Saturday, May 20, 1944

The Charlotte News

Saturday, May 20, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that following the fierce fighting of the previous week along the Gustav and Hitler Lines in Italy, a relative lull ensued this day to afford an opportunity to bring up reinforcements and supplies.

A description was provided of the formidable defenses stretching through the Liri Valley protecting the long straight stretch of Highway 6 leading to Rome. There were anti-tank ditches running for a mile along the road, some ten feet deep. Barbed wire, a ravine, a 5,000-foot mountain, Mt. Cairo, and concrete and mobile pillboxes dug into the surrounding hillsides, all formed the northeast section of the Hitler Line--that which Berlin radio had contended the previous day did not exist.

American forces of the Fifth Army had retreated from Itri after first capturing it and Gaeta, then advancing to within 35 miles of the Anzio beachhead, meeting only light resistance. The Army had thus far taken 5,500 German prisoners during the operation.

Terracina now formed the western end of the Hitler Line, twenty miles from the previous westernmost point at Formia on the coast, taken by the Allies three days earlier. The enemy line being formed at Terracina was now being called the "hinge line", tertiary line of defense, behind the secondary broken Hitler Line.

The French had driven against the middle of the Hitler Line while the Eighth Army attacked the town of Aquino on the northern flank of the Line in the Liri Valley. The town of Pontecorvo was also attacked by the British, having already been reported outflanked by the French.

The air war resumed in full force with 2,500 planes dropping 5,000 tons of bombs on Germany and France. The Americans hit two airdromes near Paris, an aircraft repair facility at Champagne, and rail yards at Reims. Two bombers and five fighters were lost out of a force numbering between 1,000 and 1,250 planes, 250 of which were heavy and medium bombers, the heavy accompaniment of fighters being suggestive of expected concentrated German defenses.

The RAF struck rail targets in France during the night in another force of about 1,250 planes. Allied aircraft were reported by Berlin radio to have struck also during the day at Le Mans, Boulogne, and Orleans.

General Stilwell announced the expected news that Myitkyina had been taken by his forces, after seizing the nearby airdrome two days earlier in Northern Burma. Merrill's Marauders arrived in the town without Japanese resistance, although parts of it two miles east were still occupied by the enemy, an enemy now surrounded by Allied troops, with the Irrawaddy River at their backs.

Allied Headquarters of General MacArthur confirmed the story from Japanese reports of the previous day that Soerabaja on Java had been hit by carrier-borne Allied aircraft, albeit indicating their origin from Australian bases and not Ceylon, as the prior day's report had speculated. It was the first joint effort by the commands of Lord Louis Mountbatten, General MacArthur, and Admiral Chester Nimitz. It met with only light resistance from the Japanese. The forces sank 35,000 tons of shipping in the harbor and destroyed 19 planes on the ground, plus two in the air. It was the first attack of the war on Soerabaja originating from carriers.

A report generally on the situation in the Southwest Pacific indicated that positions were being continually strengthened and consolidated at Hollandia, Aitape, the recently taken Wakde Island off the New Guinea coast, as well as continuing bombing and thus isolation from supplies of the trapped Japanese at Rabaul, Kavieng, and Bougainville.

On the north-central front of Russia, dormant since December 26, it was indicated that the Red Army had taken a fortified German height southeast of Vitebsk, aided by their women snipers. Vitebsk was the last German stronghold in the area barring admission to upper Poland and Latvia.

Fighting continued southeast of Stanislawow in old Poland and northwest of Tiraspol on the lower Dnieper River, as had been transpiring since the fall of Sevastopol in the Crimea.

For the first time, a radio station in England, speaking for General Eisenhower, broadcast to the Continent instructions in anticipation of D-Day, telling all underground forces to observe enemy movements and positions in minute detail. The spokesman indicated that General Eisenhower would soon be addressing them directly.

