May 28, 2015

1954. Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett Responds to Foreign Criticism

An Interview with Moshe Sharett
Prime Minister Moshe Sharett (right) with Mayor of Nazareth Amin Gargurah, July 24, 1955 (source)
Israel's Prime Minister Moshe Sharett sat down with Bill Downs in 1954 to address foreign criticisms of the country. In preparing for the interview, Downs submitted his questions to the Sharett camp to be revised or cut by the Prime Minister based on what he chose to answer.

"It is understood," Downs wrote, "that Prime Minister Sharett can eliminate or revise the questions to his convenience without subjecting the interviewer to ask so-called 'loaded' questions of a propaganda nature. The purpose of the interview is not propaganda, but information." This was also done when he interviewed Egypt's then-Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Included below is a transcript of the interview followed by Downs' original questions which he submitted through CBS.

INTERVIEW WITH PRIME MINISTER MOSHE SHARETT
The following is a list of questions and answers which we hope will explain the present Zionist policy. After traveling through three Arab League countries, we posed the arguments against Israel in form of questions. The answers reflect the policy of the present Israeli government of Moshe Sharett.
Arabs say that Israel is to the Moslem world what Indochina is to the free world.

Ridiculous. Israel has no intention of expansion unless her self-defense forces her to such action. One way to stop such prognostication is to negotiate a peace treaty. Israel has repeatedly asked for such negotiations, and the Arabs have refused.

How about the argument "we got here first"?

This is meaningless. How far back do you want to go? Remindful that Mohammed did not appear on earth until 662 AD; therefore there could be no Moslems before that time. Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt to the Holy Land before the appearance of Christ or the Moslem prophet.

Arabs say that the establishment of Israel upset an amicable cultural, economic, and political balance which promised years of peaceful coexistence. How?

Untrue. Since even World War II, there was increasing rivalry between the Hashemite Kingdom and Ibn Saud. This was equally true in Egypt and other Arab states where there were increasing anti-Jewish attacks. In fact, no Jews were allowed residence in Jordan, they were ghettoized in Damascus and tolerated in Lebanon only because of the strong Christian influence. Eighty percent of the Egyptian businesses burned in the 1952 uprising were Jewish. On the other hand, after World War I there was notable tolerance of Jews by the Arabs who profitably sold lands and properties to Zionists.

The Arabs say that the problem of Jewish persecution is not solved by establishing a "Ghetto State."

Nonsense. The idea of establishing a Jewish state is not the result solely of persecution. The concept is biblical in origin. As Moslems long to return to Mecca, as the Hindus aim at a pilgrimage to the Ganges, such are the precedents. One cannot call the Vatican a Catholic ghetto or Mecca a Moslem ghetto.

Arabs say that Israel's existence violates the UN Charter and its guarantees of ethnological and national sovereignty. Ethnologically, the Arabs outnumbered the Jews in prewar Palestine three-to-one.

The UN has recognized the State of Israel to the extent of participating in a peace plan, rejected by the Arabs, and accepting a delegation to its various authorities. All major powers including the Iron Curtain countries have recognized the existence of the nation. As for the three-to-one majority, it was the Arabs who flew. They were not, for the most part, driven out.

What is the answer to the Arab argument that there is no logic to a state which uses immigrants to create refugees?

If no war had been started by the Arab states there would have been no refugees.

What is the Israeli answer to the three-way plan now being broached by UN compromisers entailing compensation, border readjustment, and repatriation?

Israel has offered to compensate Arab refugees for property taken over under an international agreement for the rehabilitation and settlement of these unfortunate people on new lands with freedom to make their own living without paying tribute to a dictator, a monarch, or a sheik. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has spent $250 million during the past five years for the rehabilitation of the Arab refugees. But no rehabilitation has taken place, and it would appear that they are being deliberately kept in their camps as a diplomatic and political weapon to be used against Israel.

Regarding border readjustment, Israel has made a number of offers to adjust trouble spots which invoke unfair and difficult conditions on residents of the border areas, but Arab states have rejected all attempts to solve these problems.

Regarding repatriation, Israel has already repatriated some Arabs who desired to return to the country to join with their families who remained in Israel. However, mass repatriation of 800,000 persons is impossible. It would form an unsolvable security problem, and the first concern of the Israeli government is the nation's security.

Could monies received on compensation payment now being received by Israel from Germany be used for compensating Arab refugees?

As stated previously, Israel has offered compensation for lost Arab land and properties along the lines of the German restitution agreement. But it was to be handled on an international basis and within the framework of a peace treaty.

It has been charged that Israel is using her most effective weapon, military strength, as a diplomatic club and thus employing a deliberate policy of border pressure to bring the Arabs to heel. Is this true?

There is no deliberate policy of border pressure. Israel has a security policy to defend its present frontiers. Not an inch of the armistice zone will be yielded until the Arabs agree to negotiate difficult border questions. No Israeli civilian or soldier who became a casualty on the border will go unavenged, as it is that casualties are suffered as a result of acts of aggression. Security of the state is the prime policy of Israel.

US policy is attempting to solve a dilemma. America wants anticommunist defensive strength in this part of a world for a larger struggle. She also wants to balance the power in the Zionist-Arab struggle. How can this problem be solved?

The first step is to achieve peace among the Middle East countries. The Turkish-Pakistan pact, with the possible inclusion if Iraq, has no meaning without this peace. After peace is achieved, the problem will be to build up the democratic structure and economies of the Middle East nations to make them free and self sufficient and to give their peoples hope for the future. There must be change in the ruling groups which now dominate the Arab peoples. Some people have called them "adult juvenile delinquents in Cadillacs."

What is Israel's reaction to the statement by Under Secretary of State Byroade that the US will not tolerate acts of aggression by either side?

This is fine. It is in conformation with the May 1950 agreement between America, Britain, and France guaranteeing the stability of the Middle East.

What about the fear that the Zionist moderate as typified by the Ben-Gurions and Moshe Sharrets are being undercut by events and time, and thus will be forced to surrender to expansionist extremists?

Nonsense. The Israeli army is a civilian army. Its leaders are willingly subordinate to the popular will, and that will is toward peace. There is consultation by the government and the army on the highest level before any armed action is taken.

What part does the religious struggle have in the present conflict? Is it, as the Arabs claim, a predominately nationalist fight as opposed to a Jewish-Arab religious conflict?

The Arabs for once are right in this analysis. The Semitic people whether Jew or Moslem have been able to live together culturally for centuries. It is only the Christians who suffered persecution in this part of the world for purely religious reasons.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR THE SHARETT INTERVIEW

The following questions are designed to be expository and informative and aim to project the policies of the Israeli government through the personality of its prime minister. It is requested that the question and answer technique be used, because the soundtrack of the television film will also be used for the CBS radio network—thus giving double coverage. It is understood that Prime Minister Sharett can eliminate or revise the questions to his convenience without subjecting the interviewer to ask so-called "loaded" questions of a propaganda nature. The purpose of the interview is not propaganda, but information.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill Downs
1. The new state of Israel is beginning its seventh year. The nation has known no peace, but despite the hostility of the neighboring Arab world Israel has prospered. What are the major factors behind this success?

2. Before we get into the complex problems of war and foreign affairs, just what are the outstanding domestic problems now facing your government?

3. The world is becoming increasingly concerned with the explosive stalemate between Israel and the Arab states. What has Israel done to resolve this stalemate?

4. What, in brief, are the minimum requirements for settlement with the Arabs from the viewpoint of the Israeli government?

5. If this dangerous stalemate continues, what would be Israel's next move? What are the chances of full-scale resumption of the fighting?

6. The US State Department has recently made a number of statements apparently designed to strengthen the military defenses of the Middle East. Included are proposals for arms aid to Iraq. How does this affect the peace potential in the Middle East?

7. Under Secretary of the State Department [sic] Byroade has called on Israel to give assurances to the Arab world that Israel will not so crowd itself with immigrants that she will explode her present borders. What is your reaction?

8. The Communist Party, as it is in the US, is legal in Israel. Are there signs of any menacing growth of the extreme left here?

9. Establishment of the State of Israel resulted in some alleged 800,000 Arab refugees fleeing to the surrounding Moslem nations. What is your policy regarding these people?

