Wednesday, April 12, 1944

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, April 12, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Fourth Ukrainian Army continued to advance south into the Crimea as the Germans retreated or were otherwise annihilated, crossing what was described as a yellow steppe plated with grayish stripes of snow, resembling a zebra.

German communiqués acknowledged the surrender of Kerch, on the easternmost tip of the Crimea, to the Russians. Meanwhile, the Army which took it, under the command of General Andrei Kremenko, struck nineteen miles west into the Crimea, toward Feodosiya, complementing the Fourth Army drives from the north toward Simferopol. From Feodosiya, the route embraced Simferopol and Yalta, on the way to Sevastopol.

In Bessarabia, the Russian forces were closing in on the capital at Chisinau while in the south, they continued to fight in the streets of Tiraspol in the Skala sector, wherein fifteen German divisions were said to be trapped. A momentary breakthrough of the Russian lines by the Germans to the west of Skala, above the middle Dniester, was quickly repulsed by the Russians.

The Second Ukrainian Army had stormed through the Siret Valley to the vital rail junction of Pascani in Rumania, 55 miles west of the Prut River, and to Cristesti, eight miles further west. The drive took the Army to within 155 miles northeast of the crucial Ploesti oilfields, primary target of the drive into Rumania, to sever Hitler’s remaining primary oil supply. The capture of the two towns cost the Germans 3,000 more dead soldiers. (We note in passing that, beginning with the previous day’s reports, the modern spelling for the first time, "Romania", has been adopted. But there are also other variant spellings in today's print, "Dnestr" and "Plesti", for instance, and so, not to get you drunk on the variants, we shall retain, for the sake of uniformity, the old spellings.)

--Blondi, come here. Let us talk new strategy. We shall insert an "o" in all communiqués henceforth and confuse the dumb Russian soldiers into thinking it is Rome they are attacking. Yes, Blondi, very good strategy. Good girl. Now, go fetch stick.

Five hundred American bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force, flying out of Italy, struck a Messerschmitt factory at Wiener Neustadt, below Vienna in Austria, as well as other targets in the area. Another force attacked Zagreb and Split in Croatia, across the Adriatic.

The previous night, the RAF struck Aachen, Hannover, and other targets in central Germany, losing nine bombers in the first raid undertaken by moonlight by the RAF on Germany since the huge loss suffered March 30, when 94 bombers were lost on a mission to bomb Nurnberg.

In central Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito's Partisans had taken the key German base at Gradina, as fighting continued in eastern Bosnia and Serbia where Partisan guerilla thrusts were being met by fresh German reinforcements.

In India, the Allies had alleviated pressure from the Japanese on Kohima, along the Imphal-Kohima-Dimapur road to the junction of the Assam-Bengal railway at Dimapur, target for the Japanese to sever the critical Allied supply link serving General Stilwell’s forces in Northern Burma, seeking to open up part of the Burma Road to supply China again via that land route.

The Nazis launched a small attack on Allied positions north of Cassino and increased their volleys of artillery fire onto the Allied stronghold at Castle Hill, south of the town. The artillery attacks were countered by strong Allied artillery fire.

On the Anzio beachhead, three Nazi patrols, two attempting to cross the Moletta River and one three miles southwest of Carroceto, were repulsed.

In Naples, King Vittorio Emanuelle, acquiescing to demands by factions of the Six-Party Coalition, indicated his intention to renounce the throne after 43 years, in favor of his son, Prince Umberto, at the point when the Allies would enter Rome.

In Mexico City, an artillery lieutenant died after being shot by rifle fire, subsequent to an attempt on Monday on the life of President Avila Camacho.

A report out of London that President Roosevelt had gone to the Caribbean to meet with Prime Minister Churchill was false. There was no such conference. The President had left Washington Monday for the South, presumably Warm Springs, not Nassau.

A Democratic caucus in New York and primaries in Nebraska and Illinois overwhelmingly expressed their support for FDR for a fourth term.

Despite uncontested candidacies of General MacArthur in Illinois and former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen in Nebraska, respectively winning therefore handily each of those primaries, Governor Dewey still had gathered the lion's share of Republican delegates, adding 93 of New York's 94 delegates, attracting thus far commitments therefore from nearly half of the 351 delegates selected, out of the necessary 520 for the nomination.

Ruth Cowan, the first female reporter to register an entry in the "Reporter's Notebook" column, tells of the WAC's in Britain. She reports that the women soldiers had received bad marks for a dirty mess and had to summon the aid of male KP's to clean it up. The WAC's, however, insisted they had been treated unjustly in the charge.

The problem had come from the combined facts that a male lieutenant general had withdrawn civilian personnel from KP duty and a regulation which had required that only privates and corporals could serve on KP duty. Privates in the WAC's were being used in the secretarial pool, leaving very few soldiers to serve on KP--that is "Kitchen Patrol", for you non-WAC's.

