November 25, 2014

1944. Safe Conduct Card for Surrendering German Soldiers

Safe Conduct
A safe conduct pass distributed by the Allies, likely from 1944
SAFE CONDUCT

The German soldier who carries this safe-conduct is using it as a sign of his genuine wish to give himself up. He is to be disarmed, to be well looked after, to receive food and medical attention as required, and is to be removed from the danger zone as soon as possible.


PASSIERSCHEIN

An die britischen und amerikanischen Vorposten: Der deutsche Soldat, der diesen Passierschein vorzeigt, benutzt ihn als Zeichen seines ehrlichen Willens, sich zu ergeben. Er ist zu entwaffnen. Er muss gut behandelt werden. Er hat Anspruch auf Verpflegung und, wenn nötig, ärztliche Behandlung. Er wird so bald wie möglich aus der Gefahrenzone entfernt.

November 21, 2014

1944. Bill Downs' Live Broadcast from Normandy

The First Live Broadcast from Normandy After D-Day

NORMANDY
June 14, 1944
I'm speaking to you from a tent somewhere in Normandy—that is a truly free France liberated eight days ago by the invasion of British, Canadian, and American troops. It is 6:30 AM over here––the ninth day of the invasion is only a few hours old.

If you hear strange noises during this broadcast, it's the RAF and the Allied air forces and the American air forces on dawn patrol. It's more than dawn patrol––it's dawn attack.

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

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

All this comes under the category of making history.

The news from the front this morning is good. As a matter of fact, we've no bad news to report since the Allied forces crossed the beaches.

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

But you might compare this bit of liberated France to a giant muscle, which daily is becoming stronger and stronger as the sinews of war pour into it. As more tanks and guns and men pour in, the muscle expands.
Thus far the Germans have been unable to do much about it. However, last night and today there are signs that the Nazi high command has finally been able to get some fresh troops into the line. The fact that it took a week for his first reinforcements to arrive speaks for itself as to the effectiveness of the Allied night and day bombing over the past few months.

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

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

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

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

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

This audio features only half of Downs' original draft, featured here.

Bill Downs in Normandy, 1944

November 14, 2014

1950. "Notes on the Air War in Korea" by Edward R. Murrow

This Is Tokyo
"Tokyo, December, 1952: CBS commentator Edward R. Murrow, center, and Washington bureau chief Bill Downs, right, are welcomed to Tokyo by Japan-Korea bureau manager George Herman" (source)
Transcript issued by CBS on August 18, 1950:
THIS IS TOKYO: NOTES ON THE AIR WAR, HOW IT LOOKS, SMELLS AND FEELS
By EDWARD R. MURROW

As Broadcast over CBS from Tokyo After Flight with Bombing Mission over Korea
This is Tokyo: A few notes on the air war. A few hundred yards away, a GI, manning a Bofors antiaircraft gun, lies on his back, with the warm, soaking rain falling on his chest and face.

Most of the slit trenches have been dug by the Japanese. They're works of art, by people who love the soil, deep and neat, with little steps for walking down. The sod has been carefully cut and then replaced over the heaped-up earth—the most finished and inviting slit trenches I've ever seen.

Hiroshima from a thousand feet looks much like other Japanese towns, except there seems to be all open space for parks, where people used to live, and those areas are brown and dusty, and the air over Hiroshima was turbulent, as though still protesting.

But back to this war. You don't get much news of the world or the war down in those western airfields, but it's easy to follow the flow of battle by the calls for air power. Yesterday the go-and-go jets and the B-26's were out from dawn to dark.

Here's what it looked like for three bombers of the front bomb group. We were briefed for a low-level mission against four bridges. No fighter escort. Those B-26's carried 4,000 pounds of bombs, 16 machine guns firing forward, plus 14 five-inch rockets under the wings. Major Ed Shuck was flying lead. During a briefing he cautioned the other two boys to keep an eye out for power lines when they came in to bomb the bridges. I thought that was just for my benefit, but I learned better.

Yesterday was a big day, because Major Shuck has designed himself a new bomb, and we were going to try it out for the first time. They'd been having trouble with five hundred and thousand-pound bombs from low levels. They kept skipping out of the target area; sometimes half a mile or more before they'd explode. So the major cut the tailfins off and rigged four small parachutes on the tail of each bomb. That, he thought, would pull the nose down, slow up the bomb and keep it on the bridge. Those bombs looked like something designed by Rube Goldberg. We took off; got over the Korean Straits at 6,000; the guns were tested. The fishhook formation was tucked in, wingtips almost touching. After crossing the coast at Pusan, we went up over broken cumulus.

