Friday, October 31, 2014

1944. Downs Returns Home From Russia

Back From Russia, Bill Downs Greets Friends and Tells of Experiences as Correspondent

From the Kansas City Times, January 1944.

Back From Russia, Bill Downs Greets Friends and Tells of Experiences as Correspondent
"Grandma's on the phone, excuse me."

So Bill went to the telephone and talked with his grandmother, who hadn't seen him for four years while he has been in England and Russia.

"Pay no attention to them, Grandma," he said into the phone. "They are fooling you." He turned aside and said someone had told Grandma she was too old to travel from Springfield.

"Tomorrow. Sure. Be seeing you tomorrow evening."

"Grandma" is Mrs. Nellie Cartmell, 82 years old, of Springfield, Mo. She will catch the train there about 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon and arrive here about 6 tomorrow night.

Favors Friendship

Then Bill cut loose on Russia -- that great nation of the Big Bear (within the week, sixteen Little Bears by ukase of Premier Stalin) and told how Americans can get along with her in the post-war world if this nation really wants to.

Bill is Bill Downs, CBS correspondent and son of Mr. and Mrs. William R. Downs, [address removed]. He has just returned from a year in the Soviet.

"The Russians keep a close check on American politics and are intensely interested in what is happening over here," Downs said, adding that Americans would do well to take as great an interest in Russia.

"America and the Soviet Union are the two greatest continental powers in the world today. And I am sure from what I learned while I was there that, if we will suppress our suspicions of that people, we will be able to work out a program for the post-war world which will not only be to our mutual benefit, but which will help insure peace for many years to come. Without mutual respect and confidence, we will find ourselves divorced from the Russians, who no doubt will have a powerful word to say in post-war Europe since they are paying such a price for the freedom of their nation today."
Russian Losses Huge

Downs said that with less than three years of war behind her, Russia already has lost 10 million of her people, killed and missing. "That includes both civilians and personnel of the armed serviced," he stated.

Bill Downs is now 29 years old. He once carried The Kansan and later was with the United Press. He was in London at the time of the air blitz and went to the Soviet after considerable time spent in the English capital.

"I never met Stalin, but I have talked with Molotov (foreign minister of the U.S.S.R.) many times, and with most of the other head men of the Russian government," he said.

"First, they are tough. Second, they are capable. Third, they are competent to operate not only their army but their own government."

"Can we trust the Russians?"

That was the principal question asked of him.

Ask Same Question

With a grin, he said, "That's a good one." Then he studied for a long minute and said:

"That's what the Russians are asking about us," he said. "They want to know if they can trust America. Now Americans want to know if they can trust Russia.

"My idea is that we can trust Russia if we are willing to deal with her honestly and fairly. We must realize that her toll of blood in this war is going to make her extremely conscious of her part at the peace table. She is going to have something to say about what happens to Europe, just the same as we'd have something to say about what happens to North America if the situation were reversed and Canada or Mexico had jumped on us and Russia had come to our aid."

Downs said that for the most part supplies going to the Russian front are traveling from the railroad junctions to the fighting line on American trucks and other equipment. He said that a large per cent of the medium bombers now being used by Russia are of American make.

Star Makes Difference

"All you have to do to make a B-25 look like a Russian plane is to have a can of red paint and use it on the white star on the plane's fuselage," he explained.

The correspondent brought back souvenirs from Russia, including money he picked up in Russia, Persia and North Africa. A beautiful shirtwaist he brought back cost him a bottle of vodka, four pounds of butter and five cans of vegetables which his company had sent him eighteen months before he received it. He said butter was not particularly difficult to get in Moscow, but that it was scarce in other parts of Russia. He brought jewel cases, hand painted and of rare artistic beauty back with him for members of his family, and for himself a cigarette case of the same material.

He said that America, Britain and Germany all mis-guessed Russian strength, because they could not fully realize that the Soviet Union had come so far in so short a time with its program of industrial expansion and manufacture.

"But Russia had been preparing for this war for fifteen years, and that's why she has been able to hold the Germans," he said.

Predicts Hard Days

Although unwilling to make a definite prediction, Downs said hard days lie ahead in this war.

