December 29, 2014

1942-1943. Allies Make Gains in North Africa as Soviets Await Second Front

The North African Campaign and the Western Front
"Churchill Mk III tanks of 'King Force' moving forward towards the battle area during the Second Battle of El Alamein," November 5, 1942 (source)
Bill Downs delivered these reports from London in 1942 and Moscow in 1943. He discusses the Allies' strategic goals in the wake of several big victories in North Africa. The Soviets continued to press the Western Allies to reopen the Western Front.

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 London

October 11, 1942

There is little fresh news in London today. Britain's morning newspapers, after reporting the Battle of Stalingrad for the past six weeks, seem to have run out of superlatives to praise the Russian stand. Stalingrad is still the best story of the day in British newspapers. The American Flying Fortresses have given the air experts something to think about—particularly those who said Europe could not be bombed in daylight. British aviation writers have not yet analyzed the reasons behind the success of the American planes that bagged 105 German planes Friday, but their comments should be interesting when they get it figured out.

The leading military experts who hold forth in the Sunday morning papers also found little on which to comment. Some of them took up the old cry for the appointment of a supreme commander of the United Nations forces. This move was intensely discussed in the press about six weeks ago but nothing came of it. Now the Sunday Observer's strategist who writes under the name "Liberator" said the time has come to appoint a Supreme Command including the United States, Russia, China, and Great Britain to "agree on joint grand strategy for global war." The Sunday Express military writer, J. L. Garvin, takes a similar stand, saying that time has become an enemy of the United Nations. He says that Britain and the United States have not yet even come into agreement over the question of what American supplies are supposed to go where—let alone grand strategy. He added that Anglo-American liaison with Russia on strategy was even more widely separated.

In a discussion I had yesterday with high Russian officials over this same question of grand strategy, they agreed that there was a need for closer cooperation between the high commands of the United Nations—particularly Russia.

"Everybody knows that," the Russians said. "But the question of a supreme commander and global warfare and all the rest of those high sounding phrases does not interest Russia. The only thing we are interested in is a second front while there is still time for it to do some good. We don't care who directs it. The important thing is to get it started—and now." That presumably is the official Russian attitude toward the problem of the supreme command which Britain and America have been discussing for the past month.

But I believe the ordinary British Tommy has given the best reason for establishment of a second front in Europe—a better reason than all the armchair strategists put together. A former British newspaperman who is in town on leave told my British friend's story last night. He's now in the tank corps.

"The way our boys in the tank corps figure it out," he said, "we figure that it takes six months to get to India to fight there, four months to get to Syria, and probably three months to get to Egypt to join British forces in those countries. Consequently, there's no home leave. So we figure, why go so far to fight when there's Germans just across the channel? Then we'll be able to lick Hitler, and whether it takes a year or ten years we'll still be able to get home leave maybe once every six months.
Bill Downs

CBS London

October 13, 1942

President Roosevelt's fireside chat made good reading over British breakfast tables this morning. It wasn't because he promised that the United Nations have new offensives in the making. The British have been told that many times before—perhaps too many times.

But the people of Britain like the tone of Mr. Roosevelt's speech. They like what it implied more than what the speech actually said. On the eve of what promises to be one of the bloodiest winters in the history of this greatest of all wars, President Roosevelt's confidence in what he saw during his tour of the United States reacts on this country like a tonic. The British welcome a change from the dire warnings of "blood, toil sweat, and tears."

Mr. Roosevelt told the American people to expect more hardships—hardships which the British have been enduring for many months. Tommy Atkinses know what the President is talking about when he says women will have to be put in munitions factories, that jobs and wages and prices will have to be strictly controlled, that youngsters of 18 or 20 will be liable for military service. They have been and are going through exactly that right now.

The porter at my apartment house, who is the building's chief fire warden, put the British reaction to Mr. Roosevelt's speech better than I can. The porter, who wears a brace of ribbons from the last war, grinned when he saw me this morning. "Blimey," he said, "I guess you Yanks really are in this war from the bottom up, aren't you?"

There is increasing evidence that the Axis is worried about what America and Britain are planning for the Western Front. The BBC early this morning broadcast a warning to the French people from the British High Command. The warning told Frenchmen that now "as never before" it is important for them to be prepared for Allied air, sea, and land activity. The warning again emphasized that Frenchmen were to keep away from areas where German headquarters and barracks are located. They also were told to keep away from railway centers, repair yards, and from the defended coastal zone.

The Nazi controlled Paris radio again revived reports of imminent Allied action in North Africa. The Paris radio spokesman demanded that the Vichy government take some steps to defend Dakar. The Axis commentator claimed that American contingents are arriving daily on the Gold Coast in Liberia and in the Belgian Congo as well as South Africa.

Meanwhile, Goebbels issued a statement in Berlin saying that British forces will soon launch an offensive in Egypt, where strong Allied motorized columns are being held in readiness.

Allied military officials are quite satisfied to let the Axis propaganda machines go on guessing. There has been and will be no comment or confirmation of what Goebbels and company claim is going on, at least not until that time is ripe.
"Gurkhas advance through a smokescreen up a steep slope in Tunisia," March 16, 1943 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow
January 22, 1943

The Red Army is rolling up the Southern and Trans-Caucasian fronts like a rug. Tonight's special communiqué announcing the capture of Salsk across the Manych Canal represents a twenty mile advance in one day. (And this advance was made over the ravined, swamped steppe land which bogs the Manych River valley.)

The Soviet command now has two choices. It can wheel its forces to the northwest and attack up the Manych Valley railroad one hundred miles to Rostov, or it can continue along the railroad southwest and join the Trans-Caucasian army fighting its way toward the Maykop oil fields. Undoubtedly this decision will be governed by the direction of the retreat of the main body of German troops. Where they go, you can be certain the Red Army will be on their heels.

(It may develop that, from Salsk, the Soviet command will decide to advance both west and south.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow
January 23, 1943

(The one man in all of Russia who I think is more worried about the recent string of Red Army successes than anyone else is) the (wine) waiter at my hotel here in Moscow(. He) was overjoyed when the German troops at Stalingrad were cut off—then came Kotelnikovo, Velikiye-Luki, Millerovo, and Leningrad. (With each successive victory his face got longer and longer).

I told him about the imminent fall of Tripoli this morning, and he only shook his head. Then I asked him was wrong. ("It's the vodka,") he said. ("We have soldiers and sailors and) airmen who are on leave who like to celebrate these victories. (The trouble is that the Red Army is winning victories faster than my vodka comes in. And now you Americans and British have to start. I tell you if it keeps up at this rate, vodka will be kaput.")

(However, my worried wine waiter isn't half as worried about the Allied winter successes as the German high command must be.) The Russian press is devoting most of its foreign page to the North African campaign. A break in the lull in North Africa and a substantial advance against the Germans will be greeted here with the same enthusiasm as with a major Russian victory. People with whom I have talked have been puzzled why the United States Army, Russia's most powerful ally, has been virtually stopped before Tunis.

They are watching the developments in North Africa with interest, and with hope.

On the Russian front, two sectors make the news this morning. Soviet forces have reached a point less than twenty miles from Voroshilovgrad, the industrial and railroad center of eastern Ukraine. The city already has been partially flanked from the north along the northern bank of the Donets. Voroshilovgrad's railroad communications to the east have already been cut. And in connection with this fighting on the southwestern front, a major military mystery has developed. For the past several days there has been no mention of the Red Army column which crossed the Donets southward along the Millerovo-Likhayas railroad and took Kamensk. But whatever has been the disposition of this mystery column, it would appear that the Battle of Voroshilovgrad is imminent.

On the southern front, the Red Army is still advancing. The capture of Salsk announced last night allows the Soviet command to fuse three columns which have been rolling up Hitler's abortive drive for Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The Russian column from Katolenikovo and the column which drove westward from Elista and the Northern Caucasus forces soon will form a solid front stretching southward from the Manych River to the Rostov-Baku railroad. The combined striking power will be tremendous when this fusion is complete.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 1, 1943

The Russians don't celebrate any sort of April Fool's Day. I tried to explain this particular bit of American wackiness to one sober citizen of the Soviet Union today. She replied "Yes, but who can you find in the world these days that's fooling?"

She had me there.

This morning's communiqué gives no further details of the renewed Red Army drive in the Kuban, which yesterday resulted in the capture of an important junction of German resistance on the lower reaches of the Kuban River. The communiqué mentioned only local fighting in the Smolensk region, along the Donets River and west of Rostov.

The newspaper Izvestia, the Soviet Union's official government publication, printed lengthy analyses of the North African campaign. They are the first analytic articles published about the Allied campaign (in Tunisia) giving a Russian view of what's happening down there.

The Izvestia military writer praised the simultaneous movements of the American, British, and French forces which, he said, should soon have Rommel in serious trouble. Then Izvestia said "Rommel knows how to retreat and retreat fast—but from Tunisia there is no place to retreat. Perhaps Rommel will try to evacuate across to Sicily. However Allied aircraft and the Allied navies dominate the sea and the air. It is only slightly possible that Rommel could carry out such an evacuation successfully and according to plan."

Then both the Red Star and Izvestia pointed out "These movements of the American, French, and British forces will smash Rommel's plans and accelerate the development of events."

In the Russian view there is only one event that needs developing. That, as you know, is the second front. As the Soviet Union sees the situation, Hitler is now all stooped facing eastward over collecting men and materiel for further attacks on Russia. The Russians think this is a good time to give him a hard boot in the rear that will throw him flat on his face.

