Friday, November 21, 2014

1944. The First Live Broadcast from "Somewhere in Normandy"

The First Live Broadcast from Normandy to America After D-Day

June 14, 1944
I'm speaking to you from a tent somewhere in Normandy, that of a truly free France liberated eight days ago by the invasion of British, Canadian, and American troops. It is 6:30 AM over here––the ninth day of the invasion is only a few hours old.
If you hear strange noises during this broadcast, it's the RAF and the Allied air forces and the American air forces on dawn patrol. It's more than dawn patrol––it's dawn attack.
I could take you right now in a thirty minute Jeep ride to where the Allied troops are fighting. You can get to some part of the front in thirty minutes no matter where you happen to be.

So much has happened in these past eight days that they seem like eight months to every one of us over here. Americans have died, and British and Canadians have died––and a very great number of Germans have died. But the Allied forces have achieved what Hitler's henchmen said was impossible. We are in Europe to stay––and you only have to look at the face of an American doughboy, or into the eyes of a man from Calgary or from London, to know that we're not going to stop until we have completed the job.

All this comes under the category of making history. 
The news from the front this morning is good. As a matter of fact, we have no bad news to report since the Allied forces crossed the beaches.

On the American sector of the front, the troops continue to widen the bulge, threatening the entire peninsula of Cherbourg. The British-Canadian sector likewise is slowly expanding. There are hold-ups at a village here or there which the Germans have strongly fortified. There has not been much forward movement [around the city of Caen on the left flank of the] beachhead.

But you might compare this bit of liberated France to a giant muscle which daily is becoming stronger and stronger as the sinews of war pour into it. As more tanks and guns and men pour in, the muscle expands.

Thus far the Germans have been unable to do much about it. However, last night and today there are signs that the Nazi high command has finally been able to get some fresh troops into the line. The fact that it took a week for his first reinforcements to arrive speaks for itself as to the effectiveness of the Allied night and day bombing over the past few months.

But as the Germans reinforce––and we are reinforced––there can be little doubt that a big battle is developing. In this sense, the Battle of France is a race between the supply systems of the opposing armies. The force that gains the superiority first will strike. You'll be interested to know that our supply position is all right.

I have heard so many stories of gallantry and pure guts since I arrived here that it is difficult for me to begin to tell them. Heroes are not uncommon on this beachhead. I was lucky in my own personal invasion of France. I came in on a comparatively quiet sector.

As General Montgomery has announced, the battle for the beaches has been won. Sometime when we're not so busy, history will record the battle of the Commandos who landed behind the German defenses and so disrupted the Nazis that they were firing at each other. Or of the Canadians who walked point blank into German shore fire to silence these batteries.

And the most glorious single action of the whole invasion was performed by the American assault force. They clung to their position literally by their fingernails. They fought as no Americans have ever fought before. They were outnumbered, out-gunned with odds twenty to one against them.

They took their position coming through a wall of shrapnel, mortar fire, and machine gun bullets that was terrifying. The casualties were high, higher than on any other salient.

This audio features only half of what Downs planned to report in his original draft.

Friday, November 14, 2014

1943. Stories from the Eastern Front

"The Stories that Mark Themselves in the Minds of Ordinary Soldiers"
Source: "Soviet soldiers advance through the streets of Jelgava; summer 1944"

The parenthesis indicate portions of the transcripts that were censored by Soviet officials.
Bill Downs 
Saturday, April 10, 1943

Certain Red Army units have started their own spring offensives in a war of nerves that has had some pretty ridiculous results.

Here's what happened a few weeks ago on one sector of the front. The Red Army unit dug into this sector has been fighting the Germans for a long time. They were fairly familiar with a crack German regiment opposite them. It was a regiment of the Waffen-SS, Hitler's personal troops.

One night a group of soldiers went out on a strategic clearing that formed the no-man's-land between the two trenches and put up two poles. Between these two poles they stretched a canvas cartoon of Hitler -- it was not complimentary to the Fuehrer. Under the cartoon was written in German in large letters, "Shoot at me." Then the unit waited until morning to see what would happen.

