August 31, 2015

1968. An Insider's Take on the Presidential Election

"The Networks Have Had Their Day"
The 1968 elections: "Nixon addresses supporters after winning his party's nomination again in 1968. He went on to defeat the Democratic nominee, incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey" (source)
ABC News Internal Memo (Confidential)

To: Elmer Lower / cc: John Lynch

From: Bill Downs, ABC Washington

9 October 1968

Relative to the confidential dinner conversation with our mutual friend, here is the paraphrase of his remarks as I noted them down from memory last Saturday night. I leave it up to you and John Lynch as to how widely you want the following to be distributed.

Friend X indicated that from now on out the campaign will get much rougher from the Democratic side. "We have the goods on Agnew possibly involving misfeasance or malfeasance in office and will break the story this week." (Thus far there's been no sign of it.)

However, X admitted that he is extremely depressed by the overall political situation. "It used to be a rule of thumb that in any election there would be about 20% of the electorate that would be extremist . . . nuts, Communists, Birchers, racists and such. This rule is not valid in this claim." X said that the Gallup and Harris polls showing a strong swing to the right across the country do not go far enough.

"Our mail from more than 100,000 people showed that 70% of the people reacting to the Chicago Convention supported Mayor Daley and his position on law and order and the whole police bit." If somehow there had been a Daly-Wallace or a Wallace-Daley ticket, X said, he believed it would sweep the country.

Those who think that the choice of General LeMay will hurt Wallace because of the General's "strangelove" rantings about the nuclear bomb are mistaken. X thinks the selection of LeMay as Wallace's running mate will increase the strength of the third party movement.

X thinks that the accelerated and harder hitting campaign now emerging with HHH & Muskie directly and personally attacking the Nixon-Agnew and Wallace-LeMay tickets will help the Democratic campaign. He said it's better that HHH go down fighting the new extremism in the US than not to attack it at all.

X was personally angry and bitter at the Nixon tactics. "We can't pin the bastard down . . . he's talking claptrap and evading the issues . . . and in many ways this makes Nixon more racist and dangerous than Wallace . . ." When asked about Agnew, X indignantly dismissed the Md. governor as a fool, adding, "I'd rather see LeMay as a vice president than Agnew."

X said that if Nixon wins, "as now appears to be likely," it may be that the vote will split among the three candidates as 35% to the winner, and 30% and 25% to the losers (he didn't specify who would be the low man.) "But whoever wins under those conditions will have no mandate from the people. I think that the Democrats will retain control of the Congress—the House by a very narrow margin. But the next Congress will be extremely conservative . . . Given the unsolved problems facing the country, with more than half of the country voting against him . . . I don't know what will happen to the nation . . ." X concluded the thought with the comment: "Sometimes I think there's madness here . . ."

X said that HHH now appears to be more sure of himself and the Democratic campaign has picked up momentum. But Humphrey himself is puzzled and bemused by the national attitude and temper of the people. He quoted Hubert as saying, "the only people who smile at me anywhere I go are the Negroes . . ." X again repeated that he would "rather see the Democratic go down singing than having the party fade away on questionable issues . . ."

As for himself personally, X said he was willing to go down with the ship if necessary. Referring to the big job offered to him, X said he stayed in politics at "considerable personal sacrifice . . . but I could not keep out of this election . . . it's too important . . . I'm dedicated to the party position win or lose . . ."

X expressed concern and bitterness about the way the news media more or less dismissed or downgraded the HHH foreign policy speech broadcast from Salt Lake City. Although the pundits and commentators mostly could see no radical shift in Hubert's position, X said it was an important move away from the White House. "And a lot of formerly doubtful Democrats read it that way . . ." X said the Utah speech reaction was startling with "thousands of letters still coming in." Said up to that time "there has been some $150,000 in voluntary contributions included in that mail, including one $10,000 check . . . and we're still opening letters. It's the most encouraging development of the campaign . . ." (Bill Lawrence did a TV story on this.)

When the conversation touched on the news media coverage of the campaign, X made no secret of his dissatisfaction and disappointment. Started out by questioning why ABC refused to clear time for HHH when NBC and CBS had done so. (I don't know the details of this or if it's true.) Then X made a long and bitter attack on the broadcast media and charged all with blatant editorializing.

"Your man Frank Reynolds has suddenly become a major target of Congressional criticism," X said. "I've been dealing with the Hill for years and know every man up there and I've never heard such attacks on the networks . . . and it's general. Reps. Harley Staggers and John Moss particularly are most vocal and bitter about Reynolds . . ." When asked why, X did not get specific but indicated somehow that Frank had become the symbol of their anger. X said the main complaint is that there's "no objectivity left on the networks . . . everyone is editorializing and no one labels it as such."

He dismissed Huntley-Brinkley as "so partisan that everyone's gotten used to it and expects it." X said he was shocked when Cronkite "lost his cool" in Chicago. "The Cronkite incident, along with Reynolds, is convincing Congress that 'the networks have had their day.'"

X expressed the opinion that attempts to pass some kind of legislation to license or otherwise inhibit the broadcast networks by the next Congress now appears inevitable. And he concluded: "If there is to be government control of the networks, Reynolds may be the catalyst to bring it about."

I want to emphasize that the sections of the above in quotation marks are as close to verbatim as I could make them. Also to emphasize that X himself was making no personal attack on Frank or ABC. "For the most part," he said, "ABC has given us a fair shake . . ." He was merely passing along the information, I sensed, knowing that I would pass it along to you. What his motives for doing this were, I have no idea.

And for gawd's sake, don't interpret this in any way as a throat-cutting excursion against Frank. I don't think X meant it that way . . . and I most assuredly do not. In fact, in my judgment ABC News with Reynolds has never looked better.

- Bill

August 28, 2015

1945. The Man Who Couldn't Die: Hideki Tojo's Attempted Suicide

The Man Who Couldn't Die
"December 1947: Former Japanese prime minister and minister of war Hideki Tojo (1885 - 1948) takes the stand to testify in his own defense at the war crimes trial in Tokyo. Tojo was convicted and executed" (source)
In his memoir One Last Look Around (1947, pp. 93-113), war correspondent Clark Lee tells the story of former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo's suicide attempt and its aftermath. Lee was among a number of reporters at the scene when American officials arrived at Tojo's home in Setagaya, Tokyo to take him into custody in September 1945. (Warning: The journalists took many photos on scene, some of which are graphic. Several are featured below.)

We Meet General Tojo
. . . When he was Minister of War in the Imperial Japanese government, pre-Pearl Harbor, and before that as head of the Army's military gendarmerie, General Tojo offered rewards of many millions of yen for the capture of Chinese patriots and other intransigent individuals who refused to recognize Japan as the savior of East Asia. After Tojo became Prime Minister, and as the guiding spirit of Japanese militarism led his country into war against the democracies, the United States and Allied nations would have gladly paid millions of dollars to any rifleman who could get within shooting distance of the head of the Tokyo government and the planning brains of the war. There was a big price on Tojo's head. Yet, ten days after the official surrender of Japan, we succeeded in being ushered into the presence of this feared and hated man at the cost of exactly five U.S. cents—the price of the American cigarettes I had given Captain Muto.

Muto gave directions as the jeep took us out to Tojo's house. John Henry, [Harry] Brundidge, Massa, and I were crowded in with the gendarme captain and the GI driver who took us through the ruined streets of Tokyo, out past what formerly was the theatre district and to the Setagaya ward police station. One of the ward policeman jammed himself in with us, and we drove down a long, tree-shaded lane that might have been in Maplewood, N.J., or Maplewood, Mo., but looked like no part of Japan that we had seen before. We made a sharp turn between stone walls that retained two grassy banks, and stopped in front of a police box. A dozen policemen and soldiers materialized into the lane, some in shirtsleeves and others in uniform coats. If they were armed, their weapons were inconspicuous. They surrounded us curiously, but without evident animosity.

On the right, thirty feet from the road and partially concealed by trees, was the ex-dictator's home, a one-story house of half-Japanese and half-foreign style, built of wood and yellow stucco. A diminutive, blue Datsun sedan sat in the concrete driveway. While Massa and the war gendarme walked up to the door, one of the police guards pointed out that two tall trees at the entrance were charred nearly to the top. "America no hikoki—American airplanes." Like almost everyone else in Japan, he thought it was funny to be bombed, and he laughed hilariously.

The house itself was more than modest by American standards, but typical of the homes into which Japanese commanders retired at the end of their terms of service as chiefs of the general staff. The idea had been that a general required no more of life than a modest salary—plus the opportunity to serve his Emperor. Austerity and abnegation had been the keynotes of the generals' lives. It was traditional that on completion of his service, a Japanese chief of staff repaired to a suburban or country retreat from which he offered his advice to successors and from which he was always prepared to emerge to offer his life, if need be, at the Imperial command.

Yet when Tojo built the house in wartime there had been a major scandal. Whispers started that Tojo had received a very large monetary present from a group of industrialists, and the talk swelled to such a roar that Tojo had to go to the unprecedented length, while still premier, of denying that he had been bribed. This uproar had been only a symptom of the general's unpopularity, which reached a climax with his resignation in July, 1944, after the fall of Saipan.

