February 28, 2017

1943. The German Blitzkrieg on Kharkiv

The Wehrmacht Encircles Kharkiv
Soldiers of the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf enter Kharkiv in March 1943 (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

Bill Downs visited Kharkiv in the weeks before the Nazis retook the city.

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

CBS Moscow

March 15, 1943

This morning's communiqué from the Soviet high command announced that the Red Army on one sector of the Kharkov front had withdrawn to a new line of defense. It was not specified in which sector the withdrawal took place. Fighting (in the city) against the German attack north, west, and south of Kharkov is now more bitter and bloody than any time since the new Nazi counteroffensive began (at the end of February).

The communiqué issued this morning speaks of hand-to-hand fighting. Six hundred Germans were killed in one sector alone. However, it was the second withdrawal in the past two days that the Soviet communiqués have announced. (Yesterday the Red Army troops defending the western sector of the city were forced back to new lines.)

It is still too early in the battle to get a clear picture of what is happening down at Kharkov. The new German counteroffensive has been underway just two weeks.

However, you can get an idea of the immensity of the fighting in Kharkov and in the Donbass from German losses in this fighting, which I rounded up from the Russian communiqués.

In the past two weeks, the Nazi forces have lost 66,000 men in this fighting. The Soviet high command said that 20,000 of these soldiers were killed in the first week's fighting alone.

German tank losses listed in the Russian communiqués during the past two weeks total 2,700 tanks destroyed or disabled.

On all sectors of the thousand-mile Russian front, some 455 German planes were shot down. It was not specified just how many of these were destroyed on the Kharkov front, but there must have been a good many.

After the Red Army captured Kharkov last February 16th, the German command concentrated and reformed over 250,000 men for a counter blow. This was in addition to forces already fighting west of Kharkov and in the Donbass. The blow came two weeks later.

Russian military analysts writing in the Moscow papers say the German offensive has achieved what it has because the Red Army infantry could not keep up with the fast-moving tanks and artillery forces which formed the vanguard of the immense Russian winter offensive.

These strong spearheads were tough enough to kick the Germans out of their complete winter line and advance beyond. But the Russian vanguard forces by their very nature did not constitute a holding force.

The German command has thrown a Sunday punch aimed at the solar plexus of the Russian winter offensive line. However, this tremendous blow already has (partially) been parried.

(The Red Army felt the sting of this blow and has already absorbed a lot of its power.)

But no one in Russia is kidding themselves about the seriousness of the new offensive. Every military leader in the Soviet Union, from Stalin on down, has been warning for weeks that the German command was capable of launching new adventures. This is one of them. (And how it develops is going to be important to the battle that the United Nations throughout the world is fighting against the Axis.)

Meanwhile, it is comforting to examine the figures of those Nazi losses. In the past two weeks they have lost over six divisions of infantry and enough tanks to form ten tank divisions.

To use the vernacular, the losses are not military hay.

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

March 17, 1943

The counteroffensive which the Germans launched with twenty-five fresh and reformed divisions at the end of February, today appears to have been slowed by stiffening Red Army resistance.

First details of this fighting on the middle reaches of the northern Donets river southeast of Kharkov reached Moscow this morning. These front reports seem to indicate that the Soviet forces have stiffened their resistance along the southwestern bank of the northern Donets and are furiously beating off most Nazi attempts to push them across to the other side of the river.

However, it is too early to say that the German advance has been halted. The fighting along this front is touch and go, with the Red Army taking the initiative away from the Germans on one day and then losing it the next.

The fighting on one small sector of the front may find Red Army units in full attack, while on a neighboring sector they are being pushed back to the river. Fortified points have changed hands several times in twenty-four hours—the Soviet troops holding the positions at night while German troops retake them in the daytime.

(In many ways, this fighting has assumed the character of a barroom brawl—a brawl which now hangs in the balance as to which side will eventually come out on top in this fighting.)

At some points the Red Army has pushed back to the northern Donets, and today there is fierce fighting for the ferry crossings. On these sectors, the Germans have used as many as sixty tanks at a time to wedge into the Russian lines.

The Germans in the new counteroffensive have organized military "goon squads" of highly mobile tank groups which stand ready behind their lines to make a thrust at any given point along the Russian lines.

The German command uses these goon squads to maintain the tempo of its drive and at the same time uses them as troubleshooters to back up Nazi troops which have gotten themselves into trouble.

Soviet reconnaissance has reported those mobile tank squads operating one day at one sector of the front—and then on the next day another sector sixty miles away.

There is one significant fact about the ability of these squads to operate with such speed and at such range. It reveals that the full spring thaw has not yet set in on this sector of the front, as for example it has in the Kuban.

Front reports say that there still is snow in the ravines and on the shady sides of the hills along the middle reaches of the northern Donets. And night frosts are still keeping the ground fairly solid.

Some of the fiercest fighting is going on around the Izyum bend of the northern Donets. Here for many days the battle has seesawed back and forth. The Red Army made a night attack and captured some commanding heights over the battlefield. The Germans threw in a large number of aircraft and succeeded in taking the position back. But another Red Army attack drove the Nazis out.

Today the fighting for these most important positions is still raging.

February 27, 2017

World War III: "Russia's Rebirth" by Senator Margaret Chase Smith

Russia's Rebirth
"Senator Margaret Chase Smith arrives at the Republican National Convention, in Daly City, California, in 1964" (source)
In 1951, Collier's magazine published a special issue entitled "Preview of the War We Do Not Want" speculating about a hypothetical World War III and what it might look like. The war begins in 1952 and ends in 1955 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by a UN occupation of Russia. Writer Robert E. Sherwood provided an extensive history of the war.

A number of other notable figures contributed fictional reports about the war and its history, 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, and Arthur Koestler.

Here, Senator Margaret Chase Smith gives a statement about the women of Russia following her visit to the country at the end of World War III.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, p. 83:
Russia's Rebirth


(Statement by Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine After her tour of Russia in 1956)

For the past three months I have seen, touched and smelled indescribable destruction—the chaos and desolation that is Russia today. Yet in that destruction—the greatest in the world's history—I saw real assurance of a permanent peace.

Perhaps I can describe my feelings as a woman in this way: like a mother dying in childbirth, the last war has produced a sprawling, vigorous infant of peace; a child which has a better chance to grow into full maturity than his predecessors not only because the last of the evil dictatorships has disappeared, but also because Russia's women for the first time are free.

As the bearers of children, women are the producers of life, the inherent protectors of life and the greatest opponents of war and bloodshed. Today, with the man power of Russia drained by the demands of World War III, Russia's women, by sheer weight of numbers alone, can influence and help to shape the future of their great nation.

Everywhere I saw and felt a great sense of relief on the part of Russian women that this war was over. True, the bombs of the free forces destroyed many of their homes, killed many of their loved ones—but they also smashed the chains of slavery which bound Russia's womenfolk.

In every war, it has been said, women suffer most. In World War III, which has just ended, there is an exception to the rule. Certainly the women of Russia suffered during the years of the war. But they had suffered far worse during the 38 years under the Reds' regime. Indeed, it is safe to say that for many of them, the first great relief they experienced was when the conflict actually began; for it is abundantly clear now that they considered war inevitable, whereas the West did not.

The women of Russia no longer fear that revolver butts will hammer on their doors in the dead of night; they no longer live in terror that their menfolk will be arbitrarily snatched from them and sent to the frozen wastes of Siberia. Never again will their homes and lives be smashed by the cruel demands of a police state.