The air was full of fighter talk. One boy got a tank; another said to the ground control officer "My feet are dry at 2240. Got any targets from me?" We started to let down through the clouds. Major Shuck called and asked if there were any of our little friends in the target area, and the welcome word came back that six F-80's were rounded up. We broke out at 4,000, picked up our muddy, shallow river, and at 10:00 o'clock on a lovely summer morning went down for our first bridge. The altimeter fell off at 1,000, then 500. The clock read 320 miles an hour.

We lifted over a small hill. There was a Korean trying to hide behind a tree no thicker than my wrist. We went in over the bridge at less than 100 feet. The lead ship bombed. Over a little village I saw one man take a running dive into a drainage ditch. We went back to look at the bridge. One span was down. There was a railroad about forty yards downstream. The major said we should take that one. So we moved over to the center and lined it up. And went in again with a B-26 on each wing. The bombs were times for six-second delay, in order to give us a chance to get clear. I heard our bomb hit the bridge and was frightened, because I thought it was the belly of the ship that hit it. When we pulled out, I asked the pilot how low we were, and he said "About sixty feet." The bridge was down.

We went up through the overcast for our next target. There were a dozen B-29's stooging around up there, looking for a hole and a target. We sighted a bridge and looked it over from about 3,000 feet. The three pilots decided it was defender. There were fresh pits at each end. We were flying on the right wing now. It was decided that the two wingmen would go in with all 16 50-calibers working, to make them keep their heads down, while the middle ship bombed. And with everything rattling, we made the first pass—and missed it; went back and tried it again. And only the pictures will tell whether we got it.

We pushed on up the west coast, swung wide over the water and came out over a little hill for our last target, a highway bridge. We couldn't get a straight run on it; then the tracers began coming up at us. Major Shuck slipped his ship in and bombed, and when the smoke had cleared we could see he had missed. The boys talked it over and decided to go back. And so there we went again with machine guns hammering. It was our turn to bomb. Our pilot pulled up thick, bullet-proof glass across in front of his face, and we went for it at about 100 feet. The smoke from the earlier bomb was drifting toward us and we missed. A third time, those youngsters decided to try for it, talking it over very calmly. On the third time it was no good.

My pilot had one bomb left. And, said Lieutenant Stringer to Major Shuck, "What about my having to try from the other end?" The major thought it over and said "OK, but don't get too low. I was unhappy. But a lineup from the other end went flying straight at the 600-foot hill, which was just beyond the bridge. I didn't think a fighter could bomb level and pull out of there.

Lieutenant Stringer pushed the nose down, wiped his eyes and shoved everything forward. I can report that bridge was floored with 12 by 6 planks and that there was a rusty oil drum at the north end. When the bomb went, he pulled everything back into his lap and I closed my eyes. And then through the head phones the other two pilots were quietly saying that they thought that one did it. Then we started home. When we got there, the ground crew swarmed around to find out how Major Shuck's bomb had worked.

It seemed to me, and the pictures will prove it, that it worked right well.

November 10, 2014

1943. The Advent of Spring in Russia

Two Censored Reports


The text below is from the transcripts typed up by Bill Downs for the broadcasts featured in this post. The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons and thus did not make it to air.

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

CBS Moscow

March 21, 1943

There probably will not be any official Russian reaction to Adolf Hitler's memorial day speech in Berlin (a few hours ago). Foreign correspondents listening to the speech here in Moscow this afternoon checked each other's impressions of the speech and came to the conclusion that Hitler's words were so barren that it's hard to get any kind of reaction at all. Except, of course, the standard feeling of disgust.

(However, it's nice to know that Germany's Fuehrer really is seriously concerned that his enemies are going to overrun Europe. It wasn't many months ago that he was boasting about doing all the overrunning.)

Another army is on the march in Russia today under special orders from the Kremlin. This army is composed of Russia's farmers who are preparing to dig in for the most desperate battle for food that the Soviet Union's collective and state farm system has ever faced.

