Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1965. The Soviet Economic Reform

Creeping Capitalism
Source: "Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin talks to President Lyndon Johnson at the Cold War summit in Glassboro in 1967."

September 28, 1965

It probably all started out with Ben Franklin's Poor Richard, whose Almanac reflected the hard-rock economic principles of the new and struggling American republic with sagacities such as "A penny saved is a penny earned" and "a fool and his money are soon parted." Today, such homilies are repeated mostly for the benefit of children, because in the present, free-wheeling, jet-age economy, everyone knows that Poor Richard's penny has lost most of its buying power -- that you have to "spend money to make money, "and under most corporate organizations, a businessman is foolish if he doesn't have a tax write-off to fall back on.

As our computerized society becomes more complex, there has emerged a new breed of "Poor Richards" to produce the pungent maxims which describe the philosophy of the 20th century. Currently, the most prominent economic philosopher around is the British Professor C. Northcote Parkinson. His acerbic view of the current business operations produced "Parkinson's Law," which states: "The amount of work done in any enterprise will expand in proportion to the number of people available to do it."

This year, with the tremendous expansion of the aerospace industry, some harried space scientist invented "Murphy's Law," named after some anonymous Irishman who must have been cursed by the leprechauns. Murphy's Law, as I remember it, goes something like this: "In space, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong...and furthermore, things will get worse unless they can be corrected."

All of which is leading up to today's announcement from Moscow that the communist leaders of the United Soviet Socialist Republics are making startling and historic changes in the basic theory and premises under which the giant nation has operated since the October Revolution of 1917. Premier Alexei Kosygin has pronounced that the socialist economy of Russia will be reorganized to operate on a system of profits, salesmanship, production bonuses and an open market.

It's a nation-shaking decision in one sense, a little as if the United States suddenly decided that the whole colonial uprising, from the Boston Tea Party to Yorktown, had all been a horrible mistake -- therefore, the US should rejoin the British Empire.

The Moscow announcement means that Premier Kosygin is adopting the old party practice of rewriting basic communistic philosophy, just as Karl Marx rewrote Frederick Engels, as Lenin rewrote Marx, as Stalin and then Nikita Khrushchev tried to rewrite Lenin, only to have their literary efforts officially expunged.

Perhaps there is a political theorem inherent in this communist penchant for rewriting history, a rule of Marxist behavior that may be dubbed "The Whittaker Chambers Syndrome." It might read something like this: "The longer one remains a communist, the more inevitable becomes the disillusionment."

Premier Kosygin assured the Central Committee meeting at the Kremlin that there's no intention or even suggestion of turning Russia into a "capitalistic nation," and he correctly pointed out that the State will continue to own all industry, lands, and other means of production.

But his announcement that the Soviets are changing over to the once-despised profit system will produce ideological tremors in communist cells and among fellow travelers around the world.

One of the economic keystones of the Bolshevik Revolution almost 48 years ago, which inflamed social idealists everywhere, was the pronouncement that Russian communists were going to build a classless society where every citizen would work according to his best ability, and that the combined production of such a Workers' Paradise would supply everyone with as much or more than he could use. This Marxist law read: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

To the old-time communist, profit was sinful blood money which the capitalists used as a club to beat more and more profit from the workers.

Now it appears that Kosygin and his Kremlin comrades have repealed the Marxist law against profit. And the reason for taking this significant step is a very simple one. As one of Russia's ablest administrators and an economist in his own right, Kosygin took one look at the economic mess he inherited from Nikita Khrushchev and came to a conclusion that the much-vaunted socialist system simply was not working. So he turned to the profit system for the answer.

It will be a fascinating and daring experiment to watch. For the group of communist economists and management experts in the Kremlin now leading the Soviet Union on this new path, it can also be dangerous because, if the Russian profit experiment fails, someone will be expunging and rewriting the communist history of Alexei Kosygin and friends.

This is Bill Downs, substituting for Edward P. Morgan, saying good night from Washington.

1954. CBS on the Lookout for Scoops in the Middle East

Leads in Israel
From Bill Downs' passport in 1954

Edward P. Morgan wrote this letter to Bill Downs while Downs headed CBS' Rome bureau.

