October 2, 2019

1944. The Battle of Nijmegen

The Assault on the Nijmegen Bridge
"Cromwell tanks of the 2nd Welsh Guards cross the bridge at Nijmegen, September 21, 1944" (source)
The 82nd Airborne Division's assault on the Waal river crossing at the Dutch city of Nijmegen during Operation Market Garden was one of the most brutal battles of the Allied advance to the Rhine. The attack was nicknamed "Little Omaha" because of the heavy losses on both sides.

As an eyewitness, Bill Downs described the assault as "a single, isolated battle that ranks in magnificence and courage with Guam, Tarawa, Omaha Beach. A story that should be told to the blowing of bugles and the beating of drums for the men whose bravery made the capture of this crossing over the Waal possible." He recounted, "The Nijmegen Bridge was in our hands intact as a monument to the gallantry of the 82nd Airborne soldiers, those who crossed the river, those who stormed it from the south."

The text is from War Report: A Record of Dispatches Broadcast by the BBC's War Correspondents With the Allied Expeditionary Force, 6 June 1944 - 5 May 1945, pp. 238-243:
NIJMEGEN
(The airborne landings had been heavily opposed, and General Dempsey's tanks were having a hard time of it through marshy country which kept our columns from deploying off the road to outflank German strong-points. Nevertheless the airborne men were fighting on grimly, and on September 20th the British Second Army reached Nijmegen. The bridge was intact. So far the plan had succeeded in spite of heavier fighting than had been hoped for, and the inability of the airborne troops to seize the bridge before the British tanks arrived):

24 September 1944.
BILL DOWNS, C.B.S.
"American airborne patrols reached the area at the southern end of the bridge on Sunday night, September 17th, shortly after they landed, but at that time they were not in enough strength to do anything about it. On Monday the paratroops and glider forces were too busy beating off the German counter-attacks to coordinate an assault on the bridge. By this time the armour of the British Second Army was on its way northwards from the Escaut Canal. Then on Tuesday the British tanks arrived on the outskirts of Nijmegen and an attack was commenced, but still the Germans held on strongly in the fortification and houses on the south end of the bridge. American airborne infantry and British tanks were only 300 yards from the bridge in the streets of Nijmegen, but they couldn't get to it.

"Tuesday night was the strangest. The American troops took machine guns to the top of the houses and sprayed the approaches and the entrance to the bridges with bullets. All night they shot at anything that moved. Perhaps it was this constant fire that kept the Germans from blowing the bridge then. But still the shuddering blast that would signal the end of the bridge did not come. And when morning arrived a new plan was devised. It was dangerous and daring and risky. The commanders who laid it out knew this; and the men who were to carry it out knew it too. Thinking a frontal assault on the bridge from the south was impossible, American infantry were to fight their way westwards down the west bank of the Waal River and cross in broad daylight to fight their way back up the river bank, and attack the bridge from the north. On Wednesday morning the infantry made their way westward through the town and got to the industrial outskirts along the river bank near the mouth of a big canal. Some British tanks went with them to give them protection in the street fighting and to act as artillery when the crossings were to be made. Accompanying this task force were trucks carrying twenty-six assault boats brought along by the British armoured units in case of such an emergency. Most of the men who were there to make the crossing had never handled an assault boat before. There was a lot of argument as to who would handle the paddles and preference was given to the men who had at least rowed a boat. Everything was going well. The Germans were supposed to be completely surprised by the audacity of the move.

"But late in the morning—the impossible happened. Two men showed themselves on a river bank and were fired at by the enemy. No Americans were supposed to be in that part of the town. The 88-mm. shells began plastering the area. The gaff was blown. Reconnaissance spotted batches of German troops being transferred to the opposite bank. A few hours later, machine guns were dug into the marshes on the far side—the plan had been discovered. The task force was under shell-fire, and several hundred Germans with machine guns were sitting on the opposite bank waiting for the crossing. This was about noon. There was a quick conference. It was decided that the original plan would proceed, but this time the men crossing the river would have the help of heavy bombers—Lancasters and Stirlings flying in daylight to drop their bombs on the opposite bank in tactical support of the men from the assault boats.

"Working under enemy shell-fire, the assault boats were assembled. When they were put into the water, another difficulty arose. The tide was moving, but with a downstream current of eight miles an hour. Some of the boats drifted 300 yards down river before they were retrieved and brought back. Meanwhile machine guns spluttered on the opposite bank and German artillery kept smashing the embarkation area regularly.

"At last everything was ready. The bombers went in, but didn't drop their bombs close enough to knock out the machine guns. Twenty-six assault boats were in the water. They would carry ten men each. Two hundred and sixty men would make the first assault. Waiting for them on the other bank were some 400 to 600 Germans. The shelling continued. Every man took a deep breath and climbed in. Someone made a wisecrack about the airborne navy and someone else said they preferred airborne submarines to this job. And off across the river they started. At the same time behind them, the British tanks fired their heavy guns, and our own heavy machine-guns fired into the opposite bank giving the little fleet as much cover as possible.

"And over on the other side of the river the enemy tracers shrieked at the boats. The fire at first was erratic, but as the boats approached the northern bank the tracers began to spread on to the boats. Men slumped in their seats—other men could be seen shifting a body to take over the paddling. One man rose up in his seat and fell overboard. There was no thought of turning back. The paddling continued clumsily and erratically, but it continued. One of the boats had so many holes in it that the men were baling out with their tin helmets—it was almost splintered when it reached the other side.

"The fighting, though, had only just begun. The hundred or so men who had arrived on the opposite side fought their way forward with the bayonet and grenade, going from one machine-gun nest to the other until they had established a bridgehead only a few yards deep and several hundred feet wide. The thirteen boats had hardly left for the return trip for the reinforcements, when the men on the north bank saw specks in the water. The men on the opposite bank, seeing the casualties suffered in the landing under fire, were not waiting for the boats. Some of them had stripped off their equipment, and taking a bandolier of ammunition, were swimming the river with their rifles on their backs. And thus it went—the thirteen little boats going time after time across the river under fire, the men on the bridgehead digging in and firing as rapidly as possible, routing out the German machine-gun nests by hand, while British tanks fired for all they were worth. After an hour and a half of concentrated hell, the infantry were over. They held a bridgehead several hundred yards wide and 100 yards deep. After that time, one officer counted 138 Germans dead in a space of sixty yards of that bloody beach-head.

"There was a welcome pause as the men consolidated and rested in their foxholes. Some had thrown the German bodies out of the Nazi machine-gun nests and were using these to stiffen their defences. The plan was to turn eastwards and assault the northern end of the bridge. But on the left flank of that minute bridgehead was another menace—for there on the high ground overlooking the bridge and firing at us with some 88 guns, was an ancient fort. It is called Hatz van Holland and was supposed to have been used centuries ago by Charlemagne as a fortress. The Germans had been using the fort as an anti-aircraft gun position to defend Nijmegen, and now they turned the ack-ack guns downward to bear on the bridge and the airborne bridgehead. While these guns were firing at the back, the troops could not fight their way to the northern end of the bridge. A detail was formed to attack the Hatz van Holland and put its guns out of action. That, as warriors centuries ago found out, was extremely difficult because the Hatz van Holland was surrounded by a moat.