As it is in America, this year's crops probably rank as the most important harvest the world's farmers have had to produce. (Never in the history of the world has the man behind the plow been so important.)

Especially is this true of Russia (—for Russia's millions of soldiers, armaments workers, and farmers this coming year more than ever before need enough food to keep the people living, working, and fighting under more stringent conditions than they have ever faced in their history.)

(Thus it is that a special agricultural decree from the government concerning this year's crop ranks in importance with the order from the Soviet high command which directed the Red Army's winter offensive.)

Russia has substantially the same problems facing her wartime agricultural industry as America—only many times more so.

There is a labor shortage. There is the problem of transport. There is the difficulty of rationing and delivering fuel for tractors and seed for the larger farms.

From the wording of (the 1943) a special decree for the Soviet state plan of agricultural development, you can get some idea of the way Russia is tackling her farming problems.

One section of the decree reads: ("Within the next ten days, state farms, executives, and party committees shall work out plans for the farms and machine tractor stations...") "During the next ten days we shall organize brigades on the collective farms, diminish the number of farmers doing administrative or auxiliary work, organize the horses and machines, work out tractor and field brigades for the preliminary spring work, and arrange for a sharing of the work between tractors and horses of collective farms." ("...They should organize socialist competitions to fulfill the harvest plan and test the preparedness of these organizations for two weeks before beginning the spring field work.")

(Russia has had a hungry winter. You can see it in the faces of the people anywhere you go in the country.) The Soviet government is determined that the next winter will be as nutritive as possible.

That is what is behind the note of urgency in the government agricultural decree. It concerns every phase of the collective farm life, from the organization of nurseries for the children of women who will work on the farms this summer to the construction of field garages for the repair of harvesters and tractors.

(Thousands of schoolchildren with their teachers are preparing to go to the fields. Farmers are taking census of their livestock, and those milk cows who have lowest production this spring will find themselves pulling a wagon.)

(The army has taken not only the man from the Russian farms, but it also has taken the horses. So the Soviet government is determined that women will replace the men—and cows will replace the horses as draft animals.)

(The government plan for this year calls for an increase of more than 15,800,000 acres over last year's cultivated lands. And the way this decree outlines the plan, Russia will accomplish this—and more.)
  _____________________________________

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 23, 1943

(Josef Stalin is giving a Kremlin banquet tonight for President Roosevelt's special emissary, former Ambassador Joseph Davies. As a matter of fact, the banquet should just about be in full swing right now. It began about seven o'clock this evening Moscow time —which is noon New York time—and if this banquet is like most of those given by genial Joe Stalin, it will go far into the night with scores of toasts ringing out in the ancient halls of the Kremlin.)

(The American and British ambassadors, the military missions as well as Mr. Davies' party are attending. It's the first big party in the Kremlin given for any foreigner since Wendell Willkie visited the country.)

Former Ambassador Joseph Davies as yet has not received an answer from Mr. Stalin to President Roosevelt's letter. (It is possible that he may get an answer during the banquet tonight.)

For the past two weeks, I and every other correspondent here in Moscow have been telling you to expect heavy fighting this spring and summer on the Russian front. The Russian press and Soviet military leaders have been telling the people of this country the same thing.

That fighting has failed to materialize. Although you might be getting mighty tired of hearing of it, I want to repeat—there is every indication that the Red Army may have to undergo its supreme test in the next twenty weeks.

You remember Winston Churchill in his speech to the American Congress the other day called it "Hitler's supreme gambler's throw." The Fuehrer has picked up the dice of destiny and he's rattling them. But he's hesitating about throwing them out.

This year's spring fighting already is ten days behind the schedule set by the start of last year's hostilities. Last year it was the Red Army who made the first one. On May 13 of last year, Marshal Timoshenko led an (unsuccessful) offensive in the direction of Kharkov.

(Thus the time is right, right now, for large-scale fighting. It is not the weather or the terrain that is holding up big scale operations—it is the decision of the opposing high commands.)

A year ago today, the Russian communiqué spoke of the Red Army fortifying its gains in the Kharkov direction—it also announced that 15,000 Germans were killed in three days fighting on the middle reaches of the Donets river.

Today the story is much different—there is only local scouting and artillery skirmishing. (The opposing air forces are plastering each other's ground communications and supply centers with bombs.)

