26 September 2023

Dispatch from Berlin, 1943: The story of five journalists who risked everything

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Anthony Cooper with Thorsten Perl, NewSouth Books, $34.99.

This narrative is the brainchild of Thorsten Perl, a colleague of Anthony Cooper, but the author shapes his viewpoint of the sequence of events and its main incidents and themes in a distinctive format.

This account is based on the considerable personal archive of source material after Perl developed a particular interest in the real-life characters of two of the protagonists: Nordahl Grieg, the unlucky Norwegian national poet; and Lowell Bennett, the lucky young American.

“In writing the book, I have sought to remain faithful to this emphasis by laying some stress upon these two people, while balancing the story with the perspectives of the other three journalists who flew to Berlin in Lancaster bombers on that fateful night of 2 December 1943 – the famous American broadcast journalist, Ed Murrow, and the two Australian newspapers journalists, Alf King and Norm Stockton.”

Each was assigned to one of the 400 Lancaster bombers that fly into the hazardous skies over Germany on a single night. Of the five, only two land back at base to file their stories.

After parachuting out of his doomed aircraft, one reporter is taken prisoner. From there his captors take him on a remarkable tour of bombed-out German cities.

In Dispatch from Berlin, 1943, Cooper and Perl uncover this incredible true story of life on both sides of the war. The five courageous reporters and their eyewitness accounts of the horrors of the air war, during and after a raid on Berlin, form a convincing tribute.

An exceptional story, a military history that opens a private window pane into the massive and distressing mechanism of aerial warfare over Europe during World War II.

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