"This moat had a few feet of water in it—black dirty water, covered with a layer of bright green slime. Also, the attacking party would have to advance under point blank 88 mm. fire. But anyhow the party set out. They crawled towards the high ground and the 88's banged away at them. And then they came to a zone where there were no 88 shells. It was found out that the other 88 guns were so installed that the guns could not reach downward the far. The German gun-crews discovered this too late and rushed to put up a rifle and machine-gun defence along the moat. But the Americans by this time had faced so much that a few machine guns were nothing. They made a stand-up attack, shouting like Indians, and, with tommy-guns blazing, knocked out the historic Hatz von Holland. A few Americans with blood in their eyes left seventy-five Germans dead in that moat. The remaining troops fought their way up the river all right. they captured the northern end of the railroad bridge and worked their way to the junction of the railroad highway from the main bridge. The entire German position on the northern side of the river was cut off."
Downs gave another account in an earlier broadcast from September 20, 1944:
"American Airborne infantry and British tanks beleaguered the streets of Nijmegen only 300 yards from the bridge that night, but they couldn't get it. A daring plan was drawn up. Wednesday morning, the infantry (504th) made its way to the industrial outskirts along the river bank. British tanks protected troopers in street fighting, acted as artillery when the crossings were made.

"Twenty-six assault boats were in the water. Two hundred and sixty men would make the first assault. Waiting for them on the other bank were 400 to 600 Germans; the shelling continued. A smoke screen was laid, but it wasn't very effective because of the wind. Men slumped in their seats; of those 260 men, half were wounded or killed. Only 13 of 26 boats came back—others didn't wait for boats. Some stripped off equipment, took a bandolier of ammunition and swam the river, rifles on their backs.

"There was bitter bayonet fighting and Americans died, but more Germans died. That's only part of the story...British tanks and American Airborne Infantry (2nd Bn., 505th) began their frontal assault on the southern end of the bridge at the same time as the river crossing was started. Americans went through the houses on either side of the street.

"The southern end of the bridge has a large circular island approach. In this island were four self-propelled guns. There was nothing to do but rush the guns. So the tanks lined up four abreast and all roared into the street, firing. The American Airborne troops and British tankmen seized the south end of the bridge. Only tanks could get across at first because half a dozen fanatical Germans remained high in the girders, sniping. The Nijmegen Bridge was in our hands intact as a monument to the gallantry of the 82nd Airborne soldiers, those who crossed the river, those who stormed it from the south."

September 5, 2019

1950. Question of Censorship for Korean War Coverage

Foreign Correspondents Cover Outbreak of War in Korea
War correspondent Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune speaks with General Douglas MacArthur in Korea in 1950 (source)
From Broadcasting magazine, July 24, 1950, pp. 18:
COVERING KOREA: Newsmen Cite Military Aid

In the view of network news chiefs, the cooperation of Gen. MacArthur's headquarters in news coverage of the Korean war has been irreproachable, considering the suddenness of U. S. commitment to battle.

No instances of either direct or indirect censorship of radio correspondents—save for the obvious withholding of intelligence that would violate security—have been reported, the news chiefs told Broadcasting last week.

All pointed out the difficulty of radio coverage of the actions because of the absence of communication facilities at the battleground, but they also agreed that this was unavoidable.

News reached New York that the Army was endeavoring to establish a mobile transmitter in Korea, although details were lacking. Since the fall of Seoul, no radio facilities have been available anywhere in Korea.

The installation in Korea of a mobile transmitter, capable of relaying through Tokyo to the U. S., would, of course, immeasurably assist in the radio coverage of the war.

The news chiefs applauded Gen. MacArthur's policy of avoiding censorship by the military. All said they were abiding by the security directive issued by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson.

Generally, they said, the Public Information Office in Tokyo has been helpful to radio reporters. In the early stages of the war, there were instances of inefficiency, but the newsmen agreed this could be attributed to the fact that the PIO, like the rest of our forces, was unprepared for the unexpected Korean war.

A particular difficulty which was cited by the newsmen was the inadequacy of briefings in Tokyo during the first weeks of the operation. This has since been corrected.

Staffs Reinforced

By last week all networks had reinforced their news staffs in the battle area.

ABC, although without a full-time staffer on the scene, has taken numerous reports from Jimmy Cannon, also of the New York Post; John Rich and Ray Falk, both INS.

CBS has its own veteran correspondents, Bill Downs and Bill Costello, as well as Commentator Edward R. Murrow, shuttling between Korea and Tokyo.

MBS has Robert Stewart in Tokyo and is taking reports from Walter and Edith Simmons, of the Chicago Tribune; Pat Michaels and Jack Reed, both INS.

NBC has George Thomas Folster and William Dunn, both veterans of World War II Pacific campaigns.

Directing coverage from New York are Thomas Velotta, ABC vice president in charge of news and special events; Edmund A. Chester, CBS director of news; A. A. Schecter, MBS vice president in charge of news, special events and publicity, and William F. Brooks, NBC vice president for news and special events for sound broadcasting.
"Tokyo, December, 1952: CBS commentator Edward R. Murrow, center, and Washington bureau chief Bill Downs, right, are welcomed to Tokyo by Japan-Korea bureau manager George Herman" (source)
From Broadcasting magazine, July 24, 1950, pp. 19, 34, 36:
CENSORSHIP QUESTION: Security Issue Rises

Question of censorship—and the problem of military security versus freedom of information—arose into sharper focus last week among broadcasters, press association correspondents who furnish stations with spot news, and legislators on Capitol Hill, some of whom "erupted" over public disclosures involving American troop movements.

Meanwhile, key officials of the National Security Resources Board continued to study blueprints which envision an Office of Censorship similar to World War II.

Week's Highlights

Among the week's developments:

• Protest by the National Assn. of Radio News Directors over ouster of AP and UP correspondents from Korea, and demand for a "uniform military censorship" . . . in a matter consonant with security.

• Statement by Gen. Douglas MacArthur that "the press alone should assume responsibility" in the Korean emergency.

• Demands by Capitol Hill solons for tightening up the release of military information "at the source."

• Advice to stations by NAB that they be "cautious . . . in handling news," with emphasis that Defense Secretary Louis Johnson's military directive is "not censorship, voluntary or otherwise."

NSRB officials made plain last week that blueprints providing for creation of an Office of Censorship would be in the form of recommendations to the President, to be submitted only in the event of all-out emergency and mobilization. They indicated the office would be along lines comparable to the group headed by Byron Price in the last war, and expressed concurrence with most of his sentiments.

For the present, they felt that broadcasters could be guided largely by the text of Secretary Johnson's directive on the disclosure of certain military data and statistics and the voluntary code of wartime practices [Broadcasting, July 17].

Any potential censorship office, they confirmed, would be manned by representatives of radio, television, press, motion picture and other media. Appointment of a director would, of course, rest with the President.

The problem, they affirmed, resolves itself into two groups: (1) withholding of information at the source, and (2) actual censorship of information. They noted that the military probably would exercise the upper hand in decisions involving the former.

They backed up one of Mr. Price's 1945 observations that some people feel that the censor "should commit in the name of security all of the errors which have helped often enough heretofore to discredit censorships, to divorce their procedures completely from the dictates of common sense, and in the end to weaken greatly their effectiveness." That would not be "wise or expedient," Mr. Price felt.

The developments relating to the ouster of the AP and UP correspondents from the Korean war zone drew strong protests from the National Assn. of Radio News Directors early last week.

In a telegram sent to Defense Secretary Johnson, the NARND president, Jack Shelley, asserted that such action "greatly undermines the faith of American radio listeners in freedom of news reporters representing them to describe accurately conditions at the front."

"Uniform military censorship as applied during World War II in combat areas might be the best approach to the Korea coverage problem, but banning of newsmen who violated no security rules is indefensible," Mr. Shelley felt.

Spokesmen at the Defense Dept. information office said they had no knowledge of any reply filed by Secretary Johnson, and expressed belief that the problem no longer is an issue in view of Gen. MacArthur's action reinstating the correspondents.

