August 22, 2017

1967. Washington's Diplomatic Posturing Over Vietnam War Negotiations

Rumors of Potential Peace Talks Between Washington and Hanoi
"Napalm air strikes raise clouds into gray monsoon skies as houseboats glide down the Perfume River toward Hue in Vietnam on February 28, 1963, where a battle for control of the old Imperial City ended with a Communist defeat. Firebombs were directed against a village on the outskirts of Hue" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 5, 1967

Beginning this week, members of the Buddhist religion around the world begin the celebration of their celestial new year, an occasion called Tet. According to the Oriental horoscope, each new year is named after one of twelve animals who answered the summons of the great Buddha many centuries ago to celebrate his holy eminence, and in the coming new year Buddhists will live the next twelve months under the sign of the sheep.

According to some venerable Oriental astrologists, many of them in Vietnam, the year of the Sheep is a particularly good one for the settlement of differences. For this reason alone the coming of Tet would have significance for the war in Southeast Asia and in Vietnam particularly, where some local generals on both sides of the conflict govern their military decisions according to their horoscopes and the advice of the nearest Buddhist soothsayer on hand.

However, the Buddhist New Year also is called by other names with different connotations—other meanings, even—for the Americans on the diplomatic offensive here in Washington as well as for the US military command in Saigon.

The year of the Sheep is also called the year of the Ram, or the year of the Lamb, and sometimes the year of the Goat.

As this week in Washington ended, it would appear that the diplomatic postures of the US government, like that of the Communist regime of North Vietnam, were strikingly similar. On the surface, at least, both Washington and Hanoi were trying to maintain the outward stance of the buck ram, righteously challenging the world as master of his domain. But very, very quietly behind the scenes, the buck was making most conciliatory and lamb-like sounds to end the agony of the Vietnam War.

Overshadowing both these efforts was the determination of the conciliators in Hanoi and Washington that their government would not be cuckolded into a humiliating kind of peace, both determined that Tet would not mean they would wear the derisive horns of the Goat.

Thus it is clear that if the world's peacemakers, now working so diligently in the backstreets of diplomacy to arrange negotiations for the Vietnam War, must also find a way to satisfy the question of "face." Face, or "face saving," has sometimes been called the basic principle of life in the Far East. Men have been known to commit suicide if they somehow have fallen so low in the eyes of their neighbors as to bring disgrace on themselves and their ancestors.

However, the matter of face is not peculiar only to the Orient. It also is an overriding factor in the most advanced nations of the Occident. We in the West call it "national pride."

This past week in Washington began in sadness with the burial of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. But the week ended in an atmosphere of hope, as the Capitol was flooded with murmurs and whisperings that American efforts to establish some kind of dialogue with the North Vietnam government at long last was meeting with at least partial success.

In fact, it was Hanoi which was responsible for stirring up the eddies of peace talk that swirled through this city. A week earlier, Hanoi radio broadcast an interview statement from North Vietnam's Foreign Minister Nguyễn Duy Trinh, in which Trinh stated that there just possibly "could" be across-the-table negotiations with the United States—but "only after" an unconditional cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam by US planes.

Washington and Saigon authorities were still trying to fathom the significance of Trinh's statement when the State Department received confidential word from an undisclosed source that the foreign minister's broadcast statement was indeed intended by Hanoi to be of great importance, and that Washington should so regard it. If true, then North Vietnam was contemplating a major change in her policy toward the struggle of the National Liberation Front seeking the overthrow of the Saigon government. Previously Hanoi's conditions for negotiating a settlement of the conflict had called for four points, including the previous and immediate withdrawal of all US and foreign forces from the South and the per se recognition of the political wing of the Viet Cong guerrillas as the only spokesman for the people of South Vietnam—and so-called "free elections," Communist-style, for all the nation to establish a Hanoi-type regime for both the North and South.

The question raised by the North Vietnam broadcast was: had Foreign Minister Trinh dropped three of the four original preconditions to negotiations in order to get to the negotiating table.

Washington's dove-like rumor mongers were bolstered in their grapevine peace campaign by a number of things, including the revelation by the Pentagon that during the last six months of 1966 the infiltration of North Vietnamese troops into the South had shown some falling off.

Defense Secretary McNamara, however, went to great pains to insist that the supply of men and materiel to the Viet Cong had by no means stopped. In fact, he indicated that the infiltration had stepped up again about the first of the calendar year.

It was also reported without official confirmation that President Johnson had reacted to the worldwide furor over alleged bombings of civilians in Hanoi by ordering a cessation of air action against military targets within a five mile radius from the center of the North Vietnam capital. However, the Pentagon bluntly refused to admit that such a self-imposed stricture on US military planes existed. When reporters last Tuesday and Wednesday pointed out that air attacks generally on Communist territory had fallen off sharply, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, personally intervened to straighten out the questioning reporters.

"The lessened number of aerial sorties against North Vietnam," Wheeler declared, "was due solely to the weather and the tail end of the monsoon season which is buffeting the region." Furthermore, the General asserted the weather in Hanoi's Red River Delta for the past couple of weeks has been just plain lousy. "It's lousy today," he said, "and the forecast is that it will be lousy next week and possibly the week after."

No one was saying it out loud at the Pentagon, the White House, or anywhere else, but the silent consensus was that, whoever he is, the weather forecaster for the Allied Air Forces in Southeast Asia should have gotten the "diplomat of the week" award.

On Tuesday the State Department made a cautious admission that the broadcast interview with Foreign Minister Trinh was getting "careful study."

On Wednesday Secretary of State Dean Rusk broke his self-imposed silence concerning the upheavals in Communist China and related the difficulties of Mao Tse-tung's new "cultural revolution" to neighboring North Vietnam. Peking's troubles, Rusk opined, might give the Communist leaders of Hanoi "more freedom of action" in finding a way to peace negotiations.

On Thursday President Johnson called a full-dress news conference and appeared before TV cameras and radio microphones to assure that his words would have a worldwide hearing. The chief executive put on a philosophical performance, and it soon became clear that he was addressing the leaders of North Vietnam as much as he was the one hundred or so reporters who crowded into the East Room of the White House.

Mr. Johnson carefully restated his position regarding the question of peace talks to end the Southeast Asian fighting.

"We have made clear that if the other side desires to discuss peace at any time...that we will be very happy to have appropriate arrangements made to see that such is carried out," the President said. "Where we would talk...and who would talk...and what we would talk about...are all matters that can be worked out by the two nations involved."

But the most significant thing to come out of Mr. Johnson's news conference was his returning time and again to the cautious theme that the American people should not get their hopes too high that a negotiated end to the Vietnam fighting is in the making.

"In all candor," he asserted, "I must say that I'm not aware of any serious effort that the other side has made, in my judgment, to bring the fighting to a stop...and to stop the war." At least three times the President pointed out the lack of what he called a "serious effort" by Hanoi to demonstrate any serious intent to come to the negotiating table. In other words, by the reverse-English standards of international diplomacy practiced in public, the President of the United States was openly telling Ho Chi Minh, Foreign Minister Trinh, and other leaders of the North Vietnamese government: "show me!"

When a reporter laid it on the line and asked Mr. Johnson just what he would expect Hanoi to do that would justify ordering an end to the bombing of North Vietnam, the President's reply seemed to be almost a plea.

"Just almost any step would be enough," he declared, adding, "They haven't taken any as yet..."

As we said, the flurry of peace rumors which still are circulating through Washington was touched off by a broadcast interview with Hanoi's Foreign Minister Nguyễn Duy Trinh. The reporter who did the interview was Wilfred Burchett, an Australian who this correspondent met during World War II while covering the Allied armies in Europe and then later during the occupation days of Japan.