When the sun rose, they could hear loud discussions in the German trenches. Staff officers came to the trenches and had a look at the insulting cartoon through binoculars. But the Germans refused to obey the instructions to shoot at their own leader.

Before noon they opened an offensive to capture the cartoon. A detail of German soldiers was ordered to take the canvas down. This detail almost reached the cartoon of Hitler before they were wiped out. Another detail was sent. It too failed to get the cartoon. And then in the evening, German artillery all along the sector opened up on the Fuehrer. All the German guns were concentrated on the spot. It took a fifteen minute concentrated barrage before the cartoon was blasted out of existence -- which is one way of killing a dictator.

Right now the grandstand military experts are having a field day. (You can get a military plan of attack from a score of armchair generals at the drop of a hat.)
(There are plans for a Red Army offensive -- there are people who say Hitler is going to do this and that -- there are others who say Hitler is going to start mass bombing again.)
And any time you want, you can find Russians who will argue that there is not going to be a second front this year and why. Other Russians will argue just as violently that there will be a second front. It's a favorite way of passing the time here.

But the feeling of the ordinary soldier is best expressed in a story from the front that I heard the other day. The Red Army men are getting a lot of American canned meat, and they like it. However, they don't call it canned meat. When they get hungry, they say "Come on Ivan, let's open up a can of that Second Front."
Bill Downs 
Thursday night, June 17, 1943

(It won't be until after the war that we will know the full story of the Russian guerrilla fighters now operating behind German lines. However we do know now that these partisans are tying down hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of Axis soldiers trying to keep the invaded country quiet while the German soldiers fight at the front.)

This spring has been a profitable season for the partisans. And today we have the story of a Ukrainian Robin Hood who is now giving the occupation authorities more trouble than any guerrilla leader that has yet appeared in Russia.

He is called "Bogdan the Elusive" -- and he heads one of the biggest partisan armies in Russia. His record of train wreckings, executions of German burgomeisters, and picking off of isolated Rumanian and German garrisons is still being added up. But his reputation is known throughout the Ukraine -- more by the Germans than by the Russians.

German punitive expeditions have tried time and again to capture him. But when Bogdan is reported in one town, the police troops will arrive only to find the German mayor of the town hanging from the nearest beach tree, and a note saying "I'll be back" signed "Bogdan."

Early this year his partisan band even made an attack on the outskirts of Kiev in western Ukraine. It was just a sortie, and nothing came of it except a lot of Germans were killed. But his spies infiltrated into the city and brought back reports of how the Germans were running gambling halls and vice establishments all over Russia's most beautiful city -- and it made Bogdan mad. So he decided to conduct the sortie. Life in Kiev was a lot more sober for several weeks afterward.

(German occupation authorities who hear that "Bogdan the Elusive" is operating in their district have sent emissaries out looking for him to offer safe passage through their provinces -- if only he won't make trouble in their district.)

Once, the Germans thought they had Bogdan. They carefully threw a cordon around his camp. When they finally closed in on the camp they found warm campfires, empty tin cans -- and a goat. Around the neck of the goat was a note saying "A hurried good-bye -- but I'll be back." Since that time several other goats have been found wandering the Ukrainian steppe-land -- all with notes from Bogdan around their necks. Now the goat has become a sign of bad luck among the Germans -- they had the very sight of the animal.
Bill Downs 
Wednesday, April 28, 1943

The military spring training on the Russian front seems to be just about over. Nothing of importance happened along the 1,200 mile front last night. There was the usual artillery barrages -- Soviet aircraft made their regular trips to railroad junctions and supply points behind the German lines; snipers on a half-dozen sectors put a few more notches in their guns; and scouts succeeded in slipping through the Axis lines on their hell-raising missions in the enemy rear.

