July 22, 2016

1946. The Bomb Detonates Over Bikini Atoll

"The Greatest Explosive Charge Ever Contrived by Man"
"A mushroom cloud forms after the first nuclear test off Bikini Atoll in July 1946" (source)
From The Kansas City Times, July 1, 1946, by Frank Bartholomew:

Observers are Relieved When B-29 Carrying Bomb Is Air-Borne


Black Glasses Keep Reporters From Seeing Flash of Explosion

Eyewitness Describes Upward Course of Cloud—Target Fleet is Obscured

(Representing Combined U.S. Press)
Aboard B-29 Observation Plane Over Bikini, July 1 (Monday) (AP)—I saw an airplane with a deadly cargo waiting poised on a ramp paralleling the airstrip at Kwajalein at dawn today.

In front of it, a rubber-tired tractor waited, motor running, to ease the bomb carrier and its sensitive cargo down the incline and into position for the takeoff.

Our press radio observation plane, twin of the bomb carrier, taxied to the head of the runway at 5:15 a.m.

Riflemen Guard Plane

Maj. Woodrow P. Swancutt's bomber, 100 feet to our right, was guarded by four riflemen. At the side of the ramp, toward our plane, stood a fire engine with emergency equipment.

Original plans, calling for us to take off seven minutes after the bomb carrier, and to follow it to the target, were changed at the last minute. Our plane was ordered off first, so the method would be provided to report to the world any misadventure to the atomic bomb, the bomb carrier, and to Kwajalein if "Dave's Dream" crashed in taking off.

Back of the bomb carrier, as we sped past on our own take-off, was a fenced rectangle behind which the atom bomb had reposed until yesterday noon, when it was transferred to the bombing plane.

It appeared to be a wooden fence about ten feet high covered with tar paper and topped with strands of barbed wire.

At each corner were two electric lights, with lights on top of the fence, and red warning lights on post extensions above. The lights were dimming in the brilliant yellow tropical sunrise as we thundered past in our take-off.

Fire Engines Line Runway

Lining each side of the runway was vehicular fire equipment of every sort. Fire, we had been told in repeated briefings, was the primary hazard to the bomb which would not explode from the crash alone.

From the expressions on the faces of the fire fighters observed as we eased up in the taxi strip, they took their assignments seriously.

We took off directly into the spectacular sunrise. The sun itself was coming up behind a thunderhead from which long yellow streamers of light radiated across the horizon. A rainbow arched over Kwajalein behind us.

We had an anxious minute or two on the intercom until word came from our radio man that the plane carrying the bomb was safely in the air, eighteen minutes behind us.

Now we are heading for Bikini.

Fifty feet ahead of me, toward the nose of the plane, the head and shoulders of William Downs, radio broadcaster, extend into the astral dome of the aircraft. He has an unobstructed view in all directions, superior to the view from the nose of the plane, which offers visibility in three directions only.

I am high in a revolving seat in the central fire control dome where, in combat operations, sits the spotter for all other gun positions in the aircraft. My seat swings in a full circle. My head and shoulders are eighteen inches above the top of the aircraft, protected by the plastic dome. I have a telephone headset connected with all other positions in the plane.

Dispatch Out by Teletype

At my feet and to the left I face astern is a radio teletype, from which this dispatch is sent through automatic relays aboard the U.S.S. Appalachian and on Guam to San Francisco.

At my feet on the opposite side of the plane sits John Carlisle, elected by all the special correspondents to write the featured story of the bomb drop for pooled distribution. He has access to the left and right gun blisters. His typewriter is mounted on a wooden box.

We all wear parachutes over Mae West life preservers, a bulky combination to handle in connection with portable typewriters, earphones, and the midnight-black goggles which have been issued as a protection against both radiation and glare at the moment of detonation. So dense are these glasses that the sun is barely discernible through them.

It is 6:50 a.m. and we are over our orbit point at Bikini. The sky seems entirely clear over the atoll, with cloud banks obligingly rolled back on all sides.

