Saturday, June 8, 1946

The Charlotte News

Saturday, June 8, 1946


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that the Hesse family jewels, valued at 1.5 million dollars, which had been taken from Kronberg Castle near Frankfurt, had been recovered. The remaining jewels, all removed from their settings, had been found in a box at the Illinois Central railway station in Chicago. An interrogation of Army Col. Jack Durant had produced the information. Col. Durant and his wife, a WAC captain, were being held for investigation of their connection to the heist. Col. Durant had been a Washington lawyer before the war. His wife had been an Arizona resort hotel executive. The other jewels had been found in the Durants' home in Wisconsin.

Besides the jewels, there were three gold table services, three Bibles, one of which had belonged to Queen Victoria and another presented by her to a German princess, silver goblets, steins, and platters, plus painted miniatures and a 1603 autograph book containing paintings and coats of arms.

Oddly enough, the couple, married May 28, were taken into custody on Monday morning at the La Salle Hotel, which had the devastating fire at 12:35 a.m. early Wednesday. They then were administered polygraph examinations which they failed.

Looks like the honeymoon may be over for the Durants. The arrest could prove a test to their young marriage. But perhaps true love will win out in this sad saga. After all, they were Kraut jewels which they stole.

A major and technical sergeant also involved in the heist were yet to be arrested.

A speculative and probably unanswerable question must remain as to whether the La Salle Hotel fire and the couple's arrest were pure coincidence. Firemen were reported to have heard three loud explosions preceding discovery of the fire, the report not being made clear whether these explosions were the result of the already ongoing fire or associated with its origin and cause. The origin of the fire was determined to be behind the walls or in the ceiling of the cocktail lounge, but there was no precise cause ever ascertained. Did the Durants, to hide other evidence, set a timed explosive device in case they were caught or in case the hiding place was discovered? They had married May 28, it turned out, for the purpose of avoiding having to testify against one another under the marital privilege if they were caught. It appears, at first glance, to make little sense that they would seek to destroy evidence at the hotel as they voluntarily led investigators to the jewels and other booty. But if they had secreted at the hotel some of the loot, some of which was never found, in the hope of fencing it locally, their purpose in going to Chicago, then it becomes consistent that they might have fixed an explosive device to it in case of their being arrested or the hiding place discovered. Or does it? Why would they not also have thusly rigged the other hiding places?

Whatever the case, the Durants were found guilty in 1947 by military court martial of grand larceny and other charges and the colonel was sentenced to fifteen years in prison and his wife, the captain, to seven years. They were both paroled in 1952 and remained married until their deaths during the 1980's. Major David Watson, who had assisted them in Germany in getting the jewels to the United States, was subsequently arrested in Germany and received three years for receiving stolen property. The captain had been in charge of Kronberg castle from June, 1945 through February 1, 1946, discovered the jewels in November, 1945, and concocted the plan to steal them, soliciting and obtaining the aid of her future husband and the major.

A seventeen-year old German girl was found dead in an American enlisted man's billet near Bad Kissingen, Germany. She had shot herself, the fifth such German girl to be found dead in soldiers' quarters during the previous month.

U.S. Government officials stated that they expected the final armistice with Italy to be signed the following week. The terms had been worked out at the four-power Paris foreign ministers conference.

The President was preparing a message to be delivered to a joint session of Congress providing his views on his decision to veto or not the Case labor restriction bill. The President had until Wednesday at midnight to make up his mind. There was still no indication as to what his decision would be.

OPA announced its intent to effect a penny increase in the price of a loaf of bread. Production of bread had dropped since the Government ordered a 25 percent reduction in the amount of flour which mills could produce.

Chairman Robert Wagner and three members of the 19-member Senate Banking Committee stated that the bill which was being sent out regarding extension of the life of OPA was the death warrant for price and wage stabilization.

The anthracite coal miners of Pennsylvania would return to work on Monday after signing a contract with an 18.5 cents per hour increase in wages and a 2.7 million dollar health and welfare fund, to be financed by a nickel per ton royalty on the coal mined, the terms of the bituminous settlement, except that the fund was larger for the anthracite miners and would be administered, as the bituminous fund, by a three-person board, one of whom would be named by John L. Lewis. The settlement was estimated to impact the retail price of coal by a dollar per ton.

