The Charlotte News

Thursday, November 20, 1941


Site Ed. Note: This day, as Herblock suggests, marked Thanksgiving--at least for that part of the country still celebrating on the third Thursday, while the rest would split to the traditional fourth Thursday, this being the last year in which the experimental move of the holiday by the President would take place, as explained May 22.

"Buy Cheerfully" appears to have jumped itself by a week in counting the days to Christmas, indicating a mere 27 remaining, perhaps being confused by the bifurcated Thanksgiving, thinking that Christmas, too, had been advanced on the calendar.

"Home to Roost" and the Johnson column speak of the impending confrontation, likely to become violent, between the coal miners of the UMW and the Army, should Roosevelt find it necessary to enforce a no-strike order, to fulfill his promise to Congress for the previous week's rescission of the Neutrality Act. A strike in the coal industry, just as nippy weather began and just as the defense build-up was critically in need of steel--not to mention the reliance, said Dupont, on coal for the production of nylon now so critical with no silk coming from Japan--would have obviously paralyzed the country into compliance with whatever demands the miners sought. Roosevelt was taking the high road still, asking in his inimitably inviting voice for voluntary cooperation out of patriotism and honor to avoid the inevitably nasty confrontation which would occur between striking miners and scabs allowed into the mines at Army gunpoint.

It is too bad that Mr. Nixon did not have the same command of articulation in the spring of 1970 when students on various college campuses caused him distress, not in any manner threatening to paralyze any vital defense industry, just causing the King distress at their effrontery to the established authority, to the established autocrats' status quo, daring to be different, daring to exercise their rights of peaceable assembly to protest His Majesty's recently revealed secret war policy of bombing Cambodia without bothering to consult either the Congress or the people.

"The Nazis know by now that the dream of being received everywhere as 'the liberator' is finished." So says Dorothy Thompson in her column today.

It is remindful of more recent history than World War II--but relative to the United States instead of Nazi Germany.

Raymond Clapper devotes his column today to discussion of special envoy Saburo Kurusu's mission in the U.S., that it was nothing less than that worthy of a magician if it were at all to ring of success. "Magic" was the operative word.

We note also in passing that his first name was spelled thusly, neither "Sabruro", as Mr. Clapper had it, nor Suburu, as we recently spelt it. Most honorable mistakes. Your forgiveness is duly solicited.

Finally, "The Truth" ominously and profoundly tells in a few words the dichotomy extant in Japan between the military and the people and their more honest and courageous representatives in the Diet. It tells the story of one Miyawaza, a representative who spoke so much truth to the Diet that he was silenced, censored and forced to resign his post. Whether he ultimately tasted either the gibbet or the sharp end of the Samurai sword to his neck for his crime of insolence and insubordination to the military authority at work in the land is nowhere told. The military would win their way, foisting their will over the people, drowning out the silence, all for that cause laid long ago forgotten among the warrior caste.

The Seven would ride proudly out of Saeki Bay, and very shortly now would they depart on their mission.

The midget submarines loaded aboard the submarine task force had already begun departing for Hawaii on the morning of November 16 and would continue, squadron by squadron, through the 21st, all held under strict radio silence, unmarked, sailing twenty miles apart, some heading south, some north for the Aleutians and the U.S. West Coast, to reconnoiter ship movements, but to hold off any attack until after "X-Day", the appointed time and place for the mission of the Fleet. Others had the mission of cutting off ships retreating from Pearl Harbor after the attack, headed for San Pedro, and thus were stationed between Hawaii and California. None but a select few in command knew the final destination for attack; the crews were kept in the dark, both on the submarines and in the Fleet itself. Both winter and summer clothing were issued. The heavy planes and submarines packed torpedoes shipped from Nagasaki.

A decision was made that the torpedo planes would attack the Harbor first if they caught the American Fleet by surprise; if not, bombers would first draw anti-aircraft fire and act as decoys for the torpedo planes to move in behind them to do their utmost damage to the Fleet.

Their combined heroism for their homeland, however, would last but 1,335 days. And it would then be the people, whom the military commanders betrayed for gold and treasure, who would pay most solemnly and ultimately for their leaders' sins of foolhardy avarice and stubborn adherence to tradition for the sake of vindicating perceived ancient wrongs and emasculation of their virility, the tradition de militaire, the tradition in which they had received their exhortation and ultimate command from their Axis partner to do his bidding, himself merely the coalescence of the same military ideal of manhood vested in one grand absurdity of a human being--all for Empire.

On Oahu, the U.S. commanders successfully held a test on November 14 whereby the launching of carrier planes was detected fully 80 miles out to sea, allowing the six minutes necessary for bombers to intercept the inbound enemy planes fully thirty miles from the Harbor. The successful test perhaps allowed undue optimism at early detection, undermining optimal caution as the critical hour came closer.

Meanwhile, Naval Intelligence was receiving large numbers of repeated Japanese messages, intended as a decoy; carrier activity in Japanese waters was detected at a minimum, indicating that they were still in port, while a Task Force of destroyers and carriers moving south out of Japan had been detected around the 16th, with some detected ships, believed initially to be part of that Task Force, ultimately turning eastward to join the main Task Force.

The submarine task force, which had also left Japan on the 16th, was likewise spotted moving eastward, and tracked as far as the Marshall Islands, roughly sixty percent of the distance from Tokyo to Oahu.

But after that, the picture became hopelessly muddled, as the diversionary tactics of the Task Force, the false radio traffic from the mainland, coupled with the radio silence of the Combined Fleet, served sufficiently to confuse intelligence intercepts during the ensuing three critical weeks.

For the time being, the main part of the Task Force, the carriers and destroyers of the Fleet set to disembark for Hawaii, remained in Japanese waters, awaiting departure at 6:00 a.m. on November 26, Tokyo time, 4:00 p.m. November 25, Washington time, the very day the newly shortened final deadline would pass, as set by Foreign Minister Togo at the direction of Tokyo, for Ambassador Nomura and Kurusu to work their Magic with Secretary of State Hull and obtain full acquiescence to the Japanese militarists' continuation of Empire dreams. Eventually, Togo would accede to Nomura's request to extend the deadline for diplomatic negotiations four days, until November 29, enabling a four-day war council to begin on the 25th in Washington--but, emphatically, Nomura was informed, it would be the last such extension. All in fact that did, of course, was to afford four more days to play out a grand charade, one whose outcome had been predetermined by the inelastic parameters which stocked Kurusu's diplomatic portfolio given him by Tojo, its predestined failure thus known to Kurusu before he ever set foot on American soil. But try they would, the Japanese to attempt to save face both before the world and, most especially, their own people, and the U.S. to try to effect a resolution by convincing Japan to give up its territorial foothold in Indochina and remove from China.

For, as the President had obtained Congressional acquiescence in ridding the strictures of the troublesome Neutrality Act, while promising to avert the coal strike with force if necessary, the Administration had no earthly reason to acquiesce to demands of resumption of critical oil trade with Japan for its silk, or, even less, to allow continued unimpeded operations in China and occupation of Indochina, just to retain a temporary peace.

The sides were joined. The play was set; the players on all sides had rehearsed and knew well their parts; the guessing game lay in timing, and on what marks on the stage the actors would meet to deliver their lines. Performance was now the key.

"Buy Cheerfully"--the News editors little knew then that they only had not even the miscounted twenty-seven days on which so to shop before Christmas. They had but sixteen before all would be changed, and Christmas would become very much different that year, as well the next three, than a day of mere exchange of material gifts as in the past.

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