Taking into consideration Burchett's open and avowed Communism, nevertheless he was a competent and thorough reporter. Today Burchett followed up his scoop interview with Foreign Minister Trinh with another news story from Hanoi to the English-language newspaper Yomiuri in Tokyo. Burdchett's dispatch, datelined last Friday, describes Trinh's statement as a "declaration that cessation of US bombardments could lead to talks between North Vietnam and the United States." It was made to test the sincerity of Washington's frequent expressions of a desire for peace, for negotiations and so forth, the Burchett story goes on.

"Hanoi feels it has opened the door and demonstrated its good will...and that it's up to Washington to make the next move...If Johnson is sincere, he must definitely halt the bombardments, start the talks, and see what steps are possible next..."

Again, neither the Hanoi government nor Burchett's news story mentions other conditions for going to the negotiation table, other than a pledge to call off the bombing of North Vietnam.

Thus Hanoi and Washington would seem to be in accord about the desirability of negotiations, but there still remains the problem of "face"—how to get to the bargaining table without tripping over national pride.

The Burchett dispatch to Tokyo mentions this, too.

"If Washington concludes that Foreign Minister Trinh's statement was made from a position of weakness, and the American hawks should insist that now is the time to hit Vietnam harder than ever," says the Communist reporter, "then that would be a major blunder."

"Hanoi is prepared for such a hawk-like reaction," Burchett continues. "However, Hanoi's statement that talks could start if the bombardment is halted is made from a position of strength—not weakness."

As if to prove the point before the Buddhist New Year, Viet Cong guerrillas again infiltrated a major American ammunition dump just north of Saigon this weekend and caused considerable damage.

The United States also demonstrated its position of strength over the weekend. There were some 77 fighter-bomber missions over North Vietnam today, and a B-52 raid on a North Vietnam Army base camp on the Hanoi side of the Demilitarized Zone north of the 17th parallel.

However, 77 Air Force and Navy fighter-bombers over the North is about one half of what the US Tactical Command has been sending there in the patter of aerial assault during the past several months. "Bad weather," says the Saigon weatherman. None of those 77 US planes got any closer to Hanoi than seventeen miles.

The Buddhist New Year celebrations begin next Monday with another one of those mutually-agreed ceasefires, supposedly arranged in secret conclave between representatives of the Saigon and Hanoi governments.

Saigon has agreed that the temporary armistice should last for four days. The Communists say they will observe a ceasefire for seven days.

Word from South Vietnam today is that the Saigon government now is reconsidering its position and is ready to confer with enemy envoys to extend the truce to match Hanoi's seven day period.

The United States and Allied forces will observe whatever armistice is satisfactory to the Kỳ government.

It's generally agreed here in Washington that the coming days and weeks are important ones for Southeast Asia. If you're an optimist, the question must arise, "What happens to the New Year's ceasefire if there is no fighting on the eighth day?"

It may turn out to be the year of the Lamb after all.

This is Bill Downs for ABC in Washington.

August 21, 2017

1950. Soviets Liquidate Internment Camps in East Germany

NKVD Internment Camps Shut Down After Five Years
A column of German prisoners is led by Red Army soldiers through a ruined village near Stalingrad, December 1942 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 25, 1950 (recorded to air later)

In the middle of January, General Vasily Chuikov, Soviet High Commissioner for Germany, announced that Russian occupation authorities were liquidating three internment camps in Eastern Germany.

Camps that were a political embarrassment to Germans and Russians trying to sell Communism here. Camps whose names already were notorious under the Nazis and which were becoming equally so under the Communists.

Buchenwald. Sachsenhausen. Bautzen.

Chuikov's announcement said that 15,000 persons in these camps would be set free to return to their homes. Another three and a half thousand would be held as criminals. The USSR would keep 649 others for major war crimes against the Soviet Union.

The Communist propaganda ballyhooed this as a great show of humanity and generosity by the Russian occupying power—propaganda that political prisoners and opponents of the satellite regime will not agree with.

These are the pictures of some of the people who know something of the so-called generosity of totalitarianism. They were taken in at a headquarters of an organization called the "Fighting Group Against Inhumanity," an association of former war prisoners, internees, and persecutees formed to expose terror behind the Iron Curtain in Germany.

The first thing they do when they check in is to put down the names of comrades who they know have died behind the barbed wire.

Every day women come here to check on husbands, sons, or relatives.

Some of the prisoners were in fairly good shape, particularly if they had good jobs in the camps, like in the kitchen. Others are slated for TB hospitals—and probably early death.

The Fighting Group Against Inhumanity has figures that disagree with General Chuikov's. They say that out of 180,000 persons interned in 1945—five years ago—90,000 died behind the wire, and that 30,000 have been deported to Russia and disappeared. Those now returning every day by the hundreds are only what's left.

The three young men here, all in their early twenties, were arrested for trying to cross the Russian zonal border without the proper papers. They were accused of being spies and spent four years in the camps.

The Russians gave them good shoes when they were released, but the clothing has something to be desired. The coats they call "Sokolovsky" Mäntel; the hats "Kotikov" Mütze.

Life in the people's democracy is, it seems, more strange than wonderful.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 25, 1950

Transport trucks continue to pile up at the Helmstedt autobahn checkpoint today in what is being called a "creeping blockade" of road traffic in and out of Berlin.

Russian transport authorities are allowing only a half-dozen trucks an hour to come through.

Today something new has been added. Transport trucks trying to return to the Western zones from Berlin also are being held up. So now there are queues of heavy trucks lined up on both sides of the Russian zone border. Currently no more than a hundred loaded trucks are waiting to get in, and about half that number trying to get out. Also this morning four barges were stopped on the inland waterway out of Berlin. Railroad traffic is normal.

One Berlin Communist newspaper denies that there is any blockade or slowdown. Western reporters who say there is are "attempting to create tension and unrest."

Two weeks ago Russian occupation authorities announced they were liquidating three concentration camps in their zone and returning more than 15,000 Germans to their homes. The move is designed as a goodwill gesture to win public opinion toward the East.

This morning I spent several hours talking with some of the men and women returning from Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Bautzen.

It was a strange sight, this long after the war, to see war prisoners again. Some were fat and healthy, others were emaciated and tubercular. Some were teenage kids picked up making illegal border crossings and held as spies.

There was one new category—a middle-aged machine worker. He was arrested three years ago when his machine jammed and was ruined. For this he was sent to the coal mines to work out the cost of the machine—30,000 rubles. But in the mines he was denounced as an unreliable person and sent to Buchenwald. Strangely enough, he was included in the recent amnesty.

He is the only inmate I ever found in favor of a concentration camp—otherwise, he said, he would still be in the mines instead of walking free as he is today.

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

August 20, 2017

1949. Soviets See Favorable Prospects for Agreement with United States

Possible Softening of the Propaganda Line
Black market deal in East Berlin in 1953. The poster on the wall reads: "Es lebe die große Freundschaft zwischen den kulturen der Sowjetunion-Deutschland, die sewahr eines dauerhaftlen friedens in Europa!" ("Long live the great friendship between the cultures of the Soviet Union of Germany, which is a lasting peace in Europe!") (Photo by Ralph Crane - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 3, 1949

As in Paris, the sun has come out for the first time in a week to shine in Berlin, and it is possible to see the effects at once. People walk more sprightly in the streets, they smile and are kinder to each other. And for a moment it is even possible to forget that this is a blockaded city—that there is a Berlin crisis.

This is the first business day of the new year. The propaganda from the East sector of the city is not quite so abusive. Or perhaps the men who write the stuff haven't gotten their breath back after the holidays.

The Russian-licensed newspaper, Forward, today even hints that perhaps the new American Congress, meeting in a few hours, may come up with a solution to the East-West difficulties. This editorial claims that the victories of the Communist forces in China have changed the world outlook. And that this fact, coupled with the American elections and the rumored resignation of Secretary of State Marshall and other cabinet officials, presents favorable prospects for agreement between the United States and Soviet Russia. The newspaper says that the pressure of the peace-loving majority in America will force President Truman to seek a compromise with Russia in the coming months.