There are many reasons for the delay in the summer's fighting—reasons which grow out of the tremendous sacrifices which both the Germans and the Russians suffered in last winter's fighting.

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.

Yes, Adolf Hitler has just about completed placing his bets on the Russian front—and the Red Army is covering all of them.

November 7, 2014

1943. The Russians React to Victory in Tunisia

Allied Victory in North Africa
American troops land near Algiers during Operation Torch in 1942
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

May 13, 1943


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.

This victory in Tunisia is being heralded on the Soviet press and radio with all the fanfare and praise which usually is reserved for the heroes of the Red Army.

The United States doughboys who took Bizerte are not only soldiers, they are diplomats in arms. And today these doughboys and their comrades have won a hundred and eighty million friends in the Soviet Union—friends who are ready to lay down their lives here on the Eastern Front with the same willingness that the men of America and Britain and France gave theirs in the long fight along the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The Allied victory in Tunisia concludes the first phase of the first combined operation between Russia and Britain and America. You remember it started last November when the British Eighth Army broke the Alamein line. Then the American troops landed in Africa. And then the Red Army started its winter offensive, beginning with the victory of Stalingrad and the march eastward to the Donets.

All these achievements came within two weeks of each other. It's a thing to remember when we consider the impending battles this summer. Perhaps it will be May, or June, or July that will go down in history as the key month in the second phase of the United Nations' strategy.

That's a question that must be worrying Hitler and Mussolini right now. At any rate, it's the question which is the subject of almost every discussion here in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Russian people are keeping one eye on their own front as they celebrate the victories of their Allies. The Red Army is still gnawing away at the German defenses in the Kuban—the Soviet air force is delivering its bombs with the regularity of enthusiastic milkmen.
__________________________
Bill Downs 
CBS Moscow
May 13, 1943

American prestige in Russia has never been higher than it is tonight. The complete and utter defeat of the Germans and Italians in North Africa has boosted Allied stock sky-high. The American and British and French troops have achieved a victory big enough for all the United Nations to share—and Soviet Russia definitely is having some.

I talked to a number of Russians today to get their reactions to the great victory in Tunisia. The reactions are virtually all the same—the Russians say "It's a great victory for us," and they emphasize us.

The waiter at my hotel here in Moscow said he was not surprised by the victory. "We in the kitchen," he said, "knew all the time that you Americans and British would win. We are now calculating for next move on the continent. (Most of us think it will be through Italy or the Balkans.")

(And then I ran into a friend of mine who is a captain in the Red Army. He congratulated me on the Allied victory and then said: "You know, I am a little disappointed. At Stalingrad we only took 93,000 prisoners out of 330,000. Already you fellows have captured over 150,000 of them. It's too bad you couldn't have killed a few more.)

(That's the natural reaction to all men in the army who have fought through one ruined city and village after another that had been held by the Germans.)

There is no longer a question about a second front. People here don't even ask about it any longer. The attitude now is that the Second Front is something for Hitler to worry about. From now on the Russian people are going to be too busy fighting their own war on this front to do much worrying. They also hope that in the meantime the Allied troops will give them more opportunities to cheer the American, British, and French troops.

This Allied victory in North Africa is the second big setback that the Axis forces have suffered since Hitler came to power. The first was Stalingrad.

No one over here is taking the time or trouble to argue whether Stalingrad is a bigger victory than Tunisia or vice versa.

From the number of casualties inflicted, Stalingrad undoubtedly was a much bloodier battle. But from the standpoint of all-over strategy, the North African victory probably is a greater achievement.

It is a cheering sign that there are no such foolish arguments or discussions going on in Moscow tonight such as those which arose in America after the last war—you know the old argument that "we won the war for the Allies."

Russians simply don't think that way. After what the Soviet Union has suffered, the people of Russia don't care to waste time talking about who won what. It has become pretty clear over here that unless everyone puts ever ounce of fight and energy into this war, no one is going to be able to talk about winning anything for a long, long time.

November 4, 2014

1961. The Great Debate Over Editorialization at CBS News

CBS News' Controversial Policy on Editorializing
Edward R. Murrow in the studio in the early 1950s (source)
CBS' expansion during the 1950s and 1960s brought about a new regime with new policies. Management sought to eliminate "editorialization," or what they believed to be such, among reporters. Bill Downs deemed it "the ever-bleeding anathema" of William S. Paley.

