June 27, 2016

1943. Soviet Engineers Work a Miracle

Repairing the Velikiye Luki Rail Line


This text is a combination of the report's script and the above broadcast which aired on March 28, 1943. The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons. The first sentence of Downs' report was cut off and is included here.

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

CBS Moscow

March 28, 1943

DOUG EDWARDS: On the vast Russian battlefields, the Red Army appears to be consolidating its positions and beating off Nazi attacks. For a direct report on the situation, Admiral radio takes you now to CBS Moscow, Bill Downs reporting.

BILL DOWNS: (The last two communiqués from the Soviet command have started with the sentence "no essential changes occurred at the fronts.") This is the first time that this phrase has appeared in the Russian communiqués since last summer's lull in the fighting.

It is true that the fighting has slackened all along the Russian front—but it can hardly be called a lull. There still are attacks and counterattacks on the Smolensk front, and the Germans are still trying to gain effective initiative at Belgorod on the Bryansk sector. The Red Army continues its painful advance through the mud of the Kuban.

It's true that the front is comparatively quiet—but it's the kind of quiet you would get if you put a lid on a live volcano.

The Red Army's railroad battalion has achieved something of an engineering miracle. In a little over two weeks they have succeeded in opening the vital Moscow-to-Velikiye Luki trunk railroad. The first military train moved over this railroad yesterday.

The repair of this stretch of 280 miles of railroad was one of the most difficult assignments any engineering corps has ever had. The railroad has been the center of a battlefield since the early days of the German invasion. It has been bombed by both German and Russian planes. Soviet partisans have blown it sky high at a hundred places (during the period when the Germans held the line.)

(And when the Germans were chased from the area, they did one of their most complete jobs of earth scorching along the Velikiye Luki-Moscow railroad. Every bridge was blown up. Switches and sidings were destroyed. In some places the Germans even burned the forest around some vital bridges so that the Russian engineers would have no material with which to reconstruct them.)

But even before Velikiye Luki was taken, the Red Army railroad corps went to work. They found that, besides to widening the gauge of the railroad tracks, they would have to virtually reset every railroad rail.

You see, the Germans not only destroyed all switches and frogs, but they also sent men along the lines with heavy sledgehammers who every fifty feet or so just knocked out a piece of railroad rail. I have seen this type of destruction in every place where the German Army passed.

(Consequently, the railroad corps had to saw and chisel these broken rail ends so that they could be joined together. At first, the repair gangs could only repair fifty of these rails a day. Before the job was finished, they were repairing 250 a day. Each gang—and there were four big corps working on the railroad—succeeded in relaying something like four to six miles of railroad a day. When a job was particularly difficult, the civilians in the neighborhood were called in to give a hand.)

You probably couldn't run an American streamliner at a speed of a hundred miles an hour over the reconstructed Velikiye Luki-Moscow railroad line today. But you can jog along at twenty to thirty miles an hour with heavy freight and munitions and arms. And that's what's happening today as the Soviet command reinforces its Velikiye Luki garrison—the garrison which is closer to the borders of the Soviet Union than any other group pushed to the east by the Axis invaders.

And this is Bill Downs returning you now to CBS in New York.

June 13, 2016

1945. News at Home and Abroad on the Fourth of July

The World Today
"The Australian 7th Division lands on Balikpapan, Borneo in July 1945" (source)
This transcript of CBS News Radio's July 4, 1945 broadcast of The World Today is taken from Bill Downs' papers.

The World Today

6:45-6:55 PM

Wednesday, July 4, 1945

JOHN DALY: In Antwerp and Luxembourg, in Norway and Berlin, in the Holy Land and in Greece, wherever America's fighting men have carried our flag, this July 4, 1945 is being celebrated. There were fireworks and dances, and parades.

On Okinawa, Nakagusuku Bay was renamed Buckner Bay in honor of the gallant commander of the 10th Army killed in the final stages of the Okinawa campaign. Far away in Bremen, Germany the former Weserstadion was renamed Eisenhower Stadium. Americans in Italy held a bathing beauty contest replete with fireworks, and a half a world away, for the first time in history, the 4th of July was celebrated aboard a British battleship as the American flag flew from the Duke of York in Sydney harbor in Australia. In Paris, one of the city's proudest streets, the Avenue Victor Emmanuel III, was renamed the Avenue President Roosevelt, while far away in Chungking, America's Ambassador Hurley and General Wedemeyer were hosts at a reception for Chinese government leaders.

Everywhere that war is finished and done, the men and women of America's fighting forces were joined in Independence Day celebrations by liberated peoples and by their Allies. In the little town of (?) in England, American and British soldiers marched together and guns roared out in friendship. British artillery fired a 48 gun salute for the 48 states. But on the Pacific battlefield, the guns roared out in anger. They spoke a job still to be done.

That war deprived our Allied Australians tonight of one of the greatest fighting hearts that kept faith in the black days of 1941. Prime Minister John Curtain, long ill with a lung ailment and heart condition, died late this afternoon, 4 AM, July 5th, Australian time. Acting Prime Minister Francis Ford said that, like the late President Roosevelt, Mr. Curtain was a war casualty. He'd drawn heavily on his failing strength in prosecuting the war against Japan. A year ago, the Prime Minister was told by doctors that he must rest, but he stuck to his job to the very end. Mr. Curtain died as General MacArthur announced the end of one Pacific campaign and new victories in another.