I mention this only as a possible softening of the Communist propaganda line toward the United States.

Meanwhile there is no letup of the blockade. Today East Berlin officials announce that all vehicles which do not have the new Soviet military permits will be confiscated where found in the Russian sector of the city.

The Soviet-occupied sections of East Berlin and Eastern Germany today begin what they hail as a "Two Year Plan" of socialization and reconstruction. Streetcars in the zone were decorated with banners and flags—red, of course—factory whistles were blown, meetings were held in the factories.

The idea is to increase production. The East German government has approved what is called the "Hennecke movement," a speed-up labor campaign similar to the Stakhanovite movement in Russia.

The current joke concerns the carpenter who bragged he had increased his production 1,500 percent. "How can this be?" he was asked.

"Someone asked me to bring him a nail," the Hennecke man replied, "And I brought a handful."

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

August 19, 2017

1932. Hitler Complains Nazis Are Victims of "Alarmist Propaganda"

Hitler Protests Crackdown
President Paul von Hindenburg in Berlin followed closely behind by Chancellor Adolf Hitler, February 25, 1934 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism. Two weeks ahead of the German presidential election in 1932, Adolf Hitler complained to incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg that the Nazi Party was subject to "alarmist propaganda" from its opponents who warned about the dangers of a Nazi victory.

From The New York Times, February 29, 1932:
Complains to Hindenburg About Forecasts of Disturbance if Nazis Win Elections
Appeals to Foreign Correspondents After Prussia Tightens Ban on Agitation by "Subversive Parties"
BERLIN, Feb. 28 — Adolf Hitler summoned foreign correspondents to his headquarters at the Kaiserhof today to protest against his opponents' practice of predicting terrorism and disturbance to Germany's foreign relations and credit in the event that the National Socialists were victorious in the Presidential election March 13. He declared that such "alarmist propaganda" was dangerous in that it might really produce such an effect.

Herr Hitler said he believed his election would contribute to better foreign relations and establish internal stability. Then he made public an open letter to President von Hindenburg protesting against the alleged attempt to discredit him abroad and muzzle his newspapers and periodicals which he declared compelled him to appeal to the foreign press.

Herr Hitler's protest to the President follows instructions issued by Carl Severing, Prussian Minister of the Interior, to local administration officials to suppress agitation by "subversive parties inimical to the State" by rigorous employment of the special powers of censorship over the press and public meetings conferred by the emergency decrees.

Der Angriff Suspended

Der Angriff, the Nazis' Berlin organ, has been suspended for a week for an article representing President Hindenburg as the candidate of the Socialist party, whose spirit, according to the paper, is characterized by the words of one of its members, "We know nothing of the German fatherland; our country is the world."

"Herr Field Marshal, do you consider it worthy of your name to have your honor as a Presidential candidate guarded by a wilderness of emergency decrees and legal paragraphs while abandoning the candidate opposing you as a free game for partisan lies and defamation?" Herr Hitler asks in his open letter.

Citing the Socialist election appeal that "Hitler instead of Hindenburg means chaos in Germany and Europe, the direst peril and bloody struggles at home and abroad, and the annihilation of all civic liberties," Herr Hitler enters "an indignant protest against the attempt to mobilize the foreign world under cover of your name, Herr Reichspräsident, against the free decision of political issues in Germany."

Will Ward Off Attacks

"In my statements to foreigners," the Nazi leader continues, "I have never failed to emphasize that every German government to date has been imbued by a sincere love of peace.

"Attempts to discredit an inconvenient German movement before the foreign world as a disturber of the peace, made under cover of your name and not disclaimed, I shall henceforth know how to ward off personally. During the election campaign my utterances shall come to the knowledge of the world, just as do the statements of the representatives of the present system."

Herr Hitler charges that although his party is represented as endangering civil liberties the present system's emergency decrees have abolished democratic freedom and the liberty of the press, and that the suppression of his newspapers while the campaign is in progress represents a violation of the freedom of election guaranteed by the Constitution.

He contrasts his opponents' demands for a "chivalrous campaign" with alleged defamation of his lieutenants and himself, such as false accusations that he deserted the Austrian military service.

August 18, 2017

1967. The Central Intelligence Agency's Long Financial Reach

The Department of Dirty Tricks
The 6th World Festival of Youth in Students in Moscow, later revealed to have been infiltrated by the CIA (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 19, 1967

Official Washington was reminded this week of the double standard by which the citizens judge their government and its operations. It's a Puritanical and, some say, a hypocritical ethic, the kind that made Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter an American classic. For it is still a fact of life in this country that the people regard secrecy in government very much like they regard adultery in marriage. Or more accurately, they seem to equate the super-secret Central Intelligence Agency with the kind of man who finds it necessary to keep a discreet mistress as a professional sideline. It's really no one's business as long as the mistress doesn't interfere with his family, that he keeps her out of the neighborhood, and above all he does not get caught.

As this week in Washington ended, the most avidly-read publication in the national capital was not the Congressional Record with its slightly juicy revelations of the investigated antics of Adam Clayton Powell. It was a slick, West Coast, monthly publication called Ramparts magazine with a story about the CIA which during the week captured the top headlines from the war in Vietnam, the troubled Cultural Revolution in Communist China and the political pronouncements from the White House and Capitol Hill.

The Ramparts' exposé revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency for years had been consorting with its mistress of secrecy right under the noses of some of the most respected members of American society. The Agency not only brought her into the neighborhood but actually brought her in the nation's bedroom, so to speak, to entice innocent young collegians in the National Student Association.

Not only that, it now develops that the CIA, in its secret efforts to advance American foreign policies and defend the nation from infiltrating espionage agents, also employed the international departments of a number of AFL and CIO unions, including the American Newspaper Guild, which when I was a member was concerned with getting the normal $25 a week salaries of legmen raised to maybe $30 a week.

CIA gold also was channeled into the US branches of a number of so-called egghead and do-gooder organizations such as the international society of writers called PEN—or the Paris-based, highly intellectual Congress for Cultural Freedom.

But most startling of all was the complex and most cumbersome method which the CIA used to disburse its secret money. More than a dozen wealthy foundations have been named as conduits for the Agency's dollars—dollars which, incidentally, by law the CIA does not have to make a public accounting.

These foundations, which channeled the money into a myriad of projects connected with the CIA's overseas intelligence operations, were based in such disparate places as Boston, Philadelphia, Columbus, Baltimore, and Dallas. Over the years, millions of tax dollars were involved. The foundations don't pay taxes, so presumably the CIA funds were not themselves taxed.

But what the Ramparts magazine article did was to open a floodgate of criticism of the Agency. For the Central Intelligence Agency, like the respected adulterer, made that unforgivable mistake—it got well and truly caught. But of more seriousness, as the professional intelligence officials put it, the CIA has lost its fig leaf—or rather a whole vine-full of fig leaves—which is going to make its covert operations overseas more difficult.

This correspondent spent some fifteen or so years as a foreign correspondent working around the world, including a wartime year in the Soviet Union. We suspect that the hullabaloo over the CIA's financing of students to attend international youth rallies, the financing of international labor organizations to teach democratic unionism to the working men of developing nations being wooed by the Communists, the secret sponsorship of professional organizations to counter totalitarian propaganda among the intellectuals of the world—we suspect these revelations are causing much more sensation here in Washington and across the country than they are in most foreign capitals.

In Moscow, for example, we found that every foreign correspondent was automatically assumed to be an intelligence agent for his government. News reporters deal in facts. Facts about Russia, put together even in the most innocuous story, constitute intelligence in the Communist mind. It did no good to explain that the private companies like the press associations, newspapers, and broadcast networks who sent their own correspondents overseas did so as a competitive business policy to sell the news collected by its correspondent-employees. To the Kremlin we were foreign intelligence agents. And to make it clear, they assigned black-capped and leather-coated members of the secret police to follow us about and report what we were up to.

