The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 21, 1954


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in Paris, the French National Assembly this date had disposed of final committee reports and begun actual debate on ratification of the Paris treaties regarding German rearmament, with 40 speakers listed to participate in the debate. Talk persisted that a motion might be submitted to postpone the debate, but there was no decision by the sponsors of that move. Any such motion was expected to be defeated in the face of the demand by Premier Pierre Mendes-France for Assembly action before Christmas on the Paris treaties, which would have the effect of enrolling 500,000 West Germans as uniformed soldiers in NATO. The four treaties in question would restore almost all sovereignty to West Germany, admit it to the seven-nation expanded Western European Union, permit the enrollment of the 500,000 West German soldiers, as well as admitting it to NATO, and placing the Saar region under the political control of the WEU.

Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson responded to a press question, saying that questions about spaceships were "a little dreamy", disclaiming knowledge of any such studies by the Pentagon. The Defense Department said this date, however, that it was actively exploring the possibility of creating artificial earth satellites, as it had been doing for the previous six years. In response to a question regarding a 1948 report by the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, the Defense Department this date provided the official answer that studies relating to a satellite program, as mentioned in 1948, were active and proceeding at a rate commensurate with the technical state of the art. Secretary Wilson had stated at a press conference on November 6 that in terms of the "spaceship business", there was no study underway, and that the questioner was going back too far for him when he asked about the 1948 study and its subject matter, indicating that he was unaware of any such study. He also said that he would not care whether the Russians were developing their own space satellite and were to beat the U.S. into the air with it, that he would rather they "go off to the moon or some other place than come over here."

In Cleveland, O., the jury remained in deliberations during the morning in the first-degree murder trial of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, accused of killing his wife, Marilyn, the prior July 4, having now deliberated for 36 hours since receiving the case the previous Friday. When they had been excused for lunch, the jurors provided no sign of being close to a verdict, but optimism continued that a decision would be rendered this date—as eventually it would be. Dr. Sheppard's face showed an air of confidence as he entered the courtroom when the jurors were excused for lunch. He smiled slightly at members of his family and then took his seat beside one of his three defense attorneys. It had been learned that the jury would be asked by 10 o'clock the previous night whether there was any hope of breaking their deadlock, but there was no further word on the prospect of a hung jury this date. An informant had indicated that the jury had provided an answer the previous night that they wanted to try again to reach a verdict this date. The judge had effectively denied that any communication had gone to them the previous night. The parents of Dr. Sheppard were both in the hospital this date, the father, also a physician, suffering from pleurisy, and his wife, who had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage several weeks earlier and had been in the interim released, readmitted while her husband was a patient.

In Chicago, the prophet of doom who had predicted cataclysms engulfing the continent before midnight this date, had said during the morning that there would be no disaster because of the "intervention on the part of God of earth". She said that she and 13 of her disciples in her home in suburban Oak Park had sat awaiting "the father's message the night through" and God had spoken, that not since the beginning of time had there been such a force of good and light as presently flooded her room, and that the force which had been loosed within the room now flooded the entire earth. Dr. Charles Laughead, who had lost his job on the student health staff of Michigan State College hospital because of his predictions of cataclysm on this date having troubled his students, had been among the 14 persons at the woman's home. She had originally predicted that Chicago would be destroyed and that the West Coast would be submerged under water from Seattle to Chile, and Dr. Laughead had added that the East Coast would also be engulfed. The latter said that by the "Father's message", the disaster had been "stayed", but that there was no prediction as to how long. We predict until December 28.

Army radio's Santa Claus received a letter from a youngster this date indicating that he wanted a train, a jeep and a dog which talked, adding a "P.S.", that if Santa needed some money, he could take it from his father's pants pocket, as he was a captain and loaded.

In Los Angeles, the Tailwaggers Foundation had put up enough money to make its fifth annual "bail 'em out party" a huge success, intending to pay the average of five dollars in fees for every dog bailed out of animal shelters of the city.

