The Truth about V-E Day

In 2012, the AP apologized for firing war correspondent Edward Kennedy for reporting the end of WWII on May 7, 1945  in defiance of military censors accommodating Stalin's wishes to announce the German surrender on May 8.

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Notice the media huzzas for the 69th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe? Too bad the date is wrong. We celebrate V-E Day on May 8 due strictly to Stalin's wishes and Truman and Churchill's fear of "offending the Russians"--the frequent driver, sometimes fueled by bona fide agents of Stalin's influence, of much US and British policy and strategy.

The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945.

The story, from Chapter 12 of American Betrayal:

An even cruder, emptier example of this manipulation was the embargo placed at the behest of the Allied leaders, Stalin, Truman, and Churchill (dragging his heels), on the news of the surrender of Nazi Germany in France on May 7, 1945, until the Russians could rig up their own surrender ceremony in Berlin on May 8, 1945. This stupendous act of appeasement, blanked out of national memory, was thankfully circumvented by a wise and bold AP reporter named Edward Kennedy, who believed the news of Germany’s surrender “belonged to the Allied peoples,” as he later wrote, and not to the Soviet propaganda department. Kennedy created a giant controversy for refusing to go along with this blatant political censorship. On learning that Allied military headquarters (SHAEF) had already authorized German radio to broadcast the news of the May 7 surrender, Kennedy filed his story regardless of the embargo, regardless of the Soviet plan. As Kennedy explained his decision (which cost him his job with the AP) in an Atlantic Monthly essay in 1948, “Truman and Churchill—the latter reluctantly and only on pressure from Washington—agreed to hold up the news, which belonged to the Allied peoples, until the time of the Berlin meeting . . . The Russian action was quite in line with the Soviet conception of the press for propaganda, and nothing to get excited about; the fault was ours for falling for it” (emphasis added).

Of course, according to this new way of looking at our history, we fell for it because we were pushed, both from the outside and, more important, from the inside. As a result, Americans at large were left to try to make half-sense of the partial truths doled out by our leaders. Later, Cooper notes, a smaller, book-reading audience would sort through the many war memoirs written by military and political figures, Churchill’s most famous among them, containing “laments” over their authors’ having been “pushed around by the insatiable Russians.” Cooper—the man who coined the phrase “the right to know”— comments acerbically:

Not one of them, however, has expressed any realization of how different it all might have been had they disclosed what they later so dolefully put in their memoirs to excuse their actions. The fact that they so needlessly conducted all political matters in secret and kept them so under protection of war censorship should be the basis of remonstrance from a democratic people.

Should be. But we were, the whole lot of us, with precious few exceptions, a nation of Captain Hillses, a nation of Roosevelts, a nation of Hisses, a nation of Kennans, a nation manipulated, inured, numbed, cushioned, silenced— continually protected from the sharpest of timely revelations, continually told to be afraid of them. We were impervious to the cries of the most plaintive Cassandras, who themselves were often pressured or consigned to mumble into their memoirs or grumble off to Samoa. Only the most principled, the most shrill, the most desperate, or the most stubborn were constitutionally (in the personal sense) able to rise above the overwhelming buzz and static. It was on this level where the battle royal really began, pitting the lone truth-teller against the forces of suppression, in a political and informational landscape that had been denuded of all vital context. This reality vacuum, this echo chamber of lies, was both created and preserved by what Cooper quite intriguingly paints as autocrats in charge of both governments (U.S. and USSR). “Clothed with autocratic powers,” he writes, “individuals in charge of both governments demonstrated how political censorship had helped Russia to win the war and the peace while England and America helped Russia win the war but lost the peace.”

Of course, writing in 1956, Cooper didn’t know the half of it and all that, but this seasoned newsman was acutely, if not uniquely, perceptive in observing the role U.S.-USSR censorship jointly played in Soviet triumph and Western defeat. As he put it, “History records that this occurred because both governments proceeded secretly, just as if they were in a private venture.”...



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