April 28, 2014

1948. Letters from the Berlin During the Blockade

The Berlin Blockade
Bill Downs' Certificate of Identity in 1945
From 1948 to 1950 Bill Downs and his wife Rosalind "Roz" Downs lived in West Berlin as he covered the blockade and airlift for CBS News. In these two letters home, Bill and Roz describe the city's condition, the rations, and the political situation. Small sections unrelated to the subject matter (well wishes, etc.) have been removed for clarity. They are designated by ellipses between paragraphs.
Oct. 19, 1948

Dear Mom and Dad,

We are having one of our first quiet evenings at home since we arrivedhence the burst of letter writing. As Roz has probably told you, we have one of the fanciest ice-boxes of any residence this side of the Rhine. We are taking three German lessons a week. I work not too hard since the UN has taken the story away from here. All in all it is chilly but pleasant life. We get about 500 lbs. of coal a month, which means we can have baths about twice or three times a week.

However in the backyardbeyond the swimming pool and near the air raid shelter which has never been destroyedwe have a dozen trees. Three now are missing and we have about a cord of wood in the basement. Then I think we can get some brown coal for the fireplace. It will be on the black market but it all is pirated from the Soviet zone, and we don't feel badly about it since it helps more than hinders the air lift.

You know just about as much as we do about what is going to come out of this mess. The decisions will not be made here. However the reflection of our policy shows here first and as far as I can make it out, we are preparing to continue this air lift for two years if necessary. There has been nothing that gives any hope for the lifting of the blockade in the near future. The Russians go as far as they dare without overtly precipitating war. I get the feeling that we do the same more or less. And the feeling is that there will not be any open, official conflict between the two major powers.

But there is one other possibility. The Russians are supposed to be organizing a "people's police"an unofficial armed group of communists in the Soviet zone and sector of the city. They have proposed that all of the Allies withdraw. This move, as it did in Korea, will leave an armed minority favorable to them behind to take over. This may happen, but it would not officially be war. In this sense, Berlin has become a symbol. Because we will not abandon our sector to this kind of default power politics.

Another possibility is that the so-called "people's police" being armed and organized here in Berlin will try a putsch and take over the city. However we won't stand for that and now it appears that the city will really be split politically and economically. The trouble is that if things really get serious we won't be able to maintain our position, even with the air lift. That is if the Russians want to move with their army. They can take the air fields and all the rest. We don't have enough power here.

But neither Russia nor America nor anyone else seems ready for war. So we feel very, very safe.

Incidentally, this stuff is off the record—not for passing along for any local publication.

I have had dinner with Gen. Clay and Ambassador Robert Murphy several times. Clay is terrific. Murphy is a Republican but a nice guy. The American set up here is much better than I expected. The troops are tops, the press is high caliber, and the entire military government personnel is better than anywhere else I have seen it.

.   .   .

Roz Downs' ID in 1948
Friday, Sept. 24, 1948

Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm finally getting around to writing to you again and there is really a lot to say. Ed Murrow has been staying with us for a week and everyone is pretty tired, and especially your son. Bill has been working very hard—has been on the air every day at 7 AM your time and 8 on Sunday. He's enjoying the work more though than any time since we've been married.
.   .   .

To get food we drive to the commissary which is about eight miles away. We have no refrigerator, and anyway there's not enough electricity in Berlin to keep an electric refrigerator going. So I should go to the commissary every day to get fresh food. But gas is rationed (ten gallons a week) and Bill needs it for his work. He has his office at home and he broadcasts about seven blocks away from here. And it's really wonderful having him around the house so much. He just got back from broadcasting and says hello. He's on his way to pick up Ed, who's decided he'll have to leave to go back to New York tonight.

We drove into the city the other day. Ed wanted to see what was left of it. The only opinion I have of the Germans after seeing Berlin and the other parts of Germany we've driven through is that they sure were damn fools. I think before the war Berlin must have been one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Now, there is no city. For miles on end there is nothing but rubble. You are startled when you see a building standing until you drive close to it and see it's only four walls with no insides.

