February 26, 2015

1944. Charles Collingwood on D-Day

Charles Collingwood from Utah Beach



From Utah Beach
June 6, 1944 (broadcast June 8)
EDWARD R. MURROW (from London): This is London. Late on the afternoon of D-Day, Charles Collingwood took his recording gear in a little 36-foot LCVP onto a French beach. Nearing the beach, the water was filled with floating objects. Part of a parachute; a K-ration box; a life jacket; wreckage from a ship; shell cases. Here is part of the recording.

CHARLES COLLINGWOOD: This is Charles Collingwood. We are on the beach today on D-Day. We've just come in. We caught a ride in a small boat which came in from our LST loaded with a thousand pounds of TNT, half a ton of high explosives on this beach which is still under considerable enemy gunfire.

While we have been here we have just seen one of the strangest and most remarkable sights of this invasion so far. Two great fleets of over a hundred gliders have gone overhead towed by C-47 transports, who are certainly proving the workhorses of this invasion. They've hauled them right over the beaches and it seems as though the German gunners, amazed at this incredible sight, have stopped firing on the beach now because it's quiet here, and the second batch are droning over now. I can see them. They're casting off the gliders as they circle around over the beach and the transports are circling around and beginning to make off home. Where they're landing we don't know because we're down here on the beach, and there's a seawall in front of us and we can't see the land behind.

This is the way the beach looks, which was hit by our troops about twelve hours ago early this morning. It's a flat, sandy beach, like almost any beach that you're likely to see, and it floats gently away from the shore—from the seashore up to the dunes and then to the seawall, which was the first objective of our troops and which they took early on in the game.

Since that time, we have been able to bring in quite a bit of equipment. There are various trucks and jeeps and motor vehicles of all kinds here. There are also antiaircraft guns. We breached the seawall in various places and have set up guns there to defend against any possible enemy counterattack on the beaches, which has not occurred.

A naval party has just come in from the shore and begun to unload our TNT here, which is taking a load off my mind as well as a load off this vessel. And I asked him how things were going and he said it was pretty rough still. I asked him how far the troops had gone on inshore and he said that they'd got five or six miles inshore, which sounds as though they're making good progress. He said that the beach was still under considerable gunfire. The Germans had some 88s which we haven't been able to silence.

These boys are apparently having a pretty tough time in here on the beaches. It's not very pleasant. It's exposed, and it must have been a rugged fight to get it—although as nearly as we can see there is not a great deal of evidence of damage. Perhaps that's because it has been smoothed up. We can look along down the coast now and see this flat part of the beach which joins the water, going all the way down to the lower beach which is marked for us by columns of white smoke which are arising from it. And further up at the end of this beach we can see another huge column of white smoke which has apparently been caused by naval gunfire.

Looking out to sea, all we can see of the vast invasion fleet which is assembled for us are the silhouettes of the big warships, the battleships, and cruisers which have been putting a steady bombardment against the enemy positions all day. We can also see a few of the transports, but the fleet of LCTs and LCIs and other craft, which we have brought and assembled back maybe ten miles offshore, is invisible from us at this moment. They're coming back now, taking off more and more of this ammunition.

We've got a captain here who has come by and is looking rather curiously at this gadget we've got. Captain, can you come over here a minute? Can you tell us how things are on the beaches?

LIEUTENANT: Thank you for "captain," but actually I'm a naval lieutenant. Sometimes we get on these beaches by—we get to look like all kinds of things, particularly after you take a few running jumps in the sand.

COLLINGWOOD: Well Lieutenant, what's your name?

LIEUTENANT: Well, I work for a rival network in New York City...

COLLINGWOOD: You do?

LIEUTENANT: So that—or I did and I don't think I wanna ruin your broadcast. Let's just—let's say we dropped in, and that alone.

COLLINGWOOD: Okay, well, how are things going on the beach there?

LIEUTENANT: I've only been in for a little while, while these other boys have been there all day and if you might have made—maybe an army word, it's "rugged" as a matter of fact.

COLLINGWOOD: Is the beach still under some enemy shellfire?

LIEUTENANT: The beach is being pounded by enemy shellfire, though we hope to have it knocked out in the near future.

COLLINGWOOD: Boy, those gliders that just went over were quite a sight, weren't they?

LIEUTENANT: That was a impressive thing. I think that all of you folks listening at home, if you could've heard the "oohs" and "aahs" from men who are really dug in the shell holes in the sand—if you had heard those it would've done your heart a lot of good. It certainly did mine to see them go by.

COLLINGWOOD: Well I can agree with that too because it was a very impressive sight.

And now looking out we can see them going back very low along the water. The C-47s—which brought the gliders in—they've cut loose. And here comes another flight. The third flight of gliders which is being pulled in. I can't tell how many of them there are. They're coming in over the beach here. Squadron upon squadron of them have lined up in perfect formation, with the gliders coming along behind the big C-47s, and they're coming in apparently to drop right where they dropped before. Further up the beach, there's a fire which has apparently just been started by enemy shelling. It's maybe a quarter of a mile up from us.

At the moment there's no shelling in our immediate vicinity, although when we first beached our little LCVP about a hundred yards down the beach, German 88s were kicking up big clouds of sand as they shelled our positions down there, and you can still see some smoke drifting off from it. And over to our left, there's what is left some small craft or other which has been hit and is burning.

A great big Rhino ferry is making its way into the beach loaded with every kind of vehicle and craft. I can make out jeeps and trucks on it, and men sitting up there manning their guns which are already in case of enemy air attack. But there is no enemy air to be seen anywhere around here. The sky however is filled with this third fleet of gliders which are coming in full of our airborne infantry.

There is something which just dropped into the ground—into the sea. I don't know whether it was a plane or what it was that it made a big splash up there as it dropped down from out of the sky. The gliders are coming in now hauled in by the C-47s and protected by fighters which are around there. I can make out Thunderbolts and Spitfires which are giving them cover, and they've just taken off the last of our thousand pounds of high explosives, which is making it considerably more pleasant on this little boat. They're having to wade in across maybe fifty yards of water to get it into the beach.

We've come in in this LCVP through the transport area where our ship is. It's taken us about two hours to get in, and we came in through the choppy seas, with every second wave breaking over the ship and dousing us with spray. Gene Ryder and I are—and everyone on this little boat—are soaked absolutely to the skin. We're wet through and through. The salt is (?) on our eyebrows. Every time we lick our lips we taste the salt. Our hands are cold and chapped as... We just found ourselves lucky that, after having made a trip like that, we don't have to go onto the beaches and fight. All we have to do is make the trip again.

GENE RYDER: I might tell the Navy Department we owe them one recorder.

COLLINGWOOD: Gene is referring to the fact that we took our recording machine which the Navy has lent us along with us here, and it has been absolutely inundated with the spray. Somehow or other Gene has made it work. I don't know what—he was out there polishing it with his handkerchief. Gene says he doesn't know how he made it work either.

And looking back now, turning around with my back to the beach and looking out to the sea, more and more and more of these glider-borne troops are coming in. These gliders are coming in towed very slowly by the big C-47s in what is apparently an unending stream. It's an incredible sight. And as that navy lieutenant told us a moment ago, the troops are waving and pointing and talking about it on the shore, at least those of them who have time and are not too busy taking care of themselves.

The troops are well dug in here along the seawall which is partly covered by sand. They're sitting down now, most of them dug deep into the ground as close as they can to the seawall to protect themselves from the enemy shelling. Some men are lining up further down the beach near a sign which says "five." They are taking over a truck and are apparently about to move off, whether through a breach into the seawall back inland or not, one can't tell.

We're standing here—it's an absolutely incredible and fantastic sight. I don't know whether it's possible to describe it to you or not. It's late in the afternoon. The sun is going down. The sea is choppy and the beach is lined with men and materiel and guns, trucks, vehicles of all kinds. On either side of us there are pillars of smoke perhaps a mile, two miles away, which are rising from enemy shelling. And further back we can see the smoke and results of our own shelling. Looking behind us we can see the big ships and the—some of the transports which have brought the troops in.

And overhead this incredible sight is still going on as more and more gliders are towed in by the C-47s going over the seawall, disappearing out of sight in apparently a wide sweep, and dropping their men somewhere back there who—for a function which we don't know anything about. All we can do is stand here and marvel at the spectacle. Now our men—we're trying to get the LCVP in closer to pick up the men who have been waiting ashore in this cold sea and choppy wind to pick up the stuff.

