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Willis Conover Interviewing Louis Armstrong for VOA Program Music, U.S.A.

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Thanks to generous donations from Voice of America employees, the online Cold War Radio Museum acquired an original photograph of VOA broadcaster Willis Conover interviewing jazz musician Louis Armstrong autographed by both for Croatian musician Miljenko Prohaska.

The back of the photograph has the following text:

AMERICAN JAZZ STARS INTERVIEWED ON

VOICE OF AMERICA “MUSIC, U.S.A.”

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jazz musician Louis Armstrong, popularly known as
Satchmo, looks over some of his recordings with Willis Conover (left),
host of the Voice of America English Service program, “Music, U.S.A”

Popular music and jazz, played from one of the largest collections
of records and tapes in the United States, “Music, U.S.A. often includes
interviews with leading musicians. The ninety-minute program is broadcast
seven days each week.
 

According to Maristella Feustle of The University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, TX, this photograph of Willis Conover (December 18, 1920 – May 17, 1996), the late host of the Voice of America English Service program, Music U.S.A., with jazz musician Louis Armstrong, was probably taken at the VOA studio in Washington, D.C. on July 13, 1956. The album “Ambassador Satch” was released in May of 1956, and Conover did a five-hour interview with Louis Armstrong on July 13. Ms. Feustle, Music Special Collections Librarian at UNT University Libraries who curates the Willis Conover Collection, helped to determine that the inscription from both Willis and Satchmo was to Croatian composer and orchestra conductor Miljenko Prohaska (17 September 1925 – 29 May 2014). Willis Conover dedicated two of his regular programs to Prohaska and his music.

In the five hour interview with Willis Conover, Louis Armstrong talked at length about his life and career. The interview is interspersed with musical selections introduced by Armstrong. The audio recording is part of the collection titled: Music Library Conover Collection and was provided by UNT Music Library to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries.

The following slightly modified text from the Music Library Conover Collection explains Willis Conover’s unique role as a music host for the Voice of America.

 

Willis Conover was a jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years. He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television. Conover is credited with keeping interest in jazz alive in the countries of Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union through his nightly broadcasts during the Cold War when jazz was banned by most of the communist governments. Mr. Conover was not well known in the United States, even among jazz aficionados, but his visits to Eastern Europe and Russia brought huge crowds and star treatment for him.

The Digital Collection

The UNT Digital Library contains a small selection of program lists, recording schedules, and promos that come from a much larger collection of Conover materials available in tangible form at the UNT Music Library.

The Physical Collection

A 1997 gift of the Willis Conover Jazz Preservation Foundation, Inc., the physical collection consists of over 22,000 recordings of all kinds, correspondence, memos, magazines, record catalogs, manuscripts, program notes, memorabilia, photographs, books, and other personal items. Many of the recordings and books are being added to the regular collection, cataloged in the UNT Libraries’ online catalog, and allowed to circulate. The archival and historical material will be made available as special collections.

For more information, including inventories of circulating recordings, please see the UNT Music Library’s Willis Conover Collection page.

 

Selections from Willis Conover’s 1956 interview with Louis Armstrong:

Louis Armstrong interview, first hour on Digital Library.

Louis Armstrong interview, second hour on Digital Library.

Louis Armstrong interview, third hour on Digital Library.

Louis Armstrong interview, fourth hour on Digital Library.

 
 
 

 

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New Cold War Radio Museum Propaganda Explained Books

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The “Divide and Conquer” pamphlet published by the U.S. Office of War Information (O.W.I.) in 1942 is a unique example of government attempts to warn Americans during World War II about the dangers of Nazi propaganda and to help them identify and guard against enemy disinformation. The instructional brochure, transcribed and republished by the Cold War Radio Museum for the first time in several decades with an extensive introduction by international journalist, broadcaster, writer and propaganda expert Ted Lipien, also offers interesting lessons for today’s propaganda wars with their clandestine and overt operations undertaken by authoritarian governments of countries such as Russia and China to influence and subvert U.S. political and electoral system.

“He knows that prejudice in any form plays his game,” the wartime guide to Nazi propaganda warned Americans about Hitler’s motives.

“Before Hitler attacks any country, his agents carefully sow seeds of hate and disunity, turning people against their own governments, governments against their allies, class against class.”

It could have been easily a comment on the current aims of the Kremlin’s propaganda or the behavior of some politicians, both foreign and domestic, who engage in fear mongering and subversion of democratic elections. Ted Lipien shows how this expose of Nazi propaganda is still highly relevant for today’s information wars.

In 1942 Americans received the warning that Hitler wanted “To destroy our national unity [and] create unrest in all groups of the population.”

The alert was undoubtedly timely and based on solid evidence although it was less obvious that such Nazi subversion was producing the desired effect of changing American minds as it did when used against some of the European nations. In America, Hitler’s propaganda was said to be “trying to set capital against labor, White against Negro, Catholic against Protestant, Christian against Jew.”

The warnings about Hitler’s intentions were true, but there was little evidence presented in the U.S. government pamphlet mailed out to American households that Nazi propaganda was achieving its ends among Americans. Similarities with some of today’s propaganda, however, are immediately apparent in the 1942 brochure and make for a very interesting and enlightening reading of this historical document reprinted for the first time in many years.

In the first months of the war with Japan and Nazi Germany, the Roosevelt Administration became concerned about Japanese and German propaganda attempting to to influence American public opinion. In articles reminiscent of some of the media reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign, Americans were told that German and Japanese propaganda radio broadcasts were interfering with the U.S. electoral process.

Even though the “Divide and Conquer” pamphlet was strictly about resisting the influence of Nazi ideology, it still offers valuable lessons for identifying attempts at interference from any ideological perspective and any government or media source. This includes the Russian State now headed by an ex-KGB officer President Vladimir Putin. He has shown himself to be an expert in the use of propaganda, disinformation and subversion. Many of the Nazi propaganda techniques described in this booklet have not changed and are now being used with the help of new digital technologies against the United States and other democratic nations. Ultimately, there was not much difference between the evils of Fascism and Communism and their respective propaganda. While “Divide and Conquer” presented and warned against only one type of propaganda, we can still draw today many valuable lessons from this 1942 U.S. government document.

 
 



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Early U.S. government press release on ‘voice’ of America

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

New York, New York. 1943 “United Nations” exhibition of photographs presented by the United States Office of War Information (OWI) on Rockefeller Plaza. Listening to broadcasts of President Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek, heard every half-hour from a loudspeaker at one end of the frame containing the Atlantic Charter. This frame is surrounded by four statues of the four freedoms. The Office of War Information was the U.S. government wartime propaganda agency in charge of early shortwave radio broadcasts later known as the Voice of America (VOA). Voice of America was not the official name of U.S. overseas radio broadcasts during World War II which were presented under several different names. The agency produced propaganda in various media for both foreign and domestic consumption, including propaganda films justifying the internment of Japanese American U.S. citizens. Wartime U.S. shortwave broadcasts covered up Stalin’s crimes and lauded the Soviet Union as supporting freedom and democracy. Some agency officials also engaged in illegal attempts to censor domestic U.S. media to prevent them from reporting negative news about the Soviet Union. In 1952, a report issued by a bipartisan congressional committee criticized U.S. government’s wartime propaganda activities, including Voice of America broadcasts, as misleading foreigners and Americans and harming longterm U.S. interests.

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When the first U.S. government’s wartime direct radio broadcast in German had been transmitted to Europe from a studio in New York sometime in February 1942, these programs and the station in charge of their production were not yet known as the Voice of America (VOA). They would not be widely known under that name for several more years. We could find no official press release announcing the start of these broadcasts which later became part of a government-funded media outlet now called the Voice of America. VOA has been officially using this name and is recognized under this for many decades. Much of VOA’s early history, however, has never been well documented. It may have been deliberately distorted and partly erased from memory by U.S. government officials and friendly historians in an ultimately misguided effort to protect VOA’s image during the Cold War.

In the beginning, it was not at all clear what the U.S. government shortwave radio operations were officially called, but it was clear what they were to achieve — a propaganda advantage over Nazi Germany and Japan. Those in charge of early U.S. broadcasts were not worried about Soviet propaganda. Being strongly pro-Soviet, they considered it helpful to the U.S. war effort and allowed it to influence U.S. radio propaganda. They often incorporated Soviet propaganda, including its lies and disinformation, into U.S. broadcasts.

The early American programs for overseas audiences had various names, such as “Voices from America” and “America Calling Europe.” The “Voice of America” brand was not yet firmly established and early U.S. government propagandists strangely did not attempt to create a distinctive brand, most likely because they did not think that these programs would outlast the war. Some listeners to U.S. government shortwave radio broadcasts could not recall their exact name, but they remembered them for pushing Soviet propaganda.

With genuine horror we listened to what the Polish language programs of the Voice of America (or whatever name they had then), in which in line with what [the Soviet news agency] TASS was communicating, the Warsaw Uprising was being completely ignored. 1

In the first months of the war with Japan and Nazi Germany, the Roosevelt Administration issued a number of public warnings about Japanese and German propaganda attempting to to influence American public opinion. In articles reminiscent of some of the reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign, there were warnings from the Roosevelt Administration that German and Japanese propaganda broadcasts were designed to interfere with the American electoral process. A short news item in the U.S. government news bulletin Victory issued by the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), on April 7, 1942 included such a warning under the title: “Axis radiocasters try to put their hooks into U.S. primary elections”:

Axis radiocasters try to put their hooks into U.S. primary elections

Enemy propagandists jumped into American politics March 31, OFF revealed.
 
In the role of volunteer campaign orators, they took to the air in anticipation of the coming primary elections.
 
The Nazis beamed a new program at the United States from their so-called “American Freedom” station, with one Joe Scanlon, calming to be an American. he exhorted:
 
Join us in our endeavor to save our boys from foreign battle fields. You can compel the Government to act. The elections are coming again and our people will have a last opportunity to reassert themselves. Organize as free Americans to fight the dictatorship being set up in Washington. The only real enemies sit right within the ranks of our Government today.”
 
Tokyo’s “America First”
 
Tokyo named the new short-wave broadcast the “America First” program and the Japanese “America Firster” declared:
 
“The isolationists were right.”
 
From Tokyo too came the assurance that, “Japan would be a charming partner to any nation that would understand Japan’s ideals correctly,” and the promise that Japan would share with the United States its newly won rubber and tin if only Americans “will get rid of Roosevelt.” 2
 

 

While German and Japanese shortwave radio broadcasts had a very limited listenership in the United States, the fear of their impact was high. The Roosevelt Administration, however, was remarkably silent about its own efforts to counter such a threat or its plans to target Germany with American propaganda. It was also silent about Soviet and communist propaganda in the United States. The U.S. government launched radio broadcasts in many foreign languages during the war, but strangely and significantly there was no Russian-language radio program. VOA did not start broadcasting in Russian until 1947.

U.S. radio broadcasting during the war did not have an easily recognizable name or a separate director in charge of the combined news and radio operations. They were initially known as “Radio Program Bureau” in the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information (OWI). Programs were written and recorded mostly in New York, where the overseas radio operation was based. The Radio Program Bureau had a chief, not a director, who reported to the Chief of the New York Regional Office and the Director of the Overseas Branch of the OWI. The Overseas Branch Director based in New York reported to the OWI Director in Washington.

The U.S. German radio program went on the air with the announcement Stimmen aus Amerika (“Voices from America”) sometime in February (various dates have been suggested), but the VOA name was not officially adopted for these overseas broadcasts until several years later. Initially managed by the U.S. government’s Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI) and distributed by its Foreign Information Service (FIS), these radio programs were managed after June 1942 by the newly-created Office of War Information, a central government propaganda agency targeting both domestic and foreign publics. They remained there until 1945 when the Office of War Information was abolished by an executive order signed by President Truman. Voice of America programs were then transferred to the State Department, but even then the State Department office in charge of the radio broadcasts did not have “Voice of America” in its official name although by then it was the name commonly used to describe them to radio listeners abroad and to American taxpayers who paid for them.

One of  the first, if not the first U.S. government press release about World War II U.S. shortwave radio programs to Europe and Asia was issued on December 7, 1942 on the first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It took about ten months after the first German radio broadcast went on the air for the Roosevelt Administration to explain to Americans in a government press release how it was responding to Nazi and Japanese propaganda. In the press release, Robert E. Sherwood, Director of Overseas Operations in the Office of War Information, used the phrase “voice of America”  but not as the official name of these transmissions. “V” in “voice” is not capitalized, either in the press release or in the magazine article to which it referred. 3 Sherwood, a Hollywood playwright who also served as President Roosevelt’s speechwriter, described what everyone then agreed were propaganda and psychological warfare operations aimed against America’s enemies. They were also designed to support underground resistance in countries under Axis occupation, as Sherwood explained in more detail in his article titled “‘Send the Word, Send the Word–Over There’: The U. S. On the Psychological Warfare Front” published in The Army and Navy Journal.

 

 

###

 
 

Office of War Information Press Release – December 7, 1942

 
 

ADVANCE RELEASE

 
Advance Release: For MONDAY AFTERNOON Papers, December 7, 1942
 
McMillan-74415

OWI-875

OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION

American shortwave broadcasts to Axis-occupied Europe and Asia are being heard by the peoples in those countries, according to Robert E. Sherwood, Director of Overseas Operations, Office of War Information.
 
In an article in the December 7 issue of the Army and Navy Journal, Sherwood says the question most frequently asked about America’s psychological warfare is whether we can be sure anyone hears the news broadcasts.
 
Although no polls of opinion can be taken in these countries, Sherwood says, “We get the answer from our enemies themselves, from their increasing admonitions to their own people to stop believing the lies that are told them by American and British and Russian and Chinese propagandists. Our enemies wouldn’t be denying these ‘lies’ if their peoples in ever increasing numbers had not heard or read them.”
 
Increased access to the vast facilities of the British Broadcasting Company has helped make possible the distribution of American news in Europe, the article states.
 
“Several times each day the people of Europe can hear the voice of America rebroadcast by the powerful battery of B. B. C. transmitters, long wave as well as short wave.”
 
In addition to communicating with the peoples of occupied countries by broadcast, the Director of Overseas Operations emphasizes that word is gotten into Axis-dominated countries by every other available means.
 
Sherwood cites the “friendly and valuable cooperation with the R. A. F. Within a month after Pearl Harbor, the R.A.F. was dropping millions of American leaflets which gave the text of President Roosevelt’s first war-time report on the state of the Nation.”
 
This means of communications also was used simultaneously with Presidont Roosevelt’s address to the French people, broadcast from more than 50 transmitters on both sides of the Atlantic, to herald arrival of an A.E.F. in North Africa.
 
“Words can bolster the morale of our friends overseas and thus increase their powers of resistance. Words can disrupt the morale of our enemies and thus decrease their powers of resistance,” Sherwood says.
 
According to Sherwood, the most remarkable achievement in psychological war­fare was that of the British in 1940-41. Their confidence in meeting the enemy, the words they hurled into Europe “confounded the all-conquering Nazis and sowed in their people the first seeds of doubt of their invincibility.
 
“The delivery of such great words to the peoples who must hear them has been the job of the various psychological warfare agencies of the United Nations.
 
“We have been sending the word over there by radio, by press services, by pamphlets, leaflets, posters, movies and even by word of mouth which travels with mysterious speed and effectiveness and penetrates the stoutest walls of censorship and suppression that the Nazis, the Fascists or the fanatical militarists of Tokyo can build about their own and conquered peoples.
 
“‘The Yanks are coming!’”
 
 

###

 
 

It it worth noting that when used with reference to World War II U.S. radio broadcasts, terms such as propaganda and psychological warfare did not yet have a strongly negative connotations that they do now. Many Americans, including some American journalists outside of the government, considered propaganda and psychological warfare broadcasts to be a normal and necessary part of fighting a total war. In his article, Sherwood explained the role of propaganda as assisting in the war effort but not a substitue for use of military force to defeat the enemy.
 

 
Words will not win this war. Words will not even win a little part of this war unless they are the convincing heralds of the overwhelming power of our armed forces and the unqualified good faith of our Government. But the right words delivered at the right place at the right time can save the lives of soldiers and sailors of the United Nations who have to do the real fighting and the real winning. 4
 

 
Early U.S. radio programs usually did not include outright lies, but they often intentionally did not offer the full truth and distorted it according to the wishes of the administration, and, even more often and more dangerously, according to strong ideological biases of their authors. This applied especially to news and commentary about the Soviet Union. Soviet Russia was then America’s major military ally against Nazi Germany. During the war, Russia was not criticized or exposed in U.S. government’s broadcasts for expansionist and repressive policies of its totalitarian communist regime. It was presented instead by the Roosevelt Administration, both to foreign audiences and to Americans, as a dynamic progressive nation and a valuable partner helping the United States to defeat Germany that would also help build a more peaceful world after the war. Those who knew better, including some members of Congress, were appalled by such pro-Soviet propaganda and warned that the United States government would come to regret it.

“The Manual of Information” for the News and Features Bureau in the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information printed for internal use in February 1944 explained in some detail the purpose of OWI’s propaganda and psychological warfare programs.

It pointed out that President Roosevelt’s Executive Order “of June 13, 1942, and a later order of March 9, 1943, charged the Office of War Information with the responsibility of conveying information to the world at large and empowered it to conduct among foreign nations propaganda which would contribute to victory.”

The manual also noted that “the program for foreign propaganda in areas of actual or projected military operations was to be coordinated with military plans and subject to the approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

In the words of Elmer Davis, Director of the Office of War Information, at a hearing of the subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives May 18, 1943:

“…this is a war agency, which owes its existence solely to the war, and was established to serve as one of the instruments by which the war will be won…an auxiliary to the armed forces whose effectiveness has been recognized by military commanders all the way down from Julius Caesar to George C. Marshall.” 5

While the manual emphasized the need for truth in military news, it also provided a significant loophole for censoring information considered harmful to the war effort. 6

 
 

 
 

 
Truth in Propaganda
 
Truth is employed by the Overseas Branch in all its media because truth is on the side of the United Nations in this war and is our most effective propaganda weapon. Truth in military news creates confidence in all our output; truth about all phases of our democratic life (imperfect as it may be in some respects) proves the strength of democracy.
 
However, information is not disseminated abroad merely because it is true–it must be useful in the psychological warfare program of the OWI, which is designed to shorten the war and thus save lives. The whole story may not always be told, but the story which is told will always be true. 7
 

 

The U.S. government-hired staff preparing these early broadcasts included a number of communist and Soviet sympathizers. Some of them found government employment thanks to John Houseman, a theatre producer who was most directly in charge of radio production rather than in charge of editorial policy. His official title was not the Voice of America director. The 1943 Official Register of the United States listing persons occupying administrative and supervisory positions in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, and in the District of Columbia Government, as of May 1, 1943, shows Houseman’s official title as: “Chief, Radio Program Bureau, Overseas Branch, Office of War Information.” Officials who were later in charge of the Voice of America and friendly historians assigned the title of the first VOA director to him several years later usually without mentioning that the organization was not created under that name. They also glossed over the fact that the early radio operation was controlled by extreme left-wing idealists and pro-Soviet sympathizers, with John Houseman being one of them, but not necessarily in the most important executive position.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Another organizational list of the Office of War Information personnel was published on July 14, 1942 in Victory, the official weekly bulletin of the OWI. It shows Joseph Barnes as Chief, International Press and Radio Bureau (N.Y.). Barnes was John Houseman’s immediate boss. Houseman’s name does not appear on the personnel list in the Victory bulletin. One could only speculate that his was not one of the most important positions within the organization. 8

 
 

 
 

There was no specific information in the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF) and later OWI Victory weekly bulletins in 1942 about the start of U.S. government’s shortwave broadcasts to Europe. It went largely unnoticed.

In 1942, official U.S. government news bulletins had far more material on Nazi and Japanese propaganda broadcasts than about any American efforts to counter them abroad. A news item in the January 20, 1942 Victory bulletin published by the agencies in the Office for Emergency Management said that on January 16, Archibald MacLeish, director of the Office of Facts and Figures, announced designation of the radio division of the OFF, under William B. Lewis as coordinator, as the central clearing agency for governmental broadcasting. The announcement said that “The action was taken by direction of President Roosevelt in a letter from Stephen Early, Secretary to the President, to Mr. MacLeish, under whose supervision the letter directed that the work be done.”

The letter also mentioned that Mr. MacLeish, through Coordinator Lewis, was “to handle certain Government programs on the networks in the United States,” 9 thus setting the stage for distribution of U.S. government’s propaganda not only abroad but also domestically. Domestic U.S. government propaganda later became a major conflict point with many members of Congress and some of the ethnic communities in the United States which viewed Stalin and the Soviet Union with considerable suspicion.

References to U.S. shortwave broadcasting operations were also rare in later editions of OWI bulletins. A brief news item in Victory on November 10, 1942 mentioned leasing by the government of 10 short-wave stations from five American commercial companies for the duration of the war emergency.

Another news item on November 10, 1942 mentioned President Roosevelt’s November 7 “Vice La France Eternelle!” radio broadcast in French to the French people in connection with U.S. military operations in French North Africa but did not explain how it was broadcast and by by whom.

A December 8, 1942 report described a special shortwave radio program offering scholarship to Islandic students at eight universities in the United States, again without giving the name of the U.S. government broadcaster in the Office of War Information. The Voice of America as a separate entity was not yet named as such or widely recognized as a government-run news organization. Its main purpose was propaganda and psychological warfare in support of what was generally accepted as the right cause of resisting fascism and helping the war effort. Most Americans, with the exception of some members of Congress, did not know that some of these early U.S. government broadcasters were also working to help Stalin and the Soviet Union achieve post-war political goals and from time to time worked against the policies and the interests of the United States set by the Roosevelt Administration. Some would even risk the lives of American soldiers with propaganda broadcasts if they concluded that the White House, the State Department and the War Department failed to be sufficiently progressive and supportive of causes and factions favored by the Soviet Union.

In a transcript of hearings on the 1943 OWI budget held on September 28, 1942 before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, John Houseman’s name appears with the tile Chief of Program Division 10

 
 

 
 

In the 1944 Official Register of the United States, Elmer Davis is listed as the OWI Director, Robert Sherwood as Overseas Branch Director, Louis G. Cowan as Chief of New York Regional Office, and Lawrence Blochman as Chief of Radio Program Bureau. 11 In 1945, Edward W. Barrett is listed as Director of the Overseas Branch. Cowan and Blochman still have the same titles. 12

In 1946, after it was moved to the State Department, the Voice of America name still does not appear in the Official Register. John W. G. Ogilvie is listed as Acting Chief of the International Broadcasting Division in the State Department’s Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs. 13

Later editions of the Official Register until its last edition in 1959 also do not list the Voice of America as a separate administrative entity by that name within the State Department and in the United States Information Agency (USIA). However, after 1945 the Voice of America name is starting to appear in the Congressional Record and in other U.S. government and non-government publications. The 1946 edition of Broadcasting Stations of the World published by the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the U.S. War Department lists medium wave radio transmissions of “The Voice of America in North Africa” by U.S. Information Service. 14

In February 1946, Assistant Secretary of State William Bennett spoke at length about Voice of America broadcasts and used the name repeatedly while testifying before the House Appropriations Committee about the 1947 budget request for the State Department. 15

The 1948 Official Register of the United States shows U.S. international broadcasting as the State Department’s “Division of International Broadcasting, headed by Charles Thayer, a Foreign Service Officer. It is listed under the State Department’s “Office of International Information.”

 
 

1948

 

 
 

After the Voice of America was moved in 1953 from the State Department to the newly-created United States Information Agency (USIA), it was placed in the Office of “Assistant USIA Director for Radio and Soviet Orbit.”

1954-1955

 


 
 

While the State Department and United States Information Agency offices where the Voice of America was placed and administered did not have VOA as their official name, Voice of America broadcasts and promotional materials issued in the 1950s regularly used the VOA brand name.

 
 

VOA 1951 Program Schedule Brochure

 

JANUARY – FEBRUARY 1959
 
The VOICE OF AMERICA Program Schedule is published by the United States Department of State, New York 19, N.Y., U.S.A. Send communications to this address
 
This publication appears simultaneously in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Korean and Chinese. Except where indicated, the contents of this Schedule are not copyrighted and may be reproduced by newspapers or magazines.

 
 

VOA 1959 Program Schedule Brochure

 

Within 3 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Voice of America went on the air for the first time to tell the truth about America’s participation in the second world war.
 
The first broadcast (on February 24, 1942) [Cold War Radio Museum: various dates in February 1942 have been mentioned for the airing of the first German-language broadcast] was in the German language, penetrating the censorship screen established by the Nazi leaders. At the height of the war, the Voice was broadcasting more than 3,200 live programs weekly in about 40 languages.
 
Today, the Voice of America, speaking for the U.S. Government as the radio service of the U.S. Information Agency, provides millions of listeners in many parts of the world with objective newscasts, up-to-the-minute facts about U.S. policies, and information concerning the life and culture of the American people. Its broadcasts are beamed around the clock and around the globe in 37 languages over a network of 76 transmitters.

 
 

VOA’s Erased History

 
The Voice of America was not initially designed to be primarily a news gathering and news reporting organization. Office of War Information Director Elmer Davis told House Appropriations Committee members in 1942 that the main focus of shortwave radio broadcasts was propaganda and psychological warfare operations in support of the war effort, but he added that there was both good and bad propaganda:

 
 

 
I repeat what I said about propaganda — that it is an instrument which may use truth or falsehood as its material, which may be directed toward worthy or unworthy ends. We are going to use the truth, and we are going to use it toward the end of winning the war; for we know what would happen to the American people if we lose it. “Propaganda” is a word in bad odor in this country, but there is no public hostility to the idea of education as such, and we regard this part of our job as education. If we do it wrong, there is an ever-present safe guard. We tell you the way it looks to us, and if it looks otherwise to somebody else, there is no law against his standing up and saying so — in Congress, or on the radio, or in the newspapers, or on a soapbox. 16
 

 
 

OWI Director Elmer Davis told members of Congress that “propaganda is an instrument.” He stressed that “to condemn the instrument, because the wrong people use it for the wrong purposes, is like condemning the automobile because criminals use it for a getaway.” 17

Davis would later promote in “Voice of America” and domestic U.S. government radio broadcasts the biggest Soviet propaganda fake news lie of the 20th century about the mass murder of thousands of Polish POW officers and intellectual leaders known collectively as the Katyn Forest Massacre. His agency also tried to censor independent U.S. media outlets which exposed Soviet crimes to Americans.