"Surely we here in the middle west don't have to lose our towns to an enemy, have our people driven out of their homes by bombs and brutality, suffer plague and starvation and death to realize what this war means. At least I hope we don't. Just because our men are fighting on foreign soil is no reason those here at home dare lie down on their responsibility. It's going to be tough going for quite a while yet."

Young Downs said he would visit here for two weeks, then probably go to London again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

1944. Fighting to the Last Man

German Desperation in Belgium
Source: "A British soldier poses next to a knocked out Jagdpanther in Geel, 16 September 1944."

Four months after the broadcast below, Bill Downs recounted a similar story of German soldiers ordered not to surrender:
Eighteen Germans surrendered in a body to a company of the 30th Infantry Division north of Saint Vith. The Germans, it was discovered, had been ordered to fight to the last man and the last bullet. When the sergeant that marched the Germans back to the prisoner of war cages turned them over, saying "I guess those guys couldn't make up their minds who was the last man and who had the last bullet," one of the prisoners who spoke English translated the remark and to his comrades and they all grinned -- except two who, being Nazi, couldn't see anything funny about it. 

Here is the original broadcast:
Bill Downs
September 15, 1944

British troops today have their second bridgehead across the Escaut Canal in their march across the difficult water barriers which the Germans are using to protect the northern border of Germany. This latest crossing of the Escaut Canal was made just north of the town of Geel and about fifteen miles west of the first crossing that carried British patrols into Holland three days ago.

With the breaching of the Albert Canal line, the Germans have been falling back northward from the area between the two waterways, and today the British troops are fighting another battle very much the same as that which one the Albert.

Late yesterday the British troops were across the Escaut Canal in two places in their new drive, but bitter Nazi counterattacks forced them to give up one of these crossings and concentrate on holding the main bridgehead north of Geel.

Violent German counterattacks were also made against the other crossing further to the east at Hechtel. The Germans are using battle groups of up to 200 men supported by a half-dozen or so tanks to make these counterattacks. Although the Germans are often outnumbered and always outgunned and out-armored, they press in their attacks bitterly and well. The series of small, sharp clashes that have marked this canal fighting are extremely bloody. And the British soldiers who meet these new German battle groups often remark on how hard the German is fighting despite the odds against him.

I was up in the canal area the other day to find out something more about these Nazis soldiers -- Hitler's new "total" soldiers.

The German total soldier may be a boy of high school age or an elderly veteran of the last war. Up until a month ago he might have been an accountant or a bricklayer or a student. But now he's in the army, and sometimes his uniforms don't fit him. He is inadequately armed, sometimes with out of date rifles. He has had only three or four weeks training. Usually total soldiers know how to handle a rifle, but know nothing about a machine gun or a mortar.

These are the Germans from the bottom of Hitler's manpower barrel who the Nazi leaders hope will save their skins for them and, somehow, defeat the Allies and throw them into the sea.

Although this seems ridiculous to us, it is taken very seriously by the Nazis. And the German soldiers, even the inadequately trained total soldiers, continue to fight with determination.

For example, the other day at a Belgian village, Nazi soldiers fought a bitter delaying action that ended only after British troops cleared the village by blasting every house in the village.

These Germans, including many soldiers in action for the first time, knew they were surrounded and that there position was hopeless. According to a British soldier who was a prisoner in their hands during the battle, they also thought that Germany had lost the war.

Now the question is: why do the Germans continue to fight as they do under hopeless circumstances?

As far as I could find out, there are several reasons for this. First of all, most German soldiers deep in their hearts hope and believe that Hitler will pull a military white rabbit out of his sleeve and produce a new weapon that will win the war.

Another reason is that many of the men in the army are afraid to give up. They are afraid of their officers and afraid of the fanatical Nazis in their units -- and they fear for the safety of their families in Germany.

And still another reason for the bitter German resistance is that now the German soldier has yet a greater reason for fighting than even the fantastic ideals of the Nazi Party -- the Germans have been on the business end of an invasion for so long that they know pretty much what it means. But now they are on the receiving end of invasion, so the German soldier knows that he is fighting for the Fatherland as well as Hitler. It's something new in German history of the past 100 years.

And finally, the German soldier fights to the last simply because many of them are Nazis -- the bad boys who know that a great many people in Norway and Russia and Greece and Poland and Czechoslovakia are after their heads. They have no other choice.