During this spring lull we've heard a lot about the achievements of these Russian scouts. They are the modern Russian counterparts of "Buffalo Bill" Cody and Kit Carson and others who formed the vanguard in America's winning of the west. Except the work of a modern scout in the Soviet Union is a lot more complicated.

For example, take the Red Army scout Yakov Chekarkov, a 30-year-old bachelor who used to be a storekeeper at a tractor station in one of Russia's big collective farms.

Chekarkov knows his stuff. His job is to creep as close to the German lines as possible and find out just what the Nazis are up to. There are thousands of these men who creep out every day and night to gather information. Sometimes they go deep behind the German lines, and sometimes groups of them do commando raids.

Chekarkov has introduced his own methods. For example, he watched the Germans lay a minefield on the approaches to a forest. At night he took his own mines and mined the passages which the Germans left through the field. You can imagine what happened when the Germans attacked. This scout also has become an expert on German uniforms. He spotted tank reinforcements in one sector because he noticed the pink tabs on the collars of some of the men who were designated tank troops.

This winter he sat for days in the frozen carcass of a dead horse just in front of the German lines. Another time he found a hollow stump almost inside the German fortifications. He established his position by burrowing under the snow and cutting his way inside the stump from the bottom.

It takes a lot of courage to be a scout in Russia, and Yakov Chekarkov is a brave man. However, he has one great fear: catching cold. He was scared to death by a cold last fall. He was behind the German lines when he sneezed. He had to run for his life. Now he never does any scouting without a heavy wool shawl wrapped around him like an old woman.

Bill Downs


February 9, 1943

The war that is being fought in Russia tonight (while being the most terrible and devastating conflict in military history) is in many ways like any other war. The viewpoint of the ordinary Russian private towards the fighting around Kursk and Kharkov and Rostov tonight, is much the same as any American soldier.

The soldiers with whom I spoke in Stalingrad (last Sunday had the soldier's avid interest in food, in women, in getting leave, and seeing his side win, as any buck private in the rear ranks of the United States Army. The Russian private doesn't) like the idea of dying any more or less than any other soldier -- and consequentially they don't talk too much about it. (You talk to them about their battle experiences and like all good soldiers they don't say a word about their own exploits.) To hear them talk, the tremendous battle of Stalingrad is merely a collection of little incidents which finally ended up in a German defeat.

For example, one of the crack non-commissioned officers in a Red Army guard's regiment -- (a tough youngster whose friends said he had killed at least three Nazis in a hand-to-hand encounter) -- would only talk about the way German soldiers admired the Red Army's fur caps. (This soldier was fighting in a factory building in the Red October plant that formed the Russian line in this part of Stalingrad. The German trenches were in front of another building only twelve yards away. I stood atop these German positions and you could throw a stone between two lines.)

At one point in the Stalingrad line, the German and Russian soldiers used to amuse themselves by shouting insults back and forth to each other. My Russian friend said that one German soldier shouted across the lines and offered to exchange his automatic rifle for a Red Army fur cap.

I asked the Russian soldier what his answer was.

"Oh, I answered all right," he said. "I told them to bring along a tank and I would bargain with them."

Then there was the time near the end of the Stalingrad fighting when the Germans were very, very hungry. Only a month before, the Germans had been razzing the Soviet forces saying the end of the Red Army was in sight. Now the situation was reversed and the Russian soldiers devised their own fun. To show starving German troops how well Soviet kitchens were working, they put whole loaves of bread on the ends of their bayonets and stuck them above the trenches. The German answer was to riddle those loaves of bread with Tommy gun bullets.

These are the stories which will mark themselves in the minds of ordinary soldiers. 

