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Voice of America Freelancer Who Promoted Stalin’s Propaganda Lie on Katyn Massacre

By Ted Lipien for Cold War Radio Museum

Kathleen Harriman in U.S. Army uniform at the time she worked as a volunteer
for the Office of War Information (OWI), the parent agency of the Voice of America (VOA).

Kathleen Harriman Mortimer was an American journalist working during World War II in Great Britain and Russia as an occasional freelance news reporter for the U.S. government. She was also the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union—young, attractive, rich, and made famous in the Soviet press. Toward the end of her stay in Russia, communist dictator Joseph Stalin gave her a gift—a horse who had served at the battle of Stalingrad— in an unusual gesture of gratitude to an American. He also gave a horse to her father, W. Averell Harriman, the fourth richest man in America in 1946, according to a British illustrated magazine article about Kathleen Harriman, as she prepared to be the embassy hostess at her father’s next post in London.1 In January 1944, as a journalist and her father’s representative when he was U.S. ambassador in Moscow, she helped to save Stalin’s reputation in a secret report she wrote for the State Department in Washington by misinterpreting the evidence of one of his most cruel atrocities, which became known as the Katyn Forest massacre. In a victory for Soviet propaganda, she exonerated him of the brutal murders of thousands of Polish military officers who became prisoners of war in Russian captivity after the Soviet Union attacked Poland in September 1939 in alliance with Hitler’s Germany. Stalin was grateful to the Harrimans for literally helping him get away with murder, but his gift of the two horses may have also been his twisted way of mocking the two Americans for allowing themselves to be easily deceived or for going along with his deception, knowing that he was guilty of the crime.

Cruel mockery was Stalin’s way of dealing with people whom he victimized. He had given earlier two horses and an old American Packard automobile to Polish General Władysław Anders, who was interrogated and tortured in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow.2 Anders was released after the German attack on the Soviet Union and needed officers for the Polish Army being formed in Russia to fight Germany. Stalin lied to Anders, telling him that the missing Polish prisoners, whom he knew the Soviet secret police NKVD had already executed, may have escaped to Manchuria. Suspecting the officers were dead and knowing he could not trust Stalin, Anders took his troops with tens of thousands of Polish civilian refugees from the Soviet Union to Iran. His army, the Polish II Corps, later fought against the Germans alongside British and American troops in Italy. Most of the Polish officers and soldiers in Anders’ army had their homes in the territories taken over by the Soviet Union in 1939 under the Hitler-Stalin Pact and again at the end of World War II as a result of the Yalta Conference. After the war, the vast majority of Polish soldiers in the West and their families chose not to return to Poland, governed by the Moscow-backed communist regime, and became refugees. Averell Harriman had a long career as an elder statesman. In 1947, Kathleen Harriman married  Stanley G. Mortimer Jr., a member of the Four Hundred most prominent New York families.

Three years after she wrote her report about the Katyn massacre with her false conclusion that it was a German rather than a Russian war crime and two years after serving at her father’s request as a housekeeper of the Yalta Conference, Kathleen Harriman was back in the United States, working as a volunteer for the U.S. government to help launch Voice of America (VOA) Russian-language radio broadcasts. She was not responsible for the content of these programs, which went on air for the first time in February 1947. It was the job of a State Department diplomat put in charge of the Russian Service, Charles W. Thayer, who later became VOA director. It was Thayer who recruited her as a volunteer employee in violation of government regulations.

In agreeing to do work for the Voice of America on Russian programs, Kathleen Harriman did not have to worry about offending Stalin. It was not Thayer’s intention to cause any offense to the Soviet leader. He was not convinced that Katyn was Stalin’s crime, and Kathleen Harriman had reported earlier that it was not. As a popular figure with Stalin and the Russians, Kathleen Harriman was a perfect choice to help the head of the newly established Voice of America Russian Service to start the broadcasts to Russia. Their purpose was not to point out Soviet human rights abuses or to criticize communist leaders. It was to show that the United States was a friendly country wanting better relations with the Soviet Union.

As one of the early VOA Russian broadcasters, Helen Yakobson, recalled, in the first broadcasts to Russia, “No direct criticism or attacks on the Soviet system were permitted.” She further noted, “After all, they had only recently been our allies.”3 A researcher, Edward Carleton Helwick, Jr., who had worked for the Voice of America, observed that the new program was not regarded in the United States as a great success against Soviet propaganda.

It was evident from newspaper accounts that the broadcast in America, at least, was received with something less than enthusiasm. Typical of the reactions was the New York World Telegraph headline, “Russians Restrain Joy Over U.S. Broadcast.”4 

According to an Associated Press (AP) report several days before the launch of VOA Russian-language programs, all staff broadcasters were “carefully screened to eliminate any with either Communist or anti-Soviet feelings.” It was a clear sign to the Kremlin that the State Department and the Voice of America were not planning to confront Russia over human rights abuses. AP also reported that the selection of Russian broadcasters was ”understood to have been a major concern of Assistant Secretary of State William Benton.” All staff members were U.S. citizens.5 Helwick’s description of the first broadcast was less than flattering:

The first program [Voice of America Russian broadcast in February 1947], a widely publicized event, had consisted of a twenty minutes of straight news; a twelve minute lecture on the United States form of government, which said, among other things, that the U.S. had lost its fear of the “so-called despotism of the central government”; an interlude of cowboy tunes, including “The Old Chisholm Trail,” the refrain of which, “coma ti yi soupy, happy yay, happy ya, come ti yi soupy happy yay,” Time observed, “probably sounded like static to Russian ears”; a talk on a new cure for hay fever, revealing that the U.S. had 5 million sufferers; and details of a new method of exploring the Milky Way.6

Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Arthur Bliss Lane, who resigned from his post in 1947 in protest against the U.S. policy of ignoring Soviet violations of the Yalta Conference agreements on free elections and democracy, dismissed Voice of America programming policy as inappropriate to what was happening in Eastern Europe and in Stalinist Russia. He wrote in his book, I Saw Poland Betrayed, published in 1948:

As for radio broadcasts beamed to Poland as the “Voice of America,” my opinion of their value differed radically from that of the authors of the program in the Department of State. …I felt that the Department’s policy to tell the people in Eastern Europe what a wonderful democratic life we in the United States enjoy showed its complete lack of appreciation of their psychology. And, especially in Poland, which had suffered through six years of Nazi domination, it was indeed tactless, to say the least, to remind the Poles that we had democracy, which they also might again be enjoying, had we not acquiesced in their being sold down the river at Teheran and Yalta.7

Ambassador Lane added, “If appropriate material is used which will bring hope and cheer, instead of intensifying despair, there is much of a constructive nature that we can do. But the wisdom of statesmanship, not that of salesmanship, is a requisite.”8 His comments could also apply to the first Voice of America programs to Soviet Russia. Even four years later, Congressman John V. Beamer (Republican – Indiana)  said on the floor of the House of Representatives on July 24, 1951, “Day by day, the evidence is mounting that the Voice of America, as now managed and oper­ated, is about as hard-hitting as a creampuff. Improvements certainly are necessary.” He revealed that VOA had practically no audience in pre-Castro Cuba.9 By then, however, the Truman administration had already started changing VOA’s staff and reforming programs to make them more hard-hitting against communism.

Kathleen Harriman played only a small part in launching the Voice of America Russian broadcasts in 1947. Still, there was important symbolism in her involvement as the daughter of a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and as a journalist who had saved Stalin from being confronted with a war crime that could have cost Moscow its hegemony over Eastern Europe. Yet, this historical controversy, her fascinating life, her connection to Russia, the U.S. government’s wartime propaganda, and the Voice of America remain unknown to most past and current VOA officials, editors, and reporters. She has been excluded from VOA’s official history because apologists for the taxpayer-funded broadcaster want to present the U.S. government’s media entity as having an unbroken record of telling the truth regardless of whether the news is good or bad.10 Kathleen Harriman accepted a blatant Soviet propaganda lie as the truth. Because she was mixed up in the Katyn controversy, although her mistake was not in a Voice of America broadcast, to protect the institution from public embarrassment, her name never appeared in VOA’s promotional materials, on PR websites, or social media pages

Kathleen Harriman’s report from Katyn had undeniably profound implications and, therefore, it could have provided a valuable lesson to new generations of Voice of America journalists if the management chose to discuss it. But journalists, in general, are not known for readily admitting their errors, failures, biases, and conflicts of interest. They have the skills to be better than most in hiding or excusing poor judgment. Government officials and employees who are also VOA journalists have even more reasons and resources to obscure the truth if they make a particularly tragic error. To protect their reputation and jobs and assure continued and increasing public funding for their programs, they do not hesitate to present their individual and collective failures in the entire period from World War II to Afghanistan as an unending string of Voice of America’s successes. There has been for many decades an unwritten institutional ban on discussing events and individuals who do not meet the criteria of “good news” about VOA. Kathleen Harriman is one of many persons who have disappeared from the official history of the Voice of America.

In 1952, Kathleen Harriman Mortimer was called to testify before a bipartisan congressional committee investigating the Katyn massacre, which also examined and sharply criticized VOA’s news reporting about this and other communist atrocities and human rights violations. In her testimony, she admitted that in 1944 she wrongly had blamed the Germans for the Katyn massacre. This admission may explain why the station’s management and journalists, with perhaps one exception in 1959, never mentioned her name in promotional materials, articles, and books. Charles Thayer wrote about employing her as a VOA Russian Service volunteer in 1947, but he did comment on her mistake in reporting from Katyn for the State Department or on her later congressional testimony. The Voice of America has ignored her, even though she had played a part in VOA’s early history for a brief period as one of the institution’s first female American-born freelance radio producers or broadcasters. While her employment as a volunteer in the VOA Russian Service has been documented, it is unclear what kind of work she had performed. Since her knowledge of Russian was limited, it could not have been anything substantial, but it could have had symbolic significance.

Most Americans know nothing or very little about Kathleen Harriman. During the war years, she did volunteer work as a journalist in the federal government agency—the United States Office of War Information (OWI) that managed VOA until 1945. Some may have learned who she was by reading a recently published book by Catherine Grace Katz, The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War. Katz’s book paints a highly idealized picture of the young American journalist from a wealthy and privileged family. It was translated into Polish and published in Poland (Córki Jałty: Sarah Churchill, Anna Roosevelt, Kathleen Harriman i kulisy wielkiej polityki). However, Kathleen Harriman’s witting or unwitting help in hiding Stalin’s responsibility for the murders of thousands of Polish military officers has not endeared her to the Poles. They may know more about her than most Americans, but even there she is not widely remembered, except among historians and those who have read books about the Katyn massacre.