Once also there was a Tiergarten—several miles of garden, walks, statues, monuments, trees, grass—a lovely place that I had seen pictures of. Now the trees have been chopped down for firewood, there is no grass. There are bomb craters all over, and the statues and monuments are only rubble.

It is very depressing to go into Berlin proper. As Ed said, it looks like the end of the world. It looks like something out of a fantastic story magazine; something that looks like a civilization of the past, now dead. It's pretty horrible how a people with what must have been a truly beautiful city could have started the war, I don't know; the people here also look terrible. Their clothes look like what you would find only in the tenement districts in America. Their food is still almost entirely bread and potatoes, what they can get.

Bill said I would feel depressed by it all—and morbid. That is true for you cannot see all this and help but think it might happen to the whole world if we're not careful. But I cannot feel pity for the German people. I have tried; I do feel sorry for the children. But I don't believe the people have changed. They're beaten down now, but if we were to give them twenty years of building, they would be back again, demanding. They are a very strong people, and they frighten me.

I think that is all I have time to say now. Sorry for the essay but there is so much here to talk about. I shall write again next week. 
.   .   .

April 25, 2014

1947. The Men in Germany's Future

The Men in Germany's Future
This Week magazine, October 5, 1947
From This Week magazine, New York Herald Tribune, October 5, 1947, p. 5:
The Men in Germany's Future

Their gun lathes dismantled, the Krupp workers can still destroy Europe. An on-the-spot observer tells how — and why

In the grimy, battered valley of the Ruhr lies the answer to Germany's future — and perhaps the future of the world. For the Ruhr is the home of the gigantic Krupp coal mines and steel mills that must be the backbone of any Central European reconstruction. It has also been the right arm of German imperialism for longer than her neighbors like to remember.

Taking the punch out of the Friedrich Krupp Gestahlwerke, of Essen, is one of the main tasks of the Allied Reparations Commission — now struggling with the preliminary job of thoroughly demilitarizing the Ruhr.

The work is not easy, for here is a two-sided problem to overcome: a problem of politics and a problem of people. The first hurdle is the international disagreement among Britain, France, and America over the future control of the Ruhr.

France wants international control, fearing that to give Germany any part of the direction threatens a revival of her arms industry.

Britain says that the Ruhr eventually should be socialized and that the power and responsibility for operating the rich industrial area should be given to the government and the people.

And the United States, anxious to institute peacetime steel production and to relieve the American taxpayer without furthering socialism, argues that the Ruhr should be returned to "democratic private enterprise" with Germans responsible for the limited peacetime economy of her industry.

But no matter what answers are provided to the above questions, the second problem of the Ruhr remains. That is the German steel worker, coal miner, and laborer.

The Ruhr worker, multiplied many times and directed by caliper, slide rule, and a series of ambitious, blood-thirsty governments, became the world's most skilled maker of weapons of war. In the years between wars, his competent hands produced the sinews of peace which often put the ravaged continent back on its feet.

In Krupp Gestahlwerke the artisan of steel reached his zenith. Generations of precision workmen in the biggest and busiest armaments shops in Germany created a select group of laborers who handed down the secrets and skills that made the Fatherland's armies the most feared in the world.

Today these workmen are as confused, as hopeless, and as demoralized a group of people as there is in all of Germany. Walking through the ruined Krupp gun shops, the dirty, ragged laborers seldom speak, even among themselves. Only the occasional hissing of an acetylene torch chopping up gun barrels breaks the almost cathedral-like silence.

Worried British overseers watching listless men tearing down the modern Borbeck steel mill will have seen it, too. "We have to warn the German foremen all the time to make the men on the scaffolding take safety precautions," one Yorkshire engineer explained. "Five men have been killed in falls. There's no excuse for it. It's almost as if they wanted to be hurt just to get off the job."

Another Götterdämmerung

What of these men? They are the ones, under whatever final policy is dictated by the Allies, who must meet the quotas, who must go into the mines and the mills and once again spark the reconstruction of battered lands.