Mr. Shelley, a former war correspondent who covered both the European and Pacific theatres for WHO Des Moines, Iowa, told Broadcasting he felt "nothing but uniform military censorship will provide a reasonably satisfactory method of regulating reporting in a manner consonant with security."

"It seems to me the height of the unfair to say to a group of newsmen "we'll trust you to use your own judgment; there'll be no censorship"—and then to jerk them when they exercise that judgment." He said this "extremely important principle" for all media is at stake.

Issue in Korea

The security issue arose on the Korean war front July 15 when the Army Command, under Col. M. P. Echols, Gen. MacArthur's information officer, imposed a ban on AP's Tom Lambert and UP's Peter Kalischer. They were ordered to leave the area for "disclosing information that would be of value to the enemy and would have a bad morale and psychological effect on our own troops."

Gen. MacArthur, subsequently lifting the ban, called on reporters to exercise judgment and selectivity in reporting the news from the front. He said that "formal censorship" was abhorrent to him, but pointed out that several correspondents had requested censorship. It was understood that a goodly number of the 200 correspondents now in that theatre favor complete and clear guidance, if not actual censorship. A large number of radio stations depend on AP and UP for spot news coverage of the Korean war.

Defense Secretary Johnson's directive on security measures, issued recently to the three services, was expected to provide some aid along that line.

The two news associations correspondents were not challenged on the accuracy of their stories, merely on their judgment in repeating remarks reportedly made by American soldiers delving into the question of American military aid.

Another correspondent, Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune, also was ordered from the front but reinstated by Gen. MacArthur's command.

Congressional sentiment for security restrictions reflected growing wariness on Capitol Hill. Sen. Scott Lucas (D-Ill.) spoke for some of his colleagues and presumably for the administration when he called for censorship—"either voluntary or legislative, which no one wants"—to protect American lives. He indicated he is particularly disturbed by newspaper accounts from Korea.

"It seems almost criminal," he declared, "for commentators, columnists, and other newspapermen to tell the world exactly where our troops are congregating, where they are going, and the total amount of their equipment, especially in view of the great emergency which exists at this time."

Voluntary Restraint

The Senate Majority Leader stressed that he did not advocate "rigorous censorship, but there certainly should be a voluntary censorship of information of that sort." He thought the President should request it. Speaking as majority leader, Sen. Lucas urged "all possible restraint" by radio and press in the interest of unity.

Sen. Lucas made his statement after certain members of the House had scored newspaper accounts dealing with the movements of American troops to Korea. One—Rep. Harold Hagen (R-Minn.)—charged American radio and press with "alarmist" reporting of hostilities. He cited Gen. MacArthur's earlier statement that casualties had been exaggerated in press dispatches.

Other House members who deplored such disclosures included Reps. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio), Daniel Reed (R-N. Y.), and Thomas Lane (D-Mass.). They joined in demanding that the Defense Dept. tighten up on release of statistical information relating to troop movements, numbers, units, etc. On the Senate side, Sen. Style Bridges (R-N. H.) also called on the department to cease such "public disclosures" as a "measure of elementary security."

As an example of voluntary self-restraint, Sen. Lucas singled out the Chicago Sun-Times, which July 15 announced imposition of its own censorship for "the duration of the emergency." The newspaper is controlled by Publisher Marshall Field, of Field Enterprises Inc., which owns WJJD WFMF (FM) Chicago. It was presumed that the policy also would be extended to the stations' news desks.

Stand Welcomed

It was a telegram from the newspaper's managing editor, Milburn P. Akers, to Gen. MacArthur that precipitated the latter's statement with respect to self-censorship by the press in Korea. The General described the Sun-Times' stand as "welcome support to this command."

He stated:
It reflects the most commendable determination to fulfill the responsibility which the press alone should assume in an emergency such as this—a responsibility which it may not effectively share with any other segment of society, least of all the military not trained in journalism and which should devote its entire energies to the conduct of military operations," the general added.

There is probably no more misused nor less understood term than press censorship. Contrary to what many believe, no precise rule can make it effective nor were any two military censors ever in agreement on detail.

If its purpose is to be served, censorship must be of the spirit and applied only by those themselves who print the news. Its objective is not to mislead or misrepresent the truth, as that is repugnant to the basic concepts of a free society, but rather to avoid printing information of direct military value to the enemy or such as may contribute through under-emphasis or emotional stress psychologically to his cause by raising the morale of his forces while depressing that of ours.

The formula is a simple one and one which all men of normal understanding may easily comprehend and apply.

The contention of some that the military must take the responsibility of laying down fixed rules governing the limitation upon news and pass upon each item before it is printed is as unrealistic as it is ineffective.

In the Korean operations, it has been my purpose to leave this responsibility where it rightfully belongs, in the hands of the correspondents, editors and publishers concerned.
Secretary Johnson's security directive was prepared by the Defense  Dept.'s Security Review Branch, which serves as a clearing-house for material dealing with the three military services. It is headed by Lt. Col. Joseph Edgerton and is the outgrowth of conferences on proposals for a security code between Former Secretary James Forrestal and a committee comprising representatives of radio, press and motion picture interests. It materialized from unification of the services [Broadcasting, April 12, 1948].

Overall Planning

Today overall censorship planning is being mapped by a special section of the National Security Resources Board under Gilbert C. Jacobus, Army Reserve officer with the rank of colonel.

Specifically NSRB and other planners are concerned chiefly with (1) methods of attaining satisfactory security within the military establishment and (2) creation of an office to supervise restraint among the various media in the event of emergency.

Col. Edgerton said last week that, when NSRB completes its master plan, encompassing provision for censorship enforcement, his Security Review Branch probably will be included in the list of cooperating agencies.

Secretary Johnson's directive to the military services parallels the 1943 voluntary code to varying degrees in matters pertaining to accounts of military movements and operations [Broadcasting, July 17].

The directive also was reprinted for member stations by NAB, which pointed out that it was "not censorship, voluntary or otherwise," but merely a "guide on the release of information to be employed by responsible military authorities." NAB added:
. . . It will be useful to public media in guarding against disclosures which would jeopardize lives and property of Americans. Possibility exists that information violating these suggestions might be released thoughtlessly by military authorities, in which case public media do their country a service in using blue pencils with reference only to information designated by Secretary Johnson as involving military censorship.

Censorship as such, wartime or otherwise, is subject constantly being watched by NAB. Direct contacts are being maintained with appropriate government agencies . . .
Caution Advised

The best advice, NAB told member stations, is to "simply be cautious while you're being competitive in handling news." Following is the text of the Johnson directive:

MEMORANDUM FOR
SECRETARY OF THE ARMY
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE

The following is intended as a security guidance for dissemination to all echelons of the military services:

To safeguard the national security in connection with operations in the Far East Command, the following limitations are imposed on the release of information by the military services:

1. Preparations for military operations or movements within the Continental United States are subject to the following restrictions:
a. Ultimate destination of unit alerted: Refer to theater only, i.e., the Far East Command.

b. Designation of unit: Release numerical designation only when unit is of division size or larger. Numerical designation of units below Division level will not be released. Air Force Group designations will not be released. Non-divisional units will be referred to in general as a combat unit, a supporting unit, etc., of the Continental Army concerned, which have been alerted for movement.

c. Status of equipment: Not releasable.

d. Strength: Not releasable.

e. Date of movement from present location: Not releasable.

f. Sailing time of transports from Port of Embarkation: Not releasable.
2. Movements of naval vessels and transport or cargo ships from the West Coast may be mentioned after departure but no mention may be made of movements west of Pearl Harbor. Photographs of loadings, sailings and reactivation operations of naval vessels may be used within normal security limits imposed by the local commander.