October 12, 1954

Dear Wilbur:

As a good soldier and a gullible fellow, I have okayed your expense account, but, as the Senator says, I have, sir, some questions (isn't it amazing how quickly even a rogue can begin to feel his oats in a swivel chair?). $120 a month for a secretary?--Is that the going rate for same, even assuming in advance that she is both bilingual and beautiful? Three other items intrigue me: 102 bucks for transportation; 201.26 for meals; and 120 for rent? These may all be imbedded in the long tradition of foreign operations, and perfectly justifiable, but as things go here I am going to be questioned about them from time to time, and it will be well to have the explanation for same on hand.

So far as bunching your operational charges under extraordinary expenses, continue to do it until somebody squawks, is my theory.

A little background on the amorphous cable I sent you Friday: Eddie Warburg, a wonderful guy, a close friend of Murrow and myself, not to mention Paley, is heading a delegation of United Jewish Appeal people selected for wide geographical representation around the country for this Israel junket. Their main concern is the threatened necessity of evacuating some 30,000 Jews a year from North Africa and absorbing them in Israel. This in itself is a major story, but a highly delicate and explosive one. If and when we cover it on the scene, we will have to do it on our own and outside their auspices, although some members of their delegation are going to North Africa on this trip for a swift inspection. Warburg makes two points: First, that if we send someone he would include him in classified three-day briefings by the Joint Distributing Committee in Paris, which should provide some rather invaluable background for current and future operations. And, second, that although the movements of the delegation itself have no particular news value, the fact that you would be going with them would virtually guarantee an open sesame to almost any place we found worth reporting. Warburg thinks he can all but guarantee an interview with Ben Gurion. He also suggests that there is a natural story in what he calls the Fort Dix of Israel, the former military center at Sarafand where Jews speaking some sixty different languages are recruited into the Israeli bi-sexual Army. The hassle with Egypt could be examined at a closer range, and you might also be able to accumulate some stock footage on various holy places for Christmas use, although naturally the delegations couldn't very well accompany you to Bethlehem.

By the time you get this letter it may already be determined whether we attempt a kind of joint operation, sending McClure with you. This will raise some inevitable jurisdictional dispute with SIN, and they naturally will want to grab the Ben Gurion footage first. We will have to play this by ear as closely as possible. If McClure does not go and we finally determine that it is worthwhile to spring you, you can utilize our Israeli stringer. (It might even be profitable to use him as an auxiliary if McClure does go.)

My old and dear UP friend, Eliav Simon, writes me that his alert and intelligent wife, Steffi, wants to be our stringer in Israel. I don't believe this could be very practicable, particularly in view of the combined operations necessary, and if we need to nail down a stringer, which we probably ought to do if we can do it without financial encumbrance and embarrassment, my offhand choice would be Harry Zinder.

If it jells, it would seem to make more sense for you not to think about your returning with the UJA delegation, but continue on your own and touch base wherever else the eastern end of the Mediterranean you think would be most valuable. If you went to Cairo, I would like to have a closer look at this guy, Kearns, who is one of the most prolific letter writers on record. After having "resigned" as stringer and receiving my acknowledgment of same and explanation for a lot of the jumble of the early summer, he is in resignation if we can do a lot of things about making him a stringer, none of which I think we could do. Above all, if he is an agent of some kind, I don't think we want any part of him.

We are having a helluva time, but kind of an interesting one, I confess, in trying to figure out just what a television news broadcast is. Nobody seems to know, and that makes me just as much of an expert as the next guy. One thing that we are trying to get away from is footage for footage's sake. Another thing we are trying to do is to impress on cameramen the need for a flexible approach to a subject that does not produce a phony gimmick shot, but real originality such as you would expect to get in stills from a Life photographer. But I don't need to recite all this stuff to you. You're already more of an experience expert than I am, and besides Sig will have briefed you. How was his visit?

If you beat Roz, tell her to communicate with me immediately on the cue channel.