1950. Notes on the Air War in Korea - Edward R. Murrow

This Is Tokyo
Source: Stars and Stripes - Tokyo, December, 1952: CBS commentator Edward R. Murrow, center, and Washington bureau chief Bill Downs, right, are welcomed to Tokyo by Japan-Korea bureau manager George Herman. Murrow and a group of 12 reporters, technicians and cameramen were on their way to Korea, where they were to film a ''Christmas with the Troops'' edition of his ''See It Now'' program. Murrow gained fame during World War II with his live radio broadcasts from London during German bombing raids. Carl Meyering ©

From Columbia Broadcasting System,

485 Madison Ave., New York 22, 8/18/50


By Edward R. Murrow

As Broadcast over CBS from Tokyo After Flight with Bombing Mission over Korea

This is Tokyo: A few notes on the air war. A few hundred yards away, a GI, manning a Bofors antiaircraft gun, lies on his back, with the warm, soaking rain falling on his chest and face.

Most of the slit trenches have been dug by the Japanese. They're works of art, by people who love the soil, deep and neat, with little steps for walking down. The sod has been carefully cut and then replaced over the heaped-up earth -- the most finished and inviting slit trenches I've ever seen.

Hiroshima from a thousand feet looks much like other Japanese towns, except there seems to be all open space for parks, where people used to live, and those areas are brown and dusty, and the air over Hiroshima was turbulent, as though still protesting.

But back to this war. You don't get much news of the world or the war down in those western airfields, but it's easy to follow the flow of battle by the calls for airpower. Yesterday the go-and-go jets and the B-26's were out from dawn to dark.

Here's what it looked like for three bombers of the front bomb group. We were briefed for a low-level mission against four bridges. No fighter escort. Those B-26's carried 4,000 pounds of bombs, 16 machine guns firing forward, plus 14 five-inch rockets under the wings. Major Ed Shuck was flying lead. During a briefing he cautioned the other two boys to keep an eye out for power lines when they came in to bomb the bridges. I thought that was just for my benefit, but I learned better.

Yesterday was a big day, because Major Shuck has designed himself a new bomb, and we were going to try it out for the first time. They'd been having trouble with five hundred and thousand-pound bombs from low levels. They kept skipping out of the target area; sometimes half a mile or more before they'd explode. So the major cut the tailfins off and rigged four small parachutes on the tail of each bomb. That, he thought, would pull the nose down, slow up the bomb and keep it on the bridge. Those bombs looked like something designed by Rube Goldberg. We took off; got over the Korean Straits at 6,000; the guns were tested. The fishhook formation was tucked in, wingtips almost touching. After crossing the coast at Pusan, we went up over broken cumulus.

The air was full of fighter talk. One boy got a tank; another said to the ground control officer "My feet are dry at 2240. Got any targets from me?" We started to let down through the clouds. Major Shuck called and asked if there were any of our little friends in the target area, and the welcome word came back that six F-80's were rounded up. We broke out at 4,000, picked up our muddy, shallow river, and at 10:00 o'clock on a lovely summer morning went down for our first bridge. The altimeter fell off at 1,000, then 500. The clock read 320 miles an hour.

We lifted over a small hill. There was a Korean trying to hide behind a tree no thicker than my wrist. We went in over the bridge at less than 100 feet. The lead ship bombed. Over a little village I saw one man take a running dive into a drainage ditch. We went back to look at the bridge. One span was down. There was a railroad about forty yards downstream. The major said we should take that one. So we moved over to the center and lined it up. And went in again with a B-26 on each wing. The bombs were times for six-second delay, in order to give us a chance to get clear. I heard our bomb hit the bridge and was frightened, because I thought it was the belly of the ship that hit it. When we pulled out, I asked the pilot how low we were, and he said "About sixty feet." The bridge was down.

We went up through the overcast for our next target. There were a dozen B-29's stooging around up there, looking for a hole and a target. We sighted a bridge and looked it over from about 3,000 feet. The three pilots decided it was defender. There were fresh pits at each end. We were flying on the right wing now. It was decided that the two wingmen would go in with all 16 50-calibers working, to make them keep their heads down, while the middle ship bombed. And with everything rattling, we made the first pass -- and missed it; went back and tried it again. And only the pictures will tell whether we got it.

