The Coverage of the Entire Conflict


By The New York Times

Foreword by Tom Brokaw

Edited by Richard Overy

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Experience the history, politics, and tragedy of World War II as you’ve never seen it before with original, often firsthand daily reportage of The New York Times, our country’s newspaper of record.

The Times’ complete coverage of World War II is now available for the first time in this unique package. Hundreds of the most riveting articles from the archives of the Times including firsthand accounts of major events and little-known anecdotes have been selected for inclusion in The New York Times: The Complete World War II. The book covers the biggest battles of the war, from the Battle of the Bulge to the Battle of Iwo Jima, as well as moving stories from the home front and profiles of noted leaders and heroes such as Winston Churchill and George Patton.

A respected World War II historian and writer, editor Richard Overy guides readers through the articles, putting the events into historical context. The enclosed DVD-ROM gives access to more day-by-day coverage of World War II in The New York Times — from the invasion of Poland to V-J day with access to over 98,000 articles.

Beautifully designed and illustrated with hundreds of maps and historical photographs, it’s the perfect gift for any war, politics, or history buff.


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World War II represented a profound challenge to every major newspaper in the democratic world because of its sheer scale, length and complexity. No one in 1939 could possibly have foreseen a war that was to last for six years and cost at least 55 million people their lives. No one in 1939 could have predicted that a war that began with the German invasion of Poland, a conflict confined at first to eastern Europe, would engulf the entire globe, from the Aleutian Islands in the far north of the Pacific to Madagascar in the southern Indian Ocean, from the sea lanes of the Caribbean to the icy waters of northern Norway.

The complexity of the war derives from the many conflicts now known unsatisfactorily by the single label of World War II. In Asia the Japanese began a war in 1937 against China and then undertook another one in 1941 across the Pacific, and a further campaign into Southeast Asia and toward India. In the Mediterranean, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini began war against Britain and France in June 1940 and then turned to Greece and Africa to try to carve out a new Roman Empire while the West was in crisis. The main threat came from the militarily and industrially powerful Germany. Hitler also found himself fighting two wars, one against the Western democracies, including by 1941 the United States, and a second one of imperial conquest in the Soviet Union. Against the West, at sea and in the air, Germany fought a war based on the most modern science and technology; against the Soviet Union it was more traditional, a clash of mass armies. Descriptions of the German soldiers at Stalingrad read like accounts of the Grand Army of Napoleon that froze to death in Russia 130 years earlier.

To make sense of these many conflicts, the fighting powers reduced the issue to one of life and death. For the democracies, the whole western tradition and democratic way of life seemed under mortal threat from the menace of militarism and modern authoritarianism. For Germany, Italy and Japan, the world dominated by the democracies and their empires (which were certainly not democratic) seemed to be based on outworn liberal values and a hypocritical defense of political freedom and open trade, which the West failed to honor in practice. They saw their own national futures blighted by Western domination. The Axis powers, as they became known, were ruled by aggressive nationalist regimes that wanted to replace the West's historical self-importance with what they called a "New Order" in Asia, in the Mediterranean and in Europe. It was against this rising ambition that the rest of the world rallied to support the Allies, who in January 1942 adopted the title United Nations in recognition of the growing number of states who opposed the Axis.

The major Allies—Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and China—had very different regimes and antagonistic agendas, but they were united by the single desire to defeat their common enemies as the first step to building a more rational and peaceable world system. It was easy for them to reduce the conflict to a simple right versus wrong, even though from the democracies' point of view there was a great deal that was wrong with the dictatorships that ruled China and the Soviet Union. The commitment to victory that held the alliance together until 1945 gradually gave way to a new crisis in which wartime friends soon became post-war enemies.

Through all the years of war The New York Times was dedicated to reporting, without "fear or favor," as much military and political news as possible. This meant filling the paper with articles and reports and editorials that were devoted to places and issues often remote from American interests. The Times publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and his editorial staff were committed during the war to making sure their readers were aware of the wider story of the conflict. More than 160 Times correspondents worldwide found themselves in distant geographical areas, following events rather than sitting in The Times bureau in a more familiar capital city. The Times printed more words on the war than any other newspaper, an average of 125,000 every weekday, and 240,000 in the Sunday edition. A million words a day flooded in to New York by radio, telephone or wire, and valuable advertising space was surrendered to make sure all the news was covered. The number of readers increased during the wartime period, from an average 1.26 million (weekday and Sunday) in 1941 to an average 1.47 million in 1945.1 Despite limitations imposed by the wartime scarcity of newsprint, this does not seem to have unduly affected The Times. In late 1942 Sulzberger was invited to join the Publishers Newsprint Committee, which then fixed the allotment of paper at the average consumption in 1941. Under Order L-240, a scheme was established to ensure that every newspaper got its quota of supply. The Times printed more news, particularly world news, than other papers, and those extra pages came at the expense of advertising revenue.2

