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The Spirit of Man Goeth Upward

Research by Laura S. McKee, Berea Sound Fellow, regrading how WW-II era radio and personal histories have shaped the development of "From the Diary of Eve", a narrative series of poems set in Southern Appalachia.

Paul Sullivan - National & World News, August 1939

This broadcast announces the German Russian nonaggression pact “signed in the presence of Stalin and the German ambassador” that effectively cleared the way for Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 as the Russian army of 2.5 million men vows to remain neutral.  The tone of this newscast is foreboding and ominous while describing Britain’s last ditch efforts, via Ambassador Neville Henderson, to prevent a German invasion: “to Hitler’s mountaintop retreat went Sir Neville. And there, in the beauty of the hills, appealed there be peace.”

Newscaster Paul Sullivan ominously portends: “Hitler’s rejection of the British appeal has driven Europe to the brink of what may become a general war.” I found it particularly fascinating to hear how advertisements were threaded into this news, with Paul Sullivan attempting awkward, albeit slightly comically hopeful, transitions into tobacco ads: “Time out now for something that seems to go with peace: your pipe. Big Ben is the biggest step forward in smoking tobacco in years. 100% union made—grown right down here in our famous bluegrass country.” I was especially struck by the ad’s absurdity when Sullivan immediately continues to describe London’s preparations against a possible “blitzkrieg” and how the nation in general was told by its officials to brace for war.

Nevertheless, a sense of history, of empathy is prevalent throughout the broadcast, as Sullivan imagines Europeans, only decades removed from a the atrocities of WW I, preparing for another war:  “In France tonight, those who took part in the War of 1914 are having their memories refreshed by the mention of old familiar names: Metz, Verdun…because thousands of reserves are moving up these points.”

The broadcast concludes with an announcement of an American travel advisory to Europe as well as the morbid news of the Bolivian President’s suicide “following the study of a national economic plan.”

This broadcast will serve as the basis for another radio poem, but one the specifically reveals to Eve and Patrick their uncle’s personal experience with war as they watch his reactions during the program.


Paul Sullivan, National and World News, 8-23-39.
German-Russian nonaggression pact.
WS-ET-39054. WHAS Historical Radio Collection, 1936-1967, HC 41.


Paul Sullivan, National and World News, 8-24-39, Part I
Impending German invasion of Poland.
WS-ET-39055. WHAS Historical Radio Collection, 1936-1967, HC 41.