June 19, 2014

The Murrow-Cronkite Rivalry

High Noon in Bethesda
"Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow at the CBS news desk," 1960 (source)
"Cronkite and Murrow did not mesh professionally, possibly because they lacked the basic attribute of nearly any kind of professional partnership, especially one involving communication: neither appeared to care what the other was saying." – Douglas Brinkley in Cronkite (2012), p. 208-209.

Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow are considered standard bearers of journalistic integrity, but it is largely forgotten just how much they disliked each other. Their tumultuous relationship would affect both of their careers.

The tensions began during World War II, but it was not until Cronkite joined CBS News in 1950 that it truly became a problem. Over time their rivalry deteriorated into a bitter, more personal affair, and their heated and sometimes comical confrontations became something of legend at the network.

As they would come to discover, their personal philosophies on journalism were incompatible, and their frustrations both with each other and with the network reflected some of the larger issues facing CBS and the news industry at large in the early years of television. Cronkite's roots were in print, and Murrow's in radio broadcasting. The latest medium to dominate the industry had forced major change, and reporters had to adapt. Some fared better than others.

Cronkite was almost a Murrow Boy. He worked for the United Press, as had the core members of the WWII team, namely Charles Collingwood, Eric Sevareid, Richard C. Hottelet, Howard K. Smith, Larry LeSueur, and Bill Downs. Cronkite was an ideal addition to the roster.

By the end of 1943, Bill Downs was finished with the Eastern Front. Murrow approached Cronkite to relieve him as CBS' Moscow correspondent after a thirteen month tenure. CBS offered Cronkite a weekly salary of $125. He initially accepted, but later decided to stay with United Press after they countered with a pay raise of their own:

From Timothy Gay's Assignment to Hell (Penguin, 2012):
Edward R. Murrow, the CBS Radio commentator who had done so much in 1940 and '41 to build American support for Britain's cause, invited Walter Cronkite to lunch. Murrow had admired the UP reporter's coverage of the air war and was impressed by Cronkite's natural ease in front of a microphone. Cronkite had been a popular interview choice for Murrow's London boys; the aftermath of the Wilhelmshaven raid in February of '43 was one of several Cronkite appearances on CBS Radio.

Murrow asked Cronkite to meet him at the Savile Club, the tony Mayfair restaurant. But London's elite haunts were unknown to the workaholic Cronkite, who thought Murrow had said "Saddle Club" and didn't want to embarrass himself by asking the broadcaster for directions.

Cronkite jumped into a cab on Fleet Street and instructed the driver to take him to the Saddle Club. "Don't believe I know it, governor," the cabbie replied. Cronkite had the cab pull over next to a phone booth. He called the UP office, where a colleague steered him toward the proper location on Brook Street.

Feeling like a rube, Cronkite arrived late for his luncheon with the world's most celebrated American expatriate. Murrow, who could be prickly, was gracious. He surprised Cronkite by offering him a job as CBS' Russian correspondent. Murrow was calling back Cronkite's former UP colleague Bill Downs; he wanted Cronkite to replace Downs in covering Stalin's government in exile at Kuibyshev. CBS was offering Cronkite a king's ransom: $125 a week, plus "commercial fees" of some $25 almost every time Cronkite appeared on air, which would be a lot. The CBS offer came close to tripling Cronkite's $57.50-per-week salary with UP. Yet Cronkite had been ambivalent about his broadcast experiences in Austin, Kansas City, and Norman.

"I thought it was kind of a schlock business compared to print," he remembered. "But I still thought, well, $125 and a chance to go to Russia, I probably ought to take it. So I accepted it, and I was going to give United Press a couple of weeks' notice, which, frankly, wasn't adequate in wartime."

When Cronkite told his then boss, Harrison Salisbury, about Murrow's offer, Salisbury immediately countered with a $17.50 per week raise—unheard-of largesse at UP—and promised to arrange for the wire service's president, Hugh Baillie, to make his own plea. Sure enough, Baillie got through on the phone from New York that night—no mean feat in wartime London—and "gave me a sales pitch like I never heard in my life," Cronkite recalled.

"I'm going to raise you $20 a week just to show my good faith," Baillie vowed. Cronkite inquired if the $20 was in addition to the $17.50 that Salisbury had offered—or part of it. There was a long pause. "No, no, this is on top of that," Baillie insisted—which may or may not have been part of UP's keep-Cronkite strategy, but was nevertheless now in its counteroffer.

Cronkite was in a position to pocked 95 bucks a week from UP—good money for a gumshoe reporter without a college degree.

When Cronkite broke the news to Murrow, "he didn't take it too kindly," Cronkite remembered. Murrow didn't say it directly, but the inference was that Cronkite had used the CBS offer to leverage more money out of UP. "I hadn't meant to; it wasn't my intention when I accepted Ed's offer," Cronkite allowed. "But it worked out that way, and Ed had every right to feel that way about it."

By mid-'43 Ed Murrow and his team were the hottest commodities in journalism—wordsmiths inventing a new medium. Murrow, the toast of the free world, wasn't used to people saying no—especially ambitious young reporters. Cronkite's clumsy turndown drove a wedge between them.

