America at war! (1941– ) (Part 1)

Smashing the Axis –
Valve refinements bring revolution in plane engines

Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, many lives risked ion experimentation but horsepower is boosted for U.S. ships
By Charles T. Lucey, Scripps-Howard staff writer

U.S. Navy Department (November 30, 1942)

Communiqué No. 206

South Pacific.
On November 28:

  1. U.S. patrols on Guadalcanal Island destroyed a considerable amount of enemy arms and ammunition in the upper Lunga River region. Other operations on the island were confined to minor ground activities.

  2. Army “Flying Fortresses” attacked an enemy convoy west of the New Georgia Islands. The convoy consisted of 2 cargo ships escorted by 3 destroyers. Five bomb hits were scored on one of the cargo ships. Three of the 10 “Zero” fighters which intercepted were shot down. The “Fortresses” received no serious damage.

I highly doubt that the “flying fortress” hit enemy convoy… The could hardly hit any carrier on Midway

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Sex as “intimate act” or gender?

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Referring to the latter.

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The Pittsburgh Press (November 30, 1942)

Grand jury action hinted by officials

Nightclub holocaust started by busboy lighting match

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
State and county officials started an investigation today into the fire at the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub that claimed 479 lives and injured at least 170, and announced the matter would be placed before a grand jury if evidence of crime was found.

District Attorney William J. Foley concluded a conference with State Fire Marshal Stephen J. Garrity with the announcement that he had directed the marshal to investigate all aspects of the fire.

Mr. Garrity will begin his investigation immediately into all of the aspects of the fire and any evidence of crime disclosed by the investigation will be presented to the grand jury that convenes Wednesday.

Practical joker blamed

The person indirectly responsible for the disaster was an unidentified practical joker who may have paid with his life; the person immediately but innocently responsible was a 16-year-old busboy.

The practical joker, a drunk, unscrewed a lightbulb. The busboy, called to replace the bulb, lighted a match to see the socket. An artificial palm tree blazed up and the fire swept through the cabaret.

But what interested an investigating board headed by Mayor Maurice J. Tobin were the facts that the flames swept through the story-and-a-half structure by way of its tinder-dry decorations and draperies with frightening speed and that scores were trampled and smothered to death in the jam of flailing, screaming, fighting humanity that piled up and blocked the four exits.

Among worst disasters

The board’s first finding was that the club had been inspected, along with all other nightclubs, two weeks ago, following another nightclub fire in which six firemen were killed. The results of that inspection were not revealed.

It was already among the worst disasters in the nation’s history and the long list of critically burned and injured in hospitals indicated the entire death toll was not yet reckoned. Of the more than 150 in hospitals, many, including the star of Western movies, Buck Jones, were in critical condition. The Massachusetts Public Safety Commission feared that at least 30 of these would die, which would make the toll at least 500 dead.

96 bodies unidentified

Only one fire in American history took a greater toll – that which destroyed the Iroquois Theater in Chicago in 1903 and killed 575 persons.

Of the dead, 96 bodies remained unidentified. Sorrowing relatives of missing persons filed through two morgues all night, some of them fainting, others screaming in horror, upon recognizing a partly-charred corpse. Some bodies had been so reduced by flames that they will probably be identified only by the process of elimination – matching of the names of missing persons and their sex against remnants of bodies.

Many unidentified bodies were those of women and girls. They had been dressed in flimsy evening clothes and of course did not have purses of the sort that contain cards and papers which would assist in establishing their identities.

Many students perished

The difficulty of identifying the bodies and also the class and age of the victims was demonstrated in Wellesley College authorities sending its physician, Dr. Elizabeth Broyles, to the two morgues in search of four missing students – Miss Margaret Whitson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Barclay Whitson of Moylan, Pennsylvania; Miss Sadie Fors, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eric H. Fors of Worchester, Massachusetts; Miss Jacqueline Weiss, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Weiss of Cincinnati; and Miss Alean Winkleman, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Winkleman, of Philadelphia.

