March 30, 2015

A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Edward R. Murrow Challenges Senator Joseph McCarthy

March 9, 1954
EDWARD R. MURROW: Because a report on Senator McCarthy is by definition controversial, we want to say exactly what we mean to say, and I request your permission to read from script whatever remarks Murrow and Friendly may make.

If the Senator feels that we have done violence to his words or pictures and desires, so to speak, to answer himself, an opportunity will be afforded him on this program. Our working thesis tonight is this quotation: "If this fight against communism is made a fight between America's two great political parties, the American people know that one of these parties will be destroyed, and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one-party system."

We applaud that statement, and we think Senator McCarthy ought to. He said it seventeen months ago in Milwaukee.

SENATOR JOSEPH MCCARTHY: The American people realize that this cannot be made a fight between America's two great political parties. If this fight against communism is made a fight between America's two great political parties, the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed, and the Republic can't endure very long as a one-party system.

MURROW: But on February 4, 1954, Senator McCarthy spoke of one party's treason. This was Charleston, West Virginia, where there were no cameras running. It was recorded on tape.

MCCARTHY: The issue between Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. Now the hard fact is—the hard fact is that those who wear the label—those who wear the label "Democrat" wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.

MURROW: Seventeen months ago, candidate Eisenhower met Senator McCarthy in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and he laid down some ground rules on how he would fight communism if elected.

DWIGHT EISENHOWER: Now, this is the pledge that I make. If I am charged by you people to be the responsible head of the executive department, it will be my initial responsibility to see that subversion, disloyalty, is kept out of the executive department.

We will always appreciate and welcome congressional investigation, but the responsibility will rest squarely on the shoulders of the executive, and I hold that there are already ample powers in the government to get rid of these people if the executive department is really concerned in doing it. We can do it with absolute assurance that American principles—of a trial by jury, of the innocent until proved guilty—are all observed, and I expect to do it.

MURROW: That same night in Milwaukee, Senator McCarthy stated what he would do if the General was elected.

MCCARTHY: I spent about half an hour with the General last night. While I can't report that we agreed entirely on everything—I can report that, when I left that meeting with the General, I had the same feeling as when I went in. And that is that he is a great American, will make a great president; an outstanding president. But I want to tell you tonight, tell the American people: as long as I represent you and the rest of the American people in the Senate, I shall continue to call them as I see them, regardless of who happens to be president.

MURROW: November 24, 1953.

MCCARTHY: A few days ago, I read that President Eisenhower expressed the hope that, by election time in 1954, the subject of communism would be a dead and forgotten issue. The raw, harsh, unpleasant fact is that communism is an issue and will be an issue in 1954.

MURROW: On one thing the Senator has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far; interviewed many; terrorized some; accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to communism; investigated and substantially demoralized the present State Department; made varying charges of espionage at Fort Monmouth. The Army says it has been unable to find anything relating to espionage there. He has interrogated a varied assortment of what he calls "Fifth Amendment Communists."

Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont said of McCarthy today, "He dons his war paint. He goes into his war dance. He emits his war whoops; he goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink Army dentist."

Other critics have accused the Senator of using the bullwhip and the smear. There was a time two years ago when the Senator and his friends said he had been smeared and bullwhipped.

FRANK KEEFE: Well, you'd sometimes think to hear the quartet that call themselves "Operation Truth" damning Joe McCarthy and resorting to the vilest smears I have ever heard. Well, this is the answer. If I could express it in what's in my heart right now, I'd do it in terms of the poet who once said:

Ah 'tis but a dainty flower I bring you,
Yes, 'tis but a violet, glistening with dew,
But still in its heart there lies beauties concealed
So in our heart our love for you lies unrevealed.

MCCARTHY: You know, I used to pride myself on the idea that I was a bit tough, especially over the past eighteen or nineteen months when we've been kicked around and bullwhipped and damned. I didn't think that I could be touched very deeply. But tonight, frankly, my cup and my heart is so full I can't talk to you.

MURROW: But in Philadelphia on Washington's Birthday, 1954, his heart was so full he could talk. He reviewed some of the General Zwicker testimony and proved he hadn't abused him.

MCCARTHY: Nothing is more serious than being a traitor to the country as part of the communist conspiracy. Are you enjoying this abuse of the General?

A question: "Do you think stealing fifty dollars is more serious than being a traitor to the country and part of the communist conspiracy?"

Answer: "That, sir, was not my decision."

Shall we go on to that for a while? I hate to impose on your time, but I've just got two pages. This is the abuse which is the real meat of abuse. This is the official reporter's record of the hearing. After he said he wouldn't remove that General from the Army who cleared a communist major I said to him, "Then, General, you should be removed from any command. Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to general and who says, 'I will protect another general who protects communists,' is not fit to wear that uniform, General."

I think it is a tremendous disgrace to the Army to have to bring these facts before the public, but I intend to give it to the public, General. I have a duty to do that. I intend to repeat to the press exactly what you said, so that you can know that and be back here to hear it, General.

And wait till you hear the bleeding hearts scream and cry about our methods of trying to drag the truth from those who know, or should know, who covered up a Fifth Amendment Communist major. But they say, "Oh, it's all right to uncover them, but don't get rough doing it, McCarthy."

MURROW: But two days later Secretary Stevens and the Senator had lunch, agreed on a memorandum of understanding—disagreed on what the small type said.

ROBERT T. STEVENS: I shall never accede to the abuse of Army personnel under any circumstance, including committee hearings. I shall not accede to them being brow-beaten or humiliated. In the light of those assurances, although I did not propose the cancellation of the hearing, I acceded to it. If it had not been for these assurances, I would never have entered into any agreement whatsoever.

MURROW: Then President Eisenhower issued a statement that his advisers thought censured the Senator. But the Senator saw it as another victory—called the entire Zwicker case "a tempest in a teapot."

MCCARTHY: If a stupid, arrogant, or witless man in a position of power appears before our committee and is found aiding the Communist Party, he will be exposed. The fact that he might be a general places him in no special class as far as I am concerned. Apparently the president and I now agree on the necessity of getting rid of communists. We apparently disagree only on how we should handle those who protect communists.

When the shouting and the tumult dies, the American people and the president will realize that this unprecedented mudslinging against the committee by the extreme left wing elements of press and radio was caused solely because another Fifth Amendment Communist was finally dug out of the dark recesses and exposed to public view.

MURROW: Senator McCarthy claims that only the left wing press criticized him on the Zwicker case. Of the fifty large circulating newspapers in the country, these are the left wing papers that criticized him. These are the ones that supported him. The ratio is about three-to-one. Now let us look at some of these left wing papers that criticized the Senator.

The Chicago Tribune: "McCarthy will better serve his cause if he learns to distinguish the role of investigator from the role of avenging angel."

The New York Times: "The unwarranted interference of a demagogue…a domestic Munich."

The Times Herald of Washington: "Senator McCarthy's behavior towards Zwicker not justified."

