June 19, 2014

The Murrow-Cronkite Rivalry

High Noon in Bethesda
"Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow at the CBS news desk," 1960 (source)
"Cronkite and Murrow did not mesh professionally, possibly because they lacked the basic attribute of nearly any kind of professional partnership, especially one involving communication: neither appeared to care what the other was saying." – Douglas Brinkley in Cronkite (2012), p. 208-209.

Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow are two of the most revered figures of American journalism. Throughout their careers they earned a great deal of public trust and respect, and for over a decade they worked as contemporaries at CBS News. During that time they also developed a bitter rivalry.

The tension began during World War II, but it was not until Cronkite joined CBS News in 1950 that it became a problem. Over time the rivalry evolved into a bitter, more personal affair, and their heated and sometimes comical confrontations became something of legend at the network.

As they would come to discover, their personal journalistic philosophies differed significantly, and their frustrations both with each other and with the network reflected some of the larger issues facing CBS and the news industry in the early years of television. Cronkite's roots were in print, and Murrow's in radio broadcasting. The latest medium to dominate the industry had forced major change, and reporters had to adapt. Some fared better than others.

Cronkite was almost a Murrow Boy. He worked for the United Press throughout the war, as had the core members of the WWII team, namely Charles Collingwood, Eric Sevareid, Richard C. Hottelet, Howard K. Smith, Larry LeSueur, and Bill Downs. Cronkite was an ideal addition to the roster.

By the end of 1943, Bill Downs was finished with the Eastern Front. Murrow approached Cronkite to relieve him as CBS' Moscow correspondent after a thirteen-month tenure.

From Timothy Gay's Assignment to Hell (2012):
Edward R. Murrow, the CBS Radio commentator who had done so much in 1940 and '41 to build American support for Britain's cause, invited Walter Cronkite to lunch. Murrow had admired the UP reporter's coverage of the air war and was impressed by Cronkite's natural ease in front of a microphone. Cronkite had been a popular interview choice for Murrow's London boys; the aftermath of the Wilhelmshaven raid in February of '43 was one of several Cronkite appearances on CBS Radio.

Murrow asked Cronkite to meet him at the Savile Club, the tony Mayfair restaurant. But London's elite haunts were unknown to the workaholic Cronkite, who thought Murrow had said "Saddle Club" and didn't want to embarrass himself by asking the broadcaster for directions.

Cronkite jumped into a cab on Fleet Street and instructed the driver to take him to the Saddle Club. "Don't believe I know it, governor," the cabbie replied. Cronkite had the cab pull over next to a phone booth. He called the UP office, where a colleague steered him toward the proper location on Brook Street.

Feeling like a rube, Cronkite arrived late for his luncheon with the world's most celebrated American expatriate. Murrow, who could be prickly, was gracious. He surprised Cronkite by offering him a job as CBS' Russian correspondent. Murrow was calling back Cronkite's former UP colleague Bill Downs; he wanted Cronkite to replace Downs in covering Stalin's government in exile at Kuibyshev. CBS was offering Cronkite a king's ransom: $125 a week, plus "commercial fees" of some $25 almost every time Cronkite appeared on air, which would be a lot. The CBS offer came close to tripling Cronkite's $57.50-per-week salary with UP. Yet Cronkite had been ambivalent about his broadcast experiences in Austin, Kansas City, and Norman.

"I thought it was kind of a schlock business compared to print," he remembered. "But I still thought, well, $125 and a chance to go to Russia, I probably ought to take it. So I accepted it, and I was going to give United Press a couple of weeks' notice, which, frankly, wasn't adequate in wartime."

When Cronkite told his then boss, Harrison Salisbury, about Murrow's offer, Salisbury immediately countered with a $17.50 per week raise—unheard-of largesse at UP—and promised to arrange for the wire service's president, Hugh Baillie, to make his own plea. Sure enough, Baillie got through on the phone from New York that night—no mean feat in wartime London—and "gave me a sales pitch like I never heard in my life," Cronkite recalled.

"I'm going to raise you $20 a week just to show my good faith," Baillie vowed. Cronkite inquired if the $20 was in addition to the $17.50 that Salisbury had offered—or part of it. There was a long pause. "No, no, this is on top of that," Baillie insisted—which may or may not have been part of UP's keep-Cronkite strategy, but was nevertheless now in its counteroffer.

Cronkite was in a position to pocked 95 bucks a week from UP—good money for a gumshoe reporter without a college degree.

When Cronkite broke the news to Murrow, "he didn't take it too kindly," Cronkite remembered. Murrow didn't say it directly, but the inference was that Cronkite had used the CBS offer to leverage more money out of UP. "I hadn't meant to; it wasn't my intention when I accepted Ed's offer," Cronkite allowed. "But it worked out that way, and Ed had every right to feel that way about it."

