Monday, October 15, 1945

The Charlotte News

Monday, October 15, 1945


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Pierre Laval had been executed in Paris at Fresnes Prison by firing squad pursuant to his conviction the previous week for treason. Four hours prior to the execution, he had sought to poison himself but the poison had lost its virulence.

The first volley of twelve riflemen failed to kill the former Premier who had sold out France to the Nazis. He fell only to his knees. And so a coup de grace was administered with a revolver fired at close range through his ear at 12:32 p.m.

The suicide attempt had delayed the execution from its originally scheduled time of 9:00 a.m. at Fort Chatillon.

He had eschewed a blindfold and his last words were: "It is not the soldiers' fault. They know not what they do. Vive la France." His request to administer the order to fire had been denied.

He was buried without ceremony immediately afterward at Thiais Cemetery, next to a grave marked only for an unknown collaborator.

In Saigon, Annamites, that is Vietnamese, attempted to overtake the city by crossing the Saigon River but were repulsed by British troops. The British had seized the Saigon Headquarters of the Viet Minh Party, part of the Nationalist Front—the Viet Minh having been created in 1941 and led by Ho Chi Minh. It would be heard from again—and regardless of whether Charlie Justice would run down a first and ten.

Don't worry if you do not understand our meaning on that one. Ask any U.N.C. alumnus from circa 1970-75.

In Java, where the Mohammaden Nationalists had declared an holy war on the Dutch "infidels", a truce was offered by Dr. Hubertus Van Mook, Lieutenant Governor of the Dutch East Indies to Seokarno, the self-styled president of the "Indonesian Republic", who ordered seizure of all private property throughout Java. The Dutch had labeled Seokarno, whose name would become occasionally prominent in the news through the 1960's, a Japanese puppet. Bloody skirmishes had been reported in some areas of Java.

Seokarno, despite his questionable status, would become the first President of Indonesia in 1945 and remain so until 1967, leading the country in its fight for independence from the Dutch.

Japan completed its military demobilization of seven million soldiers on schedule this date, 62 days after V-J Day. The Imperial General Staff was formally dissolved the previous day.

Prince Konoye announced that Emperor Hirohito was in support of the proposed changes to the Japanese Constitution, expanding the franchise to include women and those between 20 and 24, plus surrendering power of the Imperial household to the Diet.

In Lueneberg, Germany, a war crimes trial witness, a female guard at Belsen, elicited laughter from the spectators, incurring the immediate ire of the court, when she testified that the female prisoners of the camp had flailed a camp spy who falsely reported that three of the prisoners still had secret possession of their jewelry.

In Buenos Aires, the Civilian General Prosecutor, Juan Alvarez, was given free hand by President Farrell to name a new Cabinet. Farrell had already resigned along with Vice-President Juan Peron and the old Cabinet, under pressure from the Army and Navy which now wielded sole authority in the country. War Minister General Eduardo Avalos announced the release of the last of some 2,000 political prisoners. Censorship of the press was also lifted. A Federal judge was reinstated who had been dismissed on September 29 for issuing writs of habeas corpus to political prisoners. The national universities were reopened and dismissed professors who had supported the general strike by the students were reinstated.

Longshoremen returned to work in force, cutting the nation's idle workers to 400,000. The strike of 200,000 coal miners, however, remained unresolved.

In Burbank, the strike of movie workers at Warner Brothers, regarding the rival AFL union representation of 77 set decorators, continued, as the Screen Actors Guild, previously neutral in the strike, instructed its members that they were not obligated to cross picket lines to go to work. At the time, the Guild's president was future California Senator George Murphy.

General Jonathan Wainwright continues his series of articles with the seventh installment, this one concerning the December 24, 1941 order of General MacArthur for him to withdraw his force of 28,000 men an average of 150 miles to Bataan Peninsula from Northern Luzon, following the landing of the Japanese at Lingayen Gulf and the beginning of land fighting on December 21, the overwhelming enemy strength allowing penetration rapidly south.

As General Wainwright proceeded south toward Binalonan that day, choosing an old and rarely used road, he saw to his left a platoon of four or five enemy tanks proceeding along the main road, realized that he would have been captured had it not been for this fateful choice.

