Friday, November 17, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, November 17, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the First Army advanced two miles through sleet and rain to within six miles of Duren as the Ninth Army took several hundred prisoners and turned back a a counter-attack by German Tiger tanks north of Aachen, capturing Gressenich, in the armies' twin drives into the German frontier, extended one to two miles. As many as two million men from both sides were estimated to be engaged on the battle front.

A German broadcast reported a break in the German lines in the vicinity of Stolberg and in several other positions.

A report indicated that one of the largest artillery barrages of the war, hurling 20 tons of shells per minute for an hour, had preceded the strike of the First Army at 11:00 a.m. the previous day to begin the new offensive. The Germans nevertheless persisted in the fight doggedly, in contrast to the surrender of Wehrmacht forces on the Ninth Army front to the north of Aachen.

In the largest single air strike of the war in support of an army, reminiscent of the carpet bombing in support of the operations at Caen and St. Lo during the summer, 3,500 American and British bombers had dropped more than 13,000 tons of bombs during the course of five hours the previous day. An area northeast of Aachen received 11,000 tons of the bombs from 2,400 Allied bombers. Only five American heavy bombers and twelve fighters were reported missing. RAF losses were not available.

The Third Army pushed new armor into the bridgeheads established at Thionville on the Moselle River, now extended as far as eight miles east of Koenigsmacher. Forces completely surrounded the Verdun fort group southeast of Metz, across the Moselle from Fort Driant, as infantry captured Lorry Le Metz, a mile northwest of the city.

The Second Army in southeastern Holland crossed the Zig Canal after clearing a triangle formed by that canal and the Wessem and Noord Canals, and moved close to the Meuse River Bend along a seven-mile front in the vicinity of the German stronghold at Roermond.

To the south in France, the French First Army gained three more miles in its advance toward Belfort.

In Italy, the Eighth Army took a road junction nine miles south of Faenza after the Germans evacuated the area following a week of resistance.

The Russians had pierced German defenses ten miles east of Budapest, capturing Gyomro, while threatening Godollo and Hatvan, a few miles to the northeast of the capital. Other units far to the northeast moved to within five miles of Miskolc. In a 12-mile advance from captured Jaszbereny, other forces crossed the Budapest-Miskolc railway at Vamosgyork.

The Red Air Force began a concerted attack on the remaining German surface ships within the Baltic, sinking a 6,000-ton transport at Danzig in Poland.

A report from Switzerland informed that German industry was at a standstill in some areas because of lack of coal and because of workers who refused to remain at their jobs during air raids. Violence from internal revolt was on the increase. In Cologne, 21 people had been publicly hanged in two days for having openly questioned why they should die for the Reich. A trial for dissidents who had allegedly committed treason during the Munich student demonstrations was about to begin in Berlin. Halle in Westphalia had become so rife with resistance that the Nazis had erected barricades around the town to isolate it from the rest of Germany.

The report also stated that Hitler had undergone a throat operation, explaining why Heinrich Himmler had read the Fuehrer's proclamation on Sunday.

Soldiers captured by the Ninth Army in Germany reported their belief that the Fuehrer's absence from public appearances was the result only of his being too busy and that they would as soon fight for Himmler as Hitler.

They would have their opportunity to match valor in action with the dare of their words, come May 1.

On Leyte, the 24th Division had moved close to the Japanese lines at Limon above Ormoc, having taken control of the overlooking Breakneck Ridge, allowing troops to advance to within a thousand yards of Ormoc Valley village from the west. Another 24th Division unit remained 2.5 miles behind the Japanese positions at Limon along the Ormoc Road, but had not yet completely cut off the road because of heavy concentrations of enemy fire from an overlooking hillside.

Brigadier General Claudius Easley of the 96th Infantry Division became the first American general to be wounded during the Leyte campaign, hit along the front lines.

General MacArthur announced complete occupation of Pegun Island and the mopping up of Bras Island in the Mapias, northwest of New Guinea.

Admiral Nimitz added two more destroyers to the toll taken in the air strikes from the Third Fleet carriers which hit Manila Bay on November 12, bringing the total to 16 ships, including four destroyers, a cruiser, and eleven cargo vessels.

Lt. General Raymond Wheeler was named to succeed General Joseph Stilwell as deputy commander under Lord Mountbatten in the Southeast Asia Command.

South Carolina Senator Ellison Durant ("Cotton Ed") Smith had died at his plantation home, Tanglewood, of coronary thrombosis at age 80 after serving 35 years in the Senate, the longest serving Senator in United States history to that point. Senator Smith would have retired in January, having been defeated in the primary by Governor Olin Johnston.