Most of the scorn in Poland is reserved for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the results of the “Big Three” Yalta Conference (February 4-11, 1945), where Kathleen Harriman had housekeeping duties, but played no other role. Her father, however, was one of Roosevelt’s key advisors at Yalta. Poland’s borders were changed due to decisions made in Yalta and later confirmed at the Potsdam Conference (July 17 to August 2, 1945), with the Soviet Union taking over nearly half of the country’s pre-war territory in the east without the Poles’ knowledge or approval. While the Poles were partly compensated with some of the territories in the West, which before the war had belonged to Germany. Poland’s wartime government-in-exile in London was not consulted or even informed by President Roosevelt about the changes to their country’s borders he made with Stalin and Churchill at Yalta. As a result of the Yalta agreements, those Poles not already in the West and unable to flee were condemned to live under Soviet domination in socialist poverty without fundamental human rights for several decades.

Poland was not the only nation affected by Yalta. The U.S. President’s decisions, which incorporated his secret assurances about Poland’s future borders given to Stalin already at the Teheran Summit (November 28 to December 1, 1943), made other East-Central Europeans lose their freedom. A Soviet spy, Flora Don Wovschin, employed at the Office of War Information and the Voice of America library and research unit in New York, prepared a report justifying the move of Russia’s borders to the west along the Curzon Line per Stalin’s wishes.11 At Teheran and Yalta, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were not concerned whether the Ukrainians and the Belorussians, who had majorities in parts of pre-war eastern Poland, wanted their own independent and democratic nations. American and British leaders, in effect, allowed Stalin to keep Lithuania and the other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, which, between the wars, during and after World War II, were recognized by the United States as independent states.

While Kathleen Harriman was helping to launch Voice of America broadcasts in Russian, VOA Polish programs initially supported the pro-Moscow communist-dominated government in Poland. At the same time, anti-communist Poles were being arrested and tortured and, in at least tens of thousands of cases, executed by the UB communist secret police. Other anti-communist Poles who had fought the Nazis were sent from Poland to the Gulag prison camps in Siberia, some for the second time. Atrocities similar to those in Poland occurred in all other nations dominated by Soviet Russia. Several former Office of War Information employees and Voice of America journalists left the United States after the war to work for the communist regime in Warsaw as its anti-American and pro-Soviet propagandists. The former VOA Czechoslovak Service chief, Adolf Hoffmeister, returned to Prague, joined the Communist Party, and became the Czechoslovak regime’s ambassador to France.12

For millions of people in East-Central Europe, the end of World War II was a defeat in victory, which was the title of memoirs of Poland’s wartime ambassador in Washington Jan Ciechanowski.13 Stalin and the communist regime in Poland quickly violated the weak conditions with regard to free elections agreed to in Yalta by Roosevelt and Churchill without any provisions for enforcement. The Poles understood that the loss of their country’s independence was mainly Stalin’s fault, but they also blamed the Western leaders. It is not surprising that for those Poles who knew about her, Kathleen Harriman has developed a somewhat infamous reputation in their country’s World War II and post-war history as one of the Americans who had betrayed Poland and handed it over to Stalin. Although her role was accidental, it was significant in its impact. However, she had nothing to do with the critical decisions of the American government made without the full knowledge of the American people. They were made by President Roosevelt and his advisors, including Ambassador Harriman.

Still, the Poles who knew of her earlier role during the Soviet investigation of the Katyn murders were dismayed by Kathleen Harriman’s conduct as a journalist and her father’s confidential assistant in misleading Americans and the rest of the world about the genocidal deaths of the Polish prisoners and deportees in Stalinist Russia. And yet, she was not by any measure an evil person with bad intentions. She was an ordinary young woman from a very wealthy American family with no particular distinction as a journalist, apparently easily influenced by those around her and duped by Soviet propaganda and American propaganda produced by the U.S. government agency, for which she did volunteer work as a journalist. As someone who had never experienced any hardship in her young life, the thousands of dead bodies in the Katyn graves were, for her, a statistic rather than a tragedy for the victims, their families, and their country. Perhaps she would have reacted differently if the United States had lost a war, was under foreign occupation, and she was shown the bodies of thousands of murdered American military officers.

Her private letters reveal a rather callous attitude about her visit to the scene of the mass executions, but she definitely was not a participant in the larger geopolitical calculations which decided the fate of East-Central Europe. Still, by the accident of history, she had a chance to influence the future, and she did, but not by choosing to support the truth. It would have been highly unlikely for someone with her background and in her position to act differently. As Ambassador Harriman’s hostess at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and his public relations assistant, she could hardly start a public disagreement with her father. Later, Ambassador Harriman put her in charge of organizing the logistics of the Yalta Conference, where the fate of millions of East-Central Europeans was decided. The “Big Three” summit sealed the loss of their freedom and made them Russia’s “captive nations” for several decades. It is almost certainly not what President Roosevelt, Ambassador Harriman, and his daughter wanted to happen, but they made it happen through their inexplicable trust in Stalin.

In the immediate sense, it was Kathleen Harriman’s reputation as a private media and U.S. government journalist that became significant because her presence in Katyn had an impact on how other Western correspondents reported on the massacre and how it was viewed by the State Department in Washington. A year before the Yalta Conference, her father, not a career diplomat but a millionaire businessman, apparently decided to use her skills as a news reporter to help convince officials in Washington that Stalin was a reliable ally and not a mass murderer because he knew that was what President Roosevelt wanted to hear. The same message was delivered to the Americans and the rest of the world by the Western correspondents in Moscow, who cited Kathleen Harriman’s name and her government position to boost the credibility of their reports. The same message was spread in the United States by the Office of War Information and abroad by the Voice of America.

It is possible that Kathleen Harriman’s decisions in January 1944, could have changed what became the outcome of the Yalta Conference. The “Big Three” summit went according to Stalin’s wishes because she had been unable to discover and report the truth about the Katyn massacre, or she had found it but failed to report it. She was only 26 when she authored her secret report for the U.S. government about the horrifying mass murders of Polish military officers. Her conclusion that the Germans had committed these murders helped to give official U.S. approval to one of Stalin’s most damaging propaganda lies of the twentieth century designed to hide his crime. Keeping his crime secret allowed him to get President Roosevelt’s approval for his demands of political arrangements and territorial changes for the period after the war, which otherwise he might not have been able to achieve.

The war atrocity of which Kathleen Harriman helped to absolve Stalin and the Soviet regime was a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers, state workers, and intelligentsia prisoners of war carried out by the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs,” the Soviet secret police) in April and May 1940. At first glance, a report by a 26-year-old journalist somewhere in the State Department’s files, may not appear highly significant, but it likely changed Poland’s history and helped bring immense harm to millions of other people in East-Central Europe. Hiding Stalin’s responsibility for the Katyn massacre from the Americans and the British public is what helped him get what he wanted from Roosevelt and Churchill at Yalta. Although the report itself was secret and available only to high-level U.S. officials, its significance was in supporting and augmenting the journalistic accounts that misled the public opinion in the United States and Great Britain.

Both Western leaders already knew Stalin had committed this war crime. What they did not want was for the opposition politicians and the voters in their countries to discover that the Soviet dictator, on whose promises they had relied at their wartime summit meetings, was a mass murderer, not much different from Germany’s totalitarian and genocidal leader Adolf Hitler. Reporting by Kathleen Harriman and American and other Western news correspondents based at that time in the Soviet Union helped to safeguard for a few more years Stalin’s reputation in the United States and Great Britain as a defender of liberty and democracy and a champion of social progress. These were also some of the main propaganda themes of the Office of War Information and the Voice of America during World War II and, in VOA’s case, even for a few years after the war.

Kathleen Harriman was never a full-time employee on the agency or the VOA payroll but worked for OWI and VOA as an unpaid volunteer. She did not need money, but she enjoyed the attention and prestige of working for the U.S. government’s war agency and her work as a journalist for private media in London. To her credit later, she did not try to provide false excuses for her mistake in her report from Katyn when called to testify before a congressional committee in 1952. Although she did not apologize for its impact on U.S. foreign policy and the victim’s families, her answers to questions from members of Congress were polite and much more honest and straightforward than those of former Office of War Information and Voice of America officials, whose responses were often incomplete and misleading. They appeared defiant and not at all ashamed of their misjudgments. During the war, some were responsible for producing OWI propaganda films justifying to Americans the illegal internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry. The forced relocation of innocent American citizens, although not nearly as brutal and deadly as similar actions in Russia, was based on the Stalinist model of collective responsibility, and Stalin’s deportations of ethnic groups suspected of disloyalty to the Soviet state provided a blueprint for the Roosevelt administration for a solution to a problem that did not exist.

Kathleen Harriman made a mistake but did not violate any U.S. laws. However, senior OWI officials did, including future U.S. Senator Alan Cranston (Democrat – California), who had forced some Polish-American radio broadcasters to stop blaming the Soviet Union for the Katyn murders by illegally applying pressure on the owners of private radio stations in the United States in the violation of the First Amendment provisions against government interference with a free press. The Office of War Information officials also tried to shut down a Polish American newspaper, which pointed out that OWI distributed false and misleading information to American media about Polish war orphans who were transiting through California on their way to a refugee camp in Mexico (the Roosevelt administration did not allow them to stay in the United States and be adopted by Americans) to help hide information that their parents were murdered or died as prisoners in Stalin’s Russia. To prevent U.S. media from contacting the children and their guardians, the Roosevelt administration kept them under U.S. military guard in a former relocation center for Japanese-Americans near Los Angeles.14 The agency for which Kathleen Harriman volunteered became infamous for hiding the truth, misleading Americans and the world with pro-Soviet propaganda, and violating U.S. laws. In 1943, the highly displeased U.S. Congress, in a bipartisan vote, cut OWI’s domestic propaganda budget to almost nothing. In the middle of the war, Congress also cut funding for the Voice of America, but not as drastically. Considering the behavior of the leadership of the government organization for which she volunteered, it is hard to imagine that a 26-year-old would have had the knowledge and the boldness to question Stalinist propaganda, which the Office of War Information promoted on a daily basis.

The Yalta Conference and the Katyn massacre were two history-changing events that have not lent themselves easily to helping advance the narrative of the Voice of America’s journalistic integrity in those years. Even though the station’s federal management likes to refer to the promise of always giving the world truthful news, journalists like Kathleen Harriman or VOA’s first communist chief news writer and editor Howard Fast, who in 1953 won the Stalin International Peace Prize (later renamed the Lenin Peace Prize), have been always omitted from the institution’s official history. The station also employed many foreign-born fellow travelers. The chief anti-U.S. propagandist in communist-ruled Poland, a denier of Stalin’s responsibility for the Katyn massacre, and a harsh critic of the U.S. Congress’s investigation of the Stalinist crime was a former United States Office of War Information and Voice of America editor Stefan Arski (employed by OWI and VOA as Artur Salman).15 His name also does not appear in any official VOA history or books documenting the organization’s early years, including Alan Heil’s highly hagiographic book, Voice of America: A History (Columbia University Press, 2003). Heil also does not mention Howard Fast, the misleading reporting on the Katyn massacre, and the later censorship of the Katyn story. Also not mentioned in any books about VOA is Mira Złotowska Michałowska16, a former OWI and VOA Polish editor who had returned to Poland, married a high-level communist diplomat, and translated Howard Fast’s books into Polish while publishing soft and misleading pro-Warsaw regime propaganda in such U.S. periodicals as Harper’s Magazine.17 But also never or rarely mentioned by most American historians and former U.S.-born Voice of America officials and journalists are anti-communist refugee journalists, women, and men, whom the Truman administration hired to replace the initial editorial team of Soviet and communist sympathizers.

