January 26, 2023

1941. "World War II: America Enters It"

"The Most Tremendous Undertaking of Our American History"
December 14, 1941
On December 14, 1941, The New York Times wrote about the events following the attack on Pearl Harbor in its "News of the Week in Review" section, calling it "the most dramatic week in the country's history."

From The New York Times, December 14, 1941:
America Enters It
We are now in this war. We are all in it—all the way. Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.

The President of the United States spoke these solemn words last Tuesday evening to his 132,000,000 countrymen. On the gleaming windows of the White House the blinds were drawn. The floodlamps that customarily shine on the dome of the Capitol were extinguished. It was symbolic of the lights that were going out all over America. After twenty-three years of peace the nation had entered its second World War.

The chronicle of events from Dec. 7—the most dramatic week in the country's history—was thus recorded by the headlines of The New York Times:





The issue, as expressed by the Chief Executive, was simple but of awesomely fundamental import: "Together with other free peoples, we are now fighting to maintain our right to live among our world neighbors in freedom and in common decency, without fear of assault." At stake were the life of democracy, the national survival, the continuation of a history written on Lexington Green and in the snow of Valley Forge, on Gettysburg slopes and in the forest of the Argonne, by Conestoga wagons and the melting pot, by all the good and ill of more than a century and a half of a people's saga.

The Hard Grim Fact

The scales, as it were, were hacked from the eyes of America. Isolationism and interventionism became academic. The niceties of "all aid short of war," the precise line that marked a "shooting war," were swallowed by the hard grim fact of war itself. Twenty-seven months of clashing opinion as to where the best interest of the country lay as conflict flamed abroad were dissolved by the common peril, the common urge to repulse and crush the first major invasion of United States territory since the adolescent year of 1812. The Congressional declarations of war, dramatic yet anticlimactic, demonstrated the swiftly forged national unity.

With a clarifying shock America realized that the aggressions of a decade had been, in a sense, aggressions against peaceful peoples everywhere. The invasion of Manchuria, the skirmishes in the Ethiopian desert and at Peiping's Marco Polo Bridge, the march begun on the plains of Poland and spread over Europe and North Africa—all were suddenly seen as truly assaults on the United States as the surprise raid on Oahu. The jigsaw puzzle of scattered conquest was joined into an orderly unit. The pattern of rampant world forces took clear outline.

The whole globe was the battleground, on a scale surpassing that of 1914-18. The chief powers pitted against the aggressors were the United States, Great Britain, Russia, China, the Netherlands Indies. Their population totaled more than 1,100,000,000, their armies numbered between 8,700,000 and 15,000,000 men, their naval armadas included the two most powerful fleets in the world. Germany, Japan and their satellites had a population of 251,000,000, dominated another 250,000,000 of subjugated peoples, disposed armies of 10,500,000 to 13,500,000 men, naval forces including the world's third largest fleet. The manpower, material resources and war potential of the anti-aggressor faction were the greater. The totalitarians had definite military advantages; the headstart in war machine building, tighter organization, shorter lines of communication, and, apparently, a plan whose scope, many thought, had been drawn on the drafting board of Adolf Hitler.

Totalitarian Goals

The totalitarian objectives were to create new orders in Europe, Asia, Africa. The Herrenvolk and the Samurai were to be the masters, their satellites were to share in the spoils, subjugated peoples were to be the hewers of wood and drawers of water. The scorned democratic way of life was to be beaten out of the human consciousness.

To create the new orders it was necessary to dominate the Atlantic and the Pacific, the ocean barriers of which many Americans had trusted as the French had trusted the Maginot Line. Control of the great waters would open dazzling highways for conquerors—to the raw-material treasure houses, the unexploited spaces, the markets of South America, Oceania, East Asia. It would gird them for the developing conflict of attrition. It would isolate the United States arsenal, cut up the British Empire. The strategists in Berlin and Tokyo undoubtedly calculated that the opening of the new theatre in the Pacific would disperse Anglo-American strength, turn the tables of the two-front war, as Nazi spokesmen put it, on the democratic enemy.

The assault in the Pacific—long planned, as it appeared—did not swerve Washington and London from their realization that the Atlantic was still a crucial arena. A reminder came from the Fuehrer himself as he pronounced war against America from the stage of Berlin's Kroll Opera House, where he had first promised to wear his old soldier's coat until the battle begun in Poland was won. To some it seemed that the Wehrmacht's retreat on the frost-bound Russian line and in the Libyan wasteland might be prelude to a direct blow in the Atlantic—perhaps a greater U-boat campaign from the bases in West African France as well as European France. The zone of hostilities now embraced not only the bridge from the arsenal but also the shores of the arsenal itself. For America it was the first war in which she faced foes on both coasts.
December 8, 1941 (click to enlarge)
Asiatic Theater
A New Front Opens
Suppose the land surface of the globe could be pushed together into a contiguous mass, picked up and dropped into the watery expanse known as the Pacific Ocean. Terra firma would vanish beneath those waters, for they cover an area larger than all of the earth's continents and islands. The Pacific is the oldest, biggest and deepest of the oceans. It is twice the size of the Atlantic, plumbing a depth of almost seven miles. It's 70,000,000 square miles stretch from the Bering Strait to the Antarctic, from the Philippines to Panama. They wash North and South America, Asia, Australia, and the tremendous island cluster called Oceania.

Conquistador Balboa first viewed the swells of the vast ocean from the jungle-clad peak in Panama's Darien. He claimed for his sovereign in Spain whatever soil the "Great South Sea" touched. That was in 1513. For nearly four centuries the story of the Pacific was a tale of occidental rivalry for control of the water bridge to the fabled spice islands of the East and the golden cities of Cathay that Columbus had sought.

Spaniard, Portuguese, Dutchman, Russian, Briton, Frenchman, Yankee and German were entered, at various periods, in the competition. Magellan, bursting into the placid ocean from the rough icy straits above Cape Horn, gave it its misleading name. Tasman, greatest of Dutch navigators, discovered New Zealand and the Fijis. Bering, the Dane, explored the North Pacific for Czar Peter the Great.

Pacific Adventurers

The Englishmen: Drake, the circumnavigator. Bligh of the Bounty. Captain Cook, physician and sailor, whose three voyages to the South Sea ended in his death on a Hawaiian beach. The Yankees: The legion of Down East whalers, like Melville's Captain Ahab, and the clipper masters who left their stamp from Honolulu to Canton. Commodore Perry, who unlocked the citadel of Japan to the world.

The Samurai March

About forty years after Commodore Perry dropped anchor in Yedo Bay the Nipponese were ready for the first step in a program of expansion. A military state by tradition, they had recognized the superiority of Western armament, had launched the miraculous transformation of their self-sufficient, isolated feudalism into a modern industrial and commercial economy that could serve as the base for steel ships and guns. The new system needed overseas markets, overseas sources of raw materials. The Japanese trader with his bag of cheap goods and the Japanese immigrant were at the forefront of a tide that poured from the fatherland into the Pacific lands, from Korea to Luzon to California.

The samurai were not far behind, equipped with the new ironclads and cannon in place of swords. In 1894 the island empire eliminated the Chinese as a naval factor; it took hold of Formosa and Korea. In 1904-05 the conflict with the Czar's army and navy, ushered in by the surprise blow at Mukden, eliminated the Russians; from Kamchatka to the China Sea the western Pacific became a Japanese lake. Between 1914 and 1918 the German foothold in China and the South Seas was largely transferred to the Japanese, providing new bases for further advance. In 1931 came the invasion of Manchuria, securing the Japanese rear, flanking the Siberian Maritime Provinces and North China.

Then ten years since have been marked by the conquest of the China coast and river valleys, by the barring of the occidental trader from the rich Orient markets, by the absorption and elimination of France as a power in the Pacific, by Anglo-American economic reprisals to stay Japanese expansion. The culmination was reached last week.
December 14, 1941
The Forces

In the showdown fight for control of the greatest ocean—the most ambitious step in her half-century wave of expansion—Japan faces the ABCD coalition. Forged hurriedly a few months ago as a counter to the occupation of Indo-China, the new alliance consists of America, Britain, China and the Dutch. It is behind the Japanese in military preparation; it suffers the disadvantage of long lines of communication. But it has mighty naval power, a war potential that may prove decisive in a long-drawn struggle. Russia, while not actively involved at the moment, plays a part. Her Siberian forces immobilize considerable Japanese strength in the north. The line-up of powers:
Japanese Empire. 2,601 years old. Deficient in raw materials. Dependent on the outside world for oil, copper, iron, cotton and other stuff of life and war. Strong industrial nation, on a war footing for more than a decade. Owner of Pacific island fortresses stretching far from the homeland. Owner of the world's third largest navy—its exact strength and building program shrouded in secrecy—a powerful air force, a battle-seasoned army.