Let me clear up one point here. When I was in the Soviet Union there was no CIA. The Office of Strategic Services under General William Donovan was just getting its intelligence service organized. To my knowledge, the news organizations for whom I worked overseas never accepted a dime of federal financing. For the United Press, CBS, and the American Broadcasting Company to allow its correspondents to become secret agents would risk the basic asset of the news that it markets—the integrity of their news gathering staffs. Destroy that integrity and the news organization is destroyed. It would be just plain bad business, because the UPI and the Associated Press and the broadcast networks market their integrity and their news not only in the United States but in foreign countries as well.

So while the current flap over the Central Intelligence Agency has surfaced many of its overseas operations, we suspect that the intelligence organizations in most capitals of the world darn well knew or suspected what was going on. In the case of the Russians and other Communist countries, the KGB and other secret police groups would expect the CIA to use American students. They've been doing it for years. Just as here in Washington it's generally assumed that the foreign correspondents for Pravda, Izvestia, and Tass most certainly are expected to work for the KGB. In fact, it's their patriotic duty by the standards of the USSR.

But what disturbs many people here in Washington is the extent to which the CIA secret operations have penetrated the economic and intellectual structure of our society.

For example, the Agency has channeled some of its money into the publication of books, good books which give a fair picture of the country and explain its origins. To give these books the necessary "cover," as it's called, reputable publishers put them on the newsstands for sale to American readers, thus divorcing them from any covert propaganda purposes when they are distributed overseas. This raises the question of whether there is something wrong about the US citizens purchasing again a book for which he has already been taxed to publish. Or more seriously, it raises the question of whether any democratic agency should ever be in a position to secretly propagandize its own people.

The use of federal funds to finance collegiate delegations overseas could and should be a worthy educational project. But for the CIA to make secret use of the National Student Association for this end has raised serious questions about the integrity of American education.

Allen Dulles this week defended the action, which he administered at the time when he was directer of the CIA.

"If you studied the student conference movement abroad during those years of the early 1950s," Mr. Dulles explained, "you would find that the Communists were making very effective use of them. The international conference had great propaganda value for them, and were influencing the youth in the United States as well as in other countries."

The question still remains: having succeeded, why didn't the CIA get out of the National Student Association? Its so-called fig leaf cover became more transparent as each graduating class increased the number of young people aware of the CIA secret. And, sure enough, it was a former NSA official which blew the whistle on the Agency in the Ramparts magazine article.

President Johnson this week ordered a review of the CIA's involvement and assistance to the Student Association and other areas of the nation's education establishment. The Washington Post says today that the investigation will probably broaden its scope to look into the CIA's involvement with American labor unions, charitable foundations, and ostensibly independent organizations and other institutions.

Mr. Johnson appointed a three-man panel to make the study, composed of Under Secretary of State and former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner, and the present CIA director Richard Helms.

Congressional criticism already is blowing from Capitol Hill about the membership of the investigating group. "It's like asking an errant husband to investigate his mistress," said one Congressman.

Translated, that probably means that before the fig leaves have settled to the ground, either the Senate or the House of Representatives—or both—will be getting into the act.

More than a century ago, observing foreigners traveling in the United States returned to their homelands to write books about the brash young country. Eminent writer such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few, variously admired or criticized many facets of US life. But they all agreed on one thing: Americans have big mouths. Their pride and energy make them talk too much, and living in a broad and open country where freedom of speech is a way of life, they have a great disdain for secrets—especially official secrecy.

Therein lies the paradox of the Central Intelligence Agency and the roots of the troubles which now are plaguing it. In the open society that is the United States, how does the government and its people accommodate an institution which, to serve them, must remain anonymous?

The authoritative Washington Star today raises the question of whether "the current flap over the CIA can be escalated to the point where it will destroy the nation's intelligence organization." We don't think so. In the nuclear era of what might be called the possibility of "instant stone age," if the CIA did not exist then Congress and the White House would invent it.

We do think that the Central Intelligence Agency can, like the snail, emerge out of its shell so people can observe and understand it. Like the snail, the Agency can keep its most sensitive organs concealed and people can still admire its impressive super-structure.

For ironically, by public declaration of virtually every CIA director from Allen Dulles to Dick Helms, about eighty percent of the enormous work that the Agency does is in the non-secret area. Today's intelligence mostly is made up of collecting, collating, and assessing overseas publications, winnowing statistics and details from agricultural, engineering, and professional journals, scanning big and little newspapers for national trade and troubles, and most important, monitoring thousands of broadcasts in dozens of languages which serve to update the top secret National Intelligence Estimate—a global summary of events prepared for the president and the National Security Council each morning.

The Agency has boasted that it has "the most comprehensive information retrieval system now in operation anywhere," with rows and rows of electronic memory banks, specialized miniature photographic machines, facsimile printing devices, and punch card indexes which contain more than fifty million cards.

One intelligence official once boasted that the Agency had collected a most eminent group of scholars knowledgeable about China, and that this collection of Sinologists was better than any university staff in the world.

For what it's worth, we suggest that the CIA's information retrieval system would be of great value to the students and historians throughout the country—that the CIA's historians and scholars should be shared with the nation when they can be spared.

We even suggest that someone in the Agency be allowed to come right out and say that there's a $60 million building on the banks of the Potomac in Langley, Virginia that several employees drive out to for work every day, and that they proudly work for the Central Intelligence Agency, which is a keystone to the defense and security of the nations of the Free World.

Let the Agency keep its so-called "department of dirty tricks" to itself. But when the government needs American students to attend the next International Youth Conference, let the appeal be open and above-board, not a behind-the-barn operation.

This is Bill Downs for ABC in Washington.

August 17, 2017

1950. German Communists React to McCarthy's Attacks on State Department

"Total Dementia in Washington"
Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 2, 1950

This morning we have the first German Communist reaction to the sensational charges in Washington against State Department leaders who Senator McCarthy says are pursuing pro-Kremlin policies.

The official Communist party newspaper in Berlin prints a long commentary under the headline "Total Dementia in Washington." With unconcealed glee, the newspaper describes the charges against Secretary of State Acheson, Ambassador Jessup, and Owen Lattimore.

The paper says it has its own reports from Washington that General George Marshall soon will be accused of pro-Communist sympathies and that even President Truman will be charged with being in the service of the Kremlin.

Then, making a reference to the recent tragic death of Defense Secretary James Forrestal, the Neues Deutschland cynically declares that Truman, Acheson, and Marshall already have made reservations in Washington's Bethesda hospital for luxury padded cells.

The Communist propaganda, in quoting our own Senate to discredit the American government, says that the massive attack on the State Department really is propaganda for the coming Congressional elections in which an imperialistic clique hopes to bring war to the world.

There is no doubt but that propaganda chief Gerhart Eisler is very happy about the whole situation.

Army engineers continue to probe into the secret treasure trove of Hermann Göring today. Authorities are keeping very close-mouthed about their findings, but the loot already is estimated to be more than a million dollars in art objects, gold plate, rare wines and liqueurs, as well as a silver bathtub. The treasure was brought to Göring's Veldenstein Castle near Nuremberg and hidden in underground concrete vaults shortly before the war ended.

There was another small riot on the border of the French-Soviet sector in Berlin last night. Several arrests were made and a policeman was knifed.

Otherwise, the East-West Cold War today is being fought by railroad officials. Western rail authorities charge that German sleeper trains are picking up bedbugs going through the Soviet zone. The argument is about who will delouse the trains.

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

August 16, 2017

1937. Mickey Mouse the Rebel

The Most Omniscient Mouse in the World
Top: "Mickey Mouse is amazed at the misconceptions about himself such as shown below." Bottom: "Mickey Mouse can be all things to all men. While Yugoslavia suspects him of revolutionary designs, Russia thinks he represents the meekness of the masses under capitalism." (Illustrations by Al Hirschfeld in The New York Times, December 26, 1937)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism and world politics in the years leading up to World War II.

