December 9, 2013

1978. Harry Reasoner Announces the Death of Bill Downs

The Good Old Days

On May 3, 1978, the ABC Evening News anchor Harry Reasoner announced Bill Downs' death from cancer at the age of 63.

1977. Project MKUltra

Project MKUltra

The CIA's Project MKUltra is one of the more troubling controversies surrounding the intelligence community over the decades. Downs contributed to two reports on ABC Evening News in the summer of 1977:

July 20, 1977

August 3, 1977

November 19, 2013

1963. 50 Years Later: The News Coverage of the JFK Assassination

The 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination
November 23, 1963

After a nearly two year retirement, Bill Downs joined ABC News to cover the immediate aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

These are portions of ABC's coverage of the assassination, including some reports by Downs.

November 22 - November 25, 1963 - Full coverage from ABC News:

November 24, 1963 - Downs on JFK's cortege and the death of Lee Harvey Oswald:

More coverage of JFK's state funeral:

October 18, 2013

1940s-1950s. Miscellaneous Photographs

Interviews and Exploits

These photographs feature Bill Downs at various points in his career at CBS, as well as memorabilia from his time in Europe during World War II.

From Christmas 1942 to January 1944 Downs was CBS' Moscow correspondent. From 1953 to 1956 he worked as CBS' Rome correspondent, where he covered Italy and the Middle Eastern affairs. He was in a press interview with President Gamal Abdel Nasser in early November 1954, shown below.

Downs in 1942

(From Cloud & Olson) "D-Day team gathers together on a London sidewalk.
 Left to right: Richard Hottelet, Gene Ryder, Bill Downs, Charles Collingwood, and Charles Shaw"

Murrow and Downs in Tokyo

Gamal Abdel Nasser (left) and Bill Downs (right) in 1955

Downs and Richard Nixon

Nazi intelligence entry on Downs

Same entry in German

January 21, 1941 letter addressed to Downs while he worked in London for the United Press (marked with Vichy stamps)

1950. Downs and Murrow in Korea

Letters From Korea
Edward R. Murrow and Bill Downs in Korea

Bill Downs and Edward R. Murrow were among the many war correspondents who covered the Korean War. Below are some abridged letters sent home from Downs to his wife. He writes of his experiences with fellow correspondents, military censorship, and life in Korea.

July 13, 1950

                I’ve got a few minutes to write…this area is a shambles, no communications, conflicting reports of what’s going on. Even in Tokyo we have to start from scratch since some genius closed us up out here. In other words, all work and no fun.
                The trip to Korea was a nightmare. You have to clear all of MacArthur’s red tape first, then you catch a 3 AM plane, you go to an airfield six hours away in southern Japan, then the rain falls in torrents, then there is a report that your airfield has fallen (which is untrue), then finally you climb aboard a plane-load of bombs and they set you down at another airfield a hundred miles away from your destination. After reaching Taejon, the troubles just begin. No transportation. So you hitchhike to headquarters, check in, lug your baggage to the correspondents’ billets and pick a soft place on the floor. Then you start to hitchhike to the front with a GI driver who doesn't know where he’s going. Then you arrive at headquarters, get a briefing, go forward, get shot at and run like hell lugging your tape recorder behind you. After you get out, you find the batteries have failed.
                On the way back you hitch another ride. The driver loses his way and you end up in southern Korea almost to the coast. You backtrack and arrive about midnight on an 8 hour trip in a truck over the worst roads in the world. It should have taken an hour and a half. You scrounge a blanket, try to sleep on the floor but fleas and mosquitoes won’t let you. The next day you take your recordings and get the hell out. That’s about it.
                By the time you get this, I’ll be on another story which you will be reading about. Don't worry, it doesn't look too difficult. I missed Marguerite [Higgins] in Taejon, such was the confusion and the haste. Frank Noel is now coming over, which will break the boredom of this area. Marguerite, incidentally, has managed to make every correspondent over here despise her…but she doesn't appear to mind.
                [Bill] Costello is up to his ears in work and routine. Also Bill Nuckols and Alice just arrived in town yesterday…he’s on permanent assignment. Sends his regards. You’ll be happy to know that I’m on my fifth day of a beard. If it comes out all right, I might bring it home with me. Anyway, I’ll send you a picture of it if anything develops. It’s pretty horrible looking right now.
                I forgot to tell you that Bill Dunn also showed up working for NBC. He’s lost a lot of weight and feels fine. We hope to find time for a golf game one of these days.
                Only diversion so far was a Japanese meal of sliced pork, raw fish and sukiyaki---plus geisha girls to pour the sake (nothing else). We seem to work around the clock. The 8 AM shows for NY are broadcast here at 10 PM. We record for the 7:45 at 2 AM. [Eric] Sevareid show is at 1 PM. No one is getting much sleep…it’s ungodly hot and if you aren't wet with sweat you are wet with rain. In other words, stay away. As soon as we get lined out here and I can retreat, I’ll let you know about Hawaii. It can be arranged.
                I hope you found the house we want. I’ll be ready for something sensible to do after this debacle. But it looks like victory may be a long time in the making…if we ever achieve a complete victory here. I don’t know.

