Part Two of Sean's concert.
The Mission of the Irish American Heritage Museum is to preserve and tell the story of the Irish people and their culture in America, inspiring indviduals to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American fabric.
Part Two of Sean's concert.
We are spoiled for choice today! Sean is back, live from Dublin.
On this day in 1945 VE Day was declared. V-E Day commemorates the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied forces in 1945, ending World War II in Europe. With Adolf Hitler dead by his own hand, German military leaders signed surrender documents at several locations in Europe on May 7, capitulating to each of their victorious foes. Germany’s partner in fascism, Italy, had switched sides in 1943. V-E Day, therefore, marked a major milestone for the Allies but did not end the war - as Allied governments pointedly reminded their citizens. Attention turned to finishing the war against Imperial Japan. Two Irish-American reporters, Charles Kiley and Edward Kennedy, were locked in a race to scoop the announcement of Germany's surrender.
Charles Kiley, came from a second-generation Irish family in Jersey City. He was a war correspondent for the Stars and Stripes armed forces newspaper, and was assigned to cover General Dwight Eisenhower in the final months of the war in 1945. For about 20 hours, Kiley was the only reporter allowed to cover the surrender negotiations between the German high command and Eisenhower’s staff in Rheims France. After the Germans surrendered in France, they had to also surrender to the Russians in Berlin.
As a sportswriter for the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, New Jersey, he had covered Babe Ruth up close and been in the Yankee locker room. He had reported on Joe Louis’s 1936 and 1938 fights against German Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium. But when he was drafted into the army in November 1941 and set out for basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a buck private with the 26th Infantry Training Battalion, he hardly could have pictured himself standing in General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s bedroom while the Supreme Commander phoned Winston Churchill.
In the fall of 1942, Kiley was plucked out of his infantry company in Northern Ireland, where he was training as a radio operator and three weeks away from deployment to North Africa. Stars and Stripes, the army’s newspaper, was going from weekly to daily, and needed experienced reporters. At 28, Kiley had a few years on many other staffers and draftee reporters, and he became a mentor and friend to younger newsmen, including Andy Rooney (later of 60 Minutes fame), Jimmy Cannon (who would become a celebrated sports writer), and Earl Mazo (a leading political reporter in the 1950s, and Richard Nixon’s official biographer). He flew on bombing raids, trained with Army Rangers, and cranked out a two-sided single-sheet edition of Stars and Stripes from Utah Beach for a few weeks until he and a small team were able to set up the paper’s continental edition in Cherbourg. Kiley was managing editor with the paper’s Liège edition when, in April 1945, he was assigned to be Eisenhower’s pool reporter.
The first step to final unconditional surrender came on May 4, when Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler’s successor as Führer, authorized Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg - Dönitz’s successor as commander of the German navy - to sign cease-fire terms with British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery outside Wendisch Evern, a village in northwest Germany. Dönitz told Friedeburg to surrender all forces in northern Germany, Holland, and Denmark, and all laid down their arms on May 5 - the day Friedeburg set out for Reims to begin negotiations for a general surrender. On May 6, General Hermann Niehoff, commander of some 40,000 German forces near Berlin, surrendered to Red Army forces in Breslau, east of the German capital. Half an hour later, General Alfred Jodl, German high command chief of staff, flew to Reims to join Friedeburg to negotiate specifics for unconditional surrender.
As pool reporter, Kiley would be the only journalist in close proximity to the talks, and his notes would be shared with the world press at the surrender signing. “Close proximity” meant an office outside the main negotiating room. Kiley would receive steady updates from Eisenhower’s longtime aide, Lieutenant Colonel Ernest “Tex” Lee, and, when possible, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) chief of staff General Walter Bedell Smith, who led the proceedings. Eisenhower was on the scene but not taking part in face-to-face interactions with the Germans.
Seventeen reporters and photographers were being flown in from Paris to witness the signing. En route, they were required to agree to an embargo prohibiting release of the story. They were told SHAEF would lift the embargo within hours.
The atmosphere around SHAEF was tense. No one involved had had much sleep. Kiley noted that when idle, especially on their first day at Reims, the Germans fell asleep almost instantly. Jodl and Friedeburg puffed away on a supply of cigars they had brought. To ease the pressure and pass the time between bursts of negotiating, SHAEF staff and Kiley smoked constantly. The haze inside the school rarely dissipated.
