Panel discusses AP reporter's WWII surrender scoop
A copy of the New York Times published on May 8, 1945, featuring a story by former AP Paris bureau chief Ed Kennedy, is at the home of his daughter, Julia Kennedy Cochran, in Bend, Ore. Kennedy was dismissed by The AP after he became the first journalist to file a firsthand account of German officials surrendering unconditionally to Allied commanders at a former schoolhouse in Reims, France. Sixty-seven years later, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Curley said that Kennedy was right to stand up to the censors, and should have been commended, not fired. Cochran said she was ìoverjoyed,î that the AP had taken an interest in exonerating him. "I think it would have meant a lot to him," she said.
In this March 1, 1944 file photo, Ed Kennedy, Chief of the Associated Press staff in North Africa, wears a metal helmet at the Anzio beachhead in Italy.
Edward Kennedy was fired by the AP in 1945 after he became the first journalist to send a firsthand account of the surrender in Reims, France, that he and 16 other journalists witnessed. As a condition of seeing it, they made a pledge to keep it secret for a time, as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman had agreed to suppress news of the capitulation for a day. That was to allow Russian dictator Josef Stalin to stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin.
After it was reported on the radio in Europe, Kennedy defied military officials and sent his account to AP's London bureau, without briefing his editors about the embargo situation.
Retired foreign correspondent John Darnton said Tuesday that he questioned why Kennedy took that tack.
"Why didn't he let AP know what he was doing?" Darnton asked, adding that by not doing so Kennedy "was kind of usurping that decision-making power, which in my mind should have been left to people higher up inside AP."
But former AP foreign correspondent George Bria said Kennedy made the right decision in the competitive news atmosphere.
"He had to have it first and right, and he did the right thing as far as I'm concerned," Bria said.
The panel was held at AP headquarters.
Curley, who is retiring this year, has also co-written an introduction to Kennedy's newly published memoir, "Ed Kennedy's War: V-E Day, Censorship & The Associated Press."
After Kennedy broke the news, the military briefly suspended the AP's ability to dispatch any news from the European theater. When that ban was lifted, more than 50 of Kennedy's fellow war correspondents signed a protest letter asking that it be reinstated. The military expelled Kennedy from France.
Kennedy later took a job as managing editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press in California and then went on to become publisher of the Monterey Peninsula Herald. He died at age 58 in 1963, when he was hit by a car.
Others on the panel included Louisiana State University Provost Jack Hamilton, Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Richard Fine and AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.
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