The Herald Tribune of New York: "McCarthyism involves assaults on basic Republican concepts."

The Milwaukee Journal: "The line must be drawn and defended or McCarthy will become the government."

The Evening Star of Washington: "It was a bad day for everyone who resents and detests the bullyboy tactics which Senator McCarthy so often employees."

The New York World Telegram: "Bamboozling, bludgeoning, distorting way."

The St. Louis Post Dispatch: "Unscrupulous McCarthy bullying. What a tragic irony it is that the president's political advisers keep him from doing what every decent instinct must be commanding him to do."

Well, that's the ratio—about three-to-one—so-called "left-wing" press.

Another interesting thing was said about the Zwicker case, and it was said by Senator McCarthy.

MCCARTHY: Well, may I say that I was extremely shocked when I heard that Secretary Stevens told two Army officers that they had to take part in the cover-up of those who promoted and coddled communists. As I read his statement, I thought of that quotation, "On what meat doth this, our Caesar, feed?"

MURROW: And upon what meat does Senator McCarthy feed? Two of the staples of his diet are the investigations, protected by immunity, and the half-truth. We herewith submit samples of both.
First, the half-truth. This was an attack on Adlai Stevenson at the end of the '52 campaign. President Eisenhower, it must be said, had no prior knowledge of it.

MCCARTHY: I perform this unpleasant task because the American people are entitled to have the coldly documented history of this man who says, "I want to be your President."

Strangely, Alger—I mean, Adlai...but let's move on to another part of the jigsaw puzzle. Now, while you would think—while you may think there could be no connection between the debonair Democrat candidate and a dilapidated Massachusetts barn, I want to show you a picture of this barn and explain the connection.

Here is the outside of the barn. Give me the pictures showing the inside, if you will. Here is the outside of a barn up at Lee, Massachusetts. It looks it couldn't house a farmer's cow or goat. Here's the inside: a beautifully paneled conference room with maps of the Soviet Union. Well, in what way does Stevenson tie up with this?

My investigators went up and took pictures of this barn after we had been tipped off of what was in it, tipped off that there was in this barn all the missing documents from the communist front, IPR. The IPR which has been named by the McCarran Committee. Named before the McCarran Committee as a cover shop for communist espionage.

Now, let's take a look at a photostat of a document taken from that Massachusetts barn. One of those documents was never supposed to have seen the light of day—rather interesting it is. This is a document that shows that Alger Hiss and Frank Coe recommended Adlai Stevenson to the Mont Tremblant Conference, which was called for the purpose of establishing foreign policy—postwar foreign policy—in Asia. Now, as you know, Alger Hiss is a convicted traitor. Frank Coe has been named under oath before congressional committees seven times as a member of the Communist Party. Why? Why do Hiss and Coe find that Adlai Stevenson is the man they want representing them at this conference? I don't know. Perhaps Adlai knows.

MURROW: But Senator McCarthy didn't permit his audience to hear the entire paragraph. This is the official record of the McCarran hearings. Anyone can buy it for two dollars. Here's a quote: "Another possibility for the Mont Tremblant conferences on Asia is someone from Knox's office or Stimson's office. Frank Knox was our wartime Secretary of the Navy; Henry Stimson our Secretary of the Army. Both distinguished Republicans." And it goes on: "Coe and Hiss mentioned Adlai Stevenson, one of Knox's special assistants, and Harvey Bundy, former Assistant Secretary of State under Hoover and now assistant to Stimson, because of their jobs."
We read from this documented record not in defense of Mr. Stevenson, but in defense of truth. Specifically, Mr. Stevenson's identification with that red barn was no more, no less than that of Knox, Stimson, or Bundy. It should be stated that Mr. Stevenson was once a member of the Institute of Pacific Relations. But so were such other loyal Americans as Senator Ferguson, John Foster Dulles, Paul Hoffman, Harry Luce, and Herbert Hoover. Their association carries with it no guilt, and that barn has nothing to do with any of them.

Now, a sample of an investigation. The witness was Reed Harris, for many years a civil servant in the State Department directing the Information Service. Harris was accused of helping the communistic cause by curtailing some broadcasts to Israel. Senator McCarthy summoned him and questioned him about a book he had written in 1932.

MCCARTHY: May we come to order. Mr. Reed Harris? Your name is Reed Harris?

REED HARRIS: That's correct.

MCCARTHY: You wrote a book in '32, is that correct?

HARRIS: Yes, I wrote a book. And as I testified in executive session—

MCCARTHY: At the time you wrote the book—pardon me, go ahead. I'm sorry.

HARRIS: At the time I wrote the book, the atmosphere in the universities of the United States was greatly affected by the Great Depression then in existence. The attitudes of students, the attitudes of the general public, were considerably different than they are at this moment, and for one thing there certainly was no awareness to the degree that there is today of the way the Communist Party works.

MCCARTHY: You attended Columbia University in the early thirties. Is that right?

HARRIS: I did, Mr. Chairman.

MCCARTHY: Will you speak a little louder, sir?

HARRIS: I did, Mr. Chairman.

MCCARTHY: And were you expelled from Columbia?

HARRIS: I was suspended from classes on April 1, 1932. I was later reinstated, and I resigned from the university.

MCCARTHY: And you resigned from the university. Did the Civil Liberties Union provide you with an attorney at that time?

HARRIS: I had many offers of attorneys, and one of those was from the American Civil Liberties Union, yes.

MCCARTHY: The question is did the Civil Liberties Union supply you with an attorney?

HARRIS: They did supply an attorney.

MCCARTHY: The answer is yes?

HARRIS: The answer is yes.

MCCARTHY: You know the Civil Liberties Union has been listed as "a front for, and doing the work of," the Communist Party?

HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, this was 1932.

MCCARTHY: Yeah, I know this was 1932. Do you know that they since have been listed as a front for, and doing the work of, the Communist Party?

HARRIS: I do not know that they have been listed so, sir.

MCCARTHY: You don't know they have been listed?

HARRIS: I have heard that mentioned, or read that mentioned.

MCCARTHY: Now, you wrote a book in 1932. I'm going to ask you again. At the time you wrote this book, did you feel that professors should be given the right to teach sophomores that marriage, let me quote, "should be cast out of our civilization as antiquated and stupid religious phenomena?" Was that your feeling at that time?

HARRIS: My feeling was that professors should have the right to express their considered opinions on any subject, whatever they were, sir.

MCCARTHY: All right, I'm going to ask you this question again.

HARRIS: That includes that quotation. They should have the right to teach anything that came to their minds as being a proper thing to teach.

MCCARTHY: I'm going to make you answer this.

HARRIS: All right, I'll answer yes, but you put an implication on it, and you feature this particular point out of the book which of course is quite out of context; does not give a proper impression of the book as a whole. The American public doesn't get an honest impression of even that book, bad as it is, from what you're quoting from it.

MCCARTHY: Well, then, let's continue to read your own writing, and—

HARRIS: Twenty-one years ago, again.