And the German soldier will probably go on fighting with fanatical madness until he is completely and utterly beaten into submission; until he is convinced by Allied force of arms that resistance is futile; and until he and the other Germans inside the Reich who make his weapons decide that perhaps, after all, they are not a master race, and that Hitler is just another man with a mustache.

This is Bill Downs in Brussels returning you to CBS in New York.

Monday, October 27, 2014

1943. Soviet Officials Deny Responsibility for the Katyn Massacre

The Nazis Uncover the Mass Graves in the Katyn Forest
Nazi soldiers in 1943 exhuming bodies from the mass graves in the Katyn Forest, the site where the Soviet government killed about 22,000 Polish officers in 1940.

These are broadcast transcripts written by Bill Downs in the wake of the revelation of the Katyn massacre. While it was ultimately revealed that the Soviets were responsible, the Nazis and Soviets blamed traded blame, and Joseph Goebbels sought to use the massacre as a propaganda tool. Downs appears to have believed the Soviet account based on the Nazi track record of war crimes at the time.

Bill Downs


Monday, April 19, 1943

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.

The Pravda editorial said that General Sikorski's Minister of Defense, by officially requesting an International Red Cross investigation into this monstrous crime, has played into Goebbel's hands.

"It is not surprising," the newspaper said, "that Hitler shortly afterward also requested a Red Cross investigation."

This is the second time in three days that the Soviet government has taken occasion to categorically reject the German propaganda charges. On Friday the Soviet information bureau branded the Nazi allegations a pack of lies.

Since that time the Germans, who for several years have been killing off the Poles as an "inferior race," now have taken up their cause as "victims of Bolshevist terror." The ridiculousness of this Nazi position has been lost in the gory details of another mass murder which the German radio has been spreading throughout the world.

Briefly the Soviet position is this. The Russians admit that there was a Polish prisoner-of-war camp in the Smolensk district. There were Polish officers and soldiers captured when the Red Army marched into Poland in 1939 to keep Hitler from completely overunning the country. Pravda says these Poles were engaged in building work west of Smolensk when, with many inhabitants of the region, they fell into German hands in the summer of 1941 when the Red Army retreated.

The Russians say that if there was mass murder done at this prisoner of war camp, the Germans did it.

Pravda puts it this way, and I quote: "The Germans ferociously killed the former Polish war prisoners and many Soviet people. Now they want to hide traces of their crimes." The newspaper continues, "In trying to cover their monstrous ferocities, the Hitlerian sadists, who have a surprising knowledge of the case, are describing 'details' of the murders. But the more they mention the 'details,' the more obvious it becomes that the Hitlerian murderers, who were trained in the schools and prisons of Himmler, are describing their own rich experience."

These facts have emerged out of the latest gory German propaganda. First, that one of the most brutal crimes of the war has been committed. Second, that the German story of this crime has too many holes in it to be believed. And third, Goebbels' propaganda about this crime has scored a minor victory. The Allies have taken time out to discuss his story.
Bill Downs


Thursday night, April 27, 1943

 A lot of words have been spoken and written since the Foreign Office here in Moscow called the American correspondents to its Press Department yesterday evening and handed us Mr. Molotov's announcement that the Soviet Union is breaking off relations with General Sikorski's Polish government.

The Polish embassy is now preparing for a quick departure through Iran. The Polish ambassador, M. Remar, presumably will report to his government in London.

Mr. Molotov's communiqué is one of the most important documents that has been issued by the government since the war began. It is something more than a diplomatic note to Poland. It constitutes the first diplomatic test of the United Nations. The note is a milestone in Russian foreign policy -- foreign policy which is going to be very, very important to the world around the postwar conference tables.

I am not going to try to discuss the issues of the break between the Soviet Union and Poland. It is enough that there is disagreement during these critical times when it is unity, not discord, that we need.

The issue has grown far beyond the horrible facts of what happened at a prisoner of war camp west of Smolensk -- it is beyond disagreement regarding treaties over borders.

The issue concerns the whole structure of the mutual trust and cooperation between the nations dedicated to the destruction of Hitler and his allies -- and to the building of a freer and better world after the war.

Goebbels has succeeded in driving a splinter of doubt into that structure. That splinter must not become a wedge separating the United Nations.