Not reported on the front page, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was released from a New York hospital this date on a stretcher, still recovering from surgery on October 21 on his back to try to correct a longstanding injury which originally occurred while he played football at Harvard and which was significantly aggravated during World War II at the time of the PT-109 incident in 1943. The Senator planned to spend the Christmas holidays and continue his recuperation process in Palm Beach, Fla., with his wife, Jacqueline, and his extended family. He would not return to his normal Senate duties until the spring, as he would have a recurring problem in the healing process and have to undergo subsequent surgery during the winter.

On the editorial page, "More Trained Military Manpower Needed Despite Atomic Development" indicates that Assistant Secretary of Defense Carter Burgess had stated that it would be a mistake to call the new military reserve program unveiled the prior Saturday a "modified UMT", the piece finding that he was correct. Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson had announced the previous day that the armed forces would be reduced by more than 400,000, to 2,815,000, by mid-1956.

Former Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had urged legislation to establish universal military training, as had the House Select Committee on Postwar Military Policy in July, 1945, pursuant to the latter, hearings having been held in 1946. But the issue was dropped so as not to jeopardize the draft legislation and to prevent UMT from becoming an issue in the midterm elections that year. In 1947, a commission urged immediate enactment of UMT, pursuant to which hearings had been held on a bill to provide for six months of training for all young men between ages 18 and 20, but no action was taken. In 1948, UMT was sidetracked in favor of the draft, and no action was taken the following year. After the outbreak of the Korean War in June, 1950, President Truman had asked Congress to delay its consideration of a bill providing for six months of compulsory training for healthy young men between ages 17 and 20 because of the urgency of other military matters. A special Senate committee, however, had recommended in 1950 that Congress pass UMT legislation the following year, and in 1951 Congress had passed a law setting up the procedure for universal military training and establishing a commission to outline operation of the program. But in March, 1952, the House had shelved the UMT enabling legislation. At that same time, General Eisenhower repeated his endorsement of UMT, but the following fall during the presidential campaign, had said that as long as the country was forced to employ the draft because of combat requirements, it could not simultaneously establish any form of training for young men.

After the end of the Korean War in July, 1953, the need for the draft had ended and so another commission began looking at military manpower, proposing a year earlier that beginning in 1955, 100,000 men would enter a training corps annually for six months and then would be transferred to a ready reserve contingent where they would serve for seven and a half years, to operate concurrently with the draft, with all men at age 18 drawing lots to see whether they would serve two years in the regular services or six months in the training corps and then the ready reserve.

The next proposal had been made in August, 1954, which it details.

It finds that the diversity of the numerous proposals and the failure of any of them to be enacted suggested that the latest proposal would suffer a similar fate or that another proposal would substitute for it in 1955, as the plan announced during the current week bore little resemblance to the one put forth the prior August. Under the latest proposal, the National Guard would remain unchanged, with the Navy and Air Force building up their own reserves and 100,000 young men 17 years old to be excluded from the draft annually, provided that they volunteered for six months of active training followed by nine and a half years of reserve duty.

It suggests that the history of those proposals showed that the Pentagon and leaders of both parties recognized the urgent need for a more inclusive program but were unsure of how the program should work. In view of the usual reluctance of the majority of Congress to favor universal military training, Administration leaders were increasingly diluting their proposals.

Whether or not a possible future war was fought with atomic or conventional weapons, a concern of the Pentagon in planning universal military training, a much larger supply of trained manpower than presently existed would be necessary, as troops would be needed sooner than they had been during World War II and at the start of the Korean War, and if an expanded reserve program was not begun, Korean War veterans would have to fight again while young men remained home, just as they had at the time of the start of the Korean War, when World War II veterans were called upon to fight again. For those reasons, it expresses disturbance at the inadequacy of the recent manpower training proposals, as there remained a need for UMT, which it opines that the Administration should impress on the Congress and the people.