This place even smells like an invasion. It has a curious odor which we all have—associate with modern war. It's a smell of oil and high explosives and burning things. All—thank you. Come on over here! (?), who is one of the sailors, has just come with a handful of sand because he heard me say a while ago that what I wanted to do most of all was just to get ashore and reach down and take up a handful of sand and say "This is France!" and I've got it in my hands. France at last, after four years. (?), how does it feel just to reach down and grab a piece of sand and say "I'm grabbing French soil," huh?

SAILOR: Well it's—since I was born in France it has special meaning to me.

COLLINGWOOD: Were you born in France?

SAILOR: Yeah.

COLLINGWOOD: Where were you born?

SAILOR: In Calais.

COLLINGWOOD: You were? Well that's not very far from here. Well it has a special meaning for me too, as you can imagine. Have you got some? We've gotta save this. We've gotta put it in a bottle or something.

Now the transport planes are going back. The C-47s who came in towing the gliders, they're going back very close to the sea and we're going back too. We've got our men aboard all with handfuls of France in their hands, and we're going to save it because this has been a momentous occasion for all of us.

There go our motors. The ramp is going up. We're backing away from the beach now, and soon we'll be out in the salt spray and it'll be impossible for us to broadcast anymore.

MURROW: That was a recording made by Charles Collingwood at a French beach on the afternoon of D-Day. We return you now to the United States.

February 25, 2015

1953. Berlin: City Without a Country

See It Now: Berlin
East Berlin in 1949. The banner reads "Freundschaft für immer mit der Sowj. Union" (Friendship forever with the Soviet Union).

The New York Herald Tribune, September 21, 1953:

Berlin Story

RADIO AND TELEVISION

"Our thesis, as always, is that what television does best is to take people places," said Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly in a memorandum to their "See It Now" crew of eight reporters and ten cameramen just before they took off for Berlin.

"We want the sights and sounds of the Cold War as it exists in Berlin, where the last war ended and the next one could easily begin. The narrower the focus, the more isolated the sounds, the better the picture. Let's try to get the difference between the East Zone and the west -- the difference in the faces, in the shoes, in the buildings. We want the gnarled fingers of a German woman picking bricks out of rubble. (The biggest business in Berlin is still rubble.) We want Mayor Reuter, possibly scuffling his way through the shell of the Reichstag." . . .

*      *      *

Naturally, this ambitious enterprise presented some rather special problems. The Russians take a dim view of cameras and Friendly warned the crew that the CBS movie cameras -- the large ones -- cost $15,000 and, for heaven's sake, don't taken them into the East section of Berlin where the Russians would surely take them away. So, Bill Downs and a cameraman promptly took a ride through the Brandenburg Gate, camera and all. I've just seen some of the bootlegged films and they're as graphic a picture of Soviet Berlin as anything you're likely to see.

Like any story, Murrow and his crew started out with a lot of ideas which were tossed out when better ones came along. The Berlin Story, which tomorrow will be televised, I ought to put in right here, tomorrow (Tuesday) 10 p. m., E. D. T. on CBS-TV, will constantly shift from East to West sectors. You'll see a bit of a shot of a fruit store in the West, then a fruit store in the East, a rubble factory in the West, then one in the East.

In other words, the parallels will be as close as possible and the contrast is enormous. Right now Germany -- West Germany -- may be the most prosperous country in Europe (largely, as Adlai Stevenson pointed out, because the Germans don't have to support an Army, Navy, or Air Force as the rest of us do). The shops are full of goods. The people are wearing fine clothes. There is a bustle and flourish to life.

*      *      *

In the East sector, there is universal drabness, ruin and the sort of nothingness that the Russians seem to spread wherever they go. Much of this has been captured on film. Down Stalinallee, the Russian showplace, some splendid but half-finished buildings are on view. The Russians haven't got any one to work on them since the strike. But the cameras poked furtively behind the splendid edifices; directly behind them is a sea of rubble as if the buildings were exteriors in a Hollywood movie set.

Murrow specializes in the little picture, the littler the better, so his men have taken one block of West Berlin, right on the fringe of the Eastern sector and explored it minutely. They picked up one German girl, Ooshy (a nickname for Ursula), who is shown in her apartment, at the butcher's, at the tavern, a dance hall and in an intimate and very expensive night club.

And, of course, there are the big people, too. They got that shot of Mayor Reuter in the ruins of the Reichstag. "I once told my wife," he says to Howard Smith, "that I would outlive Stalin and I would outlive Hitler -- and I did."

Before the Brandenburg Gate, Murrow interviewed Dr. James Conant, the United States High Commissioner; this sober and illuminating discussion of geopolitics was interrupted by communist youths who began singing the anti-American song, "Ami Go Home."

*      *      *

Berlin, of course, is a thrice-told tail. As Murrow admitted, millions of words about postwar Berlin have been printed or broadcast. When I asked him by transatlantic telephone the other day, was new, what had surprised him most about this trip to Berlin? He took a while to think it over and then said soberly:

"I think I was most struck by the calmness and the lack of tension in West Berlin. You see less signs of the strain in the faces of West Berliners than you find in the faces of New York or Chicago. I guess that if you live long enough on the edge of a volcano you figure, sooner or later, that it's not going to blow up and you relax."

February 24, 2015

1945. The Murrow Boys and the Holocaust

Liberté, égalité, fratricide
The Oskar Kokoschka watercolor painting "Das Prinzip" which Bill Downs purchased after seeing Auschwitz. The inscription reads "Liberté, égalité, fratricide." (source)

As the Allies liberated Europe in 1945, several members of the Murrow Boys visited Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

From the Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson, 1996, p. 235:
In any case, those CBS reporters who saw the death camps in 1945 as Hitler's Germany collapsedLeSueur, Hottelet, Downs, Shadel, and Murrow himselfwere overwhelmed. After visiting Buchenwald, Murrow described his first stunned look at the emaciated, ragged scarecrows who surged around him and Bill Shadel at the main gate of the camp. In the distance were the "green fields . . . where well-fed Germans were ploughing," but in the camp were naked, bruised bodies "stacked up like cordwood outside the crematorium; the terrible stench; the piles of gold teeth and human hair, the lampshades of human skin. Murrow concluded, his voice taut with barely repressed fury: "I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words."

When he returned to London, Murrow told Dick Hottelet there were twenty million Germans too many in the world. Hottelet, who despised Nazis but fiercely loved his parents' homeland, was appalled. "You should be ashamed of yourself!" he barked at his mentor and boss. "He knew I meant it," Hottelet said many years later, "and he took it in very good part. Devoted as I was and respectful as I was, I wasn't going to echo his sentiments in that regard." For once Howard Smith agreed with Hottelet and effectively argued on air that the Allies should seize the opportunity to remake German society.

At that time, however, with the war still being fought and the full extent of Nazi atrocities still being learned, most of the Boys shared Murrow's sentiments. Bill Downs told friends after a horrific visit to Auschwitz that he felt like shooting the first German he saw. Before the war was over, he bought an Oskar Kokoschka watercolor, a clown with a grotesque grimace of a smile. At the bottom of the painting was the inscription Liberté, égalité, fratricide. "That in a nutshell summarized my dad's attitude about the human race," said Downs's son Adam.

"By the time the war ended, all our idealism was gone," Downs said later. "Our crusade had been won, but our white horses had been shot out from under us."

Prior to the liberation of the concentration camps (with the exception of Majdanek), Downs wrote to his parents on October 21, 1944 expressing similar frustration:
We are beginning to run into the old atrocity stories again. I tried to tell them in Russia, but no one paid any attention. Now we are finding the same Nazi prisons, the same torture weaponswith some improvementsand the same sad stories of persecution, execution and privation by Hitler's bad boys. I don't suppose anyone will believe these stories either, although we collect and print enough evidence to hang the whole German army.
It seems that the Presbyterian mind of the average American cannot accept the fact that any group of people can coolly sit down and decide to torture thousands of people. And if torture isn't enough, then to kill them as calmly as an ordinary person would swat a fly. This refusal to believe these facts is probably the greatest weapon the Nazis have...and it will operate in the post-war judgment of the Germans, wait and see. All of us more or less normal people will throw up our hands in horror even at the prosecution of the guiltybecause there are so many guilty that we again will think that we are carrying on a pogrom when actually it is only making the Nazis pay for their crimes.