In December 1937, with China and Japan at war and Europe on the brink, Herbert Russell wrote a tongue-in-cheek article in The New York Times Magazine about the international appeal of Mickey Mouse, whose image and personality changed depending on the country.

From The New York Times Magazine, December 26, 1937, pp. 4, 17:
An Inquiry Into a Plot of World-Wide Scope: Mickey and Company As Arch Conspirators

Now that that unreconstructed international rebel, Mickey Mouse, has been thrown out of Yugoslavia for conspiring against the throne—he together with the newspaper correspondent who rashly reported the plot—the expulsions from foreign countries of this arch-enemy of nations have risen to two. Hitler once barred him from Germany because Mickey was accompanied by a brigade of animals wearing Uhlan helmets, which was a reflection on the honor of the German Army and too serious to be passed over. Of course, Mickey was eventually pardoned, because not even dictators are completely immune to his spell; Mussolini loves him.

The incident in Yugoslavia serves to emphasize the international character of Mickey's activities, the boring from within by means of which he is winning the populations of a good part of the world to his cause. He is apparently without principles and can be all things to all men. While Yugoslavia suspects him of communistic and revolutionary designs, the Soviet thinks he represents the meekness and mildness of the masses under capitalism, and has countered by creating a Russian Mickey, known as Yozh, or the Porcupine, an animal favorite of Russian children. But Yozh will probably turn out to be the old Mickey in disguise.

•      •      •

Mickey does not care what he does so long as he gains his ends—he is completely unscrupulous—and while his victims laugh as he conspires. Or so one might think. Walt Disney, his father and Prime Minister, slyly deprecates the subtleties of Mickey's character. He says that all he wants is laughter, that he has no ulterior thoughts, no philosophy of life, no hidden political, social, or psychological motivations, none of the Eastern mysticism of which he is sometimes suspected, with reason, as will be seen. Those who read anything else into his life are all wrong, says Mr. Disney—but look at the record, as Al Smith used to remark.

In the first place there is no doubt that Mickey is an internationalist, and to be an internationalist these days is unorthodox to every one except Leon Trotsky. Mickey has been in thirty-eight countries in the world, and he is looking for others. In all these countries he has been popular and has captivated the masses; and that, to say the least, is suspicious. He promises them release for the time from worry and unhappiness, and speaks of a promised land where anything can, and does, happen.

That the great and near-great laugh at him merely proves his universality. He draws no distinctions, race, color or previous condition; he is kind even to jailbirds. President Roosevelt is his friend, and Queen Mother Mary sends for him regularly. He is the idol of savages, as Douglas Fairbanks found in Africa, and the Zulus refuse cakes of soap unless they bear his picture, just as natives used to refuse coins which did not have Queen Victoria's picture on them.

Reports from abroad continually show his increasing influence, an influence as mysterious as it is real. England, in self-defense, is creating a rival to him. In France his black-shirted pictures are everywhere. The shortness of his trousers has caused him to be looked upon as almost a Sans Culotte, or revolutionary, and his creatures, similarly dressed, may be found serving as ushers in theatres. A traveler in the East found Mickey peeking from a store window in Manchuli, which is a transfer point from the Chinese Eastern Railway to the Transsiberian. His being there at that time, just before the outbreak in China, was looked upon as highly suspicious, although it could not be determined whether he was coming from or going to Moscow. And paradoxically, he is the most popular figure in Japan, next to the Emperor.

•      •      •

Every country Mickey visits calls him by some variant of his name—for his real name is unknown; once it was said to be Hilarity Jones. Under that variant as a flag it is apparent his purpose is to rally his followers. The complete record of his aliases has never been compiled, but the following list of countries and the names they give him will show his international character:
Germany – Michael Maus
France – Michel Souris
Japan – Miki Kuchi
Spain – Miguel Ratoncito
Italy – Topolino
Greece – Mikel Mus
Sweden – Musse Pigg
Brazil – Camondongo Mickey
Argentina – El Raton Mickey
Central America – El Raton Miguelito
Mickey is not only appealing to the grown-up mob in the countries of the world; he has taken a leaf from the dictators and is organizing youth movements. These exist almost everywhere, from east to west, and from Singapore to Juneau, Alaska. Nearly every nationality is represented in the Singapore Mickey Mouse Club, but this cell of agitation has apparently not yet aroused the British Government to take action against it as protection for the Singapore naval base. Low, the British cartoonist, has pointed out that Mickey must appeal to the sophisticated before he can be completely successful. Mr. Low thinks Mickey lacks subtlety, and that his antics merely titillate the lower nervous system; but Low may have underestimated Mickey.

The Singapore club happens to be composed of adults, but it is one of the few exceptions. Most of the organizations take in only children, who carry a Mickey Mouse emblem and take a Mickey Mouse oath, which on its face is an innocuous pledge of good-will and patriotism. But they have a Mickey song, and a grip and a password. There are 1,500 of these clubs in the United States alone.

•      •      •

Whether Mickey is secretly building up cells in all these countries is not known, although the OGPU and the secret police of Germany might investigate. None of these nations, so far, has been able to agree upon interpretation of either Mickey or his activities. They see in him merely a reflection of their own ideologies or those of their enemies, according to their national psychology. His apparent simplicity, the fact that he is on the surface a gay creature who dashes madly into impossible situations, and escapes, giving the tail-waving, nose-thumbing Mickey salute—these things completely evade somber analysis.

There are continual attempts by the intelligentsia to interpret him, but he escapes them as easily as he avoided Mr. Low. Searching inquiry into Mickey has been made by a writer in The London Spectator, with the resulting judgment that he is an ebullient little rat, without an ounce of brains, half mug and half gallant, who by turns is meek and brave, and who represents the fantasy world in which adults, as well as children, may wander in a kind of Nirvana.

That there are no limits to his kingdom is also one of the allurements of Mickey which appeal to all the world. The air armadas of Europe, the plunging submarines, the skittering destroyers and dignified battleships cannot compete with the creatures which Mickey can call forth to battle if he chooses. He can scuttle a pirate with the aid of a sawfish and turn tortoises into tanks.

The capacity of such a Mouse for trouble is enormous, and those who pry into his motives cannot believe that he does everything for fun. He has appeared in international cartoons as a figure of importance. Newspapers in France and Italy and Russia speculate on his future and ineffectually try to link him with Br'er Rabbit and Krazy Kat as one who will have his day and then be forgotten. But Mickey shrugs his shoulders and bides his time, while his comic strips are in twenty-seven languages, and he speaks fluently four languages to hundreds of millions of people.

Now for his Eastern mysticism. The simplicity of Mickey is denied by one simple fact which has been overlooked by all the sage commentators and interpreters. Mickey can and does appear in thirty-eight countries at once. He is the most omniscient mouse in the world. Whether he is an Eastern Yogi, or Mahatma, or a Lama from Tibet, in the abbreviated raiment of a mouse, some odd victim of transmigration, has never been revealed since he was discovered seven years ago. But his Eastern origin may be assumed from the fact that he has such an affinity for Asiatic peoples—the Chinese seem to recognize in him much of their own guileful humor. Perhaps only as Mouse could he have won such world-wide fame, and if so, it rather confutes Mr. Low's theory of his lack of subtlety.

•      •      •

There is one other significant point to be made in any review of Mickey's international career. It is nothing that he is in Who's Who, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and has been decorated many times. But it is something that he has found a niche among the world's great in Mme. Tussaud's Wax Works in London. Somebody has recognized him for what he is to be; somebody knows his future.

Can it be possible that Mickey is waiting patiently for the collapse of civilization, waiting until the nations have pulled down their house of cards and destroyed all their own pretensions? Does he believe that the broken and oppressed people, wallowing in despond, will then turn to the one person whom they can depend upon for that happiness, and demand that Mickey shall become Emperor of the World? Perhaps Mickey isn't so dumb as he looks. Maybe that is why he is winning the ordinary folk and the great, building his youth movement through clubs, boring from within in Europe, Asia, Africa, India and the Americas.