A bipartisan congressional committee concluded in 1952 that “Mr. Davis, therefore, bears the responsibility for accepting the Soviet propaganda version of the Katyn massacre without full in­vestigation.” The committee added: “Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951.” 18

In general, wartime U.S. government propaganda broadcasts presented Stalin as a trusted ally of the United States and a supporter of democracy and social justice. They also covered up his genocidal crimes and any truly negative news about communism. Early VOA broadcasters later backed the establishment of pro-Soviet governments in East-Central Europe in line with Moscow’s and, to only some extent, with FDR’s wishes. Their support for various communist movements and for the propaganda line from Moscow, however, often went beyond what even the FDR White House was willing to tolerate and produced conflicts with U.S. military leaders, including General Dwight Eisenhower. He accused those in charge of wartime Voice of America of “insubordination” toward the President of the United States. 19 After the war, a few of the early VOA journalists went to work for communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

As these early U.S. broadcasts took shape, some high-level officials within the Roosevelt Administration became concerned about the staffing of the radio broadcasting operation. In April 1943, the State Department informed the White House in a secret memo sent by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles that John Houseman was too dangerously pro-Soviet even for the generally pro-Soviet American foreign policy at that time. Welles held the second top job in the State Department and was one of FDR’s close friends and foreign policy advisors. The State Department with the support of the Army Intelligence refused to issue Houseman a U.S. passport for official travel abroad. Houseman and several other early U.S. officials in charge of the broadcasting effort were forced to resign.

However, U.S. radio broadcasts favoring the Soviet Union continued through the end of World War II at the direction of Houseman’s patron, Robert E. Sherwood, who coordinated U.S. and Russian propaganda, first in Washington and later in London with the approval of the White House and the State Department but apparently with more enthusiasm than even the administration would have wished. Another of President Roosevelt’s personal friends and advisors, Adolf A. Berle who during the war was Assistant Secretary of State, wrote in his memoirs published in 1973 that World War II OWI and VOA officials were “following an extreme left-wing line in New York, without bothering to integrate their views with the State Department.” 20

The Voice of America did not immediately change its programming policy after the war. Even as the Cold War with the Soviet Union intensified, the change in VOA broadcasts was slow. A member of Congress read to the House of Representatives letters from Voice of America listeners in Poland describing some VOA radio programs in 1951 as “drab” and “unconvincing.”

VOA started to report more fully on Soviet atrocities in the early 1950s, mostly as a result of strong pressure from Congress. During World War II, there were no U.S. radio broadcasts in Russian as government officials in charge of what became the Voice of America did not see a need for them and were also most likely afraid that such broadcasts might offend Stalin and damage U.S.-Soviet friendship. This is also part of the erased or rarely mentioned early history of the Voice of America which later played a commendable role in winning the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

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Notes:

  1. Straszewicz, Czesław. O Świcie. Kultura, October, 1953, 61-62.
  2. United States. Office of War Information, United States. Office for Emergency Management. Division of Information, and United States. Office for Emergency Management. Victory. Washington, D.C.: Division of Information, Office for Emergency Management, April 7, 1942, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112088069015?urlappend=%3Bseq=493. Accessed 04 June 2018.
  3. United States. Office of War Information. [Press Release] OWI-875, December 7, 1942.
  4. Robert E. Sherwood, ‘Send the Word, Send the Word–Over There” The U.S. On the Psychological Warfare Front. Army and Navy Journal, December 7, 1941 – December 7, 1942, 104.
  5. United States. Office of War Information. News and Features Bureau. Training Desk. Manual of Information, News And Features Bureau, Office of War Information, Overseas Branch. [Washington?]: The Training Desk, 1944.
  6. United States. Office of War Information. News and Features Bureau. Training Desk. Manual of Information, News And Features Bureau, Office of War Information, Overseas Branch. [Washington?]: The Training Desk, 1944.
  7. United States. Office of War Information. News and Features Bureau. Training Desk. Manual of Information, News And Features Bureau, Office of War Information, Overseas Branch. [Washington?]: The Training Desk, 1944.
  8. United States. Office of War Information, United States. Office for Emergency Management. Division of Information, and United States. Office for Emergency Management. Victory. Washington, D.C.: Division of Information, Office for Emergency Management, July 14, 1942, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015051143553;view=1up;seq=48. Accessed O4 June 2018.
  9. United States. Office of War Information, United States. Office for Emergency Management. Division of Information, and United States. Office for Emergency Management. Victory. Washington, D.C.: Division of Information, Office for Emergency Management, January 10, 1942, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112088069015?urlappend=%3Bseq=114. Accessed 04 June 2018.
  10. United States. Congress. House. Hearings. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., Hearings Cong. 77 sess. 2 Appropriations v. 15 1942, 406.
  11. United States Civil Service Commission. Official Register of the United States, 1944. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  12. United States Civil Service Commission. Official Register of the United States, 1945. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  13. United States Civil Service Commission. Official Register of the United States, 1946. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  14. United States. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Broadcasting Stations of the World. Washington, D.C.: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, 1946.
  15. United States. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Department of State Appropriation Bill for 1947: Hearings Before the Subcommittee of the Committee On Apropriations, House of Representatives, Seventy-ninth Congress, Second Session, On the Department of State Appropriation Bill for 1947. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1946.
  16. United States. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. Hearings: [National Defense] 1943 2nd supply. 387, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015035800377?urlappend=%3Bseq=389. Accessed 04 June 2018.
  17. Ibid. 385.
  18. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582. Accessed 04 June 2018.
  19. [Footnote in “Waging Peace” by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “During World War II the Office of War Information had, on two occasions in foreign broadcasts, opposed actions of President Roosevelt; it ridiculed the temporary arrangement with Admiral Darlan in North Africa and that with Marshal Badoglio in Italy. President Roosevelt took prompt action to stop such insubordination.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Waging Peace 1956-1961 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1965) 279.
  20. Adolf E. Berle, Navigating the Rapids: 1918-1971, ed. Beatrice Bishop Berle (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, Inc., 1973), 440.
V.

Voice of America Director Mary Bitterman March 1980 – January 1981

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VOA’s 15th director from March 1980 to January 1981 during President Jimmy Carter administration, Mary Bitterman presided over VOA in a period of turmoil in Afghanistan, Liberia, and Poland – which brought a resurgence of jamming against VOA and other international broadcasters.

Former VOA Polish Service director Ted Lipien described Mary Bitterman as exceptionally helpful in facilitating the expansion of radio broadcasts and news coverage during Solidarity-led workers strikes in Poland in August 1980.

She spoke to VOA as the U.S. media outlet celebrated its 70th Anniversary in February 2012.
 
 

 
 

InsideVOA YouTube Video Published on Apr 25, 2012
 

 
MARY BITTERMAN IN 2012: Back in [19]79, we had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As a result of that there was great pressure … broadcasting in Persian, and also a push in Dari. So we began moving in that direction. We had a very difficult time with the rise of Sargent Doe and the assassination of many members of the Tolbert cabinet in Liberia. And outside on Monrovia we had 270 engineering staff taking care of all of the satellite transmissions. And we were able to deal with that very effectively and in a way which didn’t interrupt our service to the rest of the continent.
 
On August 20, 1980, we, and the BBC, and Deutsche Welle were simultaneously jammed because of what was happening in Gdansk, and Lech Walesa, and Solidarity movement. And I think that the Soviet Union was very disturbed to think that somebody in one of the satellite countries could rise up and cause such problems.
 
I think the Voice of America has such an important role to play, and that’s why I become concerned when there are reductions, or when we build up in one area and just reduce enormously in another.
 
If the Voice of America has a presence with the certain language to a certain country or cultural group, when we decide that we’re just going to stop that, I don’t think we’re always thinking about what the impact is on that community. Is that community to understand that we no longer as Americans have any interest in that community?
 

Mary G. F. Bitterman is currently President of The Bernard Osher Foundation, a philanthropic organization headquartered in San Francisco that supports higher education and the arts. Previously, Bitterman served as President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation and before that as President and CEO of KQED, a major American public broadcasting center. She has served as Director of the Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority, the Voice of America, the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and the East-West Center’s Institute of Culture and Communication. Mary Bitterman received her B.A. from Santa Clara University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern European History from Bryn Mawr College.

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G.

Gene Pell on VOA’s Mission in 1983

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In 1983, Gene Pell, former Moscow correspondent for NBC News, was Voice of America’s (VOA) Deputy Associate Director for Broadcasting (Programs) under VOA Director Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. Gene Pell, had joined VOA as director of news and current affairs in 1982. He later served as VOA Director from June 1985 to October 1985 before taking the job of President of Munich-based Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL).

Former VOA Polish Service director Ted Lipien remembered Gene Pell as a journalist and VOA director who had resisted what appeared to be a subtle and indirect attempt by the State Department to discourage the service from conducting telephone interviews with Poland’s opposition figure Lech Walesa in the mid-1980s. Lipien also praised Gene Pell for providing the service with additional resources to expand its radio broadcasts and news coverage to Poland.

The service reached Walesa for the first time by phone in 1985 after the Solidarity trade union leader had been freed from detention following the communist regime’s imposition of martial law in Poland four years earlier but still remained under secret police surveillance. After the phone interview was aired, the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw raised doubts whether VOA could be certain that they were interviewing Lech Walesa. But former Polish Radio broadcaster Piotr Mroczyk who conducted the interview had been earlier one of Walesa’s advisors in Poland. There was no doubt that the person being interviewed by phone in Gdansk was the Solidarity leader. Gene Pell told the Polish Service to be careful but did not forbid conducting further phone interviews with Walesa and other opposition figures in Poland. For several years, the service broadcast such interviews almost on a daily basis and greatly expanded its audience in Poland. Piotr Mroczyk later left VOA to became director of RFE’s Polish Service.

In a statement which appeared in the 1983 VOA Handbook before he replaced Ken Tomlinson as VOA Director, Gene Pell outlined the history of the Voice of America and its goals in the 1980s.

Gene Pell – 1983

 
A HISTORY OF THE VOICE OF AMERICA
 
Ours was only a small Voice when it was first heard on February 24, 1942. Its first words were in German. They were contained in a short, fifteen minute broadcast that originated from a small studio in New York City. The words contained a pledge that has guided our efforts ever since — a pledge to broadcast the truth, whether the news be good or bad.
 
Today ours is a powerful Voice, broadcasting 150 hours of programming each day in more than forty languages. It is a Voice that reaches more than 100 million listeners each week in every region of the world. It is a Voice still dedicated to that fundamental principle — the truth.
 
Our role and our mandate are defined in a Charter approved by the Congress and signed into law by President Gerald Ford on July 12, 1976. That Charter requires that we: serve as a consistently reliable source of accurate, objective and comprehensive news; present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions; and, present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively along with responsible discussion and opinion on those policies.
 
The Voice of America was born in crisis and on numerous occasions in its history has been called upon to respond to crisis. What began in one language in 1942 has expanded to 42 languages today. What was started by a handful of dedicated individuals in New York City more than four decades ago has become a world-wide institution served by almost 2,500 professional men and women.
 
Our history is one of growth and creativity. In the last quarter-century alone innovations have included: establishment of global English language broadcasts; programming for Africa; the building of a worldwide contingent of VOA correspondents; construction of a huge transmitter complex in Greenville, North Carolina; and the introduction of Special English, a limited vocabulary, slow-paced delivery which has helped millions of listeners make the transition from their mother tongue to VOA standard English broadcasts.
 
VOA has refined and expanded its live coverage of such events as the American political conventions, the Olympics and World Cup competitions, and the United States space program. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969, the British and Australian Broadcasting Corporations joined the VOA network. The combined listenership to our live broadcast that day was estimated at nearly 800 million people.
 
More recently we have provided our worldwide audience accurate, comprehensive and objective news accounts of the war in Vietnam, the constitutional crisis surrounding the Watergate affair, the fall of the monarchy in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the birth and subsequent crushing of the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the destruction of a Korean airliner by Soviet missiles.
 
These and many other events have caused us to expand our broadcast hours, add new language services, and in many instances strain our resources. It is a source of enormous pride to all of us that VOA employees rise to every such occasion. Their dedication and professionalism is readily evident in the willingness to work ten and twelve hour days, six and seven days a week; to do whatever is required to accomplish our mission.
 
We are now in our fifth decade of broadcasting. We face both opportunities and challenges. Much of our physical plant is outmoded and inadequate to our needs. Much of our technical equipment is antiquated. Our broadcast signal to many parts of the world is weak. Many of our services are understaffed. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this administration, from President Reagan on down, has made a firm commitment to modernize and upgrade the Voice of America. That commitment has already yielded important results. New positions have been approved and professionals are being recruited to fill them. New studios are being constructed and existing facilities will soon be renovated. New equipment is on order and more will be forthcoming. A mammoth program to upgrade our transmitter and relay sites is under way.
 
In those respects, the future is indeed bright, not just for those of us who serve at the Voice of America, but for those whom we serve with our broadcasts. In many parts of the world tens of millions hunger for that which we are pledged to provide — the truth.
 
Gene Pell
 
Deputy Associate Director for Broadcasting (Programs)
 

G.

General Eisenhower accused WWII VOA of ‘insubordination’

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After leaving the White House in 1961, former President Dwight D Eisenhower briefly alluded in his memoirs Waging Peace (1965) to the Voice of America’s (VOA) wartime record of propaganda collusion with Soviet Russia. As a military leader during World War II, he must have been still upset to have mentioned it years later during the Cold War with the Soviet Union when VOA was already playing a useful although still less than fully effective role in countering Soviet propaganda. General Eisenhower had been actively engaged in earlier efforts to create Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) as more effective media outlets against the Soviet Union. His critical comment appeared in a footnote to a paragraph in which he expressed his own concerns with what he saw as Voice of America’s unethical journalism in support of partisan political advocacy in one foreign policy incident during his own administration.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: “In Washington I had been told that a representative of the Voice of America (our governmental radio overseas) had tried to obtain from a senator a statement opposing our landing of troops in Lebanon. In a state of some pique I informed Secretary Dulles that this was carrying the policy of ‘free broadcasting’ too far. The Voice of America should, I said, employ truth as a weapon in support of Free World, but it had no mandate or license to seek evidence of lack of domestic support of America’s foreign policies and actions.”
 
[Footnote in “Waging Peace” by Dwight D. Eisenhower]“During World War II the Office of War Information had, on two occasions in foreign broadcasts, opposed actions of President Roosevelt; it ridiculed the temporary arrangement with Admiral Darlan in North Africa and that with Marshal Badoglio in Italy. President Roosevelt took prompt action to stop such insubordination.” 1

President Eisenhower was right. In both cases during World War II, and to a much lesser extent even briefly during his administration, some VOA officials, editors and reporters sought to create and influence news and U.S. policy through through their own ideological commentary rather than merely reporting news. During World War II, General Eisenhower and the Army Intelligence had legitimate concerns that some VOA broadcasters following closely the communist and pro-Soviet line could endanger the lives of American soldiers.

ANALYSIS

General Eisenhower accused WWII VOA of ‘insubordination’

 

By Ted Lipien

Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett left out some critical information when she wrote in a co-authored Washington Post op-ed posted online May 12, 2018:

BENNETT & LEE: “It was only after World War II ended that we learned how Europeans under Nazi occupation eagerly tuned in to VOA broadcasts; only after the Berlin Wall came down did we realize the role outside news and information had played in that event.”

READ MORE: Let’s give North Koreans the outside information they crave. OPINION. By Amanda Bennett and Dong Hyuk Lee. The Washington Post, May 12, 2018.

 
Throughout the Cold War it was more than obvious to all Voice of America broadcasters who were refugees from communism in East Central Europe and to those who like me had lived under communism before emigrating what tremendously important role Voice of America news and information programs had behind the Iron Curtain well before the Berlin Wall fell. There would have been no positive impact, however, if VOA broadcasts continued past the first years of the Cold War in their old ideological and propaganda mold of the World War II period and the people who had been responsible for those early VOA programs had not quit, with some going to work for communist regimes, or were not eased out after the war and replaced by a new group of anti-communist editors and broadcasters from Eastern Europe.

That is my one observation based on personal knowledge and research. The main problem, as I see it, is an unfortunate and dangerous unfamiliarity with Voice of America’s World War II history of pro-Soviet, pro-communist propaganda, and insubordination of early VOA officials and broadcasters even toward the already very pro-Soviet Roosevelt Administration. Understanding of this little known and intentionally hidden history is important because the same problems have appeared now at VOA in a slightly different historical and technological context.

Knowing the history of a public institution such as the Voice of America holds the key to avoiding serious policy misjudgments and programming errors. Any manager in charge of VOA and the rest of U.S. international media outreach funded by American taxpayers would be well served by studying how the early VOA leaders and broadcasters hijacked the organization and turned it into a pro-Soviet propaganda outlet which for a number of years advanced the interests of a foreign power and supported a foreign ideology. Today’s VOA managers and journalists, as well as members of Congress and Trump administration officials, would benefit from knowing that VOA was eventually viewed during World War II by top U.S. diplomats and military authorities as subversively pro-Soviet even though some of the same officials were strongly in favor of keeping the Soviet Union as a military ally against Hitler and against Japan.

Critics of wartime VOA broadcasts included future U.S. President General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle. They also included anti-Nazi but non-communist democratic governments in exile of such nations such as Poland, Yugoslavia and Greece who like Soviet Russia were also U.S. allies but were fully occupied by Germany. Among VOA’s critics were members of the U.S. Congress of both parties and leaders of major U.S. ethnic communities and their organizations. Many of them were Democrats, some were liberal Democrats and Roosevelt loyalists. Sumner Welles and Adolf Berle, who were deeply concerned about VOA’s pro-Moscow line, were FDR’s personal friends and advisors. This was no McCarthy-like witch hunt which started a decade later when nearly all communist sympathizers were long gone from VOA.

READ MORE: First VOA Director was a pro-Soviet Communist sympathizer, State Dept. warned FDR White House. Analysis by Ted Lipien. Cold War Radio Museum, May 13, 2018.

 

READ MORE: April 20, 1943 — Congressman Woodruff warns of Soviet propaganda in Voice of America broadcasts, Cold War Radio Museum, April 19, 2018.

 

READ MORE: How a refugee journalist exposed Voice of America censorship of the Katyn Massacre, Cold War Radio Museum, April 16, 2018.

 

READ MORE: Senator Taft’s early warning of Soviet propaganda in WWII Voice of America, Cold War Radio Museum, April 2, 2018.

 

During World War II, non-communist radio listeners in countries like Poland and Yugoslavia were simply horrified by some of VOA’s pro-Kremlin broadcasts which were prepared by communist sympathizers working on the Polish desk and the Yugoslav desk and in other language services as well. The State Department secret memorandum signed by Sumner Welles accused VOA director John Houseman of hiring communists. A few of these early VOA broadcasters promptly left the U.S. after the war and became anti-American propagandists or diplomats for Soviet-dominated regimes in Poland and in Czechoslovakia. They represented a minority among their countrymen but were a dominant presence at VOA during the war.

Czeslaw Straszewicz, an anti-communist Polish refugee journalist who had worked in London during the war for the British-supported Polish shortwave radio station Świt which used news sent directly by radio to Britain by the anti-Nazi underground army in Poland, assessed VOA Polish broadcasts heard by him in 1944 as pro-Soviet and useless. According to Straszewicz, VOA wartime programs to Poland were pure pro-Soviet propaganda mixed with naive and ineffective anti-Nazi messages. He described his wartime impressions in an article written several years after the war for a Paris-based Polish intellectual journal Kultura.

STRASZEWICZ: With genuine horror we listened to what the Polish language programs of the Voice of America (or whatever name they had then), in which in line with what [the Soviet news agency] TASS was communicating, the Warsaw Uprising was being completely ignored.
 
I remember as if it were today when the [Warsaw] Old Town fell [to the Nazis during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising] and our spirits sank, the Voice of America was broadcasting to the allied nations describing for listeners in Poland in a happy tone how a woman named Magda from the village Ptysie made a fool of a Gestapo man named Mueller.” 2

Stalin did not want the world to know about the anti-Nazi 1944 Warsaw Uprising organized by the anti-communist underground Polish state and VOA broadcasters obliged him.

The root of the problem during World War II was the now well-hidden and forgotten history of the Voice of America being then firmly in the hands of pro-Soviet communist sympathizers, including its first director, later famous Hollywood actor John Houseman. Things got to be so bad that in April 1943 the State Department refused to issue a U.S. passport for Houseman’s proposed official government travel abroad and secretly described him to the FDR White House in a memorandum signed by Under Secretary Welles as too pro-Soviet to be trustworthy in a sensitive government position. The U.S. Army Intelligence agreed with this assessment and concluded that Houseman should not be allowed out of the country for the duration of the war. That’s how dangerous the U.S. military authorities saw these early pro-Soviet and pro-communist VOA leaders and broadcasters.

John Houseman soon resigned under pressure after rogue VOA broadcasts to Italy, France and then French North Africa put the lives of American soldiers at risk, but other VOA officials who kept their jobs took their clues from Moscow and helped the Soviet Union spread the greatest fake news propaganda lie of the 20th century on the Katyn Forest massacre of thousands of Polish officers who were prisoners of war in Soviet hands. VOA tried to exonerate Stalin, cover up his crimes and encourage local populations to embrace the new communist authorities as parts of Poland were being liberated by the Red Army from the Nazi-German forces.

READ MORE: OWI head Elmer Davis spreads Soviet Katyn propaganda lie in Voice of America broadcasts. Cold War Radio Museum, May 11, 2018

 
The most pertinent observation about the early Voice of America was made by General Dwight D. Eisenhower who was so enraged by VOA’s pro-Soviet wartime broadcasts that he wrote about it in his book published after he left the White House. He also mentioned that VOA tried to sabotage U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during his presidency by seeking to generate a negative reaction from a U.S. senator instead of simply reporting the news.

EISENHOWER: “During World War II the Office of War Information [where Voice of America operated] had, on two occasions in foreign broadcasts, opposed actions of President Roosevelt; it ridiculed the temporary arrangement with Admiral Darlan in North Africa and that with Marshal Badoglio in Italy. President Roosevelt took prompt action to stop such insubordination.” 3

General Eisenhower issued earlier a similar warning against the military-industrial complex on the right of the political spectrum. His 1965 warning was against foreign and extreme Left-wing influence within parts of the U.S. government, particularly the Voice of America.

I know that the Voice of America can do great things for freedom (I had worked there from 1973 to 2006), but it can also do a lot of damage or it can fail to do what the VOA Charter calls for it to do on behalf of all Americans.

VOA’s pro-Soviet propaganda did not help to shorten the war with Nazi Germany which fought to the bitter end. If anything, VOA may have helped to lengthen the war because the Germans were afraid of the Russians more than anything else and would likely find the pro-Soviet tone of VOA broadcasts as both in variance with reality and threatening. This requires more historical research to confirm, but VOA’s wartime overseas broadcasts and OWI’s domestic propaganda, much of which overlapped, definitely helped Stalin to solidify communist rule over East-Central Europe by dividing and undermining opposition to Soviet Russia in the United States and abroad although the Soviet dictator did not really need VOA’s help to establish Russian domination over Eastern Europe. He had gotten a green light already from President Roosevelt and reluctant Winston Churchill. Most importantly, he had the Red Army on the ground as the new occupation force.

Many critics say that today’s Voice of America is actually helping the repressive Iranian regime stay in power by promoting the so-called regime “liberals” who, come to think of it, are very much like the Polish communists of the World War II and post war period, except that the latter were anti-clerical. VOA initially promoted and presented Stalin and pro-Moscow communists as democrats to the still living victims of the Soviet regime’s crimes. These early VOA listeners included mothers, wives and children of the prisoners who had been murdered in Katyn and at other locations in the Soviet Union or relatives of those who had died in the gulags.

Chinese dissidents today voice similar criticism, accusing VOA’s senior management — but significantly not frontline VOA China Branch journalists, some of whom have been suspended by the management — of caving in to pressure from the communist government in Beijing.

Whether the Voice of America does work for freedom or against freedom depends on who is in charge, who provides leadership and direction and how programs are prepared, monitored and evaluated.

I had worked at VOA as a reporter and manager with a great team of anti-communist journalists and saw us win the Cold War. One of our greatest frustrations during that entire period, except for the 1980s, were some members of the VOA management who were ideologically closer to the early pro-Soviet VOA team than to the mainstream of American political thought at that time. These VOA managers who are now long gone from VOA were horrified by Ronald Reagan and his “Evil Empire” style remarks. Most East European and other anti-communist VOA broadcasters were on the other hand delighted by the change of policy toward Soviet Russia initiated by President Reagan, as were their audiences with the exception of the hardline communists and strongly Left-wing radio listeners. Ronald Reagan proved that the old VOA management team which had resisted him was on the wrong side of history. Fortunately, very early in his administration some of these VOA managers were moved to less responsible positions. VOA foreign language broadcasters were given much greater freedom to expose communist regimes for what they really were. It is my impression that some of today’s VOA foreign language broadcasters — although certainly not all or even the majority — have different perspectives and less historical knowledge than the Cold War generation.

Today some parts of the Voice of America are again looking to “reformers” among oppressive regimes, even in North Korea, and are thus denying hope to the oppressed populations.

I found many VOA news videos that illustrate this point. One such video composed largely of North Korean regime propaganda was produced by the VOA Korean Service in 2011 before director Amanda Bennett came on board in 2016, pointing to the fact that this is a longstanding problem under the management of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which is currently headed (since 2015) by John F. Lansing.

Several questionable VOA video reports about Iran were produced under the watch of the current agency leadership shortly after the Iranians started their latest wave of anti-regime protests last December. These are straight news reports but they are narrow and heavily focused on the regime’s narrative and thus inappropriate for audiences in Iran or in any country ruled by an oppressive regime. Some liberal Iranians, as opposed to the “reformist” Mullahs, call the current state of VOA broadcasts to Iran “deplorable.”

The third category of videos produced by VOA in 2016, 2017 and into 2018 shows how dangerously partisan the publicly-funded outlet has become under its current management.

