Sunday, November 2, 2014

An interesting question


   An interesting question from a respondent at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va (DC area) about “news & music management” at AFN in Europe.

   At AFN Network headquarters in Frankfurt (where the news for all the stations emanated we had the regular wire services AP or UPI plus the Stars and Stripes wire. I can’t recall any specific incident where an officer ripped off some wire copy and censored it...but there may have been... but only at times of crises over Berlin or an Eastern block protest. i.e. censorship was not prevalent at AFN.
Except in music.  Armed Forces Radio didn’t know what to do about Elvis! Not just Elvis but how to handle the American movement to rock & roll.
When I left AFN to go back to the states in April 1956...we hadn’t received nor played an Elvis Presley record!  I’ve just checked my 1956 Billboard listing and he had no less than FOUR of the top fifteen records that year...including “Love Me Tender”...surely an example of soft rock that should have been acceptable even to the “oldies” in management positions at AFRTS! I was leaving Germany, Elvis himself was heading over to fulfill his two years there.  I think that may have changed the brass’s attitude on his music.
Another note of AFN the first couple of weeks after arriving were spent getting cleared for a“top secret”...but they never told us why. My friend and compatriot Nick Clooney told me after he had rotated back to the states that AFN actually set off the Europe forces alerts.  A special news story or public service announcement was slipped into the 6AM or 7AM newscast and when that was heard bells would go off and the alert was on!
My duty on alerts was to drive the huge 18 wheeler remote studio truck out into the nearby woods.  We never fired it up...but just sat around until the alert was done.  But it was interesting that AFN had that capability to continue broadcasting during a crises.
Don’t think you can confirm this story...but I was down near the border for a few weeks (before AFN) driving a couple of West Point Captains in a jeep and they or someone told me that once...a battalion commander mistakenly marched his U.S. troops across the Czech border and several miles into Czechoslovakia before he discovered (to his horror) his mistake.  They got back across the border and nobody including the Washington Post ever found out about it!
There were signs all over the American sector asking us to report the Allied Army jeeps if we saw them.  In these jeeps would be military reps of each country, U.S. Russia, France etc and they were allowed to drive around making their presence known.  I don’t think they actually had any task...other than to been seen as a kind of symbol of the freedom of travel each allied nation gave to  other members.
At AFN Frankfurt we had German civilian empolyees.  One was a man who had been in the German Air Force and had taken part in the bombing of London! Two things here...he was an excellent staffer knowledgeable and friendly and even joked at times about the bombings...and isn’t it impressive that forgiveness moves fast after the war. Ten or twelve years earlier he was  saluting Hitler and Goering!

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