July 31, 2015

1944. Charles Shaw Spreads News of the Normandy Invasion to London

Charles Shaw from London on D-Day

Charles Shaw

CBS London

June 6, 1944

ROBERT TROUT: And now we've just had word that we're to hear further news direct from overseas. And so for another report of the pooled broadcasts, we take you now to London for the report of CBS correspondent Charles Shaw. Go ahead, London.

CHARLES SHAW: This is Charles Shaw in London. For an hour after the broadcast of Communique Number One [audio], I played town crier to a London generally unaware that France had been invaded. I rode and walked through the strand—Fleet Street, past St. Paul's, along the Thames embankment to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, out to Piccadilly Circus and other parts of so-called downtown London—asking people here and there what they thought of the news. In most cases I found out that I had to report the news before getting any comment.

It looked like London any morning between 9:30 and 10:30. The streets comparatively deserted, soldiers of all nations dancing about, street cleaners running their brushes along the curbs. I asked a taxi driver to take me around the city because I wanted to see how people were reacting to the news. Incidentally, I asked him, "Have you heard the news?"

"I heard something about it," he said, "But I don't know whether it's official." I assured him it was, because I had just returned from the studio where the communique was broadcast.

Waiting for a traffic light, we drew alongside a car driven by a girl wearing the uniform of France. I leaned out and said, "What do you think of the news?"

"What news?" she asked.

"The Allies have landed in France."

All she said was, "Thank God."

Fleet Street, headquarters of the press in London, was normal. A couple of men who might have been reporters were seen dashing into buildings and up to St. Paul's Cathedral to see whether there were worshipers inside. And the only person in the vast auditorium was a black robed guide to the crypt who hadn't heard the news. His comment after being informed was, "That's good."

And so it was all over London. Two RAF sergeants were sightseeing in Westminster Abbey. A couple of women were trying unsuccessfully to gain entrance to the Houses of Parliament. Downing Street was empty except for a street cleaner almost in front of Number 10. All over London women were selling flags for the benefit of the Red Cross. The girl I patronized hadn't heard the news, and her expression changed little when she was informed.

The next interviewee was a roly-poly woman, dressed about as broad as she was long, who had heard the broadcast. "It's gewd," she said. Not a newspaper extra appeared on the street. London this morning, for at least an hour after the broadcast of Communique Number One, was the same London that it was yesterday morning.

Earlier this morning, the telephone rang at 7 AM. It was Ed Murrow. He said, "Better get dressed and wait for a call from me." A new world speed record for getting dressed was promptly set. The dressing was accomplished against a background of heavy sky noise, the sound of great fleets of planes. They were too high to be seen, but their roar seemed to fill the sky, and the planes seemed to be everywhere.

At 7:45 the phone rang again. "Get to such and such a building as quickly as possible." It was a building from which the big communique was to be issued.
It was going-to-work time for London, and masses of shopgirls and businessmen jammed the sidewalks leading to that building. Almost bursting with what I felt was the big secret, I studied the faces of those people. Their expressions were the same as those of going-to-work people all over the world. Most of them looked sleepy. Quite a few of the girls were white-lipped, apparently having got up too late to put on lipstick and intending to do so at their offices. Some were neatly dressed, others had ties askew just like the eight o'clock crowd in Pittsburgh or San Francisco.

But there was one difference. The clothes they wore neatly or carelessly were mostly of 1939 and 1940 vintage. The lipstick the girls wore or forgot to wear was of a hard, chalky substance—war stuff. The tiredness in their faces came not from a bad night, but from almost five years of working in the front lines of war. You felt like shouting to those weary people, "It happened! The invasion has started!" Because that's what these people have been working and fighting for; fighting beside antiaircraft guns, fighting with fire hoses, fighting with industrial tools since one day exactly four years ago when the tattered fugitives from Dunkirk reached these shores. In a few hours they would know, and you wondered how they would take it.

The building was reached, and the way correspondents were converging on the gates from all directions reminded you of the old Toonerville Trolley animated cartoons in which an incomprehensible number of people would enter small apertures. They were all hurrying; some of them just moved their legs faster without seeming to cover much more ground. Practically every pass that you've been issued since arriving in London had to be produced. No one-eyed Connellys could get in here.

Bureau chiefs were herded into one big room. One person from each press association, major newspaper, and broadcasting network. All others were barred. And downstairs, outside of news special studios, the other broadcasters were waiting and typing out last minute pieces. And one of those studios had been locked tightly since its construction was completed. That was the studio that which the communique was to be read to a waiting world. Already the German radio was broadcasting reports of fighting in France. London was maintaining silence.

The broadcaster's workroom was filling with colonels, majors, lieutenants, and GIs of both the American and British armies. Nobody seemed quite sure of what so many soldiers were supposed to do in so small a room. White legging-ed, white belted MPs, their garrison caps banded with what looked like white bandages, took spaces inside and outside the doors.
In came the official Allied spokesman with retinue. He began calling New York network headquarters, informing them that the first communique would be broadcast at 9:32 London Time. 9:32 arrived. The communique was broadcast. The big secret was out.

This is Charles Shaw in London returning you to New York.

July 29, 2015

1943. The March to Bryansk

Major Red Army Advances Along the Eastern Front
Soviet sappers conducting clearance in Smolensk, September 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

September 12, 1943

The Russians cut off another three to six miles of German-held territory yesterday in a long, zigzagging slice extending from the Bryansk region six hundred miles southward to the Sea of Azov. There is no sign of slackening of the Soviet march westward. In fact, in some sectors in the northern Ukraine, the Red Army has speeded up its advance in the last several days. (The Germans are running for a line that they hope to hold throughout this winter. They have about forty-five miles to go before they reach the Dnieper, and another eighty miles or so before they get into the Kiev defensive zone.)

We are now beginning to get first reports of what the Nazi industrialists were able to achieve during their occupation of Russia's richest steel and coal area in the Donets Basin.

Preliminary reports indicate that would-be factory managers were so busy trying to get Russian labor to work that there was little time left for the production of coal or steel or anything else.

In Mariupol, particularly, was the effort to establish Germany a failure. Here the Nazi military authorities turned over a big steel plant to the Krupps work. Not much of the plant was left after the Russians shifted it eastward two years ago, but there were buildings and a plant layout.

The only signs of German industrial efficiency that the Red Army found when they took the city Friday was a poster put up by the Krupps management. It warned that all workers who did not report for their jobs would be sent to the company's concentration camp. People who went to this camp never came back. It is estimated that 40,000 people from the Mariupol region died in this camp.

The most striking illustration of the complete German failure in the Donbass is the fact that the Nazis were forced to ship coal from Poland into one of the richest mining regions in the world.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

September 12, 1943

The Red Army in the past ten months of its winter and summer offensive has almost completely wiped out the gains that the German army spent two years in achieving.

As the Russians drive for Kiev and the Dnieper bend, they soon will be on the same lines where they fought the Nazis in September 1941.

This morning's Red Star says that Germany now appears to be seriously preparing for a war of complete exhaustion as the only way to avoid a complete rout.

German engineers are building fortifications like mad along the Dnieper and Desna river districts. It's a Number One construction project, and one that must be completed within a month. It was reported several weeks ago that such fortifications were started around the Bryansk region southward along the Desna.

The task of the German engineers now is to complete these fortifications in time for the Nazi troops to fall back on them and hold throughout the winter. It's an extremely bad time of the year to have to build such a defense line. In the first place, the defense experts must visualize the terrain as it will appear under snow. That means making the present pillboxes and blindages several feet higher than summer constructions. It also means that literally hundreds of thousands of mines will have to be relaid when the first snows begin to fall.

On top of all this, the German quartermasters corps must prepare the beaten German armies for winter.

It's a tremendous job, and one that is going to tax the famous German "thoroughness" to the limit.

Front reports this morning again mention the capture of sixteen and seventeen-year-old youths among the new reserves in Nazis regiments. Sometimes they are part of what the Germans have called "army groups."

An army group is a hastily reformed unit made up of the survivors of a number of regiments who have been smashed or scattered with no leadership. These "army groups" number about forty to sixty men. Sometimes they will even have a single tank or heavy gun with them.

They are given separate defensive assignments, such as to hold a height or a river crossing. However, the basic construction of these hastily formed groups does not make the Germans' ersatz units particularly effective. They operate with little cooperation from their flanks. It is becoming more and more common to capture these groups intact.

(This great German retreat has started a general discussion about the war here in Russia. No one is fooling himself into thinking that the war is over, but it makes for some good conversation.)