There was, of course, stubborn resistance to the shift, especially in light of the increasing role of sponsors. Ed Murrow resigned in 1961 after years of dramatic clashes with Paley. His growing disillusionment with the industry had finally boiled over. In a 1963 profile of Murrow, Arthur Herzog wrote:
"Murrow was still feuding with broadcasting standards—he once suggested that every sponsor donate one hour out of every 52 to public affairs shows, an idea that was received in stony silence. He had the temerity to criticize the quality of television but whether, without the USIA job, he would have quit, is a matter of debate. Murrow, with his usual tact, says no, but others say yes. 'He'd reached the point of no return,' [John] Gude said. 'He was continually upset by the network's notion that newscasters shouldn't be interpreters.' Others feel that the real source of friction between Murrow and the network brass was that Murrow had gotten too big for corporate vanity to tolerate. 'Anyway,' says Swing, 'Murrow had reached his point of greatest expansion in television. There wasn't enough left for him to do that he hadn't done. If he had stayed where he was he couldn't have kept growing.'"
Downs resigned a year later during a major shakeup. His misgivings were similar to Murrow's, and his legendary temper held him back, along with a sometimes stubborn devotion to matters of journalistic principle.

Even so, it was beyond his control. Management felt he did not look the part on camera—a face for radio—and worse yet, they believed his voice was too gruff, too unpolished in a field now defined by its eloquent TV news anchors. At the same time, other hardened newsmen like Downs' friend Walter Cronkite (who had worked as a war correspondent for United Press during the war) thrived on television—a turn of events that drew Murrow's ire.

The concerns about Downs' voice had held him back since he joined CBS in 1942, and television only compounded them. Doing the news on camera was a starkly different operation from the front line radio reports he'd strung together on short notice for live broadcast during World War II.

He struggled to adjust. In his final years at CBS, he felt taken for granted by management as his young, less experienced colleagues got priority assignments. He was thrown the occasional short-lived hosting gig, but it became clear to him that his career was well into its decline. In Cloud and Olsen's book on the Murrow Boys, Downs is quoted angrily recounting his conflict with CBS:
"At least I can shout to the world this—I'm my own midget. The mistakes will be my mistakes—the failures will have my fiat—the successes, if any or none, will not be subject to people who worry about thick lenses, long noses, or advertising agency or affiliate bias."
His reasons for leaving were not publicized. In a 1967 letter to Fred Friendly he elaborated a bit, writing, "I quit Columbia after 19 years and 7 months in disgust at the midget-minded, rabbit-heartedness of the Salant-Clark regime (which never did decide the difference between analysis and commentary and have yet to recognize good reporting)," and that the major news organizations were "guilty of the same kind of abdication of industry responsibility for the sake of the holy, gawdalmighty, much-bedamned 50¢-dollar. But to document the sins of the competition would mean the opus would probably never be finished."

The insightful text below is from an internal memo sent to journalists by the then-CBS vice president Blair Clark. It defines editorialization as management saw it at the time:
June 22, 1961

CBS NEWS EDITORIAL POLICY

The CBS News editorial policy has been stated and restated. We have all read it, lived with it, wrestled with it. This is the first time since I took this job that I have addressed myself directly to it, and I will be brief.

What the policy amounts to is a determination to present the news fairly, and with balance between opposing views. I have used the word "determination." This implies that it is extraordinarily difficult to hew to this line, and it is. But this must be our firm intention. If we abandon it, we lose a large part of our credibility, and thus our power to communicate. There is the further risk of being legally required to "balance" our reports. (I have looked into the risk and it is a real one.) It is a unique feature of broadcast journalism, arising from the inherent limit on outlets.

Any policy is a living thing, not a monument. It requires constant re-examination and interpretation. Furthermore, it must be applied and enforced by fallible mortals, and there will be mistakes of judgment. The judgments are bound to be hairline between what is and what is not editorial, and there will often be differences. But it is my responsibility to decide what is within our policy, and to enforce that decision. This I will do.

There follows an excerpt from the 1954 statement on CBS policy by Mr. Paley. The second and third paragraphs, underlined, are by Howard K. Smith who wrote them after many discussions of the policy this winter and spring.

"In news analysis there is to be elucidation, illumination and explanation of the facts and situations, but without bias or editorialization.