Exactly why Tojo was the most hated man in Japan was hard to explain. As far as most Japanese knew they were still winning the war, and it was Tojo who had given them victories. But it was likewise Tojo whose decrees had cracked down on both the little man and the war profiteer in Japan—taking a few more grains of rice out of the former's slim diet every month or so—and breaking up the gay whirl in Tokyo in the first two years of war when the Japanese were cashing in on their conquests and everybody had plenty of money and was spending it freely. However, the Japanese were accustomed to decrees and to belt tightening, and what seemed to make them loathe Tojo was the fact that more than any other man in the country's modern history he, as an individual, had been the government—the front man for the Emperor. In recent years, even with one or two outstanding men in a cabinet, the government had always been "they," and nobody knew exactly who ruled Japan. Now it had been not "they" but "he,"—one man, Tojo. When the war tide turned, the little man centered his hatred and his lost feeling on Tojo. He detested Tojo's mannerisms, his way of riding a horse, the fact that his wife was spending more money than seemed possible on a general's pay.

The trouble with Tojo was that he symbolized to the Japanese both their strength and their weakness. He was the best they could produce, the best field general and tactician, the most faithful servant of the Emperor, the most fanatical of the fanatics, the man who developed the modern air force, the man who stood against the Soviet threat to Japan, the general who had been dared to challenge the United States and Great Britain. But he had failed, and, knowing they too were doomed to failure, his countrymen had hated him.

Tojo had been the most brilliant and successful Asiatic military commander since Genghis Khan. Nicknamed the Razor because of his sharp intelligence, he had helped to set up in Manchuria the military-controlled state what was a model for what the Japanese Army eventually hoped to extend over the entire world. He was a businessman, too, a brief-spoken but persuasive talker who had made a deal with Japan's leading industrialists so that they became co-partners in Manchuria and in the Army's larger plans for world conquest. To the outside world he was sinister, threatening, brutal, a Hitler with the added danger of Oriental mysticism. . . .

Now there was a slight bustle on the lawn and around the corner of the house walked a lithe figure in white shorts and shirt, gray socks that came up over his knees, and low black button shoes. His bronzed skin gleamed like a polished Buddha. Shifting a long stick from his right hand to the left, he motioned us to a table on the side lawn.

Riding out to the house, I had said to Brundidge, "Don't shake hands with him." Harry replied, "I wouldn't shake hands with the bastard for anything in the world."

But now the little Jap thrust out his hand to me, and as the others pushed up from behind I was so close that our hands were almost touching. I accepted his firm grip. What the devil, there was plenty of soap and water back at the hotel!

We sat in iron garden chairs and admired the house and beyond it the green, extensive fields that Tojo told us made up his farm. He called for a round blue tin of Hope cigarettes (made in Japan) and passed them to us with the remark that "American cigarettes are very difficult to get now." It was apparent that he understood a good deal of English, although our conversation was through the interpreter. It was also apparent that he was nervous, not knowing what to expect next, although he was perfectly in control of himself.

"Is the general taking any part in politics or military affairs now?" we asked.

He answered genially, starting to relax, "No. None whatever. I am a farmer now and work in my fields." He looked hard as nails. But there was something wrong with his demeanor. If you had interviewed him ten years before, say, in Manchuria, or if it had been possible to interview him just before he dispatched the carriers to attack Pearl Harbor and started the invasion fleets for the Philippines and Southeastern Asia, his replies would have been gruff and condescending. He would have used the prescribed means of a Japanese general dealing with an American—a superior air, deceiving half-truths, denial of knowledge of any embarrassing matter. All his adult life he had studied that manner, and now it was gone and without it he was only another little man. Outwardly hard as nails, but inwardly you sensed a softness—the hard something that had been his self-discipline, his beliefs, his power and authority, his life-and-death control over millions, wasn't there and the man was hollow inside.

"What are the general's plans?"

"I have no plans, just to go on farming. I cannot discuss politics or military affairs because it is not for a defeated general to talk."

He alternately smoked a cigarette in a glass holder and toyed with his stick as we talked. Except at the eyes, his skin was unwrinkled. His eyes were quick and bright. Brundidge asked his age.

"Sixty-two Japanese style. Sixty-one America." The Japanese begin to count from the day of conception.

I followed up the question: "Does General Tojo believe that Japan's cause was just?"

He answered emphatically. "Hai, Hai! I do believe that Japan's fight was based on righteousness. I realize that America will not agree with that. However, I believe that it will take time and an impartial third party to make the final decision as to whether America's fight was just, or Japan's was."

That struck me as a pretty fair statement, especially the last part. It is difficult to imagine a defeated American general saying to a representative of Hitler, "You may be right. Time will tell."

Now, Tojo leaned over toward the interpreter and went on: "I was responsible for the war. I accept full and complete responsibility. But I do not believe that makes me a war criminal. There is a difference between leading a nation in a war which it believes right and just, and being a war criminal. . . . But again, that is for the victorious nation to decide."

We asked Tojo then if the Japanese Army and Navy had cooperated fully during the war, and he turned the query aside with a suggestion that we submit it to our own Army and Navy. His humorous observation seemed to cheer him up and suddenly his mood changed. He smiled, sat forward in his chair, and picked up Brundidge's field cap. Like a delighted kid he tried it on, turning it this way and that. It fitted his bullet-shaped head like a washtub. He mugged, smiled a solid-gold smile out from under the American eagle, and murmured, "Oki, oki! (Too big.)" He might have been referring to American power, as much as to the size of the hat.

Tojo looked tired and we got up to leave. Again the war lord walked close to shake hands, but this time we had room to maneuver out of the way. He walked out to the gate and waved as we drove away. There he turned and walked back up the driveway to the house. It was the last time he did it. The next day he was carried out, feet first, on an American stretcher with a gaping hole in his chest and another in his back.
Press correspondents on board a landing craft somewhere off the coast of England on May 8, 1944. "With faces to camera, from left: Clark Lee of International News Service; Bill Higginbotham of United Press; Lt. Comm. Barry Bingham, of Louisville, Ky.; Lt. John Mason Brown, New York City; Lt. Byer, with cigarette...Back to camera: John Moroso, left, of Associated Press; and A.J. Liebling of the New Yorker magazine" (AP Photo) (source)

...Who Couldn't Die
The next day, at about twenty-five minutes to one, an officer came into the crowded, noisy dining room of the Dai Itchi Hotel and knocked on a beer bottle with a knife to attract the correspondents' attention. Then he read a brief announcement:

"The Supreme Commander has ordered the Counter-Intelligence Corps to arrest former Premier Hideki Tojo, who is first on the list of war criminals."

We grabbed a couple of apples off the table and ran outside, looking for transportation. There was one car, a brindle-painted diminutive Jap model which I recognized as the "liberated" property of George Burns, the photographer for Yank magazine. I rushed back into the dining room and pushed past the screen behind which Brig. General Le Grand A. Diller, MacArthur's public relations officer, who had segregated the enlisted men from the officer-gentlemen correspondents and the public-relations staff. Burns was wrestling with a piece of camouflaged spam.

I called him aside. "What do you want to do, George, eat this spam or see Tojo kill himself?" Burns dropped his napkin, grabbed his cameras, and followed without a word. Six of us crowded into the little open car. Harry Brundidge and Ken McCaleb were in front with Burns; and our interpreter, Massa, a police reporter from the Yoimiuri, and myself in the back.

Burns kept goosing the car, trying to coax more than twenty miles an hour out of its straining engine as we directed him through the burned-out city.

Finally we swung around a last corner into the lane in front of Tojo's house. We jumped out, and Massa questioned a loitering gendarme.

"Where's the general?"

"In the house, of course. His wife is with him."

"The Americans get here yet?"

"There's one up there."

A correspondent was sitting in a chair in front of the driveway entrance. Some of the police were sitting on the grass, and others lolling by their tiny sentry box. They greeted us as old friends from the day before and we gave them cigarettes. Massa told them, in Japanese, "Tojo is going to be pinched by the Americans."

They weren't very surprised. One of them sucked in his breath wetly through his gold teeth, leaned back, and burst into laughter. "Ha. Ha! Bery funny." The others joined in the hilarity.

As time went by, and the C.I.C. still didn't show up, we decided to try to beat them to the punch and "invite" Tojo to accompany us to headquarters.

We walked between the stone pillars and into the small yard, pushing Massa ahead of us.

Massa had to be pushed. He still hadn't recovered from the shock of talking to Tojo face-to-face the day before, and he was very apprehensive about breaking in on him now. A manservant, in sloppy army pants and cloth slippers, motioned us around to the side entrance of the house, facing the garden where we had taken tea with Tojo eighteen hours previously. The doors here were sliding panels, and a woman came to one of them. She was rather tall for a Japanese, with a thick, sturdy body. Her hair was still coal-black, though she was no longer young, and she wore the unbecoming black pants and blouse which Tojo had decreed as the national costume as a wartime cloth-saving substitute for the kimono.

Massa told her: "Please advise the general that orders for his arrest have been issued. We talked to him yesterday and he already knows us. We will be glad to give him a ride in our car to General MacArthur's headquarters."

Tojo must have been just inside the room, listening, because he stepped into the doorway, half pushing the woman aside. From inside the house came the wet smell of burning incense. Somebody whispered, "Hara-kiri!" But behind Tojo we caught a glimpse of a man moving around, apparently arranging things to be packed in a suitcase that stood on the floor. It looked as if the ex-dictator was packing to go to jail, not preparing to join his ancestors by the process of honorable belly-slitting.