(One can't help wondering what the people of Germany are thinking today.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

September 13, 1943

Red Army guns tonight are booming at the gates of Bryansk, the key city in the German defense line in Central Russia. Tonight's communiqué reveals a sensational advance into the railroad knot on the eastern bank of the Desna river just across the river from Bryansk. The communiqué announces the capture of two railroad junctions, Bryansk One and Bryansk Two. These two junctions are within sight of the main portion of the city, which is on the western bank of the river.

Bryansk was first captured by the Germans in 1941. Since that time, it has been a major military objective for both the Russians and the Nazis. It is sort of the "Kansas City" of Central Russia—a combination farm distribution center and manufacturing district. The city is about the same size as Schenectady, New York, or Sioux City, Iowa, or Austin, Texas, or Pasadena, California.

Six railroads branch out from Bryansk, but only two of these, leading westward from the town, are open to German military traffic, and they are under constant attack from the Russian air force.

More importantly, Bryansk is the peg of the entire German defense line in Central Russia. It ranks with Leningrad in the north, Smolensk on the western front, and Kharkov in the Ukraine as a key to the line where the Germans hoped to hold this winter.

It must be pointed out that the city itself is not yet in Russian hands. There still is a wide and difficult river to cross. The Germans have blown all the highway and railroad bridges across this river. There undoubtedly will be a bitter fight for a position as important as this one.

The Red Army's breakthrough to within artillery range of Bryansk is a serious defeat for the Wehrmacht. (The fall of the city would be a minor disaster for them.)

The other sensational advance revealed by tonight's communiqué is in the Russian march in the direction of Kiev. Russian troops are tonight less than ten miles from Nizhyn. This puts them seventy-five miles from Kiev itself. These troops are well within the Kiev railroad network. The capture of the railroad junction of Nizhyn will mean that, on this particular right-of-way, the Russians will have no more railroad junctions on the road to Kiev.

The news continues to be tremendous here in Russia. There is no sign that it will cease in the next few weeks.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

September 13, 1943

There is no sensational news from the Russian front today—that is, if you discount the fact that the Red Army continues its western advance on a five hundred mile front. In the south, Soviet forces pushed westward as much as eighteen miles in twenty-four hours west and southwest of Stalino yesterday. However, the going is much tougher west and south of Kharkov where the Germans the other day tried a large-scale counterattack attempting to create a salient into the Russian flank striking toward Kiev. This counterattack failed.

Further north, the envelopment of Bryansk continues. Russian troops driving directly westward down the railroad into the city have fought their way within twelve miles of Bryansk. They are only some ten miles from the east bank of the Desna river where six railroads join. The city of Bryansk is on the west bank.

The communiqué also mentions a new direction today. It's the Roslavl direction, lying midway between Bryansk and Smolensk. The Russians are driving a wedge between these two German defense points which, if it succeeds, will create a vital base for flanking movements northward and southward of both these cities.

In the coming weeks I think you can expect much heavier fighting and stiffer German resistance all along the front. The rate of the Red Army's advance has not been slowed in the double drive for the Dnieper in the southern and central Ukraine. However, further north in the Bryansk region and in the Smolensk direction, the fighting has been exceptionally bitter. Here the battles have been staged on territory which the Nazis have built up as a winter defense line. This line has been broken in several places, such as the section southwest of Bryansk where Soviet units crossed the Desna river.

We haven't heard anything from this group for the past several days.

Also in the central Ukraine, Russian forces are approaching the Kiev defense zone. These defense zones are miniature Mannerheim lines extending as much as sixty miles in an arc around a vital point.

The defenses consist of acres of minefields, miles of barbed wire, and trenches all built into forests and slopes and river banks and villages.

Smolensk has such a defense zone. So does Bryansk. Breaking through one of these positions is a long and costly process, but it can be done and has been done in this summer offensive.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

September 14, 1943

The Battle for Bryansk is in its final and most difficult stages today. Russian artillery on the east bank of the river are lobbing shells into German positions in the city. Meanwhile the Nazis, dug into the high western bank of the river, are covering the opposite bank with a curtain of fire in an attempt to prevent the Red Army from establishing a bridgehead.

Down in the Ukraine the Russians are meeting more and more German reinforcements of men and tanks. In the northern Ukraine the Germans are even trying a series of counterattacks. However, in the southern sector west of Stalino, the Nazis have not slackened their high rate of retreat—trying to hold a defensive position in the daytime and running at night.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

September 17, 1943

If you want a thumbnail description of the German army in Russia tonight, it can be said to be a group of men in gray-green uniforms looking for a place to stay this winter. At least this is an accurate definition of those Nazis on the upper Desna river line.

The Red Army's capture of Bryansk has thrown the Germans out of the lynchpin in what was to be the link between the Nazis' northern and southern winter line.

When Hitler's summer offensive failed around Kursk and when the Russians started their breakthroughs, the Germans were forced into a fighting retreat toward the Desna. (In fact, one Russian division captured German high command documents telling of the preparation of the Desna for the winter. This document ordered that, if necessary, the German troops were to fall back on this line.)

They have fallen back, alright, but the Germans have lost their military balance. They're still falling.

The Bryansk victory and the routing of six Nazi infantry divisions means that a serious hole has been punched in this Desna line. Ninety miles down the river, another Russian breakthrough across the Desna is still making progress around Novgorod-Severskiy. We have yet to see how far the Russians intend to follow up on these breakthroughs, particularly this close to the fall rainy season, but the next natural defense lines behind the Desna are the upper reaches of the Dnieper river.

Meanwhile, all along the other sections of the front south to the Sea of Azov, the Russians are moving westward at the rate of three to nine miles. It may be significant that the Germans lost only eight planes on the entire Russian front yesterday. (The Nazis evidently have abandoned the air to the Soviet air force.)

Moscow is getting so used to victories these days that people almost think something is wrong if the siege guns and rockets don't salute another Red Army success by at least nine o'clock.

There were two salutes last night—and tonight. The story goes that Moscow mothers tell their daughters, "I want you home right after the victory salute tonight."

Now the daughters are answering, "You mean the first victory salute, or the second?"

July 28, 2015

1944. Murrow Reports from the Air During Operation Market Garden

Edward R. Murrow Accompanies Airborne Troops

Edward R. Murrow


September 17, 1944

EDWARD R. MURROW: We've been flying straight into Holland now for something like twenty minutes, so far without any opposition; at least none that I have been able to see. Our fighters are down, just almost nosing along the hedge rows, searching the little villages, and they're up above us and on both sides.

This is the real meaning of air power. And it seems that the Dutch realize it as well, because in a little village that we're just passing over I can see at least two dozen people standing along the narrow, winding streets. Some of them are children, and I can see that most of them seem to be wearing a white shirt or a white blouse of some kind.

There go the para-packs on the formation ahead of us. Yellow, brown, red. Drifting down gently, dropping the containers. I can't see the bodies of the men—yes I can. The chutes ahead of us are still going—and there's a burst of flak right there. I think it's coming from a railway embankment just down to the left. It was certainly considerably under us and just ahead of us. And it's the first flak we've seen...with one burst of light flak—there's another.

More tracers going across just in front of our nose. I think it's coming from that little village just beside the canal. More tracers coming up now, just cutting across in front of our nose. A lovely orange color, it is.

We're down just about to the drop altitude, now. In just about thirty seconds these nineteen men will walk out onto Dutch soil. You can probably hear the snap as they check the lashing on the static line. We're throttled back now.

There he goes! Do you hear him shout? Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen...

There they go! Every man out—I can see their chutes going down now. Every man clear. They're dropping just beside a little windmill near a church; hanging there very gracefully. They seem to be completely relaxed like nothing so much as khaki dolls hanging beneath a green lampshade.

July 24, 2015

1957. "The Rise and Fall of the Radio Commentator" by Quincy Howe

"The Rise and Fall of the Radio Commentator"
John Daly (left) and Quincy Howe (right) covering the 1956 Democratic National Convention for ABC Television. August 12, 1956 (source)
From The Saturday Review, October 26, 1957:


Less than twenty years have passed since the conjunction of the radio industry and the Second World War brought about the news analyst, or commentator, into sudden being. Now the conjunction of television, peace, and prosperity threatens him with gradual extinction.

Some news analysts, it is true, still remain in business at their old stands, but none who has dropped out has been replaced by a postwar product. Television has produced newscasters, interviewers, masters of ceremonies, and assorted experts, but no new name, face, or voice has appeared in the field of network news analysis. What happened?