Many problems arose in seeking out the news and making sure that it got into print. There was nothing straightforward about wartime reporting and wartime publishing. The first problem was official silence, the second censorship. Military operations were highly secret and the course of battle often shrouded by a deliberate veil of misinformation, or no information at all. The Battle of France in 1940 and the invasion of Normandy in 1944 had to be guessed at by correspondents on the basis of what few reliable communiqués were available. On the Eastern Front and the war in China, there were regular difficulties in getting any worthwhile material. German press conferences in the six months following the Barbarossa campaign launched against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 were contrived events with little hard news about the course of war. A major press conference held in early October in Berlin reported that the Soviets were now defeated, a claim that aroused a natural skepticism among the few American correspondents present, and was soon shown to be nonsense.3

Even when there was news to report, every country practiced censorship to avoid compromising security. This could take many forms, and correspondents became adept at writing copy that skirted what was known of censorship rules, which affected not only text but also images. American newspapers were not permitted to show pictures of dead soldiers or of people weeping. Britain permitted no images of the dead or badly injured from bombing raids.4 Censorship could be a source of real frustration. Raymond Daniell, head of The Times London bureau during the London Blitz of 1940-41, curtly explained how newsmen felt about it:

"And always there is the censor to deal with. He often is a well-intentioned blunderer who either hopelessly slows things up or is so obtuse about differentiating between military information and harmless speculation that he drives correspondents to the verge of nervous breakdowns."5

Daniell thought that censorship, like Prohibition, was "noble in purpose," but a failure in practice. In dictatorships, censorship was taken for granted as a risk run by all foreign reporters. When The Times' Austrian correspondent, George E. Gedye, was expelled from Vienna in 1938 for publishing unflattering reports after the German takeover in March, he was told that no reason had to be given. He left the country accompanied by a detective and was searched thoroughly by customs men who stuck needles into his soap and inspected the cuffs of his trousers.6 Times reporter Otto Tolischus was expelled from Germany in 1941 for articles defying censorship (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize), but then a few months later was imprisoned in Japan for writing articles that the censor had in fact passed.7

The war exposed The Times overseas' correspondents to frequent dangers, often in the most remote parts of the world. The dangers were seldom evident in the final reports in the paper, or appreciated by the public that read them. The British novelist W. Somerset Maugham, in a preface to Daniell's book, gave an honest assessment of their unsung risks:

"It is not a very safe profession that the newspaper man follows in wartime. Where there is trouble they must get into it if they can. They must have courage and endurance; they must undergo discomfort and often hardship; they must face danger and sometimes death to provide you with the news. But there is no mention in despatches for them; there are no medals or orders; they may show heroism but it will pass unnoticed."8

Correspondents wore a military uniform and a helmet at the front line, and the risks they ran were considerable. Two Times correspondents were killed. Byron Darnton was the victim of "friendly fire" from a B-25 light bomber that mistakenly attacked his landing craft on the way to Buna in New Guinea. Robert Post of the London bureau was lost in one of the first Eighth Air Force missions over Germany against the port of Wilhelmshaven in February 1943. Richard Johnston was wounded in an American attack on the French port of Brest, and Hal Denny, who had already been captured in North Africa and interrogated (in this case painlessly) by the Gestapo, was hit by bomb fragments in Belgium. Out of the Times staff, 910 served in the three services, and nineteen of them died.9

One of the most remarkable stories involved the diminutive theater critic Brooks Atkinson, who became impatient to report on the war rather than Broadway shows. In late 1942 he traveled to Africa where he filed his first war report, and then on to China as correspondent in the China-Burma theater. Atkinson was the first to hear in October 1944 that Chiang Kai-shek had asked for General Stilwell to be recalled as his American adviser, and to avoid the censor he took a difficult route all the way back to New York to file the story. He had become so ill in China that he was immediately hospitalized on his return, his weight reduced to a fraction of his already meager body by the harsh conditions he had faced in Asia.10

