Friday, April 13, 1945

The Charlotte News

Friday, April 13, 1945


Site Ed. Note: The front page and inside page this date carried, besides the obvious dominant story of the day, the news that the Ninth Army, having captured Duisburg, had substantially progressed along a hundred-mile front beyond the Elbe River to within 45 miles of Berlin, moving apace along a record 60-mile armored advance. One story the previous day indicated that the Americans might be able to push to the outskirts of Berlin within a day or two. But the "Hell on Wheels" Second Armored Division had run into stiff German resistance on the east bank of the Elbe and had been slowed in their push for the capital, the final assault now expected to begin within the ensuing two days.

The Fifth Armored Division reached the Elbe at Seehausen and the 83rd Division reached the river at Barby, 58 miles southwest of Berlin, outflanking Magdeburg, 14 miles to the northwest, where the Second Armored had crossed the previous day.

The Ninth Armored Division of the First Army had initiated the battle for Leipzig, moving to within seven miles of the city, believed still to be populated by as many as a million Germans. These forces were within 75 miles of Russian lines and 90 miles from the lines established east of Berlin.

The First Army had captured 25,148 Germans the previous day, most out of the shrinking Ruhr pocket, reduced to half its original size, with 75,000 of the original 150,000 trapped Germans having surrendered.

A tank column of the Third Army moved into Pagau, eleven miles south of Leipzig, while another column moved to within sixteen miles of Bayreuth. The Third Army also captured Erfurt and reached Jena, eighteen miles from Leipzig and 34 miles from the Czech border.

The 14th Armored Division of the Seventh Army crossed the Main River, moving to within 60 miles of the Czech border.

The Canadian First Army moved into Arnhem in Holland, facing light opposition, took Tweloo, and moved to within four miles of Zwolle, near the Zuider Zee. The Polish First Armored Division, fighting with the British Second Army, advanced to within 16 miles of Emden.

On the Eastern Front, the Russians had fully captured Vienna, following eight days of fighting along the Danube for the capital, the eighteenth enemy capital to fall into Allied hands. Vienna was the largest city to date captured by the Russians. Fighting was proceeding 45 miles to the west of Vienna, 75 miles from the Bavarian border. Other forces were continuing to advance through southern Moravia toward Bruenn, 33 miles distant, 68 miles north of Vienna.

The banner news this date, however, was, of course, concerning the death of the Commander in Chief, the news having been initially imparted to most of the country the previous evening via radio. As we provided yesterday the detail of the President's death and the highlights of his life and that of new President Harry Truman, we will leave it for the print to provide the story today. In addition to the front page and inside page, the other inside stories of the newspaper this date relating to the President's death are provided in two multi-page sections, the one presented yesterday, and this one.

We note that there are somewhat varying accounts, which have persisted through time, anent the scene of the President's being originally stricken. Dr. Howard Bruenn, not at the scene, but present at the time of death, stated to the press that there was a 15 minute interval between the President's complaint of a "terrific headache" and his lapse into unconsciousness, which, by varying account, occurred at his desk, in a leather chair, or at a table. Life, for instance, says that he was sitting at a card table. A cousin of the President, Laura Delano, who was present at the time, stated contemporaneously, however, that he was sitting in a leather chair by the fireplace when he uttered the complaint and then lost consciousness almost immediately.

The President was then carried to the bedroom by his valet, Arthur Prettyman, and a Filipino house attendant. He died, without regaining consciousness, at 3:35 p.m., about 2 hours and twenty minutes following the stroke.

Also present at the time of the seizure had been another cousin, Margaret Suckley.

The account states that Grace Tully, the President's confidential secretary, was present, but her 1949 memoir, My Boss, indicates that she only came upon the scene after the President had been taken to the bedroom, unconscious.

The sketches for the portrait being prepared at the time were being made by a Russian immigrant, Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Initial reports of the scene left out the artist as being present. Later accounts, including that of Steve Early, former press secretary, would include her presence. Ms. Shoumatoff, herself, subsequently claimed to have been in the room at the time the President lost consciousness.