Perhaps the only positive thing one could say about the early pro-Soviet VOA leadership and broadcasters is that they did not produce highly partisan programs attacking presidential candidates of the opposing party. They must have concluded there was no need for it because these American politicians did not represent a real challenge to FDR during wartime and there were no viable communist or extreme Left-wing candidates. U.S. domestic partisanship on the part of the agency would put it in danger of being defunded by Congress. But some of these early VOA leaders and broadcasters quickly turned against President Roosevelt when they decided that he was not sufficiently supportive of the Soviet Union and communist movements abroad. President Eisenhower’s warning about insubordination within VOA during World War II was about these fellow travelers who were pushing the Soviet agenda at the expense of American interests and security. General Eisenhower had a simple advice for VOA: “The Voice of America should … employ truth as a weapon in support of Free World.”
 

 
 

Disclosure: Ted Lipien was VOA acting associate director in charge of central news programs before his retirement in 2006. In the 1970s, he worked as a broadcaster in the VOA Polish Service and was a reporter and service chief in the 1980s during Solidarity’s struggle for democracy in Poland. He is one of the co-founders and supporters of BBG Watch whose volunteers monitor management and performance of taxpayer-funded Voice of America and other U.S. government-run media operations within the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 
 

A historic Voice of America (VOA) and United State Information Agency (USIA) sign presented thanks to generous gifts of VOA employees. VOA operated under USIA from 1953 until 1999 when it was assigned by legislation to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
 
 

Notes:

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Waging Peace 1956-1961 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1965) 279.
  2. Czesław Straszewicz, “O Świcie,” Kultura, October, 1953, 61-62.
  3. Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Waging Peace 1956-1961 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1965) 278-279.
O.

OWI head Elmer Davis spreads Soviet Katyn propaganda lie in Voice of America broadcasts

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

Elmer Davis, Director, Office of War Information (OWI), Alfred T. Palmer, photographer. Part of: Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

Soviet Russia’s lie that the Nazi Germans and not the Soviets were responsible for the mass execution murder of over 20,000 Polish officers, intellectual leaders and other prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest Massacre was the greatest fake news of the World War II and the Cold War period, which the Voice of America (VOA) under its agency head Elmer Davis and pro-Soviet VOA’s first director John Houseman helped to spread starting in April and May of 1943. The Soviet Katyn lie was not believed to be actively promoted by VOA after about 1945, but it lasted in Soviet government and media statements from the actual murders in April and May 1940 until 1990 when Russia finally admitted that the Soviet secret police NKVD had been responsible for this act of genocide. The NKVD murdered the Polish prisoners of war at various locations in the Soviet Union on the orders issued in early March 1940 by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party Politburo. The mass executions became known collectively as the Katyn Forest Massacre after the first graves were discovered by the Germans in Katyn near Smolensk in 1943.

Neither Elmer Davis, John Houseman whom the U.S. State Department accused secretly to the FDR White House of being a communist sympathizer, nor the Voice of America ever apologized to thousands of wives, mothers and children of the murdered Polish officers for helping to spread deceptive and fake Soviet Katyn news and their own commentaries. Many members of the families of the murdered men were themselves deported by the Soviets to the Gulags. Many died there from heavy labor, cold and starvation. Most Polish citizens (the murdered in the Katyn massacres also included hundreds of Jews, Ukrainians, Belorussians and other nationalities) who were in the Soviet Union or in Nazi-occupied Poland would not have been able to listen to Voice of America broadcasts during the war, but some of their family members in Great Britain and in other parts of unoccupied Europe would have been deceived by VOA’s Soviet lies and propaganda as any person desperate for information about their loved ones might be. Even in Nazi-occupied Poland and in the Soviet Union, fake Soviet news from the Voice of America about their sons, husbands and fathers would have reached at least some of the desperate family members. To some degree, FDR’s chief propagandist Elmer Davis managed to deceive and confuse U.S. media and public opinion on the Katyn affair by claiming that reports of Polish officers being killed by the Russians were “fishy’ and “phony propaganda stories.” The New York Times reported his comments on May 6, 1943, but other New York Times reports highlighted facts pointing to Russia’s hand in the mass murder. The Voice of America started to tell partial truth about the Katyn murders only after 1945 and did not report fully on the atrocity until 1952. Even later there was some VOA censorship on Katyn.

It is now an almost totally forgotten fact that parts of the U.S. government, but generally not in the U.S. Congress, were complicit in helping to spread the Soviet propaganda lie and fake news about Katyn. The most active in pushing the Soviet propaganda lie about Katyn were pro-Soviet and communist sympathizers in the wartime agency which included what would later be known as the Voice of America (VOA). Full and honest reporting on Katyn by VOA started only in the early 1950s due to tremendous criticism and pressure from the U.S. Congress and the Polish American community but later the story was again largely ignored in VOA broadcasts. At the same time, Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL), also funded by the U.S. government and operating semi-independently since the early 1950s from Munich in West Germany, were reporting fully and honestly on the Katyn Forest Massacre story to audiences behind the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War. During the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, VOA resumed unrestricted reporting on Katyn and other Soviet atrocities.

In April and May 1943, the Office of War Information (OWI) Director Elmer Davis who was appointed to this position in the newly created agency by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in June 1942, began spreading the Soviet propaganda lie about the Katyn Forest Massacre of thousands of Polish military officers in broadcasts on domestic U.S. radio networks as well as in Voice of America (VOA) radio transmissions overseas. Voice of America radio programs were produced in New York by the U.S. government wartime propaganda agency under his overall direction. He himself recorded a weekly commentary which was broadcast during part of the war by both the Voice of America overseas and domestically on U.S. radio networks. The Executive Branch had a propaganda outlet to address both Americans and radio listeners abroad. Soviet propaganda messages, including the Katyn lie, were spread by the Roosevelt Administration to both domestic and foreign audiences despite protests in the U.S. Congress and critical U.S. media reports even during World War II. Elmer Davis remained in charge of the Office of War Information until September 1945 when it was dissolved by President Truman.

The first director of the Voice of America, John Houseman, was secretly identified by the State Department and the U.S. Army Intelligence in early April 1943 as a Soviet sympathizer who was hiring communists to fill VOA broadcasting positions. Even if the vast majority of them were not actual Soviet agents of influence, they determined the tone and content of Voice of America broadcasts.

In mid-April 1943, shortly after the Germans announced the discovery of the Katyn graves and Soviet Russia denied any responsibility for the mass murder, the U.S. State Department advised Elmer Davis to avoid taking sides on the Katyn Massacre, but he ignored the advice of U.S. diplomats and others who told him that the atrocity was almost certainly committed by the Soviets. At that time, the VOA Polish desk in New York was dominated by communist sympathizers working with John Houseman who promoted the Soviet Katyn lie as a true news story. Several weeks later, Houseman was forced to resign from his position over an unrelated scandal caused by a pro-communist and pro-Soviet VOA broadcast to Italy.

Even before the Katyn Forest Massacre story broke in mid-April 1943, the State Department refused to give Houseman a U.S. passport for official U.S. government travel abroad and informed the Roosevelt White House that Houseman along with several other OWI employees should be regarded as unreliable. After Houseman’s forced departure from the Voice of America in the summer of 1943, the pro-Soviet staff he had hired and other key managers under Elmer Davis continued to broadcast Soviet lies about Katyn and other Soviet propaganda until the end of the war and possibly even longer. After the war, a few of these VOA broadcasters, people such as Stefan Arski, aka Artur Salman, went to work for communist regimes in Eastern Europe as anti-U.S. propagandists or diplomats. They were eventually replaced at VOA by anti-communist refugee journalists from Eastern Europe. But even these anti-communist broadcasters, such as the famous Polish anti-Nazi fighter Zofia Korbonska, for many years had a hard time trying to convince their managers to pay more attention to the Katyn Forest Massacre story.

The Voice of America avoided reporting on the Katyn Forest Massacre in any great detail until about 1952 when pressure from the U.S. Congress and the Korean War combined with the intensification of the Cold War in Europe forced VOA’s management, which was then in the State Department, to significantly increase reporting on the congressional investigation of the Katyn Massacre and on Stalinist atrocities in general. This enhanced VOA coverage lasted only a short time.

In the early 1950s, Elmer Davis was criticized for his role in enabling the spread of Soviet fake news through the Voice of America but later the whole incident was forgotten and became part of the Katyn coverup. A bipartisan select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, which conducted an investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre, concluded in 1952 that Elmer Davis was responsible for spreading fake Soviet propaganda news through the Voice of America. The congressional committee also found that his agency, including one of its officials, future U.S. Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), engaged in illegal attempts to censor and suppress U.S. ethnic media because of their true reporting on the Katyn Forest Massacre and the Soviet Union. Elmer Davis himself took measures in trying to get the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down a Polish American newspaper. The Final Report by the bipartisan Madden Committee, named after its chairman Rep. Ray Madden (D-IN), was almost never mentioned in books and articles written about VOA, most likely because it reflected poorly on the Roosevelt Administration and VOA’s early management and history.

The 1943 secret State Department memorandum identifying the first VOA director John Houseman as a pro-Soviet communist sympathizer was declassified in the 1970s, but it also has not been mentioned in books or articles about VOA or the Katyn Forest Massacre. The formerly classified State Department memorandum about Soviet and communist influence in the Office of War Information with its Voice of America broadcasts was first highlighted by the Cold War Radio Museum in May 2018 to a wider reading audience interested in the history of U.S. international broadcasting. During World War II, OWI’s overseas radio broadcasts were not yet commonly referred to as “Voice of America” broadcasts but the OWI unit in charge of them eventually became officially known as the Voice of America. It is important to remember that the United States was engaged at that time in a total war with Nazi Germany and Japan and the Soviet Union was a valuable military ally in the war. Russia, however, was not America’s political ally although parts of the Roosevelt Administration and the Voice of America tried to present it as such and to promote Stalin as as a believer in democracy and supporter of peace and freedom.

Even during World War II, many members of Congress were warning that the Voice of America pro-Soviet Russia propaganda was wrong and dangerous. In 1952, they criticized Elmer Davis but not John Houseman who escaped scrutiny and was quickly forgotten but was later presented by some of his admirers at the Voice of America as a model of journalistic objectivity and truthful news reporting. He cultivated that image in his later life as a successful Hollywood actor.

Even Elmer Davis presented himself later as a fighter for honest journalism, but that is not how a bipartisan congressional committee saw him in 1952 based on his performance from 1942 to 1945 as the director of the Office of War Information.

“Mr. Davis, therefore, bears the responsibility for accepting the Soviet propaganda version of the Katyn massacre without full in­vestigation. A very simple check with either Army Intelligence (G- 2) or the State Department would have revealed that the Katyn massacre issue was extremely controversial.” 1

Elmer Davis’ Voice of America overseas broadcast on May 3, 1943, which also happened to be Poland’s national holiday in commemoration of the May 3rd Constitution, was callous in its lack of empathy for thousands of victims and their families. It included a number of obviously false and misleading assertions. One of them was that medical experts would not have been able to tell how long ago the men were executed.

Audio Recording of Soviet Katyn Propaganda Lie in U.S. Domestic Radio and Voice of America Broadcast by Elmer Davis, Office of War Information (OWI) Director

 
 

 
 

“But while the German armies are finding it pretty tough going, the German propaganda won a striking success last week when it succeeded in bringing about a break in diplomatic relations between Russia and the Polish government in exile. The way the Germans did it is a good example of the doctrine Hitler preached in Mein Kampf, that it is easier to make most people swallow a big lie than a little one. When the Germans had beaten Poland in September 1939, the Russians moved in and occupied eastern Poland, taking thousands of Polish troops as prisoners. In June 1941 when the Germans attacked Russia, they overran all this territory and have held it since. Now, almost two years later they suddenly claim to have discovered near Smolensk the corpses of thousands of Polish officers, who, according to the Nazis, were murdered by the Russians three years ago.
 
In several respects this story looks very fishy. At first the Nazis were quite uncertain about the number killed; they said 10,000, then 2,000 and then 5,000, before finally deciding on 12,000. Rome and Berlin disagreed as to how they had been killed. The Japs and the Vichy French got their signals crossed and were telling about Rumanians murdered in Odessa, not Poles in Smolensk. First, Rome and Berlin disagreed as to how they had been killed. The remains must have been better preserved than is usual after three years. The Russians were said to have tried hard to conceal the graves, yet they buried every man in uniform with his identification tag, according to the German story. Suggestions of an investigation by the International Red Cross mean nothing, for the Germans control the area. It would be easy for them to show the investigators corpse in uniform with identification tags. But there is no way the investigators could determine whether these men were killed by the Russians, or by the Germans as they probably were. The Nazis are known to have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Poles after the fighting was over. If they found a camp full of Polish prisoners when they attacked Russia, it would have been the most natural thing in the world for the Germans to murder them, too, if not at the moment, then later when they needed corpses for propaganda exhibits.
 
Remember that when the Germans invaded Poland they told the world that they had found the graves of thousands of German civilians massacred by the Poles. Few people ever believed that story; it is all the more remarkable that any Poles who remember it should believe this one, especially as its motives are so obvious. The first motive is to distract the attention of the world from the mass murders which the Germans have been steadily committing in Poland for three and a half years — murders by now so numerous that they look like a deliberate attempt to exterminate the Polish people. Another purpose would be to arouse suspicion and distrust between Russia and the rest of the United Nations — which would help the Germans in two ways. Directly, it might hamper the prosecution of the war that we are all fighting against Germany. Indirectly, it might help to prop up German morale at home. There is plenty of evidence that among the German civilian population — yes, even among the army — there is less belief that they can ever win a decisive victory over all their enemies. But German propaganda has persuaded many of them that any day now America and Britain might call off the war, make a compromise peace and leave Germany free to turn on Russia. And of course more people will believe that if there is trouble between Russia and any other of the United Nations.
 
Yet this lurid murder story, which so plainly can do no good to anybody but the Germans had serious consequences for the Nazi propagandists were cleverly jabbing at a sore spot. The longstanding friction between Russia and Poland over the future frontier between those countries. This dispute is hundreds of years old. The Poles occupied much disputed territory after the war of 1920. The Russians moved back westward in 39. Two years later, the Germans pushed the Russians out. But statements by Russian leaders since have indicated that when they reconquer the territory they occupied in 1939 they mean to keep it. But the Poles insist on keeping it too, on retaining their country as it was before Hitler attacked them. The outsider looks as if the time to settle this argument is after Germany is licked. For until Germany is liked good and thoroughly, it won’t make any difference where you draw that frontier line. That the situation has been permitted to get into the present tangle is no credit to either Polish or Russian statesmanship. General Sikorski, head of the Polish government in exile, is an able and a reasonable man, but he is under constant pressure from a faction of extremists, the sort of men void of any sense of political realities who ruined Poland in the 18th century. But the reason these people were able to push Sikorski’s government into suggesting a Red Cross investigation of this fantastic murder story was that the Russians for months past had been completely unreceptive to any suggestions made by the Polish government for better and more humane treatment of Polish refugees in Russian territory.
 
The Poles have now apparently withdrawn their suggestion of a Red Cross investigation. But when they made it, the Russians promptly broke relations with them in a note whose violent language is hard to explain. If Stalin means to go on dealing with the Poles at all, it’s certainly poor policy for him to undermine Sikorski, the most reasonable of Polish leaders. And if, as unconfirmed rumors have suggested, if the Russians should set up in Moscow a rival Polish government in exile composed of fellow travelers, that would do Hitler more good and Russia more harm than anything Nazi propagandists could ever think up. This has been treated by both Poles and Russians pretty much as a matter that concerns them alone. If it were finally to be settled on that basis, Russia’s enormous preponderance in size would give the answer.
 
But anything that creates division among the United Nations is the concern of every one of those nations — the United States included — because we must all hold together to win the war. After the war, if the United Nations continue to hold together in some sort of collective security system, there will be less danger that any of the great powers might feel it had to safeguard its individual security at the expense of weaker neighbors. That is the only way this Polish-Russian issue can be treated — as one phase of the problem of world security.”

The bipartisan Madden Committee concluded in 1952 that while some measures taken by the Office of War Information could have been excused as a wartime necessity with regard to Russia as a military ally, American officials and VOA journalists mislead the American public and foreign audiences about the true nature of the Soviet regime thus preventing a more pragmatic policy toward Russia from being adopted. Considering the cost of the failure of the Yalta Agreement, it was a profoundly serious charge that was never answered and was quickly forgotten. On November 11, 1952, the Madden Committee grilled Elmer Davis over his Soviet Katyn propaganda lie broadcasts. He was asked to read a large portion of his May 3, 1943 Voice of America commentary from a transcript reported at the time by the U.S. Embassy in Sweden. [The transcript read by Elmer Davis during his 1952 congressional testimony and presented by the Select Committee on the Katyn Investigation as one of the exhibits differs slightly from the original audio recording but does not alter its meaning. Minor edits might have been introduced in transcription.] In response to questions from committee members, Davis gave a number of both revealing and misleading answers and lashed out at his congressional and Polish and Polish American critics, as John Houseman did later in his autobiography Unfinished Bussiness.

In its Final Report, released on December 22, 1952 the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, criticized both Elmer Davis and the Voice of America.

“The Katyn investigation revealed that many individuals throughout the State Department, Army Intelligence (G-2), Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission, and other Government agencies, failed to properly evaluate the material being received from our sources overseas. In many instances, this information was deliberately withheld from public attention and knowledge. There was a definite lack of coordination on intelligence matters between Army Intelligence (G-2) and the State Department, at least as far as the missing Polish officers and the Katyn massacre was concerned.

The possibility exists that many second-echelon personnel, who were overly sympathetic to the Russian cause or pro-Communist minded, attempted to cover up derogatory reports which were received concerning the Soviets.” 2

The Madden Committee also said in its “Final Report”:

“Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951.” 3

The bipartisan congressional committee added:

“This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.” 4

But even the Madden Committee was not made aware in 1951 and 1952 of many secret U.S government diplomatic cables and other communications which showed the extent to which Robert E. Sherwood, a “Founding Father” of the Voice of America, and other Office of War Information officials, including John Houseman, coordinated VOA’s wartime propaganda with Soviet propaganda and became advocates for Stalin’s plans for the domination of Eastern Europe.

Close cooperation between Soviet and American government propagandists and employment of Soviet agents of influence at the wartime Voice of America helped to obscure the betrayal of U.S. allies and democratic values at the February 1945 Yalta Conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The betrayal was accompanied by U.S. government’s pro-Russian propaganda and censorship of information to prevent Americans and foreign audiences from learning about the true nature of Soviet communism and Stalin’s intentions to subjugate Central and Eastern Europe. While protecting Stalin and Russia from criticism was excused by some during the war as dictated by military necessity, it was harder to excuse continuing coverup of Stalinist crimes in post-war Voice of America broadcasts.

After the war, one of many members of the U.S. Congress who raised alarm about Soviet influence and censorship at the Voice of America was a U.S. Representative from Illinois (1951 to 1959) Timothy P. Sheehan. He was a Republican member of the bipartisan Select Committee of the House of Representatives which investigated the 1940 Soviet mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia. In a supplementary statement to the committee’s Final Report, Congressman Sheehan included a segment on “Propaganda Agencies.” The congressional investigation put a temporary stop to most of VOA’s censorship of the Soviet responsibility for Katyn Forest Massacre.

 

 

Timothy P. Sheehan, R-IL:

“Admittedly, during the Katyn investigation, we but scratched the surface on the part that the Office of War Information and the Voice of America took in following the administration line in suppressing the facts about the Katyn massacre. During the war there may have been a reasonable excuse for not broadcasting facts which were available in our State Department and Army Intelligence about the Katyn massacre and other facts which proved Russia’s failure to live up to her agreements. After the war there certainly was no excuse for not using in our propaganda war the truths which were in the files of our various Government departments.
 
One of the witnesses from the Department of State, which controls the policy of the Voice of America, stated that they did not broadcast the fact of Katyn behind the iron curtain was because they did not have sufficient facts on it. Yet the preponderance of evidence presented to our committee about the cover-up came from the files of the State Department itself.
 
The Voice of America, in its limited broadcasts about the Katyn massacre, followed a wishy-washy, spineless policy. From other information revealed about the policies followed by the Voice of America, a committee of the Congress ought to make a thorough investigation and see to it that the Voice pursues a firm and workable propaganda program and does not serve to cover up the mistakes of the State Department or the incumbent administration.” 5

In a segment on “Misjudgment of Russia,” Congressman Sheehan also mentioned the role of the Voice of America in misleading not only foreign but also American public opinion. During World War II, many of the Office of War Information news and broadcasts were widely distributed to media in the United States. The U.S. Congress put a stop to domestic distribution of VOA programs by passing the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act. The Final Report of the so-called Madden Committee was released on December 22, 1952.

 

Timothy P. Sheehan, R-IL:

“Roosevelt’s misjudgment that Russia would honor her agreements, in spite of the factual record of her past broken promises, has proven to be the major error in our entire foreign policy. In setting this policy, our Government, through the State Department, the Army Intelligence (G-2), the Office of War Information, and the Voice of America, followed the policy line so that the American people were misled. During the war the American public was led to believe that Russia was a loyal and trustworthy ally and after the war and until very recently, the executive department covered up the fact that they were so grossly mistaken about Russia.
 
To me, the reason why our Government suppressed the truth about the Katyn massacre was because this was but a small part of the giant error made in our foreign policy program. If our Government would have disclosed the truth about Katyn and the sellout of Poland, it would have had to disclose more truths about the perfidy of Russia. The American people would have then spoken in no uncertain terms and the Democrat administration did not want that to happen for very obvious reasons.” 6

 

Union Calendar No. 792

82d Congress, 2d Session- – – – – – – – – – – House Report No.2505

THE KATYN FOREST MASSACRE

FINAL REPORT

OF THE

SELECT COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN

INVESTIGATION AND STUDY OF THE FACTS,

EVIDENCE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES ON THE

KATYN FOREST MASSACRE

PURSUANT TO

H. Res. 390

AND

H. Res. 539

(82d Congress)

A RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE THE INVESTIGATION

OF THE MASS MURDER OF POLISH OFFICERS IN THE

KATYN FOREST NEAR SMOLENSK, RUSSIA

DECEMBER 22, 1952.—Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on

the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

WASHINGTON : 1952

 

SELECT COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION AND STUDY OF

THE FACTS, EVIDENCE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE KATYN FOREST

MASSACRE

RAY J. MADDEN, Indiana, Chairman

DANIEL J. FLOOD, Pennsylvania

FOSTER FURCOLO, Massachusetts

THADDEUS M. MACHROWICZ, Michigan

GEORGE A. DONDERO, Michigan

ALVIN E. O’KONSKI, Wisconsin

TIMOTHY P . SHEEHAN, Illinois

JOHN J. MITCHELL, Chief Counsel

ROMAN C. PUCINSKI, Chief Investigator

LUCILE S. BIEBIGHAUSEE, Secretary

[Page 9]

OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

When the Nazis, on April 13, 1943, announced to the world the finding of the mass graves of the Polish officers at Katyn and ac­cused the Soviets, the Allies were stunned by this action and called it propaganda. Mr. Elmer Davis, news commentator, then head of the Office of War Information, an agency established by Executive order, told this committee he reported direct to the President. Under questioning he admitted frequent conferences with the State Department and other Government agencies. However, testifying before this committee, when faced with his own broadcast of May 3, 1943, in which he accused the Nazis of using the Katyn massacre as propaganda, he admitted under questioning that this broadcast was made on his own initiative.

This is another example of the failure to coordinate between Government agencies. A State Department memorandum dated April 22, 1943, which was read into the record (see vol. VII of the published hearings), stated:

and on the basis of the various conflicting contentions [concerning Katyn] of all parties concerned, it would appear to be advisable to refrain from taking any definite stand in regard to this question.

Mr. Davis, therefore, bears the responsibility for accepting the Soviet propaganda version of the Katyn massacre without full in­vestigation. A very simple check with either Army Intelligence (G- 2) or the State Department would have revealed that the Katyn massacre issue was extremely controversial.

Furthermore, members of the staff of both OWI and FCC did engage in activities beyond the scope of their responsibilities. This unusual activity of silencing radio commentators first came to light in August 1943 when the House committee investigating the Na­tional Communications Commission discovered the procedure.

The technique utilized by staff members of OWI and FCC to si­lence was as follows: Polish radio commentators in Detroit and Buf­falo broadcasting in foreign languages after the announcement of

[Page 10]

 

the discovery of the mass graves of Polish officers at Katyn reported facts indicating that the Soviets might be guilty of this massacre.

In May 1943 a member of the FCC staff suggested to a member of the OWI staff that the only way to prevent these comments was to contact the Wartime Foreign Language Radio Control Committee. This committee was made up of station owners and managers who were endeavoring to cooperate with the OWI and FCC during the war years. Accordingly a meeting was arranged in New York with two of the members of this industry committee. They were specifically requested by the OWI staff member to arrange to have a Polish radio commentator in Detroit restrict his comments to straight news items concerning Katyn, and only those by the standard wire services. The fact that a member of the FCC staff attended this meeting is significant because the FCC in such a case had no jurisdiction. In fact, the FCC member was in New York to discuss the renewal of the radio license of one of these industry members. The owner of the radio station in Detroit was contacted and requested to restrict the comments of the Polish commentator on his station, and this was done.

By applying indirect pressure on the station owner, these staff members accomplished their purpose, namely, keeping the full facts of the Katyn massacre story from the American people. (See vol. VII of the published hearings.)

Office of Censorship officials testified and supported the conclusion of this committee that the OWI and FCC officials acted beyond the scope of their official Government responsibilities on this matter of Katyn. Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951. The committee was not impressed with statements that publication of facts con- cerning this crime, prior to 1951, would lead to an ill-fated uprising in Poland. Neither was it convinced by the statements of OWI officials that for the Polish-Americans to hear or read about the Katyn massacre in 1943 would have resulted in a lessening of their cooperation in the Allied war effort.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON

Mr. Justice Jackson appeared before this committee and advised that he had received no instructions or information concerning the Katyn massacre. When asked to explain how the Katyn affair happened to come on the agenda of the Nuremberg trials under the indictment of Herman Goering, he stated that the Soviets were responsible for drawing indictments on war crimes committed in eastern Europe. Mr. Justice Jackson stated as follows:

To the United States was allocated the over-all conspiracy to incite and wage a war of aggression. The British were assigned the violation of specific treaties and crimes on the high seas. Violations of the laws of war and crimes against humanity were divided on a geographical basis. The French undertook crimes in western Europe, and the

 

[Page 11]

Soviet prosecution was assigned the duty of preparing and presenting evidence of crimes in eastern European area largely in Soviet occupation, and to much of which the others of us had no access. The geographical area thus as- signed to the Soviet representatives included Katyn wood and Poland as well, but at that time it was not known that the Katyn massacre would be involved.

