December 31, 2015

1945. American Correspondents Fly Over Nagasaki and Enter Shanghai

Nagasaki and Shanghai After the Japanese Surrender
August 10, 1945: Arrow marks the spot where the atomic bomb hit in Nagasaki. Photo by AP (source)
Following the German surrender in 1945, journalist Tex McCrary led a group of war correspondents across the world as they covered the final days of the Pacific War. They made stops in the Middle East, Japan, China, French Indochina, Guam, and more. They were among the first Americans to enter Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The reporters included: Clark Lee (International News Service), Bernard Hoffman (Life), Vern Haugland (Associated Press), Bill Lawrence (The New York Times), Homer Bigart (The New York Herald Tribune), Charles Murphy (Fortune), George Silk (Life), Frank Fulton (NBC), Bill Downs (CBS), Jim McGlincy (United Press), and several others.

In the excerpt below, Times correspondent Bill Lawrence recounts his experience flying over Nagasaki as well as the group's visit to Shanghai.

From Six Presidents, Too Many Wars by Bill Lawrence, pp. 127-135:

August 1945
Air power—launched from land and aircraft carriers—won the battle of Japan even before the atomic bombs. But we didn't know it, and neither did the Japanese highest authorities, including the Emperor.

The first air strike against Japan by the tiny force of carrier-based bombers led by James A. (Jimmy) Doolittle in 1942 was more psychological than military. Doolittle's raiders did little damage to Tokyo, and none of the airplanes were able to fly safely to their bases in western China as had been hoped.

When the B-29s began their missions from China, and later from the Marianas, they flew at high altitudes—up to 30,000 feet—and encountered extremely stiff winds in the jet stream. Flying against the wind, the bomber would have been a sitting duck for antiaircraft fire. With the jet stream, the aircraft speed was too great for accurate bombing.

Before General LeMay gambled with the low-level raids, I had heard that fewer than 10 percent of our bombs hit their targets.

But the Japanese people and cities were easy targets of destruction when the big bombers came in low with their cargoes of incendiary bombs. It was destruction on a scale never experienced by any other nation in history. Our own losses, in men and aircraft, were very small when compared with the heavy cost of land warfare.

From November 24, 1944, through the end of the war, the B-29s based in the Marianas flew 318 missions on which approximately 159,000 tons of bombs were dropped. Their targets were sixty-four Japanese industrial areas with a combined population of 21,200,000.

According to Air Force statistics, the incendiary attacks burned out 157.98 square miles of Japanese urban industrial areas and left dead or homeless an estimated 8,480,000 persons. Tokyo itself suffered under six heavy low-level fire-bombing attacks, and these left in ashes 50.8 square miles.

At the end of the war, our Air Force was composed of approximately 1,000 aircraft and about 10,000 men—and it was about to be doubled in size by a new force of B-29s being readied for use from Okinawan bases commanded by General Doolittle.

The last mission I flew with the B-29s against Japan was on July 29, 1945. It was unusual in several respects. First of all, it was the only mission in this war in which the B-29s carried a full ten-ton load of bombs from their bases in the Marianas, landed on Iwo Jima with their bomb load, refueled, and then took off again to hit a target at the northernmost end of Honshu Island. It was the deepest penetration of the Japanese home island.

The most unusual feature of the raid was that LeMay told the enemy well in advance that our target, Aomori, was one of several Japanese cities that we proposed to destroy by fire bombing that night.

It was a big strike for the psychological warfare planners. Several hours before we hit Aomori, Japanese-language radio broadcasts and leaflets printed in Japanese announced the raids.

Never before in the history of warfare had an enemy been notified in advance that bombers would hit certain of their cities. The Japanese probably thought it was a trick and no efforts were made to evacuate the cities. LeMay listed twice as many cities as were hit that night by the B-29s, reasoning that after the first attacks Japanese workers would flee from any city on the target list whether that city actually was bombed or not.

On the Aomori raid, we took off from Tinian and flew into Iwo on the afternoon of July 28 along with more than sixty other superforts.

I still get nervous thinking about that landing on Iwo with ten tons of firebombs in the belly of the airplane in which I was riding. But we landed safely, and so did all the other planes in the group headed for Aomori.

Toward dusk, we took off from Iwo and headed north and west into a setting sun. Out of Iwo, we had the aircraft radio tuned in to the music broadcast by the U.S. armed forces radio when suddenly there was an interruption and the advance warning was given by LeMay. Aomori was listed first. The fliers had not known about LeMay's plans. They were surprised, disturbed, and angry with LeMay.

"Old LeMay has a lot of guts, sitting in Guam and telling the Japanese fighters we are on our way," said one airman bitterly.

I did my best to explain to the crew the psychological reasons behind LeMay's gamble, but I fear I did not satisfy them. Some frankly doubted my own sanity in undertaking the mission after I had been told it would be announced in advance.

Our fears proved unfounded. We came in over Aomori after midnight, a port city on Honshu's northernmost tip, 365 miles northeast of Tokyo, at a 250-mile-an-hour clip. We were led in by fires started by the lead aircraft that had been visible to us when we were still thirty miles away from the target.

If the Japanese expected us, they had no effective means of counterattack. We encountered no enemy fighters. We were fired on from land- and ship-based anti-aircraft guns, but were not hit.

It was a vivid demonstration to the Japanese populace that their military leaders could not protect them even when warned in advance.

We bombed at will, and hit all our targets, including the great yards, which turned out ships for Japan's shrinking merchant marine. The port area from which ferries plied the waters north of Hokkaido Island was leveled and made useless to the Japanese for the rest of the war. Warehouses containing precious food reserves for the Japanese military forces and civilian population were burned out.

We didn't lose a single aircraft on this mission and demonstrated beyond challenge our mastery of the skies above Japan, our ability to reach anywhere into the Japanese military-industrial complex.

For the crew flying the long mission back to Tinian, there was an exuberant feeling because we had hit the enemy and scored heavily even after we had tipped our attack in advance.

Now the stage was set for the use of the atomic bomb that had been secretly manufactured and tested in the desert flats of New Mexico in that same month.

With the war in Europe over, President Truman, Marshal Stalin, and two British Prime Ministers—Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee—had given the Japanese a final warning to surrender from their meeting place at Potsdam, Germany, in July, 1945. (The British were double-teamed at Potsdam because that summit conference took place during British elections, in which the victorious war leader, Churchill, was beaten at the polls.) The Japanese did not heed the warning. Nor would they, I think, have paid any more attention if we had demonstrated the bomb on a Pacific island, which had been advocated by those opposing the use of a nuclear bomb against people and cities.

Even with hindsight, I have never joined those who criticize Truman because he ordered the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are those scientists and others who argue now and who argued before the bomb was dropped that use of the atomic bomb was immoral. Some contend it was unnecessary. I am not one of this group. Perhaps I am not because I would have been reporting the invasion of the Japanese home islands in a very few weeks. All of us who had been on Okinawa had no doubt that the casualties on Kyushu would be enormous, and that there would have to be other landings after Kyushu before the Japanese could be persuaded to surrender.

I think the atomic bomb provided the dramatic "excuse" that the Japanese Emperor needed to hurry his surrender, which may already have been inevitable but which would not necessarily have come swiftly enough to avert the Kyushu landings. Indeed, the war might have been protracted by the very act of landing on the Japanese home islands. The Japanese already had proved on Okinawa that they would fight almost to the last man rather than surrender.

Emperor Hirohito's offer to surrender came after the Nagasaki bomb went off on August 9, but it was not the unconditional surrender that Roosevelt and Churchill had envisaged in their declaration at Casablanca. The Japanese specified, and we agreed, that the authority of their Emperor would not be impaired. I was on Guam when this news came, a few hours after the Soviet Union formally had declared war on Japan.

There was nothing conditional about the GI reaction to the conditional Japanese offer. Our troops in the Pacific, getting ready for the assault on the home islands, literally went wild with joy. On Okinawa, men jumped to their anti-aircraft guns and machine guns and filled the sky with tracer bullets and bursting shells in a fireworks display unequaled at even the biggest American Fourth of July celebration. There were a few American casualties from this uncontrolled firing of weapons as shrapnel fell back to earth from exploding anti-aircraft shells. It took forty minutes for the senior officers to get control of the situation and halt the firing.

