The Charlotte News

Monday, March 23, 1953


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that a fierce assault by up to 3,500 Chinese troops had struck allied positions around "Old Baldy" on the western front of Korea early this date, causing the allies to fall back from nearby "Port Chop Hill" while fighting continued on Old Baldy, overlooking one of the main invasion routes to Seoul. It was by far the heaviest fighting yet of 1953. The two attacks had broken a day of relative quiet, during which South Korean raiders had attacked enemy bunkers and trenches with homemade napalm bombs in two strikes on the eastern front. Only small clashes had been reported along the western front, which had been soaked by a night of rain.

The bad weather had also pinned down allied warplanes during the morning, but later on, Sabre jets had flown over northwest Korea without encountering enemy MIGs. Clouds and haze had prevented most other allied airstrikes, but some fighter-bombers had been able to break through to hit enemy transport and front-line positions.

Both air and ground activity had been relatively heavy the previous day, with three western hill engagements having resulted in more than 200 Chinese killed. In the air, Thunderjets had struck a railroad switching yard 45 miles south of the Manchurian border, and Navy warplanes had hit enemy front-line positions.

The Defense Department issued this date a new list of 138 Korean War casualties, including 35 killed, 98 wounded and two missing, with three injured in non-combat. It also listed 19 men who had previously been stated as missing in action who were now determined to be among those captured.

A transcript was made public this date of testimony provided in executive session earlier to the Senate Armed Services Committee by General James Van Fleet, recently retired as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea, in which he had stated that there should be harder-hitting attacks against the Communists and that he doubted the U.N. forces had enough ammunition to repel any major offensive which the Communists might mount. He said that stocks of ammunition at times were so low that he had issued orders to cut down on artillery fire and that the troops had to be in trouble before shooting the heavier mortar and howitzers. He also said that U.S. pilots ought have the right of hot pursuit across the Yalu River into Manchuria, the base for enemy aircraft. He said that he favored having it out with Russia presently, in terms of peace negotiations, not a shooting war. There was some sentiment expressed on the part of Republican Senators on the Committee that the present stalemate was "outrageous" and that more active warfare ought to take place. General J. Lawton Collins, Army chief of staff, had testified at the same hearings that there had been shortages of some types of ammunition, but that there was enough ammunition to protect the allied troops, regardless of whether they were attacked or not, and to carry out any operation which the Army commander was presently authorized to undertake.

In Saigon, in Indochina, Communist-led Vietminh terrorists, who had ceased tossing homemade bombs into Saigon's cafés and movie houses some time earlier, now appeared to have embarked on a new brand of terrorism, burning the homes of Vietnamese. Saigon's heavily populated native districts had been plagued by four large fires within the previous week, three of which had ignited in the previous 15 hours. More than 2,500 straw-thatched homes had been destroyed, with posters appearing on trees, apparently written by Vietminh sympathizers, warning that entire districts would be burned.

Congressman Laurie Battle of Alabama said this date that the Communists would get pretty much what they wanted in strategic matériel from the West, and that the U.S. should wage a vigorous and comprehensive campaign to shut it off, indicating that present measures were inadequate for the purpose and not properly enforced, part of his report to the House, summarizing progress in enforcing the law which he had sponsored, cutting off U.S. assistance to allied nations which knowingly shipped strategic materials to the Communist bloc nations. He said compliance had been universal among those nations receiving U.S. aid, but that the law did not apply to neutral nations not receiving aid and had no effect on closing leaks through the free ports of Europe.

The President continued to stand by the nomination of Charles Bohlen to become Ambassador to Russia, according to Senator Taft following his usual Monday morning meeting with the President and other leaders of Congress. Senate floor debate on the nomination was scheduled to get underway later in the day. Senators Joseph McCarthy, Styles Bridges and Pat McCarran had been critical of the nomination, and remained so.

The President said this date that he intended to rid the Government Civil Service System of any Federal workers who were "incompetent, dishonest or disloyal". He said that there were only a few such Federal employees. He made the statement at the swearing-in ceremony of Philip Young as a member of the Civil Service Commission.

