June 24, 2017

1949. Tragic Accidents in Prüm and the Airlift

Explosion in Prüm as Airlift Sees More Casualties
A crashed Douglas C-54 Skymaster during the Berlin airlift (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 16, 1949

A tragic explosion and the crash of another airlift plane mar the news from Germany this morning.

In the German city of Prüm, in the French zone, an estimated 15 persons were killed, 60 injured, and one quarter of the town destroyed last night when an ammunition depot blew up. Casualties are still being counted as rescue workers search the wreckage. The tragic thing about this incident is that the casualty list need not have been so high.

A fire broke out in the depot yesterday evening. The townspeople were warned to leave, but few of them did. At 9:30 PM, between 500 and 600 tons of old German ammunition stored in a Siegfried Line bunker went up. The Prüm hospital and post office were destroyed. Fires broke out in the town. All telephone and telegraph communications were cut. Prüm was badly damaged in the war, but today the townspeople are saying that this explosion was worse than anything experienced during the fighting.

Here in Berlin, five Royal Air Force airlift fliers were killed at 9:00 AM this morning when their Hastings aircraft crashed and burned at Tegel airport. The plane was taking off for the northern corridor out of Berlin when its engines failed at about 50 feet and plunged into the ground. This is the second fatal airlift accident this week. Last Tuesday an American Air Force C-54 crashed in the Russian zone, killing its crew of three. These fatalities bring the Operation Vittles death toll to 59 killed.

The Berlin Communist organization on the other side of town has become a kind of ideological catch-all for reports and rumors of what is going on behind Russia's Iron Curtain. The other day I heard this detailed report that I am passing along only as the sort of dialectical gossip now circulating among comrades.

This rumor says that Romania's foremost woman Communist, Foreign Minister Ana Pauker, is about to lose her high place in the party and possibly her job in the Romanian government. She is charged with opposing the Kremlin policy of forcing exclusive trade with Russia, thus banning all commercial contracts with the West. Also, Ana Pauker is accused of having a large bank account in Switzerland, but thus far it is all rumors.

My informant says that no action on the Pauker case is expected for another three months. It's interesting to note that these rumors started to spread shortly after an unofficial "Little Cominform" meeting held when Europe's Communist bigwigs met during the funeral in Sofia of Georgi Dimitrov.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 23, 2017

1944. The Second Battle of the Odon

British Second Army Captures Six Villages in Normandy
"Infantry watch Churchill tanks moving up for a dawn attack towards Evrecy," July 16, 1944 (source)
From the Daily Record, July 17, 1944, pp. 1, 8:
SIX VILLAGES CAPTURED
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
BRITISH ADVANCE

British forces have captured six important villages on either side of the Caen-Villers-Bocage highroad.

Reporting this last night, Bill Downs, C.B.S. broadcaster, stated that the British 2nd Army is again on the move, broadening and deepening its wedge southwest of Caen by more than a mile on a six-mile front.

This drive, striking south and west, should not be termed a full-scale offensive, says Downs, but British forces threaten the entire enemy flank south of Villers.

Later in the day the Germans awoke to the danger and counterattacked several times.

North of the Odon the British captured Brettevillette. The troops north of the Odon and those south of the river are now only 1½ miles apart.

Bitter Fighting

After a day of dusty and bitter fighting between the Odon and Orne all British gains have been consolidated and our positions improved despite counter-thrusts in which the enemy suffered casualties in infantry and armour, says Doon Campbell.

Over 100 prisoners were taken before 1 p.m. British gains include Esquay, Gavrus, Bougy, Hill 113 and Cahier.

The Germans still hold Évrecy and Vendes, where some of the heaviest fighting has taken place.

All reports speak of "heavy German casualties."

Minor counter-attacks by Rommel against the British at Hill 113 were broken up.

Nervous jabs cost the Germans at least ten tanks. The attacks came from Évrecy and were aimed at Hill 113 and the general direction of Esquay. Tiger and Panther tanks supported the German infantry.

The Germans did not succeed in making any infiltration or gain one yard of ground.

General Satisfied

The British General commanding the opposition is satisfied with the progress made.

British infantry, flanked by tanks, were consolidating their gains and digging in on the sunny slopes of Hill 113 overlooking Évrecy late this (Sunday) afternoon.

The advance from the north continued towards Noyers, about two-thirds of the way from Caen to Villers-Bocage on the main road linking the two towns.

Shortly before noon, an attack, supported by armour, was thrown into Vendes, which was by-passed on the drive south.

The roar of massed artillery supporting the infantry has continued all day.

Many Germans have been killed and many more wounded. Our own casualties are described as "well on the right side."

Lessay Doomed

The battle for the River Ay raged along a front of nearly seven miles to-day in the area of Lessay, while to the east American troops fought stubbornly for the approaches to St. Lô (reports William Stringer, Reuters special correspondent, writing last night from 1st U.S. Army H.Q.).

With Lessay flanked on three sides patrols twice drove against the Ay last night under heavy fire, but withdrew slightly when, in the words of a spokesman, "It got too hot for them."

Lessay itself is doomed. American troops reached its outskirts more than 24 hours ago and patrols were reported moving forward this morning.

June 22, 2017

1968. Navy Searches for the Missing USS Scorpion Nuclear Submarine

Mystery Signal Heard Off the Coast of Norfolk
"Scorpion (SSN-589) comes alongside Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) outside Claywall Harbor, Naples, Italy, 10 April 1968. The submarine's Commanding Officer, Commander Francis A. Slattery, is atop her sail, holding a megaphone" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Norfolk

May 30, 1968

It could be the most hopeful sign of life yet for the missing nuclear submarine Scorpion—or it could be one of the most heartless and cruel hoaxes in US Navy history.

But at 8:28 yesterday evening, a Navy patrol plane and six ships hunting for the missing submarine Scorpion spotted some strange debris on the Atlantic some 110 miles east of Norfolk. The plane dropped sonar buoys and heard a rhythmic clanking. It dropped small explosive charges, and shortly thereafter there came the unidentified voice of a man who broadcast these words, quote: "Any station this network . . . this is—" and then followed the classified Navy code word identifying the missing submarine.

At that time of the unexplained broadcast, the Scorpion had been overdue at her home port of Norfolk for 68 and a half hours—almost three days. And it had been nine days since there had been any radio signal from her.

The missing sub had checked in with Atlantic Fleet headquarters a week ago on Tuesday, May 21, as she started a submerged transatlantic journey from a point just south of the Azores. There has been no other word or sign of the Scorpion and her 99-man crew since.

That, briefly, is why the mystery signal picked up Wednesday evening has knocked this fleet headquarters and the port city of Norfolk on its ear.

The listening ships and planes did not locate exactly the spot of the mystery broadcast. It could have been a hoax. It could have been a ghastly mistake—some young radio amateur or service radioman practicing over a live microphone which he thought dead.

Or, hopefully, it could be the USS Scorpion.

The Navy is investigating all possibilities.

This is Bill Downs at the Atlantic Fleet headquarters in Norfolk.

June 21, 2017

1949. United States Backs Right-Wing Coalition in West Germany

Conservative Coalition Gains Majority in the Bundestag
1949 campaign poster for the West German federal election in 1949 reads: "mit Adenauer für den Frieden, die Freiheit und die Einheit Deutschlands darum CDU" ("With Adenauer for the peace, freedom and unity of Germany") (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

August 15, 1949 (first recording)


If the German people had been voting to please the United States State Department on Sunday, they could have done no more than they did in giving their mandate to the right-wing conservative element which is now charged with forming the new Federal Republic.

High Commissioner John McCloy today expressed gratification that the election was so orderly and that more than 75 percent of the people turned out. But the real gratification lies in the fact that, when the new West German state goes into operation early in September, it will be a government paralleling American economic and political policies—a fact that should make liaison between the two nations easier than, say, if the Socialists had won.

Political affairs experts told me today that America intends to back this German government to the hilt. When I asked one official if it were not possible that the problems facing the new republic might not be too great for the right-wing government to stand and that serious crises might force another election, my informant replied: "I do not think these crises will be allowed to arise."

However, as pleased as we are with the outcome—for Germany will play an increasingly large part in the European Recovery Plan—no one is rushing into headlong embrace with the new government.