One private, Tom Zuffelato of Torrington, Connecticut, summed up the reaction of every GI: "I got goose bumps all over."

The nuclear war age began on Monday, August 6, 8:15 A.M. Japanese time, when a super-fortress bearing the name Enola Gay, piloted by Captain Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., of Miami, Florida, dropped a single bomb over the city of Hiroshima. It came floating toward earth on a parachute, and at about 1,900 feet above ground, it exploded with a blinding flash and a surge of power equal to 20,000 tons of TNT.

In a fraction of a second, perhaps 80,000 persons were killed or fatally wounded, and others suffered from burns and blasts that would mar them for life. Eighty to 90 percent of all the buildings in the city were destroyed by blast or fire. It was the mightiest blast man had ever set off in war. But even after this bomb went off, Emperor Hirohito hesitated to surrender unconditionally.

Three days later, at about noon on August 9, a second and even more powerful type of bomb was used against the port city of Nagasaki, killing 25,000 persons.

I got my first view of Nagasaki from a converted B-17 flying over the city on August 27 with a group of newspaper and radio correspondents assigned to the Strategic Air Force bomb damage survey.

Our flight to Nagasaki was made in that strange period between Emperor Hirohito's offer to surrender and the actual acceptance of that surrender on September 3, by General MacArthur on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Technically, we were still at war and occasionally one of our airplanes was fired at.

From the air, the damage done to Nagasaki seemed almost unbelievable. In peacetime, Nagasaki's buildings had been jammed so closely together that it looked from the air like a sea of roofs.

I ad-libbed my report to the Times into a microphone as our aircraft circled Nagasaki, and my military censor, Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Schneider, an intelligence officer based on Guam, sat close beside me to listen to my report. There were no military secrets that could be given away from an eyewitness description anyway, so Colonel Schneider actually assisted me in framing the report by providing military descriptions of Nagasaki's appearance before it had been hit.

A portion of my report to the Times sent by radio direct from the plane said:
This correspondent, who has seen the worst damaged cities of Russia and Poland, was stunned by the sight of Nagasaki below him. About 50 percent of the town seemed to have been completely wiped out, and the destruction in that area was worse than any the writer had seen in Stalingrad or Warsaw.

An arms factory is nothing but a mass of twister girders. The wooden tinderbox houses which were jammed eaves to eaves have disappeared and all that remains are fragments that from a plane look about the size of match sticks. . . .

On the sides of a rugged, tree-covered hill close behind Nagasaki whole sections of forest have been burned off.

The winding Urakami River flows almost exactly through the center of the destroyed area. It was clear from the view we have had today that it [the river] was no barrier to the spread of fire and destruction.
When we first approached Nagasaki, there was not a single sign of life. As we circled for more than an hour, people came running into the streets and looking at our airplane as it passed back and forth over the city.

Down in the harbor area, we spotted a prisoner of war camp, which was not on any of our maps. We flew in low, dumping some food supplies we had aboard. The prisoners were shouting and waving their arms, and one group waved a tricolor emblem of the Netherlands.

The camp was in the middle of the great Mitsubishi arms works, a type of location expressly forbidden by the Geneva conventions. Eight prisoners died in the bomb blast, but another 200 Netherlands, British, Australian, and Indochinese captives escaped.

Two days after the Nagasaki trip, and while we still awaited orders that would allow us to go into Japan, we flew another unauthorized "armistice" mission to Shanghai and mistakenly landed our four-engined converted bomber on a highway near the city.

In this period of "war, no war," we decided to gamble that the Japanese wouldn't shoot at us or harm us if we landed. After our first landing on the highway, Japanese officers persuaded us to take off again and to land properly on a Japanese military airfield not far away. There we found it sticky going for a while, because the Japanese would not allow us to leave the airfield and proceed to the center of Shanghai as we wished.

Everything had started off splendidly and we thought we were doing fine. When we made the landing at the military field, we were met by a shining blue Chrysler automobile and driven to the headquarters of Major Nakamura, the field commandant, whose interpreter gave the name Lieutenant Hashimoto. On arrival at the major's headquarters we were served some chilled Japanese cider, which tasted faintly like cream soda.

We asked for transportation into Shanghai but Lieutenant Hashimoto kept mentioning some vague Japanese committee which he said desired to talk with us.

Hour after hour went by and still we sat on the airfield. The "committee" had not arrived. Lieutenant Hashimoto was meticulously polite, hissing through his big gold teeth, but each moment of delay there meant less opportunity to see Shanghai.

Finally we told Lieutenant Hashimoto that it was our purpose to go into Shanghai at once, and that his committee could find us if they wanted at the Metropole Hotel. There was another telephone call to the "committee" and Lieutenant Hashimoto came back to tell us, politely but plainly, that the formal Japanese surrender had not yet been signed, that a state of war still existed between our two countries, and that it was therefore necessary for us to wait at the airfield for the "committee."

At about this moment, an automobile pulled up outside the dingy office where we sat and four white-jacketed Chinese began to remove silver tureens of soup, covered dishes of other food, and quantities of china, glasses, and flatware. It turned out to be a four-course meal topped by steak so tender that you could cut it with a fork. It had been cooked for us at the Japanese Army headquarters in the Astor House in downtown Shanghai and then brought to the airfield.

While we were eating and drinking, Lieutenant Hashimoto got another telephone call from the "committee," and he came to the table to tell us we could now go into Shanghai. We thought we were headed for the Metropole Hotel, but we wound up instead at the Astor House, and the "committee," it developed, was the Japanese General Headquarters. Japanese officers said flatly that we were not free to move around the city without their consent and protection. Our escort, Colonel John R. McCrary of New York, argued for our release, and while he was still talking, the correspondents simply slipped away, jumped into a car driven by a Chinese, and headed for the Metropole Hotel. The Japanese let us go without further argument.

At the Metropole, we found out we were the third American airplane to land in Shanghai since the Emperor had surrendered. The first two brought members of an American military mission from Chungking to supervise the removal of American military and civilian prisoners of war.

The word of our presence in the Metropole spread swiftly along the grapevine, and English-speaking residents of many countries poured in to tell us their stories. One of them took us to a huge concentration camp at Chapei where there were approximately 3,000 Allied prisoners, including approximately 1,500 Americans. One of them was the son of a colleague, Sir Wilmot Lewis, Washington correspondent for The Times in London, and I sent him a cable from Okinawa that his son was alive and well in Shanghai.

Most of these civilians were thin and undernourished, but all were so happy at the prospect of freedom and rehabilitation that nothing else mattered this evening.

The small band of correspondents walked the streets of Shanghai surrounded by thousands of Chinese, but after our initial difficulties we had no further trouble with the Japanese.

The city was almost undamaged and its shops were jammed with consumer goods such as textiles, clothing, shoes, and even Scotch. Prices in Shanghai currency were stratospheric, but an American dollar brought a huge premium. Scotch was in short supply all over the world, including Scotland, in 1945, but I managed to pick up a case of pre-war Haig and Haig in Shanghai for 9,000,000 Shanghai dollars, or about $90 American.

We had a big party at the Metropole that night, drank a lot of whiskey, and made some new friends. The crew especially had a big night, and early the next morning, paid a striking farewell salute to a White Russian countess by flying past the windows of her third-story apartment on one of Shanghai's main streets. It was a bit breathtaking, but Captain Magnan was a good flier and we trusted him.

At the prison camp, we had laboriously copied down the names of literally thousands of prisoners, and these we radioed to American authorities as soon as we got back to Okinawa. Over at General MacArthur's headquarters at Manila, there was considerable official displeasure because we had gone into Shanghai without permission.

Once the Japanese quit bothering us, we were in the curious position in Shanghai of having been almost the last prisoners of war taken by the Japanese, and to the men and women in the prison camps, we certainly were welcome liberators.