Unless it can be brought home as to what the Germans have done in Europethe cruelty and ruthlessness and bestial killings and emasculations and dismemberment that has gone onwell, I'm afraid that we'll be too soft on them.

Edward R. Murrow also delivered a chilling account of what he saw at Buchenwald:

1968. Analyzing Johnson's State of the Union Address

Foreign Policy in 1968
Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin with President Lyndon Johnson at the Cold War summit in Glassboro in June 1967 (source)
Bill Downs Perspective

ABC Washington

January 21, 1968


Official Washington is still wringing the words and issues out of the president's State of the Union message and considering the fact that Mr. Johnson is presumably laying his White House job on the line this year. His address before the joint session of the Congress Wednesday night was not the sod-busting, partisan, ring-tailed howler of a political speech that it might have been.

There was no attempt at soaring rhetoric, no sarcasm to castigate his critics, no ideological thrusts at America's enemies abroad. Compared with his previous State of the Union message, this one was lean. And for a Texas politician, it was almost an understatement.

By now every foreign government around the globe will have translated his speech, and every foreign ministry and military and political intelligence organization will be analyzing the Johnson Administration's view of these United States; taking the message apart, paragraph by paragraph.

The Asian communist leaders of Red China and North Vietnam will find no signs of discouragement or weakening in President Johnson's review of Vietnam policy. There was nothing new in his offer to stop the bombing of the North in exchange for a cessation of communist aggression in the South. In fact, Mr. Johnson pointed out that "the enemy continues to pour men and material across the frontiers of South Vietnam," a warning perhaps that even heavier fighting may be in store in Southeast Asia.

And he took pains to assure the leadership of the newly elected government of Saigon that any peace negotiations would be undertaken only after "consultation with the US allies."

Although the president made no mention of Britain's deliberately reduced role in world affairs, Mr. Johnson had a clear word of assurance for the free nations of Southeast Asia. These countries, he said, stretching from Korea and Japan to Indonesia and Singapore, are increasing their political and economic strength "behind America's shield." With the pullback of British military power east of Suez, the question remains open as to whether that American shield will be extended to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. This is what the foreign intelligence services will be trying to determine between now and the British pullout deadline of 1971.

Mr. Johnson ignored the vituperation and the propaganda insults which have been pouring out of Peking the past year, mentioning only the turmoil and violent disruption in Mainland China and the radical extremism which has isolated the Chinese people behind their borders. The president, obviously without much hope of a favorable response, offered ways of breaking this isolation through an exchange of journalists and cultural and education barters, and again he offered to discuss with Chinese leaders the possibility of exchanging basic food crop materials—an offer which may become significant if China has a crop failure this year.

Mr. Johnson made no mention of the growing danger that Vietnam's war might spread westward to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Nor did he attempt to exacerbate the struggle between Moscow and the Chinese brand of communism.

In fact, in all areas of international confrontation, the president's assessment was so low-key that it might give the impression that he was trying to play down the many foreign policy problems which threaten world peace.

The continuing crisis in the Middle East got only four sentences in the State of the Union message, but they were very significant words underlining the importance of the "hotline" communications with Moscow—pointing out that a ceasefire was achieved without "a major power confrontation." In undiplomatic language, this means that the United States and the Soviet Union avoided starting what could have been World War III by using mutual restraint during last year's dangerous war between Israel and the Arab armies. The White House also knows that the Soviet political and military intelligence experts will read those four sentences about the Middle East as a warning of continued American interest and concern in that area of the world, including the Turko-Greek dispute over Cyprus.

Concerning Europe and Latin America, the president praised the economic developments of the past year, but made no mention of the NATO troubles or communist infiltration south of the border. Mr. Johnson made no mention of his difficulties with French President De Gaulle, choosing instead to ignore him, just as he ignored Cuba's Fidel Castro.

The United States interest in the troubled continent of Africa was rounded up in a sentence in which Mr. Johnson noted that the "spirit of regional cooperation is beginning to take hold in practical ways." Africa's diplomats will undoubtedly feel miffed at the way their huge continent was dismissed with a sentence. However, they will also note that the State of the Union message made no mention of the smoldering governments of India and Pakistan.

President Johnson was deliberately diplomatically sanguine about US and Soviet relations. After last year's Glassboro meetings with Premier Kosygin, there is greater understanding between Moscow and Washington. In Geneva, the two nations are reaching agreement on a draft treaty to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But Mr. Johnson did not mention that such weaponry already is spreading, with the French development of their own nuclear arsenal, and with communist China developing missiles to carry the hydrogen bombs which she exploded for the first time last year.

Then there was the Russo-American consular treaty and the first commercial airline agreement between the two countries. And shortly, Moscow and Washington concur in yet another space treaty providing for the protection of astronauts and cosmonauts who in the future may be forced to land outside of their national boundaries.

The president also made mention of the first space agreement made with the Soviets—that document which purports to ban weapons of mass destruction from outer space. But Mr. Johnson failed to mention the fact that the Russians put so little reliance in this agreement that they are now building and expanding their own anti-ballistic missile defense system, which forced the US government to begin work on an ABM screen of its own. Also ignored was the fact that Soviet missile scientists are developing a so-called fractional orbital bomb which would violate the very treaty they've already signed. Neither was there a mention of the melancholy fact that the United States has under development a kind of ballistic "space bus" which could drop off a series of nuclear bombs on targets en route to its final destination.

As we said earlier, we have chosen to emphasize the foreign policy aspects of President Johnson's State of the Union message because we think it will largely be ignored in the domestic debate over Vietnam, government spending, and taxes—and the war on crime and poverty.

There is likely to be no major opposition to Secretary McNamara's defense budget, up an estimated three billion dollars over last year. For, despite the hue and cry by the Vietnam critics and pacifists across the country, here in Washington most congressional doves concede that the nation's defenses must be strong. And politically there is no question about giving the Americans fighting in Southeast Asia everything they need to do the job.

Consequently, President Johnson's brief assessment of US foreign policy and posture last Wednesday—accentuating the positive and playing down the negative—was deliberate for two reasons.

First, great care was taken to deprive enemy propaganda machines of material which would be used to portray the United States as a voracious, power-mad, empire-building nation now embarked on the military conquest of the world—beginning, of course, with Vietnam. Everyone knows, of course, that the State of the Union message will somehow be used by America's enemies to do that anyway.

But the second reason is that President Johnson is evidently convinced that foreign policy—and even Vietnam—may not be the vote swinging issues which will determine defeat or victory by the time November election day comes around.

It's increasingly obvious that Mr. Johnson expects to election to be won or lost in domestic challenges in big city slums and the streets of suburbia; at the cash registers in the supermarkets and among parents seeking the best of education and life for their children as well as security for their families, safety for their streets, and most of all, hope for the future.

The candidate who looks most like filling that bill will win the White House in November.

This is Bill Downs in Washington. Now back to Don Gardiner in New York.

February 20, 2015

1955. Italian Political Humor

Jokes from Rome
Source: Italian Prime Minister Mario Scelba (right) with American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1955
March 9, 1955

Mr. Eugene Lyons
Senior Editor, Reader's Digest
Pleasantville, NY

Dear Mr. Lyons,

Mr. Wallace sent out a letter requesting examples of foreign humor circulating overseas, which has been in my current file as a reminder when something happens along in which you might be interested. Never a man to pass up a buck, I have three short ones which may or may not be new to you. At any rate, they are rare for this part of the world because they are clean.

Premier Scelba of Italy is facing another crisis in his government, which recalls a story attributed to him when he took office last year. At that time, Scelba was asked what major changes he intended to make in his staff. "The first man I will fire is the cloak room attendant." Surprised, his friends asked why. "Because," he replied, "every time he takes my hat and coat he asks: 'Do you intend to stay long, your Excellency?'"

Another story printed in an Italian humor magazine concerns the very popular Queen Frederica of Greece. While visiting a maritime hospital in Athens to cheer Greek Navy sailors injured in that recent sea collision, Her Majesty was surprised to note that all of the navy men had their arms heavily bandaged. "It must have been a strange accident for all of the men to have suffered broken arms," she commented at the end of the tour. The embarrassed hospital director blushed. "Not all were broken arms, Your Majesty," he admitted. "You see, most of the boys have tattoos and most of them insisted the subjects were not for your eyes -- thus the plethora of bandages."