The predominately Catholic Christian Democratic party is regarded as a moderate organization but, lacking a clear majority, the CDU is going to have to form a coalition with other right-wing parties. Among these parties—which polled about one quarter of the vote—there are extreme nationalists whose odor, if not their insignia, is suspiciously Nazi.

Official policy is to adopt a wait-and-see attitude until the government gets into action, and in a number of places one finds downright nervousness that the Germans, given this new power, may find ways to misuse it.

However, another great experiment in democracy is underway in Germany today. We can only hope that it will come out better than the one that began thirty years ago in Weimar and ended in a second world war.

This is Bill Downs in Frankfurt. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt


August 15, 1949 (second recording)


American officials today are watching the launching of the new Federal Republic of Germany with all the approval and pride of a father sending his young daughter on her first date, but there also is some apprehension that perhaps this German political debutante doesn't know all the facts of democratic life.

The victory of the right-wing parties is tailor-made for American economic and foreign policy, and probably will be accepted by the rest of Europe as the most moderate government possible for Germany.

But the intensive campaign of all the parties—right, left, and center—has left a bad taste in Allied mouths. The unconcealed nationalism and attacks on the occupation powers has created some nervousness in official quarters.

However, a high diplomatic official told me today that the task in front of the three Western nations continues to guide the new government along democratic paths, although we have relinquished our right to order the Germans to act except on matters directly affecting the security of Europe.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, the leader of the victorious Christian Democrats, can be sure of one thing. His middle-of-the-road government has full United States backing. Our authorities here do not conceal their pleasure that the swing was to the right instead of the left.

But the Christian Democrats must form a coalition with the other right-wing parties to gain their majority, and some of these rightist parties are just this side of Nazism in their nationalism. About six or seven million Germans voted for these extremist parties.

One of the major developments of Sunday's election is that now the real danger to a true democracy under the new Federal Republic appears to be greater from the right than from the left. The miserable showing of the Communists certainly has reduced their threat.

However, the problem of German democracy is no longer the responsibility of the occupation powers. It is now up to the Germans themselves. America's role in the new government will only be that of an adviser and, fortunately, the man who holds the purse strings.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 17, 1949

In Bonn today some five hundred construction workers are laboring around the clock to complete the parliament wing of the modernistic capital building that will house the new German government when it meets for the first time on September 7.

Also in West Germany, the victorious politicians of the right-wing parties are working day and night in an attempt to get the horse-trading done ahead of time so that a solid cabinet and government plan can be submitted to the legislature.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, who is expected to become chancellor of the new republic, has called a meeting of the leaders of his victorious Christian Democratic party at his Rhineland home for next Sunday. They will discuss formation of a new cabinet and of a coalition which they need to get the necessary votes to control the government.

Rumors continue to circulate that it may be possible for two major parties, the CDU and the Socialists, to get together, but American authorities predict that the difference in the right and left-wing parties' objectives is too great to be overcome, and that a conservative coalition will result.

The task of setting up the Federal Republic of Germany hands the Christian Democrats the biggest opportunity for political patronage in recent European history. There are thousands of jobs to be filled and a bureaucracy to be built up. By careful cutting of this political pie, Dr. Adenauer and company should be able to form a coalition that will stick.

Here in Berlin, meanwhile, the Communist propaganda machine continues to attack Sunday's election as a victory for Wall Street. The East German Communists have yet to comment on the defeat of their West German comrades, except today they charge that in Bavaria they were counted out of the voting by fraudulent methods.

In his first statement since the election, Dr. Adenauer said the main task facing the new government is reconstruction. He added that future world peace depends upon the West and Russia extending their modus vivendi agreement in Berlin to include the entire world. But, Adenauer added, this is not the responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 20, 2017

1943. Ten Miles From Kharkov

Soviet Bid for Vital Railway
Soviet T-34/76 medium tanks roll through Moscow Avenue in liberated Kharkov during the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive in August 1943 (source)
From the Lancashire Daily Post, August 10, 1943:
TEN MILES FROM KHARKOV
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
Soviet Bid for Vital Railway

The threat to Kharkov and Briansk grows hourly as Soviet armies pursue with unabated vigour their twin offensive to capture these strategic centres.

North of Kharkov, they are only 10 miles from the city, said Bill Downs, broadcasting from Moscow to-day.

The commentator added: Kharkov will soon be liberated. Soviet forces are by-passing the retreating Germans on all sides.

All the German positions in the Donets basin are imperiled by a great outflanking movement north-west of Kharkov intended to cut off the city from communications many miles in the rear.

Poltava, where four railways meet, appears to be the Red Army's immediate objective in the quarter. It lies 75 miles west-south-west of Kharkov. Its fall will make Kharkov untenable.

Soviet forces have made striking advances in this direction, according to Henry Shapirov, British United Press Moscow correspondent.

Well across the railway from Kharkov to Sumy (100 miles to the north-west), they have occupied a town only 40 miles from Poltava and are within a few miles of the Kharkov-Poltava railway.

This line is one of the two remaining routes of escape left open to the German forces in Kharkov.

GERMAN CONFUSION

Robert Magidoff, N.B.C. Moscow broadcaster, said: "The Russians have complete air domination over the Kharkov front. The once so powerful Luftwaffe cannot protect the German infantry.

"The Germans' growing confusion is due not only to air attacks. Many communications have also been cut by Soviet armoured forces, and there is a disastrous loss of contact between the German tanks and fuel organisations."

William Downs, of the C.B.S., commenting on "the astounding Nazi confusion," added: "In some sectors it is almost a race between American Dodge and Ford trucks—Russia has thousands of them—and the German, French and Italian vehicles, in which the Germans pressed from all sides are fleeing."

ESCAPE RAILWAY

Judged by precedents, and Moscow reports reaching Stockholm, advanced Soviet mobile guns and patrols have already put the Kharkov-Poltava escape railway out of commission, cables Bernard Valery, of Reuters.

The Sumy railway is now occupied for a stretch of 40 miles.

These reports state that the Soviet columns of fast-moving tanks and motorized infantry, which battered their way across three main railway lines north and north-west of Kharkov, are sweeping over the Ukrainian plains well behind the city in the west.

The left prong of the Soviet's wide encircling movement, driving from Chuguev (on the Donets 25 miles from Kharkov, to the east) is trying to cut the escape corridors for the German garrison to the south-west.

FRONTAL DRIVE

Harold King, Reuters special correspondent, cabled from Moscow to-day: The Red Army has now closed round Kharkov on three sides, and are 36 miles west of the city at Nikitovka.

Other Soviet forces are engaged in a frontal drive from a new direction, the north-east.

A Moscow radio broadcast stated: "In two directions Red Army units have cut vital communications and scattered enemy forces. The retreating Germans are losing heavily, but are resisting very stubbornly."

A military correspondent writes: "The menace to the German flank on the south Russia front is very much more serious than it was last winter.

"This time the Russian armies are not only fresh and remarkably well equipped, but they are animated with the spirit of victory.

"Kharkov is not organized like Orel as a great 'hedgehog' of defence. It would not be surprising if the Germans took time by the forelock and withdrew their garrison before it is cut off."

Red Air Force formations are striking massive blows at the Germans as the army drives on Kharkov.

"Red Star" declares: "In three separate days' operations Soviet airmen have destroyed or damaged 148 German tanks and 600 lorries, blown up 24 ammunition dumps and silenced 68 field and anti-aircraft batteries."

BRIANSK MENACED

On the Briansk front, the fall of Karachev, key railway town 26 miles east of Briansk, is said to be imminent.

Its fall would represent an advance of 50 miles due west of Orel and would seriously imperil Briansk.

To-day's German communiqué says in the Bielgorod area "the great battle" continues and adds that west of Orel all enemy attempts at a breakthrough again failed, as did new enemy attacks in the Vyazma area.

South of Lake Ladoga resumed enemy attacks were also repulsed.

The enemy lost 215 tanks, and in two days 119 planes.

German resistance north-west of Orel, where Soviet troops are approaching Briansk from another direction, also shows signs of stiffening, but the Russian advance is continuing.

Reuters and B.U.P.