In London, the British held a celebration in honor of the contributions to the war by the nations of the British Empire. All of the Allies were represented except Russia, Poland, and Yugoslavia.

In Buenos Aires, former President Herbert Hoover asked President Juan Peron for a commitment by Argentina to duplicate its previous 150,000 ton contribution of wheat to UNRRA.

Government conciliators had proposed to the maritime unions and shipping companies that they accept a continuation of the 56-hour work week rather than the union proposed 44-hour week, and then receive paid time off while in port. Negotiations were ongoing as to the amount of time off they would receive under the plan.

Latin American labor had indicated it would not handle U.S. ships after the June 15 deadline if the strike went into effect.

In New York, Frank Case, the owner of the Algonquin Hotel and founder of the "round table", had died. The round table, an informal social group, included journalists, humorists, and literati: Heywood Broun, Franklin Pierce Adams, George S. Kaufman, Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harold Ross, Deems Taylor, Edna Ferber, Marc Connelly, Robert Sherwood, and Gertrude Atherton.

In Louisa, Ky., Shorty, 18, married Mrs. Large, 79. None of Mrs. Large's seven children and 49 grandchildren were present at the ceremony, only gawkers.

On the editorial page, "In the Air It's Now or Never" comments on the new age of commercial air travel dawning, with former Army pilots in Georgia having formed a "shoppers' service" between Albany and Atlanta, and Resort Airlines, with headquarters in Charlotte and Pinehurst, having been formed also by former Army pilots, with a million-dollar Wall Street backing, to transport wealthy vacationers to resorts.

It urges Charlotte not to miss its chance of getting onboard the Air Age.

"The Liberals Are Shopping Around" finds PM's editor Max Lerner recommending that the Democrats try to nominate a liberal in 1948 in place of President Truman and not start a third party. Mr. Lerner suggested either Henry Wallace, Supreme Court Justices William O. Douglas or Hugo Black, Chester Bowles, Chief Justice-designate Fred Vinson, Senator Claude Pepper of Florida or Governor Ellis Arnall of Georgia.

The piece finds the list revealing of the naivete of liberal journalists as the bulk of the possibilities were from the South, safely in the Democratic column, thus not likely ever to bring forth presidential candidates. It scoffs at the notion of a President coming from Georgia, Alabama, or Florida.

It reminds that James Byrnes might have become President, that is become the vice-presidential running mate in 1944, were it not for the fact that he came from South Carolina and thus offered no electoral pull for the ticket.

"You Can't Give the Stuff Away" comments on the drying up trade of counterfeiting, a loss to the criminal world, as counterfeiters were always artists first and thieves second. One story went that a retired Mint engraver went into business for himself, printing excellent bills but in three-dollar denominations. He explained that he had tired of printing the standard denominations, felt he was in a rut.

Senator Claghorn had told of his cousin Stonewall who had gone into counterfeiting, but when he printed five dollar bills, he could not stand to include the likeness of Lincoln, and so engraved Jefferson Davis instead.

The Secret Service agent who had declared the trade drying up offered another fitting commentary on the times, it says. "You can't, it appears, make money these days even by making money."

A piece from the Charleston News & Courier, titled "Model of Respectability", comments on a South Carolina magazine with international circulation, titled "Grit and Steel", for those who raised and fought gamecocks. The magazine was observing its 47th anniversary. The cockfighters were actually a very well-behaved people, it says. Less greed, crime, and filth were attendant cockfighting than other popular sports.

Furthermore, had it been banned in earlier times, General Thomas Sumter would not have won his cockfighting title and thus given his name to Sumter, S.C.

But, perhaps, then, heretical as on King Street it might seem, the Civil War might not have been.

Drew Pearson describes the imposing figure of Senator Clyde Hoey of North Carolina when he presided over the Senate in the absence of president pro tem Kenneth McKellar of Tennessee. He apparently did not realize, however, that the contents of his reading material could be seen from the gallery whenever he presided. While the Senate deliberated on the Truman labor bill to draft or not labor, Senator Hoey sat reading a comic book.