MCCARTHY: Yes, but we'll try and bring you down to date, if we can.

HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, two weeks ago, Senator Taft took the position that I took twenty-one years ago, that communists and socialists should be allowed to teach in the schools. It so happens that nowadays I don't agree with Senator Taft as far as communist teaching in the schools is concerned, because I think communists are in effect a plainclothes auxiliary of the Red Army—the Soviet Red Army—and I don't want to see them in any of our schools teaching.

MCCARTHY: I don't recall Senator Taft ever having any of the background that you've got, sir.

MCCARTHY: I resent the tone of this inquiry very much, Mr. Chairman. I resent it, not only because it is my neck, my public neck, that you are, I think, very skillfully trying to wring, but I say it because there are thousands of able and loyal employees in the federal government of the United States who have been properly cleared according to the laws and the security practices of their agencies, as I was—unless the new regime says no—I was before.

SENATOR JOHN MCLELLAN: Do you think this book that you wrote then did considerable harm—its publication might have had adverse influence on the public by an expression of views contained in it?

HARRIS: The sale of that book was so abysmally small, it was so unsuccessful that a question of its influence—really, you can go back to the publisher. You'll see it was one of the most unsuccessful books he ever put out. He's still sorry about it, just as I am.

MCLELLAN: Well, I think that's a compliment to American intelligence. I will say that to him.

MURROW: Senator McCarthy succeeded in proving that Reed Harris had once written a bad book, which the American people had proved twenty-two years ago by not buying it. Which is what they eventually do will all bad ideas. As for Reed Harris, his resignation was accepted a month later with a letter of commendation. McCarthy claimed it as a victory.

The Reed Harris hearing demonstrates one of the Senator's techniques. Twice he said the American Civil Liberties Union was listed as a subversive front. The Attorney General's list does not and has never listed the ACLU as subversive, nor does the FBI or any other federal government agency. And the American Civil Liberties Union holds in its files letters of commendation from President Truman, President Eisenhower, and General MacArthur.

Now let us try to bring the McCarthy story a little more up to date. Two years ago Senator Benton of Connecticut accused McCarthy of apparent perjury, unethical practice, and perpetrating a hoax on the Senate. McCarthy sued for two million dollars. Last week he dropped the case, saying no one could be found who believed Benton's story. Several volunteers have come forward saying they believe it in its entirety.

Today, Senator McCarthy says he's going to get a lawyer and force the networks to give him time to reply to Adlai Stevenson's speech.

Earlier the Senator asked, "Upon what meat does this, our Caesar, feed?" Had he looked three lines earlier in Shakespeare's Caesar, he would have found this line, which is not altogether inappropriate: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind as between the internal and the external threats of communism.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities.
As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear. He merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Good night, and good luck.

March 27, 2015

1955. Bill Downs Interviews Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion

The Lead-Up to the Suez Crisis
Source: Israeli soldiers during the Suez Crisis in 1956

In November 1955 Bill Downs interviewed Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who had just begun second tenure in office.

1. What do you feel are the reasons behind the Communist sale of arms to Egypt?

There are in my view two reasons: a) Russia's traditional urge, dating from the days of the Czarist regime, to penetrate into the Mediterranean and the countries of the Middle East; b) the Soviets' policy to establish a pro-Communist force in the Middle East in opposition to the Northern Tier.

2. Moslem leaders now claim that Israel has an overwhelming superiority in military power. What is your estimate of the situation and how much breathing space do you consider Israel has before Communist arms match Israeli strength?

Israel's superiority in the War of Independence and to this day lies only and exclusively in the moral superiority of her people, which, again, derives from two sources: a) fidelity to the heritage of the prophets of Israel; b) the recognition that our very existence is in danger and that we shall be destroyed unless we defend ourselves with all our might. However, even up till now we have never had superiority in armaments, even less in man-power. Not only the Arab countries as a whole, but even Egypt alone has had more arms and a larger standing army than Israel, even before the receipt of Soviet arms. The danger to Israel's existence will constantly increase unless we, too, receive substantial arms reinforcements.

3. If Israel feels that her friends in the West are delinquent in supplying her additional defensive weapons, would she apply to Communist sources from these things?

A country fighting for her very existence has a right to get arms anywhere. But I think it would be an illusion to expect arms from the Soviet Bloc, and I have not entirely given up hope of the help which we deserve from the United States and the other democratic countries.

4. There has been much speculation that Israel may be forced into a "preventative war." What is your estimate of this possibility?

A preventative war is a war unprevented, and it differs in no way from any other war. We prefer a preventive peace. As I have declared last week in the Knesset, our Parliament, we have never will, but neither shall we tolerate any warlike acts against us, by whatever name they may be called.

5. Egyptian leaders claim that recent Israeli border attacks prove the insincerity of your offer of peace talks with them. What is your government's policy regarding this?

There has never been an Israeli attack against Egypt and I can give my assurance that there never will be one in the future. The Egyptians recently invaded our territory at Nitzana in violation of the Armistice Agreements and International Law. When they refused to leave after repeated requests by representatives of the United Nations, we drove them out by force. But not a single one of our soldiers remained in Egyptian territory, because we have no desire to encroach upon Egypt.
If Nasser wants peace he can have it in five minutes. Let him send me a telegram and he will have an immediate positive reply. Our desire for peace stems from two sources: a) We have learned to value human life, and there is nothing we detest more than the shedding of blood. b) we are busily engaged in the work of development, construction, and absorption of immigrants for the sake of which we have established anew the State of Israel. We want our youth to devote all their energies to creative work, in both the material and spiritual fields.

6. What is your considered estimate of the present danger of full-scale war in the Middle East?

The large-scale supply of arms to Egypt increases the danger of war in the Middle East. This danger can be met in two ways: a) by preventing the flow of arms to Egypt and the other Arab countries; or b) by supplying arms to Israel.

7. What, then, are the requisites for peace and how can this be brought about?

There are two ways to ensure peace: a) If Egypt accepts my invitation to discuss a peaceful settlement; b) if the Great Powers deny all aid to the party which refuses to make peace.

March 26, 2015

1943. The Kuban Bridgehead

The Battle for the Kuban Bridgehead
Soviet soldiers stage a counterattack in the Kuban region, June 1943 (source)
The text in parentheses did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports)
Bitter Hand-to-Hand Fighting in the Trenches
April 17, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 17, 1943

This morning's communiqué again said there were "no essential changes" on the 1,200 mile Russian battle-line (where seven million men are waiting for the opportunity to be at each other's throats.)

But from the Kuban today comes a story that graphically illustrates just what "no essential changes" means to the men in the front line.

To the men in the Kuban, this statement also means that there has been "no change" in the deep mud, the heavy spring rains (and the almost impossible roads) that have bogged their offensive. It means that there has been "no change" in the enemy's determination to hold on to their Kuban bridgehead.

