Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1967. Israel's Military Superiority in the Six Day War

The "State of the Art"
From Wikipedia: "Israeli Air Force officers next to a destroyed Egyptian MiG-21 at Bir Gifgafa."

TO John Lynch (ABC News memo)

CC Mssrs Sheehan et al

FROM Bill Downs

14 June 1967

Reports that the Israeli air force had a new and secret air-to-ground weapon which enabled them to shatter the bulk of Egyptian and Arab air power in the opening hours of the Mid-East war is strongly discounted by the Pentagon's air force experts.

Instead the officials are full of praise for what they call "the expert and efficient Israeli application of the state of the art as it exists today." This echoes Secretary McNamara's high praise for what he called the Israeli "executive and management techniques" which enabled Tel Aviv to mobilize the nation in less than 10 days and to win a major war in half that time."

US Air Force experts explain that the "state of the art" of destroying an enemy's planes and bombers by surprise and mostly on the ground involves a number of elements. The Israeli planes were equipped to employ optical, infra-red, radar and heat-seeking sighting devices. Depending on the conditions and timing over the target, they would use one or a combination of these elements to find their targets and attack.

For example, Israel's tracking radar scanners could spot the take-off of Egyptian planes from their bases at 6 a.m. and know for sure that they would have to return to their bases by 8:20 a.m. or crash because of a lack of fuel. Thus the Israeli air command could time the counter-attack for the landing time, and when they swept in their heat-seeking rockets would home in on the returned planes waiting to be fueled or during re-fueling. (This presumably happened in some of the Israeli attacks and accounts for the fact that the missiles hit the operation Migs while ignoring the dummy mockup of the next revetment.)

Pentagon officials point out that Israel's strategy in the war was mandatory and should have been obvious to the Arabs. The beach-head nation did not possess enough territory for large-scale maneuvers within her own borders. She HAD to carry the war outside that territory -- and to do that, she must attain early air superiority over the combat areas and also to forestall a possibly serious internal morale problem had the Arabs been able to bomb centers of Israeli population containing large numbers of the elderly. They stress the difficulty of effective camouflage in the desert and say that Israeli photo-reconnaissance over permanent Arab air force installations around Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and Amman must have had those bases gridded down to the last foot of ground. The dummy Migs were screened out in advance and the Israeli jet attacks could virtually have been plotted and directed by radar from Tel Aviv.

This is what the USAF means by maximum employment of "the state of the art." And this is exactly what the Israelis did. The weapons they carried in their jet fighters were mostly British made. We have worked closely with the British in the research and development of these weapons. To answer the obvious question: yes, we have similar or better weapons. We are using them in Vietnam with notable success when allowed. And because of the Vietnam experience, we have developed "the state of the art" to a higher level even than the Israelis.

Then there is the remaining element which contributed so much to the Israeli success and which differentiates so much the US aerial effort in Viet Nam. The Egyptian and Arab anti-aircraft defenses, if they really existed operationally, completely collapsed. This lack of opposition from the air or the ground greatly aids a pilot's accuracy and increases the efficiency of his technology and weapons.

Without in any sense denigrating the fantastic achievement of Israeli arms in last week's Middle East conflict, it still must be said, as General Dayan pointed out, that Israel was most fortunate in the choice of her enemies.

Friday, July 18, 2014

1942. The American Red Cross' "Glamour Battalion"

"Glamour Battalion" Overworked as Doughboys in Britain Go All Out to Make Girls Feel at Home
"Newly-arrived American Red Cross workers say 'hello' to soldiers at one of the Red Cross clubs in London."


United Press Staff Correspondent (printed in the Kansas City Dispatch and elsewhere).

London. September 8, 1942. -- (UP)

The American Red Cross' "glamour battalion" came from the United States to make the doughboys feel at home, but it didn't work out that way. The doughboys are trying to make the "glamour battalion" feel at home.

"We find they are more interested in making us feel at home and won't let us worry about them," said pretty Ann Douglas, daughter of Judge Walter Douglas of Savannah, Ga.

She is typical of the girls in the battalion -- all in their 20's, pretty and shapely. Miss Douglas, blonde and blue-eyed, was sitting amid piles of newspapers, ping pong paddles, checker boards and playing cards. She organizes entertainment for American soldiers in one Red Cross club with accommodations for more than 1,000 men.

