With a single flash bulb from his Speed Graphic camera, Red Grandy snapped an award-winning photograph of a startled Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that captured the moment he found out President Harry Truman fired five-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
The puzzled, "I'll-be-darned" look on Eisenhower's face that chilly April day in Koblenz, Germany, shared a glimpse of the "rubber face," as Grandy described it, of the next president of the United States, another five-star general known simply as Ike.
Grandy, whose friends brag that he is "still in focus" at 90, set the stage for the split second he photographed Ike's look of disbelief on April 11, 1951, during an interview Tuesday at South Point where the Stars and Stripes Association is holding a reunion.
An Army Air Corps veteran, Grandy was on the job three months for the Stars and Stripes on a temporary assignment for the newspaper's European editions. It was a low-paying job but a step up from student yearbook photographer at the University of Southern California.
"It was my day off, and I wanted to catch the Frankfurt-Garmisch overnight train to go skiing in the Alps," he recalled, noting that lift tickets cost $1 a day.
But his boss, Ken Zumwalt, asked him to travel to Mount Carmel near Koblenz, where Eisenhower was observing maneuvers with French commanders in occupied Germany.
That same day, Truman reached the boiling point with MacArthur for making public statements about China and ordering troop advancements against administration policies. With little notice and unbeknownst to Eisenhower, Truman relieved MacArthur of the Far East command.
"We went to Koblenz to eat lunch, and the other press remarked that they didn't think Eisenhower has been told," Grandy recalled.
"I said, 'Boy that would make a great picture because he's got a rubber face, and that would get it done,' " he said. "Nobody paid any attention to me. I mean, AP, UPI, everybody, Life magazine, and I'm spilling the beans suggesting they do that."
An hour later, with news buzzing about MacArthur's firing, Ike was on Mount Carmel watching a "smoke screen" combat exercise with two French generals.
"There's a table in front, and he's taken his glasses off and one of his gloves. Dick O'Malley from The Associated Press tells Eisenhower the news."
Eisenhower became visibly shocked and looked right into Grandy's lens.
"He made that face, and the flash bulb luckily went off. And I got it," Grandy said.
To his dismay, the night editor didn't use it for the next edition, but he left it on his desk.
When day editor John Livingood arrived in the morning he showed it to Zumwalt, the managing editor. "He said, 'Do you think we should run this? It's kind of insulting.'"
Two days later while skiing, Grandy sees his photo of Ike on the front page of the Stars and Stripes, with a headline, "Eisenhower Is Told the News."
"Then it hit everything. It got worldwide right away when AP saw it, and everybody else picked it up. But it almost got dumped," Grandy said.
Later, the photo won outstanding news photo of the year from Editor and Publisher, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, University of Missouri School of Journalism and Kent State School of Journalism. Grandy's Ike photo also won his camera manufacturer's prestigious Graflex Diamond award.
Later, Ike sent Grandy a print of the photo with a note at the bottom: "For Red Grandy, who in this picture, surprised an old soldier, Dwight D. Eisenhower."
A FULFILLING CAREER
Grandy was on a roll that April. That month he also shot the second-best news photo of the year: the reunion of International Telephone and Telegraph businessman Robert Vogeler with his wife, Lucille, in Vienna, after his release from a Hungarian prison, where he had been accused of being a U.S. spy.
Grandy made a 35-year career as a photographer for Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's independent news organization. Along the way, his assignments took him to 37 countries.
"We had free housing. It was fun. We were paid tourists," he quipped. "I always say a press pass is a pass to adventure."
Over the years, he photographed movie stars, sports figures and dignitaries including Mitzi Gaynor, Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Mark Spitz and the queen of England with Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
"Anticipation" is the secret to success, said Grandy, who lives in a log house on Lazy River, aka Grass River, in the upstate New York community of Herman.
"What pushes everybody to do better is vanity and ego," he said, adding that deadlines also helped him succeed.
"If it hadn't been for deadlines in the newspaper business, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere," he said. "It was the fear of failure that pushed me."
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308.