The Voice of America’s record as a journalistic entity charged with providing truthful news to defend freedom has been mixed. It was far from perfect but included at least one spectacular success—the peaceful end of the Cold War. President Truman made it possible by demanding staffing and programming reforms at the U.S. government’s broadcaster. In Poland, until Ronald Reagan’s presidency, VOA’s role was not nearly as significant as that of the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe, which President Truman secretly helped to launch. After the Truman administration reforms of the early 1950s, VOA was somewhat more popular in the Soviet Union. However, communism in Poland fell because of strong and persistant internal opposition, including, the independent Solidarity trade union, and the economic and political decline of the Soviet Union. Not to be discounted in the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire was the consistent leadership provided by the United States government under both Democratic and Republican administrations from President Roosevelt’s death until the end of Reagan’s presidency.

For a better understanding of how the Voice of America performed in the twentieth century, I would divide VOA’s history into two broad periods. The VOA broadcasters of the first period produced anti-Nazi propaganda, which did not appear effective in shortening the war. They also helped to bring communist rule and socialism to East Central Europe. The VOA broadcasters of the later period contributed to the fall of communism in East-Central Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet empire. I had the good luck and privilege to be working for VOA when it was no longer under major influence of Soviet propaganda, but even those successful decades can be divided into three different timespans with different levels of impact: 1. From the later years of the Truman administration when censorship in favor of the Soviet Union almost completely disappeared until the later years of the Eisenhower administration when it started to creep back; 2. From the later years of the Eisenhower’s presidency until the start of Ronald Reagan‘s presidency, when limited censorship was still applied from time to time to the Katyn story; 3. The Reagan years, which brought an end to such censorship.

The institutional censorship in the 1970s included banning Soviet Nobel Prize-winning author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn from being interviewed by the VOA Russian Service during Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations.18 In his monumental work, The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn wrote about the Katyn massacre. He blamed it on the Soviet leadership, which may explain why the VOA management would not allow long excerpts from his book to be read on the air. Such censorship against Solzhenitsyn and restrictions on extensive reporting about Soviet and other communist atrocities were never imposed by Radio Free Europe’s and Radio Liberty‘s American management.

VOA’s wartime journalists were different from those of the later period who were refugees from communism. The first group hired during World War II did not advance the defeat of Germany and Japan with their anti-Nazi and anti-Japanese, but also pro-Soviet and pro-Stalin propaganda. The Germans and the Japanese fought almost to the bitter end. Instead, the wartime Voice of America made Stalin’s communist takeover of East-Central Europe somewhat faster and easier than it otherwise might have been. From 1942 until about 1950—VOA supported communist dictators in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere in the hope that they would be most effective in fighting fascism, as well as facilitated Soviet Russia’s domination over East-Central Europe in the hope of securing peace and social progress after the war. From about 1950 until the end of the Cold War—VOA tried to reverse the mistakes of the first period and restore freedom and democracy in East Central Europe, Russia, and China, but without admitting any mistakes had been made previously and, from time to time, still using limited censorship to protect the policy of détente with the Soviet Union and its satellite countries. To better understand the overall U.S. government response to the Soviet betrayal of the Yalta agreements, one must also weigh in a much more robust and effective response to the Soviet and other communist propaganda from Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Like VOA, they were also funded by U.S. taxpayers and initially secretly managed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but with considerable journalistic independence granted to their service chiefs, editors, and broadcasters—far more than at the Voice of America.

Kathleen Harriman is linked to the first period in VOA’s history and to the fellow travelers and Soviet agents of influence who had helped Stalin cover up his crimes and deceive the American President during World War II. These wartime U.S. government propagandists had also misled a large segment of the American public into believing that communist Russia was not a dictatorship but a noble experiment in a progressive democracy. Kathleen Harriman was part of the group of idealistic but naive journalists in the early years of VOA’s existence. If it were not for some independent private media and some members of Congress of both parties who raised the alarm over the domestic and international propaganda activities of President Roosevelt’s Office of War Information, the damage from the Voice of America wartime broadcasts glorifying Stalin and hiding or excusing his crimes could have been even greater and longer lasting. Kathleen Harriman’s mistake in absolving Soviet Russia of murdering Polish prisoners of war and the handling of her fateful report from Katyn by U.S. government officials were investigated, discussed, and condemned by a bipartisan congressional committee, the United States House Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, which was established in 1951 and held public hearings in 1952. Also known as the Madden Committee, after its chairman, Rep. Ray J. Madden (Democrat — Indiana), it questioned numerous witnesses, including Kathleen Harriman, and published extensive reports. However, the committee’s findings have also been later forgotten and omitted from the official VOA history.

Untangling the early history of the Voice of America and U.S. government propaganda operations, both domestic and international, is not an easy task because almost everybody who played any role in helping Stalin gain control over Eastern Europe and helping the Chinese Communists win power in China had a reason to hide it or present it later as legitimate U.S. foreign policy goals and objective and successful journalism. To her credit, Kathleen Harriman did not engage in such sophistry in her 1952 testimony before the congressional committee studying the Katyn massacre. Private sector journalists usually try to avoid calling attention to their mistakes. On the other hand, some U.S. government journalists and officials not only hide information from Congress and the American public but often feel the need to describe their failures as successes to justify their salaries and calls for increased budgets. Some government officials, journalists, and scholars writing books about the Voice of America may have worked for VOA or hoped to work for it or its government agency. This may explain the dearth of objective analysis. It may also explain the disinformation by former and current Voice of America officials about the history of VOA broadcasting during World War II and the unofficial ban on mentioning journalists like Kathleen Harriman and Howard Fast in connection with VOA because bad publicity may lead to more congressional scrutiny and could affect future funding. A former Voice of America director Sanford J. Ungar, who had served under President Clinton from 1999 to 2001, said in response to a question during a panel discussion on February 3, 2022, organized to commemorate the 80th anniversary of VOA’s first broadcast, that the information about Howard Fast, a World War II VOA chief English news writer and editor receiving the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, was merely “amusing,” and that asking such questions amounted to McCarthyism. He implied that past critics of VOA were white supremacists. However, while it is true that the critics included some segregationist southern Democrats, most were moderate Republicans and Democrats, and some of the most credible critics were former Communists who became anti-communists but never renounced their support for liberal and progressive causes.

The majority of the members of the Madden Committee, which investigated the Katyn massacre and criticized the Voice of America operations during and after the war, were northern Democrats, as was the committee’s chairman. The Republican members were also from districts in northern states. When Kathleen Harriman testified before the committee in 1952, she did not thoroughly explain her participation in hiding the truth about Stalin’s crimes. While she was a cooperating witness, committee members may have felt sorry for her because of her young age in 1944 and being under her father’s influence. They should have pressed for more detailed answers. Later in her life, she tried to stay out of the public limelight. However, some of the other American reporters, who were silent about communist atrocities and helped to spread Soviet propaganda but were not called to testify, presented themselves or were later hailed in the United States as giants of truthful and objective journalism. One of them was Kathleen Harriman’s boss in London’s bureau of the Office of War Information, Wallace Carroll, who became a news editor in the Washington bureau of the New York Times (1955-1963) and subsequently editor and publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel.

For a journalist who has acquired such a stellar reputation, even eight years after the Katyn Forest massacre, Carroll still defended one of Stalin’s greatest propaganda lies as truthful in his 1948 book, Persuade or Perish, designed to teach Americans how to recognize and fight propaganda. Yet this fact is strangely omitted from his biography by Mary Llewellyn McNeil, Century’s Witness: The Extraordinary Life of Journalist Wallace Carroll, published in 2022, even though she devotes several pages to discussing his Persuade or Perish book. The jacket of Century’s Witness includes a quote from Donald Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, saying, “Only after reading this wonderful book, did I understand how great Carroll was.”19 His biographer, however, failed to mention that Carroll was duped by Soviet propaganda. If the Office of War Information should be blamed for brainwashing a young and inexperienced journalist like Kathleen Harriman to accept Soviet propaganda at face value, especially on the Katyn story, Wallace Carroll, her boss in London, would probably share most of the blame. His aggressive advocacy from London may have persuaded the OWI Director Elmer Davis that the Russians were telling the truth about Katyn. Elmer Davis then may have convinced President Roosevelt to place OWI and VOA in the forefront of defending Stalin’s innocence, although Davis never publicly admitted that he had discussed this issue with his boss in the White House.

The chances of Davis not speaking to Roosevelt about Katyn and giving him advice in line with the recommendations from his representative in London, Wallace Carroll, a naive journalist like Davis, seem very small. It would have been the advice Roosevelt wanted to hear since he rejected the opposite advice from others, even his closest friends. Carroll was correct in arguing in his earlier book, We’re In It With Russia (1942), that the Soviet Union would play a key role in defeating Germany militarily, but in that book, published after he had traveled to Russia in 1941 as a newspaper reporter, he also accepted and repeated without challenging many Soviet propaganda claims and did not warn that Stalin could not be trusted as America’s long-term ally. Instead, Carroll regretted that Stalin did not have a better public relations image in the United States.

This unwillingness to make intelligent use of the “capitalist press” was only one of a number of weaknesses in the Soviet propaganda organization. After all the commotion which has been made about Russian propaganda, I was surprised to find that the Soviets were overlooking many ways of influencing world opinion, not only through the press, but through the movies, the radio, and other media. They seldom missed a trick in the propaganda directed at their own people, but the machinery they employed to put their case before the world would have been considered inadequate by any other great power.20  

Carroll vastly underestimated Stalin’s ability to manipulate the “capitalist press,” including his own writing, the Office of War Information, and the Voice of America. In his book, he repeatedly refers to warnings about Stalin, communism, and the Soviet Union as invoking “the Bolshevik Bogy.” Robert E. Sherwood used the same expression in a May 8, 1944 confidential telegram from London to Wallace Carroll at the OWI. Carroll, more than anybody else, could have influenced Kathleen Harriman’s view of the Katyn massacre even before she got to Moscow since he was in charge of the Office of War Information operation in London when she was working there as a volunteer.