The Times was keen during the war to show that it could maintain its political independence, demonstrated by its support for the Republican, Wendell Wilkie, in the 1940 election and for Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, four years later. It was difficult both before the war and during it to remain indifferent to Axis aggression. Only an automaton, "a journalistic robot," wrote Daniell, "could remain neutral in such circumstances". He thought that what was still possible was "journalistic objectivity" in the face of the barrage of misinformation and propaganda to which correspondents were subjected everywhere.11 If The Times followed a line at all, it was to support internationalism. Sulzberger had been anti-war in the earlier 1930s, but both he and Charles Merz, the new editor appointed in November 1938, came to see the importance of greater American involvement in the wider world. Ferdinand Kuhn, the veteran correspondent in London before Daniell, predicted in 1939 that British weakness in the face of Germany would bring an inevitable doom of economic decline and apocalyptic bombing, while the United States seemed Britain's natural successor in the world, thanks to the "virility and youthfulness" of its population and the opportunities to "use our democracy wisely."12

The Times remained a strong advocate throughout the war of the idea that the United States should assume its proper share of post-war responsibilities. The Times diplomatic correspondent, Harold Callender, in A Preface to Peace published in 1944, warned that the United States now faced "an essentially smaller and tighter world in which no great power can be neutral or isolated."13 Sulzberger remained anxious through the discussions that led to the formation of the United Nations Organization that somehow the public would fail to see that internationalism was now in its interest. In August 1945 The Times claimed, not without reason, that "we have become the most powerful nation in the world." But the message was intended to make sure that the American leadership and public understood that this meant an end forever to isolationism.14

The influence of The Times is hard to judge, though editorials were clearly read with interest and concern in the White House and by leaders abroad. But when it came to direct involvement, the opportunities were limited. The Japanese procurator, summing up the case against Otto Tolischus after his arrest, told Tolischus that because in a democracy the press affects public opinion, and public opinion affects the government, the things he had written contributed to a policy that "led to war between Japan and the United States," and that Tolischus was therefore "responsible for the war."15 In truth, that kind of influence was far removed from reality. The Times occasionally provided a platform to prominent soldiers or politicians to explain their case. British Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris was given several pages in 1944 to describe in great detail what the bomber offensive was accomplishing, the fruit of an earlier correspondence between Sulzberger and Harris about promoting bombing strategy in the American press.16 In the summer of 1943, Sulzberger, accompanied by James Reston, visited Moscow to meet Soviet leaders. His objective, with Roosevelt's personal approval, was to try to show the Soviet leadership that the American press understood that Russia was an important part of the war effort. He was shown the Pravda offices and was puzzled that there was no news room (news was handed down from above) and he met Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov, who smiled and said little. Sulzberger concluded that "Russia did not want to be known," and The Times ran many fewer Soviet stories later in the war than it had in 1941.17 Soviet attitudes toward the paper can perhaps be summed up by a hostile profile of The Times' defense correspondent, Hanson Baldwin, published in Pravda in April 1944, in which Baldwin was called "an admiral of the ink pool" and accused of writing misleading and patronizing military analysis.18 The Times' greatest influence was undoubtedly its unstinting support for the United Nations project and American world policy. In October 1944 The Times condemned both "nationalistic isolationists" and those pure idealists who wanted a genuine "Parliament of Man" for undermining the search for a new world organization, which for all its faults would still be better than a return to the pre-war world.19

The Times was progressive on many issues that were important to wartime America. There were anxieties about the large extension of presidential powers brought about by the war, which explains Roosevelt's often awkward relationship with the paper. On the right of blacks to join the war effort and to fight and work on equal terms, The Times ran regular reports and campaigned for greater integration. Special mention was made of the black unit that fought in the embattled enclave at Bastogne in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.20 There were regular features and editorials highlighting the work that women were doing and the paper provided a platform for the argument that after the war more women would want to continue with a career rather than accept the role of unpaid housekeeper. Neither American blacks nor American women got what they wanted in 1945. The Times' description of the disembarkation of demobilized soldiers in New York failed to comment on the segregation of white and black soldiers as they came down the gangplank.

