By Joe Livernois
Edward Kennedy, the great war correspondent, scored the greatest scoop of the century — and it cost him dearly. He broke the news that World War II had ended in Europe, but he released the account of Germany’s humiliating surrender a day before the world’s triumphant leaders wanted the world to hear the news.
Kennedy witnessed the surrender ceremony in a schoolhouse in Reims, France, along with a handful of other select journalists. All were instructed to withhold the news for 36 hours to appease the Russians. But Kennedy had found a way around military censors to dash off the good news to Associated Press headquarters. And because he presented the world the gift of an extra day of peace, he found himself at the center of one of the great controversies in journalism history.
Kennedy had earned a spot in Reims honestly. Working for AP, he had become one of the world’s most respected war correspondents in Europe, with experience dating back to the Spanish Civil War in 1936. He was admired with jealousy by his colleagues for his clever ability to confound the piddling military censors. He detested the stories spoon-fed by the PR bureaucrats who hoped to control the war’s narrative.
By most accounts, Kennedy’s resumé as a war correspondent checked all the boxes. He had witnessed conflicts in forests, jungles, cities and deserts. He carried a wary attitude, the result of witnessing a world gone mad for too many years. He developed an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign affairs. And he nurtured the drinking habits that distinguished the top-notch journalists of the era.
In his own words, he claimed to have made “many more scoops than any other war correspondent. That statement may seem boastful and may be challenged, but I think that an examination of newspaper files would bear it out.”
And on May 7, 1945, Kennedy managed to send the biggest scoop of his career, a 300-word dispatch to London’s AP office declaring the war was officially over.
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