June 19, 2017

1939. The Kremlin's Gambit on Hitler

Germany and Russia Criticize West for Continuing War
"Wonder How Long the Honeymoon Will Last?" An anonymous cartoon mocks the non-aggression pact signed by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939 (Alamy/Pictorial Press Ltd)

OCTOBER 1939

These articles are part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism. On October 6, 1939, at the conclusion of the invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler delivered a speech at the Reichstag in Berlin in which he proclaimed his country's peaceful intent and blamed Poland for the war, calling the country a "pet lapdog of the Western democracies." He lashed out at France and Britain for continuing to fight during the period known as the Phoney War.

Hitler also used the opportunity to praise the Soviet Union and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Despite his years of anti-Russian vitriol, Hitler blamed the "Western democracies" for the tensions and argued that, despite their political differences, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union could live in friendship. With characteristic sanctimony, he said:
In my speech at Danzig I already declared that Russia was organized on principles which differ from those held in Germany. However, since it became clear that Stalin found nothing in the Russian-Soviet principles which should prevent him from cultivating friendly relations with States of a different political creed, National Socialist Germany sees no reason why she should adopt another criterion. The Soviet Union is the Soviet Union, National Socialist Germany is National Socialist Germany.

.  .  .

For many years imaginary aims were attributed to Germany's foreign policy which at best might be taken to have arisen in the mind of a schoolboy. At a moment when Germany is struggling to consolidate her own living space, which only consists of a few hundred thousand square kilometers, insolent journalists in countries which rule over 40,000,000 square kilometers state Germany is aspiring to world domination!

.  .  .

Why should this war in the West be fought? For restoration of Poland? Poland of the Versailles Treaty will never rise again. This is guaranteed by two of the largest States in the world. Final re-organization of this territory and the question of re-establishment of the Polish State are problems which will not be solved by a war in the West but exclusively by Russia on the one hand and Germany on the other.

.  .  .

If Europe is really sincere in her desire for peace, then the States in Europe ought to be grateful that Russia and Germany are prepared to transform this hotbed into a zone of peaceful development and that these two countries will assume the responsibility and bear the burdens inevitably involved.
Hitler complained that foreign journalists were misrepresenting him and his regime:
Any attempt to criticize, judge or reject my actions from the rostrum of international presumption has no foundation before history and personally leaves me stone-cold. I was called to my post by the confidence vested in me by the German people, whose attitude toward me is only strengthened by any such attempt at criticism or interference from abroad.
The Soviet government-sponsored newspaper Izvestia responded favorably, criticizing the West for rejecting Hitler's entreaties for peace. It published an editorial, featured below, in which the paper blamed the West for the war and echoed Hitler's statements about Poland. In seeking to justify the Soviet invasion, the paper derided Poland as an "artificially created patchwork State based on arbitrariness and oppression of all nations inhabiting it, including Polish people as well." This brief period of good feeling was most apparent on September 22, 1939, when the two governments staged a military parade in Brest-Litovsk.

Moscow's motivations were complex. Leon Trotsky, whose own editorial from October 1939 is also featured below, argued that Stalin feared the internal instability war would bring. Trotsky wrote that Moscow felt it would be a mistake to join the Allies at that time because Britain and France would be unable to win the war without American involvement—something which Trotsky believed was inevitable. It would therefore be more opportune to stave off war with Germany. He wrote:
The German-Soviet pact will have, under these conditions, two consequences. It will greatly extend the duration of the war and bring closer the moment of intervention by the United States. By itself, this intervention is absolutely inevitable . . . some people on the American continent expect to conceal themselves behind a paper screen of isolation from purely "European" insanity. Their hopes are in vain. It is a question of the struggle for world domination, and America will not be able to stand aside.

.  .  .

In reality there is no government in Europe or the whole world which at the present moment would fear the revolution more than the privileged caste ruling the Soviet Union. The Kremlin does not consider itself stable, and revolutions are contagious. Precisely because the Kremlin fears revolution, it fears the war that leads to revolution. To make the Kremlin change its policy there remains only one way, but a sure one. It is necessary to give Herr Hitler such a decisive blow that Mr. Stalin will cease to fear him. In this sense, it is possible to say that the most important key to the Kremlin's policy is now in Washington.
The New York Times printed a translation of the Izvestia editorial on October 10, 1939:
Soviet Editorial on Hitler Peace

MOSCOW, Oct. 9An editorial in today's Izvestia, government newspaper organ, giving the first authoritative outline of Russian views on Chancellor Hitler's peace bid, follows:

PEACE OR WAR?

Nobody can now dispute that the war in Poland ended several weeks ago. The Polish Army has been interned or taken prisoner. After complete bankruptcy the Polish Government fled beyond Polish borders. There is no social force in the Poland of the gentry excepting upper groups of landed gentry and bourgeoisie which would desire to preserve the artificially created patchwork State based on arbitrariness and oppression of all nations inhabiting it, including Polish people as well.

The Governments of the Soviet Union and Germany set themselves the task of establishing peace and order on the territory of former Poland and of assuring the peoples inhabiting this territory a peaceful existence, confirming their national peculiarities.

The unparalleled rapidity of the disintegration of the Polish state organism, which is irrefutable proof of its lack of vital power, removes the causes for continuation of the war in Western Europe as well.

War a "Senseless Slaughter"

Even the blind can now see that the Polish State cannot be restored in its former shape and on its former territory. Still, the war of Great Britain and France against Germany is waged under the slogan of restoration of Poland. Therefore continuation of the war cannot be justified by anything and constitutes senseless slaughter. Termination of the war would meet the interests of peoples and countries.

Hitler's proposals may be accepted, declined or corrected in one way or another. But one cannot help admitting that in any case they can serve as a real and practical basis for negotiations for an earlier conclusion of peace.

In view of this one might assume that the governments of Great Britain and France, which in their declarations emphasize their desire for peace, would treat the possibility of an early termination of the war in an earnest and business-like way.

However, so far comments of the British and French press on Hitler's declaration do not testify to this. Most newspapers demand that Hitler's peace proposals receive no consideration and that the war be continued until the aims which Great Britain and France set themselves while entering the war are fully accomplished.

It is symptomatic that the demand for restoration of Poland, which formerly figured as a principal demand, in recent articles by British and French journalists is modestly retired to the background.

A Struggle Against Ideology

"Annihilation of Hitlerism" is now proclaimed as the principal demand. The fight against Hitlerian ideology: thus British and French politicians now describe their aims in the present war.

The gist of utterances by most newspapers is that the "Hitlerian spirit" is proclaimed the chief and only source of danger of war not only in Europe but in the whole world. Thus the struggle against the ideology of Hitlerism is being put forward as a fundamental and even the only aim of the present war. These utterances undoubtedly reflect also the viewpoint of governmental circles of Great Britain and France.

Can one accept these arguments? Every one is entitled to express his attitude toward one or another ideology, defend it or reject it. But extermination of a people for the reason that some one does not like certain views and an ideology is senseless and absurd cruelty. It throws us back to the dark material epoch of devastating religious wars for extermination of heretics and dissentients.

History, however, has shown that such ideological and religious campaigns resulted only in the annihilation of whole generations and the cultural degradation of nations. One cannot destroy an ideology by fire and sword.

One may respect or hate Hitlerism, just as any other system of political views. This is a matter of taste. But to undertake war for "annihilation of Hitlerism" means to commit criminal folly in politics.

Material Aims "Camouflaged"

Until lately the ruling classes of Great Britain and France had never displayed too great a readiness to shed blood or, which is the main thing, to bear expense for any ideological purpose. Facts known from these States show that the opposite is the case. Declarations on lofty principles and ideas usually serve to camouflage mundane and material aspirations.

Naturally the question suggests itself also, in a given case, whether the slogan of a struggle against the "Hitlerian spirit" does not camouflage different aims suggested by the aspirations of ruling circles in Great Britain and France for consolidation of their world domination.

Noteworthy in this connection is an article by Bernard Shaw, published in the magazine New Statesman and Nation:

"The war in Poland is over," writes Shaw. "As Poland's cause is lost, we have no further excuse for continuing the war. Whereupon we threw off the mask of knight errantry and avowed flatly that we did not care about Poland and were out on old balance-of-power lines to disable Germany, which we now called abolishing Hitlerism.

