Monday, December 25, 1944

The Charlotte News

Monday, December 25, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that German tanks and infantry a day earlier moved forward into American lines 5.5 miles, from a point between Marche and Hotton in Belgium, having forged a position between Marche and Rochefort, 14.5 miles from the Meuse River. Rochefort is 5.5 miles southwest of Marche. American pressure was maintained on Von Rundstedt's northern and southern flanks while the successful forward progress was accomplished at the point of the dagger.

According to A. P. dispatches, tank battles on Christmas Eve had transpired along points of the penetration rim, with the Americans resisting several efforts of the German Tigers to effect deeper penetration. There were 34 burned German tanks and 200 enemy dead discovered by American patrols.

Some American progress occurred along the southern flank, clearing the Germans from the Luxembourg town of Heiderscheid, four miles north of Grosbous, representing a two to three mile American advance in this sector. A tank and infantry battle was taking place near Tadler, 1.5 miles north of Heiderscheid.

The Americans made inroads on the Nazi advance six miles south of bypassed Bastogne at Chaumont, clearing that village of enemy troops, as fighting continued nevertheless to resist Nazi counter-attacks. Another six miles to the south, the Americans pushed from the Liege-Arlon Road to Bigonville, three miles northeast of Martelange.

An earlier dispatch, covering events through Saturday morning, stated that the German threat to the city of Luxembourg had been attenuated.

The Third Army gained 300 yards in the Saarlautern sector on the east bank of the Saar River.

The news blackout had been reduced from 48 hours to 24 hours by Supreme Allied Headquarters.

German communiques reported that fresh reinforcements were being funneled to both sides of the action and that the Germans had made a "concentric attack" on surrounded Bastogne. (The Germans on October 12 had also used that phrase in their dispatches to describe the Russian attack on Memel.) The communique also claimed the Germans to have inflicted a defeat the previous day along the northern flank of the wedge between Eisenborn and Stavelot.

The sand, they had to know, along the Lindbergh ladder, was fast running through the glass in the fish-barrel's bloated bladder.

London confirmed German reports that the V-2 rocket attacks had been extended to northern England, the Germans claiming a strike at Manchester. The dispatch, says the report, was unclear whether V-1 flying bombs were also still being utilized. Apparently, they were not.

Reports had come from Norway that the Nazis were busy constructing launching facilities for V-2's, presumably along the heavily occupied coast.

After 48 hours of fair weather, a cloud cover began to envelop again the front lines of the Western Front. Nevertheless, an attack force of 7,000 planes flew some 13,000 sorties from England, and presumably France, against German positions in Belgium and Luxembourg. Unusually heavy losses resulted, indicative of both heavier groundfire and Luftwaffe resistance, with 29 bombers and 51 fighters lost. On Saturday, 17 bombers and 28 fighters had been knocked out in cover operations. The Germans suffered at least 326 lost planes in the period since Saturday.

The Fifteenth Air Force out of Italy also struck targets in southern Germany.

In Italy, heavy snow gave respite to American infantry troops of the Fifth Army, having the day before resisted counter-attacks against their newly won positions east of Monte Belmonte, the latter now securely held.

In Greece, at the Athens port of Piraeus, the British, with support from fresh Indian reinforcements landed during the weekend, captured the main refrigeration plant, which had been occupied by the ELAS dogs of war, too left-wing for the staid British Tories and their strapped sepoys, apparently. British paratroops tightened their control on the western sectors of central Athens. The ELAS remained holed up in warehouses in Athens and port buildings in Piraeus.

The action followed ELAS demands that a government of "common confidence" be installed and that other volunteer militias first be disarmed before they would acquiesce to the demands laid down by the British December 16 and lay down their arms. The British were not accepting of the counter-terms.

In northwest Greece, the fighting continued between ELAS troops and the right-wing EDES troops of General Napoleon Zervas, with the EDES suffering heavy casualties. The EDES, in part because of mass desertions, had been reduced from 12,000 to between 4,000 and 6,000 men during the four days of fighting thus far.

After three and a half years of Nazi-Fascist occupation, 'twas easier to be left-wing in Greece than right. We think that Aristotle may have said that.

German and Hungarian troops defending Budapest were reported now entrapped inside the city beleaguered from three sides by the Third Ukrainian Army, which had taken Szekesfehervar and Bicske, respectively, 32 miles southwest and seventeen miles west of Budapest. Roads to the west had been severed after a Russian advance of 25 miles in three days. The Russians were now within 17 miles of the capital with the vanguards within seven.