By mid-'43 Ed Murrow and his team were the hottest commodities in journalism—wordsmiths inventing a new medium. Murrow, the toast of the free world, wasn't used to people saying no—especially ambitious young reporters. Cronkite's clumsy turndown drove a wedge between them.

Although they would later spend fifteen years at CBS News as colleagues, Cronkite and Murrow were never close. Murrow and his "boys," Eric Sevareid and Charles Collingwood among them, tended to look down their noses at Cronkite, the wire services grunt who—heaven forfend!—actually cared about breaking news. The Murrow Boys weren't reporters so much as seers, urbane commentators who dined with prime ministers one day—and parachuted out of planes the next. Murrow and his minions didn't just write and read news: They dissected it, putting it into bold historical context, giving events a passion that print journalists—even Liebling and Bigart at their best—were hard-pressed to match. And as Collingwood would later demonstrate, the Murrow guys sometimes weren't above manipulating the facts for their own aggrandizement.

It wasn't until after Cronkite proved himself as CBS News' anchorman in the early 1960s that the surviving Murrow men accepted him as a peer—and even then it was grudgingly. Cronkite always admired the Murrow Boys and what they meant to the evolution of journalism. But in the main he felt their work should be labeled "opinion"—which is what happened when Eric Sevareid, the quintessential Murrow protégé, became a regular commentator on Cronkite's CBS Evening News.
Cronkite continued as a correspondent for United Press in Europe for the remainder of the war. At times he worked alongside his old friend and colleague Bill Downs. Both men were Kansas City natives who got their start at UP in 1937. Downs left to join Murrow's team at CBS in 1942, but the two still covered the front together, most notably in 1944 when they were separated during a Luftwaffe air raid near the Dutch city of Arnhem.

Downs maintained close friendships with both Cronkite and Murrow after the war. This occasionally placed him in the middle of the conflict, much to his chagrin. The following passages recall a particularly heated argument during a dinner party at the Downs house in Bethesda, Maryland.

From Joseph E. Persico's Edward R. Murrow: An American Original (1988), pp. 314-315:
After he joined CBS, Cronkite had a sense that reporters who were not one of Murrow's Boys were not quite among the anointed. Later, when there could be little doubt of his own stature, he would say that he understood the clannishness: "They were the cream of the crop." And maybe he was of a different stripe. Walter Cronkite was, indisputably, a superb reporter. But he was not the kind of journalist-intellectual who appealed most to Murrow. There was not about him or his work the cerebral aura of a Raymond Swing, an Eric Sevareid, a Bill Shirer, a fact that Cronkite was cheerily the first to admit: "I'm a newsman first, a get the facts, get your lead, old-fashioned reporter."
.  .  .

They should have been friends, Murrow and Cronkite. Bill Downs was no more "intellectual" than Cronkite, and he and Murrow were pals. But Downs was one of Murrow's Boys, a satellite and not a potential rival sun, which television was making out of Walter Cronkite.

They had started out on the wrong foot after London, and the relationship remained out of step. They would cross paths at parties where, in Cronkite's phrase, "Murrow held court. He would sit there, sometimes with his coat off, tie undone, puffing his cigarette, his elbows on his knees, staring at the floor making pronunciamentos of gloom and doom, while people gathered around him in hushed attention." Cronkite found it "hard to swallow." He also confessed that Murrow "intimidated" him.

Bill Downs and Cronkite had been friends at the UP. And so Cronkite and Murrow were both guests at the party they gave in their home in Washington early in Cronkite's television career. It was a heavy-drinking, broadcasting crowd. Downs began noisily berating Cronkite, telling him, "You're coming on too hard, trying to be a success, trying to push other people out of the way." Then, according to Downs's wife, Rosalind, Cronkite said a sympathetic word about sponsors. Sponsors, after all, paid the rent, Cronkite pointed out. It was the sort of statement designed to catch the attention of and to provoke Murrow, the news freedom purist against an apologist for commercialism in broadcasting. However, the purist was handsomely sponsored and the apologist, at this point, barely had his foot in television's door. As Roz Downs remembered that night, "They kept snapping at each other all evening. They were practically chin to chin. It was dreadful. After the party, my husband said, 'That was a small disaster. I didn't know they disliked each other that much.'"

Allowing for the inflammatory effect of the alcohol, the clash revealed a lurking trait in Ed Murrow. He was more magnanimous as a superior than as a rival. His dispute with Cronkite had less to do with commercialism in broadcasting than with the age-old wariness of the old stag toward the young buck.
From A.M. Sperber's Murrow: His Life and Times (1986), p. 527:
Cronkite stayed outside the Murrow circle, a sense of rivalry discernible between the two men, despite their disparate power positions. Roz Downs recalled a dinner party at her Bethesda home outside Washington during the fifties, both Murrow and Cronkite among the guests. Cronkite was after all a wartime UP buddy of Bill's, and the Downses loved both men.