With all the publicity the North African campaign is getting here in Russia, it is not hard to connect those second front hopes with the Allied successes in Tunisia. That's why the Soviet Union is so interested in the fighting in North Africa.

An echo of the unprecedented Nazi chaining of the Canadians captured at Dieppe last year turned up today under the melting snows of the Leningrad front. Red Army men of one artillery unit near Volkhov found the body of a Russian soldier who had been tortured to death. His hands were chained behind him. Several other bodies of tortured men are now being revealed as the snow melts.

This spring in Russia is not going to be a joyous season of birds and bees and flowers. It is going to be a season of bodies, burials, and bereavement.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 26, 1943

There were no developments of any importance anywhere along the twelve-hundred mile Russian front last night. The Germans tried another attack at the Balakeysa river crossing but were repulsed after losing 100 men. On the other sectors of the front there were only local scouting operations and minor artillery duels.

This morning's Pravda prints a hands-across-the-seas editorial which represents a new high in Soviet optimism and praise for the American-Russian-British alliance against the Axis. (The editorial is the first Russian newspaper comment on the new slogans chosen for the May 1st celebration).

Pravda says "the unity of the anti-Hitlerian coalition is strengthening. As a result of the resistance of the Soviet people and the big defeats inflicted on the German-Fascist troops, our allies had time for the mobilization of their reserves. They were able to accumulate forces and prepare their troops for telling blows on the enemy."

The statement is the first explanation printed in the Soviet press rationalizing the position of Britain and America during the strained periods when Germany was pushing the Red Army eastward, and later when the Red Army advanced this winter and the pressure for a second front was revived...
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow
May 13, 1943

The American and British and French troops in North Africa don't know it, but their heroism and sacrifices and courage have achieved something here in Russia that a thousand diplomats and a million words could never have done.

This victory in Tunisia is being heralded on the Soviet press and radio with all the fanfare and praise which usually is reserved for the heroes of the Red Army.

The United States doughboys who took Bizerts are not only soldiers, they are diplomats in arms. And today these doughboys and their comrades have won a hundred and eighty million friends in the Soviet Union—friends who are ready to lay down their lives here on the Eastern Front with the same willingness that the men of America and Britain and France gave theirs in the long fight along the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The Allied victory in Tunisia concludes the first phase of the first combined operation between Russia and Britain and America. You remember it started last November when the British Eighth Army broke the Alamein line. Then the American troops landed in Africa. And then the Red Army started its winter offensive, beginning with the victory of Stalingrad and the march eastward to the Donets.

All these achievements came within two weeks of each other. It's a thing to remember when we consider the impending battles this summer. Perhaps it will be May, or June, or July that will go down in history as the key month in the second phase of the United Nations' strategy.

That's a question that must be worrying Hitler and Mussolini right now. At any rate, it's the question which is the subject of almost every discussion here in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the Russian people are keeping one eye on their own front as they celebrate the victories of their Allies. The Red Army is still gnawing away at the German defenses in the Kuban—the Soviet Air Force is delivering its bombs with the regularity of enthusiastic milkmen.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow
May 13, 1943

American prestige in Russia has never been higher than it is tonight. The complete and utter defeat of the Germans and Italians in North Africa has boosted Allied stock sky-high. The American and British and French troops have achieved a victory big enough for all the United Nations to share—and Soviet Russia definitely is having some.

I talked to a number of Russians today to get their reactions to the great victory in Tunisia. The reactions are virtually all the same—the Russians say "It's a great victory for us," and they emphasize "us."

The waiter at my hotel here in Moscow said he was not surprised by the victory. "We in the kitchen," he said, "knew all the time that you Americans and British would win. We are now calculating for next move on the continent. (Most of us think it will be through Italy or the Balkans.")

(And then I ran into a friend of mine who is a captain in the Red Army. He congratulated me on the Allied victory and then said: "You know, I am a little disappointed. At Stalingrad we only took 93,000 prisoners out of 330,000. Already you fellows have captured over 150,000 of them. It's too bad you couldn't have killed a few more.)

(That's the natural reaction to all men in the army who have fought through one ruined city and village after another that had been held by the Germans.)

There is no longer a question about a second front. People here don't even ask about it any longer. The attitude now is that the second front is something for Hitler to worry about. From now on the Russian people are going to be too busy fighting their own war on this front to do much worrying. They also hope that in the meantime the Allied troops will give them more opportunities to cheer the America, British, and French troops.

This Allied victory in North Africa is the second big setback that the Axis forces have suffered since Hitler came to power. The first was Stalingrad.

No one over here is taking the time or trouble to argue whether Stalingrad is a bigger victory than Tunisia or vice versa.

From the number of casualties inflicted, Stalingrad undoubtedly was a much bloodier battle. But from the standpoint of overall strategy, the North African victory probably is a greater achievement.

It is a cheering sign that there are no such foolish arguments or discussions going on in Moscow tonight such as those which arose in America after the last war—you know the old argument that "we won the war for the Allies."

Russians simply don't think that way. After what the Soviet Union has suffered, the people of Russia don't care to waste time talking about who won what. It has become pretty clear over here that unless everyone puts every ounce of fight and energy into this war, no one is going to be able to talk about winning anything for a long, long time.

1941. American RAF Pilots Follow the World Series

Dodgers Are Backed Heavily By R.A.F.
Source: "Tommy Henrich, right, crosses the plate after hitting a homer in the 1941 World Series. He is congratulated by Joe DiMaggio." Associated Press.

Dodgers Are Backed Heavily By R.A.F.

United Press Staff Correspondent
London, Oct. 1. — The boys who play for keeps over here like the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Out at the American Eagle squadron of the Royal Air Force there is plenty of Brooklyn money floating around—so much that on this side of the Atlantic the Yankees are only 4 to 3 favorites to win the World Series.

On other airdromes scattered throughout Britain, where members of the Royal Canadian Air Force operate, "the Bums" are being backed heavily with pounds, shillings and even pence by pilots and mechanics alike.

The most popular officers these days are the communications men, because it will be up to them, come 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, to pull in from across the seas the play-by-play account from Yankee Stadium.

That will give the boys who will have daylight patrols over the continent time to get back and swing their thoughts across the ocean to the Bronx across the banks of the Gowanus.

And there probably will be many an American, Canadian or Australian flyer winging over Germany Wednesday night wishing that the tiny radio in his bomber could pick up America.

This was one year in Britain when Americans here could get the good—or the bad—news from the baseball front, and even many Englishmen have become ardent diamond fans as a result.

Frank Owen, editor of the Evening Standard, was responsible—but only by accident. One night, when his meager war-time sports page needed some "filler" copy, someone on the copy desk put in the baseball scores.

And after that, members of the American colony saw to it that the scores were carried daily. Later, two afternoon newspapers followed suit.

Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak once drew a whole paragraph of English prose—almost as much as a Joe Louis fight gets in these days of scarce newsprint. When the Yanks clinched the pennant, the Dodgers won last week—well, that was worth two paragraphs!

Now there's a campaign afoot to convince Mr. Owen to carry football scores.

1958. The Failure to Promote Democracy Abroad

Bill Downs Angers the Faultless Starch Company

In 1958 Bill Downs delivered an analysis of the Cold War in which he used the failure of the Faultless Starch Company as an analogy for the promotion of democracy and Western values abroad. As it turns out, there was a different Kansas City-based Faultless Starch Company established in 1887 that was not at all pleased with the broadcast.
Bill Downs
CBS News Radio Analysis

March 7, 1958

This is Bill Downs substituting for Eric Sevareid.

Back in the teenage years of this century, there was a household product on the market known far and wide to virtually every American housewife -- at least in the Midwest.

It was called Faultless Starch. In fact, there just wasn't any other laundry starch to match it then. And so, the story goes, the Faultless Company directors asked themselves: "We're so well-known. Why spend all that money on promotion and advertising?" So they stopped advertising and promoting.

What happened? The company failed. There's no Faultless Starch on the market today.

It's oversimplification -- but it could be that the same thing is happening to the West during these days of world struggle between communism and democracy.

The British say, "Everyone knows about our Magna Carta and the world's greatest constitutional monarchy." The French add, "Who is ignorant of the fact that our government was fathered by philosophers like Montaigne and Voltaire and gives man his greatest opportunity for individualism in history?" America declares, "Who hasn't heard about our great Revolution; our Constitution and Bill of Rights which makes us the greatest industrial democracy on earth?"

The West, it appears, says the rest of the world. "Look, we are the paragons of freedom and humanity. Go and do likewise. We are civilization's oldest established firm."

But now a brash new international competitor has appeared on the scene and is fighting in the world market of mankind with determination and skill. The Soviet Union ignores the old established firms selling there traditions. Russia has her own products to peddle.

The Russians ignore their own police state, but promise the Arabs and other have-not peoples that they too can become powerful by joining the communist camp. They threaten the West with their intercontinental nuclear missiles, but tell the Indians they support Asian neutralism because Moscow, too, is peace-loving.

And now, with admirable audacity, the Kremlin has invaded the American political market with a top-notch diplomatic salesman in their new ambassador, Smiling Mike Manshikov. The ambassador is backed up by a whirlwind communist direct-mail advertising campaign from Premier Bulganin, who has written four letters to the White House in the last twelve weeks, not counting the aide memoirs.

The Kremlin is pitching a communist magic, presto, gee-whiz, diplomatic gimmick for world peace. Have a Summit Conference, says the Kremlin, all will be well.

America and the West have some very good reasons for opposing a precipitous, out-of-hand international top-level meeting with the Russians, the principle reason being that if the East and the West deadlocked at a Summit Conference and broke off in anger, then the chances of nuclear war might be infinitely greater than they are now.