The MacArthur's nightly communiqué which was received just an hour ago says that the entire Philippine islands are now liberated and the Philippines campaign can be regarded as virtually closed. Summarizing the campaign, which began last October at Leyte, MacArthur said the Japanese employed 25 divisions, approximately 450,000 men which were practically annihilated. The communiqué adds that, on Borneo, the blazing heat of Balikpapan's central town area, including seven waterfront pier installations and gasoline cracking plants, was captured by the Australians Tuesday, the third day of the invasion. More than 60 percent of the town was destroyed before the troops were put ashore. Hard fighting still is underway however, in the center of the eight mile long east Borneo beachhead. The Australians gained high ground 500 yards northeast of the Hill 99 and today fought off a savage enemy counterattack.

Now for news made in America this Independence Day. General Electric radio takes you to Washington, Cliff Allen reporting.

CLIFF ALLEN: Although federal workers including President Truman remained hard at work today, the 4th of July in the capital will have a traditional fireworks display tonight as the finishing touch of the 7th War Loan Drive here. Two set pieces will feature a picture of Present Truman and a reproduction of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima. In addition to a long roster of movie stars, two of the men who participated in the Iwo flag-raising will be present at the Cavalcade of Freedom tonight.

However, the fireworks tonight will be little more than a curtain raiser for the verbal ones that are scheduled to break loose in the House tomorrow. The supporters of the legislation to continue the Fair Employment Practices Committee, although Congress is not in session today, are busy behind the scenes building up their case. At the present, there seems little chance that the FEPC will be granted any funds at all in the House. But Senator Chavez of New Mexico declares that if the bill comes back to the Senate minus the FEPC appropriation, he will insert the full amount asked by the agency. As the New Mexico Senator says, "If there's going to be a scrap, it might as well be over the whole amount." Although the bitter FEPC battle may go on indefinitely, the Senate is expected to give a speedy OK to the Bretton Woods agreement in the near future.

The general strikes situation over the country is not so good at the moment, but apparently does not have official Washington worried. Because workers remained on the job today, Labor Bureau spokesmen say they have made up all the time lost from the beginning of the war by strikers more than 31 million man days. The general expectation here is that the government will seize the Goodyear plant at Akron, although nothing has been said about seizure of the Firestone plant whose workers also are striking. As for the newspaper deliverymen in New York, Chairman George S. Taylor of the War Labor board says he is confident deliveries will be resumed shortly. His statement came after union and publisher representatives had met privately. Taylor says he believes the walkout will end when union members are informed of developments here.

I return you to General Electric radio in New York.

DALY: There is some 4th of July news from Britain also tonight as we told you. But the British are chiefly concerned with their general situation tomorrow. For details on these stories, General Electric radio takes you to London, Edward R. Murrow reporting.

EDWARD R. MURROW: This is London. On this 4th of July there were many speeches. In Chungking, Berlin, Oslo, Antwerp, London, and on islands in the far Pacific. It is even reported that the entire Spanish press, led by the Falangist newspapers, devoted all their main editorials to praising America. Reports reaching London fail to make it clear whether they were impressed by American power or by the philosophy of freedom.

Tonight in London the shouting is dying down. Six hours from now the first votes will be cast, in Britain's first general election in ten years. Mr. Churchill has made his last speech tours in the city. He was cheered and jeered. If the Conservatives win this election, they will owe it to Mr. Churchill. It has been a one man campaign, and if they lose, the Prime Minister cannot be blamed. He has worked hard and traveled far, and worn out some of the younger men who aspired to office. He has made four of his party's eight broadcasts, has carried candidates on his bare shoulders; his name has been the principal asset of the Conservative Party. The campaign has not been pretty—issues have been ignored. Mr. Churchill set the tone in his first broadcast when he accused his colleagues in the coalition government of planning a political gestapo.

Then came the argument about the executive committee in the Labour Party, its power over Professor Laski's authority. Letters were exchanged, but it is doubted that any considerable number of votes were changed. There had been rumors that Mr. Churchill might withdraw his invitation to Mr. Atlee, the leader of the Labour Party, to accompany him to the meeting of the Big Three. But I'm assured on good authority that no such action is anticipated. Both men will probably go to Potsdam. Both parties are confident tonight, but the votes won't be counted until July 26th. And the betting odds favor a Conservative victory by a narrow majority.

Whichever party wins will not lack for problems. Tomorrow's headlines in London will be "Churchill or Confusion;" and "Vote Early and Vote Labour." After tomorrow there may be space in the papers for the war against Japan.

I return you now to CBS in New York.

DALY: Across the English Channel, the American flag was raised over Berlin today beside the red flag of the Soviet Union to symbolize partial occupation of Berlin by the United States Army. And British forces have also rolled into Berlin to join the Russians and Americans. Now a short message from General Electric radio.

June 12, 2016

1945. The Associated Press Announces the Bombing of Hiroshima

AP and UP Wire News Bulletins, August 1945
The August 8, 1945 front page of the New York newspaper The Sun (higher resolution)





















June 8, 2016

1968. The Perils of the New Isolationism

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's Farewell Warning
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (center) sitting with President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson at the White House on March 16, 1961 (AP Photo/Henry Burroughs; source)
Bill Downs Perspective

ABC Washington

February 4, 1968

It's ironic at this time of confusion and flap here in Washington—flapping over the devaluation of the British pound; over economic, sociological, and political campaign issues; flapping over the capture of the USS Pueblo and the surprising guerilla offensive in South Vietnam—it's both ironic and somewhat sad that the Johnson administration is losing its most unflappable cabinet official.

