The Charlotte News

Monday, July 7, 1941


Site Ed. Note: The front page of this date conveys several varying accounts of the status of the world stage, i.e. the warfront. On the one hand, DNB reports that the Stalin Line has been breached, and Stalin's armies were on the run for the interior. The military High Command, however, reported more soberly that the line had only been penetrated, a line reputed to be at some places 75 miles thick through the forests--a line similar to the Maginot Line through the Ardennes, one largely by-passed by the Nazis by entering France through Belgium in spring, 1940.

Yet another article relates that some 700,000 Nazis had been killed by the Soviets, according at least to a Russian spokesman. As this figure would mean that literally one quarter of the entire Nazi casualties suffered during the entire six-year war were inflicted during this brief period since June 22, it was assuredly a gross exaggeration.

A Russian soldier reconnoitering an armored convoy coming up the road, reported that of the twenty tanks he saw, only one was made of steel, the others, as he determined by the give of the "armor" plate on the tank, were actually canvas overlayering wood frames, armed only with machine guns. The entire convoy was therefore quickly dispatched after nightfall.

But such were the times of confusing, and some perhaps downright apocryphal, reports, the fog of war having set in long since the beginning in September, 1939.

The British press meanwhile were exhorting Churchill to invade the Continent, to send an expeditionary force to France while the pickings were good, with so much of Hitler's manpower and mechanization now committed to the eastern front. Bombing raids on both critical supply routes and stations in France, as well as militarily strategic cities of Germany, were reported as uniformly successful, largely without resistance. The way could thus be softened for such an invasion.

The News editorial page today suddenly pricks itself up after a down week, perhaps stunned into largely reporting on local matters in the aftermath of Cash's death, and presses hard now, in tougher language than ever before came from the column, for America's entry to the war full-force, for "every man and woman and industry" to be engaged in "total war" either willingly or by force, just as Germany had been for the previous eight years. Else, the editorial warns, the Allies were going to lose the war, and such modern wars could only be lost once.

Raymond Clapper, who had cautioned that an invasion of the Continent by Britain was not yet something which, because of the tremendous manpower and equipment needed, could be accomplished without American involvement and certainly greater aid, takes further swipes at Lindbergh and Hoover, who were being promulgated by The New York News as Vice-Presidential and Presidential timber respectively for 1944. Clapper, praising Hoover for dismissing the idea, prays, should Lindbergh actually achieve such a nomination, that whoever might run at the head of the ticket would be someone assured of living out the full term--a somewhat ironically prescient statement given that Roosevelt and Truman would run together for the first time in 1944, and of course that Roosevelt would die after less than three months into the fourth term.

"A Plot?", in the editorial column, asks whether it was possible, as suggested by Major George Fielding Eliot, that the Nazi press reports were deliberately understating the degree of success in the Russian invasion, with the hope of lulling the United States to sleep, only suddenly to declare with a lightning strike their victory, and as quickly to pounce on Britain with an invasion.

The British, the front page says also, had made a surge against Vichy-occupied Syria, approaching from Iraq.

Hitler, meanwhile, had already tapped his new German czar for Russia.

So what was a reader to believe this day? Was the war lost by virtue of the crumbling of the Stalin Line? the manning of which we are told, again by DNB, had been depleted so as to demand the services of women. Was the war instead on the verge of being won by the bombing raids of the RAF, now supported by some American planes and pilots, all preparing the way for an imminent invasion to retake France and move to force Germany's surrender? Did Britain have the manpower to do it? What had happened just a year earlier at Dunkerque? But now, the German army was severely divided, and hadn't they just lost nearly half the 1.8 million men initially committed to the Russian invasion?

Well, these are questions which the devil-discerning eyes of Cash might have sorted out for the reader, as he had for the previous three years, amid similarly conflicting press accounts to find a usually accurate border land of reality within the misted regions amid the fog. But, Cash wasn't there. He had gone to Mexico a month earlier to write a novel. His last worldly remains, ashes in an urn, would be set to rest in Sunset Cemetery in Shelby this afternoon, after a service at the Baptist Church to which his parents belonged. He was no longer available to sort it all out for the reader.

