September 30, 2014

1954. Who's Entitled to the Holy Land?

Caught in the Center of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Israeli soldiers raise the handmade Ink Flag in during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Rome

May 14, 1954
In every arena of international conflict ranging from Geneva to Indo-China, the United States has tried to take a stand on the side of democracy, freedom, and justice. Whether our government has always succeeded is often open to debate.

However, there is one area of the world where America is squarely in the middle, facing a dilemma that is both dangerous and at times embarrassing.

This is the dilemma of the Middle East, where the Arabs and Jews claim with equal fervor that theirs is the cause of justice and demand that the United State use its influence to put down the other.

In fact, it is a double dilemma, if there is such a thing. The US policy is to provide security and strength to the area that is the hinge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. But for the past five years, Israel and the states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt have been in various stages of warfare—thus there is no security. The area, particularly the Arab states, is woefully weak and divided, and would be easy prey for its giant neighbor to the north if the Soviet Union chose to activate her armies.

However, all efforts by America to strengthen the area immediately provoke a chain reaction of protest. For example, the recent decision to provide Iraq with arms aid immediately drew protests from Israel, as expected, but also from Egypt. The decision to grant Iraq's request for arms also provoked a bloody riot, reportedly Communist-led, at the American University of Beirut. The students demonstrated against an unconfirmed report that Iraq was preparing to enter the Turkey-Pakistan alliance.

The United States, only hoping to provide the Middle East with the means of self-protection against possible Communist aggression, thus found itself mixed up in a four-way family quarrel. And unless this quarrel is settled, the Middle East will remain a prize ripe for plucking and an ever-present threat to world peace.

We have just returned from a swing around the Middle East that took us to Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. The atmosphere is charged with a billion volts of patriotism, nationalism, resentment, and suspicion. A reporter trying to do an objective job is squarely on the spot, and one gets the feeling that it would take ten years and scores of hours of radio time to tell both sides of the story.

However, in the dispute between the Arabs and the Jews, two facts emerge which demand immediate attention if there is to be peace in the Holy Land.

Fact number one is that the creation of the state of Israel resulted in the flight of some seven-to-eight hundred thousand Arabs to the neighboring states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

Fact number two is Israeli military power, which as of this reading far out-strips the armed might of the weak and divided Arab states.

The difficulty in dealing with these facts are many. As a kind of conditioner, we have been reading the Koran. In it we discovered that the way the Muezzin determines when it is time to call the Moslem faithful to sunrise prayers—to mount the minaret and sing out the haunting, wavering praise of Allah—is at that moment when it is light enough to determine a white thread from a black thread.

In discussing the problems of the modern Middle East, the test of the Muezzin remains. Everything is black or it is white.
"Arab refugees from villages near Tulkarm," June 1948 (source)
It is perhaps over-simplification to say that the Israeli-Arab argument centers around "who was there first." The Zionists claim that Palestine is their ancient homeland dating from the pre-Christian days of the Old Testament. The Arabs claim that for the past 1800 years they have been the tenants of Palestine and it is their homeland.

The Jews maintain that, after centuries of persecution, climaxed in the spasm of inhumanity under Hitler, they have a right to a place of refuge and safety on this earth—that they are willing to work and fight for the ancient land and make it bloom again.

The Arabs counter that they have been living and working peacefully with the Jews for generations—that racial persecution is not solved if the Jews establish themselves in a separate state which the Arabs regard as illegal. And that, anyway, what benefits civilization if Jewish refugees establish themselves on Arab lands, which in turn creates an Arab refugee population of 800-thousand souls?

Thus do the arguments rage. And virtually every night on the silent hills of Palestine around the lonely borders of Israel, men are shot or killed, and daily the tension grows.

On both sides of the border, both Arabs and Jews bespeak of a yearning for peace and a settlement of the dispute. But national prides and ancient prejudices so cloud the arguments that the way to a settlement is obscured.

The Israeli people are intensely proud of their achievements since the establishment of their new state in 1948. She has more than doubled her population during the last five years. New towns have been created, industries established, and land cleared for cultivation. She prides herself in bringing the 20th century to that ancient area and stands as an example of a modern democracy among nations where the rule of the monarch, the dictator, or the sheik is the dominating method of government. Israeli leaders, after explaining that they did not start the war, insist that the nation is there to stay, and that the Arabs have no choice but to recognize this fact and make peace.

The Arab position is more complex. A Western diplomat and an old hand explained it this way. He said that back in 1947 and '48, the Arabs never really believed that the United Nations or the United States would allow their country to be taken over by the Zionists. They maintained, and still maintain, it was in violation of the United Nations charter guaranteeing national and ethnological sovereignty. The Arabs constantly point out that, in what is now Israel, the Moslem population outnumbered the Jewish by three to one.

This diplomat says one of the major problems of bringing the Arabs to settlement is the psychological question of pride or "face." He said the Arabs are now in a position somewhat like that of a father whose daughter has been violated by a foreign young man. The despoiled daughter returns in disgrace to her father's home. Then a few months later, friends of the young man come to father and say: "Let's sit down and talk this thing over. How much do you want?"

The position of the defeated Arab is that he simply is not ready to sit down and talk about settling such things. And this diplomat thinks it will be a long time before any serious talking will be done.

So is there a formula which can bring about a solution to the Israeli-Arab dispute? Another diplomat says it is possible, and again we come back to the two prime factors.

A solution must be found for the 800-thousand refugee Arabs, who for the past five years have been stagnating in their camps without permanent homes, work, and living on UN rations. Israel is willing to participate in an international resettlement and restitution program which would repay the Arabs for lost property. However Israel rejects mass repatriation of the Arabs to their former lands as threatening to the security of the new state. Israel also has offered to adjust her borders where the line separates families from their farm lands or dangerously bisects villages. All of these matters, however, would come within the framework of a peace treaty. And the Arabs simply are not ready to talk peace.

On the question of Israeli strength—which is the main diplomatic weapon of the Zionists—the Arabs fear that the Israeli army is preparing to explode over her borders and again precipitate large-scale fighting. The reasoning goes like this. The increasing tension on the borders and the resultant incidents undercut the position of the moderate Israeli leaders such as the present Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. Eventually, the extremists will take over and the Israeli army will march.

But still, the Arab leaders refuse to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the United States seeks a way to strengthen the area against Communist aggression. But it is impossible without offending either the Jews or the Arabs.

As we said, America is in the middle.

This is Bill Downs in Rome. I return you now to CBS Radio in New York.

September 29, 2014

1955. The Cyprus Question

Tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
"An EOKA parade in Nicosia in 1962" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Rome

October 1, 1955
An experienced diplomat once told me that, after many years traveling around the world in the pay of the United States government on official missions to assure, regain, establish, or bring about "peace," he finally got so discouraged that he had to look up the word in the dictionary.

In these days of tension and confusion, the dictionary is not much help. Peace, the book says, is freedom from war or conflict or hostility.

Right now, it so happens that there is no war—for which we can be thankful. But it takes no diplomat to know that there is plenty of conflict and hostility, and probably there will always be. So it would appear that it is the mission of governments of good will in this second half of the 20th century to keep conflict and hostility from breaking into the ultimate destroyer of peace—the process of war.

All of which would seem to indicate that, when we talk of peace, it does not mean that unattainable nirvana where all hostility and conflict will be settled—but rather a state of "no war" and a continuing attempt to solve and find answers to the multifarious pressures, pushes, and pulls which tug at our modern world.

