Saturday, January 29, 1944

The Charlotte News

Saturday, January 29, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the VI Corps American troops had advanced to within light artillery range of Cisterna, fourteen miles northeast of Anzio, positioned on the Appian Way and the railway to Cassino.

British forces had moved two miles north beyond Carroceto, on the Anziate Road, to within nineteen miles of Rome.

The Luftwaffe again suffered disaster in the area, losing 36 planes to five for the Allies.

Fighting continued north of Cassino with American and French troops engaging the Germans.

Allied Headquarters in Algiers explained that the advance from the beachheads in the crescent around Anzio and Nettuno, established so rapidly on Saturday, had slowed because of the necessity to bring ashore adequate supplies, reinforcements, and equipment to enable the drive to be sustained. More territory could have been gained, but at tremendous cost in life, and ultimately without the clear ability to hold onto it.

The Eighth Air Force sent a record 800-plus bombers in a raid of Frankfurt this day, meeting only light opposition. The number of losses was not yet provided.

The RAF raid of Thursday night on Berlin had left the city in nearly complete ruin, according to reports from Swedish correspondents on the scene. Plans were being made for total evacuation of the capital. The losses to the RAF in the raid were revised upward to 47 bombers, the most of any RAF raid on Berlin since the steady raids began in late November.

In the Pacific, the Americans bombed Rabaul for the 24th time in 26 days, having destroyed 300 Japanese planes during January. In some of the raids, the Japanese had protected their planes on the ground, while in others they sent them into the air to engage the fight, resulting in heavy losses.

The Red Army was pushing hard through snow, utilizing ski troops, toward the Leningrad-Pskov railroad, the severing of which would entrap thousands of Nazi troops between Lake Ilmen and Lake Peipus at the Estonian border.

To the south, according to Berlin radio, the Nazis had evacuated Smela, a hundred miles southeast of Kiev.

Captain Samuel Grasbio of Spokane, Washington, provided yet another account of Japanese torture during his imprisonment at Davao on Mindanao, where starvation was rampant.

FDR's physician declared the President in fine shape for a man of 62, indicating that he had come through the trip to Cairo and Tehran in remarkably good condition, considering that his exercise routine had been interrupted.

Office of War Information Director Elmer Davis appeared about to be dismissed by the White House because of a conflict of an unspecified nature with overseas OWI director, playwright Robert Sherwood, author of The Petrified Forest, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and There Shall Be No Night, about the Russo-Finnish war of 1939-40, the latter two of which plays had earned him two of his three Pulitzers. In the stead of Mr. Davis, the President appeared to favor the appointment of Byron Price, director of censorship for OWI.

William Allen White, well-known editor of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette, died after a year of illness. Mr. White's son, William L. White, had, to much fanfare, published a year earlier They Were Expendable, about the harrowing escape of General MacArthur from Corregidor in March, 1942, via the PT-boat Squadron commanded by Lieutenant John Bulkeley, a book serialized in The News during January, 1943. The senior Mr. White had been for long active in Republican politics, especially at the turn of the century, being central to the defeat of William Jennings Bryan by William McKinley in 1896.

He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for an editorial written after his arrest for arguing with Governor Henry Allen anent the manner in which the State of Kansas had handled strikers. He penned the piece after the charges were dismissed. Titled, "To an Anxious Friend", appearing in the Gazette July 27, 1922, it read as follows:

You tell me that law is above freedom of utterance. And I reply that you can have no wise laws nor free enforcement of wise laws unless there is free expression of the wisdom of the people--and, alas, their folly with it. But if there is freedom, folly will die of its own poison, and the wisdom will survive. That is the history of the race. It is the proof of man's kinship with God. You say that freedom of utterance is not for time of stress, and I reply with the sad truth that only in time of stress is freedom of utterance in danger. No one questions it in calm days, because it is not needed. And the reverse is true also; only when free utterance is suppressed is it needed, and when it is needed, it is most vital to justice. Peace is good. But if you are interested in peace through force and without full discussion--that is to say, free utterance decently and in order--your interest in justice is slight. And peace without justice is tyranny, no matter how you may sugar-coat it with expediency. This state today is in more danger from suppression than from violence, because, in the end, suppression leads to violence. Violence, indeed, is the child of suppression. Whoever pleads for justice helps to keep the peace; and whoever tramples upon the plea for justice temperately made in the name of peace only outrages peace and kills something fine in the heart of man, which God put there when we got our manhood. When that is killed, brute meets brute on each side of the line.