United States. 165 years old. Largely self-sufficient. Among its few deficiencies, vital tin and rubber from the Far East. Producer of 63 per cent of the world's petroleum, one-third of the world's coal, copper, iron, phosphates, zinc. Greatest industrial nation on earth, turning slowly toward total war economy since 1940. Owner of Pacific island fortresses stretching far from the homeland. Owner of the world's greatest naval striking force—1,000 warships—a powerful air force, a growing army.

Britain. Holder of immense stakes—Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, great islands of Oceania, Malaya and, close to these, Burma and India, chief arsenal of her fighting forces in the East. Her defense pivoted on Singapore, her troops drawn from near-by segments of her empire, her naval strength recently augmented by ships from the Atlantic.

China. Home of the oldest contemporary civilization. A seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of man power. Her most populous areas and greatest cities conquered by Japan in four bitter years of struggle, she still fights on from the remote interior. Her continued resistance, her army of 4,000,000 dependent chiefly on supplies from the United States via the Burma Road.

Netherlands East Indies. Since the seventeenth century under Dutch control. Now the stronghold of the people whose homeland was overrun by the Germans. A chest of natural wealth which industrial nations covet: rubber, coal, oil, tin, quinine, foodstuffs. Possessor of a compact navy, topped by three cruisers; a small but powerful bomber force; a fairly well-equipped native army.

U.S.S.R. Inheritor of the empire carved by the Czars across Siberian steppe and tundra to the North Pacific shore. Supporter of Free China. Traditional foe of the Nipponese. Recipient of Anglo-American aid in the fight against Hitler. Her crack army, air force and submarine fleet in the Maritime Provinces—within striking distance of vulnerable Japanese industrial centers—have long been a worry to Tokyo's militarists.
December 14, 1941
ABCD Defense Line

The main defense line of the ABCD powers runs across the Pacific from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Singapore on the tip of the Malay Peninsula. The two powerful bases, each termed a Gibraltar, plus secondary outposts between, screen most of Oceania and the South Pacific. They guard: (1) the Indies archipelago; (2) the communications of Australia and New Zealand with the rest of Britain's Empire; (3) the communications from the American mainland to the Philippines; (4) the supply route over which Malayan tin, Indies rubber and quinine, Chinese tungsten flowed to the United States; (5) the supply route over which equipment from the American arsenal flowed to the Burma Road link with Free China.

Into this line Nippon's expansion had thrust salients long before the outbreak of the present war. The Japanese mandated islands, former German possessions, lie between Hawaii and the American outposts to the west. Occupied Indo-China points toward the Indies, flanks the Philippines and Malaya. Chiefly from bases in these salients the Japanese moved last week. Their immediate objectives were to destroy Anglo-American naval strength and thus give themselves preponderance, to reduce the Philippine and Malayan barriers to the Indies.

The Netherland islands and their oil—oil which now fuels the ABCD naval and aerial fleets—were viewed by many as the chief objective of the Nipponese blitz. In this opinion, the Japanese militarists had plunged into a life-and-death gamble to secure a supply of the commodity without which their war machine would stall. The ABCD counter strategy was to hold the bastions to the Indies, to keep the Nipponese blockaded, and to strike back by sea, air and land from the mid-Pacific to the jungles of Southeastern Asia.
The Action

The glow of the volcano Kilauea, with its "pit of eternal fire," paled as night yielded to a cloudy dawn. The gray light fell on the islands of Hawaii, twenty summits of a gigantic submarine mountain chain up 2,400 miles from the American mainland. On the fortress island of Oahu the city of Honolulu was still asleep. Seven miles away the great warships of the United States Navy floated at anchor in their chief Pacific base, ten square miles of blue water called Pearl Harbor. Nearby, at the Army's Hickam Field, warplanes were parked in hangars. The guns that bristle everywhere on the island were silent. It was quiet, last Sunday morning, in Oahu.

Suddenly planes with the red ball of the Rising Sun of Japan painted on their wings were over the island. They came flying high, in waves, dived, bombed, torpedoed, machine-gunned. Like a tropical typhoon war had swept over the Pacific. The Japanese, their assaults heralded only by the roar of approaching bombers, lashed out at American and British strongholds from Hawaii to China.

The men from Nippon won the first engagement of the Battle of the Pacific. Their surprise assault wreaked much damage at the $1,000,000,000 Hawaiian bastion. Few details of the action were released by Washington. It was known that the Fleet steamed out of Pearl Harbor's narrow channel in search of plane carriers that may have been the airfields of the attacking bombers. Not all the American ships could move. Official preliminary reports from Washington revealed the loss of one old battleship, one destroyer, "serious" damage to heavy and light warships, 3,000 casualties. Some capital sources feared that the final report on what happened in Pearl Harbor might tell of an even graver blow to the fleet's strength.

Scenes of Combat

As Japanese warplanes renewed attacks on Pearl Harbor, following the initial assault, major blows and counter-blows of the new war centered on the following theatres: (1) the mid-Pacific island bases of the United States; (2) the Philippines; (3) British Malaya; (4) China.

Island bases. Three links in the chain of communications from Hawaii to the Philippines are the islands of Midway, Wake and Guam, all naval stations. The Midways are specks of land surrounded by coral reef, home of crabs, turtles and albatrosses. The islands' human population, before the Navy began to build, was confined to men and women working for a commercial cable company and a relay station for the trans-Pacific Clippers. Wake Island is a tiny, horseshoe-shaped coral reef, covered with tangled brush, umbrella and hardwood trees. The volcanic island of Guam, where graceful coconut palms sway, is larger, with a population of 22,000.

Last week all three bases—they are close, as Pacific distances go, to the Japanese mandated islands of the South Seas—rocked under the enemy bombs and shells. Tokyo quickly claimed the capture of Guam. At the week's close Midway was still reported in American hands. On Wake, the Marine garrison, fighting against heavy odds, held off repeated air and sea attacks. American bombers knew victory, sinking a Japanese light cruiser and a destroyer.
December 14, 1941
On a Rugged Isle

The Philippines. The 7,083 islands named after Philip II of Spain lie in a half moon hugging the east coast of Asia. Biggest and most important is Luzon. The terrain of this island, about Ohio's size, is rugged. Explorers in the interior have found cataracts twice as high as Niagara. In high mountain fastnesses oak and pine grow among the tree ferns. In Northern Luzon giant rice terraces climb the sides of mountains soaring to a height of 5,000 feet. The lichen-covered terrace walls are made of stones which natives carried up the steep slopes centuries ago.

On Luzon's west coast, at the mouth of the muddy Pasig River, lies Manila, largest city, capital and principal port of the Philippines. The mansion-lined, tree-shaded Dewey Boulevard overlooks Manila Bay, the Orient's best harbor. The city is ringed with strong defenses. Near by is Nichols Field, Army air base. A few miles away on Manila Bay is the naval base at Cavite, where Moro pirates, Chinese, Dutch, British and French fought long before Dewey.

Last week Luzon was the object of a full-fledged invasion. By day and moonlit night Japanese bombers loosed their cargoes on the Manila region. Japanese troops landed in force on the northern coast. Other Nipponese soldiers went ashore in Southern Luzon. A pincers operation against Manila seemed to be Tokyo's strategy.

The Bombers Score

The landings, made under the cover of aircraft and warships, were costly. Transports were sunk. United States Army bombers won a major victory, sending to the Pacific floor a 29,000-ton Japanese battleship. Navy patrol bombers scored damaging hits on another capital vessel. Regular Army and native Filipino troops grappled with the Japanese landing parties, attempted to beat the invaders back to the sea. Elsewhere in the island the defenders fought parachutists dropped to seize airfields.

British Malaya. Off the steaming eastern coast of the long Malay Peninsula, southernmost part of Asia, Britain last week suffered her worst naval defeat of the war. The new 35,000-ton battleship Prince of Wales, flagship of the British Far Eastern Fleet, and the 32,000-ton battle cruiser Repulse sank beneath the waves. Air power had triumphed over sea power. Japanese land-based planes had swarmed over the British battlewagons for hours, bombing, bombing. Other aircraft had swooped low over the water and sent torpedoes crashing into the warships' hulls. Most members of the crews survived to fight another day. About 2,300 sailors and officers of the probable 2,700 who manned the ships, swimming in the oil-coated water, were picked up by escorting vessels.

Britain's Citadel

Only a few days before the H. M. S. Prince of Wales had led a squadron of capital ships into Singapore. The hot and humid island on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula is the focus of Britain's Far Eastern defenses. There is located the great $80,000,000 naval base begun in 1928 to guard the empire against a war which Japan might be hostile. Northward 400 miles from Singapore, to the border of Thailand, stretches British Malaya. Magnificent wooded mountain ranges rise in the interior. From enormous open pits along the mountain slopes the country's treasure of tin is mined. Forests blanket three-fourths of the country.

