March 29, 2016

1968. The "Draft Rockefeller" Movement to Challenge Nixon

The Rockefeller Gambit?
Governor Nelson Rockefeller (right) with Richard Nixon in front of the capital building in Albany, New York on October 28, 1968 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 21, 1968

This is Bill Downs in Washington, for Information Reports.

Washington's political pros agree that Governor Rockefeller didn't really withdraw from the Republican presidential race—he just publicly went underground. More on the Rockefeller gambit in just a moment...

The word here in Washington is that Nelson Rockefeller made his qualified, "but if" withdrawal as an active Republican presidential candidate only after his own private polls showed signs that the Governor would lose to former Vice President Nixon in any Midwest primary contest; that Rockefeller might win by only a narrow margin in the Oregon primary—and probably lose again to Nixon in the important California race.

Which points up the growing power of the public opinion surveys which have mushroomed in this country. It was such a political poll in New Hampshire that forced George Romney out of the race for the White House.

It may be that Rockefeller handed his party's nomination to Richard Nixon on a silver platter by his actions, but the New York governor may still be leaving his door open for a draft by the GOP convention.

Again, it will be the political pollsters who decide Rockefeller's chances of getting that draft. By withdrawing as an active candidate, the governor distracts from Nixon's efforts to prove himself a winner, because no one is opposing him. Also, as time goes by, Nixon must take public stands on more and more issues, which makes him vulnerable to attack.

By June and July the pollsters will be making their crucial pre-convention public opinion samplings. If these polls show that Nixon can be beaten by any of the Democratic candidates, it may be the beginning of that "Draft Rockefeller" sentiment which the Governor's adherents are hoping for.

Conversely, if these same polls show that Rockefeller would run stronger than Nixon in key states with the most electoral college votes, the draft could turn into a political hurricane that could sweep the governor to the top of the Republican ticket. Maybe.

The Republican presidential convention opens in Miami on August 5. For a while today it looked like it might be a rather boring Nixon love-fest. However, it could be as gory and exciting political donnybrook as the Democrats expect in Chicago three weeks later.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.

March 28, 2016

1968. War Correspondents in Vietnam

"The United States Marines in Vietnam are Invaded by Reporters"
"Walter Cronkite conducting an interview in Hue, February 1968" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 12, 1968

The weekly newspaper Sea Tiger is published by the III Marine Amphibious Force now fighting in Vietnam. A few days ago it printed an editorial as the Leathernecks were clearing out the battle area around the ancient city of Hue, and as the Communists kept the pressure on the Marine base camp at Khe Sanh below the demilitarized zone.

We thought you might like to share the warm feelings expressed in this editorial, which is indicative of the morale and spirit in the embattled I Corps area of South Vietnam.

Said the Sea Tiger: "Newsmen of every sort, size, shape, skill, sex and sect descended on I Corps in the past couple of weeks. Sensing the big stories at Khe Sanh and Hue, representatives of every major American news media moved in on the action. Joining them were their counterparts from France, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Australia, Japan, Okinawa, Korea and Vietnam..."

The editorial continued: "TV and radio networks were well-staffed. ABC News President Elmer Lower was backed up by three news teams. Walter Cronkite of CBS news flew in. NBC had four teams on hand for most of the period. Seven foreign nations had at least one radio or TV crew on hand..."

The Sea Tiger then went on to describe the task forces of war correspondents sent in by the Associated Press and United Press International; magazines like Newsweek, Time, and Life; and the major newspapers in the US and abroad.

The Marine newspaper also noted that the newsmen were suffering casualties. Igor Oganesoff of CBS and Bill Brannigan of ABC wounded at Khe Sanh; Sam Bingham of Empire News, Dana Stone of UPI, and David Greenway of Time magazine hit at Hue, to mention only a few.

And the Sea Tiger summed up: "They come and go—those in the front row of the 4th Estate—with little more recognition than the occasional by-line. But they do the job."

It's a rare on-the-spot tribute to the men and women reporting the confused and dangerous fighting in Southeast Asia, reporting that has become so commonplace on radio and television that Americans take it for granted.

But we like the tribute which the Marine newspaper unconsciously paid to its Leatherneck readers in Vietnam, when the editorial concluded: "So smile! Men, you're on cameras...and in newsreels, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books and radio..." That's the way the Marines tell it.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.

March 25, 2016

1968. The Tet Betrayal

Crisis in the Far East
"Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House," February 9, 1968 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC News

February 18, 1968

Official Washington has been just as worried as the rest of the nation that the United States might be confronted with a two-front land war in the Far East. Since last month's hijacking of the USS Pueblo, the possibility of renewed fighting in Korea has caused some sleepless nights in this national capital.