In Russia today, so far as the women are concerned, history is repeating itself. Ten years ago the women of another dictatorship—a police state which felt the searing impact of the world's first atomic bomb—gave the world a remarkable demonstration of their newly found freedom. In a defeated, prostrate Japan they thronged to the polls in the first general election to raise their voices for peace. Japanese women—some of them carrying their children on their backs—cast ballots for the first time in their nation's history and secured a voice in the future of their country.

No such general elections have yet been held in Russia; the country is still governed by a provisional government. But the day is not far distant when the women of Russia will have the right to cast their ballots in free elections to help give their nation a strong government, one which will guarantee them the same sort of freedom that we know in the Western World. In that way they can ensure that war will never again ravage their country.

Today the women of Russia are no longer slaves forced to work in the fields like animals; nor are they merely tolerated that they may bring children into the world, fulfilling the insatiable demands of the totalitarian state. Already they are free; they have a voice in the rebuilding of the New Russia. And I believe they can be counted on, for wherever you find the woman's voice granted even an approach to parity with that of the man, you will find a more peaceful nation. This is one of Russia's brightest hopes.

February 26, 2017

1948. War of Nerves Behind the Iron Curtain

Developments in East Germany
"An automobile arriving from the eastern sector of Berlin is halted by West Berlin police in 1953" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

October 2, 1948

In Germany, as in America, the main topic of conversation these days concerns the fate of the "Rot Strümpfe" (Red Sox), the "Hochrots" (Cardinals), the Yankees, and the Dodgers in the current American and National League Championship Playoffs.

Such questions as the East-West Cold War, the threat of another Berlin crisis, and the Tito-Cominform break are taking a back seat among Americans here. And every night at 9:30, virtually the entire American colony can be found at home beside the radio listening to the American Forces Network shortwave broadcast of the games.

A German liaison official the other day asked me to explain the principles of "basa-ball." The process included explaining the name "Rot Strümpfe," the Red Sox, has no political implications, that there are no known Communists in the Cincinnati Reds, and that, just because Ted Williams plays left field, it does not mean he is a Socialist, Marxist, or otherwise.

Things should return to normal after the World Series.

Today is another one of those Communist-sponsored "peace days." Throughout the Russian zone of Germany mass meetings are being held. In the communities along the East-West zonal borders, the Soviet guards have let down the barriers and thousands of East zone Germans are reported to be swarming across into the American and British zones, ostensibly to demonstrate the German desire for unity and spread the word of how good things are behind the Iron Curtain.

Actually, as happened a couple of weeks ago during similar demonstrations, the East zone residents take the lifting of the border gates as an opportunity to come into Western zones to do some shopping, visit friends, and generally make a holiday of it.

The occasion also is a golden opportunity for political refugees to escape the Soviet zone.

Here in Berlin, the so-called peace rallies also are marked by demands for what they call an "all-German government." The Red Army newspaper Tägliche Rundschau this morning carries a series of resolutions from workers' organizations calling for an East German government to represent all the German population and reject the puppet government established in Bonn.

This move is assessed here to be the first step toward establishing some form of East German government, and perhaps for new elections some time before the first of the year.

The American-licensed newspaper Tagesspiegel today claims to have information that since the first of September thirty-two Russian military trains from Poland have passed through the rail center of Küstrin headed south for Hungaria. These trains, according to the newspaper, move only at night on an express, clear-track basis. German railroad personnel, it is said, are not allowed to speak to the Soviet guards.

If this is another part of the war of nerves being waged here against Yugoslavia, then it certainly is succeeding. In isolated Berlin, West sector Germans—and foreigners too, for that matter—feel they have plenty to worry about if trouble breaks out in Southeast Europe.

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

February 25, 2017

1968. Will the Vietnam Conflict Spread to Neighboring Countries?

Intelligence Reports of North Vietnamese Troops in Laos and Cambodia
An American reconnaissance unit moves through the jungle in Vietnam with elephants being used to transport supplies, June 27, 1964 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

January 4, 1968

The question which is uppermost in the minds of official Washington concerning the spate of peace rumors from Southeast Asia is this:

Is the US bombing finally driving Hanoi to the negotiating table as designed, or are the North Vietnamese engaged in a massive diplomatic maneuver in conjunction with Red China to gain time and prepare to spread the war to Laos, Thailand, and now, even Cambodia?

The abrupt about-face of Prince Sihanouk to reopen diplomatic channels with the United States concerning American military action against Viet Cong forces using Cambodia as sanctuary is important. It indicates that Sihanouk, as the Thailand government did last year, decided to join the West as a method of keeping the conflict from engulfing his country. Or perhaps the Cambodian Prince decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon because an Allied victory is near.

But what worries US officials here are the reports from Laos that North Vietnamese regular army units are showing up in substantial numbers to the west. And intelligence from northern Thailand indicates that the Red Chinese are increasing their support to Communist-led insurgent groups which already control islands of remote Thai territory through Viet Cong terror tactics.

For these and other reasons and other reasons, both the State Department and the Pentagon view the diplomatic maneuvering now underway in a half-dozen world capitals with the utmost caution.

This is Bill Downs reporting from Washington.

February 24, 2017

Edward R. Murrow: A Giant of Broadcasting and Voice of History

Review of "Prime Time" by Alexander Kendrick
Edward R. Murrow on board a military plane during his time covering the Korean War in the early 1950s (source)
Below is historian Eric F. Goldman's review of the biography Prime Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow by Alexander Kendrick. From The New York Times, September 28, 1969:
Edward R. Murrow, a Giant of Broadcasting Who Was Often the Voice of History


Who of us with gray in our hair can fail to remember—and remember with a rush of emotions—the crisp, measured voice over radio telling of the clomp of Nazi boots into Vienna, "This is London . . . London is burning, London is burning," then the voice and the creased forehead and the curling cigarette smoke on "See It Now," "This is Berlin," "This Is Korea," the magnificent night when a TV celebrity looked grimly into the camera and read Senator Joseph R. McCarthy a lesson in rudimentary decency, evening after evening the news reports and trenchant commentary going out to millions, and always "Good night and good luck." The career of Edward R. Murrow is entwined with the experience of a whole generation. Now, happily, this biography proves worthy of its subject—a richly informed, incisive, pungent book, admiring and affectionate but not forgetting the Murrow canon that candor is a high form of devotion.

Alexander Kendrick, a veteran journalist who knew his subject intimately as one of the "Murrow boys" at C.B.S., does not stint on the intriguing vignettes resulting from Murrow's endless connections with the important figures of his era: Winston Churchill, asked to redo his greatest speech for radio transmission, repeating "We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight on the beaches . . ." then cupping his hand over the microphone and adding, "we'll hit them on the head with beer bottles, which is all we have to fight with"; Robert Kennedy, formerly an aide of the Joe McCarthy committee, appearing at a dinner after Murrow had tongue-lashed the Senator, and getting up and ostentatiously walking out when Murrow rose to make the principal speech; President Franklin Roosevelt on the evening of Pearl Harbor, talking to Murrow past midnight over sandwiches and beer in the White House, his face gray with fatigue, pounding fist on table as he told of the Japanese destruction of American planes "on the ground, by God, on the ground!"