The aforementioned beard

July 24, 1950
                Just a few lines before shoving off for a broadcast…it’s how, sweltering, sweat is dripping down my beard which is this (---) long. I look and feel like a character off skid row. As you know, Murrow arrived with your letter. Then another arrived, plus a dispatch from Bienstock which is called an “Absolute Assignment” giving you control of my insurance so that you can buy the house. You now have me in your power.
                I’m enclosing a letter from Leonard Miall in which you will be interested. Keep it and then next time you get a chance call him and see if everything is okay with the car. Sounds all right. Also enclosing a picture form the Nippon Times which does not do justice to my hirsute accomplishments. As you can see, laughing William Lawrence did not get married. Still has tears in his eyes and now trying to forget it all among the Korean Fleas.
                Finally I am getting W. Costello to the front for a look as well as Pepper Martin. We have been sitting with our thumbs you know where for the past week…but since this is a relay job, I said that I wouldn't go back until someone else took a crack at it. Murrow and I are going over towards the end of the week. Meanwhile I have been doing nothing but trying to get tape recorders to work. Turned engineer, I have. Murrow took one for the little darlings along on his operational flight…it came out sounding like the inside of a Mixmaster but he managed to salvage 30 seconds.
                I’m told that Jack Jefferson is coming over…which is good news and will put me into a position to disengage…a term I’m fond of. [Higgins is] going back to the front to get loused up again. I think she’s got a suicide complex. No kidding, she’s nuts…wants to call off the thing with Will Hall. And he’s breaking his neck to get over here. I suggest we keep out of it.  

The next letter is missing the second page.

July 30, 1950
                I’m just preparing to shove off for Korea for a week or so. It’s ungodly hot here and I sweat by the gallons…haven't lost much weight though. My beard is not very successful. After a few more days and some pictures, I’m shaving it off. Just thought you should see the experiment, that's all.
                As you know, Jack Jefferson is coming out here. Murrow is collaborating with me to get both of us back in September or thereabouts. The idea is that the experts figure the weight of the news will shift back to Europe in the fall (I'm doubtful of this). But nevertheless, my "disengaging" program from this part of the world is underway. The local picture on Korea is getting better, I believe…but the overall picture in the Far East is getting worse. The dilemma is that Russia can afford even less than we to take a defeat in Korea…and when and if we look like winning, then she will probably move somewhere else in this part of the world. I want to get back before this happens or I might be stuck here for months. On the other hand, there may be a move in Europe which will take interest away from here…then I can probably return to fill the resultant gaps in Washington.
                Murrow is out with the B-29s today. The more I see of the guy, the more respect I have for him. He turned down the VIP treatment to bunk in with the jammed up Press Club facilities. Saw John Osborne of Life last night. He’s going to Korea in a couple of days too. M. and I had dinner with Bill and Alice Nuckols the other night. She still looks like a potential president of the women’s auxiliary of AA. Sends her best.
                Moseley has managed to screw up a couple of things in San Francisco and Murrow is for sacking him. He failed to send the first broadcast out of Korea by Costello…said there was nothing new in the content.
                Also Murrow and I were talking about the “great return.” We discussed Honolulu…the possibility of meeting you and Janet there. But since that is the long way home by PanAm, we are in the process of concocting a scheme which sounds good at the moment.
Downs and Murrow returned to Korea sporadically throughout the war. In a Christmas Eve, 1952 episode of See It Now entitled "Christmas in Korea," Murrow interviews American soldiers stationed on the peninsula. Downs makes a brief appearance.

August 8, 1950
                I’m back to cure my flea bites and to get some rest. Honest to god, that Korea…
                I spent a lot of time in Pusan, as you probably have gathered. The town has one paved street, some streetcars, a good port and that’s about it. Except millions of bugs and Koreans. The only thing that saved the day was a half-dozen bottles of Scotch I was farseeing enough to bring along. Slept on the floor most of the time, no baths…and people started to walk to the windward of me.
                Met the Marines and rode the rods on a flatcar with a tank to the front. Forgot about all the tunnels and when we arrived, I looked like the kind of the hobos. Spent a day at the front…most unpleasant and came home. I had a hunch about the offensive. Too damn many Koreans again. Their battle intelligence is terrific. We’re going to have one hell of a time before this is over…if ever it is.
                Murrow worked the north, I the south. Didn't see Boyle or Lawrence this trip. Probably see them next week. I've been thinking about doing an expense account…but find that it includes our arrival in Washington and have drawn a blank there. I’ll think of something.
                Bob Considine arrived the other day…he’ll be leaving soon…and I’ll have him give you a ring. Jack Jefferson is due here within the next few days. I don’t know how my disengagement plan is coming off…that’s the reason I asked you about it the other day.
                New York is being so fussy about the quality of recordings we have been doing by phone from Korea that everyone here is furious. For example, they refused to take a frontline piece by Murrow after the attack. I heard it played back from San Francisco, and while it was not studio quality, it was extremely dramatic and understandable. I raised hell saying they don’t fight wars in studios…but anyhow had to get up and 4 AM and do a digest for him.
                I took TV pictures like mad but don’t know whether they have been used or what. We have recorders over here galore…but most of them are out of whack. 
Downs somewhere in Korea

