August 4, 2022

1961. Under Secretary George Ball Discusses Kennedy Foreign Policy

Interview with the Incoming Under Secretary of State
"President John F. Kennedy (at lectern) addresses delegates to the White House Conference of Business Editors and Publishers in the State Department Auditorium, Washington, D.C. Secretary of the Treasury, C. Douglas Dillon, sits behind President Kennedy; Under Secretary of State, George Ball, sits at far right," September 26, 1962 (Photo by Abbie Rowesource)

From "At the Source," a State Department program made by CBS, which aired on October 26, 1961: 

GUEST: The Honorable George W. Ball, Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs

CORRESPONDENTS: Howard K. Smith, Bill Downs, Stuart Novins


Appointed by President Kennedy shortly after his inauguration, veteran international lawyer George Ball is primarily responsible for the development and conduct of US foreign economic policy. Yesterday, however, it was reported that Under Secretary Ball had risen to become the No. 2 man in the State Department. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of the critical problems and objectives face by Under Secretary of State Ball, he was interviewed by CBS News Correspondents Howard K. Smith, Stuart Novins, and Bill Downs.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Ball, a columnist wrote about you and said "George Ball, whose gift for decision and dispatch long ago commended him to President Kennedy, has become the No. 2 man in the State Department in all but name."

Is that so?

MR. BALL: Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Smith, I normally believe what I read in the newspapers and I particularly believe what columnists write; but this story doesn't happen to be true. Mr. Bowles is the No. 2 man in the State Department. He is the Under Secretary of State. I am the No. 3 man, I am the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.

Now I think to the extent that there may have been some misconception of this, it arises from the fact that Mr. Bowles has been away a great deal, I am away from time to time; when one of us is away, the other pitches in. We all have so much work to do in the Department these days that with the Secretary, Mr. Bowles and I consider ourselves as available for whatever task may come along. The result is that I haven't confined myself strictly to economic matters and he hasn't confined himself strictly to political matters.

MR. DOWNS: Well as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, Mr. Ball, you are in charge of the New Frontier's revolution for rising expectations. That has almost become a cliche in this Administration. Just what does the phrase mean, "revolution of rising expectation?"

MR. BALL: Well, it is a rather vivid phrase, isn't it? It is a phrase that suggests a situation which is a very complex anatomy I would suppose. After all, there are about three billion people in the world. One billion of those people live in countries that have per capita—where per capita annual income is fifty to a hundred dollars, really fantastically low. Now, in the last few years, as a result of the wars which have broken the old social and political fabrics as a result of the increases in technology and communications, these people are breaking free from the old systems. Whether they have lived under colonial arrangements which have been shattered by events, whether they have lived in countries which have simply been dormant for hundreds of years, they are now beginning to want and to feel that they are entitled to enjoy the kind of rich life which the people in the industrialized, economically advanced countries enjoy, and they are going to get it. If we help them, they are going to get it faster and probably are going to get it in a way which will insure their freedom and independence. If we don't help them, they may get it in ways which will insure that the frustration of some of their expectations, their delivery into systems which will mean tyranny and oppression and possibly that they will be swept into the vortex of the communist orbit.

MR. NOVINS: Mr. Ball, in that connection you made a speech recently before the Foreign Press Association, and in it you emphasized our commitment to the United Nations and our commitment to this revolution of rising expectations.

Why is it that we don't use more than we do—the U.N. channels for our assistance? Why don't we—

MR. BALL: Well, to some extent it's done through the special fund which Mr. Paul Hoffman administers, which does a great deal of pre-development survey work, the technical assistance programs under the specialized agencies of the United Nations. It's a mixed arrangement which we have for the administration of aid. The great part of it goes directly on a bilateral basis from the United States, but there is also the World Bank to which we subscribe, the International Development [Association], the Inter-American Development—all kinds of different administration.

MR. NOVINS: Well, are we concerned, Mr. Ball, that we are not going to be able to put strings on our aid if we do it through international bodies?

MR. BALL: Oh, no, that's not the problem. Actually, in some ways international bodies can take tougher lines than when aid is provided bilaterally.

But it's simply a matter of the requirements of a given situation. For political or other reasons it's much more desirable to provide aid on a bilateral basis. In some countries the multilateral provision of aid becomes more effective.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Ball, could you interpret for us the President's famous statement to the effect that we will give attention and consideration to the needs of countries that share our view of the world crisis. Is that a new principle?

MR. BALL: No, I think that that has been somewhat misinterpreted. Actually the President, I think, in his last press conference clarified that phrase to a considerable extent.

What the President said in his last press conference, and what he said repeatedly, and what we've all said, because this is the view of the Administration, is that we are interested in providing assistance to these countries and exporting capital to help them. Our interest in seeing that they are able to reach a point of economic development in an atmosphere of freedom which will assure both their political and economic independence.

Now, this doesn't mean that they have to copy our pattern of organization of their society, or that they have to share our views.

What we want them to do is to be independent, because we are convinced that a viable independent society will be a society which will resist the pressures from that—

MR. SMITH: Still, we are not happy about Mr. Tito's speech at the Belgrade Conference of Neutrals, are we?