The Second Ukrainian Army had moved seventeen miles further into Southern Slovakia to capture Leva, 65 miles east of Bratislava and 98 miles from Vienna, 50 miles northwest of Budapest. The main body of the Army moved on toward Vienna while part of it fanned out into the Slovak Mountains to the north, seeking to trap the Germans still fighting in the sector of captured Kassa and Losone. Both armies had captured 4,680 German and Hungarian soldiers during the previous three days.

German radio, still without confirmation from Moscow, reported that the new winter offensive launched by the Russians in Latvia, entrapping 30 German divisions, continued into its sixth day.

About 50 B-29's bombed Iwo Jima for 2.5 hours on Christmas Eve, Sunday, the seventeenth consecutive day on which the island had been attacked. The stress on Iwo was because it served as a Japanese airbase for attack on American positions established on Saipan, the critical base now for the B-29 raids on Tokyo and the home islands.

On Christmas morning, three B-29's struck Tokyo, Yokohama, and Shizuoka prefecture.

Philippine-based bombers conducted their second daylight raid on Manila.

On Leyte, operations were fast drawing to a close as the American 77th Division made its way close to Palompon, the last port available to the enemy on the island.

On Mindoro Island, the Japanese were conducting isolated kamikaze runs, with only fatal results. Twenty-seven such enemy planes were shot down during the weekend.

Admiral Chester Nimitz issued the caveat that the worst part of the air war in the Pacific still lay ahead, as it was expected that enemy resistance would intensify as the Americans drew closer to the home islands.

Outside of Harrisburg, Pa., a C-47 Army transport crashed on Roundtop Mountain, three miles west of New Cumberland, killing eight or nine persons and injuring fifteen. The soldiers aboard had been on their way home for Christmas furlough.

In Charlotte, two small children were seriously injured, a six-year old boy losing his right hand and his sister suffering a gash on her leg, from an explosion, said not to be mere fireworks, on the front steps of the family home. Wood splinters were found in the wounds, despite the steps being constructed of brick. The children had been playing on the steps at 6:00 p.m. when the explosion occurred. The source of the explosion remained unclear, but the children had apparently not been playing with any fireworks or explosive materials.

President Roosevelt, in conjunction with the annual lighting of the White House Christmas tree, broadcast a message to the troops, indicating that, while it remained unclear when victory would come, the enemy and their evil works were doomed. He urged people at home to do their full share to hasten that day of doom. The President then offered a prayer for protection of the men of the United Nations fighting forces.

Pope Pius XII celebrated Christmas Eve mass publicly, the first time it had been so conducted in 75 years. Since 1869, the mass had been held only for cardinals, the diplomatic corps, and the House of Savoy. Some 100,000 gathered at St. Peter's.

Well, if you are there still, 1944 United Nations, Merry Christmas to you. If anyone needs it and deserves it, certainly you do, for all the supreme effort you put into defending democracy against the onslaught of those who could not see.

Mr. Webb and Mr. Morgan, incidentally, called the other day to say, "Hold the anchovies," not the chicken salad.

On the editorial page, "The Immortal Story" quotes the Book of Luke in the Bible, Chapter 2, verses 1 through 15, that which sets forth the meaning of the day of Christmas.

A worthy exercise, incidentally, is to go through the different accounts within the Pentateuch, that is those of each Testament, and compare the slight variations.

"Greetings on this Day" extends thanks and, for the 57th time since its founding in December, 1888, a Merry Christmas, to the readers of The News, from publisher W. C. Dowd and his brother, editor J. E. Dowd, the latter having returned in late August from a voluntary twenty-month stint in the Navy, spent stateside.

"The Tangled Christmas Legend" discusses the history of Christmas, with its roots in paganism for centuries before the birth of Christ. The initial celebration of the holiday by the Manicheans as a commemoration of the birth of the Savior was at first frowned upon by the Christian Church. It was then sanctioned by the Church in the fourth century.

A hundred years later, it was set on the 25th day of December, coinciding with the Roman feast dedicated to the birth of Sol, the sun. No actual knowledge existed of the true date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

The holly, mistletoe, and wassail bowl came from the Celtic and Hun celebrations of the holiday, rejoicing for the winter solstice, the return once again of the burning-wheel, i.e., the sun and its apparent circuit on the hub of the hobbled ox-cart, the wobbled chariot, inceptive of its ultimate turn from its farthest distance from the earth to extend once again its fiery beneficent cycle unto the planting of spring, the growth of summer, into the season of harvest. Still in its pagan phase, that festival was called Yule.

