The Next Voice You Hear

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:22

    Dumeresque sought to quell apprehension in the Pacific about likely Japanese aggression by convincing the peoples there that Americans, far from being ironclad isolationists, would, if necessary, rally to their aid. With the tacit but unofficial approval of FDR, the FCC and the State Dept., Dumeresque booked time at KGEI, already beaming to the Far East, and then corralled Winter, a news commentator at KSFO, the city's CBS affiliate. On Sept. 14, Winter, then in his mid-30s, went on the air at 6:45 a.m., optimal time for listenership in the Pacific, for his inaugural daily 15-minute commentary. Unsupervised, he wove together newspaper editorials, texts of speeches and poll results into a script, calling his spot American Views on the News.

    "Since nobody was telling me what not to say," Winter writes in his book, "I added this thought in that first broadcast: That while none of us in America wanted war, as surely as no people anywhere want war, when a nation's interests require military action, everybody buries differences and lines up in full support of the country. That has been the American experience."

    Twelve weeks later the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The government immediately assumed control of Winter's daily broadcast while adding other news-and-views presenters, whose commentaries were translated into French (for Indochina), Dutch (for the Dutch East Indies) and Spanish (for Latin America). Winter was heard principally in the Philippines, a U.S. commonwealth at the time, which the Japanese overran in the waning days of 1941; suddenly, listening to Winter was a crime punishable by death. At the request of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in March 1942 Winter began sending weekly 10-minute "pep talks" via telephone hookup to Australia, next in line for invasion. Then, almost three years into the war, experiencing guilt about not seeing real duty?"I felt like a slacker enjoying the ease of middle-class life"?Winter signed on as a war correspondent with a wire service used by major U.S. dailies, while maintaining his broadcaster's post.

    In September 1944 he shipped out to Australia, where his weekly spots had rendered him something of a celeb, and was asked by MacArthur to do a six-week jaunt through the country, giving speeches as a U.S. "goodwill ambassador." He complied, then flew to New Guinea en route to Leyte in the Philippines, where MacArthur and the U.S. forces had famously "returned" in October. Bogged down in New Guinea in late November awaiting a seat on a plane to Leyte, Winter copped an exclusive interview with Indonesian rebel leaders, including Sukarno, who briefed him on their plans to boot out the Dutch once the Japanese were defeated. Meanwhile, he continued his never-fear-the-Yanks-are-here (or coming) broadcasts to the beleaguered Filipinos, and finally reached Leyte in early December.

    Returning from the Pacific, Winter broadcast coverage of the United Nations Charter Conference in San Francisco in 1945 for the State Dept.; reported on the Indonesian insurrection against the Dutch in the late 40s as a UN correspondent; and worked as a news analyst for ABC TV in 1955. Later, he toured the world as a speaker on world affairs, and eventually launched a company that took study groups all over the globe.

    Up until his death on Nov. 3 at age 92 in suburban L.A., he remained a hero in the Philippines, where, in acknowledgment of his hang-in-there WWII broadcasts, he became the lone U.S. citizen to be awarded that nation's Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1956. Despite working in a war zone, Winter's most vexing moments behind a mic occurred in the weeks before Pearl Harbor, when, in the predawn hours, he assembled his commentaries and then flung them out to a veritable void an ocean away. He didn't know if anyone heard him, if anyone cared. It took six weeks for his first "fan letter" to arrive at KGEI. Written by an attorney in Calcutta, it read, in its entirety:

    "Dear Mr. Winter:

    "The word is se-CREET-iv, not SEE-cret-iv!

    "Very truly yours."

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