Although they would later spend fifteen years at CBS News as colleagues, Cronkite and Murrow were never close. Murrow and his "boys," Eric Sevareid and Charles Collingwood among them, tended to look down their noses at Cronkite, the wire services grunt who—heaven forfend!—actually cared about breaking news. The Murrow Boys weren't reporters so much as seers, urbane commentators who dined with prime ministers one day—and parachuted out of planes the next. Murrow and his minions didn't just write and read news: They dissected it, putting it into bold historical context, giving events a passion that print journalists—even Liebling and Bigart at their best—were hard-pressed to match. And as Collingwood would later demonstrate, the Murrow guys sometimes weren't above manipulating the facts for their own aggrandizement.

It wasn't until after Cronkite proved himself as CBS News' anchorman in the early 1960s that the surviving Murrow men accepted him as a peer—and even then it was grudgingly. Cronkite always admired the Murrow Boys and what they meant to the evolution of journalism. But in the main he felt their work should be labeled "opinion"—which is what happened when Eric Sevareid, the quintessential Murrow protégé, became a regular commentator on Cronkite's CBS Evening News.
For the remainder of the war Cronkite continued as a correspondent for United Press in Europe. At times he worked alongside his old friend and colleague Bill Downs. Both men were Kansas City natives who got their start at UP in 1937. Downs left to join CBS and the Murrow Boys team in 1942, but the two still covered the front together, most notably in 1944 when they were separated under a Luftwaffe air raid near the Dutch city of Arnhem.

Unlike other members of the Murrow Boys, Downs maintained close friendships with both Cronkite and Murrow after the war. This occasionally placed him in the middle of the conflict, much to his chagrin. The following passages recall a particularly heated argument during a dinner party at the Downs house in Bethesda, Maryland:

From Joseph E. Persico's Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (McGraw-Hill, 1988), p. 314-315:
After he joined CBS, Cronkite had a sense that reporters who were not one of Murrow's Boys were not quite among the anointed. Later, when there could be little doubt of his own stature, he would say that he understood the clannishness: "They were the cream of the crop." And maybe he was of a different stripe. Walter Cronkite was, indisputably, a superb reporter. But he was not the kind of journalist-intellectual who appealed most to Murrow. There was not about him or his work the cerebral aura of a Raymond Swing, an Eric Sevareid, a Bill Shirer, a fact that Cronkite was cheerily the first to admit: "I'm a newsman first, a get the facts, get your lead, old-fashioned reporter."
.  .  .

They should have been friends, Murrow and Cronkite. Bill Downs was no more "intellectual" than Cronkite, and he and Murrow were pals. But Downs was one of Murrow's Boys, a satellite and not a potential rival sun, which television was making out of Walter Cronkite.

They had started out on the wrong foot after London, and the relationship remained out of step. They would cross paths at parties where, in Cronkite's phrase, "Murrow held court. He would sit there, sometimes with his coat off, tie undone, puffing his cigarette, his elbows on his knees, staring at the floor making pronunciamentos of gloom and doom, while people gathered around him in hushed attention." Cronkite found it "hard to swallow." He also confessed that Murrow "intimidated" him.

Bill Downs and Cronkite had been friends at the UP. And so Cronkite and Murrow were both guests at the party they gave in their home in Washington early in Cronkite's television career. It was a heavy-drinking, broadcasting crowd. Downs began noisily berating Cronkite, telling him, "You're coming on too hard, trying to be a success, trying to push other people out of the way." Then, according to Downs's wife, Rosalind, Cronkite said a sympathetic word about sponsors. Sponsors, after all, paid the rent, Cronkite pointed out. It was the sort of statement designed to catch the attention of and to provoke Murrow, the news freedom purist against an apologist for commercialism in broadcasting. However, the purist was handsomely sponsored and the apologist, at this point, barely had his foot in television's door. As Roz Downs remembered that night, "They kept snapping at each other all evening. They were practically chin to chin. It was dreadful. After the party, my husband said, 'That was a small disaster. I didn't know they disliked each other that much.'"

Allowing for the inflammatory effect of the alcohol, the clash revealed a lurking trait in Ed Murrow. He was more magnanimous as a superior than as a rival. His dispute with Cronkite had less to do with commercialism in broadcasting than with the age-old wariness of the old stag toward the young buck.
From A.M. Sperber's Murrow: His Life and Times (1986), p. 527:
Cronkite stayed outside the Murrow circle, a sense of rivalry discernible between the two men, despite their disparate power positions. Roz Downs recalled a dinner party at her Bethesda home outside Washington during the fifties, both Murrow and Cronkite among the guests. Cronkite was after all a wartime UP buddy of Bill's, and the Downses loved both men.

Somehow, after dinner, attention got drawn to a pair of antique dueling pistols, mounted on the mantelpiece. For reasons too obscure for later recollection, a great deal having been imbibed beforehand, Cronkite and Murrow wound up going bang-bang at each other with the pistols, at point-blank range: high noon in Bethesda.

