Wednesday, May 24, 1944

The Charlotte News

Wednesday, May 24, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that American troops of the Fifth Army in Italy had occupied Terracina, the last westernmost point of the Hitler Line, as Canadian armor penetrated five miles through the Line in the Liri Valley, reaching as far as the narrow Melfa River, thirteen miles west of Cassino. Canadian troops likewise threatened Pontecorvo. The American troops advanced ten miles through the mountains above Terracina, nineteen miles from the Anzio beachhead forces, constructing the potential of a trap for the Germans below the beachhead, in the Pontine Marshes.

On the beachhead, itself, the Fifth Army took a mile of the Appian Way below Cisterna. American armor struck north of the town against fierce German opposition. The British crossed the Moletta River to the northwest, hitting the western anchor of the Nazi defense line which had maintained the beachhead arc enclosure since January.

As many as 5,000 Allied planes struck Berlin, Vienna, and airdromes in the vicinity of Paris, dropping about 5,000 tons of bombs in one of the largest combined air attacks yet of the war. (The headline declares it to have been 5,500 planes, but that was apparently a printing error.) The Americans flew 2,000 of the planes in attacks on Berlin and the Paris airdromes. About 500 to 750 heavy bombers plus hundreds of fighters of the Fifteenth Air Force out of Italy struck Vienna and the Avisio viaduct north of Trento at the Brenner Pass, as well as targets in Yugoslavia.

The B.B.C. echoed the Allied Command Headquarters pronouncements of recent days to the French underground, stating that it was their solemn duty to maintain themselves in readiness for the invasion and to remain out of German hands.

The Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet reported the arrest in Goteborg of three employees of SKF, the ball-bearings manufacturing giant, for allegedly providing to a foreign power secret information on orders for ball-bearings. The report did not disclose the foreign power, but presumably it was one of the Allies. The Swedish Foreign Office had disclosed on May 13 that, prior to the bombing of Schweinfurt in Germany, Sweden had supplied but three percent of the total German ball-bearings inventory; but, it admitted, since the bombing had destroyed most of Germany’s production capability in the essential war machine component, Sweden was supplying a major part of the inventory, even though the actual amount of the exported roller-balls down the alley had not increased.

Military observers of the Pacific theater agreed that advances of the forces under General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz had achieved a state where it would be impracticable for the Japanese to stop Allied forward progress toward the Philippines.

After approving promotion to the rank of major general for Lt.-General Brehon Somervell, Lt.-General Jonathan Wainwright, Lt.-General Joseph Stilwell, and ten others, the Senate Military Affairs Committee, chaired by Robert Rice Reynolds, tabled consideration of permanent promotion to major general of General Patton. General Patton’s permanent rank, as with the others just promoted, was colonel. There was no official reason provided for the deferral of action, but Senator Happy Chandler of Kentucky stated that he had concern regarding the slapping incident occurring in Sicily the previous August.

In Hamilton, Ontario, five people were killed in a second-story dance hall when it caught fire. The others of the seventy people at the dance jumped to safety, were said by a witness to exit the Moose Hall "all in flames like torches."

Attorney General Francis Biddle testified before a House Committee investigating the takeover of Montgomery Ward the previous month, indicating his belief in the justification of the action pursuant to Section 3 of the War Labor Disputes Act.

In a speech before Commons, Prime Minister Churchill expressed the intent of the Allies to bring about a lasting peace, that he was confident the war in the Balkans could be won without the participation of Turkey, attempts to convince the neutral country to join the Allies having been suspended. He also chided those who criticized the Franco Government in Spain for its internal policies, which, he insisted, were its own business. Spain had recently agreed to cut to 10% of the prior allotment shipments of wolfram to Germany, necessary for production of steel, to evict all German agents from the country, and recall its troops from the Russian front, all in exchange for resumption of shipments of Allied oil.

Hal Boyle informs of the dire straits of England in terms of available food and clothing, compared to the United States. Black markets in consequence flourished. Wives sacrificed breakfast so that their husbands might have greater portions of scarce food, which consisted mainly of tea, sugar, bread, jam, soups, and potatoes. The Brit could have eight ounces of sugar per week under rationing standards. The equivalent of two pork chops and a daily bite of bacon was the only meat available, unless the diner sought the relative plenty of a restaurant, a luxury few could afford.

Coal miners earned between $20 and $25 per week; telephone operators, $12.

The black market worked under the counter in food markets. The clerk would be tipped and the patron would, in addition to the tip, pay about ten times the cost of rationed meat or sugar. Similarly, dress material cost three times as much as rationed material.

Peaches, Mr. Boyle informs, ran $1.50 to $2 each, while pineapples were $30 apiece.

On the editorial page, "Back Door" comments, as had Drew Pearson on Friday, of the new Republican smear tactics aimed at President Roosevelt, the photograph of Sewell Avery’s ejection from the Montgomery Ward plant by soldiers, juxtaposed to a photograph of a pushcart peddler in Germany being arrested by Gestapo agents, both above the caption, "It Did Happen Here". Fully 25,000 copies were being distributed across the country.