August 14, 1950
                Just thought I would report to you that the situation is well in hand. Joe Alsop just showed up. He’s going to Korea, the best excuse yet I have to stay away from the place. As you have heard, Christopher Buckley was killed. I don’t know whether you met him or not, but he was one of my favorite Englishmen. We were on the Normandy show together. Everyone is depressed by the mounting casualty list and there are less and less chances being taken…except by Marguerite and Homer Bigart…one or the other is going to get it one of these days. Telling them doesn’t help.
                Costello is going over this week. I’ll be able to go back for another session after that…if we aren’t off the peninsula by then. (joke)
                Murrow leaves on the 16th and is bearing gifts…as is Barney Oldfield, who left the day before yesterday with a birthday gift for you. I am sending along the Seven Happy Gods of the Orient—originally Chinese but adopted by the Japs. Now my problem is to identify them. When you get the happy seven, there may be no explanation but I’ll send it along later. Also sending a Kimono for Will. Would you like one? Okay, I’ll get it.
                The other news is that Chester told Murrow that he plans to replace me here about September 1. I don’t know who is coming out. We are thinking of hiring a man here. At any rate, the disengaging process is on. I hope they get the sewers in before I return.
                Your description of the house sounds wonderful. Only a couple of things I’d like to know further. Is it brick or what…does it have a basement…what kind of heating facilities? If you get a chance, take a picture of it and pass it along.
                I have to finish this so that Murrow can take it back with him. They moved his plane up a day. Apparently he’s got to go to Europe after this trip…I don’t envy him at all. 

October 16, 2013

1964. The Republican National Convention

The GOP Shakeup
"Barry Goldwater waves to delegates at the 1964 Republican National Convention." (AP Photo | source)
Republican Senator Barry Goldwater won his party's nomination at the 1964 National Convention in San Francisco. A conservative icon, Goldwater's rise marked the collapse of Nelson Rockefeller's liberal/moderate-type wing of the GOP, the Rockefeller Republicans, as the party shifted more to the right.

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," Goldwater said in his acceptance speech.

ABC News sent Bill Downs to San Francisco to cover the convention. After the first day he wrote to his wife, Roz, giving his thoughts on the convention's proceedings and its participants.
San Francisco

July 13, 1964

Dear Mac,

I trust you watched the mass suicide that occurred this night in San Fran. I would say the atmosphere reeked of the Brauhaus—and it was followed by the ridiculous, quixotically wonderful and completely futile and symbolic "lie-in" before an unused Cow Palace gate that I trust got the paper publicity.

Funny thing about it, the Goldwater jungen and mädel were almost but not quite as disciplined as the civil rights demonstrators who were more effective than the police in keeping the scene outside the Cow Palace peaceful. Everyone had their orders except the Goldwater-packed galleries not to boo the opposition. Kind of an armistice until the non-violent rightists and passive resistant leftists decide it's time to really have a go at each other.

I keep getting the feeling that they're keeping deep, dark secrets from us respectably naive middle class righteous old fuddies struggling with out-to-fashion moralities in search of outdated and inherited truths that no longer apply—at least to this smaller revolutionary convention.

For example, I don't understand the handsome, clean-cut and muscular young men barely out of their teens who show polite contempt for the printed and broadcast media—all apparently convinced that reporters are ideological enemies or idiots bent on destroying the Goldwater icon…potential desecrators of the new republicanism. It's sad and frustrating and, as you said…more than frightening. I'm interested in getting your view from the tube. The concentration of black and white electrons must have made it worse.


October 10, 2013

1945. Downs to Parachute into Berlin?

"Down He Goes"
Time Magazine, April 2, 1945

Bill Downs did not end up having to join the paratroopers when the time approached. Stalin's distrust of the Western Allies led to the Soviet occupation of the city.
If present plans come to pass, the first U.S. radio correspondent to reach Berlin will be a CBS newscaster, who will float down into the invaded city by parachute. 
At SHAEF's suggestion, correspondents of the four big networks have drawn lots for this coveted and perilous privilege. CBS officials last week admitted that they had won the lot-drawing, and said that any one of several well-known CBS men might actually make the jump. But the Office of Censorship passed a story [PDF, March 19] in the radio trade magazine, Broadcasting, definitely naming one man as the lucky jumper. He was William Randall Downs Jr., 30, currently shuttling between the western front and Paris. 
Downs is no acrobatic super-scoopster of radio journalism (he has never jumped from a plane), but a quiet, grey-eyed, bespectacled graduate of the University of Kansas. He used to be a United Press reporter, joined CBS's London staff in 1942, reported by microphone from Moscow the following year. Since D-Day, he has spent most of his time plodding along with the land forces in western Europe, and is now assigned to the Twenty-First Army Group. 
The plan is for CBS's jumper to leap from a bomber during the first phase of the entry into Berlin, before any other newscasters are allowed to land by plane. He will broadcast from a German station if one is still in operation; if not, probably from a 60,000 watt mobile transmitter which the Army packs on 17 trucks. All U.S. networks will carry his historic broadcast.