And finally, I like this one, but I understand it has been around for some time. An elderly Italian, who for years as a good Catholic had generated a personal hate for Red Boss Palmiro Togliatti, was on his deathbed. His son asked if there was any last request -- anything that he wanted before he passed on. "Yes," the father said, "call up Comrade Togliatti and tell him to get over here. I want to join the Communist Party." The son was astounded, reminded of the good fight he had fought against the Reds all his life. "Father," the son asked, "I just don't understand why you would want to do this horrible thing?" "Don't you see, my son," the father smiled. "It is better for one of them to die than for one of us."

That winds up the local crop. As you probably know, Italian humor is satirical, cynical, and highly idiomatic. It is also mostly very unclean, particularly the political humor. But I'll continue to collect and pass stuff along from time to time.

Incidentally, we have never met but I feel we have a certain acquaintance, if only through the fact that both of us have served time as correspondents in Moscow.

Cordially,

Bill Downs
CBS News
Rome Bureau

1943. Horrific Booby Traps Left Behind in Nazi Retreat

A "Cute" Nazi Idea That Didn't Work
Three Waffen-SS soldiers playing with a kitten next to an egg grenade. The two on the right are of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, 1st Estonian, and the one on the left is an SS-Lance Corporal (source)
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

April 2, 1943

The present fighting in Russia has settled into local battles for Soviet rivers. In the Caucasus, it is a bitter, wet struggle to clear the Kuban River. Three inhabited points in the lower Kuban valley were captured last night as the Red Army continues its relentless push toward the Kerch Strait.

Further north, in the Ukraine, the Germans are making sporadic attacks on crossings of the Donets River. The latest big German attack came the other day when the Nazis threw in one full tank division and an infantry regiment against the Soviet position on the right bank of the river. During the several hours of fighting that followed, the Nazis suffered such severe losses that they were forced to break off the engagement. Since that time, the attacks on this sector have not been so violent.

The other river fighting is occurring in the Smolensk region west of Moscow. On this sector it is the Russians who face natural water barriers. The terrain is cut by small but difficult streams. The Germans have fortified themselves on the western banks of these streams. The going here is extremely difficult.

The editorial of Pravda, commemorating the decoration of 157 men and women guerillas from the Ukraine, made an interesting comment on what the German command is preparing in this important area west of the Donets. Calling for increased partisan activity in cutting the network of Ukrainian highways and railroads, Pravda said:

"Germans at the present time are using these highways and railroads to regroup their troops and to bring in reserves, equipment, and ammunition. The task of the partisans is at present time to destroy this traffic . . ."

Right now, the big events in Russia are occurring behind, and not at, the front.

The Red Army the other day turned up something new in booby traps. They entered one recaptured village and found that every house had been mined. Sappers cleared all of the houses but one. (The local inhabitants told the Russian soldiers that, before they left, the Germans spent a lot of time in this particular house.)

(The area was cleared and) a Red Army lieutenant (started looking for the mine. He) sounded the walls, the floor, and even the ceiling of the house. Still he could not locate the hidden explosives.

He was just about to give up when he heard cats meowing in the stove. He opened up the door and one cat jumped out. The second cat just started to leave the stove when the lieutenant pushed it back inside.

On investigation, he found that the second cat had a string attached to one of its rear paws. The other end of the string was attached to the fuse in 25 pounds of high explosive.

It was another of those cute Nazi ideas that didn't work.

February 19, 2015

1943. The Soviet Commission on Nazi War Crimes

"The Russian People Will Not Forget"
"The execution of 56 Polish citizens in Bochnia, near Kraków, during German occupation of Poland, December 18, 1939 in a reprisal for an attack on a German police office two days earlier by the underground organization 'White Eagle'" (source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons. A month earlier Bill Downs reported similar accounts of atrocities committed against the people of Kharkiv in Ukraine.

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

CBS Moscow

April 6, 1943

The Soviet press this morning printed another record of blood and death and suffering; of crime and rape and starvation and slaughter.

This official record is the report of the Soviet state commission investigate atrocities in Russia. (And this report gives a lengthy, detailed description of what the Nazis did to the towns and villages just west of Moscow which have been recaptured by the Red Army forces now pressing on Smolensk.)

The Russian atrocities commission is set up very much like a similar commission operated by the free governments in London. It assesses damage and establishes responsibility for the crimes committed by the Germans in the Soviet Union.

The report issued today concerns the atrocities in the Rzhev, Vyazama, and Gzhatsk district—that powerful defense area west of Moscow held by the Germans for a year and a half. The record makes you sick to your stomach. Some of it doesn't bear repeating over the radio.

The war crimes are divided into four classifications. The first classification is the murders and atrocities of civilians. Here it is, the old story that we have heard from other cities and town in Russia—the stories of murder, hangings, and torture (of people found with their eyes pierced, their hands and legs and arms and ears cut off.) A typical incident were the bodies of two men hung from a gallows by meat hooks forced through their jaws (and left to die).

The second classification in the commission's report concerned the atrocities against Russian war prisoners. (Here the commission has the names of unit commanders and prison guards who used captured Soviet soldiers for target practice.) There are almost unbelievable stories of beatings and emasculation.

The third type of atrocity is the kidnapping of Russian civilians for forced labor in Germany. (The report says that 16,500 people were shipped to German from Rzhev, Sychyovka, Vyazma, Gzhatsk, and the surrounding regions.)

The fourth classification of German war crimes is the destruction of towns and villages which the report says was carried out according to a systematic plan by special German units assigned to burn and blow up every building of importance in these towns.

The atrocity report ends with the names of German officers commanding units responsible for these crimes. These names include the commander of the Fourth German Army, Colonel-General Heinrici, and the commander of the Ninth German Army, Colonel-General Model. Also listed are the names of thirteen divisional commanders and leaders of Nazi police corps. Others listed included the head of the Gestapo for the Rzhev region, a one Baron Adler, as well as two non-commissioned officers who were heads of two German prison camps.

The report ends with the statement, "These men must bear full responsibility and merited punishment for all these unprecedented atrocities."

And this morning's Izvestia editorial adds "The Russian people will not forget."
 ____________________________________________________
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 12, 1943

. . .

Mr. Molotov's latest report on the forcing of Soviet citizens into German slavery occupies almost all of the Russian newspapers this morning. The note, which was sent to all countries which have diplomatic relations with Russia, puts on the official record the long, unsavory reports of the kidnapping of labor from the occupied countries of Europe for work in German factories.

(From what I have seen in the recaptured territory of Russia in my trips to the front—from the people to whom I have talked—this long list of atrocities, of starvation, beatings, and degradation, is not exaggerated.)

(These things will be put on the record for investigation by the Russian atrocities commission. And for the first time, the Soviet government holds up the ordinary citizen of Germany who uses slave labor as directly responsible for this violation of international law. It is an interesting development.)

Mr. Molotov's note also expresses concern for the Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Greeks, Belgians, Norwegians, and Dutch who are being and have been forced to work for Germany.

It is a move toward international settlement of atrocities, and it opens the way for cooperation between the commissions operating in Moscow and in London.

"The Sling and the Pebble" by Ernest Hemingway

The Sling and the Pebble
"Ernest Hemingway and Joris Ivens, Guadalajara, Spain (1937)" (Photo by John Fernhout - source)
From Free World, March 1946, pp. 16-17:
The Sling and the Pebble

By ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Now that the wars are over and the dead are dead and we have bought whatever it is we have it is a good time to publish books like this.

We have come out of the time when obedience, the acceptance of discipline, intelligent courage and resolution were most important into that more difficult time when it is a man's duty to understand his world rather than simply fight for it.

To understand we must study. We must study not simply what we wish to believe. That will always be skillfully presented for us. We must try to examine our world with the impartiality of a physician. This will be hard work and will involve reading much that is unpleasant to accept. But it is one of a man's first duties, now.

It will be our duty, when we have sufficient valid knowledge, to disagree, to protest, even to revolt and to rebel and still work always toward finding a way for all men to live together on this earth.