Last week both ends of British Malaya were under Japanese attack. The Nipponese planes repeated the familiar pattern of Blitzkrieg bombings: on Singapore and against the British troops on the Thailand border in the north. The principal Japanese offensive against British Malaya was an invasion of the northeastern coast near the entrance to the Gulf of Siam. Tokyo's troops landed on sandy beaches, then drove inland through jungle-fringed swamps and rice fields. They succeeded in capturing the important Kota Bharu airdrome, near the northern terminus of a railroad leading to Singapore. Elsewhere on the long peninsula the British claimed to be beating back the invaders, but looked toward a long struggle for control of Northern Malaya.

China. It was just 100 years ago that Britain acquired from China an eleven-mile-long island, inhabited only by a few fishermen, at the mouth of the Canton River. Now the island and 359 square miles of mainland form the British Crown colony of Hong Kong, important naval and military station, home of 1,050,000, haven for 750,000 Chinese refugees from the Japanese. Hong Kong is a dagger thrust into the Nipponese lines controlling the Chinese coast. Last week, by land, sea and air, the Japanese sought to blunt the dagger. The British claimed they were holding as firm as the granite hills which covered much of Hong Kong island. In an effort to relieve the pressure on the British colony, the Chinese legions of Chiang Kai-shek opened an offensive against the Japanese in the Canton area.
December 14, 1941 (click to enlarge)
European Theater
A New Phase Looms
The clash in the Pacific, in the strategy of the world combat, was an extension of the two-year-old Battle of the Atlantic. The Axis apparently looked upon it as an effort to spread thin Anglo-American naval power over two oceans, to disrupt the stream of supply from the United States arsenal to the British and Russian fronts in Europe and the Middle East. It seemed an attempt to shift the tide of the Atlantic struggle, which has been running against the totalitarian cause.

It was nine months ago that the tide flowed strongly against Britain. Not since the height of the World War's unrestricted U-boat campaign had the sea arteries of the British Isles been so imperiled. "Everything turns on the Battle of the Atlantic," said Prime Minister Churchill in April, 1941, as he summoned his nation to a supreme drive on Nazi undersea, surface and air raiders.

In the critical period America's weight was thrown into the balance. The United States Atlantic patrol scoured the seas for Axis marauders. The action was the logical consequence of a realization that aid to Britain was cardinal in United States defense. The realization could be traced through changes in the Neutrality Law, acquisition of new Atlantic bases, passage of the Lease-Lend Law and finally by the "shoot-on-sight" order to the Atlantic patrol.

In Atlantic Waters

The aid of the powerful democracy across the seas helped Britain gain the edge in the Battle of the Atlantic. By Autumn of 1941 the Nazi counter-blockade seemed frustrated. The number of British ships sunk dropped to one-fifth of the Spring and Summer total, and new bottoms sliding down American ways tipped the scales further against the Axis.

The ocean struggle was linked with the invasion of Russia. Hitler, it was thought, hoped to eliminate the menace of the Red Army before staging the "final" assault on the British Isles. He hoped to harness the resources of the U.S.S.R. to his war machine. But the Nazi drive bogged down in the immense land of the Soviets. Halted in Russia and in the Atlantic, Germany pressed her oriental Axis partner to strike.

There were signs that a new phase of the Atlantic struggle might open now that Anglo-American attention was being drawn to the Far East. Berlin's negotiations with Vichy, some thought, might be a prelude to Nazi acquisition of the still powerful French fleet and bases on the French West African shore. Thus the Germans would have potential bases extending from Norway's Arctic zone to the tropics. Rumor had it that Nazi U-boats were being massed along this front for a renewed smash at the Atlantic "bridge" of ships.

Russia Hits Hard

Russia last week lay squarely between the two fronts of America's war. Her western border was a battlefield against the Nazis; her eastern shore a silent threat to Japan. From Vladivostok it is 670 miles to Tokyo, three hours for a modern bombing plane. The rear of Nippon's far-flung front lay wide open to the Soviets, who for nearly six months have been fighting for the life of Russia against the Axis partners of Japan.

Would the U.S.S.R. take part in the Pacific struggle, if indeed she could spare the effort? From Moscow came word that the Soviet government would make no separate peace with Germany; that it sympathized with the United States and Britain, and denounced the Japanese attack. No one could yet tell whether Stalin would break his non-aggression treaty with the Nipponese to aid the democratic coalition.

In Six Months of Carnage

Nearly six months have passed since that June Sunday when Hitler ordered his troops eastward against the vast space of Russia. The sprawling Soviet Republics seemed at that time an invitation to the Blitzkrieg which so swiftly conquered Europe. Their vulnerable communications, scattered cities and rolling plains and woodlands seemed ideal for the lightning war of penetration, envelopment and destruction—the Red Army, Germans held, was clumsy, slow of movement; the Communist regime of Stalin weak. German leaders, it was believed, considered three months adequate to bring about defeat and internal collapse of their opponent.

Initial successes of the Wehrmacht seemed to confirm these expectations. A far-flung offensive was developed by the Luftwaffe. Tank divisions thrust their long fingers deep into the Soviet lines, enveloping whole armies at Bialystok and Minsk. The Stalin Line was overrun by bloody fighting, and the front pushed gradually to Leningrad, Smolensk, Kiev and Odessa. From there it moved more slowly down the road to Moscow, into the Donets Basin of the rich Ukraine, along the Black Sea Coast to the Crimea and the Caucasus. At times all forward movement stopped; and to observers of the struggle it seemed as though the penetrating talons of the Blitzkrieg were becoming dulled, that space and the "inexplicable resistance" of the Russians were baffling the Germans.

Nazi Setback

Last week that supposition seemed confirmed. A spokesman for the German Army admitted a halt in the Wehrmacht's drive. He said that Moscow would not be captured this year, that during the Winter German troops would have to abandon the war of movement, that all up and down the 2,000-mile front from the Arctic to the Sea of Azov they were digging in. "The cold is so terrific that even the oil freezes in the motorized vehicles," the spokesman said. "Soldiers trying to take cover simply freeze to the ground. Fighting under these conditions is practically impossible."

Moscow had a different version of the turn of the fighting. It was not cold alone that caused the Nazi halt, the Soviet claimed, but fighting Russian soldiers. The Red Army was reported to be advancing everywhere. The Germans were said to be driven from positions dearly won south of Leningrad, north, west and south of Moscow, and on the southern front along the Sea of Azov and in Crimea. Where the German High Command spoke briefly of "local actions," Moscow claimed the Wehrmacht's retreat had become a rout.

Observers thought the Nazi withdrawal might indicate a change of strategy. Some believed the Germans were retiring westward for invasion of the British Isles; some saw a coming drive through Turkey. Still others thought it likely that the Germans were "appeasing" Russia to keep her out of the Pacific war. The most obvious reason—that the Wehrmacht was retiring "to lick its wounds"—seemed difficult to believe. Yet Russia gave no sign that she could be "appeased," and the Red Army, immune to the growing cold, continued everywhere to press its advantage.

Retreat in the Desert

On the sands of Libya, as in the snow of Russia, the Germans last week were in retreat. On Nov. 18 the British armies deployed along the Libyan-Egyptian frontier had begun their long-awaited drive to oust the Axis from the Cyrenaica. In the first shock of battle, they drove deep through the desert toward Tobruk, dividing the tank divisions of German General Erwin Rommel, creating pockets in a great battle across the Libyan sand like ships at sea. Definitive victory seemed near, yet as the smoke of battle cleared it found the Axis forces still maneuvering, the issue undecided.

Last week, after a lull of ten days in which reserves were brought up from the rear and damaged tanks repaired, the British struck again. Fresh forces drove the tired and depleted Axis armies westward with increasing speed. Besieged Tobruk was definitely freed. Yesterday the British were reported chasing Rommel fifty miles beyond that town, approaching the farthest point of their advance a year ago.

With these developments the apparent immediate objectives of the British drive on Libya seemed near accomplishment. These had been: (1) destruction of Axis matériel; (2) elimination of the threat to Suez which might have started from Cyrenaica; (3) diversion of German troops from the hard-pressed Russian front to the North African theatre. More distant objectives were also seen. It was thought that a British victory in Libya might counteract a possible surrender by Vichy of French North and West African bases to the Axis. From a conquered Libya, some believed, the British might eventually strike at Italy, the weak side of the Axis house.
Front page of The New York Times on December 9, 1941
M-Day Comes
The Nation Mobilizes
M-Day has been the symbol for the day on which the United States would leave the ways of peace and embark upon the path of war. Army, Navy and Government officials have long been drafting blueprints for that day, blueprints which have been revised and broadened many times since martial theories first met their test in total war overseas. Last week M-Day came to America. Its repercussions penetrated through the length and breadth of the republic. At home, in the school, in the factory, the nation girded for conflict and what its President called "the inevitable triumph."