October 8, 2013

1946. Occupied Japan and the Dawn of the Cold War

Fear of USSR Seen Factor In MacArthur's Objections
"America's 'Western Frontier'"
General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito

From the New York Daily News, January 1, 1946:
According to CBS's Bill Downs, just back from Tokyo, MacArthur's statement of protest at the Big Three decisions on Japan was colored partly by the fear of the men on his staff—a view toward which MacArthur is not "entirely unsympathetic." Broadcasting from New York the same night that MacArthur's statement was issued, Downs declared: 
"The statement does not reflect the good judgment and good will with which MacArthur has been governing Japan.
"But MacArthur made his statement before Secretary of State Byrnes had assured the world that the Far Eastern Commission would not obstruct MacArthur in the outstanding and efficient administration of Japan," the reporter continued. 
"Thus it was unfortunate. But perhaps it was not entirely his own fault. 
"I left Japan a few weeks ago. The men on MacArthur's staff are anything but liberal. They fear Russia; as a matter of fact, they regard Japan as America's Western frontier. MacArthur is not entirely unsympathetic to their views. 
"Consequently, based on military reasoning—and these are military men—they see any arrangement which might obstruct their government of Japan as a weakening of the position of the USA in the Far East. 
"From my knowledge of the men who are now running conquered Japan, the only thing they really fear is Russia. Our economic directives to Japan make no provision for the possibility that perhaps the Japanese people may want a Socialist government. There would be widespread fainting in MacArthur's Tokyo headquarters if the coming Japanese elections turned out that way. 
"And this distrust of Russia in the Far East has been fostered by the Soviet Union itself. In Korea, the Russians have absolutely failed to meet any of our requests for cooperation. They shot down a B-29 in Korea shortly after the surrender of the Japanese in that country, and no one can mistake a B-29. Also the Russians have refused to cooperated in the exchange of vital fuel and food...we had the food, the Russians had the coal. But the 38th parallel (dividing Soviet and US zones) was a hermetically sealed, artificial border made airtight by the Russians. 
"The atmosphere of suspicion created by anti-Soviet members of MacArthur's staff and the more intensified suspicion created by Soviet commanders in the Far East is perhaps the major obstacle to the purposes of the United Nations in that part of the world. 
"The American people know that we have no imperialist designs on the Japanese islands, but apparently the men who are governing Japan are not so sure what our designs may be."

September 25, 2013

1945. The Nazi Surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery

Montgomery Scorns Nazis, Exults, 'This Is the Moment'
Bill Downs broadcasting from Lüneburg, Germany on V-E Day, May 8, 1945 (Photo by Dennis Allen of the British Second Army)


May 4, 1945 – 4:30 PM

(This broadcast was printed in full in The New York Times on May 5. The text in parentheses was inserted by the newspaper.)

More than one million Germans on Field Marshal (Sir Bernard L.) Montgomery's Twenty-first Army Group front surrendered on this historic May 4, bringing hostilities to an end for the Canadian Army fighting in Holland and the British Second Army fighting in northern Germany. (Other dispatches and previous estimates set the figure of troops involved at well over 500,000, but not more than 600,000.) It was the biggest mass surrender of German forces since the Armistice of 1918 (provided the higher figure is correct).

A German surrender mission headed by Admiral von Friedeburg, Commander in Chief of the German Navy, signed articles of unconditional surrender for the German land, sea and air forces facing the Canadian First Army and the British Second Army at 6:25 o'clock this evening. Field Marshal Montgomery signed in behalf of the Allied Supreme Commander in Chief, General (Dwight D.) Eisenhower.

The signing occurred in a tent set up especially for the ceremony in front of Marshal Montgomery's headquarters on the Lüneburg Heath just south of Hamburg. It's significant that the northern German armies were surrendered on this barren, artificially forested heath, which for years has served as the training ground and birthplace for German armies. It was here that technically a large part of the Wehrmacht died.

For this northern European front, it means that the fighting for the Canadian and British armies here is virtually finished. The only European nation in northern Europe yet to be liberated is Norway. There still is the Dunkerque pocket, but these events must have a tremendous effect on the Germans still holding out there.

In the words of Field Marshal Montgomery as he walked to the tent where the official signing took place, grinned and commented to the reporters:

"This is the moment!"

It was a great moment, a historic moment, there in the cold rain, the blustering winds on the Lüneburg Heath, in the heart of northern Germany, a great moment not only for Britain and Canada but for the American Eighty-second Airborne Division, the American Eighth Infantry Division and the American Seventh Armored Division, fighting under the Second Army in its hour of victory.

It was also a great moment for America and Russia and France and the world.

