November 30, 2015

1943. Boosting Morale on the Eastern Front

Letters of Encouragement to Red Army Soldiers
Red Army soldiers in January 1943 celebrate victory in Stalingrad (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

January 6, 1943 (Cable to New York)

One method by which every government in the world keeps check on the morale of its army is by careful examination of letters the front line soldier exchanges with folks back home. It's just as true in the Soviet Union as it is in America, Britain, or the Axis countries.

Here is a sample of what folks at home in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Baku are writing to their men fighting the Germans. In many ways these letters are like letters home in any army—the Russian soldier learns cousin Alexis got married; daughter Anna has mumps; wife expects to finish knitting that sweater in a couple of weeks.

But here the Russian soldier also gets something else. The Red Army is something of a family affair. That's why these letters give insight into just why the buck private in Joseph Stalin's army fights the Germans as they have never been fought before.

For example, whole regiments will get letters addressed to the "Liberators of Boguchar" from people they have never heard of before.

Russian girls will write individual soldiers asking Private Ivanovich to "kill just one German more today."

Then of course some letters bring bad news. One soldier received a letter from his aunt:
Dear Petia,

It saddens me to tell you our village has been taken by Germans who burned it to the ground, including your home. The town hall is also gone, our dear streets nothing but wreckage.

But there is even worse news. Your wife and daughter have been sent by German commanders to somewhere I do not know. Father also has been sent away.

I call upon you, Petia. Avenge your family.


Tanya, your aunt
When news of this letter got around the soldier's unit, they sent a petition to their officers requesting immediate attack.

Just how much of a family affair the Red Army really is is illustrated by letters exchanged between one assistant commander for political work and one Russian housewife. The political commander, whose chief job is army morale, wrote to the housewife saying her husband has been slipping up on his soldiering. He wasn't serious, you understand, but this particular husband—who has been one of the best men in the unit—was now just plain goldbricking.

Here's the reply the housewife wrote back to the political commander:

"I and my family are disturbed by the conduct of my husband. I cannot explain how it happened. In the past, he has always been a good tractor driver and honestly fulfilled his work. I am working very hard and have not had a day off in three months. Our eleven-year-old daughter is working in the fields and vegetable garden. My husband's sister is working on a collective farm. We all hate Hitler. I ask you to talk with my husband and explain how serious his fault is. Let him make up his fault in the next fighting."

The political commander didn't have that talk with the husband. Instead he read the wife's letter aloud to the husband's entire unit.

November 19, 2015

1949. Joseph Stalin's Conditions for Lifting the Berlin Blockade

The Soviet Peace Offensive
Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in Germany, July 23, 1945 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

January 31, 1949

The split Berlin press this morning greets the new peace proposals by Josef Stalin with faithful hysteria in the Russian-licensed publications—but with a kind of cynical hope in the newspapers publishing from inside the Soviet blockade.

The Russian-controlled newspapers shout, "STALIN READY FOR COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED STATES." The blockaded press asks, "A NEW SOVIET MOVE: STALIN READY TO LIFT BLOCKADE?" The difference is that the Western headlines all end with question marks.

General Clay and Ambassador Robert Murphy both have declined to comment on this latest diplomatic move from the Kremlin. They are in Frankfurt today for the regular meeting of Anglo-American zone officials.

What has intrigued observers here over the Stalin statement is that the Russian premier lists only two conditions for the lifting of the blockade: postponement of the formation of the West German government, and a simultaneous lifting of the Western Powers' counter-blockade.

If you remember back when the Russians slapped on their restrictions last June, the immediate cause given was currency reform—the introduction by America and Britain of new banknotes to stop the inflation and "cigarette economy" that was ruining the country.

As late as last October, Marshal Sokolovsky, Russian military governor for Germany, listed currency reform as the main cause of the Berlin blockade.

Marshal Stalin makes no mention of currency in his latest statements. It is conjectural as to whether the Russian position on this important point has changed.

