Boyd Lewis, Newsman, Artist dies at 97
VIENNA, Va. (UPI) -- Boyd DeWolf Lewis, veteran United Press newsman who covered the German surrender to the Allies in France in 1945, has died at the age of 97.
Lewis, who died Feb. 10, 2003, started his journalistic career as a reporter in Boston, his birthplace, in 1927. He held executive posts with United Press, now United Press International, in Boston, New Haven, New York, Chicago, Paris and London. He was European news manager for the service in 1945.
Lewis returned to the United States after World War II to become executive editor for the Newspaper Enterprise Association and Acme Newspictures, divisions of Scripps-Howard Newspapers. He was president of NEA when he retired 27 years later.
Assigned to London to reorganize the UP bureau, he decided to prove himself as a frontline war correspondent by paying a "visit" to the front in Europe. By the time he had returned to his London desk he had covered fighting from Holland to Alsace, including the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes.
Lewis went to Paris after the German retreat from Ardennes and took over UP coverage of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, from which he made numerous sorties to action sites.
On May 7, 1945, he was one of 15 reporters chosen by the military to witness the surrender of Germany at a technical school in Reims, France. On the flight from Paris to Reims, the correspondents gave their pledge not to file the story until released by SHAEF. After the surrender signing, the reporters were told their stories could not be transmitted until the following afternoon, an embargo of 18 hours.
Lewis said that was to allow U.S. President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin time to announce the surrender, and so the Russians could be convinced the surrender was genuine.
"We all knew that there were going to be rumors of this thing, and that's why we fought to have a quicker release," Lewis said in a 1995 interview. "But Eisenhower told his public relations officer (Brig. Gen. Frank Allen), 'My hands are tied. The Big Three -- this has been agreed upon by a level much higher than SHAEF,' was the way that he put it, which meant Stalin, Churchill and Truman, in order for the Russians to make sure that the Germans were not surrendering just to the Allies but were surrendering on the Eastern Front also."
So Lewis said the reporters wrote their stories on portable typewriters before the dawn flight back to Paris and had the stories cleared by Army censors along on the trip. Upon landing, Lewis was first to get to the Army communications center and first in line for transmission of his story over radiotelegraph circuits once the embargo expired.
But Edward Kennedy of the Associated Press, who got there third, found a back-channel telephone line and dictated 300 words to the AP bureau in London for immediate release, before the line went dead. Military censors prevented the others from filing until the embargo expired.
Fifty-four correspondents covering SHAEF sent a letter to Eisenhower calling Kennedy's act "the most disgraceful, deliberate, unethical double-cross in the history of journalism." Kennedy, who died in 1963, contended he would not voluntarily submit to political censorship, although he had taken the same pledge as the others. Lewis always said it was the only way Kennedy could have beaten him on the story.
"The reason he did it was he would have been beaten six ways to Sunday by the United Press," Lewis said in the 1995 interview.
In his 1981 autobiography, Not Always a Spectator, Lewis wrote, "I must say that never at any time did it occur to me to try an unethical 'end run' with the story. 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."
Lewis took pride in having been made an honorary member of the 104th (Timberwolf) Division for having shared with them their first blooding in Holland.
As editor and then president of NEA, Lewis projected the feature service into interpretative news coverage of Russia, China, South America and Southeast Asia. He particularly enjoyed working with editorial cartoonists and comic strip artists.
While a student at Boston University's College of Liberal Arts, as well as the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, Lewis met and courted Hazel Reviere Bestick and they were married as soon as UP gave him his first substantial raise. Their first home was New Haven, Conn., and it was the birthplace of their two children, David DeWolf Lewis and Patricia Ann Lewis. David, also a newsman, died in 1973.
Lewis retired in 1972 to pursue an active career as writer, oil painter and officer of the Wolf Trap Foundation, which ran the performing arts center near his home in Vienna, Va.
In 1987, he came out of retirement to take an active role in the establishment of Maturity News Service, for which he wrote a column and served on the advisory board. He also continued his second career as a landcape and portrait artist.
Lewis was a member of the Virginia chapter of the Mayflower Descendants Society, descended from Elder William Brewster.
Lewis's wife died in December 1999. They had been married 70 years.