It is within this definition of peace that has produced the welcome Big Power breathing spell following the four-nation Summit Conference in Geneva.

But no sooner had the world taken a few relieved gasps of hopeful air that there began a seething in the Eastern Mediterranean involving ancient hostilities combined with modern conflicts of interest—and the international frictions so produced are generating such heat that the explosion called war threatens anew.

The technical state of war between Israel, Egypt, and the Arab states has been going on for some eight years. In fact, there appears to be a tendency for much of the world to take it for granted.

The other day on the Turkish-Syrian border, frontier troops exchanged rifle fire in a forgotten struggle emanating from resentment over a border line established only in 1939.

Dynamite was exploded late last August in the Greek city of Salonika, and on September 6th, hundreds of thousands of Turks in Istanbul and Izmir rioted, doing millions of dollars worth of damage to stores and businesses operated by Greeks and Turkish citizens of Greek origin.

In Cyprus, Greek patriots are demanding union with Athens and opposing British colonial rule.

And behind all these dangerous conflicts are ancient hostilities which Americans find hard to understand.
I have just returned from a swing around the hot spots of the Eastern Mediterranean and was surprised, not so much by what I was able to find out, but with the number of things I did not know or comprehend. It would take a score of experts on sociological history to define and explain the old and sometimes traditional hates which tear at the people of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sometimes the basis of this hostility lies in religion, sometimes in race, sometimes in history, and sometimes in ambition. Often it is a combination of all of these things.

We can only indicate the existence of these factors, but they will play a part in whatever news to come from the Eastern Mediterranean in the next critical months—good or bad.

In Greece as well as the Middle East, one finds the people suffering a kind of cultural and historical hang-over from the six centuries of life under the Ottoman Empire. In many places the people speak deprecatingly of the Turks, and even among many intellectuals, the anti-Turkish feeling is unhidden. When you ask why, you only receive a shrug and a statement that "Americans wouldn't understand."

In Turkey, the source of the anti-Greek feeling is similarly obscure, but it was real enough during the tragic September 6th rioting. I asked a number of Greek residents of Istanbul about this—they blamed this antipathy on a number of factors, cultural and economic. Some Greek families have lived in Turkey for over 100 years, they said, but religious differences have prevented assimilation and social integration. Greek Christians and Turkish Moslems seldom meet except on a business level. In the face of this apartness, the Greek minority has maintained its language ties, and Greek experience and astuteness have made them highly successful, for the most part, in business. Some Greeks say openly that, in event of crisis, they and most of their friends feel greater loyalty to Greece than to Turkey—although most are Turkish citizens.

On the other hand, Greek government officials in Athens say that the Turkish population in Thrace—where the Turks have an ethnic majority—that these people are counted generally as good Greek citizens.

As of this moment, the two hottest spots in the Eastern Mediterranean are the Israeli-Egyptian border and the island of Cyprus.

The announcement by the Egyptian government that it plans to purchase Czechoslovak arms with Nile cotton and grain has greatly upset our State Department and the British Foreign Office. Anglo-American policy over the past several years has been to try to maintain a balance of power between Israel and the Arab countries. In fact, two years ago it was figured that the Jewish military machine was so powerful that arms were granted to Egypt to pull the situation into balance.

But Egyptian Premier Nasser, a military man, thinks that he has many armaments gaps to fill in his army—that the Western Powers are being dilatory in allowing him requested materiel—and he is going shopping for it on the world market. He says it makes no difference to him who sells the arms, and that the Czechs seem willing.

However, fearful Western diplomats see another threat in the situation—the possibility of Communist infiltration into the Middle East and the increase of Moscow influence on Arab nations. It is perhaps significant that Premier Nasser has been invited to pay a state visit to the Russian capital—and that Soviet Premier Bulganin probably will visit Cairo when he returns from a scheduled trip to India this fall.

Incidentally, the measure of hatred between Israel and Egypt and her allies is growing every day—particularly among the 870,000 refugees festering in camps along Israel's borders. The latest expression of this feeling is the organization of the Fedayeen corps—Fedayeen literally means sacrificial death or suicide—and the squads are beginning to infiltrate Israel's borders in a campaign of terror against civilians.

On Cyprus, the problem is more complex. The island has been a British colony since 1914, having been annexed from Turkey. Since then the Greek population on Cyprus has grown to an 80 percent majority. However, demands for separation from British rule have been current for the past 25 years, and in 1931 Cypriot patriots burned down the residence of the British governor.

Since the end of World War II, the Cyprus question has become red hot again, this time a burning political issue in Greece as well as Turkey. The island is 500 miles from Athens but only 50 miles off the Turkish coast. The Turks see it as an anchored aircraft carrier strategic to their security.

The Greeks point to the United Nations charter and their 80 percent ethnic majority on the island and demand self-determination, which would mean enosis—political and economic union with Greece.

The British, sweating under the current sentiment against colonial rule, need the Cyprus bases for their troops displaced by the agreement to withdraw from Suez. The British justify their position by saying only that they can provide the stabilizing force to prevent trouble between the Western Allies and Greece and Turkey. They point to the great advances in education, economic developments, and standards of living that the Cypriot people have gained under years of British administration. And in addition, says Britain, the Western Allies need a strong military base in Cyprus to protect the Suez and the Middle East generally. The British say that the Cypriots now enjoy more freedom and prosperity than they could get under either Greek or Turkish rule—that the island within the sterling bloc has a visible economy which it would not have within the troubled economies of Greece or Turkey.

However, the Cyprus question has gotten beyond sober reason—it now has become an emotional issue again stirring up old hostilities.

The Turks say frankly that, if Cyprus becomes Greek, Turkish troops will be sent to capture the island.

Further complicating the issue is the Greek Orthodox Church and a 42-year-old American educated Archbishop named Makarios.

Archbishop Makarios is the vociferous and vigorous leader of the enosis movement. I talked with him the other day in Nicosia. I said that Americans did not understand the position of the Orthodox Church—that we believed in the separation of church and state. Makarios replied that his interpretation of the struggle for Cypriot freedom was not a political one, but a moral one. He pointed out that one of the heroes of the Greek struggle for freedom from Turkish rule was the Archbishop of Athens, who was executed for his agitation.

Makarios said that, since the United Nations refused to take up the Cyprus question in its current session, his followers would force self-determination upon the British by what he called "intensified passive resistance." The Archbishop said he was opposed to violence, but since then the "passive resistance" campaign has produced numerous incidents of beatings, stonings, and property destruction.

Archbishop Makarios indicated that he would attempt to stop all Cypriots from working for the British, which could mean a breakdown in all public services—electricity, transportation, water supply, and the rest. He said that no Greek Cypriot would be used as a tool of the British. The question now is, can he pull it off?
No Easy Solutions
Such is the dilemma plaguing the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek government has withdrawn its troops from this fall's NATO maneuvers following the Istanbul rioting and the attacks on Greek NATO officers stationed in Turkish Izmir.

The Greek-Yugoslav-Turkish mutual aid agreement has all but been destroyed by the Cyprus crisis.

The situation threatens to wreck the Western security program in this part of the world—a problem which directly affects the security of the United States.

In my travels through the Eastern Mediterranean, I found no person who had any hard and fast solutions to either the Arab-Israeli dispute or the Cyprus problem.

Ancient hostilities are abetting new nationalisms. Modern power balances have run head-on into conflicts as old as the Bible and the Koran.

And in the background of it all is the 20th century struggle between two modern ideologies and two great power blocs.