"Wanted: An Antibiotic for the Slum" indicates that the Charlotte City Council ought waste no time in acting on the City-County Planning Commission's request for early consideration of proposed urban redevelopment legislation in the 1955 session of the General Assembly, which was set to convene on January 5. Members of the Council had scheduled a meeting with the Mecklenburg legislative delegation on December 28 to discuss local bills to be sought in the session. The suggested urban redevelopment amendment was highly controversial and could not be given superficial treatment, needing therefore discussion prior to the December 28 meeting. The amendment was especially important to the success of an effective planning program in the county as it provided for condemnation of land in blighted areas, defeated during the 1953 session after it was labeled "socialism", subsequently provoking the resignation of the City redevelopment commission because they said that systematic slum clearance was rendered virtually impossible under the old enabling law.

The vice-chairman of the joint Planning Commission had indicated that the Supreme Court had recently ruled that the right of eminent domain in condemnation of property for slum clearance was appropriate, saying that he had been informed that the Federal Government was making increased funds available for the program.

It indicates that there was a genuine need for an effective urban redevelopment program in the city as part of its overall planning for a better future, that the decay of urban housing and the human misery it fostered were problems the city could and had to tackle in the coming year.

Drew Pearson indicates that the question of exchanging Chinese students for Americans had been discussed secretly for some time and was more complicated than the headlines made it appear. The State Department had sent nine Chinese students back to China even after the 11 U.S. airmen had been convicted of the trumped-up espionage charges and sentenced to prison. The inside fact was that the U.S. was negotiating not only for the release of the 11 airmen but also for a larger group of American hostages, including 28 civilians in jail, 11 others not in jail but unable to leave China, and three priests who were under house arrest. The negotiations were ongoing in Geneva, where Communist China and the U.S. had consular offices, with messages usually delivered by intermediaries, though the U.S. consul and Chinese consul had participated in more than one face-to-face conference.

The 35 students which China wanted returned from the U.S. were technical specialists in electronics and engineering, badly needed by the Communist regime. The State Department was therefore caught between the moral obligation to rescue the American citizens and the military pressure not to return the 35 specialists. The Department was also facing howls from the powerful China lobby, including Senator William Knowland of California, unofficially the lobby spokesman, who had been advocating for years for the release of Americans behind the Bamboo Curtain. But the State Department feared that the Senator might yell even louder should the 35 Chinese technicians, who were not under arrest as were most of the Americans in Communist China, be returned.

The students represented only a small handful of the 4,500 Chinese students who had been studying in the country before the outbreak of the Korean War in June, 1950, with less than 450 having elected to return to Communist China, most of whom were not enthusiastic about returning but were drawn by strong family ties. The State Department had permitted all of them to leave with the exception of 124 specialists whose skills would aid the enemy, of whom half had changed their minds after the end of the war, leaving only 62 still desiring return, of whom the U.S. had agreed at Geneva to return 27 with the least strategic skills, leaving the 35 in question.

But the Chinese had not released any American, though they had agreed to permit letters home and had made other minor concessions.

The release of the 27 students had been maintained in secret for fear of causing a political uproar in Congress, but no Chinese technicians would be provided exit visas until the Communists began releasing Americans in exchange. Mr. Pearson notes that it had been hinted that Communist China might allow the imprisoned Americans to leave in return for the release of 125 million dollars worth of Chinese assets frozen in the U.S.

Joseph Alsop, in Saigon, indicates that for an American at present, the Bamboo Curtain in Asia was a much harder barrier through which to pass than the Iron Curtain of Europe, but by a series of accidents, he had managed to spend three days in the Vietminh guerrilla area which formed a virtually independent state at the southern tip of Indo-China. He tells of the journey, during which his dominant emotion had been "a sort of horrified, helpless admiration for the Communist achievement", for their courage, their incredible difficulties overcome, and the brilliance of the political-military feat.

The region had a population close to three million, with no local war resources except rice production and no prospect of outside help, being as far removed from the Communist base in the North as possible. The Committee of the South, the ruling Vietminh organ in Cochin China, had first raised the standard of revolt and fixed its capital nine years earlier, with their arms having been obtained from the former Japanese occupiers and their treasury consisting of about five dollars, the Committee being comprised of Vietnamese Communists and nationalists whom Ho Chi Minh had specifically chosen for the task of administration.

