First person

A story that sucked me in, mostly because of who wrote it. And, 7 other things worth your time.

Over the weekend, I came across a 73-year-old first person account in The Atlantic.

I got completely sucked in.

It was written by Edward Kennedy (1905-1963), who was an Associated Press correspondent in Europe during World War II, and who was the first reporter to break the story of the German surrender — beating the competition by a full day.

Only, Kennedy wasn’t praised for his big scoop; he was pilloried.

Here’s what happened. The German military surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945 at 2:41 a.m., in a schoolhouse in Reims, France, which was part of Eisenhower’s headquarters.

Kennedy was there, along with a dozen other reporters. They’d been allowed to witness the event on one condition: they had to hold the story for a few hours, so the Allies could make their own official announcement first.

As Kennedy told the tale, the U.S. war censors later changed the rules, ordering reporters to withhold the news for 36 more hours, so the Allies could stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin on May 8.

The point was to ignore the first ceremony at the school house, and make the Soviets’ role more prominent.

The reporters chafed at this. But then, the Allies ordered German radio to announce the end of the war to the German people. Kennedy told military censors that he now considered his obligation to hold the news fulfilled.

“Do as you please,” the chief censor told him. Kennedy managed to call London, and he dictated a short story to his AP coworkers.

By the next morning, May 8, Kennedy’s article was on the front page of every newspaper in America. The free world celebrated, but the weight of the U.S. government came crashing down on him.

He was banned from Europe and fired by the AP. Later, the military investigated and vindicated him, but it was too late for his career.

This article in The Atlantic was his attempt a few years later to give his side of the story.

I had never heard of any of this until I read that 1948 article over the weekend. I was a bit surprised, because I’ve always been interested in both World War II history, and the history of the media. Heck, I was a reporter for Stars & Stripes for a while.

But no matter what side of this 76-year-old debate you might come down on, what really pulled me in was just the fact that Kennedy got the chance to tell his story.

Honestly, that’s my big point. I’m believe almost everyone has at least one really interesting story to tell. But, most people never get the chance to tell it.

It’s quite sad, if I let myself think about it. Either time passes before they get the chance, or they don’t have the confidence in their storytelling or writing ability, or they just don’t think anyone would be interested.

But later, their loved ones, at least, really do wish they’d shared.

I’m a member of a parenting Facebook group, for example, and a mom was asking if people thought she should come clean to her college-aged children about her wilder days before she’d had them.

One woman replied with an enthusiastic: Yes! Tell them everything!

She explained that her mother is deceased, and she finds herself craving every piece of information about her, good or bad, momentous or mundane. She would have wanted to know.

Anyway, this is sort of what happened with Kennedy. He wrote the article for The Atlantic, then moved to California and ran some smaller newspapers. He died in 1963, at age 58, when he was hit by a car.

But later, it was his daughter, who was then just 16 when he died, who took up his cause.

She followed in her late father’s footsteps and become a reporter; even worked for the AP for several years. As I gather, she then went to business school and did some other things—but she also got an academic press to publish her father’s memoir in 2012.

That led the then-current head of the Associated Press to write an introduction, apologizing for how his organization had treated Edward Kennedy all those years before.

Maybe I’m sentimental, but I’m sitting here on the couch in my living room in New Jersey on a Sunday evening, putting the final touches on this newsletter.

And I keep thinking that a man who died years before I was born basically reached up from the grave this past weekend, and led me to read and share his forgotten account once again.

Nobody’s going to live forever. But, it seems to me that people who share their stories like this at least have a fighting chance to be remembered.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Google was one of the first big companies to move its workforce out of the office in the early days of the pandemic, but now it's calling employees back. Some of them said they don't intend to return. (Business Insider)

  • This is symbolic, but the Democratic Governors Association admitted the mayor of Washington, DC to the group, despite the fact that she’s not a governor. It’s a nod toward the fact that Democrats are nearly united now in the idea of DC becoming a state. (The Washington Post)

  • What will office work look like when everyone is back in the office? People are looking to Tel Aviv, where “traffic is returning to the city streets, [e]levators are getting crowded, and [f]avorite lunch spots are filling up. Two months after Israel reopened its economy, Tel Aviv is moving on from the work-from-home era.” (Bloomberg)

  • A major U.S. fuel pipeline remains shut down after a ransomware attack. News organizations say they have sources suggesting a Russian group called DarkSide is responsible. (NBC News)

  • With the U.S. pulling troops out of Afghanistan, the military is trying to find other places in Central Asia or the Middle East to base American forces, so they can support the Afghan government against the Taliban. “The drive to work looks like it will be a little bit longer for now,” one official said. (WSJ, $)

  • More news on the Gates divorce. News reports are saying Melinda Gates started meeting with divorce lawyers in 2019, and “that Melinda Gates was concerned about her husband's relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.” Bill Gates has said before that he had met with Epstein about philanthropy, but didn’t have a relationship. (Axios)

  • The head of the NCAA says he wants to approve new rules allowing college athletes to profit from endorsement deals, in the wake of four states requiring colleges within their borders to do just that. This basically reveses decades of NCAA rules, but without the rule change, colleges in those four states would have a massive advantage in recruiting. (NYT, via Yahoo)

And finally, maybe it’s a bonus, but I was curious how Elon Musk would do as the host of Saturday Night Live. The reviews are, mostly—considering he’s not a comedian, and half the cast was in a bit of an uproar over him being chosen—pretty good.

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Thanks for reading. Photo: Joe Haupt on Flickr. I chose this one because you can see Kennedy’s story on the front page, accompanied by the news that he’d been suspended. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here

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