It now seems pretty clear that the North Korean capture of the Pueblo and her eighty-three man crew fits into a larger strategic pattern which the Communist regimes of Pyongyang and Hanoi are employing.

It would appear to be what the think tanks call a "scenario"—a carefully contrived series of diplomatic, military, propaganda, and psychological warfare moves all designed to achieve victory.

For example, ever since the South Korean government sent some 48,000 troops to fight alongside the US forces in South Vietnam, the North Korean Communists have gradually increased their infiltration into the Southern Republic. Their harassment along the 17th parallel truce line has also intensified. The Korean Communists climaxed these provocations last month by sending a suicide squad of more than thirty commandos to assassinate South Korean President Chung-hee Park in the capital of Seoul. It now appears that the would-be assassination was timed to coincide with the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo.

As you know, the Pyongyang Communists failed in their assassination plot. They did succeed, however, in grabbing off the Pueblo—a crisis that is still hanging fire.

While all this was going on in Korea, Ho Chi Minh and his Hanoi Communists were playing a more subtle diplomatic game.

Last week, Washington finally released a six month old top secret that, since last August, the United States has directly and indirectly been in secret contact with Hanoi, trying to arrange a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam as a step toward general deescalation and negotiations for a settlement of the conflict. In fact, since early January, the US actually restricted its Navy and Air Force bombers from military targets close to Hanoi and Haiphong—notifying the Communist leaders there of this voluntary restraint as evidence of American sincerity and desire for peace talks.

As late as three weeks ago, an unnamed foreign diplomat was in Hanoi acting as a special envoy for President Johnson. But while these talks were going on, the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies demonstrated their attitude toward Washington's peace efforts by launching the countrywide guerrilla attack on South Vietnam's cities and towns during the Buddhist New Year's holiday.

Although no one in Washington or Saigon has yet to admit it, the fact that that the go-between diplomatic talks in Hanoi and elsewhere coincided with Communist pledges of a ceasefire and temporary truce during the Tet holidays must have affected the state of alert in the Allied garrisons in the South. The Saigon generals gave holiday leave to many of their troops. Thus the shock and surprise attained by the guerrilla offensive. The statement now emerging at the White House and the State Department is evidence of the official outrage and disappointment at such chicanery.

Part of the reason for this bitterness is that, for the past six months, President Johnson, Secretary of State Rusk, Defense Secretary McNamara, and other government leaders have taken personal and political lambasting from their critics, both hawks and doves. On the one hand, they have been condemned as barbarians and murderers by the antiwar extremists for not seeking the road to peace, which they were secretly doing at the time. On the other hand, they were blasted by the hawks and super-patriots for not wiping Hanoi and Haiphong off the map, but in the interest of getting peace negotiations underway, the administration could not conduct any escalation. Thus did President Johnson find himself in a domestic political whipsaw.

When the Viet Cong launched its offensive there was speculation—much of it drawn from captured Communist documents—that the attacks were both military and diplomatic in purpose; that the Viet Cong was seeking a propaganda victory to be used in efforts to better the Communist position at the negotiating table.

If this was part of the Hanoi government's "scenario," it might be said that the military part of it was more successful than the political. For it was true that a pair of North Vietnamese diplomats did show up in Rome and attempted to use the Italian government as a go-between to force their terms as a condition for negotiation with the United States.

Hanoi's new diplomacy also extended to Paris and got UN Secretary General U Thant into the act. Thant was in London after a diplomatic swing which took him to India and Moscow for talks with Premier Indira Gandhi, Russian leaders Brezhnev and Kosygin, and with Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

It became obvious that the Vietnamese Communists were trying to cash in on the bloodshed and brutality of the Viet Cong attacks, using their own aggression as an international lever on the United States to demand that the US stop the bombing and perhaps make a behind-the-scenes deal with the National Liberation Front.

Despite its chagrin at such whipsaw tactics, the State Department studied all of the Hanoi proposals carefully. There was no sign of reciprocity in the Communist diplomatic campaign—no softening of the arrogance in their demands, and no mention of President Johnson's "San Antonio formula" for negotiations, which included assurance that the Vietnamese Communists would not take advantage of a bombing halt to prepare new military assaults against the South.

Last Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that 10,500 additional combat troops were being grounded at General Westmoreland's request. The Defense Department described this sped up reinforcement as a kind of military "insurance" for the area. It will raise the total of US ground forces in the South to more than 510,000 men. Whether the present limit of 525,000 men will be raised is a matter for the future.

Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Rusk decided that the United States had shown enough official patience with the diplomatic hypocrisy of the Vietnam Communists. Overseas intelligence sources had been reporting that Hanoi was spreading reports that the United States and the National Liberation Front were very close to the peace table and that a diplomatic deal was in the making.