December 30, 2015

World War III: "Washington D.C. Under the Atomic Bomb" by Hal Boyle

Washington Under the Bomb
1951: "The nation's capital after the atomic blast" (Painting by Chesley Bonestell, pp. 20-21)
In 1951, Collier's magazine laid out an extensive history of a hypothetical World War III fought from 1952 to 1955 between the Soviet Union and an American-led international coalition. The issue's narrative is set in postwar 1960 and features contributions from a number of notable writers and political figures.

The issue was meant to serve as a precautionary tale. In this piece, Hal Boyle of the Associated Press gives an eyewitness account of the devastation in Washington D.C. after a nuclear attack in 1953.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, pp. 20-21:

Washington Under the Bomb


Washington, May 10, 1953
(Note to editors: Following is the first eyewitness account of the A-bombing of Washington, D.C. early today by a Soviet plane. Associated Press columnist Hal Boyle sent his story out in a helicopter which evacuated congressmen from the stricken capital.)

The American capital is missing in action.

A single enemy atom bomb has destroyed the heart of the city. The rest is rapidly becoming a fire-washed memory. The flames are ranging over 18 square miles.

Washington is burning to death. Communications are temporarily disrupted. Help of all kinds is urgently needed from the rest of the country—blood, drugs, bandages, doctors, nurses, food, transportation.

Uncounted thousands are dead. More thousands of injured lie, spread in untended rows, on hospital lawns and parks, or walk unheeded until they fall.

Civil defense has broken down. The few valiant disaster squads are helpless in this homeless flood of agony and misery. Troops are moving to restore order among maddened masses trying to flee the city.

Fright crowds the rubbled streets and wears the blank face of awe. It couldn't happen here yesterday. It did happen here before dawn today.

The bomb exploded in southwest Washington, midway between the Capitol building and the Jefferson Memorial. It lighted the city as if it were a Roman candle.

For a radius of a mile from the center of the blast, the devastation is utter—a huge scorched zero, as if a giant, white-hot hammer had pounded the area into the earth. Blast and fire then reached out in widening waves.

Most of the shrines that united the American people are casualties. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are in ruins. The top of the Washington Monument sheared off, but the main part of the shaft still stands.

The White House is gutted. The President and his family are safe. The Secret Service has escorted him from the capital to a secret destination.

The dome of the Capitol itself is a great white shattered teacup. The office building of the House of Representatives is flaming. The Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery, the archives building, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Internal Revenue lie in tremendous wreckage. A prank of the bomb: windows melted in the Bureau of Engraving, but a few green leaves still cling to the trees in East Park.

I entered the city, after a five-mile walk along the railroad tracks, just as the roof of the Union Station caved in and shot up a tower of sparks.

A taxi horn sounded frantically, and a voice called: "Get in, you damned fool!"

It was Don Whitehead, a fellow AP war correspondent. He too was back in the States from the European front for a special briefing. The taxi windshield was shattered, and as we drove away I felt blood on the seat.

"The driver," said Whitehead. "Piece of debris got him. I found him dying. Loaded him on an ambulance truck. Took his cab."

I remember the meter was still ticking. It read $2.60.

"The Reds sure hung a dead cat on our rainbow," said Whitehead. "One edge of the Pentagon, I understand, is on fire. Most of the bridges are down. The people can't get away."

Fallen wires writhed across the street like live grapevines. Abandoned trolleys stood at halt like big dead beetles. Wreckage and bits of flesh littered the streets.

We rode through a river of dazed refugees, burdened with any belongings they had been able to snatch up. One woman held a picture clenched in her hands. Behind her trailed a little girl pushing a doll buggy.

An old man, struggling to bear a crippled son in his tired arms, suddenly collapsed and went down. A young woman, carrying her elderly mother on her back, crawled painfully on hands and knees. A man in charred rags screamed on the pavement. No one stopped.

The heat seared. The entire business district raged in bonfire. It crackled like a million cattle stampeding in a field of potato chips. Shriveled corpses lay where they had fallen. They looked small and lonely.

A fat man wearing nothing but the bottoms of his pajamas stepped out in front of us and called hopefully:

"Taxi, taxi!"

"Poor fool," said Don, as we went by. "There's a man who believes in normal living."

We already had picked up five lost children in the cab, and there wasn't room for anybody else.

Hoping to get the five children in the cab out of danger, we drove toward the Arlington Memorial Bridge. It was broken. The span had dropped into the Potomac. The entrance to the bridge was choked by thousands of refugees, held back by a police line.

"A plane came over about an hour ago," said a sweating policeman. "Somebody hollered, 'It's the Reds again!' That started a panic. They broke through us and rushed out on the bridge. My God! They were pushed right on off into the river and drowned—hundreds of them. Hundreds of them!"

We drove back to the long green mall below the Capitol. Helicopters were landing there and taking away surviving members of Congress to a new meeting place. Ten are known to be dead, at least 30 are missing.

Whitehead has found a congressman who has agreed to fly the story out with him.

Whitehead then showed the congressman, who is a bachelor, the five frightened children in our cab. And he asked him:

"Aren't you taking your family with you, too, sir?"

"Sure,” he said, wryly. "They'll vote someday. Start loading."

Before boarding a helicopter, a white-haired senator turned toward the silent Capitol. His eyes streaming, he lifted both fists and shook them fiercely at the bright morning sky, palled by rolling smoke clouds.

A young soldier has just climbed out on the lower roof of the Capitol and tied up an American flag. As it catches the breeze above the ruins, a sigh as of a tremendous wind sweeps through the vast crowd. And now everybody is crying and cheering together.

But to the north the flames are rising higher and spreading fast, as the enemy fire eats away the glory of this show window of America.

In its ashes Washington cries to the nation for help.

World War III: "A-Bomb Mission to Moscow" by Edward R. Murrow

A-Bomb Mission to Moscow
"The bomb strikes Moscow, in retaliation for heavy attacks on UN cities. Seconds later, Kremlin (within enclosure in foreground) was swept into oblivion, Red Square (surrounding avenue) was heaped with rubble, St. Basil's Church (bulbous towers at right) was gone" (Painting by Chesley Bonestell, p. 18)
In 1951, Collier's magazine laid out an extensive history of a fictional World War III fought between the Soviet Union and an American-led international coalition from 1952 to 1955. The narrative is set in a fictional postwar 1960; the articles are written from that perspective, featuring contributions from a number of notable writers and political figures.

The issue was meant to serve as a precautionary tale. As part of this, Edward R. Murrow contributed a fictional 1953 report in which he follows a flight crew dropping a retaliatory atomic bomb on Moscow. It was similar in nature to broadcasts he made during the Korean War and World War II, including his flight over the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden in 1944. This account was meant to be much more devastating by comparison.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, p. 19:

A-Bomb Mission to Moscow

Edward R. Murrow, noted CBS commentator, flew in the B-36 which A-bombed Moscow at midnight July 22, 1953. This was his 36th combat mission; he participated in the others as a war correspondent during World War II and in Korea. Here is an extract of the memorable broadcast he made on his return from the mission over the Soviet capital.

We walked into the briefing room. No one looked at the map. The word was already around. At long last we were ready to retaliate for Washington, Detroit, New York, London—all those places which had been indiscriminately A-bombed by the Reds. This was to be a little less than 10,000 miles round trip . . . the tapes on the map led to Moscow.

The briefing officer droned on. Eighteen B-36s—nine from Limestone, Maine, and nine from Alaska . . . Navy jets, AJ-1s coming in off carriers to hit Murmansk and Leningrad about the time we crossed the coast . . . Four B-36s to have a bang at Leningrad and Gorki with conventional bombs, as a diversion . . . the job to be done by 14 B-36s . . . no formation . . . they were to come in on Moscow like spokes on a wheel . . . only two carrying A-bombs, the remainder to act as decoys and as a protective force . . . if the first one over dropped and hit, the second was to hit another target elsewhere . . . B-29 aerial tankers to meet us about 1,000 miles out . . . 30 Navy Banshee jet fighters off carriers, refueled over Finland, to provide cover . . .