In the 1920s Graham MacNamee and Floyd Gibbons pioneered the field of reporting news events by radio. Lowell Thomas and Boake Carter pioneered the field of newscasting; by the mid-1930s their names had become household words. And then came World War II, offering new challenges to a medium which rose to the occasion with a new kind of expert: the journalist who had learned to talk, the lecturer who had learned to write, the broadcaster who had learned to read—something more, that is, than the script before him.

H. V. Kaltenborn, Elmer Davis, and Raymond Swing—the first three radio news analysts to win and hold national reputations—all possessed the rare blend of talent, character, and experience that their new calling demanded. In 1899, before he had entered Harvard or come of age, Kaltenborn was already working for a newspaper. After graduation from Harvard he served as an American exchange professor in Germany and as tutor to young Vincent Astor on a round-the-world tour. Then began a twenty-year stint with the Brooklyn Eagle as a reporter, editorial writer, associate editor, and drama critic. Kaltenborn made frequent trips to Europe, built up a wide following as a lecturer on current events, and in 1922 delivered his first news broadcast. In 1929 the Columbia Broadcasting System set him up as the first news analyst in the business. Nine years later his round-the-clock coverage of the Munich crisis made him a national reputation.

Elmer Davis's proficiency in the classics helped him win a Rhodes scholarship at Queens College, Oxford, in 1911. He had already taught school for a year in his native Indiana. After returning to the United States he served as a staff member of The New York Times. But from the mid-1920s until the eve of war in Europe Elmer Davis spent most of his time writing short stories, essays, and humorous novels—"Friends of Mr. Sweeney," "I'll Show You The Town," and "White Pants Willie" among them. At national conventions and at occasional seasons of other years he also assumed, in The New York Times, the character of Geoffrey G. Gloom, the Indiana Democrat. In 1939 he became a full-time news analyst for CBS, where he performed with such distinction that his journalistic colleagues persuaded the Administration to put him in charge, in 1942, of its newly created Office of War Information.

Raymond Swing got his first newspaper job in Cleveland in 1906. Seven years later he was Berlin correspondent for the Chicago Daily News, remaining in Germany until 1917 and returning, in 1919, for the New York Herald. During the war he conveyed an important secret message from Lloyd George to the German Government. After the war he made Europe his news beat until 1936, when he returned to New York as correspondent for the London News Chronicle. Swing won fame on the radio reporting on the United States for the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 1935 he wrote "Forerunners of American Fascism." He appeared for a year on the "American School of the Air," over CBS. In 1939 he went over to Mutual.
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These biographical items serve as reminders that three of the first men to establish wide and firm audiences for themselves as wartime American commentators had roots abroad as well as at home, and interests that ranged beyond the news of the day. Swing composed music as well as books. His first wife was a Frenchwoman. Kaltenborn married a German baroness. Elmer Davis was as much a man of letters as a journalist. But all three had come rapidly to the top as newspapermen. All had likewise gone beyond daily journalism to more lasting literary and artistic pursuits. All had savored the taste of Europe, as it used to be before the First World War. And they had seen enough of the twentieth century to be able to view the events of the 1920s and 1930s in perspective.

Two other wartime commentators, who made names for themselves shortly after Kaltenborn, Swing, and Davis made theirs, first saw the light of day just after the turn of the century. On graduation from Coe College, Iowa, in 1925 William L. Shirer went to Europe, where he landed a job with the Paris bureau of the Chicago Tribune. And at the same time John W. Vandercook, who had spent a single year at Yale, was turning from newspaper work to exploration and authorship. For the next fifteen years Shirer devoted himself to foreign correspondence, living in France, Germany, and Austria and visiting India, from which he returned deeply impressed, like many others before and since, by Mahatma Gandhi. But Shirer's interests, like Elmer Davis's and Raymond Swing's, always extended beyond the daily journalism at which he made his living. He experimented as a novelist and a playwright. He spent as much time with authors as with politicians. He belonged to the Lost Generation, which had come through the First World War only to find a Second already on its way.

But it was not until this war came that Shirer, covering Germany for CBS, and Vandercook, commenting on world news from NBC's New York headquarters, found themselves caught up in the same kind of fame that had already come to Kaltenborn, Davis, and Swing. Indeed, it was not as a radio commentator but as the author of "Berlin Diary" that Shirer first won the popular recognition that his radio broadcasts later enhanced.

America's outstanding wartime commentator did not graduate from college until 1930 and had never worked in any medium except radio. In 1932 Edward R. Murrow began visiting Europe, first as president of the National Student Foundation, later as assistant director of the Carnegie Corporation's Institute of International Education. In 1935 he was appointed head of the Columbia Broadcasting System's department of talks and education; in 1938 he again returned to Europe as chief correspondent for CBS. During the 1940 Blitz his London broadcasts seized the interest of American listeners. His coverage of other wartime stories held that interest, and he has proved himself not only a great reporter, but a sensitive interpreter of world news. In 1945 his radio colleagues did him an honor no radio commentator ever won before, when they elected him president of the American Correspondents Association of London. By this time Murrow had gathered, organized, and developed an outstanding team of young war correspondents: Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood, Larry LeSueur, Bill Downs, Richard C. Hottelet. These men belonged to a later generation than Shirer and Vandercook. Most of them had done some newspaper work. All of them knew Europe as well as the United States. And all of them who first made names for themselves with Murrow in Europe during the war continued to function in postwar radio and television, at home and abroad.

In addition to developing the outstanding wartime radio news staff, CBS also developed the bulk of commentators who, during the war or afterward, transferred their talents to other networks: H. V. Kaltenborn, Elmer Davis, Raymond Swing, John Daly, Chet Huntley, Bill Henry, Cecil Brown, Edward P. Morgan, Joseph C. Harsh. All these men received their basic radio news training at CBS. It is a record no other network can duplicate or even approach.
.    .    .

In one respect at least, the radio and television industries have developed along familiar American lines. The same trend toward bigness and concentrated control that has become so marked in the automobile industry operates in radio and television as well. Network broadcasting on both radio and television can absorb certain costs, both of production and transmission, that individual stations cannot bear. These costs are far greater in television than in radio, but even before the postwar, mushroom growth of television, the government had ordered the National Broadcasting Company to divest itself of one of the two radio networks—the Red and the Blue—it then owned. The Blue Network became the American Broadcasting Company, but the radio interests that acquired it could not meet the skyrocketing costs of postwar television, and Paramount Theatres Corporation purchased control. This made the American Broadcasting Company, in effect, a subsidiary of a chain of motion-picture houses, just as the National Broadcasting Company had always been a subsidiary of the Radio Corporation of America.

The Columbia Broadcasting System, on the other hand, came into being and continued to exist as an independent corporation which sought to make profits from broadcasting only. William S. Paley, whose well-to-do father set him up in the business, retained control and gradually expanded his operation and his holdings. CBS sold stock to the general public, but the Paley family always held a controlling interest. It likewise so happened that William S. Paley himself possessed a social conscience as well as business ability and a keen interest in news, education, and public affairs as well as in entertainment and the popular arts. He regarded the news department at CBS as something more than a means of fulfilling certain minimum obligations to the FCC. He saw it as a source of pride, prestige, and perhaps eventual profit. Even before the Munich crisis he had hired Edward Klauber, one of the top executives of The New York Times, to set up a comparable news-gathering organization in the radio field. Whatever superiority the CBS news department may still enjoy over the news departments of NBC and ABC goes back to the head-start it gained during those prewar years.

Since then the rapid growth of television, some of it at the expense of radio, and changes in public taste, some of them engineered by the industries that cater to that taste, have brought radio and television news commentary to a state of uniform confusion. In the case of television news, production costs far exceed what any sponsor can pay for the audience such programs attract. In the case of commentary, fifteen minutes of a radio news analyst plus a camera add up to something less than television—and it has taken a dozen years for some television news presentations to find a place for even a few minutes of straight commentary. But local radio stations, including those that carry network programs, can still find audiences and sponsors for news, sports, and music all around the clock. There are also many hours of the day when network radio news can still find audiences and sponsors.
.    .    .

The news analyst, however, faces two handicaps. First, if he is worth his salt and goes in for controversy most local sponsors and stations will have none of him. Second, the news analyst who is worth his salt will not voice his own commercial.

