Wednesday, May 17, 1944

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, May 17, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that British and Indian troops had driven north into the Liri Valley toward Highway 6 leading to Rome, overrunning the entire Gustav Line south of the Liri River. The fall of Cassino to the Allies appeared imminent, as British guns concentrated artillery fire on the Benedictine Monastery at the top of Monte Cassino, destroyed by bombing February 15, but since serving amid the ruins as a stronghold for enemy observation of the town below. The barrage appeared to exceed that of Thursday night, the largest yet in the European war.

Polish troops guarded the hills to the north of Cassino and the British the southern area. The Fifth and Eighth Army forces were heading toward the Adolf Hitler Line, about ten miles beyond the Gustav Line. French troops had approached the 2,800-foot Mount D'Oro, one of the mainstays of the Hitler Line.

Again, heavy air cover protected Allied forward movement as 1,800 sorties were flown over the battle zone during the night and day.

A German communique stated that "[i]ncessant drumfire in which huge quantities of ammunition are spent" represented part of the "battle of attrition".

Appearing to understand that the end was nigh for the Reich, a Nazi-controlled Paris radio station announced, in anticipation of the thrusts from both East and West by the Allied armies, "We are about to witness the raising of the curtain for the last act of the play." Presumably, the play to which it referred was either Macbeth or Faust, or some Hitlerian concatenation thereof.

As poor weather continued to keep heavy bombers at home in England, Mosquitos struck Berlin the night before, but no other raids from England were reported. The raids of the Canadian Mosquitos of the previous night over Germany, attacking Ludwigshafen, had also bagged seven Luftwaffe planes while losing one Mosquito.

The Japanese appeared to be laying a trap for the Chinese insurgent forces fighting at Loyang in the Honan Province in southern China in the first major offensive by the Chinese in the seven-year war with Japan. The Japanese had formed a large loop 125 miles west of the Peiping-Hankow rail line and 40 miles south of the Lunghai Line, threatening Tungkwan at the elbow of the Yellow River. Despite heavy fighting for Loyang, it remained thus far in Chinese hands.

William Boni, in the "Reporter's Notebook" column, the last of the substitutions for Hal Boyle who would return to the column the following day after being absent since February 21, wrote again of his experiences with General Stilwell's forces in Northern Burma. He tells of accompanying the Chinese, American, and Indian troops down the road through the Mogaung Valley, led in the first jeep of the caravan by General Stilwell, on an inspection tour of the front lines. At the end of the line, the General expressed to Mr. Boni disappointment that the Japanese had not begun to retreat as expected down the valley. He exasperatedly stated that the Japanese troops were good. He hated them, but had to admit that they fought tenaciously.

Former Secretary of the Navy during World War I, Josephus Daniels, retired Ambassador to Mexico, testified before the House Post-War Policy Committee, advocating consolidation of the Army and Navy after the war, stating that had it been so prior to Pearl Harbor, the disaster would not have occurred as the ultimate fault lay in the breakdown of communications between the Navy and the Army.

By a resolution introduced to the South Carolina Democratic Party convention by former Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, Eugene Blease, the party agreed to hold a second convention following the National Democratic convention, to begin in Chicago July 12, to assess the Democratic Party Platform.

Mr. Blease was a strong States' Rightist and White Supremacist, had during the previous month provided the rallying call to White Supremacy in the wake of the Supreme Court's Allwright decision, upholding the right of African-Americans to vote in state-sponsored primary elections.

A party regular, Williston Smith, however, was re-elected chairman of the executive committee, resisting a challenge by Mr. Blease. Mr. Smith favored a fourth term for FDR; Mr. Blease opposed it.

The "hark and whoop and wild halloo" of the opposition led by Mr. Blease was White Supremacy, the perceived prospect of integration of schools, the abolition of the poll tax, and anti-lynching laws being expressly cited as threatened inroads to racial segregation.

The keynote speaker at the Klan Rally, that is the State Democratic Party convention, stated that the Allwright decision was all wrong and had brought "doubt, confusion, and humiliation to the white people of South Carolina."

Of course, for these white crackers, that wasn't too hard to do.

On the editorial page, "Time to Act" again addresses the strike by foremen at 31 Detroit munitions plants, seeking the right to organize. The companies regarded foremen as part of management and so believed it would upset the balance of power struck between labor and management to allow them to belong to a union.

Regardless, says the piece, the Government should intervene and seize the companies involved, lest the strike affect drastically war production at this critical time.

"Liquor Vote" reports that both gubernatorial candidates in North Carolina, Gregg Cherry and Dr. Ralph McDonald, favored a statewide referendum, county by county, on whether liquor would be allowed sold in each county.

"The Unfit" indicates that the Army had decided to eliminate the pejorative label "psychoneurotic" when referring to those deemed unfit for military service for mental reasons. Henceforth, they would simply be classified generally as unfit for military service, indistinguishable from those deemed unfit for physical or other reasons. The problem had arisen in public perception, causing the 1.3 million men so classified to be unable to obtain civilian employment when most were quite capable.

"Retreat" takes up the issue of the anti-poll tax legislation sought by Senator Claude Pepper, finds it not remarkable that the entire matter had fizzled as usual, with the failure to obtain a two-thirds majority vote favoring cloture on debate in the Senate, leaving the way open for prospective filibuster, thus killing the bill before it ever would reach a vote. It meant inevitably that the bill would be withdrawn.