10. In a sense, America is the nation in the middle regarding the Arab-Israeli struggle. The result has been great suspicion of US policy and motives. Why is this, and what can be done about it?

1954. The State of Israel in 1954

Impressions of the New State of Israel
Divided Jerusalem in the 1950s (source)

This is from the typewritten draft of a piece (including some notes) which Bill Downs submitted to CBS:

Bill Downs

CBS Rome

May 14, 1954

This is the last of the background series on the Middle East. Again it should be remembered that this was but a two week trip in one of the most explosive and potentially dangerous areas of the world. The conflict of custom, religion, and time is a strange and bloody piecemeal war. The aura of emotional and intellectual conflict that surrounds the problem makes it most difficult to report objectively.

So this last report is on Israel. This new Zionist nation has been called many things—a "State of mind," or a "nationalized ghetto" by its critics; the most "glorious political experiment since the American Revolution"; the "Ireland of the Middle East"; and the "Indochina of the Levant."

Whatever you call it, flying into the State of Israel for the first time is a notable experience. You fly in from Cyprus with a special separate visa. The Israeli diplomatic service realizes the difficulties that visitors have traveling through the Arab east. For example, before getting the Jordan visa, this reporter had to get an affidavit that he is not Jewish. (The document was a one sentence letter from the PIO official in the US Embassy in Rome. The appropriateness of the Embassy in taking such a step is open to serious question, but the guy was acting quickly as a personal favor and I don't want to get anyone into trouble.)

Also, anyone caught carrying one of these special Israeli visas in the Arab countries is subject to arrest under suspicion of being a spy. Several persons have been picked up, but nothing much has happened to them except the inconvenience of an Arab jail, which is considerable. But the Israeli officials are only concerned with the fact that, after you have been everywhere else, you show up in Israel and take a look. What you see is pretty tremendous. Anyone who remembers Hitler's Belsen or Dachau—who saw the pitiful survivors of one of the most inhuman, deliberate race extermination programs in history—cannot help but be impressed by the fact that a Jewish state actually exists.

As a matter of fact, this reporter was a little proud and muchly pleased that as a Gentile he, for once, was a minority person. So you might say that Israel is not only a nation, but also an experience. This is the impact, despite the fact that you had seen the moral decay and stagnation now extant in the Arab refugee camps where some 800,000 persons have been living for the past five years.

As they say about Everest, Israel is there and apparently just about as permanently. It is no longer an experiment, but is now a cause with a difficult autonomy and a powerful army. The desert is not blooming, and the rocky hills are as barren for the most part as they were in the time of Moses, but terraces are being dug out and trees are being planted. And if there is a portent, the people tell you that already the planting of pine forests is beginning to change the climate.

Still, there is war. Not a night or day passes without some kind of incident. Shots are fired at infiltrating Arabs. An Israeli patrol is shot up. Cars and trucks are sniped at along roads up the Jerusalem corridor, where communications are clearly under observation by both sides. The war is real for the men and women of Israeli communal farms along the border areas who each night shoulder rifles and do guard duty. On the Arab side, a newly organized home guard performs a similar duty. And whether it is in Indochina or Korea or Palestine or Jordan, the tension of the not-quite-hot war is everywhere along the border.

By contrast, cities like Beirut and Tel Aviv in the Bistros flourish. The tourists are gay in bars and night clubs as elaborate as in New York or Paris. Sin and vice have their foothold there too. The irony is that the Arab home guardsman or legionnaire patrols opposite the Jewish farmer and soldier to protect this easier and flamboyant life far behind the lines.

The contrast between the two sides is perhaps best seen in the frontier city of Jerusalem. We are not sure it is typical for the entire struggle.

The Arab side of Jerusalem embraces the Old City, which includes Mount Zion, Calvary, the famous Christian and Moslem shrines, plus the suburban Mount of Olives and the residential section surrounding the Hebrew hospital and university.

The Western Wall of the Old City forms the boundary line, and on the Israel side is the new section including the "Country Club District" and the modern shopping center. A no-man's land, sometimes a half block long, separates the two quarters. Wealthy Jews with whom I have talked resent very much the fact that they are cut off from the ancient and venerated place of worship.

The difference in appearance between the two sides is tremendous. On the Arab side, it is not uncommon to see a Bedouin family with a herd of goats and a train of camels making its way along the walls. There are, of course, many automobiles, jeeps, and trucks. But the ancient ways of the tribes seem to make these later inventions seem superfluous and temporary. On the Jewish side of town, emphasis is on the twentieth century. Jews who themselves were in the night shirt of the Persian fellah a few years ago are now driving trucks or running tractors. Girls from Morocco who would have been subjected to a life of traditional slavery or worse have been mustered into the Israeli army and have emerged as individuals and citizens.

The State of Israel not only has succeeded in a mass movement of populations, but has introduced a modern culture into the land. The interesting thing to watch will be to see how irresistible this culture will be in the long haul. The Egyptian revolution is a sign of the times. The question is: can the Arab states of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and other members of the Arab League make a cultural defense against it?

But the greatest contrast comes in the condition of the children. On the Arab side, where refugees sometimes live in caves (incidentally, a cave in the side of a Palestine hill is not the most uncomfortable place to live; it's dry in winter and cool in summer), the children are neglected, for the most part unwashed, allowed to run free to beg or steal or just wander. They often are dirty, diseased, underfed, and generally neglected. By way of contrast, we saw no child on the Israeli side, including the children of the few remaining Arabs, who did not look well-nourished, healthy, and content. It might be said that the children of the Arab peoples appear to have assumed their ancient burdens at birth, while Israel in the modern manner attempts to give their children a running start on life through food programs, schools, and nurseries before they take on the burden of being Israeli citizens. The Arab states create only Moslems.

The above few paragraphs are an attempt to picture the contrasts between the two sides. No fourteen day wonder, which defines what this reporter is, can completely reach into the roots of the two civilizations. Again, it is oversimplification to say that the twentieth century has arrived with Israel while it is hidden behind a curtain of ignorance and tradition on the Arab side of the line.

In fact, there is developing in the hearty and confident Israeli citizen the same conscious national arrogance against which the Jewish peoples struggled for so many centuries. Talk to a red hot Zionist and you get strangely reminiscent arguments about "the natural untrustworthiness of the Arab;" "the historically proven treason of the Moslem;" "the racial and religious instability of those people who amorally will jump automatically to the strongest side." In other words, say the Jews, "You can't trust an Arab." The words are the same that have echoed tragically in the history of Jewish persecution.

We admit that this is an incomplete analysis of the situation, but it is as best as we could judge it in the short time available.

1943. The Western Allied Contributions to the Eastern Front

Lend-Lease and the Planned Second Front
A still from the film The Battle of Russia (1943)
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

March 8, 1943

The Red Army last night continued its advance toward Vyazma; capturing a series of inhabited points, taking prisoners and booty. In one sector of this front only 115 miles west of Moscow, a Red Army spearhead penetrated into the rear of one German garrison. Faced with the threat of complete encirclement, the German troops fled in disorder. On the sector northwest of Vyazma, 600 Germans were killed in bitter fighting last night when six heavily fortified inhabited points were captured by Russian troops.

The Germans are putting up a desperate defense in this sector southwest of Rzhev. The Russian drive southward threatens to cut the main railroad between Vyazma and Smolensk. If this line was cut it would be a major disaster for those German troops operating in the Vyazma bulge.

On the sector west of Rostov, heavy air fighting has been in progress while the German and Russian forces have been conducting bitter trench fighting. Six German planes were shot down yesterday.

This morning's communiqué mentions the big German forces being thrown into a counterattack in the eastern sector of the Donbass. Last night the Germans threw in motorized infantry troops supported by eighty tanks. This attack was beaten off. After the Germans lost twelve tanks and much manpower they retreated to their original positions.

The (strongest) statement about the second front published in many months was made this morning in the newspaper Pravda, organ of the Communist Party.

Pravda made two references to the absence of a second front in Europe in an editorial commenting on Josef Stalin's new position as Marshal of the Soviet Union. (The question of a second front is still uppermost in the minds of the ordinary men and women here in Russia. Although there has been little official reference to the issue during the past six months, the Soviet people still feel disappointed and let down by their allies. It is a sore point with them.)

