Friday, April 28, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, April 28, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The bold headline of the day's front page announced the death by heart attack of Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. A small piece appearing the previous day had reported him ill. Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal, to become later, under President Truman, the first Secretary of Defense, announced the death and became Acting Secretary.

Secretary Knox, the Republican vice-presidential candidate with Alf Landon in 1936, was seventy years old. Prior to his appointment in 1940 as Navy Secretary, he had been the publisher of the Chicago Daily News since 1930, prior to which time he had been the founder and editor of the Manchester (New Hampshire) Leader, subsequently becoming the Manchester Union Leader. He had been a Rough Rider under Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and an artillery officer in France during World War I, attaining the rank of major. His was the first death in FDR's Cabinet since the death of a predecessor Secretary of the Navy, Claude Swanson, in July, 1939. Secretary Swanson was succeeded by Charles Edison, son of the inventor, who remained in the office only from January until June, 1940, quitting to run in the New Jersey gubernatorial race which he won. Mr. Knox became Secretary in July, 1940, at the same time the President appointed as Secretary of War Henry Stimson, also a Republican and former Secretary of State under President Hoover. The two appoinments by the President were, by design, to assure bipartisan direction of the military in time of prospective war.

His published views in the Daily News had for years prior to his appointment advocated preparedness of the country for war, thus bringing him into alignment with the President on this point and contra the isolationist tendencies and consequent weak defense platform which predominated among the people and the Congress through the summer of 1940. It was shortly after his appointment that the deal was consummated by the President, accomplished in September, 1940, subsequently approved by Congress, to provide 50 outmoded destroyers from the Navy to Great Britain to aid in the Battle of Britain against the Nazis. FDR, himself, was a Navy man, having first served in government as Assistant Secretary of the Navy between 1917 and 1920, serving under Secretary Josephus Daniels during World War I.

The timing of Secretary Knox's death formed a perfect bookend with the inception date of his service as Secretary, as it came just 39 days before the invasion at Normandy, June 6. His tenure had begun July 11, 1940, 39 days after the end of the evacuation by the British of France at Dunquerque, which began May 26 and ended in the wee hours of June 3, 1940. The invasion at Normandy, incidentally, was originally planned to begin June 5, until inclement weather intervened to force a delay of one day.

Republicans have ghosts, too--albeit, perhaps, only if they serve well their country under Democrats.

It was announced that a March meeting between General MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz had concluded with the plans to invade Hollandia in Western Dutch New Guinea, now accomplished. It had also resolved to increase coordination of the activity of the infantry and Army air force with the Navy and Navy air force, while determining to eliminate the command of Admiral William Halsey over the Solomons. The latter decision was made because of the virtual conquering of the Solomons; no determination of Admiral Halsey's future assignment was yet announced.

General MacArthur, in his normal press dispatch, stated that the operations on Hollandia were complete and that enemy resistance had ceased. American fliers were already using some of the seized airstrips, placing within range of land-based bombers for the first time Mindanao in the Philippines and Palau, 800 miles northwest.

Lord Louis Mountbatten indicated that British reinforcements continued to pour into Kohima in India from Dimapur, 35 miles to the north. A drive appeared incipient to try to push the Japanese back into Burma, as the onset of the monsoon season neared.

The RAF, the night before, had flown a mission over Friedrichshafen in Germany, on Lake Constance, across from the border with Switzerland. Friedrichshafen was home of the Zeppelin works and radio equipment manufacturers. The RAF raid also struck rail yards at Aulnoye in France and Montzen in Belgium, dropping in all 3,500 tons of bombs. It was the sixth raid on Fredrichshafen. American planes had hit it on March 16 and 18, and on April 25, losing 43 bombers in the March 18 raid. Thirty-six bombers were lost in this RAF mission. Mosquitos meanwhile raided Stuttgart.

A relatively small mission of about 250 American heavy bombers attacked Avord airbase south of Paris, as well as other targets in Northern France.

During the previous 24 hours, including the Thursday raid by the RAF depositing 4,500 tons of bombs on Schweinfurt, Essen, and on rail yards near Paris, fully 13,500 tons of bombs had been dropped on Germany and France from more than 6,000 Allied planes. That amounted to four times the maximum tonnage ever dropped in any single raid by either air force prior to the previous two weeks, that having been 3,350 tons.

The flurry of attacks had proved true the prognostic warnings of the Allied military leaders when, two years earlier, in late May and late June, 1942, the first thousand-plane raids had flown over Cologne and Essen in Germany. Then, they had predicted that the day would not be far away when thousand-plane raids would be flown regularly and the tonnage dropped in each such raid dramatically increased.

