Thursday, November 16, 1944

The Charlotte News

Thursday, November 16, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the American First and Ninth Armies had initiated a new offensive into the Rhine Valley. The First Army moved at 11:00 a.m. from lines east and southeast of Aachen, behind a raid along the fifteen-mile stretch of the Cologne highway between Duren and Eschweiler by 1,200 heavy bombers and 500 fighters, dropping 4,800 tons of bombs. The Americans had been maintaining positions at Stolberg, about four miles southwest of Eschweiler, and in the Hurtgen Forest, about six miles southwest of Duren. First Army commander General Courtney Hodges had been withholding the attack, waiting a week through snow, sleet, and rain for good weather.

At 12:45 p.m., the Ninth Army, commanded by Lt. General William ("Texas Bill") Simpson, the whereabouts of which had been held in secret for the previous two months since the taking of Brest, began its assault from within the Dutch frontier bordering Germany, apparently attacking north of the First Army's line of attack, hitting the Siegfried Line.

The Ninth had leapfrogged 800 miles across France, Belgium, and Holland to delude the Germans in what was described as one of the best strategy stories of the war, crossing the path of several Allied forces as it moved.

The Third Army of General Patton captured Morhange and further strengthened its near encirclement of Metz, moving three miles, to within 1.5 miles of the northern outskirts of the bastion, capturing Woipy along the west side of the Moselle River. To the southeast and west of the city, however, some small amount of ground was lost, with Fort Hubert to the west and one village being retaken by an enemy flanking attack. Tanks and infantry continued to pound at the southern outskirts of Metz, around Magny. Counter-attacks were being resisted by the Americans, one having occurred at Bourgaltroff at the tip of the wedge between Morhange and Dieuze, resulting in a tank battle between the Nazis and parts of the Fourth Armored Division.

North of Metz, near the French border with Luxembourg, the Americans advanced a mile near Ewendorf, four miles from the German frontier.

The British Second Army of General Miles Dempsey advanced three miles in southeastern Holland to Haelen, within a mile of the Meuse River, capturing Horn, two miles from the German stronghold at Roermond, and also Roggel, a mile from the Zig Canal north of Roermond.

The First French Army, joining the front line fight only the day before, moved forward on a 25-mile front on both sides of the Doubs river, to a point eleven miles southwest of Belfort.

The Russians had broken the German flank southeast of Budapest to move within twelve miles of the capital, with the Germans withdrawing along a 100-mile front from Mende to Korom.

On Leyte, American forces moved to within ten miles of Ormoc from the south, fourteen miles from the eastern approach, and about the same distance from the north. Advances were slight but had come all around the perimeter of the encirclement. In the north, the 24th Division placed pressure on both the road from Pinamapoan and against Japanese forces at Limon. To the west of the road, other units swung around and nearly cut the road off behind 2,000 enemy troops. To the east and north, the First Cavalry Division overran several enemy strong points and seized hilltops as it moved westward through the mountains.

Meeting only light resistance, a small American force invaded the Mapia Islands, 150 miles northwest of Western New Guinea. The landing was merely to take out Japanese coastal watchers and warning stations on the islands, with the objective of protection of the American air base on Biak Island in the Schoutens. The enemy watchers had been able to warn other Japanese-held islands whenever a strike force left Biak.

General Joseph Stilwell, having arrived back in the U.S. after his recall from the command of the China-Burma-India theater, spoke to newsmen in Carmel, CA., but refused to discuss his recall. Instead, he heaped praise on the American fighting men and the excellent training they had received. He found that the Japanese were good soldiers and, as they were started at a young age, well-trained also; but the way the Americans did it, he believed, was a "damned sight better".

President Roosevelt vehemently denied a rumor which had been circulating that blood plasma was being sold to wounded American soldiers. The President denounced the rumor as propaganda being spread by the enemy and urged anyone who heard such calumny to report the purveyor to the FBI.

