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The Dalai Lama’s Secret and Other Reporting Adventures

Stories from a Cold War Correspondent

Henry S. Bradsher

Publication Year: 2013

For over a quarter of a century, award-winning journalist Henry Bradsher reported stories from around the world. In this lively and engaging account, Bradsher recounts episodes from a distinguished career that took him to the Himalayas, the jungles of Bhutan, Kremlin caviar receptions, China’s Forbidden City, and the battlefields of Vietnam. Throughout, Bradsher emphasizes the unpredictability of a correspondent’s life and the strains, perils, and privileges of standing witness to momentous world events. In South Asia, Bradsher reported the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet in 1959 and the last five years that Jawaharlal Nehru led India—with a side trip to hunt tigers in Nepal with Queen Elizabeth. In Moscow he covered the downfall of Nikita Khrushchev, and he later suffered the KGB bombing of his car in response to his tenacious reporting. His incisive coverage from Hong Kong led Chinese officials to label Bradsher as “the most despicable” journalist. But after a power shift, they welcomed him as the first American journalist allowed to work in China in over a year. Bradsher predicted and reported Bangladesh’s independence struggle, and he worked in the Middle East, covering Egyptian-Israeli peace arrangements. Access to the events that shaped the Cold War also led to Bradsher’s meeting many world leaders, including Nehru, Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Zhou Enlai, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin. Although Bradsher’s reporting riled officials in Moscow, Beijing, and even the United States—prompting Henry Kissinger’s attempts to thwart the publication of his reports—history has proven its accuracy. Bradsher’s relentlessness in his own work accompanied a profound respect for fellow journalists worldwide who endanger themselves to keep the public informed.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Anyone who has wandered around the world watching interesting events as a journalist accumulates lots of stories to tell. Here are some stories from twenty-seven years in journalism.
Most of them focus on specific events that I reported—or was otherwise involved in, such as thwarting a Soviet blackmail scheme. A few are more sweeping accounts of times and places, such as reporting parts of several wars with only a few forays into being a jungle-slogging war correspondent. These pieces were written over many years as stand-alone “anecdotes,” so there is a little overlap...

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1. A Gubernatorial Push

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pp. 1-6

A boyhood fascination with world war ii started my interest in world affairs that turned into a desire to become a foreign correspondent. It seemed to be an exciting world out there. So it proved to be. Before I became a foreign correspondent, however, my journalism got a push from a governor of Louisiana—an angry, not a friendly, push.
In third grade in the Louisiana State University “lab school,” those youngsters who were doing well in various subjects were sometimes allowed to read quietly in a corner by open windows—this was before air conditioning. I was reading one morning when newsboys came by outside shouting, “Extra!” It was May 10, 1940, and Nazi Germany had invaded the Low Countries. That is my...

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2. Riding the Buses in Montgomery

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pp. 7-19

The phone in my little garage apartment woke me up about 4:30 on Sunday morning. I recognized the voice of an acquaintance who sold insurance in Montgomery, Alabama, but was somewhat of a local character because of his insomniac habit of cruising around town in the wee hours listening to the police radio. He also liked to hang around with reporters and had been nice to me the few times we had met. All he said was, “There’s a bomb at King’s house.”
It was January 28, 1957. A month earlier a boycott of Montgomery city buses had been ended by those residents who at the time identified themselves as Negroes. The boycott to protest racial segregation practices on the buses had...

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3. Killing the Long-Haired Lama

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pp. 20-31

The cables from london were angry. the first one came in the wee hours of the morning of Saturday, March 21, 1959. The overnight messenger who dozed in the New Delhi bureau of the Associated Press received a phone call from the Indian government communications office, and he pedaled his bicycle over to Eastern Court to pick up the cable. Then he woke Rangaswamy Satakopan, the AP’s invaluable reporter who lived with his wife and their nephew in rooms off one side of the office. Swamy read the cable and started calling Indian journalist friends, seeking information, but could get little at that hour...

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4. The Dalai Lama’s Treasure

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pp. 32-40

The 26th of january is one of india’s grandest holidays.
This is not to be confused with the anniversary of the end of British rule. That is celebrated on August 15, the date in 1947 when Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed that India had made “a tryst with destiny. . . . At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” On each subsequent August 15, in the coolness just after dawn before another blistering day, the current prime minister mounts the parapet of Moghul emperor Shah Jahan’s seventeenth-century Red Fort in old Delhi. The prime minister repeats Nehru’s unfurling there on the first day of independence of the green, white, and orange national flag before a crowd stretching back into Chandi...

