The Charlotte News

Wednesday, July 9, 1941


Site Ed. Note: The front page this date offers hope, unremittingly, that the tide was beginning to turn in Europe:

Vichy forces contesting the Free French and the British in Syria during the previous month now seek an armistice.

Sources which appear credible assert that Russia appears to have managed, through fierce resistance all along the 2,000-mile front, to have effected in various places the first stop of the German panzers, heretofore thought to be resistless since September 1, 1939.

As the President extends hemispheric protection beyond the strict geographical borders of the Western Hemisphere to include now Iceland, Churchill tells Commons of plans for assistance from Amercan warships to the Bristish Navy in deterring further encroachments by German subs and destroyers and fighter planes in the Atlantic against British merchantmen carrying the crucial supplies to the cloistered island off the Continent left otherwise alone against the horde.

British RAF pilots are reported again to have undertaken successful day raids into the Rhineland, night raids into key industrial cities in Germany, including a strike in Leipzig against a synthetic oil producing facility, and more raids into French coastal positions.

A report surfaces out of Moscow from German officers taken prisoner in the "bloodiest war in history", the Nazi-Soviet conflict, that whole units had been removed from batteries protecting Cherbourg and Dunkerque, leaving behind wooden artillery as dummy emplacements.

But was it all a trap, a clever ruse to lure a quick invasion by the British, a snare in which they might be then caught by the Nazis? Was the war in Russia a cleverly staged event between Hitler and Stalin, replete not only with dummy tanks and artillery and falsely exaggerated claims of casualties and destroyed armament, but also a completely false premise--that it was not real but rather a dummy war? These were likely questions on the minds of many at the time, as confusing and conflicting reports from the Russian front daily rolled off the presses.

What to do? Wait-see? as the isolationists and Firsters counseled. Or finally to join the war whole-hog, mount a joint expeditionary force with Britain while defenses were weak in the west, to do the thing which increasingly appeared inevitably necessary anyway?

One stark reality emerges: after the Russian invasion, America increasingly became involved in the war. Indeed, a German military spokesman was reported this day saying that the occupation of Iceland drew American forces directly into the war zone and provided new significance to the President's May 27 comments on the Azores, Cape Verdes, Dakar, and the Canaries, to the effect that further incursions there by the Nazis represented the greatest of peril to this hemisphere for their affording ready embarkation and supply points for operations extended into Latin America, into the Caribbean, and therefore could not be and would not be tolerated.

The groundwork for the move south by the Japanese, as formulated July 2, being now already in play, these moves by the U.S. in the Atlantic, and their obvious implications and consequences for the Pacific theater, were not lost on the Japanese military high command: Pearl Harbor must first be removed from the equation, a crippling blow struck, if a move south was to be successful, no matter the risk entailed of war with the British and the U.S. simultaneously. The move into the Philippines, Dutch East Indies and Burma would provoke such a confrontation in any event. Might as well do the pre-emptive strike, no matter how the court of world opinion might react on such unprovoked and dastardly violations of the previously accepted rules of war. All chivalry, pictures of the Emperor's equanimous horsemanship in the public prints notwithstanding, was merely show and myth masking the face of the primitive warrior whose only rule was kill or be killed, conquer or be conquered, strike first to avoid being struck--the face of barbarism. The object of modern warfare was to conquer the lands and riches of others, in order to broaden empire interests and wage more warfare; the necessary force to repulse efforts by other empires to defeat or resist such aggression rendered therefore quaint rules governing the process anachronistic.

For the pattern of the Axis had been set. Japan had a mutual assistance pact against any neutral country which might commit an act of war against a partner in that pact. But there was uneasiness. Hitler had invaded his neutrality pact partner Russia, even if, even there, some warning of such an intent existed by the mobilization of troops and mechanized divisions on the eastern front. Japan now stood at peril of invasion by Hitler's forces from Russia soon, should the advance be successful to the conclusion of surrender. If Hitler broke the pact with Russia, he would think nothing of doing likewise with Japan.

America still traded to a limited degree crucial war materiel with Japan, principally oil, scrap iron, and food. America still maintained, to avoid a two-ocean war, the face of neutrality with respect to Japan, while quietly implying, though without explicit statement from the President since the October, 1937 Chicago speech, that further efforts at expansionism in the east by Japan would not be tolerated. America, so thought the Japanese, would recoil therefore at any effort to move on any Allied interests in the Pacific. The analogy to be drawn in the Pacific from the Roosevelt-enunciated perceived threat to hemispheric security by any Nazi move against the Azores, Canaries and Cape Verdes, was plain.

Indeed, Cash himself, in one of his last pieces, had written May 21 in "Beyond Convoy" that the threat to these islands was comparable to the Axis seeking to occupy Hawaii.

Thus, to acquire material necessary for its own protection against the contingency of attack by Germany in the event of its successful campaign against Russia, to ward off such a contingency by honoring mutual protection of its partners in the Axis, it would now proceed south--part of the grand rationalization leading to the attack at Pearl Harbor.

The editorial column of The News--with Harriet Doar, resident poet among its staff meanwhile playing Lois to the Winston-Salem Sentinel, as it complained of the absence not only of the Man of Tomorrow but also other larger-than-life characters around newspaper offices of the day--, jolts the reader to the recognition that through all of this battering ram of war pervasively covering the Front Page, through all the commentary on the events of the day otherwise in the editorials, whether the Nazis had shot down in fact 7,000 Russian planes when only 5,000 tops existed, whether the local Communists in North Carolina, 150 strong, had changed their stance on support for Nazi Germany out of principled conviction or mere expedience in recognition of the reality now before Mother Russia's grueling defense against the 200-mile Nazi traverse left to Moscow, through all of these travails paraded daily to assault the reader's sensibilities and strike either fear or the summoning of heart and courage to the task ahead, still the game of baseball, still the game of flirtation with the ladies, did not take respite: the All-Star game, we are informed in the first piece, saw Ted Williams, batting .400 on the season, smack a three-run homer out of the park.