"I often wondered what I'd do if I had 1,000 men on my hands," she said. "Look at me now. It's not all fun."

Anne Ellis of New York and Faye Smith of Marks, Miss., said they were a little hoarse from a singing session the night before at the Washington club.

"We had a few Rangers and other soldiers on leave who wanted to sing -- which every one within three blocks can tell you we did, but loud." Miss Ellis said.

Miss Ellis studied voice before she joined the Red Cross. Miss Smith was director of physical recreation in Dallas, Tex., high schools.

From 7 a. m. to Midnight

They get up at 7 a. m. and sometimes work past midnight. Occasionally they have an afternoon free and get one day off a week in which to keep personal dates.

Perhaps the homiest touch to the entire Red Cross setup in Britain is provided by Mrs. Mary Mumford of Stamford, Conn., middle-aged and white haired, who served with the Red Cross during the army's southern maneuvers and who has two sons in the navy.

She is "Mom" to every man who comes into the Washington club.

"I write letters to their mothers telling them their boys are all right, and if they lose all their money or their railroad tickets, they can get some money from me," she said.

Every Loan Repaid

An American resident of Britain gave her $60 to "mess around with," and she unofficially lends from it to men on leave. They can get up to $8, and so far every loan has been repaid.

"The boys here know they feel free to do anything they want," she said. If a man comes here on leave, wants relaxation and gets too much to drink, we don't teach him manners or give him lectures. If that happens, and it is bound to, it is our job to take care of him and let him know there's a place he can come to find his friends."

So far, American soldiers have been using Red Cross facilities to the utmost, keeping its billets full, and taking advantage of its sight-seeing tours, free theater tickets, and free dances.

Mrs. Mumford's biggest problem concerns boys who ask her to find out why they don't get mail. One soldier had been receiving cables of condolences and knew something had happened to his family. But he couldn't hear from his family. Mrs. Mumford found out by cable that his mother had died.

1942. Air Raid Advice Should the War Come to America

Advice by 'Veteran' on Bombs
United Press Writer From Kansas City, Kansas Tells Americans What London Has Learned About Raids.
Source: "People offered help to neighbours. This sign says 'Shelter', and adds that if 'caught out in a raid' there was room in the family shelter for two more people."

United Press Staff Correspondent (printed in the Kansas City Dispatch)

London. -- (UP)

America is in the war, and its citizens may find it helpful to know what British civilians have learned about aerial bombardment in the event that New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles has to "take it" as did London.

Here -- as compiled by correspondents of the United Press bureau -- are some of the guiding rules and principles demonstrating that it's good to be careful but that the actual danger -- if you cooperate with authorities -- is much less than one would imagine.

1. You can expect to be frightened. However, you get consolation from the fact that you've got lots of company, for there are few people who do not feel a sinking sensation in the stomach when a drone of bombers comes from the night sky. But you'll also find yourself trying not to act scared -- which is just about the best thing you can do for the morale of the people around you.

Odds 300,000 to 1

2. Americans here have figured out that if you live in Portland, Ore., or Birmingham, Ala., both of which have about 300,000 population, your chances of getting hit in an air raid are about one in 300,000 -- assuming that every bomb which drops kills at least one person. And that doesn't always happen. If you live in a target area -- near steel mills for example -- your chances of getting hit are greater.

3. United Press men in London have developed two philosophies toward bombings. Brydon Taves, now in South Africa, adopted a "what the hell theory," asserting that if a bomb has your name on it, there's nothing you can do about it. The other is the "no use asking for it" theory whereby you take up residence in reinforced concrete buildings and stay away from glass as much as possible when raids are on. Flying fragments of glass are probably the most dangerous results of bombing. Blasts from the biggest bombs rarely are felt more than 300 years away.

Safest Spot Disputed

4. After two years of war here, there are two schools of thought as to the safest place during a raid. One school contends that the only safe place is close to the top of a building -- you won't be buried under wreckage. The other school says that the basement is safer. Few bombs travel more than four or five stories before exploding and people in the basement usually are safe.