The suppressed interview with Marshal Tito, of which the News editorial column had written two days earlier, was published this date. Occurring April 30, the interview, it turned out, had been held up for publication because Marshal Tito had initially refused to approve it if there existed any censorship of his words. After reviewing the deletions made by Allied censors, however, he agreed to the publication.

Initially, he expressed appreciation for the help of the Allies in waging the fight against the Nazis and native Chetniks, but coupled his gratitude with a plea for more equipment. He also sought recognition by the Allies of the National Committee of Liberation as the legitimate government of Yugoslavia, and that the gold of the Yugoslav National Bank be turned over to the Committee as its treasury. Further, he wanted the Yugoslav ships seized from the Italian Navy by the Allies, and the merchant ships in the possession of Yugoslavia's King Peter, representative of the government-in-exile.

He related that the 110,000 Partisans killed in the fight thus far had not died in vain for the Partisans had inflicted enormous casualties on the Germans and Chetniks.

Hal Boyle continues his report on his freighter voyage from the U.S. to England, returning to the war front to cover D-Day. He tells of having ridden out a storm aboard a blacked-out ship, possessed of its heavy cargo of Army vehicles, the shifting weight causing the vessel to toss and turn on the high seas. During dinner, it caused quite a bit of stir as the men played involuntary musical chairs, sliding, in rhythmic response to each of the ship's shifts and contortions, from one side of the room to the other. They couldn't finish eating until the ship's stewards had lashed the chairs and poured water on the tablecloths to keep the fish from sliding about--something handy to keep in mind when you're trying to eat at sea during a storm.

One of the securing cables for the Army vehicles broke and was lashing about at its whimsy on deck. No one could be sent out during the storm to re-secure it as they would have either washed overboard or been cut in half by the wildly swinging steel whip.

The second mate had his finger nearly sliced off in a banging bulkhead door and, when the storm finally subsided, was brought to the only medical station aboard, that run by the stewards. The steward assigned to mend the finger observed its barely attached state, promptly fainted. A Navy lieutenant who headed the gun crew, an attorney in civilian life, finally provided an anesthetic, applied a tourniquet, and amputated the finger, all while the injured second mate observed without batting an eye. The lawyer expressed concern about his own disabuse produced by the war to ordinary sensibility and wondered whether he could regain it sufficiently to re-acclimate with facility to the comparatively blasé world of the law.

A murder trial in Washington was proceeding against a lawyer accused of murdering his wife's paramour, a psychiatrist, while he sat with the lawyer's wife in a car. A truck driver who had been called by the prosecution as an eyewitness to the shooting, claiming that he saw the lawyer shoot and then, gangland style, toss a second gun beside the dead body, now recanted, saying he had been bribed by a black man offering $100 to weave the story.

On the editorial page, "MacArthur" touches again, as it had two days earlier, on the terminated candidacy of the General, stressing again that stories were surfacing that senior officers, presumably including General Marshall, had placed pressure on General MacArthur to withdraw his name from consideration for the Republican presidential nomination as he could not serve two masters simultaneously, run for the presidency and command troops effectively in the Southwest Pacific.

The editorial agrees with the final result but suggests that the General might have nipped it in the bud as soon as the rumors began to float, relying on the precedent set by General Sherman after his success in taking Atlanta in 1864. He had eschewed any consideration as a presidential candidate for the Democrats on the notion that he would rather serve time in the penitentiary than the White House, that he had neither the patience nor the prudence for the job, would do a disservice to the country to allow his name to be seriously considered for the position.

Of course, his fellow General, George McClellan, had other thoughts when the mantle was offered him.

"Good Sense" applauds the decision of the foremen at the 31 munitions plants in Detroit who had acquiesced to the request of General Hap Arnold, chief of the Air Forces, to desist in their strike as being harmful to the air war. The foremen had displayed, says the editorial, commendable wisdom and it was hoped that others would follow their example rather than that of Montgomery Ward in April or the coal miners during the previous year.