Ms. Tully revealed in her memoir that Lucy Mercer, the supposed subject of an earlier love affair during the teens, substantiated nowhere beyond the imaginations of those who like to imagine such things, was also present at some point, either at the time of the stroke or shortly afterward. (FDR's last press secretary, Jonathan Daniels, an administrative assistant to the President since March, 1943, was, in 1966, the original published source of the putative Lucy Mercer relationship, though not suggesting it necessarily to have been romantic. While we have utmost respect for Mr. Daniels and his journalistic integrity, his research was based on second-hand accounts, not first-hand observations, its evidentiary value thereby limited.) Ms. Shoumatoff was a friend of Ms. Mercer and thus her presence was indicative of nothing sordid or salacious.

We further note that the front page piece mistakenly states, twice, that FDR was the 31st President; he was the 32nd President. The statement that he died in the cottage on Pine Mountain is in reference to the so-called Little White House located on Pine Mountain.

The piece also states the new President's full name as "Harry Shippe Truman". The "S" actually, according to President Truman, himself, stood alone as his middle name, left ambiguous by his parents as to whether it referred to his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shippe Truman, or maternal grandfather, Solomon Young.

Thus, not unlike Hiram Ulysses Grant, who later got stuck, by dint of transcription error, with the name Ulysses S. Grant, possessed only of a middle initial, so, too, did Mr. Truman, albeit by birth name—making the editorial of April 9 in the News, "A Pair of Buckners", all the more interesting for the coincidence.

President Truman declared Saturday to be a day of mourning in the country.

The Merchants Association in Charlotte requested, pursuant to the Mayor's proclamation, that stores remain closed all day, some merchants indicating that they would close at 4:00 p.m., the starting time of the President's private funeral in the East Room of the White House.

Across the land, many towns and cities held special memorial services. Charlotte was no exception.

Prime Minister Churchill, speaking in a barely audible and emotion-laden voice, informed the House of Commons in London of the death of his "dear and cherished" friend. He then asked that the House be adjourned in respect of the man of "immemorial renown".

Foreign Minister Anthony Eden would fly to Washington for the services the following day, British concerns, no doubt, over security at such a time in the war preventing the Prime Minister from making the journey. Mr. Churchill, also, had suffered from health issues in recent times, battling two bouts of pneumonia, one in February and March, 1943, following the Casablanca Conference, and the other, more serious episode, in December, 1943, extending into January, while in the Middle East following the Tehran and Cairo Conferences of November-December, 1943. Thus, the emotional strain of such a journey, combined with the physical strain on the heels of the long Yalta trip in January and February, also likely contributed to the decision to have Mr. Eden attend the services.

Likewise, Premier Josef Stalin paid high tribute to President Roosevelt, acknowledged him as the leader who had enabled the victory in Europe and who had delivered the hope for the future peace. He ordered that the official Soviet press, Pravda, devote its entire front page to the fallen American leader, an unprecedented act in Communist Russia.

Chiang Kai-shek referred to President Roosevelt as the "beacon light to humanity for centuries to come".

General De Gaulle termed the deceased President, "The symbolic champion of the cause of liberty."

As might be expected, the Nazis reveled at news of the death of President Roosevelt, felt it a sign of divine retribution against his "war-mongering", called him a despot and dictator, "nothing but a dictator world incendiary No. 1 war criminal".

At least if they should suffer a rupture, they know where they can go.

President Truman would speak to a joint session of Congress at 1:00 on Monday and to the armed forces by radio on Tuesday night. Senators had attended a luncheon at the Capitol with the new President this day and were informed that he would continue his predecessor's foreign policy without alteration.

After the meeting, President Truman dropped by the Senate chamber and, as he was leaving, was hailed good luck by one of the members of the press corps. The new President departed his Secret Service entourage and went to the journalist to shake his hand, saying that he wished he did not have to leave the Capitol for the White House. He asked the reporters to pray for him.