In today's editorial Pravda said: "Because of the absence of a second front, the Red Army for the past twenty months has been bearing all the burden of the fighting against Hitler and his accomplices. Not a single other country, not a single other army in the world, could be able to stand such a test."

The newspaper then added: "The decisive moment in the Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the invaders has come. The victorious Red Army offensive of November 19 is successfully continuing.

"The enemy is planning to keep the Soviet land. Using the absence of a second front in Europe, the Hitlerians are transferring to the Soviet front reserves from France, Holland, and other occupied countries. The enemy is feverishly carrying through a total mobilization hoping to create new armies to take a revenge for his defeats."

(This editorial is the first definite indication that perhaps Soviet pressure for a second front is again rising.)

(The Russian press has been publishing the details of the Allied fighting in North Africa. It also has been giving details of the round-the-clock air offensive against Germany and Western Europe. The sinking of the Japanese convoy off New Guinea was also published in full.) 
(However there has been virtually no publicity concerning the amount of American and British supplies, armament, food, clothing, tanks, and planes which have been sent to Russia. The Russian people have no idea of the immensity of these shipments.)

(And there has not been a single mention of what part these supplies have meant to the present victorious offensive.)

(The Russian people also have no idea of the scope of such American and British organizations such as the Aid to Russia funds. They know virtually nothing of the tremendous personal interest the people of the United States and other Allied nations are taking in their problems.)

(All in all, it has been a pretty one-sided presentation of the second front question.)

But it all boils down to the one single, paramount fact. Russia wants a second front in Europe—now. She feels that this is the quickest road to victory, particularly now when the Red Army is on the march.

May 26, 2015

1954. The Arab World in 1954

Orientalism, the Rise of Extremism, and the Future of Arab-Israeli Relations
Bill Downs (right) and Frank Kearns (center) during an interview in November 1954 with Gamal Abdel Nasser
Bill Downs

CBS Cairo

May 6, 1954


This is a report on the Arabs, circa 1954. The trouble is that, when a reporter talks about Arabs, it is at once presumed that he is anti-Jewish, because how can you talk about the Arab world these days without talking about Israel? And in the emotionally charged atmosphere of this part of the world, both the Arab and the Jew demand that you be on one side or the other.

However, it remains the goal of CBS News to be objective, and consequently this report probably will please neither side.

The limitations of this report are these: We have spent only one week in the Middle East, not counting some transit time through this part of the world during the war. This reporter does not speak Arabic, and probably never will. We talked to no heads of government, although we could have. We did talk with Arabic American and British diplomats and students of the Arab peoples. We walked the bazaars and streets with an interpreter to hear what the peoples were saying to each other. And in the tradition of the trade, we picked all the reportorial brains we could find, Occidental and Arab. We are not ready or about to write a book.

We make this confession: Ignorance is frightening, but total ignorance, which we feel about the Moslem peoples, sends one into intellectual panic. The fact is that Americans are virtually totally ignorant about Arabs. Outside of Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and a few misleading motion pictures, the popular conception of an Arab is a man in a night shirt, a turban, or a fez who rides a camel and who will swing a scimitar at any non-Moslem to assure himself rapid entry into a heaven which provides him with a harem of thirteen virgins, more or less.

This should have happened to Percival Christopher Wren, whose books have convinced generations that the Arab is something less than a white man and is thus to be despised and feared.

The trouble is that every Arab has in him a trace of Moslem fanaticism which made him such a threat and danger to Crusaders. He also has in him the ancient dignity of a people who once ruled this part of the world. And in the modern Arab, if this is not presumptuous or patronizing, there is a humor, intelligence, and modesty that makes him the most stimulating companion this reporter has run into since an assignment in Dublin.

All of which adds up to the fact that we don't know a hell of a lot about Arabs, but what we have discovered thus far is fascinating. It is both ironic and entrancing to see a sleek pasha in a matching Cadillac unconcernedly speed past a Bedouin caravan—somehow the camels look more enduring. It is equally fascinating to discuss democracy and communism with students who come from various Arab countries which have governments ranging from absolute tribal monarchies and military dictatorships to a kind of twentieth century despotism which amounts to upper class anarchy. Sometimes it becomes difficult to remember which country you are in.

As a kind of conditioner, we have been reading the Koran. In it we discover that the way the Muezzin determines when it is time to call the faithful to sunrise prayers—to mount the minaret and sing out the haunting, wavering praise of Allah—is at that moment when it is light enough to determine white thread from a black thread.

In discovering the problems of the modern Arab world, the test of the "Muezzin" maintains. Everything is black or white.

This is the reason that the first thing Occidental diplomats will tell you is that their problem in dealing with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt is mainly psychological, concerning such present day questions of American-Arab relations vis-a-vis Israel, arms aid, and the Cold War, and it is not surprising that the atmosphere sometimes becomes frenetic.

From the Arab viewpoint, the problem of Israel is to the Moslem Middle East what Korea or Indochina is to the Western free world. This is the overriding fact of life in this part of the world that transcends all other problems.

It is perhaps oversimplification to say that the Israeli-Arab argument centers around who got here first. The Zionists claim that Palestine is their ancient homeland dating back from the pre-Christian days of the Old Testament. The Arabs claim that for the past 1500 years Palestine and the Middle East has been their homeland and their land.

The Jews maintain that after centuries of persecution, climaxed in the spasm of inhumanity under Hitler, civilization owes them a place of refuge and safety—that they are willing to work and fight for the ancient land and make it bloom again.

The Arabs counter that Jews and Moslems have been living and working peacefully together for centuries—that racial persecution is not solved if the Jews establish themselves in a separate state which the Arabs regard as illegal—and that, anyway, what benefits civilization if Jewish refugees establish themselves on Arab lands which in turn creates an Arab refugee population of some 800,000 souls?

Mix these arguments with the volatile Semitic character of both the Jews and Arabs and you have an explosive situation, to say the least.

An American diplomat and old Middle East hand (US Ambassador Ray Hare to Lebanon) told us that back in 1947 and 1948 the Arabs never really believed that the United Nations or the United States would allow their country to be taken over by the Zionists. They maintained, and still maintain, it was in violation of the United Nations Charter guaranteeing national and ethnological sovereignty. The Arabs constantly point out that, in what is now Israel, the Moslem population outnumbered the Jewish by three to one.

The tragic and bloody warfare which ended with the establishment of Israel dispossessed 800,000 Arabs who for the past five years have been living on rations provided by the United Nations Relief Work Administration. The real tragedy is not their poverty, which has always been great. The real tragedy is that for five years these people have been living as a stagnant state of unproductive indignation. The Arabs' pride has been hurt, and the desire for vengeance, not only against the Jews but against the British and Americans as well, is already being handed down from father to son.

However, the realities of the situation call for a reasonableness that bypasses racial and religious pride and national indignations. The Arabs maintain in their frustration that they could have won the war if it had not been for British deceit, American support, and betrayal in their own ranks. Yet they did not win, and now there is an Arab-wide fear that the hostilities may break out again. This time the Arabs are certain they could not win without the outside aid of the hated British which they distrust. The measure of this distrust is the contradictory reaction to the recent statements by Under Secretary of State [sic] Henry Byroade. Although the Byroade speech was greeted in the Arab world as being directed mostly against the Jews, the Arab reaction again was of suspicion—a kind of grateful suspicion, however.

The immeasurable and imponderable factor in the Arab attitude is the semi-oriental question of pride and "face." As it was explained to us, the situation works out something like this: The Arabs are now in a position somewhat like that of a father whose daughter has been violated by a foreign young man. The despoiled daughter returns in disgrace to her father's home. Then, a few months later, friends of the rapacious young man come to the father and say, "Let's sit down and talk this thing over. How much money do you want?" The position of the defeated Arabs is that they simply are not ready to sit down and talk over what they consider to be the rape of their homeland. And as weak militarily as they are, there is no price in material goods that will assuage their pride.

However, out of the imponderable there is one truth which maintains that the Arabs do not want war. The hotheads who talk of "blood and steel" and a "bayonet solution" are not the ones who volunteer for action.