Here is the background of the historic signing of the biggest mass surrender of German forces since the armistice of 1918. The stage was set for the big surrender in the north when the British Sixth Airborne Division, operating under the American Eighteenth Airborne Corps, drove northward to the Cleve-Elbe River bridgehead south of Hamburg to reach the Baltic Sea at the city of Wismar. This happened Wednesday night.

Then the British paratroopers linked up with the Russians. Coming up on the right flank, the American Eighth Infantry Division and the American Eighty-second Airborne Division made linkups to the south of Wismar on Thursday, the next day, with the Russian Army.

What happened was that this drive to the Baltic carried the Second Army thrust directly behind the line of retreat of the Germany Army Group, the Nazi armies retreating before the drive in the north by General (Konstantin K.) Rokossovsky's forces advancing westward.

In the first three days it is estimated that more than half a million prisoners were taken, mostly from this army group retreating westward. That explains the large number of staff officers who fell into British hands during these fateful days. We were capturing the generals before encountering their fighting troops.

The rout had set in for the German armies on the northern front. On Wednesday, May 2, a German general who said he commanded the so-called army group, hoisted a white flag and sent an emissary to the headquarters of the British Second Army. He said he commanded all the forces between the Baltic and the Weser River, the river running southward from Bremen. He said he wanted to surrender this army group.

General (Sir Miles C.) Dempsey, commander of the Second Army, replied that he should start moving, and a rendezvous was arranged for Thursday. The German general did not appear, but he sent word that negotiations were going on a much higher level than his military station. He could not negotiate.

It was yesterday that a party of four higher German officials again hoisted a white flag and drove into the British lines. The head of the party was Admiral von Friedeburg, commander in Chief of the German Navy who replaced Admiral (Karl) Dönitz while the latter assumed the title of Führer. Von Friedeburg's rank also carries the title of General of the Army; thus, he was able to negotiate for the ground forces as well.

With von Friedeburg was General Kinzel, the next ranking officer, who is chief of staff to Field Marshal (General Ernst) Busch, who is commander of the northern German armies. Field Marshal Busch, incidentally, is still missing from our prisoners' list, but we should catch up with him soon. And next came Rear Admiral Wagner, a staff officer to Von Friedeburg, and lastly, a Major Friede, a staff officer to General Kinzel.

This was the party who hoped to negotiate with Field Marshal Montgomery. They were taken to "Monty's" field headquarters on the Lüneburg Heath. He stepped out, returned their military, not Nazi, salute and asked, as if they were vacuum cleaner salesman, "What do you want?"

The Germans replied:

"We come from Field Marshal Busch to ask you to accept the surrender of three German armies which now are withdrawing in front of the Russians in the Mecklenberg area."

These armies, it was later revealed, were the Third Panzer Army, the German Twelfth Army, and the Twenty-first Army.


The Nazi officers continued: "We are very anxious about the condition of German civilians who are fleeing as the German armies retreat in the path of the Russian advance. We want you to accept the surrender of these three armies."

To his everlasting credit, Field Marshal Montgomery turned down three German armies willing to surrender to him. "No," he said. "Certainly not. Those German armies are fighting the Russians. Therefore if they surrender to anyone, it must be to the forces of the Soviet Union. They have nothing to do with me. I have nothing to do with the happenings on my eastern front. You go surrender to the Soviet commander. The subject is closed."

Then Field Marshal Montgomery asked: "Are you prepared to surrender the German forces on my northern and western flanks? Those forces between Lübeck and Holland and the forces in support of them, such as those in Denmark?"

The Germans said no, but they added that again they were anxious about the conditions of the German civilians on the northern flank. "We would like to come to some agreement with you by which the civilians would be saved from battle slaughter," they said.

Then the German commander proposed a complicated and difficult military program covering the next few weeks, in which the British Second Army would advance slowly while at the same time the German troops, by agreement, would retreat slowly. It would work well for the Germans.

Again Monty said: "No, I will not discuss what I propose to do in the future—nothing."


Then the British Field Marshal took the offensive. "I wonder," he said, "whether you know the battle situation on the Western Front." And he produced his operational map; the war was too close to being won for it to have any security importance. This map, and what he said, were the final straw, the one factor which precipitated the surrender of 1,000,000 Germans. The German commanders were shocked, astounded by the progress of the Allies in the east and the west.

It was lunchtime and they went off to lunch alone. Admiral von Friedeburg burst into tears when he got out of sight of Montgomery, and he wept throughout lunch. After lunch, Field Marshal Montgomery called the Germans back for further consultation, and there he delivered his ultimatum, an ultimatum that must have hurt the Nazis as much as the landing in Normandy.

He told the Germans:

"You must understand three things: Firstly, you must surrender to me unconditionally all the German forces in Holland, Friesen and the Frisian Islands and Helgoland and all other islands in Schleswig-Holstein and in Denmark.

"Secondly, when you have done that, I am prepared to discuss with you the implications of your surrender: how we will dispose of those surrendered troops, how we will occupy the surrendered territory, how we will deal with the civilians, and so forth.