When we took off, it was hot. The juke box in the officers' mess was wailing I'll see you in my dreams. Ground crews gave us "thumbs-up" as we rolled. I was thinking: This is the first mission I ever flew in a bomber without having seen what we are carrying. The security officer had said: "You got one . . . but you can't see it. Relax. If you're forced down, you don't know a thing."

The tankers met us on schedule. There were black clouds with fire in them off to the north. The fueling lines were cast off. The whole crew relaxed. The dull glow of the sun pursued us. There was nothing to do . . . radio silent . . . no talk on the intercom . . . not like a movie . . . chicken sandwiches and coffee . . . cloud formations creating castles and lakes and rivers.

•      •      •

The navigator said: "Enemy coast in 10 minutes."

The aircraft seemed to shrink. The whole crew tensed. Then the guns were tested. We were alone and looking for those Navy fighters . . . our life insurance.

Time ceased to have meaning. The sun was deserting us. And then the flak—blue and green, not red as it used to be at night over Berlin. We saw red tracers lancing the dull sky. Something started to burn and slide toward the ground. Their fighters were up, but we didn't know who was going down. It was so slow and obscenely graceful.

A blue-green searchlight grazed our side and then caught and held a Navy Banshee fighter. He put his nose down and there was a red fire flowing from his guns. Jock Mackenzie, our pilot, said casually: "The Navy has arrived." The flak had let up a bit. I kept wondering what that thing we were carrying really looked like . . .

We were at 35,000, flying level and straight. The bombardier had taken over. A burst of flak under our right wing hardly shook the huge B-36. The engineer quickly made a damage check. Our guns roared and waved for 15 seconds, as though a great riveting machine had been let loose inside the plane. Must have been a night fighter astern. The fire-control officer said calmly: "Sorry. I missed him."

We were in the bomb run . . . almost 5,000 miles from home. Our ship carried the spare to be dropped only if the first one was shot down or missed the target. The intercom said: "Bomb-bay doors are open." Jock replied: "Roger."

Another ship, about four miles away, started to burn and slide down the blue vault of the heavens. Ours, or theirs, no one knew. No one said anything. Jock looked at his watch, then down at the dirty gray clouds below. And then the words slammed into his ears. The first he had heard since crossing the enemy coast. The words were: ANGEL IS DOWN.

That meant the first plane. The first bomb had been shot down or the plane had aborted. We didn't know. It should have bombed two minutes ahead of us. Jock said: "It's up to us now."

The flak started again, as though the gunners knew we were carrying the second punch. The bombardier was looking down through the clouds. It was a radar job and very impersonal. Now it was quiet. No fighters. No flak. We were alone with only the steady voices of the engines and the not quite intelligible voice of the bombardier. Then he said, suddenly and clearly: "It's gone."

Jock took over, turned 45 degrees to port and rammed the throttles home. As we looked down through the overcast, I saw it—something that I can only describe as the flame of a gigantic blowtorch filtering through dirty yellow gauze.

We felt nothing. It was the most professional, nerveless military operation I have ever seen. Jock asked for a new course from his navigator. Then he checked his 15-man crew, told them to keep alert until we crossed the enemy coast. We were heading home.

I sat beside him part of the way back. At times he took over from the automatic pilot. Once he said: "It's nice to be going home. My wife and two children lived in Detroit. I haven’t heard from them for over a month."

I could see his knuckles turn white as he gripped the wheel when he said it. He seemed very tired and old—anything but exultant . . .

Timeline of World War III, 1952-1955

Timeline of World War III: 1952-1955
"UN convoy, England bound, is hit in predawn Red air-submarine attack. Heavy bombers (right rear) have made moonlight run over Allied ships" (Painting by Fred Freeman, p. 24)
In 1951, Collier's magazine laid out an extensive history of a fictional World War III fought between the Soviet Union and an American-led international coalition from 1952 to 1955. The narrative is set in a fictional postwar 1960; the articles are written from that perspective, featuring contributions from a number of notable writers and political figures.

The introductory piece below is a timeline of the key events of the war, beginning with an uprising in Yugoslavia.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, pp. 14-16:


Assassination attempt on Marshal Tito's life, May 10th, precipitates Cominform-planned uprising in Yugoslavia. Troops from satellite nations of Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, backed by Red Army, cross borders. Truman terms aggression "Kremlin inspired."; Reds call it "an internal matter."

Third World War begins when Moscow, still insisting that uprising is "the will of the Yugoslav people," refuses to withdraw Red Army units. Stalin miscalculates risk: had believed U.S. would neither back Tito nor fight alone. U.S. is joined by principal UN nations in declaration of war.

Neutrals include Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Egypt, India and Pakistan.

Saturation A-bombing of U.S.S.R. begins. Avoiding completely population centers, West concentrates on legitimate targets only. Principal objectives: industrial installations; oil, steel and A-bomb plants.

Communists throughout West begin sabotage campaign. Trained saboteurs open attacks in U.S.

General Vassily Stalin, aviator son of Red dictator, becomes a UN prisoner of war.

Red Army, under vast air umbrella which outnumbers UN planes five to three, attacks across north German plain, in Baltic countries and through Middle East.

UN troops, fighting for time, retreat on all fronts, suffering heavy losses.

North American continent invaded when Red Army, in combined air-sea operation, lands in Alaska, occupying Nome and Little Diomede Island.

Reds A-bomb London and UN bases overseas.

Far East "Dunkerque" takes place when, under unremitting air and submarine attacks, U.S. occupation forces evacuate from Korea for Japan.

U.S. A-bombed for first time when Red air force hits Detroit, New York and A-bomb plant at Hanford (Washington). Civil defense proves inadequate.

Turning point in war's first phase reached when atomic artillery smashes enemy offensive on Christmas Day in Europe.


U.S. A-bombed for second time. Bombers hit Chicago, New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Red submarines fire atomic-headed missiles into Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Norfolk (Virginia) and Bremerton (Washington). Casualties greatly lessened by improved civil defense procedures.

UN air forces finally achieve air superiority over battle fronts.

Psychological warfare begins to play important role; propaganda emphasizes that UN is fighting war of liberation for Russian people; leaflet raids and broadcasts warn Russian people to evacuate areas scheduled for attack.

Moscow A-bombed midnight, July 22nd, by flying B-36s in retaliation for Red A-bomb terror raid on Washington. Planes flying from U.S. bases destroy center of Moscow. Area of damage: 20 square miles.

Suicide task force lands behind U.S.S.R. borders, destroys Soviets' last remaining A-bomb stockpile in underground chambers of Ural Mountains. Of 10,000 paratroopers and airborne units, 10 per cent survive.

UN General Assembly issues momentous war-aims statement known as "Denver Declaration."

Underground forces in satellite countries receive arms and materials in UN plane-drops; highly trained guerrilla fighters parachute into U.S.S.R. to aid resistance movements and destroy specific targets.

Severest rationing since beginning of war introduced in U.S.

Yugoslav guerrilla fighters begin to tie down large numbers of Red troops.


A captured Soviet general reports disappearance of Stalin, reveals that MVD (secret police) Chief Beria is new Red dictator.

Uprisings take place in U.S.S.R. and satellite nations. UN parachutes Russian émigrés into Soviet Union to aid dissident groups.

UN offensive begins on all fronts as West at last gains initiative.

Red Army gradually retreats, then disintegrates under onslaught of UN air and ground forces.

Three Red generals desert to UN forces.

UN armored spearhead captures Warsaw, reaches Pripet Marshes in Poland. Another armored column crosses U.S.S.R. border into Ukraine.

UN forces clear Asiatic Turkey and cross border into Crimea.

Marines, in combined air-sea operation, capture and occupy Vladivostok.


Hostilities cease as U.S.S.R. degenerates into a state of chaos and internal revolt.

UN forces begin occupation duties in satellite nations and Ukraine.

UNITOC—United Nations Temporary Occupation Command—set up in Moscow.