How the Cyprus question and the Israeli-Arab conflict are resolved will decide in a large measure which of the power blocs will receive the support of the nations of the Eastern Mediterranean.

This part of the world forms the bridge between Europe and Asia—it also is the bridge between Europe, Asia, and the continent of Africa.

Put into perspective, the struggle in Cyprus and the Holy Land are much, much more than local conflicts to be unilaterally solved. They involve us all—and the outcome is going to affect the stability of the world for many years to come.

Also, solutions cannot be found in fairness and justice merely by saying that, if we do not discuss Cyprus of the Israeli-Arab problem, these problems will somehow go away.

The long and bitter history of the Easter Mediterranean proves that they will not.

There has been recrimination among the British themselves that their handling of the Cyprus problem has been bungling and undiplomatic, and that America's policy in the Middle East has been timid and awkward.

These things may be true, but they offer no solutions to the present dilemma.

In the long run, the United States and her allies must find a way to preserve the ideals of democracy and freedom in this part of the world and put these ideals into competition with the old hates and hostilities.

The Eastern Mediterranean area has long been dormant as a force in the modern world, but it is now coming to life again. The peoples of the area are looking for political goals and shopping for modern ideas.

How the Cyprus problem is handled, and how the Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved, will determine whether these people look to the east or to the west for their future.

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

1940. Edward R. Murrow on the London Blitz

The London Blitz

Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

August 24, 1940

This is Trafalgar Square. The noise that you hear at the moment is the sound of the air raid sirens. I'm standing here just on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields. A searchlight just burst into action off in the distance—one single beam sweeping the sky above me now. People are walking along quite quietly. We're just at the entrance of an air raid shelter here and I must move this cable over just a bit so people can walk in.

I can see just straight away in front of me Lord Nelson on top of that big column. There's another searchlight just square behind Nelson's statue. I'll just let you listen to the traffic and the sound of the siren for a moment. Just a few people here walking rather hurriedly toward the air raid shelters—some of them casually—a man stops in front of me to light a cigarette.

Here comes one of those big red buses around the corner—double deckers they are, just a few lights on the top deck. In this blackness it looks very much like a ship that's passing in the night, and you just see the portholes. There goes another bus. More searchlights coming to action. You see them reach straight up into the sky, and occasionally they catch a cloud and seem to splash on the bottom of it. The little traffic lights here, just a small cross on the normal globe, are now red. The cars pull up and stop.

I'll just ooze down in the darkness here along these steps and see if I can pick up the sound of peoples' feet as they walk along. One of the strangest sounds one can hear in London these days—or rather these dark nights—just the sound of footsteps walking along the streets, like ghosts shod with steel shoes. A taxi draws up just in front and stops, just waiting for that red light to change to green while the siren howls. There it goes, and the cars move off. More searchlights are in action.

We've not yet seen any burst of anti-aircraft fire overhead. An air raid warden walks out of this shelter—the shelter here, you know, is the crypt underneath this famous old church just on the edge of Trafalgar Square. The crypt where in days of peace homeless men and women were able to find a night's lodging.

September 24, 2014

1943. Life Under Siege in Leningrad

Life in Leningrad
"Leningradians cleaning a street after the first winter in the besieged city" (RIA Novosti/Vsevolod Tarasevich – 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

January 22, 1943
No one knows what Leningrad is suffering tonight. It is not likely that the German command is letting Russia's greatest seaport city sleep while the Red Army continues its dirty job of throwing German soldiers out of pillbox after pillbox. (The defenders and workers of Leningrad have been shelled and bombed so often that they probably are getting their night's sleep anyway. That is, those workers who are not spotting planes or fire-watching or working in the basement shelters or doing the million other things that must be done if a city under siege is to survive.)

(The Red Army's break through the southeastern arc of the German defenses has signaled only that Leningrad has been broken. The battle of Leningrad now begins.)

Tonight I talked to a Leningrad high school teacher. His name is Oleg Konstantinov and he teaches economic geography. He and his wife and two children lived through the hunger and cold of Leningrad's terrible winter last year. He doesn't like to talk about it.

(Mr. Konstantinov has kept in close touch with Leningrad ever since the government last spring ordered him to accompany his classes when they were evacuated from the city.)

He said that the outskirts of the citylocated only a few miles from the German lineshave been bombed and shelled flat. (These suburbs were mostly the homes of factory workersbrand new developments were the pride of the government's re-housing plan. The center of Leningrad, he said, is not so badly damagedalthough the German bombers did not spare the business district.)

(At first the German bombers and their long-range guns tried to do to Leningrad what they did to Coventry. After many months of dropping and firing tons of explosive into the city, the process got too expensive. The Germans weren't getting anywhere anyway.)

(During this time everyone got the same rations. One hundred and twenty-five grams of breadwhich is about two sliceswas the universal ration most of last winter. People got slimmer and thinner. All persons within the city have to work a certain number of hours each day. These hours were registered on each individual ration card. If the work wasn't done, then it was "no workno eat.")

Mr. Konstantinov said his high school students did everything from airplane spotting to digging tank traps and building defenses. Even his two children, the oldest of whom is seven, pitched in and did the dishes, while Mrs. Konstantinov did her work for the city by shoveling snow off the sidewalks. He said the children's experience in Leningrad has truly given them a war psychology.

"It was share and share alike in Leningrad," the school teacher explained. "Now when we serve dinner, the children examine all the plates very carefully. If one of us gets a larger portion of food than the other, they take pains to point it out."

"Also the children are still nervous about bombings. The youngest is still afraid to be in a room alonebut they will outgrow that."

Mr. Konstantinov said that all during these hardships there was not a person who did not believe that Leningrad would be rescuedeven during the worst periods of starvation and cold and when everything seemed hopeless.

I asked him why this was so. He turned and looked at me with surprise. Then he paused and thought about it for awhile. Finally he answered: "Why, everyone knows that Leningrad simply can not be taken." And that's the reason Leningrad held out.

1968. Someone is Sending Erotica to the Marines

A Literary Windfall
From Wikipedia: "U.S. Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during Operation Allen Brook in Vietnam, 1968."

January 8, 1968

The Marines in Vietnam get a literary windfall...someone is sending them erotic books to read.


There are military historians who probably could prove that the US Marines have left a string of broken hearts all the way from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli...and now into the boondocks of Vietnam. Because it is in the tradition of the Marine Corps to include some of the most romantic sea-going fighting men in the American military establishment.

However, apparently there are some people in the United States who think that 180 years of romantic tradition is not enough...that is, enough for the young Leathernecks now fighting south of Vietnam's Demilitarized Zone. For military officials in Saigon report that something new has been added to some of the Red Cross parcels addressed to the Marines up in Eye Corps.

Whats new are the paperback books of such erotic nature that the senders tear off the illustrated front covers to make them appear as ordinary publications.

The Red Cross says it has no idea how the questionable books got into the parcels, although the check is on. But the titles include such hot items as "Forbidden Fruit," "The Passion of Lust," and the confessions of a French Countess...

The report from Saigon did not specify just who of the Marines complained about this literary windfall. And since the books are marked "for adults only," there can be little question that a young Leatherneck, old enough to do battle against the Viet Cong, is also old enough to handle any cheap pornography which may come his way.

As a matter of fact, in today's well-supplied American combat force, the ordinary fighting man is exposed to more genuinely good literature through the Red Cross and other agencies than he normally would be in his home town. And some GI's are getting their first knowledge of Shaw, Shakespeare, or Hemingway reading a paperback.