A good compromise would be the middle floors of a good, strong building, while if you live in a residential district your basement is fairly good protection. Britain's uncomfortable backyard Anderson air raid shelters saved thousands of lives, but the trend now is for each home to have a strongly reinforced room. One shelter -- a good one -- consists of a heavy wooden table with wire netting around the sides.

5. Above all, keep cool.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

1944. Downs and Cronkite in the Low Countries

"The Good Old Days"

The anecdote in the above video about Walter Cronkite and Bill Downs taking cover in a ditch on the front line is perhaps the most often repeated story about Downs, and it appears across many publications. The actual quote, usually something similar to "these are the good old days!", varies among sources.

Another mishap that took place just days before involves Downs and Cronkite trapped and separated during a Luftwaffe air raid.

There are a number of different accounts of this particular story, and Cronkite himself wrote his own account. Each retelling appears to vary slightly, with new details in each one. This incident took place during Operation Market Garden in late September 1944.


As recounted by Cronkite himself in 1963:
January 8, 1963


By Walter Cronkite,
CBS News Correspondent
Walter Cronkite, a United Press correspondent during World War II, revisited the scene where he had dropped with the U.S. Airborne Division, for the "Twentieth Century" documentary "Air Drop at Arnhem," a report on the largest airborne operation in military history, which ended in disaster. The report will be broadcast on the CBS Television Network Sunday, Jan. 20 from 6:00 to 6:30 PM, EST, with Cronkite as the narrator.

I was either one of the luckiest or among the unluckiest correspondents in World War II, depending on one's point of view. I was picked as pool correspondent to drop into Holland with the 101st U.S. Airborne Division, under the command of Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor. The objective of the Allied Airborne Army (82nd U.S. Airborne Division, 101st Division and the 1st Airborne Division) was to end the war in 1944 by making an end-run around the Siegfried Line at Arnhem and sweeping down into the Ruhr, the industrial heart of Germany.

Prior to the air drop at Arnhem, the Allied Airborne Army had been scheduled to go into action on 16 different occasions. Each time the correspondents would draw to see who would be pool man. I was winner 13 of the 16 times. From July until September I was constantly on alert. Awakened at night (it always happened at 3:00 in the morning), I would be driven out to some secret base in England, there to wait...Sometimes my drop-mantes were Poles and Czechs, desperate men, blackened faces and all. One time we actually were in the planes, propellers spinning, when a soldier in a jeep came tearing across the field to tell us the drop had been called off. The reason the airborne operations were called off was Gen. Patton's swift advance across France, securing the areas before the airborne troops could drop into them.

On Sept. 17, 1944, we finally made it -- 20,000 men in 1,544 planes, 478 gliders.

My fellow correspondents advised me not to go by glider. It was much more dangerous than dropping by parachute, they told me. But, on this drop I was assigned to glide, and glide I did. Unfortunately, no one had told me the technique used in glider landings. I later learned that the pilot, after being cut loose from the tow-plane, puts the nose down and dives, thus making a fast-moving, hard-to-hit target. In short, the glider drops like a stone. Then after leveling out and touching down, the pilot slams the nose into the ground, bringing the craft to an abrupt halt -- usually with the shattered tail waving in the air. In this correspondent's opinion, glider pilots were among the war's most courageous men.

When I landed with the 101st near Eindhoven, our pilots proved to be a classicist. Men, helmets and gear flew like shrapnel around the interior of our deliberately crashed glider. I grabbed a helmet from the debris and ran across the field to where I saw others heading. Stopped by enemy fire, an officer pounding along next to me, shouted, "Major, are you sure that is the rendezvous point?" I told him I wasn't sure at all, and, in addition, wasn't a major. "Then why are you wearing that helmet?" he yelled indignantly. I had picked the wrong one.

After staying with the 101st for two days, I joined up with Bill Downs, CBS News correspondent attached to the British Second Army, the ground troops which were driving up the Eindhoven-Nijmegen-Arnhem road in an effort to link with the three airborne divisions.

We set out to find brigade headquarters at Eindhoven, on the outskirts of which the Germans still fought. At dusk, we were driving down a road next to a park when the Germans started bombing. We pulled our jeep under some trees and Downs unlimbered his recorder. But the first string of bombs fell in perfect pattern across the park, straddling us. Bill and I vaulted the fence into the park. How, I'll never know. Afterwards, as I prepared a more leisurely departure from the park, that spiked fence loomed six feet.

