Friday, August 18, 1944

The Charlotte News

Friday, August 18, 1944


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that General Patton's tanks had roared to within twelve miles of Paris, the foremost troops able to see the Eiffel Tower. Paris was not yet burning, per the orders of the Fuehrer, but radio communications had been silenced for 24 hours, indicative of severed communications lines.

Another column was pursuing northward Germans retreating from the trap at Falaise toward Rouen on the Seine, the city wherein Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake, 75 miles west of Paris. There was but one bridge available for the Germans across the Seine and the chosen route of escape implied that the way to Paris had already been cut off.

A new encircling movement by the British and Canadians, moving to the east of Falaise toward Trun, had entrapped anew an estimated 40,000 of the 100,000 men of the German Seventh Army south of Falaise, between that town, Argentan, and Trun. The American column had advanced to Gace and Laigle, fourteen and 29 miles east of Argentan. A bridgehead had also been established on the Eure River at Dreaux. The Canadians had blocked the Falaise trap by advancing to Cambois, seven miles northeast of Argentan and nine miles west of Gace.

Meanwhile, the British below Caen moved toward Le Havre to the northeast at the mouth of the Seine, 35 miles distant.

The German High Command admitted via Berlin radio that the battle to hold Normandy had been lost.

A desperate attempt by the Luftwaffe to support the attempted escape of the Seventh Army had been thwarted by Polish and RAF fighter planes, engaging in several air battles during the day, taking out 16 of the German planes without loss.

In the South of France, the movement of the Seventh Army inland continued, spreading into the Maritime Alps. Last reports had the Allied forces ten miles from Toulon and six miles from Cannes, in possession of a considerable portion of the lateral road across Southern France. Known casualties of the American forces were but 309 while the Germans had suffered 7,000, including a general and his entire staff.

The Resistance had captured the Pyrenees cities of Pau and Tarbes, with the Germans struggling to hold Haute and Savoie, as the Vichy Government had evacuated Vichy and headed toward Berlin. The Resistance also were scoring successes in the South, cutting the rail line between Toulouse and Orleans as well that between Montlucon and Bourges. Battles between Germans and the Maquis were taking place in the areas of Annemasse and Bonneville.

Hal Boyle writes of a statue in the middle of Le Mans dedicated to the Wright Brothers, in recognition of their collaboration with Leon Bollee, of the steam engine automobile pioneering family, in further experiments in aviation taking place in a field near Le Mans, not long after the flights at Kitty Hawk. The townspeople had maintained the statue assiduously during the four years of Nazi occupation, planting red geraniums around its base. The statue of the brothers and Mr. Bollee had survived intact, but another monument outside the town, dedicated solely to Wilbur Wright, had been damaged by machinegun bullets, though not destroyed.

In East Prussia, the Nazis were razing border villages, Schirwindt and others. The First White Russian Army was said to be crossing a river on the East Prussian boundary, following a battle just below the border during the previous two weeks. The Army was 40 miles east of Insterburg and 85 miles from Koenigsberg. The Germans, attacking west and southwest in Lithuania, were putting pressure on the Army's right wing in an attempt to break through to its rear. The First Baltic Army had joined the First White Russian Army to ward off this flank attack. The Russians were threatening now East Prussia along a front of several hundred miles, stretching from the Suwalki Triangle to the Niemen River in northern Lithuania.

The President sought public opinion on formation of a new program for the post-war period which might provide for a year of non-compulsory military or civilian training for all males age 17 to 23. The camps utilized for training during the war, capable of housing five million men, could be converted to house this peacetime mission. Only about a million young men would be placed in such training at any one time. Alternative uses for this surplus housing would be to provide temporary shelter for returning veterans who were sick or non-ambulatory, or for vocational training.

Some would go to Alaska, some to San Francisco. Life is unfair.

After holding out hopelessly for eleven days under intense American artillery fire, "Mad" Colonel Andreas Von Aulock, the subject of the previous day's column by Dorothy Thompson, had finally surrendered St. Malo on the northeastern coast of Brittany. He gave up the ghost for want of food, and so told the Fuehrer as rationale for his surrender. St. Malo had been under siege, after being cut off by Patton's Third Army, since August 7.

Hitler had conferred the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross upon the "Mad" Colonel. He had already won the Knight's Cross for his fighting in the Caucasus during 1942-43.

