August 26, 2016

1952. Murrow Boys at the Republican Convention

The 1952 Republican National Convention
Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair on July 1, 1952 (source)
From The Billboard, July 19, 1952, p. 16:
Roving Walkie-Talkie is Key to Thorough Job

by Gene Plotnick
The Columbia Broadcasting System radio network turned in a solid reportorial job on the Republican National Convention, and the key to its success was undoubtedly the walkie-talkie. CBS' corps of correspondents down on the floor of Convention Hall and in and out of the caucus rooms beamed up the latest developments in the trend of events that no camera could catch. During Monday's (7) fight on the rules, for instance, Dave Schoenbrun sent up word of the compromise embodied in the Brown amendment almost an hour before Rep. Clarence Brown went to the platform to put it before the delegates. At the moment the measure was not only not yet known as the Brown amendment, but its intent and significance were not clear. So the other CBS men on the floor interviewed key personalities on the proposal.

Also CBS brought in a rather early beat on the fact that Maryland's Governor McKeldin was releasing his delegation to vote as it chose.

CBS Radio kicked off its convention coverage Sunday (6) night at 10:05, the night before the convention itself began. Boothman Bob Trout started that show describing the empty arena. With the help of Griffing Bancroft he gave some background, and forecast the situation that would face the delegates the next day. Bill Downs on the stage of the amphitheater, Schoenbrun at Ike headquarters and Ed Morgan in Taft headquarters were piped in. The latter two, aside from describing the scenes they saw before them, also gave the background of Ike and Taft respectively.

An exchange of views between Ed Murrow and Eric Sevareid then took place from the Conrad Hilton Hotel. Murrow noted that the winning nominee could not get it on the first ballot. The pair stumbled over their own conversation in a few spots but generally contributed interesting observations.

The show, which wound up with interviews of Rep. Joseph Martin and John Foster Dulles, effectively set the overall scene of the convention city the day before the convention itself. It also enabled CBS to check through its entire coverage machinery.

Each day's proceedings were wrapped up by CBS Radio in a 30-minute show at 7 p.m. entitled "Convention Digest." The show, which for the most part embodied tapes of the major statements and sounds and noises of the day, was emceed and filled in by Charles Collingwood. In 30 minutes, "Convention Digest" did manage to give listeners a thorough summary of the day's developments so that those listeners who work during the day could have the benefits of virtually complete coverage with nothing or little lost.

Following Collingwood's show, CBS brought in Alistair Cooke for a 15 minute personal view of that day's proceedings. Cooke, U.S. correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, is author of the recently published book, "One Man's America," and his show was referred to as "One Man's Convention." On his show Cooke sounded like the calm voice midst the tumult. He described the zany, maniacal behavior of the crowds around the hotel lobbies and in the streets. And one day he spent several minutes discussing the travail of a newspaperman covering the convention in a television age. He did not concede that the newspaperman, being somewhat more maneuverable than a TV camera, can give his paper copy that its readers could not have already picked up via television. This was striking, since the CBS Radio correspondents, with their walkie-talkies, had already demonstrated that quite clearly.

The CBS pipe of the pooled feed was moderated by Bob Trout, who did a calm, clear and alert job, frequently in his inimitable singsong.

Westinghouse was the sponsor on CBS, and it must be said that for the most part their plugs were kept out of the way of important developments on the convention floor, but they were by no means perfect about this. For instance on Wednesday night, on the 4th floor debate over the seating of the Texas delegation, CBS listeners missed the entire presentation of the minority report from the Credentials Committee, except for the reading of the names of the delegates subscribing to it. They got a pitch from Westinghouse instead—if they stayed with it instead of anxiously switching stations in search of the facts.

August 19, 2016

1943. The Moscow Reports

Bill Downs Reporting from the U.S.S.R.
A still from the documentary The Battle of Russia (1943), part of the American series "Why We Fight"


Bill Downs wrote stacks of articles and broadcast transcripts while serving as CBS News' Moscow correspondent in 1943. These reports, featured below, provided updates and analyses of the war on the Eastern Front as it happened. They tell the dramatic stories of civilians and Red Army soldiers on the front lines in Russia and Ukraine, from Leningrad to Stalingrad to Kiev.

Parentheses indicate text that was censored by Soviet officials for military or propaganda reasons. Western reporters relied heavily on state-run newspapers (particularly Pravda, Izvestia, and Red Star) and government communiqués, and some of their military news updates reflected this. One example is Downs' report on the Katyn massacre, which he described as "the latest gory German propaganda" based off available information at the time from Pravda and the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other reports, such as those on Kharkov, Stalingrad, and Kiev, are firsthand accounts of what Downs witnessed in those cities.