Monday, January 26, 2015

1943. Downs Writes Home from Russia

Letters from Moscow
Bill Downs in Rzhev in 1943
Bill Downs managed to send only three letters home during his time in Moscow. This was due to both his workload and the general difficulty of sending correspondence back to the United States.

April 8, 1943

Dear Folks,

It's been so long since I have written you a letter that I do not know where to begin. I last wrote from Cairo. Hope you got that letter because it more or less brought me up to date on my trip through Africa. I arrived in Teheran a week later and finally got to Moscow on Christmas Day after a miserable Christmas, even in a city called Gorky.

Since then so much has happened it would take a week to write it. So I'll save it until I get a chance to set down over a keg of beer with you all. As you know, this has been the biggest story in the world. I'm fascinated by the country. There is some indication that the news value of Russia will fall off in the coming months, especially if there's a second front. Anyway, I've handled some of the biggest news and seen some sights I'll never forget. If you've followed my broadcasts closely, you'll have heard my stories about Stalingrad, Kharkov, and Rzhev. I've seen more bodies than I care to remember and gained a hell of a respect for the fighting power of this country.

But all of that can wait until I see you. Personally I'm feeling fine. Still losing hair and even getting a little fat, although not much of that. I'm also covering Russia for Newsweek magazine and write an occasional piece for a London weekly newspaper called Reynolds News. I'm not exactly going to be a pauper when I get out, but I won't be rich either.

Dad's letter which he wrote on November 14 reached me today -- took just about five months -- so you can see how difficult it is. However, I wish you would continue to write me the news and what people are doing. The best way is to address it to the American Consulate in Teheran and mark the envelope "Forward to Moscow." I will send you a letter when I have a chance of getting one on a ship or a plane headed in the direction of the States. But for the most part you'll have to depend on my broadcasts for news. There's a censorship here, you know. Incidentally, my address here is Hotel Metropol, Moscow. The Metropol is one of the best in town and reminds me a little of the old fashioned type of big hotels such as the Brown Palace in Denver. That's where the similarity ends.

I am taking Russian lessons, but the language is extremely difficult. However I have picked up enough to get around with, but not very far.

I would like to know how my broadcasts are received -- whether my voice goes over or whether it is unpleasant. Just some sort of general reaction to what I said and how I say it.

Our entertainment here consists of vodka, which is liquid dynamite, and the ballet or opera; and the occasional poker game with a general or an admiral; and an occasional date full of gestures and shoutings with a Russian girl.

The Russian people are marvelous, if you can get to know them. However, it's a full time job trying to convince them that you're not a capitalist soy bent on tearing the country apart by the roots. There is a tremendous friendly feeling here for America, but we sure need that second front, and soon.

I hope to be home next spring. Don't say anything about it, but I may want to stop by London to see my girl. This is a new one you know nothing about. I've been taking it easy after falling hard for another. Think this one will pan out all right, although I may have to be away for too long. Anyway, it probably wouldn't do me any harm to have a look at the American product and see just what good looking women look like en masse.

I'm really up here for big business. I have a secretary who worked for Larry LeSueur, the guy I replaced. She knows all the ropes and takes care of getting me such things as food and coupons and translating the papers and all the other paraphernalia of doing a job here. Then I also have a messenger who does all my standing in line for me, delivers broadcasts and telegrams to the censors and such. All-in-all it keeps me busy as hell. I broadcast the program you hear at 6 AM and 3 PM Moscow time. The evening broadcast keeps me up until 2 AM, which means a mile walk through blacked out Moscow streets showing my night pass to various bayoneted sentries which patrol the streets here. Moscow is still under siege officially, and there is a midnight curfew. That definitely cuts out any night life, but I manage to do my share of the sinning.

Incidentally, you asked about my insurance. CBS has taken out something like $10,000 on me, I think. I know I have some sort of insurance, but I don't know what kind. But there's nothing to worry about on that score. Anyway, I'm due for a couple of months rest when I get out of here, and I intend to take it. However I'm also intent on making a name, so if I can't have the rest then, I'll go some other time. We'll have to wait and see what happens. I want to be around when the American boys go into Berlin -- and Tokyo.