"I don't know if any of you fellows ever had a load of hay or a bull fall on him. But last night the whole weight of the moon and the stars fell on me. I feel a tremendous responsibility."

He then went to the White House and met with Secretary of State Stettinius and the Joint Chiefs.

Mrs. Roosevelt left Warm Springs by the Southern Railway special train at 10:15 a.m., Georgia time, and was scheduled to arrive in Washington Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. The trip from the Little White House took about 45 minutes to the train station, just three miles away, including a tour of the grounds of the nearby Infantile Paralysis Foundation which the President had founded in 1927.

The train initially made only about three miles per hour during daylight as it passed the throngs of grieving bystanders along the countryside of Georgia, on its way north through South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The train would pass through Charlotte at sometime after 10:00 Friday night.

On the editorial page, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt" writes of the shock to the nation at the news of the President's death, the bitter irony that he should be stricken at such a critical moment, at just the point where Allied victory in Europe was imminent.

It evoked the inevitable comparison with the assassination of President Lincoln, just five days following the surrender at Appomattox by General Lee.

"Almost alone, it seems in retrospect, he spoke for the country among other nations. He surely walked alone as no other American President ever did before him."

He was, it tells, both the most idolized of Presidents and "the most bitterly denounced".

"To the many, he offered hope. To the few—and were they fewer toward the end?—he seemed to threaten new days and new ways."

But he had spoken for everyone in the nation on the world stage during the war.

"To most of the world, we suppose, he was America."

Even now, 67 years later, the words of the simple, but eloquent, editorial, written within hours of the news of President Roosevelt's death, still ring true and true to his role in history, a rare journalistic accomplishment when the inevitable emotion of the moment is liable to color in overstatement the achievements of a personage just passed who was so beloved and respected by so many of the time.

Life, its publisher, Henry Luce, having never been a friend to Franklin Roosevelt or his politics, in its April 23 issue, presented a spread on the matter, but had on its cover only a photograph of Harry Truman. (The cover of the April 16 issue bore a photograph of General Eisenhower and, obviously, had already gone to press by April 12, Life, throughout its run, typically having been sent to subscribers a few days before the nominal date on the magazine.)

By contrast, in 1963, while obviously operating in different times under markedly different circumstances, given the manner of each President's death, Life devoted its cover and some twenty pages of the November 29, 1963 issue, plus its feature editorial, to the death and presidency of President Kennedy. We note the difference primarily because of the cover. It was an editorial decision of the time, but it may also have been colored by the politics of Mr. Luce and that of his wife, in 1945 a second term Congresswoman from Connecticut, with clear political ambitions. Mr. Luce, whose politics were conservative by the 1960's and who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, was nevertheless a friend to Joseph Kennedy and therefore always ostensibly sympathetic, if not a true political supporter of President Kennedy.

We simply note it historically, not suggesting it as slighting to President Roosevelt or at all unduly memorializing of President Kennedy, who, we believe, shared the greatness of President Roosevelt, if cut short in his time to implement all of the bold policies which he set forth in those brief three years, domestic policies nevertheless implemented by President Johnson, who, domestically, also shared the greatness of President Roosevelt, if undermined by the problems, both domestically and on the field of battle, associated with the Vietnam War.

"A Man and His Country" examines briefly the great role suddenly thrust unexpectedly onto the shoulders of Harry Truman. It was plain that there was question in the minds of the average citizen as to whether President Truman was up to the task of establishing the lasting peace.

"There have been great Presidents who, because they had not the country behind them, went on to great failures. There have been mediocre Presidents who, because the hour was theirs, went on to great accomplishments."

It urges unity in the hour of loss and question: "In that spirit, we shall not fail ourselves nor shall we fail the President. In that spirit, he will not fail his country."