A State Department official testified this date before a House Judiciary subcommittee that Alger Hiss had made "unofficial" reports to the U.N. in 1946 regarding Americans seeking U.N. jobs, having sent a list of names to Secretary-General Trygve Lie, despite a "hands-off" policy adopted by then-Secretary of State James Byrnes. At the time, Mr. Hiss had been director of the State Department's Office of Special Political Affairs. He was currently serving a prison sentence pursuant to his conviction for perjury for denying that he had any contact with Whittaker Chambers during a period in 1937, during which, according to Mr. Chambers, Mr. Hiss had provided to him secret documents from the State Department, intended to be passed to the Soviets by Mr. Chambers. A letter was produced at to the Committee from Governor Byrnes, saying that Mr. Hiss had nothing to do with formulating the policy regarding recommendations of Americans applying for U.N. jobs, and that he alone had determined the policy not to make such recommendations.

House Speaker Joseph Martin said this date that the President and Republican Congressional leaders had agreed to extend the present rent control law from April 30 to October 1, beyond which date controls would be authorized only in areas determined to be critical for defense.

Bernard Baruch said this date, in a statement to the Senate Banking Committee, that if war were to occur with the Government unprepared to implement immediate economic controls, everyone would rue that "tragic, needless neglect", thus urging the Administration and Congress to agree on standby economic controls or that Congress enact them itself.

The President and Republican Congressional leaders agreed this date to let the Reconstruction Finance Corporation expire on June 30, 1954 and not amend the present law to extend its life. Congressional leaders indicated that the agency was already being liquidated, and Speaker Martin said that about half of the RFC offices in the nation would be closed within 60 days.

In the vicinity of San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to a U.S. Navy announcement this date, a PBM Mariner seaplane with 11 men aboard had been missing over the Atlantic northwest of San Juan since the previous day, last heard from the previous morning about 450 miles northwest of San Juan and believed on its way back to base. More than 40 ships and 21 planes were searching the sea for signs of the craft and crew.

In Paris, French painter Raoul Dufy died this date at the age of 75, after suffering for a long time from arthritis. His use of bright colors had helped to revolutionize modern art early in the century.

In Gastonia, N.C., according to a story by Edward V. Mitchell, managing editor of the Gastonia Gazette, about 1,800 persons, despite rainy weather, had cast their votes during the first five hours of a local election to determine whether the community would elect its City Council members from within wards or from the entire city.

Best of luck with that… We shall stand by for those results with bated breath.

On the editorial page, "Words, Yes, but What Did They Mean?" looks at the language used by new Soviet Premier Georgi Malenkov in his inaugural address, saying that all questions could be decided by "peaceful means on the basis of mutual understanding of interested countries", specifically mentioning the U.S. Then, on the prior Wednesday, Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov acceded to an old British request to free ten British civilians imprisoned in North Korea nearly a year earlier and agreed that the matter would have an "affirmative solution". On the prior Thursday, the Soviet commander in East Germany had expressed regret over the death of the seven British fliers shot down by Communist MIGs ten days earlier and suggested a conference to avoid future such incidents. Then, during the prior weekend, following years of boasting that Russia had, alone, won World War II, while the "capitalist nations" had sat back and become rich, Radio Moscow abruptly said that cooperation had been manifested vividly during the war against the Fascist states, with the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Britain "harmoniously" cooperating in that war as allies, producing "splendid results—a common victory over the enemy."

Those words had produced guarded optimism in the West, as a week had gone by without the usual bellicose statements denouncing Western imperialism and the like. Even the criticism of the Korean War in the Russian press had taken on a softer tone. The Administration continued to be wary, taking cognizance of the fact that propaganda from the Kremlin changed rapidly and that Russian words had no value beyond hints at possible future actions.

The piece suggests that the Russians would have numerous opportunities to put actions behind their words, such as by ending the Korean War, ceasing to obstruct in the U.N., working out an Austrian peace treaty, opening up Russian borders to information and commerce, freeing the satellite nations, and agreeing to reasonable terms of disarmament with inspection. It suggests that until it did at least some of those things, the skepticism of the free world would continue to be justified, that until then, the free world could be properly skeptical of whether the new tone merely represented the wolf temporarily donning the sheep's clothing. It quotes from Psalms: "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart."

They are very much concerned these days about butter and margarine.

"Home Rule—an Elusive Goal" indicates that the home rule bill, to abolish the requirement that the Legislature pass on various local bills, such as those setting the salaries for local government personnel, was not moving along through the Legislature. It favors the change, to free the General Assembly to conduct regular business, that such measures, in any event, were routinely passed on the basis of the determination by the particular county delegation involved, and local officials knew better than the Assembly what compensation county officials properly deserved. It hopes that a grassroots campaign would develop to urge the Assembly to adopt the measure.