Part of this discrepancy was due to the heavy restrictions placed on war correspondents by government officials. Downs recalled in 1951:
"Within the scope of Soviet censorship, the resident correspondent can report accurately on government policy as announced by the Kremlin. However, the resident correspondent is not allowed to report such details as the living standards of the people he sees or the state of the national economy . . . He is not allowed to report on conversations, say, overheard on the subway or on the buses and streetcars. His isolation from the Russian people is manifoldfirst by the language barrier, second by the fact that he is restricted for the most part to Moscow, thirdly by government orders against association with foreigners, and fourthly by the atmosphere of fear and suspicion, which is part of the daily life of the people.

"Outside of a few officials, it is doubtful that even the Russians themselves know what transpires in their country . . . Only occasionally does rumor or a leak in the press break through these barriers which the government has inflicted on the people."
Reviewing the scripts was only part of the process, as Downs wrote:
"The correspondent could not find out what had been cut from his copy until he was advised by his home office . . . radio scripts were submitted and had to be returned to us for reading on the air. Thus we could see what the censors had cut, and we were able to assess the government's attitude on subjects of a sensitive nature. The government obviously felt that its censorship was not complete. There was a fear that the correspondent could, by intonation, change the meaning of his report . . . When reading your dispatch on the air, there was always an English-speaking Communist broadcaster sitting alongside with his hand on the cut-out switch. If you unintentionally changed the grammar of the sentence, as sometimes happens, down would go the switch and you'd be off the air."
Regarding the role of the press, he wrote:
"The Soviet government sees the press only as an arm of the government whose chief duty is to forward the Communist cause. They do not understand—or at least pretend not to understand—the role of the free press outside their country. The Soviet concept of news is that all information about Russia, no matter how trivial, comes under the heading of intelligence in the espionage meaning of the word. Consequently the foreign correspondent is tolerated as a kind of second-rate spy."
The links to Bill Downs' full reports are featured below with the censored text restored.


January 1943: Why do the Russians fight the way they do?
"The ability of Russia's John Q. Public to fight has endowed the people of Russia with almost legendary character—in the eyes of the world, and particularly Hitler."

January 1943: Drinks with Red Army men back from Stalingrad
"An army captain approached me without smiling and asked, 'Sprechen sie Deutsch?' I didn't know whether to say yes or no, since I am able to speak a sort of pidgin German from my college days. I looked around the room, which had sort of frozen up when it heard German, and I was the only foreigner around. I decided to chance it and replied, 'Ja, aber ich bin Amerikanischer korrespondent.' The room roared in laughter and I was immediately offered a flask."

January 6, 1943: Folks at home write to Red Army soldiers on the front lines
"[W]hole regiments will get letters addressed to the 'Liberators of Boguchar' from people they have never heard of before. Russian girls will write individual soldiers asking Private Ivanovich to 'kill just one German more today.'"

January 20, 1943: The women doing the labor in Moscow
"By closely observing this daily battle against the snow, you can pretty well tell how all of Moscow feels about things. When the Red Army isn't doing so well, this army of women prod viciously at the ice. They glare at pedestrians and at each other. They don't do much talking, even when they stop for a breather."

January 22, 1943: Life in Leningrad
"No one knows what Leningrad is suffering tonight. It is not likely that the German command is letting Russia's greatest seaport city sleep while the Red Army continues its dirty job of throwing German soldiers out of pillbox after pillbox."

January 23 to May 13: The turning point of the war in Europe
"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."

January 24, 1943: The Red Army pushes back against the encirclement of Leningrad
"During their sixteen month encirclement of Leningrad, the Germans built a three-to-five mile zone of concentrated Siegfried Line. It was a military nightmare. First there was row after row of coiled barbed wire. Then came the minefields."

January 26 to February 23, 1943: Decimating the Axis forces
"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."

January 1943: Comparing wartime Moscow and London
"You see in the people of Moscow the same determined, grim look that you could see in the brave citizens of London during their heaviest bombings. And when a Muscovite looks grim, I mean he really looks grim."

February 8 to February 9, 1943: The aftermath in Stalingrad
"There are sights and sounds and smells in and around Stalingrad that make you want to weep, and make you want to shout and make you just plain sick to your stomach."