As on the day before, the little man was wearing shorts and a shirt, but this time they were greenish. He looked far less composed than when he had jokingly said "Gorru-bye" to us. He sighted Burns' camera and snapped in Japanese:

"No pictures! No pictures! I will not have any pictures." Burns smiled disarmingly and kept the camera at his side.

"General," Massa began, "we will take you to Field Marshal MacArthur if . . ." The Japs never called MacArthur "general." It gave them more face to have their conqueror a field marshal.

"No," Tojo cut him off. "I will wait for the authorities!" He turned to go inside, and for a moment he was boss again. "No pictures!" he repeated. "No pictures!"

We went back out to the lane and found it was beginning to get a little crowded. There were two command cars, both with newspapermen, and one of the Australian correspondents had brought his shapely White Russian girl-friend along to see the sights. We chatted, smoked, took pictures of the gendarmes and the entrance to the house, and waited for the C.I.C. to show up. The minutes dragged into an hour and a half, and most of the correspondents wandered off to talk in the lanes, or drove back into Tokyo.

"Massa," I said finally, "it's hot as hell in here. Go on up to the kitchen and ask for some beer. And try to work on Tojo again to see if he'll come with us."

The young Japanese hated to go, but he walked through the garden gate. In a few minutes he was back, without the beer but with some news. "Tojo says he'll consider going with you," he announced. We sat back to wait for the general to make up his mind.

The sun had gone behind a low layer of overcast, but it was still very hot and in the quiet lane the suspense seemed to grow and grow. Massa felt it more than anyone. His apprehension increased noticeably. He fidgeted, left his sentences unfinished, and even threw away a Lucky Strike after two puffs, which was convincing proof of his state of mind. American cigarettes were very valuable items in those first days in Tokyo. Perhaps Massa's native instinct told him what was going on inside the house. Brundidge had the same thought and put it into words. "I'll bet he commits hara-kiri. That incense . . ."

Idly, we questioned the gendarmes who were sitting with us in the long grass. They discussed the question without special interest. "Maybe he will kill himself. Maybe not. The incense makes it look as if he might. But it's pretty late for him to do it now. He should have cut his belly either when his government fell or when the Imperial Rescript for the surrender was issued."

"On the day of the Rescript," one of them went on, "Tojo's son-in-law committed hara-kiri. He was twenty-nine years old and a major in the Imperial Guard. He slashed his belly at the guard headquarters. Tojo himself went down there and got the body and brought it back to the house. It stayed in the back room for two days, in front of the family shrine, and then the funeral was held. Tojo never made any comment, one way or the other, about what the major did. So it is hard to tell what his thoughts are."

Another gendarme started a serious discussion about the future of Japan and of the world. "We hope," he said intensely, "that we will never again have leaders like Tojo who get us into war."

The policemen explained that the sentry box had been set up, and they were assigned to the house, not to keep Tojo under surveillance but to protect him from Americans and from attacks by "foolish, hotheaded Japanese." Several attempts had been made on his life, they said, after his government resigned at the time American forces conquered Saipan.

We chatted on about Tojo as if he had been a long-dead character in history, instead of behind garden walls a few yards away. But all of us were wondering: What is he doing now—moving around? Praying? Preparing for hara-kiri, or just waiting silently for the sound of alien wheels that would mean the end of everything for him? He had once won a great empire in one of the swiftest military campaigns in history. Now a prison cell was ahead—trial by his conquerors—and then dangling death at the end of a rope.

We didn't know he was in his European-style room writing his last will and testament.

"Come on there, Massa," Brundidge suggested. "Go up again and see if he's got any sake. I'm dying of thirst."

Once more Massa dragged himself up to the house on reluctant feet. He stood at the kitchen door and argued with a servant and then came back to us empty-handed. In a few minutes the servant himself came out of the house with a message from Tojo.

"The general's final decision," he announced, "is that he will not accompany you." So Tojo had made up his mind to something at least.

A few minutes later, the woman in the black kimono came out of the back of the house. She walked down a path through the trees in the side yard, with her face averted from us, and then shuffled stolidly away down the lane.

"There goes Madame Tojo," said one gendarme.

"No, Kato-san," another argued. "That is his sister-in-law, not his wife."

While they were still discussing the woman's identity, we saw a strange figure coming slowly toward us up the lane. It was an old woman, who bent far forward as she inched her way along with the aid of a stick. In front of us she stopped, caught her breath, and bid us polite good days in formal language. Her back, almost parallel to the ground, could not have been more than three feet above the grass, so that she resembled a T-square. Contrary to the orders of Tojo, she wore a cotton kimono and obi, and in her hand was a silk furoshiki of the kind the Japanese use to carry packages.

We lay on the grass as she gazed intently at each of us in turn, and Massa explained that we were Americans. Again she hissed politely, and formally expressed her pleasure at having us in Japan. Her face was seamed with years and cares, her gums toothless, but nevertheless there was a neatness and cleanliness about her, and her brain was clear.

"This is the day they issue our rations," she said, "and I am going now to get mine. It takes me all afternoon to get there and back, because I move very slowly. And it is a long way to go for so little rice. They keep giving us less and less."

We nodded our sympathy, and she chatted on. "I used to be very rich, but my three houses in Tokyo were burned down by the American bombers and now my daughter-in-law is very cruel to me." For five minutes she talked about the daughter-in-law and her son, "who used to be so good and dutiful until he married that woman, but now he is crazy about her and she twists him around her finger."

Then, with all good wishes for our health and the continued success and prosperity of America, she turned and moved slowly away. At the entrance to the driveway, she paused and bent even lower in a brief salute to the guards.

As she went out of sight over the hill, we looked again at our watches.

"That damn C.I.C. must have lost the way," somebody said. "It's been three hours now. You'd think they could find the house in that time."

"Yeah. This is a nice way to spend an afternoon, but it's not getting Tojo arrested and it's not getting us any stories."

I left the group and, on directions from the gendarmes, walked down a hill behind the house and found a lumber mill. There was a telephone inside, and after a long delay I managed to get through to the Dai Itchi to dictate a story. The connection was terrible, and it was slow, tedious work. While I was trying to make myself understood, Brundidge walked into the factory. He was very keyed-up. "Cut it short," he insisted. "I have a hunch things are going to happen right away. Let's get back there." I felt the same way. All through the afternoon, the tension had been building up inside of us, subconsciously. We had talked about many things, but always there was in our minds the picture of the little man in the yellow house, and in our nostrils the faint, lingering smell of incense. We ran back up the lane and around to the front of the house. Two jeeps were in the front driveway, and about twenty Americans were moving across the lawn toward the house. Leading the way were an American major and lieutenant, and a Nisei captain—the interpreter.

Suddenly, Tojo stuck his shaven pate out of the side window of the front room and said sharply in English, "This Tojo."
Tojo addresses the Americans outside of his home in 1945 (source)
Through his interpreter, Major Kraus said, "Open the door so I can come in and present my credentials."

Tojo answered in Japanese, "Unless this is an official order, I will not discuss it." Kraus bristled. He directed the interpreter: "Tell him to open the front door so I can present my credentials. Tell him to prepare himself for a trip to General MacArthur's headquarters at Yokohama."

While this colloquy was under way, the photographers were busy. George Burns, who hadn't made a news picture all afternoon, exploded a shot and Tojo glared and slammed the window.

"What do we do now?" an American soldier asked.

"Pull the son of a bitch out by his heels," an officer answered angrily.

The Americans ran from the garden to the front of the house. As they reached the entrance a shot rang out. They crashed the door. Back at the rear of the crowd, some of the correspondents scattered hurriedly to look for cover, thinking Tojo was shooting it out. Inside the hallway, Kraus smashed out the panels of the door into the living room and stepped in.

Tojo had shot himself in the chair and then partially risen, but with great effort. He was half on his feet, wavering, and in his hand was a .32-caliber Colt revolver. Kraus shouted, "Don't shoot." Tojo looked up at the American, let the gun slide through his fingers, and slumped back into his chair. It was 4:21 P.M.

I pushed into the room. Tojo lay back in a small armchair, his eyes closed and sweat standing out on his forehead. His open shirt outlined a V of hairless brown chest and flat belly. Blood oozed slowly from a wound just above his heart.

"The bastard has killed himself," an excited voice panted in my ear.

"No. The son of a bitch is still breathing. Look at his belly going up and down."

It was a small room, about fourteen feet long and ten wide, and Tojo's chair was just a foot or two inside the door. A small wooden table was beside him and a cluttered desk opposite. There was a sofa behind him, and above it a very large oil painting in somber colors, depicting this now bleeding soldier of Japan in one of his moments of triumph.

Into this room now crowded a dozen people, all but two or three of them Americans. One of the Japanese, who had been chauffeur and secretary to the war lord and had stuck to him after his fall from power, leaned over him now, sobbing and patting his shoulder. The American reporters pushed past Tojo, brushing his knees, talking loudly and excitedly. Photographers shoved their cameras in the wounded man's face. Some of the gendarmes came in for a look, and then walked out, laughing. The chauffeur followed them, his face contorted with grief. Then the show began, with Tojo—the man who wanted to die and couldn't—as an impersonal Exhibit A.

"The yellow bastard didn't have enough nerve to use a knife," a reporter said. "He knew he would kill himself with a small bullet."