The great threat — greater than uprising or strike — is that perhaps they will do nothing. For if apathy seizes the land, it will mean another kind of Götterdämmerung — a collapse in which Germany, wallowing in a masochistic glory, would drag Europe into the morass with her.

To find out what was going on in the minds of the men at Krupp, I talked to both workers and management. The leaders of the Krupp workers' committee have their headquarters on the gloomy third floor of one of the few buildings left standing of the Essen offices.

Bernard Ackermann is head of the committee. He is a mild little man, a Socialist who might be a minor official in the American Federation of Labor if he were an American. But his assistant, Hans Degel, is the power behind the local labor throne. Degel was a Communist who was a prisoner in the dreaded Belsen concentration camp.

More Workers Needed

Since the end of the war, the workers' committee has concerned itself chiefly with denazification, in seeing that no former Nazis are employed by Krupp. And it is becoming more obvious that, with the shortage of skilled labor in Essen, the investigations are growing less and less detailed.

Under the Allied Military Government, the union has no right to strike. Wages are frozen, so there can be no legal protest action on this issue by the union. However, Ackermann and Degel both say that the union plans to do something to bring wages within range of prices as soon as they are permitted.

But, in the words of these two union chiefs, the world should not condemn German labor too much for what happened in Germany. "There was a lot of opposition to Krupp and Nazi policy here," Degel said. The Communist reached in his desk and brought out a column of figures. It is said that a German can't breathe without a column of figures. "For example, seven hundred Krupp workers were sent to concentration camps because of their political views.

"Ninety-two percent of the Krupp management were members of the Nazi Party. Sixty-two percent of the white-collar workers were members. But only eight percent of the workers joined up — and mostly they did that because they were forced to."

But what does the German union think should be done with the Krupp factories and mines?

Degel looked embarrassed. There has been no directive from the Eastern Zone about such questions. With Germany split into four parts, the acquisition of ownership by zonal authorities would split the industry into international proprietorships — which doesn't follow the party line. The Communist labor leader's answer was ingenious — a little too ingenious.

"Why would it not be possible for the city of Essen to assume ownership of the plants?" Degel asked. "The city depends on Krupp. The city should own the mines and steel mills and factories. Nationalization might be a good idea later."

But what is the Communist Party position about the guilt of the German people? What do the Communists believe as separate from the union and other parties?

"The Communists believe," Degel said," that the German people must share the blame for the war. And this includes labor. But in the future, if the workers are to share the responsibility for the success or failure of Germany, they must have more and more participation."

The man took a deep breath and his speech seemed almost rehearsed. "The German people do not want to be dependent for their livelihood on the American taxpayer or anyone else. There would be no more war if the German economy were truly democratic and the people had the responsibility for keeping it that way."

Degel said there are now 10,000 Communist Party members in the Essen district. "But we have 40,000 other people supporting us. Our influence is increasing. Only in 1945 we were the smallest group. But since then we have shown the fastest and largest development.

"The reason for this is that we show the real way to a better future for Germany — which is through basic, socialistic, economic changes."

No "Good and Bad"

Degel grinned after his speech. He pulled a half-smoked cigarette from his pocket, looked at it carefully and lit it. He smoked in the postwar German fashion, drawing each puff carefully and holding the smoke in his lungs as long as he comfortably could.

"Under the present conditions of partition in Germany, there is no sense in talking about good and bad things for the country. There must be unity of the country. And this goes for the Russian Zone, too.

"There are good and bad things in every Zone. We do not defend the bad things that are going on, no matter which Zone they occur in. There must be a unity of workers' parties. And only in the Russian Zone does this occur. We hear that in the Russian Zone there is more participation of the workers in running the factories. We hear that production is better and reconstruction is faster."

A different answer came from Erich Krippner, assistant manager of the Amelia mine in Essen. Krippner says he was never a Nazi, never in the army and — strangely enough — never in trouble with the authorities. That may be because he has been a mining engineer for many years.