MR. BALL: We have always known that Mr. Tito was a communist—there has never been any question about it. The only difference between Mr. Tito and some of the other satellite countries is that Yugoslavia is not a member of the bloc, that it pursues different means to the long communist objective.

But, at the same time, it maintains its independence, and this is the important thing.

MR. DOWNS: Well, Mr. Secretary, you have also said that the Free World and America are not providing enough of this aid.

How much is enough?

MR. BALL: There is no measure that is enough. I mean, this task that we face is a fantastically great task. Obviously the resources of any country, even a great country like ours, are finite. We can only provide a certain quantum of aid which we hope will enable countries, by self-help, by mobilizing their own energies and resources, to make ultimately a breakthrough to the point where they can be independent and self-sustaining.

MR. DOWNS: Are you saying that this is a great big international gamble for civilization, or something like that?

MR. BALL: It's a great gamble in which not only the United States but all the Western Powers are engaged. Actually this is a cooperative effort now, and we have made great strides in bringing this about.

MR. SMITH: Is it sufficiently cooperative? Your predecessor in this, in your job, who is now the Secretary of the Treasury—

MR. BALL: I just had lunch with him.

MR. SMITH: —tried to get the other allies to share in—

MR. BALL: We have been continuing this effort with some considerable success.

MR. SMITH: And you are satisfied with what they are doing?

MR. BALL: We are never satisfied, Mr. Smith. But we are certainly aware of the fact that they are making a much larger effort, many of them; that we are now enabled to tie together the things we are doing in a cooperative effort and to eliminate duplication and to insure maximum effective use of resources in a way that we haven't done before.

MR. NOVINS: Mr. Secretary, let me take advantage of the fact that sometimes in the absence of others you slip into the political field.

On August 13th the East Germans started to build a wall. Why didn't we knock it down then?

Mr. BALL: Well, you know, the wall, in many ways, Mr. Novins, was the great symbol of the defeat of Soviet policy. If the Soviet policy had been successful, they wouldn't have needed a wall, they wouldn't have needed to engage in all these exercises which they are engaging in over the whole Berlin situation. But they haven't been successful. They couldn't stand the out-pouring of thousands of people a month away from their system, escaping from it, so they had to build a wall. Now, they built a wall in East Berlin. You can see the difficulties of trying to break the wall down. It stands as a symbol of the defeat of their policies.

MR. NOVINS: Well, we are told that in West Germany there is more concern about the fact that we did not break it down than there is about the fact that the East Germans built it.

MR. BALL: Well, we have developed, with our allies, we are in the process of developing a whole strategy of meeting the problem of what we might call the kind of Berlin offensive which the Soviet Union has mounted. The wall is one aspect of that. This policy is an elaborate policy—it calls for response to particular moves. These moves are all well worked out.

Now, when the wall was built—this was something where you have to make a judgment—is this—do you want to move tanks through this wall and smash it down at the risk of a war which would be immediately exploited?

We had to determine the point where we make the ultimate stand. And this was a case where in the long run I think the construction of the wall is going to cost the Soviet Union a very great deal in terms of showing to the world—

MR. SMITH: Now, many people consider that the building of the wall was a blow to us. You consider in fact that it is a blow to the Russians?

MR. BALL: Well I think it has both effects. I mean it has certainly caused a good deal of concern and dismay. At the same time it symbolizes their defeat.

MR. DOWNS: Well, George, doesn't this bring up the whole problem of—is aid the answer? When the Russians started testing and started throwing around these super bombs, immediately our neutral friends sort of allied us with raw power, although we have not used power as such in that way. Maybe if we took all of this foreign aid and put it into super bombs perhaps we could achieve our goals more rapidly. Do you think that—

MR. BALL: No, no. You know the policy of aid which we follow has been extremely successful. The fact is that the Soviet Union has made almost no gains in the past few years in the form of bringing within their orbit new nations. They have invested a great deal of money, they have spent a great deal of effort—

MR. DOWNS: Cuba?

MR. BALL: Cuba is one of the few exceptions I would think.

MR. DOWNS: Laos?

MR. BALL: Laos is undetermined as of now. But, if you think of the magnitude of the effort they've made, they've also engaged in great foreign aid programs, many of which have been quite frustrating to them. But the significant thing that we have succeeded in doing is in giving these countries the ability to be independent.

Now, when they are independent they may adopt a course of neutralism, of being disengaged from the cold war struggle itself, they are concerned with their development, they may say things which we don't wish them to say which—views that are unpopular with us, but they stay independent which is the significant thing in the sense that they are not—do not become simple tools of the Soviet Union.

MR. DOWNS: We have been fostering and supporting the idea of a common market which is now going to become a major competitor of the United States. Isn't our policy in this sense self-defeating?

MR. BALL: Well, actually I think that the development of the European Common Market is one of the great successes of our policy, just as some of the things that the Soviet Union is doing now are symbols of the defeat of theirs.

After all, if you think of Western Europe as it existed for hundreds of years, states which were engaged in warfare, in always being at one another's throats, three times in 75 years France and Germany were at war. Now we have something which is a very old dream which has been brought into practical reality, the beginnings of a kind of United States of Europe. This is the way that many of the Europeans think about it. I think it is about to be enlarged if the present negotiations are carried on into a state of modern dimensions. Now you say it will be competitive with us, it will be a great market for us. Of course we are not afraid of competition. If Western Europe becomes healthy, economically healthy, we will prosper by it.