We asked this diplomat if there really is a solution in sight. His reply was typically cryptic. "An injury, you might say, has been done to the Arab body politic. There are some injuries which can be corrected and cured quickly by surgery. There are others which require long treatment such as hydrotherapy. The Arab-Israeli situation is of the latter type. It may take a long time, but there is no reason to be despairing."

We asked another diplomat if there really is a formula for solution of the Arab-Israeli problem. This man, the most objective observer we ran into (Commander Hutchison of the UN's Mixed Armistice Commission), said that both sides must compromise. The Israelis, he said, must not approach the conference table as conquerors. The Arabs must accept the situation that faces them. His formula for solution of the struggle boils down to this: There must be an offer on the part of the Israeli government to repatriate the refugee Arabs. Jewish statements that none can return (an unofficial attitude) merely provokes Arab insistence that all return. Actually, the experts on both sides estimate that only about 100,000 of the 800,000 refugees would actually agree to return and live under the Zionist flag. In fact, the Israeli government could make prestige for itself if it only offered to reunite the broken families now separated by the demilitarized zone around Palestine.

The other prerequisite of possible peace is an adjustment of the boundary line. For example, much of the current shooting over alleged "infiltration" by the Arabs is due to the fact that an Arab village may be cut in half by the boundary line, or that the village may be isolated from its traditional farm, grazing, or orchard lands. Only the most callous cannot sympathize with the Arab who persuades a Jordanian home guardsman to accompany him to his former farm in the no-man's land between the two nations and to guard him when he plows. One cannot legally condemn the Israeli sentry whose orders are to fire at any violator of the armistice agreement who trespasses the assigned borders. But the plow has never before been considered a weapon.

Finally, according to the diplomat, the projected formula for peace must include compensation for Arab property seized by the Jews. This compensation must not only include fair payment for properties seized, bank accounts held in escrow, and other chattels, but it should include a kind of "hardship payment" to the dispossessed who have been sitting for five years in refugee camps. This payment would be in the form of an award to the dispossessed Arab to allow him to obtain a piece of land, a mule, and a plow in order than he can start supporting himself and his family again. As the Byroade speech pointed out, the Israeli government is currently receiving compensation payments from Germany. Consequently, there is a precedence and perhaps a moral duty incumbent on the Zionists to do likewise.

The Arab refugees are the most paradoxical factor in the entire dispute. Five years of inactivity and stagnation have not dispirited them. They are conscious of their position as a political cause and diplomatic bargaining point. In fact, some of the most violent advocates of solution "by the bayonet" are to be found in their camps. There is perhaps some truth to the Israeli charge that the Arab nations are deliberately not trying to disperse these people, because to do so would destroy one of their major causes. As long as the refugees can be held up to the world as the unfortunate result of Zionism, then that long will the Arabs have a major bargaining point.

But if this is true, the Arabs are risking a kind of political cancer which eventually could spread and engulf them all. One indication is a series of incidents related to us by a young American officer who serves as an observer for the Mixed Armistice Commission of the UN.

In recent weeks, he said, he has been getting some peculiar questions from the refugees when he visits their camps. They are parroted questions such as "why do you Americans treat Negroes the way you do," and "what has your government done to the American Indian?" Taking into consideration that most of these people would never have known there were such races in the United States, the officer concludes that someone is propagandizing them. It's not difficult to figure out who.

The inference is obvious. The longer the Arab refugees are holed up in their camps, the more dangerous they become. They contrast their poverty and barely adequate UN rations not only with the Jews who are now living on their property, but they are also not unaware of the powerful cars, wealth, and sleek living of that small segment of Arab society that runs their countries.

Communism is outlawed, officially, in all of the Arab states. The Arabs do not take it very seriously. In fact, there is a distinct tendency to play the Russians against the West. The Koran also has a proverb that goes: "My enemy's enemy is my friend." This is the reason behind the recent message of congratulations sent by the Jordanian parliament last month to Russia's Vyshinsky when the Soviet Union came to the aid of the Arab powers in a UN dispute. It is to be noted that the Jordanian government fell two weeks later because of US and British pressure, say the Arabs.

However, there is every sign that the Russians are moving again in this part of the world, and that their attempt to woo the Arabs to their side is only beginning. But again, it would appear that the Arab attitude toward communism is more anti-Anglo-American than pro-Russian.

We deliberately avoided collecting up to date military information on this trip because such knowledge, we felt, is compromising in a situation where we intended to visit both sides. However, there are generalizations which have become obvious and are not in the realm of intelligence.

Americans have pictured Israel as a small, perhaps helpless, nation surrounded by millions of hostile Arabs. In the beginning, this was perhaps true. But the picture has now changed. It now appears that Israel has the most powerful national striking force in the Middle East. Her military power is the source of Arab fear and is perhaps the Zionists' greatest diplomatic weapon. Recognition of Israeli power again came in the Byroade speech. The Under Secretary was not being supercilious in warning that the United States would not tolerate aggression by either side.

The Arabs fear Israeli power, and some of them openly predict that nothing can contain it. They reason this way: under the Ben-Gurion tradition now being carried by Moshe Sharett, the moderate Zionists have the upper hand. But despite this, say the Arabs, Israel continues to use its power by keeping the pressure on the borders—by retaliatory raids and indoctrinate use of arms on the borderlands. Meanwhile they believe Sharett is under great pressure from the extremists—those who want a military showdown no matter the cost. Under the present stalemate, the Jewish national temper is being strained as incident follows incident. Day after day, as this situation continues, the position of the Israeli moderate is being undercut, and some Arabs believe that the explosion is only a matter of time.

One of the most disturbing conversations we had was with one of Jordan's leading authors—a violent Arab nationalist, former mayor of Hashemite Jerusalem, and member of the Jordanian parliament. His name is Aref al-Aref. There used to be a Pasha in the middle before the title was abolished by law. We saw and drank coffee in his villa at the town of Ramallah a few miles north of Jerusalem.

Al-Aref started our conversation by asking if what I had seen and heard in the Arab world would truly be presented without distortion on the American radio. He said that it was his impression that Jewish interests so controlled the press and radio that the Arab cause could not be presented in the United States.

We replied that we were not there to present the Arab case or the Israeli case but to get the truth, and that this truth, as near as we could come to it, would most certainly be heard on the CBS networks.

Al-Aref is an eccentric and something of a professional gadfly. I wanted specifically to talk with him about the inter-religious aspect of the Middle East struggle, however we wandered all over the lot. The Arab writer said that in his view the Arab-Zionist conflict is predominately a nationalistic struggle. Religion has in reality a very small part in it. He admitted that both sides made a demagogic use of religion to support their causes—for example, the Jewish Appeal for funds in the United States and other nations uses the religious approach. By the same token, al-Aref confesses to organizing the Jerusalem chapter of the ultranationalist and pseudoreligious Moslem Brotherhood. "I am not a devout Moslem," he said. "It's merely that I wanted one more instrument around which to fight Zionism."

After much beating around the bush about war, the writer finally said that, "We Arabs must accept the fait accompli. But the Jews must also make concessions. We must save our honor."

And he concluded, "This thing has left a dark spot on the Arab's heart. Let us face the facts. We were defeated. But eventually we Arabs will be avenged. I am instructing my son not to forget, and after I am dead, my son or my son's son will take my revenge."

1944. The Wehrmacht is Broken in Belgium

Belgian Resistance Helps Rout the Germany Army
"A nurse working with the Belgian resistance bandages a minor wound for a British soldier in Antwerp, 11 September 1944." (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Brussels

September 5, 1944

This is Bill Downs speaking from Brussels.

Information about the British troops operating on the Belgian front is as confused as the scattered battles now being fought south of the Dutch frontier.

Antwerp has been taken. Other British troops are moving toward Ghent. On the right flank of the British drive, the city of Louvain has been taken.

Earlier reports that British forces are now into Holland cannot be confirmed here.

Antwerp was taken with very little resistance. The Germans tried to make a stand in the town, but British armor got behind the garrison in the city and they surrendered. The Nazi commandant of Antwerp, a major general, was taken with numerous other prisoners.

The British swing towards Antwerp cuts off a sizable pocket, and according to a British staff officer an estimated two hundred thousand Germans are cut off in this coastal bag in Northern France and Belgium. They are not believed to be very good troops. They include a number of coastal divisions, German air force troops, and ground personnel. Prisoners now being captured include a lot of elderly men—veterans of the last war—definitely not combat troops. The Old Germans have been labeled the "duodenal divisions" by the British units who are capturing them.