Murrow glided to success in the mass media. He came along just when radio was undergoing rapid expansion and television was being born. Both were wide open to talent, and he had assets galore—not only a compelling voice and a videogenic face but superb reportorial instincts and a sure sense of the men to gather around him. Yet Murrow's swift rise is hardly the real story. He was not only a great success but one of a particular kind, and this came from resources within him and bred into him.

Like so many Americans of the early 1900s, the Murrow family picked up and went West—in their case, from a farm on Polecat Creek, North Carolina, to the lumber areas of the state of Washington. Unlike most Americans, the Murrows lived with a goad, the Quaker variety, not so much the placid father, a railroad man for the loggers, but the tiny, bustling Mrs. Ethel Lamb Murrow. She kept an untiring eye on the character development of her three boys, perhaps most especially her youngest, Egbert (she never really approved of his changing the name to Edward).

At a little cow college in Pullman, Wash., the youth came under the influences of a second fervently idealistic woman, Prof. Ida Lou Anderson, polio victim with an iron determination to install personal independence and a love of learning in her students. She adopted Murrow as her "masterpiece," and he reciprocated the devotion in full kind.

All the while he was responding to the Washington of the second decade of the 20th century, where the winds of progressive politics and radical agitation blew strong. And then there was the young man himself, with the thin, earnest face, the driving energies, the conscience-lashed attitudes. His mother picked him as the one of her boys to become a preacher, and the high school classbook prophesied he would return to reunions a professor, delivering lectures on social reform.

The mature Edward R. Murrow was hardly a saint, as Mr. Kendrick makes clear. He could take his pleasure in the trapping of status, and he was not immune to the blandishments of money, as when he interpreted high principles one way when they concerned him and another way when they affected a colleague. He was not particularly liberal in the broad sense of the word. Yet beneath all this was a quite special product of genes and external influence.

Basically, as a friend remarked, Murrow was a man of "almost mystical integrity," and in his reserved, faintly skeptical way he had the courage of a lion in defending it. Basically, too, he was an unreconstructed and unreconstructible Jeffersonian. He thoroughly respected the individual and individuality, ideas and the men who deal in them, controversy and dissent. He had an equally strong conviction that the communications media of any era bear an inescapable responsibility to provide the public with facts in meaty abundance and with unfettered comment on these facts, and that the American people, given such reportage, would respond by healthier public policies.

That was the nub of the increasing abrasion that developed between the television and industry—more and more profit-minded and managed by an insensitive bureaucracy—and its star public affairs man. Mr. Kendrick goes at the problem with thoughtfulness and vigor, but here his strengths bring weaknesses. Moved by a sense of social responsibility, he delays getting to the biography by a 31-page indictment of the television industry, the points of which are much better made by the narrative he has to tell. Anxious to underline how TV has submitted to the terror of Joe McCarthy, he makes his second chapter the account of Murrow's exposure of the Senator, which pulls it out of context and deprives it of considerable flavor. Angry and justly angry, he fails to analyze with sufficient care how the managers of television themselves became prisoners of a system.

Be that as it may, this biography raises again—and in a movingly human way—the all-too-familiar issues clustering around American radio and television. Can a system organized to produce profits for shareholders ever provide the extent and kind of public affairs programming a democracy needs and deserves? Will noncommercial media find the money or, having acquired it from Government sources, the freedom and the impetus to do the job? The comments on these points offered by the book are often suggestive, but they bring no great comfort. Murrow himself seems to have come out of his embattled experience uncertain—and lugubriously uncertain—whether the problem was more effectively approached from inside or outside the commercial networks.

He escaped C.B.S. by accepting the invitation of President Kennedy to head the United States Information Service, and to a degree he was leaving the frying pan for the fire. The United States has never been comfortable with the idea of Government propaganda; it has not thought through what it wants and does not want from an "information chief." Murrow's tenure was notable in important respects, but was disturbed by President Kennedy's wavering over what he sought from U.S.I.A. and even more by President Johnson's totally unconfused insistence that he wanted a merchandising of Administration policies.

There is poignance in the Murrow story. A man who lived so rich a life and achieved so much, he never really found a congenial niche. Yet that was the essence of the son of Ethel Murrow, Professor Anderson and the rambunctious Washington of the early 20th century; if he had been happy with the worlds in which he found himself, he would not have brought so much to them. And as fatal illness seized Murrow in the later U.S.I.A. days, he was leaving a memory consisting of no mere sentiment, and perhaps in his unpretentious way he knew it.

The other Washington, the national capital, is accustomed to the deaths of the celebrated. A Presidential statement written by a weary aide, a decent round of encomiums, then back to the business at hand. The death of Edward R. Murrow in 1965 brought a touch of something different, up and down the status scale and in the case of people of widely varying ideologies. After Murrow put on his McCarthy telecast, technicians in the nether regions of the network sent him several collective letters. He had made them "proud" to work for C.B.S. Perhaps what Washington was feeling at the news of his death—and what readers of this fine biography will surely feel—is that for a few golden years the United States had a TV leader somehow bursting through the cant and money-grubbing, a believably troubled man, who spoke to and for us the best in the national tradition.

Mr. Goldman was the moderator of a TV panel, "The Open Mind," and author most recently of "The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson."

February 23, 2017

1949. The "Little Blockade" of Berlin

Showdown at the Helmstedt-Marienborn Checkpoint
A crowd gathers at Stuttgarter Platz in the Charlottenburg locality of Berlin to celebrate the lifting of the blockade as buses prepare to leave for Hanover. The sign reads "Hurrah we still live," May 12, 1949 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 10, 1949

Russian orders for strict control of all truck traffic through the Soviet zone to West Berlin today has this city talking about another blockade.

The main autobahn from Hamburg to Berlin has been closed to trucking since Friday night, and to the south, crossings from Frankfurt and the Munich areas also have been banned. It isn't a blockade, strictly speaking, since the Helmstedt crossing point directly west of Berlin is allowing traffic through.

Immediately outside the city, the East German police again are erecting roadblocks to control truck shipments from the East. No fresh vegetables are being allowed there to the West Berlin sectors.

The only explanation of this increased regulation of shipments into the western parts of the city is that the Russian military government wants to stop the circulation of West Marks in their zone, and the present economic "cold war" between the competing zones to increase as far as possible the difficulties now facing the Western German industry and economy.

On the propaganda side of the East-West economic struggle, the so-called "free shops" in the Soviet zone—those uncontrolled stores where food, clothing, and scarce household goods are legally sold at black market prices—have announced that they are cutting prices forty to fifty percent. As the Communist press tells it: "This is a tremendous step forward, as compared with the Western zones where every fourth worker is unemployed or doing part-time labor . . . where bankruptcies are increasing."

In Munich yesterday, US High Commissioner John J. McCloy said that he would make a full investigation into reports that a number of former Nazis have infiltrated the West German administrations we have set up under military government. The investigation will center in Bavaria, where nationalism is most overt.

And a final note of political frustration: a group of politicians who have fled their jobs in the Soviet zone of Germany because of their trouble with the Communists are forming an organization. They met in Frankfurt yesterday, and one of the questions discussed was the formation of an exile government for the Soviet zone. It would be a German exile government of a government within a government within a government. You figure it out.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 11, 1949

Berlin has another "Little Blockade" on its hands today. Over the weekend, Russian authorities closed down truck traffic on eight of the nine main highways connecting this city with the West, and today they have put drastic restrictions on the only remaining route, limiting trucking to four vehicles per hour through the Soviet checkpoint at Helmstedt.