After the surrender at St. Malo, however, Hitler was rumored to be considering substituting the Acorn Clusters for the Oak Leaves, with the Order of the Wilted Pansies surrounding it to provide a nice bucolic patina.

On an inside page, S/Sgt. Jack Foisie, formerly a reporter for one of the San Francisco papers, provides a biographical account of General Patton, his temporary fall from grace the prior August from the slapping incident in Sicily, following his order to "make the touchdown" and take Palermo, nearly being killed by enemy artillery fire from across the Messina Strait shortly upon entering Messina, spending his time during the prior year primarily at his villa in Palermo, with trips to Cairo and Algiers in the interim, and now having returned to the fight with his new Third Army, pressing now onward toward Paris after quickly conquering the bulk of Brittany and routing the German Seventh Army.

The piece tells of his insistence on rigid military discipline, astounding even the ordinarily well-disciplined British in Tunisia in March of the previous year when he took over following the debacle at Kasserine Pass involving General Lloyd Fredendall's command of the Second Corps, caught in a deadly wedge by Rommel's advancing panzers.

To his men, the crusty, swearing General remained "Ol' Blood and Guts".

We note, incidentally, that it would only make sense that the salty pep talk he gave to the Third Army on the eve of D-Day, was not on June 5, but rather on the eve of deployment day for the Third Army, thus likely circa July 31.

No matter what you make-think of the General's innocuous language, at least he was not given to the banal such that he might have said something completely jejune, such as, "Now, go out and win one for the Gipp," which could have been turned about to mean all sorts of things in the mind of the Nazi.

He was direct: "Go ahead and make the touchdown."

On the editorial page, "Patton" hearkens the return to grace of the General. His heroic status to Americans would not permit him to remain indefinitely in the doghouse because of a slap in Sicily and a few other impolitic faux pas.

"Dissenter" finds mere political hay being made by Thomas Dewey in his charge that the Government of the United States was playing power politics in its seeking to create a Security Council dominated by the Big Four in the United Nations organization to come. Mr. Dewey had bitterly opposed Lend-Lease in 1940-41, had been opposed to alliance with Great Britain, had gradually come around to advocating full alliance with the other Big Three powers, and now appeared to be going fully the other way to advocate international cooperation with all the smaller nations to enable the Four Freedoms to flourish. He appeared to be taking a leaf from Wendell Willkie.

But Mr. Dewey, says the piece, had to know that the U.S. intended no such power grab as he insinuated, that the Big Four did not intend to rule the world with an iron fist. Secretary of State Hull had so assured and his assertion in that regard was sufficient.

"Last Word" comments on the President's statement the day before, assuring that occupation of Germany and Japan would occur after the war, regardless of when the enemy armies surrendered. The definitive statement of the position of the United States made any chance for a negotiated peace to enable regrouping of the military forces of Japan and Germany after the war an impossibility.

"Proff. Koch" eulogizes the passing the day before of the University of North Carolina professor of dramatic literature and founder and director of the Carolina Playmakers theater group, for his 26 years of service to the University and the State of North Carolina.

He had been a seminal force in the development of folk drama, such as the Playmakers-sponsored "The Lost Colony" at Manteo.

Among his students, besides Thomas Wolfe and Paul Green, had been author, former Raleigh News & Observer editor, and current presidential adviser Jonathan Daniels, George Denny, Hubert Heffner of Stanford's drama department, bandleader and occasional actor Kay Kyser, Broadway actress Eugenia Rawls, and Sidney Blackmer, veteran cast member of many Broadway plays and feature films, concluding with "Rosemary's Baby" in 1968, in which he played the bewitching, officious neighbor, Roman Castevet.

Professor Koch's annual reading of A Christmas Carol had endeared him to thousands around the state.

A young Andy Griffith of Mt. Airy, who would join the Playmakers, was just about to begin his college career at the University the following month.

We note, incidentally, a change this date in the editorial page masthead, or rather a reversion to the masthead which was being used prior to Christmas, 1942 at The News, indicating J. E. Dowd, in lieu of Burke Davis, as Editor. During the interim, Mr. Dowd was listed as being in the Navy Reserve as a lieutenant, on leave "for the duration". Mr. Davis's name has fallen off the masthead, but will return Monday, listed again as Associate Editor, his position between the end of May, 1942 and Christmas, 1942, when he temporarily became Editor at age 29.