Beyond that, the mess sergeant had been in the hospital and three cooks were also listed as sick.

There were no can openers, necessitating utilization of butcher knives and other such crude implements to open cans, causing injuries along the way.

So, it was not surprising that a male KP team had to clean up the mess.

On the editorial page, "58 Rebels" addresses the Byrd-for-president flop. In a meeting in Greensboro serving four states, only 58 people had showed up to support Senator Byrd, 30 of whom hailed from his home state of Virginia.

The group generally appeared to agree to provide reluctant support to FDR should Senator Byrd fail in garnering the nomination, pretty clearly the likely prospect, especially taking note of the sparse turnout in support of the Senator's candidacy.

It should be noted that Senator Byrd gained support through the next 16 years until, in the 1960 presidential election, he garnered 15 electors from the electoral college, all 8 from Mississippi, 6 of 11 from Alabama, and one of eight from Oklahoma, that despite Alabama overwhelmingly having supported the Kennedy-Johnson ticket in the popular vote, while Mississippi having narrowly elected an uncommitted slate of electors over the second-place Democratic ticket, Oklahoma having overwhelmingly voted for the Nixon-Lodge ticket. An appeal by States' Rights advocates in the Deep South to try to sway electors away from President-elect Kennedy, to change the outcome of the election in the electoral college, or at least to send a message of their strength, failed. Despite the relatively close popular vote nationally, President Kennedy, notwithstanding the defections to Senator Byrd, won handily the electoral vote, 303 to 219.

"New Field" praises generally the outspokenness of Eric Johnston, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for his straight talk regarding the sins of both management and labor in not getting along well in time of war. Now, he was headed to Russia to provide some of the same plain talk. The piece warns that the Russians would likely not be hospitable at all to his message.

"Price Wall" finds without reason the effort brewing in Congress, stimulated by lobbyists for a return to normalcy in business, to dismantle the Office of Price Administration created two years earlier to stem inflation in time of war. For all its minor blemishes in administration, it had, overall, served well its function in keeping prices down and inflation at a minimum.

A chart reprinted in the piece, presented by OPA Director Chester Bowles, told the story, starting with the statistic that cost of living had risen 64.6% during World War I and only 25.9% during World War II. All-important food prices had risen 80% in the previous war, compared to only a 47% rise in the current war; clothing costs had skyrocketed by 107% in the first war, but only by 34% in the present one.

"Scandal" addresses the complaints that the American press of late had turned to yellow-sheet scandal-mongering by printing front page stories on the Charles Chaplin trial in Los Angeles for Mann Act violations, for which he was acquitted, and on the New York trial of Wayne Lonergan for the strangulation of his estranged heiress wife, for which he was convicted, but spared the death penalty. Complaint had arisen that these trials had pushed off the pages news more germane to the times, that of men dying overseas for their country.

The piece instructs that it was a fundamental rule of journalism that newspapers would print what its readers generally desired, and that deviation from that maxim occurred only when editors misjudged the desires of their readership. It indicates that to change the content of newspapers thusly to eliminate or curtail such sensationalistic fare required first a change in human nature.

Was the piece correct? Should not newspapers and radio and later, television, lead the public in its determination of what is important as news? Or, as the piece essentially implies, should it simply be a vassal pandering to the tastes of the lowest common denominator of its master, the commonweal of the public?

Candidly, we found the change of front page fare in The News since August, 1943 refreshing, after reading nothing daily except war stories for the entire period since Pearl Harbor, save once in awhile a few isolated stories of note locally or nationally. Generally, to that point in 1943, it had been exclusively war news. Then came Lonergan and then Chaplin, together with a few other assorted sordid stories, including the Erroll Flynn alleged fling with two teenaged girls amounting to statutory rape, for which he was acquitted.

We thus feel that the public of the time likewise probably quested for some change of fare from incessant war news after so long being bombarded with little else. After awhile, after all, such news daily can become a blur of details, lost in memory, and wind up making the war more of a bore to the reader than of keen interest in how it is proceeding, thus desensitizing the reader to the death and hardship daily suffered by those on the fronts.

But, today, in the era of 24-hour news, and since the mid-nineties when several networks got in on the act, we suggest, as we have before, that covering automobile accidents or the latest grocery store heist and shootout, school shootout, murder of the day, ad nauseam, disserves the public, lends to the would-be shooter-upper the notion that he or she may achieve instant notoriety all over the world by the simple expedient of a handgun and an insane willingness to pull the trigger indiscriminately against anyone who happens to be in the way, resultant of a general frustration with life, and, in consequence, making life less free and livable in a democracy for the rest of us.