An old-line segregationist Democrat, Senator Smith had, during the spring, in response to the Supreme Court's Allwright decision making it mandatory that African-Americans be permitted to vote in state-sponsored primary elections, sought to organize a revolt from the New Deal and President Roosevelt, seeking to defeat him for a fourth term with the alternative candidacy of Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia. The group wanted to "smash the vicious control of the New Dealers, Sidney Hillmans (of CIO), and Communists."

Senator Smith, along with other anti-New Deal Democrats in the Senate and the House, had been the target of the Roosevelt purge of 1938.

President Roosevelt was urged by a church group out of Glendale, California, to repent and apologize for having, according to Time, reportedly stated on election day, when his voting machine jammed, "The goddamned thing won't work."

In fact, stated a Democratic elections inspector, Thomas Leonard, standing within a couple of feet of the President's voting booth, he had only said: "Tom, what's the matter with this thing? It doesn't work. Oh, it's all right, now." Several other inspectors standing in the vicinity, both Democratic and Republican, including Mrs. George Upright, either heard nothing or confirmed that the President had uttered no profanity.

It's a good thing, probably, that Mr. Leonard's first name was not Chuck.

On the editorial page, "A Challenge" reports that Congressman Sol Bloom of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had proposed a Constitutional amendment to require approval of treaties by a majority of both houses of Congress rather than two-thirds of only the Senate, with an eye toward causing Republicans to have to step up to the table and match their campaign rhetoric by voting their preference for an international peace organization.

While the piece supports the idea of reducing the necessary approval to a simple majority of the Senate, it found that putting the matter in the hands of the House might additionally complicate approval from the present requirement. For if the Republicans had taken control of the House in the past election, then under such an amendment, U.S. membership in the United Nations might have been compromised.

Regardless, it opines that the business of democracy had outgrown many of the quaint concepts of the Founding Fathers, perhaps among them being that treaties should only be engaged by the wise men of the Senate, without the direct participation of the people. A more sophisticated electorate might soon mandate otherwise.

"Lost Leader" comments on the resignation of G. Maurice Hill, the business manager of the State Hospital at Morganton, having held the post for eighteen months, with the mission of enacting the Governor's and his Blue Ribbon Panel's wishes to put the hospital in order following the revelations of Tom Jimison's January-February, 1942 series of articles on the facility and its harsh treatment of its charges. Mr. Hill, it says, had performed an outstanding service to the state during his short tenure. Conditions had improved considerably at the hospital.

"Last Phase" notices two news items:

1. In Denver, representatives of 400,000 American Indians were organizing to "get out of the corral" and resist domination by "white men and Swedes", to drink when they wanted, and to wear paint and feathers as they wished. They had the right, they proclaimed, when 22,000 Indians were in the service of their country in the war.

2. The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, organized to correct the wrongs of tenant farming, was proposing the opening of Western lands for homesteading.

With the supervisors at Wright Aeronautical organized into their own union, as noted the previous day, the piece queries, "Who's next?"

"Good Fishing" notes that German U-boats were no longer prowling the Atlantic and North Sea lanes, hounding Allied shipping, no longer even could safely enter their own nests by the fact of intense Allied bombing.

But submarine activity by the Allies was strong, especially in the Pacific. The U.S. Navy had accounted for some 800 sunk Japanese ships since the start of the war, 158 during 1944.

The Japanese had started the war with 60 submarines, but used them primarily to scout and defend convoys rather than to conduct offensive operations on Allied shipping. It was one of the rare instances, it remarks, when the Japanese had stuck to their own ideas of warfare and not borrowed from either the Germans or the Allies.

Drew Pearson tells of the first Cabinet meeting after the election finding President Roosevelt angry, the most grim any of the senior Cabinet members had seen him during the twelve years in office. He was angry about the below-the-belt campaign, especially during the last two weeks before the election, which he described as the dirtiest he had seen in his thirty years of political experience. He had not even received the traditional telegram of congratulations from Governor Dewey.

The column next describes the daily routine of John L. Lewis as he took lunch at the Hotel Carleton in Washington, always ordering rare roast beef and sherry, followed by coffee and a cigar, while he perused a detective magazine, invariably eating alone. Then he strode from the dining room as Hamlet with an invisible robe over his shoulders and his dagger at his side.

Mr. Pearson next revisits the Army parachute scandal regarding the absence of a quick-release parachute, the perils of which he had first revealed in his column on March 9, (March 8 in The News). The cumbersome three-latch harness which had been used by the Army from the start of the war had led to the deaths of several paratroops, either by being shot on the ground by the enemy or by drowning when landing in water. The Army had been warned in June, 1943 of the problem by General Newton Longfellow of the Eighth Air Force.

After the revelation in the Merry-Go-Round, the Army had issued denials of the hazard but then ordered 100,000 of the quick-release parachutes, followed by another 300,000, and more since.

But the orders had not come soon enough to save hundreds of lives of paratroops landing on Normandy as part of the D-Day operations, shot by enemy snipers for their inability to escape quickly their parachute rigging, especially problematic when landing in trees.

