The Charlotte News

Friday, December 25, 1953


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in the Chorwon Valley of Korea, members of Love Company shivered by their guns this date, cold, but not so unpleasant as they had been a year earlier when Christmas presents might wind up riddled with bullets. The piece recounts an interview with an 18-year old American soldier, a private first-class, who watched White Horse Mountain, scene of the terrible battle 15 months earlier. The mountain was on the allied side of the truce line and two and a half miles away, across the demilitarized zone, was the Communist army, also keeping watch. General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, said that the holiday schedule would prevail this date, but the men of Love Company, who were closer to the Communist troops than any other outfit in the sector, had to keep watching, as their mission was to provide the first warning of any possible attack and to fight a delaying action in that event. Love Company had a quonset-hut mess, which was a luxury not possible prior to the Armistice. They had a five-foot decorated Christmas tree which had been found and requisitioned from a rear area. The previous Christmas, the Communists had played Christmas carols for the allied soldiers through loudspeakers, and decorated trees in no-man's-land, but the lines were too far apart for that activity in 1953. They received a Christmas dinner as fancy as any they might obtain at home, but it was still a lonely place to spend Christmas. One corporal from Mt. Olive, N.C., said that he had received some fruitcake from home, plus some nuts and smoked deer, and that the correspondent would be welcome to drop over. (That's fine, unless your relative or friend who smoked that deer did so up around the North Pole, and maybe thereby handicapped Santa Claus this year.) Two trucks carried Catholics to midnight Mass at regimental headquarters on Christmas Eve, and the battalion chaplain, a Lutheran, was due at Love Company later during the afternoon to conduct Protestant services.

In Auckland, New Zealand, Prime Minister Sidney Holland estimated this date that 166 persons had been killed in the Christmas Eve wreck of a speeding train which had plunged into a flooded mountain gorge 250 miles south of Auckland, becoming the worst rail disaster in New Zealand's history. Rescue workers had recovered 28 bodies by the afternoon, with 164 of the 267 passengers still missing and 36 injured passengers taken to hospitals. A swollen river had swept away huge piers supporting a 100-foot railway bridge just before the train had approached the gorge, resulting in the locomotive and six of the train's nine cars plunging into the gorge. The final death toll would be 151, placing it as the fourth worst rail tragedy to that point in world history, with a Polish rail accident in October, 1949, having taken 200 lives, a Formosan rail accident in May, 1948, having claimed 173 lives, and a Paris train wreck on Christmas Eve, 1933, having caused the deaths of 160. A list is provided of the other worst ten rail accidents, including the deaths of 101 persons in Nashville, Tenn., on July 9, 1918. Queen Elizabeth, presently in Auckland on her Commonwealth world tour, had sent a message of sympathy to the families of the victims. Many of those aboard had been en route to Auckland in the hope of getting a glimpse of the Queen.

The Queen vowed this date, in her annual Christmas Day broadcast, from Auckland, to give her heart and soul in furtherance of the ideal of the British Commonwealth as "an equal partnership of nations and races". She paid tribute to the British founders of the Empire, declaring that the Commonwealth idea was "an entirely new conception", built on "the highest qualities of the spirit of man, friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace." She referred to hopes expressed by many Britons that her reign might mark another age as golden as that enjoyed under Elizabeth I.

Let us hope that it will not be that bad, as that one led to the American Revolution some 180 years down the pike, Queenie.

In Vienna, Austria, a report issued that Prague radio announced this date that many persons had been killed or injured the previous day in a railway disaster in Communist Czechoslovakia, not mentioning casualty figures, but indications were that it was a major disaster, occurring near Sakvice in Moravia, shortly after midnight.

The President flew to Augusta, Ga., this date for Christmas dinner with his family, providing a message of hope for peace in a divided world in his four-minute broadcast prayer from the White House the previous evening. He was accompanied by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and her mother, Mrs. John Dowd. They would stay at their new cottage on the Augusta National Golf Course for a week or more, with the President working on the State of the Union Message, to be delivered to Congress on January 7. The President hoped also to get in some golf during the stay.

In New York, the death of the Air Force sergeant, a former athlete at Elon College in North Carolina, whose body had been discovered by police in a shallow grave after being directed to the location by a note received by authorities at the Air Force base from which the decedent was on leave at the time of his disappearance, had taken a new twist when it was discovered the previous night that a cousin of the decedent had died the same day on which the note had been received, suffering a heart attack while driving a rented car along the New Jersey Turnpike while his own car remained parked in front of his home.