"If we won it would be Versailles over again, only worse, with another war even less than twenty years off. Apologies for war won't do, however thickly we butter them with bunk and balderdash about liberty and democracy, and everything we have just abolished at home. Our business now is to make peace with Hitler and with all the world instead of making more mischief and ruining our people in the process."

Allied Empires Cited

One must admit that Bernard Shaw is right in many respects. Judging by all the facts, ruling circles in Great Britain and France are very little concerned about the fate of Poland or the liberation of the German people from the Hitlerian regime.

These States have concentrated in their hands the bulk of colonial possessions. The British Empire owns colonies with a population of 450,000,000. France also possesses a vast colonial empire with a population of 65,000,000.

Obviously an endeavor to hold these gigantic possessions against German claims, to preserve undivided dominion over them, assuring uncontrolled exploitation of hundreds of millions of colonial slaves, is a more valid motive of interest of the governments of Great Britain and France in the war against Germany.

To attempt to ignore Germany's peace proposals means to assume responsibility for further unleashing of war and consequently to assume responsibility for the colossal sacrifices and devastation connected with war.

Peace or war? That is the question. Champions of the slogan, "War to a victorious end," are in favor of further unleashing of war—in favor of war and against peace. But for whose benefit is this war waged for domination of the world? In any case, not for the benefit of the working class. The working class can only suffer in such a war.
Days earlier, the Times published the aforementioned article by Trotsky, who at that point was living in exile in Mexico. From The New York Times, October 4, 1939:
TROTSKY SAYS U.S. WILL JOIN CONFLICT
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
Asserts Only Washington Can Get Russia to Shift From Supporting Germany
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
SEES STALIN FEARING NAZI
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
Soviet Regime Is Held to Be in Danger of Fall If Revolts Result From War 

By LEON TROTSKY

MEXICO CITY, Oct. 3 — The policy of the Soviet Union, full of surprises even for interested observers, flows in reality from the Kremlin's traditional estimation of international relations, which could be formulated approximately in the following manner:

Since a long time ago the economic importance not only of France, but of Britain, has ceased to correspond to the dimensions of their colonial possessions. A new war must overthrow those empires. Not by accident, they say in the Kremlin, the smart opportunist, Mohandas K. Gandhi, already has raised a demand for the independence of India.

This is only the beginning. To tie one's fate to the fate of Britain and France, if the United States does not stand behind them, means to doom one's self beforehand.

The "operations" on the Western Front during the first month of war only strengthened Moscow in its estimation. France and Britain do not decide to violate the neutrality of Belgium and Switzerland—their violation is absolutely inevitable in case the real war develops—nor do they attack seriously the German Westwall. Apparently, they do not want to wage a war at all, not having in advance the guarantee that the United States will not acquiesce in their defeat.

Moscow thinks, consequently, that the actual confused and indecisive manner of acting of France and Great Britain is a kind of military strike "against the United States," but not a war against Germany.

In these conditions, the August pact of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler was supplemented inevitably by the September agreement. The real meaning of the algebraic formulas of the new diplomatic instrument will be determined during the next week.

Stalin Seeks to Avoid War

It is very improbable that Moscow will now intervene on Herr Hitler's side against the colonial empires. Mr. Stalin entered the extremely unpopular bloc with Hitler only to save the Kremlin from the risks and disturbances of a war. After that, he found himself involved in a small war in order to justify his bloc with Herr Hitler. In the crevices of a great war, Moscow will try, also, to attain some further new conquests in the Baltic Sea and in the Balkans.

It is necessary, however, to view these provincial conquests in the perspective of the World War. If Mr. Stalin wants to retain the new provinces, then, sooner or later, he will be forced to stake the existence of his power. All his policy is directed toward the postponement of this moment.

But, if it is difficult to expect the direct military cooperation of Moscow with Berlin on the Western Front, it would be sheer light-mindedness to underestimate the economic support that the Soviet, with the help of German technology, particularly in the means of transportation, can render the German Army. The importance of the Anglo-French blockade will certainly not be annihilated, but considerably weakened.

The German-Soviet pact will have, under these conditions, two consequences. It will greatly extend the duration of the war and bring closer the moment of intervention by the United States. By itself, this intervention is absolutely inevitable.

London wanted to think, in spite of the evidence, that Herr Hitler's ambitions did not transcend the Danubian plain and expected to keep Britain aside. In a similar manner, some people on the American continent expect to conceal themselves behind a paper screen of isolation from purely "European" insanity. Their hopes are in vain. It is a question of the struggle for world domination, and America will not be able to stand aside.

The intervention of the United States, which would be capable of changing the orientation not only of Moscow but also of Rome, is, however, a song of the future. The empiricists of the Kremlin stand with both feet on the basis of the present. They do not believe in the victory of Britain and France, and consequently they stick to Germany.

Not Soviet Plot for Revolution

In order to understand the Soviet policy in all its unexpected turns it is necessary to reject, above all, the absurd idea that Mr. Stalin wants to foment world revolution by means of war. If the Kremlin strove to this end, how could it sacrifice its influence over the international working class for the sake of occupying some border territories?

The fate of the revolution will not be decided in Galicia, nor in Estonia, nor in Latvia, nor in Bessarabia. It will be decided in Germany, but there Mr. Stalin supports Herr Hitler. It will be decided in France and in Britain, but there Mr. Stalin gave a mortal blow to the Communist parties. Since the September pact the Communist party of the United States has not long to live. Poland will survive; the Communist International never.

In reality there is no government in Europe or the whole world which at the present moment would fear the revolution more than the privileged caste ruling the Soviet Union. The Kremlin does not consider itself stable, and revolutions are contagious. Precisely because the Kremlin fears revolution, it fears the war that leads to revolution. To make the Kremlin change its policy there remains only one way, but a sure one. It is necessary to give Herr Hitler such a decisive blow that Mr. Stalin will cease to fear him. In this sense, it is possible to say that the most important key to the Kremlin's policy is now in Washington.

June 18, 2017

1949. American Occupation Troops in Germany Celebrate the Fourth of July

Fourth of July in Europe
"Entrance to the Anchor Service Club in Wannsee, Berlin," August 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 4, 1949

There is a big effort underway today to take the German accent out of the Fourth of July in Berlin, and with today's perfect weather, fireworks, and an old-fashioned picnic, it looks like we might succeed.

The main celebration for the hundreds of GIs and American military government employees is at the Anchor Club on the banks of Wannsee lake. There will be a regatta with boats from the British and French sectors competing with the Americans. An old-fashioned barbecue is scheduled. There will be a horseshoe pitching contest, a badminton playoff, softball, soda pop and lemonade.

But the high point of the day will come this afternoon when the loveliest frauleins will parade in a beauty contest to select "Miss Anchor Club of 1949." The winner should be a little honey, because believe me, the GIs here have a monopoly on all the beauty there is in this beat-up city.

The day will wind up with fireworks over the lake—they had been flown in because the only fireworks manufactured here come from the Russian sector, and the Soviets are not letting us have anything that goes bang, holiday or no holiday.

The only thing lacking in today's Fourth of July celebrations in Berlin is the old-fashioned oratory. The closest thing to this is the Independence Day message from General Clarence Huebner, commander of our occupation troops. It took him less than a minute to read it over the American Forces Network.

Huebner warned against complacency in our acceptance of liberty and democracy, and he warned against "false philosophies which promise freedom but result in slavery."

It's no holiday for the fliers on the airlift, but all in all, Independence Day in Germany is just about like it is back home, except we are having a cool, sunny day. It's going to be hard to work up a sweat on a tennis court.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 17, 2017

1944. American Sailors Find War Souvenirs in Normandy

Searching for Souvenirs
"A group of U.S. infantrymen pose in front of a wrecked German tank while displaying a captured swastika flag. The infantrymen were left behind to mop-up in Chambois, France, last stronghold of the Nazis in the Falaise Gap area," August 20, 1944 (source)
From the Scottish newspaper The Press and Journal, June 15, 1944:
It Was No Place For Navy

The first American "tourists" landed in France on D-Day plus one. They were helped by a British patrol in their hunt for war souvenirs, says Bill Downs, C.B.S. correspondent with the British forces south of Bayeux.