British authorities already have made the official protests. The Russians announce that an answer explaining their reasons for the new transport limitations is on its way to British headquarters today. The reply has not yet been received.

But whatever the Russian explanation, American authorities charge that the transportation restrictions are a clear violation of the New York agreement to lift the Berlin Blockade and normalize life in this city.

German truck drivers report that Soviet soldiers are inspecting every bit of cargo; that these inspections are so slow that only one truck can clear the Helmstedt checkpoint every fifteen minutes.

In one case this morning, a driver had to unload his entire freight for inspection by the Russian soldiers. This held up traffic for more than an hour. Normally, about sixty trucks can clear the border crossing an hour.

The deputy military commanders for the three Western Powers are expected to make further protests today, and if the matter is not cleared up satisfactorily, the problem probably will be turned over to the four governments involved.

The railroad traffic into the city is normal, as is barge traffic. The airlift continues to operate at full capacity. The trucks bring about one quarter of Berlin's supplies.

American, British, and French authorities are taking a very serious view of this latest Soviet move.

The modus vivendi era of good feelings appears to have lasted about one week. The pressure on Berlin has not been lifted. The pressure, it would appear, has only shifted.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 12, 1949

We are now awaiting word as to the fate of three airlift fliers, the crew of a Vittles plane that crashed and burned at 3:00 AM this morning in the Russian zone.

An American rescue party is in the vicinity fifty miles west of Berlin but has not yet located the wreckage. It is not known whether the crew succeeded in bailing out.

The C-54 plane was flying from the Celle Air Base in the British zone of Berlin. It was carrying ten tons of coal. Other airlift pilots said the ship burst into flames when it hit the ground.

Berlin's blockade troubles—the reason, incidentally, that American and British fliers are risking their necks here—well, the Little Blockade of Berlin is in its third day.

The Russian border guards are allowing only one truck through every fifteen minutes and giving each cargo a thorough inspection. However, the Soviet officers are under strict orders to slow down traffic and are operating strictly by the clock to allow only four trucks an hour to proceed to Berlin. More than three hundred trucks were lined up this morning waiting to get through.

The letter explaining the restriction of traffic which the Russian military government promised to deliver yesterday still has not shown up. However, the Communist newspaper Tägliche Rundschau carries a story this morning which will probably be the Soviet excuse for imposing the Little Blockade.

The paper said that Russian authorities were forced to shut down all but one border crossing point because truck drivers are wandering throughout the Soviet zone and carrying on black market trade. The drivers are charged with speculating with illegal West Marks to do this, thus endangering the economy of East Germany.

In a half hour from now, the four Berlin commandants will hold their first meeting under the Paris modus vivendi agreement. The purpose is to discuss normalizing the Berlin situation. The Little Blockade probably will be brought up, but it is considered unlikely that the situation will be settled on the Berlin level.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 13, 1949

Western authorities today are considering countermeasures against the Russian-imposed Little Blockade of Berlin as Soviet border guards continue to restrict truck traffic to this city to an average of four vehicles an hour.

American transportation officials would not confirm that the countermeasures under discussion meant a re-imposition of the Western counter-blockade. But both British and American officials regard the arbitrary Russian action as a serious violation of the Paris and New York agreements to return Berlin to normal.

A showdown may come tomorrow when a convoy of sixty US Army trucks carrying food supplies to the Berlin garrison will appear at the Helmstedt crossing point under orders to proceed to this city. The army truck convoy is described as a transport training maneuver and the first of a series of "weekly exercises." It is under military police guard, however neither the MPs nor the GI drivers will be armed if and when they drive through the Russian zone tomorrow.

Army truck-borne supplies to the Berlin military post would take considerable pressure off the airlift deliveries and leave more space on the planes for West Berlin stockpiles. The Russians are not being officially informed of the approach of the military convoy. They are traveling under US Army military orders.

This morning 320 German freight vehicles were lined up awaiting permission to pass through the checkpoint. From midnight to nine o'clock this morning, thirty-nine trucks were allowed through—this is slightly more than four an hour—however, this morning the Russian guards cut the average to three an hour, presumably to make up the difference.

In a reply to the British protest yesterday, the Soviet authorities said they had no knowledge of truck transport difficulties at the Helmstedt crossing point. Closing all but one crossing point en route to Berlin was merely following specifications of a Four Power agreement for this type of traffic. Western officials said they know of no such agreement.

As one German truck driver observed: "The whole thing smells fishy to me." His truck has been standing in line for two days with a load of fresh herring from Hamburg.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 14, 1949

Hundreds of freight trucks are roaring into Berlin from the West today as the unpredictable Russians suddenly lifted their Helmstedt traffic restrictions last night rather than face a possible showdown caused by the arrival of an American military convoy.

I just returned from Helmstedt a few hours ago and I saw sixty 10-ton US Army vehicles pass across the Soviet zonal border after being held up less than a minute while Army officers presented military orders to proceed to Berlin. The convoy is carrying supplies for the Berlin garrison, but technically officials say it is only a transport training exercise which the Army intends to practice every week by a convoy to the Berlin military post.

The Russian authorities, who since Saturday have been restricting German freight traffic to one truck every fifteen minutes, suddenly ended their Little Blockade at Helmstedt at about 6:30 last night. It was a half hour before the American convoy arrived a mile away to bivouac for the night. More than two hundred German trucks were lined up at the time. Then the German trucks began to be allowed through as fast as possible—about one every three minutes.

At six o'clock this morning only some fifty trucks were left in the line and the big 10-wheeled American trucks moved.

It was like the war days of the Red Ball Express that started in Normandy. The trucks were driven by Negro GIs of the crack 595th Transport Corps. Sure, the trucks were spick-and-span and washed and polished, but as they roared down the autobahn on this mission to Berlin it made my memory jump.

That's what every smart man did when you saw a Red Ball convoy rolling toward you, and that's what the Russians did this morning.

However, the Soviet military government has not climbed completely down from its arbitrary position of hindering truck traffic into this city. Helmstedt is still the only Western border point where truck traffic is allowed to cross. The half-dozen other Western crossings are still closed. And there is no guarantee that the Russians will not re-impose their slowdown traffic restrictions at any moment.

We will have to see just how permanent is this partial lifting of the Little Blockade.

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

February 22, 2017

1935. "The Man the World Watches: How Does Mussolini's Mind Work?"

"An Effort to Penetrate Behind the Dictator's Mask"
Benito Mussolini poses for a photo op in 1927 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Italy and Germany prior to World War II.

From The New York Times, September 1, 1935:

How Does Mussolini's Mind Work? An Effort to Penetrate Behind the Dictator's Mask


Two days before the harassed representatives of a befuddled Europe met recently in an unavailing effort to put a brake on him, Benito Mussolini made a pious and peaceful pilgrimage to a primitive old farmhouse in a hill village near his birthplace. He was accompanied by his wife, the unobtrusive Donna Rachele—Italy's forgotten woman—and the two sons, Bruno and Vittorio, who as volunteers are joining the flying corps in East Africa. The object of the family pilgrimage was to unveil a tablet, on the wall of the house where the Duce's father was born, in memory of "the peasant generations of the Mussolinis" who had lived and worked on the farm for 300 years.

Romagna, Mussolini's native province, is traditionally the most contentious in Italy. In pre-Fascist days it was noted for its Socialist peasantry, a rude and rebellious people of whom not the last radical was the obstreperous village blacksmith who was Benito's father. If there was true political instinct, too, in this alignment of Mussolini, the militant expansionist, with the peasant generations who suffer most for lack of space and outlets on their poor and overcrowded farms.