When asked by the committee if he had received the various reports then in the files of the State Department and Army Intelligence (G-2), Mr. Justice Jackson testified that he had not. When asked by the committee what he would have done if he had received these reports, he replied as follows:

Of course, any information would have been helpful. If we had had information of that kind, I cannot pass on whether this would have been adequate, but if we had had adequate information of Russian guilt, we would not have consented at all to have the charge against the Nazis. It would have strengthened our hand in keeping it out immensely and probably would have resulted in the Soviets not making the accusation.

Before this committee was formed, many allegations were made that Americans on Mr. Jackson’s staff at Nuremberg assisted the Soviets in the preparation of this case on Katyn against the Nazis. The committee desired to clarify this point and specifically asked Mr. Jackson this question, and he denied that any member of his staff participated in the preparation of the Katyn indictment. The committee viewed with interest Mr. Justice Jackson’s statement in his testimony which is as follows:

This history will show that, if it is now deemed possible to establish responsibility for the Katyn murders, nothing that was decided by the Nuremberg Tribunal or contended for by the American prosecution will stand in your way.

 

CONCLUSIONS

1. In submitting this final report to the House of Representatives, this committee has come to the conclusion that in those fateful days nearing the end of the Second World War there unfortunately existed in high governmental and military circles a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis. For reasons less clear to this committee, this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war. Most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did. It is undoubtedly true that hindsight is much easier to follow than foresight, but it is equally true that much of the material which this committee unearthed was or could have been available to those responsible for our foreign policy as early as 1942. And, it is equally true that even before 1942 the Kremlin rulers gave much evidence of a menace of Soviet imperialism paving the way for world conquest. Through the disastrous failure to recognize

 

[Page 12]

the danger signs which then existed and in following a policy of satisfying the Kremlin leaders, our Government unwittingly strengthened their hand and contributed to a situation which has grown to be a menace to the United States and the entire free world.

2. Our committee is sending a copy of this report, and volume 7 of the published hearings, to the Department of Defense for such action as may be proper with regard to General Bissell. We do so because of the fact that this committee believes that had the Van Vliet report been made immediately available to the Department of State and to the American public, the course of our governmental policy toward Soviet Russia might have been more realistic with more fortunate postwar results.

3. This committee believes that the wartime policies of Army Intelligence (G-2) during 1944-45 should undergo a thorough investigation. Testimony heard by the committee substantiates this belief, and if such an investigation is conducted another object lesson might be learned.

4. Our committee concludes that the staff members of the Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission who participated in the program of silencing Polish radio commentators went beyond the scope of their duties as official Government representatives. Actually, they usurped the functions of the Office of Censorship and by indirect pressure accomplished domestic censor- ship which was not within the jurisdiction of either of these agencies.

5. This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.

6. This committee began its investigation last year, and as the committee’s work progressed, information, documents, and evidence was submitted from all parts of the world. It was at this same time that reports reached the committee of similar atrocities and violations of international law being perpetrated in Korea. This committee noted the striking similarity between crimes committed against the Poles at Katyn and those being inflicted on American and other United Nation troops in Korea. Communist tactics being used in Korea are identical to those followed at Katyn. Thus this committee believes that Congress should undertake an immediate investigation of the Korean war atrocities in order that the evidence can be collected and the truth revealed to the American people and the free peoples of the world. This committee will return to Congress approximately $21,000 in surplus funds, and it is suggested that this money be made available by Congress for such an investigation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The final report of the Select Committee Investigating the Katyn Forest Massacre hereby incorporates the recommendations contained in the interim report, filed on July 2, 1952 (H. Rept. No. 2430).

[Page 13]

This committee unanimously recommends that the House of Representatives approve the committee’s findings and adopt a resolution:

1. Requesting the President of the United States to forward the testimony, evidence, and findings of this committee to the United States delegates at the United Nations;

2. Requesting further that the President of the United States issue instructions to the United States delegates to present the Katyn case to the General Assembly of the United Nations;

3. Requesting that appropriate steps be taken by the General Assembly to seek action before the International World Court of Justice against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for committing a crime at Katyn which was in violation of the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;

4. Requesting the President of the United States to instruct the United States delegation to seek the establishment of an international commission which would investigate other mass murders and crimes against humanity.

RAY J. MADDEN, Chairman.

DANIEL J. FLOOD.

THADDEUS M. MACHROWICZ.

GEORGE A. DONDERO.

ALVIN E. O’KONSKI.

TIMOTHY P. SHEEHAN.

[Page 14]

 

SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT BY MR. SHEEHAN

On November 22d I addressed a letter to the Honorable Ray J. Madden, chairman of our committee, listing my conclusions for the consideration of the Katyn Committee to be incorporated in the final report.

Most of these conclusions have been incorporated in the final report and I am happy to join with my colleagues in making this a unanimous report. However, it seems to me that there is need for further emphasis on several points covered in the report and I feel these points can be best emphasized by this addendum to the final report.

MISJUDGMENT OF RUSSIA

On page 3 of this final report the opening sentence under the heading “Second phase” read:

The Congress requested that our committee determine why certain reports and files concerning the Katyn massacre disappeared or were suppressed by departments of our Government.

From the disclosure of many hitherto secret documents and from the oral testimony of men like our former Ambassadors Standley and Harriman, Special Ambassador George Earle, the former Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and others, the cover-up of the facts of the Katyn massacre and withholding them from the American people was but a part of the desire on the part of the Democrat administration to cover their basic and colossal error in their foreign policy judgment.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who Mr. Harriman stated set our foreign policy and was the final authority on all foreign policy decisions, thought that Russia would disintegrate immediately after the end of the war. When warned by various of his appointees that Russia would become a great menace, Mr. Roosevelt silenced these men and refused to heed their advice. Mr. Roosevelt kept committing our country to agreements with the Russians in spite of the fact, as Mr. Harriman stated, that—

* * * There were a series of misdeeds by the Russians, from our standpoint, beginning with the Ribbentrop treaty, that it (revelation of the Katyn massacre) would have contributed, I think, to further distrust of the Soviets.

Roosevelt’s misjudgment that Russia would honor her agreements, in spite of the factual record of her past broken promises, has proven to be the major error in our entire foreign policy. In setting this policy, our Government, through the State Department, the Army Intelligence (G-2), the Office of War Information,

[Page 15]

and the Voice of America, followed the policy line so that the American people were misled. During the war the American public was led to believe that Russia was a loyal and trustworthy ally and after the war and until very recently, the executive department covered up the fact that they were so grossly mistaken about Russia.

To me, the reason why our Government suppressed the truth about the Katyn massacre was because this was but a small part of the giant error made in our foreign policy program. If our Government would have disclosed the truth about Katyn and the sellout of Poland, it would have had to disclose more truths about the perfidy of Russia. The American people would have then spoken in no uncertain terms and the Democrat administration did not want that to happen for very obvious reasons.

PROPAGANDA AGENCIES

Admittedly, during the Katyn investigation, we but scratched the surface on the part that the Office of War Information and the Voice of America took in following the administration line in suppressing the facts about the Katyn massacre. During the war there may have been a reasonable excuse for not broadcasting facts which were available in our State Department and Army Intelligence about the Katyn massacre and other facts which proved Russia’s failure to live up to her agreements. After the war there certainly was no excuse for not using in our propaganda war the truths which were in the files of our various Government departments.

One of the witnesses from the Department of State, which controls the policy of the Voice of America, stated that they did not broadcast the fact of Katyn behind the iron curtain was because they did not have sufficient facts on it. Yet the preponderance of evidence presented to our committee about the cover-up came from the files of the State Department itself.

The Voice of America, in its limited broadcasts about the Katyn massacre, followed a wishy-washy, spineless policy. From other in- formation revealed about the policies followed by the Voice of America, a committee of the Congress ought to make a thorough investigation and see to it that the Voice pursues a firm and workable propaganda program and does not serve to cover up the mistakes of the State Department or the incumbent administration.

ARMY INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

The United States Congress should investigate the wartime and postwar operation of the Army Intelligence (G-2) and the Counter- intelligence Agency. In our search for the missing Van Vliet report in the Army Intelligence Agency, there was revealed a very serious lack of close liaison between the various Government agencies. There was revealed to the committee a definite pro-Soviet sympathy by certain people working for G-2 during the war. In early 1942 one of our military attaches connected with Intelligence recommended that counterintelligence measures be set up against the Russians; he was advised that he showed a Russian bias and did

[Page 16]

not know what he was doing. Several men who were openly anti-Russian were soon transferred out of this department. Documents were missing from this department which tended to be contrary to Russian interests. It was pointed out to our committee in executive session that quite a number of employees in G-2 who were suspected of Communist or leftwing sympathies were transferred to the Counter-intelligence Agency. Just several months ago two German officials of an agency which is the equivalent of our Federal Bureau of Investigation refused to make use of our Counter-intelligence Agency because they stated the German division of this agency was infiltrated by the Communists.

Mr. Harriman in his testimony stated that on the “strong recommendation of our Chiefs of Staff every effort was made to get Russia to come into the war against Japan. The quick and complete collapse of Japan took everyone by surprise because we thought the American armies would be forced to land on the plains of Tokyo. Postwar revelations proved that Japan sought out Russian help about 6 months prior to the end of the war, pleading with Russia to act as a peace intermediary. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were undoubtedly following the advice of Army Intelligence agencies, which apparently were grossly mistaken.

Did Russian influence in our Army Intelligence contribute to this gross miscalculation of Japan’s fighting capabilities? If so, is this element still in Army Intelligence? For the peace and security of our country, some independent body, such as Congress, should investigate.

Mr. Alvin E. O’Konski concurs in the above statement of Mr. Sheehan.

[Page 17]

SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT OF MESSRS.

MADDEN, FLOOD, AND MACHROWICZ

We have carefully examined the statement submitted by Mr. Sheehan. We believe that the final report adopted unanimously and signed by all the members of the committee adequately and fully explains all the matters contained in this addendum. We are therefore submitting no additional remarks.

 

 

Notes:

  1. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), accessed October 26, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582.
  2. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), accessed October 26, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582.
  3. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).
  4. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).
  5. The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), p. 15.
  6. The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 14-15.
F.

First VOA Director was a pro-Soviet Communist sympathizer, State Dept. warned FDR White House

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

April 1943 – State Department Warns White House of Soviet Influence at Voice of America

May 4, 2018

Analysis by Ted Lipien for Cold War Radio Museum

John Houseman. VOA Photo.The Cold War Radio Museum has presented for the first time to a wider online audience a secret 1943 memorandum sent to the Roosevelt White House by the U.S. State Department which raised suspicions about John Houseman, considered to be the first director of the Voice of America (VOA) 1 as being a communist sympathizer and too pro-Soviet to be trusted in a high-level sensitive government position in charge of U.S. radio broadcasts overseas. The memorandum informed the White House that the State Department refused him permission to travel abroad as a U.S. government representative. At the height of World War II, U.S. diplomatic service and military authorities secretly declared Houseman to be untrustworthy because of his pro-Soviet and communist sympathies even though the Soviet Union was at the time regarded by President Roosevelt as America’s indispensable military ally against Nazi Germany and hopefully later in the war also against Japan. There were no direct accusations in the memo or details of any ongoing subversive activities. The most serious charge was that Houseman was hiring communists to fill Voice of America positions. The charge was true. Whether he did it on instructions from the Communist Party or whether he had received and followed such instructions while working for the Voice of America is not mentioned in the memorandum and has not been documented, but that is how actual Soviet agents would have routinely used their influence with individuals such as Houseman even if the target of their activity were not Communist Party members subject to party discipline but those who participated in or were sympathetic to the Kremlin-controlled communist “front” organizations. Within a few weeks, John Houseman resigned from his position as the head of the Radio Program Bureau in the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information (OWI), the current day Voice of America. 2

The memorandum about Soviet and communist influence within the wartime Voice of America, signed off with a cover memo by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, a distinguished career diplomat and a major foreign policy advisor to President Roosevelt and his personal friend, was forwarded to the White House with the date, April 6, 1943. The attached memorandum with the addendum listing names of individuals who had been denied U.S. passports for government travel abroad was dated April 5, 1943. The documents were declassified in the mid-1970s and have been accessible online for some time from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum Website 3 and the National Archives 4. It appears, however, that they have never been widely disclosed and analyzed before now. They are presented for the first time with a historical analysis on the Cold War Radio Museum website.

John Houseman (born Jacques Haussmann in Romania to a British mother and a French father; September 22, 1902 – October 31, 1988) was a theatre producer, radio producer and Hollywood actor now known mostly for his Oscar-winning role as Professor Charles W. Kingsfield in the 1973 film The Paper Chase and his commercials for the brokerage firm Smith Barney about making money the old fashioned way. He emigrated to the United States in 1925 and worked as a grain broker before starting his theatre, radio and movie career and collaboration with theatre and film director Orson Welles (no relation to Sumner Welles). They reportedly caused some amount of panic in much of the United States with their 1938 Mercury Theatre on the Air production of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds which mixed genuinely sounding but fake evening radio news bulletins with dramatic descriptions of an alien invasion.

A 1982 Voice of America one-page biography mentioned Houseman’s collaboration with Orson Welles in producing the movie classic Citizen Kane. It also noted “the notorious Men from Mars [sic] radio broadcast [which] rocked [sic] the nation in November 1938” (it actually aired on Halloween, October 30, 1938 over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network) but did not explain the broadcast’s significance as a pioneering experiment in fake news, in this case at least for purely entertainment purposes.

In late 1941 or very early 1942, John Houseman, whose legal name then was Jacques Haussmann, was officially hired by his friend, American playwright and Roosevelt’s speech writer Robert E. Sherwood, or was recruited based on Sherwood’s recommendation, to work for the Coordinator of Information, the U.S. government office in charge of spying, and propaganda. Through President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9182 issued June 13, 1942, the office of the Coordinator of Information was turned into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), while the radio unit where Houseman worked became the Office of War Information (OWI). 5 Houseman’s hiring was not hidden from the State Department, which is where, according to his autobiography, he was interviewed by both Robert Sherwood and William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It appears that the State Department and there Office of the Coordinator of Information, the future OSS and CIA, did not have any initial objections to Houseman being hired. The later promoters of the John Houseman myth as a supporter of accurate news reporting and a symbol of VOA’s journalistic objectivity would be shocked to know that he was hired by the head of the U.S. intelligence agency in a meeting held in one of the State Department buildings which may have also had the office of the Coordinator of Information. It is not clear whether any U.S. diplomats participated in the meeting, but the chief of the U.S. spying agency did and asked him to create the future Voice of America for propaganda warfare, if one is to believe John Houseman’s account in his book. Such were the beginnings of the Voice of America.

“A week later I was flying East on a Government priority. In a telegram from Washington, Robert Sherwood had asked me to meet him in the State Department Building, where he introduced me to a tough, white-haired charmer named William Donovan who asked me if I would undertake the organization and programming of the Overseas Radio operation for the Coordinator of Information.” 6

Houseman’s description of the meeting also has a reference to “U.S. wartime propaganda” and not a word about news reporting. “We were starting from scratch, Bob [Sherwood] explained, with no equipment or personnel and no clear notion of what form U.S. wartime propaganda should take.” 7

In a later edition of his autobiography (1989), titled Unfinished Business, Houseman confirms that his first official U.S. government employer was in the office which later became the OSS and still later the CIA. At the time of Houseman’s hiring to run the radio division, U.S. spying and propaganda were in the same office of the Coordinator of Information. Houseman noted that even after the separation of “covert operations” from propaganda operations, Robert Sherwood was still in charge of “psychological warfare.” The emphasis was on propaganda and psychological warfare rather than pure news reporting.

“Early in June [1943], after months of infighting, the long-awaited ‘reorganization’ was announced. It separated Donovan’s ‘covert operations’ (which became the OSS and later the CIA) from Overseas Information and Propaganda. This left Sherwood free to move with his plans for psychological warfare.” 8

Houseman wrote that the Foreign Information Service (which included the future VOA) had “the humane and civilized quality” given to it by Robert Sherwood who, as Houseman pointed out quoting an unnamed historian, was waging “a people’s war, a galant crusade against the forces of reaction that could make the world a better place to live in.” 9 Stalin and the Soviet Union were to Sherwood, Houseman and their team some of the most important allies in that struggle. Whoever opposed them was branded a reactionary enemy. According to one of Sherwood’s “propaganda directives” to the Voice of America staff, dated May 1, 1943, the Poles who refused to accept as true Soviet propaganda on the mass murder of thousands of their prisoners of war in Russia were guilty of “consciously or unconsciously cooperating with Hitler.” 10 That was how ideological enemies of communism were labeled as fascists by the VOA team of communists and Left-wing radicals even if the same Poles were fighting the Nazis, as the Polish government in exile and members of its underground state and army in Poland did and would have been tortured and killed if they had fallen into the hands of the German Gestapo. In Sherwood’s and VOA’s version of pro-Stalin propaganda and cover-up, the Soviet message of anti-communists as supporters of fascism was slightly less brutal but nevertheless clear. These U.S. officials swore later they had no idea that Stalin could be capable of such lies, in which case they had no business running the Voice of America on behalf of the U.S. government and the American people, but they did.

Hardly anyone remembers today that John Houseman was at one time in charge of such propaganda in the VOA radio division. Practically no one knows that he got the U.S. government job from the Roosevelt administration without having U.S. citizenship or any prior experience in news reporting and radio journalism but having had frequent contacts with the Communist Party of the United States prior to his federal employment. He was probably hired without any initial security clearance and himself hired communists only to attract suspicions later. He is called by some, perhaps not entirely accurately, the first VOA director during the period from early January 1942 through July of 1943. The overall content of the first VOA programs, which Houseman produced, was determined by his superiors although he played a significant role together with them in shaping the broadcasts and in hiring radio personnel before he was forced to resign over various programming scandals, some of them connected with his strong advocacy for Soviet and communist causes which put him at odds even with the pro-Soviet FDR White House. Throughout this period, President Roosevelt most likely was not even aware of Houseman and his work but he had selected and knew well some of his superiors. The ones with close links to FDR, Robert E. Sherwood and Office of War Information director Elmer Davis, did not lose their OWI jobs. They were helping FDR also on the domestic news and information front. Robert Sherwood was sent to London to coordinate America propaganda with British and Soviet propaganda. In the United States, the lines between foreign and domestic propaganda were blurred. OWI U.S. government employees did both domestic and foreign news reporting and other media outreach, but unlike in today’s VOA, they generally avoided domestic propaganda of purely partisan nature. At the time, Houseman’s tenure as director of what was later known as the Voice of America did not attract much media attention due to his rather secondary role at the Office of War Information, but the word of his activities at VOA and the communists he recruited must have gotten eventually to U.S. government security officials, including the Army Intelligence, and the State Department which took action to deny him the U.S. passport in what was most likely an effort get him fired from his VOA position.

The Voice of America’s most important World War II first-line journalist, pro-Soviet propagandist and chief news writer in 1942-1943, now almost completely erased from VOA’ history except for his own memoir, a few old interviews, a biography by Gerald Sorin, and previously classified U.S. government documents, was no other than Howard Fast, a best selling author, member of the Communist Party USA from 1943 to 1956, and recipient of the 1953 $25,000 Stalin Peace Prize. Having given him the award which would have been worth over 235,000.00 in today’s dollars, the Soviets had to have been rather pleased with his past journalistic work for the Voice of America and his later reporting  for the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker. Fast worked for John Houseman and considered him his patron and friend.

The newly rediscovered Sumner Welles memorandum represents yet another proof that foreign radio propaganda activities of VOA’s early Left-wing radicals working under John Houseman eventually became intolerable even for the progressive and strongly pro-Soviet Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. It was an early albeit then secret indication that officials close to FDR, who were not opposed to his pro-Russia policy, became concerned about the threat of Soviet interference within the U.S. government, specifically at the Office of War Information and its division producing radio programs for overseas audiences. In light of many subsequent but now largely forgotten scandals in the early history of the Voice of America and the ultimate tragic consequences of U.S. wartime policy toward Soviet Russia—millions of East Europeans losing their freedom for several decades, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and other Cold War crises and setbacks which perhaps could have been avoided—these initial concerns about some of the key individuals in charge of U.S. government propaganda radio broadcasting trying to strengthen Russia’s position, especially toward the end of World War II, were not entirely misplaced.

According to one contemporary listener to VOA wartime broadcasts from New York and Washington, a left-leaning Polish Peasant Party politician, Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, who even joined briefly the communist government in Warsaw after the war before fleeing to the West to save his life:

“[Voice of America wartime radio broadcasts] might well have emanated from Moscow itself.” 11

Another Pole, the Polish government in exile ambassador in Washington, Jan Ciechanowski, had similar observations.

“Of all the United States Government agencies, the Office of War Information [where Voice of America was placed], under its new director, Mr. Elmer Davis, had very definitely adopted a line of unqualified praise of Soviet Russia and appeared to support its shrewd and increasingly aggressive propaganda in the United States. The OWI broadcasts to European countries had become characteristic of this trend.” 12

“I protested repeatedly against the pro-Soviet character of such propaganda. I explained to those responsible for it in the OWI that the Polish nation, suffering untold oppression from Hitler’s hordes, was thirsting for plain news about America and especially about her war effort, her postwar plans, and her moral leadership, that Soviet propaganda was being continuously broadcast anyway to Poland directly from Moscow, and there seemed no reason additionally to broadcast it from the United States.” 13

“When I finally appealed to the Secretary of State and to divisional heads of the State Department, protesting against the character of the OWI broadcasts to Poland, I was told that the State Department was aware of these facts but could not control this agency, which boasted that it received its directives straight from the White House.” 14

One of the ironies of history is that the Voice of America, which in its early phase helped Stalin to achieve Russia’s domination over East-Central Europe, in later years contributed greatly to helping free the so-called “Captive Nations” from Russia’s indirect but firm imperial rule through local communist dictatorships.

A tendency of all propagandists is to present a simple, one-sided view of history which emphasizes one set of facts while ignoring others. The history of the Voice of America has been as varied and as complex as the history of the Cold War. There are few defining events in VOA’s past that have a simple explanation, but a major tilt toward Soviet Russia, America’s temporary military ally but a long term strategic foe, was undeniable in early VOA broadcasts although it has never been acknowledged since the early 1950s. Despite all of this, VOA’s later role in the Cold War must be seen as tremendously positive in support of freedom and human rights although still marred by occasional reversals and not always as effective as it could have been.

In assessing the first years of its existence, it should be noted at the outset that the Voice of America alone would not have been able to cause or prevent the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. Statesmen such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and much larger geopolitical and military forces were decisive in this case. Disinterested experts and even some former propagandists agree that foreign propaganda by itself cannot win or lose a major military conflict, not even the Cold War which was won through the combination of political, military and economic factors reinforced by American and other Western radio broadcasts and various other forms of public diplomacy. VOA’s wartime broadcasts, however, played a small part in helping to assure the communist victory through unwitting assistance in a much larger Soviet military and security operation which used agents of influence as valuable assets. VOA helped the Soviet Union in a propaganda campaign by giving encouragement to the pro-Moscow factions and attacking, ignoring, censoring or banning those who opposed the communists and were seen by VOA’s Leftist broadcasters as enemies of communism, peace and progress. Soviet propaganda labeled these mostly democratic political forces as reactionary and fascist just as the Kremlin’s propaganda machine does today and, in a victory of chaos over reason, even gets some of its liberal opponents to do the same. The stark divide between fascism and progress with nothing in between is taken straight out of the communist propaganda handbook.

Considering its revealing content about Soviet subversion tactics, as described by a mid-20th century second-ranking official at the Department of State and author of the historic Welles Declaration, a further analysis of the 1943 Welles memo about John Houseman and other pro-Soviet Americans and foreigners who were associated with U.S. overseas broadcasting during World War II could be an interesting addition to the ongoing debate and controversy over Russia’s recent attempts to use propaganda and disinformation for justifying aggression against other states and the Kremlin’s attempts to influence U.S. policy and American elections in covert and illegal ways. The Welles Declaration, 15 an important U.S. diplomatic statement issued by Sumner Welles in 1940 when he was Acting Secretary of State, reaffirmed America’s non-recognition of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States. They were occupied by Soviet Russia in fulfillment of the secret terms of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact. Also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, it led to the start of World War II with the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939. John Houseman’s autobiography, first published in 1972, is revealing for ignoring such major historical events casting a shadow on communism and the Soviet Union while describing in some detail, but definitely not fully or with complete honesty, his collaboration as a theatre producer with the Communist Party. It also shows that he believed the Kremlin’s opponents to be reactionaries and enemies of social justice.

Soviet and communist subversion remains a sensitive topic in the United States even after the 2016 presidential election and the sudden and dramatic change in attitudes toward Russia among many on the Left and some on the Right. There is now little historical memory of any of the previous, far-reaching and successful Russian efforts to subvert the U.S. government with the help of U.S. public officials as their ideological allies, if not in most cases actual paid agents of influence. This lack of broader knowledge of history of Russian covert political subversion in the United States, as opposed to open public diplomacy and open media influence, is partly due to many such accusations having been discredited as unfounded during the anti-communist witch hunt led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s against the political Left. It’s also due to the fact that, unlike today, such accusations had been usually directed in the past by Republicans against Democrats and Democratic administrations and therefore were deemed suspect by mainstream media which refused to analyze them and thus condemned them to being largely forgotten.