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5. Behind the Himalayas

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pp. 41-50

The trail was narrow and twisting, often disappearing into areas of landslides, where travelers had to pick their way over loose stones on steep slopes high above the Kali Gandak River. It was so difficult and dangerous that even sure-footed mules that carried freight in other rugged parts of the Himalayas— in Tibet, Bhutan, India, and here in Nepal—could not use this trail. Only human porters carried cooking oil, matches, kerosene, and other products of the industrial world to people eking out near-subsistence livelihoods beyond where the river slashed between two of the world’s highest peaks. These barefoot men returned, their heavy packs rising high off their backs, with wool, rock salt, yak skins, and other products of the Tibetan frontier...

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6. Climbing Cho Oyu

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pp. 51-57

The himalayas have always fascinated mankind. their lofty, snow-covered summits were considered in many of the ancient cultures that flourished and faded below them to be the abode of the gods.
About the time in the middle of the nineteenth century that young men from the English leisure class invented modern mountain climbing on vacations in the Alps, British surveyors and their Indian assistants discovered that European scientists had for two centuries been wrong in thinking that Chimborazo in Ecuador’s Andes was the world’s tallest mountain. Its dormant volcanic cone is only 6,310 meters (20,701 feet) high. The Survey of India found that a number of peaks in the Himalayas reached much farther above sea level. The...

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7. Stumbling Over a Policeman’s Severed Head

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pp. 58-62

The two main rivers that drain spring’s snow melt and summer’s monsoon rains from the Himalayas and their foothills and carry this vast volume of water across the north Indian plains are the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. They mingle their waters in a shifting network of channels before reaching the Bay of Bengal. This large, fertile delta area and some adjacent plains, known collectively as Bengal, has supported many prosperous empires over the centuries. So it was natural that in 1696 English merchant adventurers of the East India Company set up a delta headquarters seventy miles up from the Bay of Bengal on the westernmost of the rivers’ navigable channels, the Hooghly...

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8. Counting Crowds

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pp. 63-70

The distinguished-looking, but at the same time obviously fit and tough, Secret Service agent was clearly harried and a little distressed. He was also impressed. Nothing in a lot of years spent protecting presidents of the United States had quite prepared him for this. “I’ve never seen a crowd like this,” said the head of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s security detail, James Rowley. He was looking out at the multitude of Indians gathered at the Ram Lila grounds, an open space named from Hindu mythology, where British-built New Delhi adjoined the old Moghul city of Delhi...

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9. Into Bhutan by Mule

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pp. 71-87

As each archer took his position and began to bend his long bow with great effort, leaning forward so that his knee-length, wrap-around gho drooped from its dagger-carrying belt, the singing girls launched into their smiling songs. Intended to rattle opposing teams’ archers by good-naturedly denigrating their sexual prowess and more intimate physical attributes—in terms that local officials considered too embarrassing to translate for visitors— the lilting songs by local beauties in kiras with bright homespun aprons were part of the festive atmosphere of the contest. Arrows whispered in high trajectories and came down some 150 yards away on the circular target with impressive...

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10. Mail from the Nagas

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pp. 88-100

“Has today’s mail come in yet?”
The question asked privately among Western journalists did not have the usual meaning. No postman was expected to deliver letters to a group of foreign correspondents visiting the jungled hills of northeastern India where Naga tribes live.
This mail was a tragic record of the suffering of these people scattered along India’s border with Burma (now called Myanmar). The mail was delivered surreptitiously at irregular intervals. It gave the correspondents an aspect of the story of Nagaland that we were not hearing from Indian officials on a tour that they conducted, or from the Naga spokesmen whom they delegated to speak...


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pp. PS1-PS16

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11. Left Off the Earth

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pp. 101-107

As the leader of the united national party, dudley s. senanayake had just won a narrow victory in the March 1960 parliamentary elections, so I went to interview him on his plans as prime minister. A friendly, Westernized politician with whom I had talked several times while reporting the election campaign, he received me warmly at his bungalow on the outskirts of Colombo, capital of the Indian Ocean island then known as Ceylon.
Dudley, as everyone called him, and I talked about the prospects for his government with the UNP holding the most seats of any party in the 151-seat Parliament, but only fifty. Sitting across from him at an office desk, I noticed on...

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12. Tiger Hunting with Queen Elizabeth

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pp. 108-116

One of the high points of king george v’s visit to his british Indian empire in 1911 was a side trip to hunt wild game. Accompanied by a large entourage, the king visited the separate, but British-influenced, nation of Nepal. He was a guest of the Rana family of hereditary prime ministers who controlled the Himalayan country while keeping its king as a figurehead.
George V spent two weeks in Nepal’s Terai, the jungled area at the northern edge of the vast Indian plains just under the first folds of the upthrusting Himalayan mountains. In elaborate tent encampments in the wilderness, the royal party dined from fine china set on white linen. The king, a crack shot...