Up to now these 10,000 Polish officer who died west of Smolensk have died in vain. It is the duty of all the United Nations to avenge their death, not argue about it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

1943. The Nazi Colonization of Ukraine

The Occupation of Kharkov
Source: Kharkiv, Ukraine in 1942. Photo by Johannes Hähle.

These are some of Bill Downs' reports from Moscow about the condition of Kharkov, Ukraine after its liberation and its reoccupation during the Third Battle of Kharkov. The parenthesis signify portions that were prohibited from broadcast by Soviet officials.

Bill Downs 
Saturday night, February 27, 1943

I have just had a closeup of how Adolf Hitler's New Order makes history -- you know, the kind of history he raves about at the drop of a helmet. The Nazi brand of history he has sold to Italy and certain other countries in Europe. The kind of history Japan is trying to market in the Far East.

At 9:30 this morning I took a plane out of Russia's rich Ukraine. I spent Thursday and Friday wandering around the streets of Kharkov talking to people and seeing what I could see.

Right now, Kharkov is a very special place. It is more than just another city which the Red Army has recaptured. It's the first big city in Europe that has been retaken from the Axis in which Hitler's New Order had a chance to work. You remember the Germans held Kharkov for sixteen months. And I got to Kharkov with a party of other news reporters only eight days after the New Order was kicked out...before the smell of it had completely left the city.
(Yes, you can still smell Hitler's New Order tonight, if you were in Ukraine. It's the stench of cordite, and the dry smell of bombed buildings and the wet smell of charred wood. It's the sweet smell of blood and the bitter smell of people too weak from hunger to walk a couple of miles to the river to wash.)
(When we flew with a Russian fighter escort towards Kharkov the other day, you could follow the path of the New Order very easily. The miles were marked with the walls of ruined villages where fighting had occurred. Along the railroad leading eastward from the city were the hulks of ruined tanks and occasionally junkers or a Heinkel bomber.)
(After we landed on the ruined airport -- there wasn't a building left standing -- we saw our first definite sign that the Germans had actually possessed this Ukrainian industrial center. It was a German sign which read, "Parking verboten." We found out that a lot of things were "verboten" during the German occupation of Kharkov.)
There is no doubt that the Germans thought they were in Kharkov for keeps. All the street signs were written in both German and Ukrainian -- German first, of course.

German colonists -- at least that's what Hitler calls them -- had set up business, and there were restaurants and shops with German signs on them. Yes, the Nazis sent a lot of loyal German families to (examine the corpse of Kharkov) collect what they thought was going to be easy money and a pleasant life in the wake of Hitler's Wehrmacht. No one knows just how many colonists Hitler sent to Kharkov. They were a little difficult to count -- like flies on a sugar stack. For months they played at being super-men. Ukrainians couldn't ride in the same street cars with them -- they had to catch the one hitched on behind.

If Ukrainians had better homes or business than [the colonists] had been allotted, the colonists went around to authorities and arranged to take over. That's the way the New Order works. But these good Nazi families were too smart to get themselves caught by the Russians. They ran away with everything they could carry early in January when the Red Army started to march.

Two days before the German army fled the city, the Nazi command destroyed every major building in Kharkov. There literally is not one single store, office building, hotel, or government house in the main part of the city which has not been gutted by fire, blown to bits, or bombed.

But during the occupation, the Germans did something else -- something much more damaging than making piles of rubble out of buildings.

It's something you can see in the face of every kid you run into on the streets. The women and old men who are left have the same look.

The people are pale from hunger. The boys and girls, particularly, have faces the color of wet dough. They have rings under their eyes like old people.

I stopped what I thought was a 10-year-old boy on the street to talk with him. He was thin and had black hair that hung down into his eyes.

He grinned when I introduced myself and said in a tough kind of way that he supposed he would tell me his name. He was Vladimir Voskresenski, a good Ukrainian name. He was 14. You see, kids just don't grow very fast without food.

I asked him what he did while the Germans were there. He shrugged and answered, "Oh, sometimes I begged for food, some bread or a piece of chocolate if I was lucky. And sometimes I could earn some food by taking my sledge and dragging luggage to the station for German officers. I would get half a slice of bread for that."