A Conservative Speaks

A youngish, tall, balding man with non-committal eyes and a precise manner, Krippner is a conservative with little use for the nationalization of the mines. He charges that:
1. Under nationalization, there would be no economic leadership. 
2. The Ruhr coal areas require improvement and development which wouldn't take place under nationalization. 
3. Nationalization would probably aggravate the absenteeism of the miners — already up to 17 percent.
Krippner favors grouping all of Germany's coal industry under one head on a kind of profit-sharing basis. He pointed out that there are good and bad mines in the Ruhr — but as long as coal is in such demand, the bad mines would have to produce, too.

By grouping them, the good producers could balance off the uneconomical ones and a level could be maintained for the owners.

I asked him if this were not the kind of centralization of industry the Allies were trying to break up. Krippner said no. This, he declared, would be a horizontal or produce organization, while Krupp was a vertical or industrial organization.

It took two Ruhr coal miners, however, to dramatize the plight of the German industrial worker. Coming off the morning shift at the Amelia mine in the center of Essen, Wilhelm Marcaniak was taking off his work clothes. He is 47 and has been working in the mines 20 years. He has a wife and four children and finds himself hard put to feed them all. Also, he's a little unhappy that all his children are girls and thus unable to earn much.

Marcaniak figures the Allies are being pretty stupid about the food proposition. During the past two years he has lost 40 pounds. Before, he said, he could mine nine tons of coal a day. But the food has been so short that now he can take out only five and sometimes seven tons.

At this point, a grizzled old man, one of the oldest miners there, stuck his head over Marcaniak's shoulder. He announced himself as Karl Daskowski. Both were Germans of Polish descent.

Speaking with the authority of the voluble, aged and with the air of a man pleased that once more he could criticize authority, Daskowski shouted:

"We want to be Germans and a real working country. We are free and not slaves. But if this kind of feeding goes on, the Nazis will come again, not democracy."

One can only wonder what kind of food it would take to bring democracy to Germany.

April 23, 2014

1945. The Devastation in Western Germany

The Liberated and the Conquered
June 14, 1944. Bill Downs, front right. First broadcast from a mobile transmitter on the Normandy beachhead (broadcast live).

Saturday, 3rd March, 1945.

BILL DOWNS. Read to New York in advance on Saturday afternoon.
This report is from the Cologne plain—that part of the Cologne plain marked on your maps as conquered by the United States of America. From now on every bit of Germany taken must be regarded as territory conquered by our and your soldiers.

We're doing all right as conquerors. Conquerors of evil symbolized in Nazi Germany. We brought fire and sword to the swastika—the fire of justice and the sword of righteousness.

The physical cutting of this inbred and inborn thing called Hitlerism from Germany is by necessity a painful process. And traveling through the thirty-two mile deep slice of the Reich which we have captured shakes even the most hardened soldiers. Village after village is in ruins and farm after farm flattened; roads are torn up, bridges blown, and hardly an acre that doesn't have its quota shell and bomb holes. Forests are shattered and even rye fields are shattered.

I talked with a patriotic southerner, a colonel from Atlanta, Georgia, after his first trip through this part of Germany. When he returned he shook his head and sighed. "After this," he said, "I'll always think of General Sherman as a kind old man."

The destruction of this part of western Germany from Aachen to the Erft River is as complete as anything I saw in Russia, on the steppes, at Stalingrad or in the Ukraine or west of Moscow. In a way the damage in western Germany is worse because it's more concentrated. Driving over the shell-pitted roads, you find towns only a mile or two apart. Just as you leave one ruined village up the road you can see the shattered remains of the next town. Now the Germans are beginning to understand the price of war and the cost of defeat. I'm winning a victory on a rising market.

We're in rich farm country here. The country most resembles the corn belt of farmland through southern Indiana and Illinois. As you drive towards the front you can see cows, sheep, and horses wandering over the fields. The fences have been broken by our advance. And once in a farm where there was the unit command post, we were almost run down by a stampede of horses frightened by our artillery.

