Witness to History

Boyd Lewis notebook

In 1945, United Press reporter Boyd Lewis was among 17 correspondents selected to witness Germany’s surrender at Reims, France. In his notes is a diagram of the seating arrangement. (Gift, Boyd Lewis)

On May 7, 1945, United Press reporter Boyd Lewis was among 17 correspondents selected by the U.S. military to witness Germany’s surrender at Reims, France, ending World War II. In his notes, Lewis drew a diagram in pencil of the seating arrangement around the table, which included Gen. Gustav Jodi on behalf of Germany; Gen. William Bedell Smith, representing the Allies; Gen. Ivan Sousloparov, representing Russia; and Gen. Francois Sevez on behalf of France.

After Germany formally surrendered, the reporters’ stories on the historic event — which had to be cleared by Army censors — were embargoed for 18 hours, May 8, to give President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin time to announce the surrender themselves.

In 1981, Lewis explained in his autobiography “Not Always a Spectator” that he never considered breaking the embargo for a news scoop.

“Never at any time did it occur to me to try an unethical ‘end run’ with the story,” he said. “Nor can I claim any struggle of conscience, weighing the danger of added war and death (if a breach of agreement blew up the surrender) against the value of a scoop. If there is any satisfaction in this matter after all these years, it lies in that fact.”

In 2000, Lewis contacted the Newseum and gifted the notebook, which is part of a display on war reporting in the News Corporation News History Gallery. He died in 2003 at age 97.

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