Friday, February 18, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, February 18, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The edition for February 17 is missing from the microfilm.

The front page reports that Admiral Chester Nimitz announced that at dawn on February 16, the United States Navy "commenced an attack" by sea and air on Truk, the central supply depot of the Japanese for their South Pacific holdings and military operations, the equivalent of their Pearl Harbor. One pilot returning from a mission over Truk indicated that he had never seen so many ships gathered together even at Pearl Harbor.

Truk, pronounced "Trook", not "Truck", consisting of a series of islands ringed by a coral reef with few entrances, was heavily fortified, both naturally and by the presence of the immense Japanese Fleet located there, 2,100 miles southeast of the home island of Honshu.

Newly captured Kwajalein, a thousand miles to the east, had served as a lagoon to headquarter the American Fleet for the attack.

The increasing strength of the American Navy in the area had enabled it to have striking capability, enhanced by the taking of Kwajalein two weeks earlier, such that the Japanese Fleet could not meet every potential place put in harmís way, Rabaul to the south, Guam to the northwest or the Philippines to the west. Thus, the American Fleet could strike now at will, inflict serious damage, and depart with few losses, as apparently it had in the action against Truk.

Details of the operation, however, were yet scanty. Conflicting radio reports from both China and Japan made it unclear whether amphibious landings had been executed by the Allies, China indicating that they had occurred, Japan stating that the raid was one only of reconnaissance, though not denying the serious nature of the situation.

Within the Bismarck Archipelago, a Japanese convoy at Mussau Harbor had been bombed by American planes on Tuesday and Wednesday, reported General MacArthur, causing the sinking or damaging of six ships of a convoy which had sought to supply Japanese troops in the Bismarck Islands.

Planes under the Solomons command of Admiral Nimitz struck again at Rabaul, Kavieng, and on Buka Island off Bougainville.

A Japanese raid struck at both the newly won Green Islands to the north of Bougainville, inflicting no damage, while another assault struck Allied shipping in Empress Augusta Bay on the west coast of Bougainville, inflicting some damage and causing some casualties.

In Italy, Allied troops proceeded in concerted offensive on the Nazi positions in the town of Cassino as well as against Mt. Cassino after a six-hour artillery barrage opened the way against the enemy positions. Fire from German pillboxes, constructed within the ruins of the houses of the town as well as within the ruins of the Benedictine Monastery on the summit of the hill, rained fire on the Allied troops, preventing the taking of the crest of the hill by a unit of Indian soldiers.

In the Anzio sector, American and British troops, supported by one of the largest air assaults yet of the Anzio campaign, had beaten back a strong German counter-offensive seeking to drive the Allies into the sea. The Germans had twice broken through the American line at Cisterna, but were beaten back each time. The Nazis had also sought to drive straight from captured Carroceto down the ten-mile stretch of road to Anzio but were stopped by the combination of intense Allied air power and infantry resolve.

In Russia, it had been announced the previous day that the ring around Korsun had finally devoured the remainder of the German Eighth Army, costing the Nazis a total of 84,900 soldiers of whom 11,000 were taken as prisoners, the remaining 63,900, dead.

Izvestia in Moscow quoted German prisoners as saying they had been instructed by their fleeing officers, escaping the onslaught of the First and Second Ukrainian armies within the Dneiper Bend, to "Keep on! Relief will come." The soldiers had been soused with triple vodkas and sent as suicide troops to die before the advancing Russians.

Fully 52,000 German soldiers had been killed in the recent fighting; several dozen Junkers, carrying 30 to 40 officers each, had been shot down. The Russians estimated that 800 of the 3,000 fleeing officers had been killed while attempting to escape the front. (Perhaps, some of these latter casualties resulted from accidentally aimed friendly fire.)

Food had dwindled and ammunition was so scarce that only 30 rounds were issued to each man per day. The soldiers had begun to fear the worst when they saw their officers packing their bags as the transports began to land.

--Drink up, dumb Kopf. Next time, you will know better, my little lamb, than to listen to Der Fuehrer, yes?

This day, the announcement came of the evacuation by the Germans of Staraya Russa, below Lake Ilmen in the Leningrad sector, the strongest Nazi bastion between Leningrad and Smolensk, appearing to suggest that the shortage of German manpower might soon force abandonment of the entirety of Northern Russia. The Russian forces operating under General Govorov, steadily moving toward Pskov, had outflanked Staraya Russa, mandating that the town be evacuated, else cut off from supplies.