At 7:10 we swing over the doomed fleet, seventy-three vessels quietly awaiting fury from the sky. The sturdy old Nevada stands out clearly in the bullseye. There is no movement of ships or small boats—no sign of life in the lagoon. Apparently evacuation has been completed and the ships await their fate alone.

We will continue to circle the target until the bomber is ready for its practice run some time after 8 o'clock.

I asked Bill Downs on the intercom system how the panorama below looks from his position.

Fleet Like Sitting Ducks

"Looks like a good morning for shooting ducks—that's what they look like down there," he replies.

I tap Carlisle on the top of his Detroit baseball cap with my right foot and ask him the same question. He writes it out and passes this note up:

"The Bikini target ships, especially those proud old warriors the Nevada, Pennsylvania, Independence, and Arkansas, looked ominously lonely from 7,000 feet. At eight miles away, they seemed like a small boy's toy fleet. As they awaited the atomic bomb over the Bikini, you had a momentary feeling of pity for them. There was such an ominous peacefulness and quietness in Bikini before the atomic storm."

At 8 o'clock we are steadily circling the target array in 16-mile-long swings.

When we cross Bikini island or the reef of the lagoon we pass over a broken overcast of white fluffy clouds. While we are over the lagoon itself and the target vessels it is usually wholly clear and sunny.

Of the seventy-two other aircraft which will be traversing various other orbits in the area we have so far seen only one—a navy torpedo bomber which passed us like an arrow.

At our elevation of 7,000 feet, we are seldom in any cloud formation.

We have moved eastward over the open ocean now and are flying above the ships of Joint Task Force One, including the command ship Appalachian which is receiving our radio broadcasts and press transmission. Feathery trails in the water astern indicate these vessels are all under way.

Watch a Practice Run

At 8:12 a.m. the intercom tells us the bombing plane now is over the target for the first practice run. We strain our eyes and catch a fleeting glimpse of flashing reflected light high in the sky. We are staying clear of the lagoon now.

The executioners are sighting their guns on the historic old Nevada, which has seventeen minutes to live—or is she stronger than the scientists have calculated?

On the intercom we hear a voice from far off: "Hello Broadway One, the target area is clear. The target area is clear."

We are flying in tight circles over the Task Force now.

The air is full of communications from the control ship to the bombing plane.

At 8:25 these communications terminate and the bombing tone is tested. It sounds like a shrill version of a busy signal on an automatic telephone. When started on the bombing run it will continue until the contact is broken by the dropping bomb itself unless the bombardier changes his mind at the last moment.

The scene below is a quiet pastel of blues and white. Deep blue sea, milder bluer sky, soft white clouds. An oddly peaceful backdrop for the greatest explosive charge ever contrived by man.

At 8:30 we hear "Broadway One" tell "Abraham" that he hopes to drop the atomic bomb in twenty minutes.

Then we hear:

"This is Broadway One announcing the actual bombing run."

Maj. Russel Ireland, in charge of our B-29, makes each of the seventeen men aboard inspect and tighten his parachute.

Puts on Black Glasses

A bell rings and we put on the black glasses. They are so black that we could see nothing at all through them. The flash of the atomic bomb exploding does not penetrate the glasses. Another bell rings in the plane and we take off the glasses.

A small, coffee-colored column is shooting up into the sky to the west.

We wait for the sound of the explosion. It does not come.

The roar of our four great engines drown it out. There is no shock wave, either; our plane has been maneuvered skillfully.

We grin at one another. Seventeen men in one airplane above the blast are still alive and kicking; we hope silently that those aboard the 70-odd aircraft in the area share our good luck.

Reassurance comes over the interphone:

"No casualties reported thus far."

The cloud now is spun out in eleven zigzag angles from the water up to an elevation of perhaps 40,000 feet.

We are crossing over the Bikini reef at 9:04 a.m. The base of the atomic cloud seems to cover all ships in the target array. We cannot tell yet what has happened to the vessels themselves.

At 9:06 the cloud is separating into two mushrooms superimposed on each other. The topmost is assuming a creamy yellow color. The bottom one is pure white.