And what a Cabinet he would have! Prime Minister, Walt Disney; Empress and Minister of Education, the ubiquitous Minnie; Minister of International Police, Pluto the Pup; Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, that notoriously bad egg, Donald Duck; and last, but not least, Minister of Nutrition, Clarabelle the Cow.

The only trouble with the idea of this world conspiracy of Mickey's is that its headquarters are in Hollywood.

August 15, 2017

1949. The Question of Rearming West Germany

Europe's Newest Dilemma
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer addresses the first volunteers of the newly established Bundeswehr in Andernach, West Germany, on January 20, 1956 (source)
Passages in parentheses were crossed out on the transcript before broadcast.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 10, 1949

The Army's American Forces Network here in Berlin has a program called "Hillbilly Gasthaus," a daily session of American folk music. One of the most popular numbers on this program, believe it or not, is called "I'm Biting My Fingernails and Thinking of You."

It struck me that this hillbilly lament has certain international implications. It could be the theme song of Western diplomats, military men, and defense secretaries when they sit down these days to discuss Germany.

The German question which is gripping the conscience of Europe today—and which has finally come out into the open—is whether or not to allow the West German republic some form of military power with which to participate in Western Europe's military defense plans. In other words, should the dreaded word "Wehrmacht" again become part of Europe's postwar vocabulary?

Perhaps you felt the shudder that emanated from this continent when this discussion finally came into the open—a kind of ideological earth tremor that shook this part of the world. After all, it was only some fifty months ago that a German army was regarded as the scourge of modern civilization.

But in the four and a half years of uncertain peace, things have changed. The struggle between East and West has reached a stage where East Germany already is being incorporated into the military organization of the Soviet Union.

The bald fact is that by admitting West Germany into the European community of nations, America and the Western Powers have automatically entered the Bonn republic into the defense program of Western Europe.

Now, whether we like it or not, it becomes necessary to consider the possibility of using Germans to defend democracy. A possibility, let us admit, not of choice but of necessity.

I am not talking about the moral aspect of this situation. Anyone can detail the atrocity of power that has made Germany the source of two wars in a generation—and generations before that. The war which ended in 1945 was the most horrible of all.

Morally—after the world's most recent experience—there is no human excuse or justification for rearming a nation that in its attempted conquest of Europe brought death to more than twenty million; which pursued the most dastardly pogrom of race extermination in the painful history of civilizations.

But the fact remains that no nation—the United States, Russia, or any other—has given up that bit of sovereignty which gives the state the right to make war. Attempts in the United Nations have failed, and treaties already are becoming reminiscent of pieces of paper.

So, lacking popular support or education for some sort of world government or world diplomacy to prevent war, it is perhaps incongruous to bleed deeply when preparations for yet another war go on before our eyes.

This incongruity also is civilization's dilemma.

Every international agreement concerning Germany since Hitler's armies first marched in 1939 has been based on the concept that when final victory was won, never again would this nation be allowed the forces to inflict upon the world.

Yet as the differences between the Communist and Democratic world widened, it was revealed that widespread training and arming of Germans was underway under the auspices of Russia.

The popular impression persisted in the West that we would never stoop to such tactics. However, in the past six months, the reports reaching correspondents became too persistent to be ignored. It is an accepted fact that although the Western Powers have made no decision on the rearming of Germany, our military men find it necessary to make plans against the day when it may become necessary.

It is the course of current history, however, and not the military that is the villain in this situation.

This is how it came about.

As far back as 1946 it was becoming apparent that Russia, America, Britain, and France were failing in the four-power rule of their late mutual enemy. As the schism became wider, the three Western Powers finally decided they would consolidate their occupation zones of Germany into a political and economic unit to be ruled by a democratic government of the Germans' own choosing.

The real motive behind the Marshall Plan and European recovery is that a prosperous and working Europe with a healthy and expanding economy is the only peaceful defense against the totalitarian revolution called Communism.

By placing the German republic as a participating nation in the Marshall Plan, West Germany automatically entered into Western European defense.

The Soviet Union, meanwhile, matched these moves by sponsoring a Communist coup in her zone of East Germany, creating another satellite government and speeding up organization of a so-called People's Police to maintain the puppet Communists in power.

The Western Powers then ended military government in West Germany. The armies retired to the job of policing their occupation zones. And the American, British, and French governments began worrying about the defense of Western Europe against the encroachments of Soviet power and Communism.

It was at this point that the rumors started flowing about the possible militarization of the German republic. There was MAP, America's Mutual Assistance Program of arms aid to our allies. There was the conference of the Allied chiefs of staff in Washington and the trip to Europe of the chiefs of the US Army, Navy, and Air Force. Significant meetings were held in Heidelberg, headquarters of American military forces in Europe. And finally last month there was the Paris meeting of the European defense ministers, including America's Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson.

The word "Germany" began to leak out of all these meetings. We began asking: "What part has Germany in these discussions?" Just about everyone replied "absolutely nothing."

Secretary Johnson declared: "The United States has absolutely no plans for the rearming of Germany," but he added, significantly, "for the present."

I believe that no one was lying. There were and are no Western plans for German rearmament, because no one could agree on them, or even wanted to. Even in the minds of the French, British, Belgian, and Dutch generals, the memory of German power is fresh, and even more fresh and abhorrent in the memories of the people of their nations.

(It was denied for diplomatic and political reasons. But word of the discussions leaked even as far as Berlin, one hundred miles inside the Soviet zone.)

(Information received here is that the Paris defense conferences considered the establishment of five German infantry divisions to be used, if necessary, under overall Allied control, but that any German force would be denied its own air power or other arms which could be interpreted as large-scale offensive weapons.)

(Apparently no decision was reached as to what kind of West German military force to be established in the event of an emergency, if any at all. It is a question here in Europe that can cause governments to fall.)

During the past year America, Britain, and France have been promoting the West German republic, increasing its sovereignty, and projecting it into the Western European community. This is healthy progress toward European recovery, but the events behind the Iron Curtain have forced European defense into the number one priority.

The question of whether or not any West German armed force could be established was propounded not on the initiative of the West, but by the actions and events occurring in the East.

The best example of the new situation is the case of East Germany, the newest Russian satellite.

Even before the Soviet Union created the East German government they began organization of what they called the People's Police. At first this Communist-led police force looked no different than the Western police, which we created to preserve civil order. But as time went by it became clear that the People's Police is more than a German security force. It is, in fact, the nucleus of an army supplied with weapons ranging from small arms and automatic weapons to armored cars and tanks.

Last month came a report that in the spring we will see a conscription of German youth in the Russian zone—young men between the ages of eighteen and thirty who are not employed in vital jobs on factory or farm. These men, according to the report, will receive training in the People's Police. Whether this is true or not is unconfirmed, but the result of the report has been that large numbers of young men from East Germany have been making their way westward for fear of being conscripted.

The point is that, in the view of the military preparations of East Germany, the increasing crisis in the Balkans, and the worsening relations all down the line between East and West, it is not surprising that the men in charge of Western European defense should be considering the place of Germany in their plans.

Most certainly the Russian generals are not neglecting this point. They have moved to consolidate East German military manpower into their sphere. The West is only considering it.

But what does Germany think of all this talk and preparation by both East and West to make her a divided partner in their military schemes?

The Germans don't like it very much. That is, they don't like the idea of creation of another Wehrmacht at the present time.

Certainly there is a nucleus of unregenerated Nazis who dream of marching again. There are unemployed Germans who would like the resume their jobs. There are reactionary political and economic leaders who see the solution of unemployment and the reconstruction of industry only through rearmament. And generally there is a submerged ambition in all Germans to raise their nation from the disgrace of defeat by again fighting her back to the top.