"Young Hero" gives high praise to fourteen-year old Cecil Sloan of Charlotte for his quick thinking and selfless action in coming to the aid of a five-year old girl whose dress had caught on fire. He ripped the little girl’s dress away and thereby saved her life.

Since he was a Boy Scout, the national organization desired to honor his bravery. But young Cecil Sloan had modestly sought to avoid the spotlight, causing The News to provide further praise to the young man for his undue but admirable reticence.

So, like it or not, 67 years on, Mr. Sloan, if you are still around, we echo the praise once more for saving the little girl's life.

"What Hero?" contrasts those unsung of the air war of World War II with the men of derring-do and household names, Rickenbacker and Von Richtofen of the Flying Circus, emerging from the First World War.

The previous week, Col. Walter Oseau of the Luftwaffe, preeminent Nazi ace with 122 kills to his credit, had been sent down in flames by an anonymous American flying a Thunderbolt fighter. No one would even know the latter's name and no one likely would remember Col. Oseau.

And, o so it is true. Whether that is good, bad, or indifferent, you may decide for yourself.

No guitar. No comedy troupe. Only Captain Bong and "12 O'Clock High" out of the Second World War.

All the glory went to the men on the ground and at sea.

Samuel Grafton longs for the candor of Wendell Willkie on the campaign trail. He finds Governor Dewey to be preaching to the Republican choir, even if from a somewhat moderated position versus that of the Chicago Tribune and the extreme right of the party. The latter advocated a complete return to states' rights, stripping the Federal government down to a hollow shell, good for national defense and little else. Mr. Dewey, while not so extreme, still was pledging to do less, not more, than the incumbent, a reverse of the usual campaign promise.

But, warns Mr. Grafton, let one of the key commodity indices fall dramatically, reducing farm prices, and the shout from out the hinterlands would sharply rise to crescendo, demanding that something in Washington forthwith be done to remedy the negligence. Then, from whence would the states' rights cries find an audience?

Dorothy Thompson discusses a speech the previous week by Henry Kaiser anent aviation and the Soldier-Aid Bill. As to aviation, he foresaw the Jetsons, everyone with their own private airplane, costing no more than the family automobile, hopping from town to town, each equipped with its own little airport.

Of course, it does not require too much imagination to consider the chaos which would ensue at rush hour should all that vehicular traffic on the roads be sent as small aircraft into the air. One can see the persistently cloudy days, blotting out the sun while airbuses and air-trains and air-cars fly past one's window.

He tied it into the Soldier-Aid Bill, that to provide low-cost loans to veterans, by suggesting that the money could be utilized to build small airports or concessions within them and to purchase one of the more than one million small planes he predicted would be sold in the coming year.

Some ideas make sense; others do not.

Mr. Kaiser's soybean car body which would withstand the thrust of a sledge-hammer made sense. But where is it?

Perhaps, on second glance, that was the brainchild of Henry Ford, and Mr. Kaiser was content with the Fiberglas Darrin of 1954, somewhere fused in our views.

Oh, that sharp axe...

They made fun of Fulton, too, though. Don't forget it, smarty pants.

Drew Pearson devotes his entire column to the plan outlined to the President by Major General Patrick Hurley, roving ambassador, to forward the Atlantic Charter principles, assuring the Four Freedoms, to the oil-rich nations of the Near and Middle East, principally Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, freedoms which were missing, as General Hurley observed it, by dint of the fact that the British held interests in the land which were imperialistic, expressly condemned by the Charter, and the Russians held interests which were communistic, ultimately in satisfaction of the same acquisitorial trait. And, he had observed that the British appeared to be looking to extend their holdings by sending scientists to explore the possibilities of tapping the oil in Saudi Arabia.

His proposal, in practical terms, was for the United States to sponsor an exchange of economic advisors to and from the region who would meet and discuss plans for coordinating financial interests while insuring that the Four Freedoms were honored. It was, thought General Hurley, an opportunity for the United States to show itself as firmly committed to democracy while also benefiting in the long run financially.