When he reached Binalonan, he could not find the object of his journey, the 71st Division troops or their commanding officer. He did, however, encounter 450 men of the 26th Cavalry, protecting the retreat of the 71st Division to Agno, fifteen miles to the south. The 26th held the position until 3:30 that afternoon against great odds.

The Japanese had blown part of a vital bridge across the Agno River, on the route of retreat prior to the Eleventh Division crossing it, as was scheduled for the night of the 24th. The engineers, however, were busy building a temporary bridge and rigging charges on the remainder of the bridge to blow it after the troops had crossed.

That night, as General Wainwright reached Alcala, he sent a message to the RCA wireless operator in Manila, who was closing down after the city had been declared open, managing to get through his last message to his wife for the next 43 months. He went to bed without dinner. On Christmas morning, a tank officer supplied a can of beans to be split between himself and fellow officers at headquarters. They got nothing else to eat that day.

Withdrawal to Bataan was accomplished in five phases, to a line at Urdaneta, San Carlos, and Aguilar, to a line behind Agno, to a line between San Jose and Santa Ignacio and Gerona, to a line from Carbantuan through Zaragosa, La Paz, and Tarlac, and finally to a line leading down from Lingayen Gulf from Bamban.

In Camden, N.J., the owner of a manufacturing company, which had been ransacked during the weekend, found notes at the front and back doors which read, "You shouldn't leave the doors open."

Dr. Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, told a Senate committee that he was aware of no defense per se to the atomic bomb, as contended a couple of weeks earlier by the Crosby Research Foundation and Larry Crosby, brother of Bing, and a report issued by the House Naval Committee consistent with that latter statement, that the technology existed to detonate atomic bombs from a distance without knowing their locus, causing some degree of havoc.

Dr. Bush stated that the only means of defense was to prevent aircraft or rockets from entering the airspace over a given city. The Germans, he further informed, had been working on anti-aircraft nets, based on the proximity fuse, which might have proved effective against Allied bombing raids had they a few more months to develop the technology.

He added, "I don't think that a future major war would necessarily end civilization, but it would certainly set it back so far that it wouldn't be fun."

As this date marks the 50th anniversary of the unofficial start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which would begin the following day, October 16, 1962, we shall, each day during the fortnight of the anniversary period, refer the reader to our notes on the subject compiled five years ago, in conjunction with the period October 14 and 15 through October 28, 1937.

We cannot add appreciably to that which was set forth five years ago. The 1962 Crisis was a time we recall all too well, a time when civilization hung in the balance by a thread. The most vivid memory we have is that of all the students in class being required to fill out identification tags to tape to the bottom of our chairs in case of the necessity of either evacuation, or, as most of us assumed, our deaths from nuclear fallout—and, we were at the time within easy range, in a city which was a marked high-priority target.

Steady thinking at the top, especially that of the President, saved the day. For that alone, John F. Kennedy has to rate as one of the great Presidents in the history of the Republic. An incautious move at the time, taking the advice of the Joint Chiefs to invade Cuba precipitously before exhausting all other avenues, blockade and diplomacy, both at the U.N. and directly, would have led undoubtedly, with missiles eventually operational and capable of being launched at the United States from Cuba during the Crisis, to nuclear exchange.

We recommend viewing two fine movies on the subject, "The Missiles of October", from 1974, and "Thirteen Days", from 2000, and one documentary, "The Fog of War" by Errol Morris from 2003, based on the recollections by the late Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense for both President Kennedy and President Johnson, through early 1968.

On the editorial page, "Profit and Loss" discusses the shortage of clothing despite the Army having cancelled most of its war contracts with the textile industry. The Government had charged hoarding of materials to wait for the lifting of price controls, but the cotton industry denied the charge and said that it could not keep pace with wage increases during the war, despite 340 million dollars in profits in 1944, compared to 38 million in 1939.

The figures did not add up for the cotton industry. The piece recommends that the Government relax price controls after sorting out the figures to determine what the reason was for the shortage. It might be that the losses of which the industry complained were only relative to the boom times of the war.