In addition, the Germans sowed the woods with small anti-personnel mines. After the raid, I went looking through those mine-infested woods for Downs, shouting his name over and over. He was gone, vanished. Finally, I found the jeep and recorded a tribute to my gallant colleague. I found out later the recorder hadn't been working -- probably fortunately, considering the nature of that particular corn!

A few days later, the loss of Downs still weighing heavily, I walked into the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. There was Downs at the bar, friendly and unharmed.

I was indignant. I told him I had walked for hours seeking him or his body through that potentially German-infested, certainly mined woods shouting his name until I was hoarse. Had he done the same for me?

"Are you nuts?" said Downs. "Going through those words shouting 'Cronkite, Cronkite' I'd have ended up in a Berlin hospital."

Downs' point was well taken. "Cronkite" is Dutch and after 280 years of Americanization doesn't mean much of anything, but a German word that sounds very much like it means, clearly and understandably, "sickness" [Krankheit].

Downs' receipt from the Hotel Métropole in Brussels

This account is from Cronkite (2012) by Douglas Brinkley, pages 120-121:
A number of Cronkite's great war stories came from Market Garden. His sidekick in the flat Dutch countryside was frequently Bill Downs of CBS, a former Unipresser and Cronkite's closest friend among the Murrow Boys. With Downs as his constant companion, Cronkite maneuvered around the shifting battlefields of rural Belgium and the Netherlands that month. Downs, who had been attached to the British Second Army, and Cronkite were in rural Belgium when a merciless Luftwaffe strafing occurred. They sprinted together to the nearby forest for cover. Soon they were separated. Cronkite called out to Downs, but to no avail.  He feared for his friend's life. For hours Cronkite shouted for Downs until his voice was hoarse. Once back in Brussels, he told friends that poor Downs was missing in action. Then one evening, Cronkite headed over to the Hotel Metropole for a cocktail. To his astonishment, there was Downs, sitting at the bar with friends, having a gay old time. A wave of anger swept over Cronkite as he headed to Downs's table.

"I thought you'd been killed," he said. "I went through the woods calling your name."

An embarrassed Downs had an alibi. "I couldn't go around calling your name," he said. "They'd think I was shouting in German." 

As told in Assignment to Hell: The War Against Nazi Germany with Correspondents Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, A.J. Liebling, Homer Bigart, and Hal Boyle (2012) by Timothy M. Gay:
As the dive-bombers struck, Cronkite was in a jeep with his old UP pal from Kansas City, bespectacled CBS Radio correspondent Bill Downs, the reporter that Murrow had wanted Cronkite to replace in Russia. Cronkite and Downs were driving near the Philips Electric works complex when bombs began falling. They jumped out of the jeep and vaulted over a tall fence into a park. There they huddled behind chopped-down trees as bombs pounded all around. Neither knew how, but they became separated.
With incendiary fires raging, Eindhoven looked sickeningly familiar to Cronkite: London during the Little Blitz. Cronkite knew about the Luftwaffe's dastardly "butterfly" bombs that tended to lodge in trees and bushes before detonating. So as he went looking for Downs, he had one eye peeled on the limbs overhead and the other scoping the ground for mines.

Cronkite decided to get out of the woods and go back to the jeep. When he retraced his steps, he was astounded to find that the fence over which he and Downs had scrambled was more than seven feet tall. Without an adrenaline surge like the one he’d had earlier, Cronkite couldn't possibly climb it. He had to find a downed tree whose trunk was close enough to the fence to use as a makeshift stepladder.

Downs was nowhere to be found. Cronkite even checked Eindhoven's bomb shelters; no one had seen him. In one shelter a Dutch family with sobbing children spotted Cronkite's uniform and began pressing him about when the bombing would stop—which, of course, he couldn't answer. He went back to the jeep, found Downs' tape machine, and recorded a heartfelt tribute, praying someone would find it—and, eventually, Downs' body, too.