MR. NOVINS: Mr. Secretary, could we take that one step more. The NATO Alliance as a military alliance is from an economic point of view negative. I mean it doesn't produce.

MR. BALL: Well, it's not intended to be—

MR. NOVINS: No, of course not. On the other hand the Common Market is something that is a positive factor. We belong to NATO. We don't belong to the Common Market. What would be the United States attitude toward an expansion of the NATO Alliance into something more like an Atlantic Community that would involve economic activities? Would we be part of that?

MR. BALL: Well, the NATO Alliance is specifically a defense alliance, directed at defending—

MR. NOVINS: But it's there.

MR. BALL: —against exterior menace. The Common Market is not by definition a defensive arrangement. This is an arrangement where people living next to one another are joining together, pooling their economy, so to speak, in order to become economically stronger. At the same time they are building a structure of institutions which gives them the beginning of a kind of political integration. Just as in our country we gathered together 50 states in a common market, if you think of the United States as a common market of 50 states, then you could think of Europe as a common market of what may become 15 or 16 or 17 states.

MR. NOVINS: What I am reaching for, Mr. Secretary, is what the United States attitude is, or is likely to be, toward something similar to what Senator Fulbright talked about, a concert of free nations, and I mention NATO only as something which exists and which—

MR. BALL: Well, I think politically that we can go very far in strengthening the bonds that tie to us to the nations on the other side of the Atlantic.

MR. NOVINS: In what direction?

MR. BALL: We can, and I think we must—we have already, through the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has just come into being. It's an extension of the Old Organization for European Economic Cooperation. We are a member of that, as Canada is, and we are working with the Europeans on developing common economic policies and on working together toward providing aid toward underdeveloped countries, and working together to help solve some of the difficult market problems in the world.

Now, this is practical cooperation in the Atlantic Community of a kind we haven't had before in the economic field.

MR. SMITH: In this connection, the Congressional Quarterly, which is much read in this Capital, had a piece recently which said that the Berlin crisis is hiding the fact that there is going to be a crisis over America's foreign trade policy. The powers wanting protectionism are getting so powerful in Congress that we are going to face a fight over whether we can continue the liberal trade policies of the past.

MR. BALL: I have perfect confidence that in the face of the new trading world which is emerging, which is a world of marvelous opportunities for an America which is willing to seize them, that while there may be the appearance of a great deal of protectionist sentiment, once the dimensions and the opportunities and the possibilities of this new emerging world are understood, that we will adopt a liberal policy, a liberal trading policy, as we must. After all, our country has a very large favorable trading balance in the world, and even though our total balance of accounts may be adverse, our trading balance, our merchandise balance, is favorable.

It would be the height of folly for us to turn in on ourselves and be fearful of trading with the world and become protectionist, and I don't think we ever will.

MR. DOWNS: Mr. Secretary, if we could look south of the border again, there is the Alliance for Progress which is the Kennedy Administration's most ambitious thing that they have initiated.

Will this Alliance, do you think, be able to meet the challenge of Castroism? It hasn't, so far.

You were talking about reforming not only economies, but reforming governments, so that one junta or dictatorship of a small family or group of companies, does not run a nation.

Is this the United States' business? Can we do anything about it? It's been the pattern there for centuries.

MR. BALL: It's a very big concept, Mr. Downs, the Alliance for Progress, and it includes many different kinds of activities. But what it chiefly provides for is arrangements whereby we will help these countries to try to bring about the sort of reforms which are very long overdue, reforms which mean the breaking down of old rigid caste systems and their society, social structures, where a decent distribution of their resources can be obtained, where there could be such things as farm cooperatives developed, or there can be credit provided for self-help housing, where the poor worker in these countries can have a chance for the first time in his life.

Now, there is bound to be a good deal of resistance to this, because we are undertaking something of very, very great importance.

MR. DOWNS: A very touching thing, because this is exactly what Khrushchev is trying to do to the United States.

MR. BALL: Well, this I would hardly admit. I mean, what we are trying to do in Latin America is with great consent of the Latin American people, and this is a significant thing. There is enormous enthusiasm for the Alliance for Progress in Latin America, because the people feel that this provides them with the opportunity that they have needed over the years, and what we are doing is providing them the chance, through their own efforts. The emphasis here is on self-help, as it is in the other efforts that we are making in that direction.

MR. DOWNS: Well, what becomes of companies like the United Fruit Company, the banana republics, dollar diplomacy, the old oil cartels—

MR. BALL: There will be no difficulty about a place for American private enterprise in the new Latin America. In fact, there will be far more security in societies which themselves are secure than under dictatorship arrangements, where a few dominate the many and can be overthrown every other night.

MR. NOVINS: Mr. Ball, if, assuming that you had an ideal economic regional plan for South America, and assuming that it could be implemented under ideal circumstances, as an expert on economics how long would it take before we would see any results?

MR. BALL: Well, you'd see some results from any kind of effort in a short time. Efforts are all—

MR. NOVINS: Reckoning points—breakthrough points.

MR. BALL: A breakthrough may take quite a long time in Latin America.

MR. NOVINS: Is there much time?