And if some Marines in Vietnam don't approve of books like "Forbidden Fruit" or "The Passion of Lust," then there's a most efficient solution to the problem...over at the latrine.

This is Bill Downs at the Pentagon for Information Reports.

September 23, 2014

1970. Bill Downs on Edward R. Murrow's Legacy

Regarding Ed Murrow
"Edward R. Murrow reading a script in a studio" (source)
In 1970 Bill Downs received an inquiry about his thoughts on Edward R. Murrow. Downs offered his take:
To: Prof. Theodore Bilski 
22 Oct. 1970
Dear Professor, 
Please excuse my tardiness in answering your letters regarding Ed Murrow. I've been in the process of transferring from the Pentagon beat to a new assignment called, cryptically, "the Environment." I've been completely absorbed in trying to define the job. 
Anyway, concerning Ed Murrow. He hired me away from the UP London bureau in 1942...after working a few months for him in London, I replaced Larry LeSueur in Moscow. I was recommended to Ed by Charles Collingwood, who also had been in the UP London bureau. 
As you probably know from various books and articles on Murrow, his entry into news reporting was almost accidentala case of being in the right place at the right time. His early training had been in the professional academic field. He mentioned to me a number of times that he wished he had had hard-nosed newspaper or press association experience because he sometimes doubted his own news judgment on some particular event. 
I expressed my personal feeling that news reporting is not something that can be "taught" like the alphabet...that every human being able to communicate with another is a "reporter." Some do it better than others. But the major qualifications, we agreed, was as much backgrounding in history and current affairs as possible; a fanatical regard for the facts; unbounded curiosity; normal compassion and a sense of humor could add up to a top reporter. 
Murrow probably would have added a couple of other thingswhich, incidentally, he possessed to a great degree. One was loyalty to his friends and his causes; the other was to preserveand keep private if necessarythe capacity to hate and despise what he regarded as evil and cheap. 
As an unabashed and card-carrying Murrow-phile, I think Ed proved that news reporting basically is a decent man trying to describe and interpret day-to-day events as lucidly and honestly as his capacity permitted. In the case of Murrow, that capacity was astounding. 
When Murrow took up the microphone in Europe, news broadcasting was in its infancy. The press associations and newspaper syndicates were the experts in telegraph circuits around the world. Their knowledge of the telephone circuits was minimal because of the comparative cost...and for pencil reporters, words just naturally were supposed to go by Morse code. 
I don't know who first had the idea of the world news roundup. Some say it was Paley. I personally think it must have been Paul White, one of the best and most competitive news executives ever to sit in the slot. But to put together a multiple pickup telephone circuit from a half-dozen European capitals when the continent was in the throes of an international crisis, had to be the work of not only Murrow and White but a lot of other reporters and technicians feeling their way in the electronic dark. 
Murrow gravitated to the American foreign correspondents corps when he started out because, simply, they were in place and knew what was going to separate truth from propaganda...and because the American journalistic ethic, unlike the European party press, was the only standard acceptable to a US audience. 
Murrow didn't give a damn if a reporter sounded like Ethel Barrymore or W.C. Fieldsas long as he was understandable and had something to say. He deplored a later tendency by some executives to hire "voices"pointing out that if Homer Bigart, now a NY Times correspondent and one of our generation's best reporters despite a tendency to stutter...Ed said if Bigart was the only newsman on hand to witness the Second Coming, the networks by God would use Bigart, stutter and all. 
As for Murrow's innovations, like all electronic news men, the job requires a certain amount of "ham." Same for politicians. Ed had his I believe some scholastic amateur theater training and extensive collegiate public speaking and debate experience. Murrow was born with his voice and developed his own diction and never lost his delight in the picturesque vernacular of his native North Carolina and the Northwest where he was raised. 
However in the late '30s and early '40s, everyone listened to the BBC, a sane and steady voice penetrating the hysteria of the Nazi and Fascist rantings. To assure immediate identification over Europe's jangling airwaves, the BBC hired a Cambridge professor to train its news announcers (they were not reporters) to mouth the domestic and overseas broadcasts in the same rich Oxfordian tones. (The professor went mad, incidentally, beat his wife to death with a hammer and was sentenced to an asylum. I covered the trial. There's a lesson in there some place.) 
It's my private, unconfirmed theory that much of the so-called "Murrow style" was absorbed from this British approach to the newssomething as if the "news" was a dis-embodied symbol of reverence, no matter what its content. 
One further illustration: The world's leading sports broadcaster of British cricket was the BBC's Howard Marshall, a burly, handsome, pipe-smoking English gentleman who endowed the play-by-play from Lords with the dignity of a Westminster coronation. However since the game of cricket is not exactly a cock fight, Marshall used to hold up his mike so that the eager cricket fans could actually hear the crack of the bat on the intersperse his remarks of "Good show!...Well done!" etc. 
When Murrow put his mike to the ground to pick up the firm, unhurried steps of Londoners seeking shelter during one of the city's first air raids, he was simply adapting Marshall's cricket technique to a much more dramatic situation. As I said, this is my own theory as we all were learning about the electronic possibilities of reporting in those days. 
As for the identity of the "Murrow boys," it's a matter of definition. Ed didn't like the label. Neither do I nor any of the guys concerned. I believe it was invented in New York as part of the stiletto office politics which abound in all network organizations. Since Ed at one time or another employed all, I think, of the men you mentioned on your list, they qualify. 
If you have to have my definition, it would be that nucleus of men who dropped everything to report the war for CBS News and stuck with the company afterward. This would include Shirer, Smith, LeSueur, Costello, Collingwood, Sevareid, Hottelet and myself. Daly and Trout were stateside news announcers when Murrow began broadcasting, I believe. Schoenbrun was hired by Murrow after the war. Ken Downs, Mowrer, Gervasi, Huss and Manning all stayed in the news agency, magazine and newspaper fields. 
Again I apologize for the delay. Hope this makes up for it. 
Bill Downs

September 22, 2014

1968. Soviet Expansionism in the Middle East

The Cold War Power Balance in the Mediterranean
"Units of the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet underway in the Mediterranean Sea, in 1955. Visible are three aircraft carriers, three cruisers, 13 destroyers and an oiler" (source)

Bill Downs 

Information Perspective

Sunday, January 7, 1968

While most of the country is naturally preoccupied with the mysterious diplomatic play underway in Southeast Asia, here in Washington there are many top officials who are concentrating on another international ball game—one which some consider more of a long-range threat to the tranquility of the world, even more than the Vietnam War.

It's the never-ending struggle that has persisted for centuries around what has been called the fulcrum of our civilization: the Middle East.

The latest inning of this most complex contest is ironically symbolized during these opening weeks of 1968 by two men who are making diplomatic field trips—a pair of visits which may vitally affect the balance of world power in that most crucial Mid-East area. That area where three countries are joined, and a dozen religions collide. And where legend says that Adam and Eve were expelled from an Eden whose peace and perfection mankind has never been able to recapture.

The visit of Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to the United States to confer with President Johnson just happens to coincide with the state visit of Soviet Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev to Cairo. In these two examples of traveling diplomacy lay the crux of a new—or renewal—of yet another Middle East crisis which now appears to be about as inevitable as a Russian nyet.

Officially, neither the United States nor the USSR were directly involved in last June's Middle East war in which the Israeli military forces achieved their fantastic victory over the combined Arab armies in what's been called a Blitzkrieg.

But indirectly and geopolitically, America and Russia were indeed very much involved in that six day desert conflict. A token number of US tanks, planes, and guns were involved in the Israeli victory—and, conversely, in the defeat of Jordan's army.

