Friday, May 12, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, May 12, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that, after a preliminary bombardment of the Gustav Line with artillery fire unequalled previously along the Cassino front in Italy, the Fifth and Eighth Armies at 11:00 p.m. the night before began a major assault on the Nazi defense positions west from Cassino to the sea along a 25-mile line. The Eighth Army crossed the Rapido and the Gari Rivers, gaining ground to the extent of 2,000 yards in one thrust. In a single hour of the initial artillery barrage, fully 5,000 pounds of heavy shells were lobbed against the Nazis. Polish, Indian, and British troops poured through the German lines and captured numerous prisoners in the opening hours of the operation.

Heavy air cover for the operation was hampered somewhat by overcast skies, but, nevertheless, proved effective.

A raid of the Eighth Air Force consisting of 2,000 planes, half of which were heavy bombers, took place against four synthetic rubber plants in the area of Leipzig in Germany, and struck also at Brux in old Czechoslovakia. One of the plants, at Lutzkendorf near Leipzig, was said to have produced annually 3,000 tons of synthetic oil. Also during the day, combined raids of the Eighth Air Force and the RAF struck targets in Northern France.

The night before, about 750 RAF planes had hit targets in France and Belgium.

The Allies presented a final ultimatum to Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland, demanding surrender while there was still time, before the combined invasions began from the West and East. Russia presented its terms anew to Rumania, that it renounce ties with Germany and cease fighting with the Nazis, pay reparations to Russia, cede the territories of Bessarabia and Bucovina, all in exchange for receiving the promise to have returned to it at war's end Transylvania, part of which had been ceded to Hungary by the Nazis in 1939.

German radio proclaimed that, as soon as the Allied invasion would come from the West, Rommel would lead an attack of select troops on England. The British found the threat empty, so much propaganda for home consumption to rekindle the myth of resistless Nazi insuperability.

Sid Feder, in the "Reporter's Notebook" column, writes of his experience following American troops of the Fifth Army along a six-mile route, hardly to be called a road, to the town of Minturno, a position the enemy routinely observed and bombarded, leaving it a precarious place to be for long.

He encountered a sigillum which warned: "Don't pass beyond this sign. If you feel like dying young, try motherís place." Others warned not to hunch up, that observation was constant, and that it was unsafe to be on the streets.

A basilica built in 1844 had its façade ripped away. He looked across the street to observe a large wine vat in which stood a naked G.I. taking a bath.

The bread of the eucharistic scene, presumably, though not reported, was consecrating the ground around Minturno.

Citing ill health and a desire to resume his business, Martin Dies, age 43, after fourteen years in the Congress, informed his constituents in Texas that he would not seek re-election. He had served as the notorious chair of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

Mr. Dies would not die until 1972. Perhaps, instead of ill health, he had seen the handwriting on the wall, given that his notorious colleague on the Committee, Joe Starnes of Alabama, had just lost his re-election bid in the primary and was being sent home along with his famous quarry, Kit Marlowe. Few in the public were any longer interested in ferreting out Communists, and so the political cottage industry surrounding the endeavor had commensurately, for the nonce, blown away with the red wheat, stubbled, clotted, in the fields of the Ukraine.

On the editorial page, "Bureaucrats" reports on a debate in Charlotte between Jonathan Daniels, assistant to the President, and Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan, regarding the competing benefits and evils of bureaucracy, Mr. Daniels taking the affirmative.

Says the piece, Mr. Daniels won the debate while the audience responded well to Senator Ferguson's quips. Mr. Daniels countered to the charge of an over-bloated Executive Branch, which ought be cut down in size, that 72 percent of the 2.879 million employees were in the Army and Navy, many being charged with the basic tasks of building the ships and airplanes for the war effort.

"Planning" reviews the performance of the City Council in making plans for the post-war period, chief among which was the proposal for a new railway station at a projected cost of ten million dollars.

"Side Show" finds churlish the charges and counter-charges hurled in the gubernatorial campaign, the backers of Gregg Cherry shouting that Dr. Ralph McDonald was receiving a large portion of his funding from CIO unions while Dr. McDonald fired back that the fatcat money was instead on the side of Mr. Cherry. The editorial chides both campaigns for putting aside the major issues concerning North Carolina's future for these inconsequential collateral matters.

"The Draft" studies the recent announcement of Selective Service which had indicated the need henceforth only for fit young men under the age of 26 as inductees, leaving aside for the nonce fathers and men over 29, as well as those in essential war industries between the ages of 26 and 29. The resolution of the status of fathers and those over 26 signaled the fulfillment of the draftís manpower quota, leaving only the need for replacements, contingent upon the success and length of the campaign ahead in Europe and the Pacific.

Editor Burke Davis, himself, it should be noted, had turned 30 in 1943, and so was virtually assured by this juncture of not being called up for the draft.