But there was little time to pause on this one man's death, as everyone felt now threatened by this menace abounding through the world, this insatiable animal called war, led by predators the likes of which the world had never seen so massed and well-equipped, a predatory war which touched every home, every family, every heart and mind and soul. Fear was not so much the watchword any longer; survival was. And survival meant resort to the most primitive animal instincts--kill or be killed. And that instinct appears to dominate this day's column--as if matters over there had suddenly and forcefully hit home, that this war was no longer over there, that it was here in their midst, in North Carolina, in Charlotte, pervasively everywhere around the globe--as the President announced the move of American naval personnel into Iceland as yet further extended borderland against the Nazi onslaught.

Nazis were either going to the rule the world or uncivilized men, primitive men, formerly civilized, sometimes erudite men, merchants, salesmen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, tailors, journalists, carpenters, cobblers, mechanics, shipbuilders, farmers, artists, musicians, and those of any other walk of life one could name, were now to be impressed, eventually without the least force other than the impelling call to service which struck them one Sunday afternoon in December.

Could it have been stopped at this point had the isolationist rhetoric of Lindbergh and Hoover, Wheeler and Reynolds, Clark and Fish and the rest, not stood in the way for so long, so vociferously opposing the "plowing under of every fourth American boy"? Could D-Day have been quickly planned and coordinated, an expeditionary force shipped over during a period of five or six months, and, while Germany's back was preoccupied with Russia, a decisive strike made on the Continent? We shall never know, for the isolationist voices stirring public opinion against the Administration's "warmongering" effort were enough decisive to stop it aborning.

The only thing we know is that by war's end 10.6 million Allied soldiers died or were missing and unlikely to return. Of these, 7.5 million were Russian, 2.2 million Chinese, 452,500 British, 296,000 American, and 200,000 Free French. The Axis losses were numbered at 4.6 million, 2.85 million of whom were German, 1.5 million Japanese, and 300,000 Italian. The total dead soldiers thus numbered 15.3 million.

The civilian losses, including 6 million Jews, Gypsies, intellectuals and anyone else deemed unduly troublesome to Hitler's Aryan ideal of perfection executed in the camps, have been estimated on both sides to total upwards of 35 million additional men, women and children.

Those figures dwarf all other wars. The War of 1812, for instance, buried 2,187 American soldiers, the Civil War, 187,000 from both sides, World War I, 52,429, a sixth of the count for World War II, and Vietnam, 58,000.

"All-Out Death", indicating that the expenditure per dead soldier thus far in the war had reached $125,000, five times that of World War I, had not seen the worst of it by any stretch. By war's end, that five times ratio would seem a bargain in blood. The final grim fact was that 350 billion dollars were spent by the United States on the war, including foreign aid. Thus, for each American casualty, the expenditure was $1,118,440. And of course that does not include the care for the wounded, the pensions to widows, and the rebuilding of Europe and Japan, which dwarf even those figures.

But who among them, the families of the deceased, the friends of the deceased, those who knew them in war periodically as uncivilized, primitive men, tapping into those rawest of survival instincts, those who knew them before war as the tradesmen or professionals or even unemployed, but decent men, who laid down their lifeblood to save their country and the rest of the world from an insane tyrant, could say the life thus laid down was worth no more than that million spent on each one of them?

The day ended, a cloudy day in Charlotte, with a light rain in the evening, probably similar to that in Shelby. The Cashes returned to Morgan Street, but a few blocks from where they laid the little jar of ashes beneath the earth, containing the burned heart, the burned brain, the burned flesh of their eldest son, Wilbur Joseph Cash. But the soul was not there; the soul stayed with them, as the sun set around nine o'clock, and the cicadas clicked their tiny legs against their small abdomens, the whippoorwills cooed, the steam rose in cooling mists off the pavement, hot from a summer's day, and time and the frontier moved along the tectonic plates beneath them across the swell of the earth to the bloodied battlefields over there.

Installment 31 of Out of the Night is here. Jan is arrested by the Gestapo in Hamburg and jailed incommunicado, no habeas corpus, witnessing while there the routine humiliation of prisoners for the amusement of the Blackshirts, forcing one man, no doubt on pain of torturous death otherwise, to serve as horse for his rider, as he had to repeat, "I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew."

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