It has been necessary to fight. It has been necessary to kill, to maim, to burn and to destroy. Certainly for a country whose continent has never been bombed we have done our share of bombing. We have possibly killed more civilians of other countries than all our enemies did in all the famous massacres we so deplore. There is really very little favorable difference to a man or a woman between being burned alive or stood against a wall and shot.

We have waged war in the most ferocious and ruthless way that it has ever been waged. We waged it against fierce and ruthless enemies that it was necessary to destroy. Now we have destroyed one of our enemies and forced the capitulation of the other. For the moment we are the strongest power in the world. It is very important that we do not become the most hated.

It would be easy for us, if we do not learn to understand the world and appreciate the rights, privileges and duties of all other countries and peoples, to represent in our power the same danger to the world that Fascism did.

We have invented the sling and pebble that will kill all giants; including ourselves. It is simple idiocy to think that the Soviet Union will not possess and perfect the same weapon.

This is no time for any nation to have any trace of the mentality of the bully. It is no time for any nation to become hated. It is no time for any nation even to swagger. Certainly it is no time for any nation to jostle. It is no time for any nation to be anything but just.

In this new world all of the partners will have to relinquish. It will be as necessary to relinquish as it was necessary to fight. No nation which holds land or dominion over people where it has no just right to it can continue to do so if there is to be an enduring peace. The problems this brings up cannot be examined in this foreword. But we must examine them and examine them intelligently, impartially and closing our eyes to nothing.

This book has one advantage. The various articles are not full of the knowledge after the fact of the use of the release of atomic energy. We need to study and understand certain basic problems of our world as they were before Hiroshima to be able to continue, intelligently, to discover how some of them have changed and how they can be settled justly now that a new weapon has become a property of a part of the world. We must study them more carefully than ever now and remember that no weapon has ever settled a moral problem. It can impose a solution but it cannot guarantee it to be a just one. You can wipe out your opponents. But if you do it' unjustly you become eligible for being wiped out yourself.

In Germany our military courts have sentenced a sixty-year-old German woman to be hanged as one of a mob which brutally murdered American aviators who had parachuted to the ground in Germany. Why hang her? Why not burn her at the stake if we wish to make martyrs?

For the Germans know whether any sixty-year-old German women were ever killed by fighter pilots, on their way back from missions, coming down to strafe German villages. As far as I know we never hanged any pilots for going down on the deck and doing a little strafing. German civilians, strafed in Germany, feel much the same about it as Spanish civilians strafed in Spain by Germans or as American civilians would feel if the Germans had ever been able to strafe them.

Say you've been down on the deck; sometimes there were comic incidents. Often they looked comic from the air. Nothing blew up like ambulances (which proved the Germans carried munitions in them). Always plenty of comic instances when you have command of the air. Comic to you. I believe in shooting up everything, myself, and getting it over with. (You shouldn't say that. That's too much like war.) But you cannot expect them not to be excited if you fall into their hands.

Air-Marshal Harris is on record as to what he wished to do to the German people. We were fighting the German people as well as the German army. The Germans fought the British people as well as the British army. The German army fought the Russian people and the Russian people fought back. That is war and to fight a war any other way is playing dolls.

But the secret of future peace is not in hanging sixty-year-old women because they killed fliers in hot blood. Hang or shoot those who starved and beat and tortured in cold blood. Hang or shoot those who planned the war and would plan another. Hang or shoot deliberate war criminals. Deal with the S.S. and the voluntary Party members as they should be dealt with. But do not make martyrs of sixty-year-old women who killed in anger against force which had become so strong it no longer had any conscience or any feeling of evil doing.

To win a war you have to do things that are inconceivable in peace and that are often hateful to those who do them. That is they are hateful for a while. Afterwards some people get used to them. Some get to like them. Everyone wants to do everything, no matter what, to get it over with. Once you are involved in a war you have to win it by any means.

The military, in order to maintain their status and certain safeguards of their status, would like to have war fought by rules. The air-forces steadily smashed through all these rules and developed a realistic war in which nations fought nations; not armies armies.

An aggressive war is the great crime against everything good in the world. A defensive war, which must necessarily turn to aggressive at the earliest moment, is the necessary great counter-crime. But never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.

We have fought this war and won it. Now let us not be sanctimonious; nor hypocritical; nor vengeful; nor stupid. Let us make our enemies incapable of ever making war again, let us re-educate them, and let us learn to live in peace and justice with all countries and all peoples in this world. To do this we must educate and re-educate. But first we must educate ourselves.

February 18, 2015

"War in the Siegfried Line" by Ernest Hemingway

War in the Siegfried Line
Source: "Ernest Hemingway with Colonel Charles T. (Buck) Lanham September 18, 1944, 09/18/1944."

 From Collier's Weekly, November 18, 1944.

WAR IN THE SIEGFRIED LINE
BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
 BY RADIO VIA PARIS
Perhaps it seemed that we easily broke into Germany's strong defenses, but here is the story of conflict in the Schnee Eifel range—and how the Wump gun did its part.

A lot of people will tell you how it was to be first into Germany and how it was to break the Siegfried Line and a lot of people will be wrong. So this will not be held up by the censor while all the claims are threshed out. We do not claim anything. No claims, see? You get it? No claims at all. Let them decide and then we will see who was in there first. I mean which outfit. Not which people.

The infantry cracked the Siegfried Line. They cracked it on a cold rainy morning when even the crows weren't flying, much less the Air Force. Two days before, on the last day before the weather broke for the bad, we had come to the end of the rat race. It had been a fine rat race from Paris up as far as Le Cateau, with bitter fighting at Landrecies that few saw and fewer still are left to remember. Then there had been the forcing of the passes of the Ardennes Forest in country like the illustrations for Grimm's Fairy Tales only a lot grimmer.

Then the rat race went on again through rolling, forested country. Sometimes we would be half an hour behind the retreating enemy's mechanized force. Sometimes we would get up to within five minutes of them. Sometimes we would overrun them and, from the point of the recon, you would hear the fifties hammering behind you and the 105-millimeter Wump guns going on the tank destroyers and the merging roar and rattle of enemy fire, and the word would come along: "Enemy tanks and half-tracks in the rear of the column. Pass the word along."

Then, suddenly the rat race was over, and we were on a high hill, out of the forest, and all the rolling hills and forests that you saw ahead of you were Germany. There was a heavy, familiar roar from the creek valley below as the bridge was blown, and beyond the black cloud of smoke and debris that rose, you saw two enemy half-tracks tearing up the white road that led into the German hills.

Our artillery was blasting yellow-white clouds of smoke and road dust ahead of them. You watched one half-track slither sideways across the road. The other stopped on the turn of the road after trying twice to move like a wounded animal. Another shell pounded up a fountain of dust and smoke alongside the crippled half-track and when the smoke cleared, you could see the bodies on the road. That was the end of the rat race, and we came down a trail in the woods and into the ford over the river and across the slab-stoned river bed and up the far bank into Germany.

We passed the unmanned old-fashioned pillboxes that many unfortunate people were to think constituted the Siegfried Line, and got up into good high ground that night. The next day we were past the second line of concrete fortified strong points that guarded road junctions and approaches to the main Westwall, and that same night we were up on the highest of the high ground before the Westwall ready to assault in the morning.

The weather had broken. It was cold and raining and blowing half a gale, and ahead of us was the dark forest wall of the Schnee Eifel range where the dragon lived, and behind us on the first hill behind was a German reviewing stand that had been built for high officers to occupy when they watched the maneuvers that proved that the Westwall never could be broken. We were hitting it on the point that the Germans had chosen to prove, in sham battles, that it was impregnable.


A Fighter's Report of the Assault

The rest of this story is told in the words of Captain Howard Blazzard of Arizona. It may give you a little idea of what happens in combat.

"That night we got L Company into that town to hold it. It was practically unoccupied. Six Jerries, and we shot them. (This was the town, or small village rather, from which the attack started in the morning up the hill and across the level field of fire over a cropped wheatfield, the wheat shocks stacked, to assault the main fortifications of the Westwall which were in the thick pine forest of the dark hill beyond.)

"The Colonel, of Washington, D. C., got the three battalion commanders together and the S-2 and the S-3 and planned the break-through for in the morning. Where this break was going to be made (you notice the phrasing 'Going to be made,' not 'Going to be attempted') we were supposed to have one company of tanks and one company of T.D.s (Tank Destroyers) but they only gave us one platoon of tanks (five). We were supposed to have twelve T.D.s and we had only nine. You remember how everything was then and how the gas was short and all.

