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Nevertheless, he initially stayed quiet. Then, at 2:03 p.m., the surrender was announced by German officials, via a radio broadcast from Flensburg, a city already in Allied hands. That meant, Kennedy knew, that the transmission had been authorized by the same military censors gagging the press.

Furious, Kennedy went to see the chief American censor and told him there was no way he could continue to hold the story. Word was out. The military had broken its side of the pact by allowing the Germans to announce the surrender. And there were no military secrets at stake.

The censor waved him off. Kennedy thought about it for 15 minutes, and then acted.

He used a military phone, not subject to monitoring by censors, to dispatch his account to the AP’s London bureau. Notably, he didn’t brief his own editors about the embargo or his decision to dodge the censors. The AP put the story on the wire within minutes of his call.

To some of Kennedy’s competitors, the scoop was a betrayal on the scale of Pearl Harbor. Compounding their anger, military censors continued to refuse to allow any other news organization to send their own stories, meaning the AP would continue to have an exclusive for a day.

“I am browned off, fed up, burnt up and put out,” wrote Drew Middleton, a New York Times correspondent. He called the suppression of the story “the most colossal ‘snafu’ in the history of the war.” His newspaper followed with an editorial chastising the AP for initially boasting of a historic “news beat.”

“If it was a ‘beat,’” the paper wrote, “it was one only because Mr. Kennedy’s sixteen colleagues chose to stand by their commitments.”

Retribution was swift. The military briefly suspended the AP’s ability to dispatch any news from the European theater. When that ban was lifted, more than 50 of Kennedy’s fellow war correspondents signed a protest letter asking that it be reinstated. The military expelled Kennedy from France.

Condemnation also came from the AP’s president at the time, Robert McLean.

“The Associated Press profoundly regrets the distribution on Monday of the report of the total surrender in Europe which investigation now clearly discloses was distributed in advance of authorization by Supreme Allied Headquarters,” he said in a public statement on May 10.

The AP’s general manager, Kent Cooper, said Kennedy should have conferred with his editors about the decision to publish. Later, he addressed a letter to the reporter saying that he had violated a “cardinal principle” of journalism by breaking a pledge to keep the surrender confidential.

“No employee of the Associated Press has the right to disregard what is defined by the source as a pledge of confidence, when he knows that those who meant to impose it still hold it to be in force,” he said.

Other journalists defended Kennedy. In an essay in The New Yorker, published May 19, 1945, under the subhead “The AP Surrender,” A.J. Liebling absolved Kennedy of breaking the “pledge” he had supposedly made aboard the aircraft flying to Reims.

“Whether a promise extorted as this one was, in an airplane several thousand feet up, has any moral force is a question for the theologians,” Liebling wrote. “I suppose that Kennedy should have refused to promise anything and thus made sure of missing an event that no newspaperman in the world would want to miss, but I can’t imagine any correspondent’s doing it.”

Wes Gallagher, the AP reporter who succeeded Kennedy in Europe and became the general manager in 1962, strongly supported his colleague and believed he had done the right thing.

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