The editorial finds the desultory billingsgate to be of a piece with that utilized by the Republicans in 1936 and 1940 without effect, while missing an opportunity, with the country split in public opinion between Governor Dewey and the President, to make an intelligent plea for a change in the political landscape.

Yet, the artifice was consistent with the sort of campaign being run by Governor Dewey, the reluctant candidate who voiced few views, stirred not at all the waters of controversy, even in time when eloquent words might have had resounding effects on the electorate. Instead, a cheap photographic montage had been adduced which would likely stir nothing but contempt for its adducers.

"Candidate" finds reactionary Gerald L. K. Smith willingly stepping into the breach as presidential candidate for the America First Party when the preferred Bob Reynolds had, for unknown reasons, refused the mantle. The editorial finds Mr. Smith a fit martyr to this cause, beating a dead horse before the American people, himself acknowledging that he had no chance to win. His ultimate goal, opines the piece, was to implant the seeds for a later day's harvest.

"Newcomers" reports of the middle-person in Charlotte real estate, engaging in rent gouging, representing owners in finding prospective tenants, hastening by so doing the likelihood that O.P.A. would intercede, as threatened recently, to impose rent control on the area.

"Politics" provides the results of the National Opinion Research Center out of the University of Chicago, showing that Americans generally were disgusted with politics--a highly unusual state of affairs, which certainly has not shown itself since in American life.

The results were that 70% of the respondents did not wish their son or daughter to enter politics as 50% felt it unlikely that a politician could remain honest. Yet, counter-intuitive to these results, slightly more than half believed their state politicians to be performing their jobs satisfactorily.

The editorial, agreeing with the Des Moines Register, lays the unpopularity of politicians to generations of the spoils system, coupled with graft and city bosses, as men in business carped publicly at government while buying off officials, all against a backdrop of insufficient public education on major social and economic questions. The fact that the American people nevertheless expressed satisfaction with their local and state leaders appeared as a distinctly American phenomenon.

Of course, the phenomenon still persists. We explain it by the simple notion that it is much easier for the press to criticize national leaders than local or state leaders, much more likely that large-scale press coverage will dog leaders at the national level. Moreover, the people tend not to be as concerned of local and state leaders as they are those in the national spotlight, apparently believing their lives not to be greatly influenced by state and local leaders.

"Too Much" looks at terms of unconditional surrender put forward by Japan to the Allies, that they surrender their Navy and merchant ships, pay a fine of ten times value for each one scuttled, and withdraw all troops from the Southwest Pacific including Australia. The editorial counsels courage, that despite the temptation to accept these liberal terms of surrender, the humiliating retreat thus far had to continue unabated, all the way to Tokyo.

Drew Pearson lists four men who had left the Administration, including former Senator and Office of Price Administration Director Prentiss Brown, to become heads of utility companies.

He called to say you can make it okay, anyway.

Mr. Pearson next turns to the likelihood that the Democrats would add at least two women members of Congress to the sole woman then serving from the party, as against five Republican women, led by Clare Boothe Luce. The two likely winners, he says, would be Helen Gahagan Douglas of California, wife of actor Melvyn Douglas, and Emily Douglas of Illinois. Both would win.

Helen Gahagan Douglas would serve three terms, and subsequently become the "Pink Lady", so labeled by Congressman Richard Nixon, in his first Senate campaign of 1950, in which he defeated Congresswoman Douglas--and the rest, as they say, is his-story…

In true Nixonian fashion, Nixon apologists to this day assert that Mr. Nixon got the line from Mrs. Douglas's Democratic opponent in the primary. If so, so what? Does that make the attack any the less virulent and unseemly, that someone else had done it first?--the redundant rationalization which Mr. Nixon used, and his apologists to this day always have used, for every unseemly and even illegal thing he ever did, to the very end of his political career.

Emily Douglas, wife of economics professor Paul Douglas who would subsequently, between 1949 and 1967, serve three terms in the Senate, served only one term in Congress before her defeat in 1946. She had defeated in 1944 the Chicago Tribune's step-child, Stephen Day, who, Mr. Pearson informs, had in 1933 sent a congratulatory telegram to Adolf Hitler on his successful rise to power.

At least, Mr. Nixon never did that, at least we assume so. Besides, he was only 20.

The recent defeat in California's primary of John Costello of H.U.A.C. joined the defeat of Joe Starnes in Alabama and the decision of H.U.A.C. chairman Martin Dies not to run for re-election in Texas, to cause serious worry among those who had spent their careers looking for bogeys among suspected Communists. Prime mover in the defeats was the support of opponents by the CIO, formerly eschewed as inconsequential in these conservative districts, albeit assisted in Alabama by the crusade of newsman Carrol Kilpatrick of the Birmingham Age-Herald, and in California, by a proactive opponent, Hal Styles, who, as a Warner Brothers radio announcer, had previously organized a drive which resulted in jobs for 35,000 people.

The Dies Committee would die a natural death as a result, says Mr. Pearson, for the fact that the next senior ranking member, Wirt Courtney of Tennessee, had voted in February to cut off funding to the committee and so presumably would oversee its dissolution in early 1945.