Some authorities here see the Stalin statement as admitting the success of currency reform in West Germany and confirming the success of the airlift.

But they also point out that the Western Powers' position has been no negotiation under duress. Whether Stalin's latest proposals overcome this qualification is for Washington to decide.

Coinciding with the interview from the Kremlin, the weather here in Germany has improved. Fog has restricted the airlift for the past few days, but today the planes are flying full schedules from all airfields. Maybe the air really is being cleared.

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

CBS Berlin

February 2, 1949

The news of Stalin's offer to meet President Truman coincides with this development in Berlin:

Today the Russian Army newspaper Tägliche Rundschau proposes that the United States and Soviet Russia sign a pact of peace as a means of ending the tensions between East and West.

The outright proposal of a peace pact has caused a stir among Western Power officials in Berlin because the Rundschau has long been a bellwether of Russian foreign policy.

The proposal is contained in a lengthy front page editorial signed by A. Nesterov, the paper's foreign analyst. Commenting on the recent Stalin interview, the Rundschau denies that the Russian premier's statements are only propaganda.

"The Stalin statement was made at a time of high political tension. It does not aim at propaganda but was inspired by honest concern about the fate of the man in the street in all the world," the editorial declares.

The conditions of this peace pact, according to Tägliche Rundschau, would be the postponement of the creation of a West German state, a meeting of the Foreign Ministers Council, and a meeting between President Truman and Premier Stalin to discuss the German problem on the basis of German unity.

The Soviet Union is also willing to talk about other worldwide problems, the Rundschau reports. It demands the withdrawal of occupation troops from Korea; the United States must stop using the United Nations as a branch of the State Department. The newspaper also proposes that armaments in the five major world powers be reduced by one-third.

The editorial declares: "Soviet foreign policy is consistent and unchanged. It is a policy of peace for all nations...Therefore the world expects readiness for peaceful settlement from the government of the United States."

"The American government," it concludes, "has the alternative to accept or reject the Soviet proposals. If it rejects them, then the world will know who must be blamed for the present unrest and troubles in the world, and who opposes peaceful general settlement."

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

CBS Berlin

February 5, 1949

The brief flurry of hope for settlement of the Berlin crisis has now subsided, and this morning the city is settling down again to the humdrum of blockade life.

The situation might be described as a kind of international merry-go-round. Berlin is the center on which the whole thing pivots, but all the excitement takes place on the revolving outer edge of the diplomatic carousel.

As has been expected, the communist press is making propaganda hay out of America's refusal to accept Stalin's offer to renew negotiations. Russian-licensed newspapers now charge that the United States does not want settlement; that imperialist groups and monopolies are trying to capture Germany and prepare a capitalist war against the Soviet Union.

The Western Powers are taking new steps to crack down on the counter-blockade of the Russian zone of Germany. These moves have been in preparation for many weeks and are not a direct result of the rejection of the Stalin offer.

But additional police have been inspecting traffic into East Berlin confiscating chemicals, electrical equipment, and fine steel products now in critical demand by East German industry.

The new Anglo-American order banning foreign trucking from Western Europe into the Soviet zone further tightens the counter-blockade and puts additional pressure on the economy of Eastern Germany.

So today we are back where we started, diplomatically speaking.

The best indication of how the average Berliner reacts to the events is in the black market.

During the peace rumors early this week, the black market price of American cigarettes dropped to five marks a pack. That's a dollar and a half by the legal rate.

Today cigarette prices have risen about sixty percent. Black marketeers are now getting eight marks a pack.

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

CBS Berlin

February 13, 1949

The communist-dominated government of Eastern Germany this morning is launching a so-called "peace offensive" of its own.

The Russian-licensed press and radio are issuing calls for a series of "peace demonstrations." One is set for tomorrow at Potsdamer Platz here in Berlin.

The purpose of the meetings, according to the initial propaganda, is to "challenge the warmongers with determination and join the peace movement which already has seized most of the workers of the world...The German people do not want to hunger in the frame of the Marshall Plan...they do not want to die for Western Union and the Atlantic Pact..."