Few postwar commentators, I must add, have had to grapple with the temptation to read their own commercials, for the simple reason that few sponsors wanted them on any terms. The news itself had lost its wartime urgency and flowed less abundantly. And there was an oversupply of wartime and prewar commentators to cope with it. John Daly, who had begun covering Roosevelt in 1936, came to the 1948 conventions and campaign with a background that no newcomer possessed. Radio's Bob Trout, who has earned for himself the title of "Mr. Convention" over the years, still covers those political rituals in the medium which made him famous, imparting a sense of continuity to the proceedings. And when war suddenly broke out in Korea Edward R. Murrow—who had reported the Battle of Britain from housetops of London and the bombing of Berlin from the belly of an American bomber—reported the Korean War from the cockpits of American jets. The familiar and trusted figures of Murrow and Davis again exerted powerful influences at the height of the McCarthy madness. Night after night on radio Davis waged a tireless war of words on the Wisconsin Senator. Murrow delivered his most effective attack by way of television. But no new Murrows, Davises, or Dalys have come to the fore during the postwar years, with the single exception of Walter Cronkite, who came to CBS television news with long newspaper experience plus a rare natural talent for the new medium. And though Murrow has kept up his program of radio commentary, he owes much of his present prestige to television.

But why no younger men? For one thing, the new shape of the postwar world and the changing shape of the radio and television industries have narrowed the range of news analysis. Nor have the postwar years witnessed any such outpouring of intellectual, artistic, and literary creations as occurred during the first dozen years after the First World War. Criticism, scholarship, and the sciences have recently come of age in the United States—and that is much. But the Beat Generation has produced no Hemingways, Fitzgeralds, or Thomas Wolfes; no H. L. Menckens or Walter Lippmanns. The new mass media of motion pictures, radio, and television have reached new heights of technical excellence, but the "seven lively arts," as Gilbert Seldes called them, have produced no such men and women of talent as Seldes admired thirty years ago. Every radio or television news analyst with a national reputation today still draws inspiration from the earlier decades of this century—and it's the same story in other fields of journalistic effort. Whether there is no longer and room at the top, or whether the young men and women of talent prefer more secure or highly paid work, I do not know. Perhaps, in the case of television, so much has to be learned so fast that its greatest opportunities lie in the technical rather than the creative sphere. But a career in radio, with its declining audiences, profits, and influence, has lost much of its former allure. All of which makes the way of the news analyst harder and harder, no matter where he turns.

This applies even to the CBS organization. When the war ended and television overtook and overwhelmed radio NBC entered the competition with most of the top-rating shows of radio entertainment under its banner. Whereupon CBS, with smaller financial resources and greater financial daring, borrowed enough money to buy away half a dozen of NBC's top stars and outdistance NBC in entertainment as it had already outdistanced NBC in news. And this impetus carried over into television, where CBS went to the top almost at once. NBC presently hit back by putting Sylvester L. Weaver in effective charge of programming, and within a few years Weaver stood the whole industry, including NBC, on its collective head. For Weaver, single-handed, broke down two taboos that had straitjacketed radio since its inception and that hamstrung television even more severely. The weekend radio program "Monitor" shattered the pattern of programming all radio time in fifteen-minute units. "Monitor" adopted the revolutionary practice of giving each feature as much or as little time as that feature might be worth, without regard to sponsorship and time-breaks. It proved an immediate success—financially and every other way—and nowhere did this innovation make for so many improvements as in the field of news reports and news analysis.

In television, Weaver shattered the thirteen-week cycle under which individual programs not only ran to uniform lengths but had to be scheduled and sold in thirteen-week periods. He achieved this revolution by scheduling a variety of so-called television spectaculars, running one, two, and even three hours. Some of these spectaculars appeared only once. Others appeared at irregular intervals. Some of them found sponsors. Others did not. All cost NBC prodigious sums of money. In any event, Weaver and NBC parted company after six years—not long enough for Weaver to remold CBS nearer to his heart's desire but long enough to leave a lasting mark on the industry. The news analyst, in particular, has felt the consequences of the Weaver touch. On the one hand, Weaver's innovations promised to liberate some news analysts from the necessity of having to fill the same time period at the same hour of every day, no matter how much or little there might be to talk about at that moment. On the other hand, these same innovations threatened to liberate other news analysts from their jobs by opening the door to assorted experts to cover special situations as they arose. But Weaver's innovations also liberated from NBC before any news analyst found himself at liberty.
.    .    .

While Weaver had been shaking up NBC's competitors as well as NBC, a former newspaperman was reorganizing the American Broadcasting Company. When Robert E. Kintner came to ABC as its president in 1948, its financial stringencies forced him to make bricks without straw. (When he left, in 1956, Paramount Theatres had purchased control and proceeded to make bricks without Kintner, who had performed miracles of economy and ingenuity, especially in the news field.) Instead of seeking and claiming an ideal of objectivity of which human nature is incapable, ABC is the one network that maintains a staff of commentators of widely varying political views and gives each member of this staff his head. The weakness of this policy is that ABC has had to gather in most of its commentators from other networks or from the newspaper and magazine field, since it gives such freedom only to newsmen with established reputations. Most of the CBS commentators, on the other hand, notably its younger correspondents in Washington and various foreign capitals, have worked their way up through the CBS organization. And though CBS has several times taken strong public stands against editorialized news commentary and in favor of objective news interpretation, the public record tells a different story. Murrow, Sevareid, and Howard K. Smith owe their high reputations to the frankly opinionated views they have repeatedly expressed over the CBS network. But the candor compels this further admission. While no two CBS news analysts agree on every subject, the CBS news staff includes only those commentators whose views follow liberal patterns in domestic affairs and internationalist views in foreign affairs. Not since H. V. Kaltenborn moved to NBC in 1940 has the CBS network featured a news analyst with a frankly conservative outlook, and it has never given regular time to such nationalistic views as Paul Harvey expressed regularly over ABC or to such reactionary views as Fulton Lewis expresses regularly over Mutual.

For this record, CBS deserves nothing but praise. It merits criticism only for the occasional statements some of its executives issue on the subject of objective news analysis. Nor does CBS performance violate the rulings of the Federal Communications Commission which declared ten years ago in its famous Mayflower decision that the networks have a right to editorialize—provided they present both sides. Only CBS has ever taken this ruling at its word—and only on exceptional occasions at that. Its great merit, as compared with any other network, is the consistent effort its management has made over the years to spend time, money, and talent on news coverage and news interpretation. ABC, on the other hand, merits special commendation for having given the American listening public a wide spectrum of political opinion expressed freely, fully, and regularly by men of such differing views as George E. Sokolsky, Paul Harvey, Erwin N. Canham, Edward P. Morgan, John W. Vandercook, and Cecil Brown. Now that Kintner has moved to NBC and Paramount Theatres has taken active control of ABC's operations, what may happen next at those two networks will depend on the actions, reactions, and interactions of so many personalities as to rule out prediction.
.    .    .

Concerning the present status and immediate future of the news analyst, in radio or television, this much can be said: The wonder is not that he plays a diminishing role on radio and barely exists on TV. The wonder is that he survives and exists at all, anywhere. This is due more to the durability than to the adaptability of the analyst and more to the inflexibility than to the enterprise of the industry for which he works. In some capitals, especially Washington, the new radio or television news analyst now plays the same role as newspaper and magazine correspondents and bureau chiefs in those same cities. Sometimes he must function only as a stringer, finding his main source of income elsewhere. Sometimes he functions on a part-time basis and has time for other work on the side. But he tends to become a specialist in his own neck of the woods; not the all-purpose expert who analyzed the wartime news. Only local and regional stations and networks, whose audiences have a high common denominator of interest, still hold out opportunities to the traditional commentator.

In this connection a personal word may be in order. Of the four news-commentator jobs I have held during the past nineteen years none brought me so wide and warm an audience response as the one I received from the comparatively highbrow listeners to New York's Station WQXR. As a news analyst for CBS, during and after the war, I received more helpful editorial guidance than anywhere else. It is this kind of guidance that all working journalists require; as a former book and magazine editor myself I know whereof I speak. In my four years as news analyst for Station WILL, operated as an outlet for educational radio by the University of Illinois, my freedom of expression was far more narrowly circumscribed than it ever has been on any commercial station or network. Which—I hasten to add— is only right and proper. A tax-supported state university, supervised by an elected board of trustees, dare not offend any substantial group of its constituents. In my present capacity as news analyst for the American Broadcasting Network, I have never felt so free to speak my mind or had so much time in which to speak it.

