By Wireless From Berlin!

Another RADIO GUIDE First!

Wars and war scares require a new technique of coverage these days. The old romantic figure of Richard Harding Davis, the beau ideal of former newspaper days, is gone. In his place is a hard-hitting American news-hunter who mixes sweat and speed and an expert's knowledge of economics into a word-brew and pours it into a microphone. He knows diplomats, prime ministers and cab-drivers. He was born in America - usually in the Middle West. He is tireless, fearless, and sometimes reckless. He was responsible for the most exciting radio week America has known when, three weeks ago, he talked from the frying-pan of Europe.

Wherever the fire was hottest, American voices recorded the temperature. One voice was that of William L. Shirer, central European representative of the Columbia Broadcasting System. How he got there and what he saw is a great story. RADIO GUIDE is proud to present in him today's newest hero, the radio war correspondent.

They are dismantling the big anti-aircraft gun on the building across from the Adlon Hotel here, so it looks like this assignment is finished. This is the way it was:

Since leaving peaceful, sleepy Geneva on September 10 for Prague, on a hunch that a tremendous story was about to break, until I arrived at Berlin yesterday. October 2, after having seen the German army finish that story by its occupation of the Sudentenland - in these short three eventful weeks which saw Europe on the brink of war until Britain and France had capitulated to Hitler, my own activities could be summed up like this:

By air, train, truck, bus, car and horse-pulled army carts I traveled exactly 2,950 miles (practically the distance from New York to Los Angeles). I averaged two hours sleep daily, mostly in my clothes, and often snatched only on train or airplane. I've lived largely on sandwiches, hot-dogs, and coffee until I would rather starve than face another one. And I've bellowed so long into microphones or bad telephones that my doctor says that if I don't keep my mouth shut for a few days my voice will be gone entirely.

But it's been the most interesting, exciting three weeks of my life. After the first few days you forget the lack of sleep and food. The excitement and difficulties you met on all sides and your efforts to overcome them; the first-hand view you got of all the so-called big-shots of Europe, nervous and worried at prospect of war; the various reactions of men in the face of danger, and your passion to make the American public see this via radio kept you going at top speed all the time. Probably I wouldn't have slept or eaten much even if I could have.

But, of course, sleep was impossible when you were either broadcasting or gathering news until four or five in the morning. And if New York or London didn't phone you at 6 a. m. with the day's news and schedule of talks, you phoned them. It was only midnight in New York, and if you went to bed at 6 a. m. say, then at about 7 or 8 a. m. the news started coming in. Correspondents started phoning from Sudetenland, and by 9 a. m. the government ministries and local radio engineers were on the phone with the news and broadcast schedule. Or at 7 a. m. after an hour's sleep, you were setting out on a drive of 200 or 300 miles through Sudetenland, which is mountains and slow going in any old trap of a car you could find (since the army had taken the best) and there were nerve-wracking breakdowns when you had to be back in Prague, a hundred miles away, in a couple of hours to broadcast at a scheduled time.

At Godesburg the night of the Hitler-Chamberlain talks, which finished at 1:30 a. m., I finished my work at 5 a. m., since the phone service to the outside world was terrible. At 5:50 a. m. my car left for Cologne to catch the Berlin airplane leaving at 7 a. m. So I just lay down on the nearest table in the hotel lobby and snatched forty minutes sleep.

At Munich I finished broadcasting at 3 a.m., spent the next hour trying to find a sandwich and took a New York phone call from Murrow that had been put in from London at noon the day before; up at eight to cover the last meeting between Chamberlain and Hitler; dashing from that to catch a noon train to Berlin to get army passes to go into Sudentenland with troops. We arrived at Berlin at 8:15 p.m., were told at the station we must leave at 9:14 p.m. for the "front," though in that hour I was lucky to get a bath, some warm food, call the London office and arrange in Berlin for a speaker to replace me on the night schedule.

I caught the train, got four hours sleep, and before dawn was in Regensburg, where we met the army staff officers and then set out by bus for Passau. October 1 we spent all day going up with the German troops, and I got back to Passau that night only to find that military censorship forbade all broadcasting. Telephone service was also practically impossible from Passau, as the army had taken it over. I got the train, however, to Regensburg, where I arrived just before midnight in time to telephone the story through to Paris for relay by wireless to New York. The next morning it was impossible to get an airplane, so I spent the day on the train to Berlin, where I arrived an hour before my scheduled broadcast, only to find that military censorship still forbade me to talk on Sudenten occupation. When I finally got the censor's okay, the message had already been read in New York.

There wasn't real censorship of my stuff from Prague, though once I evoked official displeasure because I mentioned that roads were "blocked." At Godesburg, on the night the talks broke up, we were forbidden late that night to broadcast anything but offical communiques. That was because things looked bad. At Munich, when things looked good for the "home" side, we were free to say what we wanted, though of course there are understood limits within which all correspondents or broadcasters in Germany have to work.