"The way it was supposed to be now (There is a great difference in combat between the way it is supposed to be and the way it is—as great as the difference in how life is supposed to be and how it is): L Company, that had moved into town the night before, was going to be on the right flank, and they were going to make the holding attack with fire.

"K Company had started walking early, before six A.M., and they were going to ride the tanks and the T.D.s. While they were coming up we got the T.D.s up into town and finally by twelve-thirty we got one platoon of tanks. Five of them. All five of them.

"Now I Company was back so far they couldn't get up. You remember everything that was happening that day. (Plenty. Plenty was happening.) So the Colonel, he took a company away from the First Battalion and threw them in, so he'd have three companies to make the attack.


How the Attack Got Started

"That was around one o'clock. The Colonel and I went up this left fork that was sort of drawn off on the left, to watch the attack get started. It started fine. K Company started riding the tanks and the T.D.s, and then they moved up and got just below the crest and fanned out. Just as they should. Just as they hit that little crest, L Company on their right opened up with machine guns and 60-millimeter mortars and all that fire, to attract attention from K Company.

"The tanks and T.D.s got up the hill and the flak guns (German antiaircraft guns,which fire almost as rapidly as machine guns, being used for direct fire on the ground against the attacking troops) opened up first. The 88 which we knew was in there held its fire. When the ack-ack and the machine guns opened up, the men started to dismount from the tanks, just as they should, and they went on up and they went fine till they got out in the open on that big bare field and almost to the edge of the last field in front of the woods.

"About that time they really opened up with the 88s—the 88s and all that flak. One T.D. hit a mine over on the left by that little road, you remember, just before it goes into the woods, and the tanks began to run. Lost a T.D. and a tank and they all started backing up. You know how they are when they start backing up.

"They started coming back down across the field, dragging a few wounded and a few limping. You know how they look coming back. Then the tanks started coming back and the T.D.s coming back and the men coming back plenty. They couldn't stay in that bare field, and the ones who weren't hit started yelling for the medicos for those who were hit, and you know how that excites everybody.

"The Colonel and I were sitting by the house and we could see the fight and the way it started fine and good. We thought they'd got right through. But then this stuff starts. Then come four tankers tearing along on foot and yelling and hollering how everything was knocked out.

"Then I asked the Colonel—I'd been in the Third Battalion a long time—and I said, 'Sir, I can go out there and kick those in the tail and take that place.' And he said, 'You're S-2 in a staff function and you stay where you. are.' That chewed my tail out. That made me unhappy.

"We sat there another ten or fifteen minutes, and the wounded kept drifting along back, and we were just there and I thought we're going to lose this battle. Then the Colonel says, 'Let's get up there. This thing has got to move. Those chickenspits aren't going to break down this attack.'

"So we started up the hill and we passed little groups here and there—you know how they drift together—and you know how the Colonel looks, and he is carrying his forty-five and walking up that hill. There is a sort of little terrace at the top where the hill starts to come down; under the cover of that little terrace were all the tanks and the T.D.s, and K Company was lined up along in a sort of skirmish line and they were all just sort of dead, and the attack was gone.

"The Colonel came up the hill and out over this terrace where they were all lying and he said, 'Let's go get these Krauts. Let's kill these chickenspitters. Let's get up over this hill now and get this place taken.'

"He had his goddam forty-five and he shot three-four times at where the Kraut fire was coming from, and he said, 'Goddam, let's go get these Krauts! Come on! Nobody's going to stop here now!' They were plenty cold as hell but he kept talking to them and telling them, and pretty soon he got some of them, and in fifteen minutes he got most of them moving. Once he got them moving, the Colonel and I and Smith (Sergeant James C. Smith from Tullahoma, Tennessee), we went on ahead of them and the attack was going again and we headed into the woods. It was bad in the woods but they went in good now.

"When we got into the woods (The woods were close-planted fir trees, and the shell-bursts tore and smashed them, and the splinters from the tree bursts were like javelins in the half-light of the forest, and the men were shouting and calling now to take the curse off the darkness of the forest and shooting and killing Krauts and moving ahead now) it was pretty thick for the tanks, and so they went to the outside. They were shooting into the woods, but we had to stop them now because K Company had pushed through ahead of them way into the woods.


Ambush in the Woods

"The Colonel and I and Smith, we went on ahead and found a hole in the timber where we could get a T.D. in. Now the attack was going good on ahead and all of a sudden we saw a bunker right beside us, and they started shooting at us. We decided there were Krauts in it. (This bunker was completely hidden by fir trees planted over it and grass growing over it and was a subterranean fort on the Maginot Line style with automatic ventilation, concussion-proof doors, bunks fifteen feet underground for the men, special exit provisions so that it could be run over and then its occupants attack the enemy from the rear, and it held fifty SS troops whose mission was to let the attack pass and then come out and fire on it.)

"All there was left with us now was the Colonel, I and Smith and Roger, this French boy who had been with us ever since St. Poix. I never knew his last name but he was a wonderful Frenchman. Best boy in a fight you ever saw. These Krauts in the bunker started shooting at us. So we started walking over toward it and we decided we'd got to get them out.

"There was an embrasure over on our side, but we couldn't see that, the way it was all planted over. I had only one grenade because I wasn't expecting what we were going to do. We got over within about ten yards of the pillbox, coming in this side of it. We couldn't see the aperture at the bottom of it. It all looked like a wooded hillock.

"They're shooting sort of scattered all the while. The Colonel and Smith were at the right of it. Roger was going in right toward the aperture. You couldn't see the fire.

"I yelled at Roger to get down, and right then they shot him. I saw the goddam hole then and I threw the grenade to go in, but you know how those apertures are beveled, and it hit and bounced out. Smith grabbed the Frenchman by the heels and started to drag him clear because he was still alive. In that slit trench on the left, there was a Kraut and he stood up, and Smith shot him with his carbine. You can tell how fast this happened because just then the grenade went off, and we all ducked.

"Then we started to get a lot of fire from the field out in front of the woods—the field we'd crossed to get into the woods—and Smith said, 'Colonel, you better get down in that hole because here comes those Krauts.'

"They were firing from the wheat shocks in the field right there in front of the woods and in that little tongue of brush. The Krauts started shooting at us from out there, which should have been our rear.

"The Colonel dropped one Kraut with his forty-five. Smith shot two with his carbine; I was in back of the pillbox and I shot the one who was in back of us across the road about fifteen yards away. I had to shoot at him three times before he stopped and then I didn't kill him good because when the T.D. came up finally he was lying right across the middle of the road and, seeing the T.D. coming up, he sort of scrounged up and tried to get out of the way, and the T.D. went over him and flattened him out.

"The rest of the Krauts sort of took off across the field and we didn't have any real trouble with that lot. Just sort of long-range fire. We know we killed three and we wounded some more that took off.

"We didn't have any more hand grenades and the b——s in the bunker wouldn't come out when we yelled at them. So the Colonel and I were waiting for them to come out, and Smith went off to the left and found a T.D. and brought it up. That was the T.D. that ran over the Kraut I had to shoot three times with that little old German pistol.

"The Krauts still wouldn't come out when talked to, so we pulled that T.D. right up to the back of that steel door we had located by now, and that old Wump gun fired about six rounds and blasted that door in, and then you ought to have heard them want to come out. You ought to have heard them yell and moan and moan and scream and yell 'Kamerad!'

"The T.D. had that old Wump gun pointed right in the door, and they started to come out, and you never saw such a mess. Every one of them was wounded in five or six different places, from pieces of concrete and steel. About eighteen good ones came out, and all the time inside there was the most piteous moaning and screaming, and there was one fellow with both his legs cut off by the steel door. I went down to see how everything was and got a suitcase with a couple of quarts of whisky in it and a couple of boxes of cigars and a pistol for the Colonel.

"One of the prisoners was in pretty good shape, not really good shape but he could travel. He was a noncom. The rest of them were lying down outside, all moaning, wounded and shot up.