But the breed to which I belong is vanishing. The generation to which I belong has passed its prime. We have seen William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson as plain as the young people of today have seen Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Foster Dulles. Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin still seem as real and alive as Sir Winston Churchill. We cannot forget the marks they left upon our lives. We think and read about them more than we do about the present leaders of the world—and we talk about them almost as much. These thoughts and words mean more to our contemporaries—than to our juniors. But how large a place have these juniors yet earned in interpreting today's events—and tomorrow's? And when all of those who have come to the top of any field belong to the middle or elder generation, it means that something has happened at the roots.

Whether that something is good or bad depends upon your point of view. The younger generation either cannot see or cannot find opportunities in a type of journalism that now seems to have gone into a decline. To the extent that the popularizer, in any medium, has abused his privilege or worn out his welcome, this is all the good. It is also a healthy sign when, in a more specialized field, a George Gallup challenged the election forecasts of the Literary Digest just as Samuel Lubell now challenges Dr. Gallup's. And just as televisions "Meet the Press" has suspended radio's "Town Meeting of the Air" so the televised interviews conducted by Martin Agronsky and Mike Wallace break new, rich ground. But these innovations supplement, they do not replace the commentator with a wider view. The root of the matter may well be that only under exceptional pressures will a mass medium carry and a mass audience respond to such wide and searching interpretations of world affairs as a few dozen radio commentators brought to a vast public during World War II.
.    .    .

Why has not the challenge of the postwar crisis brought forth a similar response? The blame cannot be laid at any single door—if, indeed, it is even a question of blame in the first place. As one laborer in the vineyard sees it, there has never been so great a demand as now exists for an integrated interpretation of the day's news and its wider meaning. If the public now turns more and more to experts and specialists, it is because they seem to speak some part of the truth with some authority. But a different and greater opportunity beckons. No single individual can hope to meet it. One industry—which need not necessarily be the radio or television industry—can. But perhaps some new and greater crisis must break upon us first. The history of the radio industry and the Second World War cannot repeat itself. Such histories never do. But tomorrow's history goes on from where yesterday's left off, and some patterns of the recent past may repeat themselves in the near future. Events have speeded up so rapidly in recent years that some of the same men who played outstanding parts in the First World War lived to apply the lessons they had learned twenty years on. The same thing could happen again.
QUINCY HOWE'S flat, Yankee tones constitute one of the most familiar voices in America. In part of this article, which is the elaboration of remarks he recently delivered in Boston to the Association for Education in Journalism, he gives us his own commentator-biography. At present he has a daily (and Sunday) broadcast on ABC and is serving as president of the Association of Radio-Television News Analysts. He also is a prolific author; his latest work is the monumental "A World History of Our Times."

1945. The British Use Japanese Soldiers to Fight Vietnamese Revolt

The Vietnamese Uprising
"The uprising in Hanoi capital on August 19, 1945" (source)
From the Kansas City Kansan, September 26, 1945:
British Use Japanese to Fight Indo-China Revolt

5000 Enemy Troops Join Allies To Battle Natives in Saigon Streets

The colonial fuse in Asia, lit by war, has now exploded a bomb. At least one great colonial territory, Indo-China, is in a state of actual revolt against return to rule from overseas—in this case, France.

Java, in the Netherlands East Indies, appears to be in a state of latent rebellion against a return to Dutch rule, judging by fragmentary dispatches from every viewpoint. To repress what CBS correspondent Bill Downs, on the spot, calls an Annamese "war of independence," the British commander at Saigon is using 5000 armed Japanese troops, as well as his 2500 British Indian troops and about 2000 French soldiers released from prison camps.

James McGlincy of United Press reports from Saigon that "throughout southern Indo-China the Japanese seem to be enjoying the same prestige and authority they had before the war ended."

'Not Enough Troops'

The excuse given by Maj. Gen. D. D. Gracey, British commander at Saigon, for using the Japanese troops against the Annamese is that there aren't enough Allied troops in Indo-China to "maintain order."

Eyewitness reports from Saigon say the Japanese are cruising the streets in heavily armed trucks and guarding public buildings. Bill Downs says "they are fighting side by side with the British and the French."

The revolutionary crisis, which has been building up with Annamese-French clashes throughout Indo-China for the past two weeks, was precipitated by French troops.

On Sunday, about 300 French soldiers released from Japanese prison camps surrounded the Saigon town hall and demanded the surrender of the Government set up by the Vietminh, the Annamese nationalist party.

When the Annamese officials rejected the ultimatum, the French stormed the building, then chased the Annamese through the streets. About 300 Annamese were arrested. The French then took over other public buildings, including the police station. But their forces were not large enough. Vietminh irregulars attacked, and barricades went up in the streets. Finally, the British decided to intervene.

100 Casualties

Fighting has been going on since Sunday.

Downs says about 100 persons have been killed and wounded on both sides.

French officials in Saigon have been blaming the Japanese for the Annamese revolt. In one sense, that may be true. Last March, the Japanese shrewdly gave the Annamese their "independence" and allowed them to set up their own government.

When the British arrived, it became clear that they were committed to restoration of French colonial rule, which meant the end of any Annamese hope for real independence.

The surrender gave the Annamese a chance to demonstrate their dislike for the French, and there were sporadic attacks on French residents in Saigon and other parts of the country. The British intervened to stop the riots, but left the Annamese government in office, if not in power. The French attack on the Town Hall, and the arrest of the Annamese officials, touched off the real revolt.

UP says British military strength is expected to keep order in Saigon until the main French occupation forces arrive, but Downs says armed bands of thousands of Annamese irregulars are moving toward Saigon.

"Some," Downs reports, "are armed with Japanese rifles and revolvers, but most have only sticks and clubs and bamboo poles tipped with knife blades. Some of the raiding parties are infiltrating toward the center of Saigon.

Other trouble in Southeast Asia and the Indies:

Reports from Java say that disorders inspired by Indonesian nationalists have broken out in various parts of the island.

A UP dispatch from Batavia says that 10 "extremists" were arrested at Soerabaja after street demonstrations and a Dutch Government Representative, C. H. O. Vander Plas, was stoned while driving a car through Batavia. One Dutchman was killed at Soerabaja when a native mob of some 2000 attacked a group of Europeans, the dispatch said. Order was restored by Japanese troops.

An article in the Southeast Asia Command Newspaper, Senc, said that British "reinforcements were being sent to Java to deal with "what Japanese secret police called possible disorders by Indonesian nationalists."

At Bangkok, Thailand, a battle has been going on for four days between Thai (Siamese) troops and police and armed Chinese civilians in the Chinatown area. Seven persons have been reported killed. This fight apparently is the outgrowth of bad feeling between the Thais and the Chinese minority in Bangkok, which reached a head when the Thais refused to let the Chinese hoist Chungking flags to celebrate the Allied victory.

July 23, 2015

1949. The Soviets to End the Berlin Blockade

Strategic Failure for Communism in Europe
Bill Downs filming "We Went Back" in Germany in 1947
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

May 7, 1949

Berlin must have looked like a cinch to the Communists when the Russians clamped on their blockade off this city eleven months ago.

Here it was—the American, British, and French sectors of the city a capitalist island 120 miles inside the Soviet zone. From a prestige viewpoint, the stakes were high—complete Communist control of the former German capital, a sizable industrial prize, and the banishing once and for all of the disruptive political influences of the Western democracies.

According to the Marxist revolutionary texts, here was a chance for a classic operation by the Comrades; a chance to put into practice the dynamic principles of Stalinism.

I have been studying this problem in Marxist political warfare for the past eight months. Here was what was supposed to have happened.

The blockade would be slapped on. A tremendous propaganda campaign would start simultaneously to discredit the Western Powers. The shortage of food and supplies, of coal and fuel, would paralyze the basic public services. American, British, and French garrisons here would be forced to evacuate all but skeleton staffs. At this time, the German Communists would hail the abandonment of the people of Berlin as a capitalist defeat.

As the winter wore on, more and more West Berliners would be forced to register in the Soviet sector of the city to get food and fuel. And as more and more of them registered, the more pressure that could be exerted to join the movement to oust the three Western administrations.

Then, when conditions became hard, or when the German Communists reckoned they had an effective core of support in the British and American and French sectors, then it would be time to move in. The so-called "People's Police" had been trained and armed in the meantime. Activist bullyboys would be ready to move in for rioting and street fighting.

At this point, the Russian military government of Berlin would announce that these disturbances were threatening the peace of their occupation and take over the administration of the western part of the city.

From the Communist viewpoint it must have looked a simple operation; much less complex than, say, the seizure of the Czech government.