3. Within the Far East Command the following restrictions have been imposed by CINCFE:
a. Reports naming specific units, sizes, places of landing, locations and troop movements may not be disclosed until officially announced.

b. Subordinate headquarters, movements, units committed (except Eighth Army, Fifth Air Force, Twentieth Air Force, Seventh Fleet, etc.), or any field locations may not be mentioned until officially announced.
4. Military forces of the United Nations acting in cooperation with United States forces should be safeguarded in accordance with the foregoing.

In case of doubt as to actual military security within the Continental United States, the Security Review Branch of the Department of Defense, Room 2 C 766, The Pentagon, Extension 71182, is available for advice.

These instructions may be shown to news media.

August 24, 2019

1948-1950. The Berlin Reports

Bill Downs Reports from Blockaded Berlin
Bill Downs (left) and Edward R. Murrow in East Berlin standing under a Free German Youth banner in 1948
Berlin, 1948 - 1950

Bill Downs served as the CBS correspondent in Berlin for nearly two years to cover the blockade and airlift. He stayed in the city from 1948 to 1950 with his wife, writer Rosalind "Roz" Downs (née Gerson). During that time he reported extensively on political developments in postwar Germany. In one letter home dated October 1948, he wrote:
You know just about as much as we do about what is going to come out of this mess. The decisions will not be made here. However the reflection of our policy shows here first and as far as I can make it out, we are preparing to continue this air lift for two years if necessary. There has been nothing that gives any hope for the lifting of the blockade in the near future. The Russians go as far as they dare without overtly precipitating war. I get the feeling that we do the same more or less. And the feeling is that there will not be any open, official conflict between the two major powers.
In another letter home dated September 1948, Roz wrote about the devastation in Berlin:
We drove into the city the other day. [Edward R. Murrow] wanted to see what was left of it. The only opinion I have of the Germans after seeing Berlin and the other parts of Germany we've driven through is that they sure were damn fools. I think before the war Berlin must have been one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Now, there is no city. For miles on end there is nothing but rubble. You are startled when you see a building standing until you drive close to it and see it's only four walls with no insides. . . . It is very depressing to go into Berlin proper. As Ed said, it looks like the end of the world. It looks like something out of a fantastic story magazine; something that looks like a civilization of the past, now dead.
Below are some of Bill Downs' reports from 1948 to 1950. The text is adapted from his typewritten scripts.
1948

July 22, 1948 to September 22, 1948: Berlin's newspaper propaganda wars

July 30, 1948: Politics and the black market in West Berlin

September 12, 1948: Communists hold "Victims of Fascism" rally in Berlin

September 13, 1948: Rumors of an "X-Day" putsch

September 14 to September 16, 1948: Outcry over the sentencing of West German protesters

September 17, 1948: The East-West standoff rattles the city

September 18, 1948: US celebrates Air Force Day by ramping up the airlift

September 19, 1948: Uneasy quiet ahead of UN meeting

September 20 to September 23, 1948: Western Allied Commanders convene on the eve of UN meeting

September 24, 1948: US increases the airlift operation

September 25, 1948: Worried speculation of Soviet interference in the airlift

September 26 to September 28, 1948: The Western occupation powers appeal to the UN

September 30, 1948: The tenth anniversary of the Munich Agreement

September 30 to October 12, 1948: One hundred days of blockade

October 2, 1948: War of nerves behind the Iron Curtain

November 16, 1948: Moscow withdraws recognition of Ernst Reuter

November 18 to November 26, 1948: Elections near as the Anglo-American airlift continues

November 21, 1948: Downs' car vandalized

November 28 to November 30, 1948: Eastern sector Communists oppose West Berlin elections

November 30 to December 4, 1948: The East-West divide widens

December 4, 1948: West Berliners go to the polls

December 6, 1948: Berlin, the "island of anticommunist opposition"

December 7 to December 10, 1948: The deepening isolation of West Berlin

December 16 to December 20, 1948: The French destroy Soviet-controlled radio transmission towers

December 18, 1948: Signs of economic difficulty reported in the Soviet zone

December 19 to December 30, 1948: Christmas in Berlin

December 1948: Germans making the most of the holiday
A crowd of approximately 200,000 listens to Mayor Ernst Reuter speak in Berlin at a demonstration against the policies of the SED and the Soviet military government, September 9, 1948 (source)
1949

January 1949: Bill Downs on the "moral reconstruction" of Germany

January 4, 1949: Stalingrad prisoners forced into the East German People's Police

January 5, 1949: The Harnack House club

January 10 to January 24, 1949: The fascist remnants in Germany

January 12, 1949: Simmering tensions over the Ruhr

January 13, 1949: Dispute over missing German war prisoners in Russia

January 14, 1949: The West Berlin assembly prepares to meet in Schöneberg

January 14, 1949: The Communist-Socialist divide in East and West Berlin

January 17, 1949: Protests against the Ruhr occupation

January 24 to January 29, 1949: The Socialist Unity Party convenes in Berlin

January 26, 1949: The future of the two Germanies

January 28, 1949: West Germany's booming industry alarms Britain and France

January 30, 1949:  Reports of a shakeup for the US military government in Germany

January 31 to February 13, 1949: Stalin's conditions for lifting the blockade

February 9, 1949: Debate over Cardinal Mindszenty's sentencing in Budapest

February 16, 1949: Tensions grow as the Berlin blockade continues

February 17 to March 4, 1949: The eight Russians who refused to leave Frankfurt

February 19, 1949: Criminal trials in Munich

February 19 to February 20, 1949: Five men charged with espionage against the United States

February 23 to February 24, 1949: The Soviets opt to remain in Germany

March 2, 1949: Ultranationalism in West Germany

March 8, 1949: Fear dominates Leipzig

March 11, 1949: Soviets conduct defensive exercises along the Elbe

March 13, 1949: The West prepares for indefinite blockade

April 17, 1949: Easter in West Berlin

April 18, 1949: The US stages a major field exercise in Germany

April 19, 1949: New wave of blockade speculation in Berlin

April 20, 1949: The Kremlin reconsiders its blockade policy

April 23, 1949: The SPD and CDU work on drafting a constitution

April 23 to April 25, 1949: Western occupation powers urge statehood for West Germany

April 26 to April 27, 1949: The Kremlin calls for a Big Four conference

April 28, 1949: General Clay announces he will step down as military governor

April 29 to April 30, 1949: Berlin readies for May Day

May 5, 1949: The price to pay for lifting the blockade

May 7, 1949: Strategic failure as the Soviets plan to lift the Berlin blockade

May 8, 1949: Victory Day ceremony in Treptower Park

May 10 to May 13, 1949: Soviets dispute Western claims of ending the counter-blockade

May 11 to May 12, 1949: Celebrations as the blockade is lifted

May 14, 1949: Western powers grant West Berlin more autonomy

May 15 to May 17, 1949: Unexpected anti-Communist movement in East Berlin elections

May 21 to May 27, 1949: Massive worker uprising hits East Berlin

May 28, 1949: Council of Foreign Ministers meets in Paris to discuss Berlin crisis

June 3, 1949: Gerhart Eisler criticizes the United States

June 4 to June 10, 1949: No end in sight for the elevated rail workers' walkout

June 6, 1949: Pro-Soviet propaganda downplays D-Day's significance

June 11 to June 16, 1949: Rail workers vote to continue strike

June 18 to June 29: Occupation powers clash over rail strike

June 19 to June 23: Deal sought to end rail strike

June 25, 1949: Airlift marks its first anniversary

June 30 to July 1, 1949: Traffic snafu in Berlin

July 2 and July 8, 1949: The East awaits the economic collapse of the West

July 3 to July 6, 1949: American High Commissioner John McCloy in Berlin

July 4, 1949: American occupation troops celebrate the Fourth of July

July 10 to July 14, 1949: The "Little Blockade" of Berlin

July 16, 1949: Tragic accidents in Germany

July 17 to July 29, 1949: The Catholic Church's "open warfare" with communism

July 19 to July 22, 1949: East Germany seeks a united front

July 25 to July 27, 1949: "Little Blockade" finally ends

July 29, 1949: Western Allies pay tribute to lives lost during the airlift

July 31 to August 2, 1949: Allied occupation officials convene ahead of West German elections

