Thursday, December 21, 1944

The Charlotte News

Thursday, December 21, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Supreme Allied Headquarters disclosed that the Germans had now extended their 20-mile weekend plunge into Belgium to 35 miles, advancing to a point about 14 miles south of Liege and the same distance west of Malmedy by noon on Tuesday. Enemy tank columns had severed the road from Liege to Bastogne to Arlon within the Ardennes, reaching the village of Werbomont. First Army units abruptly halted the German advance on the northern flank at the American-held towns of Monschau, Butgenbach, Malmedy, and Stavelot, arresting German efforts to extend the bulge line northward.

Hal Boyle reported that a large tank battle was being waged near Stavelot, launched 1.25 miles southeast of Malmedy, and thus far German efforts to break through the American lines to rescue 60 trapped tanks had been thwarted for the fourth successive day. Five American Shermans captured by the Germans, plus a tank destroyer, had been taken out of action by the Americans. Thirty of the 60 tanks had been taken out of action and a fourth of their 200 supply vehicles likewise immobilized.

American doughboys had climbed for miles across snowed-in mountains to open fire on the enemy's exposed flank. The only means of escape for the German tank division, the bridge across the Ambleve River, was blown by the Americans, closing off any hope of retreat.

The Germans were now pushing eight to nine infantry divisions and five to six armored divisions through the bulge line, shrouded in fog, limiting visibility to 50 yards. The enemy had been accumulating American equipment for some time, explained an American captain, and were now incorporating it in their drive to seek to confuse the Americans in the fog and snowy conditions.

The second German plunge had penetrated three quarters of the way across tiny Luxembourg, from Vianden to just east of Wiltz, 10 miles east of Bastogne and 48 miles northeast of Sedan, the latter appearing to be the target, the location where the Germans had accomplished their breakthrough in 1940. Another German column was in the vicinity of Clervaux, seven miles northeast of Wiltz.

It was stated by "good authority" from the front, albeit not confirmed by Allied Headquarters, that it was unlikely the German counter-offensive would be checked during the current week.

The drive was reported turning south and west of St. Vith, an American-held town which was about to be hopelessly surrounded, in the most potent of the German thrusts. But...

The Third Army of General Patton had made slight gains into the Saar Basin while the Seventh Army continued striking in the Bavarian Palatinate.

More V-weapons, presumably V-2 rockets, struck southern England, inflicting damage and casualties.

Weather limited Western Front air operations, but the Fifteenth Air Force flew a mission from Italy against Rosenheim, 35 miles southeast of Munich.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson expressed his full confidence in General Eisenhower's command and stated that the Germans were risking everything on this last-ditch offensive operation to seek to buy a few months of time before their inexorable fate was met. In their effort to halt the advance of the Allies into the Cologne plain and the Saar Basin, the Germans had exploited a weakly held part of the front which the Allies had deemed without enough military significance to risk large contingents of troops fully to defend.

He compared the drive to the last-ditch effort of the Germans in 1918 when, having driven to the Marne, they were suddenly stopped dead in their tracks on July 18 with the counter-offensive of the Allies.

In Athens, the British began a tank assault from atop Likabettus Mountain and launched rocket-firing fighter planes against ELAS concentrations following the expiration at 9:00 a.m. of an ultimatum issued by General Ronald Scobie to the Greek guerilla forces. Paratroops landed in Omonia Square, capturing prisoners and weapons and eliminating sniper nests. Jean Rallis, the former Premier who had been a quisling puppet for the Nazis, escaping during the ELAS takeover of Averoff Prison in Attica, had been recaptured.

The Second and Fourth Ukrainian Armies made further progress, advancing up to five miles along their 125-mile front in Southern Slovakia to reach the outskirts of Kassa and Rimaszombat. Both towns controlled routes to Bratislava, Vienna, and Prague. The battle further to the west along the Danube Bend was reported as likewise proceeding satisfactorily and the Russians were reported by the Germans to have initiated their push from the area between Balaton Lake and the Danube in Hungary.

B-29's out of China had bombed Mukden and Dalren in Manchuria. Tokyo radio also reported another bombing and reconnaissance raid over Tokyo, albeit with only a few bombs dropped by one Superfortress.

Japan's Premier Koiso admitted that American conquest of Leyte was nearly a fait accompli. After two months since the landings on October 20, General MacArthur agreed that operations were nearly concluded on the key Philippine island, one which Koiso had earlier stated was the linchpin for deciding what he called the Greater East Asia War.