But it didn't happen, and today we know why. The Western Powers stood up on their hind legs and said no. The miracle of the airlift defeated the blockade. And most importantly, America, Britain, and France demonstrated to a confused and conquered people that democracy is no sissy-prissy lace-pants ideal, but a working formula for free government with muscles as tough as any Communist. The defeated people of West Berlin who had enough of totalitarianism took the cue and stood by us.

In the sense that we have defeated the Communist strategy and frustrated their attempts to capture all Berlin in these past eleven months, the lifting of the blockade means a victory for the West in Berlin.

But it by no means can be interpreted as a conclusive one. The struggle for Germany continues.

With the lifting of the siege only five days away, and with the important conference of Foreign Ministers impending shortly after that, the big international mystery today is: "What is the new strategy? Why this reversal of policy at this time?"

Experts here give four possible reasons for the change in the Communist line in Germany.

First, they say, it could be that the decision to abandon the blockade was made simply because it failed. If you remember, during these eleven months of siege the Communist parties of France and Italy last fall made an all out effort to wreck the economies of those nations. Thus, it is reasoned, the big 1948-1949 offensive of the party in Western Europe didn't come off; it is time to stop and try a new line.

Secondly, although the offensive of the Left is making giant strides in the Far East, a really serious situation is developing in the Western nations through formation of the Atlantic Pact. As long as crises such as the Berlin Blockade persist, the North Atlantic alliance will be solidified. Therefore remove this international irritant and remove the urgency of the Atlantic Pact organization.

Another reason that observers here give for the lifting of the Russian blockade is the success of our own counter-blockade halting trade with the East. East German officials themselves admit the critical state of industry in the Soviet zone of Germany. The Russian satellite nations such as Poland and Hungary were once big customers of German industry. Consequently the counter-blockade provides a serious disruption of the balance of trade in Eastern Europe.

And finally, the Communists have an eye on the American Congress, which is now considering the United States military appropriations. By removing the Berlin Blockade as a major international irritant, they could hope to prevent expansion of American armed forces and armed aid under the Atlantic alliance.

What is going to happen now?

If one is to believe the current Communist Party line being spread in this city, then the Russians at the Foreign Ministers' conference will press for a quick peace treaty with Germany and the withdrawal of occupation troops. The question of German unity will arise, and since both the East and Western Powers are committed to a unified Germany, then there should be extensive debate on that.

But there is another school of thought here that predicts a new shift in Soviet policy is a radical one; that the Russians are willing to go to almost any lengths to bring about settlement in Germany. In other words, establish a unified Germany in which the Communists would participate; let this unified Germany become a play form for the East-West struggle, and thus give the Communists a chance to capture the entire administration.

An interim West German government was established yesterday in Bonn. A similar government will be established in the Soviet zone.

But the question of whether these two German governments will ever assume power depends upon the meeting this month in Paris.

In fact, so much depends upon this conference of Foreign Ministers. Berlin is praying that it will be a step towards peace.

July 21, 2015

1944. Downs Says USSR Will Make Nazis Pay for Every Atrocity

"Downs Says USSR Will Make Nazis Pay for Every Atrocity"
"Babi Yar," where the Germans carried out mass executions. [The photograph is of the press party being taken through the site].
Photograph by A. Ioselevich
No. 8717 Siberia Photo Service

[Original caption]: "Бабий яр", где проводились немцами массовые расстрелы мирыых жителей.
Фото А. Иоселевич
№ 8717 Сибфотосарвис

From the Kansas City Kansan, January 26, 1944:
Standing in back of the Allied conferees at the peace table will be the shadows of 10 to 15 million Russians—tortured, maimed, killed by the Nazi invaders—said Bill Downs, CBS correspondent just back from Moscow.

At a luncheon yesterday, Downs said that in viewing this war we are missing an important point—that the atrocities committed by the enemy are actually happening and are not just the propaganda of World War I.

And they are going to be used by the Russians to exact retributions "for every single thing" the Nazis have done in Europe.

Downs revealed that the Soviet Union is keeping a complete and precise dossier of atrocities. Well known doctors are on the Atrocity Commission and they are examining every body found for causes of death and giving each an honored place in the black book.

300 Bodies in Grave

Here is what Downs saw:
  • Bodies of Russian prisoners of war brutally killed in Stalingrad.
  • An entire family—a grandmother, two young boys and a girl—machine-gunned in a house in Rzhev.
  • One-third of a re-opened grave in Orel that alone contained more than 300 bodies.
"We have to understand that side of the war in order to understand how and why the Russians are fighting," he said.

"My guess is that after the war there will be no unemployment in Germany. The Germans will be in Kharkov, Kiev and other cities they have destroyed, paying for every bestial thing they did."

At Kiev, where he saw evidence of 50,000 to 100,000 Jews slain by the Nazis in the Baba [sic] Yar ravine, he spoke with one of the 100 Russians who had been forced to act as grave diggers.

The victims were thrown into the vast, shallow grave. Some were not yet dead. As the dirt was piled on the bodies, it kept moving from the struggles underneath.

At this point in the recital, the Russian broke down and cried:

"I can't stand it! I can't stand it! The earth is moving."

Russia's role in the postwar world was also discussed by Downs. He said:

"Russia will play an important part in the post-war world. We can do business with her—if we want to. We can co-operate or we can compete. If we want co-operation, we can have it; if we want competition, we can have it."

July 20, 2015

1949. Factions Vie for Power in West Germany

The West German Federal Election of 1949
1949 West German Bundestag election posters (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

August 7, 1949

Western Germany's election campaign is beginning to heat up today after a cold, unimpressive start, and the last seven days before the voting next Sunday promise to produce some political fireworks.

Max Reimann, leader of the German Communists, spoke in the manufacturing center of Braunschweig yesterday and got himself hooted to "go back to Russia." A fight started in the crowd. The public address system was destroyed. And then, almost as if by signal, one part of the crowd started singing "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles." The Communist section broke into the "Internationale."

In Nuremberg, the right wing Christian Democratic leader, Dr. Konrad Adenauer, had to dodge stones thrown from the crowd. Another fight started and it took thirty policemen to quiet the rally.

However, in all this campaigning, the main object of the attack by German politicians has not been the rival German political parties. It has been the Western occupation powers. To hear the politicians of all shades lay into America, Britain, and France, one would think that we were running for office.

The theory seems to be that the party who attacks the occupation most strongly will get the most votes.

Western authorities have become concerned over this development. It is no accident that the crowd at the Reimann rally suddenly began singing the nationalist "Deutschland über alles."

Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

August 9, 1949

Germany's current election campaign, which will establish the new West German state, has thus far proved just one thing: that politicians as an international breed are vociferously enduring in Europe as they are in America.

In the final five days of the electioneering, there are a half dozen major speeches every day in the community centers stretching from Hamburg to Munich. The different party leaders usually make two addresses a day, and a political speech in Germany isn't a full dress affair unless it lasts at least two hours. If the volume of words spoken in this campaign were a measure of the new democracy here, then the world would have little cause to worry about these people. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The underlying theme of this campaign has been "Germany for the Germans," a poorly disguised reemergence of nationalism which forebodes more problems for the Western occupation powers after the Federal Republic of Germany is formed about a month from now.

There are more unknown quantities in Sunday's German election than in boarding house stew. There are eleven million refugees in Eastern Germany, and no one knows how they will vote. There is the million and a quarter unemployed, there is the women's vote, and most importantly there appears to be great apathy on the part of most people that questions whether the election is really important at all.

Bill Downs

CBS Düsseldorf

August 11, 1949

By anyone's standards, this German election campaign should have been one of the most exciting events in recent European history.

It has everything—a defeated people rising to form their own government and accept the challenge of the last half of the twentieth century.

It has drama—thirty million Middle Europeans caught in the fulcrum of the struggle between East and West and speaking out in a free election in an area where free elections are threatened with extinction.

It has pathos—eleven million refugees seeking stability, homes, and security in a Germany where every city above a population of twenty thousand is in ruins.

This election would appear to have promise, for these are the people who, only four short years ago, were at the throats of the democratic world. Since then, they have made official repentance by giving up their arms, and they have told the conquerors that it was all Hitler's fault anyway—that it was the Nazis, not the German people who fought their losing war.

However, instead of this Sunday's election being a chapter of exciting, throbbing history, the ordinary German appears to be regarding the political struggle with all the interest that a kindergarten class might have in a lecture on interplanetary physics.