Somehow, after dinner, attention got drawn to a pair of antique dueling pistols, mounted on the mantelpiece. For reasons too obscure for later recollection, a great deal having been imbibed beforehand, Cronkite and Murrow wound up going bang-bang at each other with the pistols, at point-blank range: high noon in Bethesda.

Roz Downs shot a look at her husband. "I think they're serious," she said.
By 1960 Murrow's career was in decline. His disputes with William S. Paley worsened, and his inability to work with Cronkite put into question his future at CBS. Murrow resigned in 1961. Downs followed soon after. Prior to that, however, another infamous incident occurred at the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

From Douglas Brinkley's Cronkite (2012), pp. 208-209:
Hoping once again to excel at CBS, Murrow was on the scene as a reporter at the Democratic Convention in 1960 when he was suddenly reassigned to co-anchor the coverage with Cronkite. That's where [Dan] Rather encountered Murrow—his coming-of-age hero...

If Rather was surprised to hear that Murrow was to start co-anchoring with Cronkite, he wasn't the only one. At the appointed morning hour for the photo session, well before the Democratic Convention went into session, Murrow and the network's publicists appeared in a smoky anteroom outside the CBS anchor booth. "Murrow came and sat," Rather said. "We waited a very long time and then Walter didn't come." The heavy atmosphere was flammable, and Rather half expected the grim-faced Murrow to throw a tantrum, the anger was so evident on his face. It was painful for Rather to see his hero being denigrated. Eventually, the photo session was canceled, and Murrow huffed out. "What had turned out," Rather said, "is that Walter had locked himself in the anchor booth. Walter didn't want to anchor with Murrow. He just locked himself in the booth and said, 'To hell with it.'"

...[Cronkite] blamed much of the friction on CBS management's foolhardiness. "Who's supposed to do what?" Cronkite explained. "What's Murrow supposed to do? I don't think they said anything about him doing analysis. They just said that he was supposed to help me. They just wanted Murrow on camera to cash in on his popularity...I think Murrow and I might have had a chemistry that worked under different circumstances, but the management at the convention in 1960 was not one to create great chemistry.

June 18, 2014

1967. The U.S. Military's Inter-Service Rivalries

A Memo Regarding the Pentagon
From Wikipedia: A U-2 aircraft
To: Elmer Lower 
17 Jan. 1967

From: Bill Downs

RE: News Management memo

Although LBJ seems to have recognized the reality of failure and down pedaled his so-called "consensus" politics, at the Pentagon Secretary McNamara has made "consensus" the keystone of his regime—to such an extent that Pentagon reporters find themselves hung up high and dry on the top-most boulder.

For example. it's common knowledge that the Navy wants more nuclear-powered ships. The Army wants an improved nuclear tactical ground weapon. The Air Force is crying for the Advanced Manned Bomber. And all three services, fearful of facing another Pearl Harbor hearing, want to make a start, at least, on the controversial Anti-Missile defenses, potentially the most costly weapons system ever devised.

In In the past—BM (Before McNamara)—Defense Dept. reporters would be churning out reams of copy on the military policy debate raging between the Services. Generals and Admirals would wine and dine reporters, junkets would be laid on for Congressmen, contract-hungry lobbyists would be pouring martinis into everyone in sight. On the not incorrect theory that government policy can be sold to the public like cornflakes, the story of the inter-service struggle for specific slices of the budgeted Defense pie would be spread throughout the news media. BM, the Pentagon budget was roughly blocked out 40% Army, 40% Air Force and 20% for the Navy. The separate services then set out to sell their viewpoints to the public and the Congress through broadcast and newspaper headlines.

The history of this process of arriving at national security was varied. It was effective in the struggle for a separate air force even though Billy Mitchell had  to undergo court martial first. On the other hand, Pearl Harbor is an unforgiving monument to inter-service rivalry and the dangers of trying to determine defense policies by public debate and the headline.

It's probably correct to say that McNamara is the first man who has attempted to manage and control the Department of Defense. BM, the Cabinet Secretaries have variously acted as "referees" between the Services or at most, as Chairman of the Board for national security. Considering his background, it was natural that M. would apply industrial management techniques to the job—although privately he says he's still not sure they will work since it's impossible to bring a business with more than 3 million items in its invoice under central control.

McNamara, in private conversation, has mentioned time and again how appalled he was at the depth of the division between the Military Services when he took the Pentagon job. His favorite example is the Navy's effort to impress the new Defense Secretary with the sensational under-water Polaris missile. When M. asked the Admirals how the submarine missiles shared their target assignments with the Air Force's ICBMs, the Navy had no answer. M. refused to look at the thing until the Admirals came up with one.