World War III: Preview of the War We Do Not Want

Preview of the War We Do Not Want
The cover art of Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, depicting a fictional World War III ending with the occupation of the Soviet Union (Illustration by Richard Deane Taylor)
In 1951, Collier's magazine published a sweeping fictional narrative of a World War III set in the near future. The hypothetical war—described as the deadliest in history—lasts from 1952 to 1955, and pits a United Nations coalition against the Soviet Union after an uprising in Yugoslavia triggers worldwide conflict. Atomic bombs are dropped on major American and Russian cities, with the war ultimately ending upon the collapse of the USSR and subsequent UN occupation.

The intent was to create a precautionary tale of the horrors that may lie ahead. In an imploring introduction featured below, the editors write: "We believe that [this] is the most important single issue that any magazine has ever published." The full 132 page issue is devoted to building an enthralling literary narrative told from the perspective of a postwar 1960. A number of notable writers and political figures contributed, including Edward R. Murrow, Hal Boyle, Walter Reuther, Marguerite Higgins, Walter Winchell, Kathryn Morgan-Ryan, Allan Nevins, Hanson W. Baldwin, Oksana Kasenkina, Lowell Thomas, Harry Schwartz, Margaret Chase Smith, Erwin Canham, and Arthur Koestler.

In the introduction below, the magazine's editors give their rationale.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, p. 17:

The Unwanted War
For the last five years the world has been living in the shadow of another global war. The shadow is cast by the ominous substance of Soviet aggression. And so long as the aggression persists, the threat of a needless, unwanted, suicidal war will remain.

We do not think that war is inevitable. We are emphatically opposed to any suggestion of a "preventive" war. We believe that each day of peace and preparation makes the free nations stronger and lessens the chance of world conflict. Yet, such a conflict could start tomorrow, through design or miscalculation or desperation. This issue of Collier's, written as of 1960, shows how that war would be fought and won, and reports on the program of reconstruction that would follow victory.

We have no illusions about the fearful cost of victory. But we are confident that freedom would be saved and Communist imperialism destroyed. For the Soviet dictatorship does not have the physical or moral strength to survive a fight for its existence. Its greatest weakness is the inherent weakness of all tyrannies, which Allan Nevins wrote of in the previous issue of this magazine.

Professor Nevins cited the lesson of history in his article, Tyrannies Must Fall, to show that every tyranny, from the vast empire of Genghis Khan to the world-ambitious Nazidom of Adolf Hitler, has collapsed as much from inner flaws as from outer pressure. Tyranny is built on a foundation of hatred, fear and intimidation, of unrest and potential revolt. The tyrant creates a juggernaut. And when the burden of oppression becomes too great, the juggernaut goes out of control and crushes him.

The destruction of tyranny leaves a vacuum which it is the task of the liberated and their liberators to fill. The task is quite as important as the task of creating the vacuum. Twice in this century victorious powers have reconstructed world affairs in such a way as to make it possible for tyranny to persist. In the pages that follow, those contributing to this issue have suggested a procedure which they and the editors of Collier's believe would avoid some mistakes of the past, both in the conduct of war and in the difficulties which would follow it.

These writers have consulted eminent authorities on military and economic matters, besides drawing on their own broad knowledge of their particular fields. They have proceeded from the factual basis of the world situation today to a logical analysis of what may come. The war that they describe is a hypothetical war, to be sure. But their description contains no careless fantasy or easy invention. They were not assigned to perform a journalistic stunt. The editors of Collier's did not put in ten months of work on this issue with the intention of creating a sensation. Our intention is to look squarely at a future which may contain the most terrible calamity that has ever befallen the human race.

If war does come, we believe that it must be fought as a war of liberation. The free world has no quarrel with the oppressed Russian people, but only with their Soviet masters. Those masters would probably attack the civilians of this and other free countries in a campaign of atomic extermination. But we hope and trust that the atomic bombs of those free, humane countries would be used not for retaliation, but for the destruction of strategic targets, and only after advance warnings to civilians to evacuate the areas.
If the unwanted war does come, we feel that the peace which follows should not repeat the pattern of unconditional surrender, reparations and trials of war criminals. The Russian people should be permitted to deal with their surviving oppressors as they see fit.

We should not expect from Russia a carbon copy of American democracy or American economy. We should not force either upon her. Self-rule and private enterprise would probably evolve in a form that would be modified by background, environment and the character of the people themselves. The victors, through help and guidance, should first make sure that a dictatorship would not rise from the ruins of war.

With that precaution taken, they should simply provide the opportunity for freedom to emerge. The liberated people could be left to choose the political forms of freedom which would flourish best in Russian soil.

Implicit in all that you will read in the pages that follow is the means by which the catastrophe of another war can be avoided. That means rests with the Soviet government. The men in the Kremlin must make the choice.

They can roll up the Iron Curtain. Or they can start a war and have it shot down.

They can believe the truth—that the West has no aggressive intentions and is willing to live at peace with Russia. Or they can continue to delude their people and themselves with their own propaganda, start a war, and see enlightenment brought to their people by armed might.

They can cease to subjugate their captive neighbors and still maintain close economic and cultural relations with them. Or they can start a war and see those countries' independence restored by force.

They can rejoin the family of nations, open their doors to the outside world, free the channels of trade, turn their vast country's resources to constructive use, and thus improve the lot of all the world's peoples. Or they can continue their present course of suspicious, intransigent belligerence, and risk their own destruction.

The Soviet government must change its outlook and its policies. If it does not, the day will surely come when that government will disappear from the face of the earth. The Kremlin must decide. And if the Soviet rulers refuse to change, then they must realize that the free world will fight if necessary. It will fight and win. For the course of history cannot be diverted; tyranny is still doomed by its very nature to destruction.

An appeal to the reason of Joseph Stalin and the men around him is the ultimate purpose of this issue of Collier's. We believe that it is the most important single issue that any magazine has ever published. Robert E. Sherwood has told us that "it is quite conceivable to me that (it) may have an effect on the course of history." We sincerely hope that he is correct. And we earnestly pray that its effect will be to help establish and maintain an enduring peace. THE EDITORS

December 29, 2015

1964. A Tribute to Edward P. Morgan

Bill Downs Pays Tribute to Edward P. Morgan
Edward P. Morgan (left) with Bill Downs (right) in 1953 during an interview with Eleanor Roosevelt

by Bill Downs
February 10, 1964
Reprinted in the Congressional Record — Senate, pp. 3819-3820

MR. [FRANK] CHURCH: Mr. President, Mr. Edward P. Morgan, who broadcasts every weekday night for ABC, is one of our Nation's most thoughtful news analysts. In an era when local radio broadcasting has become increasingly dominated by the ravings of the radical right, it is refreshing to be able to listen to Mr. Morgan's sane and rational presentations. Recently, Bill Downs paid a fitting tribute to Edward P. Morgan when he substituted for him on February the 10th. I think we all might ponder Mr. Downs' question:
Why aren't there more Edward Morgans . . . more men of intellectual stimulation and ideas . . . on the air these days?
I ask unanimous consent to have the text of Mr. Downs' broadcast inserted at this point in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the broadcast was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
For the past 9 years—and the incredible count of more than 2,000 weekday broadcasts—the voice of Edward P. Morgan has filled this time slot on this distinguished program of news and commentary.

Sitting in for him, while Morgan samples a week of the breakers and beakers of Hawaii, any substitute reporter is bound to feel nervous. It's a little like wearing a borrowed pair of swimming trunks. You hope the things will still be in place after you take the plunge into the pool.

However, there's a certain comfort to be grasped in trying to fill Ed Morgan's editorial bathing suit during his vacation. It lies in the fact that I knew him when—and perhaps you, his listeners, might like to know him a little better before his return next week.

Anyone familiar with his daily commentary knows that Morgan is not a man who hits you over the head with a crisis—or bludgeons you with personal demagoguery. He uses his viewpoint to slide quietly into your confidence—sneaks up on you in a gentle, intellectual way—and before you know it, you're trapped in logic.

I first met Ed Morgan in England, I think, during the London Blitz. As usual, we had one of those arguments that never got settled. Morgan had the gall to claim that the Luftwaffe bombings scared him more than they did me. Ed was a "Gutenberg man" at the time—working for the Chicago Daily News. I had left newspapering to go into broadcasting. I once pointed out that I could talk to more people in 3 minutes reporting on the radio than he could write for, for the rest of his life.

