Wednesday, December 27, 1944

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, December 27, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that American tanks and infantry had regained the initiative from the German offensive during the previous 24 hours. Details, however, were not yet released. The dispatch had come from the area of Stavelot. By Tuesday morning, Celles had been recaptured by the Americans, the position to which Von Rundstedt's forces had made deepest penetration, to within four miles of the Meuse. The Germans appeared to be shifting their main thrust to the northwest, toward the Antwerp area, in an effort to interdict Allied supplies.

German tanks and self-propelled guns were being found without gasoline, an indication of the impact of air support on Von Rundstedt's supply lines. Food also was reported to be running low.

Allied officers estimated that more than 2,000 German spies dressed in American uniforms, and sometimes using American tanks and equipment, were being utilized in the drive, either dropped by parachute behind American lines or infiltrating directly. A Sherman tank with a German crew had struck American lines the previous day and escaped.

A total of twenty German divisions were now operating in the Battle of the Bulge, ten of them armored or armored infantry.

To within the Bastogne trap, where General McAuliffe had refused the entreaty of the Germans to surrender on December 22, one American Army vehicle had managed to break through to reach the troops cut off from supplies for more than a week. Hundreds of tons of supplies were dropped by parachute to the men by Christmas Eve via C-47 transports after a lone C-47 had dropped pathfinder paratroops to locate the position of the trapped division. American columns were reported by the BBC to be within 1.25 miles of the town.

This would be the last day of the ten-day siege of Bastogne, ending in victory for the previously trapped 101st Airborne Division.

The German breakthrough of the lines on December 16 was now being blamed on a failure of the Allied Intelligence Service to detect the presence of the build-up of troops in the sector. It had been thought that the Germans and Americans were using the Ardennes Forest as a rest and training area, that it afforded no strategic advantage as a route of penetration. It was also believed that Von Rundstedt had no strategic reserve elements with which to launch a major offensive, that morale of the German soldiers was low, that the primary goal therefore was to fight a defensive action within the Ruhr, that the Luftwaffe had no remaining capability to provide air cover, and that shortages of gasoline and materials prevented any large offensive.

Thus far, every such assumption had proved erroneous, with the exception that gasoline and supplies were beginning to run low from Allied air pounding of rail lines.

Six hundred American heavy bombers and 400 escorts struck rail targets in Western Germany, at Euskirchen and Andernach, northwest of Coblenz, and at Homburg and Fulda, south of Kassel. The RAF struck German positions north of St. Vith. The Allies lost only one bomber and 30 fighters in 2,100 sorties flown the previous day. Fully 475 German planes had been destroyed since Saturday.

Approximately 500 heavy bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force out of Italy struck three synthetic oil refineries in Germany.

B-29's again raided Tokyo, the fifth such raid on the capital city since June 15 and the first raid since December 3. The Japanese set the number of Superfortresses at 50 and claimed that one had gone down in flames over the city.

Land-based American bombers raided Manila for the fourth consecutive day, concentrating on Clark Field.

Major Thomas McGuire of San Antonio scored his 38th hit of the war during those raids, bringing him within two of the record thus far set by Major Richard I. Bong, with 40 kills.

In the Pacific, American submarines had sunk a large Japanese aircraft carrier and twenty other warships, dates and locations not being provided.

The Russians were now charging from the hills into the western section of Budapest, set on fire by the Germans. All roads of escape had been severed. It was not known how many Nazis were left to defend the capital, but the Germans continued to fight to hold the city street by street. Thousands of German dead were lining the roads from Szechesfehervar to Budapest. King Tiger and Panther tanks were left behind along the way in the fields. Armored units were seeking to move toward the two large bridges which spanned the Danube to Pest, the eastern section of the city.

In Athens, the counter-terms of surrender offered by the ELAS were deemed unacceptable by the Greek Populist Party members. The terms were that a regency could exist in Greece as long as there were no objections by others, there would be formed a new cabinet with a President having the full confidence of all parties, punishment would be meted to collaborationists and those perpetrating unpatriotic acts, a purge of government services, including police, and dissolution of the gendarmerie, would transpire, with all officers sent home until they could be individually examined by a committee.

On the editorial page, "Emancipation?" anticipates the release of the Interstate Commerce Commission report, of which Drew Pearson had recently commented as soon to come out, set to wipe away the discriminatory differentials which had beset Southern freight rates for generations. Such a change would be greeted in the South with welcome arms, would open new vistas for trade, unencumbered by higher freight rates than enjoyed by the North and Midwest.

But it would carry with it defeat of the position taken by the Southern railroads who had wanted to maintain the rate differential for their own sustenance.

It would not disadvantage other sections of the country, for the whole of it would benefit from a prosperous South.

"A New Wrinkle" comments on a plan by the president of the University of Chicago, in conjunction with Beardsley Ruml, the tax relief advocate from 1943, and William Benton of Encyclopedia Brittanica, to take advertising off the radio and replace the revenue from it with individual subscriptions for access to the airwaves.

The American system was deemed superior in programming to the government-run BBC, as well as the radio in other countries where it was controlled by the government. Despite the nuisance of commercials, the piece opts for the American system.

"Boon Times" finds the times to be full of eleemosynary gestures from the fact of fuller pockets during the war.

Part of the beneficence was motivated simply by human generosity, but another part, among the wealthy, was from the simple desire to avoid the taxes within the higher brackets. Corporations were therefore donating generously to charitable causes.

"German Gamble" diminishes the need for alarm at the Belgium Bulge drive of the Nazis. Germans in World War I had taken mighty gambles which proved ineffective. They had already gambled in this war, with the Battle of Britain and the siege of Stalingrad, each time losing the gamble. The editorial might have added that the entire Russian campaign was such a disastrous gamble.