As you know, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is winding up an unprecedented seven years of duty in the Pentagon. The Senate this week approved President Johnson's nomination of Washington lawyer Clark Clifford to take over the Defense Department on March 1. So between now and that date, Mr. McNamara will, in a sense, be cleaning out his desk at the Pentagon; tidying up things before he moves across the Potomac to take up his new job as President of the World Bank.

A most remarkable man, McNamara was the first of the new breed of professional administrators really to take over and reorganize a major federal executive department—and the most monstrous one at that. As the advertising slogan goes: "They said it couldn't be done," but McNamara did it. He introduced rational planning and cost effectiveness and computerized management practices into the Pentagon. He unified and collated the military services and their missions, and most of all, he established once and for all the Constitutional fiat—the civilian control of the nation's armed services.

The former "boy-President" of Ford Motor Company before President Kennedy drew him into government, McNamara made more enemies than any of his predecessors in Defense. But on his leave-taking seven years later, even his most caustic critics are bidding him farewell with praise for his energy and achievements in a most impossible job. As a kind of super-bureaucrat in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he was a most worthy opponent to the wiliest of the politicians on Capitol Hill.

One of the innovations which McNamara introduced to government was the document which, every year, manages to make headlines no matter what else is happening in the world. It's called the "Military Posture Report." And this year the "sanitized," or public version, is more than two hundred pages long. The Secretary presents the "un-sanitized," or secret version of the report, to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees—a document which runs about 250 pages long because it contains all the secret and classified data. The purpose of the Posture Report is to explain in detail why the Defense Department is asking for $79.6 billion of the taxpayers' money to assure the military security of the United States.

As we pointed out, McNamara invented this document, and this was the seventh and final such report he has made to Congress. So, in a sense, it was a kind of hail and farewell when he presented it to the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday.

It would appear that that the job of the Secretary of Defense, like the presidency, tends to make a philosopher out of the man to take on the office. The responsibilities of national security in the nuclear and space age test a man's sanity and moral fiber—for, in a single day, he may be asked to consider weapons capable of reducing Russia to a cinder, and an hour later be confronted with an unprincipled military supplier profiteering on a twenty-dollar bracket for a nuclear bomber.

At one point in his government career, McNamara told a Congressional committee that it was impossible for any one man to run the Defense Department—the biggest business in the world—because no one could possibly keep track of the four million items—from buttons to hydrogen bombs—which make up the Pentagon's inventory. And one Defense official pointed out that if the department operated with 99 percent efficiency (which is impossible), that the Pentagon would still make some 150,000 errors a year.

And if that wouldn't make a philosopher out of any federal cabinet officer, nothing will.

For those reasons, I'd like to quote to you from the new Posture Report presented behind closed doors to the Senate committee last week. It might be called "McNamara's Farewell Address," and his words are both eloquent and important because they deal with the future security of us all.

In his "assessment of the international situation as it bears on military policies and programs," the Secretary had this summation:

"Fundamentally, what is at issue today—as it was a decade ago and as it will be a decade from now—is the kind of world in which we and others wish to live. When this nation made the decision at the end of World War II to base its own security on the principle of collective defense, it was the hope that there could be created, under the UN charter, a world in which even the smallest state could look forward to an independent existence; free to develop in its own way, unmolested by its neighbors, and free of fear of armed attack or political domination by the more powerful nations..."

McNamara goes on to point out that to achieve this goal, the United States aligned herself with other like-minded nations in a series of mutual defense treaties to defend her collective freedom and prevent the further extension of communism. Looking back over the past twenty years, he added: "Although the record is less than perfect, the outward thrust of Soviet and Red Chinese aggression has been generally contained."

But as the outgoing Defense Secretary proceeds with his arguments in support of collective security for the free world, it becomes clear that McNamara has become concerned that the United States might be reverting to a new kind of Space Age isolationism. As he pointed out: "Collective security has paid its price...military alliances are costly to maintain. There also was the cost in blood and lives in the Korean War...and now, additional levies and casualties being paid in the defense of freedom for South Vietnam.

"But," says McNamara, "the American people have a right to ask: were these achievements worth their cost?"

And he answers: "I believe they were. We do know that the policies of unarmed isolationism and attempted neutrality which we followed before World War II, were in the end far more costly in lives and property.

"However, it must be clearly recognized that, while it is conceivable that we could return to a policy of isolationism...today this could no longer be the unarmed isolationism of the 1930s. In an age of nuclear weapons...such an option is denied us...

"Nevertheless, one could argue that we could still renounce all our mutual defense treaties, pull back our military forces to our own soil...and build a 'Fortress America' so powerful as to deter virtually any enemy or combination of enemies from deliberately attacking our territory..."

But there would be a dreadful cost for such a Fortress, says the Secretary. "We could deal with the rest of the world on a strictly arms-length basis. But that would be an entirely different world than the one we now live in...and an entirely different United States as well.

"Without dependable friends or allies, we would surely have to maintain a larger military establishment than at present. We would also have to reorient our industry and commerce to achieve a maximum degree of economic self-sufficiency with a lower standard of living for our people...and considerably less economic freedom for all...a far more uncertain and dangerous world, and one in which our influence over the course of events would be greatly diminished..."

In other words, says McNamara, "Isolationism is clearly an undesirable alternative to our continued involvement in the responsibilities of world affairs and collective defense..."