They were three sailors dressed in blue dungarees—members of the crew of a landing craft which had to stay beached for repairs. They decided to wander inland and see if they could find souvenirs—Wilbert Barr, of Houston, Texas; Edward Bacalia, of Inkster, Mich.; and Martin Warwick, from Bothell, Washington.

A British patrol guaranteed to lead them to souvenirs.

They ran into a German patrol in forested no man's land, they were mortared and sniped, and in the end the Germans withdrew.

The sortie yielded a German helmet, two pistols, two rifles, a Nazi machine-gun, and a Nazi flag.

Around a bend on the way back to the beach, however, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by British tommy-guns. A British lieutenant ordered "Hands up" in German. The German equipment fell to the ground with a clatter.

It took a quarter of an hour to convince the lieutenant that they were not spies.

Barr said: "After that we walked whistling 'Yankee Doodle' loud. Up there is no place for the Navy."

June 16, 2017

1949. Deal Sought to End the Berlin Rail Strike

Soviets Consider Strike Demands
Striking Berlin rail workers remove a portrait of Joseph Stalin at the German Reichsbahn headquarters, May 21, 1949 (Alamy/DPA)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 19, 1949

It's a gloomy day here in Berlin, one of those days when the weather seems to pattern the future. Overcast, cold, and unpleasant.

In the French sector there was some trouble yesterday at one of the struck elevated rail stations that is located on the Russian sector border. East Berlin railroad police and strikebreakers started dismantling parts of the elevated railroad. French police demanded they withdraw. After a short dispute, a Soviet officer and several Russian soldiers appeared. The Frenchmen were arrested, taken to Soviet headquarters, and then released. The French military governor has protested. Otherwise all is quiet in the Berlin elevated strike that is now entering its fifth week.

It is interesting to note that, during the entire foreign ministers conference in Paris, there has been absolutely no letup in the Communist propaganda attacks against the Western Powers.

In the past few days the party line has been taking a new tack. The Communists are predicting that Western Europe is heading for a sweeping depression—an economic crisis directly attributable to the depression which already is beginning in the United States.

According to the Soviet experts, America is flooding Europe with products under the Marshall Plan that cannot be sold in the US. Also, Western Europe is suffering from a shortage of raw materials that used to be purchased in the Eastern European countries. This shortage, along with the shortage of dollars, is leading the democracies down the path to economic ruin, according to the Communists.

On the other hand, according to this propaganda line, the peoples within the Russian orbit are doing just fine, thank you. Production and employment are increasing, and the standard of living for the masses is on the rise through the employment of the two year plans in Eastern Europe.

Some observers here attribute Mr. Vyshinsky's refusal to come to any major agreement in Paris—yet his interest in keeping the door open for further negotiations in Germany—as a wait-and-see stalling tactic to find out if America and Western Europe are approaching severe economic difficulties.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 20, 1949

The eve of the final meeting of the foreign ministers has produced more crisis jitters in Berlin today.

The exchange rate between the East and West mark made another shift. The East mark fell in value, and this morning one West mark will get you 5.2 East marks. No one knows the reason why.

Depending on which side of the bed you got out of this morning, one can believe the optimistic reports or place credence in the rumors spread by the crepe-hangers.

One unconfirmed report says that the Russians conferred with officials of the struck elevated railroad over the weekend, telling them to stand by to resume operation this week.

The weather in Germany has been as unpredictable as her politics. Snow fell last night in the Harz mountains. In Berlin it has been more like fall than summer.

In other words, no big news from here until we know what will be the exact outcome of this afternoon's meeting in Paris.

Political humor in Western Europe during these days of crisis has been about as funny as a broken leg. Here's the type of story which is now circulating in Berlin:

Two Communists are supposed to be talking about the Marxist plan for the seizure of Europe by the proletariat.

"It's easy," one Communist says. "We send a comrade to London with an atom bomb in a suitcase. We send another to Rome and to Madrid and Oslo and Stockholm and Brussels, all with atom bombs in suitcases."

The other Communist interrupts him: "Yes, but comrade, where are we going to get all those suitcases?"

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 23, 1949

Settlement of the Berlin elevated strike and the lifting of the rail blockade into this city this morning hinges on the promise of a Russian general.

And so far today there is no indication from the 14,000 strikers that they will accept the assertion of the Soviet transport chief, General Kvashnin, that no reprisals will be taken against them if they return to work.

Kvashnin made this promise in a letter to the Western commandants last Monday, adding however that any strikers who committed sabotage or other crimes during the strike would be subject to prosecution.

However, on the union's main point—that of reprisals—the Russian general's written word is now on record.

The American, British, and French commandants are trying to convince the anti-Communist union that the compromise wage proposal plus the promise of security for the strikers is a reasonable arrangement to go back to work. In a special meeting yesterday, the executive board of the independent union disagreed. They offered to institute emergency service of railroad traffic from the west this morning, but to keep the elevated shut down.

The Russians objected to this move, as did the British. The British commander, General Bourne, this morning ordered West Berlin police to keep strikers off railroad property.

In other words, pressure is now coming from the democratic West Berlin as well as from the Communist-led East to put an end to the strike as part of the modus vivendi to normalize life in Berlin.

The three Western commandants are meeting within a half hour to discuss ways of restoring rail traffic here. But the independent union says that without recognition of their organization by the Russian-controlled rail management they are vulnerable to any sort of attack when they run elevated trains into the Soviet sector of the city.

To these 14,000 men who have been fighting Communist strikebreakers and armed Eastern police for the past month, they need more than the word of a Russian general to go back to work, unless the occupation powers can convince them otherwise.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 15, 2017

1940. What Will Happen to America If Hitler Wins?

The Dire Prospect of Nazi Hegemony
Illustration featured in the Life magazine article "Six Ways to Invade U. S.", which imagines a two-front Axis invasion of the United States. The caption reads: "In Southern California, with burning oil wells in the background, a Jap light tank has stopped for gas at a roadside filling station. The attendant pretends to oblige, then sprays the tank with gasoline, setting it afire. The Jap shoots him down. Another attendant lies dead at right. A motorcyclist has overturned in the foreground. This is what he sees." March 2, 1942 (Art by Noel Sickles - source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism. In 1940, as the war in Europe turned catastrophic for the Allies, New York Times foreign correspondent Otto D. Tolischus considered the question: What will it mean for the United States if Hitler wins?

From The New York Times Magazine, June 2, 1940:
IF HITLER WINS
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
What It Might Mean to Us
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
Political and economic doctrines of the Nazis which a victorious war might put into operation against us
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
By OTTO D. TOLISCHUS

The cataclysmic events of the Western Front in France are shaking the world with the impact of an earthquake, rocking the foundations of twentieth-century civilization. Instinctively men everywhere begin to realize that the struggle now being fought out on the plains of France is no longer one of the countless European wars for strips of territory or national aggrandizement, or even the hegemony of the Old Continent, but a life-and-death struggle between two cultures, two ways of living and dying, two moral concepts and two systems of social, political and economic organization. The outcome must not only demolish the present but determine the future shape of that world.

That this struggle has assumed such world-wide ramifications is boldly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler himself and reaffirmed by every word that comes from National Socialist Germany. This new Germany is now breaking beyond German frontiers with the elemental force of an exploding volcano, the fires of which are testing the fitness of the existing world order to survive. It threatens to engulf France and Great Britain, as it did Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. That they came first is owing merely to the accident of geography which placed these countries as the first obstacles in the path of the National Socialist world revolution. Each conquered country is only a new base of departure for new conquests; the final goal is announced to be the world rule of the German master race.

•     •     •

If even a few months ago such ambitions appeared to be merely mad dreams or propagandistic slogans, they are assuming new reality amid the bursting bombs of German air armadas, the roar of motorized divisions and the tramp of legions, whose theme song is:
Today we own Germany,
Tomorrow the whole world.
Yet the National Socialist aims that lie beyond the conquest of any individual country had been revealed to the world long since with a calculating frankness that won them the death-defying allegiance of German youth—a fact which precludes their abandonment—and seduced the rest of the world into not taking them seriously.