Among the identified dead was Miss Helen Welch, 17, daughter of Vincent Welch (a vice president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, of Port Washington, Long Island), a student at Radcliffe College. Her escort, Allen L. Kluber, 18, of New York, Harvard sophomore, died with her. They were only two of the several score undergraduates of the Boston environs’ many colleges and universities who perished.

1,000 jammed in club

The Boston Saturday nightclub crowds are always predominantly collegiate and last Saturday night, they were even more so because the big football game, between Boston College and Holy Cross, had attracted an enormous crowd, and Holy Cross’ upset victory had put a large segment of it in a mood for celebrating.

Well over 1,000 were jammed into the Cocoanut Grove, which, although it was founded by the gangster “King Kong” Solomon, is Boston’s most fashionable. It is entered by two revolving doors set side by side and giving into a small foyer. To the right of the foyer is a bar, and in its far wall is the entrance to the restaurant and dance floor, where the floor shows are staged. Adjoining the restaurant in the diagonally opposite corner of the building from the foyer is a cocktail lounge, and in the basement, another bar, called the Melody Lounge.

Inebriate starts it

There is a small door from the street into the ground floor cocktail lounge. That, the two revolving doors and an exit from the part of the basement devoted to storage and service and no wider than the door of a telephone booth, were the only exits.

This space was jampacked Saturday night, mainly with college boys and girls, exuberantly shouting and singing and generally having a good time. Down in the Melody Lounge, a guest who had one too many, climbed on a chair and unscrewed an electric lightbulb from its socket, throwing the room in partial darkness.

A waiter summoned Stanley F. Tomaszewski, 16, a high school student who works as a busboy at the club Friday and Saturday nights, and told him to screw the bulb back in place.

Busboy burns hands

Young Tomaszewski, in an alleged confession, told authorities:

A man in a mixed party, you know, men and women, reached up and turned off a light.

I started to screw it back in, but it fell out of the socket when I touched it. I held it in my hand and lit a match to find the socket and started screwing the bulb back in. Somehow, the match fell out of my hand and I guess it dropped into an imitation palm that was under the bench I was standing on.

The youth said he stepped down off the bench and heard a woman yell “Fire!” That was when he first noticed the blaze.

I tried to put it out with my hands and I burned ‘em both. Then there was a big puff of flame.

Burning girl screams ‘fire’

In an instant, the flames had shot along the rows of trees and up the stairs, fed by draperies, the heavy plush carpet, enveloping every room.

The first intimation the 300 persons, jammed in the dining room where the floor show was about to begin under Master-of-Ceremonies Mickey Alpert, had of approaching disaster was a girl who staggered out on the dance floor, her hair and dress aflame screaming: “Fire.”

Instantly there was an insane dash to the foyer revolving doors. One was locked, but it was equipped with a so-called “panic catch,” intended to free it if enough pressure were applied. Scores piled against it, but the panic catch didn’t work and it remained locked and many died of suffocation there. But the jam against the other door was almost as intense. Four, five and even six persons tried to fit themselves into its revolving compartments. Others were trying to make it revolve the wrong way.

Firemen extinguish flames

Firemen arrived quickly, but there was little to do to save lives because most of the victims were already dead or horribly injured. Axes were quickly applied to the glass-brick windows set high in the walls of the dining room and firemen piled through them quickly enough to extinguish the flames enveloping the clothes of many guests. But these were already so badly burned that they died quickly, some before they could be carried out.

The fire itself was extinguished within a half hour, but for more than two hours, firemen, policemen and volunteer workers, including many soldiers and sailors, were carrying out bodies. At one time, five bodies were being brought out every three minutes.

The club is owned by James and Barnett Welansky, the latter a Boston lawyer, who was attorney for the late gangster Solomon, assassinated by a rival racketeer. James Welansky was at the club Saturday night. It was said at his home that he was ill and under a doctor’s care and could not be interviewed. Barnett Welansky is a patient in the Massachusetts General Hospital recovering from pneumonia.