The Mekong Delta had been a vast swamp until the French had drained it and divided it into landed estates. The peasants had lived in abject poverty and without hope, until the Communists had redistributed the land to them.

When the late General Leclere had taken command in Indo-China with the complacent boast that he would destroy the Vietminh within a few months, French troops had entered the plain of Camau, where now the Committee of the South was in control, and had established 13 fortified posts. Despite the fact that the Committee had just recently been formed, the guerrilla attack against the French was so severe and sustained that the French forces soon destroyed their mud forts and evacuated.

Since that time, when the local Vietminh government was moving north under the terms of the Geneva accords signed the prior July, the plain of Camau had been what the Communists called "liberated territory".

Once every year or so, a French "clean up" column would push into the region, burning and destroying as it moved, with persistent air attacks wrecking the palm hut villages along the canal banks, confining all road and canal movement to the dark hours of the night. But there had never been a moment when the Vietminh had not run throughout the region, eventuating in the Committee of the South, from its capital in the Camau plain, having come to rule other large regions approximating more than a third of the whole area of Cochin China. General Navarre had told Mr. Alsop the previous year that the French had "effectively controlled" that region.

An army of approximately 30,000 regular and regional troops had been organized, trained and armed with captured French heavy weaponry and small arms manufactured in small, camouflaged local shops. Mr. Alsop had never seen smarter, tougher looking Asian troops than the few soldiers he was able to inspect during his accidental journey.

A permanent government had been formed, replete with financial, economic, educational, health, propaganda and police services. Currency had been printed, taxes had been levied and budgets had been annually appropriated, all out of nothing, in the small muddy villages among the rice fields and in the face of the French military power.

Mr. Alsop had stayed during his short visit at the palm hut reception center provided for the families who were coming from all over Cochin China to bid farewell to their soldiers going north. The trained and indoctrinated official in charge was a "pale, delicately dandified" young person, who, like all such officials, performed a required daily hour of work in the rice fields to set an example for the peasants, affording the tiny salary of rice which the Vietminh government paid. Mr. Alsop had been informed that the official had escaped the rice fields because he was an unusually expert fisherman with a net, but Mr. Alsop had still suspected that he was an early specimen of a bureaucratic careerist. He had, however, provided Mr. Alsop with an official seal on his exit papers, which had given him an hour of concern as to whether some grim security police examining his passport might discover that he really was not Monsieur Muller, a wandering French journalist, as his papers stated.

He concludes that he wishes he could report that the Vietminh organization he had glimpsed during the three days while in the south was feeble and hated by the people, but that their record of achievement during the previous nine years confirmed his brief observation of their efficiency, power and popular support of the guerrilla government they had formed. "If we are not to lose the struggle for the world, we had best make a realistic estimate of the enemy's strength. And the foregoing merely summarizes the strength that I saw."

Reginald Reynolds, writing in the American Scholar from London, indicates that no one in his native Britain could forget America for very long with Billy Graham having conducted his crusade in England recently and with the hydrogen bomb just around the corner. Even the New Yorker was sufficiently familiar to the average Briton for its British counterpart, Punch, to have presented a satire of the magazine. Senator McCarthy was front page news and American movies were familiar fare. Thus was "the whole garble in one acid drop."

During the 1930's, Lord Beaverbrook's Evening Standard had discovered Damon Runyon, who was still widely read, and William Saroyan had also become standard fare among readers at about the same time, with James Thurber coming into increasing vogue and E. B. White being a late starter who might yet catch up. The British reading public dimly realized that the best humorists in the English language had also been the best social critics in America, such as Mark Twain, and the tendency was to favor reading of the humorists. Britain had produced "snobbish humor, decadent humor, gross humor, and—at our best—pure nonsense."

Outside the theater, creative writing was becoming rare and those who had strained after originality during the 1930's had succumbed to "literary hernia" and now earned their basic living as critics. The book reviews in Britain provided a strong impression of being divided into two principal groups, those providing extravagant praise to any writer with whom the critic was allied, and "peevish pettiness" regarding all others. That characteristic peevishness was found in most reviews of American books, though complicated by a mixture of fear, jealousy and lack of understanding. The solution was frequently sought in a pedagogic form of amiable patronage.