February 8, 1943: "War Surgery for Sex"
"'Young soldiers brought here on the verge of suicide are as much mental cases as surgical. However, when they see other men undergoing plastic treatment and when they have talked with similarly wounded comrades, one can notice a psychological change within as little as one hour.'"

February 9, 1943: German Field Marshal Paulus in custody after Stalingrad
"Typical of the daring, devil-may-care spirit of these new Red Army forces was the almost comic capture of Field Marshal Von Paulus. Von Paulus, the only German field marshal ever to be made a prisoner of war, was taken after initial negotiations conducted by a 21-year-old Red Army first lieutenant."

February 9 to April 28, 1943: Stories from the Eastern Front
"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."

February 19 to 20, 1943: Moscow schoolkids make predictions about a second front
"So I decided I would beat them to the draw. I asked the class just how and where they thought a second front should be started."

February 20, 1943: The Soviet government spreads warning of Nazi spy tactics on the Eastern Front
"The Germans used local children, usually ages twelve to sixteen, and brought them before their trussed-up parents. They made them watch as their parents were severely beaten. The Germans then promised to stop the beatings if the children agreed to go to the Soviet rear and obtain the desired information. These kids were assured that if the information was not forthcoming, or if they failed to return, their parents would be shot. It is notable that Germans always keep these kinds of promises."

February 22, 1943: The 25th anniversary of Red Army Day
"The letters that the Russian kids write to the soldiers usually congratulate the men on the 25th anniversary and urge them to continue the stuffing out of the Germans. And often the letters end up with a promise that, as a token of appreciation, the schoolchildren will see that they make better grades and stop whispering in classrooms."

February 27 to March 16: The Nazi occupation of Kharkov and the colonization of Ukraine
"During the first days of the occupation about 18,000 people were executed. Bodies hanging from balconies were a common sight. Among these 18,000 executed were about 10,000 Jews—men, women, and children—who were taken nine miles out of the city, shot and buried in a big ditch."

March 2, 1943: The Soviet Union's winter offensive after Stalingrad
"The Germans didn't leave Rzhev voluntarily. This is shown by the great amount of equipment they left behind. They were kicked out of Rzhev in a blow that eliminated the main Axis threat to Moscow."

March 5, 1943: The Red Army's "tank desant" tactics
"This is the formation of groups of "hitchhike troops" specially trained to operate mobile tank forces which have acted as spearheads for the Russian drive westward."

March 7, 1943: Joseph Stalin names himself Marshal of the Soviet Union
"Premier Stalin now holds the position of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the USSR. He also is Chairman of the State Defense Committee, the People's Commissar of Defense, and Chairman of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party."

March 8, 1943: Lend-Lease to the USSR
"The Russian people also have no idea of the scope of such American and British organizations such as the Aid to Russia funds. They know virtually nothing of the tremendous personal interest the people of the United States and other Allied nations are taking in their problems."

March 8, 1943: Ambiguity in Russian-American relations
"As he said in his statement tonight, the American people realize and sympathize with the stupendous courage and effort with which the Russian people have met the Axis onslaught. But, he said, the Russian people have little idea of the American's feeling for them."

March 19, 1943: The Nazi offensive is bogged down by the weather in Ukraine
"They sent a group of tanks across to attack some Russian fortifications on the left bank. When the two loading tanks reached the middle of the stream, the ice suddenly gave way and they went through and were lost. The following tanks immediately retreated to safety."

March 21 to April 21, 1943: Soviet bombers fighting for air supremacy
"The Soviet bombers have proved just how impressive they are to the citizens of Königsberg and Danzig. And a lot of other German cities are going to find out this summer when flying weather gets better. The Russian bombing force is growing."

March 21 to May 23, 1943: The advent of spring in Russia—two censored reports
"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."

March 23, 1943: The State Stalin Prize
"The occasion for even hinting that these things exist was the first annual list of Stalin science awards. These awards range from $18,000 to $5,000, and are given to engineers, professors, and scientists who have distinguished themselves in Soviet science and industry for the past year."

March 24, 1943: The Red Army's death toll thus far
"[A]ccording to the comparative losses during the German counterattack, 2,936,000 Red Army men have died in defending their country during this fighting. But I must point out that this figure is based merely on one small fact from one small sector of the Russian front. But whether the figure is larger or smaller, 2,936,000 men lost in the cause of democracy gives the Allies of Russia something to think about—and throws new light on Russia's desire for a second front."

March 26, 1943: The Soviet Union waits for the Western Allies to open a second front in Europe
"When they learned that there was some Congressional opposition to extending the Lend-Lease agreement, they could not understand it. Their one question was always, 'If it helps to win the war, then why argue about it?'"