I noticed that Vladimir had on an outside man's suit coat which struck him below the knees. He looked a little bit like Jackie Coogan used to in the silent pictures. I asked him where he got that coat -- I should never have asked.

Vladimir started out bravely enough. "It belonged to my father," he said. "He was an engineer. They took him to the hotel over there and beat him for four days. He died. I never saw him again."

He was crying when he finished the story. He was a tough kid, like all the kids that survived the New Order in Kharkov.

But those kids won't forget. And neither will the rest of the world.

During the fifteen months of German occupation, a lot of things happened to Kharkov -- all of them bad. For example, there are some facts repeated to me at random by a half-dozen people to whom I talked on the streets of the city.

A year ago last October when the Germans took the city they started hanging people. By the second day of the occupation, every balcony stretching for two miles on the main street through the center of the city had become a gallows. Scores of men and women were trussed up and left to hang.

Six weeks after the occupation, every Jew in the city was ordered to go to an empty machine tool shop nine miles out of town. Women cried as they told me about this. 10,000 Jews were herded into this camp. Ten days later a huge ditch was dug and a squad of German tommy-gunners shot every man, woman, and child.

It is estimated that 18,000 people were executed in the first weeks of the occupation, but no one knows the exact number. The Germans didn't bother about death proclamations or keeping records. I have check that figure not only with Soviet officials now in charge of Kharkov, but also with a school teacher, a college professor, and four other people who were in the city at the time.

This is simply another example of how the New Order works.
Bill Downs 
Sunday, February 28, 1943

Hitler's guns which, for fifteen months, were held against the heart of Kharkov, were pushed further back westward from the city last night. This morning's communiqué announced that another series of inhabited points have been taken west of the wreckage and ruined buildings which today mark the site of one of the proudest cities in the Ukraine.

I left Kharkov yesterday morning after spending Thursday and Friday wandering around the city's streets talking to people and seeing what I could see.

Kharkov was about the size of Washington, D.C. before Hitler got to it. It had a peacetime population of 900,000 which swelled to over a million inhabitants as the war progressed.

Imagine every major building in Washington gutted with fire. Imagine all of the buildings across the Potomac blown to bits. Imagine every railroad station deliberately wrecked. Imagine street car and bus trolley wires lying over the street. Imagine Washington with just two water fountains and the sewage system wrecked with the streets thick with ice. Scatter a goodly number of bomb craters throughout the city. Then you will have a pretty good picture of Kharkov after 15 months of Hitler's New Order.

But the New Order has done something else to Kharkov. Something more terrible than mere wrecking of buildings and homes and streets. Something more deeply significant than putting up street signs in German and deliberately looting the city. Something more than taking warm clothing from men and women who walked the streets.

Kharkov has a hungry population of only 350,000 today. This means that during the fifteen months of Hitler's New Order, something has happened to about 600,000 people. This does not include a quarter of a million people which the Russian government succeeded in evacuating from Kharkov before the Germans took the city a year ago last October.

In talking with Soviet officials, college professors, and people on the street, here's all I could find out about the 600,000 Kharkov citizens who have disappeared under Hitler's New Order.

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.

One hundred and ten thousand people were shipped to Germany for forced labor.

Meanwhile, it is estimated unofficially that at least 70,000 people died of starvation under the German rule. (And all the time during the fifteen months the executions went on. As conditions grew worse, more and more people escaped from the city to unoccupied Russia.)

All in all, it is estimated that between 90,000 and 100,000 Kharkov citizens will never be accounted for. It's something to think about as Doctor Goebbels prattles about saving European civilization from the "eastern hordes."
Bill Downs


Tuesday night, March 9, 1943

(Ever since Hitler took over Czechoslovakia and marched into Poland, we have been hearing about the slavery and semi-slavery into which has has been throwing the conquered European peoples. With the Red Army killing his soldiers in Russia -- and with the United States and British air forces knocking out his factories in Germany and Western Europe -- the Fuehrer has been forced more and more to rely on kidnapped labor to keep his war machine working.)

At Kharkov a couple of weeks ago, I got my first glimpse of just what Nazi "forced labor" means. Simon Legree, with his whip and bloodhounds, was a sissy compared to the Nazi with his rubber hose, his barbed wire, and his hangman's noose.