When in April 1943, the Germans announced the discovery of the Katyn graves, Carroll strongly urged the OWI office in Washington to launch a major propaganda offensive to counter the German claim that it was a Soviet crime.21 Carroll later served in one of the top positions in charge of Voice of America programs. After the war, he was executive editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel, served as news editor in the Washington bureau of the New York Times from 1955 to 1963, and was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Board. In his book, Persuade or Perish, published almost three years after the war, he still insisted that the Soviet version of the Katyn massacre was true. Carroll wrote in 1948:

... the dissension which was permitted to arise over the Katyn massacre was still working to the advantage of defeated Germany after the war. In July, 1946, more than three years after Goebbels opened his campaign, the German leaders on trial for war crimes at Nuremberg revived the allegations against the Russians in an obvious attempt to drive a wedge between the Soviets and the Western Powers.22

Wallace Carroll was utterly wrong and misleading by implying that the German leaders had revived the Katyn allegations against the Russians at the Nuremberg trials. It was the Soviet prosecutor at Nuremberg who had introduced the Katyn charges and tried to blame the mass murder on the Germans. It soon became apparent that the Russians could not prove their case with their poorly fabricated evidence. Seeing his claims refuted, the Soviet prosecutor quietly dropped the Katyn charges against the German defendants. These facts, which Carroll as a journalist could have easily checked with minimal effort by looking at news reports but failed to do so and did not present in his book, were confirmed to the Madden Committee by Robert H. Jackson, who, during his legal career, was United States Solicitor General, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice, and chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. Justice Jackson was an outstanding liberal jurist. Even though he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Roosevelt, he was one of the dissenting judges in the 1944 Korematsu v. United States case brought by a U.S. citizen challenging the forced internment of Japanese-American citizens during the war. While the Office of War Information defended President Roosevelt’s decision, Justice Jackson argued that it was racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. The court’s majority sided with the Roosevelt administration. Some OWI officials, including Elmer Davis, claimed later that they were against the forcible deportations of Americans, but they may have been more concerned about how the Japanese could exploit them in their propaganda abroad against the United States. None resigned over this issue, and the agency, under their leadership, produced propaganda films supporting the internment policy and falsely claiming that the Japanese-Americans collaborated willingly in their imprisonment.

Justice Jackson was proven right when the Supreme Court in 2018 finally overturned the Korematsu decision. At the Nuremberg trial, he was not fooled by the fabricated Katyn evidence presented by the Soviet side. He explained to the Madden Committee how the Soviet prosecutor tried but failed to get the international tribunal to convict the Nazi war criminals for a war crime ordered by Stalin and other members of the Soviet Communist Party Politburo. In 1946, Justice Jackson knew that the Soviets were lying. Wallace Carroll, the celebrated journalist, still did not know it in 1948. Until 1981, the Voice of America was still afraid to accuse the Soviet Union of carrying out the Katyn executions. Another celebrated journalist, Harrison Salisbury, claimed he was still not certain in the 1980s that the Soviets had committed this atrocity.


Chairman MADDEN. For the purposes of the record, Mr. Justice, would you state your name and your title?  

Mr. Justice JACKSON. Robert H. Jackson. At the present time I am  associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I was representative and chief of counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg  prosecutions, at the international trial only.  

Chairman MADDEN. Do you have a statement you wish to read? 


Mr. Justice JACKSON. The first proposal that the Nuremberg trial should take up examination of the Katyn massacre came from the Soviet prosecutor during the drawing of the indictment. Preliminary drafts were negotiated in London at a series of conferences where I was represented, but not personally present. At the last London meeting, the Soviet prosecutor included among crimes charged in the east the following:  In September 1941, 925 Polish officers who were prisoners of war were killed in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk.  Both British and American representatives protested, but they finally concluded that, despite their personal disapproval, if the Soviet thought they could prove the charge they were entitled to do so under the division of the case.  The indictment was brought to Berlin for final settlement and filing, where I objected to inclusion of the charge and even more strongly when, at the last moment, the Soviet delayed its filing by amending the Katyn charge to include 11,000 instead of 925 victims.  


The Soviet prosecutor appears to have abandoned the charge. The tribunal did not convict the German defendants of the Katyn massacre. Neither did it expressly exonerate them, as the judgment made no reference to the Katyn incident. The Soviet judge dissented in some matters but did not mention Katyn.23

Carroll does not mention in Persuade or Perish his Office of War Information volunteer London employee Kathleen Harriman. Her reporting contributions to OWI in Britain must not have been very significant. Still, while working in the London OWI office, when he was in charge, she had to be exposed to his pro-Soviet views and his uncritical acceptance of Soviet propaganda. In 1948, he repeated, without any challenge, the Soviet Communist Party Pravda newspaper’s denunciation of the Polish government-in-exile in London as “Hitler’s Polish collaborators”24 for asking the International Red Cross to conduct an impartial investigation to find out who had murdered thousands of Polish officers.

It would appear that even before going to Moscow with her father in October 1943, Kathleen Harriman had already received a strong dose of Soviet propaganda indoctrination in the OWI office in London before being exposed to more of it in Russia. The irony in Wallace Carroll’s 1948 Persuade or Perish book and in his role as one of the Voice of America’s “founding fathers” was that he had presented himself as a propaganda expert and bragged about his success in countering Nazi propaganda about Katyn after being completely duped by Soviet propaganda over this very issue not only during World War II but even three years after Stalin had established his brutal dominance over East-Central Europe and more evidence emerged that he had ordered the killings of the Polish POWs. On the cover of Persuade or Perish, Carroll was described as being in London “to direct psychological warfare operations in the European Theater and to supervise the American information program in the British Isles.” He had a falling out with the OWI deputy director Robert Sherwood and resigned from his position in London. Sherwood came to London to replace him after his own disagreements with the OWI Director, Elmer Davis. However, all three agreed on coordinating Soviet and American propaganda. In 1944, Carroll “returned to Washington to direct the planning of American psychological warfare operations over the entire European Continent,” the note said.

Therefore, in addition to being Kathleen Harriman’s boss in London, Wallace Carroll was later one of the numerous wartime officials responsible for Voice of America broadcasts to Europe who continued to cover up Stalin’s crimes at the end of the war and for a few more years after the war. Wallace Carroll, Robert Sherwood, and Elmer Davis were in charge of many wartime VOA journalists, Americans by birth and foreign-born, who were strongly pro-Soviet. Some were communist sympathizers, and probably more than a dozen were Communist Party members.

Carroll and other OWI and VOA executives had little regard for foreign refugee journalists unless they agreed with them and supported Stalin as much as the American management asked of them. In Persuade or Perish, Carroll praised the talents and enthusiasm of VOA’s “émigrés” but generally wrote about them disparagingly for having “passions and political convictions which sometimes proved too much for their good intentions.”

There was another fault of American propaganda from New York [Voice of America broadcast from New York until 1954] that we strove to overcome with just as little success—a fault that can only be described as the émigré imprint.25 

Carroll’s lofty view of the “émigrés” was not dissimilar to FDR’s attitude toward the small East-Central European nations. Both thought they knew better what was good for the East Europeans. Both were convinced that Soviet Russia was socially progressive, even more than the United States, and deserved to be the region’s dominant power and guarantor of post-war peace. At least one émigré VOA broadcaster who dared to object to pro-Soviet propaganda about Katyn was threatened with dismissal.26 Konstanty Broel Plater resigned in 1944 in protest against VOA’s broadcasting of Soviet propaganda lies about the Katyn massacre.

One remarkable émigré journalist who did not yet work for the Voice of America during the war but who would become the VOA Russian Service chief in 1948 was Alexander Barmine, a former general in the Soviet military intelligence. He defected in 1937 from the Soviet Embassy in Athens, Greece, and was condemned to death in absentia in the Soviet Union. In an article published by Reader’s Digest in October 1944, he warned about pro-Soviet VOA officials and journalists like Wallace Carroll and Owen Lattimore but did not name them.

The United States is waging a deadly struggle against Nazi totali­tarianism. All its energies, labor, wealth, thousands of its lives, are be­ing sacrificed to destroy this enemy of democracy. Yet, at the same time, in the press, on the radio, in the Govern­ment and among liberal circles sup­posed to represent the vigilant con­science of the nation, there is in process a moral and psychological disarmament before another totali­tarian conspiracy—that of the Communists—which threatens our democracy even more seriously. It is dismaying to see how our Left intelligentsia, swayed by subtle Communist propaganda, have transformed the triumph of superhuman fighting will of the Russian people into a triumph of the totalitarian Commu­nist regime. The Russians had no choice but to fight under whatever regime they had, and they rightly de­cided that foreign tyranny would be worse than native. But what shall we say of American "democrats" who, instead of praising the Russian people and hoping they may reap the reward of freedom, praise the regime that op­presses them and compare it favorably with our democratic way of life? The unspeakable tragedy of the Russian people is that they are com­pelled to fight the foreign aggressor without any rights or liberties of their own. Every second family of these Russian fighting men has lost someone in a purge, or to one of the con­centration camps in which at least ten million victims of the dictatorship are still enduring a living death.27

With approval and encouragement from the Truman administration, Barmine included reports about the Katyn massacre in VOA Russian broadcasts in the early 1950s.28

At least one American journalist in London during the war did not fall for Stalin’s lies about Katyn. It was not anybody connected with the OWI offices in London, Washington, or New York. In defending himself from false accusations by Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican – Wisconsin), Edward R. Murrow pointed out in a CBS’ See It Now television program broadcast on April 13, 1954, that he had gotten the Katyn story right when it was first reported by the Germans. Murrow blamed it on the Russians. However, contrary to what some Voice of America officials and journalists still believe, he had nothing to do with the Office of War Information or the Voice of America during World War II and did not become the United States Information Agency (USIA) Director until 1961.

I require no lectures from the junior Senator from Wisconsin as to the dangers or terrors of Communism. Having watched the aggressive forces at work in Western Europe, having had friends in Eastern Europe butchered and driven into exile, having broadcast from London in 1943 that the Russians were responsible for the Katyn massacre, having told the story of the Russian refusal to allow allied aircraft to land on Russian fields after dropping supplies to those who rose in Warsaw -- and then were betrayed by the Russians—and having been denounced by the Russian radio for these reports, I cannot feel that I require instruction from the Senator on the evils of Communism.29

Soviet newspapers made Kathleen Harriman famous in Russia during the war when she was in Moscow with her father because Stalin and Soviet propagandists wanted to gain their support. She is now largely forgotten in Russia.

U.S. news reports in January 1944 listed Miss Harriman as being present in Katyn as a Moscow representative of the Office of War Information. This U.S. government agency was created in 1942 to be an authoritative source of war news for Americans and to produce radio information programs and propaganda for foreign audiences. Her affiliation with OWI gave the official stamp of approval for the only conclusion readers could draw from the news reports of American correspondents—the Soviet Union was innocent in this tragedy. This was the stated conclusion of the secret report Kathleen Harriman wrote to be sent by her father to the State Department. But her official report and the news reports by her colleagues were deceptive and wrong. She and the other journalists all became witting or unwitting participants in spreading a blatant Soviet propaganda lie.

The correspondents did not warn the American public that they were subject to severe censorship by Soviet officials and intimidation by the NKVD. Apparently, most did not believe in what they had reported or, at least, did not think the Soviets had proven their claims. Kathleen Harriman was in a somewhat better position than the other journalists because her diplomatic cable did not have to go through the Soviet censors. But she went even further in misleading U.S. government officials by presenting her own view in her secret report to the State Department that the Germans were responsible for carrying out the murders in Katyn.