To most Americans war came first in cryptic radio bulletins. For some the first news brought mild hysteria, for others the calm feeling that what had long been expected had come at last. For all, there was the firm conviction that the nation must lash out with all its strength against its enemies. "Unity clicked into place," one observer said. Isolationist and interventionist abruptly terminated their feud. Bitter-end opponents of the Roosevelt foreign policy, men like Burton K. Wheeler, Charles A. Lindbergh and John L. Lewis, announced their unqualified support of Administration war measures.

Youth Volunteers

Nowhere was the nation's determination more apparent than in the recruiting offices of the armed forces. A scant twenty-four hours after the first Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, almost 2,000 young men gathered in long queues outside the massive Federal Building on New York's Church Street to offer their services to the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps. Similar scenes were enacted in other cities.

Upon the military establishment itself the war burst with full impact. All branches of service were placed on emergency footing. Detachments of soldiers were quickly moved to the West Coast to guard against invasion; units of the Navy took battle stations. Morale was high. The War Department outlined plans for an army of 2,000,000 men. The Navy began a campaign to lift its personnel to 369,000 men by June 30, 1942.

Congress swiftly swung into action. Wartime legislation was rushed. Bills were passed or under way: (1) decreeing the service of all military branches for the duration; (2) removing Selective Service Act restrictions on sending men outside continental United States; (3) requiring men from 18 to 64 to register for defense tasks, those from 19 to 44 in the armed forces.

Upon America's industrial arsenal, roaring into high gear after months of tooling up, the war was expected to lay demands that would dwarf those in the past. The needs of American forces engaged on the far-flung Pacific front and of Allies grappling with the Axis in Europe, Africa and Asia presented an unprecedented challenge to the nation's productive capacity. The immensity of that challenge was emphasized in Washington defense councils. The Supply, Priorities and Allocations Board called upon all manufacturers to double their output. President Roosevelt asked a seven-day week in defense work and immediate extension of plant facilities.

The acceleration of industrial production forecast great sacrifices. Authorities estimated that the so-called "victory program" would cost Americans $150,000,000,000. Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau warned of mounting taxes to cover mounting expenses. The "victory program" was also expected to strain the nation's stocks of necessary materials.

Pledges of Unity

Among the nation's union leaders, from Philip Murray and William Green down to the heads of small locals, there was quick recognition that production for victory depended on the cooperation of organized labor. In resolutions and in telegrams to the President, that cooperation was pledged by union after union. The sentiment of both capital and labor seemed favorable to a cessation of disputes during the emergency. President Roosevelt called together eight labor leaders, eight industrialists and four representatives of the public to formulate a binding, though voluntary, agreement on basic wartime labor procedure.

For the protection of civilians against raiders from the sky, military and non-military authorities acted in close cooperation. At Army airports pilots stood ready to fly fast interceptor planes against enemy bomber formations. The Office of Civilian Defense executed emergency air-raid-precaution plans in preparation since last May.

The nation experienced its first air-raid alarms. Enemy bombers were reported flying up the coast of California toward the shipyards and plants clustered around San Francisco Bay. In the "city of missions" sirens sounded, lights were dimmed, radio stations ceased broadcasting. Other cities felt the threat of air attack. New York City and other points on the Atlantic seaboard heard the long wail of the alert and the short, sharp blasts of the all-clear.

To the average citizen the realization of danger came slowly. Calm prevailed. Officials had trouble enforcing blackout regulations. But there were indications of growing concern. House owners purchased black cloth to cover windows. Hotels, hospitals and schools organized for all emergencies.

January 14, 2023

1939. Germany Prepares for War

William L. Shirer Reports From Berlin

William L. Shirer

CBS Berlin

August 28, 1939

ROBERT TROUT: Now let's hear from the German capital, where high government officials are awaiting the arrival of the returning British ambassador. To hear the Chief of Columbia's Continental Staff, William L. Shirer, we take you now to Berlin.

WILLIAM L. SHIRER: Hello America. Hello CBS. This is Berlin. The sands are running fast. Tonight, here in Berlin, we should have a decision whether it's to be peace or war.

It's just eight minutes to 8:00 Berlin Time, and Sir Neville Henderson, the British ambassador, is due to arrive any minute now from London. A big Mercedes car is waiting for him out at the Tempelhof Aerodrome, and will rush him to Herr Hitler's Chancellery in the Wilhelmstraße as soon as he arrives. The outcome of this historic meeting is now in the lap of the gods.

Although word has sifted through this afternoon that the British government cannot accept the demands which Herr Hitler made public last night—namely a return of Danzig and the Corridor to Germany—the Wilhelmstraße, when I left it a few minutes ago, was maintaining silence, preferring to wait until it knew what Ambassador Henderson brought back.

The feeling in German government circles on the eve of this crucial meeting is still firm, and the entire press this evening maintains that Germany cannot and will not compromise; that the Reich will not budge an inch from its demands on Poland for the return of Danzig and the Corridor.

It is not entirely ruled out of course that the British answer, which it's believed contains certain counterproposals, may necessitate a reply. But the tension has become so terrific that it does not seem possible to anyone here that it can long continue—probably not past tonight without events taking a turn one way or the other. Or as the Germans say, "so oder so."

In the meantime, Germany seemed already on a complete war footing today. Housewives stood in lines beginning early this morning to get their ration cards. It was the first time since the war that these cards had made their appearance. And the people, who had hardly believed a couple of days ago that war was possible, certainly looked grimmer as they stood patiently waiting for their cards.

With true German efficiency, the rational system swung into operation very smoothly. At any store today, if you wanted certain foodstuffs or soap or shoes, you had to show your card. Otherwise you were politely turned down.

The newspapers and the radio have assured the population several times today that there is food and clothing and soap and shoes and fuel enough for every German; that the rationing was only resorted to in the interest of fairness to all. But everyone taking the new measures with good—by taking these measures with good grace, the people are told, they are helping to defend the freedom of Germany. Most papers praise the German woman for the calmness with which she has taken not only the rationing of foodstuffs and materials, but also the spirit with which she has seen her menfolk, husbands, sons, or fathers off to the army in the last few days.

The military took an ever-increasing part in the picture in Berlin as today advanced. Cars with high army officers sped up and down the Wilhelmstraße, or down the Tiergartenstraße to the War Ministry in the Bendlerstraße.  Many cars and motorcycles were requisitioned. I saw several civilian motorcyclists who had been called up with their vehicles. They received an army armband, and you could see them speeding through the streets carrying messages.

Despite the needs of the armed forces, the gasoline situation improved today. I was able to buy two gallons a few minutes ago, which enabled me to get here in time for this broadcast. Men from the air service supervise the tanking up. Squadrons of big bombers have also been whirring low over the city in formation. In other words, though the talking situation has not yet been completely abandoned, the grim preparation for the worst goes on.

I understand no trains from Germany crossed any borders today, but those foreigners trying to get out were able to proceed as far as the frontier and then either walk or get some kind of transportation to the other side of the border.

Note that Germany has already assured Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland that it will respect their neutrality in case of war. But tonight we heard that Holland had decided to mobilize.

Well, all depends now on the talks which will be beginning here in a few minutes between Herr Hitler and the British ambassador. I hope to be on the air later tonight to tell you what I can about those talks.

This is William L. Shirer and returning you now to New York.

January 13, 2023

1965. Regarding the United States' Intervention in the Dominican Civil War

Senator Fulbright Criticizes the President's Foreign Policy
U.S. troops search a man in Santo Domingo during the U.S. intervention in the Dominican Civil War in 1965 (Photo by Harry Benson)
The text of Senator J. William Fulbright's 1965 speech is available here.
ABC News

September 21, 1965

Senator William Fulbright made a speech in the Senate last week that still has official Washington talking to itself.

The Arkansas Democrat, speaking as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, in effect charged that President Johnson had been duped—in fact, bamboozled into sending the Marines into the Dominican Republic to put down a rebellion which the United States should have supported.

Whether it was an act of moral courage or public folly for a Senator to say that Lyndon Johnson had been the victim of duplicity within his own official family remains to be seen.

But the Fulbright speech prompted the most vociferous bipartisan support for the President's Dominican intervention policy than Mr. Johnson has received at any time since the post-assassination days when he was taking over the White House command from the late John Kennedy.

Deliberately or not, Senator Fulbright succeeded in making a lot of people angry. He escalated the ire of the State Department by charging that Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett not only missed a couple of good chances to forestall the Dominican uprising, but also that Bennett made a panic call for the Marines when they were not really needed.

