February 18, 1940 -163 Days Since Hostilities – Not A Question Of Keeping Out Of A European War But Keeping Out Of A European Peace.
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February 18, 1940 – Safely out of the war zone, and on a liner bound for the U.S., Foreign Correspondent William Hillman, who was leaving Italy and bound for New York offers the first uncensored reports to American listeners what was going on. In this special broadcast, coming from the Ocean Liner Rex via shortwave to NBC in New York, Hillman reports on German advances throughout Europe – as well as French counterattacks. News of shortages in food, fuel, basic necessities, and what there is becomes rationed. News of European refugees heading to the U.S. – refugees who could afford to book a room on the Rex and feel lucky to have escaped a situation already well out of control. Hillman talks about the irony in which the average European seemed much more blasé about losing their rights and freedoms than they were over losing basic necessities – that the loss of free speech seemed not as important as the loss of coffee or bacon and that Europe’s fate rested on its stomach and not its principles. Hillman remarks that U.S. Foreign Policy Adviser Sumner Welles was to take the SS. Rex on the return trip to Europe to serve as envoy to President Roosevelt. Hillman views the gesture as a fruitless one. Welles visit was to see what possible action, principally economic, could be taken in the future when peace was possible. Hillman views it somewhat akin to the Electrician visiting a house on fire to ascertain where to install the new lighting system. He suggests Welles wait to see what will remain of Europe before taking all the trouble to view it economically.
More a report on the situation in Europe some five months after hostilities have broken out, and the U.S. not involved and trying to maintain neutrality than covering actual news events themselves. But an interesting view of a war unfolding and a future completely uncertain. After this special broadcast, all returns to normal programming with music, and life going on as normal.
That’s what was going on, February 18, 1940 as reported by NBC Radio.