Pulitzer sought for reporter who broke story on Nazi Germany's surrender

 

In headier days, Ed Kennedy personified the hard-drinking, hard-charging war correspondent of another era. The first time his future wife saw him, he was sidled up to a hotel bar in Paris with none other than Ernest Hemingway, both of them so "dead drunk" they could hardly stand.

Kennedy was a star Associated Press correspondent with a penchant for daring evasion of authority, dashing into World War II battle zones where he wasn't supposed to go because he had to get the story. He just had to.

But it was the biggest scoop of his career — Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender — that ruined his career. And a determined group of prominent journalists want to do something about that.

They want Kennedy to be posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a recognition of a singular moment of courage when a star correspondent defied political and military censorship to file one of the biggest stories of the century.

"The way a craft evolves is that somebody has to define the edges, the boundaries," says Kim Komenich, a Pulitzer-winning news photographer who is among 54 journalists pressing for Kennedy to receive a Pulitzer. "Ed got it right."

On May 6, 1945, U.S. military officials ushered Kennedy and 16 other correspondents onto a plane in Paris. The plane was airborne before they learned the purpose of the trip: They were flying to Reims, France, to witness the signing of surrender documents ending the largest conflict in world history.

Kennedy chafed at being controlled. The reporters on the plane were "seventeen trained seals," he observed acidly in a memoir, "Ed Kennedy's War: V-E Day, Censorship, & the Associated Press," that was published this spring, nearly a half-century after his death.

Their military handlers insisted that news of the signing be kept secret for several hours. But after they returned to Paris the embargo was extended, not for security reasons, which might have been an acceptable rationale, but for political reasons, Kennedy learned. It turned out that Russia's leader, Joseph Stalin, wanted to stage a signing ceremony of his own to claim partial credit for the surrender, and U.S. officials were interested in helping him have his moment of glory.

The correspondents complained, but the military wasn't budging. They had to hold the story. But then something happened that changed Kennedy's mind and his life. He got word of a German radio report announcing the surrender.

The story was out, but the U.S. censors were holding fast.

Kennedy went to his room at the Hotel Scribe and stewed for 15 minutes. Then he found a military phone that he happened to know wasn't monitored by censors. At 3:24 in the afternoon, he placed a call to the AP's London bureau.

"Germany has surrendered unconditionally," he said, according to an account of the call by the AP's outgoing president, Tom Curley. "That's official. Make the date Reims, and get it out."

Ed Kennedy's story ran big in newspapers around the world. It should have been his greatest moment, but it became an ordeal. The military revoked his credentials, but that was the least of the indignities. His fellow correspondents turned on him, voting 54-2 to condemn him. And the head of the AP — the Philadelphia Bulletin's publisher, Robert McLean — apologized for Kennedy's report rather than praised him.

Kennedy was summoned back to AP headquarters, where his bosses refused to accept his resignation but also refused to give him any work. Several months later, he discovered more than $4,000 in his checking account — it was a severance, though, no one had the courtesy to tell him he was being fired. "They did it in the most cowardly way," says Kennedy's daughter, Julia Kennedy Cochran, a former journalist.

After being cut loose, Kennedy moved west, working for two years as managing editor of the small Santa Barbara News-Press, then shifting to Monterey, where he became editor of the Monterey Peninsula Herald, "a sad, little newspaper" that he turned into an award winner, Cochran said. It was a steep drop from his days as a star war correspondent, but Kennedy seemed to embrace it nonetheless, writing editorials, covering city councils meetings and editing copy

Ray March, who was a young reporter at the paper, remembered walking into Kennedy's office and seeing the framed front page of the New York Times with his boss's byline under the story of the German surrender. "This isn't just your run-of-the-mill editor of a small newspaper," March recalls thinking.

March was too intimidated by the imposing, no-nonsense editor to drink with him after hours at the Quarterdeck Bar in a nearby hotel as the more senior reporters did. And he quaked when Kennedy hollered across the newsroom at him after he filed one of his first stories, which included the phrase "paradoxical dichotomy" in the opening paragraph.

"You write just like I wrote when I was your age," March recalls Kennedy telling him. Then there was a long pause. "And I can't think of anything worse."

He wanted to teach the kid a lesson: Just tell the story, don't try to dazzle with your vocabulary.

Kennedy had divorced by then, but his daughter would spend her teenage summers in Monterey with her chain-smoking, book-loving, exacting reporter of a father. She recalls a devoted, enthusiastic dad who, at times, inexplicably "seemed kind of depressed and sort of morose about something he wouldn't talk about."

Later, she would wonder whether he had second thoughts about his decision on that long ago afternoon in Paris, even though he publicly declared he would have done it all over again.

One rainy night in November 1963, a sports car knocked Kennedy off his feet as he was walking home. He lingered in the hospital for several days before dying at age 58. The doctors found a cancerous tumor in his throat; his cause of death was listed as cancer, complicated by the injuries he'd suffered.

He'd been a prolific writer and, of course, there was an editorial he'd just penned waiting to be published. His editors ran it while he lay in the hospital. "One of the problems of publishing a newspaper is that you have to sell something that is dead," the piece read. "We can sell these pieces of dead trees only by creating the illusion that they are alive. This we attempt to do, with varying success, by headlines that grip the eye and written material that clutches the heart and soul of man."

After the funeral, Cochran's mother, Lyn Crost — a former war correspondent herself — took her daughter to Kennedy's office. Her mother knew there was a treasure to be found: The manuscript Kennedy had written back in 1951 and never been able to find someone to publish.

Over the years, Cochran tried to read it. But she could never finish it. It was too painful to recall the father she'd lost when she was just 16.

She kept it packed away for more than 40 years, through marriage and divorce and a career change. Eventually, in retirement, she found time to read it anew and to gain a deeper understanding of the father she'd lost.

She set about searching for someone who would let her father tell his story. The publisher she found — Louisiana State University Press — didn't tell her who they'd asked to write the introduction. It was Curley, the AP president. She was "overjoyed" when she read what he'd written, sentiments that he said Kennedy's former bosses and the AP's board of that era "could not admit."

"Edward Kennedy," Curley wrote, "was the embodiment of the highest aspirations of the Associated Press and American journalism."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower