Thursday, May 18, 1944

The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 18, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the British Eighth Army, which had until the past week seen limited action since December, concentrated on the Adriatic front, had now stormed into Cassino and taken the town, under siege since January, having been subjected to the most concentrated bombardment of the war thus far on March 15, 2,500 tons in a square mile area. That assault nevertheless still had failed to wrest the remains of the town from the stubborn German parachute troops who had holed up there for the previous two months in the ruins of the Hotel Continental and Hotel Des Roses.

The British troops also took Monte Cassino, site of the ruined Benedictine Monastery, bombed February 15. The British used encircling tactics, cutting off Highway 6 to Rome as a means of enemy escape through the Liri Valley, avoiding in the process the heavy casualties which would have ensued from a frontal assault on the town and surrounding hills.

Twenty-five miles to the west, American troops of the Fifth Army took Formia while French and American troops made their way into the Arunci Mountains, forming the western coastal end of the Adolf Hitler Line. The goal was to obtain outlet to the coastal plain leading to the Anzio beachhead and joinder with the Fifth Army forces there. The Americans also struck at Itri, the Appian Way junction four miles northwest of Formia, affording the only escape route north for the Germans fleeing Formia.

The two strikes had, in one fell swoop, obliterated completely the Gustav Line, first line of Nazi defense between Southern Italy and Rome.

Polish troops meanwhile seized Hill 593, the northern hinge of the Hitler and Gustav Lines.

Because of bad weather, for the fourth straight day there were no major bombing operations over France and Germany, the longest lull since February 16-19.

The Fifteenth Air Force flew missions of about 1,500 planes, half of which were bombers, into the Balkans, hitting the Ploesti oilfields in Rumania and the rail yards at Belgrade and Nis in Yugoslavia.

In Northern Burma, the Chinese and American forces under General Stilwell, led by Merrill's Marauders, hiking through rough terrain for 20 days from the eastern side of the Mogaung Valley, captured the Japanese airdrome at Myitkyina in a surprise raid which caught the Japanese so off guard that little resistance was offered. The forces were now threatening to take the town of Myitkyina as well, one of two Japanese strongholds in Northern Burma and keys to its supply lines; the other was Mogaung, 40 miles to the west, also menaced by General Stilwell's forces. The airfield was captured in good condition, enabling its immediate use as a base for air operations by the Allies.

It had been deemed essential to capture Myitkyina before the shortly anticipated monsoon season, to enable joining the Ledo Road out of India with the northern section of the Burma Road into China, to re-establish a land supply route for the first time since early 1942.

The Chinese troops who had crossed the Salween River in Yunnan Province in China were forming a double pincer movement north and south of the Burma Road, capturing Hpinaw Pass and Ciaotou, both strategic points. There was no claim yet that the troops had entered Burma.

Chinese airmen dealt a blow to a Japanese column seeking to cut off the Chinese-held city of Loyang in Honan Province. Meanwhile, the Chinese fighting from within the city had managed to extend their lines outward, pushing some of the Japanese forces from their points of penetration.

American and Australian troops were reported converging from different directions on Wewak in Papua New Guinea, the Japanese base to which troops had evacuated after the fall of Hollandia and Aitape in Western New Guinea on April 22, and from Madang which had been evacuated by the Japanese shortly afterward after an eight-month siege.

Dutch sources reported that a Catholic bishop and 59 priests were killed in a strafing run by American planes, hitting a Japanese P.O.W. ship off New Guinea. The extent to which the ship's purpose had been indicated, or whether it was ostensibly a man o' war was not reported.

German radio announced that Dr. Leon Kozlowski, former Prime Minister and Minister of Interior to Poland in 1934-35 when the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact had been signed, interned since 1941 in Berlin, was reported killed in an American air raid on Berlin May 11. Of course, whether in fact he was simply shot by the Germans for use as a propaganda tool against the Allied terrorists, no one knows. In April, 1943, he had been sent as an expert by the Germans to the site of the discovery of the mass grave resulting from the Katyn Forest massacre in Poland, and had thereafter cooperated with the Nazis in disseminating anti-Soviet propaganda.

Gandhi, just released by the British from his two-year house arrest, was about to meet with Mahamed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Moslem League in India, in an effort to effect unity between Hindus and Moslems, a perpetual roadblock in the past to achieving sovereign independence for India. A year earlier, the British had forbade such a meeting.

Allied Headquarters in London revealed that the West Wall of the Germans along the coast of France was comprised of numerous hidden big gun installations and some rocket-gun nests, all dug below ground and camouflaged with canvas. Allied reconnaissance planes accompanying bombing operations of the previous six months had watched the installations being constructed. In addition, a network of barbed wire, concrete pillboxes, and mine fields protected the French coastline.

Hal Boyle returns to his regular Notebook column after a three-month leave of absence, having been, during the prior sixteen months, in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, covering successively those invasions and battles. Now he was in England to cover the preparations for the D-Day invasion. The Allies had obligingly waited for him to return before commencing Operation Overlord.

He reports of the cold shower in getting back to the war zone, having enjoyed the comforts of the home front, having gained in the interim since departing Italy fifteen pounds. So-called rationing at home, he says, was mild by comparison to that endured by the G.I. on the war fronts. The publicized shortage notwithstanding, even whisky was available in most major cities of the United States provided one went to a little trouble.

The returning war correspondent then shifts to tell of travel aboard the freighter which brought him to England, manned by crews populated in part by newcomers to the job for the fact of the high turnover rate during the war among merchant seamen as many of the sailors had quit to become landlubbers in fat-paying war factories, a good deal safer than sea duty during the war.

And a young man, Leo O'Connor of Philadelphia, having written to General Eisenhower asking for a shoulder patch, received one in the mail which the General said he had worn during the North African operations.

Don't tell Leo, but Ike's assistant wrote the note and a couple of thousand other kids received the same patches.

Drew Pearson told us that via Senator McKellar, who informed that word came from former Vice-President John Nance Garner who had heard it from J. Edgar Hoover who was enlightened of the fact by General Marshall who had got the scoop directly from General Eisenhower, after it had passed the censors of course.

On the editorial page, "One Service" remarks of Josephus Daniels having testified before the House Post-War Policy Committee, as reported the previous day, advocating combining the Army and Navy under one civilian department, that which subsequently became in 1947 the Department of Defense, replacing the War Department and the Navy Department. Mr. Daniels, former Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson during World War I, had laid the blame for Pearl Harbor flatly at the doorsteps of General Walter Short, in charge of the Army at the base, and Admiral Husband Kimmel, in charge of the Navy, faulting each for not having communicated properly to one another and coordinated defenses of the vital installation.

The piece adds that Mr. Daniels might have drawn from the war since Pearl Harbor many examples of divided command causing dissension between the Army and Navy. Stories had filtered back from the fighting fronts in the Pacific of Navy fliers complaining that General MacArthur often took credit for Navy operations. And stories had come from Midway that the Navy was primarily responsible for the victory, slighting the Army’s considerable participation.

The piece concludes that such division in the country's ranks of servicemen could not be tolerated and a unified command structure for all branches of service was the only solution.

"Our Peril" finds Richmond Times-Dispatch editor Virginius Dabney worried that the Senate was leaning back toward isolationism and would thus commit the same egregious error which had occurred in the wake of World War I when the body refused to endorse membership of the United States in the League of Nations by the required two-thirds majority.

The danger was heightened, suggests the editorial, by the coming fall election in which new Republican Senators might be elected who would brandish the new form of isolationism, dubbed nationalism.

On the other side of the coin, Lord Halifax of Great Britain was touring the country telling his audiences that he was optimistic that the American people would unite after the war to form an international coalition with the other three major powers to insure a lasting peace in the world.

Yet, cautions the piece, the editors who knew the land best were waxing pessimistic on the critical issue for the future.

"Exit Dies" offers no tear for the passing from the American scene of Martin Dies, retiring from Congress at age 43. It was likely, says the piece, he would not have won re-election out of Texas. His House Un-American Activities Committee had been one which allowed political considerations to supersede and govern its mandate to ferret out subversives, had applied the label in consequence to anyone who dared disagree politically with Mr. Dies.

"Any but reactionary thought was held up to ridicule as Communistic."

Unfortunately, they did not know in 1944 what lay ahead in this arena and that they had seen nothing yet. Mr. Dies, by comparison to the H.U.A.C. to follow, led by young Congressman Richard Nixon, and its Senate handmaiden, Joseph McCarthy, would seem merely tame buffoonery to entertain liberal editors and reporters.

"Gas Man" stands appalled at the suggestion of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker that poison gas ought be used against the Japanese to end the war more quickly. The editorial finds the suggestion outrageous and not one worthy of any serious consideration. Gas had been stockpiled only for defensive purposes, should the enemy initiate its use.

The use of poison gas had been banned by the Geneva Convention after its use in World War I and it would have been a serious violation of international law to have initiated it.

The editorial was of course correct in its disdainful view of this indiscriminate and inhumane form of warfare. Yet, one must of course then raise the inevitable question whether it was any the less inhumane to bomb relentlessly Tokyo with the new B-29 Superfortress and then, in August, 1945, drop the world's first two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is a thorny and impossible debate.

For we are not in 1945, faced with estimates of 100,000 or more Allied deaths in the offing should the air and ground war be prosecuted to conclusion. It was always within the power of the Japanese simply to surrender and avoid further casualties. The lives saved by dropping the bombs, including the lives of Japanese, both civilians and military, always must be borne in mind in any moralistic debate long after the fact.

Easy as it might appear to negate that which was done as monstrous, it was monstrous to start World War II and that was the supervening cause of all subsequent actions by the Allies. America and Great Britain did not begin the war, did nothing to prompt it. On that, there can be no serious debate. The only moral question therefore justly to be raised is whether it was right to initiate the war by attacking the sovereign territory of other nations. The answer is self-evident.

Dorothy Thompson examines the interconnections between three problems relating to the war, the first being the personal feud which seemed to be ongoing between President Roosevelt and General De Gaulle, second, the appeal by the Catholic Church in France, via German-controlled Vichy radio, to the Catholic Church in Britain and the United States to importune the governments of Great Britain and the United States to alter the type of bombing utilized over France, and, third, the London Observer’s recommendation that the Allies issue a statement of purpose in advance of the invasion of the Continent.

She compares the relatively isolated French to the Russians and Yugoslavs who could accept the bombing of their cities and ruin of their homes and casualties among their citizenry on the premise that the bombs fell in aid of fights their own soldiers were waging. But the air war over France fell on "strangers to the war", as the Archbishop of Cambrai had described the French in the radio broadcast.

Thus, it was imperative to let bygones be bygones with respect to General De Gaulle and place him as the unmistakable head of the French forces, not merely appearing as a puppet of the British, Russian, and American Allies. It was important to stimulate the underground in France to aid internally in defeating the Germans, alleviating in all likelihood the necessity for some of the bombing. And to do so meant having more than a figure head as leader. Too, in furtherance of these goals, a statement of clear purpose of the war, she insists, finally should be uttered.

Ms. Thompson's footnote re the title of the piece refers sub rosa to these lines:

For manifest in that disastrous light
We shall discern the right
And do it, tardily. —O ye who lead,
Take heed!
Blindness we may forgive, but baseness we will smite.

Of course, in fairness, it should be pointed out that Secretary of State Hull's address in March, broadcast overseas, was designed to be the statement of purpose on the war. Ms. Thompson had, however, on March 28, criticized the statement as lacking substance.

Moreover, she does not fully take into account the harsh results to the surrounding populace of a guerilla-orchestrated ground war. Russia's civilian population was decimated by the Germans; Yugoslavia arguably had not recovered from World War II even by the 1990's. The worse poison, bombs dropping, from which shelter might be obtained and of which advance warning given, or sudden guerilla ambuscades from which little protection was afforded if caught in the crossfire, could only be determined by the eye of the beholder. Whether that was the Archbishop and his fellow priests is debatable, as they had not seen the worst of guerilla warfare on French soil at this stage of the fight. And, the fact was that there was plenty of opportunity for a Tito to have arisen from within France, with or without the full recognition of General De Gaulle by the Americans, who was, after all, in England, not in France, and thus having to lead by remote control whatever undergound forces could be mustered. Marshal Henri Petain could have been that leader; instead, the hero of Verdun in World War I cowered behind Vichy for the sake of his own hide.

Samuel Grafton finds the superficial similarity between the candidates on their espoused foreign policy, that being rote endorsement of the four-power pact between China, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain, did not indicate thereby that all of the candidates brought to the table the same bona fides of expertise and awareness of foreign policy in practical terms.

Mr. Grafton could not view the former isolationist stance of Governor John Bricker of Ohio in the same light as the Administration, as he chooses, instead of President Roosevelt, a Republican, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, as the messenger for comparison. While Secretary of State to Herbert Hoover, Secretary Stimson, he points out, had in 1931 condemned the invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese as wanton aggression which should have been resisted.

Similar packaging notwithstanding, the products were quite different.

Marquis Childs remarks on two censored stories which stood as bad precedents on the eve of the coming invasion of Europe. One was an interview conducted by the Associated Press of Marshal Tito, leader of the Yugoslav Partisan forces, suppressed in Algiers by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson's Mediterranean command. The other, suppressed by the War Department, was an interview conducted by Harper's Magazine of General MacArthur some months earlier which had indicated that the Australians had been relegated to a subordinate role in the Pacific campaign. The reason for censorship of the first interview was unclear, as it disclosed no war strategy. The reason provided for the second was that it came on the eve of a major offensive by General MacArthur's forces and might have compromised morale.

Mr. Childs finds both examples troubling. General MacArthur had been for a time put forward as a candidate for the presidency and there was just complaint that he was being shielded from ordinary criticism which other candidates had to endure. The suppression of the piece out of Yugoslavia had no rationale and was representative of a great deal of censorship in the Mediterranean theater, shielding from popular assessment some of the strategic and tactical mistakes which had been made in Italy, at Cassino and Anzio, which the American people had a right to understand, and immediately, not long after the fact when the delay in disclosure between actions and reasons for those actions often obfuscated and led to consequent suspicion.

Drew Pearson begins his column by listing the names and salaries of the various Republican publicity agents, ready to hit the trail as soon as a nominee would be picked at the Chicago convention in latter June.

He next reports of the good work of Congressman Albert Engel of Michigan who, on a meager expense account, had managed a tour of 20 defense plants in 23 days. In a bag-loading plant in Alabama, he was told the story of the mysteriously contaminated bags which had to be discarded for the fact that they were ordinarily filled with gunpowder for howitzer shells and had to be maintained therefore in immaculate condition to avoid contamination resulting in possible chemical reaction causing the powder to explode. The mystery of the contaminated bags, stained with some red substance, eventually outed: lipstick from a female employee who was kissing each powder bag for good luck.

We think we heard one similar to that regarding Arnold Palmer. But that's another story.

The plant foreman told the Congressman that they had not stopped the female worker from the practice for they did not wish to deter such fighting spirit, even if it cost them a few bags.

He next reports that the Allied Command in England was most concerned, regarding the West Wall defenses, in the ordinary machinegun nest of the Nazis, the concrete pillboxes which had proved so highly effective and hard to destroy in the battle for Cassino. Rocket-guns and other such sophisticated new weaponry were only of secondary worry.

Finally, replete with a sub-heading "Monkey Ward", Mr. Pearson relates of the former secretary to President Theodore Roosevelt who had called an assistant to Attorney General Francis Biddle shortly after the Government seized Montgomery Ward and told him that he had ordered a harness and a lawn mower from the catalogue and wanted prompt delivery or he would switch to Sears.

And, we have to express the hope that the doctor who was operating on the faithful little old lady, of whom the Reverend Herbert Spaugh remarks, was not the young surgeon at Dr. Kildare's hospital. If so, odds were that she didn't make it. Of course, if she did, perhaps Dr. Kildare could perform the insulin shock treatment and bring her back to sanity before Friday, following her convulsive regression through time, even to ichthyological de-anthropomorphosis.

If you are uncertain of that to which we refer, don't lose any sleep over it. It is, we assure, not eschatological. Blame Mr. Faust.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i><i><i>--</i></i></i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.