Roz Downs shot a look at her husband. "I think they're serious," she said.
The antique pistols used by Murrow and Cronkite in their drunken duel
By 1960 Murrow's career was fading. His disputes with William S. Paley continued, and his inability to work with Cronkite put into question his future at CBS. Murrow resigned in 1961. Downs followed soon after. Prior to that, however, another infamous incident took place at the 1960 Democratic National Convention:

From Douglas Brinkley's Cronkite (2012), p. 208-209:
Hoping once again to excel at CBS, Murrow was on the scene as a reporter at the Democratic Convention in 1960 when he was suddenly reassigned to co-anchor the coverage with Cronkite. That's where [Dan] Rather encountered Murrow—his coming-of-age hero . . .

If Rather was surprised to hear that Murrow was to start co-anchoring with Cronkite, he wasn't the only one. At the appointed morning hour for the photo session, well before the Democratic Convention went into session, Murrow and the network's publicists appeared in a smoky anteroom outside the CBS anchor booth. "Murrow came and sat," Rather said. "We waited a very long time and then Walter didn't come." The heavy atmosphere was flammable, and Rather half expected the grim-faced Murrow to throw a tantrum, the anger was so evident on his face. It was painful for Rather to see his hero being denigrated. Eventually, the photo session was canceled, and Murrow huffed out. "What had turned out," Rather said, "is that Walter had locked himself in the anchor booth. Walter didn't want to anchor with Murrow. He just locked himself in the booth and said, 'To hell with it.'"

. . . [Cronkite] blamed much of the friction on CBS management's foolhardiness. "Who's supposed to do what?" Cronkite explained. "What's Murrow supposed to do? I don't think they said anything about him doing analysis. They just said that he was supposed to help me. They just wanted Murrow on camera to cash in on his popularity . . . I think Murrow and I might have had a chemistry that worked under different circumstances, but the management at the convention in 1960 was not one to create great chemistry.

1945. Operation Varsity

Operation Varsity


Bill Downs delivered a broadcast on March 24, 1945, the day of Operation Varsity and the day after Allied forces breached the Rhine. An abridged portion of the actual broadcast is featured in the video. The text is from From D-Day Through Victory in Europe; The Eye-witness Story as Told by War Correspondents on the Air (CBS, 1945), p. 149-151.
March 24, 1945

2:49:12

BILL DOWNS (with the British 2nd):

The first wave or so of the paratroopers who stepped out of the Rhine this morning had a tough time. I was riding in a piggy-back Thunderbolt with Captain Tommy De Graffenreid of Memphis, Tennessee. We went in as cover for the first wave of carrier-type planes that arrived, and honest to God those paratroopers stepped out on a carpet of flak that you could walk on.

But the hundreds and hundreds of planes came on and not a single one deviated from its course. There were tragic accidents. I saw two parachutists who somehow had gotten tangled in each other's parachutes, and Tommy muttered to himself over the intercom, "Come on, come on, break it up. Break away, for God's sake!"

But these two men didn't have a chance to break away, and their bodies seemed to hit the earth with the gentleness of raindrops. But from a thousand feet, you could tell they were dead.

But always during that first half hour of the airborne operation there was flak; the heavy flak that left black ugly scars of smoke in the air. And the more deadly light flak left only whitish puffs of smoke, the same color you'll find in any smoking room in America.

And out of the middle of this world of planes and parachutes and gliders there stormed a big silver Fortress, and it was smoking and we knew that it had had it.

But the flak wasn't so heavy when the gliders began coming in. There was a lull in the flak for about 15 minutes. It was as if the Germans had said, "Hell, there's simply too many planes here." And as far as the eye could see there was smoke. Smoke laid down by our artillery, smoke from burning German houses, and smoke from the enemy ack-ack. And through this haze you could always see the ominous black columns that came from the tow-planes and the transport planes that were shot down.

The men of the Troop Carrier Command today deserve a place with the marines of Iwo Jima and the soldiers of Corregidor.

But the gliders got in okay. A few were damaged in landing and a few were shot down, but I would say most of the gliders did all right. And all the while there were the fighters and the rocket planes and the fighter bombers. Guys like Tommy De Graffenreid, who were blasting out flak positions as they found them and acting as an aerial spearhead to the expanding bridgehead.

And the Luftwaffe was only heard from theoretically when two Messerschmitt jet planes were reported over Duisburg. We spent an hour over that battlefield today, sometimes even flying beneath the carrier planes.
The operation was not without cost. But it has been an Allied victory, a victory for the British and the Americans and the Canadians, a victory for the Allied Air Forces and the Allied ground forces and for the Allied navies, because even the Navy was there. We saw them doing the same job for the army they did on D-Day.

This has been R-Day, the crossing of the Rhine by assault. Hitler has been unable to stop us.

June 18, 2014

1967. The US Military's Inter-Service Rivalries

A Memo Regarding the Pentagon
From Wikipedia: A U-2 aircraft

To: Elmer Lower 
17 Jan. 1967

From: Bill Downs

RE: News Management memo

Although LBJ seems to have recognized the reality of failure and down pedaled his so-called "consensus" politics, at the Pentagon Secretary McNamara has made "consensus" the keystone of his regime—to such an extent that Pentagon reporters find themselves hung up high and dry on the top-most boulder.

For example. it's common knowledge that the Navy wants more nuclear-powered ships. The Army wants an improved nuclear tactical ground weapon. The Air Force is crying for the Advanced Manned Bomber. And all three services, fearful of facing another Pearl Harbor hearing, want to make a start, at least, on the controversial Anti-Missile defenses, potentially the most costly weapons system ever devised.