This basic failure of inter-service defense planning would have made one hell of a news story at the time. Whether its disclosure would have endangered the nation's security is now moot. I cite the story as background and illustrative of McNamara's insistence on a "consensus" policy at the Pentagon.

As a footnote, the Polaris story also is illustrative of his methods of getting the Generals and Admirals to comply. None of the Admirals concerned were fired, none were publicly reprimanded—but none of them nor their Army and Air Force colleagues ever made such a strategic error again. (Off the record—there was a parallel case last year during the hullabaloo over the re-purchase of some formerly-surplus bombs from a German firm. It was an Air Force goof since the re-purchase and shipment of the bombs far exceeded their worth. Yet McNamara went before two Congressional committees and took the rap.)

The above illustrates McNamara's justification for his "consensus" policy—and with the resignation of Arthur Sylvester, the new Asst. Secretary of Defense for Public Information Phil Goulding, the same policy is going to be even tougher.

One of the reasons for this is the ever-present bugaboo of military intelligence and secrecy. M. absolutely refuses to discuss the subject with reporters—but he was so shocked at the half-hazard security precautions around the Pentagon building itself that he classified the DOD telephone book, which incidentally listed names, rank and sometimes assignment offices of all Military Intelligence personnel on duty in Washington at the time. M. also had a traffic study made of the Pentagon corridors and found which of the buildings' outside doors could be closed off—openable only in an emergency.

However the topper for the new Defense Secretary came shortly after he took a job during the Cuban invasion fiasco. Although the details have still to be made public, it's now clear that it was a CIA financed and sponsored affair with the Pentagon in an advisory capacity which left room for a US military takeover if so ordered by the President. When JFK finally realized the enormity of the mess he had inherited, he pulled out as much as he could with the resultant failure of the invasion. McNamara knew of as little of the operation as did the President and still feels resentful at being mousetrapped in the affair. Then in the follow-up Cuban missile crisis, when a CIA U-2 finally located Russian-built SAMs almost too late, McNamara insisted on expanding Army, Navy and Air Force intelligence operations to give him a back-stop and check out on subsequent CIA intelligence estimates.

Here, too, he demands "consensus"—and in the latest shakeup out at Langley, Va., it's significant that the No. 2 man to the new CIA director Dick Helms is the former head of Combined Military Intelligence at the Pentagon.

Footnote: Art Sylvester finally got the Pentagon telephone book unclassified. However subsequent phone books have eliminated the Military Intelligence sections.

To assure McNamara's consensus in the Pentagon, orders have gone out for both military and civilian personnel to report every conversation they have had with a reporter—in person or by telephone. For either background or on-the-record interviews, most DOD officials insist that a PIO officer be on hand. This has become SOP mostly, I think, because it relieves the interviewee from having to take the trouble to detail the questions and answers. Even McNamara imposes this limitation on himself—at least in his Pentagon office.

This presents a dilemma for the Pentagon reporter. In my case, I have made friends with many officers in my years of covering WWII, Korea and various other operations. Yet I am reluctant to use these men as news sources lest I ruin their careers (for a story which might not make DEF or the Jennings show). This self-censorship resulting from M's "concensus" is in a way more damnable than the real thing. Sometimes I think the inhabitants of the press room near the Mall look like characters out of Kafka.

During the past year it became clear that there was some kind of agreement between McNamara and Rusk that all but the strictest of US military news about Viet Nam would be channeled through the State Dept. The Pentagon would seldom go beyond the Saigon communiques concerning military operations. But the news about SAM missiles in North Viet Nam, about Chinese labor cadres, Soviet technicians, military targets in the North...all came from State. Obviously this was Military Intelligence in consensus with Diplomatic Intelligence and coordinating with the CIA.

McNamara has not forgiven himself for being trapped in one of those off-hand, airport predictions a couple of years ago when he said the Viet Nam war "might be over with by the end of 1965" (I think it was.) He obviously believes that the only way to run the DOD is to have the competing services wash their dirty shorts in private. The mule-headed and the brave who run to the Senate and House committees with their arguments find themselves eased out of town—or accepting reluctant retirement—viz: Curt LeMay. Any public debating of Defense Policy will be done by the President, or by McNamara himself before the proper Congressional committees. All else is "consensus" with a vengeance.

McNamara has found another way to placate (in part) the DOD correspondent. Every Thursday there's a "background conference" in which he technically is not there. Only "US officials, plural," Sylvester insists, are present. There were 17 of these backgrounders in 1966...totally about 10 hours of direct contact and Q. and A. In addition, M. and Deputy Secretary Cy Vance had over 120 individual interviews with Washington and visiting correspondents. By contrast, McNamara and Joint Chiefs Gen. Earl Wheeler [sic] spent some 210 hours last year giving testimony before Congress.