March 28, 1943: Soviet engineers work a miracle as the Nazis retreat
"And when the Germans were chased from the area, they did one of their most complete jobs of earth scorching along the Velikiye Luki-Moscow railroad. Every bridge was blown up. Switches and sidings were destroyed. In some places the Germans even burned the forest around some vital bridges so that the Russian engineers would have no material with which to reconstruct them."

April 1 to April 14, 1943: Censored broadcasts
"There was a fear that the correspondent could, by intonation, change the meaning of his report . . . When reading your dispatch on the air, there was always an English-speaking Communist broadcaster sitting alongside with his hand on the cut-out switch. If you unintentionally changed the grammar of the sentence, as sometimes happens, down would go the switch and you'd be off the air."

April 2, 1943: The Nazis leave behind horrific booby traps
"He opened up the door and one cat jumped out. The second cat just started to leave the stove when the lieutenant pushed it back inside. On investigation, he found that the second cat had a string attached to one of its rear paws. The other end of the string was attached to the fuse in 25 pounds of high explosive."

April 3, 1943: The Red Army's massive winter offensive comes to an end
"In just 141 days of some of the bloodiest fighting that the world has ever witnessed, the Germans lost over 1,193,000 men in killed and captured."

April 6 to May 12, 1943: The Soviet commission on Nazi war crimes
"The report ends with the statement, 'These men must bear full responsibility and merited punishment for all these unprecedented atrocities.' And this morning's Izvestia editorial adds 'The Russian people will not forget.'"

April 8, 1943: Heroic Czechoslovak soldiers hold the line
"The Germans launched a counterattack. It was a big show, and sixty tanks appeared on one narrow sector opposite the dug-in Czech troops. A young lieutenant named Yarosh was in command on this sector. His field telephone rang, and Colonel Svoboda said the unit would have to hold out alone. There were no reinforcements to help the lieutenant stop the sixty tanks. The colonel's orders were 'it is impossible to retreat.'"

April 9, 1943: The Free French squadron fighting in Russia
"Many of them are veterans of the Fighting French air force in Britain. Here they operate under Russian command and have a great respect for the fighting abilities of the Russian fliers. One of them told me he was learning how the Soviet pilots ram German planes in combat. He said the Russians had developed a technique in which a pilot could knock the tail or wing off an enemy plane and do very little damage to his own ship."

April 11, 1943 (by Quentin Reynolds): Revisiting Moscow, the city where Hitler's dream ended
"Every civilian in Moscow has made it his war. Perhaps New York can learn something from this city of courage."

April 14, 1943: The little news from Moscow
"All of us here, from the government leaders in the Kremlin down to the correspondents in the Metropol hotel, are waiting for developments from North Africa."

April 15, 1943: Soviet bombing campaign forces Nazis to change tactics
"The Germans have felt the damaging weight of the Russian bombs and have resorted to all kinds of trickery—it's an improved type of trickery which the Nazis started using during the early bombings of Germany by the Royal Air Force."

April 17 to May 28, 1943: The battle for the Kuban bridgehead
"It took forty minutes of inching forward through the mud on their stomachs before the Russian soldiers reached the first German lines. Then there was a period of furious and bitter hand-to-hand fighting before all the Germans were bayonetted out of their trenches."

April 19 to April 27, 1943: Soviet officials deny responsibility for the Katyn massacre
"The newspaper Pravda, organ of the Communist Party, this morning violently attacks the Polish government of General Sikorski for giving official cognizance to the German propaganda charges that the Soviet government allegedly murdered 10,000 Polish officers near Smolensk in 1940."

April 21, 1943: No time for fun in Moscow
"[T]here are no nightclubs or dance halls or anything like that in the capital of the Soviet Union. There is only one cocktail bar, and you have to stand in line to get into it. Occasionally some of the artist's clubs or other such organizations will throw a dance, but it's not very often."

April 21, 1943: Russians civilians train for air raids
"Moscow has not had a bombing for a year. Quite naturally the city is relaxed. People have forgotten where they put their gas masks. Fire watchers and shelter wardens have been more lax than they should be with Nazi bombers only a half hour's flight from the city."

April 21 to July 6, 1943: Film and theater in wartime Moscow
"In an exclusive Variety interview, Krapchenko said the wartime Moscow theatre is tending toward serious drama and tragedy."