In the Romagna, against the long background of fierce and tenacious plowmen, many with the same strut, the same thrust of chin, it is easier to understand Mussolini than it is in London or New York. It is easier to understand him in Rome. He is a curious combination of Caesar and peasant, neither of whom, when you come to think of it, is very far from the primeval sources of power.

Mussolini is not far from the soil; seen in the fields, he is hardly to be distinguished from any other strong Romagnole farmer. During this Summer when he has had all Europe by the ears he has spent more time than usual in the country, as if deliberately placing himself in his peasant setting. He went to his farm before the Stresa conference; he was there when the League Council met in May and in July; he has a habit of retiring to his native province on the eve of important decisions. He says himself, and the country people echo him, that he goes back to the soil when he wants to think.

•   •   •

Now it has come to pass that we have reached a point, or he has reached a point, where what this one man thinks is of the utmost concern to the world. Thirty years ago the son of the peasant Mussolinis was a discontented country school teacher "on the run" for his radical opinions. Fifteen years ago he was a fiery editor little known in his own country, hardly heard of outside. Today the obscure journalist in what was then classed as a second-rate nation is a decisive factor in the international scale. His mental processes are eventful; they disturb the most powerful governments of Europe and are of tremendous consequence in the life of two continents.

It is strange to observe how other problems have receded into the background before Mussolini's threat of war. German rearmament, the Eastern pact, the Nazi drive on the Memel and Danzig, Austrian independence—all these questions are of secondary interest. You can travel from capital to capital and hear next to nothing about the danger of European conflict or the shattered plans for collective peace. In a world sick to death of sensations and alarms, tired of headlines, tired of plans, tired of revolutions, nothing registers, nothing seems real, until it is imminent. The only new event people can bear to face is the unavoidable event immediate in prospect. If Mussolini has aspired to hold the almost undivided attention of Europe, his ambition is fulfilled. For the moment he has become the world problem, the question mark overshadowing all other questions.

This is the historic but unremembered effect of dictatorship: the dictator grows more potent than his country. When concentrated in a single will, national energy is actually more restless and more formidable than when it is frittered away in the diversions and divisions of democracy. To this extent democratic government is the surest safeguard against aggressive war. The better the dictator—and as dictator Mussolini shows genius not only in administration but in allowing no power to escape out of his own hands—the more unchecked and threatening to other nations is this personified national force.

•   •   •

The Italian dictator has reached the crisis of his astonishing career. Let no one suppose that on the chance of acquiring the first slice of an empire he does not realize that he is staking his own fate, the future of his country, the Wilsonian dream of a League of Nations. The enormous risks he takes are for something more than overlordship at Addis Ababa. The British did not see at first, did not see until they felt, that a great white colonization on the uplands of Africa must lead at last to the domination by those colonists of the whole black empire.

Mussolini is putting dictatorship itself to the supreme test. Contemporary dictators in Russia, in Germany, in Turkey, have gone further than any of their prototypes in changing and standardizing life and thought within their domains, but Mussolini is the first ruler since Napoleon by his own will, without external provocation or internal propulsion, to lead his people into a campaign of conquest. Whatever the role the Duce plays in his own country, instrument of destiny or condottiere, outside he is significant as the exemplar of the dictatorship principle as it affects world affairs. This is an aspect of one-man government which multiple-minded governments are just beginning to consider.

There would be more point in underlining all this if Mussolini did not do it for himself with superb exaggeration. He is the journalist come to power, and the tabloid headliner has nothing to teach him except that even the subway reader gets bored by daily repetitions of the same headline. Hitler is the agitator, perhaps the most successful of all agitators, crowned by the vote of his audiences. Kemal Ataturk is the soldier who fought his way to supreme command of a nation. Stalin is the type of dictator most familiar to democracies, the political boss who organizes his own machine and outwits or outlaws his rivals. Mussolini is agitator, ex-combatant, party boss, but mostly he is the phrase-maker who wrote his way to power. He did not make many speeches before he took over the government. His party was comparatively small. He rose to the top on the headlines of his own newspaper; he maintains his eminence by dictating the headlines of every newspaper in Italy.

•   •   •

What is behind the phrases? In recent months, particularly in recent weeks, it has become terribly clear that Premier Mussolini means the thunderous words he has been uttering for the last decade. These broadsides are not bombast or bluff, as many people thought. If his militant utterances were ever rhetorical, now they have the weight of facts. And as the threatening words turn into threatening facts the world is forced to take a new look at the man who boasts that Italy means to take what she wants by her own force, "with Geneva, without Geneva, or against Geneva." How does he get that way? people wonder. What forces and motives move him? Is he intoxicated by power? Living amid the echoes of his own voice, has he conjured up an Italy that does not exist? What is the true measure of this man Mussolini?

These are questions very difficult to answer. Though the Italian dictator is more accessible to foreigners than most European statesmen, nobody really knows him or how his mind works. He has been interviewed hundreds of times. His face and figure are as well known to movie audiences the world over as those of any other actor on the screen. He has expressed himself on nearly every subject under the sun. He has been described in all languages and he has written copiously himself and about himself. For all that, his personality eludes analysis. The only man in public life as easy to talk to as Mussolini is President Roosevelt, and behind the openness and charm of both lies something always fluid and unfathomable.

The best one can do, in an effort to outline the man hidden by the headlines, is to string together a few purely personal impressions, gathered over a term of years. By chance it happened that I heard Mussolini's first speech in the Chamber of Deputies, back in the Summer of 1921. It was a very green and inexperienced observer who sat through the turbulent session in which the Fascists were first represented, one small party out of twenty-six. The name Mussolini meant nothing to me, but the effect of his measured words in reducing to utter silence a noisy mob which would listen to no one else was so impressive that I drew a laugh from a seasoned journalist by asserting, on no other evidence, that Italy was hearing its master's voice.

•   •   •

I mentioned that speech to the Duce this Summer. His response was characteristic. "Was it a good speech?" he asked. In the intervening years I have had the opportunity to interview Premier Mussolini several times, and some of the interviews have been at important moments in his career. One was shortly after the Matteotti murder, when he was ill and more shaken than he has ever been since, his eyes like black holes in his thin face. Another, when the Charter of Labor was promulgated and he was busy diagramming the Corporative Sate. Again on the triumphant night of the signing of the Four-Power pact, which represents his idea of the great organization of Europe—a concert of great powers instead of the League of Nations. In the following year he was concluding the Three-Power agreement with Austria and Hungary, a poor substitute for the larger plan, which was never put into effect, but a typical and pertinent example of his readiness to accept half measures if the whole is unattainable. And now at the most critical hour of all, when he is moving with a kind of fatal momentum on Ethiopia, stiffened in his course, if anything, but the opposing winds of world opinion.

•   •   •

During these years the Duce has changed greatly, in appearance, in manner, in mode of life. He has lost his hair, his slenderness, his look of the brooding poet, much of his pose. His truculent self-confidence, dating from his earliest youth, has developed into an easy assurance in power, on the surface never calmer and more insouciant than in the present tension. Physically he is more robust.