However we seem to have trouble explaining this, even to some of our Allies. We appear to the world as negative, obstinate, and stubborn; careless with the troubled peace.

We are not selling our own product aggressively -- democracy, freedom, and human dignity.

Which gets us back to Faultless Starch. Whatever became of that product, anyway?

This is Bill Downs in Washington.

Faultless Starch promptly contacted CBS and demanded a retraction. They proposed their own script:
March 12, 1958

Mr. Bill Downs
Broadcast House, CBS
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Downs:

As we told you over the phone yesterday, we felt your suggested retraction of the death of Faultless Starch was a bit too self-serving. A mistake is a mistake and when it reaches such stature as this, we believe it only honest to say so.

Studying your style somewhat, we have written a commentary on Faultless Starch related to your theme of last Friday. If there is to be a a major change of this, we wish you would advise us before you go on the air.

We are unanimous here in that we do not want to stir this fire any more. A statement of correction is due, but any prolongation or emphasis on the death of Faultless Starch, in our opinion, adds to the damage already done.

The broadcast this Friday may or may not aid in reviving this "dead" company, but it does not even begin to repair the damage already done, and the damage which will continue by word of mouth.


Bruce B. Brewer


A week ago tonight we talked about America's weakness in selling the world the greatest advantages of democracy, freedom, and human dignity. There are thousands of examples of American companies which have failed to advertise and promote their products, and are now extinct. Unfortunately, we chose, and cited as an example, one of America's most vigorous companies.

Our apologies to you, Faultless, and let's see why Faultless Starch Company is a perfect example of what America should do in selling itself to the world. Faultless Starch now has approximately 20% of laundry starch sales in America. It wasn't so long ago that this figure was only 10%. In some areas it has 50%, 60%, and 70% of all starch volume.

Why is this true? Well, Faultless Starch is a wonderful product but that isn't enough. The big point is that Faultless, year after year, has been investing more and more in advertising, salesmanship, and promotion. In 1957, it had its biggest ad appropriation and sold more than 50 million -- yes 50 million -- packages of Faultless laundry Starch. The 1958 ad appropriation is larger than in 1957.

So there you have in Faultless Starch Company an excellent example of aggressiveness, good management, and growth -- an example our nation should follow in selling its virtues to the world...

Downs' broadcast the following week addressed the matter:
Bill Downs
CBS News Radio Analysis

March 14, 1958

This is Bill Downs substituting for Eric Sevareid.

A week ago tonight this correspondent suggested that if America, Britain, and France did not stop assuming that the rest of the world understands our preoccupation with peace and freedom, and again start selling our ideals of democracy and human dignity in the international marketplace, then the West might suffer the fate of a laundry starch popular with American housewives during the early years of this century.

As an example of what happens to a product when its owners stop promoting it, we cited a case remembered from a college advertising course which seemed to prove the point that, when the self-satisfied company junked its advertising and promotion programs, the firm ceased to exist. Records show that the Faultless Starch Company of Guilford, North Carolina, went out of business shortly after World War One.

This is what we had in mind. Then, much to our surprise and embarrassment, we learned that there is another and very much alive Faultless Starch Company in Kansas City, Missouri, and they and their product, Faultless Starch, has been serving American housewives for the past seventy-one years. President Gordon Beaham, Jr., is the third generation of the family to head the Faultless Starch Company, and is proud of it.

So permit us to set the record straight. We were not comparing the present reluctant international policy of the West with Mr. Beaham's aggressive and successful Faultless Starch Company in Kansas City.

In fact, if the United States and its Allies were as successful in selling a good product as the Beaham firm has been in capturing twenty percent of the laundry starch market, then we would have nothing to complain about.

But the fact remains that the Kremlin is proving that foreign affairs are, to a large extent, being conducted over the radio, television, and through the press in these days of rapid communication. The series of Summit Conference letters emanating from the Kremlin constitutes, in one sense, the same kind of direct mail advertising that goes into mail boxes all over America. The Kremlin has hammered on its one point -- Summit Conference, Summit Conference, Summit Conference -- to a point that even Americans are beginning to ask, "Why not?"

And Americans, who have perfected the job of sales persuasion, find themselves and what they stand for on the defensive. Secretary of State Dulles twice has admitted openly that the Russians are articulating a bad policy better than we are articulating a good policy.

It would appear that what a Kansas City firm can do for Faultless Starch, a government can do for democracy and freedom. In the ideological competition of international Communism, the West cannot take for granted it has the support and goodwill of everybody and his brother who does not happen to be Communist.

We have to fight in the marketplace for the minds of men, the same way the starch makers have been doing for the custom and approval of the American housewives who do the ironing.

Otherwise, people truly will be asking some day in the future, "Whatever became of the know, the U.S. of A.?"

This is Bill Downs in New York.

1945. The Murrow Boys Play High-Stakes Poker

The Murrow Boys Just After the War
Some of the Murrow boys in 1956. From the left: Bill Downs, Daniel Schorr, Eric Sevareid, Richard C. Hottelet, Edward R. Murrow, Bob Pierpoint, David Schoenbrun, Howard K. Smith, and Alex Kendrick.
December 18, 1945
Dear Roz,

Here I am still in NY and wondering with everyone else whether the 20th floor is going to run with the ball, punt, or just throw in the towel (to mix a sports metaphor). No one has been assigned anywhere except Larry, who I believe is an old friend of yours. What gives between you and Handsome Larry anyway? But to make a long story longer, Murrow has been conferring like mad with the gods. White is in the dark as much as any of us. And I'm trying to get up enough nerve to make out a six months expense account. I just don't like to perjure myself, but will have to if I'm to come out even on this thing.

Went to see "Dream Girl" the other night...wonderful play. It's taken from an idea by James Thurber in his wonderful story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." If you haven't read it, get it at once in any of the Thurber collections.

Glad to see that you have the SF office under control, if only for the moving of furniture. Never can tell when that might come in handy. Christ, if this keeps up we might all be furniture movers before long...


Incidentally, the biggest news to hit this office in some time is the fact that I have gone on the wagon. No kidding...White and Peg too. We have a $50 bet apiece that we don't fall off until Christmas Eve. And chum do I need someone to bolster morale. Trouble is that there is little else to do in this town...all social and business deals call for a drink.

Other big news was made in Collingwood's suite at the Waldorf where we promoted a news staff poker game. Charlie, Ed Murrow, White, Hottelet, LeSueur, and myself all tore at each other's bank accounts. Sorry to say that White came off best to the tune of about $1600. I and Charlie dropped about $300 each, Larry about $500, Murrow also $300. Twas tragic, but I'm recovering and still ahead from my Pacific gambling. Also I have that expense account coming up.

Wish we could be together for Christmas. Don't exactly know what I'll be doing. Murrow suggested Atlantic City or something up in Connecticut. But it probably will be one of those house to house affairs around the city.


Merry Christmas and take care of yourself.



December 22, 2014

1971. Edward R. Murrow's Legacy

Fred Friendly on Edward R. Murrow's Legacy
Fred Friendly (left) and Edward R. Murrow (source)
April 16, 1971
Prepared for delivery at the dedication of the Edward R. Murrow Memorial Room at Tufts University
If you never heard Ed Murrow tell his grape nut story, you missed something. The last time I heard him tell it—with much gusto—was on the occasion of his farewell to CBS newsrooms and affiliate stations. It was my role to introduce him, and Ed thought my remarks suffered—shall we say—from lack of understatement. His response, which still exists on quarter-inch tape, invokes his favorite anecdote about his days as a whistle-punk on Puget Sound:
"That introduction reminded me of a time about 30 years ago when I was working in the woods in Western Washington, and at the end of a long pack trip—and it had rained for four days and four nights—an elderly timber cruiser and myself lay down beside a stream, dug into my pack—the only thing that was left were 2 little package samples of grape nuts, no coffee, no bacon—nothing. As we lay down in the cool night, taking a handful of water from the stream and a handful of grape nuts, the grape nuts tasted like sand. And at the end of about 5 minutes the elderly gentleman rolled over on his side and said to me, 'You know, Ed, I think these here grape nuts has been over-advertised.' I think Fred had just over-advertised me."
"He was a shooting star," wrote Eric Sevareid six years ago this April 27. "We shall live in his afterglow for a very long time." Six years is not a very long time, but we still live and work in that Murrow glow which grows ever more brilliant. That brightness prompts a reassessment from "shooting star" to Polaris, the true North Star by which ancient mariners and modern space voyagers set and correct their course. Today in broadcast journalism it is still the Murrow bearing against which the profession measures itself and occasionally corrects its course.

Often people ask, "What would Murrow have thought about Vietnam now? What would he have to say about Vice President Agnew, about subpoenas of reporters' notebooks, about the Calley trial?" One of Murrow's favorite quotations was Maimonides' "Teach thy tongue to say I do not know." Anyone who would try to put words in Ed's mouth, even Ed's own in a new context, would offend that part of Murrow's conscience which abides in each of us.

In addition to what he caused to come out of the microphone and out of the tube during the Battle of Britain and the Battle of McCarthyism, the legacy of Ed Murrow is what he said and wrote about his profession and its responsibilities. But his most enduring bequest is perhaps the degree to which those he taught and inspired would raise their own voices in their time.