A 31-year old waiter in Los Angeles, Otto Steve Wilson, recently medically discharged from the Navy, was in custody after confessing to the gruesome murder of two women in separate hotel rooms. One woman, found by a hotel maid disemboweled inside a closet, had been slit from the neck to the abdomen, her right leg having been severed at the hip and knee, and her right shoulder nearly severed. Bits of flesh were on the blood-soaked carpet and a butcher knife lay nearby. Razor blades were scattered over the floor.

Mr. Wilson told police that he killed the victim because "she wanted more money".

The second victim was dying in a hotel room a few blocks away at the time the first was discovered. The second woman was found on the bed slashed from the breasts to the pelvic region.

Of her, Mr. Wilson stated that he had hit her and then slashed her with a razor "for some reason—pure cussedness, I guess."

The homicide detective described them as the most vicious murders he had ever investigated, worse than the 1931 case of Winnie Ruth Judd who had slain her two roommates in Phoenix and then traveled by train to Los Angeles with their dismembered bodies in a trunk.

Ms. Judd, incidentally, was found guilty of the murders in 1933 and was sentenced to hang. Found, however, to be insane, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She escaped custody in 1963 and remained on the lam, working as a maid in the San Francisco Bay Area, for six years. When finally discovered, she hired Melvin Belli, who was able to obtain her release on parole. She remained free the rest of her days, until her death in 1998.

Both of the Los Angeles hostelries which were hosts to the Wilson murders were taken over by new management, a mom and pop operation, Mr. and Mrs. Bates, and their little boy who hoped one day to become a taxidermist.

On the editorial page, "Mutation"—not referring to Mr. Wilson—finds deplorable the strike at the five New Jersey plants of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, just settled, which had stopped B-29 engine production. The strike had originated from a supervisors' union which complained that management was moving the supervisors around in violation of the union contract. When they struck, 32,000 CIO workers struck in sympathy, shutting down the five plants, regardless of the critical necessity for the B-29's at this juncture of the Pacific war.

The piece again refers to the positive example set the previous week by the Atlanta Regional War Labor Board in making adherence to the no-strike pledge a condition of a maintenance-of-membership contract for the union.

The Wright strike was especially troubling as it originated in a sector traditionally thought to be management and not, per se, labor, but nevertheless had spread pervasively to all of the CIO member workers.

"Dreamer" relates of the Senate voting record on the war of Senator Johnson of Colorado, member of the Military Affairs Committee. In 1941, he had voted to limit use of American military to the Western hemisphere, to perpetuate the ban of American shipping to belligerent ports and combat zones, and to maintain the Neutrality Act, forbidding trade in arms with belligerents. He had also voted against Lend-Lease in 1941, the transfer of Axis ships in Allied ports to Britain, and extension of military service to 18 months. He voted in early 1942 against creation of the WAC's. In 1943, he favored a blanket deferment from the draft for all farm workers.

During the week, he had inveighed against the proposed law to have compulsory military training for American youth, despite the country's general support of it. His reason was that such a system would show a lack of faith in maintaining the future peace.

The editorial then finds inexplicable his reasoning in support of a voluntary program aimed at training 100,000 Air Force pilots per year.

"Lion & Lamb" finds that the larger cities of the nation plus the Solid South had provided FDR his victory over Thomas Dewey and that any substantial defection in either demographic group would have thrown the election to Dewey. The President, according to an Associated Press survey, had won by a two million vote aggregate majority in thirteen of the nation's largest cities, two-thirds of his popular vote margin. In the South, he had received another two million vote aggregate majority.

The editorial is partially in error, as the 155 electoral votes of the South, inclusive of the border states, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, would have been insufficient, even had all of them gone to Governor Dewey, to overcome the President's electoral majority of 432 to 99.

Congressman Joe Martin of Massachusetts had calculated that as few as 325,000 votes properly distributed in close states would have changed the outcome.

That latter method of arithmetic, however, is almost always available to the losing candidate in presidential elections so long as the quaint, but anachronistic, convention of the electoral college remains with us. But, such fine figuring presumes that all close states would go one way, a rarity in presidential politics.