But as of today the great mass of the German people are shocked by any suggestions that her youth, just now growing to military age after the bleeding of the Nazis, should again go into uniform—with their fathers hardly cold in their graves.

Senator Elmer Thomas recently wound up a Congressional junket to Europe with the statement that, since the Germans are such good fighters and like to fight, another German army should be armed to fight for the West.

I was sitting with a former Luftwaffe pilot listening to the radio when this news hit Berlin. The young German looked up in surprise. He had flown seaplanes in the North Sea during the war until there were no more planes. He then was put in an antiaircraft battery and finally captured by American troops at the Brenner Pass.

His reaction to Senator Thomas' proposal was simply: "Not me."

This "not me" attitude at the moment is the mood of the great mass of German people. In Germany and Frankfurt today housewives have organized a campaign against the sale of military toys to their children this Christmas. Such sales serve to inculcate a military and warlike attitude in their kids, they say, and German mothers have had enough of that.

I have talked with Chancellor Konrad Adenauer about the future military position of Germany. His views are definite. He says that Germany has had enough of armies in the past fifty years; the country had been bled to its lowest point in history by them. As a matter of fact, he criticized certain United States military officials who he said were talking with certain former Nazi generals about military matters.

We pressed Adenauer as to his ideas about future German international cooperation. He advocated a kind of United States of Europe based on German-French friendship. Then he said that if ever again there was to be a German armed force, it would have to be under the control of and only a part of an international European military force; that never again should there be a Wehrmacht as such.

However, it must be pointed out that America and her allies are creating the new German state in their own image, and this image implies a future German sovereignty. Included in this sovereignty is the right to make war.

Consequently as Germany gains independence and strength and as she becomes a sovereign participating power in the Western European community, the present mood of pacifism is bound to change. Already in Bonn there are politicians who will argue that Western Germany needs a security force to match the militarized People's Police of East Germany.

The day before yesterday the upper chamber of the French government voted against a resolution against any remilitarization of Germany, an action taken only because of the prevalent discussions by the military that have leaked to the press and radio.

British statesmen also are on record against reconstituting any military power here. And our own statesmen have disavowed any such plans—for the present, that is.

The bald truth is that we are not going to make the decision on the question of rearming Germany.

The decision will be made east of the Iron Curtain. For if pressure on that curtain increases, then Western defense will become more vital. And as the days become more critical, you can bet that a formula will evolve—and don't be surprised if that formula includes plans for German military aid in the defense of Western Europe.

Cold wars, like politics, make strange bedfellows. Only diplomacy on the highest level can prevent cold wars from becoming hot wars.

Sitting here in Berlin and looking at the situation, the diplomats had better get busy.

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

August 14, 2017

1945. Bill Downs on "Report to the Nation"

An Update After V-E Day
Bill Downs in Normandy, June 14, 1944
This text is from a transcript for the radio broadcast Report to the Nation in 1945.
JOHN DALY: This is a report to Report to the Nation. With victory in Europe, now can be told the stories behind the news. Here in our Report to the Nation studio is one of CBS' top-drawer war correspondents. You've heard him describe the Surrender of the German High Command, an appropriate wind-up to his war coverage, because like the troops he stayed with to the end, he went in on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, and fought across France and Germany with them.  His name is Bill Downs.

Speaking as a correspondent myself, Bill, I'd like to know how you got your stuff out of the beachhead.

BILL DOWNS: I tell you, John, it wasn't until ten days after D-Day that we found there were fourteen Army radio transmitters which we could have used. The news didn't get out of Normandy by radio as fast as it should have. Army officials at that time were uncertain of the form of news reporting of this campaign would take. However, eight days after the D-Day landing, when we got the first broadcast out, they were most cooperative. Without boasting, I think the radio, press, and photographic reporters have done an adequate job.

DALY: What about stories behind the news? You were on the British front, Bill. What about this fantastic character, Montgomery?

DOWNS: Field Marshal Montgomery already is a legend in the European campaign. He's a mixture of Roman god, Episcopalian minister, and a fine fighting man. He also has an ego that's become famous throughout the world.

A good example is the time he met Russian Field Marshal Rokossovsky south of Wismar on the Baltic. Both Rokossovsky and Monty had speeches prepared for the historic joining of forces, but Rokossovsky beat Monty to the draw. He grabbed Montgomery's hand and shook it for over ninety seconds, meanwhile spouting a stream of Russian.

Montgomery was overcome for the first time in this war. He turned to his interpreter and asked, "What's this chap saying?"

The interpreter said, "Field Marshal Rokossovsky says he is proud and happy to greet one of the war's great soldiers."

Montgomery replied, "Is that so? Let me shake that man's hand again."

DALY: How about it, Bill—is Montgomery really good?

DOWNS: As good as he thinks he is, John.

DALY: You got the story on V-E Day from the British front?

DOWNS: Yes. I suppose it was the first time in radio history that a whole enemy town turned out for the Columbia Broadcasting System.

DALY: How'd that come about?

DOWNS: Well, we knew V-E Day was coming up, and the terms of surrender about forty-eight hours before it happened.

DALY: You went in with the troops on D-Day and stayed with them all the way until V-E Day. What did it add up to for you?

DOWNS: I don't know how it looked to you from over here, John, but to me D-Day in Normandy and Victory Day in Germany were different as black and white. On D-Day every dogface who went up those beaches was riding a white horse. He was a crusader fighting for the freedom of Europe and the world.

That spirit lasted until we reached Germany. Then, when victory was in sight, came a more deadly artillery than we found on the battlefields. The shells of suspicion, the gas of selfishness, and international undermining. By the time the war ended all our idealism was gone. Our crusade had been won, but our white horses had been shot out from under us.

I remember sitting in London back in 1940, when the world's most powerful air force was bombing us, when the most powerful army in the world was spreading over Europe. I knew that sooner or later America would have to come into the war. And I remember shuddering, watching these professional German soldiers—and they were professional. I thought that, when we did come in, what a meat-grinding process it would probably be.

I was wrong. Our drugstore clerks and college kids and farm boys have developed into the best fighting men in any army today.

As a nation we are now just feeling our strength. Now, then, how will we use this strength? For the cause of hate or race discrimination, or territory or money?

The crusade that inspired men to give their lives selflessly must not turn into a precinct political battle on the world scale, with all of its ramifications, power politics, diplomatic double-dealing, and cutthroat economic competition. No American's life is worth spending on these things. We have started a purchasing program, buying freedom and dignity and democracy with the lives of Americans. It is an investment given as security the trust and confidence of future generations. We must make our investment pay dividends, in human freedom.

August 13, 2017

1968. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Looks Into Gulf of Tonkin Incident

Washington Divided on Responsibility for Involvement in Vietnam
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the East Room of the White House, August 10, 1964 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 23, 1968

The second battle of the Gulf of Tonkin is being fought here in Washington, and before the engagement is over the political casualties could be heavy.

Actually, the engagement began several months ago when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ordered a staff investigation into the events leading up to the Communist gunboat attacks on the US Navy destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy during the first week of August 1964.

It was the attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that caused President Johnson to initiate the bombing of North Vietnam and thereafter escalate the war to its present level. The Tonkin Gulf incident also prompted the US Senate to give its vote of confidence to the president—an action which senators like William Fulbright, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, now regret.

Acting on the confidential advice of an unnamed American Navy officer somehow connected with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the committee investigators claim to have proof that the destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy were on a secret intelligence mission at the time—in fact, were under orders to provoke some kind of response from the North Vietnamese so the two ships could plot enemy radar and electronic defenses.

The findings indicated that the Communist gunboats were not attacking but attempting to scare the US ships away.

Defense Secretary McNamara appeared before the Fulbright committee on Tuesday behind closed doors. McNamara bluntly denied the reports. He declared the destroyers were on routine patrol, and that he had unimpeachable and secret intelligence proof that the gunboats did attack with torpedoes and machine guns, and that it was "monstrous" to suggest that the United States provoked the incident or to imply that there was a high-level conspiracy to do so.