It's a common sight to see a GI milking a Hereford in the evening and getting a helmet full of her milk for his evening meal.

We liberated scores of French, Polish and Dutch farm workers—men who haven't seen their homes for five years. But it's a funny thing, as glad as they are to see us, they often ask if the cattle will be all right. And sometimes they refuse to be evacuated until they're sure the farm animals will be cared for. One Frenchman explained to me, "After all, horses are not Nazi *******'s and I've got to like them horses after five years. They're about the only things around here that like me."

And as grim as the fighting's been on the Cologne plain, the GI's always manage to get a laugh out of something. An artillery outfit moved up near the town of Elsdorf and found that they had to corral half a dozen horses in pasture before they could begin shooting. Then someone got an idea. A bulldozer was commandeered and it cut a circle of turf around the edges of the field. Some artillerymen volunteered as jockeys and a horse race was staged right there in the middle of the Cologne plain. The betting was heavy with a road plowhorse called Marjorie winning all the heats.

But there's very little to laugh about in western Germany. Approximately ten thousand vehicles have been left behind on the Erft River front alone. It's a familiar sight seeing these refugees plodding along the sides of the roads pushing their belongings along in carts. You've seen pictures of it many times—refugees along the roads of Holland, Greece, Russia, and France. This time the people are Germans, and a lot of them are well dressed. They march to our rear zones in hundreds as each new town is taken. They are allowed to take what clothing and food they can carry. And then they go to camps where military government and counter intelligence officials examine them. Every person is registered and sooner or later they will be examined. It's a tremendous job, but they are the enemy—the defeated.

Control is strict. Perhaps as strict as these same people imposed on the slave labor they had working on their farms in this area. No one was allowed to leave the camp without permission. Shelter is provided in basements of ruined houses or in barns or other buildings that are not needed for the army. In one village there were thirty people living in each of a dozen rooms allotted to civilians. Good shelter is rare in these broken villages. The best accommodation's going to the doughboys—the Germans can have what's left. These Germans are also being fed off the land. Foraging parties are sent out under guard to search for food in the cellars and basements. In one district something like ten thousand cans of home grown fruit and vegetables was collected. Valuable army trucking space is not going to be sacrificed to see the Germans comfortable. American taxpayers are not going to have to pay for feeding the army.

Later when these civilians have returned to their homes—or what's left of their homes—they will keep the roads we're using in good condition. Most of all they are German roads, and we didn't ask to come over here. Germany declared war on us.

Yet we're not doing so badly as conquerors. Everything is for the army—the GI's come first. The Germans who once hoped to conquer the world are not getting a large taste of what it means to be conquered.

Yesterday I talked to a number of German civilians. Their attitude varies. Some were grovelling and fawning, others were non-committal, some immediately began complaining about their rights, and a few, very few, were haughty.

But in talking to them one thing stood out. Not a single one would admit he was a member of the Nazi Party. Only a small percentage of men would admit that they were in the Volksturm until we proved it to them. Not a single boy or girl would admit they ever had anything to do with the Nazi youth movement although membership was compulsory. As a matter of fact, after talking with these civilians, I got the impression that if you asked them about Adolf Hitler, they would look at you curiously and say "Who's that?"

But they know all right and they have a great feeling of guilt about the Nazi party. In their frustration they feel Hitler let them down letting them get defeated this way. And there's a tendency to blame the party members, Nazis who undoubtedly did a lot of overlording even in the smallest villages.

Distrust among non-Nazi Germans for party members is spreading. You can see it. It would be supreme irony and the height of poetic justice if the defeat of Hitler were brought about by his own people whom the Nazis have been pushing around, and right now see the end in sight. It would be betrayed France in reverse.

And from what I've seen in this slice of Germany, such a thing may not be impossible. In several villages the Volksturm has already refused to fight for the party. As our troops advance further into Germany—as our bombs and shells wreak more and more and more destruction—perhaps the German people will, more and more, turn on the Nazis for keeping them in a hopeless war.