It is believed that a large number of the trapped Germans will be able to slip across the British lines of communications since now the distances are so great that they have to be protected with a very slim and thin line of troops. But Germans are being captured everywhere. One British division took a thousand yesterday. Yet it is impossible to get an accurate count with even canteen trucks picking up prisoners, and civil affairs officers capturing them, and the Belgian White Army netting Nazis like fish in a hatchery.

One of the most important results of the British march through Belgium is that now the big flying bomb sites in the coastal pocket have been completely cut off from their supplies.

One British unit estimates that they have taken between twenty and thirty in the last few days, but again, it is impossible right now to get a full count of them.

German resistance is entirely disorganized. The only coherent movement Nazis have in this part of Europe is eastward, and everyone is heading that way acting under nothing but his own orders to get away. One British armored unit reported that they have found German troops mixed in with the civilians of the liberated villages of Belgium—Germans and Belgians cheering the Allied advance. Follow-up units stop the Germans from cheering when they are taken prisoner.

But the German position is absolutely hopeless here. When the British armor got into Louvain, they found that the Belgian White Army had taken two of the three bridges over the Dyle River, an important river line which, without the bridges, might have been a serious obstacle to the advance.

The army officials have nothing but praise for the the White Army. Without their help, this rout of the Wehrmacht might not have been possible.

This is Bill Downs in Brussels returning you to CBS in New York.

May 20, 2015

1949. Stalingrad Prisoners Forced Into the East German People's Police

The Rise of the Volkspolizei
Police in West Berlin clash with the East German Volkspolizei at the border in Berlin, 1955. (Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 4, 1949

In February 1943, I was among a group of correspondents escorted by the Soviet government to have a firsthand look at the first major offensive victory the Red Army won in fighting the invincible German Wehrmacht.

It was at Stalingrad that we saw the smoking ruins of the Volga city, only four days after one of the great battles of history.

German and Russian corpses were still frozen life-like in the bitter cold. We were taken to see General Von Paulus and his staff, the defeated leaders of the German Sixth Army which had come all too close to making western Russia a Hitler colony.

Never was there such a ragtag army so completely beaten as were the Germans who failed at Stalingrad. Their clothing was in tatters. Many were wearing looted women's fur coats in an attempt to defeat the severe cold.

Altogether some 330,000 Germans, Italians, Hungarians, and Romanians were lost at Stalingrad. How many Germans were taken prisoner there is uncertain, but the estimate is more than 200,000.

I talked with some of these men at the time. They were a weary, dispirited lot—disillusioned, bitter, and hopeless. Most of them believed that they were walking to their deaths when Red Army guards led them over the snowy steppes toward isolated prisoner of war camps in eastern Russia. For many it was true.

In the fall of 1943 in Moscow we were to hear more of Von Paulus and his defeated men, in a different role this time. They showed up as members of what the Russian government called the "Free German Committee." The committee was used as a propaganda weapon at the time, with various former German soldiers broadcasting over the Russian radio to their fighting comrades—making statements in the Soviet government press and attacking Hitler and the Nazis and all the rest of it.

But it was plain even five years ago that the Soviet Union had plans for the German war prisoners who fell into her hands.

Today here in Germany we are beginning to see those plans unfold. I went to the communist-led meeting that proclaimed the Opera House government of East Berlin into power early last November. Among these groups who trudged, under orders, to that spontaneous gathering in Unter den Linden was a group of men who walked differently from the rest. They marched with soldierly swing and with drill-ground precision. They were in the uniform reminiscent of the old German army, grey-green except for the insignia and hats. They were not armed, but some appeared to be a little lost marching without guns.

I was told that this was the new "People's Police."

For the past three months, the propaganda from the Soviet zone of Germany has been speaking of this "People's Police." Sometimes it was called a "workers army" or labeled "proletarian activists."

The press of the American, British, and French zones of occupied Germany—including western Berlin, proceeded to scare themselves to death over what they saw as a traitorous, armed threat from the east.

A lot of claims were made—and passed on. The People's Police has been variously described as containing 250,000 men armed with tanks and artillery, and on the verge of striking westward to take over the western part of the country.

So much that was contradictory was reported about this so-called People's Police that I set out with a colleague to find the facts, or as close to the facts as I could get.

The fact that the People's Police exists in the Russian zone of Germany, there can be no doubt. But, instead of being a quarter of a million men, the more accurate estimate of the size of this force is between thirty and fifty thousand.

The Soviet government is organizing the police—careful not to label it an army—in violation of the Potsdam agreement. The core of the body is composed of former German prisoners of war in Russia, mostly men captured at Stalingrad. However, there is recruiting going on among young men in the Russian zone. A campaign, according to intelligence reports, that is failing to get very many volunteers.

The former war prisoners who join up in Russia undergo special indoctrination in Marxist political schools set up in the Soviet prison camps. The system works something like this:

Private Hans Schmidt, since his capture on the banks of the Volga, has managed to survive five years of Russian prisoner camps. But he is getting tired of chopping trees, building canals, and constructing roads for his Russian conquerors. He longs for home. His information about what happened to the outside world since Stalingrad is meager. He's convinced that Germany lost the war. He is skeptical about the communist propaganda that is the only form of news he has.

One day he hears there is a way to get back to Germany, and he receives the proposition: "Take a short course in Marxism, learn the fundamentals of communism, its political and economic philosophy, then return home as a policeman to protect your defeated people from the depredations of monopoly capitalism, decadent and warmongering democracies."

Hans Schmidt wants to get home, so he signs up.

Undoubtedly this system makes some good communists, but my German sources here say that life in a Russian prison camp gives little time for philosophical thought. The men who join—and stick—to the People's Police are mostly either opportunists, cynical Nazis, or just Germans whose only jobs have been military ones and who see the People's Police as the only instrument in which to practice their profession. They sign up for three years of service.

Schmidt, after completing his indoctrination, is shipped to a dispersal center in Germany, such as the one at Fürstenwalde forty miles east of Berlin. Many Schmidts desert when they get the chance.

Apparently such desertions were foreseen. So to keep Hans Schmidts in line, the People's Police has added another innovation, one which was common to both the Soviet and Nazi armies.

Each unit has its political commissar charged with making reports on individual members and keeping the flame of communism alive in the organization.

In the Hitler armies, these specially trained Nazis were called National Socialist leading officers. One report has it that many of the Wehrmacht National Socialist leading officers who kept the name of Hitler flaming in the hearts of German soldiers are now doing the same job for Stalin in the People's Police.

After arriving in the Fatherland, the recruits are assigned to units. There are a half dozen of these around Berlin, indicating the importance attached to this crisis city. The People's Police units—all carefully set up in military barracks—ring the city, such as the camp northeast of here in the town of Biesenthal, the one to the southwest in the village of Eichen, another northwest of Berlin at Nieder-Sachsenhausen, and to the southeast at Oberschöneweide. There is reported to be garrisons of People's Police inside Berlin itself totaling a thousand men.

At these camps the units receive further training, mostly in street fighting.

The People's Police has a table of organization that is strictly military. The units are divided into squads of sixteen men, nine of which are armed with Mauser rifles, three others with submachine guns, and the officers and administrative personnel carry pistols.

Police companies are comprised of one hundred and ten men. Each company has attached to it one heavy machine gun, in addition to the squadron arms I mentioned before.

The next larger unit, which varies in size according to the job assigned, would amount to what we would call a battalion in the American army. An interesting fact about this is that the old Nazi SS nomenclature is used. The battalions are called Standarten, just as Hitler used to call them. A Standarten may have a mortar unit attached to it, according to one report. Also perhaps an armored car. Some units are motorized for quick movement, with their own transport and communication vehicles such as motorcycles.

The headquarters of the People's Police is in Leipzig. They operate under direct orders of the Soviet military command in Germany. The German head of the organization is General Walter von Seydlitz, former chief of staff of the German Sixth Army. General Von Paulus is often mentioned in connection with the organization, but his is more of a titular leadership. The last heard of Von Paulus was that he is supposed to be living in Moscow where he is an instructor in the Russian military academy there.