Starting with the conquest of Germany itself under the "temporary slogans" of breaking the Treaty of Versailles and fighting bolshevism, Hitler proceeded to the unification of the German race and has now proclaimed as his next goal the consolidation of the European Continent, with Germany as its protector. [Hitler's New Year proclamation and Jan. 30 speech; Rosenberg's Danzig speech, April 16, 1940.]

But even that is a mere "temporary slogan" beyond which already is rising the next, whose import may be gleaned from the following statements of Hitler himself:

"A State which, in an age of racial pollution, devotes itself to cultivation of its best racial elements must some day become master of the earth," he writes in "Mein Kampf," which today is the bible of National Socialist Germany; and, barring half-hearted imitations elsewhere, Germany is so far the only country devoting itself to that task.

"We all sense," he also writes, "that in a far future mankind may face problems which can be surmounted only by a supreme master race supported by the means and resources of the entire globe."

•     •     •

And how these problems are going to be solved is indicated by his view of the rise of the Aryan, whose destiny Germany has taken into her keeping.

"As conqueror," he writes in the same book, "the Aryan subjected to himself lower humans and regulated their practical activity under his command according to his will and for his aims. By leading them to useful if hard work he not only spared the life of the conquered but perhaps also gave them a lot that was better than their former so-called 'liberty.'"

•     •     •

If these quotations seem to refer to the distant past or the distant future, it must be kept in mind that in National Socialist reckoning past and future merge into the present and that under that reckoning time is regulated only by the dynamics of the National Socialist movement itself. That these quotations are as valid today as ever is illustrated by the fate of Germany's conquered subject peoples, now working under German command for German aims. At the same time, the objectives that will follow consolidation of Europe are already suggested by the constant emphasis in the German press that only such a consolidated Continent will be able to employ the full force of "its immeasurable economic and spiritual resources in the struggle between the great world-political rooms."

But how, it may be asked, does this concern the United States, which still has wide oceans to protect it and whose wealth and resources makes it "the greatest nation on earth?" Surely Hitler cannot be planning to conquer the United States as well and make it one of the subject States of his world scheme? To raise that question only a few months—or even a few days—ago would have stamped one as an irresponsible alarmist. Yet it has been in the mind of all who watched the rise of National Socialism and realized its implications, and today only the irresponsible will presume to give an apodictic answer to that question. The answer of a responsible American Government is a $3,300,000,000 armament program, which makes it pertinent to subject the situation facing the United States in case of a German victory to cold-blooded analysis.

•     •     •

Such analysis must proceed from three fundamental considerations. First, which is self-evident, is that all National Socialist slogans invoked in the war against France and Britain apply with redoubled force against the United States. According to its own vociferous proclamations, National Socialist Germany is pitting "blood against gold" in a fight against "decadent democracy" and "rapacious plutocracy," depending on a free economy and world trade, in order to substitute for them a new world order based on national and international "socialistic" planning under authoritarian governments and a peace guaranteed by German aims.

A second consideration, long overlooked but now also evident, is that power dynamics of authoritarian States have their own law of action, which is determined by opportunity rather than by any individual will—even the will of Hitler, who is a prisoner of the forces he unleashed. In contrast to the Western post-war mentality, which envisaged a world stabilized by paper treaties, power politics abhors a power vacuum and enters it—in Europe as in the Far East. Under the hammer blows of the German armies in France the world again is being shocked into a realization that the only dam against power is more power—even if that entails the risk of war.

•     •     •

The third and most important consideration is that National Socialist Germany wages "total war," in which military might, economic warfare and moral disintegration of the prospective enemy play equally important roles.

If the European Continent should be really consolidated under the aegis of Hitler, and if its "immeasurable economic and spiritual resources"—not to speak of its military might—should be thrown into the balance in the political struggle between "world-political rooms," the United States would face what is known in diplomatic parlance as a new situation, unprecedented in history. But it may be pertinent to try to envisage the consequences of a crushing defeat for France and Britain and the imposition on them of an "anti-Versailles," already propounded in the German press.

Such an "anti-Versailles" would first of all involve total disarmament of the defeated countries. That would leave the German Army supreme and beyond challenge by any power or combination of powers in the world. But it might and probably would also involve surrender of the Allied navies to victorious Germany, as Germany was compelled to surrender her navy to the victorious Allies in 1918.

That would put Europe's strongest navies on one side of the United States and an allied Japanese navy on the other side. Added to them would be the strongest air fleet in the world. Both would far surpass any defenses that America or all the Americas could create in years. Moreover, an "anti-Versailles" must be expected to include complete redistribution of Europe's colonies and dominions—redistribution between Germany and, at least for the moment, her temporary allies. And it must likewise be expected to include confiscation of all foreign investments of France and Britain, as Germany's foreign holdings were confiscated in 1918. Moreover, National Socialist Germany has developed its own technique for acquiring ownership of industrial and other resources of conquered countries. The result would be a complete change in the political and economic control of Europe and Africa, much of Asia and Oceania and presumably Australia.

•     •     •

The economic consequences to America of such an upheaval are equally obvious. It would put America's entire foreign trade, not only with Europe but also the rest of the world, completely under the control of Germany and her allies. That trade, it may be argued, amounts to less than 10 per cent of America's total production; but under America's methods of production that 10 per cent often determines profit or loss. True, America produces many things which even a totalitarian world would still need. But the things that world would need would be American raw materials, such as oil and cotton. In markets for finished goods employing profitable labor America would find the competition of a consolidated Europe, behind whose salesmen stood the military might of Germany.

What that means already is amply illustrated in the case of Rumania and other Balkan States. Moreover, whatever foreign trade remains to the United States would have to be conducted on terms dictated by Germany, which repudiates free private multilateral world trade conducted on a gold standard and substitutes for it a government-controlled bilateral barter trade based on an equal exchange of goods between two countries and paid for in "labor currency."

•     •     •

In practice this means that Germany buys from each country only as much as she sells to it, and measures the value of goods so exchanged not in terms of gold but in terms of labor. But the value of hours of labor in each country is determined through the mechanism of a managed fiat currency; the exchange value is adjusted arbitrarily by agreement between government, whose relative position, in turn, is determined by their relative might. Germany as the mightiest country in the world could herself determine how much foreign goods her fiat marks would buy and how much German goods the currencies of other countries should buy in return. Germany could determine employment and living standards in countries that must trade with her.

For America the more or less world-wide adoption of this system would entail a further development of still immeasurable consequences—namely, demonetization of gold. With such a development the $19,000,000,000 gold hoard in Kentucky would be reduced to trinket value. In such a case it might be doubted whether America's foreign investments would be worth the paper they are written on. Difficulties of America's "financial imperialism" already are the subject of mocking comment in the German press.

•     •     •

Such, in any case, would be some of the inevitable consequences of "socialistic planning between nations" and a victory of "blood over gold" which the National Socialist regime has proclaimed on its banners. It proposes to lead the world into the "socialistic millennium" to be formed—in Hitler's words—"not by the senile forces of a decaying world but by the young and productive nations to whom belongs the future."

This would leave the United States alternative courses. This nation could adopt an autarchic planned economy of its own resources within the confines of its own borders and militarize itself to the limit to assure its safety. But there can be little doubt that planned economy goes hand in hand with authoritarian government, and so this course might mean an end of America's political democracy.

To adopt the alternative might be to court economic catastrophe of still inconceivable dimensions, with social and political upheavals, and possibly make America ripe for the invader. German proposals for new and more "organic" organization of the United States are already at hand. According to all National Socialist commentators, the American people are not a nation but a conglomeration of racial units. According to Colin Ross, much-traveled German author, whose views are widely disseminated in Germany, the vertical division of the United States into Federal States is purely artificial and should be replaced with horizontal organization according to racial groups. Such horizontal organization already has been introduced by Germany in Czechia, Poland and Slovakia. It goes without saying that in these subject countries the German racial organization dominates.

According to Ross, a like organization in the United States would give the German element in America a new role to play, according to its numbers, influence and importance, enhanced by Hitler's victories. And as a "fifth column" such an organization might decide American victory or defeat in war.