After McCarthy and until very recently, raising accusations of collusion with Russia were often seen on the Left and most of the moderate Right as paranoid and un-American. McCarthy, however, was not wrong in every instance. Soviet propaganda combined with intelligence activities in the United States was particularly strong in the 1930s and the 1940s and dangerously subversive in its influence. It helped to shape the Roosevelt administration’s foreign policy and got the president to betray many of America’s wartime allies and accept in conferences with Stalin at Tehran and Yalta his plans for achieving domination over East-Central Europe. At the same time, Soviet agents were infiltrating the U.S. government and stealing U.S. atomic secrets. Some of them found their way into the Office of War Information although the OWI was not the most important target of Soviet espionage activities. This was long before Senator McCarthy started his anti-communist crusade. While many of McCarthy’s later claims were simply completely false and almost always malicious, most of the accusations leveled secretly by the State Department in 1943 against Houseman and some of the other officials in charge of the wartime Voice of America broadcasts turned out to be at least partially true with regard to their propaganda in support of Soviet ideological and foreign policy objectives. While there was a major and legitimate need to show support for a major ally fighting Nazi Germany and a considerable convergence of military interests between the two countries during the war, Soviet and communist political goals were opposed by many members of Congress and the vast majority of Americans, in some cases even by President Roosevelt and his top diplomatic and military policy makers, including Sumner Welles and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe and later U.S. President General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The accusations in the 1943 memo against the persons in charge of Voice of America broadcasts were not partisan in nature or designed to be leaked to the media to damage domestic political opponents. They were advanced secretly by key foreign policy advisors to President Roosevelt against other administration officials. Nearly all of these officials on both sides were Democrats.

Historian Holly Cowan Shulman, who in her book, The Voice of America: Propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945, was not unsympathetic to the radical Left-wing worldview of the founders of the Voice of America, noted that in their senior federal government positions they sometimes deliberately opposed some of President Roosevelt’s foreign policies when they believed them to be “anti-liberal” and “anti-democratic.” One could add that they also saw them as harmful to the Soviet Union. 16 Stalin, Soviet Russia and communists also opposed some of the same U.S. policies. As the Welles memorandum pointed out, these assumptions on the part of U.S. officials in charge of VOA radio broadcasts represented a dangerous and distorted interpretation of liberalism which ran counter to American traditions of liberal thought. Had they been only private U.S. citizens, they would have had fully protected constitutional rights to public dissent even during wartime even if public acceptance of such rights was more limited then than it is now. Such non-violent public dissent would not had been a sign of disloyalty to the United States. But as federal officials hired by the FDR administration, they were disloyal to the President and to the government of the United States. They were putting the lives of American soldiers at risk and helping Russia to take away liberty of millions of people–all in the name of defending peace, liberty and democracy. Their only excuse later could have been that they did not know Stalin had nefarious plans and that FDR’s overall policy also led to the same end result for the VOA audience in Eastern Europe. Had they been working for a purely private U.S. media organization, they would have had also the right to engage in journalistic advocacy subject to internal editorial policies, but the Voice of America then and now is a U.S. government entity with special rules and much enhanced responsibilities, some of them of legal nature. Honest and idealistic individuals with good intentions can be very dangerous in government positions if they are deceived by their lack of knowledge and lack of experience while being blinded by ideology.

The 1943 State Department memo included an addendum about Houseman and a few other OWI, or Office of War Information, senior-level employees who were denied U.S. passports for their proposed official trips abroad on the basis of their suspected pro-communist and pro-Soviet sympathies or for being suspected members of the Communist Party. In reading the State Department memo and its addenda, it is important to note that the “Voice of America” name was not yet then commonly used to refer to OWI’s Overseas Branch and its radio broadcasts. It became the official name a few years later. It is also important to note that such terms as “propaganda” and “psychological warfare,” when used to describe U.S. or British wartime radio broadcasting, did not have nearly the same negative connotations in America as they do today. Another important point to remember is that even private U.S. citizens, who now have the right to almost unrestricted private travel abroad, were not given such rights under the U.S. laws and regulations in effect through most of the 20th century. John Houseman’s request for a U.S. passport for official, not private travel, was totally within the discretion of the U.S. government then, as it would be today. Also important to know is that Houseman, despite being given later by some the title of the first Voice of America director, was not in fact the principle individual responsible for the political content of VOA programs. This, however, made little difference because he fully shared his superiors’ enthusiasm for Russia, Stalin and communism. Those most responsible for programming policy and for running overseas broadcasts and the radio organization in New York were equally far Left-leaning Robert E. Sherwood and Joseph F. Barnes.

Their boss, Washington-based OWI director Elmer Davis, only slightly less Left-leaning than Sherwood, Barnes and Houseman, at times recorded his own radio broadcasts in which he repeated Soviet disinformation propaganda lies. He claimed later that he did it on his own initiative without being prompted by the White House. Whether he was telling the truth cannot be determined. For one key broadcast of the war, on the Katyn Forest Massacre, the State Department advised him not to promote the Soviet propaganda lie. The OWI and its Radio Bureau , i.e. the Voice of America, ignored the advice. Later, Elmer Davis could not recall receiving it. He and others all categorically denied after the war that they knew at the time that the information provided by the Soviet Union and broadcast by them or by the Voice of America at their insistence was in any way false. Even years later, they continued to attack their critics who turned out to be right.

The trip to North Africa for which the U.S. State Department refused to issue a U.S. passport to John Houseman, by then a newly naturalized U.S. citizen, was proposed by his personal friend and patron Robert E. Sherwood, described by some as one of the founding fathers of the Voice of America. It was Sherwood who had hired Houseman to be the producer of the first VOA broadcasts by putting him in charge of the Radio Bureau of the Office of War Information in New York. In March 1943, Sherwood also helped Houseman obtain his U.S. citizenship in an expedited manner having hired him in 1942 for his high-level government job while Houseman was still a non-citizen. Prior to his employment at VOA, he had lived and worked in the United States for 17 years–seven of them, he said later, as an illegal immigrant. Being born in Romania, he could have been mistaken for an enemy alien in the fearful atmosphere following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor–Houseman implied later that he was definitely classified as an enemy alien–but at the time he was also a British subject and his claim being an enemy alien seems somewhat suspect. He described himself in his autobiography as “Romanian by birth.” A more accurate description would have been “by the place of birth” because none of his parents was Romanian. His father was a French-Jewish businessman working in Romania. He also called himself “French by inheritance” and “English by upbringing and naturalization,” an indication that he did have British citizenship while living even as an illegal immigrant without a proper visa in the United States. It would have been unusual if he did not carry a British passport. 17 While Sherwood was able to arrange for Houseman to become a U.S. citizen without going through the normal process, he was subsequently unable to persuade the State Department and the Army Intelligence (G-2) into allowing Houseman to travel abroad on official U.S. government business. Sherwood’s subsequent appeal to the White House on behalf of the VOA director to get the diplomatic and military ban on Houseman’s official travel lifted proved unsuccessful.

Presenting himself as a real or potential victim of ethnic prejudice may have been Houseman’s way of ignoring or covering up the real reasons for his shortened career as a U.S. government employee that had nothing to do with him being born in Romania or being an immigrant. Before and after him, many U.S. born citizens were fired from their U.S. government jobs for being suspected members of the Communist Party. It could not be established whether the U.S. government officially considered him as an enemy alien, since he most likely had a British passport, and he was vague whether he even had acquired Romanian citizenship at any time. He did admit, however, that he was selected for a sensitive government position without having U.S. citizenship. That claim was true since he did not become naturalized until March 1943 but was already in charge of the Voice of America since the prior year.

“As I received my civil service appointment in the name of Jacques Haussmann (whose naturalization papers, filed in 1936 had not yet come through) no one–least of all myself–seemed to question the propriety of placing the Voice of America under the direction of an enemy alien of Romanian birth who, as such, was expressly forbidden by the Department of Justice to go near a shortwave radio set.” 18

The problem the Roosevelt administration had with John Houseman was not his immigration status or citizenship–he was initially hired by the same administration although the U.S. citizenship should have been the minimal requirement for his position. The real problem as it developed later appeared to have been his links with the Communist Party, the hiring of communists, and the Moscow-line content of VOA broadcasts. Joseph Barnes who was a U.S. born citizen was fired for the same reasons Houseman was forced to resign from his government position. The type of citizenship or national origin did not seem to matter much in Houseman’s case but it may have increased suspicions against him as it did against other recent immigrants from Europe. In his case, the authorities would have less reasons to be suspicious. He spoke perfect English, was fully integrated into American life, had powerful friends in Hollywood and New York and did not fit the profile of a typical enemy spy. The official focus was on his contacts with the Communist Party and accusations that he was hiring communists. If his previous immigration status played any role in the investigation into his past cannot be determined from the available documents. It may have had a minor impact.

The State Department informed the White House that Houseman was among several senior OWI employees, both U.S. born and naturalized citizens, whose applications for official U.S. passports were denied. Under Secretary of State Welles wrote that other such cases may be brought to the President’s attention if he desires to go into the matter more fully. There was no known follow-up from the White House in Houseman’s case.

It is not clear from the memorandum whether the State Department and the Army Intelligence would have also objected to Houseman traveling abroad as a private citizen during the war. They most likely would have since at that time even being suspected of membership or having links to a subversive organization without any definite proof or due process was seen as sufficient grounds for denying U.S. citizens the right to travel abroad.

Addendum to April 5-6, 1943 memoranda from Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to Honorable Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President, The White House.

“Passports Not Issued

North Africa

HOUSEMAN, John – formerly Jack Davies Haussman – born Bucharest, Rumania, September 22, 1902; emigrated United States, 1936; naturalized Maroh 1, 1943; father born Paris, France; Mother British.

Member of Communist Front organizations including Friends of Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Producer of play “Native Son” considered inflammatory in effect and possibly subversive in intent and un-American. Said to have been responsible for placing Communists in key position in foreign radio sections of OWI. Is reliably reported to be known in newspaper and theatrical circles in New York as a Communist. Military authorities consider should remain United States for the duration.”

John Houseman may not have been a registered Communist Party member, but there is evidence that both before and during his employment as VOA director he enthusiastically supported Soviet policies, sometimes against American interests although he probably did not think he was in any way disloyal or wrong in his official actions. He appeared to have been a true believer in some of the lofty ideas of communism, as well as Stalin’s good intentions. And he was by far not alone in that belief among Left-wing West European and American intellectuals and artists of that period who were faced with the growth of fascism in Europe and persistent racism and discrimination in the United States.

It was true, as the State Department memo had warned, that Houseman had been “responsible for placing Communists in key positions in foreign radio sections of OWI.” They were his ideological and intellectual companions. It turned out that in some cases, their loyalties were not with the United States but with the Kremlin and the communist movement. After the war’s end, not many but several of these VOA broadcasters went back to their native countries to work for the Soviet-imposed regimes and engaged in anti-American propaganda. Several of them had worked during the war on the Voice of America Polish desk.

Such unmonitored VOA hiring practices, although not specifically in reference to Houseman, were noted by one of OWI’s World War II era German-language editors, Austrian-Jewish refugee journalist Julius Epstein who himself had been for a few months a member of the German Communist Party in his student years in Germany.


“When I, in 1942, entered the services of what was then the ‘Coordinator of Information’ which became after a few months the O.W.I., I was immediately struck by the fact that the German desk was almost completely seized by extreme left-wingers who indulged in a purely and exaggerated pro-Stalinist propaganda.” 19

The only far-fetched claim in the State Department memo in support of the accusations against John Houseman was that Native Son, a book by an African American writer Richard Wright, which Houseman co-produced as a play before he started working for the U.S. government, was somehow “possibly subversive in intent and un-American.” Wright’s book was definitely not subversive, but Houseman’s theatrical production of it was possibly deceptive in whitewashing the violent nature of communism, which Wright himself was not afraid to show in his book.

Another one of Houseman’s OWI patrons, Joseph Barnes, was listed in the addendum to the same State Department memo as having received a U.S. passport to accompany Republican politician Wendell Willkie on his trip abroad as Roosevelt’s informal envoy to show bipartisan American support for the war. The memo only raised questions about Barnes’ naive pro-Soviet views and following “the Party line.” Barnes’ position within the organization was above Houseman’s. Houseman dedicated the first edition of his memoirs to Barnes.

Any journalist who had spent some time in Stalinist Russia, as Barnes had, and remained a believer in communism and Stalin, could not have possibly been effective as a producer of truthful and objective U.S. broadcasts, but the memo did not offer any recommendations about his continued employment. The State Department allowed him to travel abroad on official business.

Scholar of U.S. government wartime propaganda, Holly Cowan Shulman, described Barnes as “unquestionably and deeply loyal to the United States.” She wrote sympathetically about the Leftist idealism of the early VOA leaders but also quoted American diplomat and statesman George F. Kennan who knew Barnes while he was a foreign correspondent in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, describing him as “much more pro-Soviet than the rest of us–naively so… .” OWI director Elmer Davis confirmed after the war that he had fired Barnes for opposing polices of the Roosevelt administration but described him as a loyal American.

“I thought he was a very able man, but he was too much addicted to what we called in the war ‘localitis. He was head of the New York office, and it was eventually found desirable to remove him because he didn’t seem to be quite sufficiently in sympathy with the policies laid down in Washington. But I never had the slightest question about his loyalty.” 20

Addendum to April 6, 1943 memorandum from Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to Honorable Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President, The White House.

OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION

Passports Issued

Around the world with Wilkie

BARNES, Joseph Fels – born Montclair, New Jersey July 21, 1904; father born New York; Mother Australia.

News correspondent in USSR several years. Alleged to have stated that the Soviet Constitution is the best ever written. Supported the left wing of the American Newspaper Guild. It is reliably stated that there has been no crucial point in Russian development, since 1934, when Barnes has not followed the Party line and has not been much more successful than the official spokesman in giving it a form congenial to the American way of expression.

Former Office of War Information director Elmer Davis confirmed in a congressional testimony on November 11, 1952 another of Julius Epstein’s charges on hiring communists and communist sympathizers to work on VOA wartime broadcasts.

“One of the greatest OWI scandals broke when Frederick Woltman published his article entitled ‘A. F. of L. and CIO Charge OWI Radio as Communistic.’

Woltman’s article appears in the New York World-Telegram of October 4, 1943. It showed that the A. F. of L. as well as the CIO, the two great American labor organizations, which nobody but the Communists ever accused of being reactionary, withdrew their cooperation from the OWI’s labor desk because of the latter’s outspoken Communist attitude.” 21

Elmer Davis confirmed that he had removed the person in charge of the OWI labor desk. He also confirmed that he had “fired the head of the Greek desk in New York because he violated a directive sent from Washington about the handling of the news of Greece.” All in all, Davis admitted to firing about a dozen employees because of their pro-communist views and associations, but also pointed out that in 99 percent of cases suspicions of employees being Communist Party members turned out to be unfounded. He did not tell members of Congress in 1952 whether John Houseman was among those he had fired for being communists. Houseman has always insisted that he had resigned on his own but acknowledged that he would have been fired if he had stayed longer at his job. Davis admitted to members of Congress that some Communists were missed and remained on the OWI payroll through the war. 22

The addressee of Welles’ memo about Houseman and Office of War Information employees was Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President and Roosevelt’s close personal friend and political advisor. At one time in his professional career as a journalist, McIntyre was the city editor at the Washington Post.

While the State Department expressed its concerns quietly to the White House, members of the U.S. Congress from both parties, though mostly Republicans, were speaking out in public, warning about communists working on Voice of America broadcasts. At that time even they did not fully realize how easy it was for foreign, partisan or personal influence to compromise U.S. interests in a government organization operating as a semi-journalistic outlet without effective security or institutional controls and oversight. Deeply suspicious of the Office of War Information, the Congress eventually cut most of OWI’s domestic propaganda budget even while the war was still going on and from time to time seriously threatened to defund Voice of America overseas operations as well with each new management or programming scandal made public. VOA’s budget was somewhat reduced but overseas broadcasting was not eliminated.

Members of Congress continued to express concerns about the OWI and VOA throughout the war. Republicans and Democrats often focused on VOA broadcasts to Poland which was the largest country threatened to be dominated by the Soviet Union and was the first victim of Nazi and Soviet aggression in World War II. While some members of the Roosevelt administration had chosen to ignore the earlier Nazi-Soviet alliance, many members of Congress along with many ordinary anti-Communist Americans did not. Two weeks after the State Department memo reached the FDR White House, Congressman Roy O. Woodruff (R-MA) delivered on April 20, 1943 on the floor of the House of Representatives another early warning of Soviet influence over the Office of War Information and its Voice of America shortwave, medium wave and long wave radio outreach abroad. In addition to VOA broadcasts to Poland, Congressmen Woodruff also focused on VOA broadcasts to Yugoslavia, charging that both might have fallen under communist influence.

“…reports are constantly reaching me and other Members of Congress that the propaganda activities of the Polish Unit of O. W. I.’s Overseas Division are destroying rather than building the morale of the helpless Polish people.

These reports tell us that much of this propaganda follows the American Communist Party line and is designed to prepare the minds of the Polish people to accept partition, obliteration, or suppression of their nation when the fighting ends. The same is true of Yugoslavia, where, I am told, the name of the great Mihailovitch [Draža Mihailović, a Yugoslav Serb general during World War II executed by the Communists after the war] is blocked out by O. W. I. radicals.

If it is true that Communists have infiltrated into the O.W.I.’s Overseas Division and are following the party line in their propaganda to Poland, as well as other countries, then it is an outrageous violation of the faith that is reposed in Elmer Davis and Robert Sherwood. If this is not true, then the Polish people in America are entitled to have allayed the rumors which may be enemy inspired.” 23

A little over a year later, a Democratic politician, Congressman John Lesinski Sr. (D-MI), told the House of Representatives in remarks inserted in the Congressional Record on June 23, 1944 about Soviet propaganda in VOA radio broadcasts to Yugoslavia. Members of Congress were also concerned about pro-communist VOA broadcasts in Greek, French and Italian, as well as some VOA broadcasts in English.

“Under present war restrictions, news in regard to our allies—or, for that matter, any foreign country—is not printed unless it has the approval of the Office of War Information, of which Hon. Elmer Davis is Director.

I have followed with a great deal of interest the releases in regard to Yugoslavia, and I cannot understand why the Director of War Information is feeding Communist propaganda to the American people in regard to the conditions in Yugoslavia.” 24

OWI director Elmer Davis told a bipartisan investigative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952 that Congressman Lesinski was lying. Lesinski was not lying, but by then he was no longer alive to respond to Davis.

“I recall that he [Congressman John Lesinski Sr.] made a speech in the summer of 1943 which contained more lies than were ever comprised in any other speech made about the Office of War Information, and that is saying quite a lot. I may say that I have made that statement to Mr. Lesinski before he died. I mean that I have not waited until after he is dead. I told him so in writing when he repeated some of those statements 2 or 3 years ago. I asked him where he got the information, because that was a perfectly absurd speech to be made by a Member of the Congress of the United States who knows anything about American politics or the American news business.” 25

[Time magazine cover with OWI director Elmer Davis, March 15 1943.]

What Congressman Lesinski had said about OWI in 1943 has been confirmed by multiple sources. The arrogance of Elmer Davis, the journalist who accepted at face value the greatest Soviet propaganda lie and repeated it to domestic and foreign audiences despite warnings and evidence of Soviet guilt, was boundless and typical of the agency’s top brass of that period.

A response by Davis in November 1952 to the members of the bipartisan congressional select committee was also illustrative of his lack of journalistic curiosity and political imagination, as the Katyn story, if correctly and accurately reported to American and foreign audiences by the U.S. government media, such as the Voice of America, could have had an early impact on the future course of U.S. relations with Soviet Russia and might have prevented some of the unfortunate concessions made to Stalin by President Roosevelt on behalf of the United States at Teheran and Yalta. Thanks to men like Davis and Houseman, the truth unfavorable to Russia was suppressed. By all indications they seemed to have known what they were doing even though they denied it. Houseman did not deny it because his complicity in the Katyn coverup was never exposed.

“Mr. Davis. I don’t remember. I may say, Mr. Counsel, that this was not one of the major issues that I had to deal with at that time, from my point of view. To a Pole it was certainly the most important issue in the world, but to me, as to the head of every department or agency of Government, about that time of year the principal question was how his budget was going to get through Congress, and that absorbed most of my time. So whether I asked advice on this question from either Mr. Hull or Mr. Welles, I don’t remember. I don’t recall seeing this memorandum from Mr. Berle, although it is conceivable that I might have. I don’t know.” 26

Strikingly different picture of Elmer Davis as a respected American newsman emerges from laudatory descriptions found online. Some of them even excuse his role in OWI’s production of propaganda films in support of the internment of Japanese Americans by claiming that he opposed it. The same is true of books, articles and most online mentions of John Houseman.

“Elmer Holmes Davis (1890-1958) was a respected newspaper journalist, novelist, essayist, and radio announcer. His insightful and candid commentary on Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Radio provided the people of the United States with a trusted voice of reason and authority during the tumultuous years of World War II. Later, during the 1950s, Davis helped rally popular opinion against the Communist conspiracy theories of Senator Joseph McCarthy.” 27

Davis became one of many critics of Senator McCarthy but, except in his congressional testimony in 1952 given under oath, he never pointed out later that he himself had fired a few people at the Office of War Information suspected of being communists although he did not fire all communists and certainly not all active supporters of communism and the Soviet Union.

Complaints about VOA broadcasts expressed from ethnic communities to their members of Congress had played a role in getting U.S. lawmakers involved in efforts to correct the perceived pro-Soviet propaganda, but with men like Davis, Sherwood, Barnes and Houseman in charge, congressional interventions though many had a minimal effect on the propaganda policies of the Roosevelt administration during the war targeting foreign audiences. The appeasement of Stalin and domestic and foreign U.S. government propaganda support for it continued. Roosevelt correctly assumed that with some domestic propaganda, which the OWI helped to produce, including Elmer Davis’ broadcasts on domestic U.S. radio networks, the majority of ethnic voters, including the Polish Americans, would still vote for him and the Democratic Party, at least for the duration of the war. After the betrayal at Yalta became obvious, some of these American ethnic voters eventually switched to the Republican Party, especially when Ronald Reagan was running for president.

The wartime rumors of Soviet influence over the Voice of America overseas broadcasts were not inspired by Nazi Germany or Japan. They originated in the U.S. and were true. VOA wartime broadcasts were not only pro-Stalin. They were also critical of communist-perceived enemies of the Soviet Union: non-communist Poles, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Frenchmen, Italians and others organizing resistance against the Nazis in their countries or fighting alongside American and British troops, as the Polish Army under General Anders composed of former Stalin’s prisoners in the Soviet Gulag did in North Africa, Italy and in other parts of Western Europe. The democratic governments in exile complained to the Office of War Information and the State Department about VOA communist propaganda undermining their anti-Nazi resistance efforts, but their complaints, while received with sympathy by American diplomats, did not have any major lasting effect on VOA broadcasts.

Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, Prime Minister of Poland’s government in exile based in London who during the war met with President Roosevelt in Washington, recalled later that Polish diplomats raised the issue of Soviet propaganda in Voice of America broadcasts with State Department officials. Diplomats from other countries did as well. They were not protesting against VOA reporting news but against what many Americans who paid attention, including members of Congress, saw as blatant pro-Soviet VOA propaganda.


“We finally protested to the United States State Department about the tone of OWI broadcasts to Poland. Such broadcasts, which we carefully monitored in London, might well have emanated from Moscow itself. The Polish underground wanted to hear what was going on in the United States, to whom it turned responsive ears and hopeful eyes. It was not interested in hearing pro-Soviet propaganda from the United States, since that duplicated the broadcasts sent from Moscow.” 28

The 1943 memo to the FDR White House from Under Secretary Sumner Welles may have been partly in response to some of these complaints. The memo may have also contributed to the departure of John Houseman, Joseph Barnes and several other higher-level OWI officials and a few communist broadcasters in the summer of 1943, but their leaving did not have a long-lasting impact on VOA programs. Pro-Soviet and pro-communist propaganda continued as did VOA’s hostility toward governments in exile, which were America’s allies but were considered enemies by Stalin. Soviet propaganda labeled them as reactionary, fascist, anti-Russian, anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi—similar to some of the labels used by Russian propaganda and others today.

Houseman’s and Barnes’ forced departure from OWI did not lead to the removal of VOA broadcasters they had hired. According to Julius Epstein, who later wrote a groundbreaking book “Operation Keelhaul” exposing mass deportations of Russian and other anti-communist refugees from Western Europe to the Gulag under secret Western agreements with Stalin, some of the early pro-Soviet VOA broadcasters were still employed by the organization in 1950. By then, however, VOA also had a group of anti-communist East European refugee journalists hired after the war. They were complaining of not being allowed by the VOA management in the State Department and in some cases by their own service directors and managers directly above them to report fully on Soviet human rights abuses.

“There are still too many of the old OWI [Office of War Information] employees working for the Voice, both in this country and overseas. I mean those writers, translators and broadcasters who so wholeheartedly and enthusiastically tried for many years to create ‘love for Stalin,’ when this was the official policy of our ill-advised wartime Government and of our military government in Germany. There is no doubt that all those employees were at that time deeply convinced of the absolute correctness of that pro-Stalinist propaganda. How can we expect them to do the exact opposite now?” 29

Epstein made an accurate observation that those in charge of VOA broadcasts, probably even those who later joined communist regimes in Eastern Europe, did not think there was anything wrong about their pro-Stalinist and pro-Communist propaganda. They associated the Soviet Union, Stalin and communism with anti-fascism, social justice, and progress.

Even without the secret State Department memo, there has been already much evidence in the public record for many years showing that in a major collusion with a foreign power ultimately hostile to the United States, Western democracy and liberal values, officials in charge of wartime overseas broadcasts in the Office of War Information coordinated their propaganda with Soviet Union, spread Soviet disinformation, and censored any news unfavorable to the Soviet Union or to its dictatorial communist leader Joseph Stalin. They did it largely on their own without any known U.S. government directives from outside of the organization. While President Roosevelt’s support for Stalin and Soviet Russia during the war and his willingness to betray or abandon America’s smaller allies against Nazi Germany have been well documented, even he eventually lost patience with his own pro-Soviet propagandists at the Voice of America. None of this VOA history, however, has been widely known or analyzed, allowing for the same mistakes and failures of public oversight to be repeated with predictable regularity. Those few who did know about VOA’s less than glorious early history were usually associated in some way with the organization or public diplomacy and had more reasons to suppress such information than to make it public. The Welles’ memo remained undiscovered for decades after its declassification.