April 23-24, 1943:  The air war in Crimea
"[T]he Germans more and more are putting Romanian troops into the vanguard of their local attacks. Thus the Romanians suffer the heaviest losses. The dispatch says that when the unlucky Romanians show a reluctance to attack, or when they appear on the verge of retreat, the German soldiers behind them liven their spirits with Tommy gun bullets. A good number of these Romanians have been killed by their own allies."

May 2, 1943: Stalin's cult of personality
"This week all over the Soviet Union, pictures of Josef Stalin are being displayed on every factory and office building in the country. It means that this week his picture is getting larger display and his name on more banners and posters and that he is getting more personal publicity than any man has ever received."

May 7, 1943: Soviet maskirovka
"No one is fooling down in the Caucasus tonight as the Red Army presses the Axis forces back to the Black Sea coast. But on the rest of the front there is a real war of nerves that, in plain deception, provides the greatest mystery show on earth. And strangest of all, these mystery tactics are good military practice."

May 7, 1943: Strained Polish-Soviet relations
"Vyshinsky is a white-haired, neat-looking lawyer, and he read his two thousand word summary of Soviet-Polish relations like a person adding up a column of figures. And that is the tone of the whole long list of Russian accusations against the Polish government."

May 13, 1943: The Russians react to the Allied victories in Tunisia
"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."

May 19, 1943: The American ambassador visits the ruins of Stalingrad
"Mr. Davies said he wished every American fighting man could have a look at the tragedy of Stalingrad before he went into battle against the Germans."

May 25, 1943: The Soviets throw a goodwill banquet for the British
"They represent an exchange of ideas—not between governments, but between peoples. Neither America, Britain, nor the Soviet Union is trying to impose ideas in this campaign for better cultural relations. That's what got Germany into trouble. If there is one thing that this war has proved, it is that it's much better to exchange ideas than it is to exchange bullets."

May 30, 1943: Western Allied bombing of Germany threatens morale on the Eastern Front
"The Anglo-American bombing of Germany is having a very real effect on the German soldier, who has been given the impossible job of defeating Russia. When a Fortress or a Liberator or a Lancaster drops a bomb on Berlin or Duisburg or Essen, this bomb not only smashes Nazi war production, it also smashes just one more grain of confidence and resistance in the morale of the Fritz on the Russian front who sooner or later hears that his hometown has taken it in the neck again."

June 1, 1943: Nazi rockets provide light for Soviet troop shows
"Recently one group performed for a tank unit assigned to crack a river fortification. The artists reached the front late in the evening. They were held up picking their way through narrow trails in minefields. When they arrived, the soldiers insisted on seeing the entire program. The troupe performed in the open air; the illumination was furnished free by German rockets. The concert really got a big windup with artillery barrage. Before the troupers had packed, the first tanks had crossed the river."

June 7, 1943: "Red Justice"
"With the German attack of 1941 a decree was promulgated reclassifying murder, attempted murder, highway robbery, resistance to representatives of the government, and refusal to join the labor front as crimes subject to martial law."

June 17, 1943: "Bogdan the Elusive" in Ukraine
"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.'"

June 19, 1943: The Russian perspective on Japanese imperialism
"'In May 1943, a serious reverse befell Japan,' the Russian expert says. 'In the Northern Pacific, American troops drove the Japanese out of Attu Island which, incidentally, the Japanese militarists prematurely gave a Japanese name.'"

June 25, 1943: Summertime fashion in Moscow
"The most popular summer footwear are sandals. I've seen some made out of worn out automobile tires. The tire is simply cut into the shape of a show. Another thickness is nailed onto the heel—two straps are attached—and there you have a perfectly good pair of summer shoes."

June 27, 1943: The Wehrmacht's lice epidemic
"The German command is trying to combat the louse that infests the invincible, Aryan Nazi soldier. They are using all kinds of propaganda. Soap is scarce in the German army, and propaganda has not been a very good substitute."

July 11, 1943: What are Hitler's ultimate plans for the new offensive?
"The third theory is that this present attack is the beginning of an all-out attack on the Soviet Union, with Hitler ignoring the impending second front and setting out once and for all in an attempt to defeat the Red Army. In this event, he would depend on his European defenses to protect his rear."

July 14, 1943: Axis espionage in Russia
"The business of spying is no longer a glamorous job of pumping a victim full of champagne and getting him to talk. Axis agents have been discovered disguised as beggars, as wounded Russian soldiers, as government officials, and a number of other things."

