Bill Downs Reporting from the Soviet Union
|A still from the documentary The Battle of Russia (1943), part of the American series "Why We Fight"|
THE EASTERN FRONT, 1943
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.
Downs dealt with significant technical difficulties broadcasting to New York. As a result many, if not most, of these reports were never heard in the United States, or anywhere other than that small studio in Moscow.
Parentheses are used to indicate text that was censored by Soviet officials for military or propaganda reasons. While censorship was not unique to the Soviets—the Western Allies across Europe also had censors review broadcast transcripts for material they deemed sensitive—Moscow's censors were arguably the most stringent.
Reporters on the Eastern Front relied heavily on state-run newspapers (particularly Pravda, Izvestia, and Red Star) and government communiqués. 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 (Russia did not officially acknowledge until 1990 that it was actually Soviet secret police, the NKVD, who were responsible for the mass killings).
Part of the 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 manifold—first 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.Reviewing the scripts was only part of the process, as Downs wrote:
"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 correspondent could not find out what had been cut from his copy until he was advised by his home office . . . radio scripts were submitted and had to be returned to us for reading on the air. Thus we could see what the censors had cut, and we were able to assess the government's attitude on subjects of a sensitive nature. The government obviously felt that its censorship was not complete. There was a fear that the correspondent could, by intonation, change the meaning of his report . . . When reading your dispatch on the air, there was always an English-speaking Communist broadcaster sitting alongside with his hand on the cut-out switch. If you unintentionally changed the grammar of the sentence, as sometimes happens, down would go the switch and you'd be off the air."Regarding the role of the press, he wrote:
"The Soviet government sees the press only as an arm of the government whose chief duty is to forward the Communist cause. They do not understand—or at least pretend not to understand—the role of the free press outside their country. The Soviet concept of news is that all information about Russia, no matter how trivial, comes under the heading of intelligence in the espionage meaning of the word. Consequently the foreign correspondent is tolerated as a kind of second-rate spy."Some of his most chilling reports, such as those on Kharkov, Stalingrad, and Kiev, are firsthand accounts of what Downs witnessed in those cities, and he had more latitude to convey the absolute brutality on the Eastern Front rather than simply reading official communiqués. In their book The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism, authors Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud recount Downs' experience with the city of Rzhev (pp. 195-196):
"After the German occupation of Rzhev, only two hundred fifty people remained of the town's original forty thousand. Downs described how in one house he stepped over the body of an old woman, her face battered to a pulp. Near her were the bodies of her grandchildren—a nine-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl, both shot in the head. In another room lay the body of a second grandson, about fourteen years old, shot at least seven times. As Downs reconstructed it, the Germans had ordered all the women and children to go to the town's church. But the woman's older grandson was desperately ill with typhus, and she refused to move him. So the Germans killed them all on the spot, beating her to death for her disobedience and riddling the fourteen-year-old with bullets.The links to Bill Downs' full reports are featured along with excerpts below, with the censored text restored.
"Downs was haunted by what he had seen in Russia. He told friends that 'coming back . . . is something like stepping out of a St. Valentine's Day massacre into a Sunday school classroom.' Over and over he described what he had witnessed but soon discovered that not everyone shared his strong feelings for the Russian people and the horrors they had experienced. Some looked at him curiously. Others expressed pity. Still others said he was a liar. On a lecture tour of the United States before returning to London, he even received an anonymous postcard calling him a Russian agent and threatening his life."
THE MOSCOW REPORTS
January 1943: Drinks with Red Army men back from Stalingrad
"I walked into the airport waiting room and saw Russian soldiers sitting around while a chess game progressed in one corner. Someone brought me a cup of tea—I had no Russian money and don't know who paid for it. The atmosphere about this place had the same sort of isolated comradeship you find in old-time village grocery stores. All it needed was a cracker-barrel and a potbellied stove.
"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 1943: What drives the Russians to 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 6, 1943: Folks at home write to Red Army soldiers on the front lines
"Whole 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 every 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 23, 1943: Russian reverence for the army
"Down in Stalingrad, in the fight for a tractor factory, one Red Army storm unit of a couple dozen troops were trying to outflank a pillbox which covered a vital communications area with murderous fire. Three times the storm group tried to outflank the German position. Each time they lost several more men. The group was led by a young lieutenant. He assayed the situation, took out a couple of grenades, and ordered the group to drive for the flank while he threw grenades. Under cover of the explosion, the lieutenant didn't run with comrades to flank. Instead he ran directly toward the aperture of the pillbox and blocked it with his body. His unit later picked up the body, half hung over a machine gun."
February 23, 1943: The fighting for Oryol and the Donbass
"The Donbass is not an area of separate communities. In reality, it is one big suburb interconnected and intertwined with interurban lines, highways, and roads. It is the first complete frontal street fighting that any army in the world has encountered on such a large scale. The Germans are putting up a desperate defense. It is natural that the Donbass advance should progress more slowly than the Russian progress has been over the steppe-land to the north."