The scripture according to Brother Ed for today is from an unreported 1961 speech that turned out to be his last as a journalist. It was just before President Kennedy appointed him to the post of Director of the USIA. He talked about a dream that he and his teacher, Ed Klauber, had for an Information Institute which would raise the level of media performance and understanding. He listed all the deadly assaults on the press, "including all efforts or factors tending to hamper or limit the purveying of information to the American people, whether legislative, regulatory, or economic...efforts at censorship or suppression by individuals or organized groups." Lest any laissez-faire trade associations attempt to translate that caution into an argument for perpetual, unmonitored license, be reminded that in that same address Murrow recommended that any radio and television station which "welches on its promise" of lofty public service should be penalized by loss of license "like any other purveyor of shoddy goods," as he so indelicately put it.

What Murrow was asking for was more journalism, not less, more documentaries, more news analysis, even if it made the corporation or the body-politic itch, as he liked to paraphrase Heywood Broun. In 1971, the profession and traditions he pioneered again find themselves under siege, this time not just from shrill senators, not just from special interest lobbies, but from the executive branch of government itself.

I am aware that there are those, some right here in this hall, who will challenge that assumption. The President of the United States, they will contend, believes in a free press and never criticizes the news media. They would perhaps point to his March 22nd conversation with Howard Smith in which the Chief Executive said,
"I am not complaining about my treatment from the press...I have never taken on a member of the press individually. I have never called a publisher since I have been President. I have never called an editor to complain about anything, and I never shall..."
Now that's a noble statement. The trouble with accepting it at face value is that it ignores what the President's chief officers were practicing at that precise time.

Indeed, a documentary on the subject might well juxtapose Mr. Nixon's remarks with those of his subordinates. In that same week:

a) Vice President Agnew was denouncing CBS News for the documentary "The Selling of the Pentagon" and the news media generally for a wide variety of "masochistic" sins, including "the movement to plead America guilty...on the war in Indochina, military surveillance of civilians, J. Edgar Hoover's leadership of the FBI, supersonic transport development, and the economy."

b) Herbert Klein, the President's Director of Communications, was telling the National Association of Broadcasters' Convention that the White House believed in strong local stations. Just in case the meaning of this shorthand was obscure, Mr. Klein was reported to have told a CBS station owner, "You fellows do an excellent news job. Why do you rely on CBS News?"

c) Three days after the President's remarks about not complaining to broadcasters, Ronald Ziegler, the White House Press Secretary, was asking, on official stationary, a station manager to outline for him "in the most specific terms what you consider to be the Nixon Administration's 'embarrassing failures at home and in Indochina.'" Instances of other letters to other news organizations are becoming quite frequent, as are personal calls from the President himself to correspondents and producers responsible for broadcasts favorable to the Administration. Can there be any doubt of the number effect on a license holder when critical analysis elicits a disturbed note from the President's Press Officer, while a favorable treatment prompts a personal phone call from the Man in the Oval Office?

d) Shortly after the President's vow of press abstinence, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development George Romney charged the news media with dominating American channels of communication with "all the negatives that can be exploited in this country." He said the President was not getting a "fair break" from a media which makes its judgments "on the basis of style, on appearances...on the manner in which things are done." Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird continued to charge CBS News with lack of professionalism in "The Selling of the Pentagon."

e) A White House Press Officer arranged for Al Capp to speak to the NAB Convention on the subject of "Youth and Drugs," but when the cartoonist-philosopher rose to speak it was with the news media, and Tom Wicker in particular, who got what Li'l Abner used to give Earthquake McGoon.

Of course, other Chief Executives have had their tiffs with the press. An offended Harry Truman went after the music critic of the Washington Post who had been critical of his daughter; a petulant John Kennedy banned the Herald Tribune and lived to regret his pique, as did Richard Nixon whose fatigue and defeat prompted his 1962 attack on the Los Angeles Times. And there was always the hot hand of Lyndon Johnson on the telephone after the seven o'clock news. But these outbursts were isolated and usually made against the consent of their staffs and families.

What the executive branch of government, led by the second-highest office holder in the land, seems to be systematically attempting to do, with malice aforethought, is to sow seeds of serious doubt about the news media. When Walter Cronkite does sixty hours on space he is a national hero. When CBS does five minutes on a setback in Laos or an hour on the defense establishment, Cronkite and Frank Stanton are attacked. The distrust that the executive branch of government is spreading applies not just to the news media, but to a crucial American freedom. The fallout from the distrust can be as damaging as if the Chief Executive tried to circumvent due process of civil law or military justice.

During and after the campaign of 1968, the credibility of our courts, particularly the Supreme Court, was fair game. Few journalists viewed this trend as anything but another good news story. Now that broadcast journalism is being vilified with half and quarter-truths, the printed press, with few exceptions, has been watching from a false sanctuary of self-righteous neutrality. Even the chilling language of the special House Subcommittee on Investigations demanding "all work prints, out-takes, sound tape recordings, written scripts...a statement of all disbursements of money made by CBS" in the making of "The Selling of the Pentagon" has caused a little outcry from sympathetic senators, representatives, or even outraged citizens who are so sensitive to other forms of pollution. They don't seem to realize that the poisoning of the atmosphere surrounding news reporting may cause a spring as silent and as frightening as Rachel Carson's.

Congressmen have no business in film editing rooms or newsrooms, and if they once begin making judgment on what a documentary left in or out, then it is only a matter of time before they subpoena C.L. Sulzberger's notes on his recent conversation with President Nixon, or the transcript of what President Eisenhower, in a 1961 interview, said about the U-2 incident, or what General Earle Wheeler, in a 1964 conversation, said about Vietnam troop movements, later edited out by me. In both cases, my news judgment may have been faulty, but that was hardly a Congressional Committee's business. In this instance, if Frank Stanton or Richard Salant do not comply with the subpoena of their files, they may well be judged in contempt of Congress, albeit a misguided Congress. But if they yield, and there is no reason to believe they will, they would be in contempt of their own consciences. Stanton and Salant need the support of all who believe that the First Amendment means what it says and what Murrow's life said broadcast journalism could mean. In the days immediately following the Murrow-McCarthy broadcast, we received almost 100,000 telegrams and letters. I consider that this crisis of the subpoenas is no less grave, and I ask what your broadcast friends cannot—a telegram of concern to your congressman or senator. It just might do some good.

"Those who stand idly by"—whether in New York or Medford or Des Moines—together with those at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue who would weaken what Carlyle called the fourth bench of government can't or won't understand that in our kind of interdependent society, that which threatens one estate weakens all.

To his credit, President Nixon said on ABC, "If I fail to communicate, it is my fault." With all its power to communicate, can the government be so insecure about its policies that it must jam the system of searchlights and beacons that are the very safeguards of public opinion? As Walter Lippmann said 50 years ago, "Communications in a free society should make a picture of reality on which men can act." And as Murrow warned in that 1961 address:
"If a deceived or confused public is betrayed into creating or allowing to be created an America in which it loses its faith, democracy will not survive. Neither will it survive if the efforts to inform people, to enlighten them, to argue with them—finally convince them that the nation's problems are beyond their grasp. If the people finally...believe either that they cannot...cope with America's problems, or that those who inform, those who argue, and those who act are inept or malign or both, then distrust, dissatisfaction, fear and laziness can combine to turn them in desperation to that 'strong man' who can take them only to destruction."
It is not my intention to apply Murrow's law to the current attitude of the government alone. There is warning enough there for all of us.
"The more the pattern of information contrives to be confused, distorted, and manipulated, the more likely are these prophets to be right, because cynicism, distrust, and despair will be added to...the fears of the population."
Murrow understood that there were three sides to every controversy, believing with his friend, Walter Lippman, that even "when the editor is scrupulously fair to 'the other side,' fairness is not enough. There may be several other sides, unmentioned by any of the organized, financed, and active partisans." Murrow understood that journalists, like the decision-makers they report, are not infallible. He realized that in the high-pressure dynamics created by those swirling forces that make the news, and by those who must analyze it, some kind of safety valve is essential.

Being an innovator, Murrow provided a partial answer to that need in 1946, when he developed "CBS Views the Press," a thoughtful and critical analysis of New York newspapers brilliantly conducted by the late Don Hollenbeck. The success and the much lamented death of this series convinced Murrow that a continuing critique of all news media was not only possible, but mandatory. In a paper written for the Ford Foundation in the early sixties, he proposed that non-commercial television, the Fourth Network as he called what has since become Public Television, should become "the conscience of journalism...and the mature, discerning gadfly to all the mass media in this country..."

The opportunity to exercise that responsibility for public broadcasting is now, and the need has never been greater. With journalists under attack from all sides and rightfully unwilling to submit to the judgment of the Vice President or to permit Congressional Committees to pour through their out-takes and second guess their editing, some kind of voluntary forum is in order. Newspapers, magazines, and broadcast stations do make mistakes. Correction of these errors and analysis of their news judgment is not what they always do best. As one who has erred in such responsibility, let me state we owe the public an accounting, and what better place for this than on Public Television?

The place to begin is at the local or regional level, where the news media attempts to fill the crucial role of "creating that picture of reality on which men can act." Each Public Television station might experiment with a weekly seminar on the performance of the press in that community. With one of the first and most imaginative public stations in the country, Boston might be the first to try it. I'm proposing a kind of electric journalism review in the form of a one-hour forum where the participants in the news arena would get to "have at each other."
In this freewheeling but structured Boston Press Review, let anyone who feels his ox has been gored, or his quotes taken out of context, seek redress. When the Boston Globe does violence to the SDS or the administration at Harvard or the former city officials of Somerville, or WHDH-TV does an allegedly unfair documentary about Chelsea, or WGBH criticizes the phone company, let the grievance be vented on Boston Press Review. In the case of "The Selling of the Pentagon," they might invite Richard Salant of CBS News, and Dan Henkin, Assistant Secretary of Defense, to come to Boston for a frank discussion as we did at the Columbia School of Journalism.
I am told that some Boston bankers were upset last fall by an NET documentary "The Banks and the Poor." Instead of letting all the charges and counter-charges mount, the way to ventilate the controversy would be to invite producer Morton Silverstein to meet the Boston bankers. Louis Lyons, or that promising new media critic, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, could serve as moderator, and the Fletcher School, Nieman Fellows, and scholars from other institutions might provide valuable inputs. Of course there is no guarantee that it would work, and there might be all kind of disappointments before it jelled. But that might provide this community and eventually others like it with more than just another television show—it could be "the discerning gadfly" that the man we honor here today was seeking.