"Some of the features that distinguish editorial from analysis are these: An editorial recommends a course of action, or makes a normative judgment that one thing is more desirable than another, or states a personal preference. An analysis should interpret the meaning of events and seek to answer such basic questions as what has caused the event and what its consequences may be.

"It is recognized that in some cases a well-knit analysis will point towards a conclusion and may resemble an editorial. In cases where this occurs it becomes paramount that special attention be paid by the analyst to his choice of language in order to make clear no editorialization is meant.

"In both news and news analysis, the goal of the news broadcaster or the news analyst must be objectivity. I think we all recognize that human nature is such that no newsman is entirely free from his own personal prejudices, experience, and opinions and that, accordingly, 100 per cent objectivity may not always be possible. But the important factor is that the news broadcaster and the news analyst must have the will and the intent to be objective. That will and that intent, genuinely held and deeply instilled in him, is the best assurance of objectivity. His aim should be to make it possible for the listeners to know the facts and to weigh them carefully so that he can better make up his own mind."

As I have said, I do not expect a restatement of the CBS News policy to solve all our policy problems automatically. Vigorous reporting and examination of the issues will always tend to push against the limits of the policy, and this I expect and encourage. The last thing I want is bland consensus reporting. 
But any news organization must have a policy framework within which it operates. Ours is one that the journalists of the caliber of Ed Murrow, Elmer Davis, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith have been able to live with for years.

I am proceeding with a re-examination of the policy and its application in today's climate.

Meanwhile, I expect everyone in CBS News to abide by the spirit of a policy which has permitted CBS News to be the best in broadcast journalism.

- B.C.

1940. Downs Sets Off for London

London Bound
"SS Excambion (I) commenced sailing in 1931. The SS Excambion became the troopship USS John Penn, but she was sunk by a Japanese torpedo bomber off Guadalcanal on 13 August 1943" (Photo by Roger Scozzafava - source)
Bill Downs wrote these letters home describing his trip to Europe en route to cover the war as a wire reporter for the United Press' London bureau. The ellipses mark illegible portions of the letters.
November 24, 1940

(From New York)

GENTS —

Since I have been notified that I'll be playing left field for the London staff within the next couple of weeks, things have been so goddam jammed—a Downs bottleneck, and I do mean bottle—that individual letters to you chums is an impossibility. So you'll have to content yourselves with a chain letter. (Make five copies, send them to the most luscious brown-eyed blondes you know with transportation to New York and I'll do what I can for them. If you break this chain, may your whiskey turn to water.)

It seems that I leave America on November 30 aboard the S.S. Excambion, go to Lisbon and Madame Olga's—which is a bigger port for Americans than anything left in Europe I understand—and from there fly to London. All this of course if the draft board, the State Department, Portuguese authorities, British customs, the Germans, and God don't care particularly.

The idea is for me to stay there until you gents come over . . . Meantime, I'll be trying to keep up a 1,000 average with little screamers, incendiaries, and Bosch bombs. I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with aerial torpedoes or nasty things over 1,000 lbs. Sorry.

I am looking forward to life in an air raid shelter and promise to hand along any techniques which you guys might want to practice with the covers pulled over your heads. In return, you must agree to keep that vast army of charmers stretching from Denver to the Atlantic imbued with that old spirit—it usually takes less than a quart. And for God's sake and mine, just occasionally mention my name to keep those home fires burning pending my return. I absolutely will stand for no sabotage.

Meanwhile, give my regards to one and all and don't be too long about dropping over to my place in line to the subway. You all might even air-mail me a letter or two.

Regards, 
Bill

P.S. — I absolutely cannot write to 50 people from London, so I'll have to take turns.
__________________________

December 12, 1940
(From Lisbon) 
Dear Mom, Dad and Bonnie Lee —

I'm writing this aboard ship on the last day out and I'll have it carried back by anyone I can find to get it to you the fastest route possible. The crossing has been fine with good weather all the way and not even a tinge of seasickness. About all I have been doing for the past 11 days is eating and sleeping and the results already can be seen in my waistline.

I think I have run on to a scoop already and have to wait until I see how I can get the story out of Europe before I can tell. Another bit of good luck was winning about 75 in a card game with the captain. He and I got to be good friends and he tipped me off to plenty of minor yarns which might make good reading sooner or later. The people on board are a strange lot, all of them either returning to their homes in Europe or getting new jobs in the war zone. Among them is the Marquise de Montrichard, a young American girl going to join her husband in France, with whom I also became friends. Three Italian naval officials also are here and are pretty good guys. Otherwise there are few on the passenger list worthy of mention.