The evidence of major Soviet influence within the Voice of America during World War II and VOA’s continued reluctance to fully expose true history of communist human rights abuses in its broadcasts for several years after the war—be it from partisan convictions in an effort to protect the legacy of the Roosevelt administration, ideological convictions to avoid demonizing Soviet Russia, or misplaced fears that telling the whole truth about Stalin’s crimes would immediately cause bloody though fruitless uprisings in Eastern Europe—was temporarily brought to broader public attention mostly by members of Congress in the early 1950s as a result of the Korean War.

A little later, in 1965, President Eisenhower also briefly alluded to VOA’s wartime record of journalistic collusion with Russia in his post-White House years memoirs. As a military leader during World War II, he must have been still upset to have mentioned it years later during the Cold War with the Soviet Union when VOA was already playing a useful although still less than fully effective role in countering Soviet propaganda. General Eisenhower had been actively engaged in earlier efforts to create Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty as more effective media outlets against the Soviet Union. His critical comment appeared in a footnote to a paragraph in which he expressed his own concerns with what he saw as Voice of America’s unethical journalism in support of partisan political advocacy in at least one foreign policy incident during his own administration.

“During World War II the Office of War Information had, on two occasions in foreign broadcasts, opposed actions of President Roosevelt; it ridiculed the temporary arrangement with Admiral Darlan in North Africa and that with Marshal Badoglio in Italy. President Roosevelt took prompt action to stop such insubordination.” 30

President Eisenhower was right. In both cases during World War II, and to a much lesser extent even briefly during his administration, some VOA officials, editors and reporters sought to create and influence news and U.S. policy through through their own ideological commentary rather than merely reporting news. During World War II, General Eisenhower and the Army Intelligence had legitimate concerns that some VOA broadcasters following closely the communist and pro-Soviet line could endanger the lives of American soldiers.

An OWI document with names of top officials in charge of VOA broadcasts. They are not listed in a hierarchical order and are not their actual signatures.

The Voice of America has had an unhappy history of both promoting Soviet propaganda and at times censoring those who tried to expose it, including for several years in the 1970s Russian Nobel Prize writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Much of the censorship first originated in Moscow and was adopted by VOA during World War II. In the spring of 1943, John Houseman and his bosses—Robert E. Sherwood, Joseph Barnes and OWI director Elmer Davis—accepted at face value and repeated one of the greatest Soviet propaganda lies of the 20th century. The Voice of America under their direction became an active participant for several years in what was perhaps the most outrageous Soviet fake news story of World War II and the post-war period.

Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, the OWI initiated overseas VOA broadcasts as well as domestic broadcasts in the United States in support of the blatantly false Soviet propaganda claim that Russia and Joseph Stalin had nothing to do with the brutal mass murder of more than 20 thousand Polish military officers and intellectual leaders held in Soviet captivity since 1939 following the joint German and Soviet partition of Poland. VOA continued to spread Soviet disinformation and suppressed the truth about the Soviet Katyn Forest Massacre despite having been told by the State Department in mid April 1943 that taking sides on the guilt for the slaughter of Polish prisoners of war in Russia would not be advisable. The Voice of America under Houseman, Barnes, Sherwood and Davis opted instead for repeating and amplifying the Soviet propaganda lie on Katyn, which later they claimed did not seem to them as a lie. Robert Sherwood advised VOA broadcasters in his “Weekly Propaganda Directive” dated May 1, 1943 that “some Poles” who did not accept the Soviet explanation, may be cooperating with Hitler in causing division among the allies, even though Poland was a Nazi-occupied country where such cooperation with Nazi Germany on the part of the underground state, its underground army or the government in exile in London was beyond unthinkable.

“Some Poles are consciously or unconsciously cooperating with Hitler in his campaign to spiritually divide the United Nations.” 31

On the Katyn Massacre, however, the Roosevelt White House did not intervene and may have even been secretly pleased with such misleading VOA reporting to protect the U.S.-Soviet war alliance. President Roosevelt and the War Department kept secret U.S. and British intelligence information showing Soviet guilt. It was only when VOA journalists tried to undermine FDR’s own wartime strategy and risked the lives of American soldiers that the White House finally put its foot down. Several OWI officials, including Houseman’s patron Joseph Barnes lost their jobs in the summer of 1943 but even that move by the FDR administration did not have much effect on the largely autonomous and unmonitored federal agency for the next several years.

Contrary to suggestions of officials in Washington trying to suppress legitimate news reporting by wartime Voice of America broadcasters then based in New York, there is no evidence in OWI or State Department files that State Department or the War Department were actively trying to control the content of VOA broadcasts or even paid much attention to them. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursors of the CIA, did pay attention to some extent but most disagreements were resolved and a division of propaganda efforts was agreed upon by the two agencies. The State Department and the War Department generally did nothing to intervene until scandals triggered by VOA’s ideological commentaries forced them to act. These were not cases of U.S. military authorities or U.S. diplomats trying to impose or practice prior censorship of overseas radio broadcasts in a heavy-handed way, as some have suggested, but rather rare and weakly-phrased attempts to prevent the Voice of America from reporting false news and advocating policies favorable to the Soviet Union and the communist movement when higher-level officials in the Roosevelt administration outside of the OWI became aware that they could harm the United States and its fighting forces. There was censorship of purely military information that could prove useful to the enemy.

A previously classified note from the State Department, dated April 22, 1943, was a typical low-key recommendation written in a diplomatic language that pro-Soviet OWI executives and VOA managers and broadcasters simply ignored.

“Mr. Berle:

Mr. [Elbridge] Dubrow said Mr. [Ray] Atherton told him that he thinks the O.W. I. should not get mixed up in this Polish officers question in any way, if it can possibly be helped.”

Elbridge Dubrow and Ray Atherton were high-level State Department officials responsible for European affairs. Adolf Berle was the Assistant Secretary of State.

The State Department was by then aware that the OWI Director, American radio journalist Elmer Davis, and the Voice of America leadership, were already fully engaged in blaming the Katyn massacre on Nazi Germany in domestic radio broadcasts in the United States as well as in overseas VOA broadcasts. If anything, State Department diplomats were trying to tell VOA journalists to practice some journalistic caution, but the pro-Soviet ideologues would not heed their advice. American and foreign audiences were being deceived by both American and Soviet propaganda. In the case of VOA, it was propaganda in the name of the U.S. government paid for American taxpayers but failing to reflect accurately in some cases even the FDR administration’s policies and certainly failing to present all American viewpoints. Elmer Davis’ anti-Nazi commentaries, which included a heavy dose of Soviet propaganda and denials of Stalin’s crimes and his imperialistic intentions, were broadcast by the Voice of America to audiences abroad, as well as on domestic radio networks in the United States. 32

The earlier April 6, 1943 secret memo, believed to be one of the earliest official warnings of communist influence within the Voice of America, was written several days before the OWI ignored the State Department’s cautionary note on the Katyn incident. It informed the FDR White House that the State Department would not issue a U.S. passport to Houseman and also informed the President’s secretary that U.S. military authorities did not want the first VOA director to travel abroad for the duration of the war. Houseman wrote after the war that he had tried to get State Department’s decision reversed by recruiting Robert Sherwood to make an appeal to FDR’s strongly pro-Soviet advisor Harry Hopkins. If such an appeal had been made, it did not succeed. Houseman was convinced that it was Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle who had ruled against him (he gave his title as “Undersecretary of State”). He also blamed the Polish government in exile, Polish Americans and the State Department official in charge of issuing passports who was partly Polish American. He probably did not know that the decision not to send him abroad as a U.S. government representative had been discussed in some detail between the State Department and the White House.

The secret allegations against one of the key persons in charge of U.S. overseas radio broadcasts were in fact sent to the Roosevelt White House by Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, a liberal Democrat. The memo said that it was written in response to an inquiry from the President’s Secretary. Sumner Welles was a Roosevelt loyalist, a close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family, and a distinguished diplomat who held the second highest position in the State Department. At one point he served as the Acting Secretary of State. He also accompanied President Roosevelt on one of his trips abroad. There were reports that FDR preferred Welles over Secretary of State Cordell Hull and only reluctantly accepted his resignation later in 1943 when Welles’ rivals disclosed to the media his homosexual indiscretions, some of which were true although he denied the incident which led to his resignation.

Despite the sexual scandal, Roosevelt and Welles remained in close contact. FDR tried later to revive his career and send him on a diplomatic mission to Moscow as his representative, but Welles declined the offer fearing that it might undermine the position of Secretary Hull even though the two men did get along well when Welles was still with the State Department.

Houseman did not have anywhere near the same professional or social standing as Welles or another one of his critics in the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle, who like Welles was also a close personal friend and advisor to President Roosevelt. There is no evidence that President Roosevelt had ever met the first VOA director. Houseman was, however, a protege of some of FDR’s and Eleanor Roosevelt’s other associates, Robert E. Sherwood and Joseph Barnes, who themselves were strongly pro-Soviet, much more so than even the president and his wife.

There is no evidence in the archival records that any of the top OWI officials were actual Soviet-paid agents of influence. The State Department memo did not allege such a connection. They were rather ideological allies who felt the need to promote a good relationship with Stalin’s Russia and promote its interests, just as today’s corporate businessmen put in charge of U.S. international broadcasting might want to keep a good relationship with Putin’s Russia or with China. Similarly, these highly partisan government executives may want to promote domestic partisan causes, but during World War II, VOA officials and broadcasters favored the policy line from Moscow and its communist movements abroad for ideological rather than partisan, personal or business reasons.

Houseman’s links with the Communist Party prior to his employment with the U.S. government were never fully investigated at the time or afterwards. He somehow escaped Senator McCarthy’s scrutiny who instead focused on his boss Joseph Barnes. In all likelihood, McCarthy did not know of the 1943 State Department memo which listed both Barnes and Houseman as possible communist and Soviet sympathizers, with Barnes being nevertheless given a U.S. passport for his official travel while Houseman’s request was repeatedly denied. Barnes vigorously denied McCarthy’s accusations that he had been a Communist Party member.

In later years, Houseman did not try to hide his collaboration with communist activists, with whom he had worked in his theatrical career in the 1930s, but such information was omitted from books and articles about VOA written by others. In his book, he admitted to receiving political instructions from Communist Party members but never said he was a dues paying Communist. His memoirs, Unfinished Business, include more than a dozen references to his contacts with the U.S. Communist Party. Unlike other progressive Americans who eventually became disillusioned with Stalinism, Houseman never strongly condemned Stalin. In discussing the State Department’s refusal to provide him with a U.S. passport for government travel abroad, he lashed out in his book at his perceived enemies and critics with ethnic stereotypes and unlikely theories.

“To explain this refusal various theories were put forward: one was that Mrs. Shipley, head of the Passport Division, being herself of Polish origin, was taking revenge for the injuries supposedly inflicted on the Polish government-in-exile by the Voice of America. Then, from some mysterious quarter, came the information that I had apparently been confused with Hans Haussmann–a notorious radical, formerly head of the Communist Party in Switzerland.” 33

The State Department memo, however, correctly presented Houseman’s identity and did not directly accuse him of being a Communist Party member in Switzerland or in the United States. Houseman may not have known thatRuth Bielaski Shipley was an American woman of mixed religious background who appears not to have emphasize her ethnic roots in any accessible public comments. One of her uncles was a Polish officer, a friend of President Lincoln who had volunteered for the Union Army and was killed in the Civil War. She was the daughter of a Methodist minister Alexander Bielaski and his wife, Roselle Israel Bielaski, and the first woman to become the head of the Passport Division in the Department of State. 34 Ruth Shipley was indeed notorious during the Cold War for denying U.S. passports for private travel abroad to many U.S. born and naturalized American citizens suspected of being members of the Communist Party on the basis that they presented a risk to U.S. security. Her brother, Alexander Bruce Bielaski, was from 1912 to 1919 the director of the Bureau of Investigation (which was renamed in 1935 on Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI). While being in charge of the Passport Division, Shipley was often criticized for her zeal and her lack of transparency—foreign travel was not yet seen as a constitutional right or accorded due process in passport cases—but in Houseman’s case, it was not a private application but a passport request for official U.S. government travel. She had worked for was was well-regarded at the time by Secretaries of State of Democratic and Republican administrations.

If the Army Intelligence recommended that he not travel abroad as a U.S. government employee, Shipley who was known for her strict observance of rules and regulations would not have thought twice about denying him an official passport if she had been asked to make a decision in his case. She could have been overruled by higher-level State Department officials or the White House if anyone wanted to intervene. If it had been her decision to deny Houseman a diplomatic passport, it was not changed but rather confirmed by officials just below the Secretary of State.

Shipley seemed to have been following not just what where then strict U.S. government rules but also the Roosevelt administration foreign policy. In 1944, she was criticized for issuing a passport to an obscure Polish-American Catholic priest, Father Stanislaus Orlemanski, who went to see Joseph Stalin on a pro-Soviet propaganda trip arranged by the Soviet government. Such a trip had to have had the administration’s initial backing but in the end proved to be controversial. A New York Times article stated that President Roosevelt had to defended Shipley’s decision at a press conference on May 9, 1944 by pointing out that Father Orlemanski’s mission to Moscow was a private trip, and reportedly said, “When anyone has got by Mrs. Shipley,… one can be sure the law has been lived up to.” 35 This controversy erupted already after Houseman’s departure from the OWI. Robert Sherwood and his colleagues wanted badly to exploit the priest’s trip for propaganda purposes to show that there is freedom of religion in Soviet Russia and that the fear of Russia and communism are misplaced. 36 To their great disappointment, the Office of War Information in Washington advised Sherwood, then based in London to coordinate American and Soviet propaganda, that too much U.S. government’s publicity for Father Orlemanski’s trip to Russia would not be advisable. Sherwood responded in a confidential cable, “We are eager to learn the cause for not playing up Orlemanski, which I feel is material which is most effective for fighting the bogey of Bolshevism.” 37 Sherwood’s faith in Stalin’s deceptive propaganda appeared unshakable.

Had Ruth Shipley been alive when Houseman published his memoirs, she would have probably ignored his attack on her professional integrity. She was one of the pioneer Civil Service carreer women in the U.S. government who had reached a high-level executive position. In 1937, she altered the Passport Division’s policies and began issuing passports in a married woman’s maiden name alone if she requested it, no longer followed by the phrase “wife of”. She noted that the passports of married men never carried “husband of” as further identification. There is no denial, however, that she had refused to issue passports for private travel or delayed their issuance to many completely innocent Left-leaning Americans, including some Hollywood figures. Houseman’s case was, however, different from theirs because of his official government position.

Even though no formal accusations of being a member of the Communist Party or any other kind were ever publicly made against Houseman, many years after the war he still felt the need to defend his good name while at the same time lashing out at his past anti-communist critics who by then were dead or have forgotten about him as a relatively minor figure in the Roosevelt administration. There is no record that Shipley had ever made any public comments about Houseman and his denied passport request.

In a later edition of his memoirs, titled Unfinished Business, Houseman claimed that the head of Army Intelligence (G-2) Major General George Veazey Strong met with him in early April 1943 and assured him he found no evidence in his records of “disloyalty or subversion.” Houseman admitted, however, that the general disapproved of him holding a sensitive government position. 38 Houseman wrote that he was made to wait for more than an hour in the outer office of General Strong, who was “courteous and pleasant” but was concerned about him being in “a sensitive wartime position” as a man who “until two weeks ago had been an enemy alien.”

It seems unlikely that the head of U.S. Army Intelligence would have been so limited as to suspect a man of partial Jewish background, having French and British parents, who only had lived in Romania the first four years of his life, was educated in England and held a British passport, of being a secret fascist or a potential spy for the fascist governments of Romania or Nazi Germany. As an expert propagandist, Houseman was most likely exploiting the “enemy alien” narrative to hide the real reasons for General Strong’s and the State Department’s concerns: his links with the Communist Party, extreme pro-Soviet sympathies and VOA broadcasts in line with Soviet propaganda that threatened the lives of American soldiers. There is a definite trend in Houseman’s autobiography to attribute blame for mistakes and nefarious motives to others, both to his friends and to his critics. He also tends to portray himself as a victim of prejudice while liberally making prejudicial statements about others.

The G-2 Army Intelligence was not radically anti-Soviet during the war. After the war, members of Congress heard secret testimony that “quite a number of employees in G-2 who were suspected of Communist or leftwing sympathies were transferred to the Counter-Intelligence Agency.” A bipartisan committee suspected General Strong’s successor at G-2 of having destroyed evidence pointing to Soviet responsibility for the Katyn Massacre and recommended a thorough investigation. 39 The U.S. Military Intelligence authorities’ concerns about Houseman in 1943 were probably not related to any suspicions of espionage but most likely to VOA’s propaganda under his watch. 40 The committee’s conclusion was that “the course of our governmental policy toward Soviet Russia might have been more realistic with more fortunate postwar results” if the American public were not deceived by the various wartime agencies of the Executive Branch. 41 A major part of the deception abroad was done through the Voice of America by its pro-Soviet officials and broadcasters.

Even Houseman admitted in his book that “General Eisenhower was heard to complain that the Voice of America was doing more harm to the Expeditionary [U.S. military forces abroad] than to enemy morale.” 42 It was a devastating condemnation of VOA’s wartime role, which General Eisenhower confirmed in his 1965 memoirs after leaving the White House. While in office, President Eisenhower delivered a speech through the Voice of America in 1957 in observance of VOA’s fifteenth anniversary. He condemned communists who “think that a few theorists and rulers know what is best for everyone.” Notably, he did not offer any great praise for the Voice of America, which other U.S. presidents including Ronald Reagan generally did, noting in only one sentence that VOA “has been bringing to people everywhere the facts about world events, and about America’s policy in relation to these events.” 43 In his 1965 book, General Eisenhower chose to emphasize the damage done by VOA broadcasts while he was the Allied commander in North Africa.

Houseman indirectly confirmed that VOA broadcasters worked against the strategy approved by President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower when he wrote in his autobiography that “Shocked and disillusioned by the political compromises being made in North Africa by the State Department and the Armed Forces, Sherwood’s idealists did not hesitate to express their dissenting voices.” 44 He did not elaborate that Sherwood’s idealists were also his idealists in the Radio Bureau and that he himself was among them. Their broadcasts against General Eisenhower’s deal with French Admiral Darlan could have easily prolonged the battle in North Africa and cost the lives of many American and British soldiers. Pro-Soviet VOA’s government-employed and government-paid propagandists under Sherwood’s, Barnes’ and Houseman’s direction were playing a dangerous game of journalistic advocacy. General Eisenhower and President Roosevelt had good reasons to be upset.

Houseman tried to counter Eisenhower’s criticism by noting in his autobiography that at another time the general “invited the help of the Voice of America in launching a major propaganda assault on the Axis.” 45 Houseman did not note whether Eisenhower was pleased with VOA’s anti-Axis propaganda efforts. VOA’s pro-Soviet “idealists” were also later undermining U.S. military strategy in Italy.

History has shown that VOA’s propaganda did not work to any larger degree on the Germans or the Japanese. They fought to the bitter end and gave up only after Hitler’s suicide and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Idealism that recognizes one dictator while helping another brutal dictator to impose a genocidal political system on millions of people was not a good excuse for U.S. government officials in charge of the wartime Voice of America. The addendum to Welles’ memo simply said that the U.S. military agreed with the State Department’s assessment of Houseman’s usuitability for foreign travel on behalf of the U.S. government but provided no further details.

General Strong died in 1946. By the time Houseman published his book, the content of General Strong’s 1943 conversation with Houseman could not have been confirmed by him, but in all likelihood the general was not primarily concerned with Houseman’s immigration status, which by then was already resolved, his former “enemy alien” designation if there was one and which also would have been resolved by then, or his ethnic background, but rather by what risk he could have posed in his role at the Voice of America. There is no record that President Roosevelt knew about Houseman’s passport case, had personally intervened on his behalf or tried to save him from losing his job, but FDR or Harry Hopkins may have ordered the President’s Secretary to do a routine check with the State Department. If FDR were involved with this issue, he seemed to have sided with his Under Secretary of State by not reaching out to Mrs. Shipley, whom he knew, or ordering others to get the decision on Houseman’s passport application reversed.

After Houseman’s departure, VOA’s pro-Soviet propaganda and coordination of propaganda with Moscow continued under OWI’s Robert E. Sherwood. He and OWI director Elmer Davis later got into a major disagreement and were told by FDR to resolve their differences. Sherwood was sent to London with the approval from both the White House and the State Department to continue coordinating U.S. wartime propaganda with the British government and the Soviet Embassy in the U.K. Among its many uses, the OWI was during the war a place for rewarding the president’s loyalists with frequent foreign and domestic travel.

Not all the allegations in the 1943 State Department memo about Houseman and other OWI employees can be taken at face value, but this was by no means a partisan anti-communist witch hunt conducted for publicity purposes. Sumner Welles and other top State Department diplomats were not demagogue politicians like Senator Joseph McCarthy who much later made mostly baseless and often ruinous allegations, although not against John Houseman who by then was no longer in the center of public attention as a political figure or even as one of the famous Hollywood figures at that time. It is still, however, somewhat surprising that he had avoided McCarthy’s scrutiny while many innocent Hollywood writers, actors and producers were among his victims in the early 1950s.

It was a different kind of concern and scrutiny in 1943. The authors of the 1943 memo, which was marked “Secret and Personal,” were themselves Democrats and some of America’s most elite diplomats. Theirs was an earnest attempt to protect the Democratic administration of President Roosevelt from what they saw was an out of control and unaccountable group of ideological activists in charge of Voice of America overseas broadcasting and domestic propaganda. Their concerns were valid but could not be made in public for fear of embarrassing the administration and the Soviet Union, a valuable and indispensable military ally. In appears that in his remarkably honest memo for a State Department diplomat in such a situation, Sumner Welles was attempting to protect the administration from being exploited by the Soviets through gullible U.S. government officials and employees. At the same time, Welles and other State Department diplomats continued to implement FDR’s pro-Soviet policies which ultimately resulted in Stalin taking control of East Central Europe and imposing communist dictatorship in the region. Their enthusiasm in supporting such policies may not have been nearly the same as FDR’s but they carried out his policy and did not try to sabotage it.

Not all the allegations listed in the other parts of the State Department memo were confirmed or were even credible, but many were true. One particular charge in the memo, that Native Son by Richard Wright might have been somehow un-American, was clearly wrong. Despite his early fascination with communism, many of Richard Wright’s books were later seen as having a strong humanistic and ultimately anti-communist message. Richard Wright was a major American writer. Some of his early books were written while Wright had a close association with other American as well as European communists. His later books were published after he broke with the Communist Party and publicly condemned Stalinism. Some American communists attacked him for being African American and not ideologically pure and loyal to the Communist Party. What John Houseman did in his adaptation of Wright’s book for a theatrical play was to censor it apparently in order to hide an unappealing character who was a Communist. Similarly, the Voice of America under his watch during World War II censored the news to remove negative information about the Soviet Union and presented Stalin as a democrat, not a dictator to be feared but deserving of America’s and world’s admiration and support.

There is no indication in the archives whether FDR was shown the State Department memo or how he might have reacted to it, but Houseman did not get a U.S. passport and soon resigned from the Radio Bureau of the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information. Others in charge of wartime Voice of America, however, continued to promote Soviet interests at the expense of supporters of democracy and other U.S. allies. They misled audiences abroad as well as Americans, and covered up Stalin’s genocidal crimes. Sumner Welles’ memo accurately predicted that it might happen.

The U.S. Under Secretary of State’s observations about communists in the wartime Voice of America also seem especially significant in light of some of the current questions many Americans have whether the U.S. government knows how to respond to Russian propaganda and attempts to manipulate American voters with ad-boosted Facebook posts and other digital media strategies not available to the Soviets in the 1940s and during the Cold War. One of the consequences of McCarthyism is that no one dares to ask whether Vladimir Putin’s secret services and those of China, Iran, Cuba and other countries are working to place their agents of influence in the United States, including the Voice of America, although Iranian Americans and Chinese Americans have started recently to ask such questions with regard to VOA. 46

The 1943 State Department memo is a timely warning about U.S. government officials and government-employed journalists who for either ideological, partisan or business reasons may be compromised in carrying out their duties. It includes one of the best descriptions of how Soviet propaganda and disinformation worked then in an eerily similar fashion to how Russian propaganda and disinformation are employed now against democratic governments and democratic elections.

“The records of the men involved seem to indicate that should there be a divergence between the policy of the States and the policy of Soviet Russia, these men, with a large degree of control of the American machinery of war making, would probably follow the line taken by Russia, rather than the line taken by the United States.”

The 1943 State Department memo also warned:

“It has been the theory of this Department that, outside of Soviet Russia, most of the groups struggling for expression desire freedom and a chance to find their own way, and that they have looked to the United States, rather than to the Russian collectivism, as offering the hope of achieving both social advance and individual freedom. The concern which we have is that the men asked to state, represent and carry out American policy shall be men who both understand that policy, and will be loyal to it, rather than to any outside connection.”

The 1943 Sumner Welles’ State Department memo also included a prophetic warning in light of the 2016 Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign targeting American voters to change their views about American politicians disliked by the Kremlin.

“They have included a continued and bitter hostility to the Government of General Vargas in Brazil; to the present Peruvian Government; and to a considerable number of officials in the United States Government who are deemed inconvenient.”

The memo charged that Houseman was “Said to have been responsible for placing Communists in key position in foreign radio sections of OWI [Office of War Information].”

The memo also commented on the fascination of some American liberals for Soviet communism and urged finding other liberal individuals—not communist sympathizers—to be put in charge of U.S. government programs.

“If it is desired to give a distinctly liberal cast to these organisations, it would seem possible to find men who are liberal in the light of their own conviction, and of the American ideal, rather than men who have, for one reason or another, elected to give expression to their liberalism primarily by joining Communist front organizations, and apparently sacrificing their independence of thought and action to the direction of a distinctly European movement.”

While there was no proof that Houseman was a member of the Communist Party, the charge that Communists and Soviet sympathizers were preparing wartime Voice of America broadcasts under his direction and that some of OWI senior officials were Soviet sympathizers has been well documented. Not all VOA World War II broadcasts contained falsehoods–most did not, and VOA did not lie about U.S. military defeats in World War II–but many VOA wartime broadcasts were anti-journalistic, anti-democratic and strongly pro-Soviet.