"Intolerance" reports of the newspaper PM having done an expose on a guard at the Brooklyn plant of the New York Daily News, one who worked for the Nationalist Party of Robert Rice Reynolds and who had used the phone in the plant to discuss nationalism. After the Daily News refused to fire the guard, PM published the substance of the phone calls.

The editorial hated to have to side with the usually isolationist Daily News, and an associate of Robert Rice Reynolds to boot, but had no choice given the stance of PM, trying to hold a newspaper accountable for the actions of a minor, non-editorial employee.

"Wrong Guesses" finds the defense of Pierre Laval by his wife to have been plaintively tendered and understandable, but, in the end, not supplying of any excuse for the traitorous acts of this man who had calculated war on the cold basis of armaments and not human vitality for freedom, had thus determined by 1938 that the war would be unwinnable against Germany.

M. Laval, even as he faced the firing squad at 12:30, could not accept that he had been guilty of anything more serious than poor judgment. His world, a world seemingly taking shape again in the post-war period, was one where firepower and strength, not principle, counted for everything.

It should not go unnoticed that M. Laval blamed the supposed sell-out by the Allies at Munich for his decision to sell out France to Germany, based on a hopeless fight, though admitting in the end that General De Gaulle had been right to carry on the fight for France from England.

Is this execution related, symbolically or literally, in the minds of men searching for rationalization for untoward acts, to the death of President Kennedy at precisely the same hour on November 22, 1963?

The umbrella, opened at just the time the President was shot, was, according to the man who held it, as he told the House Select Committee in 1978, a symbol for Munich and the appeasement associated with Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, being compared to the supposed appeasement by President Kennedy of the Russians on Cuba at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the agreement not to invade in exchange for removal of the missiles, and, presumably in the mix, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, banning all atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

Such a symbol would not be so peculiar, we suppose, if it had been standard at the time along presidential motorcade routes. But, so far as we know, there has never been another instance uncovered of any such symbol along any of the many motorcade routes President Kennedy traveled. And suddenly to reach back in time 25 years at just that moment stands as being more peculiar than one can accept as mere coincidence, especially when juxtaposed to all the other supposed coincidences of Dealey Plaza and Dallas in general at that time.

Was it coincidence that Richard Nixon was in Dallas through that morning to address a gathering at the Pepsi Cola Company? That, too, in itself, would not appear sinister were it not for the facts that Dallas had already earned the reputation as the city which loved to hate, that in late October, Adlai Stevenson had been spat upon and jeered by a couple of students from SMU, an incident which made nationwide news, that Dallas was a hotbed of John Birch Society and other rightwing group activity, prompting even the President that morning of the 22nd to remark privately upon arrival, "We're in nut country now."

Added to this volatile climate was a divided country, many of whom, especially virulent in the South, passionately hated John F. Kennedy and everything for which he stood, believed with an equal fervor that the election in 1960 had been stolen in Chicago and in Texas, neglecting the while the equally questionable polling problems in Southern California in the close race for that state's otherwise decisive electoral votes, which prompted William Rogers to advise Mr. Nixon not to contest the close outcome. For taking away from the Kennedy electoral total of 303 the total of 51 electoral votes from Texas and Illnois, where the popular margins were, respectively, 2 percent and .19 percent, and awarding to Kennedy the 32 electoral votes which went to Nixon in California, with a popular margin of .55 percent, would still have resulted in a Kennedy electoral victory at 284 votes, 270 needed to elect.

Why would Mr. Nixon, a private citizen at the time, not intending to run for President in 1964, a man always sensitive to current political news, not have been sensitive to these notions, with "Wanted for Treason" posters of the President appearing in Dallas, and canceled his speaking engagement when he saw that it overlapped the President's trip to Texas November 21-22?

Why was it that, of all people in the world, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union, under the watchful eye of the FBI, came to be employed at the Texas School Book Depository on October 16, recommended to the job by Ruth Hyde Paine, at just the same time that the trip to Texas was finalized in Washington? determined as to precise dates to coincide with the dinner held for Congressman Albert Thomas in Houston on the night of the 21st.