Marshal Tito's Partisan forces in Yugoslavia were reported to have crossed the Slovene border at the Isonzo River into Northern Italy between Gorizia and Tolmino to occupy the right bank of the river, ten to twenty miles south of the World War I battlefield at Caporetto, engaging the Germans in heavy fighting there.

The Dutch government-in-exile in London reported that all of Holland's 160,000 Jews had been systematically exterminated by the Nazis.

The Navy announced that on an undisclosed date an Allied troopship carrying approximately 2,000 men as part of a convoy to an undisclosed destination had been struck and sunk by enemy action, costing the lives of a thousand American soldiers, the most ever lost in one sinking at sea in U.S. history. As the enemy might not have been aware of the sinking, the Navy provided scant details.

In fact, the ship was the HMT Rohna, British owned merchant vessel, headed from Oran, Algeria to Bombay via the Suez Canal, carrying a total of 2,193 passengers, of whom 1,988 were American soldiers. Of those, 1,015 died, plus 102 of the 198 men of the crew, as the ship sank in the Mediterranean north of Bejaia, Algeria, within thirty minutes after being hit by 30 Luftwaffe planes on November 26 at around 4:00 p.m. Eight of the Nazi planes were shot down. The fatal shot fired on the ship was in the form of one of the first guided missiles used in warfare, an Henschel Hs-293 glider bomb, deployed by the Nazis for the first time the previous August, having already sunk or damaged several British and American ships in the Bay of Biscay and off the coast of Salerno during the September amphibious landings, as well as during the landings at Anzio and Nettuno in latter January.

Rescue ships arrived in the vicinity of the sinking at around 10:30 on the night of November 26, picking up some 900 survivors from what was described as "a sea of floating bodies".

The loss of life remained the largest single loss at sea during the war, was, for shipboard loss during the war, second only to the Arizona, which carried 1,177 men to the bottom of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Although overstating the prolonged maintenance of secrecy of the sinking, as the loss was obviously admitted by the Navy just three months after the fact, with the name of the ship and its loss from German bombers disclosed in June, 1945 just after the end of the war in Europe, a short film on the subject provides first-hand accounts from some of the survivors of the Rohna.

As to secrecy in general, it must be borne in mind that delays in release of Navy sinkings were quite common during the war, especially where it was believed that disclosure could aid the enemy. Delay was more common, however, in the Pacific than in the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters. These delays in reporting American losses had drawn the considerable ire of numerous editorials across the country since early 1942, and, by this time in early 1944, had become less frequent, except in particular circumstances deemed to require withholding of information from the enemy. Axis agents still read American newspapers for the purpose of gleaning information to aid them in their war effort.

The most recent flak from the press regarding slow disclosure of critical facts came in December, in the wake of the five-day delay in release of the Tehran Conference report following the meeting between Stalin, Churchill, and FDR from November 28 through December 1.

Hal Boyle tells of a captured Nazi pillbox on a height overlooking the Rapido Valley at Cassino, a pillbox which had all the comforts of home, said the American captors, save running hot and cold water. The well-camouflaged 1.5-inch steel encased box of rock and concrete had two periscopes, a flap through which a machinegun could be directed to spray Allied positions, a foot lever to operate a ventilation system, and two wooden seats. The pillbox was typical, said the soldiers, of dozens built by the Germans to establish their Gustav Line in the area around Cassino. The Germans had left behind some of their rations, consisting of cigarettes, crackers, and some cans of meat which, to a soldier who tried some, tasted as what he thought horse meat would taste.

An elderly Italian woman was observed through field glasses by American troops wandering toward the road from a bombed building, to which she had been confined for several days. At first, the soldiers thought she might be a German, as she was carrying a long object resembling a rifle and had a blanket wrapped tightly around her stooped head. As she came perilously close to the barbed wire marking the boundary of the German mine field, the men called to her to take another route. Her lack of comprehension of English finally necessitated an interpreter among the soldiers to walk along the tank tracks to avoid the mines and escort her, and her umbrella, to safety.

Mr. Boyle also reports of a recalcitrant mule captured from the Nazis, one who had sunk up to his haunches in muddy water and liked it so well that he refused to budge from his perch. The company muleskinner, a private, indicated that he believed the mule might be part pig.

Mr. Boyle does not say so, but the troops might have aptly named the jackass "Southern Hakenkreuz".

The anti-subsidy bill, designed to terminate food subsidies, was vetoed by the President. A vote in the House to override the veto fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority by 25 votes, 226 to 151. Those voting to override were primarily Republicans and farm belt Democrats. The President had called the measure inflationary and spawning of a food shortage, creating demand for higher wages, setting off the resultant spiral; it would have effectively repealed, he said, the Economic Stabilization Act, necessary to keep the economy on sound footing during the war.