In In the past—BM (Before McNamara)—Defense Dept. reporters would be churning out reams of copy on the military policy debate raging between the Services. Generals and Admirals would wine and dine reporters, junkets would be laid on for Congressmen, contract-hungry lobbyists would be pouring martinis into everyone in sight. On the not incorrect theory that government policy can be sold to the public like cornflakes, the story of the inter-service struggle for specific slices of the budgeted Defense pie would be spread throughout the news media. BM, the Pentagon budget was roughly blocked out 40% Army, 40% Air Force and 20% for the Navy. The separate services then set out to sell their viewpoints to the public and the Congress through broadcast and newspaper headlines.

The history of this process of arriving at national security was varied. It was effective in the struggle for a separate air force even though Billy Mitchell had  to undergo court martial first. On the other hand, Pearl Harbor is an unforgiving monument to inter-service rivalry and the dangers of trying to determine defense policies by public debate and the headline.

It's probably correct to say that McNamara is the first man who has attempted to manage and control the Department of Defense. BM, the Cabinet Secretaries have variously acted as "referees" between the Services or at most, as Chairman of the Board for national security. Considering his background, it was natural that M. would apply industrial management techniques to the job—although privately he says he's still not sure they will work since it's impossible to bring a business with more than 3 million items in its invoice under central control.

McNamara, in private conversation, has mentioned time and again how appalled he was at the depth of the division between the Military Services when he took the Pentagon job. His favorite example is the Navy's effort to impress the new Defense Secretary with the sensational under-water Polaris missile. When M. asked the Admirals how the submarine missiles shared their target assignments with the Air Force's ICBMs, the Navy had no answer. M. refused to look at the thing until the Admirals came up with one.

This basic failure of inter-service defense planning would have made one hell of a news story at the time. Whether its disclosure would have endangered the nation's security is now moot. I cite the story as background and illustrative of McNamara's insistence on a "consensus" policy at the Pentagon.

As a footnote, the Polaris story also is illustrative of his methods of getting the Generals and Admirals to comply. None of the Admirals concerned were fired, none were publicly reprimanded—but none of them nor their Army and Air Force colleagues ever made such a strategic error again. (Off the record—there was a parallel case last year during the hullabaloo over the re-purchase of some formerly-surplus bombs from a German firm. It was an Air Force goof since the re-purchase and shipment of the bombs far exceeded their worth. Yet McNamara went before two Congressional committees and took the rap.)

The above illustrates McNamara's justification for his "consensus" policy—and with the resignation of Arthur Sylvester, the new Asst. Secretary of Defense for Public Information Phil Goulding, the same policy is going to be even tougher.

One of the reasons for this is the ever-present bugaboo of military intelligence and secrecy. M. absolutely refuses to discuss the subject with reporters—but he was so shocked at the half-hazard security precautions around the Pentagon building itself that he classified the DOD telephone book, which incidentally listed names, rank and sometimes assignment offices of all Military Intelligence personnel on duty in Washington at the time. M. also had a traffic study made of the Pentagon corridors and found which of the buildings' outside doors could be closed off—openable only in an emergency.

However the topper for the new Defense Secretary came shortly after he took a job during the Cuban invasion fiasco. Although the details have still to be made public, it's now clear that it was a CIA financed and sponsored affair with the Pentagon in an advisory capacity which left room for a US military takeover if so ordered by the President. When JFK finally realized the enormity of the mess he had inherited, he pulled out as much as he could with the resultant failure of the invasion. McNamara knew of as little of the operation as did the President and still feels resentful at being mousetrapped in the affair. Then in the follow-up Cuban missile crisis, when a CIA U-2 finally located Russian-built SAMs almost too late, McNamara insisted on expanding Army, Navy and Air Force intelligence operations to give him a back-stop and check out on subsequent CIA intelligence estimates.

Here, too, he demands "consensus"—and in the latest shakeup out at Langley, Va., it's significant that the No. 2 man to the new CIA director Dick Helms is the former head of Combined Military Intelligence at the Pentagon.

Footnote: Art Sylvester finally got the Pentagon telephone book unclassified. However subsequent phone books have eliminated the Military Intelligence sections.

To assure McNamara's consensus in the Pentagon, orders have gone out for both military and civilian personnel to report every conversation they have had with a reporter—in person or by telephone. For either background or on-the-record interviews, most DOD officials insist that a PIO officer be on hand. This has become SOP mostly, I think, because it relieves the interviewee from having to take the trouble to detail the questions and answers. Even McNamara imposes this limitation on himself—at least in his Pentagon office.

This presents a dilemma for the Pentagon reporter. In my case, I have made friends with many officers in my years of covering WWII, Korea and various other operations. Yet I am reluctant to use these men as news sources lest I ruin their careers (for a story which might not make DEF or the Jennings show). This self-censorship resulting from M's "concensus" is in a way more damnable than the real thing. Sometimes I think the inhabitants of the press room near the Mall look like characters out of Kafka.

