The 1950s “Crusade for Freedom” media publicity campaign in the United States and to some degree in Western Europe was ostensibly for the purpose of raising private money for Radio Free Europe (RFE), the U.S. government-sponsored radio station in West Germany. In reality, these private donations amounting to a few million dollars a year were insignificant.
During the first 20 years of its existence, the funding for RFE came secretly from the CIA budget. The CIA was also secretly overseeing the management of Radio Free Europe although its journalists enjoyed a considerable degree of independence. They had more editorial freedom than the U.S.-based staff of the official U.S. government international radio broadcaster, the Voice of America (VOA), which after World War II was overseen by the State Department and later by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). The CIA connection to RFE lasted until 1971.
Richard H. Cummings described in his book Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom” the origins and the purpose of the publicity campaign from 1950 to 1960 designed to generate support for Radio Free Europe and to make Americans aware of the danger of communism and Soviet propaganda.
In the late 1940s, a diverse group of prominent Americans publicly put forth an enterprising agenda to change the American political landscape. Their visions and dedicated efforts resulted in the Crusade for Freedom, which, for more than ten years, was an intense domestic public relations and media campaign. It evolved not only to arouse the “average” American against the Communist threat, real and perceived, but also to morally, politically, and financially support the radio station Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Cold War Germany and, for a few years in the early 1950s, Radio Free Asia (RFA) in San Francisco, California. — Richard H. Cummings, Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom”: Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting , 1950-1960 (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, 2010), p. 1.
The Crusade for Freedom, Inc. photograph was most likely taken in 1956 and sent out to editors of American newspapers and magazines.
The suggested caption from Crusade for Freedom:
YOUNG WOMEN WHO ESCAPE from Kremlin-controlled countries often tell their stories of lovelessness to those still remaining behind the Iron Curtain, through Radio Free Europe, the overseas network sponsored by voluntary contributions to Crusade for Freedom from peoples in the free world.