I have another suggestion that may be in the Murrow tradition. I do not mean to be simplistic in my approach to the problems the First Amendment raises, but there is a difference between newspapers and magazines and broadcast stations. Stations are licensed. By prior restraint, this prevents others from occupying that place on the dial because of the limitations on the electromagnetic spectrum, although in time cable television may provide access to additional news services. The broadcaster feels he is vulnerable to government pressure because of that license. Politicians on the receiving end of documentaries and news analysis feel they are vulnerable because of the power and pervasiveness of television. Truth and wisdom probably do not rest with either of those increasingly polarized positions.

This may well be the time for an independent study specifically on the freedom of broadcast journalism in a licensed industry. The government's implicit need to regulate licensees certainly does not include the regulation of news content. The broadcaster's responsibility to be independent does not give him immunity from accountability on "welching on his promises."

There ought to be a study on how those two responsibilities can be identified and separated. It is a project that license holders, set owners, foundations, journalism educators, and even the Vice President ought to be able to cooperate on.

The last few years of Ed's life were concerned with the United States Information Agency. It was always difficult for me to accept the fact that Ed had gone into the propaganda business until I realized that he really hadn't. He just went on telling the truth about America. At Murrow's confirmation hearing, the senior senator from Indiana lectured the Director-Designate: "Selling the U.S. to the world is like selling a car...or a television set. You don't advertise the weakness." Murrow disagreed. "You must tell the bad with the good...We cannot be effective in telling the American story abroad if we tell it only in superlatives...If the bad news is significant, it's going to be reported abroad anyway. We should report it accurately." He saw his new job as an opportunity "not to capture but to free men's minds." As he said, "It is very difficult to measure success in our business. No computer clicks, no cash register rings when a man changes his mind or opts for freedom."

This too was part of Murrow's legacy. "He revitalized the USIA," as Arthur Schlesinger wrote, "imbued it with his own bravery and honesty. Under Ed, The Voice of America became the voice no of American self-righteousness, but of American democracy. If Ed were here today he would probably quote his old lumberman friend from Puget Sound and say, "These grape nuts are over-advertised." But he would be wrong. That star grows ever brighter, as you are about to observe in a 17-year-old documentary resurrected from another time—or was it?

December 18, 2014

1943. The Soviet View of Japan

The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
"Soldiers unloading LCPR and LCM type landing craft on the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu, on 12 May 1943" (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

June 19, 1943

Red Army troops moved ahead on one sector of the front on the northern side of the Oryol bulge and occupied a strategic line. This is the second Russian advance in this sector in the past week. The Germans have thrown reserves into this sector northwest of Mtsensk, and the fighting has been especially bitter—reminiscent of the winter offensive. Another hundred Axis soldiers were killed in last night's fighting, marking a total of 2,100 wiped out in the past several days.

The northern end of the front up around Leningrad also is livening up. For the past week we have been getting brief reports of heavy artillery fire and skirmishes on the Karelian Isthmus and on the Volkhov Front. Air activity on the Leningrad Front itself also has been increased by both sides, and the Germans still sporadically lob big shells into the center of the city. On Friday large German forces attempted to raid the town of Volkhov, southeast of Leningrad. Twenty-four German planes were shot down. The Russian air force countered with two attacks on German airdromes in the Leningrad district, and good effects were seen among dispersed planes and among hangars and other installations.

Moreover, the Soviet high command defines these operations as local fighting. The communiqué this morning again says there were no essential changes on the front.

The first comprehensive review of the war in the Pacific to be published in the Soviet Union was printed yesterday in the magazine of international affairs called "The War and the Working Class."

This article is written by one of Russia's leading experts on the Far East, a Doctor of Historical Sciences called Zhukov. The tone of this article is extremely interesting, and its conclusions very significant for the United States.

Doctor Zhukov starts by saying (that some people have been impressed by the "temporary" achievements of Japanese imperialism. He goes on to say that these achievements, while extensive, do not bear the weight of close examination—Japan's early victories, according to this Soviet expert, are of "transient significance.")

(Today, Zhukov says,) the advantages which Japan gained by her perfidious blow have been liquidated, and "the offensive spirit of the Japanese has come to an end."

("In May, 1943, a serious reverse befell Japan," the Russian expert says. "In the Northern Pacific, American troops drove the Japanese out of Attu Island which, incidentally, the Japanese militarists prematurely gave a Japanese name.")

He goes on: "At the present time Japan is observing with increasing alarm the general tendency of the development of military events. Japan everywhere is passing to the defense."

Zhukov then attacks the Japanese theory of "the Great Eastern Asiatic Sphere of Prosperity." Japanese plans, he pointed out, have since the war clearly shown that Japanese imperialism is aimed at expanding this sphere to India, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, and other countries. "The most zealous Japanese militarists had in their plans also the capture of the Far Eastern territories of the Soviet Union."

The Soviet professor concludes with the statement that Japan not only has paid a heavy price for her earlier successes in the Pacific, "but also has increased the military vulnerability of Japan herself . . . The losses of the Japanese Navy and merchant fleet are incessantly growing and practically impossible to replace. More and more striking are becoming the permanent operations and constant factors which define the ultimate victory of the Anglo-American Allies. Japan has been forced to pay a dear price for the adventurist plans of the Japanese militarists who drew her into a hard and hopeless war against such powers as the United States and Great Britain."

This review of the war is not a statement of the Soviet government. However, published as it is in the official magazine of the Russian Trades Union Council, which is the only international publication in the Soviet Union, we cannot underestimate its importance.

(This article serves to emphasize the Soviet government's stand toward aggressors—no matter who they might be. It's a stand that undoubtedly will have its effect in future events.)

1965. The Space Age

Hope for the Future
Source: "U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter over the Gemini 3 space capsule flown by astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young after it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, 23 March 1965."

March 24, 1965


While the nation was cheering the successful recovery of astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young yesterday, the National Space Administration here in Washington announced the award of more than $2.5 million in space research grants to various colleges and universities across the country.

More than a million and a half dollars of this money is going into investigation and experimentation with what the interplanetary experts call "life support systems." That is, exploring ways of keeping future astronauts alive and operating on long-range probes into the unknown. This new scientific endeavor covers a multitude of things and is called "bioengineering."

The scientists want to know, for example, if it might be possible to establish some kind of greenhouse on some meteorite or space station to raise food for future explorers. Organic cosmo-chemistry, they call it.

And these far-out experts also are concerned about what weightlessness and cosmic rays will do to the shape and size of the future astronaut who might spend years on a space mission. They don't know whether man can live for long without some sort of gravity keeping his innards pulled into their proper place.

One of the main experiments performed in yesterday's Gemini flight was to fertilize the eggs of the sea urchin to see what the effects of weightlessness and controlled radiation has on these simple cell systems. Eventually these findings may be valuable in assessing the feasibility of possibly sending out colonies of men and women astronauts, maybe to continue our civilization on some other habitable planet in some universe.

Laughable? Maybe -- but our great grandfathers would have laughed too if told that continents could talk across oceans by bouncing radio signals against the sky; or that whole nations could erase tuberculosis and polio from their lands; that the horse and the mule would become technologically unemployed; or that man could transmit close-up electronic pictures of the moon -- live -- into millions of American living rooms, as many of us witnessed today.

The experience of our astronauts at Cape Kennedy and their pioneering cosmonaut contemporaries in Russia indicates that we must produce a new kind of man to match this newest and greatest challenge. In fact, the Gus Grissoms and John Youngs in the American space program are different from ordinary mortals when they enter their space capsules. They wear a second skin to guard against excessive G-forces. They breathe their own capsuled atmosphere inside their helmets; electronic contacts strapped on their skin measure their physical and sometimes their mental and emotional reactions to their flight. They are wired for sound, able to answer questions and radio their own instructions to listening posts around the world. Although they are the most isolated members of our society while in orbit -- at the same time, their myriad electronic connections with earth also make them the most public men of our time.

Now some scientists are talking privately of making up a pool of potential space explorers and training them from youth for adventures into the universe. Since we inoculate our young children to protect them from smallpox, and since we prescribe glasses to correct eye defects, these scientists say, "Why not insert a tiny radio transmitter unobtrusively under the skin to give constant reports to a parent or a doctor of a child's temperature, respiration, and even his brainwave reactions to stress, emotion, and other environmental influences?"

After all, people today are walking around with artificial valves in their hearts, with plastic veins in their legs -- and women, particularly, employ certain artificial aids to add or take a curve away here and there.

Personally, we don't care to have our own emotional responses transistorized, and our blood temperature and respiration remains our own business.

But we like our women shapely, no matter how they do it. We're looking forward to the first American lady astronaut. Cape Kennedy can take it from there.

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

December 17, 2014

2014. Richard C. Hottelet, 1917 - 2014

Richard C. Hottelet (1917 - 2014)

Richard C. Hottelet passed away this morning at age 97 at his home in Connecticut. He was a legendary journalist and the last surviving member of the Murrow Boys. Above is his seminal D-Day broadcast of his eyewitness account of H-Hour as he flew in a bomber over Utah Beach.