It may seem strange to find a responsible government official in 1968 arguing for the national imperatives debated by President Woodrow Wilson some fifty years ago.

But Secretary McNamara is concerned about the so-called "liberal isolationists" who have joined the conservatives in slashing attacks on the administration's military and economic aid programs. And he recognizes that the American people have become somewhat disillusioned and weary with the problems of the rest of the world.

But McNamara argues: "We must never forget that, of all nations, we have the most at stake. And the existence of an open, outward-looking, humane society in the United States depends upon the vitality of similar societies elsewhere..."

As the poet John Donne said, "No man is an island." In his farewell report to the Congress, Robert McNamara said that this same principle also applies to nations—those nations who would enjoy freedom with other peoples of the world.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.

June 1, 2016

1963. Edward R. Murrow: The Voice of Uncle Sam

The Voice of Uncle Sam
Edward R. Murrow in 1957 (source)
Article by Arthur Herzog published in True magazine, June 1963, p. 14:

Edward R. Murrow: The Voice of Uncle Sam

by Arthur Herzog
Idleness is a sin and ignorance the great bogeyman to Ed Murrow. As chief propagandist for the U.S., he heads the biggest hoopla machine ever assembled.
Washington, D.C.

To top officials of the United States Information Agency, two delicate problems must be faced continually. First, whether the USIA is communicating to the world an image of the U.S. that is both accurate and appealing; and second, whether its director, Edward R. Murrow, can be compelled to wear an overcoat in freezing weather when he dashes off on foot to the White House, 500 yards distant.

Not long ago, I visited Murrow and the USIA in Washington. Shortly before, Murrow had come down with pneumonia during a trip to the Middle East, and returned to the United States for hospitalization. "Ed was a model patient," a colleague said, "but only because the doctor was wise enough not to ask him to stay off the phone or give up smoking." For a time, Murrow's slow recovery gave rise to suspicions of cancer of the lung, a worry which proved unfounded ("Hell, if Ed had had cancer he would have been indignant," said Bill Downs, a former CBS telecaster recently turned novelist. "He always felt that by the time he got it there would be a cure."), and Murrow was released from the hospital, under strict medical orders to take it easy.

Neither the doctor nor his own obvious physical weakness stopped Murrow from working a 12-to-14 hour day, smoking his normal ration of 60-to-80 cigarettes, or going out without his overcoat. Murrow's co-workers have a way of knowing when the director is trembling on the brink of exhaustion. His cigarette droops.

Just why Ed Murrow drives himself until he literally sweats with fatigue is a question that nobody close to him can answer with confidence. "About his health Ed has absolutely no brains," his attractive wife Janet told me, "and I hope he sees that in print." William S. Paley, of CBS, once said of Murrow, "I don't see why he runs himself so ragged. Unless it's that he thinks he thinks better when he's got sweat pouring from his forehead." Larry LeSueur, a telecaster and former member of what was called "the Murrow club" at CBS, accounts for it by saying, "It's his Puritan side. Murrow believes that idleness is a sin."

To LeSueur, Murrow-the-Puritan is just one of many Murrows making up what could be called the Murrow image. "There's Murrow-the-Southern-gentleman—he was born down South, you know—with his code. He almost never gossips, and shrinks from real crudity. He's got an intense sense of honor and integrity. There's Murrow-the-Westerner, breezy, open, confident, fiercely loyal to his friends, the man of action. Why do you suppose he smokes so much? Some sort of masculine symbol to him, I bet. There's Murrow-the-Brooding-Pessimist—I'm not sure I believe he's as pessimistic as he makes out. There's a little of the ham in Murrow. There's Murrow-the-Patriot with his love of country and feeling of responsibility for it. In his own way he's almost as complicated as the American image is, and made up of the same stuff."

At 54, Ed Murrow is, as he calls himself sometimes with a small smile, the chief propagandist of the U.S. Arrayed under Murrow is the most far-reaching and massive propaganda machinery the U.S. has ever assembled, in war or peace. The USIA, or the United States Information Service, as it is called overseas—"I haven't been able to find out why," Murrow says—operates in all sorts of ways and all sorts of places. Its radio, the Voice of America, has more volume than ABC, CBS and NBC together. It publishes over 70 magazines, prints comic books (political satires) and textbooks for the study of English, produces records and dispatches cultural exhibitions. Though local people may not be aware of it, in some places the USIA's wire service provides half the news for their papers and the USIA's canned radio shows fill the air.

During the Cuban crisis the USIA distributed 50,000 photographs of Soviet missile sites. These, published in foreign newspapers, were instrumental in convincing the world of the truth of U.S. claims. When the USIA is fully cranked up for an emergency, as in the Cuban crisis, it can reach a half-billion people, which is about one out of four, outside the U.S., in the whole world. And it does all this, as Murrow never tires of telling the congressmen who appropriate the funds, on a budget of $119 million, which is less than the cost of a combat-ready Polaris submarine.

Murrow begins his day at 6:30 a.m. (Saturdays included), and by the time his government Lincoln arrives for him at 8:30, he has read six newspapers. ("Murrow gets a kick out of the chauffeured limousine," a friend said.) From then on, until the cigarette droops, he is wrapped up in the problems of making American life and policy "intelligible and, if possible, palatable" to the collective farmer in Siberia and the African with his transistor radio. He also tried to make the USIA intelligible and palatable to the dubious congressmen who sometimes think that selling America should be like "selling a Cadillac," in the words of one senator. "The Congress of the United States," Murrow has said sternly, "has no faith in the potency of ideas."