During the previous year, it had increasingly become so, until during the previous five months, raids had formed a dizzyingly regular tornadic whirlwind, a nearly daily occurrence either by the Eighth Air Force, the RAF, or a combination thereof, supplemented by the Ninth Air Force and, out of Italy, the Fifteenth Air Force, the latter bombing targets in Northern Italy, the Balkans, and Austria, as well occasionally venturing into southern Germany to bomb targets in Bavaria.

For the second successive day, Rumanian communiqués reported that the Red Army pressed a new offensive toward Iasi in Rumania. Russian dispatches, however, omitted any mention of such an operation, reporting instead that no significant changes had occurred on any front.

From Stockholm came a report that the Germans were expectant of an assault by the Russians on the northern front in the Salla sector of Finland, where the Germans had successfully thus far repelled the Russians.

Daniel De Luce, in the "Reporter's Notebook" column, writes of the squadrons who flew fighters but rarely fought, the air reconnaissance wing of the Army Air Force, operating on the Anzio beachhead. One lieutenant, a veteran of 52 missions, said that he didnít mind the sorties over Anzio, but preferred the central front where his squadron had guided the destruction of sixteen enemy bridges by heavy Army howitzers.

Though from the most decorated branch of the service, the air reconnaissance pilot was the least glamorized. One pilot had just gone home on leave after 90 missions, without a single medal. Another had to bail out after his fighter was stricken by flak, but only after first having to right his plane flying at 300 mph. Yet another had crash-landed on the Anzio beachhead for the second time since the Anzio-Nettuno D-Day of January 22.

Despite the danger, with little singing performed in their praise, as soon as they heard that the target they had scouted for the artillery had been hit by Allied shells, their satisfaction was complete.

A photograph of Sewell Avery, chairman of Montgomery Ward Co., being bodily carried by two soldiers, while still in his chair, from the plant in Chicago, appears on the page, accompanied by a piece indicating that the legal fight to resist the order had begun. Ward's attorneys alleged that the order of Attorney General Francis Biddle contained false matter, that the allegation that the plant was engaged in the manufacture or distribution of materials essential to the war effort was untrue. Ward also contended that the seizure violated the Fourth Amendment proscription against searches and seizures of persons or property without a warrant or on reasonable and probable cause, as well as the Fifth Amendment proscription against the government taking of property without due process and just compensation.

The Rules Committee of the House speedily, albeit by a slender margin, passed a resolution calling for an investigation of the seizure of the Ward facility. Chairman of the Committee, long-serving Representative Adolph Sabath of Illinois, indicated his opinion that the resolution set an unwise precedent, intruding on the province of the courts. Representative Dewey of Illinois had testified before the Committee that he believed seizure was un-American and that there were better ways of effecting compliance with War Labor Board orders respecting union contracts. The dispute at Ward leading to the seizure was its refusal to recognize, pursuant to WLB order, a CIO union under an expired union contract pending the determination whether the union represented the majority of the workers at the plant.

The union election would be held in early May and the CIO union would win decisively, causing the order of seizure to be rescinded by the Government, just before a U.S. District Court Judge was prepared to render a decision on whether the seizure was legal--as explored in a Time piece of May 22, including a reference to a press conference with the President at which a question had been posed by Mrs. Elizabeth May Craig, albeit one not about Mrs. Murphy. Both the union and the company expressed their displeasure at the time with the seizure.

Mr. Avery, however, would continue to resist recognition of the CIO union, contending that the election had been a farce. In consequence, in late 1944, the President again ordered seizure of Montgomery Ward's plant and retail stores.

Ultimately, the company would win its suit against the Government in Federal District Court--as explored in Life in February, 1945, quoting Humpty Dumpty from Through the Looking Glass, anent his desire to have words mean whatever he chose them to mean, in reference to Mr. Avery's and the company's position.

The Government's appeal was dismissed as moot before reaching the appellate courts, after President Truman rescinded the order of seizure for the fact of the end of the war in August, 1945. A subsequent lawsuit in 1948 by the union against the company, however, on allegations that the company wrecked the union, resulted in damages being assessed against Montgomery Ward in 1954. In 1943, Ward had sought and obtained an injunction against the union newspaper, ordering it to desist in criticizing Ward's treatment of the union pending the outcome of a libel proceeding to determine the truth of the charges made by the newspaper. Ward lost that lawsuit in 1948 and had to pay the damages caused the union by the injunction.