Both in Czechoslovakia and Germany I made a few talks which America never heard. In Prague, two days following Hitler's Nuremberg speech, atmospheric conditions over the Atlantic made broadcasting impossible, though at the time we didn't know it. For two days, with a tremendous story in my lap, I sat several times a day bellowing into a mike and nobody heard a word. In Germany, it was partly due to the breakdown of telephone lines, which would be suddenly taken over in the middle of a talk¾or just before a talk¾for important government business by state order.


Godesburg had totally inadequate communications. Once when I thought I was talking to London by phone, I got the British Ambassador in a near-by hotel. When Webb Miller tried to phone his colleague, Ed Beatty, from one hotel in Godesburg to another, he was unable to get though, and after waiting three hours, telephoned his Paris office to telephone Beatty and ask him to please come over to Miller's hotel two miles away.

If you knew the German language you had no difficulties on this assignment. Most Czechs I dealt with spoke good German. In Sudetenland some correspondents had to telephone their stories in German in the presence of officials so that they wouldn't be indiscreet.

The assignment was hard on your wardrobe. I left laundry in Prague, Godesburg, Munich and Regensburg which I will never see again, and ditto with worn-down shoes left here and there to be repaired.

There wasn't time to waste on trifles. There wasn't a minute respite, not even on the night we all left Berlin for Godesburg. The train left before my scheduled talk began, and just as I was arranging for a substitute and thinking rest from the mike might do me good, New York suggested my talking from the railway station just before we left, which we did¾thanks to the last-minute appearance of radio van and portable mike.

As to food¾the best meals I had were with Czech and German troops in the field. It was at least warm and wholesome. Trading my American cigarettes against their food was a fair bargain. American cigarettes were worth their weight in gold.

Things I saw that I'll always remember: The calm, brave dignity of President Benes on the night he sat before the mike in the Czech broadcasting house and answered Hitler's Nuremberg insults with such sweet reason and decency.

I saw Hitler five times. First, on a lovely sunny morning, September 21, on the Rhine, when I was having coffee in the garden of the Dresden Hotel in Godesburg and the Fuehrer brushed by me on his way to inspect his private yacht. His face was grimmer than I had ever seen it, set with terrific determination. This was just before he had his first meeting with Chamberlain. The Nazi party man remarked about his peculiar nervous little walk and the way he cocked his shoulder in a nervous gesture. Second, at 1:30 the next morning in the same hotel in Godesburg, as Chamberlain took his leave, I stood in our rigged up broadcasting-studio in the porter's lodge a few feet away, and saw Hitler's gracious but grim handshake with Chamberlain on the steps before us, and Chamberlain with Hitler's ultimatum in his pocket¾his bird-like face nonchalant but with no sign of strain or displeasure¾saying a hearty good-by to his host. I remember the deep gloom among Germans in Dresden headquarters that night as war seemed near. Third, Hitler at the Sports Palace in Berlin the following Monday night, when it looked like war. The look of his face as he jumped excitedly, like everyone else, to his feet as Goebbels swore they would never suffer defeat as in 1918. Hitler, with a look of fire and enthusiasm in his face that I shall never forget, bringing his arm high above his head and swinging it down on the table to say "Ja!" It was drowned out by cheering. Fourth, Hitler two nights later on the balcony of his chancellery in Berlin, just at dusk, as the mechanized-division troops rolled by, his grim, set determination to go through with what he had started, but most surprising of all the cold silence of the German people in the street below, who couldn't find even a word of cheer for their glorious army, because they wanted peace. Finally, Hitler at 2:15 last Friday morning in Munich, when I got caught on the marble stairs of the Fuehrerhouse just as the dictator, followed by Goering, Ribbentrop, Goebbels, Hess and Keitel strode out past me with the firm, unnervous gait this time and the strained but triumphant face¾for only a few minutes before he had triumphed over Britain and France. Then against this, the drooping, beaten, sad look of Daladier as he came down the steps of Chamberlain's hotel in Munich at 1:45 the same morning a few minutes after capitulation¾too tired and discouraged to more than nod to us.


I'll remember, too, the calm bravery of the Czech population in Prague the first night they all thought war was coming at dawn with bombing planes; the night most foreigners got panicky and fled; the bewildered surprise and delirious joy of the German people in Munich and Berlin when they learned on Friday that it was not only peace but victory; the quantities of champagne and beer drunk that night; the beaten looks of the Sudeteners after Czechs put down their uprising and the change in their faces when German troops marched in Saturday; the burgomaster of the Sudeten town of Unterwaldau, Mr. Schwarzbauer (Mr. Black Peasant), taking me aside from German troops and saying the worst thing the Czechs did to him was take away his radio so he wouldn't hear the leader's speeches and wasn't it the crime of crimes! And last, only a fortnight ago the Czech troops going up to the frontier singing gaily their songs about what they would do to Hitler¾as brave men as I've ever seen. I wouldn't have the heart to face them now.

Radio Guide, October 29, 1938