In Massillon, O., a paroled convict had shot to death the previous day his wife, her brother, and her father, for trying to send him back to prison, and then killed himself. He had served 13 years in the West Virginia State Penitentiary for kicking a man to death in 1936.

In St. Louis, a 50-year old prisoner, insisting that he could do a better job than a court-appointed attorney, pleaded his own defense the previous day and ended his final argument by wishing the jurors a Merry Christmas, only to have them return a guilty verdict, whereupon the court sentenced him to two years in prison, the maximum for obtaining narcotics fraudulently.

In Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, pilgrims celebrated Christmas Day in song and prayer. In Korea, the soldiers keeping watch joined in special religious rites and entertainment, with Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York spending his third Christmas along the front lines, now quieted since the prior July after three years of warfare. In Washington, the big tree on the White House lawn displayed red and blue lights. At the Vatican, special masses celebrated the Nativity Day, and Pope Pius XII, in his 15th annual message, urged European unity as a way of preserving peace on earth. Thousands of needy Italians were scheduled to receive 500 tons of food donated primarily by U.S. Catholics. Peiping Radio suspended its English-language propaganda broadcasts for the day, presumably because of Christmas. In Istanbul, Patriarch Athenagoras of the Greek Orthodox Church urged peace among all nations and peoples. In England, Prime Minister Churchill received an embroidered cushion cover made from old-fashioned silk cigar bands, from a female retired civil servant who said that she had meant to send it to him half a dozen times but had been too shy.

In Alden, Minn., people of the town who had known an Army private who was refusing repatriation welcomed home the soldier's mother after she had traveled to Japan to try in vain to talk with her son in Korea and convince him to return home. U.N. officials had stopped her from traveling to Korea. He had joined the Army in July, 1950, less than a month after the start of the Korean War, telling his mother that if he earned the Medal of Honor, he would not have done enough for his country. But ten days earlier, he had written his mother while she was still in Tokyo that it was impossible for him to live in the United States because he wanted to live as he wished. No one in the community understood what had occurred to bring about the change of his mind during the interim. The editor of the local newspaper ventured that he had been too young when entering the Army and had been easily swayed. A former soldier said that he believed it was fear which caused the change, a sentiment shared by the soldier's grandmother. The mother said that her son and fellow prisoners had been kept underground from the previous May to October and that they had been dying of malnutrition. His first letter home after being captured, dated Christmas Eve, 1951, had remarked on prison camp food, stating that most of the men appreciated it more than they ever had turkey. Other letters had said that the Chinese treated them very well and that they had excellent doctors, finally remarking the previous August, following the Armistice, that his outlook on life had changed completely.

Hopes for a white Christmas faded this date as skies cleared over nearly the entire nation, and there was no severe cold weather. There was snow on the ground, however, in many sections of the Midwest, New England and the Rockies. Temperatures ranged from 10 below zero in Yellowstone National Park and in Colorado in the central Rockies, to 73 degrees at Key West.

On the editorial page, "Peace, Good Will Toward Men" quotes the story of Christmas from the second chapter of Luke in the Bible.

"The Publisher's Christmas Message" provides the annual message by News publisher Thomas L. Robinson, regarding the values cherished in the world.

"To You Who Gave…" thanks those who contributed to the News-sponsored Empty Stocking Fund, which had received contributions of $11,942 as of Christmas Eve, topping the previous record amount of $9,090 the previous year. It was estimated that the Fund had sent 1,200 checks to individuals and families in need of help at Christmas. It says that the Empty Stocking Fund was a "thrilling expression of a warm community heart" and it therefore thanks those who contributed and the volunteer workers who staffed the Christmas Bureau which received and distributed the money.

A piece from the Greensboro Daily News, titled "A Song in the Night", indicates that in High Point, a Superior Court jury had acquitted a black man on a charge of drunk driving, but the judge had disagreed with the verdict, remarking that it was hard for him to believe that a man and two women "riding around at 2 a.m. in the morning singing" had been perfectly sober. The defendant had contended that he had picked the women up to carry them home following choir practice.