The Christmas tree had been traced back to Roman times, thought introduced to Britain by the Germans--probably then adorned at its topping with an iron cross. Exchange of gifts developed in time, before the age of Commerce. Sending of Christmas cards came along in 1880.

The history of Christmas, it finds, thus was the history of man's time on earth.

Query what is eternity. Define that and you understand that there can be nothing so even within the imagination of man. Thus, despite the work of a piece he is, man still lacks understanding of his origin, irremediably so, and thus must forever, in this earthly garb, have a story as a Touchstone to the wood and the earth to explain it, to ground him in his nature such that he does not bound away from it upon a leap too far over the abyss of time into the chasm which is not possible of definition except in meaningless verbiage. Define for us eternity and we shall provide you with all we have and then some, for you will be God incarnate.

Ach, ach, ach-- We said define it, not quote or paraphrase a definition from the dictionary, only describing a word or symbol for the concept which is, we posit, not truly definable by man. For man must always define substance by limits. He cannot possibly conceive of the infinite, either that in large or little, for but erecting a wall somewhere out there against which he will eventually bump. But is there such a wall, can there be, within the infinite, the everlasting, the eternal? Is it not just a circle then, not a linear conception in the ordinary sense of an infinitely extending line of time and space? If you define it that way, how, pray tell, do you know? And, where is the wall then which delineates ultimately that circle? Is it brick, stone, wood, glass, other tangential points upon the arcs of other circles? which then leaves one hopelessly grasping still for the ultimate circle, the final circular wall embracing it all, that which causes the infinite to become finite, in which case the sun will not rise.

Whose joke is this, anyway?

Or, are you so cocksure of yourself that you never thought about it too much?

The excerpt from the Congressional Record sets forth two prayers, one each offered to the Senate and House by two Washington ministers.

Samuel Grafton indicates that isolationists were rejoicing that no actual physical copy of the Atlantic Charter existed, it having been pieced together from snippets transmitted between ships of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at their rendezvous point off Placentia, Newfoundland, in early to mid-August, 1941.

Mr. Grafton cautions that, as he had learned from his single year in law school, a contract could be formed verbally or through pieces of written communication, provided there was mutual agreement, a "meeting of the minds", on the terms, and consideration, that is to say something offered in exchange for something received, a promise to do or refrain from doing something being sufficient to act as consideration, termed in that form "promissory estoppel". (Cf. Uniform Commercial Code and Restatement of Contracts, 2d)

He therefore finds the world in which isolationists lived to be a peculiar one, one in which the scrap of paper was paramount to the interests of peace fashioned by the agreement reached at the Atlantic Charter conference. He cautioned that, in that world, marriage vows made orally were subject to dispute.

The Charter, he suggests, was one of the most defiant statements of all time, defiant to the Nazi-Fascist-Feudalist Will formed by the Axis alignment; and from its point of signing, Hitler became less and less a reality.

The Atlantic Charter, Virginia, was quite real, concludes Mr. Grafton, with its goal to effect peace and good will on earth among all peoples.

And, moreover, everyone of understanding knows you do not have to have, to make the contract valid, any Sanity Clause.

Marquis Childs remarks of the thoughts of the American people going with the soldiers fighting on the fronts around the world. Some 82 million parcels had been mailed to them for Christmas, requiring the largest single task to that point ever attempted at the holiday season by the Post Office. In 1943, only a quarter the number, 20.5 million parcels, had been sent, indicative of the greater number of American soldiers who had sailed abroad during the prior year.

But for all the gifts, reminds Mr. Childs, a failure to appreciate the harsh ordeal being endured by the fighting men and support personnel overseas would cause those gifts to ring hollow. He recommends, for some vicarious appreciation of that hardship, Ernie Pyle's Brave Men, just released at this Christmas of 1944. He quotes from its pages a paragraph:

"The darkness enveloped the whole American armada. Not a pin-point of light showed from those hundreds of ships as they surged on through the night toward their destiny, carrying across the ageless and indifferent sea tens of thousands of young men fighting for... for... Well, at least for each other."

Mr. Childs concludes with the grim note that many of those intended recipients of the gifts were no longer among the living.

"What can endure," he says, "is our faith in their courage and their achievement—and that alone. On this day above all other days, we should remember that."

And, the expression applies, of course, with equal force, to the allied men and women, living and dead, of all wars in which the country has involved itself, no matter whether we may have agreed with the premise of the particular warfare or not. Still, brave men and women were drafted or, as exclusively in the last 34 years in the United States, volunteered, into the armed forces, and sent abroad in many different operations, some of which some of their number, themselves, obviously have questioned at times.

