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

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

 
 
 

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.

 

 

References   [ + ]

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

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