He had examined a copy of the May, 1954 London Magazine, edited by John Lehmann, in which three American novels were reviewed in an article by Francis Wyndham, most of which had read like an "end-of-term school report by a pedantic and disillusioned old schoolmarm" regarding the work of children in their early teens. He quotes from the review regarding William Saroyan, that he had perpetuated his "latest perversion of a technique he himself helped to originate, where a series of short sentences, portentously casual, pretends to disguise a sentimentality at the same time arch, arty, and almost infantile." He finds that since Mr. Saroyan's work would be remembered and read after nobody would care or know of Ms. Wyndham, assuming anybody presently did, her pompous verdict had almost redeemed itself by its unconscious humor. "As the old dog said, the worst of some bitches is that they're such women." (It was of little moment to his critique of the critic, we hesitate to note, that the "schoolmarm" was actually a pedantic little bastard, not a bitch, but perhaps he knew as much and was laying it on the thicker.)

Mr. Reynolds says that he was not trying to defend American writers from such critics, as criticism always informed the reader at least as much about the critic as it did about the object of the criticism, the reader being able to gauge sometimes in reverse the quality of the reviewed work by the adeptness of the criticism. He did not object to seeing British critics strike out at Americans, and few of the journals which were believed in America to be anti-American or even Communist, usually carried an outspoken attack on anything American.

The fact remained that the great mass of Britons knew little of America. One well-read woman he knew had admitted to him recently that she had read hardly any American literature and did not want to do so, as Americans had taken Britain's place in the world, "without being fit for it" and were "decadent without ever having been great". She later admitted that it was an unfair point of view, given her ignorance of American literature. The same woman admitted that British intellectuals possessed well-deserved contempt of the British public.

The one place where the intellectuals made contact with the ordinary people was in the Labour Party, where there had been a growing tendency to choose young theorists from the university as Parliamentary candidates. Superficially, the Labour Party intelligentsia were anti-American, which did a great deal of harm, but in fact, were afraid of America and would rarely strike out on just the issues, with the result that many false impressions were created reciprocally, while the real issues were rarely discussed with frankness. If, for example, most Britons thought that every institution in the U.S. was corrupt, it was because American films had repeated that concept so often. For the uninformed people in Britain, from the solid citizens to the adolescent "Teddy-boys" and their female counterparts in long, tight pants, all understood that America was New York, Chicago and Hollywood, and that all Americans were rich and generous. They believed that American police were brutal or sentimental or both, as were the ubiquitous American gangsters. They believed that America was a fairy land where Cinderella married a millionaire and the hard-working boy got her when the millionaire conveniently died. He says that he half believed those myths himself and that one day he might find out the truth.

His assessment of the average Briton's idea of the U.S. at the time reminds of the little girl, pictured on the front page three days later, whose war-bride mother and children were moving to America in early 1946 for the first time to join the father, to Chicago-New York, where the little girl intended to kill some rabbits and tigers. Bang!

A letter writer from Marshville indicates that he had recently advised the editors of an error in the "How's Your I.Q.?" column, to which the editors had responded with a correction, after which he had discovered that the McGraw-Hill published textbook which had been his source had been in error and he had informed them of their mistake. But now he finds another error in another column, and this time had the Britannica and Americana encyclopedias to back him up, that the "Read and Remember" column of December 13 had stated that probably the first loudspeaker in history had been used by Alexander the Great more than 300 years earlier, to which he adds that Alexander had lived prior to 300 B.C., born in 356 and dying in 323, the victim of fever and excessive drinking.

The editors respond that the reader was correct, that young Alex had apparently been too fond of his megaphone, a huge horn which enabled his commands to carry for up to twelve miles, as shortly before his early death, he had lost his voice.

But was not that for the same reason that Senator McCarthy had lost his voice, well after 323, though perhaps imbibing from the same cup?

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