It applies most immediately of course to the men and women who have given life and limb and risked same in the last decade in Afghanistan and the last nearly nine years in Iraq, that latter fight now, for America, finally done in its most active operations.

The question we have posed before and pose again for thought is whether man, or part of mankind, is hopelessly so inured to the felt need for warfare, to prove something innate in all of us, that will to compete, that will to win, that will to survive against a hostile natural environment, made even more hostile by elements of mankind operating within it, that he cannot live without war. Can we live without the excitement, without the titillation, without the resultant temporary feeling of downy security by contrast to it, which warfare seems to provide a too great part of humanity?

It is no evil to read and learn of past wars. The Bible is full of such stories. What is evil is to feel the need to experience more than vicariously the treachery and danger of war, to train so one's instincts that they ultimately become the master of the higher intelligence with which man is endowed as against all other creatures of the earth, such that he seeks to better, to the point of death, his or her fellow human beings. Can we live without it?

The coming year of 1945 would teach the world the most profound demonstration of horrific force capable of being unleashed from man's percipient awareness of nature through empirical method yet ever accomplished or ever again repeated against populated areas. Do we need that sort of demonstration as a collectivity, together with its ensuing constant threat, to police peace and lord over us with that cockatrice?

Drew Pearson tells of the old days, the simple days, when columnists, in order to get a day off for Christmas, conjured a story of Christmas Island, feeling the need to spice the cocoanut paradise with the question of who owned it, Great Britain or the United States, even though no one wanted the island to begin with for its lack of product or strategic significance.

But this Christmas, he says, he could not find much about which to write to commemorate the spirit of the season, not even Christmas at the White House. The President had too much on his mind this year to be too much concerned of Christmas.

That which prevailed in the minds of most was the hardship of the men on the fronts overseas, coupled with the desire to get the war won and done and to get on with the business of prevention of any other such horror in the future.

He remarks of the earlier Christmases, the Hoovers leading guests through the White House by candlelight, Mrs. Roosevelt insisting on a candlelit Christmas tree, sprayed with fire retardant, as she deplored electric lights, being not truly conveyances of the full spirit of Christmas, that obtained by the smell of hot evergreen.

Mr. Pearson expresses the notion that Americans wished that they might live to see such Christmases come again, undisturbed by the outside world. But all knew that the world had changed. With rocket bombs and Superfortresses capable of shortening distances across the oceans, no nation could ever again live in splendid isolation, free from concern of the potential for instant warfare.

Dr. Herbert Spaugh recommends Georg Frederick Handel's "Messiah" for Christmas listening, a piece of music annually performed in Winston-Salem where Dr. Spaugh also had roots. He tells of the story being conveyed and of the time in which Handel wrote it.

Tom Jimison begins a contribution with words from Isaiah, sung as part of Handel's oratory. He then tells of the history of Isaiah. He suggests that, if displaced into modern times, Isaiah would have been deemed a Communist by Martin Dies, that he stood in defiance to the dictators and hypocrites of his day, those which Robert Burns termed the "unco guid".

He further asserts the belief that Jesus was especially for the sinner who was too sinful to attend church, did not wish the pious superciliousness, the visage marked by unmistakable, if unsaid, scorn, to mar inner contentment.

"He is our'n," says Mr. Jimison. "Can't nobody take Him from us."

The Savior was not confined to stained glass windows or within the confines of the church edifice, but ranged into the hants of the city's and town's underbelly, the pool halls, saloons, the seedy juke joints, where people most needed the guidance, that work which Jesus, himself, undertook, outside the Temple walls, and for which set an example, paying for it with his temporal life.

"It may be that much more blood will have to be spilled down through the centuries before His dream of world peace comes true."

Like that of so many on fighting fronts in the world, so many at home, some by illness, some by self-chosen means, some by homicide, some by accident, like the President of the United States, like Ernie Pyle, like Glenn Miller, whose death had already occurred, this Christmas would be the last on earth that Mr. Jimison, lawyer, former Methodist minister, journalist, observer of earth and man, would corporeally enjoy. He would pass away of an illness the following September.

But, it would also be the last of life for Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels, for Benito Mussolini and Hideki Tojo, the last Christmas on earth of world war, at least thus far, in 67 years.

Once again, we wish you a Merry one. Two Christmases have occurred this year for those of you helping us read here, one for the fortunate present, one for the cruel past. May that of the future see peace on earth and good will toward its inhabitants.

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