The piece suggests that the early hour of the morning indicated that they may have taken a detour after choir practice but also that there was no law against singing or, as Lord Byron had put it, "a-roving so late into the night." It believes that the court should have taken judicial notice of the fact that blacks were "likely to break into song at any time, anywhere, night or day, drunk or sober." It suggests that whites might be better off if they did so, as it provided a safety valve.

Drew Pearson presents a list of persons whom he regards as practicing the idealistic, self-sacrificing efforts representative of the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, standing in contrast to the people who were disillusioned with international developments regarding peace among nations. He says that the list was incomplete, as there were numerous such people in every walk of life, both in government and out of government. The list includes Captain Roger White of Monroe, La., who, after two years in a Korean prison camp, had given $500 of his prisoner-of-war pay to Korean children; Captain Burt Cumby of Washington, who had become the Army's chief interviewer of the non-repatriating prisoners who had switched to Communism, winning many back to democracy; and August Dietz of Richmond, Va., a printer who had helped to distribute more than two million copies of the Declaration of Independence, much of the expense from his own pocket, and the Sertoma Clubs which had helped him.

He also lists Congressman Robert Kean of New Jersey, who had battled against two colleagues, Congressmen Carl Curtis of Nebraska and Dan Reed of New York, to save the old-age pensions and Social Security; CBS commentator Edward R. Murrow, who had led the flight for Lt. Milo Radulovich, suspended from the Air Force because his relatives had read Communist-front newspapers; and Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam of the Methodist Church for continuing the battle for religious freedom despite unfair Congressional attempts to intimidate him. He cites several other people and organizations as well, the organizations including the National Council of Jewish Women, the Lutheran Memorial Church of Wisconsin, the St. Vincent De Paul Society, the Christian Children's Fund, the Pilot Club International, the Rotary International and the Kiwanis Clubs, as well as the Jaycees of Orange, Va., providing brief explanations for each citation.

Joseph Alsop, in Rangoon, Burma, says that while traveling in Asia, "[a]n unvarying diet of convulsion and corruption, menace and misery can make the smallest cheerful sign look like the dawn of a new day." He cautions that possibly his judgment was distorted in that manner, but indicates that it was exciting to find an Asian government of "good and patriotic men, practical and honest, courageous and stoutly non-Communist, patiently leading a new country forward in the most difficult conditions imaginable." Burma had begun its time as an independent nation with all the odds against it. Under British rule, the Burmese had been excluded from almost every important department of their national life, as commerce, industry and banking were controlled by the British, the Indians and the Chinese. The Army was manned by tribal peoples, and the police and railroads were largely staffed by Anglo-Burmans. Only rice farming and the subordinate ranks of colonial civil service remained for the Burmese, themselves.

Thus, the leaders of the new Burma had only the national struggle for independence as their preparatory experience. The local Communists fought hard and well in that struggle and the initial government was launched with the Communists as equal partners. Then their founding father, Aung San, along with all other senior Burmese leaders, had been murdered at a Cabinet meeting by U Saw, who then sought unsuccessfully to seize power through the Communists' armed rebellion. The chief inheritors of the government were the wise Prime Minister, U Nu, the Socialist boss, now-War Minister, U Ba Swe, and the Socialist idea man, U Kyaw Nyein. The country was ruined from war. In addition to the Communists being in revolt, were the warlike Karen people, plus 100,000 Burmese who had arms and had lived as guerrillas during the war, many thousands of them settling into a postwar life of banditry and dacoity, that is Burmese trade.

Initially, the government had to carry on its business inside a barbed-wire perimeter in a Rangoon suburb, with its authority not extending much beyond the barbed wire. By late 1953, four years later, the government's authority loosely extended over all of Burma and economic life had gradually resumed. Reconstruction was slowly progressing, and the outlawed Communists, though seeking to regain a legal foothold through a front organization, the Burma Workers and Peasants Party, had gotten nowhere in the labor movement or any other sector of national life.

The Burmese leadership insisted on their policy of "standing aside" from the world struggle between the West and the Soviet bloc. Yet, internally, they were not involved in the same "gassy self-delusion" which characterized Prime Minister Nehru in India, which also engaged in neutrality. The Burmese leaders saw in a realistic light all of the great problems of Asia, including the growth of Chinese power, the danger in Indo-China and the threat of chaos in Indonesia. In dealing with the Communist bloc, they proceeded gingerly, as they knew their small country was as strategically vital as Indo-China and because they understood that as the neighbor to China, they were in great peril. Yet, they were ruthlessly firm with the Burmese Communists and were grimly determined to defend Burma's independence to the last if necessary.