Mr. Davis, we think, performed his duties admirably under very strained circumstances given the times. We assume, though there appears no indication of it in the column, that the winding down of the war had permitted Mr. Dowd to return to his civilian post. We shall see if there is any noticeable change in the editorial content of the newspaper henceforth, in comparison to the previous 20 months under the sole stewardship of Mr. Davis.

Drew Pearson tells of War Production Board chair Donald Nelson giving to SKF ball-bearing company president William Batt, also a member of the WPB, an ultimatum: resign one of the two positions. SKF was the Swedish company which had run into controversy earlier in the year for continuing to supply Germany with ball-bearings after its primary manufacturing facility at Schweinfurt had been bombed out of commission by the Allies.

Mr. Batt, however, had already informed Mr. Nelson that the American affiliate in Philadelphia had no direct connection with the Swedish parent company. Despite Mr. Nelson's previous urging of Mr. Batt to resign nevertheless, to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest in dealing with the enemy, inflation, Mr. Batt had maintained his dollar-a-year job with the Board and his regular salaried position with SKF. Mr. Nelson eventually had given up the effort of persuasion, despite the fact that SKF ball-bearings continued to flow into Germany.

He next relates of the decision by Army censorship to kill any reference to the President's visit to Adak Island in Alaska during the recent tour of the Pacific, so that the Japanese would not become aware of a major Navy base there. The Navy had already agreed to the release. A White House aide assured the Army that it would be censored. The President then promptly revealed in his speech at Bremerton on Saturday that he had been to Adak.

Mr. Pearson, among his "Capital Chaff" items, discusses the irony of President Roosevelt referring in his Bremerton speech to his old friend General MacArthur when the two had suffered tense relations for several years, including the recent criticism of the Administration by General MacArthur during the winter which had surfaced in a letter the General had written to Congressman Miller of Nebraska who had wanted him to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency.

He finishes the column with the story told by the early law partner of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, relating of the woman who was the first client of their fledgling partnership. Mr. Black, having graduated law school a little earlier, felt she should be his client. But, after awhile, the woman came to the partner saying she wanted him instead. Mr. Black, it seemed, had too kind a face to be an effective lawyer. She wanted someone who looked mean.

Marquis Childs, taking a look at the controversy surrounding the Taft amendment to the Soldier Vote bill, providing a restriction on any form of government-sponsored "political argument or political propaganda of any kind", finds the law itself at fault, not the Army's interpretation of the law, as Senator Taft had sought to suggest as the problem.

Since the government paid in part for the Army post exchange, it was not surprising, with officers in violation of the law subject to heavy fines and even a jail sentence of a year, that the law was being interpreted strictly by the Army, finding that any material of any sort sold at the PX presenting a political argument fell squarely within the ambit of the law.

The law itself stood as an insult to the mentality of the soldiers fighting for their country and should be repealed.

Hal Boyle relates of a sergeant from Hargill, Texas, Stewart Granville, who was captured by a pair of Nazis after he had killed five snipers, placed in the backseat of a car, driven along a dusty road, until he found his opportunity, reached from the backseat and manhandled both men, causing the car to lurch into a ditch, whereupon he exited, walked on down the road back to his lines.

Pfc. Pershing Louie, a Chinese-American of San Francisco, had won the Silver Star by taking out a German machinegun nest with a demolition charge, as he was awaiting the advance of tanks to blow a hole through a hedgerow on Normandy. But, though grazed by shell fragments, he was not wounded sufficiently to merit a Purple Heart. He liked the way they looked, however, and sorely wanted one, but realized his wish might get the better of him.

Sgt. Pete Bonavich of San Antonio took two Nazi prisoners who surrendered. They were armed with a machine-pistol and a rifle. He also had a rifle, pointed it at them to obtain surrender of their weapons. After he got the two men to camp and turned them over to the guard, he realized that his own rifle had the while been empty of ammunition.

The Editors provide a short summary history of Paris, as the Allies were predicted to be within ten days of taking the city. At that point, says the piece, symbolically, France would be liberated.

One of the quotes of the day comes from a tech sergeant at St. Malo. He informs that a German sergeant came forth waving a white handkerchief of surrender, was quickly followed, when it became clear he would be treated gently and not scalped, by 80 other Germans. The Nazi told, however, of having to shoot his own superior officer in order to obtain permission to surrender.

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