VOA programs at that time and after John Houseman’s resignation were viewed as particularly harmful by various governments-in-exile opposed to the Nazis. VOA either ignored these governments, by not reporting on their statements and explanations and refusing to interview their representatives, or repeated false Soviet charges against them. Non-communist resistance fighters and audiences throughout Europe found Soviet propaganda in VOA programs particularly offensive and complained about censorship. Czesław Straszewicz, a Polish journalist based in London during the war, wrote in the 1950s about the harsh negative impact of VOA’s pro-Kremlin wartime broadcasts on the audience in Nazi-occupied Poland and among the Poles abroad.

“With genuine horror we listened to what the Polish language programs of the Voice of America (or whatever name they had then), in which in line with what [the Soviet news agency] TASS was communicating, the Warsaw Uprising was being completely ignored.” 47

After the war, several of VOA’s foreign language broadcasters and their spouses left the United States to work for the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, some of them taking on roles as anti-American propagandists. One such communist propaganda expert, Stefan Arski (aka Artur Salman), had worked on VOA’s Polish desk during the war. In 1947, the Washington Embassy of the Polish communist government published a political pamphlet written by Arski. He promptly joined the Communist Party in Poland. Another journalist, who later became a communist diplomat, Dr. Adolf Hofmeister, had been in charge of VOA’s wartime broadcasts to Czechoslovakia. He also joined the Communist Party but later had a falling out with the regime. It is not known whether Houseman had hired these two men, but they had worked on VOA programs under his watch.

Soviet propaganda triumphed at the Voice of America during World War II. Most historians writing about VOA have never acknowledged the power of Soviet influence within the Office of War Information and at the Voice of America in its early years. This unpleasant history was being ignored, hidden and replaced with a narrative that from its very beginning the Voice of America operated under the slogan: “The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.” Those words were indeed spoken by William Harlan Hale in the very first VOA German broadcast in 1942. They were not always followed although on balance the overall contribution of the Voice of America was most definitely on the side of human rights, freedom and democracy. The criticism of VOA’s management and some of its journalists during various periods in its history should not detract from the organization’s overall positive role in support of press freedom during most of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, most history books about VOA present John Houseman as a noble figure while paying little attention to many journalists from East and Central Europe, Russia, and China and other communist-ruled countries who after the war were responsible for making the Voice of America successful in the information war with the Soviet Union. One of them was the legendary former anti-Nazi fighter Zofia Korbonska who during the war sent coded radio messages from Nazi-occupied Poland to London warning about the ongoing extermination of Jews. Among wartime failures of the Voice of America was not paying much attention to the news of the Holocaust, which was noted by historian Holly Cowan Shulman. 48

Other authors writing about the Voice of America were concerned about President Ronald Reagan whose administration was responsible for removing the last remains of pro-Soviet censorship introduced by John Houseman, his bosses and some the broadcasters they had hired. Alan L. Heil, Jr., who had worked for VOA from 1962 in editorial and executive positions until he retired in 1998, described in his Voice of America: A History how Houseman became a hero of the anti-Reagan VOA broadcasters, almost all of whom in the 1980s were American-born and trained journalists working at the VOA newsroom and producing VOA English-language programs.

“Hollywood’s celebrated film producer John Houseman, who, as head of the overseas radio production section of the Office of War Information, could be considered the first VOA director, came back for its fortieth-anniversary celebration on February 24 [1982]. He reminded the packed auditorium that honest reporting had been the key to the Voice’s credibility when the tide turned in the direction of an Allied victory at the end of World War II. That underlying theme sustained VOA through the difficult winter of 1981/1982.” 49

Ironically, the suspicion of unreliability, propaganda and journalistic bias was directed by some management figures in later years of VOA’s existence largely against anti-communist East European broadcasters who had worked on reversing John Houseman’s legacy of ideological activist journalism in the interest of a foreign power. Alan Heil described some of these anti-communist East European broadcasters as “a vocal minority” which advocated for stridency.

“a vocal minority in the language services, mostly East European in origin, [who] agreed with the Reagan appointees that VOA programming should be more strident against the Soviet Union.” 50

These anti-communist VOA refugee journalists were in many cases victims of FDR’s and VOA’s earlier betrayal of their countries and democracy in FDR’s misguided attempt to appease Stalin. They were journalists, writers, intellectuals and artists. Some of them had been held in communist prisons but most did not see themselves as being particularly strident. They also did not see themselves as being a minority among the East European broadcasters at VOA but rather as a majority sharing similar views about communism. During much of the Cold War, they struggled against the reluctant management to call a spade a spade in reporting on the Soviet Union. To many of them, the first years of the Reagan administration, described by Reagan’s critics at VOA as “the difficult winter of 1981/1982” seemed exhilaratingly liberating.

Writing about the early period of the Reagan administration at the Voice of America, Heil who mentioned some of their grievances against the previous management also hinted at other possible motivations of the East European broadcasters.

“A few of the language service activists saw an opportunity to enhance their influence or even gain appointment to senior Voice positions.” 51

Rising of language service activists to senior positions at VOA, if any of the foreign language broadcasters had such ambitions, did not happen even at that time as the Reagan administration brought into VOA its own people from outside of the organization, many of whom did well while a few others did not.

In his memoirs, Houseman had his own descriptions of VOA’ pre-Cold War broadcasters. He did not present them as communists, communist sympathizers, fellow traveler idealists, liberals, admirers of Soviet Russia and Joseph Stalin, which many of them were. He called them “intelligent and cultivated men and women” although exhibiting “the diversity of ethnic prejudices and passions retained and intensified in exile.” His harshest description was reserved for the Poles but presumably not the ones who prepared pro-Soviet broadcasts to Poland at his direction.

“Why were the Poles, after centuries of partition and suffering, riddled with anti-Semitism and obsessed by mad dreams of a greater Poland?” 52

These comments made by Houseman in the 1989 edition of his autobiography, the year in which Poland finally regained its sovereignty and independence, were nearly the same as some of the Soviet propaganda accusations of the World War II period hurled against the non-communist Poles in the Polish government in exile and the anti-Nazi underground state and resistance in Poland.

If there were Poles of Houseman’s description working at VOA during World War II, they were not in charge of VOA programs. Those programs supported the transfer of formerly Polish but ethnically largely Ukrainian, Belorussian and Lithuanian territories to a greater Soviet Union. His comments showed that he believed the Soviet Union would provide these nationalities and people of Eastern Europe with greater freedom, tolerance and social justice and perhaps held on to that belief after the war.

In his book, Houseman also made a rather incredulous claim that no major security breaches were ever discovered among wartime VOA personnel.

“It has never ceased to surprise me that no major security breach was ever discovered among our heterogeneous personnel. God knows there were plenty of people who would have been delighted to find and expose it–among them the Roosevelt-haters in Congress and the disgruntled exiles who felt they should have a greater say in the broadcasts beamed at their own countries.” 53

The “disgruntle exile” description seemed to have been favored by Elmer Davis and John Houseman who himself was an exile. Houseman did not mention VOA’s key language service staffers Stefan Arski and Adolf Hofmeister who after the war went to work for communist regimes. Houseman’s boss, Elmer Davis, admitted to members of Congress that during the war he himself fired several communists. Actual Soviet intelligence agents were not identified or caught during the war, but it was proven later that a few had worked for the OWI. The Venona project, a U.S. counterintelligence program of gathering Soviet secret signal traffic that ran from February 1, 1943 and was unknown even to President Roosevelt, contains the unidentified cover names of several Soviet espionage contacts in the Office of War Information. One Soviet agent in the OWI identified by name was Flora Wovschin who had worked there from September 1943 until February 1945 and continued working for the U.S. government at the State Department until September 1945. She is believed later to have fled to the Soviet Union. 54 The vast majority of OWI employees were not linked in any way with the Communist Party or espionage, but many of them through their idealism and lack of journalistic skepticism and skills still helped the Soviet Union advance its ideological and geopolitical agenda.

Historically, most of the damage to VOA’s journalistic mission was done by pro-Soviet rather than anti-Soviet government executives and journalists. It was toward the end of World War II, when propagandists working for VOA were most active in defending Stalin, covering up his crimes, ignoring anti-Nazi, anti-communist democratic movements in Eastern Europe and actually helping him with their propaganda impose communist governments in the region. Unfortunately, when it comes to discussing the future of the organization and efforts to counter current Russian, Chinese or Iranian propaganda, there is still a wall of silence around this topic.

The historic betrayal of democracy and good journalism by the early Voice of America, which in the later years of the Cold War became one of America’s most important tools in support of democracy and freedom, is still being ignored even though it has been well documented in such public sources as the Congressional Record of the 1940s and the 1950s. As the Cold War with the Soviet Union intensified, it was not convenient to bring up such history, but some writers, even those familiar with Houseman’s own memoirs, may have intentionally avoided presenting his full background. They created a myth around him and wartime VOA for their own ideological or professional reasons, which ultimately caused more harm than good. They did not mention OWI’s wartime propaganda films in support of incarcerating U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry in internment camps nor OWI’s illegal attempts to censor domestic U.S. media and provide it instead with Soviet propaganda full of disinformation. 55 Such selective presentation of VOA’s early history is still preventing an honest re-examination of the past in light of today’s propaganda from countries like Russia, China, Iran or Cuba. The lack of knowledge or distorted knowledge of the history of the Voice of America make reforms of U.S. information outreach abroad more difficult and more elusive. Few Americans know that as a result of the domestic propaganda abuses by the OWI during the war, the 1948 law, the Smith-Mundt Act, was passed partly to prevent Voice of America officials and broadcasters from propagandizing in the United States. Some of the restrictions of the Smith-Mundt Act were lifted a few years ago with some public notice that Americans may once again be more exposed to partisan propaganda from the Executive Branch and possibly also foreign propaganda infiltrated into VOA online and broadcast content.

Twenty-eight years ago, at least one scholar alluded, although still rather briefly, to VOA’s beginnings as a pro-Soviet and extreme-Left propaganda outlet. Holly Cowan Shulman, who is the daughter of one of the early VOA directors, Louis G. Cowan, and the sister of a later VOA director, Geoffrey Cowan, wrote about the Voice of America propagandists in her book The Voice of America: Propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945 published in 1990 by The University of Wisconsin Press.

“Sherwood, Barnes, Wartburg, and Johnson, and their like-minds colleagues the Overseas Branch [OWI’s Voice of America] believed that propaganda could mold and influence foreign policy. Propaganda, in other words, was not merely an expression of policy made by others. The propagandists believed they could make their own version of American foreign policy come true. They believed they were right; they argued that they understood the foreign influence of American policy ways that the State Department, and even the president, did not; and they used the Voice of America to enter the foreign policy debate between members of the Roosevelt’s administration.” 56

Schulman’s assessment is in line with WWII-era Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle’s recollections in his memoirs published in 1973 that World War II OWI and VOA officials were “following an extreme left-wing line in New York, without bothering to integrate their views with the State Department.” 57

Berle was referring specifically to the July 25, 1943 Voice of America broadcast in which King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy who wanted to end his country’s alliance with Hitler–a major political and military objective of both the United States and Great Britain but not viewed with approval by Stalin or Italian communists–was called the “moronic little King.” Even a year later, Arthur Krock who was the Washington bureau chief for the New York Times and a frequent and severe critic of the Office of War Information wrote that the parent agency which managed VOA spoke with an “‘ideology’ that conforms much more closely to the Moscow than to the Washington-London line.”

In this instance, Voice of America leaders were rebuked by President Roosevelt, and some, including Joseph Barnes, were fired or told to resign. By August 1, 1943 John Houseman was no longer a U.S. government employee. Arthur Krock wrote his comment about the OWI a full year after John Houseman was forced to resign as VOA director and was replaced as the head of the Radio Bureau by Lou Cowan. In his book, Houseman claimed that he had resigned on his own but admitted that had he stayed he would have been fired. A few weeks before the forced departure of Houseman and later Barnes, Berle was one of the State Department officials who had tried but failed to prevent the Voice of America from going full-speed with the Soviet propaganda lie on the Katyn Forest Massacre.

The cover-up of Stalin’s crimes by the Voice of America did not stop with the war’s end. The abolishment of the Office of War Information by President Truman and the transfer of the Voice of America to the State Department in September 1945 ended some of the most blatant pro-Soviet U.S. propaganda broadcasts, but reluctance to expose Stalinist atrocities continued through the end of 1940s and even into the early 1950s.

Severe bipartisan criticism in the U.S. Congress finally forced State Department officials and managers in charge of the Voice of America to do more honest reporting on the Soviet Union and the Communist Block starting in 1951/1952. There was censorship of U.S. radio programs from New York and Washington in later years by State Department and subsequently United States Information Agency (USIA) officials, but some of the greatest ideologues, censors and promoters of Soviet interests in Voice of America’s early history were not the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon but VOA’s own ideologically-driven and largely unaccountable senior managers, editors and journalists, including John Houseman. The limiting of reporting on the Katyn Forest Massacre and other Soviet atrocities came to an end at the Voice of America only during the Ronald Reagan administration. At different times before that, the restrictions on the Katyn story varied from the most severe to relatively minor.

After the war, Adolf A. Berle served on the Board of Directors overseeing Radio Free Europe (RFE) from its beginning until 1963. Unlike VOA, RFE never censored the Katyn Massacre story and gave it full reporting. Julius Epstein who helped to expose VOA’s early pro-Soviet propaganda and censorship was attacked in the early 1950s by VOA executives, who were by then State Department diplomats, as “a disgruntled job-seeker who has proven himself to be an irresponsible promoter, an unscrupulous opportunist and a consistent liar” and “not … best type of new American citizen.” 58 Epstein and others managed, however, to convince members of Congress to launch in 1951 a bipartisan investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre which also focused on VOA’s wartime and post-war failures. The so-called Madden Committee, named after its chairman, Congressman Ray Madden (D-IN), concluded that while some measures taken by the Office of War Information could be excused as a wartime necessity, American officials and VOA journalists mislead the American public and foreign audiences about the true nature of the Soviet regime thus preventing a more pragmatic policy from being adopted. Considering the cost of the failure of the Yalta Agreement, it was a profoundly serious charge that was never answered and was quickly forgotten.

“The Katyn investigation revealed that many individuals throughout the State Department, Army Intelligence (G-2), Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission, and other Government agencies, failed to properly evaluate the material being received from our sources overseas. In many instances, this information was deliberately withheld from public attention and knowledge. There was a definite lack of coordination on intelligence matters between Army Intelligence (G-2) and the State Department, at least as far as the missing Polish officers and the Katyn massacre was concerned.

The possibility exists that many second-echelon personnel, who were overly sympathetic to the Russian cause or pro-Communist minded, attempted to cover up derogatory reports which were received concerning the Soviets.” 59

The Madden Committee also said in its “Final Report”:

“Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951.” 60

The bipartisan congressional committee added:

“This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.” 61

But even the Madden Committee was not made aware in 1951 and 1952 of many secret U.S government diplomatic cables and other communications which showed the extent to which Robert E. Sherwood, a “Founding Father” of the Voice of America, and other Office of War Information officials, including John Houseman, coordinated VOA’s wartime propaganda with Soviet propaganda and became advocates for Stalin’s plans for the domination of Eastern Europe.

Wider public disclosure of the previously secret State Department memo may be yet another blow to several decades of claims by a few former Voice of America officials and journalists who still maintain that John Houseman had been a historic figure, an outstanding first VOA Director and an ardent supporter of truthful and objective news reporting 62, although he himself referred to his wartime government work as “propaganda” and “psychological warfare” operations. 63 In the 1972 first edition of his memoir, published under the title Run-through, Houseman referred to his “latest and strangest adventure” at the Voice of America as being appointed to be “Chief of radio propaganda for the United States Government in the Second World War.” 64

In the early 1980s, in what may have been an attempt to discredit President Reagan’s plans for the Voice of America, Houseman claimed that truthful news reporting had been of paramount importance during his VOA directorship. The Reagan administration increased funding to strengthen U.S. international broadcasting, but it also moved to replace some of the VOA managers who opposed the use of blunt but accurate terms to describe the reality of Soviet communism. Reagan’s appointees at VOA also helped to remove the last vestiges of pro-Soviet censorship which Houseman and his associates had put in place during World War II.

The first VOA director had escaped any public criticism in later years for his manipulation of VOA news in favor of Soviet Russia. Most VOA employees and Reagan administration-appointed managers had no idea about Houseman’s pro-Soviet legacy at VOA. Former VOA journalists such as Zofia Korbonska, or Julius Epstein who had warned about “love for Stalin” among some the early VOA executives and broadcasters, were completely forgotten. 65

At the beginning of the second year of the Reagan administration, John Houseman was invited in February 1982 to speak at the VOA’s 40th anniversary observances in Washington, DC. The man who had been one of those in charge of wartime VOA broadcasts which perpetuated the most outlandish Soviet propaganda lies, including the main one about the Katyn Forest Massacre, told the audience of VOA journalists in the packed auditorium that “honest reporting had been the key to the Voice’s credibility” during World War II. 66

The man from Hollywood, who at one time had helped Stalin achieve his goals in Eastern Europe, gave advice on good journalism to the applause of VOA managers and reporters, very few of whom knew anything about his pro-Soviet propaganda in VOA’s first years. Some of those who did know about Houseman’s ideological legacy were among those opposed to changes being implemented at VOA by the Reagan administration and were not about to tell anyone the real story of his wartime years.

“We would have to report our reverses without weaseling,” Houseman stressed, speaking about VOA’s early promise to broadcast both good news and bad news. 67

Listening in the audience were VOA Polish Service and other East European broadcasters, some of whom had to leave their country as refugees when the communist regime took power at the end of World War II. The 1945 Yalta Agreement was a historic and personal reversal for many of them, as well as a few years later for VOA broadcasters from some of the communist-ruled countries in Asia, Africa and Cuba. The communist takeover most likely could not have been avoided in the case of Eastern Europe due to Soviet military occupation, but it was made easier for Stalin and the local communists by the appeasement policy of the Roosevelt administration supported by even more pro-Soviet Voice of America radio broadcasts.

Houseman’s appearance at VOA’s 40th anniversary observances were the final propaganda triumph of the man who appeared not to feel any qualms. Through no effort of his own, but thanks to the help of a few of his admirers at VOA, Houseman became a symbol and a rallying point for the purity of Voice of America journalism. The truth is that at the outset of the Reagan administration, as well as now, no responsible expert or official contemplated using strident propaganda over good objective journalism at the Voice of America, but partisans have always attempted to present such stark choices to elicit sympathy for themselves and support for their cause.

In 1982, the Voice of America gave John Houseman Special Founder’s Award with the following wording most likely suggested by intellectual admirers:

“As one of the founders, you gave the young Voice of America the unique stamp of your creative energies. On VOA’s 40th Anniversary we salute your efforts.”

The unique stamp had the words “pro-Soviet” written all over it, but except for Houseman and perhaps one or two individuals in the audience, no one else had any idea how VOA under his command had done its work for Stalin during World War II. Most of VOA’s East European broadcasters and Ronald Reagan had a much better insight into what kind of journalism it would take to topple peacefully the Soviet Union than some of Houseman’s fans at VOA. Those few who knew about his pro-Soviet and pro-communist views while serving as the first VOA director seemed to have been less bothered by it than by Reagan’s “evil empire” speech which filled them with horror. It was yet another propaganda triumph for John Houseman, the celebrated actor of many different roles.

During the same ceremony, Willis Conover received a special recognition award for his jazz programs, the Lao Service received a Meritorious Honor Award, and several other journalists and employees also received honor awards. A Superior Honor Award went to the Polish Service:

“For exceptional service, professionalism, and devotion to duty in the preparation of Voice of America broadcasts to the people of Poland.”

Freed from the restrictions of the previous management, these outstanding Polish American journalists were working to outdo the damage of the pro-Soviet propaganda legacy initiated by Houseman and his wartime team. Thanks to President Reagan, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, and to some degree the new VOA management and reinvigorated VOA broadcasts, Soviet domination and communism in Poland collapsed by the end of the decade. A few years after John Houseman delivered his speech at the Voice of America, the nightmarish experiment with communism in East-Central Europe was finally over.

Ted Lipien was VOA acting associate director in charge of central news programs before his retirement in 2006. In the 1970s, he worked as a broadcaster in the VOA Polish Service and was a reporter and service chief in the 1980s during Solidarity’s struggle for democracy in Poland. He is one of the co-founders of Free Media Online and the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) as well as a cofounder and supporter of BBG Watch whose volunteers monitor management and performance of taxpayer-funded Voice of America and other U.S. government-run media operations within the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). He is the author of “Wojtyla’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church,” O-Books, UK, 2008.

###

THE UNDER SECRETARY Of STATE

WASHINGTON

April 6, 1943

Dear Marvin:

I am sending you herewith. In accordance with our recent telephone conversation, a memorandum prepared in the Department of State covering some of the cases which you mentioned.

I think this memorandum will give you some of the key cases of the kind you had in mind, but there are others which may be brought to the President’s attention if he desires to go into the matter more fully.

Believe me

Yours very sincerely,

[Signature of Sumner Welles]

Honorable Marvin H. McIntyre
Secretary to the President,
The White House

[Stamped “DECLASSIFIED” …]

[State Dept. letter 7-15-75]
[…Date 5-20-76]

April 5, 1943

Memorandum

The following is a record of the activities of twenty-four individuals designated to be sent out on missions of importance by various agencies of the United States Government. Of these, nineteen, being the great majority, were selected by the Office of War Information, the Board of Economic Warfare, and by the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.

All of these individuals are reported to have been actively connected either with the Communist movement, or with organisations for liberal purposes commonly known as “front” organizations, whose impetus came from Communist sources.

It is recognized that mere membership in a “front” organisation does not itself prove that the individual was a Communist or under Communist control, since sincere liberals have frequently joined these organizations. But practically every informed investigator has developed the fact that the Communist underground organization in America has made a practice of using these “causes” and “front” organizations as a means of interfiltrating [sic] into various positions men who could be counted upon to obey implicitly directives given by the Communist Party officials.

It is further clear that the Communist Party is only secondarily interested in Communism as such, either for the United States or elsewhere. Its primary activity consists in supporting the interests of the Soviet Government, irrespective of whether these interests happen to coincide with the interests of the United States or not. Thus, the directives given do not limit themselves to endeavoring to assure a Russian victory, which is in the intereet of the United States, and towards which every possible activity of the Department is directed. They also include a variety of objectives directed at various times against General Sikorski and the Polish Government; General Mikhailovich, in Yugoslavia; the British Government in India; General Franco’s Government in Spain; against the possible survival of the Baltic republics; against the possible assimilation of the Social Democrats in Italy; and against the unification of the French under auspices other than those supported by the Communist Party, which happens to be, at the moment, General de Gaulle. They have included a continued and bitter hostility to the Government of General Vargas in Brazil; to the present Peruvian Government; and to a considerable number of officials in the United States Government who are deemed inconvenient.

These activities ars stated to be in the interest of the submerged classes in all of the various countries.

The reality which emerges, however, is invariably a Party movement, or (as in Croatia), a puppet government, following the orders of Soviet Russia, which not infrequently has led to the complete submergence of the country involved. At various times Soviet policy has not only diverged from, but has directly opposed that of the United States, notably, between 1939 and 1941, when the Soviet Government was supporting and working with the German espionage and the German fifth column activities.

The records of the men involved seem to indicate that should there be a divergence between the policy of the States and the policy of Soviet Russia, these men, with a large degree of control of the American machinery of war making, would probably follow the line taken by Russia, rather than the line taken by the United
States.

If it is desired to give a distinctly liberal cast to these organisations, it would seem possible to find men who are liberal in the light of their own conviction, and of the American ideal, rather than men who have, for one reason or another, elected to give expression to their liberalism primarily by joining Communist front organizations, and apparently sacrificing their independence of thought and action to the direction of a distinctly European movement.

It has been the theory of this Department that, outside of Soviet Russia, most of the groups struggling for expression desire freedom and a chance to find their own way, and that they have looked to the United States, rather than to the Russian collectivism, as offering the hope of achieving both social advance and individual freedom. The concern which we have is that the men asked to state, represent and carry out American policy shall be men who both understand that policy, and will be loyal to it, rather than to any outside connection.

OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION

Passports Issued

Around the world with Wilkie

BARNES, Joseph Fels – born Montclair, New Jersey July 21, 1904; father born New York; Mother Australia.

News correspondent in USSR several years. Alleged to have stated that the Soviet Constitution is the best ever written. Supported the left wing of the American Newspaper Guild. It is reliably stated that there has been no crucial point in Russian development, since 1934, when Barnes has not followed the Party line and has not been much more successful than the official spokesman in giving it a form congenial to the American way of expression.

(…)

Passports Not Issued

North Africa

HOUSEMAN, John – formerly Jack Davies Haussman – born Bucharest, Rumania, September 22, 1902; emigrated United States, 1936; naturalized Maroh 1, 1943; father born Paris, France; Mother British.

Member of Communist Front organizations including Friends of Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Producer of play “Native Son” considered inflammatory in effect and possibly subversive in intent and un-American. Said to have been responsible for placing Communists in key position in foreign radio sections of OWI. Is reliably reported to be known in newspaper and theatrical circles in New York as a Communist. Military authorities consider should remain United States for the duration.