Murrow's day may be interrupted by a meeting of the National Security Council, or its even more select Executive Committee, at whose hush-hush and august deliberations basic U.S. Cold War strategy is planned. Murrow is the first USIA director to sit on the NSC, which indicates something of how importantly the Administration regards propaganda. When a policy is made, Murrow goes back to 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue, a number the Agency has cunningly contrived to have its address, and the USIA begins beaming it to the world.

Despite the pressures on Murrow—from within, one senses, as well as without—he is a casual man who, whenever he gets the chance, refers to himself as a reporter. "He still can't finish his appointments on time," his secretary told me, "but he's a lot better than he used to be." Murrow eats lunch in public restaurants like a plain civil servant, despite the fact that strangers are always wandering over from the bar to chat. He has an aversion to paper work and carries a briefcase gingerly, as though it contained a Russian head. Murrow, an easy-talking man whose conversation is salted with "hell's" and "ain't's," likes to end the day as a newscaster does a program, with a joke, and goes home satisfied when he leaves his two secretaries laughing. It is impossible to think of a Washington official of similar rank who receives a foreign ambassador in his shirt sleeves, collar open, and tie at half-mast, snapping his red suspenders, as Murrow does.

Murrow likes a good time and is probably among the best raconteurs in Washington on the rare occasion when he unfolds his talent. "He can imitate Churchill and make you feel like he's in the room," a friend said. "I've never seen Murrow turn down a drink," LeSueur says, "but he prefers such oddities as Scotch and water without ice—he picked that up during the war—and a whisky sour without fruit." Murrow is a snappy dresser who has his clothes tailor-made in London, but he hasn't gotten round to buying a new suit in three years, and even when he buys one he wears it with a soiled trenchcoat or an old hat. Murrow likes to say he is fond of fine food, fine wine and fine restaurants, but those who know him well declare that Murrow wouldn't know a good wine from a bad one, and almost never eats. He likes fast cars and owns a Thunderbird. He drives it so infrequently, however, that he sometimes can't find his own house.

What does preoccupy Ed Murrow are his responsibilities at the USIA, which he takes in dead earnest. "Ed wants to play every part of the Washington game," said Stanley Plesent, the USIA's legal counsel. "I can't recall a similarly ranked official who sat through every minute of the Congressional budget hearings for his department, as Murrow did. Congress gave us most, but not all, of what we asked for 1963. That was a real tribute to Ed, especially since he refused to pad our budget, as some agencies and departments do. What cutting there was had nothing to do with him. I told him that, but he wouldn't listen. He takes every defeat personally."

One of Murrow's first actions after being appointed USIA director was to ask, "What's happened to Reed Harris?" In 1953, Harris was acting director of the USIA, then under the Department of State and known as the United States International Information Administration. Harris was attacked by Senator Joseph McCarthy for a few lines from a book he had written about college football, and resigned because he got no support from his superiors. It was Harris' testimony before McCarthy that Murrow featured in one of his two anti-McCarthy shows. Murrow learned that Harris was now running a public relations agency in Washington, and rehired him in a high executive post at the USIA. "I'd become a kind of symbol of the resistance to McCarthy," Harris, who took a salary cut to come back to the government, told me, "and there was a kind of symbolism in my returning."

It seems strange, considering Murrow's record for outspokenness, but one criticism leveled against him in Washington is that he has been too quiet. "He's too cautious. Murrow has the highest reputation," a member of the White House inner sanctum said. "He can get through to the President any time he wants. The President is always concerned with what his reactions will be. Murrow would be listened to no matter what he said, especially since he's been silent so much."

Liberals have missed Murrow's independent voice on TV. "But it would be a mistake," a close friend said, "to regard Murrow as a starry-eyed liberal. He's not so much an optimistic believer in progress as a moralist and a man who believes in the due process of law." Murrow's wife Janet says, "Ed is modest in areas where he doesn't feel qualified. He will fight when he knows what he's talking about and the time seems right."

Averell Harriman, former Governor of New York and now the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs said, "Ed has matured. He was a crusader for causes but he now feels one needs more information to be sure of his opinions. He has a great sense of wanting to be sure he's right. The USIA needed character, and Murrow has given it that—it was impersonal before. He's given it purpose and direction. He understands what the United States is all about—he's one of the few who understand it well."

Murrow has, in fact, spoken out on various issues since coming to Washington. He has hit at one-newspaper towns, the treatment of African diplomats in the capital, and "a disinclination to the service of man, a preoccupation with the gainful pursuit of money, position and status." He has lectured virtually the entire communications industry in the U.S. on its responsibilities; to Hollywood executives, he said that American films, with their accent on sex and violence, presented a false picture. "I wonder," he said, "how much truth there is if we compare the celluloid world of America with the real world of America." Murrow's speech got mixed reviews. One critic called him a "smatterer . . . who knows little about the film medium" and whose "accusations were sheer nonsense."

As Murrow sees it, the job of the USIA is "to wage a war against pestilence and poverty, suffering and suspicion, disappointment and distrust. Ours is the war not to capture the minds of men but to free them." Part of that job is to break some of the stereotypes held round the world about the United States.

"Before the Administration," presidential assistant Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. told me, "our own propaganda reinforced the idea that we were conservative, dogmatic, committed to free enterprise in the sense that every country should have it. This didn't reflect the reality. The truth about us proves to be more attractive to the world. Under Murrow, we have told the truth."