He is mellower and more domesticated, increasingly a family man. Much of his strength up to now has derived from an almost inhuman detachment, a complete subjugation of the personal to the public life. He is still a solitary, a man without intimates, either as friends or counselors, but for the first time the family is now rather conspicuously in the public eye. This applies not only to past generations, the peasant ancestors memorialized at the old farmhouse near Predappio. The sons of the Duce have been much in the spotlight this year as the youngest aviators to earn a license, and the son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano, recently elevated to the post of Minister of Propaganda, is certainly the youngest man to occupy that key position in a dictatorial regime. This emergence of the family is a new phase, observed by Italians with surprise and not a little uneasiness.

There has always been a sharp contrast between Mussolini at close range and Mussolini in the public tribune, a difference never so accentuated as at present. It is hard to believe that the fire-breathing orator exhorting the departing troops to conquer the Ethiopians and possess the whole country, "snapping his fingers" at the British, as he did at Eboli in July, is the same man who sits at his desk in Rome and discusses the subject with such an effect of reasonableness, a good temper and satiric humor. In an interview he is simple, candid and so receptive that you feel free to say things to him you might not dare say to an Under-Secretary—things it might be risky to say to any one else in Italy!

•   •   •

Of all the public characters I have interviewed, Mussolini is the only one who seems interested not only in what he says himself but in what you have to say; he appears to weigh your suggestions, solicits your opinions. Recently I had the temerity to suggest that he would have strengthened his position if he had taken the initiative in the Ethiopian dispute, demanding a League investigation of the capacity of the Negus's government to fulfill its vague obligation. He considered the idea as gravely as if it were new. "It has been in my mind," he said slowly. "Perhaps"— Nor did he evince any annoyance when I added that it was the friends of Italy, not her enemies, who were troubled by her present course.

No doubt the assumption of interest, the lively curiosity concerning the people he meets, is a flattering trick. Despite his uncanny memory for individuals, you feel that individuals exist only momentarily in Mussolini's world. You know he has no use for the opinions of women. He told me once that he detested society because it is dominated by women. He is not comfortable or at home in purely social contacts, has no small talk, little casual talk of any kind. He has never been known to attend a social function that he could avoid, and the official dinners or luncheons he feels obliged to give are rare and always given at a hotel.

•   •   •

Those who work under the Duce speak of him as temperamental, making instant decisions without explaining why to anybody and changing as quickly. He is not, however, subject to outbursts of temper, as Hitler is. A supreme opportunist, he is not impulsive, and he is so cautious in his acts that one cannot believe he has gone ahead in the present business without weighing carefully all the consequences. He boasts that he has no nerves. "What? Can't he sleep? That's bad," he said when some one told him that Dr. Ernst Hanfstaengl used to play for Hitler late at night when the Fuehrer could not sleep. "I never lose sleep. Nothing keeps me awake when I am ready to rest."

Perhaps more than any man living Mussolini has a talent for the art of government. In foreign policy he has not been happy; the successive combinations he has painfully worked out have never really clicked. At home, allowing for the limited resources and undisciplined individualism of Italy, he has weighed one interest against another with remarkable skill and success. Nevertheless, he is cloistered and somehow blunted by power.

In his guarded tower even the intelligent dictator, surrounded always by satellites and out of touch with the currents of public opinion, must be the first victim of the system. Where the press can register no opposition it is also valueless as an index of support.

Undoubtedly Mussolini has the temper of a dictator. "He's a natural!" exclaimed a well-known American entertainer after an audience. He is naturally intolerant of opposition. "You speak of unnecessary restrictions, said a distinguished Italian, wholly out of sympathy with the Fascist regime. "In reality there is no such thing as a partial dictator, in which people are half-bound and half-free. To be a successful dictator you must be a complete dictator. Mussolini understands that better than Hitler does. He keeps everything under his own hat, as we say. This is literally a one-man show. Whatever happens, this man gets full credit or full blame; he has no alibi."

In my first interview he stood at the end of the room with folded arms and beetling brow, the Strong Man of the early poses. Since, he has become progressively more genial, more at ease, more himself. Once I thought the swing and the swagger of his walk, the dilation of his eyes, which he seems able to lighten and darken at will, were posturings. Now I realize that they are part and parcel of the man, as natural to him as the jerk of his head when he laughs is characteristic of President Roosevelt.

They are of a place with his naive, almost childlike vanity. "Do you think my opinion has any value?" he has responded more than once to a question. "Do I look tired?" he asked, straightening sharply at a casual remark that he has had a hard day.

There is a table in a corner of a cafe in the town of Forli, capital of Romagna, where Mussolini used to sit at night when he was the shabby sub-editor of a little Socialist sheet, the Lotta di Classe. An old waiter recalls that he was always alone. He used to sit writing or brooding apart from the crowd. To this day almost invariably he spends his evenings alone. Only once during the Stresa conference did he join his colleagues after the daily sessions. He remained alone on the island; a guard watched him sitting solitarily at the window of his room, writing or reading until late in the night.

•   •   •

From Forli to Stresa represents a long jump, but Mussolini has played a lone hand all the way; with all his veerings and maneuverings the same hand. He is a dictator by temperament, and always has been; those who know him best say the only one able to influence him was his brother Arnaldo, in whose death he lost his best and most honest adviser. "If Arnaldo were alive," declared an admiring old friend in Milan, one of the first Fascists, "I don't believe Benito would have headed into England on the way to Ethiopia."

In the end Mussolini will probably be judged by the success or failure of the dangerous enterprise on which he is now embarking. The test of his dictatorship will be the condition in which he leaves his country. What he has accomplished will be forgotten if finally he leads the nation into disaster. It will be forgotten that he is pushed by a pressure greater than the force of his ambition, itself a symptom of that national claustrophobia for which so far the mind of the world has invented no cure of war. In the end he will probably be remembered for his personality more than for his achievements; so far, at least, it is impossible to assess one except in terms of the other.

Whatever you think of him, whatever the result of his dangerously explosive energy, Mussolini is bound to live as the most extraordinary figure of his period. Wandering about the Italy he works to remake in his image, I have often wondered what kind of subject he would be under his own dictatorship. And that is a question one might ask him—and which he'd thoroughly enjoy answering!

February 21, 2017

1943. Red Army Sappers

Engineers Build a Bridge to German-Held Territory
Red Army sappers in liberated Smolensk, September 1943 (source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

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

CBS Moscow

March 7, 1943

For some reason, the engineers are the forgotten men of every army. It's the same here in Russia, where they call them sappers as it is (?) America.

Still, this is the most technical of any war ever fought, and never have the engineers been so important. Particularly is this true in the Soviet Union, where the troops have to fight in weather and conditions ranging from the subtropical and mountainous Black Sea regions to the steppe and swamp lands of the north.

Here's the story of a bridge built last week somewhere along Russia's 1,200-mile front. This bridge had to be built right under the noses of German troops holding an important height on the opposite bank of the river. (The Axis forces had held these heights for many months, during which time they constructed concrete pillboxes and laid mines and barbed wire and made the whole position a minor sort of Verdun fortification.)

The Red Army engineers were ordered to build a bridge across this river so that tanks could be thrown into the battle when the final assault got underway.

There was ice on the river but it was beginning to melt. Water on top of the ice was several inches deep. First the engineers brought up a large amount of supplies at a position a quarter of a mile up river.

The Germans thought this was the site of the new bridge and began to blow these supplies sky high. Meanwhile, that night the engineers started to work opposite the main German positions. They crawled out on the ice and cut holes for the piling—then the supports were brought out. It was quiet at night and no nails could be pounded, so the engineers used screws instead. As dawn approached, the sappers had to cover up their work with snow so that the Germans wouldn't know what was going on.

This went on for four nights. The engineers got soaking wet—so wet that their clothing froze and many men lost their coats because the coats literally cracked off them.

This bridge had to be strong enough to hold tanks and artillery. Therefore it became necessary to do some pounding and make some noise in putting the final supports in. The artillery obliged one night by sending over a heavy barrage which made enough noise to keep the Germans listening for shells (and not hear the engineers at work on the river below them). The next night the air force did some bombing to keep the Jerries busy.

At dawn on the day of the attack, the engineers blew the bank of the river forming a road down to the bridge. The infantry fought its way across the ice. The tanks and guns rolled across the bridge.

The positions was taken. Soviet pilots did victory rolls over the battlefield.

And the engineers—well, the engineers just picked up their tools and then went to look for replacements of their clothing.

February 20, 2017

1945. War Correspondents Cover the Crossing of the Rhine

Reporters Join the Allied Invasion of Germany
"Ludendorff Bridge and Erpeler Ley tunnel at Erpel (eastern side of the Rhine) – First U.S. Army men and equipment pour across the Remagen Bridge; two knocked out jeeps in foreground" in Germany, March 11 1945 (Photo by Sergeant William Spangle - source)
From Broadcasting magazine, April 2, 1945, p. 17:
Reporters Covered Crossing Of Rhine From Plane Armada

From Piper Cubs, Flying Fortresses and other aircraft forming part of the air support for the Rhine crossings March 23, radio reporters covered one of the major military operations of World War II. While ship-side reports have figured in many of the outstanding broadcasts of the war, radio's coverage of the Rhine was characterized by a "bird's-eye view," although there were plenty of correspondents slugging along with the troops, and sharing their hazards.

500-Mile Armada

One of the former, NBC's John MacVane scored what appears to have been scoop with the first broadcast from the east side of the Rhine March 26, at 9 a.m. "Heroine" of Mr. MacVane's coups was the U.S. Army mobile transmitter "Jig Easy Sugar Queen". JESQ was the first mobile unit used to transmit broadcasts from the Normandy coasts, and has followed Gen. Eisenhower's armies into German soil. From the same transmitter MacVane was heard Saturday, 1:45 p.m. with a description of a tour of the Remagen bridgehead from the west side of the river. NBC's Army Hour on Sunday, March 25 included recording made on a plane, describing airborne troops jumping into Germany.

Herbert Clark, coming in from Paris on the Blue Network at 7:47 a.m. Saturday, March 24 claimed for his network the first broadcast announcement from Europe of an all-out Allied launching across the Rhine, pointing out that CBS was beaten to the gun by 30 seconds. A carefully worded message from Clark had tipped the network off to open at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than usual.

In the lead plane of a 500-mile long air armada Paul Manning, WOR-Mutual, recorded a description of the airborne invasion of Remagen. Disc was flown to Paris and heard on Mutual Saturday, March 24 5-5:15 p.m. Descriptions of the 9th Army crossings recorded in Piper Cub planes by UP's Ray Conger and Chris Cunningham came in on MBS at 10 a.m. and noon respectively the same day.

Dick Hottelet, one of the nine correspondents CBS had on the assignment, was forced to parachute to safety when the Flying Fortress in which he was accompanying the First Airborne Army, burst into flames just east of the Rhine. Hottelet jumped after the plane turned back across the Rhine, flew back to a transmitter to broadcast for CBS. Edward R. Murrow, CBS European chief, rode a British bomber towing a glider. Bill Downs, who came in Saturday 2:48 p.m. from some point in Germany rode "pig-a-back" in an American Thunderbolt fighter up and down the entire Rhine front.

Charles Collingwood, came in from Paris at 7:01 p.m. Friday with news of Third Army crossings and at 7:48 a.m. Saturday March 24 with news of the 9th Army crossings. Winston Burdett, CBS, with First Army, may have been east of the Rhine when he broadcast Tuesday 8-8:15 p.m., reporting "orders to strike east and keep rolling".

February 19, 2017

1968. America's "Nuclear Option" in Southeast Asia

Washington's Nuclear Option
"USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625) launches a Polaris A-2 missile from the surface off Cape Kennedy, Florida," April 20, 1964 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 12, 1968

The past few weeks of bad news from Korea and Vietnam has produced a flurry of worry and speculation here that the United States might be contemplating the use of tactical nuclear weapons to bring the Southeast Asian crisis under control.

Some reports were played up out of all proportion by so-called "revelations" that the US was stockpiling a nuclear arsenal in that part of the world.

The fact is that every American attack carrier on duty everywhere in the world has its store of nuclear armament, including those carriers now in the Gulf of Tonkin and the Sea of Japan.

The B-52 bombers who fly from Guam could just as well drop nuclear bombs on Vietnam as the conventional ones they now carry. Both strategic and tactical nuclear bombs are reported to be on US bases in Thailand, Okinawa, South Korea, and the Philippines.

And, of course, there are Polaris submarines which range the Pacific's international waters everywhere, from off Vladivostok to the Sea of Japan, and southward through the Gulf of Korea, the Formosa Strait, the Gulf of Tonkin, and the Gulf of Siam.

The point of all this is that it should be a surprise to no one that the United States for years has maintained a nuclear capability in the Western Pacific as part of the nation's normal security planning.

President Johnson has consistently refused to say that nuclear weapons will not be used in Southeast Asia—to do so would seriously limit his military options there and around the world.

Right now there are two powerful considerations which argue against the employment of even tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

First, the worldwide political repercussions would be tremendous, and would affect American prestige and possibly her global system of mutual defense alliances.

And secondly, there is the lack of so-called "nuclear targets" in Vietnam. For even the smallest tactical nuclear weapons in the US arsenal is designed for use against massed armies—or town-sized targets or fortifications.

And there just aren't any of those around the Marine base camp at Khe Sanh or the Demilitarized Zone.

This is Bill Downs in Washington for Information Reports.

February 18, 2017

1949. Fear Dominates Leipzig

The Attitude in Leipzig
Leipzig in 1949 (Photo by Renate Rössingsource)
From the Adelaide, Australia newspaper The Mail, March 12, 1949, p. 22:
Fear—Not Fair—Dominates Leipzig

What are things like at the Leipzig Fair—traditionally Europe's biggest and brightest showcase of international free trade? American broadcaster Bill Downs knows.

Speaking from the relative security of blockaded Berlin after the first peep American newsmen had got behind the Iron Curtain in many months, Downs reported:

"The fair today is an exhibit of shabby designs and unfilled orders. It is also an exhibition of the police State. All roads are blocked and people without proper credentials are not allowed to enter the city.

"The people of Leipzig hardly speak even to each other. Only after they had solidly established my identity as an American, and only when we were out of earshot of any potential secret police, would they talk of their poor creations, of their fear and hatred of the Communists—not only of the Soviet troops, who are well behaved there, but of the German Communists who have clamped a regime of fear on the zone.

"In the western zones of Germany people walk upright; there is an atmosphere of confidence and hope in everything they do. They fight, argue, and work hard.

"In Leipzig faces are yellow with malnutrition, the people's stride is a shuffle, and everywhere there is that fear of saying anything wrong, of offending the wrong person.

"There also is hate.

"A waiter in a restaurant, who said he was born in America, whispered to me as he served vodka: 'We don't need guns, we have a thousand butcher knives and the steel to sharpen them.'