Then Cronkite hitched a ride to Brussels, where he hoped to find a warm bath, better wire facilities, and more malleable censors than the 101st's tight asses, which barely let reporters acknowledge that the division was in Holland and cramped their time on transmitters.

Cronkite found a room at Brussels' Hôtel Métropole and, still dirty head to toe, decided to toast his departed friend with a quick drink at the bar. "There stood Downs," Cronkite recalled, "immaculate in a clean dress uniform."

"Damn, Bill, I spent all that time at risk of life and limb from those mines yelling for you, looking for you, and you just up and left me there."

Downs' excuse was that, after a few minutes of rasping "Cronkite! Cronkite!" it occurred to him that his friend’s name sounded disconcertedly like the German word for "sickness." If any enemy soldiers encountered Downs, "They would have figured I was sick and hustled me off to a hospital in Berlin." Cronkite couldn't help but laugh.

A few days later Downs and Cronkite were back in Holland with the 101st, which was fighting off another German attempt to regain control of the highway north of Eindhoven. In the midst of lethal mortar fire, Downs and Cronkite leapt into a ditch.

"We had been there a while when Downs, lying behind me, began tugging at my pants leg. I figured he had some scheme for getting us out of there, and I twisted my neck around to look back at him," Cronkite recalled.

"Just think!" Downs hollered. "If we survive them, these will be the good old days!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1985. Gathering of World War II Correspondents

The 40th Anniversary of the End of the War in Europe

On May 6, 1985, just before the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, CBS Morning News hosted some of the most famous American World War II correspondents as they gathered to discuss their experiences. The group included many of the surviving Murrow Boys. Downs had died seven years earlier.

The broadcast is hosted by Dan Rather, and features: Walter Cronkite (UP), William L. Shirer (CBS News), Winston Burdett (CBS News), Eric Sevareid (CBS News), Richard C. Hottelet (CBS News), Andy Rooney (Stars and Stripes), Ernest Leiser (Stars and Stripes), Charles Collingwood (CBS News), and Douglas Edwards (CBS News).

Monday, July 14, 2014

1943. Harvest of Death

Harvest of Death: Behind the Lines in Russia's Reconquered Villages
Newsweek cover from September 20, 1943.

From Newsweek, September 20, 1943, p. 35-38. 

The almost incredible grimness of the war in Russia was never better illustrated than in this notable dispatch from Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent in Moscow, telling of his second trip to the front.

The big twin-engined Douglas transport took off from the Moscow airdrome with thirteen British and American correspondents and four escorting Russian officials. We were flying back into the summer toward the Ukraine -- welcome enough after the first chilly fall breezes now turning the leaves of Moscow's trees. We stopped for a brief landing in the ruined city of Voronezh, where Russian and German troops had sat and looked at each other for more than a year until the Nazis were finally kicked out last January. Then we picked up four Yaks as an escort for the rest of the journey. These four fighters, piloted by Russian women, didn't make the men in the party feel any more masculine.


While we were sitting in the hot sun waiting for our transportation, there was an ominous roar. Eight jeeps stormed over a hill, running in line like baby partridges. Bringing up the rear was a ¾-ton Dodge ammunition carrier that followed us thereafter.

In the late afternoon we headed into the setting sun. Each jeep had a driver with a tommy gun at his side. Dave Nichol of The Chicago Daily News shared my car. We called our driver Junior because when we pronounced his real name, it didn't come out so good. We soon found out that Junior was a frustrated fighter pilot. That would have been all right if only he hadn't tried to loop the damn thing.

Driving along a dusty Ukrainian road over the rolling steppe past white-washed, thatch-roofed Ukrainian villages was one of the most beautifully peaceful experiences I have ever had. The war was a million miles away as we went through mile after mile of wheat and rye plantings and fields of sunflowers as yellow as butter. We stopped and picked the ripened heads of these flowers and for the rest of the trip everyone ate sunflower seeds in the best Ukrainian manner.

But as we drove into the sun, we also drove back into the war. By nightfall the villages had become more and more damaged, with army traffic heavier and army control points more frequent. As night fell, we turned on the convoy lights -- dull slits visible only a dozen feet away. We had been warned we were driving through mined fields -- that the roads had been de-mined but that the fields had not. Once in a while Junior, wandering off the road, would turn on the driving lights. Twice when this happened sentries fired warning shots into the air.