We pushed on up the west coast, swung wide over the water and came out over a little hill for our last target, a highway bridge. We couldn't get a straight run on it; then the tracers began coming up at us. Major Shuck slipped his ship in and bombed, and when the smoke had cleared we could see he had missed. The boys talked it over and decided to go back. And so there we went again with machine guns hammering. It was our turn to bomb. Our pilot pulled up thick, bullet-proof glass across in front of his face, and we went for it at about 100 feet. The smoke from the earlier bomb was drifting toward us and we missed. A third time, those youngsters decided to try for it, talking it over very calmly. On the third time it was no good.

My pilot had one bomb left. And, said Lieutenant Stringer to Major Shuck, "What about my having to try from the other end?" The major thought it over and said "OK, but don't get too low. I was unhappy. But a lineup from the other end went flying straight at the 600-foot hill, which was just beyond the bridge. I didn't think a fighter could bomb level and pull out of there.

Lieutenant Stringer pushed the nose down, wiped his eyes and shoved everything forward. I can report that bridge was floored with 12 by 6 planks and that there was a rusty oil drum at the north end. When the bomb went, he pulled everything back into his lap and I closed my eyes. And then through the head phones the other two pilots were quietly saying that they thought that one did it. Then we started home. When we got there, the ground crew swarmed around to find out how Major Shuck's bomb had worked.

It seemed to me, and the pictures will prove it, that it worked right well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

1943. The Advent of Spring in Russia

Two Censored Reports

The text below is from the transcripts used by Downs as he made the broadcast in these videos. The portions in parenthesis were included in the transcript but prohibited from airing by Soviet censors (for military or propaganda reasons), and thus do not appear in the final broadcast.

Bill Downs


Sunday night, March 21, 1943

There probably will not be any official Russian reaction to Adolf Hitler's memorial day speech in Berlin (a few hours ago). Foreign correspondents listening to the speech here in Moscow this afternoon checked each others impressions of the speech and came to the conclusion that Hitler's words were so barren that it's hard to get any kind of reaction at all. Except, of course, the standard feeling of disgust.

(However, it's nice to know that Germany's Fuehrer really is seriously concerned that his enemies are going to overrun Europe. It wasn't many months ago that he was boasting about doing all the overrunning.)

Another army is on the move in Russia today under special orders from the Kremlin. This army is composed of Russia's farmers who are preparing to dig in for the most desperate battle for food that the Soviet Union's collective and state farm system has ever faced.

As it is in America, this year's crops probably rank as the most important harvest the world's farmers have had to produce. (Never in the history of the world has the man behind the plow been so important.)

Especially is this true of Russia ( -- for Russia's millions of soldiers, armaments workers and farmers this coming year more than ever before need enough food to keep the people living, working, and fighting under more stringent conditions than they have ever faced in their history.)

(Thus it is that a special agricultural decree from the government concerning this year's crop ranks in importance with the order from the Soviet high command which directed the Red Army's winter offensive.)

Russia has substantially the same problems facing her wartime agricultural industry as America -- only many times more so.

There is a labor shortage. There is the problem of transport. There is the difficulty of rationing and delivering fuel for tractors and seed for the larger farms.

From the wording of (the 1943) a special decree for the Soviet state plan of agricultural development, you can get some idea of the way Russia is tackling her farming problems.

One section of the decree reads: ("Within the next ten days, state farms, executives, and party committees shall work out plans for the farms and machine tractor stations...") "During the next ten days we shall organize brigades on the collective farms, diminish the number of farmers doing administrative or auxiliary work, organize the horses and machines, work out tractor and field brigades for the preliminary spring work, and arrange for a sharing of the work between tractors and horses of collective farms." ("...They should organize socialist competitions to fulfill the harvest plan and test the preparedness of these organizations for two weeks before beginning the spring field work.")

(Russia has had a hungry winter. You can see it in the faces of the people anywhere you go in the country.) The Soviet government is determined that the next winter will be as nutritiative as possible.