August 7 to August 15, 1949: Factions vie for power in West Germany

August 15 to August 17, 1949: United States backs right-wing coalition government

August 19 to August 21, 1949: The Communists lose influence in the West

August 22, 1949: American officials promote the Marshall Plan

August 24, 1949: Adenauer set to form coalition

August 26, 1949: Intelligence reports of increased Volkspolizei activity

August 29 to September 10, 1949: US officials appeal to Soviets to release two American youths

September 3, 1949: Tensions rise with the Yugoslav-Soviet split

September 7, 1949 to September 9, 1949: The West German parliament meets in Bonn for the first time

September 11 to September 15, 1949: Konrad Adenauer becomes Chancellor of West Germany

September 18, 1949: Son of Communist leader Max Reimann escapes the Volkspolizei

September 22, 1949: Adenauer government begins work

September 26, 1949: The Soviets successfully develop nuclear weapons

October 11, 1949: Massive pro-Communist parade down Unter den Linden

November 14 to November 15, 1949: Secretary Acheson meets with Allied High Commissioners

November 16 to November 25, 1949: Adenauer signs the Petersberg Agreement

November 30, 1949: East Berlin marks anniversary of rump magistrate's founding

December 4, 1949: American labor leader Walter Reuther visits Germany

December 5, 1949: Threats of violence overshadow West Berlin elections

December 6, 1949: East Berlin criticizes West; Germans clean up World War II battlefields

December 9, 1949: Yugoslav diplomats detained in East Berlin

December 10, 1949: The question of rearming West Germany

December 11, 1949: More purges in East Germany as technicians flee to the West

December 14, 1949: Soviet Foreign Minister Vyshinsky visits Berlin

December 15, 1949: Occupation powers back German youth movements

December 17, 1949: US ramps up economic ties to West Germany

December 18, 1949: Far-right nationalist movement emerges in Bavaria

December 21, 1949: East Berlin celebrates Stalin's birthday

December 23, 1949: Downs reports for the American Forces Network

December 24, 1949: Berlin prepares for its first Christmas after the blockade

December 24, 1949: Positive news for West Germany on Christmas Eve

December 25, 1949: Downs celebrates another Christmas in West Berlin
The Free German Youth marches in East Berlin to protest the Marshall Plan and the Western Powers, with a banner reading "Yankee, go home," May 1950 (source)
1950

January 6, 1950: Downs returns to Berlin from New York

January 8, 1950: Germany reacts to British recognition of Communist China

January 13 to January 15, 1950: Adenauer meets with French Foreign Minister Schuman Meet in Bonn

January 18 to January 22, 1950: East Germany threatens to impose new traffic blockade on Berlin

January 25, 1950: Soviets shut down internment camps in East Germany

January 27 to January 28, 1950: East Berlin announces the creation of the Stasi

February 1, 1950: Traffic slowdown at Helmstedt-Marienborn checkpoint

February 6 to February 10, 1950: Klaus Fuchs arrested in Britain

March 1 to March 3, 1950: East criticizes Western preconditions for reunifying Germany

March 4, 1950: Soviet deportation plan for Germans stokes tensions with British

April 2, 1950: German Communists react to Senator Joseph McCarthy

April 28, 1950: East German lieutenant testifies Soviets building a German army

April 29 to May 2, 1950: East and West Berlin hold dueling May Day demonstrations

May 7, 1950: Political reshuffling on both sides of Germany

May 8, 1950: West Germans scoff at Communist declaration of "Liberation Day"

May 18, 1950: West Germany celebrates holiday as the East prepares for elections

August 22, 2019

1951. Heated Debate in Congress Over 'Voice of America' Programming

Republicans Say Voice of America Is Biased and Ineffective
"A group of State Department announcers huddle around the microphone after the initial shortwave broadcast in Russian to Russia from New York City, Feb. 17, 1947" (source)
From Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine, July 30, 1951, p. 31:
VOA COMMENTATORS: Barrett Answers Charge

The State Dept. last week soundly scotched a series of Congressional charges involving network commentators whose service were utilized on the Voice of America by contract under the Smith-Mundt Act. NBC also joined in a partial rebuttal to a Communist affiliation blast.

The issue was raised in a caustic speech on the House floor by Rep. William S. Hill (R-Col.), who charged that the State Dept. had placed itself "in a highly dubious position" by employing certain political commentators, notably those with CBS. Rep. Hill also singled out an NBC commentator whom, he claimed, "has a lengthy record of affiliation with Communist and Communist-front organizations." He referred to Ben Grauer, who promptly labeled the accusation as "vicious" and questioned the existence of any "official record" tending to discredit his loyalty.

NBC also issued a statement saying that "we have thoroughly investigated (Mr.) Grauer at his request, and found him to be a true and loyal American."

CBS declined comment on Congressman Hill's mention of the employment by VOA of four commentators—Charles Collingwood, William Downs, Griffing Bancroft and Eric Sevareid—who he said had drawn $1,100 for private services.

In a statement issued Thursday, Edward W. Barrett, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, held that it was a "gross injustice" for anyone to imply political favoritism.

Secretary Barrett's comments were directed to Rep. John J. Rooney (D-N. Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations sub-committee, which has been critical of Voice operations. Rep. Hill's remarks came during the course of House debate on VOA funds (see separate story).

Mr. Barrett pointed out that both parties of Congress have suggested that "this program should utilize as fully as possible the best professional talent available" and facilities of private agencies.

"Naturally the Dept. of State as tried to comply with these very sensible and constructive suggestions and instructions. As one part of this program, we have utilized the parttime services of well-known American radio commentators in reaching a worldwide English language audience and in reaching audiences in other languages," he explained, citing the provisions of the Smith-Mundt Act.

He added:
. . . Such commentators have been extremely generous in doing this work at nominal rates far below the pay scale they normally receive. I hardly need to tell you that it is a gross injustice for anyone to imply that a distinguished American radio commentator should be swayed to change his views in any respect because he receives a nominal fee of $50 to undertake a special broadcast for the Voice of America.

On the contrary, these men deserve very sincere thanks from the nation for doing this work at fees substantially below those they can command elsewhere.
Render Advice

Rep. Hill had noted that "as political commentators they frequently have occasion to pass judgment and express opinions regarding the State Dept. that is making cash payments to them."

Taking another tack, Rep. Hill also described CBS as having a "reputation of being, through its so-called news programs and commentaries, a strong supporter of the Truman administration, and of socialistic tendencies generally." He continued:
. . . CBS has been well treated by the Truman administration; it was Columbia's color television system that received the approval of the FCC and is now being adopted as the standard color system for this country. Columbia stands to gain many millions of dollars from this decision. The agency that handed down the decision, the Federal Communications Commission, is, of course, the same agency that holds the power of life and death over radio stations through its licensing requirements.
In another blast, Rep. William K. Van Pelt (R-Wis.) lamented VOA's appointment of Raymond Swing as advisor and commentator. Referring to Mr. Swing's alleged sympathies for Secretary of State Dean Acheson, he scored the commentator as "one of the most unsuitable persons" the Voice could hire.