At a farm near a crossroads where the railroad cut the highway, the cars stopped for butter and eggs. Mikhail Vasseff, assistant chief of the foreign-press department, walked down the line and warned the drivers of danger. Meanwhile, there was a roar of German bombers overhead, but they couldn't be seen against the starry sky.


The jeeps started out again. Vasseff was in the second jeep, and the United Press correspondent Henry Shapiro was in the third accompanied by two British correspondents. Nichol and I were in the fourth. Just as the cars went over the railroad right-of-way, there was a muffled explosion. On the road ahead a deep orange and red flash bloomed like a giant poppy and shot about 20 feet into the air. The concussion flattened the brim of my hat. The cars stopped, and everything was silent for a few seconds while parts of a jeep began falling to the ground.

Then there were a few groans -- deep shuddering ones. Vasseff's jeep somehow had run over an anti-tank mine. The groans came from Maj. A. A. Volkoff, the representative of the Soviet General Staff, and Viktor Kozhemiako, the chief censor of the press department. Volkoff's legs had been blown off, and Kozhemiako's legs and back were lacerated. Vasseff's body was not found until the next morning because it had been blown 60 feet away. The major and the censor died shortly after being taken to a nearby base hospital.

The jeep was blown a dozen feet off the road, turned over, and was almost torn in two. The driver escaped miraculously with only a wound in the back of his head. It was a freak mine that somehow hadn't gone off although hundreds of cars had driven over the spot on the road throughout the day.

The next day at dawn there was some question as to whether or not to continue to the front -- the explosions and deaths had shaken us all. Our surviving escort, Lt. Col. Studyonoff of Moscow, got in touch with headquarters in the capital, and it was decided that since the Steppe Front headquarters were expecting us, we would continue. All night long we tried to wrap ourselves around the jeeps in such a way as to get a few hours' sleep, but our efforts were mostly a failure because of the German and Russian planes flying overhead.


On the approaches to Belgorod we came to a village in the region where the Red Army made its initial break-through. Every house in these villages was burned or blown up. The trees were shattered and blasted. In the fields and alongside the road were the hulks of tanks -- both Russian and German -- which were burned, blown up, and filled with holes.

The battlefield had been pretty well cleaned up, and the people were beginning to come back. Every peasant stove had a small group of women around it digging in the ruins for salvage. In some places there had been attempts at reconstruction, but for the most part the people were now sleeping in haystacks, dugouts, or on top of the ground.

Right now there was a big rush to get in as much of the crops as possible. The lack of labor, machinery, and sometimes even scythes made this a primitive job. The method mostly used was that of the old scythe and cradle, dating back to the times when women flailed the grain and gathered the wheat by winnowing the chaff in the wind, although some of the women were even picking the wheat by hand. This scene, with the kerchiefed and barefooted women using these ancient methods of harvest, made this part of the Ukraine appear almost biblical -- except for those ruined villages and the blasted tanks of the new Philistines.

Belgorod, which had changed hands four times, looked much as could be expected. Not a single major building was intact. I have seen so much damage in so many ruined cities, towns, and villages here in Russia that only the strongest adjectives could be used to describe this ruin.

We drove to the town of Liptzy, 15 miles north of Kharkov, where Gen. Ivan Konneff's staff had established our headquarters in the peasant cottages. The first thing the army did was to take us to a portable shower tent in a field near a small stream. It was the army version of the famous Russian baths. The tent was about 50 feet square, and inside there were a dozen shower taps of steaming, running water, which was heated in a portable boiler on a truck. That hot shower was worth all the bumps I had suffered in the jeep.

Then we were taken to breakfast which included steak, vodka, tomatoes, sardines, potatoes, rice, and more vodka. There was not a single reference throughout the trip to the tragedy that befell the second jeep. It was strictly the army attitude toward death at the front. That evening Col. Ivan Vorobieff came to our headquarters and outlined the situation at the front.