MR. BALL: And it must be done on a monolithic basis; it will be done. One country after another will begin to emerge, to develop, to change its own structure toward a democratic tradition, to develop its institutions, to develop the base of a strong economy. We will have successes some places, we will have failures others. When I saw "we," I'm not thinking just of the United States.

MR. NOVINS: Oh, no.

MR. BALL: I'm thinking of this working together of the United States and the Latin American states.

MR. NOVINS: Is there time for that, Mr. Ball, in view of the threat of communism, the threat of Castroism, if that is separated from communism—is there time for this? Are we doing long-range planning that there is no time for?

MR. BALL: The long range is always upon you sooner or later, you know, and actually this is a situation which you don't solve by short-term measures. If you try to solve it by short-term measures you will defeat yourself. We have to work here over a period of time. We have to build soundly; we can't improvise. This can't be a jerry-built business. We throw our money away and nothing will come of it if we do, so that what we have to do is to work on the assumption that, with the understanding and new spirit of the Latin American people, we will be able to achieve these—

MR. NOVINS: Are you satisfied that they are moving fast enough in the reforms you are talking about?

MR. BALL: I'm never satisfied, Mr. Novins.

MR. DOWNS: Well, you brought up at one point in one of your speeches, Mr. Secretary, the fact that one of the problems of instituting those reforms is that you have things like a population explosion where you barely keep even, that you don't achieve a revolution, or it's very difficult to. Now, it brought to my mind—is it possible and is this job really too big for us without regimenting whole societies, whole nations, down to the point of their breeding, how many children they can have.

MR. SMITH: I am sorry to interrupt. I'm afraid we have almost run out of time. I wonder if we can save your answer on that and cover that area in just a moment.

MR. DOWNS: Mr. Ball, can you achieve these reforms without absolute regimentation of everything?

MR. BALL: Well, if we were to regiment anything we would defeat our own ends, wouldn't we? The whole point of what we are attempting to do is to bring about a development and a transition or transformation, in effect, of the societies of many of these countries by their efforts. So we assist this, to bring this about in the conditions of freedom without regimentation.

MR. NOVINS: What will we do with a country like Paraguay?

MR. BALL: Well, Paraguay is an example of a country with very minimal resources, which is located rather disadvantageously, which suffers a great many problems.

MR. NOVINS: Also a dictatorship.

MR. BALL: At the moment it has a dictatorship.

MR. SMITH: Tell me, is it possible that Castro is a help rather than a hindrance to this, that his existence will frighten some conservative governments into reforms?

MR. BALL: I would suggest that to some extent this is true, that certainly many of the governments are aware and disturbed—aware of the potential of Castroism and disturbed by it—and that they may be prepared to take actions which otherwise they would be reluctant to take.

MR. NOVINS: I wonder, Mr. Secretary, if you would feel that it's not entirely cynical, the comment that is made by some of the Latin Americans that much of the foreign aid they are getting now they can thank Castro for.

MR. BALL: No, I don't think that's a fair statement. As a matter of fact, the attention that the United States is now giving to Latin America was overdue. And I am certain that Castro or no Castro, that when this Administration came in we would have turned our attention and concentrated a great deal on Latin America.

MR. SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Ball.

July 15, 2022

1943. "Should Newscasters Voice Opinion?"

The Editorial Debate at CBS
"Caricaturist [George] Wachsteter takes this view of the CBS-TV political commentators at work" (1956). Featured are Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Robert Trout, Bill Downs, Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, and others
From Newsweek, October 4, 1943, pp. 86-88:
Should Newscasters Voice Opinion?
CBS Says No; Commentators Object
Ever since radio went commercial, a major problem has plagued its news commentators. Unlike newspaper columnists, most of them are hired or sponsored by advertisers; if a commentator's opinions disagree too violently with those of the sponsor who is paying the bill, that commentator is likely to find himself replaced by somebody else when his contract expires. Hence one of the most frequent complaints against radio—chiefly from leftist sources—is that opinion on the air tends to agree with the views of big business as represented by a fairly small group of advertisers.
In the last three weeks that problem has flared into a wide open public discussion. On Sept. 13, James L. Fly, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, castigated an unidentified "so-called news program" for "peddling ideas from company headquarters" and tending "to get away from the news of the day to the philosophies of the particular sponsor."

Even before that the discussion had started. On Sept. 9 Paul White, Columbia Broadcasting System news director, told an Associated Press meeting in Chicago that CBS policy barred any opinion on any news programs, including those of commentators. A week later White and CBS were verbally paddled by H.V. Kaltenborn, NBC newscaster who is himself notoriously fond of air-editorializing. At a New York luncheon of the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Radio News Analysts, which Kaltenborn founded, he stated: "No news analyst worth his salt could be or would be completely neutral or objective." He did admit that it was "altogether too easy for timid broadcasters to go too far in catering to the sensibilities or special interests of a squeamish or powerful minority."

Last Monday CBS brought the whole issue out of the radio newsrooms and laid it before the public. In full-page advertisements in New York and Washington newspapers, the network reemphasized its policy: "We will not choose men who will tell the public what they themselves think and what the public should think" because "without such a policy it is easy to see that a powerful and one-sided position on serious issues could be created for a small group of broadcasters . . . freedom of speech on the radio would be menaced."