The first evidence of the war we saw was in Bermuda. There, contraband control officers questioned everyone—they were exceedingly nice to me since I was en route to London—but they confiscated all food that might be taken to the war zones and took such things as soap and matches. They didn't even search my cabin, so I lost nothing. Two days ago we sighted a British cruiser on the horizon. It followed us for a while, evidently looking us over, but then turned about and left.

I still do not know when I will get to London or how long I'll stay in Lisbon. I should like to stick around Portugal for a while and see what goes on. There is plenty doing there if someone only took the trouble to dig it out. The place is crowded with refugees trying to get to America, and I understand hotel rates are terrific. However, with my new winnings added to my original pot, I should have no trouble. Anyway, it's going to cost the United Press and not me.

I met an Englishman who got off at Bermuda who gave me some addresses of his friends and a club to which he belongs. I'm supposed to look them up, but I'm not sure that I will. He took me to his club in Bermuda for a drink and showed me the town. There's not much there except a bunch of censorship officials, Scottish troops, and a few American sailors working on the new defense naval base there. It is a provincial sort of place. The roofs of the houses all are whitewashed so that rain water won't be contaminated. It's the only fresh water they have on the islands. Luckily, it rains almost every day.

The ship's officers and crew are a nice bunch of fellows. They have a lot of fun razzing me because I'm from Kansas, but I refused to get seasick. The captain wants me to go with him to the big casino near Lisbon where the American colony is. I don't know whether I can make it, but I might find out something interesting there.

I've got some last minute work and packing to do now and will write you again in Lisbon and then from London.

Don't worry about me. Thus far I've had a lot of breaks and the whole thing is a breeze. I believe there is a minimum of danger. Drop me a line in care of the London bureau and give me the latest news.

Love to all, 
Bill
__________________________

January 3, 1941
(From London)

dear mom dad and bonnie lee —

I suppose you are wondering what happened to me on the December 29th big raid—and outside of a lot of excitement, I have little to report. It really was something I'll never forget—the whole sky lit up by flames and the sad spectacle of all those lovely buildings going up in flames. It's such a damn wanton destruction that infuriates you. But I'll never forget it.

The winters here remind me of Kansas City—they're that cold. But I'm living comfortably and well fed. New Year's Eve was one of the quietest I've spent in years. I was in bed by 11:30 because of nothing to do and saw the new year in reading a book. Actually, this blackout is very good on the morals, the pocketbook, and the constitution. I'm drinking less than I have in years and working harder. American women admittedly have more on the ball, it seems. But I'll scare up somethings. The theaters start their last shows at 5:30 PM so I have little opportunity to see them getting off later than that from work.

I work six days a week, of course, with my day off changed so far every week. They are pretty nice about shifting working hours around, and it works out that I won't be on any steady day or night track, I don't believe. I'm practically editor for the whole of Europe. Consequently I'm spending plenty of time reading up on my history and economics and such stuff. After I get that taken care of, I think maybe I'll study some French—it really comes in handy. I'm saving some money to buy myself a suit. I can get a good one for about $40—hand tailored with some of that fine English wool that costs like hell in the States. It surely is a good feeling not to be in debt, and if I can I'm going to keep it that way. However, living is not a cheap proposition here—but I have little to spend it on. Consequently, I should be able to save something I was glad to get your letters—and trust that you had the traditional New Year's brawl in the basement. I also would like to know if you ever received the books. There were about $50 worth of them there and I hope they arrived okay.

We've had an air raid alarm virtually every night but there doesn't seem to be much activity except for that one bad night. We hear stories that Hitler is running out of ammunition after pouring so much across the channel without doing any good at all. Although this has never been confirmed, I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't true.

Thus far I only regret that someone hasn't told the English about central heating. There seem to be few buildings in the entire city that ever heard of it. But they do go in for hot water here, and the baths—usually in tubs three times the size of ours—are wonderful. And they still have to learn to make a pot of coffee Although they do have us beat all hollow on tea. They also have it all over us on courtesy. The thing that first struck me about the people here—and this includes the poor people as well as the rich and well educated, is that they are so nice to each other. There is none of the American curtness or rudeness about them. Things move a lot slower but they are a hell of a lot more pleasant. While America travels at about 60 miles per hour, they seem to go along at about 25 and get there just the same. I get a little vexed sometimes trying to get service in a bar or restaurant, but when you finally do get waited on, they are so nice about it that there's nothing you can say.