An estimated 110,000 Kharkov citizens are doing forced labor in Germany today. They range from boys and girls of fourteen years of age to men and women of forty. The only requirements for work in Germany is a strong back and a brace of biceps.

According to the people to whom I talked in Kharkov, the Germans there used two methods of getting workers to work in their factories. They simply picked them up off the street and packed them off, or they sent around a notice saying the workers should report to a recruiting headquarters -- or else.

The Germans have an efficient, standard identification card with which they register their foreign workers. It's printed in eleven languages -- so it comes in handy for a dozen countries from which they can kidnap labor.

This identification card serves as a passport. When the kidnapped worker gets to Germany, he finds that it allows him to move from his factory, or his labor gang, to his barracks -- and no place else.
Bill Downs


Tuesday, March 16, 1943

We (the American and British foreign correspondents who live at the Metropole Hotel) here in Moscow are a pretty sad group of people today.

It's because of the bad news from Kharkov.

It was only two weeks and two days ago that we were in that Ukrainian city -- and every one of us came away with a clearer picture of what Hitler's New Order means to the conquered people of Europe than any one of us ever had before.

(During the fifteen months of occupation by the German forces, Kharkov had all but died of Nazism. Over 18,000 people had been executed. 70,000 had died of starvation. Over 110,000 had been shipped off to Germany. And about 90,000 were simply listed as "missing.")

Today the Germans are back in Kharkov. (It is depressing to think just how many of the 350,000 Kharkov residents we found there two weeks ago will be left when the Red Army again takes the city. And it will be retaken -- make no mistake about that.)

(Another thing which saddens the foreign press corps here is the uncertainty of) We are wondering what is going to happen to the people to whom we talked. The people who told us the horrible story of the German occupation.

For example, the little 14-year-old boy who (broke down and) cried as he told how his father was killed by the Germans. (The indignant Ukrainian housewife who wept when she told how her sister had been shipped away to Germany.) The kindly little college professor who was trying to reorganize Kharkov's educational and social services to care for the children orphaned by German executions. He was very pleased when we talked to him that he had found homes and food for 300 of these orphans.

(You see, as news reporters, we used the names of all these people so that you people in America reading our stories could have verified evidence of what the Nazis did to Kharkov.)

If I know anything about the efficiency of the Gestapo, (the names of) these people today head the list of German reprisals. I and the rest of my colleagues here in Moscow can only hope that those people evacuated the city with the Red Army. Or that they go into hiding until the city is captured again.

I know, as every correspondent does, that it is not often the problems of news reporting make significant news. (These things are part of our job).

But there is no better demonstration of just what Hitlerism stands for in this world than Kharkov.

Usually, discussions about "truth" have a nebulous quality that almost always end up in confused arguments about what is right and what is wrong.

I don't want to preach any sermons. There is nothing nebulous about "truth" in Kharkov today. The people who told the truth to us American and British reporters now stand under the thread of execution.

Truth in that Ukrainian city today is a matter of life and death. (And so it is in this whole war raging throughout the world.)

One writer in the Moscow newspapers said this morning that "it is not easy to give up Kharkov." Kharkov is a city of tears. Then he added "but for every Russian tear, let there be mountains of dead Germans."

That's the way the foreign press corps in Moscow feels this morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

1943. Moscow Public School Number 175

Requesting a Second Front
Source: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspecting Atlantic Wall defenses in France, April 1944.

These are broadcast transcripts written in 1943 by Bill Downs in Moscow while he worked for CBS. The portions in parenthesis were struck from the broadcasts by Soviet officials.

Bill Downs
Friday, February 19, 1943

(At the first of this year a new law became effective throughout the Soviet Union which, in its way, is an event of importance ranking with the present Russian winter offensive.)

(This important law provides that, in the future, military training will be taught in Russia's schools and become as much a part of the program as reading, writing, and arithmetic.)

I went to Moscow school Number 175 today to see just what was being done with the new military training program. (I found plenty.)

(School Number 175 is in a big red brick building and looks for all the world like any other school you'll find in the United States. The school-teachers have that same sort of threadbare patience about them, and the classrooms are like classrooms you can see anywhere.)

I got there on a day that the older boys -- kids about 14 or 15 -- were taking their military lesson from a Red Army captain. (This Red Army man, like all military instructors in the schools, was assigned to this post by the government's Commissariat of Defense.)