In other words, the communists in Germany are starting a new and intensified sales campaign to discredit the Western Powers.

Why it is coming at this particular time is conjectural.

Authorities here say that it is possible that the German communists are trying to counter the unfavorable reaction caused by the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary and the arrest of fifteen Protestant clergymen in Bulgaria.

But more likely, it said, the failure of Stalin's latest diplomatic move to stop the Atlantic Pact and halt formation of the West German state is the reason for the new communist propaganda drive in East Germany.

The German communists want to be ready to set up their own government in the East when the formation of a West German government is ready.

Today is the fourth anniversary of the great RAF air raid on the city of Dresden. This was one of the most disastrous of the aerial attacks on Germany; an estimated 32,000 people died in one night.

It is reported that the first of these so-called peace meetings is now going on in Dresden. The theme used is that the American and British air forces attacked the German people; and that the Russians, who incidentally didn't have much of a bombing force, only attacked military objectives.

But the most cynical of the communist propaganda statements is that these German "peace meetings" will only be held on days of special commemoration "of the worst horrors of the Second Imperialist War."

It is notable that last week's anniversary of the Stalingrad victory was ignored.

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

November 18, 2015

Edward R. Murrow Responds to Senator McCarthy's Accusations

Murrow Reacts to McCarthy's Rebuke

Thanks to Noah C. Cline for helping to locate this broadcast. The text is adapted from the transcript available on American Rhetoric.
April 13, 1954

EDWARD R. MURROW: Last week, Senator McCarthy appeared on this program to correct any errors he might have thought we made in our report of March 9th. Since he made no reference to any statements of fact that we made, we must conclude that he found no errors of fact. He proved again that anyone who exposes him, anyone who does not share his hysterical disregard for decency and human dignity and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, must be either a communist or a fellow traveler.

I fully expected this treatment. The Senator added this reporter's name to a long list of individuals and institutions he has accused of serving the communist cause. His proposition is very simple: anyone who criticizes or opposes McCarthy's methods must be a communist. And if that be true, there are an awful lot of communists in this country.

For the record, let's consider briefly some of the Senator's charges. He claimed, but offered no proof, that I had been a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. That is false. I was never a member of the IWW, never applied for membership. Men that I worked with in the Pacific Northwest in western Washington in logging camps will attest that I never had any affiliation or affinity with that organization.

The Senator charged that Professor Harold Laski, a British scholar and politician, dedicated a book to me. That's true. He is dead. He was a socialist, I am not. He was one of those civilized individuals who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a precondition for conversation or friendship. I do not agree with his political ideas. Laski, as he makes clear in the introduction, dedicated the book to me not because of political agreement, but because he held my wartime broadcasts from London in high regard—and the dedication so reads.

Senator McCarthy's principal attack on me was an attack on the Institute of International Education, of which I was Assistant Director and am now a trustee, together with such people as John Foster Dulles, Milton Eisenhower, Ralph J. Bunche, Virginia Gildersleeve, Philip Reed; to name just a few. That institute sponsored, acted as the registering agent for summer schools in foreign countries including England, France, and Germany, and one in the Soviet Union in 1934. It has arranged in all some 30,000 exchanges of students and professors between the United States and over fifty foreign countries.

The man primarily responsible for starting this institute was Nicholas Murray Butler in 1919. Its work has been praised as recently as 1948 by President Eisenhower. It has been denounced by the Soviet press and radio as a center of international propaganda for American reaction, and I have been labeled by them as a "reactionary radio commentator."

The Senator alleged that we were doing the work of the Russian secret police, training spies. We were in fact conducting normal cultural and educational relations with foreign nations. The Moscow summer session was cancelled in 1935 by the Russian authorities.

I believed twenty years ago and I believe today that mature Americans can engage in conversation and controversy, the clash of ideas, with communists anywhere in the world without becoming contaminated or converted. I believe that our faith, our conviction, our determination are stronger than theirs, and that we can compete and successfully, not only in the area of bombs but in the area of ideas.