I have to give this letter to Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune, who is taking this out for me. Give my regards to everyone. And keep that bottle of beer cold. I sometimes dream about big thick steaks, so you can expect a raid on your rations when I get back.



May 20, 1943

Dear Folks,


I'm feeling fine and keeping my nose clean. My Russian lessons are coming along slowly. There are plenty of concerts and ballets to go to, if everyone ever gets around to doing it. And all-in-all, life is not unbearable. The only thing I really miss is the opportunity of raiding the ice-box at home when I come in at nights.

Glad to hear that my programs are getting through all right. The bad season is just about over now, and there should be no great amount of trouble. As you know, the news from this front has cooled off considerably, but we expect to have plenty of work to do very shortly. I'm kept plenty busy anyway trying to keep up with my clients. I took on the theater newspaper Variety the other day which I'm doing more for fun than anything else. That makes Newsweek, a London newspaper, and Variety to work for besides the regular broadcasts. So you can see I haven't much time on my hands.

Both Admiral Standley, the American ambassador, and Sir Archibald Clark-Kerr, the British ambassador, serve to make life easier over here. They treat the correspondents royally and have us to dinner and bridge regularly. Also, the American military and naval attaches here, General Mikela and Admiral Duncan, have practically adopted us. The only catch is that we have to play poker with them, and frankly my game isn't up to theirs. However, I manage to hang on by my teeth. And I'm learning.

I have sent some pictures to Paul White, news director of CBS, which they asked for to use in publicity. I told them to send prints along to you. They were taken at Rzhev in March and you can see me in all my winter finery. It has been a glorious spring in Moscow. The people look a lot better in warm weather, and the morale here is tip top. The victory in North Africa was a great shot in the arm for them. However there should be very heavy fighting in Russia this summer and this nation is going to have a lot more to go through -- maybe a harder time than last year. But everyone is looking towards the west for the second front.

I'm planning a book about the country, which about all of us do in our spare time. I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing it, but I'm collecting material. The only trouble is that there is so much that it's hard to know where to begin -- or end. Quint Reynolds is now over here, and he's got another book on the fire.


Give everyone my regards...



October 31, 1943

Dear Folks,


There isn't much to tell about myself. I've been working hard. Just completed the commentary for a Soviet documentary film "The Battle of the Ukraine." I haven't seen yet how it's going to come out, but it may be good or very stinking. I don't know whether they will change the narration in New York or not. I got 2,500 rubles for the job, which I have turned over to the Red Army fund. I don't like the idea as a reporter of getting paid by any government anywhere.

I'm feeling fine, although winter is coming on and I'm getting rid of my first cold. Snow fell for the first time the other day, but it's not much of a storm yet. There's been a complete shakeup in the diplomatic setup over here, as you have read. Averill Harriman, who I knew in London, is now the new ambassador. His daughter Kathy is along brightening up the landscape a little bit.

There seems to be some sort of manpower question involved in the CBS staff. They promised to get me out of here by Christmas, but now it looks like it may be later. There's a shortage of men and the usual transport difficulties. I'll let you know.


There have been quite a round of diplomatic parties all of a sudden, but I've been so busy that I can't take them all in. Working for Newsweek, the radio, and making this picture has taken up all my free time. I'm trying to send you along a piece of Russian embroidery. It's for a Ukrainian blouse. I'm having two of them made, one for Bonnie Lee and one for Mom. Also shipping a Russian shirt along for Dad. I hope it's big enough for him. I don't know who or when they will reach you, but here's hoping. Incidentally, the silk for those blouses cost about $60 and the work for the embroidery cost me a bottle of vodka, a half kilo of chocolate, a half kilo of butter, and some canned food. That's an example of prices. Remember that no part of this letter is for publishing in any paper, so keep me out of trouble. Also Mom asked me to pick her up a fur coat over here. That would only cost about $10,000 even at the diplomatic rate, so you can see the impossibility of it. However, I'm keeping my eyes open to get you some sort of presents really representative of this country.