That is what is behind the note of urgency in the government agricultural decree. It concerns every phase of the collective farm life, from the organization of nurseries for the children of women who will work on the farms this summer to the construction of field garages for the repair of harvesters and tractors.

(Thousands of schoolchildren with their teachers are preparing to go to the fields. Farmers are taking ensus of their livestock, and those milk cows who have lowest production this spring will find themselves pulling a wagon.)

(The army has taken not only the man from the Russian farms, but it also has taken the horses. So the Soviet government is determined that women will replace the men -- and cows will replace the horses as draft animals.)

(The government plan for this year calls for an increase of more than 15,800,000 acres over last year's cultivated lands. And the way this decree outlines the plan, Russia will accomplish this -- and more.)

Bill Downs


Sunday, May 23, 1943

(Josef Stalin is giving a Kremlin banquet tonight for President Roosevelt's special emissary, former Ambassador Joseph Davies. As a matter of fact, the banquet should just about be in full swing right now. It began about seven o'clock this evening Moscow time -- which is noon New York time -- and if this banquet is like most of those given by genial Joe Stalin, it will go far into the night with scores of toasts ringing out in the ancient halls of the Kremlin.)

(The American and British ambassadors, the military missions as well as Mr. Davies' party are attending. It's the first big party in the Kremlin given for any foreigner since Wendell Willkie visited the country.)

Former Ambassador Joseph  Davies as yet has not received an answer from Mr. Stalin to President Roosevelt's letter. (It is possible that he may get an answer during the banquet tonight.)

For the past two weeks, I and every other correspondent here in Moscow have been telling you to expect heavy fighting this spring and summer on the Russian front. The Russian press and Soviet military leaders have been telling the people of this country the same thing.

That fighting has failed to materialize. Although you might be getting mighty tired of hearing it, I want to repeat -- there is every indication that the Red Army may have to undergo its supreme test in the next twenty weeks.

You remember Winston Churchill in his speech to the American Congress the other day called it "Hitler's supreme gambler's throw." The Fuehrer has picked up the dice of destiny and he's rattling them. But he's hesitating about throwing them out.

This year's spring fighting already is ten days behind the schedule set by the start of last year's hostilities. Last year it was the Red Army who made the first one. On May 13 of last year, Marshal Timoshenko led an (unsuccessful) offensive in the direction of Kharkov.

(Thus the time is right, right now, for large-scale fighting. It is not the weather or the terrain that is holding up big scale operations -- it is the decision of the opposing high commands.)

A year ago today the Russian communique spoke of the Red Army fortifying its gains in the Kharkov direction -- it also announced that 15,000 Germans were killed in three days fighting on the middle reaches of the Donetz river.

Today the story is much different -- there is only local scouting and artillery skirmishing. (The opposing air forces are plastering each others ground communications and supply centers with bombs.)

There are many reasons for the delay in the summer's fighting -- reasons which grow out of the tremendous sacrifices which both the Germans and the Russians suffered in last winter's fighting.

We are told it is almost a certainty that Hitler will start the fighting this spring. But he is hesitating because this time he feels he must not fail. He must get this campaign rolling before he has to organize another to protect his "European fortress" from a second front.

Yes, Adolf Hitler has just about completed placing his bets on the Russian front -- and the Red Army is covering all of them.

Friday, November 7, 2014

1943. The Russians React to the Victory in Tunisia

Allied Victory in North Africa
American troops land near Algiers during Operation Torch in 1942

The parenthesis here indicate portions of the transcripts that were censored from broadcast by Soviet officials.

Bill Downs


May 13, 1943

The American and British and French troops in North Africa don't know it, but their heroism and sacrifices and courage have achieved something here in Russia that a thousand diplomats and a million words could never have done.

This victory in Tunisia is being heralded on the Soviet press and radio with all the fanfare and praise which usually is reserved for the heroes of the Red Army.