"And my third point: If you do not agree to Point 1, the surrender, then I will go on with the war and I will be delighted to do so."

Monty added, as an after-thought, "All your soldiers and civilians may be killed."

One, two, three, finished. This shook them. They said that they came entirely to ask for the acceptance of three armies who wanted to surrender. They said they had no authority to agree to Monty's demand. But they agreed that two of them would remain behind while the others presented the new terms of surrender to their superior.

So at 4 P.M. yesterday afternoon, Admiral von Friedeburg and Major Friede went back with the news. They returned today at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon with the complete acceptance of the unconditional surrender terms, and that's how surrenders are made.

And this is what it looked like, the signing of a great surrender of the German forces in the north to the British and Canadian armies. It was raining when we arrived at Monty's headquarters, set in the shrubbed pines and firs of the Lüneburg Heath. The weather was more like fall than spring, with the winds of the North Sea whipping a cold drizzle over the whole landscape.

But overhead, weather or not, the Spitfires and Typhoons roared over, heading always northward, where Germans were reported trying to escape to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The air forces were continuing the attack until the last minutes of surrender, a sign of Allied strength built up in Germany.

We were led to a tent, a weather-beaten tent that had been pitched scores of times at the Field Marshal's headquarters. It wasn't large, about ten feet wide and twenty feet long. Family size. Inside was set up an ordinary kitchen-size table. On top of it was a blue cloth. Between two microphones was an inkstand with an ordinary steel-tipped pen lying on top.

The German mission arrived and walked to the front of Monty's caravan. Admiral von Friedeburg was invited inside for a last-minute conference. At this time it was not completely settled whether the German answer to the unconditional terms would be yes or no.

An extra person had arrived with the Admiral's party, a Colonel Paulik, once a member of the staff of Field Marshal (General Wilhelm) Keitel; Keitel is second in command of the German armed forces only to Führer Dönitz. The party had plenty of weight, but did not officially bear Keitel's authority.

And while Monty and the Admiral were meeting in the caravan, the other Nazi bigwigs stood in the rain, cold and shivering, just like us reporters. Then they marched down the gravel path toward the tent.

There was Admiral von Friedeburg dressed in a gray leather coat, German Navy style, with a battered hat on his head. But the striking thing was his face, the pushed-in German face, deeply lined and absolutely gray and motionless.

His was the responsibility in the surrender mission, and he showed the strain of his duty. Frankly the Admiral, who wept so copiously at lunch the day before, today looked as if he had been crying ever since.

But the most magnificent figure was General Kinzel, the chief of staff for the German armies in the north. He was the perfect figure of what the world has come to know its sorrow as the German military peacock, complete with monocle.

General Kinzel wore a light green, fastidious German Army greatcoat, with brilliant red lapels. His monocle seemed to glisten even in the dull gray of the afternoon. If his face had not been set in concrete, you might have expected him to burst into song for a Viennese operetta. He was that beautiful.

The small fry, the colonels and majors and all the rest of the surrender party, were gray ducks by comparison.

Again Field Marshal Montgomery kept the party waiting. They stood at attention around the kitchen table. Finally the Marshal, wearing immaculate British field battledress with red tabs on the lapels and a field marshal's baton on his shoulders, almost sauntered down the path. He came to this reporter and said out of the corner of his mouth:

"This is the moment."

He carried the surrender papers in his right hand. The moment he appeared the Germans snapped to attention, like puppets. The British Field Marshal sat down and stretched out his hand in invitation for the Nazis to do the same.

The cameras began to whirl and click, and Monty picked up the historic document that meant the surrender of more than 1,000,000 Germans. He put up his horn-rimmed spectacles, picked up the papers and said, "I will now read the terms of the surrender."

The Germans sat like statues, not a flicker of emotion on their faces. Solemnly, but with a note of triumph in his voice, Monty read the terms of surrender. You could tell that this was the moment for which he had been waiting in Alamein, in Tunis and in Italy.

Then, one by one, the Germans signed. Admiral von Friedeberg, General Kinzel, Rear Admiral Wagner, staff officer to von Friedeberg; General Paulik and Major Freiberger. They didn't say a word or betray a single emotion; it was strictly Prussian ceremony for the Germans.

Then the Field Marshal took up the wooden pen with the steel tip. "And now," he said, "I will sign on behalf of the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower."

The ceremony took about five minutes.

September 24, 2013

1970. The War of Attrition Ceasefire

Downs Interviews Yitzhak Rabin

This August 18, 1970 interview took place eleven days after the ceasefire between Israel and Egypt over the War of Attrition that began after the decisive Six-Day War. In this segment Yitzhak Rabin expresses to Downs Israel's concerns about Egypt's trustworthiness. John Scali also reports.

1970. Bill Downs Reports from Havre de Grace, Maryland

ABC's Bill Downs in Havre de Grace

From ABC World News Tonight, December 4, 1970.