But the collapse of the Egyptian armed forces and the rout of Syria's troops made the Soviet Union the big international loser of the war. Moscow had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in armaments to buy herself a foothold in the Middle East.

In fact, in the weeks that followed the stunning Israeli victory, there were grumblings from Damascus and Cairo and other Arab capitals that the Russians had somehow let their Arab allies down by not coming to their side against the hard-driving Israelis.

And there was much speculation here in Washington and other Western capitals that the Soviet Union had suffered a setback to its Middle East ambitions so severe that perhaps it would be decades before she could re-establish her influence in the area.

As it turned out, such assessments were 100% wrong.

Part of the reason lies in the history of Russia dating back to Peter the Great. For centuries, the Kremlin has wanted warm water ports, and particularly free and open access to the Mediterranean and Indian oceans.

In fact, during the reprehensible negotiations between the German Nazis and the Stalin regime in 1940, one of the Soviet's secret conditions for collaboration with Adolf Hitler was that the Nazis recognize the area south of Soviet Georgia, Armenia, and the Caspian Sea as within Moscow's sphere of influence and "the center of aspirations of the Soviet Union."

Over the past dozen years, when Egyptian strong-man Gamal Abdel Nasser tried to play the East against the West in his futile attempts to dominate the Arab world, it was the Russians who were glad to play the game, spending something like a billion dollars to finance the Aswan Dam on the Nile—and hundreds of millions of other dollars in military aid to bolster the Arab armies around the Mediterranean crescent. This left the United States as the balancer of power, providing matching arms to such friendly governments as Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

But then came the Six Day War and the Israeli victory which wiped out much of Russia's military investment. For a while it appeared that Moscow was disgusted with their hapless Moslem allies, but then it became evident that the leaders in the Kremlin had not forgotten their history and their geopolitics.

Despite the overwhelming defeat of Russian-supplied arms, a Soviet foot-hold in the Middle East was still essential to Moscow's long-range goals. And with the Arab nations smarting from defeat and humiliation, they could only turn to the USSR for help to restore their shattered fortunes. Only this time, Moscow would call the tune, train the officers, and manage the strategy.

According to some intelligence reports, the Soviets now—only some seven months after Israel's devastating victory—have replaced between 80 and 90 per cent of the military hardware that Egypt and Syria lost in the Six Day War. And this includes some 225 new MiG jet fighters supplied to the Egyptian air force, another 125 MiGs assigned to Syria, and 150 to Iraq. And estimated three to five thousand Russian advisers and technicians are said to be in Egypt alone teaching Nasser's forces how to use the new arms.

That's why the visit to Cairo this week by Russia's Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev will get the closest scrutiny. Officially Brezhnev is making the trip to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the Aswan Dam. But more likely his Cairo trip is more like that of a Kremlin tsar visiting an important province, which Egypt now may become in the expanding Soviet power thrust into the Middle East.

By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's talks with President Johnson will necessarily have a different tone. The Jerusalem government is not very happy with America's foot-dragging policies during and after Israel's blitz victory. Particularly, some Israeli officials feel that Washington failed to move decisively to force the defeated Arab nations to diplomatic negotiations for a general Middle East detente when the time was on the rise.

American attempts to play the honest broker in the Mid-East has satisfied neither the Israelis nor the Arabs. But in the end, it is a political fact of life in the US that public sympathy is with Israel. And likewise, in the final analysis, Prime Minister Eshkol knows that he must turn to the United States for both moral and material aid if his beach-head nation is to survive its self-declared enemies. Consequently, the Israeli leader will be asking for new super-sonic fighter planes to match the air power which the Russians are supplying the Arabs—and more important, for renewed American assurances that the US and her NATO allies are interested in preserving the peace of the Middle East.

Thus we have the Arab evidence that the Soviet Union is intent on becoming a major power in the Middle East.

There are other and even more startling facts indicating that the Russian goal may be near achievement. Up until about five years ago, the entire Mediterranean was regarded as a Western lake under the military umbrella of the North Atlantic alliance and the stewardship of the US Sixth Fleet. At that time, there were no more than a half-dozen Soviet naval vessels in those waters. A year ago there were perhaps ten or twelve Russian warships in the Mediterranean.

But following the Arab-Israeli War, the Kremlin high command made another decision, and today there is a Soviet fleet of forty to fifty Russian navy ships in the Mediterranean. They include a fifteen thousand ton guided missile cruiser and three other heavy cruisers; at least a half-dozen missile-armed destroyers; an estimated twelve submarines, at least two of them nuclear-powered; and perhaps fifteen modern supply ships which serve the Soviet fleet as floating bases. The Communist flotilla also is said to include a number of amphibious landing craft, presumably with specially trained troops aboard like the US Marines.

The Russian sea force in the Mediterranean is not believed to possess the striking power of the sixty American warships which make up the Sixth Fleet, and in particular the Soviets have nothing to match the two giant US aircraft carriers and the Polaris submarines which normally complement the fleet.

But the appearance of the Soviet warships in the Mediterranean prove that Russia has again become a major sea power.

Couple this with Moscow's military re-supply of the Arab nations and it's easy to conclude that a new Middle East crisis is in the making—a crisis that this time might precipitate a direct confrontation of the Russian and American navies.

It may not come this year or next. Or perhaps it can be avoided. But in the Middle East—as in Southeast Asia—the name of the game continues to be raw military power. And like it or not, we can play it no other way.

This is Bill Downs reporting from Washington.

September 18, 2014

1954. What Became of the American Revolution?

The Revolutions of the Twentieth Century
Some of the CBS foreign correspondents from the 1955 "Years of Crisis" year-end roundup

In the 1950s Edward R. Murrow hosted the annual CBS Radio series "Years of Crisis: Where We Stand," in which CBS foreign correspondents gathered to discuss world events of the past year. In this letter Bill Downs pitches an idea for his segment to Edward P. Morgan. At the time he was CBS' Rome correspondent and covered much of the Mediterranean.

Dec. 1, 1954 
Mr. Ed Morgan 
CBS News
485 Madison Ave.
New York 22, N.Y.

Dear Ed,

I'm still shaking in the sands of the desert out of my brain and want to thank you and whom-so-else-ever for including me in the year-end show. I'll most certainly welcome sitting down with the boys and thrashing out some of the mutual problems that have arisen since the reorganization and which sometimes don't make any sense viewed from over here. But 'twas ever thus and presumably 'twill ever be so.

About the subject matter of the year-end program, I hope we'll be able to include the exclusive film interviews we shot in recent weeks with Ben Gurion and Prime Minister Nasser. As one of the hot spots in the "Years of Crisis" picture, I would suggest that the departure point on the Mid-East story (and possibly the entire program) be the dynamic change or "revolution" in international thinking in recent years. This "revolution" is in evidence in two nations in the Middle East -- Israeli desires to consolidate her present position and make peace with the Arabs -- and the Egyptian revolution has strange parallels to the happenings in Israel even though the two nations technically are at war.

The Mid-East picture is extremely interesting as a developing crisis but perhaps is not typical of what is happening in other parts of the world. But the principles of dynamic evolution and political metamorphosis do apply. For example, in Italy and other nations there is a steady but increasing tendency and trend to try "co-existence" no matter who or how it is defined. This pressure already has been reflected in U.S. modification of East-West trade restrictions, a more moderate tone in State Department diplomatic pronouncements, and other things. It is worth noting, that while these pressures to attempt "coexistence" have been increasing, the West has thus far stood firm on key policy points -- so far -- such as German rearmament and west European unity. It would appear that every nation -- East and West -- is in the position of juggling the bomb of war with one hand while balancing an olive branch on the other.