The United States doughboys who took Bizerte are not only soldiers, they are diplomats in arms. And today these doughboys and their comrades have won a hundred and eighty million friends in the Soviet Union -- friends who are ready to lay down their lives here on the Eastern Front with the same willingness that the men of America and Britain and France gave theirs in the long fight along the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The Allied victory in Tunisia concludes the first phase of the first combined operation between Russia and Britain and America. You remember it started last November when the British Eighth Army broke the Alamein line. Then the American troops landed in Africa. And then the Red Army started its winter offensive, beginning with the victory of Stalingrad and the march eastward to the Donetz.

All these achievements came within two weeks of each other. It's a thing to remember when we consider the impending battles this summer. Perhaps it will be May, or June, or July that will go down in history as the key month in the second phase of the United Nations' strategy.

That's a question that must be worrying Hitler and Mussolini right now. At any rate, it's the question which is the subject of almost every discussion here in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Russian people are keeping one eye on their own front as they celebrate the victories of their Allies. The Red Army is still gnawing away at the German defenses in the Kuban -- the Soviet air force is delivering its bombs with the regularity of enthusiastic milkmen.
Bill Downs 
Thursday night,  May 13, 1943

American prestige in Russia has never been higher than it is tonight. The complete and utter defeat of the Germans and Italians in North Africa has boosted Allied stock sky-high. The American and British and French troops have achieved a victory big enough for all the United Nations to share -- and Soviet Russia definitely is having some.

I talked to a number of Russians today to get their reactions to the great victory in Tunisia. The reactions are virtually all the same -- the Russians say "It's a great victory for us," and they emphasize us.

The waiter at my hotel here in Moscow said he was not surprised by the victory. "We in the kitchen," he said, "knew all the time that you Americans and British would win. We are now calculating for next move on the continent. (Most of us think it will be through Italy or the Balkans.")

(And then I ran into a friend of mine who is a captain in the Red Army. He congratulated me on the Allied victory and then said: "You know, I am a little disappointed. At Stalingrad we only took 93,000 prisoners out of 330,000. Already you fellows have captured over 150,000 of them. It's too bad you couldn't have killed a few more.)

(That's the natural reaction to all men in the army who have fought through one ruined city and village after another that had been held by the Germans.)

There is no longer a question about a second front. People here don't even ask about it any longer. The attitude now is that the Second Front is something for Hitler to worry about. From now on the Russian people are going to be too busy fighting their own war on this front to do much worrying. They also hope that in the meantime the Allied troops will give them more opportunities to cheer the American, British, and French troops.

This Allied victory in North Africa is the second big setback that the Axis forces have suffered since Hitler came to power. The first was Stalingrad.

No one over here is taking the time or trouble to argue whether Stalingrad is a bigger victory than Tunisia or vice versa.

From the number of casualties inflicted, Stalingrad undoubtedly was a much bloodier battle. But from the standpoint of all-over strategy, the North African victory probably is a greater achievement.

It is a cheering sign that there are no such foolish arguments or discussions going on in Moscow tonight such as those which arose in America after the last war -- you know the old argument that "we won the war for the Allies."

Russians simply don't think that way. After what the Soviet Union has suffered, the people of Russia don't care to waste time talking about who won what. It has become pretty clear over here that unless everyone puts ever ounce of fight and energy into this war, no one is going to be able to talk about winning anything for a long, long time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

1961. The CBS News Editorial Policy

Stating and Restating the CBS News Editorial Policy

CBS's expansion brought a new regime with new policies. The chief goal for the newsroom was to eliminate editorialization, a practice that was, as Bill Downs put it, "the ever-bleeding anathema" of William S. Paley.

The shifting direction of journalism in general was fought by some. Ed Murrow resigned in 1961 after years of disagreement with Bill Paley, as well as a growing disillusionment with the industry. Downs resigned a year later during a major shakeup.