"Sworn Enemy of Japan" discusses the Carthaginian peace favored by James R. Young, the Far East correspondent who spent thirteen years in Japan and was jailed there for libeling Emperor Hirohito's Army. Passing through Charlotte, Mr. Young had let it be known that he favored execution of Hirohito, destruction of all vestiges of Shintoism, the religion which saw the Emperor as an earthly representation of its God, and that military occupation of Japan be maintained for a decade, keeping the country isolated from all diplomatic influence and from missionaries during that period. Allowing State Department personnel or missionaries into the country would lead, he predicted, to a repetition of the present war.

Joseph Grew, former Ambassador to Japan prior to the war, had recommended the appointments of most of the Japanese section in the State Department, and they favored leaving Hirohito in place to act as liaison with the ordinary Japanese people—the policy, of course, adopted after the war.

Missionaries, he contended, were do-gooders without facts, who believed, without providing names, that there were liberal democrats within Japan who could be trusted with power after the war.

Mr. Young believed that the Filipinos, the Chinese, and the Koreans would lose respect for the Americans' ability to restore order in the Far East should the State Department policy be implemented and Hirohito left in power.

He favored no resumption of private trade, including oil, between the United States and Japan, that which could imbue sympathy born of economic self-interest of businessmen dealing with Japan. Any necessities of life would come through the military.

The piece indicates its respect for Mr. Young and his passion, but believes him to be fighting a losing battle, and likely the result of his obvious subjective anger.

The excerpt from the Congressional Record has Senator Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia seeking unanimous consent to introduce a bill to establish a research board for national security, to foster continued research and development of military inventions and new methods of warfare.

He advocates having a better system maintained during peacetime than prior to the war, to insure continued progress in such weaponry and methods, to stay ahead of other nations bent on aggression.

The National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development had existed since 1940 and 1941, respectively, and were primarily responsible for the oversight of the development of the atomic bomb. They were dissolved in 1947 when the National Security Act was passed creating the CIA and NSA, as well as combining, as often recommended during the war, the Navy and Army under one branch of Government, dubbed the National Military Establishment, becoming in 1949 the Department of Defense, as well as making the Air Force a separate branch of the armed services rather than being subsumed, as previously, under both the Army and Navy.

Drew Pearson, writing prior to the President's death, relates of the closed hearings before the special food committee of the Congress regarding the meat shortage and other food distribution and supply issues in the country.

He then tells of the inexplicable suicide of Leon Fraser, head of the First National Bank of New York, who had left a note, indicating his depression and otherwise good fortune, then shot himself. But in Washington, facts had been revealed that Mr. Fraser had, as head of the Bank of International Settlements, significant business dealings with the Germans as they were building up military power during the thirties. He had been present in 1934 at a meeting in Berlin when the plan for remuneration of war debts from World War I was junked. He had received gifts from the Nazis and conferred with them at least twice more. Japan and Italy had also provided him with gifts. None of the other 26 nations represented on the board of the bank had provided Mr. Fraser gifts. He also maintained communication with the Nazi Finance Minister, Hjalmer Schact, through 1941. He had been an opponent of the Bretton Woods agreement to establish the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Pearson remarks that it was not known that any of that information, or the fact that he was due soon to testify before Congress on some of these issues in relation to the Bretton Woods proposal, related to his suicide. But the columnist thought it appropriate to bring forth the facts so that other heads of financial institutions, many of whom had been fooled prior to the war by Hitler, would not make a similar mistake by favoring a soft peace with Germany or be so inveigled by other totalitarian regimes in the future.

Samuel Grafton, also writing before the President's death, comments on the finding by the Third Army of the German salt mine in which the Nazis had stored art treasures and gold bullion. The isolationists were contending that the booty ought be kept, despite the plain suffering by the many millions of Europe.

Along the same lines, Senators Vandenberg of Michigan and Taft of Ohio were demanding that the Administration total up the amount of aid it intended to provide post-war to rebuild the countries destroyed by the war. Mr. Grafton gleans that they wanted one large number with which to grapple so that they might make it a symbol of world welfare intended to be handed out to foreign countries. It would become the political football, he predicts, for the isolationists to pass around, without regard to the underlying needs of those countries dependent upon that aid to rebuild.