But you can depend on the fact that the American army is not going to sit around and see if it will happen. We are going to make it happen or do it ourselves.

1942. Fascist Italy on the Brink

Benito Mussolini's Failures
Cartoon featured in Punch magazine
Bill Downs

CBS London

October 28, 1942
Today is an Italian anniversary—the anniversary of two events that rank high in the history of world infamy. 
It was twenty years ago today that Benito Mussolini made his abortive march on Rome and established a dictatorship that has put a tarnish on the glory that was Rome. 
Then it was two years ago today that this same Benito Mussolini attacked Greece. This attack accomplished just one thing. It made heroes of the Greek people and lowered the Italian people in the eyes of the civilized world to depths unwitnessed since the Dark Ages. 
It is significant, therefore, on this anniversary of fascist ignominy, that it was revealed Greek troops are in the battle against the German and Italian forces in Egypt. 
This is the first direct evidence of the United Nations fulfilling their promise to the conquered nations of Europe that Allied military might will assure their restoration. But it is more than that. At this moment, it would appear Italy has become the main military objective in the United Nations' fight against the Axis. Ever since the American envoy to the Vatican, Myron Taylor, returned to the United States, Italy has come more and more into the news. The RAF has pounded the Northern Italy industrial area. The seas around the Italian boot have been subject to heavier and heavier aerial and submarine attack. Both Britain and America have poured propaganda in ever-expanding force in their radio broadcasts to Italy.
In the morning weeks of the Egyptian offensive, it will be a good idea for you to keep a close eye on Benito Mussolini's Italy. The way the wind appears blowing, the Allies are going to make it as difficult as possible for him to play whipping-boy to Hitler. 
For the first time in this war, it would appear that Britain and America are going to try the old reliable strategy of divide and conquer.

April 21, 2014

1943. Stalin's Cult of Personality

Stalin the Father
A 1950 Soviet propaganda poster with the caption "Under the leadership of Great Stalin — Forward to Communism!" (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 2, 1943

The May 1st anniversary pictures of Stalin printed in Russian newspapers portray him as a kindly looking man with his usual ("life with father") mustache and a twinkle in his eye.

The good humor of his holiday order of the day seems to be reflected in these pictures. And incidentally they are pencil drawings, not photographs. Comparing these drawings with others printed throughout the past four or five years, you can notice certain very definite changes. The streaks of grey in his mustache and hair are more prominent. And Stalin has gained a little weight (He will never be a fat man, but you can spot the beginning of a double chin)—and it's not altogether unattractive in a man his age.

Josef Stalin was 64 years old last December 21. His last public appearance before the Moscow Soviet was on November 7 on the 25th anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time he was as active and energetic a man ten years his junior.

This week all over the Soviet Union, pictures of Josef Stalin are being displayed on every factory and office building in the country. It means that this week his picture is getting larger display and his name on more banners and posters and that he is getting more personal publicity than any man has ever received.

(Stalin's personal life is his own affair. He is portrayed to the Russian people as something between a stern father and a friendly brother. No foreign correspondent has interviewed him since Ralph Ingersoll had an off the record talk with Stalin. Consequently we reporters here in Moscow have had little chance to write any first person impressions of one of the world's greatest men.)

However the diplomats, including the American and British ambassadors, who see Premier Stalin quite regularly report that he still maintains the personal charm that has won ever person who has met him.

And Stalin has not yet made a public appearance in his new uniform which he is entitled to wear as new supreme commander in the chief of Russia's armed forces. He also can wear the Marshal's star at the throat of his tunic—a platinum job with a dozen big diamonds in it.

But the latest pictures appearing today still show Stalin wearing what is semi-officially known as "a semi-military tunic." His dress is still as simple as that of any peasant. The betting among the American correspondents is three to one that Stalin will not put on his new uniform ever.

But Stalin is unpredictable and some of the boys are putting these bets on paper for future collection. Personally I'm not having any.