1943. Tragedy on the Steppe Front

The Steppe Front
Red Army scouts in the main control room of the Voronezh Power Plant in 1942 (source)
Parentheses indicate text did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons. Downs expanded on this account in his September 20 Newsweek article "Harvest of Death: Behind the Lines in Russia's Reconquered Villages."

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

CBS Moscow

September 4, 1943

I have just returned from the Steppe Front, southwest of Kharkov, where Red Army troops are fighting their way forward toward the Dnieper river line.

Last night at midnight, after the foreign correspondents were brought back to a staff headquarters near the front, a supply officer grinned at us and said, "Congratulations. The Allies have landed in Italy." Later at dinner, there were toasts to the success of this operation. The landings in Italy were not toasted as a second front—yet.

(After dinner, when we went to our billets, we told the good news to the orderly assigned to us. She was a buxom young girl named Katya. We said, "Katya, the Americans and British have landed in Italy.")

(Katya thought a minute and replied, "Is it a land front?" We assured her it was. Then she grinned and came back with a present of four bottles of water—mineral water, which is just about the most valuable thing in Ukraine today. The Germans are doing a thorough job of earth burning, blowing up public services and contaminating wells with dead bodies.)

(So with Katya we toasted the first operations of the Allies on the continent of Europe and to the day when the Red Army joins the Allied forces in Berlin.)

(The officers and men I talked to on the Kharkov sector yesterday and today are happy at the news. But they are anxiously awaiting developments to see how this new front in Europe will help their drive to the west.)

But this good news was preceded by a personal tragedy to the entire foreign press corps. The assistant chief of the foreign office press department, Mikhail Vasiev, and an officer representing the Red Army general staff, were killed. These three men have accompanied us to the front on several occasions.

We were flown to Voronezh Wednesday where eight American jeeps picked us up. We drove over supply roads toward Belgorod for five hours through army traffic. When night came, we were warned against bombings by Nazi planes, so we formed a closed line and inched forward with only dim lights that couldn't be seen over a dozen feet or so. We were also warned that the road had been de-mined, but that the sides of the road had not.

I was in a jeep with David Nichol of the Chicago Daily News. We agreed that driving across the Ukrainian steppe at night was much like riding across the Atlantic in convoy. There's that same eerie feeling.

Occasionally one of the jeeps would wander out of line and the driver would switch on his lights. Twice when this happened, Red Army sentries fired warning shots. No one takes any chances.

We came to a little farm railroad called Maslova Pristan. Our convoy of jeeps stopped. An air raid had started someplace on the horizon. The ack-ack and bomb flashes lit up the skyline so brightly that it didn't seem real. If you saw it in the movies you would say it was too Hollywood; too overdone.

Mr. Vasiev, who was in charge of the party, walked along the line of cars and again warned of the danger. He was in the second car in the line. My jeep was the second car behind him. We started off again in the dark when there was a muffled explosion. The concussion blew the brim of my hat up. Then a few seconds later things started to drop around us.

The second jeep had run over an anti-tank mine. It was blown almost in two. The major, the censor, and Mr. Vasiev died shortly afterward.

We spent the night on the road awaiting instructions. At dawn a Red Army colonel took charge of the party.  We had been ordered to go to (General Ivan Konev's) the Steppe Front to do a job. That's where we went.

Three men died taking us to the front. At this front we saw battlefields where thousands of men died defeating the Axis. This and subsequent broadcasts were made at this cost. I hope my reports of what I heard and saw there will be worthy.

December 12, 2014

"Voyage to Victory" by Ernest Hemingway

Voyage to Victory
"American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) traveling with US soldiers, in his capacity as a war correspondent, on their way to Normandy for the D-Day landings, 1944" (source)
From Collier's magazine, July 22, 1944, pp. 11-13, 56-57. (See Hemingway's other World War II essays here.)

Collier's famed war correspondent watches, as our fighting men battle across the beaches of Normandy.

No one remembers the date of the Battle of Shiloh. But the day we took Fox Green beach was the sixth of June, and the wind was blowing hard out of the northwest. As we moved in toward land in the gray early light, the 36-foot coffin-shaped steel boats took solid green sheets of water that fell on the helmeted heads of the troops packed shoulder to shoulder in the stiff, awkward, uncomfortable, lonely companionship of men going to a battle. There were cases of TNT, with rubber tube life preservers wrapped around them to float them in the surf, stacked forward in the steel well of the LCV(P), and there were piles of bazookas and boxes of bazooka rockets encased in waterproof coverings that reminded you of the transparent raincoats college girls wear.

All this equipment, too, had the rubber tube life preservers strapped and tied on, and the men wore these same gray rubber tubes strapped under their armpits.

As the boat rose to a sea, the green water turned white and came slamming in over the men, the guns and the cases of explosives. Ahead you could see the coast of France. The gray booms and derrick-forested bulks of the attack transports were behind now, and, over all the sea, boats were crawling forward toward France.

As the LCV(P) rose to the crest of a wave, you saw the line of low, silhouetted cruisers and the two big battlewagons lying broad-side to the shore. You saw the heat-bright flashes of their guns and the brown smoke that pushed out against the wind and then blew away.

"What's your course, coxswain?" Lieutenant (jg) Robert Anderson of Roanoke, Virginia, shouted from the stern.

"Two-twenty, sir." the coxswain, Frank Currier of Saugus, Massachusetts, answered. He was a thin-faced, freckled boy with his eyes fixed on the compass.

"Then steer two-twenty, damn it!" Anderson said. "Don't steer all over the whole damn ocean!"

"I'm steering two-twenty, sir," the coxswain said patiently.

"Well, steer it, then," Andy said. He was nervous, but the boat crew, who were making their first landing under fire, knew this officer had taken LCV(P)s in to the African landing, Sicily and Salerno, and they had confidence in him.
"Don't steer into that LCT," Andy shouted, as we roared by the ugly steel hull of a tank landing craft, her vehicles sea-lashed, her troops huddling out of the spray.

"I'm steering two-twenty," the coxswain said.

"That doesn't mean you have to run into everything on the ocean," Andy said. He was a handsome, hollow-cheeked boy with a lot of style and a sort of easy petulance. "Mr. Hemingway, will you please see if you can see what that flag is over there, with your glasses?"

I got my old miniature Zeiss glasses out of an inside pocket, where they were wrapped in a woolen sock with some tissue to clean them, and focused them on the flag. I made the flag out just before a wave drenched the glasses.

"It's green."

"Then we are in the mine-swept channel," Andy said. "That's all right. Coxswain, what's the matter with you? Can't you steer two-twenty?"

I was trying to dry my glasses, but it was hopeless the way the spray was coming in, so I wrapped them up for a try later on and watched the battleship Texas shelling the shore. She was just off on our right now and firing over us as we moved in toward the French coast, which was showing clearer all the time on what was, or was not, a course of 220 degrees, depending on whether you believed Andy or Currier the coxswain.

The low cliffs were broken by valleys. There was a town with a church spire in one of them. There was a wood that came down to the sea. There was a house on the right of one of the beaches. On all the headlands, the gorse was burning, but the northwest wind held the smoke close to the ground.

Those of our troops who were not wax-gray with seasickness, fighting it off, trying to hold onto themselves before they had to grab for the steel side of the boat, were watching the Texas with looks of surprise and happiness. Under the steel helmets they looked like pikemen of the Middle Ages to whose aid in battle had suddenly come some strange and unbelievable monster.

There would be a flash like a blast furnace from the 14-inch guns of the Texas, that would lick far out from the ship. Then the yellow-brown smoke would cloud out and, with the smoke still rolling, the concussion and the report would hit us, jarring the men's helmets. It struck your near ear like a punch with a heavy, dry glove.

Then up on the green rise of a hill that now showed clearly as we moved in would spout two tall black fountains of earth and smoke.

That is the only thing I remember hearing a G.I. say all that morning. They spoke to one another sometimes, but you could not hear them with the roar the 225-horsepower high-speed gray Diesel made. Mostly, though, they stood silent without speaking.

I never saw anyone smile after we left the line of firing ships. They had seen the mysterious monster that was helping them, but now he was gone and they were alone again. I found if I kept my mouth open from the time I saw the guns flash until after the concussion, it took the shock away.

I was glad when we were inside and out of the line of fire of the Texas and the Arkansas. Other ships were firing over us all day and you were never away from the sudden, slapping thud of naval gunfire. But the big guns of the Texas and Arkansas that sounded as though they were throwing whole railway trains across the sky were far away as we moved on in. They were no part of our world as we moved steadily over the gray, whitecapped sea toward where, ahead of us, death was being issued in small, intimate, accurately administered packages. They were like the thunder of a storm that is passing in another county whose rain will never reach you. But they were knocking out the shore batteries, so that later the destroyers could move in almost to the shore when they had to come in to save the landing.

Invasion Coast Dead Ahead

Now ahead of us we could see the coast in complete detail. Andy opened the silhouette map with all the beaches and their distinguishing features reproduced on it, and I got my glasses out and commenced drying and wiping them under the shelter of the skirts of my burberry. As far as you could see, there were landing craft moving in over the gray sea. The sun was under at this time, and smoke was blowing all along the coast.

The map that Andy spread on his knees was in ten folded sheets, held together with staples, and marked Appendix One to Annex A. Five different sheets were stapled together and, as I watched Andy open his map, which spread, open, twice as long as a man could reach with outstretched arms, the wind caught it, and the section of the map showing Dog White, Fox Red, Fox Green, Dog Green, Easy Red and part of Sector Charlie snapped twice gaily in the wind and blew overboard.