Rusk set the record straight in an extraordinary statement. Hanoi has repeatedly refused to reduce the scale of violence in Southeast Asia, he declared, not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Laos. In fact, Hanoi is stepping up its infiltration in all three countries.

Rusk charged that the Communists had made the Demilitarized Zone a thing of contempt. And concerning the recent US bombing limitations in the North, he said that the Communists took advantage of American goodwill to build up their military forces in the South.

"Ceasefire periods have been marked by hundreds of cynical violations by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces," Rusk asserted, "And on a massive scale during the recent Tet holiday."

"In recent weeks," Rusk said, "Hanoi knew that discussions of a peaceful settlement were being seriously explored; that they also knew there was a reduction of bombing attacks on North Vietnam, specifically in the Hanoi-Haiphong areas during these explorations."

"Their reply," Rusk pointed out, "was a major offensive through South Vietnam to bring the war to the civilian population in most of the cities of that country." He added: "Their preparations for a major offensive in the northern provinces of South Vietnam continue unabated."

Rusk said that Hanoi's alleged interest in political talks must be weighed against its military actions, and he added: "All of the proposals made by the United States for peace in Southeast Asia continue to be valid...but we are not interested in propaganda gestures whose purpose is to mislead and confuse...The US will be interested in a serious move toward peace when Hanoi comes to the conclusion that is is ready to move in that direction."

In conclusion the Secretary added pointedly: "Hanoi knows how to get in touch with us."

This tough statement by the Secretary of States and the sped up reinforcements to General Westmoreland are presumably the only part of the US response to the Vietnam Communists—and to their North Korean allies who hijacked the USS Pueblo.

If the combined "scenarios" of Pyongyang and Hanoi were to force a crisis of confidence in the United States, the capture of the Pueblo and the Viet Cong guerrilla offensive have failed.

On the contrary, Washington did not push the panic button during either crisis in Communist Korea or North Vietnam, and for this, President Johnson has gained stature both at home and overseas.

But there are officials here in Washington and other major capitals around the world who know that the American people can be pushed just so far. After that, tear up all the scenarios.

March 14, 2016

1949. The Soviets Decide to Remain in Germany

No Hope for Withdrawal
Red Army soldiers stand before Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 1945 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

February 23, 1949

The significant news in Germany this morning comes from the Russians.

Taking the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the formation of the Red Army, the Soviet military newspaper, Taglische Rundschau, announces that Russian military occupation forces will remain in Germany as long as Britain, France, and America maintain troops here.

This statement would appear to put an end to reports and rumors that the USSR might follow the pattern they established in Korea: pulling out their troops and leaving behind a well-armed and organized communist native government.

The Rundschau, of course, places the blame on the Western Powers. "The Soviet Union has repeatedly offered to negotiate a peace treaty and for the withdrawal of occupation forces from Germany," the newspaper says. "But these requests have been ignored. Therefore the Soviet Union is forced to leave occupation troops in Germany."

In Berlin, a series of ceremonies are underway at the big Russian war memorial in the Tiergarten, just over the Russian sector border in British territory. Since early this morning, Russian generals and other military and civilian authorities have been marching through Brandenburg Gate to lay wreaths on the monument.

The Communist-controlled press is having a field day describing the Russian army as an "army of peace" while vilifying the American and British forces as the tools of imperialism.

However, despite all of the hard words, the Russian commandant, Marshal Sokolovsky, has invited the three Western military commanders to a Red Army day reception at his headquarters in Potsdam. Apparently the Berlin blockade will be relaxed just a little bit for the high Western brass.

The British commander, General Robertson, says that he can't attend, but will send a deputy. General Clay has made no announcement yet whether he will attend.

Spring weather has come to southern Germany. I traveled through the rich Bavarian farm country yesterday. Fertilizers are going into the ground, and in some places spring plowing has begun.

However, once again the effects of the past war hit hard as you drove past farm after farm. The plowing is mostly primitive, with cows providing the pulling power and children with sticks and ropes forcing the cows to work.

And the field work yesterday was done entirely by women—grandmothers and young girls. The war left very little manpower for German agriculture.

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

CBS Berlin

February 24, 1949

Two important moves from the Eastern side of Russia's Iron Curtain indicate today that Communist policy is taking a new tack in Germany.

The announcement yesterday that Russian occupation troops will remain in Germany as long as the Western Powers maintain forces here is the newest guidepost in Soviet policy. Diplomatic officials have been speculating over the past six months that the USSR may have been preparing to withdraw its occupation troops, in the pattern of this action in Korea, where the Russians left behind a strong native Communist government.