During the past year it became clear that there was some kind of agreement between McNamara and Rusk that all but the strictest of US military news about Viet Nam would be channeled through the State Dept. The Pentagon would seldom go beyond the Saigon communiques concerning military operations. But the news about SAM missiles in North Viet Nam, about Chinese labor cadres, Soviet technicians, military targets in the North...all came from State. Obviously this was Military Intelligence in consensus with Diplomatic Intelligence and coordinating with the CIA.

McNamara has not forgiven himself for being trapped in one of those off-hand, airport predictions a couple of years ago when he said the Viet Nam war "might be over with by the end of 1965" (I think it was.) He obviously believes that the only way to run the DOD is to have the competing services wash their dirty shorts in private. The mule-headed and the brave who run to the Senate and House committees with their arguments find themselves eased out of town—or accepting reluctant retirement—viz: Curt LeMay. Any public debating of Defense Policy will be done by the President, or by McNamara himself before the proper Congressional committees. All else is "consensus" with a vengeance.

McNamara has found another way to placate (in part) the DOD correspondent. Every Thursday there's a "background conference" in which he technically is not there. Only "US officials, plural," Sylvester insists, are present. There were 17 of these backgrounders in 1966...totally about 10 hours of direct contact and Q. and A. In addition, M. and Deputy Secretary Cy Vance had over 120 individual interviews with Washington and visiting correspondents. By contrast, McNamara and Joint Chiefs Gen. Earl Wheeler [sic] spent some 210 hours last year giving testimony before Congress.

But most significantly, the Secretary of Defense during 1966 did not hold one single on-the-record, no questions barred open news conference. Silence, after all, is the most effective method of news management.

Hope some of this is useful—please excuse the length

Bill

June 9, 2014

1961. An Angry Letter From a Viewer

Certainly Not a Kennedy Fan
From Wikipedia: Kennedy's inaugural address, January 20, 1961.

This letter was sent by a viewer to Bill Downs after John F. Kennedy's 1960 election. In it she criticizes the Kennedy family, Hollywood, and the news media's coverage of the election. She also expresses a great deal of racial prejudice. The letter addresses some of the controversies at the time, and it shows somewhat the sentiment among certain voters.

The letter is typewritten and contains some spelling and grammatical errors. They are preserved here. Every typo below is from the actual letter.

[Addressed from Stockton, California--actual street address omitted here]
January 6, 1961.

[To] Bill Downs,
Columbia Broadcasting System,
Washington, District of Columbia.


Bill Downs:

You seemed happy to-day that the HONORABLE Richard Nixon must announce the "election" of that dirty shanty irish crokked son of a saloon keeper as the President of our United States.

You news people lied so much during the campaign in order to be sure we did not get an honest, honorable President, that you seem unable to recognize the truth at all now.

Those dirty shanty irish, with the help of the Chicago and Texas gangsters destroyed Republican votews and counted votes of so many who do not exist that perhaps they may have seemed to have won a few more votes than the HONORABLE Mr. Nixon, but I know of no one who believes they did. Nor do I know of anyone who expects those dirty bums to even try to be loyal to this country.

While your network even stooped so low as to repeat drew pearson's lies about Mr. Nixon and his brother, you have not found it necessary to mention the fact that the Russian embassy hasbeen having those dirty crooks there for talks and for eating and drinking. It is also reported that the C.B.S. has put the last of those Hollywood communists actresses back to work on their television network.

The shanty irish crook has permitted frank's and harry's communists and fellow travelers to creep out of the woodwork and get actively into the government once more. But, this time, no one is going to be fooled by the crook in the White House.

For months, before the election, I passed my HUMAN EVENTS about to both Democrats and Republicans and many of each party are Catholics. So, I am happy to say that the most of those people are now getting that factual little news paper each and every week.

Personally, I begged and bought a large number of the local paper for November the fourteenth and I clipped the true account of that repulsive Sammy Davis and his marriage to that low grade white person, and I sent them all over this country to those whom I knew would be interested in having the whole truth about that kennedy woman's having attended that mess and having kissed that repulsive negro.

Some negroes are wholesome persons but that one is not included. Perhaps, he could have been respected had he not become associated with the lawfords, frank sinatra dean martin, judy garland and the other Hollywood bums, who may have become rich by making motion pictures but who surely are not fit to associate with decent people. After the twentieth of this month when those bums take over in Washington the decent people will have to tolerate thse low grade Americans' running in and out of the White House as we did eleanor's young communist hoodlums. At least, those young bums did not pretend to be good Americans.

Your egglebert murrow seems to be back as strong as ever now on your radio and television networks. However, when he is to come on, I turn him off for even though the Honorable Joseph Mc.Carthy is not here, for him to abuse and then have to admit he "was" a communist, I believe he still is one. He could not exist without sucking a cigarette and looking like any other bum who does the same. Look magazine had pictures of him last year.

Since the election, I have heard real Democrats and many have been Catholics who have said they often were so angry at your network and one or two others because of your dirty lying, that they could have destroyed both their radios and their television sets. I know a great many Catholic Democrats and a few who are Republicans and every one of them boasts that He did NOT vote for that shanty irish. Many of them are Irish too and they call him shanty irish.