It was not that this collision of circumstances, in seriatim, was, at each point of occurrence, necessarily "sinister", or that everyone involved in each circumstance was somehow involved in a conspiracy, for others read and perceive of those facts from the outside and are able then to use those facts to their own advantage in any plot to commit an untoward act, whether by an individual or by a group. But rather the significance is that each such instance, and there are many more, is an undeniable point of occurrence, not speculative as to its having occurred, which, when combined, form an arc, an overall guiding pattern of the assassination, whether by lone nut or conspiracy of a few: hidden in plain view, as the Inappropriate Alarm Clock on the mantle shelf, as the Purloined Letter, the Gold Bug, in stealth.

Just another Dirty Trick, with, as with the Canuck Letter in 1972, a little Wit attached, a Comedy of Errors.

"Healthy Soldiers" comments on the heartening statistics which had been included in General Marshall's biennial report, that the deaths from non-battle related illness was only .3 percent. It pointed to the great advances which had been made in medical treatment.

It also suggested that civilian treatment had a long way to go, that there was need for medical plans to afford care on a regular basis. But every time it had been proposed, the medical profession had yelled "socialism".

The excerpt from the Congressional Record has Senator Arthur Stewart of Tennessee defending Senator Kenneth McKellar, also of Tennessee, against a charge made by Marquis Childs in his column several weeks earlier that Senator McKellar was an enemy of TVA. Senator Stewart contended that Senator McKellar was a friend of TVA.

Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky, the Majority Leader, stated that he had not seen the piece by Mr. Childs but assumed that it referred to Senator McKellar's proposal that TVA turn in all its money to the Treasury and that Congress should then control the purse strings. Senator Stewart then confirms his belief that Mr. Childs was referring to this proposal.

Senator Barkley stated his opposition to the proposal but that, nevertheless, it did not impact Senator McKellar's dedication to TVA. It included his help in obtaining authorization for the last dam in the project, just dedicated by President Truman, at Gilbertsville, Ky.

Drew Pearson reports of the tug of war developing between Government agencies in Washington as to which would administer the Pacific island bases. The Navy had first moved in during August, to establish permanent naval bases to avoid the prospect of civilian governments under the Department of Interior, as had been the case in the Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The Navy drafted a memo which it sent to the President with recommendations naming the desired bases. The President approved it within a day. The Navy was surprised at the celerity of the decision, without consultation with the War Department, State, or Interior.

A few days afterward, without knowing of this plan, Acting Secretary of Interior, future Supreme Court Justice, Abe Fortas submitted to the Navy a plan from Interior regarding the Pacific islands, proposing a joint committee with representatives from both the Navy and Interior to study the matter. The Navy did not tell Mr. Fortas of the President's approval of their own plan.

Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy then learned of the Navy plan as did the Army air forces, who were especially upset as they had envisioned the islands as B-29 bases. Mr. McCloy sent a memo to the White House objecting to the Navy plan, stating that the bases should be jointly determined by the Army and Navy. President Truman then approved this plan, also within a day.

Then, Mr. McCloy began circulating a memo to try obtain authority for the Army, Navy, and State to work out the problem. The Navy got wind and tried to work out an arrangement only between the Army and Navy.

Navy Secretary James Forrestal then inquired of the President whether the Navy plan was only an interim policy or permanent. He then received an approval that the Navy plan was interim, pending the outcome of the findings by the State, War, and Navy Departments.

In London at the Foreign Ministers Conference, British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin had told Secretary of State Byrnes of his concern regarding the Navy controlling the bases in the Pacific, that it might be perceived by Russia as a threat and would give the Russians a basis for trying to obtain islands in the Atlantic. The Russians had already asked for bases at Spitzbergen, Bear Island, and Iceland, ostensibly for weather observation. But these bases could become rocket launching sites for hitting New York and London.

Sleep tight.

Marquis Childs reports that the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration fund, which began with a contribution by the United States of 800 million dollars, had now but 20 million of that amount remaining. Most of the other participants had paid their full shares. The United States still owed 550 million to the fund. Unless Congress acted by the end of the month, UNRRA would be critically short on funding for the winter months in Europe.

Congress wanted assurance that the aid was not going to being used for political purposes and that the countries were not merely waiting for the United States to provide a handout, that aid would be distributed only in accordance with need.