The United Press dispatch, which appeared in American newspapers around January 16, 1943, after being delayed by the Soviet censors for several days, was typical of reports by Western correspondents who had gone with Kathleen Harriman on the trip organized by the Soviet government and supervised closely by the NKVD. It was most likely authored by the newly arrived UP correspondent Harrison Salisbury, later the first regular New York Times correspondent in Moscow after World War II, the first American journalist invited by the North Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. In January 1944, Salisbury went with the group to Katyn, but some assumed that Salisbury’s UP Moscow boss Henry Shapiro wrote and sent the report.30 The headline of the UP report read:

Russia Hurls Charge: Nazis Murdered 11,000 Officials Aver. 

Kathleen Harriman is prominently mentioned in the second paragraph of the UP dispatch, which also states that the murders occurred in 1941 and, therefore, much more likely to have been committed by the Germans.

The conclusions regarding the slaughter in 1941 were announced in the presence of 17 American, British, and Canadian correspondents and two representatives of the United States Office of War Information—Kathleen Harriman, daughter of the American ambassador to Russia and John Melby, acting Moscow chief of the OWI.31

There was nothing in the UP report on the circumstances of the Polish prisoners’ capture and detention by the NKVD, and, of course, nothing about Stalin’s other war crimes and communist atrocities. The report did not examine some of the significant weaknesses in the evidence presented by the Soviet government experts and had a most banal ending for a story about a human tragedy of such immense magnitude:

The correspondents were taken slightly less than 10 miles west of Smolensk to the Katyn Hills, rolling slopes above the Dnieper. The region is known locally as "Goat’s Hill" because goats grazed there in peace time.32

The Western correspondents and Kathleen Harriman deceived Americans and the world’s public opinion with a Soviet propaganda lie. Her failure as a journalist and, at the same time, a representative of the U.S. government in Soviet Russia should not, however, be judged too harshly. Nothing in her carefree life prepared her for the task she was given. Other journalists and political leaders—men older, much more experienced, and considerably more powerful and influential than her—failed even more spectacularly by allowing themselves to be fooled by Soviet communist dictator Joseph Stalin and his propaganda or, in many cases, knowingly using and spreading Soviet disinformation. Still, this 26-year-old journalist had a critical role in history at a highly decisive moment. She had an opportunity to discover the truth and most likely knew what it was, but—because of her father’s position, the pro-Soviet blindness of her Office of War Information bosses, Soviet propaganda influence, intimidation by the NKVD, and her self-interest—she made the fateful error of reporting what everybody who mattered to her seemingly wanted to hear.

But even if she had made different decisions as a journalist investigating the scene of a war crime, it is not clear whether it would have changed much that happened to the East-Central Europeans after the war. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was too determined to appease Stalin at all costs. He would have probably found a way to cast aside and hide any information that might have stopped him from giving the Soviet dictator what he wanted because he thought America needed his full cooperation and goodwill to defeat Germany and Japan and secure world peace after the war.

President Roosevelt was right about Germany if the lives of American soldiers were to be spared and the fighting and dying done mainly by the Russians. He was wrong about needing Russia’s help against Japan, but he could not have known that the atomic bomb would work. He was entirely and tragically wrong in assuming that Stalin would help the United States maintain peace and stability in international relations and allow some measure of democracy in Eastern Europe. In his plans for the post-war world, FDR relied on the word of a dictator and a mass murderer. Furthermore, the Red Army was already preparing to occupy the countries that Stalin wanted for himself and Russia. Stalin was unwilling to give up the territories he had already annexed once before, thanks to his 1939 alliance with Hitler’s Nazi Germany, which led to World War II. Still, President Roosevelt could have brought up the question of Stalin’s guilt in the Katyn massacre and demanded specific and enforceable guarantees of free and democratic elections in East-Central Europe. Whether this would have changed the course of history is anybody’s guess, but the Harrimans and the Western journalists who went to Katyn did not provide information with which he could have made such demands, assuming he would even want to use it.

Roosevelt’s decisions about Russia most likely saved the lives of many American soldiers in the short run and brought victory over Nazi Germany much faster. But his miscalculations before and during the Yalta Summit also had another profound impact— bringing Stalinist communism, death, suffering, and socialist poverty to millions of people for many decades. His decisions strengthened the Soviet Union as America’s ideological and military adversary. They helped Stalin to instigate the Korean War, with over 30,000 U.S. battle deaths and allowed Russia to start other wars and conflicts through its proxies. The Roosevelt administration’s concessions to Stalin, its support for the Chinese Communists, and the World War II pro-communist propaganda by OWI and VOA could also be blamed for setting the stage for the victory of the Chinese Communists and the Vietnam War, with over 58,000 U.S. military deaths in Vietnam, and a genocide in China. Other civilian and military Cold War casualties were also in the millions. Korea, Vietnam, and other Cold War conflicts cost the United States trillions of dollars. The Cold War was not cold.

Whether these deaths and suffering could have been averted if a young woman and a group of Western journalists had been courageous enough and found a way to tell President Roosevelt and Americans that Stalin was not much different than Hitler and Red Fascism was not much different from Black Fascism will never be known. They, together with Office of War Information officials and Voice of America journalists and editors, followed instead in the footsteps of Walter Duranty, another Pulitzer Prize winner, who lied in his reporting from Russia in the 1930s about the famine in Ukraine and attacked Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who accurately reported that the starving of the Ukrainians ordered by Stalin took millions of lives.

However, very few progressive Americans have asked whether honest journalism by OWI and VOA during World War II, keeping these institutions free of Soviet agents of influence, and not relying on a report of a 25-year-old daughter of the U.S. businessman-ambassador to the Soviet Union could have made a difference for millions of East Europeans. This question is rarely posed because many politicians, scholars, and journalists do not want to damage the legacy of President Roosevelt and his administration, harm the Democratic Party in the United States, and, in general, cast doubt on progressive causes. What also should be said, however, is that the administration of President Harry S. Truman, who was a Democrat and Roosevelt’s Vice President, changed the course of history by resisting further Soviet aggression against other nations with the Truman Doctrine, the creation of NATO, and the Marshall Plan. President Truman abolished the Office of War Information in 1945 and placed the Voice of America in the State Department. He also supported the establishment of Radio Free Europe (RFE) and the initially secret U.S. government funding for its operations. The Truman administration also initiated significant management and programming reforms to make VOA broadcasts more effective against Soviet propaganda by hiring anti-communist refugee journalists. Despite decades of discrimination and renewed pro-Soviet censorship by new teams of American-born left-leaning managers and editors, they still managed to undo some of the damage done by the original group VOA’s Stalin’s admirers and fellow travelers.

For her personal role in shaping history, what Kathleen Harriman was asked to do as a journalist and her father’s emissary had a much more profound impact than her volunteer work for the Office of War Information and later for the Voice of America when both institutions were still strongly pro-Soviet and engaging in spreading disinformation about communism in Eastern Europe. A year before the Yalta Summit, at her father’s request, she helped Stalin hide from the Americans and the rest of the world his responsibility for one of his most gruesome genocidal murders—the extermination of thousands of Polish military officers held in Russia as prisoners of war, including prominent members of Poland’s political and intellectual elites. She did some unspecified volunteer work for the Voice of America when President Truman had already started changing U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union, but before VOA hired such anti-communist journalists as future Russian Service chief, former Soviet military intelligence General Alexander Barmine, who had defected in 1937 and joined VOA in 1948. The same year, VOA hired Zofia Korbońska, a former anti-Nazi Polish resistance member, at the recommendation of former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Arthur Bliss Lane.33 Ambassador Lane, a former elite American diplomat, and former OWI refugee editor Julius Epstein played a crucial role in getting the U.S. Congress to start the Katyn investigation. Thanks to President Truman’s “Campaign of Truth,”34 VOA’s new emigre journalists like Zofia Korbońska were able to begin correcting the lies about Katyn initiated by the Kremlin and embraced and amplified earlier for Americans and the world by Ambassador Harriman, his daughter, Western reporters in Moscow, and the early officials, editors, and journalists at the Office of War Information and the Voice of America.

What is unclear and perhaps will never be clear is whether, at his father’s request and with his help, Kathleen Harriman wrote her infamous report absolving Stalin of responsibility for the Katyn war crime, with both knowing or strongly suspecting it contained a false conclusion, or whether they were both tragically influenced by Soviet propaganda and inexplicably arrogant and naive. It was, however, the finding President Roosevelt expected them to deliver, and they may not have wanted to disappoint him. FDR believed, not unreasonably, that it was in U.S. political and military interest while fighting Germany and Japan to keep Russia at war, maintain the wartime alliance, and prevent Stalin from seeking a separate peace with Hitler. He was also willing, however, in trying to accommodate Stalin’s demands, to sacrifice the interests and territories of the smaller allies in the anti-Nazi coalition, such as Poland, without their knowledge and agreement.

The crime, for which Ambassador Harriman and his daughter assigned the blame to the wrong totalitarian dictator, became collectively known as the Katyn Forest massacre, after an area near Smolensk in western Russia, where the German Army discovered in April 1943 some of the graves of thousands of Polish military officers who had mysteriously disappeared in the spring of 1940 when they were prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. The massacre’s victims were active duty and reserve Polish Army officers captured by the Red Army in September 1939 when Hitler and Stalin jointly attacked and divided Poland under the secret terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939. Many prominent Polish leaders were among the murdered reserve officers. Among the killed in all the 1940 NKVD executions were 14 Polish generals, 20 university professors, and more than 100 writers and journalists. A military pilot Janina Lewandowska, a daughter of a Polish general, was the only woman POW executed during the massacre at Katyn, but more women were killed at other execution sites. About 8% of the Katyn massacre victims were Polish Jews[efn]Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010), p. 140.[/efn_note], including Baruch Steinberg, Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army.

The Katyn murders were only one of several mass executions of Polish prisoners, military and civilian, carried out by the NKVD secret police in the spring of 1940 at various locations in the Soviet Union. After Hitler broke his alliance with Stalin and invaded Russia in June 1941, the German Army occupied the sites where the Polish POWs were secretly buried. In the spring of 1943, the Germans only discovered the Katyn graves. The locations of the graves of several thousand more Polish victims of the 1940 Soviet executions were still unknown. An international commission of experts convened by the Germans in 1943 issued a report on April 30, stating that the Russians had committed the Katyn murders. After the Red Army retook the area in September-October 1943, the Soviet government established a commission of its experts to prove the massacre of Polish prisoners was a Nazi war crime.