Thus began immediately an effort at conversion of the parachutes to the quick-release version by purchasing, at high cost, British harnesses which utilized the single release. About half the parachutes were so converted by the time in mid-September of the paratroop drop into Arnhem, behind enemy lines. While that operation had not been a success in the end, with the forced withdrawal after suffering large casualties during a ten-day encirclement by the enemy, there had been far fewer casualties on landing, thanks to the new harness.

Samuel Grafton continues, as the previous day, discussing the International Civil Aviation Conference ongoing in Chicago. He indicates that the smaller nations attending the conference were baffled by the apparent paradox of calling a conference on international regulation of civil aviation when the American view enunciated by Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle, head of the U. S. delegation to the conference, favored no international regulation but rather unregulated free international travel through the civil airways.

The American position, offers Mr. Grafton, appeared to violate the basic principle adopted at Dumbarton Oaks to have an international organization post-war to regulate the peace. Since the airways were a principal part of the method by which the peace would be regulated, it was difficult to understand this resistance of the Americans to such regulation on the vital issue of civil aviation.

Marquis Childs writes of the aging members of the Roosevelt Cabinet and the need for fresh blood for the fourth term. They included Cordell Hull, 73, Jesse Jones and Harold Ickes, both 70, and Frances Perkins, 62. Each had been in their respective positions for all twelve years of the Administration. Only Mr. Ickes had thus far offered his resignation, a tradition for Cabinet members at the conclusion of a term. Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury since 1934, was the youngster of the group at 53. Most had been in government in one capacity or another their entire adult lives, Mr. Hull for all except two of the previous fifty years.

Mr. Childs expresses the likelihood that, despite the President's tenderness toward his loyal coterie of Cabinet officers, too tender to ask for their resignations, he might this time accept a few of them if volunteered.

Hal Boyle, reporting from Germany on November 8, states that patrols near Haafen became so frustrated at having to rescue drivers who had driven past their outposts into the front lines that they posted a large sign which read: "Front line 400 yards ahead—are you lost, Bud?"

Hopefully, they had a reader, not so much a determined leader.

A major and a sergeant drank wine with a friendly French family for half an hour and then asked where were the Germans, to which came the casual reply, "Out in the back yard." They looked out the window to see several heavily armed German troops. The two Americans, with only a carbine and a pistol between them, decided to depart quickly by the front door.

A lieutenant colonel had accepted the surrender of seven German half-tracks and thirteen horse-drawn vehicles without examining the contents, sent them to the rear. The First Infantry Division received them, to discover that the convoy carried primarily hard liquor. The colonel vowed in the future to check for contents of surrendered vehicles.

Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, reported that a colonel sought to land his air transport, declared that it was the smoothest landing he had ever accomplished, only to be told by a sergeant that they were still fifteen feet off the ground.

Two privates, Ice and Pilcher, played dead to avoid German SS troops. They lay still while the Germans went through their pockets, difficult enough. But the hardest part was not moving when, three times, the Germans placed live hand grenades on the stomach of Ice before tossing each one at an American mortar squad.

A private claimed to be the first American soldier to receive dental treatment in Germany, having a cavity filled under a tarpaulin stretched over a half-track on September 16.

A news piece reports that playwright Noel Coward refused to become embroiled in a dispute with the Brooklyn City Council and Brooklyn representatives in Congress regarding a supposed slur against the grit of soldiers native to Brooklyn. The problem arose from Mr. Coward's Middle East Diary, recently published, in which he had stated his impressions of American fighting men, praising the toughness of men he met from Texas and Arizona, but finding soldiers from Brooklyn sniveling over being wounded in the leg or suffering from a fractured arm. Mr. Coward responded to the Brooklyn criticism only by saying that he had observed thousands of American soldiers during his travels and was impressed by them.

A reaction by New York Congressman and Dies Un-American Activities Committee member Samuel Dickstein to Mr. Coward's slight is reprinted from the Congressional Record. Representative Dickstein suggested that Mr. Coward's patriotism was not above reproach for his having withheld taxes from his native Great Britain. He stated that Brooklyn had more men in action than 39 of the 48 states. Brooklyn, he suggested, would remember the calumny should Mr. Coward ever have a play return to Broadway.

Mr. Coward would return, in 1946, with Present Laughter, running for 158 performances at the Plymouth Theater, next door to the Booth, where, during part of its 650-performance run in 1941-43, ran his previous play on Broadway, Blithe Spirit.

Incidentally, it is probably also a good thing that the observer at the Hyde Park voting booth of the President was not Sam Dickstein.

"Dusty problem", from March 8, by the way, is now here. And "1959" is now here.

Try to understand, skimmer and careless reader, how stupid you appear to most people most of the time and learn some humility.

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