This does not make for an atmosphere of reason and calm, and the consequent fear that someone will drop the bomb reflects itself in the internal politics of every nation.

I have heard serious arguments that this situation which has developed after the war calls for an entirely new and tough intellectual approach. These arguments go this way. The old days of 19th century liberalism -- when men and ideas were relatively free -- are gone forever. Therefore, free men must evolve a new philosophy, which will be hard enough to withstand the threats and false appeals of totalitarianism and at the same time preserve their freedom of thought and movement. No one has come up with such a new philosophy for the 20th century -- thus the appeal of such concepts which promise everything as communism.

This argument and search for new philosophies, it seems to me, are fruitless. Men don't just sit down and say "this is a new formula for thinking and living." Such things evolve. It is my thought that the post-war success of communism that the Marxists have matched the promises of their creed with the needs and desires of the great mass of the peoples. Thus does communism represent hope -- sometimes the only hope held out to underprivileged people.

In this connection, democracy in general and America in particular has failed to live up to its traditional promise -- at least, so was American democracy regarded by great masses of people in Europe, Asia and Africa immediately after the war.

In other words, the question continually strikes me when I see the communists making headway in Italy and France, or emerging slowly out of the poverty and chaos of the Arab countries, or assuming control in Korea, China, and Indo-China -- the question always arises in my mind: "What ever the hell became of the American Revolution?" It was the most successful the world had ever seen. And it seems to me that it is a legitimate query to ask whether or not it had out-lived its time, its dynamic vitality, and its promise for the future for Americans and other peoples around the world who seek to live in freedom and peace.

I believe that the United States dissipated a great storehouse of international goodwill and potential friendship by forgetting that we are a nation born in revolution and powerful today only because we have the capability and ability to grow and change.

It would appear that we approve of this dynamic principle in handling our domestic problems -- but distrust the principle when applied to our dealings with foreign countries -- friendly or unfriendly. We gave independence to the Philippines, but stood by or opposed similar movements in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

And now, even domestically, there are movements afoot who are so frightened of change -- the communists seem to have appropriated the word revolution -- that they would paralyze the United States domestically too.

Still, the world is still having its revolutions, with or without American or Russian conspiracy. Israel is one example, Egypt another -- China another and Indo-China yet another.

It is a fact that the leaders of these revolutions still read with awe the American Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Even the forgotten constitution of Soviet Russia is patterned after ours. So in many respects is the Israeli -- and so will be the Egyptian when it comes to be written.

I would like perhaps to include this proposition in the year-end show -- "what became of the American revolution?"

Sorry to be so damn wordy -- but I think the idea is worth kicking around. Let me know. And see you soon.

Salaam and Shalom,

Bill Downs

September 16, 2014

1968. Reflections on Racism and Violence in America

Reflections on American Society
"The Newark Community Union Project (NCUP) Police Brutality March across Broad and Market Street in Newark, NJ, 1965" (source)
In this broadcast transcript, Bill Downs discusses the newly published findings of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission). Lyndon Johnson established the commission to evaluate the causes of racial tension and civil unrest in recent years. Its findings implicated institutional racism and white society in general.
On Racism and Discrimination
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 3, 1968
If the Bible is must-reading for a Judeo-Christian society, and the Koran is must-reading for a member of the Moslem faith, then I suggest most seriously and with no intent at sacrilege that "must" reading for every American of every race and creed is the report just issued by the White House Commission on Civil Disorder.

It's impossible, of course, for most of us to read the full report of the Commission's investigation of the urban riots and ghetto uprisings which have plagued the nation over the years. The complete documentation runs into hundreds of thousands of words.

But let me emphasize again that it is most important that every person capable of spelling "cat" sit down and read the summary, which runs about ten thousand words. Because this summary, like the Bible, is prophetic. It deals with the sins of our 20th century society, and it prophesies doom if the guilty continue to sin against their fellow man. But most of all it offers the American society hope and outlines a way to social salvation if Americans unite to solve their problems.

If I sound evangelistic about the shocking findings of the President's Commission on Civil Disorder, then I plead guilty. And this guilt is personal because, as a reporter, I should not have been shocked about the Commission's report. But like most members of the white majority in this country, my natural sympathy for the plight of my 22 million fellow American Negroes was based on tolerance—a kind of blind faith that the guarantees of the Constitution and the free-swinging and expanding profit system would allow the ten percent of the population which are colored people of the United States to fight their way out of the slums and the ghettos.

What the Commission on Civil Disorder makes most clear is that the time for such complacency is long since past. It just has not worked out that way. Despite all the efforts of the groups like the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People to achieve social, political, and economic justice for American Negroes—despite all the federal and state civil rights laws and the public and private brotherhood drives—the black man is still a second class citizen in this country.

As I said, every white American knows this. And except for the small number of white extremists, I believe that most whites wish it were not so. But what have you and I done about it? Except for perhaps a few dollars contribution to a local brotherhood organization and maybe some cocktail party arguments over civil rights . . . exactly nothing.

Now, says the Commission, "discrimination and segregation have long permeated much in American life; they now threaten the future of every American." By "every American" the distinguished panel of private citizens meant exactly that. Whether red, white, blue, black, yellow, or green. Whether Christian, Jew, Hindu, Moslem, atheist, or agnostic—everyone shares the peril.

And who's to blame for this crisis in American society? The men and women who made the new study of Civil Disorder used simple logic to find the answer. Since the nation's founding, men with light skin color have been in the majority, made laws, and directed the moral tone of the country. The whites, whether they are members of the NAACP or of the Ku Klux Klan, must share the blame for the poverty and ignorance and oppression that colored Americans are now suffering.

And what this report makes most clear, especially to the complacent middle class strata of whites who have scattered to the suburbs, is that the word "tolerance" has lost its meaning. In fact, in terms of human relations, it has become a dirty word, because no person of sensibility likes to be simply "tolerated."

Perhaps the most revealing single fact in the report is the almost total ignorance of the white majority of Americans concerning the colored minority. As the Commission put it: "Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it . . . white society condones it."

To those well-meaning whites who protest that "I didn't have anything to do with the slums. I pay my taxes and obey the laws." Well, such protests have no meaning. Because the stinking, rat-ridden ghettos are there. And there are the angry and hopeless people forced to live in them because they have no other place to go.

Like the laws of the courts, ignorance of the laws of human society can be no excuse for the violation of human dignity. And the white man's ignorance of the slum and ghetto world of the Negro is abysmal.

A California social worker named Adrian Dove illustrated this in an intelligence test he devised for the great majority of the middle class. The kind of multiple choice test about the cultural world of the ghetto. Much has been made of the fact that Negroes do not show up well in similar intelligence tests made up by whites, and possibly this is because the black man is not familiar with the culture of the suburbs.

We must admit that we failed the Dove intelligence test because we did not even know the meaning of the language of that Los Angeles ghetto called Watts. For example, we didn't know who T-Bone Walker was; or what was the "slave name" of jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal; or how long you should cook "chitlins" to be more edible; or what the ingredients contained in "bo-diddly" are; or what the Negro ghetto people mean when they talk about "Juneteenth," a euphemism for June 19th which many people in Watts think should be a legal holiday. Incidentally, June 19th was the day Texas freed the slaves some 100 years ago.