Kathleen Harriman went to Katyn in January 1944 on a trip for foreign journalists organized by the Soviet authorities as one of two U.S. Embassy and Office of War Information representatives. The Soviets would not have organized the show and invited Western journalists if they had not been sure they could deceive them or otherwise get them to agree with the Soviet version of the crime because of self-interest, indoctrination, intimidation, or outright blackmail. They made the same assumption about Kathleen Harriman and her father, who were under additional pressure from President Roosevelt and his pro-Soviet advisors not to do anything that might upset FDR’s personal relationship with Stalin and Russia’s participation in the war. The consequences of publicly disagreeing with the Soviet government on this issue would have been most profound for the journalists. They knew they could be expelled from Russia and face severe reprisals from the Soviet secret police. For Ambassador Harriman’s and his daughter, accusing the Soviet Union of committing a major war crime would most likely bring an immediate end to their stay in Moscow. They would be asked to leave by the Soviet government, President Roosevelt, or both.

Averell Harriman most likely already knew that the Russians had killed the Polish officers, as did FDR. Neither wanted this information to reach Americans, especially the Polish-American voters. Kathleen Harriman and the other journalists almost certainly knew that the Soviet Commission’s presentation was a farce and that its members and other officials were lying about who had committed the crime, but none had the courage to put it in their respective reports. None wanted to be expelled from Russia, and none wanted to leave Russia to write a truthful news report and never be permitted to return.

The fact that the Western correspondents in Moscow did not believe in what they had reported after their visit to Katyn was confirmed for the Madden Committee by a Roman-Catholic priest, Father Léopold L. S. Braun (1903-1964). He was a member of the North American Province of the French Assumptionist Order (Augustinians of the Assumption). Since March 1,1934 to December 27, 1945, under a diplomatic agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, Father Braun served as chaplain to the American Catholics working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and to other permanent and temporary Western residents in the Soviet capital. He was also a priest at the St. Louis des Français Church, located across the street from the infamous NKVD Lubianka prison. As assistant to French Bishop Pie Neveu, apostolic administrator of Moscow and senior foreign Catholic prelate in Russia during that period, Father Braun was invited to live at the French embassy compound, except for the period of three years from 1941 to 1944 when the French Vichy government recalled its ambassador to the USSR. His semi-diplomatic status and contacts with Western ambassadors and other diplomats protected him to a large degree from open reprisals by the Soviet secret police. His access to Western diplomats, Soviet officials, and ordinary Russians made him one of the best-informed foreigners in Moscow. Before arriving in Russia, he spoke fluent English and French and knew German and Spanish but did not speak Russian. He had to learn the Russian language, study Russian literature, and familiarize himself with Soviet life. Throughout his stay in the Soviet Union, he was constantly harassed by the NKVD.

In his extensive and excellent testimony on February 7, 1952, Father Braun told the committee that after the Western journalists went to Katyn in January 1944, he had talked to many of them but not to Kathleen Harriman. He was questioned by Congressman Thaddeus M. Machrowicz, who was a Polish-American Democrat from Michigan. Born in 1899 in Prussia to a Polish family in a town now in modern-day Poland, Machrowicz emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was three years old. He served in Congress from 1951 to 1961. He resigned from Congress after being appointed federal district judge in Michigan.


Mr. MACHROWICZ. All right. Now, I believe you testified that you knew of the delegation of foreign correspondents who were taken to the Katyn Forest.

Father BRAUN. Yes.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did Kathleen Harriman join that group?

Father BRAUN. I know that when the press body was invited to go to the Soviet demonstration, shall be call it, or investigation, the Ambassador's daughter got to know about it and manifested an interest in accompanying this press body there. That I happened to know.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Is there anything else that you know that you can tell this committee of any value relative to that group that went to the Katyn Forest?

Father BRAUN. Not having been there, personally, I have nothing to say that could elucidate that question.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Is there anything you know on the basis of any conversations you had with any of the group that went to the Katyn Forest?

Father BRAUN. For example?

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Well, did any of the group indicate to you its conclusions?

Father BRAUN. I know this, that practically every one of the American gentlemen who represented the American press, having returned from this trip—not a single one was convinced of the Soviet demonstration. That I know. But I never talked to Miss Harriman following her trip and I have nothing to say with regard to her testimony, not having spoken to her directly.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. That is exactly what I wanted to know. You have answered my question.35

Earlier, during Father Braun’s testimony, he made an interesting and largely accurate observation about officials in Stalinist Russia deciding who would get visas to visas to visit the Soviet Union.

Father BRAUN. As a method of general procedure, the Soviet Government allows into that county people whom they can rely for propaganda purposes exclusively.36

The Soviet Foreign Ministry and its diplomats abroad were not always correct in making that assumption while issuing visas to foreigners, but officials in Russia worked hard, using bribery, intimidation, and blackmail to subvert visitors who were of particular interest to the Kremlin or the NKVD.

Congressman Machrowicz asked Father Braun whether he knew Ambassador Harriman and Miss Kathleen Harriman.

Father BRAUN. I knew them very well.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did she have any diplomatic post at that time?

Father BRAUN. To my knowledge, Miss Harriman had no diplomatic post as such.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did she hold office, any office, any office that you know of, in Moscow?

Father BRAUN. I am inclined to think that she was employed in some undetermined manner in the OWI, which is the Office of War Information.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. You say you are inclined to think that she was. Do you know whether she was?

Father BRAUN.I don't definitely know whether or not she was officially employed, and if she was, in plain English, on the payroll, if that is what you mean.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. What leads you to that conclusion?

Father BRAUN. Well, because she was the Ambassador's daughter, you see.37

In the unpublished version of his memoirs, In Lubianka’s Shadow: The Memoirs of an American Priest in Stalin’s Moscow, 1934-1945, Father Braun wrote that the United States Office of War Information”greatly contributed to the spreading of plain Bolshevism under color of mutual cooperation for military ends.”38 However, this comment did not refer specifically to Kathleen Harriman’s volunteer work for OWI. He used her name when he described how she had intervened on his behalf to arrange for his travel out of Russia on a U.S. government plane and praised her as being “much liked by everybody.” However, in another part of his memoirs, he is highly critical of her report from Katyn sent to the State Department but does not identify her by name as its author. He was evidently trying to protect her reputation.

Later in his testimony, Congressman Alvin O’Konski (Republican – Wisconsin) asked Father Braun whether the Soviet government or the American government had requested from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that Kathleen Harriman join the group of Western correspondents going to Katyn. Father Braun responded that he did not know but did not think that she had gone to Katyn at the request of the Soviet authorities. Father Braun said earlier that she had worked for the U.S. government’s Office of War Information in Moscow probably without pay, but he refused to get drawn into a public political controversy when Congressman O’Konski called the Office of War Information the “Office of Wrong Information.”

Mr. O'KONSKI. But you think she was employed by the Office of War Information, which I have always heard referred to as the Office of Wrong Information.

Father BRAUN. That is your statement, sir, not mine.39

When he testified in 1952, Father Braun was undoubtedly still bitter about some of the earlier Roosevelt administration statements on the state of religion in the Soviet Union, which he considered highly misleading, and about the earlier pro-Soviet propaganda from the Office of War Information. He was also involved in negotiations with the superiors of his religious order and the Vatican in trying to get their permission to publish his memoirs exposing communist suppression of religion in the Soviet Union. He did not receive their approval because, while strongly anti-communist, they were afraid that the publication of his book could prompt the Soviet authorities to expel their priests from Russia and close down the French church in Moscow.40 The institutional interests of his religious order were not dissimilar to the reluctance of the State Department and Voice of America officials to offend the Soviet government with harshly critical VOA broadcasts and extensive reporting on the congressional investigation of the Katyn massacre. The change in the State Department personnel and Voice of America programs happened only under pressure from the Truman administration. VOA hired Bertram David Wolfe, an American scholar, a leading Communist, and later a leading anti-communist, to write a series of programs about Katyn. When he joined the Voice of America in 1950, Wolfe discovered that VOA’s central English service journalists lacked the right background, education, and experience to report on the Soviet Union and the other Communist Bloc countries, especially on religion-related topics. In his autobiography, A Life in Two Centuries, published posthumously in 1981, Wolfe disclosed that even though he was an atheist, he had to write programs about religion under communism himself because he could not find anyone among VOA writers who could do it in English. Several years of hiring staff at the Voice of America according to ideological and partisan preferences of the Roosevelt administration had to change before VOA was able to challenge Soviet propaganda.

When I went to work for the Voice of America in the period from 1950 to 1954, religious leaders and believers were being framed, tortured, and sent to concentration camps in all the countries under Communist rule in Eastern Europe. After trying to get my script writers to write effective radio broadcasts to defend the religious freedom of the churchmen and devout believers who were being thus persecuted, I found that I had to write the scripts myself to get the requisite feeling into them. I did not believe what the persecuted believed, but I did believe in their right to freedom to harbor and practice their beliefs without interference.41 

Asked by Chairman Madden if he had any suggestions for the committee, Father Braun inquired whether the committee had invited Mr. Józef Czapski, who was a Polish artist, writer, and officer of the World War II Polish Army in Soviet captivity. Captain (later promoted to Major) Czapski avoided the execution in Katyn by being transferred to another camp and was released after Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941. Following Stalin’s recognition of the Polish government-in-exile, Czapski was tasked with looking for the missing Polish officers in Russia and was repeatedly lied to by various Soviet officials about their fate. He described his futile search for his fellow officers in his memoirs, titled The Inhuman Land.

Father Léopold Braun left the Soviet Union on December 27, 1945 on the U.S. government plane which brought American Secretary of State James F. Byrnes for the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers. Before his departure, he was convinced after several incidents and warnings that the NKVD was trying to assassinate him. His car was smashed in Moscow by what he suspected was an NKVD car.42 The Soviet regime may have wanted the priest out of Russia because during the long time spent in the country, he knew too much and could influence Western visitors, including new diplomats. Father Braun wrote in his posthumously published memoirs that without informing him, Ambassador Harriman had negotiated with the Soviet government a visa for another priest, not as his assistant, as Father Braun had expected, but as his replacement. According to Father Braun, Ambassador Harriman invited him to lunch at Spasso House and, looking embarrassed, told him that the agreement he had negotiated required the current chaplain to leave Russia.43 At that time, there were no Western commercial planes flying to Moscow. He would have to fly on a Soviet aircraft, but he received a cryptic warning from a young lady who knew an NKVD officer not to board any Soviet plane. He did not share this information with the U.S. embassy but, after receiving the warning, requested permission to leave Moscow with Secretary Byrnes after the conclusion of his negotiations. The embassy promised due consideration of his request but made no guarantees that it could be granted.