And it also means that there is "no change" in the Russian determination to blast the Germans across the Kerch Strait as soon as possible.

That process is already underway.

Yesterday on the lower Kuban valley, Russian artillery and aircraft opened a dawn bombardment on strong German positions. At daylight, Soviet infantry started their advance (through ravines and brush and over hillocks.) They were forced to ground by a counter-barrage from the Germans. It took forty minutes of inching forward through the mud on their stomachs before the Russian soldiers reached the first German lines. Then there was a period of furious and bitter hand-to-hand fighting before all the Germans were bayonetted out of their trenches.

But this was an important height. And before the Red Army could dig in, the Germans counterattacked. Fresh Nazi forces were brought in from neighboring units. At about noon, a group of fifty tanks—and that was the size of the average tank attack at Stalingrad—were thrown into the battle. German Tommy gunners followed behind.

The Russian command immediately sandwiched antitank gun and rifle troops into the infantry. Troops were issued with the deadly antitank fire bottles.

But the tank force was a heavy one and succeeded in gaining some ground. However, in doing so the tanks became separated from their Tommy gunners. Their position was exceedingly vulnerable, and the German tanks were ordered to retire.

The Russians again advanced.

In all, the Germans made ten unsuccessful counterattacks yesterday on one narrow sector. In some places, hand-to-hand trench battles lasted for an hour and a half—which means an hour and a half of stabbing, shooting, gouging, throttling, kicking, and kneeling. These German bodies were counted on the battlefield after the battle was over.

As I said, the communiqué announced "there were no essential changes on the front."
German Reinforcements Arrive
April 20, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 20, 1943

The battle for Hitler's half-acre in the Northern Caucasus still rages in the lower Kuban today. Last night the Germans tried something new in the way of attacks. They threw in tanks during a night battle. This is, of course, a very dangerous maneuver—a fact which the German command found out. Although the Nazi forces were greatly superior in numbers in this attack, the Germans failed to make any progress. They created a wedge in the Russian lines but couldn't hold it. A Red Army counterattack pushed the Germans back to their original positions, and four of those tanks were knocked out before morning.

The past few days of fighting in the Kuban has revealed some interesting facts. It is now evident that the German command has succeeded in getting big reinforcements into their foothold in the Northern Caucasus. It also is evident that Hitler intends to defend his "half-acre" of the Kuban to the last man.

This last-ditch defense of the Kuban bridgehead is no accident of German strategy. The Nazis are putting a lot of men and planes and equipment into this front. They know that, if they lose control of the Kerch Strait, the entire Nazi position south of the Donets River will be threatened by an assault on the Crimea.

The German attacks in the Kuban during the past few days have been exceedingly strong. According to the Russian communiqués, the Germans have spent 6,300 men in "killed" alone during the fighting Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. There has been no indication here as to which direction the Germans are attacking, but one thing is for sure: these attacks cannot be considered an offensive. The German and Romanian troops now fighting in the Kuban have no goal before them. This is no march to Baku or Maykop.

It is a case of "hit them before they hit you." You must remember that the Soviet command has not been idle during the spring bog-down in the Kuban. Russian reinforcements have also been thrown into this sector.

Now it only remains for the full weight of these opposing reinforced armies to clash. This clash, which appears to be imminent, should finally decide the fate of the Kuban.
Soviet sailors look at a German poster in liberated Novorossiysk with an inscription saying that every civilian located within the area will be shot, 1943 (Photo by Alexei Mezhuyev – source)
The Nazi Onslaught
April 21, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 21, 1943

German and Romanian troops are still pounding away at the Russian positions in the Kuban this morning. Various Red Army units on this front report that the Nazi troops launch as many as ten attacks a day on a single sector. When they fail to gain their objective, they keep up attacks throughout the night.

It was that way last night. The final German attacks were beaten off towards dawn. This morning's communiqué says the Russians are still trying to add up enemy losses, but according to preliminary data, one infantry battalion was wiped out and six tanks destroyed.

This morning's communiqué also revealed an interesting detail about this fighting in the Kuban. There has been no indication as to the exact sector where the main battles are now taking place. However, the communiqué said that two enemy torpedo boats were sunk by Red Army fire. Since Hitler's march into the Caucasus last summer, the port of Novorossiysk has been used as an Axis naval base. The Red Army has always held positions near Novorossiysk, and was last reported to hold the southern and eastern outskirts of the city.
"Let the Hitlerians Cheer"
May 2, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 2, 1943

Bitter fighting has broken out again in the Kuban. It is not clear who is doing the attacking or which army is on the move. The communiqué last night said Soviet forces warded off German counterattacks, which could mean that the Red Army has taken the initiative and is attacking. (Last night six German tanks, some guns and mortars, and one infantry battalion were wiped out.)

This morning's Pravda echoes the good will expressed in Joseph Stalin's Order of the Day. The newspaper says "Let the Hitlerians cheer the German fools about the invincibility of the European fortress. The Hitlerian command fears like fire operations of our allies on the European continent." It adds that the heavy bombing of Germany and Italy by the Anglo-American air forces is "the threshold of a new stage in the course of the war."

(These sort of comments make good reading to the Americans here in Russia.)
Rough Terrain Near the Kuban Bridgehead
May 5, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 5, 1943

There as yet has been no official Soviet reaction to the news that former Ambassador Joseph Davies is coming to Moscow as a personal representative of President Roosevelt. However, Davies probably rates more personal esteem from the Russians than any other American who has served in this country. His contacts with high government officials are known to be the best. And if he brings a message from President Roosevelt inviting Joseph Stalin to a personal conference, you can be sure that such a request would get utmost consideration in Davies' hands.

The first full-scale spring fighting of 1943 appears to be underway in the Kuban. Up to now, the Russians have referred to this battle as "very serious." The Soviet high command is making no premature claims. And here's some of the reasons why this Kuban warfare is being treated so conservatively.

In the first place, the Germans have built up a strong system of fortifications around the Kuban bridgehead and have had all winter to reinforce them. The terrain in this section of Russia is particularly adaptable to defensive action. The battlefield is composed of low hills and heights alternating with swamps and valleys. Around these swamps in particular grow bushes and groves of trees. And most difficult of all are the ravines and small streams.

Russian soldiers say that it is almost impossible to walk 150 yards through this wooded, hilly battlefield without running on to two or three small streams or a ravine or two. And the Germans are using every advantage that the lay of the land gives them.

On one height captured by the Red Army, they found eighteen antitank guns, thirty-seven machine guns, three mortar batteries, as well as rifle opposition. The Germans are usually dug in deeply, and many times the only way to oust them from such positions is to literally cut them out with bayonets. There is a lot of hand-to-hand fighting going on in the Kuban.

The fighting is just as bitter in the air. For the past several weeks, the German air force has been attempting to paralyze the Russian ground forces so that the Axis troops could further improve their positions. That is the reason that the Luftwaffe a couple of weeks ago switched its attack from rear bases to the Russian front line.