We wheel in close again and I can see a score of the target array still afloat. None seems to be afire.

I cannot see the Nevada.

The great cloud, base and all, is moving westward across the lagoon.

At 9:13 a second cloud is seen forming perhaps a mile away from the base of the first. Whether it is from an exploding ship or an offshoot of the atomic blast we cannot yet tell.

The atomic cloud is thinning out, losing definite outline. It is now 9:16 a.m.—a quarter of an hour since the detonation.

The base of the cloud is being blown westward across the entrance of Bikini lagoon. The top of the cloud, however, seems to hover stationary either directly over the target fleet or perhaps move slowly in our direction to the east.

The vast column now is ragged and z-shape. The top mushroom is attached by a thin, tenuous fog-like connection to the lower column.

At 9:15 the base of the column seems to be boiling up with renewed vigor. We now are at the far end of our orbit off Bikini and cannot tell whether the turbulence is due to explosions or burning ships. Natural clouds are interposing. We turn back on our course toward Bikini once more at 9:21 a.m.

Drones Hover About Cloud

We now can see the drones hovering about the cloud. Whether they are mother ships awaiting their lost children or the pilot-less planes themselves we do not know.

I ask the plane's captain if he can identify any of the surviving ships. The answer comes on the intercom that he can see a bit of red up forward which appears to be the Nevada. "The explosion seems to have blown up most of the ship."

The atomic cloud still is the longest in the whole panorama of sea and island below us but no longer dominates. The natural clouds now, an hour after the atomic detonation, are of firmer outline and substance. However, the atomic cloud reaches out curiously like an octopus, with vague, dark tentacles everywhere against the eastern sky.

It is going to be an increasingly difficult job for the Task Force ships below and the aircraft flying with us to keep out from under those long, vague, angular extensions.

We are closer to the top of the cloud now than we have ever been, and are sheering away for an additional margin of safety, but we are bound for our Kwajalein base and many miles from the scene of the detonation.

July 13, 2016

1943. The Moscow Reports

Bill Downs Reporting from Moscow
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."
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 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."

June 27, 2016

1943. Soviet Engineers Work a Miracle

Repairing the Velikiye Luki Rail Line


This text is a combination of the report's script and the above broadcast which aired on March 28, 1943. The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons. The first sentence of Downs' report was cut off and is included here.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

March 28, 1943

DOUG EDWARDS: On the vast Russian battlefields, the Red Army appears to be consolidating its positions and beating off Nazi attacks. For a direct report on the situation, Admiral radio takes you now to CBS Moscow, Bill Downs reporting.

BILL DOWNS: (The last two communiqués from the Soviet command have started with the sentence "no essential changes occurred at the fronts.") This is the first time that this phrase has appeared in the Russian communiqués since last summer's lull in the fighting.

It is true that the fighting has slackened all along the Russian front—but it can hardly be called a lull. There still are attacks and counterattacks on the Smolensk front, and the Germans are still trying to gain effective initiative at Belgorod on the Bryansk sector. The Red Army continues its painful advance through the mud of the Kuban.

It's true that the front is comparatively quiet—but it's the kind of quiet you would get if you put a lid on a live volcano.

The Red Army's railroad battalion has achieved something of an engineering miracle. In a little over two weeks they have succeeded in opening the vital Moscow-to-Velikiye Luki trunk railroad. The first military train moved over this railroad yesterday.

The repair of this stretch of 280 miles of railroad was one of the most difficult assignments any engineering corps has ever had. The railroad has been the center of a battlefield since the early days of the German invasion. It has been bombed by both German and Russian planes. Soviet partisans have blown it sky high at a hundred places (during the period when the Germans held the line.)

(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.)

But even before Velikiye Luki was taken, the Red Army railroad corps went to work. They found that, besides to widening the gauge of the railroad tracks, they would have to virtually reset every railroad rail.

You see, the Germans not only destroyed all switches and frogs, but they also sent men along the lines with heavy sledgehammers who every fifty feet or so just knocked out a piece of railroad rail. I have seen this type of destruction in every place where the German Army passed.