The Yamashita Line had now been completely destroyed on Leyte, as two American divisions had advanced south from Pinamopoan, while a third moved north from Ormoc to within a mile of a juncture along the corridor road.

The War Production Board announced that the brass industry, critical for production of ammunition, was being placed on the urgency list to give the industry top priority in recruiting labor. Meanwhile, to relieve the stress on brass, copper-clad steel was being utilized in its stead for production of small arms ammunition.

The WPB vice-chairman stated that the German counter-offensive was going to hit American production "between the eyes" and require that any relaxation of the freeze on civilian production be placed on hold indefinitely.

In Boston, authorities were shooting at seagulls to clear them from reservoir areas. The aim was not to kill the gulls but rather simply to shoo them from the water supply which they contaminated, potentially causing serious intestinal disturbances to humans.

Probably, your typical Commie gulls at work, Mandrake.

On the editorial page, "In Desperation" suggests the Battle of the Bulge to be a counter-offensive launched by the Germans in desperation and that, while disturbing and embarrassing to Allied military might for the nonce, promised, when done, a probably quicker end to the war than might otherwise have been achieved, in any event to be accomplished then with celerity.

It would be so.

"Out of Bounds" opines that the Government had a sound case against Sewell Avery, chairman of Montgomery Ward, to force the company's compliance with War Labor Board orders to honor maintenance-of-membership union contracts, resisted by Mr. Avery on the basis that the Board was advisory only. His contention that the orders should be made by law rang hollow as inefficient in time of war. That his actions had precipitated a mass strike in his stores made him, not the union, the responsible party.

But the editorial found significant fault in the reported fact that two members of the regional War Labor Board had joined the picket line in Detroit. The piece agrees with Representative Clare Hoffman, ordinarily reactionary, in his asserted opinion that the presence on the picket line of Board members, assigned to resolve strikes, could not be reconciled with any rational sense and confounded the common version of it.

"Hold Tight" disagrees with the notion advanced by Dr. Herbert Herring, director of the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America, speaking in Durham, that relations between the United States and Argentina be repaired to restore the faith in the country of Argentinians and the people of Latin America generally. He found the economic sanctions imposed on Argentina by the State Department to be unfortunate and instilling distrust in a people who wanted, first and foremost, friendship with the United States.

The piece finds the State Department's action wholly justified given Argentina's Fascist-leaning regime, beckoning the memories of the mistakes made from inaction with respect to Japan in 1931 when it first indicated aggression in Manchuria.

"One Problem" recounts the report made by the business manager of the state hospitals, informing of progress made during the previous year. Salaries were higher for staff, food improved, as were sanitation and housing. Crops and livestock herds had increased.

One remaining problem was finding a new business manager at the Morganton facility. The editorial urged that, given the importance of the position, it be undertaken as a priority.

The excerpt from the Congressional Record quotes outgoing Congresswoman Winifred Stanley of New York urging the Congress to get on with the business of constructing the post-war peace by authorizing in advance a United States delegate to the United Nations to have authority to act under the general aegis of the United States without Congressional approval of each decision. It was owed to the men who had given their life or limb in defense of the country.

During her single term in Congress, Ms. Stanley, a Republican, also was an adviser to the "Eight Girls to Every Man Club", sounding on the cause of it a worthy face, if a bit problematic in the long haul.

Drew Pearson tells of a conversation recently had by former President Hoover with former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Paul Smith, by then a Naval commander. Mr. Hoover appeared angry over the election and the way Republican leaders had handled the campaign. He liked neither Governor Dewey nor the deceased Wendell Willkie. Each of the three previous Republican nominees, including Alf Landon in 1936, had ignored Mr. Hoover's advice to propose a counter to the New Deal rather than merely running on a platform of continuing its programs with more efficient administration.

Mr. Hoover, in his usual uncanny ability to predict events, as amply demonstrated by his term as President, had stated categorically that Mr. Dewey had no chance to be nominated in 1948.

He had some favorable things to say of former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who, he understood, had lost during the war his zeal for international cooperation.

Mr. Pearson next relates of facts provided by war strategists that the Nazis had since D-Day lost a million troops but were now putting more on the lines than the Allies faced on D-Day, then with a complement of 65 divisions, now with 75. The Germans' total complement of troops on all fronts was six million men.

British Ambassador to the United States Lord Halifax had encountered the frankness of an Iowa farmer who told him that Americans used to be intimidated by Britons, thought that the Brits were more clever than Americans and attempting thus to outsmart them. But, having heard Lord Halifax, said the farmer to his face, they no longer felt that way.