In other words, just as the Negro may be considered lacking in education because he cannot pass the white man's tests, most whites would be flunked out if they were graded on their knowledge of the language and culture of the big city slums.

And this is why we consider the summary findings on the National Commission on Civil Disorders so important; why every American should read it and think about it and consider it. It may be the Bible that can lead the American society out of the abyss of racism, incipient or otherwise, and away from what the report calls "a movement towards two societies in this country: one black and one white . . . separate and unequal."

The Commission brutally outlines the problems and conditions of this crisis in the American society, and it also has recommendations for their solution.

"This deepening racial division in the nation is not inevitable," says the report. The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible."

But the White House Commission also warns that "to pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community between whites and blacks, and ultimately lead to the destruction of basic democratic values."

The Commission goes on to say that the "alternative is not blind repression or capitulation to lawlessness."

The truly American answer is the building of common opportunities for all within a single American society, so says the report.

This is nothing new to anyone familiar with the basic principles on which this country was founded and which were set down in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution as now amended.

The Commission also restated the obvious: that "violence cannot build a better society" . . . that "disruption and disorder nourish repression, not justice." And that these things "strike at the freedom of every citizen . . . the community, black or white, cannot and will not tolerate coercion and mob rule."

And one final word. It is just as important that the depressed and deprived Negro Americans in the slums and ghettos become familiar with the findings of the National Commission on Civil Disorder as it is for white Americans.

For there are outlined the tremendous problems which are confronting all of us. And perhaps therein is the beginning of mutual understanding, which in the end must come.

Far at the bottom of this nationwide problem is white ignorance and black ignorance, and they feed on each other. And in this 20th century world, there is no substitute for knowledge and truth, and no society can appeal to history for the lack of it.

This is Bill Downs in Washington. Now back to Don Gardiner in New York.

On Violence
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4. The subsequent riots across the country reflected the disillusionment of the time. Senator Robert F. Kennedy gave a passionate speech in the aftermath of King's death. After Kennedy was assassinated two months later on June 5, Bill Downs addressed the current turmoil.
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

June 7, 1968
Good evening. This is Bill Downs in Washington sitting in for Joseph C. Harsch.

Americans are taking a close look at violence in their society, but history may prove that modern man has never had it so good.

It is part of the definition of civilization that groups of men live together in mutual respect and conduct their affairs in reason and in absence of violence to settle their disputes and conflicts.

The presence of the word "gentleman" in our language is no accident, for it sums up the ideal of a civil society populated by Gentle Men.

However, as the too recent assassinations of the Kennedy Brothers; of Civil Rights leaders Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King have demonstrated, the truly civilized society in this country and every other nation in the world still remains one goal . . . rather than a complete reality.

Unfortunately—and without condoning the violence which so concerns present-day America—civil disobedience and urban rioting loom large in the history of the United States. Historians point out that as far back as 1741, rumors swept through the colonial port of New York that African slaves and impoverished whites were conspiring to burn down the city. These rumors touched off rioting in which 13 Negroes were burned alive. 22 persons were hanged.

In 1764 a band of some 15-hundred frontier hoodlums known as the Paxton Boys marched on Philadelphia bent on killing Indians sheltering there, and the city panicked. As historian Samuel Eliot Morison describes it: ". . . it took Ben Franklin to talk the ruffians into going home . . . but only after promising more frontier protection and legislative bounties for Indians' scalps . . ."

The Civil War draft riots in 1863 were ended only after more than a thousand residents of New York City were killed and another 8-thousand injured.

If, as some sociologists define it, slavery is violence to the enslaved, then in the 1850s when the United States had a population of only 23 million citizens, this majority was doing violence to three and a quarter million African slaves being held as chattel. And few would deny that the new wave of urban uprisings and ghetto explosions which has shaken the country the past few years is the price that the United States continues to pay until the last vestiges of that slavery has been purged.

And even the eminent justices of the highest court of the land must admit that it was a historically ironic situation the other day when a group of American Indians demonstrated on the steps of the Supreme Court. It was a non-violent demonstration, incidentally, except for some pushing and shoving and a couple of broken windows.

All this is to say that the dangerous and deplorable violence in present-day America may be a heritage from the past. But, seen in perspective, there is nothing in our current society to match the violence used against the Indians in seizing the American continent—or peacetime violence which the system of slavery imposed on the American Negro.

As the rest of the world watches while the nation prepares to bury Senator Robert Kennedy tomorrow, the United States will be judged in history by the way people react to this tragedy. It should be with reason and justice. It must not be with violence.

September 15, 2014

1965. Where is Che Guevara?

News from Castro's Cuba
Fidel Castro (left) and Che Guevara in the early 1960s (source)
October 8, 1965
The most dramatic human sea-lift since the desperate World War II evacuation of Dunkirk may be in the making in Cuba. Fidel Castro's surprise offer 10 days ago to allow "any Cuban who wants, to leave the island" could not be refused by the United States. President Johnson's quick agreement to accept the refugees also appeared to have caught the Castro-ites by surprise. The rapid reaction by the White House didn't give the Havana government much propaganda time to boast how kind, sweet, and generous Fidel had become.

Now the Cuban officials appear to be trying to force the United States into an embarrassing protest against the unorganized departure of the island refugees by inviting exiled Cuban fishermen and other private boat owners to start an unauthorized freedom ferry service between north Cuba and the Florida Keys—dumping the emigres onto U.S. soil in violation of the law.

However, morally, there appears nothing the U.S. can do except welcome the refugees and try to sort them out later. It carries with it the risk of admitting some Castro agents among them. But that's nothing compared to the damage that would be done to the United States if somehow Washington could be blamed for blocking the flight of the Cuban dissidents.

Washington's Castro-ologists and other experts on Caribbean affairs are most suspicious of Fidel's motives in the sudden lifting of what might be called "the sugar-cane curtain." And there still is some question as to how high the curtain will be raised, whether Castro's offer applies only to the 15,000 to 20,000 Cuban relatives who already have applied for U.S. visas, or whether the bearded Premier really meant it when he said any unhappy Cuban was free to depart.

President Johnson's reply in his New York speech on Monday declared that "all Cubans who seek refuge in the U.S. will find it." And he called for the Red Cross and the Swiss Embassy handling Washington's affairs in Havana to make arrangements for the orderly entry of the emigres into this country, with priority going to relatives and political prisoners.

There are approximately 179,000 Cuban refugees now registered and living in this country. Most all of them have relatives, and Castro's dictatorial Communist regime has made the beautiful island a miserable place to live.

Washington officials have their fingers crossed that a volunteer fleet of refugee sailors does not attempt a mass migration across the 90-mile-wide Florida Straits. At best, it's a dangerous operation. But so was the Dunkirk rescue mission in the spring of 1940. Then England's so-called "Sunday sailors" took every shape and size of boat across the Channel to lift more than 338,000 soldiers off the beach and save the British army.

Whether Fidel Castro would allow a mass exodus of Cubans from the island seems unlikely. To permit such a migration would prove to the rest of Latin America and the world the dismal, home-grown failure of the once-vaunted Castro revolution.

There is one Cuban refugee that U.S. officials would very much like to know about. The disappearance of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the 37-year-old Argentinian who for long was the No. 2 man under Fidel, poses one of the most puzzling mysteries on the world Communist scene. Cubans who fought with him in the early days of the anti-Batista revolt describe Guevara as the real brains of the Castro movement—a man so skilled in guerrilla warfare that U.S. military officials use his book on the subject as a text—and the most dedicated Marxist in the Western Hemisphere.