(…)

April 28, 2018

Notes:

  1. See: Alan L. Heil, Jr., Voice of America: A History (New York: Columbia University Press: 2003). “Hollywood and Broadway producer, author and director John Houseman, another VOA pioneer and its first director…” (36).
  2. New York Times, “Radio Row: One Thing and Another,” September 12, 1943, Page 7.
  3. Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles April 6, 1943 memorandum to Marvin H. McIntyre, Secretary to the President with enclosures, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum Website, Box 77, State – Welles, Sumner, 1943-1944; version date 2013
  4. State – Welles, Sumner, 1943-1944, From Collection: FDR-FDRPSF Departmental Correspondence, Series: Departmental Correspondence, 1933 – 1945 Collection: President’s Secretary’s File (Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration), 1933 – 1945, National Archives Identifier: 16619284.
  5. Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Executive Order 9182 Establishing the Office of War Information.,” June 13, 1942. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16273. Last accessed May 6, 2018.
  6. John Houseman, Run-through (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972), 485.
  7. Houseman, Run-through, 485.
  8. John Houseman, Unfinished Business – Memoirs: 1902-1988 (New York: Applause Theatre Books, 1989), 248.
  9. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 248.
  10. Robert E. Sherwood, Director, Overseas Branch, Office of War Information; RG208, Director of Oversees Operations, Record Set of Policy Directives for Overseas Programs-1942-1945 (Entry363); Regional Directives, January 1943-October 1943; Box820; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
  11. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1948).
  12. Jan Ciechanowski, Defeat in Victory, (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1947) 115-116.
  13. Ciechanowski, Defeat in Victory, 130.
  14. Ciechanowski, Defeat in Victory, 131
  15. The street adjacent to the current Embassy of the United States in Riga, Latvia was named after Sumner Welles (as Samnera Velsa iela) in 2012.”Remarks at the Dedication of Sumner Welles Street”. U.S. Department of State. June 28, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  16. Holly Cowan Shulman, The Voice of America: propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990).
  17. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 240-241.
  18. Houseman, Run-through, 487
  19. Julius Epstein, “The O.W.I. and the Voice of America,” a reprint from the Polish American Journal, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1952.
  20. Elmer Davis Testimony, Hearings before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre, Part 7, November 11, 1952, 1999.
  21. Testimony of Elmer Davis before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre, November 11, 1952, 1995.
  22. Testimony of Elmer Davis before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre.
  23. 89 Cong. Rec. (Bound) – Volume 89, Part 9 (January 6, 1943 to December 21, 1943), 3607.
  24. 90 Cong. Rec. (Bound) – Volume 90, Part 5 (June 13, 1944 to August 24, 1944), June 23, 1944, A3320-A3322.
  25. Testimony of Elmer Davis before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre, November 11, 1952, 1991-1992.
  26. Testimony of Elmer Davis before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre, November 11, 1952, 1989.
  27. ENCYCLOpedia.com, “Elmer Holmes Davis,” https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/journalism-and-publishing-biographies/elmer-davis. Last accessed May 5, 2018.
  28. Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1948) 25.
  29. Julius Epstein, Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 81st Congress, Second Session, Appendix. Part 17 ed. Vol. 96. August 4, 1950, to September 22, 1950 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1950) A5744-A5745
  30. Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Waging Peace 1956-1961 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1965) 279.
  31. Robert E. Sherwood, Director, Overseas Branch, Office of War Information; RG208, Director of Oversees Operations, Record Set of Policy Directives for Overseas Programs-1942-1945 (Entry363); Regional Directives, January 1943-October 1943; Box820; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
  32. While the transcript of Elmer Davis’ Voice of America broadcast on Katyń, in which he repeats Soviet propaganda claims and denies Soviet responsibility for the mass murder, was already made public by the Madden Committee in 1952, a recording of the same broadcast on a radio network in the United States in 1943 was recently discovered in the WNYC New York public radio station’s online audio archives.
  33. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 252.
  34. Your Roots in Poland, “Bielaski family – real american career,” https://yourrootsinpoland.com/blog-en/bielaski-family-real-american-career/. Last accessed May 1, 2018.
  35. New York Times, “President Clarifies Priest’s Passport,” May 9, 1944.
  36. Office of War Information, London to OWI Washington, Confidential Dispatch from Sherwood, May 8, 1944, National Archives.
  37. Office of War Information, London to OWI Washington, Confidential Dispatch from Sherwood.
  38. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 252.
  39. Timothy P. Sheehan, “Supplementary Statement by Mr. Sheehan,” The Katyn Forest Massacre, Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952) 7-9.
  40. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Forest Massacre, 15-16.
  41. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Forest Massacre, 12.
  42. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 250.
  43. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “37 – World Broadcast in Observance of Fifteenth Anniversary of Voice of America, February 25, 1957, The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=10982. Last accessed May 1, 2018.
  44. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 250.
  45. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 250.
  46. See: Mariam Memarsadeghi and Akbar Atri, “10 ways the US government could help Iranians win back their country,” The Hill, January 12, 2018, http://thehill.com/opinion/international/368566-10-ways-the-us-government-could-help-iranians-win-back-their-country. Last accessed May 5, 2018. Also see: Sasha Gong, “Spineless Federal Bureaucrats CAVED To Chinese Pressure To Censor Voice Of America. Now They Deny It,” The Daily Caller, May 4, 2018, http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/04/voa-bureaucrats-caved-to-chinese-censorship-pressure-and-now-deny-it/. Last accessed May 5, 2018.
  47. Czesław Straszewicz, “O Świcie,” Kultura, October, 1953, 61-62. I am indebted to Polish historian of the Voice of America’s Polish Service Jarosław Jędrzejczak for finding this reference to VOA’s wartime role.
  48. Holly Cowan Shullman, “The Voice of America, US Propaganda and the Holocaust: ‘I Would Have Remembered’,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 17, no. 1 (March 1997): 91-103.
  49. Alan L. Heil Jr, Voice of America: A History (New York: Columbia University Press Publishers, 2003), 208.
  50. Heil, Voice of America: A History, 200.
  51. Heil, Voice of America: A History, 200.
  52. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 249
  53. Houseman, Unfinished Business, 249.
  54. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 198-201.
  55. One of the OWI officials who engaged in attempts to silence criticism of the Soviet Union by ethnic media in the U.S. was future U.S. Senator from California Alan Cranston (D-CA).
  56. Holly Cowan Shulman, The Voice of America: Propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), 91.)
  57. Adolf E. Berle, Navigating the Rapids: 1918-1971, ed. Beatrice Bishop Berle (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, Inc., 1973), 440.
  58. Memorandum from Foy D. Kohler (OIB/NY) to All Commission Members, December 18, 1951; RG 0059, Department of State, U.S. International Information Administration/International Broadcasting; Entry# P315: Voice of America (VOA) Historical Files: 1946-1953; Reports Psychological Operations POC THRU Katyn Forest Massacres III; Container #18; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
  59. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), accessed October 26, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582.
  60. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).
  61. The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).
  62. This early VOA history is little known and John Houseman is still being wrongly presented as a champion of journalistic integrity. See: Jay Nordlinger, “A Voice of America, Part I” National Review, April 19, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434211/voa-remarkable-chief-its-ukrainian-service-myroslava-gongadze-part-i.
  63. See: John Houseman, Unfinished Business Memoirs: 1902-1988 (New York: Applause Theatre Books, 1989). “Psychological warfare could not furnish me with the theatre’s climaxes of consummations; there was no applause for the Voice of America… .” (247) “But our main instrument of propaganda remained The Voice of America which, by this time, [end of 1942] was broadcasting close to a thousand shows a day in twenty-two languages including Swahili. (249)
  64. Houseman, Run-through, 487.
  65. Epstein wrote in 1950: “There are still too many of the old OWI [Office of War Information] employees working for the Voice, both in this country and overseas. I mean those writers, translators and broadcasters who so wholeheartedly and enthusiastically tried for many years to create ‘love for Stalin,’ when this was the official policy of our ill-advised wartime Government and of our military government in Germany. There is no doubt that all those employees were at that time deeply convinced of the absolute correctness of that pro-Stalinist propaganda. How can we expect them to do the exact opposite now?” See Dondero, Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 81st Congress, Second Session, Appendix. Part 17 ed. Vol. 96. August 4, 1950, to September 22, 1950, A5744-A5745.
  66. Heil, Voice of America: A History, 208.
  67. Heil, Voice of America: A History, 35.
V.

Voice of America 1959 — VOA/USIA Booklet

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

February 8, 2018

In 1959, the Voice of America (VOA) had a clear and convincing public relations message to describe its mission and to justify its $20 million budget 1 (approx. $168 million in today’s dollars) within the United States Information Agency (USIA). By comparison, VOA’s budget request for FY 2018 is $199 million within the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) agency, more than it was at the height of the Cold War.

A booklet published jointly by VOA and USIA in 1959 described Voice of America’s programs on behalf of the U.S. government and American taxpayers concisely with a strong presentation of mission purpose and evidence of effectiveness.

“In the continual effort to keep the record straight, broadcasts, when necessary, unmask and counter hostile attempts to frustrate and misrepresent the objectives and motives of the United States,” the VOA 1959 informational booklet pointed out. For a government public relations document, it provides a well-written and relatively honest accounting of VOA’s purpose and work during the Cold War.

In 1959, the director of the Voice of America was Henry Loomis (April 19, 1919 – November 2, 2008). He was appointed VOA director in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and resigned from the post in 1965 after policy conflicts with President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was later appointed by Richard Nixon (1972) to serve as president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The director of USIA in 1959 was State Department diplomat Ambassador George Venable Allen (November 3, 1903 – July 11, 1970).

The Voice of America

Within 3 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Voice of America went on the air for the first time to tell the truth about America’s participation in the second world war.

The first broadcast (on February 24, 1942) was in the German language, penetrating the censorship screen established by the Nazi leaders. At the height of the war, the Voice was broadcasting more than 3,200 live programs weekly in about 40 languages.

Today, the Voice of America, speaking for the U.S. Government as the radio service of the U.S. Information Agency, provides millions of listeners in many parts of the world with objective newscasts, up-to-the-minute facts about U.S. policies, and information concerning the life and culture of the American people. Its broadcasts are beamed around the clock and around the globe in 37 languages over a network of 76 transmitters.

In the free world, the Voice programs complement the many and varied cultural and informational activities of 200 USIS* posts to give foreign audiences a complete picture of this country.

*Agency offices overseas are known as USIS (United States Information Service).

But in the Communist-controlled areas, still encircled by curtains of censorship and heavy restrictions on the free flow of information, the United States must rely almost entirely upon the Voice of America. In these areas, the Voice attempts to penetrate the curtains, despite Communist jamming, to convey the truth about world events and American policies. More than half of the Voice’s efforts are directed at the Soviet Union, the Eastern European satellites, Red China, North Korea and North Vietnam. (See charts at front and back of booklet for geographic distribution of broadcasts.)

what voice broadcasts say

Voice of America broadcasts include straight, factual reporting of the news, with emphasis on matters of particular interest to the area where each program is heard.

Important happenings in the United States, developments in the United Nations (reported by direct wire from UN headquarters), on-the-spot reports from international conferences, and news of all nations in the free world are included in the broadcasts. So are events in the Soviet Union, Red China and the Communist satellites. Behind-the-curtain listeners frequently learn the truth about economic developments and political changes in their own countries from Voice broadcasts, often before getting highly censored and slanted official announcements from their own Communist-controlled press and radio.

News analyses, commentaries and features also are used on Voice broadcasts. Special events coverage provides foreign listeners with recorded interviews and descriptions of American homes, schools, farms, factories, and community and cultural activities. The official position of the United States Government is explained in broadcasts which reflect the statements of the President, the Secretary of State and other executive branch

[Caption: Marian Anderson, American delegate to the United Nations, speaks to world from Voice of America booth overlooking UN Assembly room. At right is Joseph Groger of Voice staff.]

and congressional spokesmen. In the continual effort to keep the record straight, broadcasts, when necessary, unmask and counter hostile attempts to frustrate and misrepresent the objectives and motives of the United States.

Broadcasts also include discussions of economic conditions in the United States and the free world and facts about such other fields as labor, science, agriculture and race relations. Programs concerning religion and the spiritual aspects of American life are broadcast on sabbath days and on religious holidays.

Speakers on special broadcasts include the President, the Secretary of State, Members of Congress and prominent figures from the worlds of science, education and the arts. Also heard frequently are visitors to the United States–government officials, students, scientists, artists, businessmen–speaking to their homelands about the United States, its people and its way of life as they are seeing them.
The open and free discussion of world events in the United States is demonstrated in summaries of American press, radio

[Caption: Willis Conover, left, host on “Music USA” program, intervieivs Irving Berlin on ids seventieth birthday and fiftieth year in show business. Noted American singers and instrumentalists performed the best-known music by Berlin in a series of worldwide Voice broadcasts, culminating in a salute to Mr. Berlin by President Eisenhower.]

and television opinion, and through the broadcast of round- table discussions by distinguished personalities.
To attract the largest possible listening audiences, the Voice schedules its broadcasts so that they will be received at the best listening hours in each part of the world. Most programs are heard in the evening or at breakfast time.

special voice programs

The Voice of America also originates a number of special programs, either on a regular or periodic basis, which help to project the image of America. For example:

Forum: The Arts and Sciences in Mid-Century America, designed for foreign listeners with special training in a number

of academic fields, regularly presents lectures by American experts in the natural and social sciences and the humanities.

Music USA, scheduled to meet the worldwide interest in American jazz, is devoted to popular American music and to the people who compose and perform it. This daily 2-hour program includes two 15-minute newscasts and has one of the largest audiences in international broadcasting.

American Theatre of the Air presents American plays with leading actors and directors of the stage, screen and television. Produced with the assistance of the American National Theatre and Academy, its worldwide broadcasts have been well received by listeners and have also earned favorable reviews by U.S. and foreign drama critics.

programs for local stations

In most of the world, local radio stations and networks are popular and attract larger listening audiences than foreign broadcasts do. In many free world countries, therefore, USIS posts cooperate with local stations and networks to reach local listeners, in addition to broadcasts beamed from Voice transmitters.

In some areas, these local stations get direct, short wave “feeds” of news programs and coverage of special events from the United States. In other areas, local stations regularly receive “package programs” (tapes or discs consisting of news features, music, special events and interviews recorded in the studios of the Voice). Other programs are prepared by the USIS posts and are particularly effective since they can be tailored to fit the taste and specific interests of the individual country. More than 2,000 foreign stations regularly carry Voice “package programs,” and an equal number make use of locally prepared USIS radio material.

[Caption: These machines are used to make multiple copies of Voice programs at high speed, facilitating shipment of recordings for placement on foreign radio stations.]

[Caption: Two technicians are on duty around the clock at Master Control Board, which can feed 26 programs to Voice’s U.S. transmitters at the same time and can switch all channels at every station break.]

[Caption: Technicians check operations at the Voice’s Honolulu Relay Base, which provides a 100,000-watt “boost” for broadcasts to the Far East.]

In Latin America, for example, more than 1,300 stations regularly use program material supplied by the Voice, and much of it is heard on many stations at peak broadcast times. The Agency’s radio effort for Western European countries is usually handled in this manner.

In the Near East and Far East, local stations are carrying increasing amounts of material prepared for their special use by the Voice staff in Washington and by USIS information and radio officers.

people at the voice

In view of the shortage of native-born Americans who know foreign languages perfectly, the Voice necessarily uses many people who were born abroad. Some of these are escapees from communism. Others came to the United States originally to study or to teach. Most have become or are in the process of becoming American citizens.

Where it is impossible to find people in the United States who know a broadcast language adequately, the Voice brings people from certain free world countries to the United States on special employment contracts. These are highly qualified specialists, often from radio organizations in their own countries.

Finding people who not only have necessary language facility but also the other talents needed in international radio- broadcasting is one of the Voice’s most difficult problems.

the voice’s languages

Voice of America broadcasts bring up-to-the-minute news and background reports on topics of interest to listeners in most of the world in their native tongues.

Increasingly, however, the Voice is emphasizing broadcasts in English, the most widely spoken international language. There is reason to believe that many find American news and policy reports more credible when they hear them in English–the language of the broadcaster.

Direct short wave broadcasts are made daily in 37 languages, including English. Voice package programs are prepared in many other languages on a regular or periodic basis.

Washington studios

The Washington facilities of the Voice include 18 studios, equipment to make 40 disc or tape recordings simultaneously, 10 tape-editing booths, a recording control center, the Master Control, editorial offices and music and transcription libraries.

The Master Control is one of the largest and most flexible in the world. It feeds the programs through telephone lines to the shortwave transmitters in the United States. The control console is capable of selecting program material from 100 sources and of handling 26 programs simultaneously.

The Voice’s Washington studios are located in the Health, Education and Welfare Building. Free public tours are conducted at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

the voice network

The Voice network of 76 transmitters includes 30 short wave transmitters in the United States. The 46 overseas trans- mitters are located to get maximum penetration into as many important areas of the world as possible. Three of them, in Germany, the Philippines and Okinawa, have million-watt output power and are among the world’s most powerful broadcasting facilities on the standard broadcast bands.

A modern, high-power transmitter plant now being built on the East coast of this country will not only increase the strength and clarity of the Voice’s signal to overseas relay bases but will make it possible in many instances to beam programs directly, if need be, into important areas of the world.

The network also includes a floating broadcasting station, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Courier, now relaying broadcasts daily to the Soviet bloc and to the Near and Middle East from its anchorage off the Island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Voice’s Washington headquarters are the originating point for most of the daily programs. Regional programing centers are maintained in New York, Munich and Cairo to provide special materials for Voice broadcasts.

The USIS Berlin radio station RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) broadcasts continuously in the German language. Its programs are designed primarily for residents of East Germany, but they are also heard in nearby satellite countries.

methods of broadcasting

The Voice’s chief means of transmission is by shortwave, which carries over long distances and can be heard in almost all parts of the world. Medium and long wave broadcasting are also used, however, where transmitting facilities are located close enough to target areas and where the listening audience favors these types of broadcasts.

Voice programs go by short wave to the people in Communist countries, for example, because the broadcasts must be beamed a considerable distance and because much of the radio audience habitually listens to short wave radio.

Relay bases in the Philippines, Okinawa, Greece and Germany rebroadcast via medium wave to areas within range of their transmitters. Listeners to these programs include the

people of the Middle East and fringe areas of the Iron and Bamboo Curtains.

Long wave programs, relayed from Munich, Germany, are heard in nearby Central Europe.

penetrating communist areas

The communists, to prevent the truth from reaching their people, constantly attempt to “jam” the programs beamed to the U.S.S.R., the Soviet-controlled areas and Communist China. Jamming is carried on by an extensive system of noisemaking transmitters which try to blot out Voice programs, especially in Moscow and other large cities, and substitute noises sounding like buzz saws, sirens and freight trains.

The communists attach so much importance to “blacking out” Western broadcasts that they spend more than $100 million on jamming each year—more than is spent on the total U.S. overseas information program.

The intensity of jamming efforts varies with world events. The Voice’s live broadcasts of the 1958 UN emergency sessions

[Caption: American actors Myron McCormick (left) and John McQuade performing in Eugene O’Neill’s “Beyond the Horizon,” one play in the Voice’s “American Theatre of the Air” series.]

on the Middle East were jammed on an unprecedented scale, even when they carried the remarks of the Soviet Foreign Minister.

To minimize the effects of jamming, the Voice has reduced the number of broadcasts in the jammed languages and has greatly increased the number of transmitters on the remaining broadcasts. English, which is understood by growing numbers of people behind the curtains, is not normally jammed and is, therefore, another means of reaching these listeners.

That many broadcasts can be heard in spite of jamming is clear from reports of monitoring stations located on the rim of Communist territory, from systematic questioning of visitors to and escapees from the Soviet orbit, from letters written by Soviet bloc listeners, and from violent attacks on the Voice by Communist dignitaries and by the press and radio of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, jamming is very effective and represents a major problem for the Voice of America.

the voice’s audience

Each year the Voice receives many indications of its effectiveness from listeners behind the Curtains and in the Free World. Some recent examples:

Three-fourths of the hundreds of persons who escaped to the free world during the Hungarian uprising of 1956 said that they had listened to the Voice of America.

As part of a recent series of broadcasts on life in the United States, the Voice carried an interview with a former Rumanian resident, now living in Cleveland, Ohio. A relative in Rumania heard the interview and, in a letter that was smuggled through the Iron Curtain, expressed his delight at learning from the broadcast that the Cleveland man and his family had not been killed, as he had feared.

An American Navy man wrote the Voice late in 1958 to say that when he was stationed near Lebanon during the

Middle East crisis, “the Voice was the only source of news we had and we listened to it faithfully . . . in the process of conversation with local people, I was amazed at the number of them that listen to the Voice for news.”

A young newspaperman from Lucknow, India, told the Washington Post & Times Herald in October 1958: “I studied English in college, but really learned to speak it well by listening to the wonderful Voice of America programs.”

other international radio voices

Today many countries are engaging in international broadcasting. Improvements in both facihties and programing of foreign radio stations have provided increasing competition to VOA broadcasting. In addition to the Voice, there are two major broadcasting networks of worldwide scope—Radio Moscow and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

At the end of 1958 Communist stations (especially Radio Moscow and the transmitters of Communist China and the Eastern European satellite countries) were broadcasting more than 350 hours a day in many languages around the world. The Voice of America and BBC were broadcasting less than two- thirds this amount.

During the past 2 years there has been a great increase in Communist propaganda broadcasts to the Arab world and there are even more numerous English-language transmissions, including those to North America. Communist broadcasts to Africa have recently been started and are rapidly increasing.

The United Arab Republic, through Radio Cairo, Radio Damascus and the “Voice of the Arabs,” has a strong signal for coverage of the Arab countries.

Radio Liberation and Radio Free Europe, both privately supported American stations, speak as free Europeans to fellow Europeans in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern European satellites.

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Notes:

  1. The Budget of the United States Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1959. The United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1959. Accessed February 8, 2018 at https://fraser.stlouisfed.org/files/docs/publications/usbudget/bus_1959.pdf.
A.

April 20, 1943 — Congressman Woodruff warns of Soviet propaganda in Voice of America broadcasts

Cold War Radio Museum Cold War Radio Museum

On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany’s propaganda machine announced the discovery of the graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish prisoners of war in Soviet captivity who went missing in Russia in the spring of 1940. A few days later, on April 16 and April 17, 1943, the management of the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) ordered its Overseas Branch in charge of what were later called Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts to air and promote the Soviet propaganda denial of Soviet responsibility for the murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk.

Broadcasts of Soviet disinformation by the Voice of America that the Nazi Germans rather than the Soviet NKVD secret police had murdered thousands of Polish POW officers continued throughout World War II with strong encouragement and support from VOA’s pro-Soviet senior officials and wartime broadcasters. They included at least one key pro-communist broadcaster in the Polish Desk, Stefan Arski (aka Artur Salman), who after the war became a chief anti-American propagandist for the Soviet-imposed communist regime in Warsaw. Central directives came from the top leadership of OWI, but the broadcasters were also enthusiastic and willing propagandists for Stalin.

The propaganda collusion between the Soviets and the officials and broadcasters of the “Voice of America” (the name was not yet officially used for these U.S. government radio broadcasts) did not go unnoticed by the U.S. media and the U.S. Congress.

On April 20, 1943, Congressman Roy O. Woodruff (R-MA) delivered what was one of the early warnings of Soviet influence over the Office of War Information and the Voice of America. Many more such warnings would follow, but they did not produce any changes in VOA radio programs for several years.

 

 
“…reports are constantly reaching me and other Members of Congress that the propaganda activities of the Polish Unit ot O. W. I.’s Overseas Division are destroying rather than building the morale of the helpless Polish people,” Congressman Woodruff told members of Congress.
 
“These reports tell us that much of this propaganda follows the American Communist Party line and is designed to prepare the minds of the Polish people to accept partition, obliteration, or suppression of their nation when the fighting ends. The same is true of Yugoslavia, where. I am told, the name of the great Mihailovitch [Draža Mihailović, a Yugoslav Serb general during World War II executed by the Communists after the war] is blocked out by O. W. I. radicals.”
 
“If It is true that Communists have infiltrated into the O.W.I.’s Overseas Division and are following the party line in their propaganda to Poland, as well as other countries, then it is an outrageous violation of the faith that is reposed in Elmer Davis and Robert Sherwood. If this is not true, then the Polish people in America are entitled to have allayed the rumors which may be enemy inspired.” 1
 

 
 
 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Congressional Record

PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 78TH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION

VOLUME 89–PART 3

APRIL 6, 1943, TO MAY 13, 1943
(PAGES 2941 TO 4388)

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, 1943

[April 20, 1943]

3607

 

Mr. WOODRUFF of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, there Is no people for whom the American Nation has a greater sympathy than those of Poland. They have been crushed, pilloried, and persecuted from both sides of their boundaries. And every American on the battle front or on the home front wants to see the day when Poland will again be an independ- ent nation taking its place in a friendly community of nations.

For 3 years the Polish Government in exile has been working to keep morale within Poland alive against the time of liberation. But now reports are constantly reaching me and other Members of Congress that the propaganda activities of the Polish Unit ot O. W. I.’s Overseas Division are destroying rather than building the morale of the helpless Polish people.

These reports tell us that much of this propaganda follows the American Communist Party line and is designed to prepare the minds of the Polish people to accept partition, obliteration, or suppression of their nation when the fighting ends. The same is true of Yugoslavia, where. I am told, the name of the great Mihailovitch is blocked out by O. W. I. radicals.

If It is true that Communists have infiltrated into the O.W.I.’s Overseas Division and are following the party line in their propaganda to Poland, as well as other countries, then it is an outrageous violation of the faith that is reposed in Elmer Davis and Robert Sherwood. If this is not true, then the Polish people in America are entitled to have allayed the rumors which may be enemy inspired.

The best way to find this out is to have all of this propaganda made available here in the United States. The enemy knows all about it, so Americans should not be In the dark.

The press and Congress also should know the names and backgrounds of the people who have the delicate task of interpreting American ideals to foreign lands. I am informed that the man in charge of the Polish Overseas Unit of O. W. I. has not lived in Poland for 15 years and has been active in French Communist circles, coming recently to America.

 

Biographical Directory

of the

United States Congress

WOODRUFF, Roy Orchard, (1876 – 1953)

WOODRUFF, Roy Orchard, a Representative from Michigan; born at Eaton Rapids, Eaton County, Mich., March 14, 1876; attended the common schools and the high school of Eaton Rapids; apprenticed to the printing business 1891-1899; enlisted as a corporal in Company G, Thirty-third Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Infantry, during the Spanish-American War; saw active service and was mustered out; was graduated from the dental department of the College of Medicine, Detroit, Mich., in 1902 and practiced dentistry in Bay City, Mich., 1902-1911; mayor of Bay City 1911-1913; elected as a Progressive to the Sixty-third Congress (March 4, 1913-March 3, 1915); was not a candidate for renomination in 1914; served for two years in the First World War as an Infantry officer, acquiring the rank of major during his service in France; elected as a Republican to the Sixty-seventh and to the fifteen succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1921-January 3, 1953); was not a candidate for renomination in 1952 to the Eighty-third Congress; died in Washington, D.C., February 12, 1953; interment in Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Mich.

 

 

Notes:

  1. 89 Cong. Rec. (Bound) – Volume 89, Part 9 (January 6, 1943 to December 21, 1943), 3607.