But to do this, the Germans had to bring Focke-Wulf 190s and Stuka dive bombers from other sectors of the Russian front. These reinforcements weren't very effective against the Soviet air defenses. Fifty-five German planes were shot down on this front yesterday. The Russians lost eleven. Such tremendous German losses have enabled the Soviet air forces to take the initiative, and that's what's happening now. Russian fighters, Stormoviks, and some American storming planes are now concentrating on blasting the enemy clear out of the North Caucasus.
Soviet soldiers armed with a PTRD-41 antitank rifle near Novorossiysk, 1943 (Photo by Victor Temin – source)
The Red Army Offensive Push
May 7, 1943
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 7, 1943

Fighting in the Kuban slackened off a little bit last night. This morning's communiqué says that the battles are still underway, and that the Red Army is still moving. (Last night, Soviet artillery destroyed two German tanks and smashed twenty artillery batteries, as well as some thirty machine gun points.) The Germans still continue to absorb heavy losses in manpower.

The front reporter for the army newspaper, Red Star, this morning sent a cheering and optimistic survey of the Kuban fighting. He says that the big Russian attack of the past few days has cost the Germans their main defensive link between the Axis forces at Novorossiysk and those trying to hold northward to the Kuban river. Red Star says that, in addition, the Russian troops have also destroyed the coordination of these German forces (with other Axis points of support) north of the Kuban river.

However, no one here is claiming that the Germans are defeated on the Kuban bridgehead. The Germans are now rushing in reinforcements and reserves to the threatened battlefields. But the Red Army still has the initiative here, and it looks like the Russians are going to keep it for a long time.

Germans Entrenched
May 9, 1943
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 9, 1943

Fighting in the Kuban is increasing in intensity with every passing day. Front dispatches say that the Red Army continues to widen the gap in German defenses that were smashed northeast of Novorossiysk. However, the Russian troops have run on to a new line of Nazi fortifications. (They are fortifications built this winter and are the most permanent type, with reinforced concrete pillboxes dug into the sides of mountains and deep trenches and gun positions established in the foothills of the northern Caucasian Mountains.)

The Germans have a defense in depth established here, and they have built a system of defenses which in may ways resembles the Mannerheim Line on the Karelian Peninsula—but the Red Army, you remember, knows something about this type of defense. And today down in the Kuban, the Red Army is still on the move forward.

(Both the Russians and the Germans are rushing reinforcements into this front, and right now the battle hinges on which side succeeds in getting there first with the most.)

The Russian press today continues to eulogize the Allied victory in North Africa. But the newspapers also take occasion to strike a sober note about the battles this summer. The ousting of the Germans and Italians from Africa is everywhere accepted as the last step before an Anglo-American invasion of Western Europe.

But today's Pravda has something to say about the coming battles in Russia, which makes sense also when applied to the fighting that British and American troops will have to do when this second front is opened.

Pravda says: "The Soviet people, from the bottom of their hearts, wish the Allies further fighting successes against our common enemy. Hitlerian Germany is shaken and passing through a crisis—but still is not crushed. We have to face hard and heavy fighting which will require not a few victims and enormous willpower and iron tenacity."

Continuing on the same tone, Pravda warns that it "is possible in some sectors our units will have to go on the defensive. But whatever might be the situation on this or that sector, we must not for a minute lose our willpower to victory."

With the Red Army reinforced for the summer fighting and with both the Germans and Russians waiting for the command to go over the top, this kind of talk is not only reasonable, but necessary.

The price of victory is going to be heavy—heavier than any price the Russians have paid in their two year fighting against the Germans. And far heavier than America's initial losses in North Africa.
Continued Axis Resistance
May 12, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 12, 1943

The Red Army is still slugging away at the Kuban at the second German defense line northeast of Novorossiysk. The Russians admit that the Axis forces in this sector are putting up a phenomenal fight, even though they are outgunned and their aircraft have not been able to stop the Soviet bombers and Stormoviks from blasting at their positions.

However, as usual, it's the Red Army infantry that has to do the dirty work. And today there is the usual job of clearing minefields, blasting barbed wire, and scouting that precedes every attack in this war.

Then the attack units go in with grenades and bayonets to take just one more pillbox or blindage.

The Russian drive northeast of Novorossiysk has been slowed, but it has not stalled. The Red Army is still moving forward, but it is almost literally a foot-by-foot advance.

Meanwhile the Russian bombing offensive continues to blast the German railroad and highway communications supporting the Central Russian front. The German bombers have not answered these widespread attacks on this sector. Consequently it is difficult to judge whether the Russian bombing is a "softening up" of the German defenses in preparation for a Red Army attack here—or whether the Soviet command has ordered the destruction of German concentrations to hold off a German attack.

No one knows who's going to attack first—or where—on this Russian front. And neither the German high command nor the Kremlin have let any newspapermen into the secret.
A convoy of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet carrying an amphibious assault force en route to a landing site around Novorossiysk, April 24, 1943 (source)
Amphibious Infantry
May 14, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 14, 1943

The Red Army again made local gains in the Kuban last night. Northeast of Novorossiysk, Soviet artillery continued blasting away at the German defenses and the infantry moved in to take one more advantageous height. However, there has been no breakthrough.

We have some new details of the fighting in the Kuban river delta area this morning. This fighting is practically a miniature naval action carried on by land troops. Both the Germans and the Russians have to move their artillery and supplies by boats through the swamps and around small islands. Ambushes established in the high cattails and reeds are common. (A rowboat is liable to carry a machine gun and a skiff an artillery piece. Scouting is done by expert swimmers.) Yesterday the amphibious Red Army infantry sank four cutters and four motorboats carrying Germans and munitions.

The Red Army god another strong warning this morning that they must be ready for major fighting at any moment. The warning came in the army newspaper, Red Star. Remember, Red Star is more than a newspaper, it is the link between the Soviet high command and the ordinary Russian soldier.

This morning's editorial is worth considering, if only for this reason. The newspaper says "the time is near when again battles on a big scale will develop with participation of big masses of troops" and calls on the army to be ready for this activity.

This is the latest of a series of warnings which have appeared regularly in the Russian press for the past two weeks.

Red Star says "it must not be forgotten that the Germans are still able to throw into action strong armored fists." It points out that the German generals still rely on tanks and air forces to carry the weight of their offensives but that every battle as it progresses involves all troops. On the defense, particularly, the newspaper says, does the infantry play a vital role.

Then the editorial went on in the tone of a locker room pep talk just before the big game. "Therefore in the certitude of the victorious issue of future decisive battles we must correlate our forces most carefully in full preparation for these battles. We must prepare to repulse the possible massive blows of enemy tanks and mechanized troops supported by all other kinds of troops."

But Red Star is not spreading gloom. It continues: "Our units possess at the present time all means not only to stop the Fascist tank divisions, but also to deal them a decisive defeat."

The newspaper does not say that the Red Army is going on the defensive. It takes care to declare that, during the winter campaign, the Russian officers and men learned not only how to repulse massive blows, but also how to win victories through the offensive.