Says the piece, it was just as well, to avoid the inevitably bitter conflict at such a critical time in history. Some ground had been gained, however, in the demonstration of a better vote for cloture than in the past, the last previous vote having failed even to obtain a simple majority, this one having been 44 to 36 in favor of cloture, with 16 not voting. Nevertheless, the demagogues of the South, it points out, still held sway in their fiefdoms.

As we have indicated several times, the poll tax would finally not be abolished completely in the land until 1964 when the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified after having been passed in 1962. Even so, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as originally proposed during the Kennedy Administration in 1963, would be required to insure voting registration unhampered by local and state demagogues in the South, utilizing literacy tests and any other conceivable machination to try to prevent exercise of the franchise by the poor, especially by blacks. Of course, the racial component was used as a rallying cry to appeal to poor whites, the real object being to make voting a privilege for the country club set to the extent possible, to elect their handpicked Klansmen, including, most especially, for their ability to fly by night under the radar, judges--such as the Grand Dragon Designate waiting in the wings, Strom Thurmond.

Samuel Grafton examines the hesitancy of Wendell Willkie to endorse Thomas Dewey, despite heavy pressure from within the Party, urging him to do so out of fairness, as a good party man, when Mr. Dewey had endorsed Mr. Willkie in 1940. But Mr. Willkie was concerned with the party platform and whether the Republicans would come out of the convention an isolationist party with some earmarks of internationalism attached, or an internationalist party with some isolationist tendencies. It was unlikely, concluded Mr. Grafton, that the type of persuasion being used, appealing to team spirit as it were, would convince Mr. Willkie one way or the other. His focus was on the key issue of the times, the future of the world.

Marquis Childs addresses the subject of the proposed American oil pipeline to be built from Saudi Arabia, stretching 1,200 miles to the Mediterranean, at a projected cost of 150 million dollars. The State Department, to obtain passage in the Congress of approval for the project, had considerably scaled back the monumentality of it, allowing for private ownership by the Arabian American Oil Co. Problems were foreseen on the horizon in that the Russians and British competed for Iranian oil and the pipeline would inevitably compete with this trade. But the British nevertheless were encouraging that the pipeline be built. Its presence, however, with so much American investment, whether public or private, would mean a vested interest which could lead to future conflict in the Middle East involving America.

Mr. Childs remarks that too much was being made over oil, had been throughout the thirties, as a sine qua non for waging war, but that Germany had proved that a war could be fought on scant petroleum resources, it having relied on its pre-war reserves, that which it got from the oilfields of Rumania, and primarily on its synthetic oil production. He notes that for three years, predictions had been made that Germany would run out of oil by a certain date, but it had not happened.

He does not point out, however, that much of Germany's problem, in the North African and Sicily retreats, the Russian retreat, and now the Italian retreat, soon to be the final retreats from France and Poland, and the implosion of Germany itself, down finally to the Führerbunker in Berlin, had derived from the fact that it had not the oil to fight a sustained offensive, had not had it since the first nine months of 1942, the last time the Wehrmacht had been capable of mounting a sustained offensive, the plunge to Stalingrad and into the Crimea and the Caucasus. The failure then to reach the indispensable oil fields of the Caucasus, at Grozny and Baku on the Caspian Sea, was the fatal blow to the Reich's chances for winning the war. The synthetic oil enabled limited operations, but that was all. Since the fall of 1942, the Wehrmacht had been forced for want of oil to fight strictly a defensive campaign, any offensive maneuvers amounting only to casual feints. The panzer divisions and Luftwaffe were panting for gas.

There was about to convene a British and American conference to try to work out amicable relations for post-war distribution of oil interests. If this thorny issue could be resolved, opines Mr. Childs, then it portended well for general amicable relations among nations after the war.

Drew Pearson appears to impart a bit of a tall tale, anent a listening device developed by General Electric to enable tuning into private conversations as far as three miles away. It was supposedly used a year earlier by Charles Wilson, head of the War Production Board, to overhear a conversation had during a dinner at the home of James Forrestal, Undersecretary of the Navy, just appointed Secretary by FDR to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Frank Knox.

Undersecretary Forrestal had as his guests Bernard Baruch, Undersecretary of War Patterson, and a couple of high-ranking Army officers. Supposedly, they were heard to criticize the President and the Administration, especially concentrating on the War Production Board, advocating its being taken over by the Army and Navy. So concerned about it was Mr. Wilson that he had a transcript made and showed it to the President who ordered that it be locked away in a safe.

It was by way of indicating that, despite FDR's reputation for bearing grudges, he was capable of forgiving, as in the case of Undersecretary Forrestal.

Mr. Pearson drops a note that 1928 Democratic nominee for the presidency Al Smith, former Governor of New York, and the President had nursed a grudge against one another for years, but, despite the enmity, when Mrs. Smith had recently passed away, the President graciously had sent his former friend and political ally a warm sympathy message.

Candidly, the Big Ear, as they used to advertise it in the 1960's in Popular Science, or some'er's anyway, never was much to write home about, from what we understand, might as well have had a tin can and string. And so, it is more likely that someone simply told Mr. Wilson of the conversation and he, perhaps, imparted it in the way he did to absolve the snitch.

Just how Mr. Pearson got wind of it is not told, perhaps through Senator McKellar. Perhaps, he had his own Big Ear.

On second thought, if you were to throw in a few ball-bearings to the listening device, combine it with some good anti-freeze, jostle it around a bit, you could probably hear and see Russia from your window.

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