What I want to do is get my vacation over before spring and then head back to Europe or Africa for the summer's fighting. This time I would like to be with American troops. I don't balk at coming back to Moscow, but I would like to see Rome and Paris -- and Berlin.

Things look exceedingly good right now. But I think there is going to be one bitch of a fight before the show is over. I'm afraid that Hitler isn't licked, although he's taken some mighty big raps on this front and is due for more from the west and south.

The food here this year is much better than it was last, although the drink situation is no better. Vodka costs $20 a liter, which is expensive drinking even when you can get it. There is only one restaurant in town where you can take guests, and that comes at about $40 a plate. So you can see what inflation has done here. The only saving grace is that I'm on full expense account.

That's about all the news. Mr. Hull and Mr. Eden are giving a press conference this evening and I don't want to miss them. I am closing this hurriedly so that I can get it to some of the boys who are leaving.

Give my love to everyone.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

1941. Downs Writes Home from England During the Blitz

It Can Happen Here
Bill Downs in England covering a story at a Birmingham hospital in 1941

January 3, 1941

 Dear Mom, Dad, and Bonnie Lee,

I suppose you are wondering what happened to me on the December 29th big raid -- and outside of a lot of excitement, I have little to report. It really was something I'll never forget -- the whole sky lit up by flames and the sad spectacle of all those lovely old buildings going up in flames. It's such damn wanton destruction that infuriates you. But I'll never forget it.

The winters here remind me of Kansas City -- they're that cold. But I'm living comfortably and am well fed. New Year's Eve was the quietest I've spent in years. I was in bed by 11:30 because of nothing to do and saw the new year reading a book. Actually, this blackout is very good on the morals, the pocketbook, and the constitution. I'm drinking less than I have in years and working harder.

I haven't met any girl chums as yet. American women admittedly have more on the ball, it seems. But I'll scare up something. The theaters start their last shows at 5:30 PM, so I have little opportunity to see them getting off later than that from work.

I work six days a week, of course, with my day off changed so far every week. They are pretty nice about shifting the working hours around, and it works out that I won't be on any steady day or night trick I don't believe. Right now I'm breaking in on the desk, which means I'm practically editor for the whole of Europe.

Consequently, I'm spending plenty of time reading up on my history and economics and such stuff. After I get that taken care of, I think maybe I'll study some French -- it really comes in handy. I'm saving some money to buy myself a suit. I can get a good one for about $40, hand tailored with some of that fine English wool that costs like hell in the States. It surely is a good feeling not to be in debt, and if I can I'm going to keep it that way. However, living is not a cheap proposition here -- but I have little to spend it on. Consequently, I should be able to send you something. I was glad to get your letters, and I trust that you had the traditional New Year's brawl in the basement. I also would like to know if you ever received the books. There were about $50 worth of them there and I hope they arrived okay.

We've had an air raid alarm virtually every night, but there doesn't seem to be much activity except for that one bad night. We hear stories that Hitler is running out of ammunition after pouring so much across the channel without doing any good at all. Although this has never been confirmed, I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't true.

Thus far I only regret that someone hasn't told the English about central heating. There seem to be few buildings in the entire city that have ever heard of it. But they do go in for hot water and the baths, usually in tubs three times the size of ours, are wonderful. And they still have to learn to make a pot of coffee, although they do have us beat all hollow on tea. They also have it all over us on courtesy. The thing that first struck me about the people here, and this includes the poor people as well as the rich and well educated, is that they are so nice to each other. There is none of the American curtness  or rudeness about them. Things move a lot slower but they are a hell of a lot more pleasant. While America travels at about 60 miles per hour, they seem to go along at about 25 and get there just the same. I get a little vexed sometimes trying to get service in a bar or restaurant, but when you finally do get waited on, they are so nice about it, there's nothing you can say.

I've got some work to do now and will close this off, but write soon and tell me all the gossip.




January 17, 1941

Dear Mom,

This probably will reach you a month late, but I want to say that birthday greetings, like good wine, get better with age -- so happy birthday. I'd like to send a present, but it's well nigh impossible. So you'll have to take a rain check on it.