So, dear friend, put fear out of your heart. This nation will survive, this state will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward if only men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold--by voice, by posted card, by letter or by press. Reason never has failed men. Only force and repression have made the wrecks in the world.

His August 15, 1896 editorial mentioned in the report, "What's the Matter with Kansas", had brought him his initial notice. His book mentioned by the piece, Masks in a Pageant, on the eight Presidents from Benjamin Harrison through Calvin Coolidge, plus several political bosses and kingmakers of the same era, 1884 through 1928, was published in 1928.

In Venezuela, there was a shortage of matches as an individual box selling for a penny in the United States was going for the equivalent of 7.5 cents. The culprit appeared to be delayed shipments from the U.S.

Hal Boyle reports of a Major in the Fifteenth Air Force who flew his plane through harrowing conditions into London, dodging first a German fighter, then battling fog, finally low fuel. Upon landing, he found the weather chilly and damp, wrapped a piece of parachute around his neck, only to be stopped by two MP's who wrote him up for not being in proper uniform. His fellow soldiers thought the incident funny. The major was not amused.

Mr. Boyle next tells of the modest A.P. reporter, Lynn Heinzerling, who refused to mention in his reports that he was nicked by a bullet on the Eighth Army front in Italy. He thought it insignificant in light of the fact that many were dying. The doctor who patched him up, however, recommended him for a Purple Heart.

On the editorial page, "Atrocities" finds it apropos that at long last recognition was being publicly provided the ineffable acts of the Japanese toward the American and Filipino prisoners taken on Bataan. But, it adds that to the soldiers and sailors fighting in the Pacific against this foe, the revelations would come as no shock or surprise. They were well aware of the treachery and barbarity practiced routinely by the enemy whom they daily had faced for over two years. The soldiers and sailors had learned to shoot first and consider humane action only after the enemy was subdued, either dead or taken prisoner.

"Low Fear" reproduces an excerpt from a debate between Democratic Senator Scott Lucas of Illinois and Republican Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire regarding the soldier vote bill being considered before the Senate. It adopts the respective positions as emblematic of each party’s stance on the issue. Senator Lucas stated that Senator Bridges did not want the soldiers to vote. Senator Bridges stated that he wanted them to vote, but only fairly and intelligently, that giving them a blank ballot was unfair, in that the only President most of the soldiers had ever known was Franklin Roosevelt. Thus, they would not be intelligent enough to remember the name of anyone else.

The piece doesn't say it, but a person as dumb as Senator Bridge’s son, whom he had cited as example, probably should have been compelled to vote for Roosevelt to assure sufficient social programs to protect him against being played the fool by any number of people and groups in society generally.

And if he could not remember "Thomas Dewey", what was he doing in the Army in the first place? The names of towns, heights, and crossroads in Italy were far more difficult to remember than "Thomas Dewey". Even the names of a soldier's company and platoon were more complex. Send Senator Bridges's son home and let him finish the fourth grade, a requisite for service, rather than endanger the troops for his inability to remember where he was going or where he had been or how to get there once he had been told the coordinates.

--I know, but get you head down, Bridges, before you get it blowed off. You can vote later, son. We're in battle now… No, I don't care what your daddy said about memorizing the names of the opposing candidates. We have some Germans to kill, boy. Just remember it this way: FDR or TD… Yeah, Touchdown. That'll get it. Now start firing that gun before it gets rusty on you.