"Don't be a jackass," another snapped. "You can't put a shot through yourself where he did and expect to live."

I took a good look. Tojo had changed his shorts for his army pants and polished brown boots and a clean white shirt. His uniform coat, with four rows of colored ribbons, twenty decorations, lay on the window sill beside a rack holding three swords in leather cases. There was a blue porcelain tiger on one window sill and a large Japanese dragon-scroll print on the wall. A cabinet held writing brushes, although Tojo had told us the day before that he neither painted nor wrote poetry. Soon all the smaller objects began to disappear into the pockets of the reporters. I saw a hand come through the window from outside, feel along the sill for the leather case, and then disappear with one of the samurai swords. Outside, George Burns stuck the sword inside his pants leg and started to hobble toward his car. He almost made it when a hand fell on his shoulder and a C.I.C. officer said, "Nice work, kid. But take it back now."

Burns took the sword back and put it in the case, while the C.I.C. agents departed to seek reinforcements and medical assistance, leaving only a rearguard of two distracted GIs. A Japanese reporter or two came into the room to join the Americans. We stood around, smoking and talking, and making bets on how soon Tojo's small chest would stop heaving. The bleeding man's face was a mask on which showed neither pain nor emotion.

After a few minutes, I went out of the house and ran down to the telephone in the lumber yard. A Japanese helped me get the Dai Itchi, and Bill Dunn of CBS answered.

I shouted at him over the buzzing line:

"Please send a flash for me! Tojo just shot himself when the Americans came to arrest him."

"What's that?" Bill said. "I can't hear a word. Who's Jojo, the dog-faced boy?"

"Not Jojo," I shouted again. "Tojo. War. Japanese. General. Prime Minister. Shot himself."

"Hot," said Bill, his voice coming to me clearly. "I know it's hot. What the hell are you trying to tell me?"

After ten maddening minutes, he was just beginning to hear enough to get the gist of the story. Then, out of the window, I saw Massa run down the lane. He was soaked with sweat and his eyes were wild.

"What's the matter?" I called.

"Tojo is dead."

"What time did he die?"

"Four thirty-eight," Massa said slowly. "Brundidge is coming down to give you the details."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I saw him die. It's terrible. Everyone is taking souvenirs. They have no respect for a dead man."

I shouted into the phone again and Bill managed to hear enough of the information to write a flash: "TOJO SHOT HIMSELF WHEN AMERICANS CAME TO ARREST HIM AND DIED SHORTLY AFTERWARD."

When I ran back up to the house, Harry Brundidge was on the front lawn, getting a little air. "What time did he die?" I asked.

"Who die?" said Harry.

I thought he was being unnecessarily facetious. "Who? Why, Tojo, of course."

"He's not dead. He's still sitting in the chair."
The former Prime Minister lies semi-conscious in a chair after attempting suicide (Photo by Charles Gorry source)
I ran into the front room. Tojo was slumped in the same position. He was groaning a little, not loudly. The blood had spread a little more on the lower left-hand side of his shirt. He looked very weak and I hesitated, waiting to see if he would die and make it unnecessary for me to correct the flash. Then he began to speak, and a Japanese reporter took down his words. In a steady voice, repeating much of what was in his "farewell notes," he said:

"The war in the greater East Asia region started right. It was a just war. That is my conviction. But with all our strength gone, we finally fell.

"It is proper that the Americans take over the person responsible for this war, but I do not want to stand before a jury or an Allied commission. As the former head of the nation, I do not want to be tried by the victors.

"While I believe Japan is right, I believe, too, that America thinks she is right. The righteousness or fairness of that will be decided by an impartial cool observer, a third person or party. I feel great regret both for the people of Japan and for the people belonging to the East Asia. I now realize the war was bad for the people. I shoulder the whole responsibility and hope the people will not go wrong in dealing with the situation.

"As for me I would have tried to commit suicide by hara-kiri but sometimes that is not fatal and I wanted to die. I tried to shoot myself in the heart, instead of aiming at my head because I wanted the Japanese people to recognize that it was Tojo and knew that I had done this and that the Americans had not substituted somebody else's body for mine. I am very sorry I missed my aim.

"I hope the nation of Japan foresees the future and follows the right path with unshaken heart. First and last I pray for the prosperity of the Japanese empire. I am now happy to die. Here is my Banzai for the Emperor."

He stopped, his eyes closing, and a photographer shouted very loudly, "Hey, Tojo!"

Tojo's eyes opened slowly. "That's right, said the photographer. "Now, hold it!"

A reporter was arguing. "I told you there is a homosexual streak in these sadists. When I lived out here before the war, the statistics showed a greater percentage of homosexuality in the Japanese Army and Navy than in any other armed force in the world. And the women, too. They got damn little affection from their men, and they used to fall in love with the actresses who dressed in men's clothes on the stage. You'd see hundreds of girls crowding around the stage doors at the Takarazuka Theatre, opposite the Imperial Hotel.

"Now, this thing proves that Tojo was partly effeminate. Did you ever hear of a male suicide shooting himself in the heart? Hell, no. They always point the gun at the mouth, the ear, or the temple. But there isn't a single case on record of a woman shooting herself in the face. They always dress up in their best and put the pistol to their breast. Don't want to die with their faces mussed up. Tojo didn't either."

And still Tojo couldn't die.

I ran back down to the lumber yard and twisted the phone handle savagely, trying to get Dunn at the Dai Itchi and correct the flash. The phone just squawked back at me. Massa got on and reached the operator by shouting loudly, but the hotel wouldn't answer. We were both soaked with sweat and I had tormented pictures of presses rolling all over America, even though it was early morning back home, of newsboys shouting extras and the radio quoting my dispatch, "Tojo dead." Finally, we gave up and walked back up to the house, too tired now to run.

On the lawn, I stopped Massa. "Why did you say he was dead?"

"The gendarmes told me so."

"But you told me you saw it yourself."

"Yes, I did, but I didn't know what I was saying." It was clear that, indeed, he didn't. Emotion had temporarily unbalanced him.

"What do the gendarmes think about it?"

"They say Tojo is a bungler, as stupid in this as he was in losing the war. They say he should have shot himself through the head, or taken a knife and cut his gut. They think he's pretty ridiculous."

The rest of Japan almost unanimously shared that opinion. From all over the country a sadistic chorus went up: "Tojo is to blame for everything. He got us into the war. He is a miserable bungler. He should have killed himself months ago. He should have shot himself in the head. He should have used a knife." When he was taken to a prison camp later, his fellow prisoners ostracized him and refused to talk to him or even eat with him. But right now, we didn't know he was going to live to reach prison.

We went back into the living room. Tojo was no longer in the chair. Brundidge had found a small iron bed in the back room and the reporters had carried it to the front part of the house. They picked Tojo up and laid him on the bare mattress, and pulled off his butterbean boots. A pink cover was thrown partially over him, but it could not hide the stain that spread over his shirt when they moved him.

"He bled like a stuck pig," Brundidge said.
"Doctor Tamejmitsu Ebara and Kempetai Officer (and neighbor) Hatakeyama attend to former Prime Minister, Imperial Japanese Army Major General Hideki Tojo just after he shot himself near the heart. American correspondents Russell Brines and another man look on," September 11, 1945 (Photo by Charles Gorry source)
The slight figure lay there quietly, while the room kept getting noisier and noisier and more filled with smoke. An American and an Australian reporter, seeing each other for the first time in months, embraced over Tojo's head and exchanged loud memories of Guadalcanal. Photographers climbed on the desk and shot down at the bed from every angle. A newly arrived lensman found a stepladder somewhere, squeezed it into the corner at the foot of the bed, climbed up, and focused. He pulled his trigger, and the bulb exploded with a vigorous pop. Reporters who were facing the other way didn't know what had happened.

Somebody shouted, "Booby trap!"

The knights of the typewriter made a line plunge for the door and then, discovering it was a false alarm, trooped shamefacedly back into the room, their heavy boots scuffing the polished floor.

I called Brundidge and McCaleb aside for a conference. "Look, I can't get through to the Dai Itchi. We've got to do something about my flash."

Brundidge misunderstood me. "Well," he said in a low voice, "there are too many people here for us to hit him over the head with a chair. But you should have seen him bleed when we turned him over. We could spin him once more."

I had to go back down to the factory to try to telephone at that point, but when I came back Tojo was faced the other way on the bed and the mattress was more bloodsoaked than before.

It must have been an hour after the shooting when the Japanese doctor, who had been summoned by the chauffeur, finally arrived. He was a bespectacled little man in a white suit. He took one look at Tojo and sat down in a chair.

"Why don't you fix him?" somebody asked.

"Forgot his tools," the interpreter translated.

We questioned the doctor, and he told us his name, Tamemitzu Ebara, but little else. So we told him Tojo was shot through and Ebara looked and announced that the bullet had gone out of Tojo's back. This we already knew. Brundidge, an old hand at police reporting, had surreptitiously explored the bloody chair after we moved Tojo and the bullet which he found in a pillow behind Tojo's back was in his pocket. He showed it to me in the kitchen, for identification purposes. "Best souvenir of the day," he whispered. "There can't be two of these."

Back in the front room, the doctor made a brief inspection of Tojo and told us he had a very short time to live. Tojo protested in a strong voice when the doctor touched him.

"Leave me alone," he said. "I want to die."