September 8, 2013

1943. Nazi Rockets Provide the Lighting for Soviet Entertainment

Entertainment on the Eastern Front
Soviet troops in trenches during the siege on Leningrad, 1942 (source)

Lighting for Soviet Troop Shows Furnished by Nazi Rockets—That's How Close They Are to the Front

By Bill Downs
Moscow, June 1, 1943

Entertainment has really gone to war in the Soviet Union. There is no government-organized or sponsored entertainment for troops such as Britain's ENSA or America's USO-Camp Shows. Russia's theaters at the front are made up mostly of volunteer groups of six or ten actors, singers, and general entertainers who form brigades from the country's most famous theaters such as the Maly and Bolshoi.

Since the beginning of the war over 900 of these brigades have given more than 270,000 performances and concerts for the men in the firing lines, hospitals, and rear units. This includes some 45,000 front performances, 124,000 in hospitals, 124,000 in hospitals, and 100,000 in camps and military institutions. Of Russia top-flight actors and entertainers who have gone to the front, over 60 actors, musicians, and other performances have been decorated by the government for work in the war zones.

Alexander Pokrovsky, president of the Art Workers Union, for one, has indicated that small vaudeville turns are preferable front entertainment. When a troupe arrives, the men usually pitch in and improvise a theater in any convenient field on a truck platform, or often in a large dugout. On some occasions, shows are given one or two hundred yards from enemy trenches.

Lighting Furnished by the Nazis

Recently one group performed for a tank unit assigned to crack a river fortification. The artists reached the front late in the evening. They were held up picking their way through narrow trails in minefields. When they arrived, the soldiers insisted on seeing the entire program. The troupe performed in the open air; the illumination was furnished free by German rockets. The concert really got a big windup with artillery barrage. Before the troupers had packed, the first tanks had crossed the river.

Pokrovsky said that several regular frontline theaters have been founded for the Army and Navy. These companies make regular tours, with costumes, through zones immediately behind the front. Repetoires included both modern and classic plays. Incidentally, one of the most popular groups of the Red Army is the Soviet Beethoven Quartet.

Here is a typical experience at a front theater as told by B.M. Friedkov, Stalin prizewinner as well as an Honored Artist of the government. Friedkov is a leading member of the Leningrad theater, of the opera and ballet. He was a member of the brigade which recently returned from his home city. Friedkov says, "We gave a total of 41 performances on land and sea, visiting bases and units of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet. Programs included selections from operas, folk songs, and dances as well as hits from classical ballets.

"The reception everywhere was touchingly warm. Our first performance for the land forces was given in exactly the spot where the Leningrad blockage was breached. Often our programs were accompanied by fierce cannonades with shells and mines bursting nearby. Once we were performing near the front when, in the middle of the concert, enemy shells began raising geysers of earth in our vicinity. However, the audiences insisted that we continue. A few men left for our guns to return the enemy fire. We really gave them a show."

1943. American Films in Moscow During WWII

Hollywood in the USSR
Deanna Durbin

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

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

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

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

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

September 5, 2013

1978. Walter Cronkite Announces the Death of Bill Downs

May 3, 1978

Walter Cronkite announces the death of Bill Downs on the May 3, 1978 broadcast of CBS Evening News.

September 3, 2013

1963. The Man in the Piazza

Review of Main Street, Italy by Irving Levine
Rome in the 1960s. Photo by Bruno Barbey (source)

From The Saturday Review, December 28, 1963, p. 36:

The Man in the Piazza

Main Street, Italy, by Irving R. Levine (Doubleday. 542 pp. $6.50) examines the well-stuffed hut down-at-heel Mediterranean hoot-land of the 1960s and its reluctance to enter the age of the Sputnik, the graduated income tax, and canned pasta. Bill Downs has spent the last twenty-five years as a newspaper, magazine, and radio-TV reporter, mostly for CBS News overseas. His last foreign assignment was in Rome. 

THE CRAFT of today's foreign correspondent demands that he become an instant historian. If this is a rather dismaying concept, then brace yourself: the advent of Telstar and other communications techniques are putting new pressures on the world's news media and their reporters overseas. History is getting more "instant" every day.

In the process of their reporting, the foreign correspondents have produced their own journalistic library—most of it pretty perishable stuff—in which newsmen and women seek to freeze a few days or decades between a book's title and its conclusion, trying to tell how it was and why.

Irving R. Levine of NBC News writes about his Mediterranean assignment in this genre. His Main Street, Italy is a compendium of what every well-informed correspondent should know if he is suddenly called upon to "wing" a bit of instant history, whether it be the fall of a coalition government, a policy change in the Vatican, or a juicy international tax scandal. What the book lacks in organization of subject matter it makes up for in the proliferous facts that crowd its pages.

In his opening chapters, Mr. Levine announces his intention to write "a kind of primer" of everyday life in Italy. He fails in this because he never makes up his mind whose everyday life—the native's or the expatriate's. He warns that it's "imprudent to generalize about Italians," and then proceeds to do so with annoying frequency; e.g., "Italians are mercenary, they can be extremely contentious and seldom are greatly dedicated to keeping their word." "One explanation of overdeveloped Italian pride is that Italians really suffer from a national inferiority complex."