(Consequently, the railroad corps had to saw and chisel these broken rail ends so that they could be joined together. At first, the repair gangs could only repair fifty of these rails a day. Before the job was finished, they were repairing 250 a day. Each gang—and there were four big corps working on the railroad—succeeded in relaying something like four to six miles of railroad a day. When a job was particularly difficult, the civilians in the neighborhood were called in to give a hand.)

You probably couldn't run an American streamliner at a speed of a hundred miles an hour over the reconstructed Velikiye Luki-Moscow railroad line today. But you can jog along at twenty to thirty miles an hour with heavy freight and munitions and arms. And that's what's happening today as the Soviet command reinforces its Velikiye Luki garrison—the garrison which is closer to the borders of the Soviet Union than any other group pushed to the east by the Axis invaders.

And this is Bill Downs returning you now to CBS in New York.

June 13, 2016

1945. News at Home and Abroad on the Fourth of July

The World Today
"The Australian 7th Division lands on Balikpapan, Borneo in July 1945" (source)
This transcript of CBS News Radio's July 4, 1945 broadcast of The World Today is taken from Bill Downs' papers.

The World Today

6:45-6:55 PM

Wednesday, July 4, 1945

JOHN DALY: In Antwerp and Luxembourg, in Norway and Berlin, in the Holy Land and in Greece, wherever America's fighting men have carried our flag, this July 4, 1945 is being celebrated. There were fireworks and dances, and parades.

On Okinawa, Nakagusuku Bay was renamed Buckner Bay in honor of the gallant commander of the 10th Army killed in the final stages of the Okinawa campaign. Far away in Bremen, Germany the former Weserstadion was renamed Eisenhower Stadium. Americans in Italy held a bathing beauty contest replete with fireworks, and a half a world away, for the first time in history, the 4th of July was celebrated aboard a British battleship as the American flag flew from the Duke of York in Sydney harbor in Australia. In Paris, one of the city's proudest streets, the Avenue Victor Emmanuel III, was renamed the Avenue President Roosevelt, while far away in Chungking, America's Ambassador Hurley and General Wedemeyer were hosts at a reception for Chinese government leaders.

Everywhere that war is finished and done, the men and women of America's fighting forces were joined in Independence Day celebrations by liberated peoples and by their Allies. In the little town of (?) in England, American and British soldiers marched together and guns roared out in friendship. British artillery fired a 48 gun salute for the 48 states. But on the Pacific battlefield, the guns roared out in anger. They spoke a job still to be done.

That war deprived our Allied Australians tonight of one of the greatest fighting hearts that kept faith in the black days of 1941. Prime Minister John Curtain, long ill with a lung ailment and heart condition, died late this afternoon, 4 AM, July 5th, Australian time. Acting Prime Minister Francis Ford said that, like the late President Roosevelt, Mr. Curtain was a war casualty. He'd drawn heavily on his failing strength in prosecuting the war against Japan. A year ago, the Prime Minister was told by doctors that he must rest, but he stuck to his job to the very end. Mr. Curtain died as General MacArthur announced the end of one Pacific campaign and new victories in another.

The MacArthur's nightly communiqué which was received just an hour ago says that the entire Philippine islands are now liberated and the Philippines campaign can be regarded as virtually closed. Summarizing the campaign, which began last October at Leyte, MacArthur said the Japanese employed 25 divisions, approximately 450,000 men which were practically annihilated. The communiqué adds that, on Borneo, the blazing heat of Balikpapan's central town area, including seven waterfront pier installations and gasoline cracking plants, was captured by the Australians Tuesday, the third day of the invasion. More than 60 percent of the town was destroyed before the troops were put ashore. Hard fighting still is underway however, in the center of the eight mile long east Borneo beachhead. The Australians gained high ground 500 yards northeast of the Hill 99 and today fought off a savage enemy counterattack.

Now for news made in America this Independence Day. General Electric radio takes you to Washington, Cliff Allen reporting.

