January 8, 2016

1946. After Bikini Atoll, Admiral Blandy Commends Bill Downs' Reporting

A Letter to William S. Paley
The San Francisco Chronicle headline announcing the Bikini Atoll bomb test on July 1, 1946
On July 1, 1946, the US government conducted the first of its infamous nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads. During the first test, Test Able, Bill Downs watched from an observation plane as it flew directly behind the B-29 Superfortress dropping the bomb. His report was pooled across all networks. Later that year, Admiral William H.P. Blandy wrote to CBS President William S. Paley commending Downs' report. The letter is featured below, along with Paley's response and a memo to Edward R. Murrow.
September 6, 1946

Joint Task Force One
Navy Department,
Washington, D.C.

Mr. William S. Paley
Columbia Broadcasting System
485 Madison Avenue
New York 10, New York

Dear Mr. Paley:

From the outset of Operation Crossroads a most important aspect of the tests was a clear understanding by the public of their purposes, an appreciation of the numerous problems involved in their execution, and a sound knowledge of their broad results. To help solve the problem, Crossroads invited to Bikini a large group of the radio, press, magazine and picture representatives of the United States and foreign countries.

The over-all success of these media representatives in conveying an objective report of the tests to the public was due in a large part to the fine work of your representative, Mr. Bill Downs.

In addition to the excellent discharge of his assignment from the professional point of view, Mr. Downs assisted materially to the over-all success of Crossroads by his outstanding tact, cooperation and willingness to contribute in all possible ways to the smooth and efficient press coverage of these complex operations.

He was elected by his colleagues to serve on the Press Committee on board the press ship, USS Appalachian, as the radio representative. His efficient and patient work on this committee contributed greatly to its success in solving, with the members of the Public Information Section of my staff, many problems which arose in the press coverage of the tests.

It is a pleasure to express my appreciation for the fine work of Mr. Downs throughout Operation Crossroads.

Sincerely yours,

W. H. P. Blandy
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander Joint Task Force One
September 12, 1946

CBS Executive Offices, internal office memo

From: Mr. Paley
To: Mr. Murrow

Here is a copy of the note I just received from Vice Admiral Blandy. I'm sure Bill Downs would like to have a copy.

(Handwritten note from Murrow: Bill Downs - I too am pleased - Ed)
September 12, 1946

Dear Admiral Blandy:

It was most thoughtful of you to write to me about Bill Downs and his effective participation in Operation Crossroads. I'm sure Mr. Downs will be as pleased as I am in learning of your appreciation for his work.

Sincerely yours,
W. S. P.