The question in balance right now is whether it will be offensive or defensive fighting that Red Star talks about when it speaks of the big-scale battles here in Russia.

We won't have long to wait before finding out.
More Nazi Counterattacks
May 18, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 18, 1943

The Soviet-German front was comparatively quiet again last night. Down in the Kuban, the Nazi forces have attempted a series of counterattacks but thus far have failed to pull off anything that even looks like an offensive.

Front dispatches say that these German counterattacks, however, are being made with ever increasing forces—both on the sector northeast of Novorossiysk and in the Lower Kuban river area. At Lysychansk, at the eastern end of the Donets river line, the Red Army is digging in after crossing the river and capturing important defensive positions.

(The Germans failed to push the Russians back even though they threw in substantial numbers of tanks and infantry.) Now the fighting as settled down to a 24-hour exchange of artillery, rifle, and machine gun fire. (This sector appears to be the most volatile of any front north of the Kuban. It is likely that we'll be hearing of more fighting in this area.) . . .
"A Soviet Marine leads a blindfolded German POW to internment during the Crimean Offensive," April 1944 (Photograph by Yevgeny Khaldeisource)
The Air War Over Kuban
May 27, 1943
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 27, 1943

Heavy air fighting has again broken out in the Kuban. Northeast of Novorossiysk, the German air command sent masses of fighters, dive bombers, and heavy bombers to strike at the Red Army troops, supplies, and communications. However, the Red Army pilots got over three German planes for every Russian ship lost. At the end of the day's fighting the score was sixty-seven Nazi planes shot down for the loss of twenty Soviet planes.

I talked with a Red Army officer yesterday who had just returned from this Kuban front. He said that, during the heavy air battles over Hitler's Kuban bridgehead a few weeks or so ago, the Germans were making as many as 1,200 sorties a day against one Soviet position on the Novorossiysk salient. The Germans were trying relay bombing from their bases in the Crimea. This officer said that the Germans would concentrate on one or another height held by the Red Army and literally attempt to cover it with bomb craters.

However, he pointed out, bomb craters make pretty good cover for troops undergoing concentrated aerial attack. So in addition to giving the Red Army a pretty bad time, the Germans also compensated by giving the Russian soldiers a certain amount of cover and protection.

At any rate, the Soviet troops still hold that height.
The Fighting Continues
May 28, 1943

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 28, 1943

Active fighting has resumed in the Kuban. With characteristic reticence, the Soviet high command is not saying much about it. We don't even know for sure whether it is the Red Army or Hitler's forces on the attack. Neither last night's nor this morning's communiqué have given us any details of the battle.

Resumption of the Kuban fighting means that the opposing forces have caught their breath, and that the period of reinforcement and resupply that caused the lull on this front has now ended.

In a sense, this battle for the Kuban bridgehead is almost entirely one of supply. And on this front, Hitler has the more difficult position. He must keep his Kuban troops armed and fed by hosts and planes.

The past several days we have heard about the sinking of troops, transports, and landing barges in the Black Sea. The Russian command has placed a large aerial patrol over Hitler's supply points on the Black Sea coast, as well as the Sea of Azov. Russia's Black Sea Fleet, manned by the kind of seamen who fought in the heroic defense of Sebastopol, are also on patrol. Last night, two more of Hitler's landing barges loaded with troops were sunk. Yesterday Soviet planes sank another landing barge and damaged two transports and two other barges.

All in all, during the past three days the Russian Black Sea Fleet and air force has sunk or damaged eight German supply boats attempting to aid the Germans and Romanians in the Kuban sack. In addition, German planes, including some carrying vital supplies to the front, were shot down into the Black Sea and over the battle line yesterday. This makes a total of 131 German planes destroyed in the past two days.

This morning's newspapers also report that the front west of Rostov is livening up. A front dispatch describes the activity as "furious fighting of local significance" where the Red Army, in improving its positions, "deals sensitive blows to the enemy." However, there is no indication that either side has made a serious attempt to capture the initiative on this front.

We are anxiously waiting over here for the first big blow to be struck. I wish I could tell you how and where and when this blow will come. But anything I would say would be pure guesswork.

For the past two weeks I have talked with every Russian and American and British official that I know, trying to get a hint of what's in the air so that I could pass it along to you.

The only thing that I'm told is to expect some of the heaviest fighting that has yet taken place in Russia this summer. And that's all I know about any possible Russian or German offensive.

Former Ambassador Joseph Davies said yesterday that during his talks with Stalin they discussed the military situation. He said he detected a note of confidence, adding that it was not "overconfidence."

I'm afraid that I won't be of much help to anyone who wants to do a little dinner table staff work or work out some subway strategy. We'll simply have to wait and see.

March 25, 2015

1943. Allied Bombing of Germany Threatens Morale

The Battle of the Ruhr
"Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 13, 1943" (source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

May 30, 1943

There has been a change on this front during the past several months. A very obscure sort of change, but a very important one.

It's a change among the German troops, brought about by American and British boys operating out of England and North Africa.

It's based on the principle that, if you pull the Nazi war-dog's tail in Western Europe, his head will yelp in Russia. And that's what's happening here.

The Anglo-American bombing of Germany is having a very real effect on the German soldier, who has been given the impossible job of defeating Russia. When a Fortress or a Liberator or a Lancaster drops a bomb on Berlin or Duisburg or Essen, this bomb not only smashes Nazi war production, it also smashes just one more grain of confidence and resistance in the morale of the Fritz on the Russian front who sooner or later hears that his hometown has taken it in the neck again.

(Red Army intelligence officers for the past couple of months have reported that they are finding more and more letters from home on German prisoners in which the Deutschen home folks are complaining about Anglo-American bombing.)

When Frau Ruth Radke writes to her husband Sergeant Fritz Radke on the Russian front saying that Essen has taken another shellacking and the town is seriously damaged, Sergeant Radke is not going to be able to concentrate all his attention on killing Russians.

Russian officials report that this type of letter from home is being found in ever-greater numbers on prisoners and on the bodies of German soldiers left in the battlefields. It's a big change from the letters sent to the Russian front from Germany early in the war. Then the good wives and girlfriends of the Nazi soldiers begged them to send home booty taken from Russian civilians.

Russian officials are not overestimating the effects of this Anglo-American aerial attack on Germany. They don't believe that the German soldier on the Russian front is going to fold up and quit because of these attacks. However, they attach first-rank importance to the morale value on the Nazi troops here in Russia. No soldier can fight his best if he thinks the folks back home can't support the cause for which he is risking his life. American and British bombs are doing their bit in blasting this cause out by the roots, and the Fritz knows it.

1941. Analyzing the War from London

Churchill the Irate Kewpie
Winston Churchill inspecting soldiers in 1941. Getty Images. (source)

February 14, 1941

Dear Folks,

I'm working a dull night trick—we haven't had any serious raids for more than a week nowand thought I'd take a few minutes out to drop a line. I'm buying myself another suit—a Harris tweed this time—and get the thing tomorrow. It's about time I got myself some clothesI haven't had a new suit since Denver.

