Archive for Monday, June 26, 2000

Report on Pearl Harbor to go to highest bidder

June 26, 2000


— The weighty words flashed over the Teletype on Dec. 7, 1941: "President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from the air."

Like other radio announcers, WTCN's Roger Krupp didn't hesitate to read to his Minneapolis listeners The Associated Press news flash about the attack that plunged the United States into World War II.

Now the tattered Teletype message bearing Krupp's initials, editing marks and the words he read is expected to fetch up to $5,000 when it is auctioned today at Sotheby's in New York.

"What makes it so exciting and worth offering for sale is the particular bit of world-changing news that it contained," said Selby Kiffer, a Sotheby's senior vice president.

Kiffer says Krupp's reading of the news flash is "traditionally thought to be the first" broadcast of the attack a claim met with skepticism by some media experts and historians.

Journalism historians have long credited Len Sterling of the Mutual Broadcasting Co. with being the first to broadcast the news.

The two-hour air assault began at 7:55 a.m. in Hawaii 12:25 p.m. CDT in Minnesota. Krupp read the news flash 58 minutes later, Kiffer said.

But "The Press and America" by Edwin Emery and Michael Emery notes that Sterling broke into his national broadcast of a football game in New York to read the report 57 minutes after the attack began.

There's nothing in standard journalism history texts about any broadcast before then, said Eric Newton, a historian at the Newseum, a news museum in Arlington, Va., operated by the Freedom Forum.

Even in Honolulu, it wasn't until 65 minutes after the attack began at 9 a.m. in Hawaii that Webley Edwards of KGMB radio notified residents of what most of them already could see and hear, according to Gordon Prange's classic tome on Pearl Harbor, "At Dawn We Slept."

"This is not a maneuver. This is the real McCoy," Edwards announced before being shut down by military censors.

Kiffer conceded Sterling's broadcast would have to be considered the first to air but only if those times were "dead accurate." Regardless, Kiffer said the Krupp document has the same value.

The message was brought to Sotheby's by a Minneapolis collector whose family knew Krupp, Kiffer said. Krupp died in 1987.

"As the World War II generation is growing older and dying, these documents are coming to light which have been held by veterans or held by their families," Kiffer said.

Daniel Martinez, a historian for the National Park Service at the USS Arizona Memorial, doubts Krupp was the first to broadcast the news. But Martinez said he understood the interest in something as seemingly mundane as a Teletype document.

"Most people would agree it was one of the greatest news stories that affected the greatest amount of people of that time period," he said. "Any shred of that news is one of those pieces of fabric of American history that is so important to us all."

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