Editor’s Pick
MAY 7, 2012 7:59AM

The Associated Press Says, 'Sorry'

Rate: 18 Flag

     Not many people know about Ed Kennedy today, but on May 7, 1945, his name was on a dispatch from France announcing Germany's unconditional surrender.

     It was the biggest scoop of the Second World War, and it got Kennedy turfed out of Europe and fired by the Associated Press.

      Why? He was a day early -- according to the military hierachy and the politicians.

      Nearly 20 reporters, including Kennedy, were at the signing of the capitulation in a school house in Reims on May 7. All were prepared to file on the historic moment, but politics -- in the form of Joseph Stalin -- got in the way.

      Stalin wanted a surrender in Berlin on May 8 for propaganda purposes. Harry Truman and Winston Chuchill acquiesced, and the story was embargoed.

      But censors allowed German radio to announce the surrender. An outraged Kennedy, feeling that he and his colleagues had been betrayed, argued that the cat was well and truly out of the bag and that the story certainly posed no threat to troops, since hostilities were over.

     When he was rebuffed, he thought about it for a few minutes, got even angrier, and filed anyway, using a military phone to contact the AP office in London, which sent the story out right away.

      The result was instant street celebrations in cities around North America.

      The brass was furious. Kennedy was recalled to the U.S. in disgrace, and the Associated Press publicly reprimanded and subsequently fired him. He wound up at a couple of smaller newspapers in California before dying in a car accident in 1963.

      But by then, he'd written a memoir, one that is being published soon. Its introduction was co-written by Tom Curley, the retiring head of the venerable wire service. Curley said in an interview: "It was a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way." He is correct.

     Censorship in wartime is a necessary evil to protect lives. Entire books have been written about it, including The Fog of War, by Mark Bourrie, which I've just finished and which makes reference to the Kennedy case.

      But when censorship becomes merely a political propaganda tool, as it clearly was on May 7, 1945, then it's wrong. Kennedy did the right thing, but it cost him dearly. I'd like to think I'd have had the same guts, but I rather doubt it.

     Associated Press is to be applauded for apologising for its treatment of one of its most seasoned -- and courageous -- war correspondents. It's just too bad it took 67 years.

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The most confusing thing about the German surrender is in late April the German President had been repeatedly trying secretly to surrender to the Western Allies but wanted to continue the war against Russia on the Eastern Front. The German President had stated to Eisenhower that in return for their surrender to the Western Allies that he not be turned over to Stalin. The apology by the AP is meaningless now to Mr. Kennedy and his family it should be the US Government. Or how's this one, the Joseph Kennedy family who's son Edward (Teddy) Kennedy was of course our future President's brother and brother of Robert Kennedy. Oh older you conspiracy idiot. War is hell, being a war correspondent can be deadly for reporting the truth. Great post Bo, Edward Kennedy deserved more than an apology........o/e
Fascinating. They allowed Stalin that kind of leeway in the name of his propaganda? Dancin' with the devil in the pale moonlight...
I like these side notes to history that you show us , Boanerges. It is sad, isn't it, that those who dare to act with integrity often are severely punished.

Your story helped me remember the day the war in Europe ended; I attended a little two-room school in Birch Creek. We heard bells ringing and whistles blowing in Menominee, five miles away. Our teachers took us all to the Catholic Church kitty-corner from the school; we all went inside and sang "God Bless America."
That apology came way too late for Kennedy.

War correspondents are the very, very bravest of souls. Just a couple months ago we lost another good one with Marie Colvin.
Fascinating.. the dude had cojones.
Am I surprised at the AP's actions though? Na.
Did what Uncle told them to do..
Cool post and thanks B1
O/E, you are quite right. Kennedy's daughter is over the moon with the AP apology, but it should have also come from the military and the government. What was done to him was nothing short of despicable. And I don't know that you're altogether wrong about the conspiracy stuff.

Hi, Linnnn. Yeah ... considering the antipathy between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt (and Truman), I'm surprised they went along with it. Maybe they too thought it was more appropriate that the surrender take place in Berlin. But it didn't.

John, what a terrific memory to have of VE day. It must have been magical. And, yeah, it is sad that doing the right thing can have such terrible consequences.

Colvin was one of the few, SS. I used to think, given my predilections, that I'd have been a pretty good war correspondent. People like her prove I wouldn't have been.

Hey, Trig, good to see you. Yes, his balls had to have clanged when he walked. I'd say, given what I've read about his track record, he was right up there with Ernie Pyle and Ross Munro. Maybe more so, since he told the censors to take a hike and did the right thing.
Congrats on yet ANOTHER cover and EP. I hope this doesn't get you fired, wait your retired. See ya.....o/e
Great post, Bo, and congrats on the well-deserved EP cover.
Well, I was born in 1956 so I sure have no memories of any of this Boan.