The doctor left him alone and sat back again. Meanwhile, we had discovered a phone in the hall and gotten through to the Dai Itchi. Standing in the doorway, looking into the room, reporters called out a play-by-play to the man on the phone, only a few feet away.

Russ Brines of the Associated Press was trying to make up for lost time. He had gone away about two o'clock and come back about five, when he met Brundidge on the lawn. "What's all the excitement?" Brines demanded. "Tojo shot himself," Brundidge said. Brines got angry. "Don't give me that crap." But he ran into the house.

Now he was phoning: "Tojo is lying there with a pink spread on him. He just turned over. Now he's raising his knees. . . . No, knees, you bastard. . . . K for kangaroo. N for Nancy, double E . . . that's it." He gave me the phone.

From the doorway, Brundidge shouted in a singsong voice the dope he was getting from Massa at the bedside. "His pulse is weaker. The doc says it can't be long now."

Then again, "He's turning himself over. Pretty spry. He just groaned. Yeah, it was five thirty-eight when he groaned."

And inside the room: "Look at the muscles around the bastard's jaw tightening up. He can't last long now." Latecomers combed the desk and walls for more souvenirs, as outside it grew darker and the light switches were snapped on. Brundidge called, "His pulse is stronger. Shall we turn him again?" I shook my head.

It was ten minutes to six when the doctor's tools finally arrived, brought by a nurse who wore the usual black pants with a striped blouse and who told us her name was Miki. A C.I.C. man who had come back from Yokohama took her into the kitchen to sterilize the instruments. The officer was just in time to prevent Brundidge from "liberating" to bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label. He took the bottles and at our insistence, since we didn't trust the C.I.C. in such matters, sealed them, and wrote in a neat hand: "Seized by the C.I.C. in the home of General Tojo. September 11, 1945."

The doctor approached Tojo. In a surprisingly firm voice, Tojo spoke. "Keep your hands off me. I do not want treatment. I want to die." Massa was right at his head, translating as he spoke, and from the doorway his words were relayed to the man on the phone.

"I only want to clean you up," the doctor said soothingly. I caught the word kirei, which in Japanese means both clean and pretty.

"Pretty me up after I'm dead," Tojo ordered. "My body belongs to me while I am alive."

But the doctor wiped off the wound on his chest, exposing the round hole an inch below the left nipple, and put a small bandage on it. Then two newspapermen grabbed Tojo's arms and two GIs took his feet. He fought away Brundidge's grip at first and then relaxed. Easily, the four Americans turned the small body over. As they did, a stream of blood spurted out of his chest, tearing away at one edge of the bandage and spreading over the bed. The news was quickly passed on by telephone.

"Jesus," somebody said. "That'll finish the son of a bitch!"

"Yeah, that did it. Lookit him bleed."

On the phone a reporter laboriously spelled out hemorrhage.

The Jap doctor slipped off Tojo's shirt, which was messy with blood in the back, and put another bandage on the wound there. Tojo turned half on his side again, his knees partially drawn up. The doctor took his pulse.

"I give him three hours," he announced through Massa.

"But, Jesus, doc," somebody protested in a hurt tone, "you said one hour before and that was nearly an hour ago." The doctor looked embarrassed.

We demanded of the doctor, "Is there anything that can be done to keep him alive?"

"No, absolutely nothing. He is certain to die." So the doctor did nothing. The nurse knelt by the bedside and kept her hand on Tojo's pulse.

"Not a bad-looking babe," said a reporter. "Ask her how old she is, Massa?"

Miki-san dimpled as she replied, "Ni-ju-ichi. (Twenty-one.)"

It was after six now and completely dark outside. Tojo was quieter, and only occasionally did he groan slightly or move his feet just a little. His hands were clutching the sides of the mattress. Once in a while, a light grimace showed the pain he must have been suffering. Under the lights his body was smooth and hard and hairless. It might have been that of a young boy.

The Japanese doctor began to fidget a little. Then he called to Massa. "I am not absolutely sure that perhaps he couldn't be saved. He still seems very strong. Perhaps I should call in another doctor for consultation. . . ."

There was no opportunity for that. Within a few minutes there was a bustle outside and suddenly the house was flooded by a new surge of men; big, business-like American soldiers who had to duck to keep their helmets, which were marked "MP" or "First Cavalry," from hitting the low doorways. The doctor, who was Captain James B. Johnson, went to the far side of the bed and bent over. He was young and strong-looking, with a thick shock of brownish hair.
A medic tends to Tojo's injuries (source)
Tojo looked up at the doctor and spoke briefly, as Massa translated, "Don't make any trouble for me. I am going to die anyway." Then he seemed to shudder a little, and lay still. Johnson got busy.

With skilled fingers, he started to sew the chest wound. Massa stood beside him, talking in a caressing voice to Tojo, telling him in Japanese what the doctor was doing. It was doubtful that Tojo heard. He opened one eye slightly and winced when the sewing needle went into his chest, but apparently he was only semi-conscious.

On the phone, the dictating went on. "Doc Johnson's sewing him up now. His first name? . . . Just a minute." Inside the room, a newspaperman leaned over the inert body, "What's your first name and home town, Captain?" Johnson answered without looking up.

In the same way he gave his diagnosis. "Sucking chest wound. Common in battle. We usually save most of them. He's in shock, now." And his prognosis: "He has a pretty good chance of recovery. Of course, it would have been better if they hadn't let him lie here so long without doing anything."

The corpsmen turned Tojo over as if he had been a small child and Johnson fixed the wound in his back. While he was working, a wooden hat rack was brought in from the hallway; a bottle of plasma was hung to one of the pegs and American blood started to drip into Tojo's left arm. A morphine needle went into his other arm. The corpsmen fetched a checkered quilt they found in the back room and then a heavy gray blanket.

Then the show was over. The stretcher came in. Two men slipped Tojo onto it and put more brown blankets over him. With only his taut face showing, and his scarred bald head, he was carried outside. At the door of the ambulance there was a short delay. Everybody "held it," while the photographers took one last shot of the man who hadn't wanted to be photographed.

Back in the house, the C.I.C. agents were pasting labels on those articles that hadn't already been carried away. They sealed the back room, where the family shrine stood as it had during the days that the body of Tojo's son-in-law rested there. There were oranges on it, and chrysanthemums, which had been the dead major's favorite fruit and flower. Two agents were engaged in a scientific search for the bullet. They probed the chair back, shoving their fists into the bloodstained hole, measured the angle of entry and then ran their fingers over the oil painting, thinking the bullet might have gone in there. We left them kneeling on the floor.

Outside, Doctor Johnson was just climbing into the ambulance. He paused for a moment and addressed the reporters.

"I noticed a lot of blood in there. Looked like somebody turned him over on the bed and he had a big hemorrhage." He paused. "Who turned Tojo?"

"Well, doc," Brundidge spoke up, "Lee and I may have had something to do with it. There was a little matter of a flash. . . ."

"That was nice going," said the doctor. "If that blood hadn't been drained out, it would have gone into his lungs and drowned him. Best thing in the world you could have done for him. That saved him for the hangman. . . ."

August 26, 2015

1968. North Korea and the Threat of World War III

Crisis in North Korea

From ABC Evening News with Bob Young, January 25, 1968:
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

January 25, 1968

BOB YOUNG: The Pentagon says that today's call-up is a precautionary measure to strengthen our forces. The 14,000-odd reservists is only a drop in the bucket compared to the pool of reservists that could be activated. But with the military beef-up, the agonizing search for a diplomatic solution to the crisis continues, as Frank Reynolds has noted. But if that diplomacy fails, what would our options be? What military action is being considered? ABC's Bill Downs reports.

BILL DOWNS: If it's left up to the military to force release of the USS Pueblo and her crew, the options are few and highly dangerous. The Pueblo probably is in this dock area of Wonsan, a port said to be defended with 16-inch guns set in concrete; the bay protected by a system of MiG fighter bases said to have the heaviest concentration of Russian SAM antiaircraft missiles outside of Hanoi.

The balance of military power between North and South Korea is pretty even. The communist Korean armed forces total some 370,000 men. The North Korean air force has about 500 Russian-built planes, including some of the latest MiG-21 jet fighters. The South Korean armed forces total 530,000 men. Its air force of American-built planes totals 200. But alongside the Republic's troops on the 17th parallel are two US infantry divisions—all told, some 55,000 Americans there.

Well, since the Pueblo's capture, the Air Force reportedly has sent at least two squadrons of American fighter bombers to South Korea. And somewhere off North Korea in the Sea of Japan, the nuclear-powered carrier USS Enterprise is patrolling with a task force of escorts. Communist Korea already is within range of the Enterprise's planes.

So what are the options? One is a blockade of the port of Wonsan, seeding the bay with sonar, pressure, acoustic, and other new mines. But a blockade would also trap the USS Pueblo.

An amphibious landing or raid to free the Pueblo's crew would take months to prepare and might not come off.

There also has been talk of a reprisal air raid on a North Korean target, but the Vietnam experience argues against this.

It would be a fairly simple operation to seize North Korean shipping that use the supply routes to Haiphong, but the communists are unimpressed by hostages.

And finally, there is the so-called unthinkable option: America's nuclear weapons. Washington's Democratic Senator Henry Jackson said today that if ground fighting breaks out again on the Korean peninsula, then the United States would be forced to use tactical nuclear weapons, because American GIs cannot be mobilized quickly enough to save the situation.

