialogue and interaction, with little available to intrigue the viewer about the landscape behind them, especially in a black and white film.

Well, watch "Sahara" over the weekend and see if you like it or agree with the soldiers. We actually at the time eighteen months ago found ourselves watching it twice, something we only do with films we find particularly intriguing, both as to the movement of the story and its characters, but moreover the skill and art of the film itself.

Oddly enough, the soldiers, says Mr. Boyle, enjoyed the 1942 Best Picture, as deemed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, that being "Mrs. Miniver". We commented just last spring on "Mrs. Miniver", a note we happened to reference for other reasons just a couple of days ago, indicating that the only times we had attempted to tackle it in the distant past, we found it to be a bit of a soporific. But, being sporting, we went out and purchased it last spring, as it happened to become available at Walmart for $7 just after we wrote about it. We thought it passable this time, as we commented on April 22 and April 26 last. (By the way, the birthday wish to Roger of the Berlin Zoo is now here, even if the better quality live presentation is, rather stupidly and a bit absurdly, delimited to a different movement, and one short segment at that--you creepy Nazis. Maybe they liked "Mrs. Miniver" and didnít think too kindly of our digression, making light of such a classic presentation of boredom. Hey, Nazi, we won the war: get over it. Cheerio. Chin up. How will anyone ever see your art if you lock it in a vault, silly Nazi? Now, go on and twist your head around 360 degrees as the Nazi you are and say, "Oh yeah? Oh yeah? We'll show you. We'll show you, stupid American." Not really, deary. You're just dumb. Realize the fact and you will be much happier just being dumb and leaving the rest of us alone to enjoy what the betters among you did for the world of art, with or without your royal Nazi permission. Oh, by the way, Nazi gun-toter, don't miss the footnote we left by happenstance on April 22 re Arizona. You might get something out of it, that is if you're not too dumb or crazy to understand it. You remind of the young lady who was conducting the tour we once took of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1976. Ourselves and another person whom we did not know became inadvertently separated momentarily from the main tour group, but quickly rejoined it as it reformed to hear the Great One provide her tour monologue at the next station on the second level of the theater. She sharply remonstrated us for becoming separated. "Where were you? You should not do that. Do not do it again. Stay with the group." We were tempted, as adjunct members at the time of the Symbionese Liberation Organization of Workers, a Networking offshoot of the Army, to respond that she should not fear, for we were simply planting a small bomb in the closet, set to go off December 1, 2023 at 3:00 p.m., according, of course, to Nostradamus, whom we knew at the time personally, since deceased. Be there, Tour Guide, and dig yourself, as did the thousand, as you and your fellow BUF'ers, in the Royal Albert Hall. Nothing, incidentally, as we have already assured, will happen in 2012, the History Channel notwithstanding.)

In any event, the soldiers told Mr. Boyle that they really did not wish to see war films at all, that they made them feel sorry for themselves and long for home. What they liked were newsreels and documentaries, an occasional musical, comedies, cartoons, anything with a laugh, anything with a pretty girl. Good serious movies were fine, as long as they did not have in them propaganda on the war. They preferred good older movies, such as "It Happened One Night"--one of our favorites, too, Yank--to the more current ones full of "ham acting and greasy platitudes". (Take heed, lady Tour Guide of 1976.)

Dick Young reports on the tragedy of a young lad of but seven who, with his friend, was playing with matches while sporting his new cowboy outfit obtained at Christmas. The trousers had frills and when his friend tossed lit matches on the ground which the boy would then stamp out with his foot, one caught the trouser leg on fire and within seconds engulfed him in flame. He died next morning at the hospital after his father and a passerby had too late put out the flames.

No, smart aleck 1976 Tour Guide, it was neither "Blazing Saddles" nor "Some Like it Hot", nor even "Dumb and Dumber". It was simply a sad story of young boys who had not sufficiently realized the danger of playing with their new toys along with matches. No doubt, too, the boyís parents had no conception that the manufacturer of the outfit had taken no precaution against such a completely foreseeable eventuality, as cowboys often had to confront Indians who would inevitably burn them, and had made the outfit of unduly flammable material.

Our apologies to the young lad's spirit and to any of his living friends and relatives for using his untimely and unfortunate death as a brief object lesson, which hopefully might serve to remind and save others from the same or similar fate in the future. Now, perhaps, you won't forget it, seven-year old.

Twenty years, incidentally, to the day after the boy's seventh birthday, we watched, via the magic of the tv, the University of North Carolina beat the Air Force in the Gator Bowl 35 to 0, the first bowl game to which the University had been invited to participate since 1949. (Dedmon lane move, 1970-71: Looks as a travel, but isn't.) At the time, we were but eight days short of our eleventh. You can read about some of that here and here.

--Mazuma: Money, cash. 1904 G.V. Hobart, Jim Hickey, "We're a sad bunch...when we haven't a little mazume in the vest pocket."

On the editorial page, "Panacea" finds blank the Republican platform plank for 1944 proposed by Representative Charlie Halleck of Indiana, that, if elected, the Republicans would end the war sooner than the Democrats by providing greater authority to the military leaders. The piece reminds that the War Department was headed by a Republican, Henry Stimson, that, likewise, the Secretary of Navy, Frank Knox, was of the Grand Old Party. Republicans, in fact, populated the ranks throughout the Executive Branch. Thus, to make such a claim was nonsense. The war, by all indications, would be practically over in Europe by November anyway. The Republicans would be left merely champing at the Administration for the sake of political hay. Thus, the piece counsels that the plank be left in the woodpile as superfluous and irrelevant.