For 34 hours, from the arrival of the first Germans to the signing of the papers, Kiley kept concise notes of arrivals, departures, facial expressions, food consumption, demeanors, and points of negotiation and disagreement leading to the final deal and the signing, at 2:41 a.m. on Monday, May 7. Jodl then stood to address Smith. Kiley’s story for the May 8 Stars and Stripes describes what came next:
“General,” Jodl began. “With this signature the German people and the German armed forces are for better or worse delivered into the victors’ hands. In this war, which has lasted more than five years, both have achieved and suffered more than perhaps any other people in the world. In this hour I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity.”
Jodl broke halfway through his address, and appeared on the verge of tears. He regained his composure however, and finished with a strong voice. His hands were trembling when he finished.
The war was over. But there was a new problem. Although the Soviets had a representative at Reims, General Ivan Susloparov, he had signed without Joseph Stalin’s endorsement. The Soviet premier demanded a surrender of his own, in Berlin. Stalin’s insistence meant that Eisenhower, Churchill, and Truman could not officially acknowledge the surrender until May 8, in order for everyone to assemble in Berlin and to account for time differences. A second surrender ceremony created a logistical nightmare for Americans and Brits - especially for reporters. The newly extended embargo demanded they sit on the story of the century for another 36 hours.
Kiley had warned Eisenhower’s staff that the news would be “damn difficult to hold.” And word was leaking out all over. German radio acknowledged the capitulation at 1:03 p.m. London time - 8:03 a.m. EST. With no official statement from Churchill, the BBC announced that the war was over, citing the German broadcasts. Awaiting official word, throngs jammed Times Square in New York City, Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, Piccadilly in London, and the Champs- Élysées in Paris.
Through the early morning hours, furious reporters who had signed the SHAEF embargo clamored for permission to break it. “The absurdity of attempting to bottle up news of such magnitude was too apparent,” AP reporter Edward Kennedy wrote later. That meant, Kennedy knew, that the transmission had been authorized by the same military censors gagging the press.
Furious, Kennedy went to see the chief American censor and told him there was no way he could continue to hold the story. Word was out. The military had broken its side of the pact by allowing the Germans to announce the surrender. And there were no military secrets at stake. The censor waved him off. Kennedy thought about it for 15 minutes, and then acted.
He used a military phone, not subject to monitoring by censors, to dispatch his account to the AP's London bureau.
Notably, he didn't brief his own editors about the embargo or his decision to dodge the censors. The AP put the story on the wire within minutes. dictated a “flash” report at 9:24 p.m., Paris time. The story moved on the AP wire at 9:35 a.m. EST. The scoop was Kennedy’s.
Kiley was disappointed. There wasn’t time to dwell on it, though: he was headed to Berlin in a C-47 for the second show, again serving as pool reporter, and likely the only reporter to witness both signings.
“The negotiations in Berlin went on all afternoon and night before the ceremony started after midnight, Berlin time,” he wrote to his wife, describing an exhausting jumble, with an official victory banquet and “24 toasts, no sleep for gosh knows how long, vodka, champagne, cognac, wine, caviar, squab, Russian cigarettes, but also the picture of hopeless people, weary refugees streaming through Berlin, smoldering fires everywhere.”
After filing his story, Kiley had time to explore Berlin, including the remains of Hitler’s Chancellery, where he snagged a few Reich relics, before boarding a flight to join Eisenhower in Paris.
Kiley’s surrender stories played on page one in all Stars and Stripes editions, and were picked up stateside in numerous papers, including the New York Herald Tribune, which hired Kiley after the war as a reporter, then an editor.
The war was over for Ed Kennedy, too, but he wasn’t done with combat. Two days after the New York Times ran his surrender flash, the paper published an editorial saying Kennedy had committed a “grave disservice” to the newspaper profession. 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. SHAEF stripped him of his press credentials and the AP sent him stateside, firing him the following November. “I would do it again,” Kennedy said afterward. “The war was over; there was no military security involved, and the people had a right to know.”