Mr. Alsop concludes that under those circumstances, the Burmese deserved more consideration than they had received from the Western powers generally, and from U.S. policymakers in particular. He says that Burma was no paradise and was far from being in a position of strength, but the Burmese situation "is one of the few hopeful situations in disordered Asia."

The Congressional Quarterly indicates that the Administration would have to ask the upcoming 1954 session of the 83rd Congress to raise the 275 billion dollar debt ceiling or find unexpected ways to reduce scheduled spending. That part of the debt subject to the legal limit, as of December 11, stood at 274.4 billion. Even if there were no further Federal deficit and the Government spent no more during the coming year than it received in revenue, the remaining debt limit would not permit any wiggle room, and there were times inevitably when revenue and spending fluctuated daily during the fiscal year, causing the deficit to be far above normal. The Treasury Department estimated that at the end of the fiscal year in June, the deficit would be about 3.8 billion dollars, whereas on December 11, the deficit was 8.9 billion. Thus, there would have to be enough of a surplus to reduce the deficit or a substantial reduction of the debt to allow for periodic deficits during the year.

The Administration did not anticipate having a balanced budget in the 1954-55 fiscal year, and the Undersecretary of the Treasury had estimated that the deficit in the following year would be at least 7.5 billion dollars and perhaps more than 9 billion, unless spending were cut below the estimated 1954 level of 72.1 billion. One major factor was the loss of revenue based on the scheduled expiration of the excess profits tax and the ten percent reduction in personal income taxes on January 1. The Administration hoped that Congress would postpone the excise and excess profits tax expiration until April 1. Revenue might shrink further if Congress eliminated inequities in the tax system, which were being studied by the House Ways & Means Committee.

The President had said on December 2 that he opposed raising tax revenues above their current levels, but did not rule out enough new taxes to make up losses from the tax reductions, and the Treasury was studying new possible sources.

It was also difficult to shrink the budget, as most of the money was spent for fixed charges, including interest on the debt and payment of veterans' benefits, and for national and international security against aggression. Even substantial cuts for other activities would not be enough to eliminate the deficit.

A letter writer again responds to the letter from the anonymous parent of December 21, upset with the three-day suspension of the child from school for having been caught smoking in the locker room. She indicates that she was a mother of a boy who had previously been a high school student in Charlotte, and was acquainted with the explanations provided by the school officials on smoking policy, indicating that she had asked her son to put off smoking until after high school, but he had not done so despite her disapproval of the practice. Her son understood, however, that if he ever broke the rules of the school regarding smoking, he would have to take the consequences—which might include the death penalty if he were responsible for burning down the school and killing a lot of students in the process, though she does not take cognizance of that possibility. She thinks it was wrong to accustom a youngster to fixing a traffic citation, as the child then learned to rely on parents for straightening things out and would never learn personal accountability. She believes that the child ought be forced either to earn the money to pay their own fines or to pay it from their allowance, and also should be suspended from school if they deliberately did something which they knew they should not do. She offers sympathy for the youngster in question, who was not being taught by the parent to stand up for him or herself, for the "harassed" school principal trying to enforce the school regulation, and for the parent for being so "short-sighted".

A letter writer from Gaffney, S.C., comments on the same letter, saying, in reply to the parent's statement that he or she had always abhorred the idea of smoking among schoolchildren, that he failed to see the difference between smoking in the presence of a group of children and smoking in the presence of the individual child. He finds it an evil because "all unrighteousness is sin", and that smoking was either righteousness or sin, and if righteousness, then the earlier one could get children to start smoking, the better. Thus, it was sin. He also finds that the fact that the principal had not listened to the mother's pleas for elimination of the suspension was consistent with his own observations that one would find "some here and there that you can not tell anything." He also objects to the parent concealing their identity, as he thinks that "a child in high school ought to be able to look at your name on a decent letter and not be too badly embarrassed."

But the student had been suspended from school for three days. The parent did not want the child to wind up having tobacco companies being the only potential employers for him or her once they entered the marketplace in search of a job.

First Day of Christmas: An innoculation to further viral conspiracy theories anent a "stolen election".

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