"Another man was a prisoner of war in Texas. Since his return to Leipzig he has lost 40 lb.—and prefers the American prison camp.

"This oppressive atmosphere of fear I found in Leipzig, I found matched only in one other place—for a year I lived in Moscow. Returning to blockaded Berlin, I took a deep breath of fresh air.

"The real blockade is in Leipzig and the zone that surrounds it. There is a blockade of individual freedom."

February 17, 2017

1968. President Johnson on the Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Lyndon Johnson Faces a Nation in Shock

Bill Downs

ABC Washington

June 6, 1968

For Lyndon Johnson, this is the second time in five years that he has faced the nation in shared shock and indignation over a cruel and senseless assassination. The fatal shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy does not put as much pressure and strain on the Chief Executive as did the killing of President John Kennedy in November of 1968. Five years ago Mr. Johnson had to take over and learn the art of executive power in the most difficult and important job in the world.

But in many ways the assassination early yesterday of the second Kennedy brother presents a more difficult problem. It's no secret of the double-barreled clash between the New York Senator and Mr. Johnson—a clash of both personalities and domestic and foreign policy outlook.

If there was one area which each admired the other, it was in the field of politics. Senator Kennedy could and did differ on the pace and direction of the US government. In the political struggle fought between the White House and Capitol Hill, both men respected each other's political punch and footwork.

For this reason, President Johnson could pay this tribute today to the fallen New York Senator:
"Robert Kennedy affirmed this country; affirmed the essential decency of its people, their longing for peace, their great desire to improve conditions of life for all. During his life, he knew far more than his share of personal tragedy. Yet he never abandoned his faith in America. He never lost his confidence in the spiritual strength of ordinary men and women. He believed in the capacity of the young for excellence, and in the right of the old and the poor to a life of dignity."
Although far apart in background and personality, Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy had many things in common—a compulsion to work, fight, and win. Said the President, "Our public life is diminished by his loss."

Had Senator Kennedy lived, no matter what the outcome of the election, we can almost hear him paying the same kind of tribute at the retirement of President Johnson.

This is Bill Downs in Washington for ABC News.

February 16, 2017

World War III: "Miracle of American Production" by Harry Schwartz

Miracle of American Production
"Illustration is artist's conception of Air Force B-61 Matador pilotless bomber" in a Martin Aircraft advertisement in Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, p. 49
In 1951, Collier's magazine published a special issue entitled "Preview of the War We Do Not Want" speculating about a hypothetical World War III and what it might look like. The war begins in 1952 and ends in 1955 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, followed by a UN occupation of Russia. Writer Robert E. Sherwood provided an extensive history of the war.

A number of other notable figures contributed fictional reports about the war and its history, including Edward R. Murrow, Hal Boyle, Walter Reuther, Marguerite Higgins, Walter Winchell, Kathryn Morgan-Ryan, Allan Nevins, Hanson W. Baldwin, Oksana Kasenkina, Lowell Thomas, and Arthur Koestler.

In this article, economist and New York Times editorial writer Harry Schwartz analyzes the "miracle" of American industrial output during the war.

From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, p. 100:


Economist Harry Schwartz, specialist for the New York Times on Soviet affairs, has been working on a comparison report of U.S. and Russian economies during World War III. Here, in abbreviated form, is his report on the U.S.

Every analyst of World War III recognizes that the United States accomplished a production miracle. Put most simply, the nature of the miracle was this: American industry at the peak of the war produced more arms and munitions than at the height of World War II, enough to make possible the great offensives of 1954 and afterward which brought victory. American agriculture turned out enough food to feed our people, help our Allies, and provision a large fraction of the troops in combat. The feat was miraculous because it was accomplished under the most adverse of conditions, during a period when some of our greatest industrial cities—New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia—were severely damaged by atom bombs and when millions of men and women were drafted into military uniform.

Many factors made all this possible. But if we ignore details, the salient forces and circumstances involved can he stated briefly as follows:

1. The American economy was already largely on a war footing by May, 1952, when World War III broke out. In the earlier struggle, real conversion to military output had not taken place until after Pearl Harbor. One of Stalin's major mistakes was that, by permitting the Korean war to start and by encouraging the Chinese intervention, he alerted the American people and got them well started along the road to all-out war output before the main struggle actually began.

2. The civilian economy of the U.S. was in far better shape to meet the tests of war in May, 1952, than it had been in December, 1941. From 1946 well into 1951, consumers'-goods production had been at record levels, with automobiles, refrigerators and the like coming off production lines in incredible volume. Thus, the nation, when it was plunged into World War III, started from a well-stocked position—thanks to the War Production Board under Charles E. Wilson. It could, and did, stand deep cuts in civilian production without suffering serious hardship. Moreover, the insatiable volume of consumer demand during 1946-'51 had caused a substantial expansion of productive facilities and a sharp increase of productive efficiency; both factors played a major role when these plants were converted to armament production.

3. The sheer, overwhelming size of the American economy and its widespread dispersion was certainly a most decisive factor in the miracle. The atomic bombings caused great loss of life and much damage, but they never knocked out as much as 10 per cent of American industrial capacity. It must be remembered that even in a city so badly hit as Detroit, productive facilities were sufficiently dispersed in and around it so that many suffered no physical damage and worked with little interruption all through the war. Other major industrial centers—Cleveland, Houston, Topeka, Wilmington, Birmingham, Gary, and others—were never touched by enemy action at all.

4. The highly developed transport and communications facilities of this country, with the thick networks of railroad tracks, highways, telephone cables and the like, were never seriously interfered with. Though there were important sporadic crises, as when Chicago—that major rail hub—was bombed, the damage was quickly repaired. Goods, passengers and ideas were moved rapidly from place to place as needed all through the war.

5. Labor supply proved to be one of the knottiest problems, but a combination of measures provided an adequate work force for industry and farm. The five-day, 40-hour week became, as in World War II, only a memory as workers, realizing the gravity of the situation, went on a six-day, 54-hour week. To replace those called up, housewives, retired oldsters and teen-age youngsters flocked to work. "Rosie the Riveter," now a decade older but no less able, went back to the workbench with a will, while a wide network of communal nurseries took care of her children. Those employers and unions who traditionally restricted certain minority groups cheerfully accepted all the workers they could get. And hundreds of thousands of Mexican agricultural workers, hired at decent wages, proved invaluable, particularly at harvest time, on the farms over the country.

6. The managers of American industry, made flexible and alert by years of training to serve the ever-changing demands of the American public in competitive markets, applied that flexibility to the problems of war. When old sources of supply for parts and materials were destroyed, the managers found new sources, or instituted production of needed parts at their own plants. Small machine shops by the thousands became subcontractors for giant plants producing planes, tanks, guns and the like. Millions of hobbyists with well-equipped home workshops joined together into small co-operatives feeding needed wood and metal parts to the war plants.

7. The problem of raw materials, particularly those which had to be imported, would have been insoluble if it had not been for the stockpiles accumulated during the interwar years. These helped bridge the gap when submarine activity reduced receipts of such items as rubber, manganese and mercury.

In brief outline, these were the economic factors behind the production miracle. But behind that miracle was the spirit of the American people, the enthusiasm and determination of a nation which realized that its most precious heritage was in danger and could be saved only by all-out effort. Freedom was victorious because those who enjoyed it were willing to pay the high price required. — THE END