April 11, 2014

1965. Escalation of the Vietnam War

The Great Powers and Vietnam
"Walt Rostow shows President Lyndon B. Johnson a model of the Khe Sanh area," February 15, 1968 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 25, 1965
For the past 24 hours, some so-called Washington official sources have been dismissing Communist Chinese and Soviet Russian warnings of intervention in the Vietnam War as "they're bluffing."

At an extraordinary cabinet meeting at the White House this afternoon, President Johnson corrected that horseback assessment with a restatement of America's goals in Southeast Asia. Bluffing or not, Mr. Johnson was telling Moscow and Peiping that they would be wise to avoid a big-power showdown in Southeast Asia.

The fact is, our diplomatic and intelligence experts on the Far East dismiss no pronouncements from the two Communist capitals without serious and prolonged checking and study; and that's what is going on now. Red China's statement was made through Peiping's official party journal, pledging Chinese manpower to aid the Viet Cong guerrillas if the Vietnamese people want them. It's to be noted that Red China's pledge was not directed to Ho Chi Minh's regime at Hanoi, but to what Peiping called the South Vietnam Liberation Front.

After our experience in Korea some 15 years ago, no responsible US official is downgrading such a declaration.

The same serious study is being given to Moscow's implied threat to send Russian volunteers to Vietnam made by Party Secretary Brezhnev the day before yesterday. The USSR already has agreed to supply Hanoi with modern weapons, including Russian antiaircraft missiles and fighter planes. That was a month ago; thus far the promised weapons have not shown up.

The peculiar thing about these parallel gestures of aid to the Viet Cong is that Moscow and Peiping did not join in bilateral comradeship to come to the aid of an embattled Communist ally. The Red Chinese are still berating the Kremlin for mistreating Chinese student demonstrators who attempted to storm the US embassy in Moscow. However, this does not lessen the possibility that one or both of the disputing Communist giants might attempt to aid Hanoi. Both Moscow and Peiping want to guarantee their continued influence in North Vietnam. Any inter-Communist contest in arms-supply to the Viet Cong would certainly make the military crisis there even more dangerous.

Geography and manpower combine to make the Chinese Communists the greater immediate threat to the US presence in Southeast Asia. However, despite this, the United States had decided to press its aerial offensive in both North and South Vietnam. It entails the carefully controlled use of military force to bring about a political decision—namely, to convince the Communist commanders in Hanoi to call off their dogs.

This policy entails the risk of war with Red China, admittedly. Peiping knows this through our repeated warnings that, unlike Korea, any Communist planes attacking our forces will be permitted no sanctuary—not in North Vietnam nor even in Red Chinese territory.

In the past, Washington diplomats have pointed out that Mao Tse-tung and company have been very circumspect in their conduct of Red China's foreign policy. They point out that Peiping gave early warning of Chinese intervention in Korea if UN troops threatened her Yalu River border—a warning that was ignored. Now the Chinese have produced another warning. But this time they also have been warned in advance of what their intervention entails.

For 15 years since the Korean truce agreement, the Chinese Communists have refused to challenge the United States in the Formosa Straits. Not one Peiping plane has flown over the island of Taiwan, even though it's widely known as a base for U-2 reconnaissance flights over the Chinese mainland. Although the Peiping government succeeded in detonating its first atomic explosion some five months ago, the Red Chinese are in no position to challenge America's nuclear might.

In other words, US strategists do not regard Mao and Chou En-lai as madmen willing to risk the destruction of their hand-made Oriental revolution—or the atomizing of their ancient motherland.

President Johnson's was a personal, if indirect, appeal for a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam conflict this afternoon. It remains now to see if Peiping, Hanoi, or Moscow want to pick up the bid and play for a diplomatic solution—or continue the deadly game of war.

This is Bill Downs, substituting for Edward P. Morgan, saying good night from Washington.

April 8, 2014

1965. The Intrigue Behind the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Cold War Brinkmanship
Pakistani soldiers in Azad Kashmir in 1965 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

September 23, 1965
The anonymous men of the military diplomatic and central intelligence services usually get public mention only when there has been a tremendous goof-up of such monumental proportions that their failure or imprudence brings public condemnation and ridicule down on their heads.