The Arkansas Senator also gored the sacred cows of the federal intelligence community. He implied that the CIA and FBI operatives in Dominica [sic] deliberately favored a corrupt military oligarchy to the self-appointed colonels of the unwashed insurgent movement.

So, he said, the United States authorities in Santo Domingo raised the false cry of "Communist takeover." But the statement that caused White House temperatures to pop the highest was Fulbright's declaration that the Marines were ordered to Santo Domingo not "to save American lives...but to prevent the victory of a revolutionary movement."

Pulled out of the text of the speech—as it is and was—the statement questions the motives of the White House. And in the understated patois of present-day Washington, that's an "imprudent" thing to do. Still there has been no public word from Mr. Johnson about how he feels about the allegations of his old friend, Bill Fulbright.

What the Senator evidently overlooked was that it was just as politically impossible for President Johnson to sit back and risk another Cuba-type takeover in the Dominican Republic as it would be, say, for the Oxford-educated Mr. Fulbright to go back to Arkansas and campaign for miscegenation.

Almost lost in the verbiage and political acrimony which is still simmering on Capitol Hill is Senator Fulbright's main point—that the United States is being forced into the impossible position of virtually opposing all reform movements in Latin America only because some native Communist might approve the same reforms.

It was in March last year that the Senator from Fayetteville made another unorthodox Senate speech on foreign policy. At that time, Fulbright urged a fresh, new approach to American diplomacy, saying that the country has been saddled with "old myths" and a false self-righteousness toward the changing world. Americans tend to regard hostile philosophies like Communism as some kind of "original sin," he said; and to be effective in dealing with our enemies, United States leaders should "act wisely and creatively upon the new realities of our time..." and even think "unthinkable thoughts."

Among the "unthinkable thoughts" suggested was the possibility that "Communism might not be the monolithic bugaboo it pretends to be..." The Chinese Communists seem to be proving Fulbright's point.

It was also suggested that "the United States might be able to trade with the Iron Curtain countries without selling her freedom-loving soul." American trade missions now are testing out this thesis.

And Senator Fulbright also suggested that Fidel Castro's Cuba is likely to be around the Caribbean for quite some time; it just won't sink into the sea and there's no point in getting hysterical about it.

All in all, last year's Fulbright address on "old myths and new realities" gained the Senator the reputation as the Senate's most forward-looking philosopher of American foreign policy. By contrast, last week's speech has brought him more brickbats than kudos, and it will be interesting to see what happens if and when the record of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation into the Dominican crisis is published.

For, agree with him or not, Senator Fulbright raises many questions about the Dominican affair which need to be answered—for example, were there undercover attempts to manipulate the Santo Domingo government before and during the insurrection?

The record of the sub rosa operations by United States government agencies preceding the Bay of Pigs fiasco form a sad chapter in United States relationships with her Latin American neighbors.

If something similar has been happening in Santo Domingo as Senator Fulbright suggests, then the sooner it's exposed the better. A lot of American soldiers died and were wounded in the Dominican crisis. If there is any question about the worthiness or purpose of their sacrifice, the nation deserves to know why.

This is Bill Downs, substituting for Edward P. Morgan, saying good night from Washington.

January 12, 2023

1943. The Red Army's Major Fronts

"Stalin's Fronts"
"The Russians divide the fighting line into these twelve fronts," p. 27 (Map illustration by Marc R. Fore)
From Newsweek, September 13, 1943, pp. 25-27:
Fourteen Fronts

The guns spoke in Moscow again last week. Nearly every night 124 cannon[s] boomed out a message of victory across the blacked-out capital. They were saluting Russian triumphs on the long front to the west . . . Taganrog . . . Yelnya . . . Sumy. Nearly every day there came from the Kremlin an order of the day, congratulating whole armies, giving divisions the right to call themselves Taganrog divisions, Yelnya divisions, and so on. For as the third winter of the war approached the Germans all along the line were in retreat toward new positions they think they can hold.

The biggest and most important battle developed in the Ukraine. There the Nazis were being driven out of an area important to them in every sense, industrially as well as strategically—the Donets Basin with its net of railways, factories, and coal mines. Plunging on from Taganrog, the Russians freed one industrial city after another and rolled forward on Stalino, which the Germans had once called Russia's Essen.

North of the great Donets battle, three German positions were threatened—Kiev, base of the southern Dnieper line; Bryansk, under multipronged Russian attack; and Smolensk, the object of a direct Russian drive, when the hard driving Red Army made a double thrust along two rail lines to the east.

The Germans, for their part, admitted that they were withdrawing in most sectors. The tone of their High Command communiqués was more defensive than at any other time since the start of the war. But there were still no indications of a Nazi rout or a disaster approaching that of Stalingrad. One sure sign of disaster is large-scale surrender and even the Russians did not claim the capture of any great numbers of Nazis.

Front: The Russian front is so tremendous and the place names so confusing that the moves and countermoves on this vast checkerboard are hard for even military experts to follow. The Soviets themselves have divided it into fourteen separate fronts. Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent in Moscow, last week cabled the first definite news of where these fourteen fronts are (see map, page 27).

Here is Downs's listing of the twelve most important of the fourteen, along with the commanding general of each (he omits two, the Karelian and the Murmansk, facing Finland, because they are at present inactive and the commanders on them have not been announced):

Leningrad, commanded since Jan. 16 by Col. Gen. Leonid Govoroff, the heavy-set artilleryman who helped defend Moscow in the dark days of 1941 and last year commanded the troops that broke the German ring around Leningrad.

Volkhov, headed by Gen. Kyril Meretskoff, who led the Soviet campaign against Finland in 1939, and at Leningrad helped breach the German lines.

Northwestern, last reported under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, who once was top man in the Red Army, fell into oblivion after the loss of Rostov last year, then re-emerged as commander of the line guarding Moscow on the northwest.

Kalinin, in charge of the least known commander of all—Col. Gen. Maxim Purkaeff, whose sole publicized job was that of military attaché in Berlin in 1939.

Western, under Gen. Vassily Sokolovsky, who was promoted to the rank of full general on Aug. 28 for his flank attack on Orel which resulted in the fall of the city. Last March he captured Vyazma; now he is presumably leading the attack from Spas Demensk.

Bryansk, headed by Gen. Markian Popoff, who before the war was commander of the Leningrad military district. Last winter he won fame at Stalingrad, then swept on to make the winter campaign's deepest penetration into the Donbas. This summer he helped break the abortive German offensive at Kursk and later led troops striking eastward for the Orel breakthrough.

Central, under Gen. Konstantin Rokossovsky, the "boy wonder" of the Red Army. At 38, tall, handsome Rokossovsky is one of the most experienced commanders in Russia. In 1941 his cavalry helped halt the German attack on Moscow; last winter he led the break-through from the Don that saved Stalingrad and trapped the German Sixth Army; this summer he fought against the Germans at Kursk.

Voronezh, commanded by Gen. Nikolai Vatutin, the tank expert who headed the southwestern front in last winter's offensive and broke across the Ukraine to Voroshilovgrad. This summer he led the attack on Belgorod and then pushed south to flank Kharkov from the north.

Steppe, under Gen. Ivan S. Koheff, 46-year-old veteran of the Czarist Army, who grew up with the revolution and the Red Army. In 1941 he fought in the battle of Moscow, and later became commander of the Kalinin front. For his part in last month's victory at Kharkov he was raised from the rank of colonel general.

Southwest, commanded by Gen. Rodion Malinovsky, stocky, dark-haired, 44-year-old veteran of the last war. Last winter his tanks and cavalry whipped a German army sent to save the troops trapped at Stalingrad, pushed them back through Rostov, and then swung down to the steppes of the Northern Caucasus. At Kharkov he set the pace in the hard fight from the southwest.

Southern, under Col. Gen. Fedor Tolbukhin, who led an army that routed Marshal von Paulus's Sixth Army at Stalingrad, and whose encircling tactics are rated tops by the Red Army.

Caucasian, commanded by Col. Gen. Ivan Maslennikoff, who helped save Moscow when he recaptured Kalinin, northwest of the capital. Last winter he led the drive which pushed the Germans out of the Caucasus to the present Kuban bridgehead.

These, then, are the sectors which make up what is called the Russian front. As much as anything else they indicate the vast nature of the conflict in the east for any one of these sectors would be a full-scale front anywhere else in the world.

January 11, 2023

1945. The Capture of Hamburg

  From the Microphone of Lord Haw-Haw in Hamburg
"Oblique aerial view of ruined residential and commercial buildings south of the Stadtpark (seen at upper right) in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, Germany" (source)
The Allies took Hamburg on May 3, 1945. Bill Downs delivered a broadcast to the United States using the microphone belonging to the fascist propagandist Lord Haw-Haw, who had by then fled north headed for Flensburg.
Bill Downs

CBS Hamburg

May 5, 1945
This is Bill Downs reporting from Hamburg.

