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April 5, 1945 – Interview with Mutual Reporter Don Bell. Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
April 5, 1945 – Aside from the day to day news reports from the front and the Capitols involved in the War, much air time was spent interviewing those people who played, in some cases critical, and in other cases just everyday, individuals caught up in a war which had engulfed the world. It’s interesting to note that, among the casualties were more than the average number of members of the Press – those writers and reporters who witnessed war with a pen or camera who were shot down while covering an air assault on an enemy target, or were gunned down jumping out of a landing craft during an invasion – the list of notable casualties from the Press sector was long – and were largely overlooked, as they often are now and have been during most conflicts. It goes with the territory -it’s sometimes an unspoken acknowledgement that the risks are high; all for the sake of a story and an eyewitness account.
One of the notable figures during the Pacific theater of World War 2 was Don Bell was an American radio broadcaster best known for his radio work broadcasting from the Philippines in the years leading up to World War II. Bell worked as a publicity director for an American department store, Heacock’s, as well as serving as a foreign correspondent for NBC and serving as news coordinator with the British Ministry of Information, the Free French Committee and the Free Czech Committee. Bell also worked for Radio Manila, also known as Radio KZRH, and his broadcasts were one of the main sources of news for the Anglophone population in the Far East.
At the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, Bell dropped his radio name and assumed his real name of Clarence Beliel, and arranged to be taken by the Japanese while working at Heacock’s Department Store. The deception was maintained by all who knew him as Don Bell; to have revealed that he was the person who had made many anti-Japanese broadcasts would have had dire consequences. Bell was interned, together with his wife Lilia and two sons Clarence and Richard, at Santo Tomas University in Manila. During this period, Bell was erroneously reported as dead, and was told of a “beautiful memorial broadcast [a non-interned Filipino friend] had heard over KGEI, a short-wave radio station broadcasting from San Francisco. It seems that Don Bell was captured, tortured because he wouldn’t give information to the enemy, paraded through the streets and then executed; the first war correspondent to die in World War II.” Life magazine reported in its issues dated 30 March and 13 April 1942 that Bell was dead. The camp was liberated in February 1945, and Bell was greeted by General MacArthur with the words “Hello, Lazarus: I am happy to see you have returned from the dead”.
Almost immediately after his liberation, Bell went back to war reporting. On 22 March 1945 the plane he was in was shot down over Amoy Harbour in China while on a bombing mission. Bell and seven other survivors were hidden from the Japanese by Chinese guerilla fighters and smuggled to Chunking in China, and from there back to Manila. Bell covered the Australian landings at Balikpapan in Borneo on 1 July 1945.
This broadcast, an interview with Bell on his arrival in Chungking, talks about the period of confinement at Santo Tomas and also talks about the ill-fated bombing mission on March 22nd.
War from a reporters perspective as given on April 5, 1945.