The President liked the idea, but balked when General Hurley asked to be made ambassador to the Near East so that he might have the ostensible bona fides to be received with the plan, without which he believed it would simply be as water off a duck's back. President Roosevelt told him that he already had a good man there, but sent him to the State Department to obtain its views of the plan.

General Hurley made his presentation, albeit to mixed opinions: Secretary Hull, Undersecretary, soon to be Secretary, Edward Stettinius, and Assistant Secretary, later to become Secretary in 1949 under President Truman, Dean Acheson, all were opposed to it; Assistant Secretary Adolph Berle and Near East political advisor Wallace Murray were in favor of it.

Then General Hurley got wind that Gene Rostow, twenty-two years hence to become Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, had termed the plan, "hysterical Messianic globaloney", borrowing, in the latter term, Clare Boothe Luce's neologistic portmanteau--or, as we sometimes prefer, portmandu, a portmanteau of itself plus Katmandu, or poormanstoe, whichever yous prefer.

The General became so outraged at such condemnatory phraseology utilized to describe his plan that he demanded a meeting with Mr. Acheson and Mr. Rostow. At the meeting, he became so nonplussed that he challenged Mr. Rostow to a fight, at which point, says Mr. Pearson, Mr. Acheson intervened and insisted that he would end the meeting if such language were not to cease at once.

General Hurley apologized but insisted that the State Department was bowing to the British in so vetoing the plan. Mr. Pearson also reports that the General stated that he was not concerned about the President's opinion, would take the matter directly to the people should his plan not be implemented.

Word reached the President of the tussle and he was heard to remark, "Too much hurly-burly," presumably, concludes Mr. Pearson, a pun on General Hurley and Adolph Berle.

But, shouldn't it have been actually therefore too much Hurley-Rostow?

In any event, the President was not prepared to tell General Hurley, "Get thee gone to Acheron."

Marquis Childs weighs in on the controversy surrounding continued trade with Germany by neutral Sweden in ball-bearings manufactured by SKF. Mr. Childs indicates that only a small percentage of Germany's ball-bearings came from SKF.

But Drew Pearson, on May 10, had stated it to be 70%--a picture probably accurate considering that Schweinfurt, Germany's ball-bearings capital, had been bombed nearly out of existence since the previous October.

In any event, based on this assumption, erroneous or not--or perhaps deliberately understated, couched in diplomatic tones, to attempt rapprochement with Sweden, where Mr. Childs had, with the late Raymond Clapper and a handful of other American reporters, visited a year earlier--, he offers that Sweden would be wise to accommodate the request of the Allies to cease the trade to avoid post-war shuns, if not outright sanctions for aiding Germany in its defense.

The excuse which Sweden had put forward the previous year, that it relied on German coal and could not therefore afford to cease reciprocal trade, no longer applied with equivalent force because of the dramatically changed position of the Allies and Germany in the interim, the war now a foregone conclusion as to its victors.

Sweden had carefully controlled its other facets of trade, especially that of arms, and needed to come to grips with the notion that ball-bearings, in this age of mechanized warfare, were just as lethal as bullets and guns. Without the ball-bearings, the tanks could not roll, the panzer divisions could not advance or retreat, the planes could not fly, the howitzers and big guns could not fire. All of that took the steel balls manufactured by SKF.

Come on, guys, it's all ball-bearings these days.

The Reverend Herbert Spaugh asks the reader whether there is a song in his or her heart, says that war correspondent Ernie Pyle claimed to hear the engines of the airplanes on which he rode always humming to him a tune, always "You Are My Sunshine".

Bah. Music. We never listen to it. What good is it? Just sits there, all noisy like. We prefer the comforting sound of a nice machine gun's rat-a-tat-tat, red hot and glowing against our hands until the skin burns right off, accompanied by the smooth v-rump when the bomb bay doors open with their hydraulics pushing, pushing, whine, v-rump, to reveal their glistening surprise to the unwitting savages below, scurrying like little ants for their shelters, ready to blossom as rose petals.

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