Maybe it was an early version of My Pet Goat, or...

Mr. Pearson next tells of a proposal by Bernard Baruch that the atomic secret be turned over to an international committee of the U.N., provided no member of the committee would have veto power. He hoped thereby to get the Russians onboard and establish it as a precedent for abandoning the unilateral veto on the Security Council.

If all the rats were destroyed on farms, he imparts, there would be enough grain to feed Europe and supply domestic needs. Because of a shortage of rodenticides during the war, the rat population of the country had doubled such that there were two for every person in the country. Two lethal poisons were developed during the war to eradicate the problem, "1080" and "antu" powder. A pound of "1080" mixed with two tons of grain could kill 1.8 million ground squirrels.

While Andrei Gromyko was an errand boy for the Russians at the U.N., Edward Stettinius had occupied the same role for America. The State Department would not allow him to do anything without their prior approval. It was the reason he had resigned. He was also contemplating a run for the Senate from Virginia, to replace the recently deceased Carter Glass. But friends wondered whether he would be comfortable in that role, subject to the Byrd machine.

Finally, he tells of British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin complaining that Secretary of State Byrnes was too changeable in his positions, such that it was impossible to know what he would favor next. Mr. Bevin was now leaning closer to the Russians.

Marquis Childs remarks that the President's statement that the Government would do everything it could to keep shipping running in the event of a maritime strike, rather than merely stating that, to feed the needy abroad, he would keep the foreign shipping in operation, was a tactical error with the unions, as they could believe that they could strike indefinitely and the Government would keep things going.

The present interim period between harvests was the most critical and if shipping were halted, even temporarily, the results would be devastating to those abroad.

The maritime unions had not struck during the war and the casualty list of merchant seamen was high. They received bonuses based on sailing into war zones.

The unions were appealing to the World Federation of Trade to halt foreign shipping during the strike as a show of solidarity. It included the unions of France, Britain, and Russia. A suspicion had developed out of the U.N. Charter Conference, in which Russia had sought to make the WFTU a separate member, that the trade organization was being shaped as a tool of Soviet foreign policy.

Thus, it could potentially bring discredit to the U.S. Government abroad for it to wage a war on the maritime unions.

Bertram Benedict provides the differences between the House and Senate draft extension bills, in need of reconciliation. The emergency draft bill passed in May had extended it only until July 1.

Of the 32 Senators set to go before the electorate in 1946, 18 voted for inclusion of teenagers in the draft, ultimately passed by the Senate, but not by the House. Only nine of these Senators voted against it. Thus, apparently most considered it not a major issue with the voters. The South and Midwest split on the issue while the East and West voted heavily for the inclusion.

During the war, inductees under 19 were generally not sent abroad until December, 1944 when the Army announced the need for 18-year old replacements following at least eight months of training.

A letter writer from Nebo of Nebuchadnezzar thinks that the Democrats and Communists together had erected an insurmountable barrier for Republicans, that Communists headed the labor unions.

In December, 1944, he had two dreams: in one he saw the four democracies and Russia bring the war to a successful conclusion; ten nights later, he dreamed that Russia then trampled down the democracies "in blood and corruption and rotten flesh". But Russia would also collapse ultimately, he further predicts, of its own weight.

He had been warned of the coming of World War I by a dream which he had in April, 1914, but was too scared to report it.

He had also had other dreams which were not his imagination.

Just turn things over to him then, and not even try further. Give up and let the Rooskies have their way, and then collapse of their own weight. It's plain that the handwriting is on the wall of his dreams.

A letter writer wanted to know what had happened to Eric Brandeis, whose column had disappeared from the newspaper. He and his wife liked it.

The editors respond that the column, "Looking at These Times", had been cast overboard temporarily because of the shortage of newsprint caused by the rail strike.

Another letter wants the newspaper to show the voting records of North Carolina Congressmen.

The editors state that they were working on it.

A quote of the day comes from Winston Churchill: "An attempt is being made by the Russians in Berlin to build up a quasi-Communist Party in the zone of occupied Germany by showing special favors to groups of left-wing German leaders.... Whatever conclusion may be drawn from these facts—and facts they are—this is certainly not the liberated Europe we fought to build up."


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