As it happens, I had several long conversations with Murrow while he was at CBS, and during one of them he defined for me his goal in making documentaries. "The real objective," he said, "is not to look for the sensational or the unusual, but not to flinch when the picture shows ignorance, bigotry and intolerance. My idea is to show 'what is'—to hold up the mirror and try to keep it steady."

He has followed the same policy at the USIA. The Agency has faithfully reported bus burnings in Alabama and student riots in Mississippi. Recently, Senator Allen J. Ellender of Louisiana, during a tour of Africa, was reported to have said that Africans weren't ready for self-government. It so outraged several African countries that they refused to let Ellender in. The USIA reported the story as it happened.

For this article, I interviewed Murrow several times in his comfortable corner office at 1776 Pennsylvania Avenue. The office has a long, curved desk; a color photograph of John F. Kennedy peers down from the wall, as it does in all government offices. Murrow is not especially a collector of trophies, but he brought two of them from CBS—the microphone on which he broadcast from London during the war, and a bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt by Jo Davidson, which reporter colleagues gave him. As in his CBS office, Murrow has a reading stand at which, standing up, he skims through magazines between appointments. He receives visitors at a small circular table flanked by chairs and a couch. One senses that he is not at his desk very often. The top is bleak and the desk stands like an alien presence.

Despite his recent illness, Murrow seemed little changed from his days as a broadcaster. Gray has stolen into his hair and the lines on his face are a little more stark. The bushy eyebrows give him a vague resemblance to Roosevelt but, as I determined with a quick glance at the bust, his nose hasn't quite the stature of Roosevelt's powerful beak. "Murrow," I'd hear again and again, "is really very shy. And he hates interviews." He is, in fact, open and extremely friendly until the questions start. At this point he falls into what might be called the classic Murrow stance—knees apart, elbows on knees, one hand supporting a bent hand, the other nervously stroking his hair or his tie. Every answer is considered, pondered, agonized.

I knew of Murrow's habit of mulling over questions as though he were in a trance. Murrow's associates, in fact, sometimes don't know when the boss has finished talking and, after waiting an appropriate time, they start again, to find that Murrow has started, too. During my interviews with him at CBS Murrow had explained his own technique of interviewing. "The key to TV interviewing," he said, "is to ask a question and after the person answers you, wait. The man says to himself that this fool must have misunderstood me. So he repeats himself. It's the second part of the answer that's valuable." On Murrow I tried the same trick, but there is no outwitting him. The silences between us sometimes lasted a full two minutes.

I began by asking Murrow a personal question. Did his $21,000 a year government salary represent a financial sacrifice, or had he, over the years in which he had earned well in excess of $200,000 a year, saved enough to become independently fixed?

Murrow mulled. "I'm not a rich man," he said finally. "I couldn't live for the rest of my life without working, at least, not without considerable belt-tightening. It's hard to get rich in what my tax bracket was. I can't live on my government salary and I will say that I am divesting myself of my basic holdings. My one extravagance is the farm. But I'd rather not talk about it. I'm wary of people who put the emphasis on their personal sacrifice rather than on the help they give to their country."

I waited, and Murrow did add, "When I came down here I intended to do some official entertaining. Somebody said, 'Do you know what the entertainment allowance is here? Five hundred dollars.' 'A week?' I said. 'No,' he said, 'a year.' So much for entertaining," Murrow laughed.

I then asked Murrow how it felt to be on the inside of things as a government official rather than the outside, as a reporter. "I still have to force myself to remember I'm not a reporter. I'm fascinated to see how things really work. There is a sense of history. I'm extremely interested to read what my former colleagues say and compare it with the fact. You'd be surprised how often you read the inside story in the next day's paper, but sometimes the news seems like it was written off the wall. One bad thing is that I've become cautious about talking with old colleagues. I can never be sure if I've read something in a top-secret file or not."

I waited, and nothing happened. McCarthy, I said, had attacked the USIA hard. Were the effects still there? "The McCarthy scars are still there, though receding," Murrow said, after the customary silence. "It takes a long while to re-establish confidence, to have candid reporting without fear that someday you won't be victimized for it. Once you create a confusion between dissent and disloyalty it takes a long time to get the difference straight again."

Murrow refused to say if, or on what issues, he had dissented since coming to Washington. "The difference between now and the old days is that when I dissent I do it in private." We turned to a discussion of the American image. I asked if it was difficult conveying that image abroad and Murrow said it was. "We're handicapped in being a very complex society that takes a high degree of literacy to understand. The system is tough to explain, a fact we must accept."

I remembered a line from a book, Image of America, by a French Dominican priest and an authority on international affairs, Father R. L. Bruckberger, who said, ". . . the greatest fault you have . . . is the inability to make yourselves known for what you are. Americans, you are not easy to understand, and perhaps for that very reason you are hard to love." I asked Murrow if it was true that Americans are not very well loved in many places.

"Yes, in some places we do have an unfavorable image. It's partly, as I said, that the system is hard to explain. Part of it is the price a country pays for having great power. Part of it is because of a certain image of ourselves that comes from movies, TV, and printed money which gives a distorted picture of crime, violence and sex, as though those are really all we have. And part of it is due to the picture which some people have of this being a 19th century capitalist operation, which, of course, it isn't."

Did he think, as some have said, that the country lacked dynamic ideas? "No," Murrow said. "We have our basic and revolutionary goals in our documents, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This nation has never been allergic to change. Ours was the first of the great modern revolutions and it's a birthright we can't let go by default. The United States should offer its experience and energies to the world."

