Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Censoring the German Surrender

The Atlantic has a story of how authorities tried to delay the release of news of the German surrender in 1945. This is the part I found most interesting (and ironic):
At 10 a.m.—more than seven hours after the surrender—[Gen. Frank] Allen called a press conference in Paris. Reporters were angry. Allen promised he was doing what he could to move the story forward that day. Meanwhile, other officials at SHAEF told [Edward] Kennedy [the AP bureau chief] that the delay was a favor to Russian leaders "who wanted to hold another and 'more formal' ceremony in Berlin." But this explanation seemed suspicious to Kennedy, who says he realized that Allied reporters were being told to hold one of the biggest news stories of the century so that Russia could better orchestrate its own spin on the surrender.
This, even though the military officials and reporters all understood that delaying the announcement would cost additional lives. The article notes that the decision to delay the story was made above Gen. Eisenhower's authority, which suggests it had come from the White House.
Ultimately, it became clear that the U.S. plan to delay the news of Germany's surrender was actually a concession to Russia, which wanted the story to be told as a victory for the Soviets. "No word of the real surrender in Reims has ever appeared in Soviet-controlled press," Kennedy wrote in 1948. "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."

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