The Times was not shy on exposing wartime atrocity, whether in the Czech village of Lidice or by the Japanese in the Chinese city of Nanjing. And the paper was a force in exposing injustice, evident in its regular coverage of the British failure to offer independence to India. The Times has been criticized, however, for failing to influence opinion on the biggest horror of them all, the persecution and extermination of six million European Jews by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. It is nevertheless misleading to suggest that The Times ignored the subject. Throughout the 1930s and into the war, it published reports on German policy against the Jews. It reported on Kristallnacht in November 1938, and in November 1942 on Heinrich Himmler's systematic slaughter of Polish Jews.21 But Arthur Sulzberger was conflicted about his own Jewishness, hostile to Zionism, and at great pains to ensure that American anti-Semitism would not identify The Times as a "Jewish paper."22 In his determination to achieve that end, as Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones wrote in "The Trust," their history of The Times, "he missed an opportunity to use the considerable power of the paper to focus a spotlight on one of the greatest crimes the world has ever known." Articles about the murder of the Jews rarely made it to page one of the paper. The description of the operations of the death camp at Treblinka appeared on page 11. In "Buried by the Times" Laurel Leff wrote that the destruction of Europe's Jews "remained below the surface, only emerging now and then in a diluted and fractured form."23

What The Times did in the wartime years was to publish what Hanson Baldwin called "history in the raw," different from the "precise, emotionless chronology of school books." This was the view of history as it happened, with all its limitations, and it was possible to get many things wrong, since reporters were always looking to an uncertain future, unlike historians who look back on a certain past. The Times published articles in late 1932 and early 1933 suggesting that there would never be a Hitler dictatorship. In April 1940, four weeks before British Primes Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned, the paper reported that he seemed more secure than ever as British leader. On June 12, 1941, ten days before the Barbarossa campaign, The Times ran Walter Duranty's special report that renewed agreement was much more likely between Germany and the Soviet Union than war.24 Duranty, a longtime Moscow correspondent for The Times and Pulitzer Prize winner, was later severely criticized for underplaying Bolshevik brutalities and ignoring the Ukrainian famine in the early 1930's, causing the paper to renounce the award.

But The Times also got many things right, and often told the story before its major competitors. Both the good and the bad are reproduced in this selection of wartime articles culled from tens of thousands published throughout the whole period of war from 1939 to 1945. Since many of the articles were very long in the original, some, though not all, of this selection have been edited down from their original length. All the articles on the war can be found in full on the CD that accompanies this volume. They have been chosen because they reflect the main narrative of the war seen from the perspective of New York, including war on the home front and some of the strange quirks that the war provoked in American and European daily life. Articles also appear that describe the tough daily routine of service life in the field, which many correspondents shared. The narrative moves from crisis and uncertainty for the Allies, through a tense period in 1942 and 1943 when everything still seemed poised in the balance, to a final rush for victory which a stubborn Axis defense made more costly and lengthier than the public had been led to expect. It ends with the advent of a new nuclear age in which the certainty of unconditional victory brought with it the uncertainties of a nuclear future. That victory is now often taken for granted as the product of the natural triumph of virtue over crime. But it did not always seem so to those dictating the news to correspondents eager for something to lighten the grim images of war and death. All the more remarkable that a Times editor, Robert Duffus, could write in June 1940 after the British evacuation from Dunkirk, "It is the great tradition of democracy. It is the future. It is victory." On this prediction, The Times proved in the long run unassailably right.25

Chapter 1


September–October 1939

In the early morning on September 1, 1939 German forces began a carefully planned campaign to destroy the Polish armed forces in a series of rapid and destructive operations. The news, when it came, had not been unexpected, for the European crisis had intensified in the last days of August. In New York it was just after midnight and The Times rushed out an extra edition under the front-page headline "German Army Attacks Poland." Details were sent through by Otto Tolischus in Berlin (soon to be expelled by the Germans) and confirmed by The Times's Polish correspondent Jerzy Szapiro, who found himself under bombardment in Warsaw. The German campaign made rapid progress, but in London and Paris, already being evacuated in case of bombing, Hitler was being asked to withdraw his forces and avoid further war. His refusal resulted in two ultimatums. The British one ran out at 11 a.m. on September 3, the French one at 5 p.m. the same day. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain solemnly announced over the radio that Britain was at war and his broadcast was reprinted in full on the front page of The Times that same day. Neither of the Western powers took immediate action to help the Poles, whose forces were swept aside in four weeks of bitter fighting. On September 17 the Soviet armed forces moved into eastern Poland under their agreement with Hitler and by September 27 all Polish resistance had ended