Other journalists defended Kennedy. In an essay in The New Yorker, published May 19, 1945, under the subhead The AP Surrender, AJ Liebling absolved Kennedy of breaking the "pledge" he had supposedly made aboard the aircraft flying to Reims. "Whether a promise extorted as this one was, in an airplane several thousand feet up, has any moral force is a question for the theologians," Liebling wrote. "I suppose that Kennedy should have refused to promise anything and thus made sure of missing an event that no newspaperman in the world would want to miss, but I can't imagine any correspondent's doing it."
Wes Gallagher, the AP reporter who succeeded Kennedy in Europe and became the general manager after Cooper, strongly supported his colleague and believed he had done the right thing. According to his memoir, Gallagher told Truman's successor, President Dwight D Eisenhower: "If I'd been Kennedy, I'd have done the same thing - except that I'd have telephoned you first."
He continued to work as an editor and publisher of newspapers in California, until he died in 1963, having been struck by a car. AP issued a public apology in 2012, saying Kennedy “did everything just right,” because the embargo was for political reasons, not to protect the troops. “The world needed to know,” AP’s then-President and CEO Tom Curley said. Kennedy ”stood up to power.”
Kiley died in 2001 at age 87, having worked as New York Herald a daily newspaper editor for the Tribune until it folded in 1966, and then editor– in-chief of the New York Law Journal until he was 76.
The story is now a play which the Michigan Irish Repertory Theater will premiere, The Crowded Hour: The Story of VE Day in 1945,” today on EncoreMichigan’s website.
Thanks to June 2015 issue of World War II and the AP.
Exciting news from our resident genealogist Lisa Dougherty who will be hosting a live, virtual event on Monday at 12. See the link below to register.
Join professional genealogist Lisa Dougherty for a presentation on where to find these money-saving resources.
And we are back with Sean, live from his living-room! Woo hoo!
#Courage2020 continues with a performance by Lisa Halligan at the National Gallery in Dublin. #ApartTogether. Enjoy this performance as part of the Other Voices Concert Series.
This performance will be coming to you live from The National Gallery of Ireland and will be made available worldwide, free of charge, thanks to the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Intel and RTÉ.
On this day in 1915, The Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the Old Head of Kinsale, Co. Cork with the loss of more than 1,100 lives. 140 Irish people died when the ship went down, 70 of them passengers and 70 crew. Among them were James McDermott, the ship’s surgeon, from Co. Cork, his assistant, Dr Joseph Garry, from Co. Clare, the composer Thomas O’Brien Butler and renowned Irish art dealer Hugh Lane. 128 American passengers died.
The Lusitania was commissioned by the Cunard Line along with a sister ship, the Mauretania, to compete with monster German ships that were taking to the waters.
It was launched in June 1906 with much fanfare and after trials and final finishing touches, had its maiden voyage in September 1907. It was intended to be one of three ships that between them would make weekly crossings from Liverpool to New York, stopping off at Queenstown (now Cobh) along the way to pick up more passengers. Over the next 8 years, the Lusitania made a total of 202 crossings of the North Atlantic. It was a record breaker, completing the journey in just 5 days and 54 minutes – and that was after delays from fog and the new engines being broken in. At New York thousands of people and hundreds of horse drawn cabs crowded at the shores to welcome the ship – every single police officer in the city was required to control the crowd!
The Lusitania was once the fastest ship on the Atlantic crossing. It could make 24 knots – 45km/h – and outpace a submarine, but in wartime it traveled more slowly, to conserve fuel. The Lusitania’s sinking marked a departure in modern warfare. There had been mass attacks on civilians before. The newspapers had been full of stories of German atrocities against Belgium, and Germany had also bombed British coastal towns, but the Lusitania’s sinking generated outrage worldwide. Germans became the “barbarous Hun”, in the words of a cartoon at the time.
Germany could hardly have been more explicit than when its US embassy published warnings, in the New York Times and dozens of other newspapers, against sailing in UK ships – and placed them beside Cunard advertisements for its transatlantic services. Still, the received wisdom in government corridors and among the travelling public was that Germany would never sink an ocean liner and risk bringing the US into the war.
