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Four reporters wanted to report on an air strike on Berlin in 1943 – only one returned


In 1943, the Second World War had turned, Germany and allied with him powers were clearly on the way to defeat. This year, the British High Command wanted to carry the war into the heart of the empire. The means should be massive bombing on German cities. They should break the resistance of the German population, so the calculation of Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, the commander of the British Bomber Command.

Night attacks on the cities

The Royal Air Force (RAF) could only attack at night. In 1943, the German Air Force and the locking bars of German anti-aircraft batteries were still serious opponents. The big four-engine bombers of the British Avro 686 Lancaster were far from being as sturdy and heavily armed as the US Air Force aircraft. They needed the protection of the night. But in the course of the year, the German resistance stiffened. Night fighters pursued the bomber streams and grabbed the lumbering British machines out of the darkness. These and other improvements on the German side meant that the losses of the British were constantly increasing.

The hoped-for revolt against the Nazi regime failed. The Germans cursed the leadership, mocking Reichsmarschall Herrmann Göring, who was in charge of the Luftwaffe, but they bit their teeth together. In Britain, on the other hand, sentiment threatened to tip over. At first, the population looked with pride on the big bomb attacks. The British were upset at the idea that now the Nazi leadership had to seek refuge in the air raid shelter at night. But since the autumn of 1943, the pages of the regional press filled with the lists of fallen bomber crews.

Great journalism

In this situation, Marshal Harris decided to take four journalists aboard his bombers. Presumably, the reports should raise the mood on the home front. The use of Berlin in the night of the second to the third of December showed only that the air offensive of the British was in a serious crisis. As the 458 bombers approached the German capital, the German night fighter Ju 88 were already waiting for them. They began an endless 19 minutes before the first bombs fell, shooting machines out of the stream. The smaller German fighters were waiting over Berlin – they could not target the bombers at night, but they put machines under fire, which were caught by the light cones of the German anti-aircraft or against the sky, which was illuminated by parachutes from German neon grenades ,

Harris lost 40 machines during the night. Of the four journalists, only American radio reporter Ed Murrow returned. The Australian Norman Stockton and the Briton Captain Grieg went on board with bombers of the 460th Squadron. The 460th lost five machines at night, including the two with the reporters aboard. The 24-year-old Lowell Benett crashed over Germany and survived. He was imprisoned as a prisoner of war.

Ed Murrow's radio report on the operation shows how much the US press differed from Nazi Germany during the war. At that time the German newsreel consisted of a staccato of jubilation and shouting about German successes and incitement towards the opponents of war. Ed Murrow's report always remains factual. The reporter openly reported his fear when the bomber named D-Dog was over Berlin. He also does not conceal that his colleagues had found death over Germany. The American did not know anything about the death of his British colleague when he spoke on the radio.

Ed Murrow closed his report:

"There were four reporters for this operation, two of whom did not come back, two of my friends, Norman Stockton and Lowell Bennett.

Berlin was a kind of staged hell – a terrible symphony of light and flame. It is not a pleasant way of warfare. The men who do this work speak of a "job". Yesterday afternoon, when the route was put on the big map to Berlin. said a young pilot with old eyes to me: "I see, we work again tonight."

The job is not pleasant, it is exhausting. Men die in the sky while others are roasted alive in their cellars. Berlin last night was not a nice sight. In about thirty-five minutes, it was hit with about three times the amount of material that ever came down in London in a night-time blitzkrieg. This is a calculated, relentless campaign of destruction. At the moment, the mechanics are probably working on our D-Dog machine to get them ready for flight again. "

Here you can find the whole text in English.

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