For the United States the crisis in Europe posed many dangers. Neutrality legislation, which had been signed into law in 1937, insured that the United States would not become involved in any war by taking sides or supplying arms. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under strong pressure to declare U.S. neutrality formally in September 1939, and although he did so, he wanted to keep open the possibility of selling resources to the democracies. The isolationist mood in the United States, which The Times campaigned against, was strong. When The Times asked on September 3 "Can the United States Keep Out of War?," the overwhelming answer from the public would have been "yes." For Americans there was not just anxiety over German ambitions, but fear of what Japan might do in Asia and uncertainty over Soviet intentions following Stalin's decision to throw in his lot with Hitler. There was also widespread fascination in America with the war, evident in the extensive news coverage devoted by The Times to the opening weeks of the conflict.

The historian Allan Nevins asked whether civilization could survive a second war, a question widely debated in Europe in the 1930s. Nevins concluded that it might, but only because civilization somehow always had survived in the past. The Times published the assertion by the exiled Communist Leon Trotsky that sooner or later the United States would have to join in the war; though Trotsky was an unlikely ally for America's interventionists. Nevertheless, there still existed the possibility that the war might end as suddenly as it had begun. In October Hitler made veiled offers to the West to abandon the conflict now that he had seized his Polish prize. Demands that the West should make peace came from Francisco Franco, recent victor in the Spanish Civil War, the pope, Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, even from Moscow. For all the popular hostility to Chamberlain as an appeaser, then and now, he was adamant in October 1939 that there should be no negotiating with Hitler. By late October American public opinion held that U.S. involvement in the war could be avoided altogether. A Gallup Poll showed that 54 percent were sure the United States could keep out of the conflict. This was not yet world war. If Britain and France had made peace, there would have been no world war at all.




Warsaw Reports German Offensive Moving on Three Objectives

By Jerzy Szapiro
Wireless to The New York Times.

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 1—War began at 5 o'clock this morning with German planes attacking Gdynia, Cracow and Katowice.

At Gdynia three bombs exploded in the sea.

The regular German Army started an offensive in the direction of Dzialdowka—in Upper Silesia and Czestochowa. The German plan apparently is to cut off Western Poland along the line of Dzialdowka-Lodz-Czestochowa.

The offensive is developing from East Prussia, toward Silesia and northwards from Slovakia.

At 9 o'clock an attempt was made to bombard Warsaw. The planes, however, did not reach even the suburbs.

A military attack on the garrison at Westerplatte in the Danzig area was repulsed.

The Foreign Office at 8:45 A.M. issues a communiqué saying that military action had begun in Westerplatte in the Danzig area as well as in Buschkowa near Gdynia, and in Dzialowka, Chojnice and Lowa.

Hostilities have begun and Poland has been attacked, said the communiqué.

Three cities in Upper Silesia suffered artillery bombardment, particulars of which are lacking, it was said.

While this dispatch was being telephoned, the air-raid sirens sounded in Warsaw.


WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 1 (AP)—It was reported today that Tczew and Czestochowa were bombed by German airplanes early this morning.

There was no official confirmation of the bombing.

Fighting was reported at Danzig.

It was reported officially that German troops had attacked Polish defenses near Mlawa, bordering the southern part of East Prussia. There was no announcement of the damage resulting from the bombing.

Mist and clouds were overhanging the city. A light drizzle apparently afforded momentary protection against air raids. Warsaw went to work as usual.


WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (AP)—President Roosevelt directed today that all naval ships and army commands be notified at once by radio of German-Polish hostilities.

The White House issued the following announcement:

"The President received word at 2:50 A.M. Eastern standard time by telephone from Ambassador Biddle at Warsaw and through Ambassador Bullitt in Paris that Germany has invaded Poland and that four Polish cities are being bombed.

"The President directed all naval ships and army commands be notified by radio at once.



    This is a book to lose yourself in, to witness the war transmuted into print for the masses of readers living through it and anxious to follow it's twists and turns. No less fascinating as a study of newspaper writing. Essential.

    Library Journal

On Sale
Sep 20, 2016
Page Count
624 pages

The New York Times

The New York Times

About the Author

The members of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol include Bennie Thompson (chair), Liz Cheney (vice chair), Zoe Lofgren, Adam B. Schiff, Adam Kinzinger, Pete Aguilar, Stephanie Murphy, Jamie Raskin and Elaine Luria.

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