February 27 to March 16, 1943: 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 1, 1943: General Belov discusses German tank tactics
"The only major change in tank warfare, as the Germans fight it, is in the number of tanks employed in a single battle. Early in the war, in the fighting around the Polish city of Lutsk, the Red Army and the Wehrmacht engaged in a gigantic tank battle in which four thousand tanks were used. Later, the tank engagements involved only one hundred tanks at a time. And now the Germans are using only thirty to fifty tanks in a single engagement."
March 1, 1943: The fall of the "fortress of Demyansk"
"Eleven thousand Germans have been killed or captured in these eight days of fighting. 302 population points have been taken, and tonight the 16th German Army is retreating westward."
March 2, 1943: The Soviet winter counteroffensive 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 4, 1943: Blitzkrieg tempo
Marshal Timoshenko's troops are still advancing south of Lake Ilmen. The Red Army drive from Rzhev has assumed a blitzkrieg tempo, and there has been no halt in the march of the Soviet forces threatening Bryansk and Oryol.
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: Sappers get to work
"It was quiet at night and no nails could be pounded, so the engineers used screws instead. As dawn approached, the sappers had to cover up their work with snow so that the Germans wouldn't know what was going on."
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 9 to March 12, 1943: Vyazma is liberated
"At nightfall, fresh Russian troops, who have been sleeping and resting all day, will take over the offensive and keep the Germans up all night. Then at dawn the day shift will take over again."
March 15 to March 17, 1943: The Germans retake Kharkov
"After the Red Army captured Kharkov last February 16th, the German command concentrated and reformed over 250,000 men for a counter blow. This was in addition to forces already fighting west of Kharkov and in the Donbass. The blow came two weeks later."
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 23 to April 12: Renewed heavy air fighting
"A lot of Lend-Lease aircraft from the United States this winter and more are coming every day. Hitler's aircraft industry already is overstrained by the Allied air offensive in Western Europe. It's going to be even heavier taxed this spring and summer as the Red Air Force increases its offensive in the East."
March 24, 1943: The Red Army's death toll thus far
"According 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 27 to March 29, 1943: Small-scale fighting as mud season hits
"Right now the Germans are confining their thrusts to small raiding parties. During the daytime, the Nazis carefully scout out the Russian positions. Then at night they send small groups of Tommy gunners—fifty or so at a time—across the river to attack the Red Army positions. These military jabs are designed to feel out the Russian defenses and might well be preliminary sparring preceding another German attempt to land a knockout blow."
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."
March 31, 1943: The looming Soviet summer offensive
"Hitler cannot afford to sit on his present battle lines and expand his diminishing military energy by defensive action. This would allow the Soviet command to a mass overwhelming strength against him. The experience at Stalingrad is a clear demonstration of what happens when he neglects the massing of Soviet reserves."
April 1, 1943: Alyosha and his pet pig
"Alyosha was raising a pet pig named Khrushka when the Germans came to the village. He loved his friend Khrushka and was very much afraid when the Germans started collecting all of the other pigs and cows and chickens in the village to send back to Germany."
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 8, 1943: The German assault on Izium ends in defeat
"The Germans began their major assaults south of Izium five days ago. This local offensive was aimed at establishing a river crossing at Izium and at the same time cutting the important railroad running northwestward from the city."
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 14, 1943: Optimism over decisive Allied victories in Tunisia
"The Soviet Union is expecting big things from the American, British and French forces now advancing in Tunisia. For many days now the Allied North African offensive has been the biggest military news in the Soviet press."
April 14, 1943: Convicts join the fight
"It seems that there are scores of men with criminal records serving in the Red Army. Some of them have completed terms and joined. Others are serving while under conviction and may have terms to finish after the war is over. And there are others who have joined the army who are waiting for conviction. Settlement of their cases will also be made after the war."
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 16, 1943: Kalinin signs martial law decree
"Upon conviction of a crime on the railroads, the worker is subject to dismissal from his job, after which he will be sent to the front to join special penalty brigades. In addition, executives of the railroad lines have the right to put a worker under 'administrative arrests' for minor infractions for up to a period of twenty days."
April 16, 1943: The German command's strategic missteps
"It would appear that the Nazis don't quite know what offensive to put on and where. They have alternated attacks between Chuguev, Izium, and then Balakleya. All of these attacks have failed, and apparently the German command is still 'shopping' for a front on the Donets line where they can gain a victory. And any choice the Germans make will be a dangerous one."
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
"There 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 to April 24, 1943: The air war in Crimea
"The 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 4, 1943: Axis setbacks in Russia and North Africa
"Last winter, while the Russian army was advancing westward, the Soviet people had a strong taste of victory in their mouths. That taste is beginning to return as they read of the continued American, British, and French successes in Tunisia."