When he calmed down enough to follow my logic, it might have been the thing that prompted his own shift into electronic journalism.

However, he got even later. When Morgan joined the broadcasting industry, he briefly became my boss. It didn't take long for Morgan to realize that the new position meant that he was journalistically gelded. Wisely so, he quit the management job and returned to reporting.

Now, for the past 9 years, Morgan has served as a dissector of the Washington body politic—more important, he has applied the itch of truth to the American conscience. Like the renaissance British poet, Christopher Marlowe, Morgan believes that the cardinal sin of mankind is ignorance.

In his quiet way, Ed Morgan has been an angry young man long enough before the postwar English literary world exploited the phrase. But then American broadcasting has always had angry young men from the beginning, like the late Elmer Davis, the retired Edward R. Murrow who, hopefully, may soon be back in full dudgeon on the airways, men like Bill Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith and others whose indignation is perpetually young. The fact that Ed Morgan has survived them all on radio does credit to his sponsor and his network.

Now, even though Morgan is my friend and I'm his vacation replacement, I don't want this to sound like some premature, soap-opera valentine. Morgan has his faults. He's the only correspondent in Washington who can turn a question into an essay and keep Presidents like Eisenhower and Kennedy enthralled with his words. It matters not that they sometimes missed the point.

Also Morgan has a habit of coming right out on the air and putting downright embarrassing questions to the American people. You know, things like: "Why must a white child have to be coached and study up to learn to hate a black child . . . or a Jewish child or an Arab child?" "Why is it incumbent on the up-and-coming young executives in industry to convince their superiors that the buttoned-down juniors distrust organized labor as much as their boards of directors?"

Another Morgan-type question might ask: "Why should a truck driver, a carpenter or a longshoreman accept machine leadership, nepotism or corruption in his own labor union . . . when he despises it in government and industry?"

And most maddening of all, Why does Morgan inevitably leave the answers up to his listeners?

For the replies to such questions, you'll have to wait a week until your regular commentator returns. But this does leave one question hanging over the public airwaves of the American broadcasting industry. That question is: "Why aren't there more Ed Morgans . . . more men of intellectual stimulation and ideas . . . on the air these days?"

It couldn't be that Americans are becoming afraid of ideas, could it? Are we?

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

December 25, 2015

1940. Edward R. Murrow from London on Christmas

A Grim Christmas in London

Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

December 24, 1940

EDWARD R. MURROW: Christmas Day began in London nearly an hour ago. The church bells did not ring at midnight. When they ring again, it will be to announce invasion. And if they ring, the British are ready. And all along the coast of this island, the observers revolve in their reclining chairs listening for the sound of German planes. The firefighters and the ambulance drivers are waiting too. The blackout stretches from Birmingham to Bethlehem, but tonight, over Britain, the skies are clear.

This is not a merry Christmas in London. I have heard that phrase only twice in the last three days. This afternoon, as the stores were closing, as shoppers and office workers were hurrying home, one heard such phrases as "So long, Mamie" and "Good luck, Jack," but never a "Merry Christmas."

It can't be a merry Christmas, for those people who spend tonight and tomorrow by the firesides in their own homes realize that they have bought this Christmas with their nerve, their bodies, and their old buildings. Their nerve is unshaken, the casualties have not been large, and there are many old buildings still untouched.

Tonight there are a few Christmas parties in London. A few expensive dinners at famous hotels. But there are no fancy paper hats and no firecrackers.

I should like to add my small voice to give my own Christmas greetings to friends and colleagues at home. A Merry Christmas. So long, and good luck.

December 23, 2015

1950. Bill Costello on the Follies of the Korean War

"Far Eastern Report" by Bill Costello
"A soldier of the 24th Infantry Division waits to board a plane bound for Korea in 1950" (source)



August 18, 1950 - Columbia Broadcasting System
The United States came to the end of World War II thinking it had learned almost everything there was to know about the science of fighting. We romped into the home stretch with plenty of power to spare, and then we settled down, gloating with satisfaction over our possession of the atom bomb, believing we had the rest of the world buffaloed.

It took a little country like North Korea, with a population of ten million, to bring us to our senses. In just a few weeks in this primitive, obscure corner of Asia we have discovered that the United States is no better prepared for war than it ever has been in peacetime and that we have been deluding ourselves into thinking this is the century of electronic push-button wars, where the dirty job of digging slit trenches has become obsolete. There are several thousand GIs in Korea who know that a foxhole, a rifle, and sometimes even a knife can still mark the borderline between life and death.

Right from the start we kidded ourselves in two respects. First of all, our decision to intervene militarily in Korea was taken with a certain condescension. The President called the North Korean army "bandits," and a magazine writer referred to it as a "Soviet satellite bush league army." We know better now. The tired youngsters of the 24th Division know that for a country of ten million, the North Korean army packs quite a punch, especially when it can be mechanized with the help of an industrial power like Russia. The Korean Reds may not have the staying power of a nation of 150 million, but right today theirs is not exactly a bush league army.

In the second place, we had let ourselves think that everything in our society, everything in our armed forces, especially, was all-powerful. The atom bomb became a symbol, when in reality it was nothing more than a freak of military history. The discovery of atomic fission didn't enable a man to lift another pound or walk another mile. It didn't give half-strength divisions the same facility in deployment as full-strength divisions. Congress and the President, for their own devious reasons, thought lower taxes would make the public happy. So they cut the divisions down and restricted the development of new tanks and aircraft. Inventors kept putting new ideas on paper, but the tool and die makers in the arsenals couldn't turn them into working models.

People out here now, after a visit to Korea and a chance to see just how dirty and miserable and tragic war can be at its worst, are busy trying to rationalize our plight. They say "Well, of course, we were prepared for a major atomic war, but not for this primitive kind of foot-slogging. Just take the jet plane as an example. They can fly 600 miles an hour, fast enough to shoot down any bomber in existence. They were designed to protect us from attack. They were supposed to be an intercepting force, not a plane for giving close support to ground troops. Maybe they do fly too fast for strafing and rocketing; maybe we should have kept more Mustang fighters on the ready line, but it's not our fault we got mixed up in a piddling war when we were looking for a colossal, super-production, a war to end all wars."

That's the kind of argument people here are using now to rationalize our shortsightedness. The fact is, of course, it takes men to fight a war, and we didn't have the manpower under arms. We kept telling ourselves we have four divisions in the Japan occupation army. And even the officers in command there were reluctant to admit that they were mighty skinny, undernourished divisions. When the under-manned 24th went into action at Osan, a lot of people were frankly astonished that the Korean Reds didn't flee in panic to the safety of the 38th Parallel. That was part of our condescension. We still clung to the 18th century legend that Asiatic armies were cowardly and subservient, that they considered themselves inferior to Westerners and just wouldn't dare fight a pitched battle.

In this tragic mess we've learned something new about Asiatics. Maybe we've learned it just in time to avert a major disaster. And at the same time we've learned a great deal about our own military weakness. We know now that the forces Congress was willing to provide for General MacArthur were only the skeleton of an army. And in this summer of 1950, if the United States had had to fight four or three or even two wars in backward, insignificant mud-holes like Korea, the outcome would have been calamitous.

The first lesson of the war in Korea is that the atomic bomb is not a threat, not a policeman's "billy." Using an atom bomb in Korea would be like hunting sparrows with a cannon. The superbomb and the superbomber are weapons of desperation, to be used only in a final struggle for survival. The United States cannot hope to preserve the peace of the world unless it is willing to pay a price now also in blood, sweat, tears, and men. It takes foot soldiers to hold ground.

The war so far has been pretty orthodox. It has produced no real military surprises. The story is simply that the South Koreans were badly armed and the Americans were greatly outnumbered. It's true the Communists have shown unexpected skill in field operations. They have negotiated rough ground and the narrow lanes between rice paddies with their broad-tracked Russian tanks and they have taken advantage of their superior numbers to outflank American positions. Also, they have shown a willingness to die recklessly. But it's not at all certain that the North Koreans can keep on going at the pace they have maintained so far. Their resources, both in manpower and materials, are really pretty skimpy. You only have to visit Korea once to understand the terrible poverty and the scantiness of living.