All of those military statistics make the so-called People's Police of the Soviet zone sound very ominous indeed. However, American military opinion here in Berlin does not seem particularly concerned. They point out that it is not in any sense a striking force. It is not armed or sufficiently large for any ambitious plan such as the taking of western Germany by force.

This speculation has developed from the events in Korea. There, as you know, the Russian troops announced their withdrawal, and immediately a communist-led section of the army attempted an uprising.

However, our political experts do not expect this pattern to be followed in Germany. The People's Police appears to be organized to protect an East German administration and preserve discipline in the population.

In this connection, the propaganda from the East in the past few months has been calling for the establishment of a unified German government, the signing of a peace treaty with this government, and then, one year later, the withdrawal of all occupation troops.

The situation is made more interesting by the fact that the Western Powers are already sponsoring a West German government. If and when this Western government materializes, it is considered likely that the Russians would counter with the establishment of an East German government of their own sponsorship. Thus they could make their own diplomatic arrangements with this organization. The People's Police would then be used to maintain this government in power.

In any event, our political experts say that the German communists cannot risk a failure such as the one that attempted communist uprising in Korea, and the People's Police at this moment is not large enough to make such an uprising successful. However, these experts usually hedge this opinion with the statement that there appear to be plans in the Soviet zone to increase the size of the People's Police to one hundred thousand men.

The question of the moment is, of course, what effect this military organization can or will have on blockaded Berlin—that is the Western section of the city in which the rump government of the Soviet sector demands be incorporated into a whole city under their type of government, of course.

I questioned the police chief of Western Berlin, Dr. Otto Stumm, about the possibilities. He didn't seem particularly worried. Stumm said that he was of the opinion that there were possibly ten thousand or more People's Police in barracks around Berlin, plus a thousand now stationed in the Soviet sector inside the city.

But he pointed out that he has ten thousand officers on duty in the American, British, and French sectors. These are ordinary cops who pound beats, direct traffic, look after the public safety, and such.

The total number of police employed by the Opera House government of East Berlin is about seven thousand, and Stumm said that about half of these East Sector officers are still loyal to him. In other words, Police Chief Stumm believes he has the security forces of the rump government outnumbered by three to one. Inside the city, that is.

But no one expects that Communist policy would be so foolish as to attempt a putsch on the blockaded sectors of this city. The risk of it developing into a full-size international incident is too great.

There is one other factor that must not be overlooked. In creating the People's Police and arming it, however lightly, the Russian occupation authorities also have created a problem for themselves. For, despite the political commissars in the units, they must always ask themselves the question: "How loyal; how trustworthy is this organization?"

The large number of desertions are evidence of the disaffection felt by numbers of individuals. Also, the German civilian population has conducted a number of individual assaults on what it regards as turncoats and servants to the Russians.

Western German political leaders in touch with East Germany say that, if the Soviet occupation troops ever withdraw, there will be a bloodbath unequaled in German history when the people turn on the "People's Police."

The Western Powers are watching very closely. A failure in occupation policy by America, Britain, or France might conceivably turn public sentiment away from the West. Certainly the current Russian demands for a peace treaty and withdrawal of occupation troops has a great appeal to all of the German population which most urgently wants to be "dis-occupied."

And if there were a reversal of feeling, the military organization to which dissident Germans could turn most certainly has already been set up.

However, as one American officer put it: "Let the Russians worry about the People's Police. We are not going to arm Germans, and the world will sleep better for it."

May 19, 2015

1943. The Stalin Prize

The Stalin Science Awards
A Stalin Prize medal
 (For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

March 23, 1943

The Soviet press revealed today that, during the past year, Russian scientists and engineers have developed a whole new series of weapons for the Red Army. These new weapons include three new types of planes, a new type of artillery weapon, a new development in naval artillery, three new developments in airplane motors, and a new type of fighting ship for the Red Navy.

These inventions, for the first time at least, will be put at the top of Russia's "secret weapon" list. The newspapers published no details.

The occasion for even hinting that these things exist was the first annual list of Stalin science awards. These awards range from $18,000 to $5,000, and are given to engineers, professors, and scientists who have distinguished themselves in Soviet science and industry for the past year.

Such prizes went to Russian physicists, such as Professor Alexandrov for his research in the field of fluid helium. Another group of professors got awards for completion of a history of the Russian Civil War. The Soviet Union's famous aircraft designers Ilyushin, Yakolev, and Tupolev all received honors, as did several Red Army generals, in the engineering section for their development of new weapons.

However, also included in the group of five hundred awards were a group of people very much like you and I. There was an oil driller who helped develop a new field near Baku, a lathe worker who simplified production of gun barrels, and a steel peddler who reorganized his furnace gang to turn out an increased amount of steel.

Best of all was the award to ten Russian women, all of them farmers. All together they got about $10,000 for developing a process on their farm in the Urals which produced more potatoes per acre than any other farm in that whole region.

These Soviet government awards to the ordinary factory worker and farmer throw an interesting light on Russia's entire war effort. This is not only a war of scientific theory, the laboratory, and the test tube. It is also a war of the ordinary plow, persistence, and patience.

News of the Stalin science awards, which went to the highest as well as the lowest citizens of the Soviet Union, almost pushed news of the war clear out of the Russian newspapers today.

It is evidence of just one more reason why Hitler, if he kidnaps all the labor in Europe and forces it into his factories, will never be able to defeat this nation.

You see, the Russian people feel that they have something to work for, and it is more than an annual prize contest.

May 15, 2015

1943. The Soviets Look to the Western Allies to Open a Second Front

Holding Back the Onslaught
A still from the film The Battle of Russia (1943)
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

March 26, 1943

The Soviet government announced today that the fishing agreement between Japan and the Soviet Union granting leases to Japanese fisheries in Siberian waters has been renewed for one year.

This one year agreement has been under negotiation for the past several months. The new protocol is exactly the same as last year's, except that Japanese fisheries pay the Soviet government five percent instead of four for fishing privileges.

This is the seventh successive one-year fishing agreement that Russia has signed with Japan since the long-term agreement ran out in 1936. Since that time, negotiations have been conducted on a twelve month basis. The 1943 agreement was signed in Kuybyshev by Vice-Commissar for foreign affairs, Lozovsky, and the Japanese to the USSR, Sato.

Last Tuesday the leading Russian newspapers printed a long digest of Prime Minister Churchill's speech. The Soviet radio also repeated a lengthy resume of Mr. Churchill's broadcast.

(In the past three days I have been talking to Russians that I know, asking them their reactions to what the Prime Minister said.)

(Every Russian that I talked to expressed disappointment with Mr. Churchill's speech. Some even threw up their hands and said, "Well, that's the end of the second front." Others could not understand why, at a period so crucial, that Mr. Churchill talked so little about the winning of the war.)

(I thought I would pass these reactions along to you for what they are worth. It demonstrates the absolute singleness of purpose with which Russia is fighting this war. Consequently) Russians cannot understand why for one moment an Allied government takes time out to discuss its internal problems. (It was the same reaction I got when I talked to these Russians about Lend-Lease. When they learned that there was some Congressional opposition to extending the Lend-Lease agreement, they could not understand it. Their one question was always, "If it helps to win the war, then why argue about it?")

So there you have the general viewpoint of the ordinary Russian, who today is working harder than ever and glancing anxiously every once in a while to the west. The question paramount in his mind, and don't forget it, is, "When are those British and American troops going to come out of the west and start that second front?"

The news from the Russian front this morning reveals no radical changes in the fighting positions. German resistance has stiffened in the Smolensk region. Both the Red Army and the Nazi forces are throwing more men and armor into the fight, and the battles are getting fiercer every day. The Russian troops are maintaining the initiative and are still moving forward on this sector. However, it is an advance in which they have to fight for every yard.

A similar increase in the tempo of the battle is occurring in the Kuban. The Germans here, too, have thrown in reinforcements. It is evident that the German command has ordered a last-ditch defense of what little territory Hitler has managed to cling to in this sector immediately north of the Caucasus. The Russians have now started their spring drive to rush the Nazi forces into the Kerch Strait, but it is going to be no easy job.