"Driver Examination Program in Danger" tells of the National Safety Council having rated the driver's license program in the state as among the five best in the nation each of the previous three years, after having been rated 25th in 1948. But a bill passed by the State House and pending in the Senate would lower the rating and seriously increase highway hazards by permitting the renewal of driver's licenses by mail.

Proponents pointed to the convenience of not having to appear personally before driver's license examiners every four years, but the piece thinks it would be just as inconvenient to have to visit an oculist or optometrist for an eye examination, as would continue to be mandated under the proposed law.

It posits that highway safety was at stake in ensuring every four years that drivers were familiar with the rules of the road and were physically and mentally able to observe them. It favors instead tightening the driver examination program to require a full road test for renewals.

Governor William B. Umstead had told reporters the previous week that the bill was bad, and the piece thinks he could have used stronger language and employed his influence to kill the bill in the Senate.

A piece from the Wall Street Journal, titled "Man on the Hot Seat", tells of Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson having discovered that he was occupying one of the hottest seats in the new Cabinet, for the political pressure exerted on the Secretary from different sides. It cites the example of butter, on which Mr. Benson had almost immediately to decide whether to continue price supports. High price supports would immediately impact consumers and lower price supports would adversely impact the dairy farmer.

In the current issue of the Farm Journal, Secretary Benson had stated his ideas on farm policy, which had taken considerable courage in stating what farm policy ought not to be, that high price supports were bad and that the present 90 percent parity level was too high, that any sort of rigid price support for perishable produce was problematic, thus favoring cessation of some of the help being provided the farmer by the Government. It amounted to revolutionary talk and it had not been uttered by any Secretary of Agriculture in a generation.

It indicates that Mr. Benson was right, that the present farm program was "a piece of economic foolishness" and even immoral, would lead to complete regimentation of farmers by the state or to a wave of reaction against the absurdities, potentially ending all farm programs at once.

Dr. James A. Jones, pastor of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, has an excerpt from a paper he had written reprinted on the page, regarding the central problem of the world at present. He tells of having taken a trip to the Belgian Congo via Pan Am, and in less than 48 hours out of New York, was in the "bush", an hour out of the modern Leopoldville, with the dress having changed from regular pants and shirts to something less than G-strings among the natives, still engaged in their traditional primitive life, tilling the soil by hand with tools made in a native forge of the crudest metals, just as their ancestors had done for more than 1,000 years. He goes on to contrast the traditional life with that of the more modern existence in Leopoldville, and concludes by urging that there needed to be an understanding of those whom the country intended to help, stressing that assuring "unalienable rights", as stated in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, was as important as providing material aid, whether in Africa, Eastern Europe, China or in a local economically depressed community or area.

Drew Pearson tells of two Republican Congressmen, John Saylor of Pennsylvania and A. L. Miller of Nebraska, having become embroiled in a bitter, backstage quarrel the previous week over hard liquor being served inside the Capitol. Mr. Saylor had planned to use the House Interior Committee room for a cocktail party and had made all the arrangements for same, including the invitation to Mr. Miller, who had a running feud with Mr. Saylor regarding subcommittee matters. Mr. Miller then told House Speaker Joseph Martin about the cocktail party and wrote an angry letter to Mr. Saylor, threatening to expose him. Mr. Pearson had obtained a copy of the letter and sets it forth verbatim. Mr. Miller claimed to have control over the committee room and forbade its use for a cocktail party, but said he would allow the social gathering if there were no hard liquor present. He threatened that violation of his proscription would result in the case being brought to the House floor.

Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson was receiving a lot of criticism, but deserved sympathy. He had two strikes against him when he came to the job, being opposed by Congress and part of the public, and now had the opposition from the military brass hats as well. Mr. Pearson suggests that he deserved support from both Congress and the public. His predecessor, Robert Lovett, had coasted along on the theory that the military could run the defense establishment, and when the three branches were at odds, he compromised. Mr. Wilson stepped into the position facing, therefore, several problems, among which was that the unification program established in 1947 had not been working, and many of the brass hats had given up on the idea of harmony. The tank production program had been partially messed up, the production of Sabre jets could be better, and other procurement problems had been scattered all over the Pentagon. Mr. Wilson had been working extremely hard to correct the problems, and was forthright, honest and chafed at bureaucracy and delay. It was still too early to say whether he would be able to lick the job or whether it would lick him, but there was no question that he had the best interests of the public in mind.