Senator McCarthy couldn't even get my relationship with CBS straight. He repeatedly referred to me as the Educational Director, a position I have not held for seventeen years.

The Senator waved a copy of the Daily Worker, saying an article in it has praised me. Here is an example for what Senator McCarthy calls "praise" by William Z. Foster in the March 17 issue of The Daily Worker. Quote:

"During the past ten days, Senator McCarthy has received a number of resounding belts in the jaw. These came from Adlai Stevenson, E.R. Murrow, Senator Flanders, the Army leadership, broadcasting companies; even Eisenhower himself had to give McCarthy a slap on the wrist."

That was the sole reference to me in Mr. Foster's article.

Another charge by Senator McCarthy was that Owen Lattimore mentioned me in a book. What Lattimore said in substance was that he had never met me, but that I had done a fair job of reporting his testimony; in short, that I had not presumed his guilt. Everything I said on that case is a matter of record and can be examined by anyone who is interested.

I hope to continue to present evidence developed before Congressional committees as impartially as I am able. And that specifically includes the hearings before which Senator McCarthy is shortly scheduled to appear.

I have worked for CBS for more than nineteen years. The company has subscribed fully to my integrity and responsibility as a broadcaster and as a loyal American. I require no lectures from the Junior Senator from Wisconsin as to the dangers or terrors of communism. Having watched the aggressive forces at work in Western Europe; having had friends in Eastern Europe butchered and driven into exile; having broadcast from London in 1943 that the Russians were responsible for the Katyn massacre; having told the story of the Russian refusal to allow Allied aircraft to land on Russian fields after dropping supplies to those who rose in Warsaw and then were betrayed by the Russians; and having been denounced by the Russian radio for these reports, I cannot feel that I require instruction from the Senator on the evils of communism.

Having searched my conscience and my files, I cannot contend that I have always been right or wise. But I have attempted to pursue the truth with some diligence and to report it, even though, as in this case, I had been warned in advance that I would be subjected to the attentions of Senator McCarthy.

We shall hope to deal with matters of more vital interest for the country next week.

Good night, and good luck.

November 5, 2015

1943. Moscow Addresses Relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile

Considering Future Diplomatic Developments in Eastern Europe
"Delegation heads at the 1949 Council of Foreign Ministers meeting (left to right) Dean Acheson for the United States, Andrei Vyshinsky for the Soviet Union, Robert Schuman for France, and Ernst Bevin representing Great Britain" (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

May 7, 1943
The Soviet government has laid all of its cards on the table for the world to see to show the Russian interpretation of events that led to the suspension of relations with Poland.

Andrey Vyshinsky, Assistant Commissar for Foreign Affairs, discussed the Russian case history of the Polish-Russian disagreements with American and British reporters until 2:30 this morning. Vyshinsky is a white-haired, neat-looking lawyer, and he read his two thousand word summary of Soviet-Polish relations like a person adding up a column of figures. And that is the tone of the whole long list of Russian accusations against the Polish government.

(Vyshinsky said the statement was issued in response to inquiries by the American and British correspondents as well as to answer "the present Polish government which, under the influence of Hitlerian elements of the Polish press and radio, continues to spread increasing false statements worsening Polish-Soviet relations.")

This statement is worth close consideration. It's going to have a big part to play in future diplomatic developments in Eastern Europe.

But most cheering of all was the note on which Vyshinsky's statement ended. It said the "false anti-Soviet statements are unable to prevent the really friendly and close Soviet-Polish relations in which both the peoples of the Soviet Union and Poland are interested."

Later Vyshinsky was asked if the Soviet government would resume relations with the Sikorski government. He replied that "the relations are now suspended, and it would be premature to discuss this question. This will depend upon concrete conditions." But he didn't close the door on such possibilities. He added that the Polish government should "think about the steps it should take."

All in all, this statement should serve to clear a lot of diplomatic ground fog that has been muddling this situation.