But I sure think you are finding a sweet niche....
Puts me in mind of the outrage when good ol" Uncle Walter refused to continue propagandizing for the Vietnam War. History has made him a hero, too, and those who opposed him scoundrels.

Not in the same league, of course, but this also reminds me a bit of the way CBS treated Dan Rather over the story about Bush the Least ducking out of his duty with the Air National Guard. Is there any fair-minded person who denies that essential facts of that story, even if the details were a bit foggy?

I suspect history will judge those who punished and humiliated Rather rather harshly, just as history will judge the Ducking Decider harshly, too.
Great story. I'm a member of the AP alumni, and I'm glad the "venerable wire service," through Curley, had the courage to apologize.
Was (pleasantly) surprised, O/E.

Thanks, CM.

Mish, I wasn't alive then, either. I just read a lot. Thanks for saying that.

Yeah, Tom, the analogy with Kronkite is apt. Certain elements -- up here as well, where there was some support for the war -- were certainly critical of him. But he sure as hell knew what he was talking about. I'm not all that familiar with the Bush saga, although I know of its broad outlines.

Glad you liked it, Deborah. Those who haven't had to do it don't know how tough it is to file that way. In my time, the AP people, along with those from Canadian Press, were among the best.
My two cents about Cronkite, whom I kind of liked. Yes, he did the right thing, but only three years after many sensible people already had drawn the same conclusions.
(Gack. I'm chagrined. Can't believe I spelled Walter's name with a "K". Guess I need a better editor.)

Anyway, Arthur, you're absolutely right about most sensible people. I've read a fair amount about the coverage of the Vietnam conflict, and it seemed to come down, in a lot of cases, to a divide between the older generation of reporters and editors and the new one. As I recollect, Cronkite was among the first of the "old guard" to dissent, and because of his position, it really meant something.
Thanks again, Bo, for writing about another chapter in history that I did not previously know about. While it is good that AP apologised, some apologies fall woefully short.
I hadn't heard of this before. I wonder what the big propaganda value of May 8 was? Geez, the guy was only doing what reporters are supposed to do.

"I suspect history will judge those who punished and humiliated Rather rather harshly, just as history will judge the Ducking Decider harshly, too."

Should I remind you that Rather spent millions of dollars in court trying to prove his story. Funny how phony documents can come back to haunt you. Rather lost.............
Vindication is good. If, as o/e hinted, this was done for Joe's family, then there's one more apology due.
VA, I agree. I'd known about Kennedy for years, and always thought he got a raw deal. But it is too late.

Don't think it was the date per se, Abra -- Uncle Joe wanted a full-scale public dog and pony show in Berlin to maximise the propaganda value of the surrender.

Thanks for the comment, Catnlion.

And you too, Phyllis. Yes, vindication is good. Just too bad he wasn't around to know it.
Fascinating piece, Boanarges, thank you. This type of news interests me much, although I didn't know about the story of this particular one. I'll read the story more in depth at the links you provided.
The case was singular, Fusun, because of what happened to Kennedy. I'd recommend the Bourrie book, since it mainly deals with censorship here in Canada from 1939-45. It's something of an eye-opener, even to me.

Thanks, RW.
Hi Boan1 saw your name in the feed and realized I hadn't been here in awhile, then saw EP and cover, I had rated it originally and never came back to comment, congrats first and great story one I never knew about. I complain sometimes about what gets and EP, so glad this worthwhile piece is amongst the crowd.
ps rated again to throw it back in the feed.
Thanks, Rita. It was a strange story, to be sure. I don't think I'd have had the nerve to do what he did and then face the consequences.
You know about the most interesting subjects -- again, I've learned something new today. How heart-wrenching for Mr. Kennedy, glad the book is finally coming out.
As an aside, I dated a Canadian for 7 years and I've learned more from you : ) That may tell you more about my taste in men as a teenager as well as the hockey player I dated...
Upon re-reading this comment, I feel I sound differently than I mean. What I mean here is I just didn't have much connection to this person's life and lifestyle (who it is may be obvious to a Wheatley resident after my comments here and there), how we found each other and dated so long is still a bit of a mystery to me (we almost never lived in the same city, for starters.
That helped? : ))
No slur intended anywhere.
Yeah ... well ... hockey players. What can I say? I played (poorly) as a teenager in an industrial league and I think most would agree I still have brain damage. (Helmets? What are helmets?)

Definitely, I'm very curious about your Wheatley connection, anyway.
And thanks for the comment. I didn't see anything that looked like a slur.