Father Braun wrote in his memoirs that approval for his departure on Secretary Byrnes’ plane may have been due to Kathleen Harriman’s intervention after he had a chance to talk to her privately at a Christmas Eve reception at Spasso House:

It was again providentially fortunate for me to have been there because it gave me opportunity to speak alone to Miss Kathleen Harriman (now Mrs. Mortimer), the ambassador's daughter. Without mentioning a word of the warning I had received, I merely told her that my one chance of leaving the country alive would be for me to obtain passage on the U.S. aircraft that had flown Secretary Byrnes and his personnel. Would she not prevail upon her father to obtain this favor for me? Kathleen, who was much liked by everybody, promised to do what she could.44

Kathleen Harriman even accepted his call at about 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Day and assured him that the embassy was working on the problem. Father Braun left Moscow the following day on Secretary Byrnes’ plane without any problems. He wrote in his memoirs, “There are many reasons for me to believe that had I not left the Soviet Union in the manner that I did, I would not have lived to tell the story of those twelve Russian years to remember.”45 He may have escaped death from the NKVD thanks to an act of kindness from Kathleen Harriman and perhaps in his comments about her tried to show that she had acquired more experience and greater maturity.

In his memoirs, Father Brown also shared his extensive knowledge of the search for the missing Polish officers in Russia. He described persistent but unsuccessful efforts of Polish Ambassador Stanisław Kot to discover from Stalin and other Soviet officials what had happened to the POWs who were needed for the Polish Army under the command of General Władysław Anders, himself, a recently released prisoner, which was being formed in Russia to fight the Germans. Father Brown also wrote about the trip to Katyn by “An American lady in Moscow entrusted with the OWI bulletin” and “an official from the U.S. embassy” who accompanied the Western correspondents. The American lady was Kathleen Harriman, but Father Braun did not name her, perhaps out of gratitude that she later helped him safely leave the Soviet Union. He did, however, criticize the reports sent by her and her U.S. embassy companion:

It is regrettable in the highest degree that the Soviet demonstration was nevertheless given serious authenticity and credence in two reports separately cabled to Washington by the two persons for whose special benefit the comfortable train ride was hastily organized.46

Father Brown noted, “not a single American correspondent was convinced of German guilt” but pointed out, “most of the pressmen reproduced in their own words the absolutely fantastic communiqués issued” by the famous Soviet doctors.47 He was convinced that they had failed to fulfill their duty as journalists by not telling the whole truth and had misled their readers:

The fact that they were there at the time of the Soviet-staged performance certainly added to the credibility of their dispatches.48

They would have done better if, like the African-American journalist Homer Smith, they had not filed any reports. Without using her name, Father Braun again emphasized in his memoirs that the conclusions in Kathleen Harriman’s and John Melby’s cables to the State Department went against their personal convictions. However, in their testimonies before the Madden Committee, neither Kathleen Harriman nor John Melby admitted that they had ignored their personal convictions and acted against their conscience in stating their conclusions in the reports from Katyn. It is possible that being a Catholic priest, Father Braun knew much more but was not at liberty to disclose it.

At the select committee hearing it was disclosed under oath that the contents of the dispatches sent to the Department of State accepting the Soviet claim of German guilt were written contrary to the personal convictions and conscience of the two U.S. embassy guests who joined the pressmen on that trip to Katyn.49 

Henry Cassidy, the Associated Press bureau chief in Moscow from 1940 to 1944, was called by the Madden Committee following Father Braun’s testimony. He gave the committee a remarkably honest accounting of his 1944 trip to Katyn. Cassidy also reported from Moscow for NBC and, after the war, worked for Radio Free Europe.

Cassidy did not claim that the reporters who had gone to Katyn had told the whole truth; he freely admitted that they had not and explained the reasons for it without presenting false excuses similar to those offered by Harrison Salisbury in his book. Salisbury claimed that the boots found in the Katyn graves convinced the reporters that the Russians could not have murdered the Polish prisoners because they would have stolen everything of value after the executions. Cassidy pointed out that these were not battlefield deaths, where such theft was common in Russia. The elite NKVD troops who executed the prisoners would not have stolen thousands of boots.

Cassidy’s explanations of how Western reporters had self-censored their dispatches and how flawed their reporting had been from the Soviet Union were remarkably honest. Still, they have been largely forgotten because scholars and journalists who write about the Voice of America, most of them left-leaning, presumably find such information difficult to handle. Most of it is damaging to the legacy of Roosevelt’s Democratic administration and contradicting the myth of always truthful American journalism, especially at the Voice of America. Newspapers such as the New York Times did not warn their readers that its reports from the Soviet Union during the war were heavily censored, or rather self-censored.

Cassidy gave the Madden Committee interesting information that his report had not been censored by Soviet officials in any significant way, thus admitting that he had censored it himself before submitting it to the Soviet censorship office. Harrison Salisbury claimed that the Soviet censors had cut key parts of the correspondents’ reports, but that did not appear to have been the case. The correspondents themselves did not include any information or commentary they knew would not pass the Soviet censors. They did not include any lies of their own but reported in full the Soviet lies, knowing they were lies, and did not challenge them. Their dispatches were composed of half-truths. This may have been worse than lying because the readers had the false impression that these were truthful and objective news accounts sent by experienced and reliable American reporters.

John J. Mitchell was the Madden Committee’s Chief Counsel. Timothy P. Sheehan was a Republican congressman from Chicago, well respected by Republicans and liberal Democrats. His questioning led to Henry Cassidy freely admitting that Western correspondents in the Soviet Bloc countries self-censored their reporting and could not possibly tell the whole truth. Cassidy insisted that most Western reporters would not tell any untruths. Still, a news report that accurately presents official government statements but omits critical facts can be even more misleading to readers unfamiliar with a communist-ruled country and the background of a news story when the presented information consists of unchallenged lies. Henry Cassidy was introduced as a journalist “now of NBC, news editor, formerly AP, in Russia, at the time of the Russian investigation.”50



Mr. MITCHELL. Did the members of your commission or press group come to any definite conclusions, either at the time, on the train on the way back, or later among your own group, as to who you think committed the massacre? 

Mr. CASSIDY. I will say this, that we were not convinced by what the Russians showed us that the Germans had done it. 

On the other hand, we could not be expected to be convinced by what the Russians showed us that the Russians had done it. Therefore, I believe that I, I know, among American correspondents, we came back 
with the feeling that what the Russians had shown us had not proved their case.

Mr. MITCHELL. Did you have the feeling that it was planted testimony or a staged demonstration? 1 believe you said that.




Now, do you want to explain tne question of the boots? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes. 

On the way back, on the train, we discussed what had been presented to us very frankly with the Russian censors and conducting officers, and told them that we had not been convinced by the case they presented. We told them more or less as a joke that if there 
was any one thing we were shown that would convince us this had been done by the Germans, that all these bodies had boots on, and that they had been killed by the Russians, it would be quite possible that the boots would be removed. 

Now, we told them, more or less ribbing them. The fact was that we all realized that this murder, had it been done by the Russians, it would have been done by the NKVD which is quite a different matter than being killed on the battlefield.

On the battlefield, you lose your boots when you lose your life. In this case, it would have been quite possible for the Russians to do it and have the boots remain.

Mr. MACHROWICZ. Do you know of any member of your committee that took that position seriously? 

Mr. CASSIDY. I do not. In fact, I would say that I know that none took it seriously.


Mr. O’KONSKI. You made a statement that interested me quite a bit. You said it was more or less of a result of being irritated and anticipating difficulty with the censorship on your story. 

In that respect, I would like to ask you, concerning the stories and the findings that you saw at this visit to the Katyn Forest, was your story censored? 

Mr. CASSIDY. It was held by censorship for about 2 days, but my recollection is that it was not cut badly, if at all. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. But, it was cut? 

Mr. CASSIDY. I do not recollect. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. You read the story subsequently, since you have gotten back. That did finally arrive in America? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes, sir. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. Did that more or less fully represent your point of view? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes, because the only two points I made in the story were as an objective reporter, A, that we had seen the graves, and had seen the bodies, and, B, that we were told by the Russians the following things. I drew no conclusions in the story. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. That story was censored by the OWI? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Certainly not. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. By what agency? 

Mr. CASSIDY. By the press department of the Soviet Foreign Office. 

Mr. O'KONSKI. The Soviet Foreign Office? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes. The OWI in Moscow had no censorship function on American dispatches. 

Mr. O’KONSKI. That answers my question. Thank you very much.

Mr. SHEEHAN. I have one other question. After this was all through and you went back to Moscow and you were ready to send out your reports, of course, you did say, I believe, that they gave you the facts and you just reported what they gave you. 

Were you allowed to then write whatever you wanted and send it out right away? 

Mr. CASSIDY. No. As far as writing what we wanted was concerned, I for one certainly didn’t try, and I don’t think anybody else did, because as practical reporters we knew what could go through Soviet censorship and what could not, so we did not write anything that we knew would not go through and would antagonize them any more than they were at that point, anyway. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. In other words, you practically wrote the statement that they gave you? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. None of your own personal observations? 

Mr. CASSIDY. No; except a description of what we had seen. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. Now, when you got to Moscow, I assume, as a 
reporter, you were able, like all the reporters do, to rush out and try to beat everybody to the scoop and get the material out as fast as possible. Did you do that? 

Mr. CASSIDY. We all wrote our stories, as I recollect it. We started writing them on the train on the way up. We turned them in, as was the normal custom then, to the censhorship, and waited until they were passed back to us from the censorship. 

My recollection is that we had pointed out some of the loopholes in the case that they had shown us. 


Chairman MADDEN. Congressman Sheehan. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. Mr. Cassidy, I ask this question in reference to trying to establish or find out the credence that we as American citizens can attach to the copy or to the coming out of Russian dominated areas and Russia itself, in this respect: That when you answered the question before about how you wrote the story, you were careful to state that you put in your story the facts that the Russians told you, No. 1; and, No. 2, you put in your story the things you thought the Russian censorship would pass. 

Was that statement right, up to that point? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes, sir. 

Mr. SHEHHAN. Therefore, is it then generally true that you, as a very good correspondent, you know you can only get certain things through, therefore we might say that all of the American correspondents in Russian territory are careful not to state the facts as they know them but the things that are given to them, and the things that they know will pass censorship? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes. I would say, as a rule, as an absolute rule, that American correspondents in Soviet dominated areas do not tell untruths, that everything they say is true. But it cannot possibly be all the truth. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. In other words, just what the Russians want to go out as the truth? 

Mr. CASSIDY. Yes. 

Mr. SHEEHAN. Thank you. It is very good for the American people to know that.51  

Ambassador Harriman and his daughter were in a much better position than the Western correspondents because they did not have to worry about being censored by Soviet officials. They were free to report the whole truth, but they chose otherwise. It is doubtful that Ambassador Harriman was afraid before his daughter’s trip to Katyn that her report could include “anything that could jeopardize good relations with the Soviets.” Catherine Grace Katz suggests in her Daughters of Yalta book that he may have not known what she would report and was perhaps ready to accept whatever she decided to write about her trip. His daughter was indeed “the person he most trusted,” but Ambassador Harriman almost certainly did not select her to go to Katyn so that he and “the Roosevelt administration could maintain plausible deniability and contain the damage,” as suggested by Catherine Grace Katz, if Kathleen had reported anything the Soviets would find objectionable.52 Such deniability might have been possible since she was not technically an official representative of the U.S. government. Still, the chances of her presenting her father and President Roosevelt with a report that would not please them both were practically nonexistent.