I've got some work to do now and will close this off—but write soon and tell me all the gossip.

Love,

Bill

November 3, 2014

1943. Ending Coeducation in Moscow Schools

Revolution in Soviet School System Kills Coeducation for Youthful Reds
Mother Russia's military training will be for boys only . . . but checkers after school will still be co-ed

Newsweek, August 16, 1943.

Revolution in Soviet School System Kills Coeducation for Youthful Reds

By Bill Downs
Lost in the recent flood of war news was a report on changes to be made in the Soviet education system, so important as to amount to a virtual new Russian revolution. Brieflyand contrary to the trend elsewherethe plan will do away with coeducation for most Russian children. For the significance of the move, Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS Moscow correspondent, has wirelessed this story:


After six months of experimentation in the Moscow schools, a new plan has been devised which will be extended to all major cities in the Soviet Union when the schools reopen on Aug. 25.

The first basic change provides separate classes for boys and girls from kindergarten through high school. This means that coeducation will exist only in the Soviet Union's universities, colleges, and trade schools. The second adjustment to separate sex standards will be compulsory military training, to be introduced through all classes by Jan. 1. Third, there will be an expansion of extracurricular activities to provide for control and contact between boys and girls, and to replace the lost classroom liaison. This will be done through "pioneer clubs," a state-sponsored youth organization built along the lines of America's Boy and Girl Scouts.
Explanation

An official report on the plan by the director of Moscow Public School 89, A.A. Solokhin, begins by rhetorically countering the argument that separation of the sexes means "reinstitution of inequality between men and women in the state."

Solokhin replies that the differences in adolescent studies create differences in mental processes which necessitate "different pedagogical methods, special elaboration of studies, and different assignments . . . This differentiation cannot be achieved if girls and boys are sitting in the same classroom."

He also points out "the inevitable division of labor between men and women." This represents a change in the former attitude of the Soviet educators, who expressed pride in women coal minors, railroad engineers, and common laborers. (Russian women are exceptionally strong and sturdy, and long used to heavy physical labor—today they can be seen laying rails on Moscow's tramways. Their sturdiness has been a great asset in war industries and on farms.)

But Solokhin's report strikes a most interesting note for the future of Soviet youth when it points out that "all jobs in society cannot be performed with equal success by men and women. There are many examples . . . a man must be a warrior, must be prepared to join the Red Army, and his preparation must have started in school . . .

"There are girls at the front but they are mainly employed in the quartermaster sections, hospitals, communication units, and such. As far as I know they are not permitted to participate in attacks. They don't build bridges and highways, because this is a man's hard labor . . .

"But women have duties which men have not, and they are extremely important. The girl as a future mother must know how to care for children and how to educate them. Whatever is said about the various duties of men and women in the education of children, mother is always mother and the schools must give the girl special knowledge of anatomy, psychology, and hygiene."

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.
Recreation

The educator goes on to explain the importance of the new leisure-time program in these revealing words: "In wartime, extracurricular and after-school work is even more necessary as a result of the weakened influence of the family on the child. The introduction of separate studies for boys and girls makes this especially important. I remember pictures of the old pre-revolutionary schools when common games between boys and girls were considered a crime. Naturally there is nothing to this. After lessons work must be organized so that boys and girls spend their leisure hours together . . . Literature, singing, dramatic, and other clubs should be coeducational.

"Extracurricular activities must stimulate more interests for boys and girls. That doesn't mean of course that children will no longer work in shops and garages or with constructors. If they wish to work in these circles, let them. But clubs for fine embroidery, sewing, weaving, homecraft must be created for girls. Also adult clubs, houses of culture, collective farm clubs, and industrial clubs must turn over their facilities to children during certain hours of the day.

"All educational facilities must be used to instruct boys and girls in a spirit of mutual respect and equality. The system of separate studies is an extremely important measure to consolidate Soviet schools and to raise them to a new level. Undoubted results will be seen in the progress of the children in discipline and in the consolidation of the Soviet family."