The important object of the atomic tests at Yucca Flat in Nevada was to test small atomic weapons, which had been so reduced in size that two could be carried on the wings of an F-84 Thunderjet. The only problem with the small bombs was that the Soviets, when they developed an equally small bomb, could smuggle one into the U.S. in a suitcase or packing box on a ship, rendering such a device susceptible of being detonated on a pier in New York Harbor, in a locker in Grand Central Station, or aboard a ship inside the locks of the Panama Canal, jamming that passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific for months.

Another test being made in Nevada was of atomic land mines, designed to prevent the advance of an enemy and also capable of being planted on the flanks of advancing U.S. troops to prevent an enemy from closing in on those flanks.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop indicate that the most likely explanation for the spate of shooting incidents involving U.S. and allied planes along the Soviet borders with the West developed out of an incident of the recent past, when, following the victory of General MacArthur and the Army in the invasion of Inchon in Korea in September, 1950, the General effectively promised President Truman that the Chinese Communists would not intervene in the war. Every outward appearance had supported General MacArthur's conclusion, as commitment of only a couple of Chinese divisions during July and August, 1950, would have tipped the balance in the Communists' favor, as the allied forces were still being built up and were badly outmanned and outgunned. Moreover, a couple of Chinese divisions could have stopped the U.N. invasion at Inchon into North Korea. Thus, General MacArthur had reasoned that if the Chinese had already passed on such opportunities, they would not enter the fight when the U.N. forces entered North Korea. Secretary of State Acheson, at the time, agreed with the General, ridiculing the Indian Ambassador to China, who sent warnings against driving to the Yalu River, that it would bring the Chinese Communists into the war.

As far as was known, only three leading U.S. officials, then-Secretary of the Air Force, Thomas Finletter, George Kennan, the expert in the State Department on the Soviet Union, and Charles Bohlen, currently the Ambassador-designate to the Soviet Union, had argued for consolidation of U.N. forces along the narrow waist of the peninsula and simply holding the line gained, in hindsight, the prudent position. The latter two said that they could not give solid reasons for their view, that it was logical to assume that the Chinese would not enter the war, but that they believed that the Kremlin leaders had a neurotic sensitivity about their borders and that penetrating to the Yalu was getting too close to a sensitive border, requiring reaction. They were ignored.

The Soviets at present feared air attack, and the death of Stalin had undoubtedly given the Kremlin a severe case of nerves. Thus, it was natural for the Kremlin to order stringent patrols of the air borders and that any perceived incursion should be met by immediate attack. The Alsops indicate that such therefore could be the entire explanation for the air attacks during the previous ten days.

In addition, the elevation of Marshal Zhukov to be Deputy Minister of Defense had been one of the notable features of the new Soviet Government, as reputedly he was disliked by Premier Malenkov. The Red Army liked Zhukov, and President Eisenhower also had singled him out for friendly praise in his war memoirs, had repeated the praise during the presidential campaign. Thus, the Alsops speculate that there might have been an attempt to appeal to the President with the appointment. The Soviet press had not yet engaged in the vilification of President Eisenhower which they had used against President Truman. In addition, Premier Malenkov had omitted from his recent inauguration speech the customary passages about "American assassins", instead declaring his desire to talk peace with everyone, "including the Americans".

Marquis Childs tells of J. P. L. Thomas, First Lord of the British Admiralty, boss of the British fleet, having stated recently on the floor of Commons that Russia had the second largest Navy in the world, the largest being that of the U.S. He said that Britain had more ships, but Russia had more in active service. The Russian building program was also proceeding at a high rate, including many destroyers, submarines and more cruisers than were being built by all of the NATO forces combined.

Those facts meant that in a war with Russia, the position of Britain and all of Western Europe would be gravely endangered by sea as well as by air. Some top U.S. military officials believed that the first goal of the Soviets would be to destroy the British Isles and thus seal off the Continent so that no reinforcements of men or matériel could enter.

There was angry muttering within the U.S. Air Force and in Congress regarding the fact that the British Government had provided a 50 million dollar subsidy to produce modern jet transports for a Government-owned British airline, BOAC, placing it far ahead of U.S. commercial airlines, while military aircraft being produced in Britain were lagging far behind. The British response was that they needed the dollars from abroad for the purchase of those commercial airliners and that the jets being flown on BOAC routes would also bring in dollar-paying customers, thus alleviating their need to rely on U.S. aid. They also argued that the research which had gone into the development of the jet transports contributed to the progress of military aviation and that the pioneering of jet transport routes could prove an important contribution in the event of another world war.

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