Marquis Childs discusses the fall from grace of John L. Lewis, seeking once again to have the UMW accepted as an AFL union. He had no camp to join in the 1944 election. He could no longer tolerate Roosevelt, had been at odds with him since the 1940 election. Thomas Dewey had openly repudiated him two years earlier when Mr. Lewis sought to organize the dairy farmers as part of the UMW, a move which would have given the union, according Mr. Dewey, 27 million dollars annually in new dues, more than three and a half times, over a four-year period, the total combined amount spent, 30 million dollars, by both parties in the 1940 presidential campaign. Mr. Lewis, in addition to having become quite unpopular with the public since the mine strikes of 1943, now also was a man without a place to hang his hat politically.

Samuel Grafton writes of the small world, as tiny as a doll house, in which some people lived, or so it appeared, given their picayune concerns: the report of the President being tired as a supposed reflection on his continued fitness for the office; for the fact that there was plenty of food, the alleged superfluousness and silliness of the Victory Garden program promulgated by the Administration; the consistent attacks on Mrs. Roosevelt; and the brag-pot candidate, presumably Governor John Bricker of Ohio, who contrasted, as an ant to an ox, his ability to balance his state budget from that of the Presidentís inability to balance the national wartime budget.

Some men, says Mr. Grafton, chose to ride a real locomotive while others chose only to be engineers of a Lionel train.

Meanwhile, soldiers wrote, complaining of this sort of distracted, picayune behavior, wondering whether it portended ill for the capacity to make a peaceful world after the war. By contrast, the soldiers who so wrote had framed their world in large.

Drew Pearson discusses the rift developing in the State Department between Undersecretary Edward Stettinius and Secretary Hull, every bit as antagonistic as had become the division between the Secretary and Undersecretary Sumner Welles just before he had been forced to resign the previous August.

A large part of the tension was from the fact that the President, as had been the case with Mr. Welles, was seeking these days the advice of Mr. Stettinius more than that of Mr. Hull. The Secretary was also perturbed by the candor of the Undersecretary when speaking with the press, having refused to release a confidential statement to the press which Mr. Stettinius had provided after return from London, contingent for its release on Mr. Hull's approval. An adviser to the Secretary stated that Mr. Stettinius had not yet learned to speak without saying anything.

Mr. Pearson next reports of the efforts by Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren to obtain State Department approval of his removal from its black list as having dealt with the enemy. Mr. Wenner-Gren had sailed his yacht, the Southern Cross, in September, 1939, to pick up 399 survivors of the torpedoed British ship, Athenia. He now lived in Mexico, stated that he had never dealt with Germany during the war. Despite his enlisting the support of Ed Flynn, former Democratic National Committee chair and Bronx political boss, the State Department had thus far refused to change its position.

Finally, Mr. Pearson tells of Congressman Edward Hebert of Louisiana having returned from a trip to Latin America, promoting a plan whereby the U.S. should obtain from Britain permanent possession of Caribbean bases after the war, a plan to which Prime Minister Churchill had already indicated his opposition, continued operation of eight naval bases in Brazil, and the provision to Brazil and other friendly South American nations of surplus warships, including PT-boats.

A news piece indicates that Sarah Pelham Speaks, an attorney from New York City, was seeking to become the first black woman to be seated in the Congress, running as a Republican for the House seat against Democrat Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the eventual winner, who became the first black Congressman from New York. The only other African-American Congressman at the time, the third since Reconstruction, was from Illinois, William Dawson, elected in 1942. The other two had been Mr. Dawson's immediate predecessors from the same district, the 1st, out of Chicago. It would not be until 1968 that an African-American woman would be elected to Congress, that being Shirley Chisholm out of New York.

Dr. Powell, a clergyman from Harlem, led a long and sometimes controversial career in the Congress, being excluded from his seat by the House in 1967 for alleged misappropriation of Government funds during the prior Congress, winning the special election to succeed himself, winning re-election for another full term in 1968, then, a few months later, in one of Chief Justice Earl Warren's last three opinions before retirement, having his exclusion overturned, 8 to 1, by the U.S. Supreme Court for the fact that the Congress had only authority to expel, not exclude save for want of a member meeting basic standing qualifications, minimum age, citizenship, and required residency, undisputed in the case. Since he had been excluded and not expelled, the proceeding was deemed by the Court to be constitutionally unauthorized. Dr. Powell was nevertheless defeated in the Democratic primary in the spring of 1970 by Charles Rangel, still the Representative in the district today.

It is quite remarkable to realize that there are two Congressional districts in the United States in each of which only two Congressmen have served since World War II, this district in New York, originally the 18th, reapportioned and designated now the 15th, and the 15th District in Michigan, in which father and son, John Dingell, Sr. and John Dingell, Jr., have, between them, served continuously since 1933, the younger having succeeded his father at his death in 1955.

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