And, while it doesn't make comment on the matter, the sports pages were recording that the Yankee Clipper during these weeks was busy establishing his record-setting hitting streak of 56 consecutive games--hey, hey, hey.

Yet war was the pervasive reality to overthrow all competitors for sanity eventually. Even the Yankee Clipper would lose the 1943 through 1945 seasons to active duty.

They tried to remain as normal as possible amid the encroaching chaos of war, the chaotic suitor to the insane priming itself, as the days rolled by and each wave of the future rolled in to each Pacific surf, for that which was now inexorably, as surely as the lunar gravity impels each slurp of the ancient lap-lap, set in motion by the demi-gods who fancied themselves the diviners of fate and mystery, the determiners of the empiric dominion over Man, the makers or breakers of myth and legend, from Armageddon to Ragnarok, from the determination of what was to be defined as art to the regimentation of what one could read, could say, could think, the enslavement of a whole society to the Nazi High Command, down through the ranks on the premise that to be a Nazi, even the humblest Nazi, was better than to be a Jew or Communist or other handy scapegoat for the country's manifold ills, the dutiful marching along the escarpment of aerian never-never land offering no bridge to the fields of reality, now existing further and further away in the valley below.

In the end, however, as the letter to the editor of this date perhaps prophetically in some manner hints, they only provided the irritant, the final grain of sand, which produced, as in the nature of things, the organism's protection against such invasive destruction, a series of lain down stratas of carbonate of lime, each intervened by a thin membrane, the good defense against the offense to act as the best offensive. The grain became the nucleus encased in the invaluable outer crust of mystery. The tampering with that mystery, the quest by man to bring it to heel for the purpose of domination of others, led only to chaos, the primitive caves of Iwo Jima resting as final testament: stupidity's last fortress against the reality which was to strike in August, 1945.

And Hugh Johnson this day, in a rare moment, waxed profound in his explanation of a change in the mental orientation to the reality of war in the new young soldier, a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitability of death, no longer a feeling of invulnerability of the flesh against shards of fire, the charm of Don Quixote. Now, it was, in ways of war, the ritual of seppuku for all, even the All-American soldier. One fought to the death, for what else was one here to do?

He was not alone in this observation. In 1965, Marcus Goodrich, a naval officer in both World War I and World War II, in his preface to the paperback republication of the January, 1941 Delilah, offered likewise this fundamental change of mind evidenced in the modern fighting man during and after this World War, Part II.

What had changed in the interim? The Depression? The talking pictures? The radio? The proliferation of swing? More and faster automobiles? The sleeker, faster monoplanes fit for shooting down the enemy with arithmetically increased maneuverability and celerity? Talk of rockets and doomsday devices, of Armageddon imminent? The speeding up of modern times? The loss and alienation of the individual to the morass of the collective human urge to compete for power, for wealth? All at once, none of these? Just a steady contiunuum manifested in these symptoms, generated ultimately from the disease which caused World War I, the Civil War, the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian War, all now coalesced at once in surrender to the call impanted in the consciousness via the media of the new age acting out the antecedents for all to be impressed with their forbears' exhortation to courageous mounting of the hill to take the fatal bullet as sacrifice to the cause of nationalistic pride? The plough, the wheel being made plain as stopping not for the death of one man? The machine having become the worshipped idol, the Man of Tomorrow, rendering the feeling, breathing, feebility of humanity unmercifully obsolete in its coil? The individual so ploughed beneath the grinding wheels of the hurtling chariot of war as to be made little more than equivalent in life to the fabled quintessence of dust to be swept by the broom beneath the door?

Installment 33 of Out of the Night continues the saga of the Gestapo brutality against Jan: lashes of the whip until he no longer could sense pain; threats of coating his wounds with the "noble stuff" of salt and then running boiling water through his body should he be so foolhardy not to obey the game of the politely bestial and provide names of fellow Communists and the reason for his coming to Germany; a promise of lenience, a life sentence, before the "court" should he provide a list of the "subversive fish". Jan remains defiant until, succumbing to the repeated cracks of the whip to his torn flesh, he provides one name--still refusing to give a reason for coming to Germany other than to seek his infant son. The day is November 30, 1933. A stenographer, smiling throughout her service to the Reich, is present through the proceedings. Court was in session.

A silent blast from an electronic dart-gun equipped with an telescopic sight will be aimed at the Man of Tomorrow, but first a successful demonstration on an armored bank car.

Comes to mind from that inevitably, a 1975 photograph of Senator Frank Church during the course of an investigation.

But then, he wasn't re-elected; Jesse and his pals at McKee Industries, just getting started under mean circumstances in 1941, eventually saw to it.

As time moves along and the nutsies got nuttier, even the comics of the period take on an air of the profane, the profound, the absurd, as reality tries its best to imitate the most outrageous things imaginable, not even bothering to omit the captious "War of the Worlds", mastery of the universe, control by Man of that which stubbornly refuses control, the inherent defiance at work in nature opposing tyranny, over the individual, over the collective.

Perhaps, the comics were all the nutsies and their spies ever read, all they could understand clearly from the American press.

In any event, young Annie Lee Gurley, 1941 reader of The News, had it right about all of that violence in the strips. Boots and Her Buddies--much more salutary.

Disraeli, it would seem in the final analysis, summed the matter apically.

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