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13. Punitive Expedition

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pp. 117-131

It was routine journalism: giving a current angle to a longrunning news story. The report was cabled from New Delhi to London for onward transmission to the Associated Press headquarters in New York for worldwide distribution. I began, “India rushed troops today to its northeast to reinforce its army as Chinese soldiers continued pushing down through the Himalayas toward the Assam plains.”
Several Indian newspapers, as well as military sources talking to me and other foreign correspondents, had been reporting for several days that commercial airliners had been commandeered to fly troops to the threatened northeast. So there was nothing new in the lead of my story, which summarized the...

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14. Of Royalty and Royal Weddings

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pp. 132-144

“You understand,” the courtier said, “that his majesty does not give interviews. He cannot be quoted. This is just an informal conversation for your background information.” But, I asked, can’t I use indirect quotes to describe what His Majesty said in an informal conversation? Well, yes, this was conceded.
This was a discussion that I had twice just a year apart on the fascinating fringes of the Indian subcontinent, in Nepal and Afghanistan. In both cases, I was, according to royal officials and local journalists, the first foreign correspondent to be granted the privilege of “an informal conversation” with a monarch who had recently assumed direct responsibility for his government...

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15. One Horse, Many Horses

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pp. 145-156

He looked so lonely, often standing off on the side of diplomatic cocktail parties by himself. I decided that, between conversations with various Indian officials and foreign diplomats who might yield some useful tidbits of information, I would go over and talk with him.
He was the ambassador to India from the Mongolian People’s Republic. India was one of the few nations that had diplomatic relations with the big East Asian country as part of its friendship with the Soviet Union, which so tightly controlled Mongolia that most nations ignored its claim to an independent existence. Mongolia used India as one of the few countries to which it could...

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16. Denying Khrushchev

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pp. 157-163

For a quarter of a century, the only way to get ahead in the Soviet Union was to please Stalin. The brutal rule of a paranoid dictator, who remained isolated from the reality of personal contact with his people, was implemented by a generation of future Soviet leaders who acquired bloody hands that they later tried to hide in the white gloves of statesmanship. Most of them seemed to have had any humanity crushed in the process. They became such colorless, bureaucratically reclusive success stories as Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov, who was known as an austere Communist ideologist after most people had forgotten his role as the butcher of Lithuania and in other atrocities. For them...

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17. Wrecking Receiving Lines

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pp. 164-168

This is the story of how i thwarted a soviet practice of giving prominence in Moscow to the Viet Cong early in the Vietnam War period, and as a result caused the Soviet government to abandon its use of diplomatic receiving lines.
Since the development of special rules for the exchange of representatives among medieval Italian city states, diplomacy has become swaddled in ritual. Some of the rules by which diplomats live are codified in international agreements, such as diplomatic immunity. Others are only accepted in practice but nonetheless held almost sacred by most protocol-conscious members of foreign services...

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18. Blocking Blackmail

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pp. 169-174

He sounded insistent, almost pleading. “I must see you,” he said on the phone. “Can we have lunch today?” Perhaps he only wanted to repay my hospitality of a couple of weeks earlier when he first came to Moscow. But there was something more urgent in his voice. I agreed to meet him at the Hotel Nacional for lunch in the second-floor dining room that looked out across Manege Square at the Kremlin. It was one of the few restaurants in Moscow easily accessible to Westerners in the 1960s.
He was one of the most prominent journalists in a small West European nation that was a staunch member of NATO. He edited a major newspaper, wrote a popular column, and frequently appeared as a television commentator. Everyone in the country knew him, and he knew everyone, with access to top...

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19. Stabbed in the Back

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pp. 175-182

The launch of a spacecraft was big news in Moscow in 1964 when the space race with the United States was deemed of worldwide importance. Six Soviet space flights beginning with Yuri Gagarin’s on April 12, 1961, had each carried one person. Now, Voskhod—the name means “sunrise”—took three men into orbit on Monday, October 12, 1964, for what was proclaimed to be “a long flight.”
This meant an even busier time than usual for the Associated Press bureau in Moscow. The three-man bureau was shorthanded. George Syvertsen, the correspondent with the most Moscow experience, was on vacation and about to pick up a new car for the bureau in Helsinki and drive it down to Moscow...