However, yesterday's announcement would appear to put an end to this thinking. For many weeks Communist propaganda has been making its major appeal for German support on the basis that Russian occupation troops would be sent home if the Germans supported Soviet policy.

Abandonment of this propaganda line, according to authorities, might also be a sign of the complete failure of Russian occupation policy to draw any substantial support from the Germans—that the Russians recognize they would be unable to set up a strong Communist administration to be trusted to run East Germany similar to the government now running Northern Korea.

The second move in this new Communist line is a much more subtle approach. The Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of East Berlin has approached the political parties of the West with a three-part program for the unification and the settlement of the Berlin crisis.

This complicated plan calls for the withdrawal of all occupation troops to the German borders, leaving only the four-power garrisoning of Berlin intact. The second phase would be the writing of a constitution and formation of a government for all Germany under consultation and observation of all four Western Powers. When this constitution and government were approved, then only diplomatic representatives would remain in the Berlin capital of the new Germany.

Occupation troops would remain on border garrisons to guarantee security measures against German re-militarization.

American military government officials regard the proposal as another Communist maneuver to block formation of a democratic German government in the West.

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

March 7, 2016

1949. The Czechoslovak Spy Ring in West Germany

Five Men Face Charges of Espionage Against the United States
The border town of Mödlareuth in occupied Germany, July 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Munich

February 19, 1949

The American military government in Bavaria has a first-class spy thriller on its hands today—a story which is probably getting more than its share of attention because American authorities have chosen to be so mysterious about the whole thing.

Tomorrow, two Poles and three Germans will face a military court on charges of espionage against the United States. They are part of a ring of twenty persons recently arrested and identified as the group supplying information prejudicial to the security of the United States. The information, authorities say, was going to Czechoslovakia.

Initial interest was created in the trials during the first hearing of the case of František Klečka. The Army announced that Klečka would be tried in secret, and that not even the verdict would be announced. Protests from reporters here brought about modification of this ruling, and the sentencing was performed in open hearing. Klečka got twenty years of hard labor. We still don't have any idea of his operations, but presumably he was a courier for the spy ring as he once worked on the Orient Express, which runs from Paris to Ankara.

Bavaria is conveniently located for illegal border operations, rimmed as it is by the Soviet zone of Germany, Czechoslovakia, the French zone, and Austria. Smuggling is widespread here despite the efforts of authorities to break it up.

A steady stream of some 15,000 refugees a month pour into this German province—most of them from the Iron Curtain countries.

Military government refugee policy has been one of benevolence, to give political asylum wherever possible. But this refugee traffic also provides excellent cover for espionage, such as that carried on by the Czech ring now under indictment.

Here in Central Europe, espionage and counterintelligence has been a growing byproduct of the international struggle between the East and West. Agents and informers are a dime a dozen, and some are known to market their intelligence on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

One of the most interesting things about tomorrow's public hearing—the first postwar spy trial to be held in Europe by America—will be the kinds of information and the type of intelligence which our authorities regard as dangerous to the security of our country.

This is one of the things that badly needs defining in these difficult times.

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

CBS Munich

February 20, 1949

Three Germans and two Poles pleaded not guilty to charges of espionage against the United States here this morning as the Army lifted the secrecy surrounding a ring of some twenty persons charged with selling intelligence to a foreign power.

The five men are charged with collecting material and information relative to the strength, training, resources, communications, and capabilities of the US armed forces in Bavaria, and imparting them to agents of a foreign power.

Earlier announcements by the Army identified the foreign power as Czechoslovakia. One member of this ring was convicted of espionage and sentenced to twenty years of hard labor in a secret hearing.

Brigadier General John McKee, president of the military court, announced today that all subsequent hearings will be made in public.

Army prosecutors opened the trial this morning with the case of Theodore Szendzielorz, a citizen of Poland. A German patrolman told of stopping Szendzielorz near Nuremberg last September 15. The man fled, leaving behind a woman's handbag containing sketches, notes, and film. The sketches included drawings of the big Siemens electrical works in Nuremberg, sketches of a railroad repair shop, notes on the water and gas works of the Bavarian town of Marburg, sketches of a steel factory in Frankenburg, and a German topographical map of the Grafenwöhr training grounds where American troops carried on maneuvers last fall. Also included was an old blueprint of the American billeting area at Grafenwöhr.

Many of these notes were signed by one Robert Eicher, the mystery man in this spy drama. Eicher has not been identified.

So far, the evidence indicates that someone is interested not only in the American occupation army, but also in a lot of economic and industrial information, much of which could be gotten from a chamber of commerce. The detail goes down to the names of streets and car lines, the height of fences, and the kind of roofs on the buildings concerned.

Trial of the five men is not expected to be completed until the end of the week.

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