So, he not only, with the help of such as you, but he has made many millions of strong enemies who despise him even more than I. I made sure that many persons of importance learned the truth about that black and white wedding and I positively know those clippings have been read with great interest and I have no doubt but sometime those shanty irish are going to realize that there are some things they cannot take by arrogance nor buy with their father's hundreds of millions of dollars in whiskey money.

Even though that arrogant and determined young crook did force every one of the others in his and Walter Reuther's party out of the race, he has not gained their loyalty. After the things they did in Los Angeles, last July, when he even pushed eleanor down her chair and made her be quiet, he did not change their minds about him. Lyndon Johnson even expressed his true opinion of him but in order to not be pushed entirely out of politics but that young bum, he has "joined"  him. Wow, honestly, do you believe any of them have changed their opinion of him?

I am praying for my beloved country but I am also hoping those two dirty shanty irish brothers may have much luck--all of it bad. Your network reported this monring that that shanty irish bum's wife has been chosen as the best dressed of the ten best in this country. It is the first time I have heard of anyone's being able to get out of bed and have her picture made with her night gown on and her hair not combed and be called well dressed. She may be a perfectly nice person but surely she goes about in bad company.

Yours for a return to honest reporting of the news.

Myrtle M. Hardy.

June 6, 2014

1944. The Heroes of Normandy

The Heroes of Normandy


D-Day

The text featured here is Bill Downs' original transcript for his live broadcast to the United States from Normandy on June 14, 1944. The actual broadcast, featured above, is somewhat different.

In a move that surprised the world, the Western Allies stormed Europe and reopened the western front of the European Theater on June 6, 1944. Networks scrambled to cover the invasion, and their war correspondents soon aired eyewitness accounts of the landings at Normandy.

Edward R. Murrow was set to broadcast from London on D-Day, and he sent several of his men to the front. Bill Downs, Charles Collingwood, and Larry LeSueur reached the coast separately on landing craft. But it was their colleague Richard C. Hottelet who made the first eyewitness broadcast as he flew over Utah Beach in a bomber just minutes before H-Hour.

It was not until June 14 that Bill Downs was finally able to broadcast from Normandy, but even then there were difficulties. According to Ed Bliss, a former colleague at CBS, it was the "first invasion broadcast heard in America from Normandy" (p. 158). Downs was not aware of this until after the fact, and later chalked it up to luck.

According to Broadcasting magazine, 1944, Volume 26, page 16:
To Bill Downs, CBS correspondent, went the distinction of making the first broadcast from "somewhere in Normandie" to be heard instantaneously in the United States. In his broadcasts, which was pooled to all networks, 6:30:30 to 6:35:50 p. m., EWT, June 14, Downs said that a 30-minute jeep would take him to where Allied troops were fighting, but that military security would not permit a more definite statement of his location. The broadcast was made via Army Signal Corps facilities, with again no more exact description permitted for the same reason.
Reception of this initial France-to-America broadcast was described as "spotty," but Downs' second broadcast some six and a half hours later [1 a.m. EWT June 15] came through with considerable improved reception. This and subsequent broadcasts were pooled for all networks, indicating that Downs was the only correspondent in the vicinity of the transmitter, as pooling has been generally discontinued wherever each network has a chance to get material from its own man.
This transcript is from Downs' typewritten script and notes.

June 14, 1944. Bill Downs (second from right) around the time of the broadcast.
BILL DOWNS FROM NORMANDY
June 14, 1944

I'm speaking to you from a tent somewhere in Normandy, that of a truly free France liberated eight days ago by the invasion of British, Canadian, and American troops. It is 6:30 AM over here––the ninth day of the invasion is only a few hours old.

I could take you right now in a thirty minute Jeep ride to where the Allied troops are fighting. You can get to some part of the front in thirty minutes no matter where you happen to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fighting men over here feel very strongly about that beachhead. I stood on the beach a day after the battle. There were American boys lying neatly covered under brown army blankets awaiting burial. I was talking to a young sergeant, from Michigan, I believe. He had been through the toughest of the fighting. He said with great bitterness: "You know," he said, "We used to have a great respect for the German as a soldier and possibly a sportsman. But on that beach while we were lying there waiting for a lull in the barrage, we saw medical corpsmen trying to help the wounded. They had their red cross arm bands high on their arms. There could be no mistaking them. But when they tried to help the boys, they were shot.

This sergeant spit on the ground and walked away. He turned and said over his shoulder: "We're going to fix them for that."

The men on this beachhead make me awfully proud that I am an American.

But the fighting is now many miles from the beaches. Here's what your men are doing tonight. The patrols will be out. A half-dozen men sneaking into enemy country looking for his strong points––taking a prisoner here or there––getting themselves fired at to locate a machine gun nest––scouting a Tiger tank or a Panther tank and marking it on a map. Sometimes two enemy patrols meet and there is a "little war," as we call them. Bitter hand-to-hand fighting with bayonet and knife.

Or if you're not on patrol tonight, you've cleaned your rifle and laid it nearby. Your slit trench is right at the edge of your blankets so that you only have to roll into it in case of shellfire or mortar fire. If you have a tank or a truck, you sleep under it––usually you don't have time to put up your pup tent, and any kind of roof seems good.