In any event, regardless of public reaction to the episode, the case found the limits of wartime powers of the Executive Branch when dealing with a plant not directly involved in the production or distribution of essential wartime supplies. The District Court held that the Smith-Connally Act, enabling government seizure of vital war industries in case of threatened strike, did not embrace within its legislative intent businesses merely engaged in the distribution of products, rather than the manufacture and mining of products essential to the war effort. The President and War Labor Board had argued in making the order that, while Ward had no war contracts with the Government, a strike by its workers would have interrupted the stream of commerce in goods important indirectly to the war effort and also would have potentially infected other industries which were engaged in activities essential to the war effort with like determination to defy War Labor Board orders.

And in Sea Isle City, N.J., crews of two fishing boats were no doubt proclaiming, "Holy Mackerel!" Both boats had sunk in fifteen feet of water in Townsend's Inlet, overloaded with, respectively, 5,000 and 8,000 pounds of--what else?

On the editorial page, "Armed Camp" discusses the trend, distinct from that which had characterized most of the post-war talk of 1943 aiming at a cooperative United Nations organization, toward advocacy instead of a continued strong force of arms after the war without participation in a second League of Nations.

The piece cites several examples lending to this impression: General Patton's speech in Britain that the Americans and British were destined to rule the world after the war, albeit contradicted vehemently by Senator Johnson of Colorado, declaring the talk "nonsensical" and that the General did not speak for the Army; the Senate had just approved a large Naval appropriations bill for peacetime, declaring its aim to be for the Navy to become "unconquerable master of the sea"; an article appearing from Washington in the Wall Street Journal had stated that there would not be complete demobilization after the war and that a large peacetime military contingent could offset effects to the economy after the war; Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal had stated that while the U.S. should not abandon hope for a post-war organization of nations, it must also gird itself with a strong Navy, both on sea and in the air; post-war planners in Washington spoke vaguely of seeking, in exchange for Lend-Lease debts, permanent possession of islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific; General Palmer of the War Department had attacked unpreparedness of the U.S. prior to the war as the central cause of the war and sought to maintain compulsory military service after the war.

It concludes that while the trend was in the nature of practical realism, it also had a catch, that continuing to maintain arms after the war and even expanding the military capability of the country, would inexorably cause other nations to do the same, launching an arms race.

"Second Step" applauds the fact that the indictment of Dr. Leon Meadows, president of East Carolina Teachers College at Greenville, accused of embezzlement of college funds, had been handed down by a Pitt County grand jury. The Board of Trustees action, in clearing him, opines the piece, had appeared to whitewash the matter without thorough airing of the problem.

Dr. Meadows had been routinely paying bills of the college from his own bank account. The allegations were that commingled funds of the college, some $18,000, were missing, and that Dr. Meadows had spent the amount on personal matters.

The criminal proceeding, believed the piece, would bring closure to the episode, either exonerating the college president as a victim of circumstance or finding that, in fact, a serious violation of trust had occurred.

The piece does not say it quite with such specificity, but we glean that the fact that Dr. Meadows was not left as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of the missing funds, pardoned by the Board of Trustees, left thus subject to historical speculation as to guilt or innocence, would afford finality and proper historical insight into the whole of the matter.

"Tax Policy" praises Mecklenburg County for its sound fiscal policy, becoming sounder by its new practice of underestimating rather than overestimating its tax base and percentage of collection rate, to insure that when higher burdens on the county would come after the war, the county treasury would have sufficient funds on hand to cope with it.

Drew Pearson finds political observers curious of the recent occurrence in political bellwether state Maryland. Democratic Senator Millard Tydings, longtime opponent of FDR, the New Deal, and the pre-Pearl Harbor war policies favored by the Administration, one of the Senators whom FDR sought to purge in the 1938 election, had invaded the political meeting of his Republican opponent in the Senate race who had been contending that the Senator was opposed to Roosevelt. Senator Tydings strongly protested that he and the President enjoyed the warmest regard for one another, that the President called him daily, and had recently expressed appreciation for leading the drive for legislation to maintain the political situation in the Philippines in status quo during the Japanese occupation to avoid President Manuel Quezon having to step down as scheduled from the leadership of the government-in-exile the previous November. It was not so much the fact of his voicing sudden support for the President which surprised observers, but the forum and manner in which he chose to express it.

Mr. Pearson next relates of the former head of the Democratic National Committee, Chip Robert of Georgia, having bumped into an old acquaintance, a black man whose grandfather had run for Congress against the grandfather of Mr. Robert during Reconstruction and won. Mr. Robert had remarked that the Supreme Court had given back the right to vote to blacks, referring to the Allwright decision. His acquaintance replied that he felt that he lacked any compelling need to vote as long as President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt occupied the White House.

Finally, Mr. Pearson discusses the meeting in which Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Knox had met with various members of business, including heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, along with members of Congress and others, to discuss the pros and cons of drafting labor. The Secretaries advocated institution of a labor draft. While impressed with the presentation, the business leaders generally came away from the meeting still on the side of voluntary labor, citing the experience in Britain where compulsory labor had not obviated the Liverpool dock strike or the coal strike in Wales.