H.U.A.C., however, would grow hydra-heads after the war and not become so easily dismissed from the landscape but would persist for another three decades, gaining fuel at its renascence in 1947 from Richard Nixon.

Samuel Grafton reports of Prime Minister Churchill's recent remark, "These are days when in other countries ignorant peoples are often disposed to imagine that progress consists in converting oneself from a monarchy into a republic."

Mr. Grafton comments that the Prime Minister obviously did not realize how offensive the statement would be to people abroad the world, asserting the defense of kings over democracy. But his greatest sin, believes Mr. Grafton, was to couch it general terms so as to defend the British Empire by indirection. That explained the Prime Minister's general support for King Emmanuel in Italy, King Peter of Yugoslavia's government-in-exile, and King George of Greece. But, in all three cases, these monarchs had supported fascist causes, aristocratic supremacy, and were generally held in contempt by the majority of their peoples. So, the Prime Minister had chosen poor exemplars on which to posit defense of the Empire and the British Monarchy, not guilty of any of the sins of the monarchs to which the Prime Minister provided general approbation. It was a methodology of justification surmounting, unnecessarily, ratiocination.

Marquis Childs examines air power thus far in the war, ventures that it was far too early to make pronouncements on success or failure of the air campaign, for the fact that, until February, the air strength of the Eighth Air Force in England had not reached its operating potential which had since enabled the round-the-clock massive raids with the RAF, nearly without respite, one four-day period in February and the recent five-day period of the previous week being the only periods of cessation since the beginning of the year.

Too, the Americans had developed a form of radar which enabled cloud penetration, recently put into operation to eliminate lost days of bombing from bad weather.

Until late summer and early fall, 1943, the planes which had been promised to England a year earlier had been re-routed either to the North African campaign or to the Pacific. It was only in the latter part of the prior summer that the planes began to arrive in England in sufficient numbers to permit the larger daylight raids of the Americans to complement those of the RAF and begin the process steadily of softening up defenses in Germany and France.

Thus, conservative military men had been observing even so late as December, after the Tehran Conference between FDR, Churchill, and Stalin, that the air war had failed to live up to the predictions of its advocates, as, despite the bombardment by the RAF, Germany had not been brought to its knees. But, during the previous three months, the weakening process had become observable, impacting German ability to retaliate on all fronts, in Russia, now in Italy, where defenses were at last crumbling quickly.

A letter writer begs to differ with Governor Melville Broughton who apparently had addressed Democrats at the party convention recently to the effect that the Republicans had been responsible for the failure of defense preparations which had led to Pearl Harbor. The letter writer cites as one incident of dereliction of the Administration the trade in scrap iron with Japan, contending erroneously that it persisted until the eve of Pearl Harbor. All trade with Japan, including that in oil, ceased after the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China in late July, 1941, as permitted by the Nazis operating through Vichy.

The letter writer suggests that the Governor was relying on short memories in advocating support of FDR for a fourth term.

But the writer neglects that the President was in fact hamstrung by a recalcitrant Congress who provided Lend-Lease authority from March, 1941, but would not, because of the isolationist sentiment in the land, despite President Roosevelt's declaration of an emergency on May 27, 1941, provide the necessary funding for increasing the size of the Navy and Air Forces to the level necessary to afford proper protection of bases in the Pacific against attack.

Whether the Governor stretched the point too much in a partisan manner is debatable, given that many of the chief isolationists, such as Robert Rice Reynolds, were Democrats. But that the fault lay primarily with Congress, not with the President, cannot be seriously contested by anyone who observes the facts of that crucial time in 1940-41, when the President did everything short of getting himself impeached to try to aid the war effort in Europe and increase defenses of American facilities against attack. Indeed, in his Chicago speech of October, 1937, he had warned sternly against the Japanese aggression in China; the responses through the country and in Congress were largely yawns.

As to the shipments of oil, not mentioned by the letter writer, and scrap iron, the problem with severing the flow of these vital commodities for both civilian and war machine consumption was that cutting them off virtually assured that the Japanese would attack the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines, that which led to the need to attack Pearl Harbor and put the American Fleet out of commission for six months. That they would attack Pearl Harbor, across 4,000 miles of ocean, was unthinkable at the time, and, consequently, no one paid any serious attention to warnings provided by Ambassador Joseph Grew in Japan in early 1941 that an attack was being planned.

It was the letter writer who possessed a very short memory not well filled by detail.

And a news piece informs that a woman, married in Las Vegas in 1942, had her marriage annulled in Los Angeles after she discovered, 24 days after the ceremony, that her husband, named Jerry, was actually a woman. They had not, at Jerry's insistence, lived together right away and she found out the distressing news from Jerry's sisters 24 days later.

Shirley Mae was heard to say that she got it in the Boston area, but didn't even know her.

O, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog!
And for thy life let justice be accused.
Thou almost makest me waver in my faith
To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men: thy currish spirit
Govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam,
Infused itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolvish, bloody, starved and ravenous.

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