Thursday, February 3, 1944

The Charlotte News

Thursday, February 3, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports of the death the previous day of Raymond Clapper, whose syndicated columns had appeared in The News during the previous five years. A bomber in which Mr. Clapper was riding as an observer of operations against the Marshall Islands tragically collided with another American plane. There were no survivors of either plane. Mr. Clapper had left the United States for the Pacific theater assignment on December 28.

The piece printed this date, out of chronological order, tells of Mr. Clapper’s return from Cape Gloucester by LST, taking nineteen hours, arriving at the most forward airbase in New Guinea, one within twenty minutes by air of Japanese bases in two directions. Yet, despite the proximity, the Japanese had not offered to strike the base during the ten days in which Mr. Clapper had been present. There had been only five small attacks on the base since December 4.

The Fifth Air Force had been operating from the location for a month and had shot down 111 Japanese planes with only two losses. Mr. Clapper could not explain the disparity as the Japanese planes were faster and more maneuverable than those of the American forces. The Thunderbolt fighters were proving superior to the Lightnings in efficiency against the enemy.

He discusses the commander of the airfield, Col. Bradford Shaw, having launched into a conversation regarding his 60-acre cranberry bog on Cape Cod. In such detail did the Colonel discuss his cranberries that Mr. Clapper indicated that, henceforth, cranberries would remind him of that night spent on New Guinea.

We feel compelled to digress momentarily to indicate that we have never been partial to cranberry sauce, indeed, hate it with a passion, its sour taste not pleasing our palate whatsoever. And it was so even before the sad Thanksgiving of 1963 and its delayed dinner that evening because of the postponed football game played instead that afternoon in Durham. But, that Thanksgiving certainly added further distaste for the substance.

In so saying, we mean no disrespect to Colonel Shaw and his Cape Cod bog. But facts are facts, inescapably.

Just why it is that cranberry sauce suddenly struck the columns, both of Hal Boyle the previous Monday, and that of Mr. Clapper, printed by coincidence on the day the news arrived of his untimely death, we cannot offer explanation or meaning. We can only tell you that in all the time of reading these pieces over the previous twelve years, cranberry sauce and cranberries generally, have been mentioned exactly twice, the previous Monday and on this date, save for two incidental references here and here. We would have noticed. If it had been Thanksgiving or Christmas, there would be little interest in it. But, it was over a month after the latter of those holidays and one does not normally associate cranberries with latter January or early February--unless, of course, one happened to have been a Beatle-nut in early 1967.

In any event, make of it what you will.

Cranberry sauce. Mark that, brother and sister; may serve you well. Or, perhaps not at all. We shall see.

Boston Transcript, January 21, 1832: "She had a harsh face, like a cranberry marsh all spread with spots of white and red, as if she had the measles."

American troops of the Fifth Army on the Cassino front had battled to within 500 yards of the town from the north, as the Gustav Line appeared on the verge of complete collapse. A later radio report from Cairo indicated that tanks and infantry had busted through German defenses into Cassino and were engaged in street fighting within the town limits. Cassino was now surrounded by the Allies, with little escape afforded for the Nazis, as the hills had been routed of most enemy troops.

With Cassino nearly lost, the Nazis were investing more troops in the defense against the American and British troops on the Anzio-Nettuno beachhead and resistance there was beginning to stiffen.

In Russia, the First and Second Ukrainian armies, under the commands respectively of General Nikolai Vatutin and General Ivan Konev, conjoined at Zvenigorodka and Shpola to entrap ten divisions of Nazis after taking the towns of Smela, Rovno, and Lutsk, the latter two inside old Poland.

In the north, the Baltic Army continued its advance west across the Narova River inside Estonia.

In the Pacific, the American Fourth Marine Division had, in just four days of operations in the Marshalls since Saturday and a day after landing Kwajalein, secured the Japanese airbase at Roi in the north and also most of nearby Namur, with only a small northeastern pocket of enemy resistance remaining, while the Seventh Army Division had taken a third of the island in the south, with the Kwajalein Islet seriously imperiled.

Admiral Nimitz indicated that the Japanese had been fooled by the invasion of Kwajalein, accomplished after preliminary landings at nearby cays from which naval bombardment had cleared the way for the primary landings on the main atoll. Apparently, the Japanese had expected an invasion either from the south in the direction of the already captured Gilberts or from the east in the direction of Hawaii, against the Radak group of atolls running along the easterly line of the Marshalls. Instead, the Allies bypassed the Radak group and invaded the very heart of the enemy’s fortifications at Kwajalein in the western Ralik chain of atolls.

