The Charlotte News

Tuesday, November 25, 1941


Site Ed. Note: The observant will note a subtle coincidence in the first piece with that of our note of ten years ago associated with a page from which a piece is referenced below in association with the subject of a letter of today's date, in turn coincident with other things about to occur. Again, we address the issue rhetorically as to meaning: we have no idea. Beauty, as said, is in the eye of the beholder.

"Pan-Slavism" offers a quick view of the immediate causes of World War I, dissension with Austria-Hungary in Serbia, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, retaliation against Serbia by Austria, mobilization of troops on the Russian border to make a show of intent to protect the Balkans, consequent mobilization out of paranoia by Germany, mobilization of French troops on the Western Front out of like paranoia over German mobilization and treaty commitments to Russia, and the guns of August somewhere amid the paranoia began firing. Of course, the tensions spanned back at least a century, to Napoleon, to the Franco-Prussian wars a half century earlier, to the various arranged royal marriages which led to Kaiser Wilhelm, and the consequent harbor of petty intrafamilial squabbles and jealousies over acquisition of power and territory. And, over time, World War I led to World War II, the pretext for the initial grabs of Hitler being Pan-Germanism and the notion of "protection" of Germans being "persecuted" in Czechoslovakia and Poland, the claimed need for the Danzig Corridor to link Germany with its Prussian territory, etc. As to the attacks on France, Britain, and Russia, the pretext was that they stood in the way of Hitler's "protection" schemes, something which played out more logically with respect to France and Great Britain than with his former neutral partner, Russia.

"Leadership" speaks of Cuba's Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba between 1940 and 1944, and again, after an interim stay in the United States, between 1952 and 1958, the second time after staging a military coup. Batista, always the military man, had come to power originally by way of election, but only after power grabs by virtue of his being chief of staff of the army. His tenure as president in the 1950's was marked by corruption and purging of all political enemies, maintaining his obeisant attitude toward the United States the while to assure protection against all comers, the United States reciprocating out of fear of Communist juntas--that finally occurring on January 1, 1959 when Fidel Castro and his band of youthful guerilla insurgents, appealing to the proletarian masses, staged a coup, forcing Batista into exile, eventually to Spain where he died in 1973. (Señor Batista also, periodically during the early 1960's, appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, sometimes in disguise as an astronaut, attracting much derisive laughter.)

"Reassurance", discussing the high loss rates among pilot trainees, suggests the need for the pre-flight schools which were established in spring, 1942 for Navy and Marine pilots. The rates, the Army contended in its folksy flier to be distributed as folksy press releases, were still low compared to Germany and Great Britain. (The flier, incidentally, wouldn't have been quite so bad had it at least retained its g's. At least it didn't say "ya'll" and "ain't" or invite the listeners over to the base for chittlin's and gravy.)

Hugh Johnson gives a pretty comprehensive view of the mining strike just ended and why the demands of the miners were not out of line.

Raymond Clapper informs of the coming of Rick's Café Amercain to Casablanca, and how the aid to French North Africa had not worked to woo Vichy away from the occupying Nazis, now taking over Rick's, as Ilsa and Victor take to wing in the fog to continue the cause of the Czech underground, while Louis covers Rick's gunning down of Major Strasser as the two walk to the haven of the Free French garrison and into the start of a beautiful friendship.

And, Pete Mitchell, with a son in Hawaii living in Schofield Barracks, (in 1952 to be used as a set for "From Here to Eternity"), speaks to John L. Lewis about the invading Persian Xerxes and the Greek leader Aristides who allied with Athenian Themistocles eventually to defeat the invader, though Xerxes had first defeated the 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans guarding the narrow pass at Thermopylae. Perhaps the analogy came to mind from Cash's earlier writings such as "The God Tone", March 26, 1938, (wherein, incidentally, the mention should be "Plutarch"), or, more recently for Mr. Mitchell, (though posted herein a decade ago), "Old Battle", April 23, 1941.

Mr. Mitchell's son, incidentally, fortunately was not among the 2,390 who died at Pearl Harbor. Only five of those killed had resided at Schofield Barracks and one of those was an accidental electrocution, two others having occurred away from the barracks, which, because of its proximity to the targeted Wheeler Field, was strafed by Zero fly-overs during the attack.

As it so happened, the night before the attack, a party had been held at Schofield and Lt. General Walter Short, Army commanding officer for air defenses at Pearl Harbor, had attended. As he returned from the affair with his wife at around 11:00 p.m., he remarked to his driver as they passed Pearl fully lit, "What a target that would make."

This date, at 4:00 p.m. Washington time, 6:00 a.m. on the 26th Tokyo time, the Japanese Task Force under the command of Vice-Admiral Nagumo set sail from Hitokappu Bay for Hawaii amid low-lying clouds, rendering the fleet a ghostly apparition to itself.

Just four hours earlier in Washington, the four-day war-council with Ambassador Nomura and special envoy Kurusu had commenced.

At the time, the primary target, the aircraft carriers, numbered only two at Pearl Harbor, the Lexington, eventually sunk in May at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the Enterprise. The Saratoga, normally operating out of Hawaii, was at Seattle for repairs. There were thirty vessels in all contained in Nagumo's Task Force. Outnumbered four to one in battlewagons by the U.S. Fleet, Nagumo commanded six carriers, thus lending the Japanese superior strength in both speed and aerial capability, favoring the overall hit-and-run strategy being deployed. The two main carriers, Akagi and Kaga, carried a combined total of 36 fighter planes, 36 dive bombers, and 54 torpedo planes. Two other more recently built carriers, Soryu and Hirya, carried up to 85 planes each, but had less than half the fuel capacity of the older two carriers, thus requiring refueling at sea from the accompanying eight tankers before they could return to Japan, a risky proposition in turbulent seas. The other two carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku, were brand new and the fastest of the lot, each carrying 72 planes: 18 fighters, 27 dive bombers, and 27 torpedo planes. Thus the Task Force packed some 450 planes in all. But the fleet had to proceed slowly to its target, at 12 to 14 knots, to enable the clumsy oil tankers to keep up.

A contingency plan was made to allow for only three of the carriers, Kaga, Shokaku, and Zuikaku, to proceed to Hawaii if refueling at sea became impracticable, but this potential entailed significant danger to the mission as it would severely limit the air strike capability so crucial to success of the operation.

The most significant advantage for the U.S. forces was that the B-17's at Pearl had a far longer range than any of the Japanese bombers aboard the carriers, enabling a counter-strike capability to the entire fleet remaining 200 to 230 miles at sea during the attack. Thus, crucial to success was the initial air strike on Hickam Field to eliminate this immediate prospect.

The overall plan, as stated, was to tie up the U.S. Fleet for at least six months to enable the Japanese unfettered territorial acquisition in the Pacific, to obtain the necessary oil, copper, manganese, tin, rubber, and other commodities it so desperately now needed without U.S. trade, in order to continue its war in China. Special emphasis was therefore placed on trying to sink a large battlewagon or carrier at or near the Harbor entrance to block the other ships from putting to sea.

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