Representative Christian Herter—who, as Governor of Massachusetts, eventually successor to the deceased John Foster Dulles in 1959 as Secretary of State, would be considered a potential replacement running mate in 1956 for President Eisenhower, the thought of the resulting bumper sticker probably nixing the notion—had toured Europe recently with an eye toward assessing UNRRA. He came back impressed that it was the only organization capable of performing the job of relief, that the Red Cross could not do it. He also stressed America had to participate for it to succeed. He proposed, in addition, a need assessment, a time limitation on use of the funds to encourage nations toward self-sufficiency, that journalists in the countries receiving supplies could not be censored, and that all barter agreements be made public.

There were unverified reports, for instance, from Czechoslovakia that Russian troops were living off the UNRRA supplies and sending some of it back to Russia. Import-export records could substantiate such reports or not.

He suggested that if the appropriations bill did not pass to fund the remaining balance owed by the U.S. to UNRRA, then the Democrats would likely receive properly the blame for European want come winter.

A letter writer who grew up in a cotton mill village and worked in a cotton mill tells of the mills in his community "bulging with cloth and yarn". The mills were not selling any yarn or cloth because they were waiting for price ceilings to be removed.

Cotton mill workers, earning $22 per week, found a cotton suit for their four-year old to cost $4, compared to .98 before the war in 1940. (Well, sure, the kid hadn't been born yet. Do you think maybe that there was something wrong with his bean?)

Workers were receiving, at 55 cents per hour, 15 cents more than in 1940, and cotton prices were up three to four cents per pound. But that did not explain the $3.02 increase in price.

The writer was happy that former Associate Editor Burke Davis was now a special assignments writer for the newspaper.

The editors add that, like others, they were caught in the shirt shortage and so invited responses to this inside look at reasons why clothes were hard to find.

Dorothy Thompson finds General Marshall's biennial report one of the most important documents of World War II. She urges that war had, until recent times, been regarded as a passing phase in a country's existence, its victory or defeat in war not being usually determinative of the country's fate. Now, things were different.

"It is, of course, possible that another war would record the monomaniacal story of Moby Dick and the White Whale in which the victor was destroyed with the death throes of the vanquished."

She knew not how extraordinarily accurate she nearly became—though had it been so, no one of posterity would have been left to record the augury in shame.

She suggests that both the Army-Navy report on Pearl Harbor and General Marshall's report had implicitly stated the dilemma of democracy in the modern world, that first-strike capability was necessary for survival.

General Marshall contended that the only type of defense against the new warfare was "the ability to attack".

Ms. Thompson imputes to the General's statement that first-strike capability had to be without warning because of the reality that a nation's offensive weaponry could be knocked out within a matter of moments, a technology, if not yet developed, soon to be so.

The United States, despite the largest military and industrial complex on earth, would still have inadequate defense if it remained a democracy, for it would still not be able to attack without warning.

General Marshall did not recommend depending on the United Nations in its present form, that it would require the most revolutionary reversal of the human condition man has ever known for the world to find peace on a permanent basis.

Ms. Thompson adds that if such a revolution could not take place, then Shakespeare's words would come true from The Tempest: "...[T]he great globe, yea, all which it inherits, shall dissolve, and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind,"—never mind that Shakespeare scholars often interpret this prophecy to be a pun on the Globe Theater.

Presently, the world was divided into two power blocs, the United States and the Soviet Union. It would not matter about Russian security zones if America launched a first-strike nuclear attack; nor would it matter about American security if the reverse were to occur. Assessing blame, she opines, was useless.

Lack of imagination in the face of mutual fear thus far had produced the impasse. She advocated control of the atomic technology as a solution. The United States should offer an alliance with the Soviet Union and all other nations on earth, the guiding tenet of which would be the control of all nuclear technology based on mutual restriction of its use. An international commission, comprised mainly of international scientists and technicians, set up for the purpose would then report to the U.N. Security Council. The commission's mission would be to inspect and monitor all factories in the U.S., the Soviet Union, and all other nations, to insure no production of nuclear weapons anywhere on the face of the earth.

But what about the guy with the breadbox and the bicycle shop down in Colombia, maybe?

Guess, we'd have to strike first and ask questions later.

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