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20. Bombed in Moscow

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pp. 183-202

It was a delightful Christmas. our sons were at ages, three and a half and two and a half, when Christmas is magical, Santa Claus very real, his presents wondrous, and life freshly exciting every morning—an excitement in which parents revel. The pleasant day ended with a warmly friendly dinner across town with another family with small children.
Then the bomb went off.
We had just returned from dinner after 9 p.m. in the light green Volkswagen Beetle in which Monica ran around Moscow with Keith and Neal looking over her shoulder from seats attached in the back. Someone up the one staircase of our large building where apartments were occupied by Western diplomats and...

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21. China’s Most Despicable

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pp. 203-219

The message from Beijing was sent twice to make sure it got through clearly: “Hong Kong journalists are a despicable bunch, and Bradsher is the most despicable of them all. He will never be allowed to visit China again.”
A British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent first brought the message down to Hong Kong in the spring of 1974. A week or so later, a Canadian correspondent brought the same message to the British Crown Colony. Both had heard it from officials of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s press office while on reporting assignments in Beijing...

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22. Birth of a Nation

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pp. 220-243

The war was over, they had won, and the young guerrilla fighter known as “the tiger of Tangail” seemed intent on improving his reputation as part of claiming a political role in his new country.
During almost nine months of struggle against the Pakistani Army and its local supporters, Abdul Quadir Siddiqui had become known as a ruthless, even vicious warrior who took no quarter. The former student leader had headed a band of mukhti bahini, as the guerrilla “liberation forces” were named in Bengali, based in the Madhupur Jungle region in Tangail district. The band operated some fifty miles northwest of Dhaka, capital of the area that had been...

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23. Reporting Vietnam

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pp. 244-254

Dusty, very dusty, as the armored personnel carriers churned through the ill-kempt trees of an abandoned rubber plantation and out into fields where rice would be planted when the monsoon rains soon arrived. Truckloads of American soldiers followed them, together with a gaggle of journalists.
We were looking for Communist forces fighting the American-backed South Vietnamese government. Units of the North Vietnamese Army, known as the NVA and sometimes mixed with or disguised as indigenous southern Viet Cong guerrillas, were known to be operating from here in northeastern Cambodia. We...

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24. Riding the Dangerous Roads

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pp. 255-265

It seemed to be a good opportunity to see how the war against the Khmer Rouge was going in a part of the country not normally accessible to outsiders. The Cambodian general’s plan was to drive up there in a military convoy to survey the situation, talking to his local commanders and maybe looking at fighting in the area, and then return to Phnom Penh the same afternoon.
The handful of Western correspondents who lived in Phnom Penh and covered the war full-time for news agencies and a few newspapers rarely ventured outside the capital unless protected by accompanying military convoys. Too many journalists had been killed or had disappeared on Cambodian highways...

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25. Shoeshines at Jaffa Gate

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pp. 266-276

It got to be a family joke at home in Arlington, Virginia: every time I needed a good shoeshine, I would fly to Israel to visit an elderly Muslim man sitting just inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s walled old city. He gave excellent shines. I needed a lot of shines from 1977 to 1980, one of the times when the United States was deeply involved in trying to bring peace to the Middle East.
As the diplomatic correspondent of the Washington Star, I made numerous reporting trips to the region. Some were exploratory trips on my own, some to report specific developments plus adding background articles, and some were covering visits by U.S. officials: in the press plane accompanying President...

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26. Hazards of Journalism

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pp. 277-286

Sabahuddin Kushkaki was banned from journalism in Afghanistan and later cast into prison with other prominent Afghans, few of whom survived. Jan Petranek was banned from Czechoslovak journalism, banished to a menial job, and badly injured in an apparent assassination attempt. Armando Doronila was banned from journalism in the Philippines and forced to emigrate. George Syvertsen was killed by a Khmer Rouge rocket in Cambodia, and Welles Hangen was captured by the Khmer Rouge and later beaten to death. Larry Burrows was photographing from a helicopter shot down in Laos. Michel...

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pp. 287-290

The dark-paneled lounge of an elite men’s club in london’s pall Mall, with sherry offered by quietly discreet servants, was the classic setting in olden days for recruiting an Englishman for Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service. The whoops and hollers of a children’s swimming meet that I was timing on a rainy Saturday morning in August 1981 was the setting for my unexpected recruitment by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The latest owner of the Washington Star, the Time Inc. media empire, had just announced that it would close the money-losing paper in two weeks. Under other owners for a century, the Evening Star, as it was long known, had been a...


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pp. 291-298


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pp. 299-312

E-ISBN-13: 9780807150511
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150504

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013