Peter Riedel, former assistant military attache to the German Embassy in Washington, who had also been Hitler's and Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop's primary spy out of the Embassy in the United States before Pearl Harbor, was now enlisting with the United Nations, having broken relations with the Nazis. His final break came when the Nazis sought his assistance in kidnapping two German fliers seeking refuge from the Gestapo by escaping to Switzerland. In Sweden at the time, Herr Riedel was now asking for permanent asylum there and also seeking admission to the United States.

Gut luck, Herr Riedel.

Marquis Childs tells of an Army Air Force rehabilitation center being run out of a boys' school at Pawling, N.Y. Most of the men were battle casualties, many with lost limbs and severe wounds. Some were victims of combat fatigue or shell shock. All were working toward recovery and expected some limited future service in the Air Force.

The most striking characteristic of the hospital was that each patient was considered to be a human being, not merely the object of regimentation. Various sporting activities were offered but none were regimented, even if general exercise was required.

When he had visited the gym at the hospital, Mr. Childs witnessed one instructor working with two casualties, one man who had lost his lower left leg in combat in September, 1943, and the other having suffered a severe injury stateside during training, such that his right leg was half an inch shorter than the left. The former patient could run backwards around the track in 55 seconds, could make 70 yards in sixteen seconds. The other man could run 70 yards in fourteen seconds. Soon, both would leave the facility with only a barely noticeable limp.

The goal of the convalescent center was to get the men back into productive life. Others observed by Mr. Childs were busy painting, sculpting, sketching, or learning photography or wood-working, appeared to enjoy the activities.

The plan presented itself as a viable model for other rehabilitation centers, one which would be costly but would also pay dividends by reacclimating men to society without having to pay for their continued institutionalization.

Samuel Grafton indicates the presence of flying scuttlebuttresses to the effect that the reason for Prime Minister Churchill's sudden endorsement to Commons on Friday of the territorial acquisition by the Soviets in Poland to the Curzon Line in exchange for Polish acquisition of Danzig and parts of East Prussia with suitable transference of populations in those regions to avoid internecine conflict in the future, had come from a deal with the Soviets that they would not interfere with the British in Italy and Greece.

The net effect was to produce cynicism in America, that power politics had re-emerged as the defining policy to be followed into the post-war era, that the international idealism of cooperative interaction was falling by the wayside.

Another interpretation, however, of Mr. Churchill's acquiescence, says Mr. Grafton, was that the British were seeking a cooperative arrangement by taking the first step, without there having been some secret pre-arranged deal between Churchill and Stalin, effected, if at all, presumably at the recent Moscow conference had by the two leaders.

It was hard to believe, he argues, that Churchill would not have at least tactfully alluded to such a deal had there been one. It would have suited his purposes to embarrass his critics at home, which included the Communists, to suggest Soviet complicity in the Greek action. Why else, asks further Mr. Grafton, but, in part, to seek approbation of the British action in Greece, would Mr. Churchill have pleaded the exigency of holding a meeting of the Big Three?

Ultimately, Britain was seeking to preserve its own post-war position in Europe and the Mediterranean. The British, concludes Mr. Grafton, were owed such a position and the Allies should provide sufficient economic assurances to avoid the necessity of the British to undertake the sorts of actions of late in Greece and in Italy, in the latter country having vetoed Count Carlo Sforza as Foreign Minister. It would end the British need for such catty diplomacy whereby indirect means were employed apparently to obtain desirable policy from the United States and Russia.

A female letter writer suggests that the Marine arrested in California, charged with the strangulation murder of a woman he had been bothering at a dance the night before she had been found dead in her bathtub, as reported October 14, should be sent to a hospital rather than jail, for he knew not what he was doing, was merely reacting as the dog of war which he had been trained to be.

Perhaps, on this point, she makes a solemn and humane suggestion worthy of consideration.

But, she then proceeds slightly to exit the reservation by suggesting that dissolute women who ought be at home praying for the men overseas were found instead by the returning servicemen carousing the streets by night and thus were more responsible for their own deaths than the servicemen who went a-hunting, frustrated, upon return home.

Well, ma'am, with all good graces intended to your undoubted superior wisdom in most things, we must, on that one, beg to differ, lest all the dissolute females on whom many males depend for sustenance and continuation of the human race be murdered by returning soldiers figuring they are doing God's will.

In any event, that was this edition of The News, for December 21, 1944.

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