May 5 to May 30, 1943: The fighting rages along the Central Front
"Germany is fighting on this front with the desperation of a nation who knows the loss of this war on her eastern front means the absolute end to everything that millions of Germans have died for since September 1939. On the other hand, Russia too has had a taste of just what a complete German victory would mean. The people who come from occupied Russia are enough to convince her that her cause is just. And that's the way things stand now, as both armies fret in their trenches awaiting the word to attack."
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 16, 1943: Allied diplomats convene in Russia
"As the war approaches a climax and as victory becomes more and more of a reality, these two men are going to have more and more to do here in Moscow. There already are indications that the diplomatic front here in Russia is becoming more active."
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 24, 1943: Top dignitaries at the Kremlin
"Stalin made only one toast last night, and it was a good one. He lifted his glass and simply said: 'To the armed forces of America and Britain.'"
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 28, 1943: Immense amount of Nazi armament seized
"When the French were defending Verdun in 1916, they used some four million shells in the fourteen-day offensive. The Verdun fortress hurled six tons of metal on every yard of the front during the battle. With the shells that the Red Army captured this winter, it is calculated that the Russian troops could fight four Verduns."
May 30, 1943: Western Allied bombing of Germany threatens morale on the Eastern Front
"The Anglo-American bombing of Germany is having a very real effect on the German soldier, who has been given the impossible job of defeating Russia. When a Fortress or a Liberator or a Lancaster drops a bomb on Berlin or Duisburg or Essen, this bomb not only smashes Nazi war production, it also smashes just one more grain of confidence and resistance in the morale of the Fritz on the Russian front who sooner or later hears that his hometown has taken it in the neck again."
June 1, 1943: Nazi rockets provide light for Soviet troop shows
"Recently one group performed for a tank unit assigned to crack a river fortification. The artists reached the front late in the evening. They were held up picking their way through narrow trails in minefields. When they arrived, the soldiers insisted on seeing the entire program. The troupe performed in the open air; the illumination was furnished free by German rockets. The concert really got a big windup with artillery barrage. Before the troupers had packed, the first tanks had crossed the river."
June 7, 1943: "Red Justice"
"With the German attack of 1941 a decree was promulgated reclassifying murder, attempted murder, highway robbery, resistance to representatives of the government, and refusal to join the labor front as crimes subject to martial law."
June 8, 1943: The film "She Defends Her Country" debuts in Moscow
"Atrocity is brutally treated in this film, and if shown in America could give reaching confirmation of what every foreign correspondent has seen. The film's sincerity overcomes its shortcomings."
June 14, 1943: Stalin previews "Mission to Moscow"
"Stalin's poker face may have derived from the fact that the film's portrayal of the Soviet Premier was judged the least adequate in a roster of generally excellent characterizations. Playing Stalin for sweetness and light, Manart Kippen missed the strength and power and twinkling humor with which Stalin invariably impresses foreign visitors."
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, grayish, 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 2, 1943: The "Orel Sweepstakes"
"The Orel sweepstakes is typical of the difficulties under which American and British reporters must compete for headlines and at the same time keep within reason in trying to interpret the progress of military movements in Russia. There is not one who had not been screaming at the press department for trips to the front or, second best, for conferences with reliable political and military authorities for guidance in covering this and other stories."
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 15, 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 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 11, 1943: Salutes in Moscow as the Red Army advance continues
"What I'm trying to say is that, despite the apparent lack of what we call 'big' news, the Red Army's advance is continuing. A lot of these unknown inhabited points might be, for individual groups of Russian soldiers, battles as bitter and bloody as the fighting that separate units did for Stalingrad. You don't need a special communiqué to die—you also don't need a special communiqué to capture an inhabited point."
September 11 to September 27, 1943: The Nazis retreat from the Panther-Wotan defense line
"Adolf Hitler's dreary words to the German people will be of little comfort to the Nazi armies which now are running westward with their tails between their legs. The main job of the German command today is to keep this retreat from becoming a rout—which it is threatening to develop into on several sectors."
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 25, 1943: The Bolshoi Theatre reopens
"The entire diplomatic community was there—representatives of the United States embassy; Australians; the British ambassador; heads of military missions—and the Japanese."
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."
September 27, 1943: Suvorov schools
"Originally designed to 'aid the education of the children of the Red Army soldiers, partisans, workers, collective farmers, government, and party workers, whose parents perished at the hands of the invaders,' the schools will be replenished yearly by the application system.
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.'"
November 15, 1943: A new U.S. ambassador arrives in Russia
"The long time that Spaso House had been without an official hostess had turned the Ambassador's official residence into what was almost a super-luxurious fraternity house. The Mokhovaya House across the street from the Kremlin with embassy offices and apartments for military, naval, and Lend-Lease staffs was almost the same. No one had enough to do. Consequently the embassy military and naval staffs spent a lot of time chasing ballet and theater tickets."
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."