Just by way of example, take the case of a tank driver. Few Koreans have ever seen an implement more complex than a sewing machine. To the average peasant a tank is an unfathomable mystery. The Russians may have trained hundreds of tank mechanics, but every one of them is irreplaceable. If the tank drivers are killed in action, the tanks will have to stop. It is the same with airplanes, trucks, and all the other products of modern technology. A peasant snatched from his rice paddy and given a rifle cannot match technical skill with the Americans who cut their baby teeth on screwdrivers and monkey wrenches. In a matter of days or weeks the supply lines from the north will begin to dry up under the incessant pounding of American air power, for the country is too poor to replace what is being destroyed, even with considerable help from the Soviet Union. Nowhere in Asia is there such a thing as great, expendable surpluses, such as modern war can consume. Asia is a realm of bare sufficiency or of outright scarcity. Korea, for example, has not even enough food for its own people.

So in a military sense there can be no doubt about the outcome of the struggle in Korea, unless Russian or Chinese Communist forces are thrown into the battle line. A question which is already assuming importance is "What comes after the fighting?" Who is going to win the peace? Can the United States reestablish the South Korean Republic and hope to perpetuate it without unifying the whole country? Military men are going to raise the first question when American armies have pushed the Communists back to the 38th Parallel. They will want to know whether to continue their drive to the north. They will have potent arguments in favor of an all-out offensive to destroy Communist armies. It is altogether probable that the retreating Reds will leave in their rear a guerrilla army preaching the same doctrines of reform as the Communists in China. Some believe there will be a hundred thousand guerrillas, working in the hills while American armies patrol the highways. It is hardly likely that those guerrillas can be crushed, even by a reconstituted South Korean army, so long as there exists in the north a military command to which it can be loyal.

December 17, 2015

1945. American Reporters Enter Hiroshima Weeks After the Bombing

The Haunting Devastation in Hiroshima
The ruins of Hiroshima in September 1945. Photo by Bernard Hoffman, who was part of a group of war correspondents who entered Hiroshima nearly a month after the atomic bomb blast (source)
Following the German surrender in 1945, journalist Tex McCrary led a group of war correspondents across the world as they covered the final days of the Pacific War. They made stops in the Middle East, Japan, China, French Indochina, Guam, and more.

The reporters included: Clark Lee (International News Service), Bernard Hoffman (Life), Vern Haugland (Associated Press), Bill Lawrence (The New York Times), Homer Bigart (The New York Herald Tribune), Charles Murphy (Fortune), George Silk (Life), Frank Fulton (NBC), Bill Downs (CBS), Jim McGlincy (United Press), and several others.

In 1945, the correspondents entered Hiroshima. They were among the first foreigners to do so after the atomic bombing on August 6. The visit was unauthorized, and in fact was in direct violation of General MacArthur's orders. In the excerpt below, Times correspondent Bill Lawrence recounts the group's difficulties in dealing with MacArthur's command and the horrors they saw in the city.

From Six Presidents, Too Many Wars by Bill Lawrence, Chapter 12, pp. 136-140:

On Okinawa, we were worried that we might not get a quick clearance to go to Japan from MacArthur's command, which had been given full authority to handle the surrender.

Our group was accredited to the Strategic Air Force, and we sought help from General James Doolittle, who had just arrived on Okinawa from the European theater and who would have led his Eighth Air Force heavy bombers against Japan if the war had continued.

Over a drink one night, in one of those Okinawa burial grounds found on nearly every hill, we asked General Doolittle to help plead our case with MacArthur's top commanders.

Doolittle explained that newcomers to the Pacific war weren't particularly influential with MacArthur's people. But he would try to help us.

Our misgivings proved to be exaggerated. Our two converted B-17 transports were among the first two dozen aircraft to touch down on Atsugi airfield near Yokohama when the American troop landings began. We were lucky because we not only had our own transport, but one of the planes had radio facilities with which we could transmit directly to the United States. We even had our own censor, Colonel Schneider, and we were able to make our own way from place to place without worrying about MacArthur's public relations office.

On August 28, 1945, at Atsugi airfield, General MacArthur arrived. He came down the ramp from his four-engined air transport The Bataan, puffing on his old corncob pipe. Meeting MacArthur was General Robert Eichelberger. MacArthur said it had been a long road from Melbourne in Australia to Tokyo "but this seems to be the end of the road."

That night, we commandeered a few dilapidated wood-burning cars and drove into Tokyo itself, walking around the Emperor's palace grounds and stopping for a drink at the Imperial Hotel before visiting Radio Tokyo. As Air Force correspondents, our interests primarily were in the war that had been waged from the air. No story was of more importance than a visit to Hiroshima. But, correspondents were supposed to remain within the area occupied by American troops, and this was a small area indeed. However, we were determined to get to Hiroshima ahead of other correspondents, and we made our move by air on September 2, the day MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender in formal ceremonies aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

With Captain Magnan at the controls, we took off in one of the B-17s from Atsugi about the time that the official party was heading for the surrender ceremonies.

In the Hiroshima area, we spotted one usable airfield at the Japanese naval base of Kure. Japanese personnel crowded around the plane as it rolled to a stop, and fortunately we met some English-speaking American-born Japanese who had returned to the land of their ancestors just before the war had begun. We told them we wanted to go to Hiroshima, and they managed to find us automobiles that would carry us twelve miles into the city.

Our Japanese guides had been in Kure the day before the bomb had been dropped and they remembered a great flash of light turning to a purple mushrooming cloud followed by a great whoosh of wind. One said the trees bent almost to the ground in Kure.

As we headed for Hiroshima we did not know whether the residents would be friendly or hostile. Even worse, in our ignorance we did not have any real conception of the dangers there might be in the lingering radioactivity of the uranium bomb. It seemed a little silly even at the time, but all of the correspondents wore holstered .45-caliber automatic pistols, though we could have offered little resistance if the Japanese had decided to take revenge against us. Happily they did not. Equally happily, none of us ever showed any aftereffects from the radiation.

We were among the first few foreigners to walk in the ruins of Hiroshima and to talk with survivors on the city streets and in the hospitals, where it was estimated that approximately 100 persons were still dying daily. By that time, the Japanese said the death toll had passed 53,000 and it was predicted then that the final death toll would exceed 80,000.

Japanese doctors told us that they were helpless to treat burns caused by the intense heat of the exploding bomb and that some who had been considered only slightly injured on the day the bomb dropped later lost up to 86 percent of their white blood corpuscles, began to lose their hair, became nauseated, and finally died.

Viewed from the epicenter of the bomb blast, Hiroshima was a shocking, staggering sight, one that still haunts me. I'd seen a lot of bomb damage in Europe and more recently in Tokyo, but nothing had prepared me for this.

Much of Hiroshima had simply vanished, disintegrated from blast and heat. In the ruins from normal bombing, I was accustomed to seeing rubble, but here in the central city there was no rubble, except for a few concrete walls. And this was true of fully four square miles in a radius around the point of greatest impact. The ground had just been wiped clean, almost as if it had been gone over with a great vacuum cleaner. There were no identifying marks even for streets, except in a few places streetcar tracks remained. The trolleys were operating and the Japanese aboard them looked out at these strange Americans, the handful of correspondents, with more curiosity than hostility.

A twenty-three-year-old American-born Japanese naval lieutenant was my guide as I walked through the streets, occasionally stopping a resident to question him. One old man who was deaf recognized us as Americans and came over formally to shake hands with each of us. He then made the sign of the cross to show us that he was a Christian, and, through the interpreter, told us that all other members of his family had been killed.

It was a chilly, drizzly day. Most of the bodies had been removed, but a few remained on the outskirts, giving off the awful, sickening odor of death.

Even trees had been killed by the bomb. Birds that looked like buzzards were perched on the torn, twisted, leafless limbs.

Nobody I saw was smiling, for there was nothing here to smile about nearly a month after the Atomic Age began.