On 7th May 1915 the Lusitania was nearing the end of her 202nd voyage, on the way back to Liverpool from New York. It was carrying 1266 passengers and 696 crew (a total of 1,962 people on board). It was sailing alongside the southern coast of Ireland, around 11 miles away from the Old Head of Kinsale at its usual fast pace. It happened to intersect with a German U-boat, which fired one torpedo towards its starboard bow, making impact just underneath the wheelhouse. U-20, the U-boat that fired at the Lusitania, was low on fuel and had only three torpedoes in its hold. In the days before it sank the liner U-20 had sunk the 132-ton schooner Earl of Lathom, after allowing its crew to abandon ship, the 6,000-ton Liverpool steamer Candidate and its sister Centurion.
Seconds later an explosion in the hull erupted and the whole boat listed violently to the side. Although the crew immediately began an evacuation procedure, the boat was listing with such force that most of lifeboats were too high to be lowered into the sea; only 6 of the 48 were launched successfully; most of the others capsized. Eighteen minutes after the ship was hit, it was fully submerged. Irish rescuers launched into action and managed to save some 764 of the 1,962 passengers; most of the victims died from either drowning or hypothermia before the rescuers could reach them. A British cruiser also left from a nearby Cork harbour, but was ordered to turn back in case of further attack, adding to the loss of lives.
Afterwards the grim reality of the first World War came washing up on the shores of what was then Queenstown. The people of Cobh responded with a sense of purpose that remains a source of pride for the town. For weeks they dealt with the awful flotsam of the Lusitania: the hundreds of bodies washed ashore or picked from the seas around Co Cork. Little boats put to sea to rescue the survivors. Without the efforts of locals who risked their lives the death toll of 1,198, out of the 1,959 people aboard – these official figures exclude three German stowaways suspected of spying – would have been worse. The dead were put in open coffins on the quayside for identification; many whose next of kin had also drowned were never identified.
There was international outcry at the sinking, which the Allied forces claimed was a totally unnecessary attack on innocent civilians. The British were especially outraged and urged America to join the war with them, since 128 American citizens on board the ship lost their lives. It was another 18 months before America finally gave in and joined the war effort however. It was, however, the beginning of the end of US neutrality in the conflict.
The Cunard offices in Cobh were besieged “by a pitiful little group of men and women, many bandaged, some on crutches”, according to a reporter from the New York Tribune. Grieving mothers wandered the town, looking for their children. One message read: “Lusitania – missing baby; missing a baby girl, fifteen months old. Very fair curly hair and rosy complexion.” The US consul in Cobh, Wesley Frost, recalled seeing “five or six drowned women with drowned babies in their arms; and the corpse of one mother who had a dead infant clasped to each of the cold breasts which had so recently been their warm nestling place”.
In a sickening coincidence, Ireland’s first custom built hotel, The Commodore opened for business in 1854 and its focus was to attract the many passengers embarking on voyages including the Titanic and Lusitania. At the time of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U Boat, the hotel was under German ownership. Otto Humbert and his family were forced to hide in the cellars as a crowd gathered and demanded the hotel be burned to the ground. The hotel itself was then converted into a hospital and makeshift morgue for the victims.
The wreck of the Lusitania still lies on the sea bed just off the coast of Kinsale, and is officially owned by Gregg Bemis. Bemis has spent years battling courts in Ireland, the UK and the US to ensure his ownership of the vessel is secure, and has spent millions photographing, examining and recovering artifacts from the wreck. Among plenty of other objects said to be on the ship at the time of sinking are several extremely valuable paintings in lead tubes which art collector Hugh Lane was transporting. Among the collection were works by Monet, Rembrandt and Rubens. Although there has been much debate over who the recovered artifacts should belong to, some of them have eventually made their way to Ireland’s museums.
The 100th anniversary of the sinking in 2015 was commemorated across Ireland, and special stamps were issued by An Post to remember the victims. In 2017, a memorial garden complete with a 20-metre long bronze sculpture was unveiled in Cork to honor the victims the disaster. In the old cemetery overlooking the picturesque seaside town of Cobh are three mounds of uneven earth that resemble unmade beds. They are mass graves, designated only as A, B and C, for the people who drowned. The bronze sculpture entitled 'The Wave', by Irish artists Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring, explains the tragic story of the great liner on its fateful last journey.
Thanks to the Irish Times, Irish Examiner, and Ireland.com
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