When the cloak-and-dagger gentleman produce sound and useful guidance for the government, the credit goes to the public officials concerned. The intelligence establishment can neither ask nor does it usually receive public acclaim.

However, once in a while a situation develops in the news that makes the shadowy hand of the intelligence expert obvious—as happened in the past several weeks of the diplomatic and military confusion created by the vest-pocket war between India and Pakistan.

Although caught in the middle of this bitter conflict between two of America's principal Allies in the Far East, the United States steered a careful course of neutrality. While giving full backing to the United Nations' efforts to bring about the tenuous cease-fire that now prevails, Washington made secret contingency plans for America's diplomatic and military moves should Communist China carry out its threat to send a military force southward across India's Himalayan border. Such plans are always prepared as an emergency precaution in such circumstances. However, the consensus of United States intelligence was that the Peiping Communist leaders were bluffing.

Meanwhile the New Delhi government, understandably, was predicting that Red Chinese troops were massing for a full-scale invasion as part of a nefarious plot with Pakistan to make the Indian army fight on two fronts. Indian diplomats called on the United States and Britain to lift their ban on military aid and provide India the arms to keep the subcontinent from being overrun by a Chinese military horde. However, the American intelligence experts stood firm on their assessment that a Chinese military threat from the north would become real only if India was routed in the field—or if the New Delhi government collapsed from within.

We know now that Peiping's threats at no time were backed by the substantial movement of troops and supplies through the Himalayas which would be needed to support a major Chinese march southward. How this day-to-day information from such a remote mountain area was obtained still remains an official secret—although the Air Force reconnaissance satellites, which daily scan virtually every section of the globe, may have had something to do with it.

The United States intelligence experts reckoned that there were a half-dozen reasons why Mao Tse-tung would be reluctant to commit himself to a march against India. First, it most certainly would eventually bring America and Britain to the aid of the Indian subcontinent—the keystone of free world policy in the Far East. Secondly, any Chinese aggression to the south might invite Russian aggression against China's own ill-defined borders with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia. And finally, Peiping must protect her long coastline as well as her Southeast Asian borders where United States military strength is building to bring about a settlement of the Viet Nam conflict.

So, unless some outrageous violation of the uneasy Asiatic truce knocks the American intelligence estimate into a cocked hat, then the nation owes a collective vote of thanks to the unnamed men who quietly provide the President and his National Security Council with the intelligence that guided United States policy so ably through the Kashmir crisis.

But there is one school of thought here in Washington that says Red China made a major mistake in playing at "brinkmanship" during the bitter fighting over Kashmir. The Peiping bayonet-rattling not only failed to give any decisive support to Pakistan, but when President Ayub agreed to the United Nations' truce proposals, it left Red China in the position of the "paper tiger," filled only with wind.

Quite possibly the most interesting result of the Chinese Communist border belligerence was that it gave Soviet Russia's "co-existence" brand of Communism the appearance of responsibility and respectability—a goal which Moscow has long been trying to establish. The split between Moscow and Peiping would now appear to be complete—and irretrievable.

But surely, if there was anything good to emerge from the carnage and violence of the Indo-Pakistani struggle, it was this: the Kashmir tragedy again demonstrated civilization's need for a world organization through which the earth's peoples can channel their demands that international conflicts be settled without violence.

The brief, undeclared war between Pakistan and India gave the United Nations a chance to demonstrate its value as an agency of world peace by providing both nations an arena to arrive at a truce with honor.

The immediate result has been a badly needed boost in both prestige and stature for the United Nations.

But now the world organization begins a more difficult task—the United Nations most negotiate a lasting formula for peace between the two nations before the Kashmir armistice collapses of its own weight.

The time may be short, and in this, the United Nations cannot afford to fail.

This is Bill Downs substituting for Edward P. Morgan saying good night from Washington.