He was drilling the boys in a large auditorium and using a traditional top-sergeant voice. The kids, who drill for one hour five times a week, were pretty good. Occasionally there would be a left-face instead of a right-face -- a few heels were stepped on -- but on the whole they looked pretty good.

This was the afternoon session. In the mornings, the captain shouted his orders to the girls. They get ordinary military training too.

(The school-kids start their military training with the first grade and during their first four years of schooling take gymnastic exercises and play military games. The kids in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades take what's called "elementary military preparation." This includes general drill, hikes or marches, and the basic principles of soldiering.)

(The boys in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades get the pre-mobilization training. This is the group I saw drilling today.)

Before they get out of school, these boys will know how to handle a rifle and machine gun and mortar. They'll know the rudiments of artillery. They'll have a tough training period of infighting with bayonets, grenades, and their fists. They will have made long marches and become familiar with night maneuvers.

The girls, whose training follows the same pattern, will when possible study radio, telephone operating, nursing, and such. However the girls too will know how to handle weapons.

Explanation of the new regulations extending military training to school children was given in the newspaper Moscow Bolshevik. The newspaper said "Soviet school children must be full of a sense of civic duty capable of heroic deeds in fighting and for high productive labor in industry and agriculture."
Bill Downs 
Saturday, February 20 1943

(The Russian winter offensive today is at a stage which might be described as "in between victories.") The tempo of this Red Army's advance through the difficult Donetz basin has been slowed.

A severe blizzard has hampered operations north of Kursk and given the Germans in this sector and around Orel an opportunity to rush reinforcements into their defenses.

(Only) in the Caucasus (has) the Red Army made substantial progress the last few days. Here the Soviet troops are slowly forcing the German forces towards the Taman bottleneck on the Kerch strait. The Russian strategy here is to slowly squeeze the remnants of Hitler's army out of the Kuban like toothpaste out of a tube.

One of the biggest surprises I've had here in Russia was my experience yesterday with a history class of 14-year-old boys at a Moscow public school.

I was having a look around the school and wandered into the classroom (in time to hear a lecture on Iran. It was the sort of class discussion that you could get in any school in America.)

The teacher asked me if I wanted to ask the boys any questions. Well, I knew that sooner or later these kids would want to know when America was going to start a second front. Russian people always do. (If I've been asked that question once over here, I've been asked it a million times.)

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.

Those kids (put up their hands to express their own pet theories) had as many theories (-- well you might have thought it) as the combined general staff (meeting) in Washington. The reaction was terrific.

One black-haired youngster (who seemed to be a spokesman for the majority opinion) walked to the map on the wall and outlined a campaign through Italy. (It involved taking Sicily and Sardinia followed by a combined assault on Italy itself from these islands and from the northern coast of Africa.)

However, there was opposition to this plan. A tow-headed kid named Tolya took over the discussion. His argument that there was nothing particularly wrong with the Italian invasion plan except the supply question. He advocated the classic move through France. (The second front supply question would be alleviated through England and direct supply communications with America.)

(There was considerable agreement to this reasoning).

And then up stepped the boy who obviously was a grade-A student. He wore thick glasses and his ears that morning seemed to have escaped his mother's inspection. But he was a leading figure in that history class. You could tell by the way the other boys shut up when he talked. His named was Felix.

Felix was all for an advance through the Balkans. He explained that (the position of Turkey had been stabilized and said that) the Balkans were definitely Hitler's back door. There would be, according to Felix, much help from the Balkan population. And after this landing, the invading troops could join up with the Red Army and clean up Europe from the East.

After that, I thought the discussion was ended and that I was going to escape without getting asked any questions. However it came anyway. "When is the second front going to start?"

I told the history class I didn't know -- but I promised I would pass along their second front strategy to the United States. So there you are -- the report on military tactics from the seventh grade history class of Public School Number 175 in Moscow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1964. Europe Reacts to Barry Goldwater

A Diplomatic Riptide Around the Globe
Source: A 1964 campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater in Cairo, Missouri.

July 21, 1964

Not since Chicken Little erroneously announced that the sky was falling down -- or possibly since Chicago's Mayor Big Bill Thompson threatened to punch the King of England in the nose -- has a single pronouncement whirled through the world's diplomatic barnyards with such speed as that uttered by Senator Barry Goldwater in San Francisco last Friday.