I had studied this map and memorized most of it, but it is one thing to have it in your memory and another thing to see it actually on paper and be able to check and be sure.

"Have you got a small chart, Andy?" I shouted. "One of those one-sheet ones with just Fox Green and Easy Red?"

"Never had one," said Andy. All this time we were approaching the coast of France, which looked increasingly hostile.

"That the only chart?" I said, close to his ear.

"Only one," said Andy, "and it disintegrated on me. A wave hit it, and it disintegrated. What beach do you think we are opposite?"

"There's the church tower that looks like Colleville," I said. "That ought to be on Fox Green. Then there is a house like the one marked on Fox Green and the timber that runs down to the water in a straight line, like on Easy Red."
"That's right," said Andy. "But I think we're too far to the left."

"Those are the features, all right," I said. "I've got them in my head but there shouldn't be any cliffs. The cliffs start to the left of Fox Green where Fox Red beach starts. If that's true, then Fox Green has to be on our right."

"There's a control boat here somewhere," Andy said. "We'll find out what beach we're opposite."

"She can't be Fox Green if there are cliffs," I said.

"That's right," Andy said. "We'll find out from a control boat. Steer for that PC, coxswain. No, not there! Don't you see him? Get ahead of him. You'll never catch him that way."

We never did catch him, either. We slammed into the seas instead of topping them, and the boat pulled away from us. The LCV(P) was bow-heavy with the load of TNT and the weight of the three-eighth-inch steel armor, and where she should have lifted easily over the seas she banged into them and the water came in solidly.

"The hell with him!" Andy said. "We'll ask this LCI."

Landing Craft Infantry are the only amphibious operations craft that look as though they were made to go to sea. They very nearly have the lines of a ship, while the LCV(P)s look like iron bathtubs, and the LCTs like floating freight gondolas. Everywhere you could see, the ocean was covered with these craft but very few of them were headed toward shore. They would start toward the beach, then sheer off and circle back. On the beach itself, in from where we were, there were lines of what looked like tanks, but my glasses were still too wet to function.

"Where's Fox Green beach?" Andy cupped his hands and shouted up at the LCI that was surging past us, loaded with troops.

"Can't hear," someone shouted. We had no megaphone.

"What beach are we opposite?" Andy yelled.

The officer on the LCI shook his head. The other officers did not even look toward us. They were looking over their shoulders at the beach.

"Get her close alongside, coxswain," Andy said. "Come on, get in there close."

We roared up alongside the LCI, then cut down the motor as she slipped past us.

"Where's Fox Green beach?" Andy yelled, as the wind blew the words away.

"Straight in to your right," an officer shouted.

"Thanks." Andy looked astern at the other two boats and told Ed Banker, the signalman, "Get them to close up. Get them up."

Ed Banker turned around and jerked his forearm, with index finger raised, up and down. "They're closing up, sir," he said.

Looking back you could see the other heavily loaded boats climbing the waves that were green now the sun was out, and pounding down into the troughs.

"You wet all through, sir?" Ed asked me.

"All the way."

"Me, too," Ed said. "Only thing wasn't wet was my belly button. Now it's wet, too."

"This has got to be Fox Green," I said to Andy. "I recognize where the cliff stops. That's all Fox Green to the right. There is the Colleville church. There's the house on the beach. There's the Ruquet Valley on Easy Red to the right. This is Fox Green absolutely."

"We'll check when we get in closer," Andy said. "You really think it's Fox Green?"

"It has to be."

Ahead of us, the various landing craft were all acting in the same confusing manner—heading in, coming out and circling.

The Tanks Were Stymied

"There's something wrong as hell," I said to Andy. "See the tanks? They're all along the edge of the beach. They haven't gone in at all."

Just then one of the tanks flared up and started to burn with thick black smoke and yellow flame. Farther down the beach, another tank started burning. Along the line of the beach, they were crouched like big yellow toads along the high water line. As I stood up, watching, two more started to barn. The first ones were pouring out gray smoke now, and the wind was blowing it flat along the beach. As I stood up, trying to see if there was anyone in beyond the high water line of tanks, one of the burning tanks blew up with a flash in the streaming gray smoke.

"There's a boat we can check with," Andy said. "Coxswain, steer for that LC over there. Yes, that one. Put her hard over. Come on. Get over there!"

This was a black boat, fast-looking, mounting two machine guns and wallowing slowly out away from the beach, her engine almost idling.

"Can you tell us what beach this is?" Andy shouted.

"Dog White," came the answer.

"Are you sure?"

"Dog White beach," they called from the black boat.

"You checked it?" Andy called.
"It's Dog White beach," they called back from the boat, and their screw churned the water white as they slipped into speed and pulled away from us.

I was discouraged now, because ahead of us, inshore, was every landmark I had memorized on Fox Green and Easy Red beaches. The line of the cliffs that marked the left end of Fox Green beach showed clearly. Every house was where it should be. The steeple of the Colleville church showed exactly as it had in the silhouette. I had studied the charts, the silhouettes, the data on the obstacles in the water and the defenses all one morning, and I remember having asked our captain, Commander W. I. Leahy of the attack transport Dorothea M. Dix, if our attack was to be a diversion in force.

"No," he had said. "Absolutely not. What makes you ask that question?"

"Because these beaches are so highly defensible."

"The Army is going to clear the obstacles and the mines out in the first thirty minutes," Captain Leahy had told me. "They're going to cut lanes in through them for the landing craft."

I wish I could write the full story of what it means to take a transport across through a mine-swept channel; the mathematical precision of maneuver; the infinite detail and chronometrical accuracy and split-second timing of everything from the time the anchor comes up until the boats are lowered and away into the roaring, sea-churning assembly circle from which they break off into the attack wave.

The story of all the teamwork behind that has to be written, but to get all that in would take a book, and this is simply the account of how it was in a LCV(P) on the day we stormed Fox Green beach.

Right at this moment, no one seemed to know where Fox Green beach was. I was sure we were opposite it, but the patrol boat had said this was Dog White beach which should be 4,295 yards to our right, if we were where I knew we were.

"It can't be Dog White, Andy," I said. "Those are the cliffs where Fox Red starts on our left."

"The man says it's Dog White," Andy said.

In the solid-packed troops in the boat, a man with a vertical white bar painted on his helmet was looking at us and shaking his head. He had high cheekbones and a rather flat, puzzled face.

"The lieutenant says he knows it, and we're on Fox Green," Ed Banker shouted back at us. He spoke again to the lieutenant but we could not hear what they said.

Andy shouted at the lieutenant, and he nodded his helmeted head up and down.

"He says it's Fox Green," Andy said.

"Ask him where he wants to go in," I said.

Leading in the Seventh Wave

Just then another small black patrol boat with several officers in it came toward us from the beach, and an officer stood up in it and megaphoned, "Are there any boats here for the seventh wave on Fox Green beach?"

There was one boat for that wave with us, and the officer shouted to them to follow their boat.

"Is this Fox Green?" Andy called to them.
"Yes. Do you see that ruined house? Fox Green beach runs for eleven hundred and thirty-five yards to the right of that ruined house."

"Can you get into the beach?"

"I can't tell you that. You will have to ask a beach control boat."

"Can't we just run in?"

"I have no authority on that. You must ask the beach control boat."

"Where is it?"

"Way out there somewhere."

"We can go in where an LCV(P) has been in or an LCI," I said. "It's bound to be clear where they run in, and we can go in under the lee of one."

"We'll look for the control boat," Andy said, and we went banging out to sea through the swarming traffic of landing craft and lighters.

"I can't find her," Andy said. "She isn't here. She ought to be in closer. We have to get the hell in. We're late now. Let's go in."

"Ask him where he is supposed to land," I said.

Andy went down and talked to the lieutenant. I could see the lieutenant's lips moving as he spoke, but could hear nothing above the engine noise.

"He wants to run straight in for that ruined house," Andy said, when he came back.

We headed in for the beach. As we came in, running fast, the black patrol boat swung over toward us again.

"Did you find the control boat?" they megaphoned.


"What are you going to do?"
"We're going in," Andy yelled.
"Well, good luck to you fellows," the megaphone said. It came over, slow and solemn like an elegy. "Good luck to all of you fellows."
That included Thomas E. Nash, engineer, from Seattle with a good grin and two teeth out of it. It included Edward F. Banker, signalman, of Brooklyn, and Lacey T. Shiflet of Orange, Virginia, who would have been the gunner if we had had room for guns. It included Frank Currier, the coxswain, of Saugus, Massachusetts, and it included Andy and me. When we heard the lugubrious tone of that parting benediction we all knew how bad the beach really was.

As we came roaring in on the beach, I sat high on the stern to see what we were up against. I had the glasses dry now and I took a good look at the shore. The shore was coming toward us awfully fast, and in the glasses it was coming even faster.

On the beach on the left where there was no sheltering overhang of shingled bank, the first, second, third, fourth and fifth waves lay where they had fallen, looking like so many heavily laden bundles on the flat pebbly stretch between the sea and the first cover. To the right, there was an open stretch where the beach exit led up a wooded valley from the sea. It was here that the Germans hoped to get something very good, and later we saw them get it.

To the right of this, two tanks were burning on the crest of the beach, the smoke now gray after the first violent black and yellow billows. Coming in I had spotted two machine gun nests. One was firing intermittently from the ruins of the smashed house on the right of the small valley. The other was two hundred yards to the right and possibly four hundred yards in front of the beach.

The officer commanding the troops we were carrying had asked us to head directly for the beach opposite the ruined house.

