7 May: A momentable day, in more than one way

Ed Kennedy, who breaks the scoop of the war to date---and gets pinked for his trouble. (Photo: Associated Press.)

Ed Kennedy, who breaks the scoop of the war to date—and gets pinked for his trouble. (Photo: Associated Press.)

Very quietly, but most unconditionally, what’s left of the Third Reich following the death of Adolf Hitler surrenders one and all to the Allies, following the relentless, smothering Allied press into the heart of Germany. The rump Fensburg government of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz—the surprise successor der Fuehrer named in the hours before his death, who knew in his heart that the Third Reich’s days were numbered almost in single digits when he took over—has lasted ten days since Hitler’s suicide.

And the biggest scoop of the war to date, the news that the surrender actually has happened, nearly destroys the career of the Associated Press bureau chief who broke it.

Edward Kennedy (no relation to the future U.S. Senator) is one of seventeen pool reporters allowed to be present when Doenitz makes the Third Reich surrender official.

Kennedy’s error isn’t that he has the story wrong. But the scoop hasn’t been cleared officially for release, a lack of clearance Kennedy may have been unaware of when he put it onto the AP wires. Later, Kennedy comes to believe the embargo on releasing the story came about because the Soviet Union insisted upon a formal signing ceremony in Berlin, and the Allies agreed to that condition.

The AP will show its gratitude for the scoop by giving Kennedy a stinging public rebuke—and, after relocating him to New York with nothing to do, a pink slip the following November. In the interim, Kennedy is denounced both by the New York Times and Time, with the former accusing him of “a grave disservice to the newspaper profession” and the latter of “strengthening the censor’s hand.”

Remarkably enough, however, the AP will apologise formally and publicly sixty seven years later.

It was a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way . . . [Kennedy] did everything just right. Once the war is over, you can’t hold back information like that. The world needed to know.”

Thomas Curley, president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press, 4 May 2012.

The aftermath proves happy not just for the world (for a short while, anyway) but for Ed Kennedy himself. He will write in The Atlantic about the scoop ordeal, an essay called “I’d Do It Again.” He will go forward to a successful journalism career, first as the managing editor of the Santa Barbara (CA) News-Press; then, as publisher of the Monterey (CA) Peninsula-Herald, until his untimely death after being hit by a car in 1963.

Posthumously, Kennedy’s intended memoir of his World War II work, Ed Kennedy’s War: V-E Day, Censorship, and the American Press, will be published by Louisiana State University Press—including an introduction from Curley. And a monument to his memory will be erected in Seaside, California, in Laguna Grande Park, inscribed in honour of the scoop heard ’round the world: “He gave the world an extra day of happiness.”

WORLD WAR II: V-E DAY—THE SCOOP THAT HURT

The Kennedy scoop gets prominent review in the following two radio news reports.

Mutual Worldwide News: “This has been a momentable day . . .” (Mutual, 1945)

This is the better-detailed of the reports, with anchor/commentator Vander Vander (you read it right) observing no official denials of the news Kennedy broke early enough.

Observing Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s customary insistence that the Allied leadership would announce the Nazi surrender when they were one and all prepared to do so, Vander further discusses Eisenhower’s effort to prevent new Allied casualty reports from going forth after the formal end of the war in Europe, and a temporary embargo imposed on the AP as the news the world has waited five years to hear hits the press running, though the embargo would be lifted almost as swiftly for all AP correspondents except the hapless Kennedy.

Celebrations have begun to break out around the United States and the world. Lingering fighting remains between German and Czech troops, and German and Danish troops, pending, apparently, their reception of the official surrender news and Doenitz’s official order that fighting cease at once—a turnaround from his extremely recent proclamation that he would return home “to fight Bolshevism.”

The king and queen of Belgium have been liberated from a prison east of Salsburg. Japanese positions in southern Okinawa are reported under American control, a sobering reminder that World War II is only half over.

Vander reports further news such as a controversy over President Truman’s Postmaster General nominee, Robert Hannigan, a nomination passed after fierce debate over Hannigan’s reported intent to keep his chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee; a Navy plan to muster out older in favour of younger sailors; possible lifts of controls over workers in their incumbent jobs; portal-to-portal play for miners on the table amidst troubling negotiations between striking miners and operators; and, others.

But all else is dominated by the Nazi surrender and, for a brief period, anyway, the AP reporter who broke the story at once, and to the world’s relief.

Announcer: Bob Martin.

The 12 O’Clock Binion News: “The official announcement . . . will not be made until tomorrow” (CBS, 1945)

A report on President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill’s agreement not to make an official announcement of Victory in Europe day until 8 May, after a delay because Soviet premier Stalin isn’t ready, telegraphs a brief recap of the Kennedy dispatch.

Other news here includes the continuing pockets of European fighting among forces unaware of the formal surrender or Doenitz’s order; Francisco Franco’s Spain breaking diplomatic ties with Germany, a day after Portugal does likewise; U.S. Admiral Chester Nimitz reporting Pacific forces ready to accept help from Allied airmen now finished with their work in Europe; another Pacific Japanese retreat; a possible suspension of the 48-hour work week now that the war in Europe is over; a promise from Truman for better cooperation with the nation’s governors; a prohibition on sales of loose cigarettes; and, a report that the European war’s end won’t change draft policies at least in Oregon, among other items.

Anchor: Duncan McCloud.

V-E DAY: THE REST OF THE BEGINNING . . .

An Announcement (BBC, 1945)—John Snagge of the BBC Home Service, with Big Ben tolling, breaks into regular programming to announce Churchill’s planned official announcement for 8 May, as well as a planned address from King George VI.

Bulletin (NBC, 1945)—The German unconditional surrender is announced, with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reported to be preparing the official first announcement for the United States.

Further Channel Surfing . . .

Fibber McGee & Molly: Caught in a Suit of Armour (comedy; NBC, 1940)
Lux Radio Theater: Sing, You Sinners (dramatic anthology; CBS, 1945)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Catching Old Muley at Dugan’s Lake (comedy; NBC, 1946)
The Henry Morgan Show: Salute to the Old School (comedy; ABC, 1947)
Our Miss Brooks: Boynton’s Barbeque (comedy; CBS, 1950)
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: A Gangster’s Trunk (comedy; NBC, 1950)
Cathy & Elliott Lewis On Stage: The Bear (dramatic anthology; CBS, 1953)
Gunsmoke: Potato Road (western; CBS, 1955)

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