Was the USIA strictly a tool of the Cold War? "This Agency was never designed as a provocation to anyone. We are fighting against poverty, disease and ignorance. We are fighting for enlightenment—not to capture the minds of men but to free them. I can't imagine the circumstances—including the absence of a Cold War—in which the USIA would be unnecessary."

And you try to tell the truth? "Yes. We also attempt to reflect meaningful dissent. We work on the assumption that everything we do is subject to comparison, though this isn't always the case, strictly speaking. But our idea is that if we don't tell the bad things somebody else will. It's better that it should come from us. This establishes credibility. In the fiasco of the Cuban invasion, for instance, we didn't try to temper the wind. We deliberately reflect significant controversy, partly because there is so little of it in many places. It arouses curiosity. Of course, when something is contrary to official policy—like the bus burning in Alabama—we point that out."

Out of what controversy have you gotten significant mileage? "The President's handling of the steel issue was a big plus for us. The Russians say the country has one law for the rich and another for the poor. The steel issue showed that there wasn't."

Do you spend most of your energies attacking the Soviets? "We're probably less heavy on the anti-communist stuff than formerly. We've found that it's more important to show our side—to be positive rather than negative."

What, on a policy level, would you regard as the USIA's greatest accomplishment since you've been in Washington, I asked. Murrow pondered, his hand stroking his tie. When he inhales, he makes a sucking noise, I noticed. He said finally, "The eight-month delay, in 1961, of U.S. resumption of nuclear testing in the atmosphere, after the Soviets had resumed their tests. I wanted the delay, to let the Russian breaking of the test moratorium to sink in. It gave us a chance to explain thoroughly to the world why we did have to resume. When we did, there was remarkably little criticism."

Where did the USIA stand in the deliberations about what to do in the Cuban crisis? "I'm afraid I can't say," Murrow said. "I was flat on my back. Being out of action then was the most frustrating experience of my life."

You once said that you were a poor administrator. Would you still say that's true? "I'm not sure I'm so good at administration but I'm sure I can do it, though I don't particularly like it."

Why do you think you work so hard? "Because of early indoctrination. If I weren't doing something I'd feel guilty. That's why I can't take a vacation. It's an irrational, contemptible attitude, I know."

Are you happy at the USIA? Will you stay on here? Murrow sucked and pondered deeply. "I've never worked harder and never been happier. I don't miss broadcasting a bit. It would be fun to give a few seminars a week on government and read the books I've never had time to. But as to the future, I've never had a horizon of more than 90 days."

Leaving Murrow, I checked with other USIA officials on what Murrow had accomplished in Washington. "Of course he was involved in the Cuban crisis," one high USIA administrator said. "He made key calls during the decisive week from his sick bed. It's a reasonable surmise that the Agency advised strongly that the use of an invasion or air strike in Cuba would have unfavorable reactions abroad, especially Latin America. He has had a strong effect on our policy in West Berlin, and he was instrumental in bringing Vice-President Johnson over when the wall was built. He's brought a quality of imagination and high purpose and he's lifted morale: when Murrow says he could compete with any commercial media outfit with the staff he has it's for internal consumption. Murrow has his faults—maybe, as an administrator, he doesn't dig deep enough and he hasn't shaken things up here as much as some would have liked—but he's worked like hell. He's the best director we've had."

If part of the American image is the old, improbable, rags-to-riches story, Murrow fits that, too. "He's very proud of his poor background," Downs said. "I think he regards his wealth and fame as a big joke." Murrow himself says, "I can't remember a time when I didn't have to work."

Christened Egbert Roscoe, Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, on a small farm at Pole Cat Creek, North Carolina. When Murrow was 4, his father moved to the state of Washington, where prospects looked better, taking a job as a farmhand near Blanchard, north of Seattle. For a time, the Murrow family lived in a tent. Murrow's father eventually went to work on a logging railroad, as a locomotive engineer, and Murrow did odd jobs there too. During high school, he drove the school bus.

Murrow wanted to attend an Eastern university; he worked for two years with a timber gang to save the money before deciding he couldn't save enough. He attended several Western colleges, majoring in speech and acting, and graduated with good marks. One man who went to college with Murrow claims that he could sit through classes without taking a note and later rattle off the lectures almost verbatim. Murrow's original choice of a career doesn't reveal any burning ambition for money and fame. He worked for a student organization arranging student tours to Europe, at a salary of $25 a week. He then became vice-president of the Institute of International Education, also at low pay. Attracted by his title, a small women's college offered Murrow the job of president, an offer that was immediately withdrawn when the college learned that he was only 26.

In 1935, Murrow went to work for CBS as director of talks and special events. I was curious to know what his early associates in broadcasting thought of him and checked with John Gude, now a performers' agent, who knew Murrow then. "Well, he was the smokingest man I'd ever met," Gude said. "No notice was taken at the time of Murrow's sonorous voice. He was discreet, quiet, pleasant, a hell of a nice guy to drink or play poker with. If anybody had asked me whether he would go places I would have said I never thought of it but maybe he will."

Murrow started going places, at least geographically, in 1937, when he was offered a job as head of CBS European radio, the network's former top correspondent having quit because he saw no future in overseas news. CBS itself considered the assignment routine. Murrow's job was to arrange cultural shows, concerts and the like, but he had ambitious ideas about putting on programs like Saturday Night in the Spread Eagle Pub at Little Barfield, Sussex, which he later did. He still wasn't a broadcaster—"Why would I have become one, with a job like that?" he once said—and was made one by the march of events. When Hitler took over Austria, Murrow decided to cover it, chartering a 27-passenger plane, the only one available, and flying to Vienna where he broadcast for 10 days, establishing not only himself but the concept of the foreign radio correspondent.

