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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links