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
'VOICE' ATTACKED In Fund Debate

Marked dissatisfaction with present Voice of America operation, particularly as an instrument of State Dept. foreign policy, characterized heated House debate on VOA appropriations last week.

Using the U. S. radio arm as its whipping boy, a Republican bloc of the nation's lawmakers lashed out at Voice management, programming, personnel and assorted other phases. Discussion was flavored with pungent descriptions, most of them designed to lay the groundwork for a sharp cut in Voice funds this new fiscal year.

After four days of charges and counter-charges that reverberated from Capitol Hill to the State Dept., the House finally voted to allot VOA $85 million for 1951-52 as recommended by the House Appropriations Committee [BROADCASTING-TELECASTING, July 16]. Two amendments by Rep. Cliff Clevenger (R, Ohio), to cut the Voice another $15 million and to return the bill to committee—were rejected.

The GOP bloc charged that the Voice:
• Fails to "bring hope and encouragement to enslaved peoples behind the Iron Curtain," particularly in Poland, where it rates "last" among listeners.

• Concentrates on covering up "past blunders" by the U. S. government.

• "Is about as agile as a rheumatic rhinoceros . . . red tape, lethargy and inertia are the order of the day."

• Stresses the need for funds to purchase radio receivers for use abroad as "an emergency project," but makes little progress on the project.

• Cannot be made effective unless "you have an effective State Dept."

• "Wanders aimlessly from program to program," lacking a cohesive idea or ideas"; boasts too much about the American standard of living, reflecting a "giveaway complex" and has "a very small listening audience, despite some pretty fanciful figures to the contrary."

• Should be better coordinated with an improved U. S. information program.

• Spends too much money on program evaluation ($1,312,100). Advertisers "would go broke if they spent one-tenth as much evaluating the effect of their promotion. . . ."
Bulwarking a Republican attack on the Voice were Reps. Richard B. Wigglesworth (Mass.), John V. Beamer (Ind.), William S. Hill (Col.), Hamer H. Budge (Ida.), Patrick J. Hillins (Calif.), William E. McVey (Ill.), Clarence Brown (Ohio) and John T. Wood (Ida.). Rep. Brown summed up the GOP position: Republicans support a Voice program but the overwhelming majority of its members are "distressed at the results" and blame the administration for lack of a realistic foreign policy.

The Voice also had its supporters in the House, among them Democratic Reps. A. S. J. Carnahan (Mo.), Alfred D. Siminski (N. J.), John J. Rooney (N. Y.), Prince Preston Jr. (Ga.), Laurie C. Battle (Ala.), Brooks Hays (Ark.), and Adolph J. Sabath (Ill.).

In defense of the Voice the Democrats held that the radio operation:
• Spends only 3% of its total budget for program evaluation, on the basis of claims by Thurman Barnard, new acting general manager of the program, and other advertising executives, and that radio networks and advertisers spend at least as much.

• Is counteracting Russian propaganda effectively—a fact borne out by heavy Soviet jamming operations—and is "rendering a real service behind the Iron Curtain."

• Is acting within the provisions of the law in utilizing radio, television and other private agencies as well as professional services of individual commentators (see separate story).

• Is "carrying America's message to the world," under the "expert generalship" of Edward W. Barrett, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
A suggestion advanced during House discussion was one by Rep. William H. Ayres (R-Ohio) to set up a House committee on the Voice of America. "We have had an Un-American Activities Committee for quite some time," he noted. "I suggest we have a pro-America."

July 21, 2019

1943. The Aftermath in Stalingrad

The Site of One of Hitler's Greatest Defeats
Soviet soldiers on the roof of a factory shop in Stalingrad in 1942 (Photo by Arkady Shaikhetsource)
Bill Downs first arrived in Russia to cover the Eastern Front on December 25, 1942. He and other foreign correspondents were taken to Stalingrad just days after the German surrender there in February 1943.

During their long journey the group came across the broken, humiliated Axis commanders in Soviet captivity, including Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, whose 6th Army had just been destroyed. The press group then entered the city, where they passed bodies strewn along the streets and came across the wreckage at Mamayev Kurgan, the site of some of the worst fighting of the Battle of Stalingrad.

Recalling the experience in a broadcast, Downs said: "There are sights and sounds and smells in and around Stalingrad that make you want to weep, and make you want to shout and make you just plain sick to your stomach."

This text has been adapted from a transcript cabled to CBS in New York. The passages in parentheses were censored by Soviet officials for military security or propaganda reasons.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

February 8, 1943

The Foreign Office press department summoned the foreign press corps with a mysterious 6 p.m. phone call. They informed us we were leaving for Stalingrad at 8 a.m. the next morning. The trip was extremely hush-hush, although it had been announced that fighting had ceased in Stalingrad the day before. We were warned to dress warmly and take five days' worth of food.

I rushed back to the hotel and collected hard boiled eggs, a slab of smoked fish, sugar, two loaves of bread, and most important of all, a liter of vodka, which is Russia's most important personal antifreeze.

The next morning I dressed with three pairs of wool socks under fur boots, two pairs of wool underwear, a wool shirt, two sweaters, a ski jacket, a fur hat, and a fur coat—and I was among the lightest dressed in the party. Someone told me it was a mild winter.

The five hour plane trip in a comfortable Douglas transport was spent recalling hundreds of stories of Stalingrad's four and a half months of concentrated hell, which was worse than Coventry's, Rotterdam's, Warsaw's, or London's—anything Hitler had been able to do to cities opposing him.

The Douglas landed at an obscure little airfield 50 miles north of Stalingrad on steppes which looked like the Texas panhandle or Dakota plains buttered with about three feet of snow. The biting northwest wind of the Kalmyk Steppe made me look down at my legs to see whether I was not wearing a bathing suit.

The airfield was a former fighter-bomber base located in the area where the northern arm of the Red Army's tremendous encirclement of west Stalingrad started. We sheltered in a group of a half dozen peasant farmhouses which formed a tractor station for the surrounding wheat country.

We wondered how in the hell the Russians were able to concentrate an offensive army in these treeless, hill-less steppes without German reconnaissance discovering their striking power. That's mystery number one—or mistake number one—which was one of the major factors for the German defeat at Stalingrad.

At nightfall we headed southward to another peasant farm village where we were liberally fed and tried to warm our freezing hands and feet, to the amusement of Red Army men and women who were interested in foreigners.

We traveled by bus some 60 miles to a point 35 miles directly west of Stalingrad, where the next day we were taken to the headquarters of the commander of the Stalingrad front, Colonel General Konstantin Rokossovsky, who now takes a place as one of the great generals of history. Rokossovsky passed us en route to Moscow, where he went to the Kremlin to be awarded the Order of Suvorov for Stalingrad. We herded into a small peasant house where chairs were lined up like in a classroom, with desks in the corner and a map on the wall.

In walked a medium-sized Red Army general, his breast lined with several medals, dressed in a simple uniform on which the Red Army's new epaulets had yet to be sewn. He is Lieutenant General Mikhail Malinin, chief of staff for the Stalingrad front and one of the men responsible for putting into operation plans for the encirclement of the German 6th Army.

Malinin looked 35, square-faced with hair in a short pompadour which stuck up like a schoolboy's. The only sign of age was the sprinkling of gray hairs around the temples. He picked up a stick with which to point to the map. He looked as out of place standing at the front of that schoolroom as a schoolteacher would have looked in a front-line Stalingrad trench.

Malinin started speaking slowly and deliberately and explained that he wanted to outline briefly the details of the Red Army's encirclement movement where it started.