"The Guilty" cautions those frustrated with the complex tax returns to be filed in 1944 to blame the Congress whose enactments created the tangle, primarily the Victory Tax, its revision, and the tax forgiveness, not the President or the bureaucracy of government.

"For Sale" finds the comments of the Mayor of Charlotte to be embarrassing regarding the removal of a football coach at one of the high schools, apparently without expressed rationale. Said the Mayor, the returning men of the armed forces would find it difficult to understand why a coach for whom they played and who had won so many games was removed. They would wish to know why.

The piece finds this cheap appeal to sentiment too typical of the times, a tactic used to sell everything under the sun, from war bonds to chewing gum. Likewise, it found the Mayor's rhetorical question, "Is Duke University better known as a medical center or a football college?" to be insulting of the high school and to Duke, for promoting winning of athletic contests over academics.

Regardless of that particular debate and tactless query, clearly Duke is better known as a medical university these days, as it has been for several decades, going back to 1963 anyway, than as a football school. But as to basketball…

Drew Pearson reports that President Roosevelt had confided to one of his top Democratic confidantes that the man to beat in 1944 would be Thomas Dewey. The President was correct.

Mr. Pearson next discusses a powwow called by War Mobilization Director James Byrnes to discuss food distribution with War Production Board chair Donald Nelson and Food Administrator Marvin Jones. As this issue was transitory in its impact, you may read of its complexities on your own. We have to hurry along to be able to mobilize our own food for the evening.

Samuel Grafton undermines the sincerity of Argentina's break with the Axis by pointing out that the Government of General Pedro Ramirez, which had come to power the previous summer in a coup to overthrow the old pro-Axis government before the people overthrew it and replaced it with democracy, had already imprisoned school teachers, government officials, and anyone else who had favored a break with the Axis, while shutting down newspapers advocating that position. Thus, the real aim was to give the peasants of Argentina the semblance of breaking with the Axis while effectively becoming as fascist as the Axis governments from which it had supposedly broken off diplomatic relations.

The only way, concludes Mr. Grafton, in which General Ramirez could actually effect a break from the Axis would be to blow his own brains out. The real democrats of Argentina remained in jail.

Lending substantial credence to this opinion was the report the previous day on the front page which indicated that General Arturo Rawson, Argentina's Ambassador to Brazil, had resigned his post, following a dispute with President Ramirez arising out of a simple congratulatory note for breaking relations with the Axis. Said General Rawson, as the "chieftain" of the revolution of the previous summer, he applauded the break with the Axis, goal of the revolution. General Ramirez fired back that he was the only chieftain of the revolution and that its goal was only to effect "national recuperation and affirmation of Argentine sovereignty", not to break with the Axis.

In another piece by Raymond Clapper out of chronological order, likely because he was pinned down and unable to send any new copy from Cape Gloucester, he describes a couple of days he spent in the area of New Guinea with PT-boat crews. They had just taken their first Japanese prisoner in fourteen months of activity in the area, after sinking three small enemy transport barges carrying 30 to 50 enemy soldiers each. The Japanese, once in the water, avoided the hooks thrown their way by the American sailors on the PT-boats seeking their rescue. The sole prisoner was treated well and provided a New Year’s package of Japanese rations captured by the sailors in another sinking of a Japanese barge.

While enjoying less glamorous duty than that of the PT-boat crews operating earlier in the Pacific campaign, the crews still provided valuable service in interdicting Japanese supplies and reinforcements. The men, who spent fourteen hours per day on the wooden motor torpedo boats, were rotated out of active service in the ordinary course after several months of duty, as burn-out by that point was routine.

Mr. Clapper headed for Cape Gloucester aboard a PT-boat but had to turn back because of adverse weather conditions. Presumably, that is when he caught the LST, his eventual means of transport to Cape Gloucester.