I believe this is the first live broadcast from Hamburg to the United States, which has little significance except to prove that the Germans here have really surrendered totally, including their radio station.

Another insignificant fact about this broadcast is that I happen to be using the same microphone used for years by the British traitor, Lord Haw-Haw. This notorious Nazi broadcaster used this microphone, they tell me, only three days ago. Then he left in a hurry. He hasn't been picked up yet, but he will be.

The Hamburg radio setup isn't bad, even by American standards. The Allied military government information control unit is now operating the station broadcasting news and music programs daily. The difference is that the news now being broadcast is the truth, and the news is broadcast in a half-dozen languages for the benefit of the 45,000 slave laborers who are awaiting transport home from their forced labor in the Hamburg area.

The engineers transmitting this program are German, but a British soldier with a very big rifle is standing by even though he doesn't need it. The people of Hamburg have had enough of war.

When you look at their city, you can see why.

This is a city with a peacetime population of a million and a half, the second largest in Germany, second only to Berlin. It is, I believe, about the size of Cleveland, Ohio. At least it was until the American and British air forces started their strategic bombing program to cripple Germany's largest port.

Right now I could take you in my jeep for a ride of any 25 miles through the streets of Hamburg and pay you a dollar for every undamaged house you could point out. I don't believe I would lose a five dollar bill in doing so. There is acre after acre of nothing but bricks and rubble. Particularly in the port and manufacturing area do you see nothing but twisted steel and shattered walls and broken bricks.

The estimate is that over 80 per cent of the city of Hamburg has been destroyed, but it is almost 100 per cent damaged. No wonder the people of Hamburg have had enough.

The initial impression that I got of this city is that the people of Hamburg, who had sense enough to surrender before the whole area was completely reduced to ruin, are much more friendly than any other German city in which I have been. People smile at you, and sometimes they wave. And there is an international flavor about the city, a hang-over from the days when it served as Germany's Number 1 port. Perhaps it was for this reason that Hamburg got the reputation of never quite being a totally Nazi city, although there were and still are plenty of Nazis around.

I had a talk with the British military governor today and he said that he was receiving every cooperation in strict accordance with the terms of the city's surrender the day before yesterday. By surrendering early, the people of Hamburg have a 48 hour head start on the rest of Northern Germany, Denmark and Holland.

And this is the first Nazi city that I have come upon where it is reported that the thousands of slave laborers received anything approaching good treatment. The military governor said that these people, mostly Russians and Poles, were kept in some 300 camps in the city area. Our sorry investigation indicates that they were adequately housed and fed, which is something new to find in Germany. As a result there has been little of the violent reaction from the slave laborers that has characterized the capture of other cities.

Perhaps this modicum of good treatment was doled out because these people were needed in the port, because Hamburg is one of Germany's greatest ship-building centers and the home of the great Blohm and Voss marine construction concern.

I took a long drive through the dock area today. Much of it is wrecked, but it is so large that not all of it is damaged. At one spot there are 14 partly constructed submarines on the ways. We have captured a number of ocean going cargo ships, ranging up to what appeared to be 10,000 ton vessels.

And already the seamen who command the hundreds of little tugs who do harbor work and the small coasters who sail the Baltic and the waters between Sweden and Norway—already a large fleet of these little ships are getting up steam in the hopes that they will be able to resume work. The great port of Hamburg is already coming to life.

Hamburg, despite its devastated condition, is the most normal big German city that I have seen. There is running water in the city, and electric lights, and the big suburban electric tramway is operating to the outlying districts of the city.

And already the city's population is swelling. People who evacuated their homes to get away from the bombings are beginning to come back. However, many have a strange conception of the meaning of unconditional surrender. Often they find their homes have been occupied by the slave workers who have been forced to withstand the bombing. They come to the military government and ask for authority to evict these people. But they get unsympathetic answers. The forced laborers stay put until they can be sent back to their homes, and the Germans look for billets.

But the most fantastic sight in Hamburg today is the surrender of thousands of German soldiers under the terms of the capitulation that went into effect at 8 o'clock this morning, 15 hours ago. German officers, German marines, women naval ratings and land girls, the Luftwaffe, the navy; every branch of the German military organization is pouring in by the thousands.

They turn in their arms, their kit is searched, and then they are put into huge laagers. Even some members of the German Volkssturm, who usually are armed only with a shotgun and wear an armband, even these types are showing up to surrender. With so many real soldiers on hand, these civilians, most of who have never fired a shot, are disarmed and sent home.

And I did not see a single soldier who seemed unhappy that the war was over. Only a few young officers maintained a pose of having their Hitlerian dignity injured. Everyone else was damn glad to get rid of his gun.

Driving to the studio today, I passed a big football field. I had to look twice before I realized that the stands were jammed with people…thousands of them. I looked out on the playing field, and there wasn't a soul.

And then I realized that this crowd were war prisoners. I went into the field, and there was a quiet, docile atmosphere about the place. The sort of atmosphere you get in an American football crowd between halves. Germans of every description sat quietly, chatting to their neighbors and doing nothing in particular. Bored British sentries stood around looking like ushers equipped with Tommy guns. It was that quiet.

It truly was one of the strangest sights of the war—this beaten, docile group of Germans at least 3,000 strong guarded by a half-dozen Tommies.

On the way out of the stadium I passed a sign on the gate. It advertised a football game between the HSV team, whatever that is, and the St. Paulis football club. Kickoff time was schedule to be 2:30 sharp tomorrow. If the teams play, they certainly will have a full crowd of the Wehrmacht—beaten by another team called the Allies.

January 10, 2023

1939. Edward R. Murrow Four Days Before the Start of World War II

Edward R. Murrow in London Before the War

Edward R. Murrow

CBS London

August 28, 1939
ROBERT TROUT: The news of Europe, as it occurs. The world is now awaiting the arrival in Berlin of Sir Neville Henderson, British Ambassador to Germany, who took off from England's Heston Aerodrome nearly three hours ago, flying to Berlin with the British Cabinet's answer to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

Now, during this broadcast period we shall hear the latest word direct from the two key cities of London and Berlin as our CBS representatives speak to us across the ocean by shortwave radio. First, in London waiting to speak to us now, is the chief of Columbia's European staff, Mr. Edward R. Murrow. And to hear Mr. Murrow, we switch you now to London.

EDWARD R. MURROW: This is London. Europe is all paradox these days. For instance, one of the few places in Europe where international railway traffic is undisturbed is the Polish corridor. Germany's transit arrangements continue to function without a hitch. Trains continue to cross the corridor without a hitch, and Germany is said still to be sending military transport over the line.

Now, here in London today the Chinese and Japanese ambassadors called at the Foreign Office, and they called together. That's something that London hasn't seen for a long while. It's also just been announced that Germans have been instructed to leave Hong Kong.

Croydon Airport will be blacked out tonight, and the Admiralty has forbidden the use of wireless transmitting apparatus from any seagoing ship in British territorial waters. And I should not be surprised to see certain steps taken during the next twenty-four hours to establish what would be called a "voluntary censorship" over certain other forms of communication.

The first Defence order—or decree—was issued here today. They cover a lot of territory. Power is given to order compulsory evacuation for both people and animals. In other words, if the government says go, you've got to go whether you like it or not. Compulsory billeting is provided for, and that means that if you had a house in the country with an extra room, the government might billet without your consent two or three people in that room. Private premises may be taken over. Traffic on the roads may be regulated. And the carrying of cameras will be prohibited in certain areas.

And there's another provision: it states that no person shall have under his control or liberate any racing or homing pigeon. Prices of food and other commodities may be controlled, and a dispatch from the United Kingdom of material other than that handled by mail may be controlled or stopped altogether. There are more than a hundred separate items in the list, and there will probably be others to follow.

Well, those surprising rations are still handing out surprises. Voroshilov, the War Minister, says there's no reason why Russia should not supply the Poles with arms and materiel, just as the Americans. And incidentally, the British have been supplying them to Japan for the last two years.

The feeling is growing here that the agreement with Russia may in the end of the day do Germany more harm than good. We should probably have more information on that point after the speeches in Moscow tonight.
As you know, the House of Commons meets tomorrow 3:45 London Time. And I can tell you that the Prime Minister is being urged very strongly not only to outline the recent exchange between Hitler and the British government—which so far remains a secret—but he has today been urged by certain opposition leaders to tell the whole story of the breakdown of negotiations with the Soviet Union. If he does tell that story, we shall be in for further surprise.