"Mileposts" reviews the state of the union messages delivered by FDR for each of the years 1942, 1943, and 1944, finds them a series of mileposts on the road of the war, worthy and sound barometers of the prospects of war for each successive year ahead. In 1942, he had set forth the plan in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor for constructing the Arsenal of Democracy. In 1943, he had outlined a successful previous six months of warfare both in the Pacific and in the Mediterranean, forecasting the prospect for a 1944 victory, albeit after substantial sacrifice. In 1944, he cautiously continued his prediction for victory in Europe, but only provided production for the war remained high and the morale of the fighting men strong to purpose.

"In Britain" sets the record straight with the help of the British response to Senator Ellender of Louisiana, recently having contended that the United States was paying the equivalent of 160 pounds per capita in war debt while Great Britain was only hampered with 14 pounds per capita. But Senator Ellender had included the entire British Empire in his comparison. In point of fact Britain proper had 222 pounds per capita in war debt, and, moreover, had much higher taxes than America, paying 50 percent of its war debt as it went.

Drew Pearson discusses the split in railway labor regarding the acceptability of arbitration of the wage dispute by the President. A. F. Whitney, leader of the railway brotherhood, had derisively complained in a letter to his union officers of the three non-arbitrating unions, referring to them alternately as "three blind mice" or the Three Musketeers. The split had become as fractious as that between AFL and CIO.

He indicates next that a deal made between the Government and Alcoa to build for it an aluminum plant in Canada to supply the military needs of the war had backfired. As Mr. Pearson says he had predicted, the cheaper production costs had enabled Alcoa to shut down four pot plants in New Jersey and New York, with twenty others scheduled to close. Moreover, the aluminum cost the Government 6 cents more per pound and the country had developed an overabundance of aluminum at this juncture, not coincidentally by the amount annually produced by the Canadian plant.

Dorothy Thompson discusses the thorny issue of Soviet-Polish relations and the determination of post-war borders to the satisfaction of each. The Soviets wanted a frontier consisting of Eastern Poland and the Baltic States for its protection against future incursion by Poland in alliance with Germany or the West generally. Poland wanted autonomy for its territory, including Eastern Poland, though originally Russian territory prior to World War I and comprised largely of Ukrainians. There was no ethnic division which could clearly resolve the location of the logical border. Indeed, many of the Poles advocated pushing the border to the Oder and forming an Eastern State under Polish dominion, which would include the Ukraine in its entirety and the Baltic States.

Indeed, resolution of this thorny problem would be one of the mainstays which led to the Cold War and its prolongation for fully 45 years, that along with the division of Germany between East and West, all complicated of course by the advent of thermonuclear bomb technology.

Samuel Grafton also looks at the issue of Poland and Russia, says that the isolationists, running from every other issue involving internationalism, favored international resolution of the Russo-Polish post-war border. He also finds that some people favoring such a determination were well motivated, not simply seeking some anti-Russian result with an international imprimatur applied to it. But, he cautions that no World Court could determine policy, that policy first had to be decided and then policed by a World Court. He counsels therefore that the United States first determine the policy it wanted to follow with respect to Russia and Poland, and to make it one which would insure the security of both countries, to avoid future war.

Raymond Clapper, his column beginning on the front page again, discusses the political possibilities for General MacArthur, that he had not removed his name from consideration by the Republicans for the nomination for the presidency and thus had to be considered a contender, though it would be unlikely he would actively seek the nomination.

Mr. Clapper, while respecting the General, simultaneously finding him a somewhat tragic figure, relegated to a relatively minor role in the war and without sufficient equipment until recently to fight it efficiently, offers reasons why he likely would not be a suitable candidate. He had been removed from domestic issues and matters of high level diplomacy for many years. He was 64, if fit and active for his age. He would have to give up his command to campaign or campaign in absentia, an unlikely prospect either way, especially as he would be hamstrung by his position in discussing military matters. Finally, the prospect of his election could mean severe changes in war strategy for which the country was likely not prepared, namely a shift in emphasis to the Pacific theater.

Thus, as he paid high tribute to the General's military prowess, Mr. Clapper, in one of his last columns before his death in early February, pretty well nixed the possibility of General MacArthurís nomination for the presidency.

Reverend Herbert Spaugh remarks that "Keep the Home Fires Burning" had been a popular song of World War I, in which he served as a soldier in the Army. He counsels that, to instill good morale, the home fires needed to stay burning in the present war and with even greater alacrity for its substantially longer duration--even if the song, itself, if not the sentiment behind it, probably was a bit dated for 1944's swing standards.

The Reverend offered that when soldiers heard of wives being unfaithful, it tended to make them want to go over the hill, back home to take care of business. Those who married on the quick, just before the soldier went overseas, nevertheless had a responsibility to maintain their vows.

Following up on the Navy lieutenant's advice provided to Congressman Compton, as reported the previous day, at least as to the single men, it might have been a wise gesture, in the event of a "Dear Jack" letter, to send along at least an accompanying subscription to Esquire, to soften the prospect of having to join the BOC's, while simultaneously hardening their resolve tenaciously to rough it and war on the intractable enemy, named henceforth "Jody".

And twelve artillery officers of the Brazilian Army, having spent three months at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, were now visiting Pope Air Force Base next to Fort Bragg, for further training. Impressed by the United States military, they also had special praise for the WAC's, "whom they had seen hard at work in almost every place visited." We'll lay odds on it.

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