June 14, 2017

1949. Berlin's "Little Blockade" Finally Ends

Hope for a Cold War Thaw
"Berliners listening to a speech given by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in front of the city hall on August 19, 1961" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 25, 1949

The Soviet military government this morning is lifting its interzonal barriers to truck traffic to Berlin just as mysteriously as the "little blockade" was imposed.

A Russian officer on the north border crossing connecting this city with Hamburg informed British authorities today that traffic now will be allowed. A check in the south shows that the Soviet border guards also have been ordered to open the crossing points at Hof and Coburg which connects Bavaria with the north.

Thus after two weeks of yammering and snaffling which finally resulted in the opening of the single checkpoint at Helmstedt, we now may have the traffic situation completely back to normal.

Why the Russian move at this particular moment? Nobody knows.

The East-West struggle in Germany today is consequently more quiet than it has been in many months. The lifting of the Russian border restrictions undoubtedly will serve to expedite the meeting on Wednesday of the four Berlin commandants assigned to normalize the life of the city. And there is apparent progress in the negotiations between the East and West German economic commissions now struggling to revive trade between the split sections of the city.

However, this latest period of good feeling is not expected to last long. The reason is the arms aid program for Western Europe now under debate in Congress.

The Communist press slams the proposal this morning, calling the proposed American shipment of arms for the defense of Western Europe an outright anti-Soviet maneuver, a move to force Russia out of the United Nations, and finally to establish an "international security force" without Soviet participation.

I talked with a competent observer from behind the Iron Curtain the other day. My friend said the Soviet Union fully expects Congress to pass the arms-to-Europe proposal, although she will continue to protest against it. My informant predicted that the pattern of the next few months in the East-West relationship will go something like this:

There will be a serious attempt to make the modus vivendi agreement in Germany workable—that a genuine effort to arrive at an Austrian peace treaty will be made—but at the beginning of this fall or winter, East-West relations will again become critical. For that is when American arms aid is expected to start arriving in Europe.

But it must be remembered that making predictions of any sort in modern Europe is a very risky business.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 27, 1949

It is so quiet in Berlin today that one could hear a protest drop—only there are none.

The four deputy military governors meet in a half hour, and there is every prospect that they may reach agreement on procedure for their economics experts trying to work out currency and financial difficulties. Tomorrow the four Berlin commandants will have their second meeting under the modus vivendi arrangement. Maybe it's the rare good weather we are having in Berlin these days, but there appears to be a good chance that the East-West "live and let live" policy in Germany may work out.

The best evidence of this is the Russian decision to comply with a British protest against the closing of zonal crossing paths leading to Berlin. Russia's transportation chief, General Dratvin, yesterday ordered the checkpoints opened, and in an extremely polite letter he denied that the Soviet military administration intended to impose any kind of blockade. He said it was all due to the failure of German truck drivers who were doing illegal trading in the Soviet zone and who did not have the proper invoices of their cargoes.

In fact, Dratvin declared, Soviet authorities have maintained an essentially benevolent attitude toward Western Berlin—a benevolent attitude, and I quote, "which will be continued in the future."

I don't know what the Russian definition of benevolence is, but this letter certainly is a far cry from the anti-Western blasts which have answered our protests in the past.

At any rate, traffic is running normally today, and if this be only a temporary respite in the East-West Cold War, all of Berlin is relaxing and enjoying it. And speaking of transportation, the airlift is still delivering the goods, a fact that tends to be overlooked in considering the larger issues. Yesterday American and British planes flew in 8,000 tons of supplies. There is no relaxing there.

You remember during the last war the V-sign became the symbol of resistance to German occupation. Well, today we have reports that the letter F—standing for freiheit, or freedom—is appearing on walls in cities in the Russian zone. Local Communist leaders are said to be advising schoolteachers to lock up the blackboard chalk in an attempt to stop what may be the signs of an increasing resistance to Soviet occupation.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.

June 13, 2017

1949. East Germany Seeks a United National Front

The Communists Push for a National Front
East German Prime Minister Otto Grotewahl, standing in front of a poster that reads "Es lebe J.W. Stalin, der beste Freund des Deutschen Volkes!" ("Long live J.W. Stalin, the best friend of the German people!"), speaks at a festival at the Berlin State Opera in honor of Joseph Stalin's 71st birthday, December 21, 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 19, 1949

The first step of what may be a new phase in the political struggle for Berlin will be made today by the Communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party of the Soviet sector.

The SED, as it is known, is calling a mass meeting for five o'clock this afternoon at Potsdamer Platz, that hot spot in this divided city where the American, British, and Russian sectors join. The leader of the East Berlin party, Hans Jendretzky, will address the gathering. The title of his speech is "What is going to happen in Berlin?"

The usual marching orders have gone out to the factories and the faithful. There will be the usual plethora of slogans and red banners. However, there is an uncommonly peaceful note in this latest Communist move. The band of the East German people's police will precede the speeches with an hour's concert.

Western authorities have been wondering what the next step from the East would be, and some interpret this mass meeting as the first move by the Communists to seize the political initiative here. The Big Four modus vivendi agreement has resulted in an uneasy political quiet in Berlin for the past month. The West Berlin government is having budget troubles, there is a great shortage of West marks, and although consumer goods are increasing, prices are too high for the ordinary person. Also, the West Berlin government has to face an increasing unemployment problem.

Thus it is believed that today's Communist-inspired mass meeting will be the first of a series of moves to capitalize on West Berlin's economic difficulties.

No particular trouble is anticipated at today's demonstration. However, special detachments of West Berlin police will be on hand just in case.

The American, British, and French commandants meet today to study a complaint by West Berlin rail workers that the Russian-controlled elevated is not living up to its promise to pay sixty percent of their wages in West marks. This was part of the agreement that put the striking men back to work last month.

Nothing specific was achieved in yesterday's four-power conference of economic experts. They will meet again on Thursday.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 20, 1949

Western Germany's leading Communist, Max Reimann, was released from jail by British authorities this morning. He served sixty-five days of a ninety-day sentence for conducting illegal political meetings in the Ruhr.

At Düsseldorf, the British say Reimann was set let free short of his full jail sentence for good behavior. Communist party members already are hailing the release of Reimann as a great Marxist victory.

Here in Berlin the three Western commandants have officially protested to Russian transport authorities for failure to keep their word in the recent elevated rail strike settlement. The anti-Communist independent union presented written evidence yesterday that more than a thousand of the returning strikers are not getting West mark pay as promised by Soviet authorities.

Yesterday afternoon's Communist rally in Potsdamer Platz drew about 25,000 persons and failed to produce any excitement, although small boys standing on the surrounding ruins kept an intermittent barrage of pebbles flying toward the speakers' stand. The theme of the speeches and slogans was a call for a unified Berlin, a National Front for Germany, and a single currency.
__________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 21, 1949

Economics experts of America, Russia, Britain, and France will meet again today in still another attempt to follow out the orders of their foreign ministers and normalize life in Berlin. This will be the third time the committee of experts have met, and thus far the only results have been pleasant but pointless conversation.

British authorities say today that they will press for a Russian answer to two protests now pending. One is on the closing of all but one crossing point to truck traffic into this city. The other protest concerns the failure of the Soviet-directed elevated railroad to keep its word and pay returning strikers in West marks.

Leaders of the anti-Communist railroad union said today that West Berlin rail workers may be forced to strike again if their men do not get the promised wage settlement. However, they emphasized that no new strike is planned until they are absolutely forced into it.

The Communist propaganda machine is getting up a head of steam for a new drive to capture German support for the elections in West Germany on August 14.

Last Sunday Soviet political commissars met with leading German Communists. The Marxist Germans were upbraided for failing to sell the latest party propaganda line. This line is a bald-faced appeal to German nationalism, urging the establishment of a so-called National Front under Communism to prevent the split of the country into Eastern and Western governments.

These strategy conferences continued on Monday and Tuesday. The result was the sudden calling of a mass meeting at Potsdamer Platz two days ago. Tomorrow the People's Congress of the Soviet zone will meet in its new home on the site of Goebbels' propaganda ministry.

The words will be different, but the tune will be the same.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.
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Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 22, 1949

A new Communist peace offensive appears to be in the making in Germany today.