In attending the campaign meetings of the right win Christian Democrats, the left wing Socialists, and the extremist Communists, I have sat in the audiences and looked at the German electorate and wondered what they were thinking. They all appeared to be listening intently, and some of the speakers are good and it probably is true. They are hard to distinguish types. The Christian Democrats will be a little better dressed than the Communists or Socialists.

It struck me that the only common denominator is the same one that you see at American political meetings. A great number of those attending the German political rallies have that same yearning look that maybe, if their party wins, they can wrangle a political job, or maybe be able to fix a traffic ticket sometime in the future.

Then, when the meeting breaks up, the people file out and stand around and talk about everything under the sun other than what the speaker said.

The only physical evidence that there is an election on in this part of Germany at all is a plastering of brightly colored posters on the wall, as well as an occasional banner like the one a few blocks from here in front of the Düsseldorf railroad station. A big red banner proclaims to commuters, "Vote for the exit of the occupation armies. Vote KPD"—the Communist ticket.

An American politician would go crazy at the weakness and inexpertness of the German campaign. But, of course, the German political parties are very poor. They depend mainly on their campaign funds to come from voluntary contributions.

The Socialists have been most vigorous in fighting the campaign battle, and apparently they have the most money. However, the opposition parties charge them with unfair tactics. Protests were made in Hamburg, where it is charged that the Social Democrats have been employing disabled German soldiers to go around tearing down the posters of the Christian Democrats.

And in Kiel some enterprising politician dug up an old barrage balloon and painted "Vote Socialist" on it. It now drifts lazily over the city.

Here in the Ruhr the Communists have their only real chance of electing deputies to the new parliament. It is here that they will collect most of the ten percent of the vote they are expected to get. I asked a Party official what his predictions on tomorrow's voting was. He wisely replied, "Look what happened in your America when people started to predict the election. The Communist Party says only that we will do very well.

The Communists are getting the most trouble from recently released prisoners of war sent home from Russia. Last night, another Communist meeting was broken up only three minutes after it started. There are also reports that the Comrades are taking a page from Boss Tweed and Prendergast in this election and are planning to concentrate their strength in one or two places in the Ruhr.

Since this is the holiday season in Germany, the authorities have made provisions that vacationers can vote outside their home precincts if they have the proper papers. It is reported that about five thousand Communist vacationers will descend on Solingen by streetcar and cast their votes there for their candidate.

As I said before, the isolated incidents of violence—one man has already been killed in an election argument in Bavaria—there does appear to be a great political disinterest in the election by the great mass of German people.

After sixteen years under Hitler, the Germans have learned the wisdom of the closed mouth, and authorities here admit that there may be a great groundswell of feeling and opinion which may find expression in tomorrow's election. This can be demonstrated in two ways: by the people staying away from the polls and boycotting the election, or by a surprise extremist vote either to the right or to the left.

There are those who say that the mass of people have been too quiet in this campaign; that the still political waters of Germany run extremely deep and dangerous.

And there is evidence to support this in the overt and increasing signs of blatant nationalism that has shown up here. The pre-Hitler red, white, and black Reich's flag has been displayed in some meetings. "Deutschland Über Alles" is reemerging as the national anthem.

Here in the Ruhr there have been vicious attacks on America, Britain, and France. And in a number of speeches, including the bourgeois Christian Democratic Party, politicians have praised the achievements of the defeated German Army.

The most overt statement yet came last night from a former Nazi general, Major General Remer, the man who put down the military putsch against Hitler on July 20, 1944. Remer announced the formation of the German Party of the Right, admitting that he welcomed and needed all former Nazis in Germany. "Our work will begin the day after the election," the former Nazi officer declared. "Within two years we will be so strong that we will sweep into power."

This frank admission of neo-fascism has found other and different expression in Germany. I have copies of a letter sent anonymously to businessmen in the Cologne and Aachen area demanding that all good Germans should boycott the election. The Christian Democrats are tools of the Americans, the Socialists are pawns of the British, and the Communists are catspaw of the Russians, this letter declares.

The mimeographed letter goes on to name a number of German politicians charged with working for the OSS or British intelligence during the war and who continue to be spies against other Germans.

Another pamphlet, also appealing to all "true Germans," has had wide sale here demanding passive resistance to the election and a vote boycott.

Whether these appeals will develop into anything more than "lunatic fringe" movements will be partially answered tomorrow.

But it would appear that Germany's first general election in sixteen years has more sound than fury. The fury may come later as the Germans gain confidence and strength in their new government.

Bill Downs

CBS Düsseldorf

August 12, 1949

Emphasis in Germany's election campaign is shifting to the Ruhr today as politicians of all shades make their final bid for votes in the country's most densely populated district.

The Ruhr area, stretching forty miles eastward from Düsseldorf, from where I am now speaking, has a population about the size of New York City. But more importantly it contains the coal mines, the steel mills, and the synthetic oil plants that have become a major issue in this election.

How the Ruhr votes next Sunday is going to have a vital effect on the course of our European Recovery Plan. It will influence British foreign policy, and the Ruhr vote may determine whether or not the future West German government will be free enterprise or socialist.

The Ruhr industrial area will most certainly give the measure of Communist strength in Germany, for it is here among the coal miners and steel workers that their influence and following is the greatest.

Political experts here say that they have sensed a swing in the left. That is, from the right wing Christian Democratic Party to the Socialists. A British military government official said the Communists have lost ground and will get less than ten percent of the vote. I talked with Communist party leaders here this morning. They deny they have lost ground, claiming that their political meetings are drawing more interest than in 1932 when the German Communist Party was at its peak. However, the Ruhr Communist leaders refuse to predict their strength at the polls on Sunday.

For the next few days I'll be broadcasting from what is laughingly called "CBS Düsseldorf." The studio is my two-by-four bedroom in the British press camp. Press wireless equipment is perched on the windowsill. The tap on the sink in the corner drips badly. Children of a Danish correspondent play in the hall. I just wanted to warn you in case any strange noises come over this microphone. It is probably the maid looking for laundry.

Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

August 15, 1949

The people of Western Germany have elected a conservative, middle-of-the-road government to form their new Federal Republic and constitute the first German state since Adolf Hitler's abortive Third Reich.

Final returns of yesterday's election, completed a few hours ago, give a substantial victory to the Christian Democratic Party and its free enterprise, capitalistic economic program.

The vote rejects the nationalization platform of the Socialists, although they will be the strongest opposition party, and the results deal a severe blow to the Communists.

The Christian Democrats, however, have not won a clear majority, but they are expected to form a coalition with the Free Democrats and other right wing groups which will give a clear two-to-one margin of votes.

Some twenty-four million Germans cast their ballot yesterday, making their participation in the election 78.5 percent.

The right wing victory marks 73-year-old Dr. Konrad Adenauer as the dominant political personality in the Federal Republic of Germany. Adenauer is slated to be the new Chancellor. The presidency of the republic is reportedly promised to Dr. Theodor Heuss, leader of the Free Democratic Party whose right win campaign won them the greatest gains of any organization yesterday.

The German Communist Party lost badly. They polled over one million, 360 thousand votes—almost a half million less than their strength in the state elections in 1947. The percentage of Communist votes ran only 5.7 percent. Even KPD leader Max Reimann had trouble. He failed to win a seat in the direct vote in his hometown of Dortmund, but is assured of a place in the Parliament in the proportional representation list of his party.

This election marks the fourth defeat of the Communists in free elections in the past eighteen months. The first was in Italy, then France, and finally in Berlin.

The new German Parliament will meet in Bonn on September 7. It will have 402 members. The lineup will be like this: for the right win majority, the Christian Democrats have 139 seats. The Free Democrats will have fifty-two, with smaller right wing groups joining in for the working majority.

The Socialists will have 131 seats in the opposition. The Communists have fifteen elected delegates.

The election revealed a hardcore faction of right wing of extremists whose strength is approximately the same as the Communists.

The international significance of West Germany's swing to the right is tremendous. The German people, by electing a conservative government, have certainly created the kind of state most palatable to the policies of the United States. The rejection of the Communists also follows the pattern of France, Britain, and the Low Countries.

The question will soon arise as to Germany's participation in international organizations such as the Council of Europe, and an increased participation in the European Recovery Plan.

But the final decision as to whether the new Federal Republic of Germany will become a respected member of the Western community of nations depends upon the actions and achievements of this new government during the coming months.

July 16, 2015

1942. The Russian Winter as Described by Larry LeSueur

"Winter Belongs to Russia"

Bill Downs relieved Larry LeSueur as the CBS Moscow correspondent in December 1942.