There were a number of reasons behind Downs' resignation. There was a belief that Downs didn't quite look the part on camera and that his voice was a bit too gruff hindered his television career significantly. In Cloud and Olsen's book on the Murrow Boys, Downs is quoted on his frustrations with the new CBS management:
"At least I can shout to the world this -- I'm my own midget. The mistakes will be my mistakes -- the failures will have my fiat -- the successes, if any or none, will not be subject to people who worry about thick lenses, long noses, or advertising agency or affiliate bias."
His reasons for leaving were not publicized. However, in a 1967 letter to Fred Friendly he elaborated somewhat and wrote, "I quit Columbia after 19 years and 7 months in disgust at the midget-minded, rabbit-heartedness of the Salant-Clark regime (which never did decide the difference between analysis and commentary and have yet to recognize good reporting)." He believed that the major news organizations were "guilty of the same kind of abdication of industry responsibility for the sake of the holy, gawdalmighty, much-bedamned 50¢-dollar. But to document the sins of the competition would mean the opus would probably never be finished."

The text below is from an internal memo sent to journalists by the then-CBS vice president Blair Clark.

June 22, 1961


The CBS News editorial policy has been stated and restated. We have all read it, lived with it, wrestled with it. This is the first time since I took this job that I have addressed myself directly to it, and I will be brief.

What the policy amounts to is a determination to present the news fairly, and with balance between opposing views. I have used the word "determination." This implies that it is extraordinarily difficult to hew to this line, and it is. But this must be our firm intention. If we abandon it, we lose a large part of our credibility, and thus our power to communicate. There is the further risk of being legally required to "balance" our reports. (I have looked into the risk and it is a real one.) It is a unique feature of broadcast journalism, arising from the inherent limit on outlets.

Any policy is a living thing, not a monument. It requires constant re-examination and interpretation. Furthermore, it must be applied and enforced by fallible mortals, and there will be mistakes of judgment. The judgments are bound to be hairline between what is and what is not editorial, and there will often be differences. But it is my responsibility to decide what is within our policy, and to enforce that decision. This I will do.

There follows an excerpt from the 1954 statement on CBS policy by Mr. Paley. The second and third paragraphs, underlined, are by Howard K. Smith who wrote them after many discussions of the policy this winter and spring.

"In news analysis there is to be elucidation, illumination and explanation of the facts and situations, but without bias or editorialization.

"Some of the features that distinguish editorial from analysis are these: An editorial recommends a course of action, or makes a normative judgment that one thing is more desirable than another, or states a personal preference. An analysis should interpret the meaning of events and seek to answer such basic questions as what has caused the event and what its consequences may be.

"It is recognized  that in some cases a well-knit analysis will point towards a conclusion and may resemble an editorial. In cases where this occurs it becomes paramount that special attention be paid by the analyst to his choice of language in order to make clear no editorialization is meant.

"In both news and news analysis, the goal of the news broadcaster or the news analyst must be objectivity. I think we all recognize that human nature is such that no newsman is entirely free from his own personal prejudices, experience, and opinions and that, accordingly, 100 per cent objectivity may not always be possible. But the important factor is that the news broadcaster and the news analyst must have the will and the intent to be objective. That will and that intent, genuinely held and deeply instilled in him, is the best assurance of objectivity. His aim should be to make it possible for the listeners to know the facts and to weigh them carefully so that he can better make up his own mind."

As I have said, I do not expect a restatement of the CBS News policy to solve all our policy problems automatically. Vigorous reporting and examination of the issues will always tend to push against the limits of the policy, and this I expect and encourage. The last thing I want is bland consensus reporting. 
But any news organization must have a policy framework within which it operates. Ours is one that the journalists of the caliber of Ed Murrow, Elmer Davis, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith have been able to live with for years.

I am proceeding with a re-examination of the policy and its application in today's climate.

Meanwhile, I expect everyone in CBS News to abide by the spirit of a policy which has permitted CBS News to be the best in broadcast journalism.

- B.C.