CLIFF ALLEN: Although federal workers including President Truman remained hard at work today, the 4th of July in the capital will have a traditional fireworks display tonight as the finishing touch of the 7th War Loan Drive here. Two set pieces will feature a picture of Present Truman and a reproduction of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima. In addition to a long roster of movie stars, two of the men who participated in the Iwo flag-raising will be present at the Cavalcade of Freedom tonight.

However, the fireworks tonight will be little more than a curtain raiser for the verbal ones that are scheduled to break loose in the House tomorrow. The supporters of the legislation to continue the Fair Employment Practices Committee, although Congress is not in session today, are busy behind the scenes building up their case. At the present, there seems little chance that the FEPC will be granted any funds at all in the House. But Senator Chavez of New Mexico declares that if the bill comes back to the Senate minus the FEPC appropriation, he will insert the full amount asked by the agency. As the New Mexico Senator says, "If there's going to be a scrap, it might as well be over the whole amount." Although the bitter FEPC battle may go on indefinitely, the Senate is expected to give a speedy OK to the Bretton Woods agreement in the near future.

The general strikes situation over the country is not so good at the moment, but apparently does not have official Washington worried. Because workers remained on the job today, Labor Bureau spokesmen say they have made up all the time lost from the beginning of the war by strikers more than 31 million man days. The general expectation here is that the government will seize the Goodyear plant at Akron, although nothing has been said about seizure of the Firestone plant whose workers also are striking. As for the newspaper deliverymen in New York, Chairman George S. Taylor of the War Labor board says he is confident deliveries will be resumed shortly. His statement came after union and publisher representatives had met privately. Taylor says he believes the walkout will end when union members are informed of developments here.

I return you to General Electric radio in New York.

DALY: There is some 4th of July news from Britain also tonight as we told you. But the British are chiefly concerned with their general situation tomorrow. For details on these stories, General Electric radio takes you to London, Edward R. Murrow reporting.

EDWARD R. MURROW: This is London. On this 4th of July there were many speeches. In Chungking, Berlin, Oslo, Antwerp, London, and on islands in the far Pacific. It is even reported that the entire Spanish press, led by the Falangist newspapers, devoted all their main editorials to praising America. Reports reaching London fail to make it clear whether they were impressed by American power or by the philosophy of freedom.

Tonight in London the shouting is dying down. Six hours from now the first votes will be cast, in Britain's first general election in ten years. Mr. Churchill has made his last speech tours in the city. He was cheered and jeered. If the Conservatives win this election, they will owe it to Mr. Churchill. It has been a one man campaign, and if they lose, the Prime Minister cannot be blamed. He has worked hard and traveled far, and worn out some of the younger men who aspired to office. He has made four of his party's eight broadcasts, has carried candidates on his bare shoulders; his name has been the principal asset of the Conservative Party. The campaign has not been pretty—issues have been ignored. Mr. Churchill set the tone in his first broadcast when he accused his colleagues in the coalition government of planning a political gestapo.

Then came the argument about the executive committee in the Labour Party, its power over Professor Laski's authority. Letters were exchanged, but it is doubted that any considerable number of votes were changed. There had been rumors that Mr. Churchill might withdraw his invitation to Mr. Atlee, the leader of the Labour Party, to accompany him to the meeting of the Big Three. But I'm assured on good authority that no such action is anticipated. Both men will probably go to Potsdam. Both parties are confident tonight, but the votes won't be counted until July 26th. And the betting odds favor a Conservative victory by a narrow majority.

Whichever party wins will not lack for problems. Tomorrow's headlines in London will be "Churchill or Confusion;" and "Vote Early and Vote Labour." After tomorrow there may be space in the papers for the war against Japan.

I return you now to CBS in New York.

DALY: Across the English Channel, the American flag was raised over Berlin today beside the red flag of the Soviet Union to symbolize partial occupation of Berlin by the United States Army. And British forces have also rolled into Berlin to join the Russians and Americans. Now a short message from General Electric radio.

June 12, 2016

1945. The Associated Press Announces the Bombing of Hiroshima

AP and UP Wire News Bulletins, August 1945
The August 8, 1945 front page of the New York newspaper The Sun (higher resolution)