I've been through my first big air raid and am not ashamed to say that I was properly scared to death. There's nothing quite so terrifying as the sound of a big one falling. It has been described all the way from the rip of a sheet to a freight train at full speed. Actually, there's no description for the sound. The sensation, I imagine, is like Our Nell had when she was tied to the railway track in the old-time melodramas. Actually the noise is worse than the sound of the explosion afterward, except of course if the damn things don't hit too close.

But I wouldn't miss it for anything. There's not a chance of being bored, and it certainly brings home just what indiscriminate war means. I would hate to think of such a thing happening to America. So you and Dad had better cast aside those old Republican Party standards and plug for the passage of that Aid to Britain bill No. 1776. If you think this isn't our war, you have another thing coming. I've seen things I never thought could happen in a "civilized" age. If such things happen here in London, it's not inconceivable to me sitting in the middle of it to see it happening in Kansas City or New York or any other town in the United States.

I am really enjoying my work. I've met dukes and duchesses and find them just like the people next door. And I've had my share of the gory end of it too. I'll have to tell you just how much of a person's character is revealed by his feet. That's about all you actually see of a casualty being carried on a stretcher.

The American correspondents here are a fine bunch of gents, and they help a beginner all they can. There's an American Correspondents' Association, and the Ministry of Information treats us all as as if we were sickly children needing to be nursed and helped. In all, the job is more or less of a snap, although there is a lot of hard work connected with it, and the responsibility is terrific.

London, I'm convinced, hasn't changed in six hundred years, and it will take more than a war to start this metamorphosis. They still wear silk hats, morning coats, bowlers, and the most uninspiring ties in the world. I still have to meet an English girl who'll compare with the American standard model. I've seen a few, but I don't seem to meet them.

I've bought myself a suit. Had it tailored and everything. Cost about $44. The rationing program has done absolutely nothing to my waistline. The only thing is that, when I can look at something green again and it DOESN'T turn out to be a Brussels sprout, I'll kiss it.

I haven't received any letters from you yet, but with transportation and censorship being what it is, you have to expect some delays. Please tell me if you got the books okay -- also dose up the gossip. I got an Xmas card from Webb Bringle. He's working for an oil company in Phillipsburg, Kansas, still married. That's about all I know. I'll be expecting a letter soon. Better use airmail.



1943. Decimating the Axis Forces

The Soviet Winter Counteroffensive
Source: The Battle of Stalingrad

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

Bill Downs


Tuesday, January 26, 1943

Josef Stalin issued a special order of the day to the Red Army in which he expressed his gratitude and congratulations to his officers and men for their victories during the 68 days of the winter offensive.

He also revealed some interesting figures concerning Axis losses during this period. He said that 102 enemy divisions had been routed and over 200,000 prisoners taken. These prisoners are in addition to the half-million Nazis and Fascists killed since the Russian offensive began on November 19.

According to the army newspaper Red Star, Hitler is now demanding that his Axis partners in crime order complete mobilization and send all their reserves to make up the losses suffered on the Eastern Front. The newspaper says that the jackal states are resisting these demands. Take a glance at what they have already lost in trying to defeat Russia and you can understand why.

Rumania has suffered the biggest losses incurred by the vassal states. She sent 22 divisions against Russia and already has lost 18 of them. It is estimated that Rumania has a bare five or six divisions left at home -- and remember she has a long-standing feud with Hungary. Now Hitler is demanding those half-dozen Rumanian divisions.

Hungary sent 13 divisions to the Russian front. This comprised about half of her army. Out of these divisions, she lost nine (in this tremendous fighting.)

Mussolini decided that ten of his Italian divisions would be a fair representation of his (once-swaggering) empire when the (victorious) Axis troops marched down Gorky Street in Moscow. This was about the same number as were serving under Rommel in North Africa. Now Il Duce finds that he has lost seven of these ten perfectly good divisions and is complaining that, if he sends any more to Russia, American and British soldiers fighting in North Africa may make things even more unpleasant for him.