I'm becoming acquainted with the city now and have found some of the most marvelous bars—they call them "pubs" over here. There is one called Blackfriar's that is more like a museum than a bar and all of them seem to have nothing but old world graciousness and gentility rubbed into the wood.

However, liquor is expensive—about forty cents for a good shot or scotch—and I'm not doing the drinking I did in New York. However, I manage to have my moments.

I've had some interesting assignments. I've been doing the food stories—trying to determine if there's a shortage. And I get to go out on a bombing run occasionally. Then I saw Churchill review some Americans in the British army—and he does look sort of like an irate kewpie. Then the Queen inspected some American gifts to destitute and bombed out children. She really is beautiful and looks a little like Mom—about the same size, maybe a little shorter. She has plenty on the ball and has a tradition of never having been upset by even the most embarrassing circumstances.

Some doubt is arising now whether Hitler really is going to try his invasion—although with all the warnings from the government to be prepared, you'd think the show was coming off tomorrow—and maybe it will have by the time you get this. However, everybody knows that something is in the air, even if it isn't German airplanes. That's one of the things that has everyone puzzled—why the Germans haven't been carrying on their night raids. They usually give us hell after the RAF—Royal Air Force—give them a particularly heavy dose of bombs. But even after the shelling of Ostend and Genoa and the bombing of Bremen and Hanover, there has not been a thing to speak of.

With the new moves in Bulgaria, many people think that the big move will be in the Balkans and that much of the Luftwaffe will be withdrawn from the invasion ports to that sector. But your guess is as good and maybe better than we people sitting over here, where the tendency is to be so close to the guns that you can't see the war.

It's sometimes a little difficult to realize that spring is almost here—the seasons come early in England. And especially hard when all the news from home, even the newspapers, are at least a month late. We just found out the other day who won the New Year's bowl games and all your letters set me back about thirty days. That's the reason they say Christmas lasts longer here than any place else in the world. I was receiving Christmas cards up until a fortnight ago. 

I've had some dates with a couple of English girls—one a publicity agent for a big hotel in town, the other with a girl who runs a restaurant and another with a dance instructor I ran into. They are no different from American girls—in fact I think they get a lot of tops from the American films since this product are practically the only ones worth seeing. Since all the show open about nine in the morning and close about seven, I don't get a chance to see many pictures but I've been going to several concerts on my Sunday day off.

As yet I've only worn my tin hat a half dozen times. When the antiaircraft guns are barraging overhead, they make you feel safe as hell for some reason. And they are good protection against falling shrapnel which sometimes is more of a menace to personal safety than bombs.

I talked over NBC to Washington the other night. It was off the record and not broadcast except for the National Press Club there. It surely sounded good to hear an American accent. There were several of us on the radio, a man from the NY Herald Tribune, the NY Times, and AP. Vichy correspondents also were hitched up on the chitchat and I told Washington to pass along a message to you but I don't know whether they did or not. We only answered a few questions and kidded back and forth so there was nothing important said.

I have to get back to work now—so take care of yourselves and let me know the gossip. What's Paul doing, anyway? I have a lot of letters to write and tell him I'll drop him one when I get around to it.


July 20, 1941

Dear Folks,

Have been keeping busy trying to keep busy with nothing much going on to speak of. Had an interesting session with Ambassador Winant the other night. We had a little trouble about a story which was withheld for security reasons, but which the embassy forgot to release. Winant seems to be a combination of backwoodsman and schoolboy—but a hell of a nice guy. Also met the First Lord of the Admiralty Alexander at a press conference, and he wasn't so impressive. Seemed to be sort of a word worker type.

The only people I have been afraid of—in connection with Britain's war effort thus far—have been the politicians. Just as in our government, federal and state, they too often think of votes or of personal achievement rather than consider their country. Britain cannot afford to have many of this type of man in high places right now. However, I don't think he is very prevalent here.

Newspapers and everyone else here are withholding judgment on the outcome of the Russo-German war. We all hope, of course, that Russia will win. But for the first time so far in the war, I think everyone is being sensibly realistic. After Norway, France, Greece, Crete, and Libya, everyone has learned that you can't talk an army to victory.

The Russians have done much more than anyone expected them to do—for which we are all thankful—but if they are defeated, then we in Britain will have the battle back on our hands. Consequently, we are hoping that Adolph will be pretty tired when he gets through. From what has happened so far, we know that he already is bruised.

I want to ask you again to be careful what you allow Jim Porter to put into his column from my letters. You gotta remember that the United Press reads these things too, and I don't want anything to appear in print that might be used against my integrity as a newspaperman. You have to be careful of those things these days. Tell Jim to be careful for me.

Went to a Fourth of July party given by Douglas Williams, head of the American division of the Ministry of Information, the other day. Life photographers were there making a "Life goes to a party" series—but I don't know whether I was included in the photos or not. It was a good show. Everyone had a grand time, and plenty of liquor flowed.

Since the pastime in this country is walking, I took one the other day with Ed Beattie, bureau chief here. We went across the Epsom Downs—really beautiful country. It seems in some places to be a carefully ordered and trimmed Ozarks. Walked about seven miles, more than I have in a long time. But it was worth it.

Have been shifted back to the office after a boring session at the Ministry of Information. Am now working a swing trick from noon to eight p.m. and sometimes from four until midnight. Not many interesting assignments kicking around. Met the Russian military commission when it came to town—then got a shock when I interviewed some injured firemen, a couple of whom had most of their faces burned off. Also interviewed some American nurses as you saw.

Off the record, I have been writing some pieces about the American industrial system for the Ministry of Information. They are merely definitive and descriptive stuff, and so far I have made about $40. Have two more on order now.

Heard from Carl Smight the other day. He didn't mention anything about being married to Alice Haldeman-Julius except to say that it might happen soon. He is now working for the Chicago Tribune, which is a promotion over the other job he had. One of my pals here was shifted to Africa, and another may be going to Iceland soon. I was hoping that I might get a shift to Moscow or something, but nothing is on the horizon yet.

That's about all for now. Can't think of much of anything else. Am feeling fine, and along with everyone else am getting a little bored. But we can usually depend upon Adolph to come up with something.



1959. Dissatisfaction with the CBS TV News Format

Bill Downs Proposes Changes at CBS
"Edwards on the set of Douglas Edwards With the News (1952)" (source)
CBS News Office Communication

November 18, 1959

To: Sig Mickelson

From: Bill Downs

I write this on a personal and confidential basis because I don't want people to think I'm nosing in where I have no business. I hear from Howard and the grapevine down here that there is concern over the ratings on the Edwards news show and possible changes on it, or the format.

So, he said, sticking his nose in, may I pass along my ideas on the subject?