The flying weather has improved on all fronts, and a dollar-bright moon has enabled both sides to carry on a twenty-four hour offensive in the air. However, the decisive fighting still is being done on the ground. As they are operating today, the Russian air force has an absolute parity with the German Luftwaffe. Neither side has been able to establish general superiority in the air over the Russian front. Only on some sectors has temporary, local air superiority been achieved, and this only until the opposing forces have had time to rush reinforcements to the threatened front.

However, this summer should see some interesting developments in Russia's air war. This will particularly be true when the damaging blows by the American and British air forces on German plane production make themselves felt. Then we'll see who has air superiority in Russia.

May 14, 2015

1943. Stalin Names Himself Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union
Joseph Stalin delivering the eulogy at the funeral for Red Army commander Mikhail Frunze in front of Lenin's Mausoleum, 3 November 1925  (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

March 7, 1943

The Red Army this morning is pressing towards the important railroad and highway junction of Vyazma from two directions. Russian troops are driving westward from the town of Gzhatsk and southward from the direction of Rzhev. Following the successful storming of Gzhatsk yesterday the Soviet forces continued their advance, capturing twenty more inhabited points last night.

(This means that the Russian troops are west of the town only some forty miles from Vyazma. The Red Army forces are about the same distance away.)

(The Germans had built tremendous defenses at Gzhatsk, even down to trenches with roofs over them. It took the Red Army two strong attempts before the Axis forces were kicked out of the place. When this was done, it ousted the Germans from the nearest point to Moscow they had succeeded in holding after their abortive attempt to take the capital last year.)

(The Germans were dug into Gzhatsk with the intention of staying there. They built twelve miles of trenches connecting all sorts of pillboxes, blockhouses, and fortified points. There also were the usual antitank ditches, acres of minefields, and barbed wire.)

The capture of Gzhatsk leaves only one of three German springboards against Moscow remaining. Rzhev was the first to go. Now only Vyazma is left of this powerful offensive triangle.

Premier Josef Stalin is now formally in the Red Army. For the first time in his spectacular career in the Soviet Union, Stalin has assumed a strictly military post. His new award as Marshal of the Soviet Union was announced last night.

There is nothing exactly parallel to this post in the United States Army. It is the highest army position that a man can attain in Russia. The nearest approach the American army has to this rank is the post of a four-star general now held by General Marshal, General MacArthur, and General Eisenhower.

Premier Stalin now holds the position of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the USSR. He also is Chairman of the State Defense Committee, the People's Commissar of Defense, and Chairman of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party.

It is not expected that any startling change in Russia's prosecution of the war will result in Josef Stalin's new post as Marshal. By assuming this post, he merely receives the military rank as well as the title in the Soviet High Command.

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union carries with it the highest insignia of the Army. It is a platinum, diamond studded star worn at the neck of his tunic. However, in the past Premier Stalin has refused all decorations. He also has never worn a uniform. Now he is entitled to wear both.

(Only about a dozen men have ever attained the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union during the entire history of the USSR. About a half-dozen of these men are still directing Russia's war. These include some of the military brains of the world such as Marshal Timoshenko, Marshal Budenny, Marshal Voroshilov, and others.)

At Stalingrad in the early days of the communist revolution, Stalin directed the defense of Tsaritsyn, later renamed Stalingrad. However, at this time he held no military position. He was a representative of the Communist Party Central Committee directing the war from Moscow.

However, in that victory and in the present war, Stalin's military policies have been a major factor—a factor which has resulted in the present victory of the Red Army's winter offensive.

1966. The Rise of Ronald Reagan

Reagan Visits Mrs. Warschaw, Wins Warm Praise for Views
Source: "Ronald and Nancy Reagan celebrate Reagan's gubernatorial victory at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles."
October 20, 1966

Dear Bill:

After our little discussion the other ever in which your Rosalind, the fair, allowed as how she would vote for Ronald Reagan, and you had to put up that "gotta convince me" hard-boiled and cynical Washington-hand manner about how Ronald Reagan was a moderate after all, I thought you would find this Reagan-Warschaw confrontation interesting and an asset to your reference files...

Take a new point of view, lad, and I'll look forward to another evening sometime soon.

Best to you both,

Col. Barney Oldfield, USAF (Ret.)


Los Angeles Times 

October 19, 1966
Reagan Visits Mrs. Warschaw, Wins Warm Praise for Views

Former Democratic Leader's Glowing Words Stop Just Short of an Endorsement After 45-Minute Discussion

By Richard Bergholz
Times Political Writer

Republican Ronald Reagan called on former Democratic leader Mrs. Carmen Warschaw Tuesday and won glowing words that stopped just short of an endorsement.

Mrs. Warschaw, former Democratic State Chairman for Southern California, has been sharply critical of Democratic Gov. Brown in recent months.

Reagan made an unpublicized call on her at her home in the Los Feliz area, spent 45 minutes with her and was obviously pleased with what he heard.

For her part, Mrs. Warschaw said, "I'm not going to endorse anyone for governor at this time."

As she spoke she emphasized the words, "at this time."

She then explained that she had told Brown when he called her last Friday that she would think about any endorsement decision and she indicated that she would postpone any endorsement at this time "because I gave him my word."

Then she launched into a description of the Republican candidate for governor, terming him "forthright, vigorous, carrying a fresh new approach to governmental problems."


Two Political Disappointments

She said, "I was really rather favorably impressed with Mr. Reagan. I found him to be a man of rather moderate reviews instead of the conservative views about which I have been led to believe.

"He has more knowledge, more concern, than I had been led to believe. He's a listener, not a talker."

Mrs. Warschaw broke with the governor after two political disappointments. First, she wanted to be Democratic national committeewoman, and Brown chose instead Mrs. Ann Alanson of San Francisco.

Second, she campaigned vigorously for election as Democratic state chairman. Brown announced he would support her, but when she lost by a razor-thin margin, she accused Brown of failure to work aggressively on her behalf.

A former member of the State Fair Employment Practices Commission, Mrs. Warschaw quoted Reagan as saying he believed in the act creating the commission and that he felt not enough has been done to eliminate unfair employment practices.

Mrs. Warschaw said she favored the 1963 Rumford Act—California's open housing law—and Reagan disagreed.

Both reported after their conversation that they "disagreed agreeably."

"We found ourselves able to get along," Reagan said.


Explains Purpose of Visit.

In answer to questions, the Republican candidate said he did not come to Mrs. Warschaw's home to solicit her support. He said he considered that would be "impolite of a guest in her house."

"What I came for," he added, "was to have a visit with her and let her know where I stood on campaign issues."

Mrs. Warschaw said "some people who are supporting Reagan asked if I wanted to meet him, and I said 'yes.'"

The meeting was arranged by Philip Battaglia, Reagan's state campaign chairman.

Immediately after the private meeting, Reagan drove to Lynwood to address a joint service club luncheon. Later he addressed a meeting of educators supporting him at Pepperdine College.

In his first appearance for Reagan in a partisan setting, Dr. Max Rafferty, state superintendent of public instruction, gave the Republican candidate an emotional and glowing introduction.

"Teachers have resisted involvement in politics for too long," Rafferty said, "and the time has come for us to bestir ourselves—for sheer survival if nothing else."

He said Reagan's election would bring "a whole new order for education in California" and claimed that under Brown's administration, education has suffered from "drift and delay and pretty promises."

Rafferty said Reagan is a "phenomenon in politics—a living reminder that American [sic] is free to all" and said he is convinced that Reagan will listen to qualified educators when he becomes governor.


Repeats UC Stand

Reagan then picked up Rafferty's attack on educational problems in California and repeated the charge that the University of California is an issue in the gubernatorial campaign.

He called for greater local autonomy in elementary and secondary schools, including "more latitude in curriculum and textbooks."

The GOP candidate denied Brown's charge that he favors imposition of tuition in higher education. He said a proposal for tuition should be studied but that if imposed, tuition should be accompanied by "enough scholarships" to meet the needs of deserving students, a plan for deferred payment of tuition and pressure on Congress to grant parents a tax credit for college costs.

Reagan also denied having called federal aid to education "A tool of tyranny" but added that if legislation takes control of education too far from the people, it can lead to tyranny.

He also explained when he said it is a "paradox" to seek individual freedom and compulsory education at the same time, he meant that "it's a paradox we gladly put up with."