Ostensibly the ad was intended to free CBS, at least, from charges of peddling its sponsors' political ideas. Instead, it prompted some newspapers and commentators to accuse the network of everything from gagging free speech to kowtowing to the demands of "wealthy businessmen and Republican National Committee members" to "give our side a break." (White called this "utter fantasy.") Probably the loudest shouter was Walter Winchell, who frequently scolds the Blue network for trying to censor him on his Sunday-night program. In his syndicated newspaper column last Tuesday, Winchell found that "the air ain't as free as it used to be. It's subject to the whims of CBS and its highest mucky-mucks."

The climax came last Wednesday. Cecil Brown, CBS newscaster who took over the network spot vacated when Elmer Davis became head of the Office of War Information, announced he was resigning from the Columbia staff. And he made his letter to Paul White declaring that the CBS policy was intolerable because it "is not . . . intended to make CBS reporters neutral . . . but to make them creatures of your own editorial opinion of what constitutes the news."

Brown's resignation also climaxed his private fight with White. In a broadcast Aug. 25, among other things, Brown had remarked that "any reasonably accurate observer of the American scene at this moment knows that a good deal of the enthusiasm for this war is evaporating into thin air." He also criticized the President and Prime Minister Churchill for "failing to dramatize what we are fighting for."

Two days later White sent him a memo hinting his resignation would be acceptable. "I have looked over your 'analysis' of 11:10 on Wednesday night," White wrote, "and have found it to be, in my opinion, nothing but an editorial . . . the entire 'analysis' was a statement of what Cecil Brown thinks, of what Cecil Brown would have done had he been President Roosevelt, disregarding the very obvious truth that the people did not elect Cecil Brown but did elect President Roosevelt." As for the "evaporating enthusiasm," White angrily went on: "That statement is made at a time when all production records are being broken, when the largest sum of money ever to be sought by our government is going to be invested in government bonds by the people themselves, and at a time . . . when American military morale was never higher." White's memo was written only a few days after the Johns-Manville Corp. had informed CBS that it would not continue to sponsor Brown beyond September.

For the moment no other network showed any sign of joining in Columbia's "neutrality" crusade. But behind that crusade loomed the larger issue of the relations of broadcasters with the Federal Communications Commission.

Obviously, CBS's policy could be an answer to Chairman Fly's strictures on big-business bias in news broadcasts. And it would be an especially timely answer. For within the next two months Congress is expected to order hearings on the pending White-Wheeler bill which would modify the FCC's power to regulate network activities. At that time it would be up to Fly to prove that the networks need regulating. If he can't prove it, that would please the majority of broadcasters, who would like to see his authority limited.

July 12, 2022

1949. Berlin Faces Labor Uprising

Berlin Rail Worker Strike Leads to Violent Crackdown
"Officers of the French military police stand on a platform of the Gesundbrunnen train station in Berlin, 24 May 1949" (DPA/Alamy)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 21, 1949

Rioting broke out in a half-dozen places here this morning as 12,000 anti-Communist trade union workers moved to enforce their strike on Berlin's elevated railway.

Approximately fifty people have been arrested thus far, many of them strikebreakers from East Berlin taken into custody for their own protection. There have been a number of black eyes and bloody noses—some bricks were thrown and clubs used—but no one thus far has been seriously injured. At the Tempelhof elevated station near the Russian sector border one shot was fired in the air by West Berlin police.

The UGO [Unabhängige Gewerkschaftsopposition] anti-Communist trade union is striking against the Russian-controlled railway directorate which has refused their demands to be paid in West marks instead of East marks.

Traffic on the elevated ring that serves all sectors of the city is proceeding at a restricted pace. The strikers have moved into power plants where they can shut off electricity.

I went to the disputed Tempelhof station this morning. About a thousand strikers were milling about at the entrance while, above the tracks, strikebreakers and the specially-trained, black-uniformed "people's police" from the Soviet zone stood on guard. A few heads were bumped. It was a bizarre sight, even in this bizarre city. And it was the first time in my experience in covering labor that I saw Communists used as strikebreakers.

The Communist propagandists are already calling the strikers "tools of the Western capitalists." They assert that the strike was timed to make the Paris negotiations on Germany more difficult. The Communists also charge the UGO union with sabotage and wrecking.

The American military government officially is taking a "hands-off" position in the strike, although the Berlin commandant General Frank Howley said that American military police would be used if necessary to preserve order and security in the city.

Right now there is a four-power meeting of transport authorities underway, and the new strike situation is under discussion. Four Russian officers appeared at the Tempelhof elevated station this morning to investigate the situation. West Berlin police had to give them protection from irate strikers.

There's another important story in Germany today. The necessary two-thirds majority of the West German states have ratified the Basic Law for the new German republic. That's good news at least.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 21, 1949

The sound of gunfire sounded in the streets of Berlin tonight. At this moment the issue at the Neukölln elevated railway station in south Berlin is not settled, as striking Western railway workmen clash with the Soviet-sponsored police of East Berlin who control the elevated and against whom the anti-Communist workmen are striking.

So far the injuries of people caught up or participating in this rioting have not been serious. There have been plenty of bruised heads and eyes and bleeding noses. The closest scrape came a few hours ago at the Wannsee station where an East police bullet nicked a striker trying to take over the station.