But most significantly, the Secretary of Defense during 1966 did not hold one single on-the-record, no questions barred open news conference. Silence, after all, is the most effective method of news management.

Hope some of this is useful—please excuse the length

Bill

June 17, 2014

1945. Operation Varsity

Operation Varsity


Bill Downs delivered a broadcast on March 24, 1945, the day of Operation Varsity and the day after Allied forces breached the Rhine. An abridged portion of the actual broadcast is featured in the video. The text is from From D-Day Through Victory in Europe; The Eye-witness Story as Told by War Correspondents on the Air (CBS, 1945), p. 149-151.
March 24, 1945

2:49:12

BILL DOWNS (with the British 2nd):

The first wave or so of the paratroopers who stepped out of the Rhine this morning had a tough time. I was riding in a piggy-back Thunderbolt with Captain Tommy De Graffenreid of Memphis, Tennessee. We went in as cover for the first wave of carrier-type planes that arrived, and honest to God those paratroopers stepped out on a carpet of flak that you could walk on.

But the hundreds and hundreds of planes came on and not a single one deviated from its course. There were tragic accidents. I saw two parachutists who somehow had gotten tangled in each other's parachutes, and Tommy muttered to himself over the intercom, "Come on, come on, break it up. Break away, for God's sake!"

But these two men didn't have a chance to break away, and their bodies seemed to hit the earth with the gentleness of raindrops. But from a thousand feet, you could tell they were dead.

But always during that first half hour of the airborne operation there was flak; the heavy flak that left black ugly scars of smoke in the air. And the more deadly light flak left only whitish puffs of smoke, the same color you'll find in any smoking room in America.

And out of the middle of this world of planes and parachutes and gliders there stormed a big silver Fortress, and it was smoking and we knew that it had had it.

But the flak wasn't so heavy when the gliders began coming in. There was a lull in the flak for about 15 minutes. It was as if the Germans had said, "Hell, there's simply too many planes here." And as far as the eye could see there was smoke. Smoke laid down by our artillery, smoke from burning German houses, and smoke from the enemy ack-ack. And through this haze you could always see the ominous black columns that came from the tow-planes and the transport planes that were shot down.

The men of the Troop Carrier Command today deserve a place with the marines of Iwo Jima and the soldiers of Corregidor.

But the gliders got in okay. A few were damaged in landing and a few were shot down, but I would say most of the gliders did all right. And all the while there were the fighters and the rocket planes and the fighter bombers. Guys like Tommy De Graffenreid, who were blasting out flak positions as they found them and acting as an aerial spearhead to the expanding bridgehead.

And the Luftwaffe was only heard from theoretically when two Messerschmitt jet planes were reported over Duisburg. We spent an hour over that battlefield today, sometimes even flying beneath the carrier planes.
The operation was not without cost. But it has been an Allied victory, a victory for the British and the Americans and the Canadians, a victory for the Allied Air Forces and the Allied ground forces and for the Allied navies, because even the Navy was there. We saw them doing the same job for the army they did on D-Day.

This has been R-Day, the crossing of the Rhine by assault. Hitler has been unable to stop us.

June 12, 2014

1968. The North Korean Crisis of 1968

The USS Pueblo Crisis

This is a broadcast of the January 25, 1968 edition of The ABC Evening News with Bob Young. It was during Downs' tenure as ABC's Pentagon correspondent. Here he discussed the USS Pueblo crisis:



This is one of the instances where Downs pegs the turmoil in the Korean peninsula as the most dangerous potential trigger for World War III.

He kept some notes he scribbled while assigned to Korea in 1950. He evaluated the massive intervention by the People's Republic of China. The situation was grim, to say the least, in the first major proxy war of the Cold War.

He noted how the Korean War differed so much from the European Theater of World War II, citing the flagrant disregard of the laws of war and the atypical tactics being employed by fighters in what was essentially a civil war.

When Murrow arrived in Tokyo in 1950, Downs ran up to him and New York Times correspondent Bill Lawrence, flailed his arms and yelled in jest, "Go back, go back, you silly bastards! This ain't our kind of war. This one is for the birds!"

June 9, 2014

1961. An Angry Letter From a Viewer

Certainly Not a Kennedy Fan
From Wikipedia: Kennedy's inaugural address, January 20, 1961.

This letter was sent by a viewer to Bill Downs after John F. Kennedy's 1960 election. In it she criticizes the Kennedy family, Hollywood, and the news media's coverage of the election. She also expresses a great deal of racial prejudice. The letter addresses some of the controversies at the time, and it shows somewhat the sentiment among certain voters.