We talked with dying Japanese in the hospitals. We interviewed the doctors who were trying to cope with problems for which their medical education had not prepared them. Most of their patients were doomed to death, and they knew it.

In the later afternoon, we made our way by automobile back to Kure but it was too late by then to fly back to Tokyo that night. The correspondents, including my rival [Homer] Bigart of the Herald Tribune, went to work on the stories we would transmit from Tokyo the next day.

When work was over, we assembled a meal from the emergency K rations we carried aboard the airplane, and invited our Japanese hosts to join us. The Japanese provided sake, beer, and a Scotch-type Japanese-made whiskey to drink with the food. They were friendly, and one of them kept singing "Old Black Joe." It was his favorite and the only American song we knew. We joined in discordantly.

Early the next morning, Captain Magnan crowded all of us into the nose of the B-17 so that it would lift off the short runway. We just barely made it into the air, cranking up the wheels of the plane just before they would have met the seawall at the far end of the runway.

When we got back to Tokyo, MacArthur's men were hopping mad. There was some talk we might be court-martialed for traveling outside the occupation zone and thus risking an incident with the Japanese. But to court-martial us would have meant taking action simultaneously against the most powerful news organizations—the Associated Press, the United Press, International News Service, National Broadcasting Company, Columbia Broadcasting System, American Broadcasting Company, the Times, and the Herald Tribune.

So MacArthur's men fell back on other ways to punish us. They simply cut off the supplies of gasoline that we needed to fly our planes. We countered that by getting a three-star lieutenant general, Barney Giles, flown in from Guam to requisition gasoline for us, which he did. Our job of reporting on bomb damage was considered that important by the Air Force commander, General Arnold.

December 11, 2015

1943. Bill Downs Celebrates with Red Army Men Back from Stalingrad

A Trip to the Caspian and Back
April 26, 1945: "U.S. and Russian troops meet on the wrecked bridge over the Elbe River at Torgau, Germany. The Americans, left, and Russian soldiers are shown as they reach out to grasp each other's hands" (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

Early January 1943 (Cable to New York)

Ever since I came to wartime Moscow I have been trying to figure out what exactly is so familiar to me about this country—it's not the people, buildings, or cities; but something I'd seen, read about, or lived with in the United States.

I first got this feeling flying over Baku, when I got a brief glimpse of that important Caspian oil city's defenses. I saw then and later on during a drive through the city that it is nothing to sneeze at.

As I passed thousands of oil derricks in Baku's nearby oil fields, I almost expected to spot the wide-brimmed hats of Texas boomers—but there were only the round fur caps of Russian oil workers. And yet they walked with the same free swing of oil men the world over.

But I still could not figure out just what mysterious familiarity I felt in Russia at war.

Seeing Baku's refineries doing twenty-four hour duty increased that feeling. It felt like I'd been there before, although I had never been within two thousand miles of the place.

Baku's factories and refineries are all surrounded by high brick walls or substantial fences. Most Soviet factories I have seen seem to have the same high walls. On a plane, I met a Russian-speaking man from a tourist agency and asked him, "How do you tell prison from factory in this country?"

He replied in broken English, "People inside factories are willing to fight for them. Ask the Germans in Stalingrad."

These curious construction factories are one of the answers to Stalingrad's epic defense. Those walls are military barricades—and although the men who built them in Baku must have received a lot of ridicule when they put them up, it's no longer funny now with the Germans only some three hundred miles away in the Caucasus just southeast of Nalchik.

I spent the night in a swank new European hotel in Baku. It had all the goods of the average hotel in the United States. I got the feeling I recognized the face of Russia but could not remember where I had seen it before.

We flew into winter en route to Kuybyshev. Flying over the Trans-Caspian, we hit the first hint of snow banks along the winding Ural river. From the air it looked like about fifty western Kansases set down in the middle of nowhere.

But that wasn't the cause of that old feeling, although little towns below looked just about like any western town covered in snow.

We landed at Kuybyshev in a blizzard, where I was forced to get along on my own speaking Russian. I walked into the airport waiting room and saw Russian soldiers sitting around while a chess game progressed in one corner. Someone brought me a cup of tea—I had no Russian money and don't know who paid for it. The atmosphere about this place had the same sort of isolated comradeship you find in old-time village grocery stores. All it needed was a cracker-barrel and a potbellied stove.

Finally an army captain approached me without smiling and asked, "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" I didn't know whether to say yes or no, since I am able to speak a sort of pidgin German from my college days. I looked around the room, which had sort of frozen up when it heard German, and I was the only foreigner around. I decided to chance it and replied, "Ja, aber ich bin Amerikanischer korrespondent."

The room roared in laughter and I was immediately offered a flask. I was expecting vodka, which I already knew all about. I prepared to show what healthy drinking men Americans were and took a big mouthful. As a result I about blew the top of my head off; the captain had given me a flask full of raw 190 proof alcohol that tasted as if it had recently come from an automobile radiator. Again the room roared in laughter. Soldiers came up and we shook hands.

With the aid of my Russian dictionary, I discovered that most of the men just came from Stalingrad. They said that American and British tanks fought in that battle. I asked the Russians how they liked the American tanks, a question answered amid exclamations of "khorosho, khorosho" which, according to my dictionary, means damn good. Then the Russian captain took the dictionary from me and began looking up words after repeating a sentence which I couldn't understand. The first word he pointed out translated to "we." Turning pages, the captain pointed out another word: "want." Ruffling the pages some more, he pointed out another Russian word which meant "more." I grinned and told him I understood the rest. The Russians in the room smiled very seriously and said "da, da, da, khorosho."

For sleeping arrangements I volunteered to sleep on the floor like everyone else because the blizzard made it impossible to get into the city. However, the captain insisted I go to the airport hotel, which is kept mostly by Soviet airmen. Offering me the best bed in the house, I found it a bare room with six other beds jammed in.

The captain stuck around, much to my relief, and took me to a dance with young Red Army pilots. The pilots were dancing with girls ranging from young too old to a cracked recording of Tommy Dorsey's "Marie." It is evidently the favorite of this post, because it was played over and over. I picked out the best looking gal in the house and found out she danced better than most English girls in London as well as the average girl in the United States. I paid her a lot of compliments which she didn't understand, but I didn't have the chance to get anywhere because a large, tough boy, wearing the medal of the Hero of the Soviet Union which he got at Kalinin, took her back like the Red Army takes inhabited points.

I was kept awake in my crowded hotel room, partly by snores and partly by the same feeling I had been here before. These people were trotting out their best for me, exceedingly interested in news of the outside world.

I continued on to Gorky in an extremely cold Russian troop carrier—another Douglas—which was jammed with officers going to Moscow and various types of cargo, including huge bales of wool for uniforms. This Douglas had about twenty patches on her. The plane had seen action, but the pilot wouldn't tell me where.

In Gorky I added another word to my vocabulary. I billeted with the Douglas crew, all youngsters. We got into a dictionary conversation about American planes; the first mention of them drew exclamations of "ochen khorosho." It was funny to hear airmen talk in authoritative Russian tones about Lockheed Electras, Airacobras, and Bostons, and discuss the merits and faults of tricycle landing gear. They knew more about them than I did.

I got my first glimpse of what it means when people in Russia say "everything for the Red Army." These airmen had clean, neat rooms and soft beds, and they ate in a separate room where such rarities as butter were served. They looked healthy and tough, about the same as our own airmen. Their equipment was tremendous, with good heavy clothing and fancy gloves. They wore great oversized boots lined both inside and out with fur. One rear gunner was very proud of his because they were made from the hide of a dog he used to own.

It wasn't until I landed in the big Moscow airport that I solved the mystery of my feelings of familiarity. This is blockhouse civilization—it's frontier society. It's the same thing I used to study and read about in grade school, about pioneer fights against Indians and the winning of the west. Those walled factories were like any American pioneer stockade—in fact, Russian cities and villages are all big blockhouses. Life among Russians in their communities all appear integrated and interdependent, as closely knit as pioneer life a hundred years ago. Daniel Boone would feel at home in Russia.