Dorothy Thompson devotes her column to one film, Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat". Finding the film well made and intriguing, she also agrees with New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther that the film would make an excellent propaganda piece for the Nazis. For, contended Ms. Thompson, the character of Willi, played by Walter Slezak to deliciously evil perfection, is so convincing and so perfectly the characterization of the Übermensch, as conceived by the Nazis, that the film, only slightly edited, would inspire Nazi morale if shown in Germany. Moreover, the character is thrown overboard by the stranded survivors of a freighter sunk by the handiwork of Willi's U-boat only after they discover that his heroic rowing, which had sought to deliver them to the Nazis, had been accomplished by withholding to his own use the only water any longer available. This final act of frustration by the crew, Ms. Thompson finds only hysterical and not heroic, that the true hero of the piece was Willi, who would likely have received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his efforts were the tables turned and he were an American submarine commander with German survivors of a freighter.

Furthermore, as stressed at greater length by Mr. Crowther, the Americans are each presented as incompetent, unwise, and grasping, too weak and egoistically disorganized to fend for themselves until the very end of the film when they resort to an act of desperation--the destruction finally of the imago of the Fatherland in a modern age where celeritous advances in technology along the track had far outrun the ability of the world's even well-educated citizenry to abstract the horse and understand its supposed uninterrupted magically traduced course objectively, frame by frame by frame, until it moves again in blend to the fooled eye, but with understanding anew of the art of its movement, thus to teach the subconscious mind not to be so callow in foolscap.

Ms. Thompson advocates change of the film before its general release beyond the initial run at the Astor on Broadway and before being shown abroad. The original script as written by John Steinbeck, she informs, had stressed the heroics of the nurse onboard and a black steward of the ship. Willi had fallen overboard early in the play, the result of a scuffle after the discovery that he had been rowing his passengers toward his Nazi compadres aboard a supply ship. Mr. Hitchcock had rearranged the scenery.

We disagree with Ms. Thompson's take on the film. Willi, after all, shows his despicable Nazi robotic coldness when he gently coaxes over the side of the boat affable and delirious Gus, dying of thirst while Willi drank his own private stash of fresh water. It is this wanton murder, upon discovery, which finally actuates the anomically parched passengers to loose from their necks their albatross and toss it to the denizens of the unfathomable depths, along with the camera and Cartier. Ms. Thompson fails to mention the fact, although Mr. Crowther did. Plainly, no one could view the film therefore as suggestive of Willi as an heroic figure, that is, except the insane Nazi of the time or someone of equally pathological bent. And for that person, there would have been no way to avoid the conception of the Nazi as a superman in any event, no matter how evil the character was portrayed, indeed, the more overtly and irretrievably evil, the better.

There will always be those who perversely interpret what they see, what they read, what they hear, to fit their morbid sensibilities and need for self-affirmation in wrongdoing, both in the past and present. Such people will find in the most innocent fare the stimulus to do wrong to another, rationale for wrong done in the past, taking on the persona of the wrongdoer in any morality play, finding justification for that character's actions in a manner which the author never presented or intended.

The fact that this wonderful little allegory from 1944 still holds up after 67 years, and holds up even though we have seen it numerous times and can anticipate therefore every gesture in every scene, is testimony to the brilliance of its director, Mr. Hitchcock, and to his nuanced ensemble of actors.

The film was unusual, though not unique--we cite "The Petrified Forest" as a prime example of the art--for its day in that it was essentially a play set to film, a play with one set, a confined lifeboat, one presented even more starkly by being in black and white. The action is largely in the mind of the viewer. The film relies on dialogue and human dynamic, combined with the imagination of the perceiver, to advance the story. Such, of course, was always the brilliance of Hitchcock at his best.