There is no definite front line in this Battle of France. I found that out the other day when I made a trip to within a mile and a half of the town of Tilly, directly south of Bayeux. The countryside is very close, with high, thick hedges along the roads. Patches of wood-land dot the countryside. The wheat and oats and rye are high, about ready for a good harvest. It is sort of a concentrated Iowa.

It is perfect country for snipers. We were driving down one road when we came to a clear patch. We heard the crack of a Spandau machine gun––and before we realized what it was, there was another burst of fire. The dust alongside our jeep spurted as if it had come alive. A sniper had taken a crack at us. Luckily his aim was bad. We got out of there in a hurry.

Further down the road, we came upon some very fresh Germans. They were lying in the road, killed only a few hours before. But we saw tank tracks and decided to follow up. Then we came to a group of Tommies crouching behind a group of farm buildings next to an orchard. We joined them and discovered to our surprise that they were men of the Reconnaissance Corps. They were looking for a German tank infiltration...needless to say, we were not. It was no place to be armed only with a pencil.

About that time, some German eighty-eights started shelling around the orchard. They drove us to the ground. During a lull, we turned our jeep around and headed for safety. You want a tank to ride that far forward.

When the votes of thanks are passed around after this war, the Allied air forces are going to get more than their share. Since this invasion began, I have seen exactly six Nazi fighters over the bridgehead. German bombers dare only appear at night, and they are not striking in any large force. You never look up at the sky any longer to see what's coming your way. You always know it's American, or British or Allied. The sky over our heads is Allied, just as sure as is the ground under our feet.

Not only have the Allied air forces kept the enemy grounded, they have also bombed and strafed military targets directly in line of our advances. It was dive-bombing Thunderbolts that helped save the position on the American beachhead. Rocket-carrying British planes are as good as artillery in attacking a German strong point. You hear nothing but praise for the air forces.

Naval bombardment, too, has played a big part in the success of the invasion. Point-blank fire from American and British destroyers knocked out pillboxes––heavy fire from fifteen and sixteen inch guns of the cruisers and battleships fly far inland to German occupied villages and heights. The burst of the sixteen inch shell is a terrifying thing––the Nazis know it.

And full credit must be given to the men on the merchant ships and part-time sailors who transported us over here. They have undergone bombing and strafing, collision and confusion among thousands of boats––but the supplies hit the beaches. Without them, we might as well go home.

But we are not going home until a lot of us see the ruins of Berlin. The men fighting on this beachhead are keeping something in trust––keeping this trust for the men whose bodies they walked on the beaches; they are keeping this trust for the honor of you people back home; and they are keeping it for the people of this section of liberated Normandy who showered them with flowers when they arrived.

This trust is victory and freedom from all things Nazi. It is pretty well summed up in the national motto of the French––Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood.

This is Bill Downs in Normandy returning you now to America.

June 3, 2014

1945. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry's Record on Bill Downs

Bill Downs, War Correspondent
Sparte: AusL. Korr. 
1943: Korr. C.B.S. in Moskau. 
Kehrte Anfang 1944 nach den USA zurück und schrieb darauf in der Zs. "Newsweek", dass die Verluste der Sowjetunion in diesem Kriege in Moskau auf 15 Millionen Tote geschätzt würden. Wahrscheinlich würde aber niemals irgend jemand genau erfahren, wieviele Sowjetbürger wirklich in diesem schrecklichsten aller Kriege umgekommen seien.
Lieutenant Colonel John M. Redding sent Bill Downs a brief file kept on him by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. It laments his reports on the Soviet death toll in the period leading up to January 1944.
HEADQUARTERS BERLIN DISTRICT COMMAND SHAEF PUBLIC RELATIONS PARTY
11 July 1945

Mr. William Downs
Columbia Broadcasting System
New York, New York

Dear Bill:

In going through the Propaganda Ministry records in Berlin, we found the enclosed dossier, kept by the Nazis on your activities. I thought you might like to have it as a memento.

Mostly, I don't know what it says, although I am told that perhaps I could make some money by selling it.

John M. Redding
Lt. Col., AC
He also received a translation:

File, concerning: Foreign correspondents

1943: Correspondent. CBS in Moscow.
Returned to U.S.A. beginning of 1944, then stated in magazine "Newsweek" that the losses of the Soviet Union during this war in Moscow are estimated to be 15 millions. Probably nobody would ever learn exactly how many citizens of the Soviets really perished in this most horrible of all wars.

June 2, 2014

1943. The Aftermath in Stalingrad

The Scene of Adolf Hitler's Greatest Defeat
The Barmaley Fountain in Stalingrad
These are two reports written by Bill Downs during his visit to Stalingrad soon after the battle's conclusion. The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

February 8, 1943

I have just had a look at history—history that is still warm from the heat of almost a million men bent on killing each other in one of the world's most bloody and ferocious battles.

I returned today from the scene of Adolf Hitler's greatest defeat—the wounded city of Stalingrad.

Unexploded mines and bombs still shatter the sudden quiet of Stalingrad's ruined streets tonight. Red Army men standing sentry over the piles of frozen German bodies remark to each other how deathly quiet it is. Only ten days ago the roar of the battle shattered water glasses standing on the tables in Soviet headquarters simply by noise alone.

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.