Officials await reports

Fire Commissioner William A. Reilly, a member of the board of inquiry organized by Mayor Tobin, announced after its first session that it would recommend an ordinance requiring nightclubs and other places where crowds congregate to use no materials in decorations which are not fireproof or fire-resistant. Nightclubs are regularly inspected by the fire department, but, because there is no ordinance dealing with whether the furnishings are fireproof, no mention is made by the inspectors of the decorations.

District Attorney Foley conferred for three hours with investigators, then announced that he awaited reports from State Fire Marshal Stephen C. Garrity and from Commissioner Reilly.

Safety laws inadequate

The last inspection was made by Lt. H. B. Linney of the Boston Fire Department. Deputy Chief John J. Kenney said Lt. Linney had been a member of the department for 30 years and was “a very competent man.”

City Building Commissioner James H. Mooney said inadequate safety laws covering nightclubs probably helped swell the death toll.

Mr. Mooney said the club had adequate exits and conformed to building requirements under which his department operates, but added that the size of the exits, their location or accessibility were not defined in state law and his department’s only authority was to see that there were “reasonable and adequate means of egress.”

He said:

There were sufficient exits. They weren’t marked, but they don’t have to be under state law and my department can only follow the law.

Cabaret classification suggested

Mr. Mooney said there should be a revision of the building law to classify nightclubs.

He said:

This building was licensed as a restaurant and not a place of public assembly, so it doesn’t come under the safety laws with which theaters, public halls and arenas must comply.

The busboy, police said, had been employed in violation of state labor laws which prohibit the employment of any person younger than 18 around a place where liquor is sold and the employment of 16-year-olds after 10 o’clock at night. The boy said his hours the two nights he worked were from 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Panic and horror of nightclub fire told by survivors

Guests, caught unawares, become torches; victims scream; burned bodies piled deep at clogged doors; chorus girl saves companions

Boston, Massachusetts (UP) –
The mad panic of a thousand nightclub revelers, trapped in the flaming Cocoanut Grove Nightclub, their screams and cries, the sight of horribly burned bodies piled deep before clogged doors, and men and women converted into torches, were described today by survivors of Saturday night’s tragedy.

Heroic tales – how the captain of the eight-girl chorus kept her wits and led all of them to safety – were also told by the few able to tell a coherent story.

One of the survivors, William Ladd, who was sitting near the orchestra, said the fire developed so quickly it caught the guests unawares.

A girl had just run from the rear of the club, Mr. Ladd said, and spoke to the manager, when:

…there was a flash of flame in the rear.

‘Instantly there was panic’

He said:

Then black smoke came rolling into the main dining room and onto the dance floor.

Men and women began to scream. Instantly there was panic. They jumped up on their chairs, tipped tables and it seemed everybody wanted to be the first to get out.

At a small door on Piedmont St., one woman fell and others rushing on piled up on top of her. It was impossible for them to get out.

Mr. Ladd said that at the main exit, he saw men and women tearing clothes from each other, trying desperately and hopelessly to get through the clogged doorway.

Sight called ‘horrible’

Benjamin Ellis, who was walking past the nightclub at the moment smoke billowed from the front door, said the sight was “horrible.”

He described men and women, in a desperate bid for escape, trampling each other and becoming hopelessly entangled in the mass pressing through the narrow way.

He said:

The doorway was jammed with screaming people, fighting to get out and locked together by pressure from the rear.

Mr. Ellis and other bystanders grabbed a few near the front and pulled them to safety.

He said:

I got a kick in the jaw but what I suffered was nothing to the majority of those I could hear on the inside. The interior was a mass of flames. Those who could not get near the door tried to escape through the windows.

Revolving door blocked

Reho Sandri, 24, a taxicab driver, was parked across the street from the main entrance when the fire started.

He said:

I heard a lot of screaming and then I saw a lot of people crowding up near the revolving door. I got out of the cab and walked over to the door. The door wouldn’t move because the crowd was trying to push it in opposite directions.

Behind the people, all I saw was flames and people raising their hands behind the crowd and screaming the dying in pain. I kicked open the door to the nearby checkroom but nobody was in there.