May 13, 2015

1959. Big Business and Big Labor

Story Pitch on Syndicalism
Bill Downs (center left) with Governor George Wallace (center right)
April 10, 1959 (CBS memo)

To: Irving Gitlin
CC: John Day

From: Bill Downs

I have been thinking about a couple of stories which seem to me lend themselves to public affairs treatment, and which seem to me need telling. Both are in the field of politico-economics, but they can be told with simplicity, and the impact could be tremendous.

The first is what appears to be the very real threat of syndicalism growing in this and other countries. I was talking with Walter Reuther about this a few weeks ago, and he agrees that the combined threats of "bigness" in both labor and industry threatens to smother the individual. And when you have labor leadership and management collusion, as has been exposed in the Teamster investigations and the mafia stories, then you have political, social, and economic dynamite.

As you know, syndicalism in one form or another preceded and supported the movements that led to Mussolini's fascism and Hitler's Nazi movement. There is plenty of film on this subject.

The cure, according to most economists, is not the abolition of "bigness" at the cost of low-cost production. Neither the antitrust nor the labor reform laws being proposed seem to get to the core of the problem.

It appears that free peoples must learn to live with bigness, but at the same time must find some way to keep from being swallowed up in the complexities of the operation, while also having the political power to prevent their exploitation.

Reuther proposes that one answer may be a nongovernmental public watchdog commission—with powers only to investigate and expose—which would make any major US industry or labor union present its economic reasons or proof any time a union demands a wage increase or a company announces a price rise.

Many labor unions and most industrialists disagree with Reuther. But all of them agree that more government control is not the answer. Still, if unscrupulous men acquire power in either the labor or economic fields, as of now the government and its regulations are the public's only protection.

I know this all sounds fairly high flown, but I believe the story can and should be done, especially now that the spring strike season is upon us.

The history of syndicalism could be mapped out in Italy and Germany. Something like it is in operation now in West Germany, with labor union representatives sitting on the boards of directors at Krupp and other big enterprises there.

The Senate Rackets Committee has produced miles of tape and film on management-labor collusion. The New York waterfront is the best example of syndicalism in operation and control in this country. The advent of automation and the labor pressures it is creating threaten a kind of machine-made syndicalism which will become increasingly important.

Big Labor for the first time showed its political muscles in Ohio and California during the 1958 elections. This could only be the beginning.

Big Business and industry keep getting bigger, with greater concentrations of economic power being collected in fewer and fewer hands.

The question CBS News could ask is: "What happens if these two forces ever get together?"

May 12, 2015

1968. The Cold War Arms Race

The Balance of Nuclear Terror
The USS Pueblo crew released by the North Koreans on December 23, 1968
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

January 26 for Sunday, January 28

Knowledge is power, and in the case of the incident off Wonsan Bay last Tuesday, the quest for knowledge is powerful enough to bring the world to the brink of another war.

It might be said that the many breakthroughs in science—in electronic communications; in the miniaturization of translators and printed circuits; in the art of solid physics; in orbital space vehicles; and of course in nuclear weaponry—that all of this scientific development applied to military defense by the advanced and industrial nations of the world has brought the dangerous position we're in today.

It might be said that the world's physicists and electronic geniuses and the skilled technicians are real, behind-the-scenes military strategists who hold the balance of power in this divided world. A weapons breakthrough in some secret nuclear laboratory might give some unprincipled government the power to blackmail its adversaries into submission.

That's the reason the defense minister and chiefs of staff in capitals throughout the earth go into a flap when they detect new weapons experiments and testing.

The Russians, for example, know they are behind the United States in the development of orbiting "remote censors" and so-called "spy satellites." The Air Force has lifted scores of them into space, where they orbit over the North and South Poles and keep a close watch on specified areas of the Soviet Union and mainland China several times a day.

By the same token, US defense leaders and military scientists also have occasion to flap—as, for example, over the mysterious testing of the so-called "Kosmos series" of Russian satellites. The USSR orbited the 200th Kosmos satellite the other day—also on a polar orbit—and the Pentagon suspects these are also communist "spy satellites." But no one really knows for sure. There was another kind of flap here a couple of months ago when Secretary McNamara announced that the Russians might be testing a "Fractional Orbital Bomb," presenting US defense officials with the horrible prospect of countering a potential population destroyer which would give any American target city something less than four minutes advance warning.

By the same token, lack of knowledge about the Russian anti-ballistic missile system, which US intelligence determined was built to defend the Moscow-Leningrad industrial complex, also presented Washington with a defense dilemma. Although McNamara and many other military experts believe that the Russians are wasting their money, pressure from the Congress and the public forced President Johnson to order a go-ahead on the so-called "thin line" ABM system.

Cite the above examples to emphasize the importance of the intelligence gathering mission of the USS Pueblo. For, after all, we live constantly in a balance of nuclear terror that has become so much part of our lives that people forget about it. But the fact remains that American and Russian nuclear-tipped missiles are now poised in their silos and pads aimed at each others' cities, and if the rockets go up, most of us will have only some fifteen minutes to live.

Someday some future historian may judge us all mad. But both America and Russia have invested many billions of dollars to assure that they have this fifteen minutes margin. The USS Pueblo, in her small way, was part of that expensive effort.

All nations, according to their need and capability, engage in intelligence gathering in the interests of their own security. It may consist in some cases of keeping track of a potential enemy's daily newspapers and parliamentary proceedings. But to be and to continue to be a major world power, that nation must literally keep track of the world.

The records show that the Russians have twenty-six large trawlers loaded with electronic and oceanographic equipment which prowl the seas collecting data. These intelligence vessels are regularly on station off Cape Kennedy and the Vandenberg missile base in California. They shadow ships of the US Seventh Fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin. And a Russian fishing boat has become part of the horizon off the island of Guam, presumably radioing advance warning when the big B-52 bombers take off and head westward on a bombing mission over Vietnam. There's always a few communist spy ships around the Mediterranean keeping track of the US Sixth Fleet and of NATO naval maneuvers, off the Scottish coast at Holy Loch where the US Polaris submarines are based when on NATO duty.

The records also show that the United States has five merchant ships converted and rigged for electronic surveillance. One of them is the USS Liberty, which got into trouble in the eastern Mediterranean last June while monitoring military messages of the Israeli and Arab armies during the Six Day War. Obviously the Liberty wanted to watch for any Soviet intervention in that crisis, but her attempts to play a passive role in those dangerous waters brought tragedy. Israeli radar spotted her and Israeli planes and gunboats attacked.

What the records do not show is the large number of other, smaller vessels believed to be in an expanding intelligence fleet. The nine hundred ton trawler Pueblo was one of these. It is significant that the Pentagon lost no time in identifying the Pueblo for what she was: an "intelligence gathering vessel." Thus defense officials avoided the snafu over honest identification which caused so much confusion in the USS Liberty incident last spring.

The Pueblo's electronic gizmos are capable of tracking anything within range that moves in the air, on the ground or sea, or that floats underwater. It can eavesdrop on military radio messages, locate hidden radar stations, map coastal defense installations, and monitor traffic on highways, railroads, and air bases.

But the presence aboard the Pueblo of two civilian oceanographers indicates her mission might have been as routine as it was secret. The increasing importance of Polaris submarines in the defense picture makes the charting of the ocean environment increasingly important.

But the American intelligence ship must also have been checking on such things as North Korean troop and plane concentrations, and on communist coastal ship movements around the port of Wonsan. Recent forays across the 17th parallel truce line by North Korean patrols, saboteurs, and commandos indicate that the Pyongyang government may be trying to foment a Vietnam-style guerrilla war against the Republic of Korea. If so, Wonsan would be a major base for seaborne infiltration of the South.

No matter what the outcome of this newest Korean crisis, the communist capture of the USS Pueblo and her crew already has proved to be a futile act of brutal piracy. The electronic surveillance and close monitoring of Wonsan Bay and the east coast of North Korea has more than doubled.

Reports here say that two more US intelligence ships like the Pueblo are not patrolling offshore waters. Only this time, the so-called spy ships have the backing of a US Navy task force led by the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise and her planes.

Ironically, the Enterprise has more tonnage in her single hull than all the ships of the North Korean navy. And more American sailors and pilots operate this one carrier and fly her planes than the total manpower of the North Korean fleet.