Against the committee's wishes, McNamara released his testimony to reporters. Senator Fulbright countered by saying McNamara's testimony was erroneous and self-serving. Oregon's Senator Wayne Morse told the Senate the US was guilty of provocative aggression.

McNamara said: "Release the full testimony . . . and let the public judge." This will be done next week.

But personal veracity and political reputations are at stake here—and the battle is just beginning.

This is Bill Downs in Washington for Information Reports.

August 12, 2017

1949. Rumor Happy Berlin

New Wave of Speculation Over the Blockade
"Loudspeaker vans carry the latest news to blockaded West Berliners," May 1945 (Photo by Charles Steinheimer - source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 19, 1949

Berlin is "rumor happy" today. On the streetcars, in the subways, in the shops, and on street corners, all you hear is: "Is it true that the Russians are going to lift the blockade?"

The only answer to this question still lies with the Russians. The highest Western power officials here say they have no indication that the Soviet authorities intend to change their blockade policy.

This latest wave of speculation was touched off a week ago by proposals of Soviet zone German officials that trade should be resumed between the Eastern and Western parts of this divided country. Four days ago the mayor of the East Berlin rump government made a similar proposal to open trade between the blockaded and un-blockaded sections of this city.

Since German authorities in the Soviet zone speak only under direction of the Communists, the natural assumption is that the party is preparing to change its line on Germany.

There is no doubt that there is a lot of wishful thinking going on in Berlin today, both by the Germans and by some officials. Rightly or wrongly, they are the optimists who see hope of settlement of the Berlin crisis now emerging.

These men will point out that the new Soviet military governor, General Chuikov, today notified his American, French, and British counterparts that he has now assumed his new post. By this action, says this school of thought, the Russian military government of Germany still recognizes the four-power Allied Kommandatura for Berlin.

Another optimistic straw-in-the-wind is the departure for Poland today of General Frank Howley, the American commandant for Berlin. Howley is going as a guest of the Polish military mission.

The general said there is no political importance to his trip. However, the optimists ask: "Would the satellite Poles invite an American general to their country if some kind of East-West agreement is not in prospect?"

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

August 11, 2017

1943. Russian Civilians Contribute to the War Effort

Blast Furnace Victory
Militiamen at the Stalingrad Tractor Plant pass through ruins on their way to the front line (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

January 15, 1943

The story behind the Red Army's winter offensive is something more than white camouflaged infantry and tanks fighting their way through drifts of German bodies and snow-filled Axis pillboxes. It's the old story of production.

You would rather hear of the daring exploits of the United States Army than any other phase of the war. Russians feel the same way about it. Undeniably, there's more romance attached to pulling the trigger of a machine-gun than pulling the trigger of a chattering rivet hammer.

However, the Russians, I believe, realize more fully than anyone else the importance of the man behind the man behind the gun.

A good example was today's Moscow newspapers. The one story that took up more space than the account of any single battle at the front was the story of a blast furnace. The building of this furnace was accomplished in a mere seven months. Ordinarily blast furnaces for the smelting of iron take from twelve to eighteen months to build.

This furnace was built east of the Ural Mountains, one thousand miles from Moscow (in the big industrial district which has been developed out there.)

When the government started laying the foundation for this big furnace last May, it imported many workers from Russia's industrial centers in the west which had been captured by the Germans. (These men and women set up a tent city around the building site because there was no accommodation in the small town near which the furnace was to be built.)

As the work progressed, the nearby townspeople also came in on the job. Then someone started a competition. (The furnace became a sort of goal.) Whole families, including the kids, helped carry fire bricks. (Others dug pipelines. When the super-structure started going up, people got in each other's way trying to get things done.) Gangs which ordinarily would have been installing power lines after the towers were up began right away, putting in a cable here as soon as the emplacement was ready.

This furnace was almost built "simultaneously." The furnace was tapped for the first time yesterday, (and its first molten iron poured into ingots.)

Today this achievement was hailed in the Soviet press with almost the same enthusiasm as was the Red Army's capture of Mineralnye Vody and Velikiye Luki.

Reserves have been the secret behind the Red Army's winter offensive. This means reserves in industrial as well as manpower.

Today's "blast furnace victory" on the Ural front is in many ways just as important as today's victories by the Red Army in the Northern Caucasus and the Lower Don. It's the same in all the United Nations. Put these victories together, and they spell a quicker end to the war.

August 10, 2017

1949. Western Occupation Powers Urge Statehood for West Germany

The Western Political Initiative in Germany
The three Western military governors in Germany gather in Frankfurt to approve the basic law of the Federal Republic of Germany. From left to right, French General Kœnig, British General Robertson, and American General Clay, May 12, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 23, 1949

America, Britain, and France moved today to hasten the creation of a West German state by sending a note of conciliation to the German constitutional convention now deadlocked by political party differences in Bonn.

This surprise move—which is an unconcealed attempt to bring about reconciliation between the right and left-wing parties—proves the urgency felt by the Western powers to establish a democratic government in Western Germany.

In other words, the creation of the new West German state has become a keystone of United States foreign policy; a policy which calls for the consolidation of all democratic Western Europe into an economic whole to expedite the workings of the Marshall Plan.

The three-power note to the German politicians said that the occupation powers would review sympathetically the points of disagreement between the Socialists, who demand a strong central government, and the Christian Democrats, who are going along with Western power demands that the new Western Germany be a federalized state.

After all the bitter words that have passed between the German politicos the past eight months, it comes as a bit of a surprise this morning that all factions welcome the three-power note as a means of settling their differences.

They are meeting now in Bonn to discuss a compromise constitution. Whether all differences will be settled by Monday when the constitution committee is scheduled to meet with the Western military governors is problematical. However, the wheels of organization of this new state are again turning, and it would appear that the West once more has the political initiative in Germany.

This new development has not yet evoked reaction from the German Communists or the Soviet occupation authorities. Last week, when formation of the West German state seemed imminent, a flood of rumors about the lifting of the Russian blockade appeared designed to halt work by the West German political leaders.

Whether these rumors will recur, or whether the Russians actually will lift the blockade in an attempt to block formation of the new government, is not clear today.

The theory is that the lifting of the blockade, which splits Germany economically, would make a political split of the country unnecessary, and that the German political parties from the East and West could then attempt to work out a unified country.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

April 25, 1949

General Lucius Clay and his British and French colleagues heading the occupation of Western Germany flew to Frankfurt this morning to attend what may be a historic meeting in the fight for postwar European recovery.

The three military governors will, in a half hour from now, join a seventeen-man delegation of German political leaders. The purpose is to study German proposals for a compromise constitution for a new West German state.

So important is the meeting that the State Department sent the head of its German and Austrian section, former ambassador Robert Murphy, to attend.

The disputing German Socialists and right-wing Christian Democrats reached agreement on the compromise proposal over the weekend after the Western powers modified their demands that the new government be federalized with strong powers to the states. The new constitution will provide for a more centralized form of government, particularly in the field of financing.

The atmosphere in Frankfurt is optimistic this morning. It is expected that if all goes well, the basic law constitution will be ratified by the Bonn parliamentary council next month. After that, there must be elections for the two houses of the new German parliament, and British authorities say that the new West German state should be operational by August or September.

There as yet has been no reaction to these rapid political developments from the Soviet Union.

With the Communist holiday, May 1, only five days away, the Russian-licensed newspapers of East Berlin are beginning the ritual of printing the slogans to guide the struggle of the workers. The Communist SED party of the Soviet zone has fifty-two slogans for the occasion, but none of them reveal any change in the party line.

There are the usual demands for German unity, a "just peace and a withdrawal of occupation troops," and the usual invocations against the Marshall Plan and "warmongery."

But the Russians have yet to make a countermove against our urgent efforts to get a West German government established and working.

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