The other principal enemy bases in the Marshalls, at Wotje, Jaluit, and Maloclap, were suffering heavy Allied bombardment and appeared on the ropes, either subject to being taken or starved into collapse of defenses.

Some 1,100 American Flying Fortresses and escort fighters struck at the Nazi U-boat center at Wilhelmshaven while a combined American and RAF daylight raid hit targets over Northern France.

The War Department announced that since operations began in Italy in September, the Fifth Army had suffered 23,487 casualties, of whom 3,384 had been killed and 14,879, wounded.

A strike at the Chevrolet Gear & Axle Division in Detroit rendered idle 6,500 workers, responsible for truck and jeep axle assemblies, as well as parts for airplane motors and guns.

Hal Boyle had now moved to the Fifth Army front and reported of the harrowing narrow escapes of the men hounded by barrage and shrapnel attacks routinely while encamped. Whenever they would seek to advance, the Nazis, dug into their rock holes within the hills, would call in an air strike on the nearby Allied positions, even though it risked their own death from friendly fire. They would rather have endured that risk than the prospect of death from American bayonets.

The soldiers also explained how difficult it was to be hit in these enemy barrage attacks. One soldier reported that the Nazis had fired 116 shells into the area of his unit at one point and killed only one man. Men were sometimes struck while in their tents, yet survived, even if the blanket, below which they were resting on their back, wound up in shreds.

POW’s, Mr. Boyle was informed, especially those of other nationalities impressed into service by the Nazis, were quite forthcoming in relating enemy positions and plans, at least to the limit their knowledge allowed.

On the editorial page, "Suppression" deplores the action of the Mayor of Spartanburg, S.C., for having issued an edict forbidding the release of crime statistics by the police. The directive had come in the wake of a reported spate of house-breakings in the community and the attempt by the Spartanburg newspaper to determine the cause, whether it was the fault of sloppy police work. The editorial correctly labels the action a violation of the First Amendment. No doubt, the burghers of the community had become so accustomed to such royal edicts that they did not consider it a violation of any law, as they simply made it up at whimsy as they went, settling the matter on which side the yolk of the egg turned on the plate each morning.

Many such burgs, though we make no representation regarding Spartanburg as we do not know, still maintain such little royal fiefdoms, supported by corporate bribes which the bribed pols politely call "patronage" or "contributions", enabling their little chosen idiots in positions of responsibility to do whatever they damned well please and to be re-elected as long as the gullible among the people tolerate it.

If you think that there is something incongruous between your community and the Constitution, odds are someone’s on the take. Regardless, the thing to do is to organize your block and then have your block organize the neighborhood and the neighborhood organize the community to get rid of the crooks downtown. It is crooked to run a community outside the United States Constitution.

"16 Russians" suggests that the decision of the Supreme Soviet to provide some degree of autonomy to the sixteen Soviet republics comprising the Soviet Union, granting them the ability to raise their own armies and to deal independently with foreign nations, could be viewed from two perspectives, either as a Red monster growing 15 additional hydra heads or as a subtle incipient motion toward establishing fledgling democracy within the U.S.S.R.

"The Dodgers" sets forth a series of questions for the readers to ask themselves. Why was it that the House voted overwhelmingly not to provide for a roll call vote on the absentee ballot measure for soldiers? Who were among the 260 members voting "Nay" to the roll call? If the States’ Rights advocates were actuated by an honest desire to prohibit truly an unconstitutional usurpation of power reserved to the States, the claim being that it interfered with the right to determine presidential electors, then what need they fear of registering their names with their votes?

"The Marshalls" hails the invasion of the islands to be the first great offensive drive toward Tokyo. It warns that it could take months to accomplish, but when done, would establish the most important forward staging ground yet for launching attack on the home islands of Japan, with Tokyo 2,700 miles away, while removing a major obstacle from that line of attack as well as against Truk, the major Japanese supply depot 1,200 miles to the southwest.

Drew Pearson discusses the new director of U.S. Military Intelligence, Maj. General Clayton L. Bissell, not to be confused with Richard Bissell, later CIA officer and eventually Deputy Director for Plans. General Bissell, who would occupy the role for the remainder of the war, had been transferred out of command of the Tenth Air Force in the Burma-India-China theater after clashing with General Claire Chennault, commander of U.S. forces in China. He replaced Maj. General George Strong, the third Military Intelligence chief since Pearl Harbor.