The German People's Congress of the Soviet zone opened its summer session in East Berlin this morning, and if the speeches of the leading German Communists are any indication of new Russian policy, we may be in for a period of sweetness and light in the coming months of East-West relations.

Otto Grotewohl, one of this country's leading Communists, set the theme of the congress in declaring that the recent foreign ministers conference in Paris means the end of the Cold War. German people should take heart, he said, because at Paris there were the first glimmerings of a solution to Germany's problems. They should look forward with confidence to another Big Four conference this fall.

Grotewohl asserted that the Paris modus vivendi agreement demands that the August 14 election for the West German government be called off, and that Germany should unite under the Communist-sponsored National Front. These latter statements are old stuff, but it is a far cry from similar declarations only a few weeks ago when these same speakers were lashing out at the West in barroom language.

I am informed that Soviet authorities are considering giving up their plan to establish an East German government to oppose the West German republic we are now forming. If this is true, the strategy now is to promote the National Front idea but not to formalize a political split between an East and West German government. Meanwhile, there is beginning a gigantic political sales campaign from East Germany to sell the National Front as the only way to national unity. This time the party intends to use persuasion instead of threats.

Eastern Germany has a Soviet-style two-year plan. The story goes that a railway repair shop in Saxony was far behind its production quota and an investigation was started. In one section of the shop it was found that during the past six months 6,500 man hours had been lost. The reason: the men were attending meetings called by the shop's political commissar. The subject of the meetings: "How to increase production under the two-year plan."

June 12, 2017

1944. Allies Cross the Moselle as Battle for Germany Nears

Allied Armies Face Bitter Opposition
General George S. Patton addresses soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment following an assault demonstration near Kilkeel, Northern Ireland on March 30, 1944 (source)
From The Western Morning News, September 9, 1944, p. 3:
MORE BRIDGEHEADS OVER MOSELLE
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
OPPOSITION CONTINUES HEAVY
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
British Across Albert Canal In Strength
⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
SILENCE ON MOVES FOR BATTLE OF GERMANY

Three additional bridgeheads across the River Moselle were gained by the infantry of General Patton's Third United States Army yesterday. The Americans now have five bridgeheads on the Metz-Toul sector. Opposition continues heavy, but more armour is reported over the river.

British infantry and armour are across the Albert Canal in strength, said Bill Downs, C.B.S. correspondent from Brussels. Bitter fighting is under way as the Germans strive hard to keep the bridgehead from expanding. "The Germans seem to have been able to organize themselves into strong defense units along the north bank of the canal for the first time since the British entered Belgium. They are contesting every crossroad and hill."

Writing last night, E. E. Sandford, Press Association correspondent at Shaef, said: "As the war moves swiftly to the climax, the Allied Higher Command has ordered silence on the armies' moves into position for the last battle—the Battle of Germany. In the next few days little news will be obtainable about the Allied Armies now everywhere closing in upon the Siegfried Line from Holland to Switzerland."

As the British drive over the Albert Canal and the Americans edge towards Germany at a score of points from the outskirts of Liège to Nancy and the Rhine-Marne Canal, Gen. Patch's Seventh Army hastens up from the South of France to add even more overwhelming power to the death-blow against Hitler's Reich.

The official silence will not apply to operations in the Pas-de-Calais, where the Germans in and around Dunkirk are now in an area roughly the same as the forward perimeter held by the B.E.F. in 1940 while the little ships were taking troops off the beaches.

The Canadians' line runs inland from Gravelines and then parallel to the coast as far as the Nieuport Canal.

Boulogne and Calais are both now completely surrounded. Le Havre was again bombed yesterday by Lancasters of Bomber Command.

Spitfires patrolled up and down the coast to Zeebrugge watching as keenly as the Nazis in the Channel ports for the rescue ships that do not come.

A German military spokesman stated yesterday: "The large-scale withdrawals which the German Command was forced to carry out can now be regarded as more or less concluded.

"Leaving strong garrisons in several stiffly-defended fortresses in Brittany and the Pas-de-Calais, and strong resistance nests between the spearheads of the Allied advances, the German divisions have now manned a line which runs along the Scheldt, the Albert Canal, and the upper reaches of the Moselle. From here it runs in a wide arc jutting to the west, right to the Swiss frontier, north of Lake Geneva."

Moselle Fighting: Fierce Nazi Attacks Against Bridgeheads

Eric Downton, Reuters special correspondent with the Third United States Army, telegraphed last night: "Armoured units of Gen. Patton's Army are now established on the east bank of the Moselle.

"During the night the Germans put in fierce attacks against the two bridgeheads over the river, but these were held, and this morning more Third Army men crossed over.

"Gen. Patton is bringing up new forces for an assault against the German defence line.

"German pockets of resistance west of the Moselle are being mopped up and operations are reported to be progressing well.

"The Luftwaffe staged a comeback during the night, bombarding troop concentrations both sides of the river.

"The crossings of the Moselle were achieved in the teeth of bitter resistance by nearly perfect ground and air co-operation between the Third Army and the 19th Tactical Air Command.

"German troops in this sector have been ordered to hold firm or be shot if they attempt to retreat, according to prisoners brought in today.

"The Germans are certainly putting up a strong fight on the advanced sector east of the Moselle. Their artillery, including 88's, are shelling our infantry and tanks."

Six Miles from Dunkirk

Charles Lynch, Reuters special correspondent with the Canadian forces before Dunkirk, telegraphed last night: "The second ordeal of Dunkirk has begun—this time with the Germans' back against the North Sea coast and writhing under Allied machine-gun and artillery fire.

"From the flooded farmlands just south of Dunkirk we cannot see the city, although it is only six miles distant. But all around us our guns are shelling the Germans, who are being pinned in the port as their comrades are pinned in Calais, Boulogne, Le Havre, and Brest.

"The road on which I am standing is the only dry spot for miles around. Five months ago the Germans opened the dykes and let the water pour over these fertile farmlands as an anti-invasion measure.

"Whereas in Le Havre, Boulogne, and Calais the chief stand is being made by the Regular garrisons, most of the troops in Dunkirk are those who tried to escape south-east to Germany, but found their way cut off and so fell back.

"Their position is strikingly similar to that of the British troops who fell back on Dunkirk in 1940—but what befalls them will be entirely different."

Escape Attempts

Bill Downs, C.B.S. correspondent, in his broadcast already quoted, said: "The 15th German Army troops now trapped in the Channel pocket seem finally to have realized their predicament. They are making desperate attempts to get across the wide Scheldt estuary and to make their way back north through Holland and Germany.

"The Allied Air Forces have spotted this movement and have the Nazi barges and boats operating in the river under attack."

Roger Greene, Associated Press correspondent in Brussels, telegraphs: "While Gen. Dempsey's army poured across the Albert Canal, blazing the trail for the next phase of the whirlwind campaign, broken remnants of the German armies were falling back into the Channel ports and trying to escape into Holland. All avenues of retreat to the east and south-east have been cut off.

"Sizable German pockets are resisting in the area north-east of captured Ghent and Le Havre suicide garrison is still refusing to surrender under combined land and air assault.

"The German News Agency reported yesterday that British armoured columns had succeeded in forming a bridgehead across the Scheldt, near Antwerp, under cover of motorized guns massed in strength in the area. It was claimed, however, that a counter-attack had thrown the Allies back beyond their initial positions and the bridgehead was somewhat compressed."

Belfort Gap Race

Allied gunfire is audible in the western counties of Basle as Allied troops advance upon Belfort and the gap between the Vosges and Jura Mountains leading to the Southern Rhine Valley. A message from Switzerland gave news last night as American troops of Gen. Patch's Seventh Army pressed forward on the last 40 miles in their race for the gap.

Stubborn resistance in the area of Besançon, where American patrols reaching the western, southern, and eastern outskirts of this key town, southwest of Belfort, encountered tanks and sharp mortar and machine-gun fire, was reported from Allied Mediterranean Headquarters.

A C.B.S. dispatch "from the Belfort Gap," quoted by New York Radio last night, stated that the Germans were in full retreat through the gap and doing their utmost to get out from that area — Reuters and A.P.