So, all the military options carry built in perils including the ultimate danger of World War III.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.

August 24, 2015

1949. Gerhart Eisler Criticizes the United States

Gerhart Eisler Gives a Press Conference After Fleeing the United States
Communist politician Gerhart Eisler in 1949 (Getty)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 3, 1949

Gerhart Eisler, the communist who refused to answer a $25,000 question in an American court, talked a couple of hours ago with reporters, including us minions of the capitalistic world. But he still refuses to reveal exactly how or why he fled from the United States and deserted his sympathizers who had put up his bail.

Eisler traveled from Prague through Dresden and Leipzig to Berlin. In all these places he is the number one exhibit in a kind of ideological sideshow as the man who outwitted the FBI.

Today's news conference was held in the central headquarters of the communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party, and the bald, moon-faced Marxist answered questions glibly. He was dressed in a gray suit, khaki shirt, and red necktie.

The communist press was out in full force. The first question they asked was a setup: "Do you hate America?"

Eisler replied that he had no hate for the American people, but, just as he hated Hitler, he hated American reactionaries. The German communist went on to say that there are 200,000 Americans under forced labor in prisons, and that millions of Americans, including Negroes, are prisoners in the United States.

Eisler said that the majority of the American people did not want a war, only the capitalists and imperialists. In this respect, Eisler said that the economic crisis in America had already begun, and that the recent decline in the stock market was a sign of an approaching depression. The only way the capitalists can prevent this crisis, he declared, is by the production of armaments and the preparation for war as the only means to save capitalism. The Catholic Church is supporting this war policy, Eisler charged.

Eisler said that, in fleeing from the United States, he had simply walked onto a ship—an act that had infuriated the FBI. "Members of the FBI are not super-men," he said.

In a half hour from now, all four of the Berlin military commanders will hold a meeting to discuss the city's elevated rail strike. Yesterday a referendum on continuing the strike was held by the anti-Communist union. More than 96 percent of the 14,000 strikers voted to continue the walkout. Only four hundred were against it.

Today's meeting will be the first time the Russian commander has participated in such a gathering since last June 16th.

"London Fights the Robots" by Ernest Hemingway

London Fights the Robots
Ernest Hemingway at the Dorchester Hotel in London in 1944 (source)
From Collier's magazine, August 19, 1944, pp. 17, 80-81. (See Hemingway's other World War II essays here.)

Collier's correspondent flies against the French rocket coast and, after a struggle with the censor, still manages to give us a vivid picture of the new R.A.F. plane fighting Hitler's pilotless bombs.

The Tempest is a great, gaunt airplane. It is the fastest pursuit job in the world and is as tough as a mule. It has been reported with a speed of 400 and should dive way ahead of its own noise. Where we were living, its job was to intercept the pilotless planes and shoot them down over the sea or in the open country as they came in on their sputtering roar toward London.

The squadron flew from four o'clock in the morning until midnight. There were always pilots sitting ready in the cockpits to take off when the Very pistol signaled, and there were always a number of planes on permanent patrol in the air. The fastest time I clocked a plane as airborne, from the sound of the pop of the flare pistol that would arc a twin flare over the dispersal area from the door of the Intelligence hut, was fifty-seven seconds.

As the flare popped, you would hear the dry bark of the starting cartridge and the rising scream of the motor, and these hungry, big, long-legged birds would lurch, bounce, and scream off with the noise of two hundred circular saws hitting a mahogany log dead on the nose. They took off downwind, crosswind, any way the weather lay, and grabbed a piece of the sky lurched up into it with the long, high legs folding up under them.

You love a lot of things if you live around them, but there isn't any woman and there isn't any horse, nor any before nor any after, that is as lovely as a great airplane, and men who love them are faithful to them even though they leave them for others. A man has only one virginity to lose in fighters, and if it is a lovely plane he loses it to, there his heart will always be.

Mustang is a tough, good name for a bad, tough, husky, angry plane that could have been friends with Harry Greb if Greb had an engine instead of a heart. Tempest is a sissy name out of Shakespeare, who is a great man anywhere, but they have put it onto an airplane that is sort of like a cross between Man o' War and Tallulah Bankhead in the best year either of them ever had. They were good years, too, and many a man has been taken by the bookies because he looked at a colt that had the swelling Big Red's neck had and not any of the rest of it. And there have been many husky voices since, but none that carried good across the Western ocean.

So now we have this squadron of Tempests. They were running out of terms for meteorological disturbances when they named that one. And all day long they shoot down this nameless weapon, day in and day out. The squadron leader is a fine man, tall, small-spoken the way a leopard is, with the light brown circles under his eyes and the odd purple complexion of a man whose face has been burned away, and he told the story of his exploit to me very quietly and truthfully, standing by the wooden table in the pilots' mess.

He knew it was true and I knew it was true and he was very precise in remembering exactly how it had been, because it was one of the first pilotless aircraft he had shot down, and he was very exact in details. He did not like to say anything personal but it was evidently all right to speak well of the plane. Then he told me about the other sort of shooting down. If you do not explode them in the air, you crash them.

"It is a sort of giant bubble of blast that rises from them," he said. "Bubble" has been quite a venturesome word to use, and he took confidence from it and tried a further word. "It is rather like a huge blossoming of air rising."

We were both embarrassed by this articulateness, and as my mind watched the giant bubble blossoming, all tension was taken away by an American flying in the same squadron, who said, "I dropped one on a greenhouse, and the glass rose straight up a million feet. What am I going to say to the guy who owns that greenhouse when we go into the pub tonight?"

"You can't just say exactly where you'll shoot them down," the squadron leader said, standing there, speaking shyly, patiently, and with strange eagerness, from behind the purple mask he would always wear now for a face. "They go very fast you know."

The Mark of Authority

The wing commander came in, angry, happy. He was short, with a lot of style and a tough, bad tongue. He was twenty-six, I found out later. I had seen him get out of an airplane before I knew he was the wing commander. It did not show then, nor did it show now when he talked. The only way you knew he was the wing commander was the way the other pilots said "Sir." They said "Sir" to the two squadron leaders, one of whom was a tough Belgian like a six-day bicycle racer, and the other was the shy, fine man who lived behind the destroyed face. But they gave a slightly different "Sir" to the wing commander, and the wing commander returned no change from it at all. Nor did he notice it when he pocketed it.

Censorship, in war, is a very necessary thing. It is especially necessary about aircraft because, until a new aircraft has fallen into enemy hands, no information as to the exact speeds, dimensions, characteristics or armament should be written, since all of that furnishes information the enemy wants and needs.

It is appearance, characteristics and performance that make a man love an airplane, and they, told truly, are what put the emotion into an article about one. They are all out of this article now. I hope the enemy never shoots down a Tempest, that the Tempest will never be released from the secret list, and that all I know and care about them can never be published until after the war.

All information about tactics employed in the shooting down of pilotless aircraft is out, too, along with all the conversation that would let you know how the types feel that do the shooting down. Because you cannot have the conversation without conveying the tactics. So there isn't much of this airplane now, except a guy loving an airplane.

It is written in a tough language because this was, in the main, a tough-speaking outfit. The only exception was the squadron leader, fragments of whose conversation are given. Some outfits in the R.A.F. are very rough spoken, and some speak as gently and correctly as in the film, Target for Tonight. I like ("like" is a very mild term to employ for the emotion felt) both kinds, and sometime, if it is ever possible to write anything interesting that the censor can conscientiously pass, I would like to try to show both kinds. In the meantime you get this.

Writing under censorship is necessary and proper in time of war, and we all censor out ourselves everything we think might be of any possible interest to the enemy. But in writing anything about the air on the basis of trying to include color, detail and emotion, there is a certain analogy to sports writing.

It is sort of as though in the old days you had found Harry Greb having a breakfast of double orders of ham and eggs and hashed brown potatoes in bed at nine o'clock in the morning on the day he was to fight Mickey Walker. Greb, placed on the scales, weighed exactly 12 pounds over the 162 he was to make at two o'clock that afternoon. Now suppose you had seen the weight rubbed and pounded off of him and got rid of by several other means, and him carried on the scales too weak to walk and almost too weak to curse you.

Then suppose you had seen the meal he ate and seen him enter the ring weighing exactly the same weight he had left bed with that morning. Then suppose you had seen the great, crowding, smashing, take it, come in again, thumbing, butting, mean, nasty, bloody, lovely fight he made, and you had to sum up the whole business on these terms: One of our fighters named Greb whose characteristics have not been revealed was reported to have encountered an M. Walker last night. Further details will be released in due course.

If this ever seems a screwy story, remember that through the sky at all times are passing pilotless aircraft which look, in flight, rather like an ugly metal dart with a white-hot bunghole, travel at speed up to 400 miles an hour, carry, as of this writing, 2,200 pounds of explosive in their noses, make a noise like a glorified motorcycle and, at this moment, are passing overhead the place where this is written.

One of my most esteemed colleagues told me in New York that he was not returning to the European theater because anything he might write would merely be a repetition of what he had already written. At this point I am authorized to state to my most esteemed colleague that the danger of repetition in a story is one of the more negligible hazards that his old co-workers are at present confronted with.