G2, as it was called, had suffered in reputation for its poor calls in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, advising the Executive Branch that France would hold against the 1940 German attack, that Britain would fall in the ensuing Blitz, that Russia would fall in a matter of weeks after the June 22, 1941 invasion by the Nazis. It had also failed to discover that three divisions of Germans were lying in wait for the Allied landings at Salerno in September.

Conventional wisdom had it that the apparatus was so stocked by patronage appointments from blue-blood families that it faltered under its own callow weight, without sufficient personnel endowed with practical knowledge of how the world worked.

Mr. Pearson next describes how the wife of Senator Claude Pepper of Florida, striking Mildred Pepper, came, without proper pedigree or invitation, to sit on the dais of the Jackson Day dinner held in Washington by the Democrats. She politely took her seat, in the place reserved for Senator Tom Connally of Texas. She remained in the esteemed company of the special guests seated on the dais, including Vice-President Wallace and the First Lady, throughout the dinner, despite some annoyed glares from the audience.

Finally, he discusses how the hog prices were favored high and low at various times by the Government, enough to render dizzy the hog raisers of the country, but in fact based on genuine economic factors. The Russians wanted fat hogs for lard through Lend-Lease and thus the farmers were instructed to fatten their hogs for market. But a corn shortage then ensued and farmers were instructed to reduce the allotment of feed to the oinkers. The American market wanted lean hogs for its bacon. Then a glut of hogs resulted in January and the farmers had to keep the hogs fed while awaiting their turn at market, causing the hogs to get fatter, eventually beyond the Government's established ceiling on weight eligibility to receive subsidies. The subsidy limit on weight was then increased to accommodate the fatter hogs.

If a bit shifty within the clouds, the Government was genuinely attempting to enable the hog farmers their own little corner of hog heaven.

Samuel Grafton reports that Hitler's latest broadcast had attempted to sell the idea that the only way for the Germans to win the war in Russia was to eliminate all of the Jews. The plea was nonsensical as the Fuehrer had already virtually accomplished this goal. Mr. Grafton suggest the irony inherent in the argument, as the United States was winning the war despite the presence of Jews and the other menace claimed by Hitler to unfettered strength in Germany, organized labor.

Dorothy Thompson again lambastes the Alfred Hitchcock film "Lifeboat", referring to its being featured in an article in the January 31 issue of Life. She contrasts the film this time unfavorably with "Mrs. Miniver", that which she considers an appropriate treatment of the war via a glimpse into a social milieu and its actors' reactions and interactions to produce a result.

She says that "Lifeboat" was going to be distributed in Latin America, where Axis-leaning propaganda agents, she predicted, could use it for their own gain. The Nazis were fond of portraying America as a "pluto-democracy", "doped with boogie-woogie and ball games, care only for money, have no culture, and are incapable of integrated effort, even in the greatest need". (Dr. Winston O'Boogie, in 1970, would paraphrase it: "Keep you doped with religion and sex and tv, and you think you're so clever, and classless, and free, but..." But, if you are afraid of little harmless words which go bump in the night, you probably are unaware of that. --Oh, oh, look, mommy, he said a bad word, right here on this record. He said it again. Help! He doesn't like Jesus either. He said so. Oh, the little people I invented in my head to give me mental excuses to do the vilest things which are inexcusable and of which I am perfectly well aware, and also Catcher in the Rye, tell me to do it--my little friends. Do it, they say. Oh. Oh. Oh. There he goes again. I am so hurt by this word. He threatened me. Can't I just do it? You know, like with Rocky Raccoon? Then he won't threaten me anymore. Please, mommy. Hey, a-hey, loa. Goodbye. Caught the bus in nothing flat.)

Anyway, Ms. Thompson and the New York Times critic, Bosley Crowther, who had found the film equally disjunctive with American resolve to win the war and thus likely to foster enemy propaganda, were missing the point, assuredly not through any intellectual fault of their own. They were simply not viewing at this juncture film as an art medium, were accustomed to its role as a simple technical device to inform or entertain the less educated in quick-stops, those too facile of mind to read. While European filmmakers had begun to use film as an art medium, films released in America to this point in time were primarily engaged in either entertainment, clever, witty dialogue and slapstick, soap operas and horse operas, or processing of information, a few notable exceptions proving the rule, even those, such as "Petrified Forest", being interlaced with the suspense of murder and robbery in the air.