CBS News has dominance because it has better men. The Edwards show has made minimal use of the staff. I would suggest that if the Huntley-Brinkley show has gained on our 6:45, it is because it gives a greater illusion of coverage of the news than a report out of New York supplemented by anonymous film and a regular news analysis.

I would suggest that correspondents who cover a story in Washington, Paris, or wherever report it. Even if this means using an audio feed from London or Paris with balops. It is better to have the on-the-spot report than a rehash of the wires. On domestic stories, I would suggest that separate voices—or film or live when possible—of the correspondent who covered be called in.

The change in format would make Edwards more of an editor than the narrator—there would be a built-in dynacism [sic] in switching—and I think that on dull days this format could be played with to pick a newsworthy subject and venture into some reporting in depth.

I obviously make this suggestion because it will give everyone including me more exposure as a CBS News correspondent, a thing that some office boys in New York don't know.

I also would like to revive an old suggestion which has been kicked around for years but never really tried. It also might provide the excuse and the opportunity to unify the newsrooms—radio, TV, public affairs, and what have you under one roof.

In the days of massive truth, it's pretty obvious that the Edwards newsroom is a set, whether the teletype machines in the background work or not. It's not a CBS newsroom and really never pretended to be. It's a studio. So why not do it from the newsroom? Why not say we have a late report from Paris on the De Gaulle-Khrushchev conference—"Rack up the Paris film, Joe. Come in, Dave Schoenbrun in Paris."

The same newsroom setup should apply to Washington too, and the switch could be used from desk to desk. A reporter could use charts. He could even bring in the news principal or an expert for short interviews; the same for New York reporters.

I think Doug does a fine job of news coverage and am not criticizing it. But I think possibly it has become settled and solidified, when most of the time news is exciting, shocking, horrifying, funny, or fascinating.

I think also that the Huntley-Brinkley routine is settling into a pattern that will eventually become a kind of minstrel show, ending up "Good night, Mr. Jones—Good night, Mr. Bones."

It's not necessary to go overboard on the newsroom idea, with people dashing around and that sort of stuff, but it seems to me that CBS News can be portrayed as a working organization under conditions of reality better than on a set—or am I wrong? The first thing necessary, I would suggest, is to throw away the makeup kits.

Anywhere, there it is. What do you think, I betcha.


March 20, 2015

1943. The Air War in Crimea and East Prussia

The Fighting Rages on During Easter
Soviet fighters at an unfinished German bridge in Crimea, November 1943 (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 23, 1943

This morning's communiqué says that there were no essential changes on the Russian front last night. However in the last 24 hours in the Kuban, 500 Germans and Romanians were killed in a series of attacks, after which they were forced to retreat in disorder.

This fighting in the Kuban, which the German command is throwing wave after wave of men and aircraft without regard to losses, still has not taken on any pattern. However, there are indications that the Nazis are gradually wearing themselves out. Front dispatches this morning say that the Germans more and more are putting Romanian troops into the vanguard of their local attacks. Thus the Romanians suffer the heaviest losses. The dispatch says that when the unlucky Romanians show a reluctance to attack, or when they appear on the verge of retreat, the German soldiers behind them liven their spirits with Tommy gun bullets. A good number of these Romanians have been killed by their own allies.

It was revealed today that the Germans have moved hundreds of bombers and fighters into the high and dry airdromes of the Crimea to support the Nazi attacks across the Kerch Strait in the Kuban. These bombers are the ones that have been making mass attacks on the city of Krasnodar, the capital of the Kuban, and other military objectives west of the city.

But the transfer of new German bomber squadrons to the Crimea also means something else. Ever since the post-thaw fighting in the Kuban began we have heard of the strong Russian air attacks on the Nazi airdromes. The fact that many of these airdromes are in the Crimea means that the Soviet air force has carried its attack in force to this peninsula for the first time since the Russian forces were pushed out of the Crimea after the fall of Sebastopol.

Russian intelligence has collected some interesting facts about this new German bombing force in the Crimea. The pilots and bombardiers and navigators are all young, unseasoned flyers. Many who have been captured say that they were on their second and third fighting operations after graduation from the German training schools.

The Nazi flying command is attempting to give these kids flying experience by flying them over the Kuban battlefield in bombers that carry no bombs. They usually get only one such flight, however, and after that they are on their own.

The Russians say their bombing is pretty bad. They usually drop their bombs too soon in their hurry to get back to their bases, and they don't know much about taking evasive action. During two days of their mass raids on the Krasnodar District, 98 German planes were shot down. This totals almost an entire German air wing.

The Germans undoubtedly moved this strong bomber and fighter force into the Crimea in order to cover a German "Dunkirk" evacuation across the Kerch straits if such became necessary. These German and Romanian attacks in the Kuban appear to be Nazi attempts to postpone that necessity.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 24, 1943

The Red Army has won the first round of spring fighting in the Kuban. The official explanation in this morning's communiqué reads like this: It said "the enemy, as a result of the unsuccessful attacks of the past days, suffered such severe losses in manpower and equipment that they Hitlerian units have been bled white and could not launch active operations.

The communiqué went on to say that the Red Army last night put up an artillery barrage that destroyed two Nazi artillery batteries and blew up one ammunition dump.

This first round of victory in the Kuban was a victory on points for the Red Army. Russian forces absorbed all the punches that the German and Romanian troops could throw at them. Today both sides are catching their breath for the beginning of the second stage of the battle.

The Soviet air force again carried the air war to East Prussia, and first details of the two hour raid on Insterburg report fires and havoc among barracks of German reserve troops, as well as serious damage to the city's important railroad junction.

Insterburg forms the eastern apex of the important German communications triangle connecting Koenigsburg and Tilsit. This district not only connects Hitler's Baltic troops with their rear supplies, but is also a big base for reserve troops and quartermaster's stores. Pilots said that the first in Intsterburg were so fierce that they could smell the smoke from the height at which they bombed the city. The barracks district was set aflame, and bombs dropped on the railroad junction and warehouses. The weather was good.

Tonight at midnight, thousands—perhaps millions—of people will jam Russia's cathedrals to celebrate the holiest day of the Russian Orthodox church. The siege laws of Moscow and other cities which impose a midnight curfew will be relaxed tonight so that the faithful can worship from midnight through the long, four hour service celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

Moscow churches will be so jam-packed that people will not have room to kneel. At these services, such as the one I saw at Christmas, the people jam the churches so tightly that the faithful even have difficulty in crossing themselves.

The Russians celebrate the Easter season and the breaking of Lent by taking special buns and cakes to the church to be blessed. For the past week, the Moscow market has been jammed with women bargaining for eggs and flour and sugar. (There is quite a barter in these things.) And this year there will not be any light, fluffy cakes—and few raisins and frosting in these cakes—but there will be cakes to be blessed, and that's all that matters.

Another Russian Orthodox custom is that the worshipers take lighted candles with them after the service and walk three times around the church. This custom, however, will have to be omitted this year as it was last. The blackout bans such a display of light.