"Man in Panic" looks to the prospect that the Allies might yet have to fight Germany all the way to Berlin, aided in the process, however, by fanatical Nazis killing non-Nazis or less committed Nazis along the way, or the soldiers killing their officers in order to surrender, actual cases of such conduct already having been reported from the front in Western Europe.

Scorpion, a magazine published for the German soldiers, edited by Heinrich Himmler, had demanded instant death by shooting of any soldier or officer who sought to surrender. The exhortation had made room for the possibility that soldiers might take advantage of the invitation and assassinate their superior officers for something other than intention to surrender, but presumed the good faith and discipline of the ordinary soldier in the ranks to avoid such unintended consequences of the policy.

It was indicative, says the editorial, of the desperate fear within the Nazi hierarchy, so desperate as to invite general revolt within the ranks. The next stage would be panic, after which anything could occur.

Drew Pearson reports that two months before the invasion of the Philippines, General MacArthur had sent an urgent letter to Office of War Information director Elmer Davis asking for two million books of matches with General MacArthur's likeness on the cover, accompanied by the inscription, "I shall return." The General wanted them dropped over the Philippines to muster hope among the native population.

Mr. Davis met the request but, without informing the General, changed the inscription so that it read, "We shall return." He wanted to hedge his bets in case the military command structure required someone other than MacArthur to lead the way. Once the matches were shipped, General MacArthur had no recourse but to use them as printed—unless of course he wanted to cross out the "we" and insert "I" on two million books of matches.

Mr. Pearson next indicates that Louis Bean—no relation, we presume, to D. D. Bean—of the U.S. Budget Bureau, had accurately predicted the percentage of the President's popular vote victory in the election, but had missed by three votes the electoral count. It was the more remarkable as he had made the prediction on July 7 and then sent it sealed to his old boss, Vice-President Henry Wallace. Mr. Wallace had asked Mr. Bean what his favorite poll was and Mr. Bean had replied, "The Galluping Bean Poll."

Mr. Bean had also predicted a gain of 30 seats in the House by the Democrats, two off the actual count. He had been off by only one percent in each of his predictions for 1936, 1938, 1940, and 1942. His methodology leading to such unerring accuracy was to add two to three percentage points to the Gallup poll results on the theory that Gallup underestimated support for Roosevelt and that working people did not wish to disclose their choice.

The column next reports that one of the reasons for the lack of success in the military operations against the Japanese in China had been the fact that the American military attache, Col. Morris B. De Pass, had not been efficient during the previous year in his analysis of Japanese military strategy in the region. He had sent a message six months earlier to the War Department dismissing the inception of the Japanese drive on American air bases in southeastern China as being unimportant. He even thought it merely a maneuver to train new Japanese troops. Only when the offensive reached the edge of Kweilin, capital of Kwangsi Province and locus of an American air base, did he finally rate the situation grave.

Finally, Mr. Pearson relates of the eagerness with which Frances Perkins sought her departure from her job as Secretary of Labor after 12 years at the post. She had tendered her resignation three years earlier and the President had refused it. By manipulation from rival functionaries in the executive branch, the Labor Department had lost some 90 percent of its power in recent years, so unpopular had been Secretary Perkins with her Cabinet colleagues. Much of the displaced authority had been delivered to Paul McNutt as Manpower Coordinator, other parts to various other agencies set up specially to administer the war effort. Ms. Perkins had, for awhile, resisted the effort, but ere long had tired of the attempt when it got nowhere.

Mr. Pearson then repeats his erroneous prediction that Teamster head Dan Tobin would be her most likely replacement. It would be instead former Wisconsin Senator Lewis Schwellenbach.

Marquis Childs discusses the manpower shortage in war industries which had led to severe shortages of vital war materials on the fronts. General Eisenhower had stated that heavy artillery ammunition was severely rationed, each gun being allotted only the necessary rounds for a limited duration of fire on the enemy. In the Philippines, there was a shortage of cotton duck for tents.