Mr. Chamberlain has been told that Parliament will provide a good sounding board; that a full, complete statement would convince doubters. But he has no appetite for personal government, and is prepared to defend Britain's actions in the open. Of course, what he says will, in large measure, depend upon whether or not he has received Herr Hitler's reply to Britain's message, which Sir Neville Henderson is now taking to Berlin by air.

On the whole, I should say that the possibility of avoiding war has not increased during the day. Government circles are in fact exceedingly pessimistic. But there is a general belief that the strategic position has improved; that Hitler is hesitating; that the Russians may betray the Germans. You are already aware of the reaction in Tokyo and Madrid as a result of Hitler's retreat to Moscow. We are not yet certain of its full effect in Rome. Italy still has only a quarter of her army under arms, and if war comes and Italy stands with the Germans, she will suffer more terrible havoc than will Germany.

There is still hope that Hitler may pause and think again. There is still the possibility of a conference. The people with whom I have talked in London today certainly haven't expressed any optimism, but their spirit is better. They believe the Germans are worried and uncertain, if not frightened, and that's a pleasant situation to most Englishmen. They think, rightly or wrongly, that they now have the initiative; that if war comes, they will win it. But if we have a conference instead, the result is likely to be more postponement.

That view is reflected in The Evening News, which says, "What can Britain or France do to prevent war at the last moment? Unless Herr Hitler takes some steps towards calling off his dogs and agreeing, in the words of President Roosevelt's appeal, to 'refrain from any positive act of hostility for a reasonable stipulated period.' Even if Herr Hitler did so agree, it would but postpone the day of reckoning so long as he is in his present mood, which is that of a wayward child who has never been caught."

So far as I can learn, the Poles have not been subjected to pressure by Britain. England could truthfully say that the alliance with Poland has never aroused and popular enthusiasm in Britain. Britishers know very little about Poland. The necessary historic and sentimental ties are missing.

But the matter is not now so much one of Poland as it is of Britain's pledged word, and the determination to move in one direction or the other out of this twilight of peace. Hitler has made a demand, now he pauses. It is difficult to see how any solution can be reached on Hitler's terms; that is to say, any solution that would provide anything more than a temporary relief.

Now the Queen is returning from Scotland tonight, and the two princesses are remaining there. Everything is being prepared for zero hour. Britain is moving up to the line, and I should be less than truthful if I had failed to report that some people see it coming with almost a sense of relief. Those are the people who maintain that the retreat has gone on far too long, and that strength and determination are now required. They feel that perhaps war is the only solution, and that the resulting world order will be different than the one we have fumbled with for the past twenty years.

I don't know. But the decision must be made. The folks here seem to think it will be made during the next thirty-six hours.

I return you now to America.

January 9, 2023

1949. The Future of the Two Germanies

Germany Divided
"Meeting of the first People's Council, March 1949" (source)
Bill Downs

Report from Berlin to CBS management in New York

January 26, 1949

I thought you might be interested in what I found in the week's trip through the Ruhr. I talked with British and German officials as well as Communists, Democrats, and Nationalists. The rest of what is happening gets mixed into this report as well.

The story can be told in statistics and government reports which are available to everyone. These figures make it complicated and of great interest to economists, bureaucrats, and civil servants.

But in the twenty months since I was last in places like Essen, Düsseldorf, and Bochum, the changes have been more basic. And no column of figures ever displayed a soul.

The one thing that strikes you upon leaving Berlin is the apparent well-being of the Zone economy. The shops, where plaster is hardly dry, are jammed with everything from pot scrapers to furs. Jewelers are back in business with gems and gold and silver. In Berlin the major shopping places are antique stores—and junk heaps where desperate families trade the last of their valuables for marks. In the Zone, there are few "antique shops." Everything is new.

Düsseldorf is rapidly reviving its chamber of commerce slogan, "The Paris of Germany." Prices are high and, for the luxury article, far out of reach of the ordinary laborer or wage earner. But there are plenty of people who can and do buy. This is the carpetbagger era of postwar Western Germany, and the carpetbaggers are plentiful.

The traditional Pot Belly—that which caricaturists put on every German businessman—is definitely in the forefront of this specialized era. You do not find the carpetbagger in the working areas where men dig coal or make steel. But in the sleek cafes of Düsseldorf—and there was one which outdid anything you could find in New York—they jam the place. It is interesting to note that there were no Jews among this class that I met. There is still anti-Semitic feeling among Germans on this count, but the carpetbaggers I met were Aryan-plus. I mention it only because I want the refrain to be Wagnerian pure.

The people, even the Communists who capitalize on their own misery, are well-shod, well-fed in basic food stuffs, and appear more confident than any people I have seen outside of the United States.

This does not mean that there is not hardship. There is plenty. In housing there is an acute shortage, although it must be pointed out that the Germans themselves have made their greatest progress in commercial construction and not in housing. The food is good. One British official maintains that the food situation and calorie consumption is much better in the Ruhr than it is in England. I believe him.

The men who are making the quick money are those who deal in contracts—the middle men who take orders, perform the service of locating the goods, then sell or buy at their own price. Lax policing of industry by the British or Americans or French make this a big business in Germany. The current scandal in illegal export of steel, ball bearings, and other finished steel products show tremendous German initiative in beating the occupation.

The "beat the occupation" refrain has only in the past few months become a national, unofficial, and ever-present reality. It is not that Western occupation is so wrong or so bad that we have manufactured opposition in our own right, but the chain of circumstances bear it out.

The East-West struggle has automatically settled, or so they think, great power on the Germans. The Pawn in this international chess game has assumed the powers of the Queen, or maybe the Knight, when you see the way the situation changes. The Soviet East has succeeded in alienating virtually every German on either side of the Elbe. But the Democratic West tries to rule and at the same time persuade.

The persuadees see their position, and the rules become bargaining points. It displays a profound lack of unity and confidence by the harbingers of democracy. In this sense, the German uses the Russo-American struggle for his own ends.

This is the surface impression. The basic struggles in Western Germany can be broken down into sociological, political, and economic detail. There is a healthy core of Germans who want political honesty and sociological democracy achieved by free and decent means. These people have the morality of a syphilitic—that this is the time their contaminations stop and they appreciate the help toward that end. They are the moralists. They do not recommend surgery. Sociological surgery is war. But they do respond to treatment of the right kind. The withered limb of democracy in Germany needs to exercise to restore itself and grow. It needs the fresh air of political freedom. Whether this is being provided by military governments is questionable.

There has been a lot of talk about "nationalism" in Germany, about its resurgence and reestablishment. The first thing to admit is that there has never been anything but nationalism in Germany in the past two hundred years. It is no stronger in Germany now than it has become in America in the last two wars. In many ways, German nationalism in this post-Hitler era is much less than the same unreasonableness that passed for "Americanism" in the Thomas committee.

But the unity of language and culture and geography cannot be overcome by an occupying power more than can the current of the Rhine flowing to the [illegible] Zoo. The Western military occupation condemnations of resurgent nationalism in Germany, as evidenced in the abortive Strasser movement and certain other political groups in Bavaria, are foolish.

Again the Western powers find themselves in paradoxical positions. The greatest argument we present to the German is that communism will make Germany a Russian state and destroy Germany. At the same time we attack "nationalism" where we find it.

The German is sensitive to this and uses his position with dexterity.

A case in point is the recent hearings against the communists and the swath of recalcitrant German workers in the Ruhr.

The British made a "you-can't-do-this-to-the-Empire" mistake. They arrested the three leading Ruhr communists—Max Reimann on charges he had threatened other Germans working with the occupation—the two others for holding a political meeting without permission of the military government.

The Communists loved it. They got a million dollars in publicity, plus the label of being "good Germans," for fines that at this reading have totaled eight hundred marks.

In the case of the dismantling of the Bochum Verein, the British found themselves up against a stone wall. The Bochum workers refused to dismantle. Deciding to bring in outside labor, the British military government collected some twenty-five men from nearby Essen and gave them an order for which they had to sign in receipt. Then, when seven walked off the job, they were thrown in court. The mistake was that if the British wanted to strong-arm Germans to work for them—which as conquerors they presumably could do under the occupation—they should have ordered Bochum laborers to do it. Not inveigle outsiders to risk their necks.

What happened in the Ruhr is that the British have succeeded too well in bringing about a popular united front against their occupation. Curiously, this united front consists of communists, industrialists, the center political parties, the labor unions, and every other German in the region.

There is no middle class in the Ruhr as we know it in America. The white collar class as yet has no shirt. The bureaucrats, as set up by the military governments, have no solid self-identification.

But the biggest chameleon of any group in the Ruhr are the industrialists. I talked with two top flight industrialists and almost found myself backing out of their offices. My back felt that vulnerable.

