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.