"Hitler sent his best troops—the German 6th Army—against Stalingrad, containing his crack infantry, tank, and motorized divisions," he said. Continuing in the same matter-of-fact tone, he said that as German forces moved toward the Volga, they created for themselves a sort of second front on the northern flank, "and the task of the defenders was not to give up the city."
Red Army soldiers on the Stalingrad front patrol the snow-covered steppes (source)
Malinin has been in three wars—in addition to the Russian Civil War and the Finnish War, he fought on the Moscow and Smolensk fronts in this war. He formerly was on the faculty of a Red Army military school.

(Malinin said that "Russian resistance forced the Germans to continually send up reinforcements. During the month of October and the first part of November was the fiercest fighting. The Germans continued to pour in huge reinforcements. But by the middle of November there was a certain equilibrium of strength. The Soviet High Command took advantage of its own forces at this time and ordered an offensive aimed at destroying both the Stalingrad and Don front troops of the enemy.")

(This certain equilibrium which Malinin referred to represented the greatest fighting retreat in the history of warfare. It was one place where the Red Army for the first time definitely stopped an Axis advance on the southern sector of the Russian front since the Axis invaded Kiev eighteen months earlier.)

Malinin then explained the great pincer movement (which launched simultaneously on November 19 one hundred miles northwest and some distance southeast of Stalingrad. This blow was so well-timed that in the first four days the northern and southern forces each advanced 55 miles on schedule, and the threat of encirclement became evident.)

Malinin said "the German High Command apparently was unconcerned because they evidently planned to bring up a powerful groups of reinforcements from Kotelnikovo anyway. However, the genius of this plan directed by Joseph Stalin foresaw this and even predicted that the Germans would attempt to relieve the group. Thus the Red Army prepared for it. The Germans did just what we thought they would do. They were engaged and routed at Kotelnikovo. We captured the original Paulus order to commanders not to receive Red Army emissaries who advanced under white flag to present an ultimatum. This order specified that this peace delegation was to be fired upon—the exact translation read 'to see emissaries off the premises with fire.'"

Malinin said that American and British equipment played very little part in the Battle of Stalingrad. "We had a small number of British tanks—Churchill tanks—but not enough to take into consideration when reckoning the entire offensive. Where they were used, they stood up well under test. No American tanks or planes were used in the battle. There were some American Dodge trucks, but they don't shoot."

The interviews ended and we filed out of headquarters feeling like we had just taken a college examination for a master's degree in history.

However, the Red Army moves fast, and they took us to a nearby village with a dozen or so scattered unpainted houses around which they posted heavy guard. The conducting Red Army colonel motioned us inside one house. There we found four German generals sitting around a table looking at each other, one in a sweater and the other three in full regalia. In the next room were four others standing and looking out the window, and sitting in the corner looking despondent was woebegone General [Romulus] Dimitriu, the onetime glorified Romanian general.

The Germans in the first room got politely to their feet, smiling sheepishly. These men were Hitler's super-generals, leading super-Aryans against an inferior tribe. The only sign of their "super-ness" now were the magnificent decorations of iron crosses displayed on their uniforms like pictures on a gallery wall.

The German generals of the first group included [Otto] Renoldi, Schlömer, Deboi, and Von Daniels. All fought in the last war and are damn proud of it. We were whisked through the room and had little chance to question them, but when they heard were were American correspondents, Schlömer and Renoldi began long conversations about how they like cigarettes of the American type and had used up their ration of Russian cigarettes. Not a single reporter responded to their hint to give them a smoke. I believe if anyone had, he would have been tackled by the entire press corps when we got outside. These generals were getting a Red Army officer's rations according to the Hague Convention, which is too much considering the kind of rats they are.

In the next room Von Drebber, who looks more like a college professor than a military man, dominated the group which included such nasty types as [Hans] Wulz, who is a small, bald-headed, potbellied Prussian who only managed to squeeze out an unenthusiastic "Heil."

Von Drebber, six feet four inches tall, was asked what primary factors led to his defeat. He drew himself up and politely replied: "The Russians struck from the north and south—we were simply sitting in the middle. We were surrounded, cut off with no munitions and no food."

We tried again asking why they didn't try to break out of encirclement. Von Drebber said: "At one time we could have broken the ring—but you will have to ask Marshal Paulus about questions of strategy."

He was asked if he had Hitler's permission to surrender. Von Drebber said: "I was ordered by Paulus to hold until I pushed back to a certain line. When I reached that line I surrendered."
Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Wehrmacht 6th Army, and his adjutant Wilhelm Adam (left) are escorted to the Soviet 64th Army headquarters following the German surrender at Stalingrad, January 31, 1943 (source)
Then we asked Wulz, who is an artillery general, how Russian artillery compared to German artillery. He made a whining, inconsequential answer that "every army has good and bad guns, good and bad artillery—that's how it is with the Russian and German armies."

Schlömer, who was stationed in another house, said however: "The Red Army fought well everywhere we met them."

But the most revealing statements came from Von Arnim and [Fritz] Roske. Roske was asked how the Russians broke them down. Von Arnim interrupted: "That question is badly put. You should ask how we managed to hold out under such conditions."

Roske ignored Von Arnim's remark with a brief statement: "Hunger, cold, and lack of munitions."

However, the Russian colonel was anxious to show us the Red Army's prize exhibit and rushed us to a small farmhouse sitting apart from the others. We gathered outside around the doorway while a grinning Mongolian soldier—definitely non-Aryan—looked down on us.

The door opened and out came Paulus, poker-faced except for a tic which spasmodically twitched from eye to mouth on the right side of his face. He is 53 but looked 65, his face lined and yellowish—almost the same yellowish color of the frozen corpses of men he left lying in gutters in Stalingrad.

Accompanying him was his personal aide, Colonel Adam, a flat-faced Teuton who looked like a slightly overweight ball of concentrated Nazism, and Paulus' chief of staff, General Schmidt, who looked like he'd be happier running a Berlin butcher shop. All men were dressed in fur caps pulled down over their ears against the subzero cold. Paulus answered only two questions, which he appeared to do with effort. He said his first name was Friedrich and that he is 53.

The standing and gazing captured Nazis in those overheated peasant houses, as well as that bare peasant yard where Paulus was held, gave the same feeling one gets when looking in a snake pit at a zoo. But the obvious comparison that strikes when looking at German officers and German soldiers is that the officers are always well-clad while the soldiers are just the opposite. And standing there in that obscure peasant village, these much decorated gold-braided groups of Nazi bigwigs reminded you of a flock of sad-eyed peacocks standing with distaste in a hen run.

The conducting colonel loaded us into drafty buses for a 60 mile trip to Stalingrad. By nightfall the temperature dropped to 40 below, and we started out on a twelve hour, all night trip through snow to Stalingrad.

We would have made the trip sooner when we ran into a Russian supply column moving westward from Stalingrad toward new battlefields. There was a long black line of soldiers, horses, mobile kitchens, guns, and cars. It was an unbelievable sight out there in the steppes to come upon so many people slowly moving along the snow-choked road. But the most unbelievable of all was the sight of camels pulling sledges in three feet of snow.

As we made our way slowly along the road against traffic, a curious Red Army man came up to our bus, looked in, grinned and asked: "Deutschen Soldaten?"

When we explained we were Americans he immediately called all his comrades and soon there was a great crowd around our bus. We passed out cigarettes and someone made a speech with the general theme of friendship between the Soviet Union and the United States. Russians will make a speech at the drop of the hat, but it gave you a warm feeling overcoming even the steppe temperatures to get such a demonstration of friendship at two o'clock in the morning in the swirling snow and wind 30 miles east of Stalingrad on the world's bloodiest battlefield.

We arrived in Stalingrad at about 4 a.m. The driver seemed anxious to get there. We drove around for two hours. The only thing in sight were the dark ruins where we spotted fires which sentries cluttered around to keep warm.