Murrow had been deeply concerned with the rise of Hitler almost since its beginning—he participated in an early project to bring German scholars out of the country—and Kenneth Holland, president of the Institute of International Education and an old Murrow friend, believes that "Murrow made the greatest contribution of any American toward the understanding, before the war, of what Nazism meant."

Among correspondents he was known as a daredevil who took terrible chances despite strenuous efforts of CBS to stop him. Murrow, for example, drove around during the bombings in an open car and went out on at least 25 bombing missions. On one of them, five planes carried correspondents but only one, Murrow's, got back. As to why Murrow felt compelled to risk his neck, Raymond Swing, a correspondent now with the USIA, said to me, "Murrow felt that a correspondent shouldn't be making a living off the war with no danger. It isn't that he's a daredevil. It's just that he felt guilty."

After the war, it was commonly felt that radio news had no future. Murrow felt differently, which was one reason he accepted a job as CBS vice-president. As such, Murrow felt he could hold together his staff—such newsmen as William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, LeSueur and Downs—until the tide turned. Murrow also had ambitions about making radio, and later television, "adult and intelligent," as he said. "Murrow's second big contribution," Holland said, "was to show the potentials of television documentaries, which he did with 'Person to Person' and 'See It Now.'"

Murrow's conscience led him to take on the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, and his surgical exposé of McCarthy's methods and personality is believed to have been the turning point in the senator's career. "It was very brave of Murrow," a friend said. "The night that show went on, Murrow didn't know if he'd have a job in the morning." Murrow himself was still not satisfied. "He worried," Downs said, "whether he'd exposed McCarthy too late."

Murrow was still feuding with broadcasting standards—he once suggested that every sponsor donate one hour out of every 52 to public affairs shows, an idea that was received in stony silence. He had the temerity to criticize the quality of television but whether, without the USIA job, he would have quit, is a matter of debate. Murrow, with his usual tact, says no, but others say yes. "He'd reached the point of no return," Gude said. "He was continually upset by the network's notion that newscasters shouldn't be interpreters." Others feel that the real source of friction between Murrow and the network brass was that Murrow had gotten too big for corporate vanity to tolerate. "Anyway," says Swing, "Murrow had reached his point of greatest expansion in television. There wasn't enough left for him to do that he hadn't done. If he had stayed where he was he couldn't have kept growing."

Actually, Murrow had a chance to get into politics in 1958 when he was offered the New York nomination to run for the Senate, with the backing of all factions of the Democratic Party. "I think he could have won," said Governor Harriman, who lost to Governor Nelson Rockefeller in the same year. Murrow decided, he says, "that politics wasn't for me. Politics requires a special appetite for public office, a desire for unlimited exposure and an undiscriminating liking for people. I don't have any of these qualifications. It's a fair assumption that I won't run for office in 1964, either."

Those close to Murrow were somewhat surprised when he got the USIA bid, considering that Murrow, during the 1960 Democratic convention, said on air that Senator Kennedy had not shown the amount of humility that Murrow felt was needed for the office. Kennedy's offering his critic the job evidently satisfied Murrow, and he went to Washington, on the condition that he would have a voice in making policies that the USIA would support before the world.

Murrow's relations with the President are said to be friendly though not intimate, and marked by mutual respect. "The President," a man who knows both of them said, "likes a person like Murrow who can come in, speak his piece candidly and get out, which Murrow, with his gift for the right words, can do. The President doesn't like long-winded people, which Murrow isn't."

When Murrow arrived in Washington he deliberately set out to "acquire anonymity," as he put it. "He'd walk down the street with well-known politicians, and people would say 'Hello, Ed,' which embarrassed him," Janet Murrow said.

Murrow does relax once in a while, as when, infrequently, he goes to his 300-acre farm at Pawling, New York, for a few days' rest. He likes machinery and drives a tractor, plowing fields. There is a small dam on his property that he built. On such vacations Murrow will wear blue jeans and not shave for days at a time. Another Murrow delight is to take off in a car with his son Casey, now 16, and drive cross-country, fishing on the way. He has tried it once since joining the USIA, and got as far as Salt Lake City before being called back.

In Washington, Murrow and his wife live simply, with one car and one servant. "I do as much of my own work as I can," Mrs. Murrow said, "because I fear there may be some kind of upheaval in the world and I want to know that I can take care of myself."

Murrow gets to Burning Tree Country Club now and then, for a fast left-handed game of golf, which he shoots in the low 80's, and he might drop in, unannounced, at his old friends, the Downses, on the way home. "Sometimes he throws a football with my kids," Downs said, "but mostly we reminisce. Murrow's got a million anecdotes. I know a man who traveled in South America with him. He says that Murrow told anecdotes for three weeks and didn't repeat himself once.

"Sometimes, too, we watch television. We did that last election night and had a good time—two warhorses criticizing the new methods. Murrow is a hell of a lot of fun. Of course, he does brood and work himself to death. He has a tremendous love for this country. That's why he gets so mad when we goof. Murrow's one of those guys like Elmer Davis was—he's never lost his ideals, as most of us old men have. Murrow's still got that fire in his belly. He's still trying to do good."

– Arthur Herzog