July 27, 1943: Russian play features heroic American war correspondent
"The correspondent is depicted as about 40, greyish, with an intense interest in getting the story but with little interest in taking a personal part in the war. He is constantly taking notes and snapping pictures and making what are, to the Russian mind, wisecracks. The author allows the correspondent to jibe the Russians about their love for tragedy, maintaining that Tolstoy should have ended 'War and Peace' with 'everyone loving everyone else.'"

August 13, 1943: The Bryansk partisans
"I sat next to Romashin during a lunch the Orel city government gave the correspondents. He told me that, if I wanted to turn him over to the Germans, I would be a rich man. The Germans know his home. To the person who can produce him dead or alive they will give 15,000 rubles, thirty acres of land, a house, one horse, and two cows."

August 14, 1943: The Red Army's high spirits
"These campfires are a beautiful sight. I saw them from an army headquarters on a height overlooking the Oka river valley. These fires, spotting the ridges and slopes of the rolling steppe, make an unforgettable sight, particularly if you look to the horizon and see the reflection of the burning ruins of Nazi occupation. Those peaceful looking army campfires are flames of vengeance. The big light on the horizon is reflected fear."

August 16, 1943: "Revolution in Soviet School System Kills Coeducation for Youthful Reds"
"This statement represents a new conception of the Soviet woman and her place in family and national life. Sociologically it is a significant change from the early conceptions which simplified divorce processes, provided state contraceptive service, and put emphasis on the nursery instead of the family. In recent years the trend has been in the opposite direction; the Soviet Union is taking measures to increase the birth rate, which since the war has been declining because of the separation of families, improper feeding, and casualties. The new system is the first step in this direction."

August 26, 1943: Downs tells of the curfew in Moscow
"While walking from the foreign office to the radio studio, a young soldier packing a very business-like rifle and bayonet stopped me and asked to see my documents. I handed him my official press card, the pass which allows me on the street during air raids, and my precious night pass. Everything was in order except for the night pass. It had run out and had to be replaced."

September 4, 1943: Tragedy on the Steppe Front
"We came to a little farm railroad called Maslova Pristan. Our convoy of jeeps stopped. An air raid had started someplace on the horizon. The ack-ack and bomb flashes lit up the skyline so brightly that it didn't seem real. If you saw it in the movies you would say it was too Hollywood; too overdone."

September 6, 1943: Ukrainians persevere in the wake of Nazi destruction
"The damage is so extensive that the occasional house that was new—unburned, without shell holes and not charred by fire—such scattered houses seemed almost to be showplaces. They stood out like the pyramids in a desert of destitution."

September 9, 1943: Italy falls as Donetsk is liberated
 "A victory for one of the United Nations is a victory for all the United Nations."

September 12 to September 17, 1943: The Red Army approaches Bryansk
"The Red Army in the past ten months of its winter and summer offensive has almost completely wiped out the gains that the German army spent two years in achieving.As the Russians drive for Kiev and the Dnieper bend, they soon will be on the same lines where they fought the Nazis in September 1941."

September 14, 1943: The Young Guard in Ukraine
"These high school students played a lot of tricks on the Germans, such as taking empty mine cases and planting them like booby traps. The Germans would worry for days over such tricks. They wired officers' cars so that when they stepped on the starters, the car would blow up. They cut the telephone lines, and always they put out their daily bulletin, carefully written by hand and passed among the people."

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

September 23, 1943: The Second Battle of Poltava
"The German base of Poltava was one of the most powerful in the Ukraine. It was taken with much greater casualties for both sides than either the Russians or the Swedes suffered two centuries ago."

September 26 to September 29, 1943: The massive Dnieper offensive continues
"An article in the Army journal, Red Star, today puts the question that is on everyone's lips here in Russia: "Where is Hitler's army going to stop?" This same question must be on the lips of the people of Germany."

November 1, 1943: The Third Moscow Conference
The welcome accorded Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden on Oct. 18 set the tone for the meeting. At the very moment that Hull stepped down from his four-engined Douglas transport at the Moscow airport, a military band struck up 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' and quickly followed with the 'Internationale.'"

December 6, 1943: The Babi Yar massacres
"The first foreign witnesses this week returned to Moscow from what are probably the most terrible two acres on earth—a series of desolate ravines in the Lukyanovka district three miles northwest of Kiev."

January 23, 1944: Retaking the Russian railways
"There are probably more American trucks and jeeps and weapon carriers in Russia than any other country outside the United States. Supplies for the Stalingrad victory were largely carried on American ten-wheelers which can negotiate the deep Russian snow. It was the same at Oryol and Belgorod last summer, and again at Kiev where these American trucks were able to cope with Ukrainian mud."

