CBS News' career summary for Bill Downs, November 1959
Covering the world for CBS News has kept veteran Bill Downs almost constantly on the move from one part of the globe to the other during the last 20 years.
Downs became a member of the CBS News staff in London in late September 1942, after 5 years with the United Press in Kansas City, Denver, New York, and London. In the winter of 1942 he was assigned to head the CBS Bureau in Moscow. He remained in Russia until January 1944. Then, after a brief visit to the U.S., he returned to Europe in time for D-Day, landing with the British forces in Normandy. He made the first live broadcast from the Normandy beachhead. He covered the U.S. First and 9th Armies allied with the British and Canadian Armies for the entire European campaign. Among the now famous battles he reported for CBS News were the breakthrough in Northern France, the capture of the Nijmegen Bridge, the crossing of the Rhine, and the sweep across Germany which culminated in the surrender.
After V-E Day, Downs returned to the United States in time to receive the National Headliners' Club Award for the "outstanding Foreign Exclusive Broadcast of 1944-45." The award was based on Downs' eye-witness account of the surrender to Field Marshall Montgomery of all German forces in Northwestern Germany, Holland and Denmark.* According to a letter to Edward P. Morgan dated December 1, 1954, these interviews actually took place in November 1954.
In August 1945, Downs was reassigned to the Pacific theatre, arriving in Manila on V-J Day. He entered Tokyo with the occupation forces, covered the Japanese surrender there and in South Korea. He later traveled to China, Burma, Indo-China, Malay, Singapore and Batavia. He made the first on-the-spot broadcast from Hong Kong on September 19, 1945.
In the fall of '45 Downs came back to America and was assigned to cover the nation's rapidly increasing strike crises. Subsequently he was heard on the network's "Cross-Section, USA" programs. In June 1946 he received the important assignment of reporting the atomic bomb tests off Bikini Atoll, making the pool broadcast to all American networks of historic tests from aboard the observation plane following the craft carrying the atomic missile.
In June 1947, Downs left for another brief European assignment, this time for CBS' Documentary Unit. He revisited the towns and cities crossed by Allied troops in World War II, gathering material for Columbia's documentary "We Went Back." This year too, Downs opened a CBS News Bureau in Detroit to cover the auto strikes and was first with news of the attempted assassination of UAW Chief Walter Reuther.
In September 1948, he was again assigned overseas to cover Berlin at the time when the Russian blockade and the American airlift were at their peak. He remained in Berlin until June 1950, and had been back in the United States only a month when he was reassigned to Tokyo with the team of correspondents covering the Korean crisis.
He received the 1949 "Overseas Press Club" award for "best foreign news reporting" that year.
Downs covered the retreat of the US and Republic of Korea forces to the Pusan perimeter and returned to the CBS News Washington bureau. In 1951, he returned to Korea with Ed Murrow's "See It Now" team for the notable Christmas front-line report on American GI's.
In the 1952 Presidential campaigns, he traveled with both candidates Eisenhower and Stevenson. The following year, CBS News sent Downs to Rome as its Mediterranean correspondent. There he covered the fall of three Italian governments; the illness of Pope Pius the XII; the beginnings of the revolt in Cyprus with an exclusive interview with Archbishop Makarios. He surveyed the Arab-Israeli dispute from both sides of the line, interviewing government heads in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Israel. Downs in 1955 obtained exclusive filmed and recorded interviews with Israeli Premier Ben Gurion and Egyptian President Nasser.*
The CBS News correspondent again received an Overseas Press citation for his work.
Downs was re-assigned to the CBS News bureau in Washington in 1956 in time to cover the Democratic and GOP conventions and the second Eisenhower election. He can now be heard on a regular CBS Radio newscast at 6:00 p.m., EST.
Bill Downs was born William Randall Downs, Jr. on August 17, 1914 in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended grade and high school in that city and in 1937 was graduated from the University of Kansas.
Downs entered newspaper work shortly thereafter via the Kansas City Star and Kansas City Kansan, and then joined that city's United Press Bureau. Later he switched to the U.P. bureaus in Denver and New York, and in November 1940, was assigned to U.P. London headquarters.