In Queens, New York, a used car dealer, proving himself so honest as to astonish Government officials at OPA, asked them for advice on what to do with 2,000 gallons of gasoline which he had siphoned from cars traded to his business. He was told to sell the gas to a service station, whereupon that station would turn the commensurate ration coupons for the gas into the Government. The dealer requested anonymity on the basis that his business would be ruined were his good deed in cooperation with the Government discovered.

--Man, yous cooperated with them crooks? What are yous, some kinda traitor?

On the editorial page, "New Germany" adopts the position of Samuel Grafton as reasonable in advocating exile or death for the 100,000 top Nazis, sparing the luxury of war crimes tribunals for them, as well as lending support for his stance that the people of Germany should be left essentially to their own devices to build anew their country, with appropriate oversight to insure that they would not rebuild the functional equivalent of a Nazi state.

"How's That?" questions precisely who the tax "quacks" were to whom Representative O'Toole of New York had recently referred. Were they the tax consultants charging fees to the public to advise them on preparation of their returns? Or were they the consultants to Congress who helped draft the absurdly abstruse and arcane 1040 forms and instructions?

"A New Bob" reports that, aside from Senator Robert Rice Reynolds's continued statements disfavoring post-war aid to foreign countries and his usual denunciations of Britain and Russia, the Senator, in his last year in office, appeared to be turning over a new leaf personally. He stayed close to his residence, attended few parties, even at those drank no alcohol, a plague of his past.

He was rumored to be considering signing on as editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer and to be planning a 10,000-acre hunting ground in Eastern North Carolina.

All of that, concludes the piece, sounded to the good.

"Waste Paper" repeats the urgency of donating paper to curtail the critical shortage of supply for the military, the paper being used primarily for cartons in which to transport munitions and medical supplies. The available paper was 25% off requirements and the drive in December had failed to deliver the necessary 155,000-ton weekly quotas nationwide.

So, The News reiterates the fact of the shortage and the need for Charlotteans to cough up their shavings from the dark, deposit them to the bins located at fire stations across the community.

Samuel Grafton enters his fourth chapter of his little "book" on how to deal with Germany after the war. (The third chapter is unavailable by the omission of the previous day's newspaper from the microfilm.) In this installment, he proposes that all Germans acting in so much as tangential aid of the Nazi war effort, whether their thinking was for or against Nazism, comprised the enemy, even if all they did was to polish artillery shells in a factory. The 17-year old fraulein, cute and pretty, who pursued such an occupation, even though devoid of any political affinity, was just as much the enemy as the soldier on the front lines.

The question of what to do with them after the war boiled down to what the Allies wanted from them. If they wanted reform from within, then either too harsh treatment or too soft treatment could lead to the return of polishing artillery shells for another war. Thus, the attitude toward the German people should be one of mere oversight, neither seeking to teach them anew a reformed thought pattern nor punishing them for past misdeeds.

Such a neutral stance would leave to the German people the responsibility to change their own lives and destinies with conception and creative thought, informally sanctioned by the Allied overseers.

Drew Pearson discusses the enormous effect which tax lobbyists had on both the Administration through the Treasury Department and on the Congress, using as example the meeting during early 1943 of five influential business executives with one of the attorneys for the Treasury Department, outlining then the Congressional support for both the Ruml pay-as-you-go tax plan and the national sales tax. Another example was the nearly verbatim support for tax programs given by Senate Finance Committee chair, Walter George of Georgia, echoing the advice provided him by a tax lobbyist, Ellsworth Alvord of the United States Chamber of Commerce, one of the five businessmen who had paid the visit to the counsel for Treasury.

A piece reprinted from We the People recounts several important events taking place in North Carolina in February during and after the Revolution.

On February 20, 1781, for instance, Lord Cornwallis and his army of Redcoats had entered and occupied Hillsborough for the purpose of making preparation for the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, about forty miles to the west in Greensboro.

The Reverend Herbert Spaugh discusses the different housekeeping practices which he had encountered in his pastoral work through the years, how each type appeared to impact the families living with it. Those who insisted upon virtual furniture showrooms as their surroundings were probably least happy, he suggests, certainly providing the home environment least likely to be conducive to comfortable children.

The Reverend appeared politely to be saying that such people are, when boiled down, obsessive-compulsive lunatics.

Indeed, our observation is that such individuals are the type who 86 people out on the highway while driving drunk, then leave the scene of smouldering ruin, drive home and pretend to forget about the whole thing, for years.

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