However, in tallying up the Axis losses for the past two months, the best reading is on the German losses. Of those 102 routed divisions which Josef Stalin mentioned in his order of the day, 68 of them are German. (When the Red Army routed those 68 divisions, it routed something like 130,000 of what Hitler likes to call "supermen." This fact is going to stop a lot of loose fascist talk about the "invincibility" of the German army.)

However, it's a good thing to remember that, while the routing of 102 divisions is the worst thing that has yet happened to Hitler, he still has a lot of other divisions sitting (in dugouts, trenches, and pillboxes) along the 1,200 mile Russian front. (According to Stalin's own figures,) last November there were 240 Axis divisions opposing Russia. That leaves 138 divisions to go. And no one here is fooling themselves into thinking that defeating this bunch (of Nazis and Fascists) is going to be an easy job.

It must also be remembered that, when Stalin said 102 divisions were routed, he did not mean they were completely destroyed. Remnants of these routed divisions are even now being reformed and reorganized.

Hitler calls his great Russian winter retreat an "elastic defense." It is fairly certain he is going to try to put some snap into it this spring. But he's working with synthetic material that he can only stretch so far. Hitler's ersatz allies have already been badly broken under the strain.

Bill Downs


Tuesday, February 23, 1943

Josef Stalin's order of the day to commemorate the Red Army's 25th anniversary is another in a series of United Nations documents which will go into history as a chronicle of these times in which we live.

Essentially, this order of the day is a military document. It chronicles the progress of the most amazing military campaign the world has ever known.

However, it also contains some other exceedingly interesting statements which will be closely studied by Russia's allies, and most certainly by her enemies.

As the Red Army today continues to flog the Axis forces toward Russia's western border, Premier Stalin issued a statement, "The Red Army is an army of defense of the peace and friendship between the peoples of all countries. It is created not for conquering foreign countries, but for the defense of the border of the Soviet territory." This statement is going to receive a lot of study as the Russian offensive progresses.

The Soviet commander-in-chief made only one reference to the second front, pointing out that the Red Army still carries the major burden of the war alone. This single reference to the second front -- and an exceedingly mild reference it was -- is interpreted here as meaning that the Russian command is in complete agreement with combined strategy as outlined between the United Nations. Both President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill have been promising an Anglo-American front in Europe. Presumably the Soviet government is satisfied with the American and British plans to put this front into operation.

Mr. Stalin said that nine million Axis soldiers have been put out of action during the 20 months that Hitler's forces have been fighting on Russian territory. This presumably includes the Axis forces put out of the war by sickness and frostbite and other exigencies of a Russian campaign, as well as those German-Fascist soldiers killed, wounded, or captured on the battlefield or struck down in the German rear by guerrillas.

This means that, every day during the past 20 months of fighting, Hitler has been losing his army personnel at the average rate of some 15,000 men a day. Of this number, and for every day of the 20 month war period, an average of 6,500 Axis soldiers have been killed every day on some point of the thousand mile Russian battle line. South and southwest of Kharkov, north of Kursk, in the Don Bass, the Northern Caucasus, and southwest of Leningrad, this slaughter of Hitler's armed might still goes on today.

At first glance, these figures are exceedingly high until you figure out the enormous forces involved, the immense distances of the front, and the tremendous scope of such Russian victories as the recent ones at Stalingrad and in the Northern Caucasus. Premier Stalin said the blows of the present Red Army offensive would increase instead of decreasing, as some military analysts throughout the world have been predicting.

Yes, Josef Stalin's order of the day is another of those documents from the United Nations which will be remembered as an Allied milestone on the road to victory. This order of the day is part of the series which includes the Atlantic Charter, the United States Navy's communiqué on the Battle of Midway, and others.

This series of official documents will be remembered along with the most important official paper of all: the Armistice.

Friday, January 16, 2015

1943. "Bogdan the Elusive" in Ukraine

Bogdan the Elusive
Source:  "Soldiers of the 3rd Ukrainian Front during the fighting in Budapest, February 5, 1945. (AP Photo)"

The parenthesis indicate portions of the transcript that were censored by Soviet officials.
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.