A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ed Kennedy's War

You've heard about famous World War II correspondents like Edward R. Murrow, William L. Shirer and a young United Press reporter named Walter Cronkite. But have you ever heard of Ed Kennedy?
He was the Paris bureau chief for the Associated Press, and he was as brave as they come. There was no battle zone too dangerous for him.
He also partied hard. When his future wife – war correspondent Lyn Crost, who wrote what is still the best book about the 442nd Regimental Team, "Honor By Fire" - first met him, he was standing at a hotel bar in Paris with Ernest Hemingway, both men so drunk they could barely stand.
On May 6, 1945, Kennedy was an eyewitness to the biggest story of the war: the German surrender to the Americans and British. He and a handful of other reporters were secretly flown to Reims, France, to witness the signing of the surrender documents.
Then they were ordered to sit on the story for 36 hours. Reason: Stalin wanted to hold a signing ceremony of his own two days later in Berlin, and Truman and Churchill wanted to let Uncle Joe have his moment of glory.
The other reporters agreed to the embargo, and so did Kennedy, at first. But the next day he discovered that the news was being broadcast to the German people. The embargo had been broken.
Moreover, it had been established for political reasons, not military one. What sense did it make to give the news to the Germans but not to Americans?
So Kennedy made his choice. He wired news of the surrender to AP headquarters, which spread it around the world.
It was the scoop of the century. So what was his reward? His career was destroyed.
Instead of giving him a raise, the AP fired him; and the president of the AP apologized to the military. Even his fellow reporters turned on him, voting 54-2 to condemn him.
Nobody else would hire him. After a few years he finally got a job at a tiny paper in Monterey, the Peninsula Herald, covering city council meetings, writing editorials and editing copy with the same dedication and energy that he had devoted to the great events of World War II.
Ed Kennedy died in 1963, unrecognized and unhonored by his profession. But a new generation of journalists is trying to correct this miscarriage of justice. Columnists, reporters and editorial writers all over the country are joining forces to get Kennedy a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
Stories in support of this project have already appeared in the Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Monterey County Weekly, Modoc Independent News, Jim Romanesko.com, Editor & Publisher, and other publications. And now it's my honor to add my small voice to the chorus.
Kennedy wrote a memoir of his wartime years in 1951, but he was never able to find a publisher during his lifetime. That changed last year, when it was published by the Louisiana State University Press.
And here's the sweetest touch of all: The introduction was written by the AP's outgoing president and CEO, Tom Curley, who apologized for his predecessor's actions and said, "In every way, Ed Kennedy was right."
The Pulitzer Committee will announce its decision next month.

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