The real issue, he urges, was not money, but seeking a better world to avoid costly future warfare.

Marquis Childs, likewise writing before news of the President's death, discusses the continued lack of realization that the Allies would have to deal with 60 or 70 million Germans during occupation.

Germany was to be divided, based on the agreements at Yalta, into four zones of occupation, with Great Britain, the U.S., Russia, and France each controlling a sector. There was to be a central authority, but it was unclear as to whether it would have veto power over the military commands of the individual sectors.

Further complicating matters were the variations in plans of the United States, between that worked out by Assistant Secretary of State Will Clayton, calling for allowance of some limited German industry that the country might provide for its own needs, and that more strict plan of de-industrialization proposed by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, approved by both the State Department and the Army, as well the President.

In further confusion of how the four zones would work, the Eastern section, to be occupied by Russia, contained the bulk of the food production while the West contained most of the industry. The question thus arose as to how the West would be fed. Russians had been suffering from hunger for years and it was unlikely they would send the "surplus" food of the Eastern sector to the West.

The Western answer thus far, issued in anger over the war, had been to let them starve. Mr. Childs asks how Americans could sit by and allow millions to starve. What then would happen to the American Military Government in the American Zone. Would it pack up and leave?

These were questions which, indeed, would become critical in 1948, leading to the need for the Berlin Airlift to take food and necessary supplies into West Berlin, after the Russians began in June of that year controlling all rail, water, and autobahn traffic into the Western sector of the city, Berlin having been entirely within East Germany. In the process, the Russians cut off food to West Berlin, leaving it with a limited allotment of both food and coal, resulting in a crisis, resolved by the Airlift, against which the Russians made only slight attempts at interdiction for fear of triggering nuclear war.

Poll results are presented regarding the opinions of Congressmen on a variety of issues.

The Congressmen were split, 48.2% to 47% as to whether old-age benefits should start at 60 rather than 65.

The minimum wage was favored by only 47% of the lawmakers, while 43.4% opposed it.

Fully 77.1% favored controls on unions, similar to controls on business, that which would become the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.

A surprising 50.6% stated that the Roosevelt Administration disfavored private enterprise. Only 39.8% stated the belief that the Administration favored private business.

An overwhelming 81.5% disfavored socialized medicine.

As to constitutional amendments, 61.5% supported the ability to ratify treaties by a majority of the House and Senate rather than the requirement of a two-thirds supermajority only by the Senate. Slightly more than a third, 34.9%, opposed such an amendment.

Fully 49.4% favored abolition of the electoral college by amendment.

And, 68.3% favored a two-term limit for the presidency, which would be passed in 1947 and ratified in 1951.

As we made reference yesterday, the beginning of the 23-hour train ride on Friday to take the President's body to Washington, 700 miles from Warm Springs, departing at 10:15 a.m.—via Atlanta, Gainesville, Clemson, Greenville, Charlotte, Salisbury, and Monroe, Va.—and then, on Saturday night, to its final burying place Sunday morning in Hyde Park, another 400 miles, was preceded by a cortege from the Little White House, circling by the Infantile Paralysis Foundation, to enable the patients and staff at the facility to bid their last farewells. The President had been scheduled on this date to meet with them.

Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson, who had played piano and accordion for the President on many occasions during the previous twelve years in Warm Springs, was present at the Foundation and played on his Hohner L'Organola a memorable accordion solo of the spiritual, "Going Home".

We shall never forget the evening in Atlanta, in mid-July, 1968, when we had occasion to meet Mr. Jackson.

There are many things which transpire in this life which we do not, cannot, fully comprehend or understand, on this side of the river. But that is what lends the poetry to life, the mystery, the unfathomable mystery of life's beginning, how it came to be, its end, where then it goes, and why.

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