The sad things are the utter, complete and absolute amount of devastation. Try and imagine what four and a half months of bombing would do to a city the size of Providence, RI or Minneapolis or Oklahoma City or Oakland, California. Hitler some days put 2,500 planes over Stalingrad.

There literally is not one single building left in an area of some fifty square miles. Stalingrad is a super-Coventry, only many times more so. London, which I have seen after Britain's heaviest bombings, has nothing to compare with it. Today Stalingrad is simply a pile of bricks and rubble. There are some walls still standing, but what the German bombs missed in Stalingrad, the six-barreled mortars and artillery finished off.

Most of the German dead have been cleaned up. Still, only six days after the last Nazi group was silenced, I still ran into frozen Nazis lying where they were killed behind barricades, in doorways or simply stacked out of the way until details can get around to bury them.

(The people of Stalingrad who now are trying to re-establish their shattered homes don't pay any attention to the bodies anymore. Death has been sitting at their front door too long.)

(The only live Germans now left in the city of Stalingrad itself are in a hospital in the basement of a building which their own planes had ruined. There are two hundred of them, dirty, thin, and suffering from frostbite and malnutrition.)

I talked with a German prisoner, Corporal Helmut Lenz, a 21-year-old youth from Darmstadt, in Central Germany. He rode in to Stalingrad on a German tank as part of Hitler's crack 14th Tank Corps. This German prisoner was so beaten that it was useless to ask him questions. He shifted from one foot to another and looked at the ground. You could almost feel pity for him—until you took another look at what this Nazi and all other Nazis had done to the city.

But that is part of the distasteful side of Russia's great victory at Stalingrad. Here's something more pleasant. The Russian colonel who was conducting us over the battlefield took us to a little peasant village stuck out on the steps fifty miles west of the city. (From a distance, the village looked all the world like a farm village on the plains of South Dakota or in the Texas panhandle.) The colonel said we might be interested in taking a look inside one of the small frame houses.

We walked inside, and there sitting around a couple of tables was the fanciest array of German generals in captivity.

Altogether in this village there were something like a dozen German generals, two Romanian generals, and best of all, the only Nazi field marshal ever to be made a prisoner of war, Friedrich Paulus, the one-time head of Germany's Sixth Army, the conqueror of Poland and Belgium (and frustrated conqueror of Russia.)

Paulus is struggling to maintain a dignity as cold as the Russian winter in his greatest disgrace. His Red Army guards say he doesn't talk to anyone very much, not even his generals. (And although German propaganda has tried to make a martyr out of him, Paulus has not taken Hitler's long-distance hint to commit suicide for National Socialism.) Outside of a rather sad, hang-dog look, the Field Marshal is doing very nicely. And the Russians are taking good care of him and his staff.
One officer explained to me that the Soviet Union is collecting Axis generals, especially field marshals. "You see," he said, "We have an atrocity commission now at work, just like the other Allies. We are investigating atrocities in the Ukraine. Field Marshal Paulus came through the Ukraine. We probably will want to ask him about that later."

However, none of these German generals had lost any of their plumage. In contrast to the German soldiers, these officers were fat and sleek and dressed in new uniforms. They looked a little bit like peacocks in a hen-yard, standing there in those simple farm huts. (Every one of them had on a new uniform and wore all the decorations in full view.)

I asked Lieutenant General Moritz von Drebber, former commander of the 297th Infantry Division, (an obvious question. I asked him what he was doing there. Von Drebber, who looks more like a college professor than a military man, replied very calmly that he surrendered because his units were cut off with no munitions and no food.)

("You see," he said, "the Russians came down from the north and up from the south and we were in the middle.")

(We asked Von Drebber) if Hitler had given him permission to surrender. When Hitler's name was mentioned, one of the generals in the background standing behind the door managed a feeble "heil." It definitely was not a Berlin Sportpalast "heil."

Von Drebber didn't pay any attention to this and explained that he had been ordered by Field Marhsal Paulus to fight until he was pushed back to a certain line. "When I reached that point, I surrendered," he said.

(Von Drebber said that at one time it had been possible for the German Sixth Army to break the Russian encirclement to the west. When we asked him why this was not done, the white-haired Nazi general replied: "On such questions of strategy, you must ask Paulus.")

(However, later the Chief of Staff of Russia's 62nd Army, Lieutenant General Malinin, said that Hitler at first refused to attempt to break the encirclement from the inside because of the loss of prestige. "When the situation became desperate," General Malinin said, "the Germans had lost the vital time factor. The front was then so far away that they had neither supplies nor petrol to establish a break.")

(Thus it would appear that Hitler's prestige—which has caused so much bloodshed and sorrow in the world—is now leading him to defeat.)

Back in Stalingrad after a busy day, I asked one of the Red Army women in charge of the headquarters kitchen if I might have a drink of water.

She went and got me a tin-cup full. It tasted good, and I told her so. "Your vodka and wine is swell," I said, "but this water is the best of all."

She threw back her head and answered: "That water ought to be good. It's Volga water—it has Russian blood in it."

"Soviet officers pass by German prisoners of war as the battle enters its endgame in January 1943" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

February 9, 1943

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

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

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

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

I asked the Russian soldier what his answer was.

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

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

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