The news media do have responsibility to lead, not just serve the demands and desires of its patrons. Else, we should have completely uncensored broadcasts and newspapers, yes? Plenty of people, probably the majority, would enjoy that. And, actually, it would be entirely preferable to uncensor that which is censored in the press to that which is the standard fare on tv news, the car crashes, the shootings, the murder du jour, the latter replete, when most salacious, with the irritating question of "who done it?" among the various usual suspects, ordinarily focusing quickly on the husband or boyfriend, his guilt or innocence be damned, except when coupled with the inevitable dissociative disclaimer, "We know he done it, folks; but let's be fair, he hasn't been tried yet and we have to recognize the presumption of innocence, of which we all learned in school, even if all of us know now that's a cruel joke defying our commonsense and higher intuition, infallible as it is--is my hair okay?--what?--where?--oh, we must now turn to breaking news out of Madrid."

All of which customary sort of presentation leads us, candidly, to wonder about the psychological make-up of some of the persons who determine the content of these crazy broadcasts and who hire the lunatics who purvey it regularly to us, the while slowly corrosive, in the viewers' subconscious minds, of our Constitution, and society therefore in general. To resolve that dilemma, the ultimate who done it, to insure the querulous that the purveyors are as they appear in fact, Fascists, we need only look to the make-up of the corporations ultimately paying their bills, their advertisers, combined with the network bosses who have opted, for purely financial reasons, to present infotainment rather than news, the selection of fitness as such determined on informed journalistic decisions by qualified, trained journalists, as was most often the case during the first thirty years or so of network television, prior to the advent of 24-hour news.

Everyone of any sense already understands that we are all, each of us, natural born killers. We cannot, as human beings, divorce ourselves from that primal instinct, except by proper self-regulation. Everyone is capable of becoming a monster. It is not just or even likely to be "loners" or other such convenient after-the-fact stereotypes which disserve millions of people, as if to call them "niggers", as in "Another nigger murders a white respectable person."

Admit that basic universal human trait of primal instinct and discuss that for a change, rather than labeling the murderer of the moment as the monster among us, and the media will actually perhaps begin to stem the tide of violence in one the most violent societies in the civilized world on the face of the earth, and so for many decades, still suffering from its frontier origins and tendency to attract to itself the riffraff of the world, seeking freedom from something in the old country, sometimes criminal charges, and that being so for the entirety of the four hundred years since colonization began.

And, of course, having the guts to stand up for banning guns from our society without exception would be the most salutary position of all, even if it means amending the Constitution to clarify the Second Amendment, which, the spare five-member Supreme Court majority to the contrary notwithstanding, any disinterested idiot can understand to mean as a conditioned right only upon service in a "well-regulated militia".

But, who reads in this society anymore when we have such brilliant people on the tv telling us precisely what to think everyday, and getting paid handsomely by large corporations to do just that?

We don't need no stinking books. We have tv and the corporations to tell us what to think.

Samuel Grafton again addresses the euphoria settling over the right-wingers of the Republican Party for their having severed their left arm in Mr. W., that is Wendell Willkie.

Now, they had reverted, says Mr. Grafton, to the ways of the Grumpy Old Party. Whereas Mr. Willkie had provided a sense of class and youthful vigor, even as they tried to oust him, suggesting at least a party engaged in some level of internal debate, now they were simply unified around a poster of disgruntled reactionaries. They might find, he suggests further, that when their euphoria would cool, they had simply run a vital part of their own party away from them, and possibly a good portion of the 22 million who had voted for him in the 1940 election. They had not defeated the Democrats.

Marquis Childs discusses putative Republican nominee, 42-year old Thomas Dewey, former crime buster as New York City D.A., albeit dogged by charges that he had in that capacity manipulated witnesses and violated constitutional liberties to get the gang bosses.

He had spent the first half of his life growing up in Michigan, the second half in New York, from relatively humble origins, a far cry from the silk stocking heritage of FDR. A hard worker and impressive public speaker, he nevertheless was not comfortable with small groups or in debate, was sensitive to criticism.

Drew Pearson examines the number of men on unemployment benefits, finds the number to have doubled to 103,000 since November, likely the result of lay-offs by war industries which had curtailed production because of having met previous goals. Still, the number was half what it had been in February, 1943, when 200,000 were unemployed, still in raw figures a miniscule number out of those employable. But, the number still represented a large segment of society which could otherwise be put to productive work for the war in a time when some industries were reported short of manpower. It acted as a sound argument for drafting labor.

He next turns to discussion of Paul Scheffer, editor of Berliner Tageblatt. Herr Scheffer had been interned again after being released on parole subsequent to internment with other German nationals at the start of the war.

He had been a respected U.S. journalist and a liberal journalist in Germany under the Weimar Republic, preceding Hitler. But he had fallen under the suspicion of former Ambassador to Germany William Dodd and, because he had shown some editorial tenderness to the Nazis, had been interned. The reason for re-internment at the time was not clear.