Hermann Bausch, general manager of the Gutehoffnungshütte steel plant (formerly and probably still a cartel), outlined a gigantic plan of Ruhr power which, according to him, was to have the financial backing of the Belgian financial organization known as Sofina. Bausch didn't talk in terms of Germany or of political goals or world peace. He talked of producing coal and steel and making money. My impression was that it made no difference whether the money was marks, francs, dollars, pesetas, or rubles.

In Frankfurt we also dug up another questionable character who looks like becoming one of the biggest financial wheels in Germany. His name is Dr. Hermann Bücher, former president of the Bewag (power monopoly) in Berlin, member of the board of directors of Sofina, and friend of many American financiers in America, he says. Bücher by his own admission has not been cleared politically by the British in whose zone he first tried to operate. He says he was not a Nazi and is classified by the British as a "dangerous character."

So Bücher moved to the American zone. He is the author of the Ruhr power plan and showed us the details which include the number of feet of copper wire, bricks, and nuts and bolts needed. There is no doubt that the good doctor is a talented and ambitious man.

His plan, briefly, would be to set up a series of some twenty-five new power plants throughout the Ruhr valley, establish its own grid system, raise the power up to prewar capacity—with the possibility of expansion. It is unique in that each power plant would be near a producing coal mine, and that the new plants would use low-grade, high ballast hard coal usually unshippable. This grid would provide any surplus of power not needed by Germany be sold to Switzerland, France, and the lowlands. It has the additional advantage of replacing depleting water power in the south of Germany. Bücher also points out that the present brown-coal fields on the left bank of the Ruhr will be depleted in fifteen years, and this will fill the gap.

In other words, the Ruhr industrialists are already thinking in terms of ten to fifteen years ahead—in terms of international finance and, if you like, cartel and monopoly. Because the new grid would be nothing but that.

But unlike the British who would have nothing to do with Bücher, the American military government is in close contact with him, and at this writing has authorized him to go ahead with his project—even to raising the billion and a half marks needed. Bücher admits that he needs foreign capital. He scoffed at the idea that Sofina would have the required amount. "The only export capital available exists in one country: the United States," he asserts. Bücher says that even this capital right now is unobtainable.

Bücher said that to get the required foreign capital there is but one requirement: "The prospect of ten years of peace." The present world situation does not offer enough favorable prospects to make the risk worth taking. His other argument is that this power system will operate outside the Marshall Plan. "I offer amortization and interest. The American taxpayer pays nothing."

Bücher told us on January 22 that he already knows that American capital is interested in his project.

The plan does most certainly have appeal to the Americans because of its self-liquidating goals. The questions that arose in my mind, however, were these: At a time when the American government is attempting to establish a cooperative and unified European Recovery Plan based on American taxes, it is wise to authorize an independent power venture at the same time, which would involve American private capital taking investment profits out of the Europe which America is trying to rebuild by outright gift—a power venture whose profits incidentally depends upon the success of the American taxes now being "risked."

Secondly, the British and most certainly the French view this project with extreme suspicion. Whatever their motives, is the risk of political estrangement over this matter worth the income promised by the Ruhr industrialists?

Thirdly, the Europeans still regard over-development of the Ruhr as the first step to recreating the German menace. According to a responsible British economist with whom I talked, this plan follows the pattern of post-World War I. "Rehabilitate them economically first and political rehabilitation in the same old pattern will follow." It is something to think about.

I dwell on the Bücher plan only because I think we will hear more about it. And because it worries me.

However, right now there are serious problems facing every occupation power in Germany and this nation's relationship with the European Recovery Plan. There is a thing here known as a "level of industry." Generally speaking, it is based on the steel production which now, I believe, is set at 10.7 million tons a year. The top German production during the war was about 19.5 million tons. The German production right now has only been able to achieve about 8.8 million tons. (I quote these figures from memory—may be a few million tons off. What the hell.)

From everyone I have talked with I understand that the level of industry will be raised to something like 14 million tons of steel yearly. This is deemed necessary to guarantee German participation in the European Recovery Plan. Incidentally, my industrialists say that Germany's requirements alone call for this figure.

I think that the level of industry increase will go through.

I spoke earlier of British and French suspicion. The French have the toughest attitude of all. They disapprove of the Ruhr as the Ruhr. Call it "Le Ruhr," okay. You don't have any of this trouble in the Saar. That's the French.

The British find themselves in the same position to which we have elevated Western Germany. In Britain, it is export or die. In Germany, from the American point of view, it is export or the American taxpayer pays. That is basically the difficulty between John and Sam here.

It is not unreasonable that the British and the French look with question on American proposals to raise the level of industry and take other action to stimulate Ruhr production. Both fear Germany as an enemy. But right now they fear her more as a competitor, particularly if American capital is going to enter the arena.

With Britain, too, it is export or die. "If anyone is going to die in such a struggle," say the British, "It will not be the United Kingdom."

It is an interesting fact that, when the victorious Allied armies entered Germany, it was the British who gained the reputation of being "soft." They often called us crude and hard. Now the position appears to be reversed.

But it is the British government policy that "one of the fruits of war is foreign trade." The British are already bitter over the high standard of groceries that the Germans are getting is better than in England. They admit that the British housing standard is better. They are about even on clothing. But if Germany emerges with a better standard of living that Britain, say our English cousins, who won?

The American military government is not being much help these days in answering these questions. Neither is Mr. Hoffmann or anyone else from the United States. The British, the French, and Benelux countries are in the position of poor relations. The postwar world is not so brave as it is dollarless.

It is oversimplification to say it, but I would compare postwar Europe with a situation where a half-dozen artists try to paint a picture at the same time. None at this moment agree upon color, perspective, or form. In the case of one, there is even disagreement on whether it should be tempera, oil, or perhaps a sculpted frieze.

This is the American viewpoint. The European Recovery Plan was originally based on the revival of Western European economy. A vital part of that economy is the Ruhr with its concentration of coal, foundries, and finishing plants. From the American point of view, disregarding the larger political implications, the economic thing is to go ahead with revival of the Ruhr. In the long run this will put the European economy on its feet the fastest and the cheapest, so the argument goes.

Also on our side is the Ruhr Statute which internationalizes the control of the area—although it has no effect on ownership. The subsidiary Military Security Board is to take care of the security angle, although it is never clear to me whether steel for, say, locomotives is "war steel" or "peace steel."

The French particularly have been critical of what they call precipitous action in promulgating Law No. 75. This law returns German industry to German ownership and control. It is a smart law in that trustees will be set up to take over properties seized from convicted Nazis. It is also smart in that, in the event of labor trouble, the military governments can turn negotiation over to Germans. The theory is that Germans will produce more and better working for Germans than for an occupier.

Despite having gone along with it, the British are unhappy about the law because the matter of socialization was postponed. The American argument is that it is up to the German government of the future to decide that question. The British reply that this policy will encourage the reestablishment of the old order of Ruhr financial barons, and once they reestablish their hold it will never be relaxed.

As it looks now, the mapmakers are going to have a job on their hands. Unless there is a radical change of policy in Moscow or Washington, it would be my guess that there will be two Germanys in Europe for quite some time to come. The proposed capitals may be Frankfurt and Leipzig. There are also some reports that the Russians will utilize East Berlin, which would be smart of them. What becomes of the blockade and our position here can be found out better in Washington than here. I don't know.

At any rate, the Communists seem to be timing the creation of their East German state to come at approximately the time that the Western Powers announce the organization of a West German government. The creation of the East Berlin city government came only five days before the elections, and so may an East German government be established a few days before or after the Bonn decision.

Dr. Konrad Adenauer, president of the Bonn constitutional convention, told me that the completion of the constitution and other government details may come in June, or more likely in July. It is expected that, sometime in these months, the Socialist Unity Party—the Communist instrument of the East—will summon its much-postponed "People's Council for All Germany" and agree upon a government. They already have a constitution which has been drafted awaiting adoption. The newly appointed "politburo," as the Communist SED Party calls it, will form the government. In this respect, the German communists have outdone even the Russians. The Soviet government cut the "dictatorship of the proletariat" to thirteen men. The German politburo is only seven men.

I am collecting biographies and other material on these men and suggest that they would make a good "Newsmakers" program.

This has been a long and rambling report but I hope you find it useful. The coming spring is going to be of extreme importance. If we can get through the coming year and not have a war—and at least reach a stalemate settlement with the East—then we may have ten years of peace in which to work for world settlement. That is the feeling here, although the ten year figure is controversial.

Sitting inside the Soviet circle, the psychological effect on reporters is one of claustrophobia and an increasing "who gives a damn" attitude.

It is depressing, because you get the feeling that nothing has really changed. That the old forces which precipitated the last two wars are still at work, and that there is nothing much that can be done about it, and that the light of the UN is running out of the fuel of popular support.

In other words, "Weltschmerz."