The letter is typewritten and contains some spelling and grammatical errors. They are preserved here. Every typo below is from the actual letter.

[Addressed from Stockton, California--actual street address omitted here]
January 6, 1961.

[To] Bill Downs,
Columbia Broadcasting System,
Washington, District of Columbia.


Bill Downs:

You seemed happy to-day that the HONORABLE Richard Nixon must announce the "election" of that dirty shanty irish crokked son of a saloon keeper as the President of our United States.

You news people lied so much during the campaign in order to be sure we did not get an honest, honorable President, that you seem unable to recognize the truth at all now.

Those dirty shanty irish, with the help of the Chicago and Texas gangsters destroyed Republican votews and counted votes of so many who do not exist that perhaps they may have seemed to have won a few more votes than the HONORABLE Mr. Nixon, but I know of no one who believes they did. Nor do I know of anyone who expects those dirty bums to even try to be loyal to this country.

While your network even stooped so low as to repeat drew pearson's lies about Mr. Nixon and his brother, you have not found it necessary to mention the fact that the Russian embassy hasbeen having those dirty crooks there for talks and for eating and drinking. It is also reported that the C.B.S. has put the last of those Hollywood communists actresses back to work on their television network.

The shanty irish crook has permitted frank's and harry's communists and fellow travelers to creep out of the woodwork and get actively into the government once more. But, this time, no one is going to be fooled by the crook in the White House.

For months, before the election, I passed my HUMAN EVENTS about to both Democrats and Republicans and many of each party are Catholics. So, I am happy to say that the most of those people are now getting that factual little news paper each and every week.

Personally, I begged and bought a large number of the local paper for November the fourteenth and I clipped the true account of that repulsive Sammy Davis and his marriage to that low grade white person, and I sent them all over this country to those whom I knew would be interested in having the whole truth about that kennedy woman's having attended that mess and having kissed that repulsive negro.

Some negroes are wholesome persons but that one is not included. Perhaps, he could have been respected had he not become associated with the lawfords, frank sinatra dean martin, judy garland and the other Hollywood bums, who may have become rich by making motion pictures but who surely are not fit to associate with decent people. After the twentieth of this month when those bums take over in Washington the decent people will have to tolerate thse low grade Americans' running in and out of the White House as we did eleanor's young communist hoodlums. At least, those young bums did not pretend to be good Americans.

Your egglebert murrow seems to be back as strong as ever now on your radio and television networks. However, when he is to come on, I turn him off for even though the Honorable Joseph Mc.Carthy is not here, for him to abuse and then have to admit he "was" a communist, I believe he still is one. He could not exist without sucking a cigarette and looking like any other bum who does the same. Look magazine had pictures of him last year.

Since the election, I have heard real Democrats and many have been Catholics who have said they often were so angry at your network and one or two others because of your dirty lying, that they could have destroyed both their radios and their television sets. I know a great many Catholic Democrats and a few who are Republicans and every one of them boasts that He did NOT vote for that shanty irish. Many of them are Irish too and they call him shanty irish.

So, he not only, with the help of such as you, but he has made many millions of strong enemies who despise him even more than I. I made sure that many persons of importance learned the truth about that black and white wedding and I positively know those clippings have been read with great interest and I have no doubt but sometime those shanty irish are going to realize that there are some things they cannot take by arrogance nor buy with their father's hundreds of millions of dollars in whiskey money.

Even though that arrogant and determined young crook did force every one of the others in his and Walter Reuther's party out of the race, he has not gained their loyalty. After the things they did in Los Angeles, last July, when he even pushed eleanor down her chair and made her be quiet, he did not change their minds about him. Lyndon Johnson even expressed his true opinion of him but in order to not be pushed entirely out of politics but that young bum, he has "joined"  him. Wow, honestly, do you believe any of them have changed their opinion of him?

I am praying for my beloved country but I am also hoping those two dirty shanty irish brothers may have much luck--all of it bad. Your network reported this monring that that shanty irish bum's wife has been chosen as the best dressed of the ten best in this country. It is the first time I have heard of anyone's being able to get out of bed and have her picture made with her night gown on and her hair not combed and be called well dressed. She may be a perfectly nice person but surely she goes about in bad company.

Yours for a return to honest reporting of the news.

Myrtle M. Hardy.

June 3, 2014

1945. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry's Record on Bill Downs

The Nazi Propaganda Ministry's File on Bill Downs
In 1945 Lieutenant Colonel John M. Redding sent Bill Downs a brief file kept on him by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. The file was created in response to an article in Newsweek published on February 21, 1944. Redding wrote:
HEADQUARTERS BERLIN DISTRICT COMMAND SHAEF PUBLIC RELATIONS PARTY
11 July 1945

Mr. William Downs
Columbia Broadcasting System
New York, New York

Dear Bill:

In going through the Propaganda Ministry records in Berlin, we found the enclosed dossier, kept by the Nazis on your activities. I thought you might like to have it as a memento.