"Right in there," he said. "That's where."

"Andy," I said, "that whole sector is enfiladed by machine gun fire. I just saw them open twice on that stranded boat."

Target for Machine Guns

An LCV(P) was slanted drunkenly in the stakes like a lost gray steel bathtub. They were firing at the water line, and the fire was kicking up sharp spurts of water.

"That's where he says he wants to go," Andy said. "So that's where we'll take him."

"It isn't any good," I said. "I've seen both those guns open up."

"That's where he wants to go," Andy said. "Put her ahead straight in." He turned astern and signaled to the other boats, jerking his arm, with its upraised finger, up and down.

"Come on, you guys," he said, inaudible in the roar of the motor that sounded like a plane taking off. "Close up! Close up! What's the matter with you? Close up, can't you? Take her straight in, coxswain!"

At this point, we entered the beaten zone from the two machine gun points, and I ducked my head under the sharp cracking that was going overhead. Then I dropped into the well in the stern sheets where the gunner would have been if we had any guns. The machine gun fire was throwing water all around the boat, and an antitank shell tossed up a jet of water over us.

The lieutenant was talking, but I couldn't hear what he said. Andy could hear him. He had his head down close to his lips.

"Get her the hell around and out of here, coxswain!" Andy called. "Get her out of here!"
As we swung round on our stem in a pivot and pulled out, the machine gun fire stopped. But individual sniping shots kept cracking over or spitting into the water around us. I'd got my head up again with some difficulty and was watching the shore.

"It wasn't cleared, either," Andy said. "You could see the mines on all those stakes."

"Let's coast along and find a good place to put them ashore," I said. "If we stay outside of the machine gun fire, I don't think they'll shoot at us with anything big because we're just as LCV(P), and they've got better targets than us."

"We'll look for a place," Andy said.

"What's he want now?" I said to Andy.

The lieutenant's lips were moving again. They moved very slowly and as though they had no connection with him or with his face.

Andy got down to listen to him. He came back into the stern. "He wants to go out to an LCI we passed that has his commanding officer on it."

"We can get him ashore farther up toward Easy Red," I said.

"He wants to see his commanding officer," Andy said. "Those people in that black boat were from his outfit."

Advice from a Wounded Ship

Out a way, rolling in the sea, was a Landing Craft Infantry, and as we came alongside of her I saw a ragged shellhole through the steel plates forward of her pilothouse where an 88-mm. German shell had punched through. Blood was dripping from the shiny edges of the hole into the sea with each roll of the LCI. Her rails and hull had been befouled by seasick men, and her dead were laid forward of her pilothouse. Our lieutenant had some conversation with another officer while we rose and fell in the surge alongside the black iron hull, and then we pulled away.

Andy went forward and talked to him, then came aft again, and we sat up on the stern and watched two destroyers coming along toward us from the eastern beaches, their guns pounding away at targets on the headlands and sloping fields behind the beaches.

"He says they don't want him to go in yet; to wait," Andy said. "Let's get out of the way of this destroyer."

"How long is he going to wait?"

"He says they have no business in there now. People that should have been ahead of them haven't gone in yet. They told him to wait."

"Let's get in where we can keep track of it," I said. "Take the glasses and look at that beach, but don't tell them forward what you see."

Andy looked. He handed the glasses back to me and shook his head.

"Let's cruise along it to the right and see how it is up at that end," I said. "I'm pretty sure we can get in there when he wants to get in. You're sure they told him he shouldn't go in?"

"That's what he says."

"Talk to him again and get it straight."

Andy came back. "He says they shouldn't go in now. They're supposed to clear the mines away, so the tanks can go, and he says nothing is in there to go yet. He says they told him it is all fouled up and to stay out yet a while."

The destroyer was firing point blank at the concrete pillbox that had fired at us on the first trip into the beach, and as the guns fired you heard the bursts and saw the earth jump almost at the same time as the empty brass cases clanged back onto the steel deck. The five-inch guns of the destroyer were smashing at the ruined house at the edge of the little valley where the other machine gun had fired from.

"Let's move in now that the can has gone by and see if we can't find a good place," Andy said.

"That can punched out what was holding them up there, and you can see some infantry working up that draw now," I said to Andy. "Here, take the glasses."

Slowly, laboriously, as though they were Atlas carrying the world on their shoulders, men were working up the valley on our right. They were not firing. They were just moving slowly up the valley like a tired pack train at the end of the day, going the other way from home.

"The infantry has pushed up to the top of the ridge at the end of that valley," I shouted to the lieutenant.

"They don't want us yet,"' he said. "They told me clear they didn't want us in yet."

"Let me take the glasses for Hemingway," Andy said. Then he handed them back. "In there, there's somebody signaling with a yellow flag, and there's a boat in there in trouble, it looks like. Coxswain, take her straight in."

We moved in toward the beach at full speed, and Ed Banker looked around and said, "Mr. Anderson, the other boats are coming, too."

"Get them back!" Andy said. "Get them back!"

Banker turned around and waved the boats away. He had difficulty making them understand, but finally the wide waves they were throwing subsided and they dropped astern.

"Did you get them back?" Andy asked, without looking away from the beach where we could see a half-sunken LCV(P) foundered in the mined stakes.

"Yes, sir," Ed Banker said.

An LCI was headed straight toward us, pulling away from the beach after having circled to go in. As it passed, a man shouted with a megaphone, "There are wounded on that boat and she is sinking."

"Can you get in to her?"

The only words we heard clearly from the megaphone as the wind snatched the voice away were "machine gun nest."

"Did they say there was or there wasn't a machine gun nest?" Andy said.

"I couldn't hear."

"Run alongside of her again, coxswain," he said. "Run close alongside."

"Did you say there was a machine gun nest?" he shouted.

An officer leaned over with the megaphone, "A machine gun nest has been firing on them. They are sinking."

"Take her straight in, coxswain," Andy said.

It was difficult to make our way through the stakes that had been sunk as obstructions, because there were contact mines fastened them, that looked like large double pie plates fastened face to face. They looked as though they had been spiked to the pilings and then assembled. They were the ugly, neutral gray-yellow color that almost everything is in war.

We did not know what other stakes with mines were under us, but the ones that we could see we fended off by hand and worked our way to the sinking boat.

It was not easy to bring on board the man who had been shot through the lower abdomen, because there was no room to let the ramp down the way we were jammed in the stakes with the cross sea.

I do not know why the Germans did not fire on us unless the destroyer had knocked the machine gun pillbox out. Or maybe they were waiting for us to blow up with the mines. Certainly the mines had been a great amount of trouble to lay and the Germans might well have wanted to see them work. We were in the range of the antitank gun that had fired on us before, and all the time we were maneuvering and working in the stakes I was waiting for it to fire.

As we lowered the ramp the first time, while we were crowded in against the other LCV(P), but before she sank, I saw three tanks coming along the beach, barely moving, they were advancing so slowly. The Germans let them cross the open space where the valley opened onto the beach, and it was absolutely flat with a perfect field of fire. Then I saw a little fountain of water jut up, just over and beyond the lead tank. Then smoke broke out of the leading tank on the side away from us, and I saw two men dive out of the turret and land on their hands and knees on the stones of the beach. They were close enough so that I could see their faces, but no more men came out as the tank started to blaze up and burn fiercely.

By then, we had the wounded man and the survivors on board, the ramp back up, and were feeling our way out through the stakes. As we cleared the last of the stakes, and Currier opened up the engine wide as we pulled out to sea, another tank was beginning to burn.

We took the wounded boy out to the destroyer. They hoisted him aboard it in one of those metal baskets and took on the survivors. Meantime, the destroyers had run in almost to the beach and were blowing every pillbox out of the ground with their five-inch guns. I saw a piece of German about three feet long with an arm on it sail high up into the air in the fountaining of one shellburst. It reminded me of a scene in Petroushka.

Landing on the Beach

The infantry had now worked up the valley on our left and had gone on over that ridge. There was no reason for anyone to stay out now. We ran in to a good spot we had picked on the beach and put our troops and their TNT and their bazookas and their lieutenant ashore, and that was that.

The Germans were still shooting with their antitank guns, shifting them around in the valley, holding their fire until they had a target they wanted. Their mortars were still laying a plunging fire along the beaches. They had left people behind to snipe at the beaches, and when we left, finally, all these people who were firing were evidently going to stay until dark at least.

The heavily loaded ducks that had formerly sunk in the waves on their way in were now making the beach steadily. The famous thirty-minute clearing of the channels through the mined obstacles was still a myth, and now, with the high tide, it was a tough trip in with the stakes submerged.

We had six craft missing, finally, out of the twenty-four LVC(P)s that went in from the Dix, but many of the crews could have been picked up and might be on other vessels. It had been a frontal assault in broad daylight, against a mined beach defended by all the obstacles military ingenuity could devise. The beach had been defended as stubbornly and as intelligently as any troops could defend it. But every boat from the Dix had landed her troops and cargo. No boat was lost through bad seamanship. All that were lost were lost by enemy action. And we had taken the beach.

There is much that I have not written. You could write for a week and not give everyone credit for what he did on a front of 1,135 yards. Real war is never like paper war, nor do accounts of it read much the way it looks. But if you want to know how it was in an LCV(P) on D-Day when we took Fox Green beach and Easy Red beach on the sixth of June, 1944, then this is as near as I can come to it.


While Mr. Hemingway was cabling this article, General Montgomery revealed in an interview that a German division was sent up to thicken the coastal defenses at the spot where Collier's correspondent landed. "We hit it right on the nose," Mr. Hemingway cabled.