In its early wars, the Revolution and the War of 1812, Americans had gambled and often lost. It was so also for the Union in the first two years of the Civil War.

The setback in Belgium thus would not deter the fighting spirit of the American soldier and, predicts the piece, he would eventually turn back the tide and prevail, just as the Allied forces had in March and April of 1943 after the disaster at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.

The excerpt from the Congressional Record finds defeated Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota, one of the leading isolationists prior to the war, complaining of the money being made off the war by some. He warned that after the war, corruption could run rampant unless vigilantly checked. The estimated hundred billion dollars worth of surplus goods and property to be disposed would give ample opportunity for the chiselers—the "plunderbund"to obtain undue profits. "Teapot Dome," he predicted, "will be kindergarten stuff alongside what the big plunderers are likely to do to that hundred billion dollars worth of easy pickings."

Samuel Grafton reminds that in the months leading up to the Tehran Conference of late November, 1943, President Roosevelt had appeared reluctant to have the meeting with Churchill and Stalin, waited until most of the press was clamoring for it before finally agreeing to participate. Mr. Grafton asserts that the reluctance was a planned strategy of the President per a methodology used previously to obtain press and public demand for an action he desired to undertake before he would seem reluctantly to acquiesce.

Presently, the President appeared following the same strategy with respect to the proposed Big Three meeting, desired by Prime Minister Churchill for early December, but being put off by the President until after the inauguration, January 20.

The President appeared to be waiting for public opinion to be galvanized before taking any solid stand or agreeing to participate in a conference, one needing to address the Greek situation with respect to the British action, and the Polish territorial situation with respect to Russia. Newspapers, which a fortnight earlier were condemning Churchill for the action in Greece, Stalin for the demand for territory to the Curzon Line in Poland, and Roosevelt for not condemning both, were now demonstrating more even temperament. Thus, concludes Mr. Grafton, the President's strategy appeared to be working.

Marquis Childs examines why Allied intelligence failed to report the accumulation of troops before the Battle of the Bulge. He reports that aerial reconnaissance had informed of considerable activity behind the German lines in the area from which the offensive had been initiated. It was the military misinterpretation of this intelligence, that the congregation within the Ardennes represented merely training of Volksgrenadiers, the bottom of the troop barrel, which led to the lack of anticipation. That was so despite the aerial reports stating the massed troops and artillery to be reserves from Germany's best divisions.

Army intelligence, G-2, he says, had underrated German strength since the fall of France in June, 1940. While much of the movement was likely performed in darkness, reconnaissance photographs disclosed considerable displacement of men and materiel day to day.

The Germans had become aware of how thin the American lines were in that section, deemed by the Allies not valuable enough to warrant strong defenses, waffling German agents, appearing as loyal Belgians, having regularly provided troop strength of the Allies to the Germans.

Moreover, the ruggedness of the terrain through which the Germans traversed in the offensive was deemed so unlikely to accommodate such a drive that American commanders simply did not reckon it a likely point of counter-attack.

Military commanders, nevertheless, were not overly concerned, believed that the offensive could be arrested, if not completely shoved back for the harsh terrain. The objective in war was not to gain territory, but to destroy the enemy's capability of waging war. That could be accomplished as easily against these German forces in Belgium as in Germany.

Drew Pearson also examines the intelligence breakdown, finds that the major decisions of the campaign were being made by General Eisenhower and General Marshall. General Marshall had ordered the American offensive beginning November 8 into the Cologne plain and against the Saar. He reasoned that during the winter, the Germans could mobilize a hundred fresh divisions, and so to continue the Allied drive, rather than waiting until spring, was the fastest way to win the war at the least expense of men.

Mr. Pearson finds no reason to doubt the wisdom of that decision, even if such ramming operations tended to tire the men, troops who had been on the front lines since Normandy, replenished only by replacements.

The Germans, by contrast, had removed their best troops into reserve capacity after Normandy, leaving young boys and old men as cannon fodder on the front lines. It appeared thereby to the Allies that the German Army was kaput.

The War Department had released information to the public that some 800,000 German troops had been killed or taken prisoner in France, but in fact half that number were from Russian-Ukrainian labor battalions. The public was therefore led erroneously to believe that a large segment of the German Army was out of commission.

The German Royal Tiger tank was superior to anything in the Allied armory and this fact had been known by the Allies since its advent. The belief that the war would soon end, however, had stunted any plans for development of an American tank which could directly counter the Tiger.

V-1's and V-2's could fly in any weather, if without precision, while bombers could not. Moreover, the V-weapons required no men to fly them.

In the end, though with knowledge of the gathering of troops in the area for about a week prior to the attack, it was believed that these troops were for the purpose of defense and not counter-offensive measures. That was so despite one of General Eisenhower's friends having forewarned that a favorite German tactic when cornered was to turn and fight.

Mr. Pearson includes a note on First Army commander General Courtney Hodges, against whose forces the Bulge was launched, stating him to be regarded as only an average general, one who had not made the grade at West Point, dropped out and entered the regular Army, working his way up through the ranks to a command position.

He concludes by relating a story of the flight of the House Military Affairs Committee to Europe, with Puerto Rico's Commissioner Bolivar Pagan aboard. They were slated to land for a layover in Newfoundland and so had packed heavy winter clothing. Instead, while Mr. Pagan slept soundly, the pilot altered course to Bermuda. As they prepared to land, oblivious to the change of route, Mr. Pagan began putting on his winter clothing, stepped from the plane, to be amazed by the warmth of Newfoundland, all to the delight of his companions who had not deemed it necessary to apprise him of the changed climate.

Third Day of Christmas: Three Sleuths Slap-riddled.

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