Our driver finally pulled up to one of these fires, and when he got out he was crying. Our interpreter explained that the driver had once lived in Stalingrad and had not been back to the city since the battle. "He can't find any street that he knows," the interpreter explained. "He hasn't yet recognized a house."

This is because there were no houses. The streets were just auto tracks over ruins up and down through bombshell holes. This was the Red October factory district, parts of which changed hands a half dozen times during the fighting.

As the sun came up the scene of devastation was so great it made a lump in your throat. This was the worker's factory district's small homes. These homes were absolutely flat. Not even a gracious blanket of snow could cover the destruction they suffered.

Characteristic of all bombings I have seen in Britain, one of the most indestructible items of furniture in any home is the iron bedstead. It is the same in Stalingrad. The grave of every home is marked by charred headpieces of beds sticking up like tombstones over what was a peaceful home. Occasionally one could mark where a street once existed by looking closely at poles sticking six or seven feet out of the ground. These once were telephone poles which stuck ten to twelve feet up. Now they looked like blasted trees.

Sentries told us that, believe it or not, some civilians holed up in their basements and stuck through the whole bombardment. These included some women who did washing and cooking for the Red Army.

What these people suffered cannot even be imagined. When they were without food, they were forced to forage and risk bombshells. Horse meat was considered a delicacy, and sometimes bread. But they stuck through it, although many are not there to tell their story.
Soldiers of the Soviet 62nd Army walk past dugouts constructed on the banks of the Volga, 1942 (source)
At daybreak we were directed to the headquarters of the 62nd Army, which is credited for saving the city of Stalingrad. The headquarters is built into the side of a western bluff on the Volga near the bottom of a hundred foot high clay cliff. We were led up this cliff to dugouts—zemlyankas—small timber-roofed caves dug into the side of the cliff from where the Red Army held the Germans from establishing themselves on the bank of Russia's greatest river. Just three days earlier the Germans had been only 300 yards away from my zemlyanka. But I slept well—they are now fighting on a line 200 miles away.

Rising above the Volga bluff is Stalingrad's famous Hill 102, Mamayev Kurgan, which the Germans held and placed heavy artillery. The hill commands a view of the entire city as well as the Volga, over which the Red Army's vital supply lines are held. The summit of Mamayev Kurgan is only about a quarter mile from the Volga, and between it and the river are the Red October and Red Barricades factories. Beyond these plants is the high Volga bank wherein zemlyankas are located. This is where some of the bitterest fighting occurred.

We walked single file along a narrow path through the factory. There was little need to remind us the factory was mined, as every minute or so there was a shattering explosion of rock wreckage in a nearby district which Red Army sappers were de-mining.

The Red October factory once made steel for tractors and farm implements. With the war it switched over to tank armaments. After the Battle of Stalingrad the whole plant is now simply a junk heap. The Germans took almost the entire building after it was mercilessly shelled and bombed flat. The only portions of the factory still standing are extremely heavy girders which once held cranes. All other buildings are flat. There literally was not a piece of sheet iron roofing or shovel or piece of metal sticking four inches above ground which didn't have bullet shrapnel or fragment holes through it.

It was in this factory that we saw our first German dead. They were lying at the bottom of a large bomb crater with only their bare feet sticking up. Most of Red October's bodies had been cleaned up earlier.

The de-mined path through the factory led across wreckage and craters. We passed a German dugout in perfectly good condition, clean and well-kept. Beside it stood a sentry, and a sign on the door warned: "Keep Away—This Booby Trap."

The path ended at the most forward-line trenches the Germans held at the factory. These lines are on a small hill facing another factory building which still had two walls standing. The Russians held positions in the factory building which I paced, measuring twelve yards. It was here that some brilliant conversations between warring men occurred. This Russian factory position once manufactured consumer goods. Red Army men did their fighting here among dishpans, skillets, and shovels that littered the floor.
Soviet soldiers fighting in the destroyed Red October factory during the Battle of Stalingrad, January 1943 (source)
The only ordinary looking battlefield we saw was Mamayev Kurgan. This hill is terraced in a series of five foot shelves, and there was a recently planted apple orchard with young saplings about four feet high. There is absolutely no cover, and looking down it from German gun positions are trenches. It appeared that a single squad of machine gunners could hold against advancing infantry forces indefinitely.

Correspondents had trouble even walking over the slick snow uphill in broad daylight. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for the Soviet soldiers who only a few weeks earlier negotiated slopes under a hail of bullets, artillery shrapnel, and dive bombers. The only statement on the subject I could get from a former Red Army man was a private who grimly admitted: "It was tough."

But once they took positions atop the first ridge a really tough job still awaited. The Germans for weeks held two almost impregnable fortresses atop the hill. They were two circular water tanks about ten feet apart. The tanks were about 50 feet in diameter, dug 30 feet into the ground with about 15 feet of reinforced concrete surfaces sticking above ground. Around the tops these Germans threw earth embankment, forming a shell-proof, bomb-proof position virtually impregnable—until the Red Army decided to take it.

The battlefield before these two fortresses was like any battlefield of the First World War. There were wrecked tanks, smashed Russian and German helmets, empty shell case remnants, and smashed guns. There were bodies which had not yet been cleaned up. There were pieces of mortars, bombs, grenades, and strips of machine gun bullets.

The Russians finally took position by digging trenches up to the fortresses and then launching an infantry assault from there. Tanks were no good, only bayonets, grenades, and Tommy guns were effective in the final clean-out.
The southern part of the eastern slope of the hill Mamayev Kurgan in Stalingrad in 1943 right after the battle. A destroyed Renault UE Chenillette, a French armored carrier used by the Wehrmacht, sits in the foreground (source)
But the greatest shock came when we entered the city of Stalingrad proper. The way Stalingrad is laid out is strip factory districts stretching northward along the Volga, with worker's districts connected by bus and streetcar lines. These settlements were marked by wreckage. Streetcars which ran between community centers now stood burned out, wrecked on what was left of their tracks. Store shops along Communist Street—which is the main highway connecting these settlements—now only had a few walls left. About every quarter mile on Communist Street the Germans built barricades eight feet high, consisting of two fences built five feet apart and filled in with dirt bricks and rubble from nearby houses.

As we approached the city center with its modern buildings, there were more and more signs of increased fighting. Around the ground floor windows, many of which were sandbagged with apertures for machine guns, there were countless chinks made by bullets or holes made by shells.

As we neared the town square called "Heroes of the Revolution" we could see bodies in doorways or behind barricades or lying on sidewalks. Fragments of letters and photographs from home, all written in German, littered streets—letters from Berlin and Hamburg starting out with "Mein Lieber Karl," or Heinrich or Heinz.

There was not a single manhole in Stalingrad's streets with a cover. Germans and Russians not only used the city's basements, housetops, and alleys for battlegrounds, but the sewers as well. Snipers were known to crawl through sewers and come out behind German positions to create panic.

You could almost arm a full division with equipment lying about Stalingrad's ruined streets. Grenades clutter gutters. Full machine gun belts lie across sidewalks, and mortars are a dime a dozen.

Veterans of the Stalingrad fight said it was not uncommon to find Russian and German soldiers locked in each other's death grip during the height of the fighting. That was the way these two armies locked in the city of Stalingrad fought until the Red Army proved itself more powerful and skilled and brought the Wehrmacht to its knees.

Returning to my zemlyanka after this trip through Stalingrad, I went to the headquarters kitchen to ask for a drink of water. The Red Army girl dipped some out of a bucket with a tin cup. The water was cold and clean and good, and I told her so: "Your vodka and wine are great but nothing is better than this water."

She threw back her head and replied: "It ought to be. It's Volga water. It's got Russian blood in it."