Now if you are following this piece closely—which I am not, due to a certain amount of windowpane trouble—we should be somewhere in southern England where a group of Tempest pilots have in seven days shot down their share of pilotless aircraft. Lots of people call this weapon the doodlebug, the robot bomb, the buzz bomb and other names hatched in the brains of the keener Fleet Street types, but so far nobody I have ever known who has fought him has referred to Joe Louis as Toots. So we will continue to refer to this weapon as the pilotless aircraft in this release from your pilotless-aircraft editor, and you can call it any of those quaint or coy names you wish, but only when you are alone.

The day before your pilotless-aircraft editor started studying the interception angle, he or I (I guess it is I, although sometimes it doesn't seem the right man in the right place and I have thought some of leaving the whole thing and going back to writing books in stiff covers), went out in one of forty-eight Mitchell bombers—that is, eight boxes of six bombers each—to bomb one of the sites from which the pilotless aircraft are launched.

These sites can be readily identified by the merest tyro by the quantity of old Mitchell bombers which are strewed around them and by the fact that, when you get close to them, large, black circular rings of smoke appear alongside of the vehicle you are riding in. These circular black rings of smoke are called flak, and this flak is the author of that old piece of understatement about two of our aircraft failed to return.

Sky View of the Target

Well, we (that is Wing Commander Lynn, who is nice company in an airplane and who has exactly the same voice on the intercom when Kees, the bombardier, has her held in on the run and is saying, "Bombing—Bombing—Bombing—Bombing—" as though you were not on the last mile) bombed this site with proverbial pin-point accuracy. I had a nice look at the site which appeared to be a gigantic concrete construction lying on its side or its belly (depending on whether you saw it just before the run or just after it) in a woods completely surrounded by bomb craters. There were two small clouds that didn't look lonely the way clouds were in "I wandered lonely as a cloud."

There were many rings of black smoke in a line coming right straight alongside of us inside the box between us where the other Mitchell on our right was going along in the air, looking just like a picture of a Mitchell in an advertisement by the manufacturers. Then, with the smoke rings forming along her side, the belly of this kite—looking just like in moving pictures—opened, pushing out against the air, and the bombs all dropped out sideways as if she were having eight long metal kittens in a hurry.

We all were doing this, although you could not see what anybody did except this one. Then we all went home just as fast as we could go home, and that is bombing. Unlike a lot of other things, the best part is afterward. It isn't so much how much you learn. It is the wonderful people you meet.

Your pilotless-aircraft editor never went to college (here we call it a university), so now he is going to the R.A.F. instead, and the main subject he is studying is trying to understand English on the radio telephone. Face to face with an Englishman, I can understand almost everything he says. I can speak, read and write Canadian clearly and have a smattering of Scottish and a few words of New Zealand. I can understand enough Australian to draw cards and order drinks and to shove my way into a bar if it is crowded. South African I dominate as a spoken tongue almost as well as I do Basque, but English over the RT is just a glorious mystery.

Close up, over the intercom of a bomber, I get most of it. When you press the button on the stick, that isolates conversation to what is said in the cockpit, so you have those long, intimate chats that go, "Wonder who that b— is that's talking," and you answer, "Don't know. Must be the same Jerry that on the night of D-Day kept saying 'Turn back. Turn back. The operation has been canceled!'"

"Wonder how he gets on our wave length?"

You shrug your shoulders and take your thumb off the button. That close conversation I get all right, but when real Englishmen speaking English start talking to one another between one kite and another kite and back and forth from control, I just study it hard like homework, as if you had brought home somebody's calculus book and were still on plane geometry.

Actually, I cannot understand English very well yet on the ordinary telephone, so, having been indoctrinated in the Good Neighbor policy, I always say, "Yes." and just make them repeat the time the car will be around in the morning to take us to whatever field we will be starting from.

How Not to Avoid Danger

This accounts for many of the curious sorties your pilotless-aircraft correspondent goes on. He is not a man who has a perpetual urge to seek peril in the sky or to defy the laws of gravity; he is simply a man who, not understanding very well the nature of the propositions offered over the telephone due to faulty earwork, constantly finds himself involved in the destruction of these monsters in their hellish lairs or in attempts at interception in that fine, 400-mile-an-hour airplane, the Mosquito.

At present, your pilotless-aircraft editor has stopped all telephone calls of any description in order to attempt to bring the story up to date before someone proposes something so startling and so generous that your editor in the nature of an operation that he would fail in his duties to this great book to have recorded what has happened up to this time. However, before all calls were stopped, two or three rather lovely propositions were received, and I understand that there is a feeling freely expressed in some quarters that, "Ernie is yellow. With a chance to go on absolutely wizard ops, he is up in his room at that pub, doing what do you think?"

"What?" in a horrified tone.


"My God! The old boy's had it!"


August 20, 2015

1949. The Occupation Powers in Berlin Clash Over Strike

The Berlin Rail Workers' Strike Ends
"Berlin 1949: Preparing a banner over the road blocks which are to be removed from the Russian-American sector boundary. The banner, to mark the imminent end of the Berlin blockade, reads, 'The Sector of Freedom welcomes the Fighters for Freedom and Right'" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 18, 1949

I was awakened early this morning by an argument between a group of Germans in front of my house. Berliners, being what they are, seem to always conduct their disputes at the top of their voices.

Outside was stalled a big truck in which about twenty-five people were standing. It was one of the auxiliary freight trucks which the city government has put into service to carry passengers while the elevated rail system is shut down by the strike. There are scores of these trucks bumping through the western sectors of Berlin, usually with a step ladder hanging on the back so the people can clamber in and out.

When this particular truck stalled in front of the house this morning, it was too much for one man who started complaining about the rail strike. It so happened that one of the strikers was also in the crowd, and as the truck drew away, the different factions were still shouting at one another.

This dispute over the Berlin railroad strike now has repercussions reaching from Moscow to Washington. The walkout of 14,000 anti-Communist union members must be settled before rail traffic into the city can be resumed; before Berlin is completely un-blockaded. The whole situation has been tossed into the laps of the Big Four foreign ministers.

In this sense, here in Berlin the Cold War between East and West has become basically a labor dispute, the kind of dispute we in America settle through negotiation and concession month after month.

It was exactly a month ago today that the independent UGO (Unabhängige Gewerkschaftsopposition [independent trade union opposition]) workers walked out. Violence in the first two weeks of the strike cost two lives, and approximately a thousand persons were injured.

The official attitude of all four of the occupation powers is that it is purely a German affair, although we claim the Russians, who control the elevated railroad, could settle it if they so wanted. The Soviet military government accuses us of backing the strikers and prolonging the walkout.

However, from the point of view of the German rail workers who have shut down the elevated, this is a dispute between them and the pro-Communist management. In other words, 14,000 Berlin railroad men are stacking their cause up against the policies of the Soviet Union. It is not the most comfortable position in the world considering that they are staging this strike one hundred miles inside the Soviet zone.

The issues here were originally the union's demands that rail workers who live and work in West Berlin get their pay in West marks, but today the issue is much more basic. As a matter of fact, it is the issue over which the entire Cold War is being fought: the concept of individual freedom as it is practiced by democracy and communism.

In the early days of the Berlin strike when the rioting was going on, Paul Markgraf, chief of the East Berlin police, announced that any striker caught hampering the work of the elevated railroad or damaging its property would be liable to arrest and sentence—which could include the death sentence. However, the Berlin trade unionist doesn't scare easily, and the strikers used their own methods to shut down the elevated. They removed sections of track and, where they could, took away elements that prevented operation of the electric control towers. However, no permanent damage has been done.

But the anti-Communist strikers have not forgotten the threat from the Communist side of the town.

The Russian-directed management made an important concession last week when it offered to pay sixty percent of the strikers' wages in West marks. However, the directorate made the offer through the Communist-controlled labor union of East Berlin. There was no recognition of the independent union, a fact that aroused much suspicion. Incidentally, the independent UGO union contains two thirds of the elevated rail workers.

Then General Frank Howley, American military commandant, stepped in in an attempt to bring about a compromise settlement. He went to the West Berlin city government. It agreed to provide another fifteen percent of West mark wages, making a total of seventy-five percent in all. Next, Howley went to the Soviet transport chief, General Kvashnin, and got his verbal assurance that there would be no reprisals against the strikers.

Following this, a union meeting was called. In a letter to the strikers, Howley said he thought the compromise offer was reasonable. Oberbürgermeister Ernst Reuter urged the men to accept and go back to work. Even the union leaders agreed. But there was strenuous opposition from the rank and file.

"How do we know that we won't be thrown into a Communist jail the minute we climb back on the trains and get into the Russian sector of the city?" Howley's letter reassured them of Kvashnin's promise.

The UGO leadership then arranged to hold a referendum. They even specified that seventy-five percent of the membership would have to oppose going back to work in order to continue the strike.

But on Tuesday, the morning the strikers were to make their decision, the Communist press and radio did a surprising and puzzling thing. They said that the Soviet military government had given no assurances to Howley or anyone else that reprisals would not be taken.

After that, the result was obvious. The skeptical strikers voted, not seventy-five percent, but eighty-five percent to continue their walkout.

This was the last of a good many "last straws." General Howley, who failed to get the Russian guarantee in writing, naturally shouted "double-cross."

As a labor dispute, this is the strangest one that I have ever covered. The union, representing the majority of the workers involved, cannot get recognition. The management, which is the Soviet transportation authorities, have acted in exceedingly bad faith by first giving and then withdrawing assurances that would have settled the strike.