1968. George Kennan on American Principles

Bill Downs Weighs in on George F. Kennan's Controversial Views
"Kennan at Tempelhof airport, in Berlin, in 1952, en route to Moscow" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

June 10, 1968

This is Bill Downs in Washington sitting in for Joseph C. Harsch.

A former U.S. ambassador to Moscow is so shocked at developments in American society that he suggests some Russians solutions to the problem . . . or does he?

Let's consider that question . . . right after this.

Former Ambassador George Kennan is undisputed as an expert on U.S.-Russian relations and one of the foremost analysts of Communist power and policy around the globe. But the week before last—the weekend before the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy—Mr. Kennan spoke in Williamsburg, Virginia, as an ordinary and highly concerned American citizen.

Discussing the roots of American independence put forth by such men as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry in the Virginia Assembly, Mr. Kennan raised some self-styled "painful questions" about the U.S. national heritage and its application to present day life.

In effect, the ex-ambassador asked: When the Founding Fathers spoke of "all men being created equal" with a God-given right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," were they really putting forth principles of universal validity? Or, asks Mr. Kennan, were there precepts really meant only for those—and I quote—"of birth and breeding . . . by the spirit and discipline of the home?"

Kennan admits that the nation has proceeded on the proposition that the "self-evident truths" mentioned by Virginians like Jefferson were workable among the great masses of immigrants who initially came to the United States, but now he says the pattern of population movements in the past decades of the twentieth century should give the nation pause.

"Without a qualm," he says, "we have permitted our great cities . . . to be blighted and drained of people of education, influence, and responsibility . . . and to be colonized by huge masses of the impoverished and poorly educated . . ."

"Never . . . does it seem to have occurred to us that there might be limits to the absorbent capacity of our cities."

Then, Mr. Kennan makes a most peculiar suggestion:

"Perhaps," he said, "it was the business of governmental authority to see that these limits were not overstepped."

And later he suggests that the Negroes might have their own local political communities where they can express themselves collectively and "find identity and dignity."

We are just as disturbed as Mr. Kennan about the racial explosions in the urban ghettos. But we part company with the ambassador when he suggests that the government should somehow select who should liver where in our cities—or anywhere else in the country. Surely the former envoy to Moscow is not suggesting the propusk system used by the Communists be imported into this country. This would mean every American would carry a personal passport—a propusk—requiring him to register with the police every time he moved from town to town.

If Mr. Kennan has twentieth century doubts about the universality of the eighteenth century American Revolution, then perhaps he is guilty of misreading U.S. history.

If American democracy is imperfect, it is not because of its revolutionary principles. It is the fault of the men who failed to apply those principles and make them work.

It was history which made the United States a pluralistic society. To suggest that it can be "de-pluralized" by government ukase repudiates the American Revolution.

August 18, 2016

1946. CBS' Schedule for the Nuclear Tests at Bikini Atoll

Operation Crossroads on CBS
June 24, 1946
Three Pool Broadcasts, One CBS Exclusive, Set for "Operation Crossroads" on Sunday, June 30

Bill Downs Sole Representative of Major [Networks] On Observation Plane; Number of Preview Programs Scheduled Over The Week
Final plans for CBS' coverage of the actual Atomic Bomb tests off Bikini Atoll on Sunday, June 30 (July 1 Bikini time), and for special programs leading up to the actual hour of "Operation Crossroads," were announced today by Wells Church, Acting CBS Director of News Broadcasts.

A five-minute broadcast to be carried by the major networks is set for 3:00 PM, EDT, on June 30. This broadcast will have Bill Downs of CBS and W. W. Chaplin of NBC describing the take-off of the bombing plane and of the observation plane as they get away for Bikini from Kwajalein. Downs will be aboard the observation plane as the sole representative of the major networks.

Three hours later, 6:00 PM, EDT, at which time the bombing plane is expected to start its fourth run over the target, the networks take to the air again. The atom bomb may be dropped on the fourth or fifth run. If the missile is not dropped on the fifth run, it will not be dropped at all that day. If the weather is bad, the tests will be postponed until weather clears.

The third pool broadcast takes place at approximately 8:00 PM, EDT, when Bill Downs returns to conduct interviews with the pilot and bombardier of the bombing aircraft. Downs will return to the air at 11:15-11:30 PM, EDT - if the bomb is dropped - for an exclusive account.

A live "mike" on the target battleship, the USS Pennsylvania, is expected to relay the detonation to radio listeners. Another microphone will be placed on the USS Rhind, which is on the outer fringe of the 77-ship target formation.

