Broadcasts from the Blitz: How Edward R. Murrow Helped Lead America Into War, Philip Seib

What a lovely book.  I didn’t know Edward Murrow had had anything to do with Britain in the War at all, but evidently he and his wife moved there before the war started and stayed after it began.  The Murrows came home to America in 1941, just in time for Pearl Harbor, and then they went back to England again, because Edward Murrow wanted to explain America to Britain and the other way around.  When I was reading this book, I discovered lots of nice things about Edward Murrow and his lovely wife Janet.  For instance, they moved to London before the War, and they stayed there all through the whole war.  Janet Murrow worked on committees and wrote charming letters to their parents, viz.:

Janet told her parents that Mary Street, an older woman who lived in a flat below the Murrows, had “heard that my husband was out all night broadcasting.  So, thinking I’d be nervous, if there were air raids at night, she wanted me to know that she’d be glad to have me come down anytime and sit with her.  She has made a gas-proof room out of one of her small rooms.  I thought it was terribly sweet of her to say I might share her gas-proof room.”  Janet reported that Miss Street had also told her she’d be ready at any hour: “I’m an old trouper.  When I hears the guns I tuck me nightie in me knickers and put on me shoes.”

Actually I found all the excerpts from her letters really endearing.  I wished there were more.  She said that when she and her husband went to see Gone with the Wind, “Ed kept saying ‘God, this is horrible,’ in all the most sentimental parts, much to the annoyance of the people about us.”  I so feel it.

In addition, they worked really hard to get children out of London.  They would ring up their friends in America and ask them please to sponsor families  from London who were escaping to America away from the bombs, and they would say, Do not worry if they incur any expenses, we will pay those expenses.  And they both wrote, and Edward Murrow delivered, many broadcasts on the American radio to tell everyone in America what was going on, so that America would come and help Britain to defeat Hitler, who was very, very evil.  Edward Murrow would say “This is London”, and he would tell stories about how brave the Londoners were even though they were being bombed, and he would tell them what was happening with Hitler and the War.  He did this very much, in order to build support for the war in America, so that people would not listen to That Enormous Poophead Charles Lindbergh who said that London was doomed and anyway the Jews probably deserved it because they were annoying.

And the Londoners were very brave.  Darling, darling London.  London is so brave and stiff-upper-lip-y.  I always thought it was exaggerated, but then one time I was in London when they had a massive catastrophe, and no, really, the truth is, the Brits have a stiff upper lip.  They are the people you want to hang out with in a crisis.  (Out with in.  Mercy.)

So I feel extremely fond of the Murrows.  They did not have to stay in London when it was being frighteningly bombed.  They could have gone straight home when the war started, but instead they stayed put and tried to communicate what was going on to America; and when they were not doing that, they (and by they, I think I mostly mean Janet) were organizing helpful war effort projects like evacuating children and making things for the soldiers.

This book was rather slight, but it was sweet.  Like when Churchill told Joseph Kennedy that the British would fight Hitler to the last man, and if Britain should be overrun, then they would move the government to Canada and fight on from there.  Bless them.  And bless Edward Murrow, he seems like a man of such conviction.  I admire a man who can make an impact.  Here is what Archibald MacLeish said to him, after America had finally entered the war, after Pearl Harbor:

“You burned the city of London in our houses and we felt the flames that burned it.  You laid the dead of London at our doors and we knew the dead were our dead – were all men’s dead – were all mankind’s dead – and ours.”

P.S. On the other hand, Nancy Astor was evidently so awful and anti-Semitic and let-the-Germans-have-what-they-want-y, and BFF with Joseph Kennedy who got his daughter a lobotomy and didn’t even tell his wife – anyway, she was an MP, and one time another MP referred to her as “the honorable member from Berlin.”  Ouch.