"This noncom showed us where the next bunker was. By then, we knew what they looked like, and you could spot them by any sort of rise of ground. So we took the T.D. and went down the road about seventy-five yards to this second bunker—you know which one—and had this bird ask them to surrender. You ought to have seen this Kraut. He was a Wehrmacht, regular army, and he kept saying, 'Bitty. S. S. S.' He meant they were those real bad ones and they would kill him if he asked them to surrender. He yelled at them to come on out, and they wouldn't come. They wouldn't answer. So we pulled the Wump gun up to the backdoor just like the other time and yelled to them to come out, and they wouldn't come. So we put in about ten shots from the Wump gun and then they came out—what was left of them. They were a sad and bedraggled lot. Every one of them was in awful shape.

"They were SS boys, all of them, and they got down in the road, one by one, on their knees. They expected to get shot. But we were obliged to disappoint them. There were about twelve that got out. The rest were all blown to pieces and wounded all to hell. There were legs and arms and heads scattered all over that goddam place.

"We had so many prisoners and nobody to guard them but the Colonel and I and Smith and the Wump gun, so we sort of sat around there until things sort of clarified. After a while a medical aide came up and looked at the French boy, Roger. He was lying there all the time and when they came to dress him, he said, 'Mon colonel, je suis content. I am happy to die on German soil.'

"They put a tag on him reading 'Free French' and I said, 'The hell with that,' and changed the tag to read 'Company L.'

"Every time I think about that Frenchman, it makes me want to get to killing Krauts again.". . .

There is a lot more to the story. Maybe that is as much as you can take today. I could write you just what I Company did, what the other two battalions did. I could write for you, if you could take it, what happened at the third bunker and the fourth bunker and at fourteen other bunkers. They were all taken.

If you want to know sometime, get someone who was there to tell you. If you wish, and I can still remember, I will be glad to tell you sometime what it was like in those woods for the next ten days; about all the counterattacks and about the German artillery. It is a very, very interesting story if you can remember it. Probably it has even epic elements. Doubtless sometime you will even see it on the screen.


The Cinematic Possibilities

It probably is suitable for screen treatment, because I remember the Colonel saying, "Ernie, a lot of the time I felt as though I were at a Grade B picture and kept saying to myself, 'This is where I came in.'"

The only thing that will probably be hard to get properly in the picture is the German SS troops, their faces black from the concussion, bleeding at the nose and mouth, kneeling in the road, grabbing their stomachs, hardly able to get out of the way of the tanks, though probably the cinema will be able to make this even more realistic. But a situation like that is the fault of the engineers who, when they designed those concussion-proof doors, did not expect to have 10.5-mm. Wump guns come up and fire point-blank at them from behind.

That was not provided for when the specifications were laid down. And sometimes, observing such sad sights and such elaborate preparations gone wrong, I have a feeling that it really would have been better for Germany not to have started this war in the first place.

THE END

1943. Film and Theater in Wartime Russia

Foreign and Domestic Productions for Russian Audiences
Source: A scene from Volga, Volga (1938), said to be Joseph Stalin's favorite film

CBS' Moscow Rep Details How U.S. Pix Click in USSR

By BILL DOWNS

Moscow, April 21, 1943.
(Following comments on the current tastes of Moscow film-goers, transmitted in advance by cable to CBS' N.Y. headquarters, was to have been broadcast from Moscow as part of the network's 'World News Today' program Sunday matinee (18), but reception trouble intervened).
Moscow theatre-goers like American films. Any kind. There's an old Lawrence Tibbett film whose American title I've forgotten, but in Russian called "Thrilled by You." And suburban theaters for the past two years have been showing Deanna Durbin's 100 Men and a Girl. People get up at six o'clock in the morning and stand in front of box-offices to get a seat to see a Walt Disney reel.

These American films are the closest link people in the United States have with Russian people. I was talking to the old Soviet film commission the other day. He said his department had been buying American films, "but prices [are] so high we can't get [as] many as we want—we need money for the war." Then he said he thought it important that the two nations exchange films to let each see how the other is fighting and living in this was against the common enemy.

One of the best known women in Moscow today is "Lady Hamilton." She's a favorite topic of conversation...subway, street corners; anywhere you find a group of Russians. It took me several days to discover that when Moscow speaks about the the lady friend of Britain's famous Lord Nelson—"Lady Hamilton," it's a film. Last week the British-produced motion picture Lady Hamilton opened in Moscow theaters and immediately set record[s]. It's now playing in one theater and seems set for permanent run. I have known dozens of Russians who have seen the picture three four times—and Russians never go to the theater alone. They go in groups.

It's a mystery to foreigners here why Russians take such an avid interest in last century doings [of] a man and woman they never saw or heard of before. But this, in many ways, is a mysterious country.

For example, no one ever figured out why a not-too-good Hollywood comedy, The Three Musketeers starring the Ritz Bros., has been running steadily somewhere in Moscow for over six months. When a Russian likes something, he really likes it, and he doesn't consider he knows anything about a motion picture or play unless he sees it three or four times. That tradition extends even to film and theater critics. They don't write anything about a production until they see it a half dozen times or more.
____________________________________________________

17 Pictures Doing Capacity In Moscow; Russians Praise Victory

By WILLIAM DOWNS

Moscow, May 1, 1943.
There are 17 films in Moscow cinemas playing to packed houses. It is not uncommon to see a line of people booking seats at 6 a.m.—they are the night shift from war industries seeking seats in jampacked Moscow theatres.

The only way for a Moscow theatre manager to set a new house record is to put a couple of extra seats in. There are no 'house records' in Moscow. Every theatre is full at every performance. There are no first-run traditions in this country. When the Russian people like a film they appreciate it enough to see it three or four times. They are easy to please.

Released this month were two wildly different films, both doing the usual land office business. One is a documentary, 'In the Lands of Middle Asia,' a popular science film about animals in Asiatic Russia. The other, 'The Actress,' is directed by one of the Soviet Union's best directors, Leonid Trauberg, stars Galina Sergeyeva. The story concerns an actress who thinks theatre is unnecessary during wartime and who leaves the stage and becomes a war nurse. A Red Army commander convinces her otherwise, and later she returns to the theatre and joins a theatrical brigade.

Other films listed briefly are:

'Mashenka,' which was performed in 1942, is the story of the Soviet Union's first war nurses—Leningrad girls—at the Finnish front. Stresses the heroism of the Red Army.

'Antosha Rybkin,' produced in 1943, is a comedy demonstrating the trend away from the serious. The story concerns a group of actors giving a performance at the front.

'Fortune Seekers,' produced three or four years ago, is still popular. It stars an honorary artist of the Soviet Union, Maria Blumenthal Tamarina, and the Jewish theatre star, Zuskin.

'Volga, Volga,' made several years ago, concerns the competition of two amateur brigades from collective farms in the Volga region and their adventures in a Moscow amateur show. 'Volga, Volga' is still a popular Russian song.

'Alexander Parkhomenko,' produced in 1942, is about Parkhomenko, a hero of the civil war in Ukraine.

'Last Gypsy Camp,' completed six or seven years ago, depicts the life of the gypsies in the Soviet Union, and the changes under communism.

'A Soldier Comes Back From the Front' is another picture showing the civil war in a Ukrainian village. It currently stars Yanina Aheimo, the current Soviet Shirley Temple.

'Kotovsky,' produced this year, is the story about Kotovsky, the outstanding guerrilla leader in the civil war.

'Fedjka,' made about five years ago, is about the participation of children in the civil war.

'Youth of Maxim,' produced three or four years ago, concerns the struggles of workers under the Czarist regime.

'Chapayev' tells about one of the principal heroes of the civil war. Produced 10 years ago, it is still going strong. It is considered by many the best film ever produced in the Soviet Union.

'Dowerless Girl' is patterned after a Russian classical dramatic play by Ostrovsky, who is as good as Shakespeare for regular Russian theatre goers.

Also being shown, Alexander Korda's 'Lady Hamilton,' is one of the most popular films yet released by the Soviet Union.

Also 'Desert Victory,' which has drawn the same kind of praise from the Russians as they gave their own excellent documentaries, such as 'Stalingrad,' 'One Day of War,' etc.
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Russian Dramatic Standards Remain High, Apparently Unhampered by War

By BILL DOWNS

(Another in a series about Soviet show business)
Moscow, May 25, 1943.