Mostly, I don't know what it says, although I am told that perhaps I could make some money by selling it.

John M. Redding
Lt. Col., AC
The file reads:
Sparte: AusL. Korr. 
1943: Korr. C.B.S. in Moskau. 
Kehrte Anfang 1944 nach den USA zurück und schrieb darauf in der Zs. "Newsweek", dass die Verluste der Sowjetunion in diesem Kriege in Moskau auf 15 Millionen Tote geschätzt würden. Wahrscheinlich würde aber niemals irgend jemand genau erfahren, wieviele Sowjetbürger wirklich in diesem schrecklichsten aller Kriege umgekommen seien.
Downs also received a translation:
File, concerning: Foreign correspondents

1943: Correspondent. CBS in Moscow.
Returned to U.S.A. beginning of 1944, then stated in magazine "Newsweek" that the losses of the Soviet Union during this war in Moscow are estimated to be 15 millions. Probably nobody would ever learn exactly how many citizens of the Soviets really perished in this most horrible of all wars.

June 2, 2014

1943. Reports on Stalingrad

The Wounded City of Stalingrad
The Barmaley Fountain in Stalingrad
These are two reports written by Bill Downs during his visit to Stalingrad soon after the battle's conclusion. The first is part of a longer, unaired report. The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

Downs' most thorough account of Stalingrad is featured here.

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

CBS Moscow

February 8, 1943

I have just had a look at history—history that is still warm from the heat of almost a million men bent on killing each other in one of the world's most bloody and ferocious battles.

I returned today from the scene of Adolf Hitler's greatest defeat—the wounded city of Stalingrad.

Unexploded mines and bombs still shatter the sudden quiet of Stalingrad's ruined streets tonight. Red Army men standing sentry over the piles of frozen German bodies remark to each other how deathly quiet it is. Only ten days ago the roar of the battle shattered water glasses standing on the tables in Soviet headquarters simply by noise alone.

There are sights and sounds and smells in and around Stalingrad that make you want to weep, and make you want to shout and make you just plain sick to your stomach.

The sad things are the utter, complete and absolute amount of devastation. Try and imagine what four and a half months of bombing would do to a city the size of Providence, R.I. or Minneapolis or Oklahoma City or Oakland, California. Hitler some days put 2,500 planes over Stalingrad.

There literally is not one single building left whole in an area of some 50 square miles. Stalingrad is a super-Coventry, only many times more so. London, which I have seen after Britain's heaviest bombings, has nothing to compare with it. Today Stalingrad is simply a pile of bricks and rubble. There are some walls still standing. But what the German bombs missed in Stalingrad, the six-barrelled mortars and artillery finished off.

Most of the German dead have been cleaned up. Still, only six days after the last Nazi group was silenced, I still ran into frozen Nazis lying where they were killed behind barricades, in doorways or simply stacked out of the way until details can get around to bury them.

(The people of Stalingrad who now are trying to re-establish their shattered homes don't pay any attention to the bodies anymore. Death has been sitting at their front door too long.)

(The only live Germans now left in the city of Stalingrad itself are in a hospital in the basement of a building which their own planes had ruined. There are two hundred of them, dirty, thin, and suffering from frostbite and malnutrition.)

I talked with a German prisoner, Corporal Helmut Lenz, a 21-year-old youth from Darmstadt, in Central Germany. He rode in to Stalingrad on a German tank as part of Hitler's crack 14th Tank Corps. This German prisoner was so beaten that it was useless to ask him questions. He shifted from one foot to another and looked at the ground. You could almost feel pity for him—until you took another look at what this Nazi and all other Nazis had done to the city.

But that is part of the distasteful side of Russia's great victory at Stalingrad. Here's something more pleasant. The Russian colonel who was conducting us over the battlefield took us to a little peasant village stuck out on the steps fifty miles west of the city. (From a distance, the village looked all the world like a farm village on the plains of South Dakota or in the Texas panhandle.) The colonel said we might be interested in taking a look inside one of the small frame houses.

We walked inside, and there sitting around a couple of tables was the fanciest array of German generals in captivity.

Altogether in this village there were something like a dozen German generals, two Romanian generals, and best of all, the only Nazi field marshal ever to be made a prisoner of war, Friedrich Paulus, the one-time head of Germany's Sixth Army, the conqueror of Poland and Belgium (and frustrated conqueror of Russia.)