When the Republican presidential candidate declared that "extremism, in the defense of liberty, is no vice"...the teletypes in Allied capitals from London and Paris to Canberra and New Delhi apparently trembled with the news. When Mr. Goldwater added that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue"...Communist translators in the Kremlins of Moscow, Warsaw, and Peiping sweat over their work.

The ironic thing about these statements is that then -- and even now -- no one knows what the GOP candidate actually meant by these assertions. Members of the Goldwater entourage and leaders of the Republican Party are now fleshing out the Senator's meaning. But overseas in the disturbed capitals of Europe, Asia, and South America, these explanations will be a long time in catching up.

It is illustrative of our shrinking world that a verbal pebble dropped beside the Golden Gate can, within a matter of hours, produce a diplomatic rip-tide around the globe.

But since Senator Goldwater is not only a presidential candidate and not a member of the executive branch of the U.S. government, the vociferous foreign fears are more semantic than real. The fact is that both our Allies and our Enemies have always had a morbid fascination with the American electoral process...and consider the raucous conventions and noisy campaigns as undignified and somehow unworthy of the democratic process.

In foreign eyes, Senator Goldwater appears to be the reckless product of a more reckless political procedure...overseas observers are perpetually surprised that, after the shouting is over in November, Americans seem to forget their bloody party feuding and go back to living normal lives.

Then there is the question of words -- words and their different meanings in the United States and abroad. When Barry Goldwater calls himself a right-wing conservative -- in the European mind there is stirred the image of monarchic or economic despotism...for was it not the ultra-conservatives in prewar Italy and Germany who brought Mussolini and Hitler to power?

Try to explain to a visiting Englishman or Frenchman that this does not apply to Candidate Goldwater or any other U.S. right-wing conservative and they will shake their heads: "You Americans are naive," they say. "We've been through it and we know."

Thus when the man from Arizona won the GOP nomination on a Conservative platform last week and followed up with his gratuitous and amorphous definition of extremism versus moderation -- the reaction among both Ally and Enemy was immediate.

The British press editorially feared that Goldwater might threaten the long-standing Anglo-American alliance...and Britain's expectant Labor Party leaders feared the Republican candidate might somehow upset their own anticipated victory over the Conservative government in the United Kingdom's elections in October.

In Paris, the French reaction to the Cow Palace nomination was even more complicated. Although it might be expected that General de Gaulle would welcome another strong man on the Western politician scene, his political editors saw it another way. The GOP's nomination of Barry Goldwater, they say, proved what the Gaullists suspected all along...that the U.S. could not be depended upon. Therefore the General was right in promoting his own nuclear arsenal and drawing away from NATO.

Unfortunately, certain publications of the radical right in West Germany, Spain, and South Africa have added to Europe's diplomatic suspicions about the Republican candidate. The Bavarian newspaper National Zeitung reported Goldwater's nomination as if he were running for Chancellor in Bonn. And the Johannesburg Die Vaterland said the Arizona Senator had "unmasked the liberal mass communications media in the U.S." The Madrid newspaper, ABC, which is the organ of the Spanish monarchists, commented that the Goldwater victory was a "reaction against the idea that the world must continue moving to the left."

The reaction of the Communist press to the Senator's nomination was as expected. Moscow's Izvestia sneered that Goldwater represents only "a minority of a minority" and represents "chauvinism, imperialism, reaction, and aggression"...The Communist press of Warsaw said the nomination meant the "linking of demagogy, racialism, and millions of dollars from Texas..."

It should be pointed out that the Communist propagandists seemed to be going easy on Senator Goldwater. When they really get tuned up, they begin calling their target something like an "unspeakable Fascist beast..."

Actually, we supposed Americans should be flattered at all this overseas attention paid to our complex political struggles. Foreign concern over what happens in our domestic elections is proof of American leadership and influence throughout the world.

But Winston Churchill once observed privately that "when the Americans enter into the dog days of their election madness, it is wise for the foreigner to withdraw and watch the proceedings in dismay until the malady has run its course."

The old statesman might have also added that, somehow, we always seem to recover.

This is Bill Downs substituting for Edward P. Morgan. Good evening.