On Wednesday, June 26, 2:30-3:00 PM, EDT, CBS correspondents will tell the full official Navy story of the test, revealing the astonishing amount of detailed work the Navy has done in preparation for the historic experiment. Key individuals on the Navy's atom staff, from radar operators to weather experts, will give listeners a picture of the test problems.

On Thursday, June 27, 10:00-10:30 PM, EDT, CBS will review the story of the atom bomb from August 5, 1945, when the first missile was dropped on Japan, through the long, painstaking planning for the Bikini test.

From the nation's capital, Bill Henry will recall Washington's reaction on the day Japan was A-bombed. Webley Edwards, off Bikini, will recount how he interviewed the bombing crew after it returned from Hiroshima. Bill Downs, who last year described devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, will do so again on this broadcast.

On the same program, Bill Costello, Chief of CBS' Far Eastern News Bureau in Tokyo, will interview a Japanese citizen who will explain how the atom bombing affected the average Nipponese mind. From Tokyo the program switches to New York City where Charles Collingwood, CBS' United Nations correspondent, will re-state the United States' proposal for control of atomic energy as presented by Bernard Baruch. Finally, the broadcast will switch to a ship in the Pacific for interviews with Federal legislators and officials.

Another program now being planned, but for which no definite time has as yet been set, is an address by Father John Lynch, Fordham University seismologist.

As previously announced, CBS' "Feature Story" will present "Atom Bomb Previews" Monday through Friday, June 24-28, 5:00-5:15 PM, EDT.

CBS Television Station WCBW-N.Y., will present a June 30 program incorporating Bill Downs' reports with a showing of maps, films and photographs.

CBS men assigned to the atom bomb tests include George Moorad, Webley Edwards, Don Mozley and Philip W. Swain, engineer, and editor of Power, a McGraw-Hill publication. CBS-San Francisco will coordinate the broadcasts with a specially augmented staff under the direction of Phil Woodyat.

August 16, 2016

1948. Germans Making the Most of Christmas in Occupied Berlin

Christmas in West Berlin
"Candy bomber" used to drop candy to the children of blockaded West Berlin as part of Operation "Little Vittles," a campaign launched by Gail Halvorsen (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 1948

I went Christmas shopping with a German friend of mine in downtown Berlin the other day. He has two sons; one six, and the other eight. In several hours of shopping, the only present he could buy was a stocking cap, priced far out of his ability to pay.

We went to toy shops. There were some paper dolls; some blocks of wood. And because of the blockade, there probably won't even be a Christmas tree.

This family has saved what food it can out of its already inadequate ration and, maybe by going to the black market, a can of sausage will turn up as the main course Christmas Day.

The father is sacrificing his only extra pair of pants to make a coat and jacket for the oldest boy, to be handed down. An American friend gave him an old, worn out blanket which will provide a coat for the smallest child. And considering that my friend lives in a district of Berlin which has absolutely no electricity, Christmas will be spent by the light of one oil lamp. They are saving a big log to get the place warm on the night that most Christians celebrate the Nativity.

This is an extreme case. Not all Berliners will be that badly off. And considering what Germany already has done to the rest of the world, this is no time to shed crocodile tears over the fate of the poor, defeated Teuton.

It is easy to preserve this attitude—until you look at the children. Kids are not Teutons or defeated people, or even Communists, Nazis, Democrats, or Republicans. Kids are kids. Nothing more, nothing less.

And here in Germany, there are so many of them. The maternity industry, if you can call it that, is the only operation that immediately bounced back to prewar production, and even now is surpassing the birthrate before the war.

There are more than nine and a half million children in the American zone of Germany, including this blockaded portion of Berlin.

The vision of Santa Claus is still preserved as a fat, jolly rascal dressed in red. In this occupied country, it is more likely that he is actually probably young and slim and dressed in the khaki of the United States forces of occupation.

This will be the fourth Christmas of the occupation. For the past month, throughout the American governed parts of Germany, plays have been given, American wives have been holding bazaars and cake sales, special entertainments have been staged, collections have been taken up. The German Youth activities group has been breaking its neck.

Because for some reason, no American can see a child go without Christmas—no matter how inadequate it is.

Since there are so many children, not even the American occupation personnel can take care of them all this year, although time and money is being given generously.

This is where you come in. There is an organization called the "General Clay Christmas Fund for German Children." But we'll go into that later.

I said earlier that Santa Claus to many German children will be wearing khaki. I've got a pair with me now—and less likely Kringles have you ever seen.