Then the people starting coming out. They ran out with their clothes on fire. Some of them had their hair on fire and others had their bodies on fire. Some dropped and died on the sidewalk.

Bodies piled on sidewalk

We started carrying bodies to the ambulances. There was such a shortage of stretchers that they piled the bodies on the sidewalk. I counted 38 corpses in a few minutes.

I saw a lady run of the building with her hair on fire. She fell in front of the door and died. I helped carry people to nearby garages.

I saw people with no skin on them at all, and I saw a priest standing near the door and blessing the people as they came out.

The people that didn’t get out in the first few minutes were just goners. That fire came so fast that they didn’t know what happened. I saw nine men go in a minute before it happened and I didn’t see one of them come out.

The cool wit of the captain of the eight-girl chorus probably saved the lives of the girls, who were just ready to start the floor show when the fire broke out.

Chorus captain calm

Dorothy Christie, a member of the chorus, told how Capt. Jackie McGregor calmly gathered the girls together while the flames licked outside the door of their dressing room.

The first thing Jackie did was to make us cover our heads so we could not inhale smoke. The fire was right at our door. None of us had much on but we grabbed what we could. Jackie led us down through the flames and smoke to the basement. I never was so scared in my life. But we kept right on down the stairs.

Jackie never stopped although the smoke was so thick, I thought we’d choke to death right there. I just couldn’t keep it up.

‘Worst thing I’ll ever see’

Jackie and the other girls disappeared in the smoke so I turned back with Claudie Boyle and Mary Jane Courtney and we managed to get back to the dressing room. Then we thought of the window.

I looked out and it seemed like a long way down to the street. It’s two stories from the sidewalk. I could see a lot of people running around and shouting and some others being dragged out with their faces all burned and no dresses on and some men with their hair all burned off – gee, it was the worst thing I’ll ever see.

One jumps from window

Some waiters were under the window and told us to jump. Claudia climbed over the window sill and I held her until some men came under and then she dropped into their arms. Pretty soon, a fireman put a ladder up at the window and Mary Jane and I climbed out and he helped us down.

I don’t know what happened to Jackie and the other girls but they managed to fight their way through the mob and get out a window downstairs somewhere.

Henry Manesian, a trombonist in the orchestra, climbed into a refrigerator in the kitchen, and waited there until he was rescued by firemen.

Rail line severed –
Allies cut off Tunis, Bizerte

Heavy fighting reported at big naval base
By Edward W. Beattie, United Press staff writer


London, England –
Radio Morocco reported from Algiers today that the French submarine Casablanca has arrived at Algiers from Toulon.

Germans scuttle vessel –
Jap attempts to help Buna by destroyer and sub fail

By Brydon C. Taves, United Press staff writer


Washington –
The Navy announced today Army Flying Fortresses have attacked an enemy convoy west of New Georgia Island in the Solomons and scored five bomb hits on a cargo ship.

10 Army fliers killed

Sioux City, Iowa –
Ten Army fliers were killed today when a plane crashed after taking off from the U.S. Army bomber base here.

Toppling the tower

By Florence Fisher Parry

Make dollars join in battle, President says

People at home must provide untold millions, he says

You spell it ‘bureaucrazy’ –
Nation’s capital city of brushoffs, a reporter finds

He goes out for a simple story and then. Over a period of days, discovers what is actually meant by ‘the Washington Merry-Go-Round’
By Dick Thornburg, Scripps-Howard staff eriter

Civilian mobilization chief named by Landis

Plastics industry is going ‘all out’ on war production

Manufacturers who once made gadgets for autos and homes now a vital part of arms work; and they say it’s only the beginning!
By Charles T. Lucey, Scripps-Howard staff writer

U.S. fliers down 23 Japs, wreck Canton

Warns of more rationing –
Wickard asks record food production

Allied fliers from Libya blast Tripoli and Tunisia

Foe hit on Attu and Solomons

U.S. fliers blast ships at both ends of Pacific

Editorial: Rubber-stampism out