Samuel Grafton expresses chagrin at reading the report of the Smith Committee of the House, chaired by Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia. It was an economic wish list seeking to encompass the world, but utilizing barbed wire, advocating higher prices and rents, but lower wages. Congressmen John Delaney of New York and Jerry Voorhis of California, Richard Nixon's ultimate first rival for Congress in 1946, had vigorously dissented from the report--which Mr. Grafton describes as so naked in its attempt to create a depressing trend in the economy that a policeman ought be summoned to throw a coat over it. Nevertheless, he finds so naïve its expression of childish desires, without the slightest apparent conception of the consequences it would have to society, that it might break the hearts of the members of the Committee to relate of them.

Marquis Childs discusses the toughened policy of late by the U.S. and Great Britain, demanding that neutral nations cease trade with Germany. Spain still sold wolfram, supplying tungsten for steel production, to the Nazis. Without it, the German steel industry would be suffering. The U.S. had attempted a preclusive policy, whereby the Government bought the wolfram to prevent it from falling into German hands. But the more it bought, the more Spain mined it, until during 1943, more than 3,000 tons had been produced, a third of which went to Germany, commanding for Spain in the process huge prices from competition by the Allies in trying to purchase it.

Sweden had reduced by nearly a third its iron ore shipments to Germany, from the pre-war amount of ten million tons annually to present levels of seven million tons. The neutral country had also agreed in a treaty with the two Western Allied powers to reduce significantly its shipments of ball bearings to Germany, by which it claimed to be abiding.

Sweden's case differed from other neutrals, such as Spain and Turkey, in that Sweden was wholly dependent on Germany for its coal, received few supplies through the German blockade, whereas the Atlantic-Mediterranean neutrals could be replenished with necessities by the Allies in exchange for reducing trade to Germany as well as remaining free from economic coercion via German blockade.

Mr. Childs writes of his trip a year earlier to Sweden, along with four other journalists--which had included the now deceased Raymond Clapper--and the impression gleaned that the people of Sweden were in favor of the Allied cause. Mr. Clapper had reported considerable agitation at the Government by students and the press, favoring, for instance, an end to the trans-Swedish rail access for Germany to deliver supplies and troops to and from Norway. Mr. Childs confirms this general feeling of the people that the Government had been too rigid in its application of the law.

The Government, made up of a coalition of interests, nevertheless had determined recently not to go beyond the January treaty with the U.S. and Great Britain, refusing to accede to their demands to reduce further the shipments of war-essential goods, especially ball bearings, to Germany.

Mr. Childs attempts to relate both sides of the perception to his reader, that Americans found it hard to reconcile pro-Allied sentiments with Axis trade, while the average Swede, having endured for five years threat of war at his country's back door, and the concomitant risk of being cut off from necessities of life, had daily brought home to him the practicalities of needful existence during wartime.

Incidentally, if you do not understand the significance of ball bearings to war machinery, have never taken apart the axes of a motor vehicle, for instance, it is the case that, without the ball bearings, the wheels will not turn around the axis, the axis itself will not turn as motivated by the drive shaft via universal joints or constant velocity joints, the drive shaft receiving its power from the transmission or transaxle, powered by the crankshaft of the engine turning the intermediate gears enclosed within the power transfer case in various ratios of force in relation to the raw power supplied by the engine. Consequently, without ball bearings, the trucks would not move supplies, the tank wheels would not motivate the treads, the U-boats could no longer ply the waters in search of convoys, even the planes, without landing gears, could not take off and land except by sled. Any mechanical parts, in short, which require a universal turning radius to operate in combination, require oiled or greased bearings to attenuate, through dissipation of heat, friction between metal surfaces rubbing against one another. Engine bearings are not ball bearings, but rather are half or whole shells, that is to say, circular shells comprised of a metal alloy, pressed into the engine casing, upon which ride the shafts of the engine, the combination of which in turn supplies the power to the transmission or transaxle. Ball bearings are simply smooth steel balls. The tip of a ballpoint pen, for instance, is simply a small ball bearing, held in a conical case.

A news piece reports that, in Australia, two contempt citations brought by the Government against the Sydney Morning Herald for printing a letter to the editor which allegedly violated censorship laws in effect because of the war, were dismissed by Chief Justice of the Australian Supreme Court, Sir Frederick Jordan, on the basis that they had been calculated to stifle public criticism at a time when the case of three other charges of violations of censorship laws by newspapers were pending in the Federal courts. The letter in question had merely voiced criticism of the censorship laws, not relating material which itself was subject to censorship.

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