Former Congressman Maury Maverick of San Antonio, now head of the Small War Plants Corporation, had, despite his New Dealing past, been received warmly on Capitol Hill by conservative Democrats and Republicans in light of his recommendation to the Senate that it permit payment directly to small business subcontractors on war contracts. There were a million or so such small business subcontractors, compared to only about a thousand prime contractors, out of which only a hundred or so had 70 percent of the government contracts. The small businesses were dependent on payment from the prime contractors, and often were waiting until the end of the war to be paid. The Senators responded warmly to the suggestion.

Finally, he reports of how Senator Josiah W. Bailey of North Carolina had come to vow his support for Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia for president. Jim Thomson, New Orleans businessman and brother-in-law of Missouri Senator Bennett Champ Clark, had button-holed Senator Bailey to support Senator Byrd. New Orleans was center of the Byrd-for-president effort, under the leadership of rope manufacturer John U. Barr. Thus convinced, Senator Bailey provided his endorsement, limited by the assertion that he would support FDR should he become the nominee, pretty much a foregone conclusion, thus rendering the endorsement little more than delivery of political devoirs to an old friend.

And, beside an entry indicating that the Nazis were broadcasting swing to American soldiers, full of propaganda, received with indifference by the intended audience, is a pitiful letter from some idiot who professes apparently to be in favor of the "Peace Now" crowd, to stop the war with a negotiated immediate peace with Hitler and Tojo. Again, the letter is written in some form of Greek and we have trouble with it, but it appears to be saying that the Nazis were okay fellows, necessary to fight off the Russkies, the dratted Communists, and that the Britishers under Churchill and Eden were little better than the Russkies, had been acceptable under Chamberlain, who only wanted peace with the nice little Nazis.

We took a listen to some of the era's German swing and found it so obnoxious after about a minute that we will not bother to link you to it. If you read the letter on the page, you will have pretty much the gist of that brand of Nazi swing anyway.

Another brilliant epistolary offering recommends that Congressional candidates run on a platform of elimination of "Congress" so as to allow the Senate to make the laws and thus eliminate most of the bureaucracy. Never mind that we always thought the Senate to be a part of the Congress.

Perhaps, some of these letter writers were simply frustrated comics. But, in any event, there is another one in Greek.

Incidentally, and we are quite serious, a proposed Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution should read something on the order:

Section 1. The Second Amendment to this Constitution is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The right of the people to keep and bear firearms shall be strictly limited, based on membership in the armed forces of the United States, its States, or Territories, or on current employment in Federal, State, Territorial, or local police agencies, not including privately employed persons acting within the scope of private employment, unless specifically authorized and trained in the use of firearms, not otherwise prohibited under law, by publicly employed law enforcement personnel.

Section 3. Congress, the States and Territories of the United States, and local municipalities within the several States and Territories, may pass any law, ordinance, or regulation which they deem necessary and proper to control the possession, sale, distribution, and importation of firearms, in furtherance of the limitations set forth in this Amendment, provided such laws do not in any manner expand the rights set forth in this Amendment.

Section 4. Antique firearms, so designated by Congress, a State, Territorial, or local legislative body, not otherwise prohibited by law, and approved as such by law enforcement within the locality where the firearms are maintained and kept, are exempt from the provisions of this Amendment, provided they are maintained and kept at all times inoperable, and not subject to use except by special permit issued by law enforcement within the locality in which they are regularly maintained and kept.

Section 5. Firearms not otherwise unlawful and used exclusively in the hunting of wild game, as designated by Congress, a State, Territorial, or local legislative body, and approved as such by law enforcement within the locality where the firearms are maintained and kept, are exempt from this Amendment, provided the firearms are maintained and kept at all times inoperable when not in use for the sole purpose of hunting wild game in a hunting preserve so designated by public law, whether on private or public land, subject to well-promulgated regulations imposed by that preserve, and are not subject otherwise to use except by special permit issued by law enforcement within the locality in which they are regularly maintained and kept.

Those who are tired of the violence, get behind it. The power is yours to see that something like it will be passed and ultimately ratified as part of the Constitution. At this juncture, it is the only way left open to assure limitations on handguns, assault rifles, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and the like. It is the only way to insure that your son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother, will not be the next victim in the school, in the office, on the street, in the bus, in the taxicab. It is the only way, that is, beyond increasing lockdown of our society to the point that it is a Fascist, totalitarian State, by its nature creeping up on us to take away our most precious rights, freedom of speech, press, association, and travel, unimpaired by absurd regulations, costly, time-consumptive, and unworkable finally in the abstract.

If you wish a name for it, don't be so foolhardy as to call it the "Anti-Gun Amendment", thereby insuring its defeat ab initio, before it is even read. Rather, style it the "Anti-Homicide Amendment".

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