Larry LeSueur


November 8, 1942

WINSTON BURDETT: And now you will hear Larry LeSueur, who has just come here from Moscow.

: I've come to Cairo from another world. I came into a world of bright tropical sunshine, well-dressed people, and food aplenty. I left behind a world of drab, gray monotone—of people in old clothes with set faces. A cold land of rain and snow squalls. The world that is called Moscow, and Russia.

Moscow and Cairo have at least one thing in common. They both believe that their war is the war. When they hear I come from Russia, everyone I meet from officials to taxi drivers asks me how the war in Russia is going. And as soon as I start to tell them, they break in to tell me about the war which is nearest to them: the war in the desert. Today's new war, the American landing in French North Africa, was such a well-kept secret here that it came as a great surprise, and the ordinary man on the Cairo streets hasn't begun to grasp its implications yet.

Up in Moscow, the Russian people probably haven't learned about the American landing. When they do, which will no doubt be tomorrow morning on their internal radio system with its loudspeaker in every house, they'll be pleased in a mild way. They'll be pleased to know the American war preparations have reached such a stage that we are able to take the offensive somewhere fairly near Europe.

But there'll be no dancing in the streets of Moscow, because nothing will really please the Russian people except an actual Allied offensive in Egypt, [inaudible] in Europe. Something they can really feel is taking the main burden of the German army off their backs.

When I left Moscow after a year in Russia, I could see some bitterness. They really thought there was going to be a second front this year. The Soviet newspapers hinted at it constantly, and undoubtedly the average Russian feels let down. But there's still a good deal of sympathy for America's position.

But underlying this feeling of disappointment there's a fierce pride—a burning pride which has much to do with the incredible Russian resistance at Stalingrad. That pride is going to go a long way toward holding up the morale of Russian civilians this winter, and it's going to be a tough winter. They're going to be short of food. Some people are going to go hungry. A lot of people are going to be cold.

I left Moscow in a driving, wet snow squall, but the heat hadn't yet been turned on in any Moscow apartment house. The people are going to be short of clothes, but by patching up their coats they'll make them last another winter. They're going to be very short of shoes. More and more often I heard the clack-clacking of wooden-soled shoes on the Moscow pavement. Everything is going to the Red Army.

Prices of rationed food are strictly controlled in Moscow, but in the public market, governed only by the laws of supply and demand, prices of unrationed food have soared. A day's pay for a couple of pounds of potatoes. Almost a month's pay for a couple of pounds of butter. But of course this gives the workers something to spend their rubles on. You see, every factory in Russia is turned to war production. There's very little a civilian can buy except in the secondhand stores.

Yet a few things are being done to make the Russian capital more cheerful this winter. Moscow has been dolled up with a new set of streetlights that go far to dissipate the gloom of the long winter night. There'll be more entertainment and shows this year because Moscow is now considered safe.

The military situation is good. The Russian armies are intact all the way from Leningrad to Stalingrad. The main reserves of the Red Army were not used this summer in the small diversion offenses. Russia will have another opportunity this winter to train more reserves. More women will enter the war factories to relieve men for the front. But there's no getting away from the fact that Russia has lost an appreciable part of its ability to produce war machines with the loss of the Don Basin and the destruction of the huge factories at Stalingrad. Unless they can get a lot more tanks from America and England, it will be very difficult for them to launch a major offensive next year. But the Red Army has not lost its ability to engage a lot of German troops.

The Battle of Stalingrad will reach a precarious point for both sides in about two or three weeks when the Volga freezes up. And the fight in the Caucasus has a long time to go on. But the Russians have a saying: "Russia and summer don't get along well together." But the Red Army will be in action this winter because winter belongs to Russia.

July 14, 2015

1944. Larry LeSueur from the Front Lines on D-Day

Larry LeSueur Recounts D-Day

Larry LeSueur

CBS News

June 18, 1944

ROBERT TROUT: And now Admiral takes you direct to the invasion beachhead in France, Larry LeSueur reporting.

LARRY LESUEUR: This is Larry LeSueur speaking from the American sector of the Normandy battlefront. Tonight the American troops hold the entire neck of the Cherbourg Peninsula firmly in their grip.

The picturesque little town of Bonneville on the western side of the peninsula has been captured, and we are now astride every road leading to Cherbourg. Thus the big French port, with its large garrisons, is cut off from the German Army in the interior of France.

Although today is D-Day plus thirteen, the boys who are up on the front lines still find themselves talking about their adventures on D-Day whenever they get a chance to smoke a cigarette.

My experience was similar to that of many of the men in the 4th Division who made the assault on our beach. The 4th Division has the enviable record of being the last American division to leave Germany after the occupation in the last war, and it was chosen to be one of the first American divisions to land on the continent.

It was very rough on the Channel, and after hours of seasickness we all felt pretty gloomy. Most of us had spent the time resting in our soaking wet [inaudible] waves had crossed over the sides of our little landing craft. But after a sleepless night, D-Day dawned. And we tramped forth from our barge towards tiny personnel assault craft. And with the regimental combat team, we began a rough ride into the beach.

It was a fantastic sight. We could see great geysers of sand shooting up from the beachhead as our planes drenched the area with bombs in great green and yellow flashes. Every time a salvo of bombs hit the beach, our assault craft seemed to bounce back about ten feet. We were the first regimental command post to make the landing.

I don't remember wading ashore—I think I must have just skipped in to get my feet on the ground. Every one of us felt the same way. We didn't care what happened to us as long as we could get off that bucking, bouncing boat.

The din of gunfire was deafening, and the first thing I vividly remember was a little sergeant with a Brooklyn accent. He was standing on the beach, and he said to me with a grin, "Boy, we made it." Out of all things, he handed me a cigar.

The stunned Germans defending the beach were being gathered in, and I remember their tall, blond Nazi captain. Dressed immaculately, he was, and as arrogant as ever. He refused to lie down with the rest of his men, although German shellfire was hitting the beach, and when my colleague Bob Landry of Life magazine tried to take his picture, the Nazi officer turned his back on him and on the whole American landing with deepest scorn.

A few minutes later a German shell hit the beach, and the German captain went down forever. He was killed by his own shellfire.

The colonel of the regiment quickly made contact with his men and led them off the beach across the green watery wastes of the port of Carteret in the rear. We followed them—long, soaking lines of men armed to the teeth. The first tank that tried to cross was hit by a German antitank shell. The second American tank fired one shot at the German antitank gun and silenced it. We were on our way.

In ten minutes I had reached the position of the German gun. It was trained perfectly on the only road by which we could cross. But that first shell had panicked the German gunner, and he had fled leaving his gun perfect condition.

I looked back at the beach from his observation post. With just that one gun he could have held us up on that single road crossing the swamp for hours. Now I could see other German cells docking and pulling up sand on the beach in back of us. And landing craft was going skyward as they hit underwater mines. But I was already inland, and I was glad I had chosen an early landing before the enemy had time to recover from the bombings, the shellings, and his surprise.

The colonel kept pushing ahead—gathering his men, advancing his command post, and sending out the code to wipe out the machine gun nest that harassed us from time to time.

By mid-afternoon, Bob Landry and I were already in the little town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont some three miles inland. Here we met the paratroops. They were fighting a steep battle with the Germans. While I watched one paratrooper in hand-to-hand combat with a German, a shot rang out from a church steeple, and both the paratrooper and the German fell together—killed by a German bullet from that church.

Other paratroopers immediately turned their attention to the church steeple, tossing grenades as high as they could. And meantime, a Frenchwoman doctor refused to take cover and was giving a wounded paratrooper morphine as he lay wrapped up in his red parachute on the village green.

Whenever the machine guns opened up or a grenade exploded, the French people of the town would run for cover. And as soon as it stopped, they would emerge again. It was a most confusing scene—like a Hollywood movie set, only the dead men littering the streets made it appear real.

It was glowing dusk by this time, and we decided to set down on the grass for the night. Nobody had bedrolls or blankets, but we were wildly excited over the success of the Second Front. As it hit dusk, the planes from England started to come in towing gliders. They put down in fields all around us—meeting us, murderous ground fire from the Germans who seemed to be all around us judging by the screams of color tracers that went up to meet the gliders.

And then I talked to the soldier next to me. He was a youngster from South Carolina, and he'd been carrying a flamethrower all day long. He allowed as to how he was tired and his legs hurt him. I rolled up his pants, and I saw a wicked shrapnel wound in his leg. He had walked all day long with it, and never complained.

Those were the American soldiers on D-Day. And this is Larry LeSueur returning you now to New York.