But let's face it. This is more than a labor dispute. The independent trade union, UGO, is one of the main bastions of opposition to the Communists in Berlin. Break the union, and the boys from the east side of the town would have achieved a major step in gaining complete control of this city.

The next two days will see whether the foreign ministers can reach any kind of agreement on the Berlin crisis and on restoring East-West trade in this divided country.

But the people of Berlin do not expect the Americans, the British, or the French to get any better treatment than that given to anti-Communist strikers here.

The fact is that, despite Russian assurances that the blockade of Berlin would be lifted last May 12, the main artery of transport—the railroad traffic—is halted. The Anglo-American airlift continues to be the main source of supply to this city.

The Soviet military government of Berlin cannot technically be blamed for the blockade of rail traffic. But the Russians here most certainly can be charged with a great lack of interest in settling the strike that is causing the partial blockade—an official disinterest that adds up to bad faith on their former promise to lift the economic siege of Berlin.

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

CBS Berlin

June 22, 1949

The Soviet military government has reaffirmed its desire to see an end to the Berlin elevated railway strike, but this morning the striking anti-Communist union again declined to go back to work until the Russians order recognition of their independent union and give definite assurance in writing that there will be no reprisals against their membership.

The Russian statement came last night in a letter from General Kvashnin, Soviet transportation chief, to the three Western commandants. Kvashnin confirmed a conversation he had earlier with America's General Howley, saying that the Russian-controlled rail management will not take any sanctions against the strikers regardless of the union to which they belong. He added that the Soviet desire to end the strike is proved by the compromise offer to pay sixty percent of the strikers' wages in West marks.

In light of this latest Russian statement, the executive board of the striking union held an extraordinary meeting this morning. After two hours of discussion, the union leaders decided that the letter from Kvashnin was not enough for them to call off the strike. They demanded again that the railroad management deal with the strikers themselves—which would mean recognition of the union. The Russian-controlled directorate refuses to do this because the independent union is anti-Communist.

The Kvashnin letter is important for one reason. It was dated June 20—Monday, the day the Paris foreign ministers' conference ended. The letter is extremely conciliatory—a great departure from the other communications the Western commandants have exchanged with the Russians concerning the Berlin strike. These communications were brusque and sometimes downright rude.

In other words, General Kvashnin's letter may be the beginning of a new Soviet policy of four-power cooperation in Berlin. If it is, then we will see now the first fruits of the foreign ministers' conference. But fingers are still crossed here.

Lawrence Wilkinson, economic adviser for the American military government, says he expects to begin four-power conferences on trade and transportation this week, but that no definite date has been set.

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

CBS Berlin

June 24, 1949

Everybody wants to end the Berlin elevated strike this morning, but no one knows how to do it.

The 14,00 anti-Communist rail workers, who are tying up railroad traffic into this city, find themselves in the position of a man who has a tiger by the tail. They can't let go.

The independent rail union, which called the walkout five weeks ago today, agreed to send three thousand of its members back to work in order to break the log jam of freight trains tied up on the outskirts of Berlin. This emergency service would only allow rail traffic to move between the Western zones and Berlin. The actual strike of the elevated line would remain in force.

However, the Russians say they will not accept any trains moved by the union's emergency services; that this is an infringement of management rights which they control. The British also condemn the emergency service as unworkable, although the British commander this morning rescinded yesterday's order barring all strikers from railroad property. The independent union is now allowed in the yards and roundhouses to repair any strike damage in preparation for traffic.

So the situation this morning is that part of the strikers are back at work getting Berlin elevated ready for traffic under the emergency service program. However, it is unlikely that any trains will move because the Russians have to give clearance to any trains going through their zone, and they disapprove of the plan.

The main strike issue now is recognition of the anti-Communist union, which the Russians refuse to do, and the question of security of the strikers if they return to work.

General Pavel Kvashnin, head of the Soviet transportation section here, put in writing in a letter to the Western commandants an assurance that no reprisals would be taken.

But the strikers' attitude is best summed up this morning by Franz Neumann, head of Berlin's Social Democratic Party. "The strike would be ended," Neumann declared, "if the strikers were convinced that the words of all generals are words of honor. However, there are too many honest democrats who have disappeared into concentration camps...and all the words of the Western Allies could not free them."

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

CBS Berlin

June 26, 1949

The Berlin rail strike will end within forty-eight hours.

This is the prediction this morning of Western military government officials and leaders of the striking railroad union.

For the past five hours, delegates of the 14,000 strikers have been in executive session to accept or reject a decision by the American, British, and French commandants that the welfare of Berlin and the compromise work agreement no longer justifies the walkout.

Reports from the union meeting are that there seems to be every likelihood that the men will decide to end this six-week-old strike.

The break in the rail crisis came late yesterday when the three Western commandants emerged with a formula which they deemed fair and meeting the demands of the independent anti-Communist union.

The Western authorities said the men would get their full pay in West marks. The strikers have the assurance of the Russian transport authority that no reprisals would be taken against them.

Thus the Western military governments are ordering that no more unemployment benefits be paid out to the strikers from Tuesday on. The formula, however, did provide for rail workers who feared personal reprisals by the Communist rail management. If these men signed statements that they were quitting the railroad business, and also signed statements that they will not interfere with the operation of the elevated line, then they would continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits and would be assisted in finding new employment in other industries.

The only major demand which the strikers did not achieve in their walkout was recognition of their union by the Russian-controlled management.

Ending of the strike does not mean that the struggle between Eastern and Western Berlin is ended. Rather, it will become intensified.

But if the strikers vote to return to work under the conditions set down by the Western occupation powers, it will be the first fruit of the modus vivendi agreement reached last week in Paris.

The little blockade of Berlin will be ended, and we will be able to slacken operations of our expensive airlift.

However, the success of the new four-power "live and let live" policy in Germany now depends upon the spirit in which this policy is prosecuted by the Russians.

If they order or allow terrorism against the strikers who return to work on the Berlin elevated, then the strike will go on again, and we will be right back where we started.

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

CBS Berlin

June 27, 1949

The trains are scheduled to roll in Berlin at eight o'clock tomorrow morning, thus bringing an end to the 37 day strike and a considerable relieving of East-West tension in this bisected city.

Repair gangs are working this morning to restore the elevated trackage to operational condition. However, the Russian-controlled rail management says that full schedules may be somewhat delayed tomorrow until their own inspectors can go over the elevated route to make sure everything is in shape.

The 14,000 anti-Communist strikers voted to return to work yesterday under the Western Power ultimatum that grants them one hundred percent pay in West marks and guarantees security against reprisals.

The end of the elevated strike means that the so-called "little blockade" of Berlin will be lifted and that rail traffic will once again become the main supply route into this city, replacing airlift deliveries. However, Air Force officials say the aerial supply of the city will continue on a restricted basis until ordered discontinued by the highest officials.

Some forty trains are waiting to be unloaded or stacked up on the outskirts of the city, waiting to be unloaded or stacked up on the outskirts of the city and waiting to be shunted into Berlin rail yards for unloading. Because of this backlog, it is not expected that regular freight schedules will be operated for several days.

More than seventy percent of the striking rail workers are expected to return to their jobs. Those who are most likely to refuse to return to work for fear of Communist reprisals are some 350 engineers of the "brigade trains" which carry reparations from the West deep into the Soviet zone.

However, it must be emphasized that the settlement of the Berlin strike does not mean the end of the Communist struggle to control this city. It is not the end of the Cold War here, but rather the beginning of a new phase of the battle.

The first major Four Power meeting in Berlin in more than a year of blockade crisis is scheduled for the next few days. The deputy military governors of all four occupation powers will sit down to work out economic and trade agreements between the East and West.

So far, the modus vivendi agreement of Paris appears to be working, but the political climate in this city is too uncertain to predict how long the diplomatic calm will last.

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


Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

June 28, 1949

The international pressure has been taken off Berlin today. In a half hour, the deputy military governors of America, Russia, Britain, and France will hold their first meeting in nine months to again make the governing of the two occupied Germanies a four-power responsibility.

This evening the freight trains will begin arriving with supplies from the West, thus ending the little blockade of Berlin.

Most of the 14,000 striking rail workers are back at work this morning. They reported to their jobs without incident. The Berlin elevated railroad, however, will probably not get its city traffic moving until tomorrow. Inspectors of the Russian-controlled management are now going over all trackage to make sure it is in shape.

Thus the news from Berlin is mostly good this morning.

What has happened under the modus vivendi agreement between the Big Four powers is that the East-West struggle in Germany has been turned back to the Germans, with the interested nations calling the signals from the bench.

The illusion is thus created that the Germans will settle their own fate in the future. In the final analysis, this will be true, but in the coming months it will be Russia which will run the training table in East Germany; and in the West, the democracies will supply the equipment for the continuing struggle for power in Germany.

The grand illusion created by this situation is that, in case there is trouble in Germany, the world will not be plunged into war—that only the Germans will get hurt. But believe me, this is an illusion.

However, the fact remains that in Germany as a whole, and in Berlin in particular, the possibility of an international incident which might lead to open conflict has been greatly narrowed by the "live and let live" agreement between the Big Powers.

Perhaps we are due for a breathing spell in the East-West Cold War. We certainly have one coming.

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