It has been a strange twenty-four hours. Correspondents here have been chasing from rail station to rail station as reports of trouble come in. When you arrive at places like Tempelhof near our airdrome on the border of the Soviet sector, there are the crowds of roughly-dressed people, some wearing the uniform of the railway employee. Then there are always the youngsters. Ranging from ten years to twenty, they form the most volatile and aggressive group. It is a little frightening, for these youths carry iron bars and clubs and knives. You look at the pinched dirty faces of these youngsters, the impression confirms itself. At these riots one could hold a very successful Boy Scout meeting—or a massacre.

Berlin tonight has had neither.

At the Tempelhof station this morning I saw men beaten, some of them for no more reason than the fact that they had ridden the struck elevated railway from the Russian sector of the city—where there is no strike—and got off to find themselves in the hands of strikers. This morning the West Berlin police moved in to disperse crowds.

Tonight that stopped. At the Schöneberg station, one of the most important transfer points in the elevated system, the police stood by and did little to disperse the thousand people who gathered in anticipation of fireworks. The aggressive feeling of the mob was demonstrated when the striking workers moved in up the railroad line to the station. Some of the crowd started throwing the bricks from the bombed buildings at them, not recognizing that these were the strikers whom they were supporting.

The strikers took the station, and only a plea from a leader of the striking anti-Communist union prevented violence to East Berlin employees inside. The violent attitude of the mob expressed itself later when a truck took some fifty strikebreakers back to the Soviet zone. Only a few bricks were thrown at them.

A few hours ago I returned from the Wannsee elevated station where the first actual gunshots of this strike were fired. We heard of the shooting, and since Wannsee is very near the press camp on the western edge of Berlin we were able to reach it quickly.

We drove to the disputed elevated station and found the gates barred. We pounded on the gate. A man, hiding himself in the darkness, asked who we were. We said that we were American reporters. He replied: "I don't speak your language. Go away." Our German was not that bad.

As we drove off, three shots rang out. We had been talking to the East Berlin police who were doing the shooting. We didn't know it then, but we did later.

The strikers have not taken the Wannsee station nor Tempelhof, and there are reports now circulating that the rump government of East Berlin is now shipping in riot squads by the railway they control to take over the stations.

The democratic trade union, UGO, is staging this strike because they demand their wages be paid in West marks. But this is a schizophrenic city in more than an economic way. There also is a Communist-dominated trade union, the Federated, which is opposing the strike. Thus you have the spectacle of the proletarian state strikebreaking, opposing the workers they hope to win to Communism.

But actually this struggle between Germans—because the occupation powers are keeping their hands off—is a product of a much larger struggle that is now going on between the East and the West. The thousands of people who were waiting to attack the East Berlin police and strikebreakers were not thinking in terms of West marks.

I'm not exactly sure what they were thinking about except laying their hands on the people who, to the West Berliner at least, have become a symbol of their troubles.

The frightening thing is that for the first time since the war they have risen up to strike back—violently and viciously. Not only the strikers and their adherents, but also the armed East police so carefully indoctrinated by the Russians.

The lesson of this night is for both the East and the West.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 22, 1949

Berlin's little "civil war" over the city's elevated railway system still is raging at this moment as anti-Communist strikers make assault after assault on the rail stations held by East German police and strikebreakers from East Berlin.

Scores of people have been injured, and last night the railroad police occupying—or trying to occupy—passenger stations in the British, American, and French sectors began using gunfire to repulse the strikers.

So far only one man has been reported killed. The striking UGO union says he was a refugee not concerned with the strike who was shot while standing in a crowd near the Russian sector border west of here. However at least half a dozen people have been hit by bullets, but none are reported to be seriously injured.

At this moment the hottest spots in the city are the Charlottenburg and Zoo stations in the British sector and near the heart of Berlin. Charlottenburg is where the British military trains come in, and where the first blockade-lifting train was greeted only ten days ago. A few hours ago a truck with about forty Soviet soldiers drove to the Zoo station. The crowd stoned the vehicle as it drove away.

This morning several hundred strikers put in an attack on the Charlottenburg station. Shots were fired and four people injured. Some fifty strikebreakers retired and were promised safe conduct out of the station. However the crowd broke through a police cordon and two pro-Communist strikebreakers were badly beaten. Later the mob burned Soviet-licensed newspapers in the square in front of the station. At this moment the Charlottenburg station is still in the hands of the strikers, while the Zoo station, the next stop away, is held by the pro-Communist strikebreakers.

The situation this morning is confused, but it appears that the East sector police are being shipped into the disputed stations in trains bristling with arms. The strikebreakers have now retaken the key power stations, and except for a few passenger stations, they have most of the elevated line under their control.

The striking UGO leadership now is meeting to draw up an appeal for support of the Western military governments, but the American, British, and French authorities continue to pursue a hands-off policy. If no settlement can be reached, the striking union said it will call for a general strike throughout the city.

The Communist press this morning charges that the strike is all a great plot being fostered by the United States. The official Red Army newspaper, Tägliche Rundschau, says America "wants to create a 'civil war' atmosphere" in West Berlin on the eve of the Paris foreign ministers meeting in order to bring about a breakdown in the talks. The headline in the Russian-licensed National Zeitung reads: "The American Assault on Berlin."