Dozens of Moscow theatres are keeping Russian dramatic art standards on a level with the best in the world, and there is little evidence that their production and staging are hampered by the war.
The Russian people are generally serious minded and like their drama heavy—and when they like something they go to it for the rest of their lives. Live entertainment in Russia centers around serious drama, the ballet, and the opera. It is classical and cultural—all with a capital 'C.'

Between the acts in these theatres one can hear 14-year-olds criticizing the ballet star for faulty execution of a dance with the knowledge of an expert, while other youngsters delight in catching some actor misquoting Pushkin. Americans in Moscow who had previously never been to anything more cultural than a baseball game are not becoming experts in the ballet and opera, a knowledge which is going to sound funny kicked around local taverns when those Americans return home.

There are three general schools of Russian drama which divide the Moscow theatres. They are the classical, the realistic, and the modern, headed respectively by the Maley Theatre, the Moscow Art Theatre, and the Komsomol Theatre. People know by their classification just what kind of show they'll see and are thus able to choose a night's entertainment. Like the cinemas, they have to choose a week ahead in order to secure tickets. The crowds are that great.


Publish Programs

Every 10 days the theatres publish programs which are broadsided in factories, on streets, and in newspapers. The same is true for the ballets and the operas. At present there are two big ballet theatres, with classical productions at the Bolshoi and modern productions at the Stanislavsky.

Last week classical drama fans had an opportunity to see Gorky's 'On the Bottom,' Chekhov's 'Three Sisters,' Maeterlinck's 'Bluebird,' 'Anna Karenina,' 'Cherry Orchard,' 'School for Scandal,' Balzac's 'Eugenia Granda,' 'Twelfth Night,' and others.

Modern plays include 'Front,' by Alexander Koreneichuk, Ukrainian author who is now Vice Commisar of Foreign Affairs. It is Russia's biggest wartime success and tells the story of conflict between an old-time revolutionary general and a young officer, presenting surprisingly sharp criticisms of old-line generals. Koreneichuk's 'In the Steppes of the Ukraine' was also produced last week.

War correspondent Konstantin Simonov early in the war wrote a hit play called 'Russian People,' which is still popular. It is the story of a besieged Soviet garrison ['Russian people' flopped in New York this season when produced by the Theatre Guild.—Ed.]


The Opera

The opera fair is standard: 'Tosca,' 'Rigoletto,' 'La Traviata,' 'Barber of Seville,' Tchaikovsky's 'Queen of Spades,' and the newly produced 'Ivan Susanin' by Glinka, which is a variation of his opera 'Life for a Tsar.'

Russia's famous ballet ranges from the famous 'Swan Lake'—the Bolshoi company takes four hours to present four acts—to the 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' or an original production by the modern Stanislavsky company, built around the adventures of Falstaff. Other ballets include Delibes' 'Coppelia and Ballet,' built for Chopin's music called 'Chopinana." Stanislavsky also presents a ballet called 'Straussiana,' which is one of the best in town.

Operettas include old favorites such as Offenbach's 'La Belle Helene,' Strauss, 'Gypsy Baron,' Friml's 'Rose Marie,' and a Russian modern operetta called 'Girl from Barcelona,' which is a hit. It's about one of the Spanish children educated in the Soviet Union during the Spanish Civil War.
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Soviet Set for 'Biggest' Legit Season, 600 Pro Theatres Map Productions

By BILL DOWNS


Moscow, June 29, 1943.
The legitimate theatre is getting a wartime shot in the arm throughout Russia, from the front line to remote Siberian villages, as the demand for entertainment advances in direct proportion to the intensity of the fighting.

Mikhail Borisovitch Krapchenko, head of the State Art Committee—a position amounting to Commissar for Drama of the Soviet Union—has said the theatres are now preparing for 'the biggest season ever' next fall. All off Russia's 600 professional theatres are concentrating on new productions as well as revival of the Russian classics. Krapchenko has been head of the Art Committee for four years. He was formerly a university professor of history and literature. The job has all the hazards of American theatrical production. Krapchenko and his committee invariably produce nothing but successes, but even they sometimes fail when the Russian public manages to stay away in droves. However, Krapchenko's batting average is good enough to make him one of the best chiefs the Soviet theatre has ever had. In addition, his job include the display and production of Soviet art and music.

In an exclusive Variety interview, Krapchenko said the wartime Moscow theatre is tending toward serious drama and tragedy. When asked why, when the theatre in the United States and Great Britain was heading in the opposite direction toward light comedy, Krapchenko replied, 'One reason is that during wartime it is easier for Russians to weep than to laugh. Also, in wartime it is easier for our author to effectively compose tragedy than comedy. The world today is essentially sad and full of tragedy—in this respect Soviet theatre reflects the times. And it is doing a good job.'


Comedies Not Successful

Krapchenko said several comedies, plays, and operettas have been tried on Moscow audiences but were not very successful. He explained that the legitimate theatre is generally divided into two sections—the State Theatre, which is a government project, and the National Theatre, governed by art committees of the individual Soviet republics. Both these divisions send art brigades with plays and vaudeville to the front lines. Since then the war there has been a flood of plays by amateurs. These are examined by various reading committees who pass along the best to the authorities, where they are re-read by directors and committee heads. Krapchenko said many amateur plays now showing were mostly in provincial theatres. An outstanding example of a successful play now showing in Kuybyshev is called 'Long Range Aircraft.' It is a story of Soviet bombers written by a flier who was awarded Russia's highest medal, Hero of the Soviet Union. He is now working on another.

The Soviet Union's professional playwrights often receive assignments to write a play dealing with some specific state of war effort, such as partisan farmers, the Red Navy, and such. However, the professionals generally are given a free hand to write anything they want.


Balanced Repertoire

A balanced repertoire is due this fall, to be divided among new productions and classics. For example, the Moscow Art Theatre is now preparing four productions, two modern, including a new story of Russian oil fields called 'Deep Bore,' and a popular one called 'The Russian People.' The latter is the story of a surrounded Russian garrison in a Soviet village (produced the past season in New York by the Theatre Guild). Classical productions include 'Hamlet' and the classic 'The Forest' by Ostrovsky.

Krapchenko said that, since the war, the Soviet Art Committee virtually lost all connection with what is going on in the American theatre. 'We are extremely interested in wartime trends of drama in the US, but it is most difficult to maintain any sort of liaison. I feel we have things going on in the Soviet theatre which are extremely interesting to American producers. I am sure the American theatre is doing things we want to know about. However, with transport as difficult as at present, nothing much can be done about it right now. It is something to remember for after the war.'

He adds that his committee would be glad to exchange plays with American authors—if not for production, then for the exchange of ideas.
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Dubbed Russian Version of 'In Old Chicago' a Wow

By BILL DOWNS

Moscow, July 6, 1943.
A Russian version of an American film, 'In Old Chicago,' opened this week in Moscow. It is the Soviet Union's first major attempt at adopting Russian soundtrack to a foreign cinema.

After six months working in the Alma Ata studios, this film came out with one of the best technical jobs yet achieved in Russia and is fully comparable to anything of this type yet done in America.

The only bits of American soundtrack remaining are Alice Faye's songs and general overall sound effects of street and crowd noises.

The remarkable thing about the film is the selection of actors whose voices were dubbed in. Miss Faye's throaty waverings were copied by a Russian actress, and a Russian comic even emulates Andy Devine's pebble soprano so effectively that his gags and mannerisms are fully preserved.

Another remarkable achievement is that the Russian script writer seems to have chosen Russian words which more or less match American lip movements. Despite the difference in language, there is no time when the players are not talking.

The job shows extreme care and extensive rehearsal. The audience doesn't know who the Russian actors are taking the American parts until the end of the film when the cast is given. They rate a big salvo.

'In Old Chicago' is packing them in for another reason. Rowdy love scenes and Miss Faye's portrayal of a woman of questionable reputation is a little shocking to the Russian public—the kind of shock that is good for the box office. There is an embarrassed silence, for example, at the corny dancing of the Can-Can, which many Russians are seeing for the first time. However, Alice Faye's buxom curves fit the Russian male's ideal of what women should look like. And there's many a Soviet sigh heaved over the masculine beauty of Tyrone Power.

However, one of the strangest things is the audience reaction to the Chicago fire. Russians who have endured bombings, Red Army men who fought at Stalingrad and Leningrad, and evacuees whose homes have been a battlefield, all leave the theatre remarking with feeling about the horrible burning of Chicago.