The following day I still felt dead even after a night's sleep on a comfortable mattress stuffed with straw. However, no one can remain sleepy after a breakfast of sardines and tomatoes washed down with vodka followed by a hamburger steak and potatoes.
"Extremity: Here is what German propaganda has come to. This ghastly line-up is supposed to show the bodies of women killed in an Allied air raid on Cologne. It probably is not faked, but it demonstrates the lengths to which the Nazis have gone in building up the horror aspects of the Allied bombing offensive against the Reich." From p. 38. Photo credit to Acme News Photos.

A colonel from an engineers corps who had fought in the battle for Kharkov took us for a tour of the city's circular defenses. Their basis was a huge anti-tank ditch extending 30 kilometers around the vital sectors of the city. However, the Germans depended mostly on a system of trenches emanating like ganglions from deep pillboxes and shelters. Over them timber was laid and then the wood was covered with earth.

There was bitter fighting on the northern approaches to the city, where you could see that Russian mortars had covered every foot of the ground. As in the last war, mortars are still the best weapon against trench defenses. On the southern defense sector the Germans had built their defenses through a canning factory by barricading the basement windows.

Our colonel also turned out to be an expert on German mines. He said there were some ten different types of German anti-personnel mines and about five different anti-tank types. He showed us the newest type of each category.

The new German anti-personnel mine looks like an oversized potato masher and is made of concrete. Painted green and stuck upright in clumps of bushes or high grass, it is hard to detect. It is discharged by a trip wire.

The Nazi anti-tank mine must have been devised by someone with a personality as nasty as Hitler's. It is made of steel about a foot in diameter and 4 inches thick. Besides an ordinary detonator on top, it also includes one on the side and bottom. Thus the detecting sapper must handle it like a cracked egg; he can't shift it or lift it without having it go to pieces in his hands.

Next, we loaded up the jeeps again and headed southwest over the muddiest road in Russia. Ukrainian gumbo is a special kind of mud which looks like tar and glue. This was in the Udi River valley with low rolling hills on each side. It was typical of the Russian collective-farm country, but it was nearly all uncultivated.

There was a definite change in the atmosphere. We saw more soldiers, more transport, and greater alertness. The village ruins looked fresher, and we passed an occasional loaded ambulance. We drove between mine and bomb craters for 10 miles on this road, which was remarkably solid considering its condition.

Then we began to see an occasional wrecked tank. Alongside an orchard we could see dozens of them off to the left among the young apple trees. They looked like broken toys. But a gust of wind put reality into the scene. It was putrid with the smell of death, and from then on we breathed through our mouths. This tank battle had been fought three days before. Not all the bodies had been buried.


We turned off the road directly southward and came to what had once been a collective farm in the village of Karotich. There were only a dozen houses with fifteen or twenty outbuildings, but it was completely dead. The sole inhabitants were two women, two chickens, and one German who had died after crawling some 25 feet from his tank.

Karotich was surrounded by a large truck garden with several acres of fully grown cabbages, tomatoes, beets, and potatoes. Most of this garden had been ruined by a battle between more than 100 Russian tanks and a similar number of German ones. The Russians knocked out 60 Nazi machines in this engagement, and forced the Germans, who were concentrated for a large-scale assault aimed at recapturing Kharkov, into retreating.

There is not much use in trying to describe a tank battle unless one sees it personally, but this one must have been terrific. The Germans used Tigers as well as medium types. They also employed oversized Ferdinand mobile guns. Down in the cabbage patch there was on wrecked Ferdinand and one Tiger almost side by side. Their crews were buried among the cabbages. The smell of rotting bodies turned a few of us pale, but no one lost his breakfast -- although there were a few bad moments when we had to chase away two chickens pecking at a German's body.


Until I started to examine details, Kharkov looked about the same as when I saw it five months ago. Last March sometimes at least one floor remained in some buildings, while there was occasionally even a building intact. When the Germans worked over it the second time, they missed nothing. The entire city will have to be rebuilt. Sixty per cent of the residences have been destroyed. There is an atrocity commission now investigating the Nazi war crimes of the second occupation. The civilians told us the usual stories: 300 wounded of the Red Army were burned to death in the local hospital and another 400 by the occupying SS troops.

That is what history looks like when you are shown it firsthand here in Russia. This war and this front will cover many chapters. Every paragraph will reflect the skill and courage of this 1943 Red Army and people who are defeating the 1939 Nazi Germans.