The only Americans involved here are the correspondents. We have been running from one trouble spot to another all last night and probably all this night too.

The German bullets still have that nasty whine we learned to hate so much during the last war.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 23, 1949

I have just returned from the Zoo station, a major objective in Berlin's battle of the elevated railroad.

The anti-Communist strikers have forced the German Soviet-zone police and their strikebreakers to leave. But for the first time in this bitter struggle between Germans and Germans there have been fatalities. Burgomeister Ferdinand Friedensburg, Deputy Mayor of the West Berlin government, told me that two youths had been killed and two seriously hurt. The Russian-licensed radio station in Berlin said that twenty people had been hurt in the rioting at Zoo, but we have no count of the injured inside the station.

This new incident came after a day of quiet in the tense strike situation in which some 12,000 Berlin railwaymen are demanding their pay only in West marks instead of the less valuable East marks authorized by the Russian military government.

The situation has all the aspects of a little civil war. Tonight's shooting was not as sustained nor as frightening as it had been last night and the night before, but it was much more effective. Only a half-dozen shots were fired—but four men fell.

It happened at about 9:30 Berlin time tonight just as it was getting dark. The Zoo station in the British sector was occupied by about five hundred Eastern police and strikebreakers. A group of East Berlin police—spick and span in their special issue black uniforms—walked out onto the open track of the elevated. What they had not anticipated was that there were strikers in nearby buildings bordering the track. Rocks started coming at them. They fired wildly then ran back into the station. The strikers picked up their casualties.

News of the death spread wildly. Strikers and their sympathizers armed themselves with clubs and iron bars and began to shout for Communist blood. Western police moved in reinforcements and a sound truck was called to try and calm the mob.

A British public safety officer, hearing of the trouble (and perhaps it was his invention), sent word to the pro-Communist group inside the station that unless they withdrew immediately he could not be responsible for their safety in case the mob broke in.

The leaders of the East Berlin group conferred by telephone with their superiors in the Russian sector of the city, and shortly afterward walked back to their sector. Deputy Mayor Friedensburg told me that he hoped there might be a settlement of the strike soon, and that tomorrow the city council would submit proposals.

The Communists are charging that this strike is inspired by the United States to disrupt the Paris conference of foreign ministers. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have had nothing to do with it. But one thing it most certainly will do, and that is underline the differences between East and West. A difference that, strangely enough, hits at the root of Communist policy. Because after all, the men who are on strike and who the East is trying to break are not exactly capitalists.

The strikers have moved a mile to another elevated station, Westkreutz, and another ultimatum for the pro-Communist police to leave has just been given. Looks like more trouble.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 24, 1949

West Berlin this morning could be described as a man with a club in his hand, facing trouble from the East but at the same time glancing over his shoulder to see if his troubles are being settled in Paris.

In fact, to borrow a phrase from Ed Murrow, Berlin today is the conscience of Germany, for it is here that the basic differences between the Russian brand and the Western brand of democracy are being fought out.

The city has returned to a state of restive quiet this morning after a night of strike violence. The renewed rioting last night cost at least one youth his life when anti-Communist strikers ousted East Berlin railroad police from the Zoo elevated station in the British sector. The Soviet-controlled police fired into a crowd of a thousand persons when strikers began stoning them. After two hours in which it appeared that the mob would get out of control, British safety authorities notified the three hundred strikebreakers inside the Zoo station that Western authorities could no longer be responsible for their safety. The five hundred men inside withdrew. But the mob was out for vengeance and proceeded to take seven more West sector stations on the Berlin elevated railroad.

This morning it is reported that the anti-Communist rail union now holds all but five stations in Western Berlin. The Russian-sponsored police and strikebreakers still occupy two stations in the American sector, two in the French sector, and one in the British, which is jointly occupied by East and West police.

Deputy Mayor Ferdinand Friedensburg told me last night that the West Berlin city council would make proposals to the Russian rail directive to end the strike, and to pay the men their wages in West marks which they are demanding.

I got confirmation last night that the Communist-led East Berlin government has been importing men from the Russian zone to help break the anti-Communist union. A railroad worker who abandoned the fight told me that he had been ordered into the city from a switch point east of here, but was only told he was going to do repair work in Berlin. He said he knew nothing of the strike.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 25, 1949

Berlin is quieter this morning than it has been at any time in the past three days, and the strike crisis seems to have eased off somewhat as rioting crowds wear themselves out and the 12,000 striking railway workers seek a settlement of their wage demands.

The casualty toll of the past sixty hours shows seventeen persons hospitalized, four of whom are member of the Communist-zone railroad police. Scores of other persons were treated by first aid stations, but an earlier report that one man was killed has not been confirmed.

The strike is still on, and the elevated trains are running only in the Soviet sector of the city. This morning there appears to be hope that the Soviet-controlled railway directorate will meet the demands of the striking trainmen of West Berlin who want their pay only in West marks.

The Russian-licensed newspaper, Tribune, says today that the strike was unnecessary; that negotiations are underway and that there is a promising prospect that adequate West mark pay can be granted to the strikers. The Communists continue to try to place blame for the strike on the United States, charging that it is a grand conspiracy to disrupt the Big Four foreign ministers conference in Paris.