The author makes it clear that he is no sentimental sucker for the historic beauty left by the Romans (although, he admits, "the only complaint that one who lives in Piazza Navona can have is that he can never again experience the thrill of seeing it for the first time."). Neither will he be taken in by the irresponsible charm of the indolent natives (a donkey-riding farmer once demanded 1,000 here for the taking of his photograph but accepted half that amount, thus saving NBC News about eighty cents in production expenses).

Levine generally tries to maintain an impersonal "objectivity" about the passionate peninsula; but occasionally he sounds like a nagging housewife when he discusses Italian shopping habits, espresso coffee, or the touchy matter of bribery at the Vatican (the customary payoff to set up a television camera in St. Peter's Square is "transparent financial corruption...of a petty nature and is probably unknown to the Pope and other high dignitaries.").

Both the strength and weakness of Main Street, Italy is the deluge of statistics and percentages. Levine's prodigious research serves him well when he discards his primer approach and does a hard-hitting, scholarly job on the confusing history of postwar Italian politics and the even more confusing economy. He sorts out the spectrum of the nation's multiple party system lucidly, and provides a masterful explanation of the opportunities and dangers of l'apertura a sinistra—the controversial "opening to the left" that is still under assessment and dispute. His penetrating surveys of Italian commerce, labor, banking, and the private and government monopolies that control the bulk of the national economy will produce ideological shudders in both the NAM and the Politburo. And any American planning on an extended sabbatical in sunny Italy should read Levine on taxes, housing, leases, and apartments, and hire a good lawyer immediately on arrival.

The major contradictions of postwar Italian society-the paradox of burgeoning Communism in a Catholic state and the anticlerical political paganism that flourishes in the shadows of the Cathedrals of the Mother Church-are here exhumed and exposed as ably as has been done by the scores of other experts and scholars who have attempted to solve the puzzle. But, like the mysteries of Rome's apartment portieri and the Etruscans, they remain generally incomprehensible. Perhaps the answers lie buried in the unpredictable Italian anima, which, as any old Moscow hand like Levine knows, is brother to the impenetrable Russian soul.

Main Street, Italy is at its best when the author allows his sense of humor to come through or when he gets down to on-the-spot reporting. His question-and-answer record of an interview with a middle-aged ex-Fascist army veteran reveals more about Italy than most of the authorities quoted elsewhere, beginning with the Caesars.

August 21, 2013

1978. "Bill Downs, Reporter for ABC, Ex-War Correspondent, Dies" - Washington Post

Bill Downs, Reporter for ABC, Ex-War Correspondent, Dies
Bill Downs speaking with Edward R. Murrow
Bill Downs, 63, a network correspondent for the American Broadcasting Co. in Washington for the past 15 years, died Wednesday of cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Mr. Downs, whose most recent assignment with ABC was to cover ecology and matters on natural resources, began his broadcast career in 1942 with the Columbia Broadcasting System in London during World War II.

His wartime assignments included Moscow, where he was stationed from 1942 to 1944, and where he covered the battle of Stalingrad, the D-Day landings in Normandy, the surrender of German forces to Field Marshall Montgomery, and the surrender of Japan.

He later covered the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, the Soviet blockade of Berlin and the resulting Berlin Airlift, the Korean conflict, and numerous stories in the United States, including presidential campaigns. He was assigned to Rome by CBS from 1953 to 1956, and then became a specialist in diplomatic reporting. He resigned from CBS in 1962.

Mr. Downs joined ABC after a brief period of free-lance writing. He helped cover events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was ABC's correspondent at the Defense Department from 1963 until 1970, when he switched to ecology.

His prizes included a National Headliner's Club award for his exclusive coverage of the German surrender to Montgomery and and Overseas Press Club citation in 1949.

William Randall Downs Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kan. He grew up there and graduated from University of Kansas in 1937. He worked for Kansas City newspapers and then joined the old United Press in that city. UP, now United Press International, transferred him to London in 1940.

Mr. Downs' survivors include his wife of 31 years, the former Rosalind Gerson, of the home in Chevy Chase; three children, William R. III, of Flagstaff, Ariz., Karen Louise Smith, of Portland, Ore., and Adam Michael, of Silver Spring; his parents, William R. Sr. and Katherine Tyson Downs, and a sister, Bonnie Shoults, all of Kansas City. The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one's choice.

August 19, 2013

1940s. World War II Currency and Headlines

Contemporary Coins and Preserved Newspaper Headlines from World War II


Reverse: "Schlagt lüge betrug und verrat frei macht die tat. Wählt liste 8"Fight lies, deceit, and treason. Action liberates. Vote List 8, April 24, 1932.

"FREIE UND HANSESTADT HAMBURG" - Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg


Bank Note from Occupied Ukraine in 1942



The failure of the Maginot Line

When it came to France, Hitler was obsessed with symbolism--particularly revenge for World War I grievances with the overall goal of humiliating France.