We digress momentarily to recount a moment during our viewing of "Psycho" for the first time in a theater setting, in the mid-seventies, at the Carolina Theater in Chapel Hill, one late-night special showing. There were two coeds sitting in front of us, one of whom was particularly gregarious, and loudly so, a particularly annoying trait born of poor manners taught at home and not enough getting out in public, either that or one too many stimuli, of one sort or another, before arriving at the theater. Our young patron of the arts, at the point where Norman peels back the block from the wall, whether in the form of a stuffed bird or picture, we forget, to reveal a peephole, turned sternly to her friend next to her and said, without any hint of jest, "Oh, he is definitely crazy." We were tempted to lean forward and suggest that her instantaneous psychoanalysis of Norman was actually quite existentially trenchant, as the name of the film, after all, was "Psycho" and "Psycho" is a common colloquialism meaning "crazy", even if she was, disturbingly, missing the entire point of the film, existentially so. For it was, in many respects, a comedy, a satire on the violence portrayed in art carried at times into reality by foolish individuals incapable of reflection (witness the frozen frame of the 1957 Ford bearing the body, as it suddenly stops in its steady descent into the bog, to the stuffed bird-brained momentary puzzlement of Norman), on the absurd projections of people who become too absorbed with stories and their characters, not enough with the art of the story or film before their eyes, the metaphor, the allegory, the joke, if you will, to the point of living out the plots rather than understanding the art, either as victim or perpetrator or both at once, just to obtain that sinistral sense of exhilaration, with the audience in that one cast as the dupes of Mr. Hitchcock's sometimes rueful, but always artful, sense of humor. But, we resisted temptation. We did not even call up Marshall McLuhan to come to Chapel Hill to bear witness to this unbelievable idiot flaunting her idiocy for the world to see and hear, better in her impact than the film itself in many respects, as we had already seen it more than once, thus perhaps having the advantage born of precocity over the neophyte proselyte. We noticed, being without escape from the noisome student of film garnering our captive attention, that she appeared supernatantly quiet during the climactic shower scene, apparently satiated by then as to the intensely profound moral of the story: Thou shalt not steal, for the wages of sin is death--with Norman cast therefore, of course, as God's rebuked, but avenging angel. Besides, she was naked.

If you have never seen "Lifeboat", by all means do so. It is a rare treasure on film, Ms. Thompson's and Mr. Crowther's misplaced political objections of the time notwithstanding. The two obviously preferred their villains to be thoroughly facile characters, at once and always identifiable as only evil, their heroes to be thoroughly of the like and not at all tainted by human characteristics of clay feet. But, alas, life on this boat on which we all sail is not that way and never has been.

Criminals and Nazis, like it or not, were and are human beings, with all the same dreams and aspirations, foibles, and sometimes even endearing qualities, which, in one degree or another, everyone possesses. That the criminal and the Nazi are overborne by the negative aspects of humanity ultimately provides the only difference from the good democratic citizen of the world, as displayed with unusual candor from both sides of that subtle human divide, especially for its time, in this little film.

Had "Gone With the Wind", or a dozen other "classics" of the period, been half as honest in its portrayal of life, it would truly be a masterpiece, not the sentimental fluff it was, anent a South which never existed under the sun, that by Margaret Mitchell’s own admission of its limitation to the realm of stock yarns for entertainment.

Regardless, in response to the complaints against "Lifeboat", 20th Century Fox gave the film limited release and curtailed its advertising budget. John Steinbeck asked that his name be removed from association with it.

Mr. Hitchcock’s rejoinder to the criticism was, "I always respect my villain, build him into a redoubtable character that will make my hero or thesis more admirable in defeating him or it."

He did so, admirably. Moreover, no film realistically by 1944 was going to impact the German cause positively or negatively. The damage had been done long before, with "The Birth of a Nation" in 1915, the real culprit if there was one from film, one which actually did influence Hitler's and Goebbels's racial theories. The rest was in the Wagnerian operas portraying German invincibility, as interpreted through the insanity of the German culture of the 1920’s.

If anything, Willi served as the perfect archetype for Hitler himself, and the throwing of his person overboard, the perfect stimulus for underground activity in Germany and occupied Europe. It was, after all, during the summer of 1944 that the attempt was made on Hitler's life, a nearly successful attempt, but for the fateful intervention of a wooden table leg. Perhaps, "Lifeboat" helped urge the plot. But, no doubt, so did the very real amphibious invasion of Normandy by the Allies on June 6.


Lady, you know no rules of charity,
Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.


Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man:
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.


But I know none, and therefore am no beast.


O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!

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