The anti-Communist union conducting the strike issued a proclamation last night demanding that the Russian-controlled police, who have been trying to break the strike, be withdrawn; that the Western police take over the elevated; and that the rail directors sell tickets in the Western sector of the city for West marks so that pay could be made in that currency.

An extraordinary meeting of the West Berlin government this morning asked that the American, British, and French military commandants authorize Western police to take over the elevated stations in their sectors and give military police backing if necessary. The three Western military commandants met this morning to consider the strike situation. They resumed their meeting a few minutes ago to consider the magistrate proposal.

Important events are taking place in Bonn. The basic constitutional law for West Germany has been ratified by the required two-thirds of the states, and at the last meeting of the constitutional convention this afternoon the new Federal Republic of Germany will be proclaimed and the black, red, and gold flag of the republic will be officially hoisted for the first time.

During the meeting of the foreign ministers, an eight-man German committee representing the new republic will sit in Frankfurt to advise the three Western nations.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 25, 1949

Renewed fighting between anti-Communist strikers and East Berlin non-striking railroad men was reported an hour ago at two places on the city's elevated railway.

Reports are still coming in and we have no indication of the seriousness of the incidents or whether there have been any casualties. The clashes are reported at the Anhalter station on the American-Russian sector border in the center of town and at the Priesterweg railroad yards. The fighting is between East Berlin repair gangs attempting to get the shut-down elevated running again, and the strikers.

These incidents followed the first quiet night Berlin has had in five days. The orders yesterday by the American, British, and French commandants for West Berlin police to occupy the elevated stations in their sectors were carried without incident. The orders were issued as a public safety measure after the killing of one striker at the Zoo station the night before last.

Today West Berlin police are in all stations of the three Western sectors. However, in the Priesterweg railroad yards, thirty-seven Russian soldiers were stranded because the striking union workers will not allow them to take out steam engines as transports. Four locomotives were steamed up this morning, but the strikers cut electric power that runs the turntable and immobilized the yards. Some of the Russian officers left by truck, but others still remain.

At this moment, the Russian-sponsored economic commission of East Berlin is considering a proposal of the rail directorate to collect West mark fares so that the striking workers can receive their pay in this currency.

This issue precipitated the strike, but now the anti-Communist union says that there are more than the pay issues involved. They demand that all men who went on strike be reinstated, and that their union, opposed by the Communist-sponsored Federation of East Berlin, be recognized.

There is hope in some quarters that the strike may be settled by tomorrow.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 26, 1949

Western Power authorities today are questioning if and just how much the Soviet military government in Germany has lifted the Berlin Blockade. They charge that the Russians are employing the same tactics they have used in the past—to agree in principle and then to obstruct in carrying out the details.

This morning thirty-six trains were lined up just outside Berlin in the Soviet zone city of Potsdam. Four of these trains were passenger trains containing some 140 American and British travelers trying to get to Berlin. On one American train, thirty-five military and civilian personnel have been sitting in their passenger coaches for the past twenty-four hours. They were in radio communications with American transport officials here and said they had run out of water but still had some food left.

Repeated requests for permission to send buses and trucks to Potsdam for the stranded passengers have been ignored by Soviet military authorities.

The reason for this rail traffic snafu is that the key control tower at the main switch point for trains coming into the West has been abandoned, although it is under Russian control.

Ostensibly this is because the West Berlin rail workers are on strike, but the anti-Communist rail union conducting the walkout has asked permission to man the switch tower and to lead the trains from the West over tracks now being picketed by the strikers. The Russian-controlled railroad directorate refused this request.

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 27, 1949

The Anglo-American airlift delivered more than eight thousand tons of supplies to Berlin yesterday. These daily reports look like becoming news again this morning as virtually all railroad traffic between this city and the West is shut down for the fourth day in a row. The airlift continues to fly, yes, but actually Berlin does not have the blockade conditions it endured for eleven months. Truck and barge traffic is running into the city in increasing proportions.

But the main supply route, the railroad between here and Helmstedt, is jammed up with more than thirty trains, and the Berlin rail yards are stacked with more than a thousand freight wagons loaded with potatoes, coal, and other cargo with no men on engines to move them. Soviet transport authorities have notified the British that no further trains into the city from the Western zones can be handled until the present freight crisis is solved.

The Soviet military government is doing exactly nothing to solve the situation. Their transport officials cannot be reached, and they are ignoring all Western requests to facilitate rail movement which now is stalled in their zone from Potsdam, just outside of Berlin, westward.

American, British, and French officials here interpret this transport jam as much more than a local Berlin crisis. The Russians take the position that the traffic tie-up is the result of the elevated rail strike in Berlin and that therefore the situation is one for German settlement.

However, the striking anti-Communist union maintains that it is striking only Berlin's elevated railroad, and not traffic from the West. The union asked the Russians for permission to bring in the freight trains and was rejected. Today they say they will work anyway if ordered to do so by the Americans or British.

General Frank Howley, American commandant for Berlin, charges that the entire railroad problem could be solved by the Soviet military government if it so desired, or if they desired to act in the spirit of the New York blockade-lifting agreement.

The new Berlin rail crisis makes an interesting comparison of action competing with words now being spoken in the foreign ministers conference in Paris.

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