The country had come a long way without compulsory national service as had been the case for the duration in Great Britain and the Soviet Union—where, in the latter case, non-producers did not eat. (Comrade Bachmann, you have a home at last for your No Work-No Eat program.)

To maintain the current system meant that war workers, while weary, were going to have to continue to produce until the war was finally won.

Samuel Grafton, now in Chicago, discusses the International Civil Aviation Conference ongoing at the Stevens Hotel, finds it "morally flat" for the fact of the presence of neutral Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey, despite there having been for years talk of exclusion of these neutrals from the peace table, of which the civil aviation conference was a part. That and the fact that Russia was not present because of the presence of Spain, making the conference appear disconnected from the war.

So the question arose as to why the conference was even being held. Mr Grafton wonders why it would not have been just as well to have scheduled it a year hence.

Nevertheless, without attracting much public notice, the conference was making important decisions for the post-war world, especially with respect to implicit forgiveness of the neutral nations. Once invited to the table, these nations would have to be invited to the other peace conferences as well.

While America did not much mind the exclusion of the Soviet Union since it would not be dependent on Soviet air routes after the war, and while rejecting Britain's desire for carefully apportioned routes based on air traffic of each nation would also work to the benefit of Americans, the decisions being made at this conference could compromise post-war unity between nations.

Dorothy Thompson discusses the jockeying for position at the peace table of each of the three major powers in anticipation soon of the end of the war. Maintenance of the peace would largely depend on how the Big Three defined their desired spheres of influence and were able to agree on discrete spheres without stepping on each other's toes.

She recalls the speech a year earlier by South African Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts, having as an assumption that the British would be the weakest of the three major powers after the war, requring that Britain maintain close relationship with Western Europe, especially France, but also forming an entente inclusive of Norway, the Low Countries, and, eventually, Italy and Spain.

While Britain was busy trying to create such an alliance—that which became NATO—the Soviets were trying to create a defensive bloc in the East—that which became the Warsaw Pact countries.

The Soviets, however, she says, were not, as Great Britain, reliant solely on their powers of persuasion. Finland, Rumania, and Bulgaria had been enemies of Russia and, now that they had surrendered, could be coerced. Other countries, such as Iran, were undeveloped colonial states. Still others, as Yugoslavia and Poland, were in semi-revolutionary status, rife with internal controversy to be resolved after the war, leaving it to the Soviets to choose which side among the various rival factions they would back.

The entire situation put the Atlantic Charter, renouncing extraterritorial aggression by its signatories, off to one side as an antiquated instrument. The Russian sphere of influence would extend at least to the Oder River inside Germany; the British sphere would go at least as far as the Rhine and Ruhr Valleys. As the area between those two spheres was small, she predicts that both blocs would in the future meet on German soil—that which ultimately became in August, 1961, following 15 years of steadily increasing tension between East and West, the Berlin Wall.

American interests were also involved, to avoid a third world war. America was not interested in power blocs but in European stability and prosperity through liberation of Europe, encouraging of a European federation or several federations, independent of either Soviet or British control and integrated into the United Nations. But that would require both the British and Soviets simultaneously renouncing their intended spheres of influence. Neither would do so unilaterally in trepidation of the other then dominating Europe.

Hal Boyle, reporting again from Germany, on November 5, relates of First Sergeant Darvin Purvis who had fought in more than 40 tank engagements in 26 months of duty, in North Africa, Sicily, and Europe, having in the process acquired so many medals and commendations that he would not have had room on his chest to put them all had he decided to wear them at once.

But the toughest battle of all, he said, was the single day he wound up fighting with the infantry at Montebourg in France, after having one of the six tanks he had lost shot out from under him and his crew. One of his crew had died, another was critically wounded and would later die. He and his bow gunner were both wounded, he in the leg. But he found a rifle on a dead soldier, picked it up, and began fighting with the infantry. He concluded that he preferred fighting under a shield of armor.

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