Paulus is struggling to maintain a dignity as cold as the Russian winter in his greatest disgrace. His Red Army guards say he doesn't talk to anyone very much, not even his generals. (And although German propaganda has tried to make a martyr out of him, Paulus has not taken Hitler's long-distance hint to commit suicide for National Socialism.) Outside of a rather sad, hang-dog look, the Field Marshal is doing very nicely. And the Russians are taking good care of him and his staff.
One officer explained to me that the Soviet Union is collecting Axis generals, especially field marshals. "You see," he said, "We have an atrocity commission now at work, just like the other Allies. We are investigating atrocities in the Ukraine. Field Marshal Paulus came through the Ukraine. We probably will want to ask him about that later."

However, none of these German generals had lost any of their plumage. In contrast to the German soldiers, these officers were fat and sleek and dressed in new uniforms. They looked a little bit like peacocks in a hen-yard, standing there in those simple farm huts. (Every one of them had on a new uniform and wore all the decorations in full view.)

I asked Lieutenant General Moritz von Drebber, former commander of the 297th Infantry Division, (an obvious question. I asked him what he was doing there. Von Drebber, who looks more like a college professor than a military man, replied very calmly that he surrendered because his units were cut off with no munitions and no food.)

("You see," he said, "the Russians came down from the north and up from the south and we were in the middle.")

(We asked Von Drebber) if Hitler had given him permission to surrender. When Hitler's name was mentioned, one of the generals in the background standing behind the door managed a feeble "heil." It definitely was not a Berlin Sportpalast "heil."

Von Drebber didn't pay any attention to this and explained that he had been ordered by Field Marhsal Paulus to fight until he was pushed back to a certain line. "When I reached that point, I surrendered," he said.

(Von Drebber said that at one time it had been possible for the German Sixth Army to break the Russian encirclement to the west. When we asked him why this was not done, the white-haired Nazi general replied: "On such questions of strategy, you must ask Paulus.")

(However, later the Chief of Staff of Russia's 62nd Army, Lieutenant General Malinin, said that Hitler at first refused to attempt to break the encirclement from the inside because of the loss of prestige. "When the situation became desperate," General Malinin said, "the Germans had lost the vital time factor. The front was then so far away that they had neither supplies nor petrol to establish a break.")

(Thus it would appear that Hitler's prestige—which has caused so much bloodshed and sorrow in the world—is now leading him to defeat.)

Back in Stalingrad after a busy day, I asked one of the Red Army women in charge of the headquarters kitchen if I might have a drink of water.

She went and got me a tin-cup full. It tasted good, and I told her so. "Your vodka and wine is swell," I said, "but this water is the best of all."

She threw back her head and answered: "That water ought to be good. It's Volga water—it has Russian blood in it."

"Soviet officers pass by German prisoners of war as the battle enters its endgame in January 1943" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

February 9, 1943

The war that is being fought in Russia tonight (while being the most terrible and devastating conflict in military history) is in many ways like any other war. The viewpoint of the ordinary Russian private towards the fighting around Kursk and Kharkov and Rostov tonight is much the same as any American soldier.

The soldiers with whom I spoke in Stalingrad (last Sunday had the soldier's avid interest in food, in women, in getting leave, and seeing his side win, as any buck private in the rear ranks of the United States Army. The Russian private doesn't) don't like the idea of dying any more or less than any other soldier—and consequently they don't talk too much about it. (You talk to them about their battle experiences, and like all good soldiers they don't say a word about their own exploits.) To hear them talk, the tremendous Battle of Stalingrad is merely a collection of little incidents which finally ended up in a German defeat.

For example, one of the crack non-commissioned officers in a Red Army Guards regiment, (a tough youngster whose friends said he had killed at least three Nazis in a hand-to-hand encounter,) would only talk about the way German soldiers admired the Red Army's fur caps. (This soldier was fighting in a factory building in the Red October plant that formed the Russian line in this part of Stalingrad. The German trenches were in front of another building only twelve yards away. I stood atop these German positions and you could throw a stone between two lines.)

At one point in the Stalingrad line, the German and Russian soldiers used to amuse themselves by shouting insults back and forth to each other. My Russian friend said that one German soldier shouted across the lines and offered to exchange his automatic rifle for a Red Army fur cap.

I asked the Russian soldier what his answer was.

"Oh, I answered all right," he said. "I told them to bring along a tank and I would bargain with them."

Then there was the time near the end of the Stalingrad fighting when the Germans were very, very hungry. Only a month before, the Germans had been razzing the Soviet forces, saying the end of the Red Army was in sight. Now the situation was reversed and the Russian soldiers devised their own fun. To show starving German troops how well Soviet kitchens were working, they put whole loaves of bread on the ends of their bayonets and stuck them above the trenches. The German answer was to riddle those loaves of bread with Tommy gun bullets.

These are the stories which will mark themselves in the minds of ordinary soldiers.