"Citizen Kane", in spring, 1941, was a pioneer in the art of film, under the guiding auteur hand of Orson Welles, even if the story itself was primarily still engaged in an entertainment, the telling of a literal story line rather than an allegory on film. The initial hook of the film, the quest for the meaning of "rosebud", Mr. Kane's dying word, may be interpreted as a ribbon around the film, its revelation coming in the last scenes. But whether there is any genuine metaphor in that tie which binds is subject to interpretation. On a literal level, “rosebud” was what it was. Facile minds seek to find something else in its meaning, as with small boys tittering beneath the rose. But our point is that the art form of "Citizen Kane" was limited to the visual medium of the film, its technical advances such as the upshot and the use of sets with ceilings, not embracing the story, essentially a pedestrian, semi-fictionalized biography, loosely based on the life of William R. Hearst.

"Lifeboat" was a new type of film, not unique in its time, but treating of a sensitive political topic in the context of an allegory, seeking thereby to teach something more profound than the superficial could ever hope to accomplish. Mr. Hitchcock's other films set around the war, "Foreign Correspondent", released in 1940, and "Saboteur", from 1942, were straightforward suspense stories with ample doses of pro-Allied propaganda. Perhaps, therefore, "Lifeboat" came as a surprise to those expecting more of the same fare.

Regardless, as we stated at some great length in association with the previous Saturday’s critique of the film by Ms. Thompson, she and Mr. Crowther simply missed the point of the film. Had Mr. Hitchcock made the film they wanted to see, it would have been laughable fare today, and likely not much more of interest at the time. He instead made an enduring human statement, with great foresight in store.

And, we reiterate, the Nazi U-boat captain, Willi, taken on a completely literal level, certainly does not engender even subtly an attraction for his being a surgeon in civilian life and thus conducting without grimace the amputation of the leg of Gus after it becomes gangrenous. His subsequent mistreatment of Gus, effectively murdering him, obviously violates the Hippocratic Oath and should not, except in the feeble-minded, therefore leave any reserve for redemption of this supercilious Nazi who believed himself godlike and capable of making decisions over who should survive and who should not, to rid the weak and infirm from the world as so much vermin after creating the conditions deliberately which led to the weakened condition, much as did the Nazis in reality. To render the character any more superficially would have been to create a cardboard cartoon character of a Nazi, disserving the mindset of those who were charged with fighting them.

Underestimating an enemy, detesting overtly that enemy, while entertaining to an audience, can also spell doom for the callow soldier who then goes to war thinking his enemy a mindless fool, incapable of fending for himself under the worst circumstances. Nazi U-boat commanders were in fact a rugged lot, had to be as their only choices were to win the war or face death. That such a person would be better equipped than a boatload of civilians and merchant mariners who had never fought in the war would not be surprising when posed in reality.

That Ms. Thompson did not associate these facts with the film is a surprise. She was no stranger to the Nazi mindset, having been in Berlin as a correspondent during the early days of Hitler’s reign and having been kicked out of the country by Hitler in 1934 for her too candid reports of Nazi activities.

We reiterate, not in the least being facetious, that the film may well have encouraged the plot by the German generals to kill Hitler during the summer of 1944, even if there were plentiful other factors of significant consequence in the offing by that time which impelled the action, not the least of which were the landings by the Allies at Normandy on June 6.

All that said, however, the point is that Mr. Hitchcock obviously set out to make a film about survival in the raw elements of nature, divorced from the trappings of society, where human commonality must transcend individual selfishness for all to conquer nature’s will to send them reeling into the sea or starve them into compliance. The ultimate point was that the Nazis’ attempt to harness man and nature at once to their will would, of its own contrivance, eventually fail. The people would rise up and resist, even if the Nazis were able to withstand, through hoarding from the people the base stock necessary for survival, the wresting of their place by Nature, eventually overthrow such intransigent feudalism, in which was honored brute force over intellect, intellect honored only when performing in service to the state, forming a fragile system for its incongruity with Nature itself.

And just what the fuller report was regarding the abbreviated filler news piece from London, we don’t know. As it was, the lead sentence read: “Little boys, in papier mache helmets and shouldering wooden guns, revised backyard military tactics today--commandos do not strike at dawn.”

In the context of the abbreviated story, that sentence makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Maybe you can figure it out, without a puff in so doing. That's cheating. Use instead your imagination.

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