Although Fidel Castro said last week that "Che" Guevara had resigned his Cuban citizenship to go elsewhere to serve the Communist world revolution, there also are reports that the handsome revolutionary is dead or perhaps in a political prison. One story goes that Guevara became disenchanted with Moscow's "co-existence" brand of Communism after the Russian back-down on Cuban missiles. Recently he has made no secret of his support for the Stalinist "tough-line" Marxism being spouted by Communist China's leaders.

Also, Guevara was said to have clashed with Fidel himself over the Cuban dictator's growing complacency and preoccupation with the island's internal problems. "Che" yearned for the good old days when the capture of Havana was to be only the first step towards Communizing all of Latin America and then move in on the United States.

Thus, the speculation is that Guevara may have become the victim of one of two heresies—or both. Russian secret police may have liquidated him as a Red Chinese agent, or the Castro brothers may have regarded "Che" as a threat to Fidel's dictatorship and removed that threat. Or perhaps Guevara was allowed to walk out on the whole Cuban mess, to go his own way. If he's alive, then watch out, for where "Che" goes, trouble's not far behind.

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

September 9, 2014

1943. Adventures at the Hotel Metropol

At the Hotel Metropol
Bill Downs in the front row, second from left
In 1943 Bill Downs stayed at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow with about thirty other foreign correspondents. After leaving in January 1944, he kept in touch with a few friends he made along the way.

The reporters and secretaries staying there looked for ways to amuse themselves in their free time. Downs wrote in a letter to his parents on April 8, 1943:
Our entertainment here consists of vodkawhich is liquid dynamiteand the ballet or operaand the occasional poker game with a general or admiraland an occasional date full of gestures and shouting with a Russian girl.
In the letters below, some of Downs' friends give him the rundown on what's going on in Moscow:

Sunday evening, 10 PM

March 5th 1944
British Embassy, MOSCOW.
Dear Bill,

Thought you'd appreciate a line on what's been happening around the Metropole since you departed and your room was filled by Jim Fleming who is a nice guy but socially not a patch on Basher Downs. No longer does the floor of 348 shake to the clumping of devooshkas feet; no longer do the curtains catch fire. It is just a nice quiet room. So quiet that I haven't even been in there once.

No, the location for the new stamping ground is Bill Lawrence's sumptuous suite at 373. He really has a magnificent setup thereyou'd never believe it existed in the Metropole. Big main room, bedroom with a complete leopard skin rug snarling at him all the time, a bathroom and a storeroom which right now is stackedI said stacked with tins of this and that. You never saw so much tinned stuff at one time. We are continually having big eating as well as drinking jamborees.

Incidentally the drink problem has now become one of what to do with it and not where to get it. All our dept. were issued four bottles scotch and four bottles gin at one time about a month ago, which means nearly a couple of hundred bottles of strong liquor being brought into the hotel—in addition to our normal ration of vodka which now comes in regularly.

Horace and I had 12 bottles between us and as we usually drink Marion's, we were doing all right. We had so much I traded one bottle of gin for 12 tins of fruit and stuff from Bill. I struck a pretty good bargain I thought, but he did all right from Jean and Ray who were content with two or three tins for one bottle. In addition to all this drink, your own Embassy received cases and cases of Canadian Club rye and there is a lot of this knock about too. Honestly, I have never seen so much strong drink drunk for years.

When it comes to Harold King complaining that there are too many bloody parties you can imagine how it is. And he's right. Last week I had one quiet nightand then Horace and I and Cornwell finished a bottle of Black and White before dinner. This week I had no quiet nightsparties or something every night. Last nightSaturdayJean, Ray and Norathe three maiden auntswell, aunts anywaygave a party at the Kuznetsky Most. Bill and I had previously arranged a jag he gave the Saturday before, to dine a couple of devooshkas in his roomand Jean having issued an ukase that there were to be no devooshkas as you and I and Bill understand the term, at her party. Bill and I declared a lockoutsaid we wouldn't go. She climbed down and we went but it was as stuffy as we anticipated, so after a couple of drinks we pushed off to Doc Waldron's flat where it was at least a bit more homey.

Bill is doing a big line at the Nark every night and is making 'em all work. He doesn't let this interfere with his drinking, tho'.

Incidentally, chum, they're all gunning for youall those with guilty consciences that is, following the galoshes telegram.

Frankly I can hardly blame them. You wait till you get married.

Horace is just now sitting in bed reading. He's been there all day trying to get over skin trouble and has been forbidden to drink for a week, which is hard.

There has been a lot of sickness, and there still is for that matter, although apart from a mild attack of food poisoning which I had the other week, I have so far managed to keep all right . . . God knows why since these parties do not encourage it.

We're still waiting for the winter to arrive; today it's been really warmwell not at all cold anyway and there is no snow at all around the place.

Ronnie Matthews and his blonde wife have at least departed so we have more cigarettes than we did. Tamara Gilmore has canceled all her engagements for some timeat least, she will be doing very shortly. A number of others will soon be opening up local second fronts as it were, such as Tanya, Doc Waldron's wife. So far the Press Dept. girls have managed to keep out of the Pudding Club, for all the trying they do in this direction they might start a Club for Old Maids right awaythis does not include you-know-who next door. We have two more of them coming out this month. One is a pretty good bet, but the other I fancy will join the Neo-Virginity class.

Just heard from the Swan that Stettinius has gone to London to discuss armistice terms with Germany. Sounds like a first class canard, but I'll be close here so that I can pop round and get a paper.

I don't expect a reply to this knowing your aversion to writing letters, but if you do get to London, give my love to my wife.

See you in El Vino's some time.

All the best,
[Signature illegible]

All on the same page:


Dear Bill -

Everything in Moscow is different now... This sign was on a table at the Moscow (Moskva) Restaurant. I have forgiven you for all except telling Tina about "the second galosh." That story seems to have gotten under her skin. Thanks for the intent, anyhow.

Jim Fleming has helped to make up for the loss of WRD. The ballerinas still come around but they seem to hanker for the Russian-speaking boys.

I've been hoping to get home this summer but so far have not heard about a replacement. Eddie [Gilmore], Tamara [Gilmore], [Harrison] Salisbury, [Harold] King, [Bill] Lawrence, the bearer of these messages, and myself are ensconced at a nice table. Until midnight they played Russian piecesafter that there's JAZZBINGO-BOOM. It only costs about 600 rubles each.

See you -

Watch your step, Buddy. I'm now nearly the oldest inhabitant, but she tells me it's still all right. Give my love to Fleet Street, but for Christ's sake lay off the lurid details.

See you,
Harold King

Look, pal, give Betsy my best, and don't sit up all night talking with her. And tell her for X sake write me. I'm isolated.

- Best now,
HES (Harrison Salisbury)


Please give my love impartially for Helen, Betty Knox, and Sandy. I miss them allbut perhaps not for long. Also my thanks for not sending that watch.

- Bill Lawrence

May I inject a commercial noteI delivered your stuff to Kelly and she was very delightful. You see by this here card that we're very busy. I don't know yet why, but I'm catching (?). We'll soon see. Somehow this doesn't seem to make much sense but I'm trying to translate the remarks of a Russian captain to our guests. Nuts, I'm signing off.

Love to all,
Eddy Gilmore

At the bottom:
Привет из Москвы. Надеюсь на скорую встречу. 
Тамара Гилмор 
Greetings from Moscow. Hope to see you soon. 
Tamara Gilmore