It seems highly unlikely there was any question before or after the trip to Katyn that Harriman’s daughter would blame the Russians for the murders. It was almost certain that her father reviewed with her carefully every word she had written in a report of such enormous political and moral significance. The message sent to Washington was most likely their joint effort, not something Kathleen Harriman simply had presented to her father to accept as is and transmit to the State Department in Washington. At that time, Harriman still shared FDR’s enthusiasm for appeasing Stalin, or at least pretended he believed the Soviet dictator could be a reliable partner for building peace, security, and democracy in the post-war world.

Most Roosevelt administration officials were just as accommodating toward the president as Ambassador Harriman, but some questioned his faith in Stalin. Harriman’s predecessor in Moscow as Roosevelt’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, Admiral William H. Standley, saw his authority undermined by FDR when he started warning him about the Soviet leader’s trustworthiness and tried to help the Polish government-in-exile in its efforts to find the missing Polish military officers in Russia later found dead in Katyn. Ambassador Standley had excellent relations with the Moscow Embassy of Poland’s government-in-exile in London before the last Polish ambassador in Soviet Russia, Tadeusz Romer, was expelled after Stalin broke diplomatic relations with Poland over the Katyn murders issue. Standley and the ambassadors of Great Britain and Turkey went to the train station in Moscow to see Ambassador Romer off. Present at his departure were also “all of the foreign correspondents and news photographers.”53 Standley wrote that Romer was a well-liked ambassador in Moscow and undoubtedly had discussions with Western correspondents, none of whom chose to include information from him about the missing Polish officers found dead in Katyn. Eventually, President Roosevelt forced Standley’s resignation by sending various individuals as his personal emissaries to deliver secret messages to Stalin without involving him, even though he was his envoy in Moscow. In his 1953 memoir, Admiral Ambassador to Russia, Standley noted that one of the U.S. government visitors to Moscow who had contributed to undermining his authority by arranging a meeting with Stalin was the Office of War Information’s third highest-ranking official, journalist Joseph F. Barnes. He oversaw Voice of America broadcasts at the OWI office in New York.

... I learned that evening that the meeting was arranged by Mr. Barnes through his contacts with Soviet officials he had known when he was Press representative in Moscow some years earlier.54

The meeting with Stalin arranged by Joseph Barnes was for Wendell Willkie, the defeated Republican candidate in the 1940 U.S. presidential election, whom FDR sent to Moscow. Ambassador Standley noted that while he was not invited, much to his surprise, Joseph Barnes and another high-ranking OWI official, Gardner Cowles, had their pictures taken with Willkie and Stalin on September 23, 1942.55 The State Department reluctantly issued Barnes a U.S. passport for his foreign trip with Wendell Willkie, but President Roosevelt’s close personal friend and foreign policy advisor, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, warned the FDR White House in April 1943 about Barnes:

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.56  

In 1940, as the acting Secretary of State, Welles issued the Welles Declaration, which condemned Soviet occupation of the Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Barnes was eventually forced to resign in early 1944 over the Voice of America’s “Moronic Little King of Italy” broadcast in reference to Italy’s King Emmanuel. The VOA insult against the King of Italy inspired by Soviet propaganda put U.S. diplomacy and American soldiers at risk and angered President Roosevelt and General Dwight D. Eisenhower.57

After returning to Washington, Admiral Standley gave a briefing to Averell Harriman, whom FDR selected as a more pliable replacement for his ambassador in Moscow. After Standley told him it would be a tough assignment, Harriman did not seem overly worried. Standley quoted Harriman telling him:

I know it will be difficult, but they're only human, those Russians. Stalin can be handled.58

Even assuming that the United States had to pretend for the duration of the war that the Katyn murders were committed by the Germans rather than the Russians, President Roosevelt still needed to hear the whole truth from Ambassador Harriman and his daughter because it could have shaped some of his decisions before the Yalta Conference. He could have used the truth about Katyn against Stalin to force him to moderate his demands. But the telegrams sent by Ambassador Harriman to Washington centered around the Soviet lie and the wrong conclusions of his daughter and a low-ranking Embassy diplomat who accompanied her on the visit to Katyn. They made it easier for FDR to ignore the truth.

It is unclear whether Ambassador Harriman and his daughter were highly naive or personally and politically calculating. It will probably never the known whether her father pressured her to state, against her better judgment, the conclusion he wanted to present to President Roosevelt through the State Department in Washington. Congressman O’Konski asked Kathleen Harriman: “Did anybody exert any pressure or any force or any hint to you at all in arriving at your conclusion?” She responded: “No.”

Kathleen Harriman had an opportunity to describe much more freely what she saw and knew, unlike the other reporters, who went with her to Katyn who had to submit their dispatches to the Soviet censors. However, her cable and the cable of the accompanying diplomat were remarkably short on the historical background and circumstances leading up to the executions. They presented some but not other ample evidence from the scene or information from other sources pointing to Soviet guilt. It is likely that, in their minds, the truth about Katyn, or any doubts they may have had, had to be suppressed for military, diplomatic, and geopolitical reasons. Knowing that the President might be informed about their reports, both may have also wanted to feed FDR’s vanity and affirm his belief that he could handle Stalin and could get his cooperation on Poland and other issues.

But there was also an element of intimidation by the NKVD and fear, which was quite severe for any journalist in Russia and not entirely insignificant for American diplomats and their children. An NKVD officer, Pavel Sudoplatov, who served as a Soviet escort for Kathleen Harriman under cover of being a Foreign Ministry representative, reportedly warned Ambassador Harriman at one time that something could happen to his daughter on her excursions in Moscow because incidents of “hooliganism” still occurred in the city. The job of his NKVD team was to protect and spy on Kathleen Harriman.59

By suppressing information about the brutal nature of the Soviet regime in the official U.S. government telegram sent from Moscow to Washington at a critical time a year before the Yalta summit, Kathleen Harriman made it easier for President Roosevelt to make unprecedented concessions to Stalin at FDR’s next meeting with the Soviet leader. It could even be said that she helped to change history at Yalta. Had this young woman, a journalist and, in this situation, also a representative of the U.S. Embassy and the Office of War Information, been fearless, sought additional information, and presented it all regardless of any consequences, President Roosevelt might have been persuaded to be less accommodating in his dealings with Stalin. But FDR could also have become highly displeased with her and her father for undermining confidence in his own ability to handle “Uncle Joe,” as he endearingly called him. Had the truth about Katyn become widely known, Roosevelt might have been more fearful of adverse press reporting and public opinion reaction in the United States and be more reluctant to take his appeasement to the extreme level, as he did at Yalta at the expense of freedom for millions of East Europeans.

Kathleen Harriman was not the only one who might have been intimidated by the Soviets and their propaganda over the Katyn affair. None of the other Western reporters who went with her to the execution site blamed the Soviets for the murders or could have openly put the blame on Stalin’s secret police while still in the Soviet Union. But even after leaving Russia, none tried to correct their reporting as soon as it became possible. After their visit to Katyn, most hid or obscured their role as conveyors of Soviet disinformation. Kathleen Harriman and nearly all other Western journalists in Russia during the war contributed to promoting the Kremlin’s propaganda lie about the Soviet massacre of about 22,000 Polish prisoners of war (the total number of the Katyn victims from several locations where they were executed was not yet known during the war), as did the Office of War Information and the Voice of America.

Young American women journalists working overseas were not a common sight in the 1940s. Kathleen Harriman did not have much experience as a news reporter, but she was a well-known and attractive young woman with excellent connections and a journalistic reputation. Her secret report for the U.S. State Department in January 1944 may have had a much more significant impact on U.S. policy toward Russia and Eastern Europe than all the newspaper accounts of her more experienced colleagues. Among those who went with her to Katyn were: Henry Cassidy of the Associated Press, New York Times correspondent William H. Lawrence, BBC correspondent Al (Alexander) Werth, Harrison Salisbury, who represented United Press, and several other reporters, including Polish Communist Jerzy Borejsza who was later in charge of anti-American propaganda and book publishing in communist-ruled Poland.

Even though almost all of the reporters invited to go to Katyn were highly sympathetic toward the Soviet government, the NKVD censors delayed the release of their articles for several days to ensure they contained no incriminating or embarrassing information. It is almost certain, however, that their original reports did not blame the Soviets for the crime, as no corrections or explanations were ever made. Harrison Salisbury’s claim in his 1984 memoir, A Journey for Our Times, that “The censors killed all skeptical remarks” does not seem believable.60 He never mentioned he had been present in Katyn in January 1944 until thirty-nine years later.61 The Western journalists who went to Katyn in 1944 did not disappoint their NKVD and Soviet Foreign Ministry handlers. AP’s Henry Cassidy explained that “you put in your story the facts that the Russians told you” and “you put in your story the things you thought the Russian censorship would pass.” Congressman Sheehan summed it up by asking, “In other words, just what the Russians want to go out as the truth?, to which Cassidy replied, “Yes.” Stalin had every reason to be satisfied with the NKVD monitored and managed work of the American correspondents in Moscow.

Stalin also knew he was in even greater debt to the Harrimans for protecting his image in the United States and hiding his crimes from Americans. Throughout their stay in Russia, he invited them to banquets and ensured they were treated like royalty, playing on their American patrician vanity and interests. Kathleen was asked to participate in Soviet equestrian and skiing competitions and had a discreet NKVD escort shadowing her on walks and visits outside the Embassy and the ambassador’s residence.

Thomas Urban, a former correspondent for the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in Warsaw and Moscow from 1988 to 2012, who wrote a well-researched book, The Katyn Massacre 1940: History of A Crime, noted that Kathleen Harriman “led a privileged life in Moscow and had an unrealistically positive image of the everyday life of the Russian population.62 She wrote to her sister Mary on Thanksgiving Day, 1943, shortly after arriving in Russia, “Maybe I haven’t made life in Moscow as enticing as I intended. But by comparison to what critics painted it to be, it’s damn near paradise.”63

The Office of War Information, for which she worked as a volunteer in London and Moscow, was headed by U.S. government officials, including former journalists, who made it their mission to promote the idealized picture of Soviet Russia, Stalin, and communism. Only one Voice of America journalist is known to have resigned in protest against Soviet propaganda in VOA wartime programs, most likely over the coverage of the Katyn story. He was a former pre-war young Polish diplomat from an aristocratic family and experienced journalist and broadcaster, Konstanty Broel Plater. He resigned in April 1944, two and a half months after Kathleen Harriman’s trip to Katyn and her report for the State Department, but he did not make his protest public, most likely because he believed that the secrecy agreement he had signed with OWI prevented him from discussing his work for the U.S. government.64

One of several Communists who turned anti-communist and exposed Soviet influence at OWI was Oliver Carlson, an American writer, journalist, founder of the Young Communist League of America, and lecturer at the University of Chicago. His description of pro-Soviet propaganda by the OWI was similar to Julius Epstein’s observations, who wrote after the war that the wartime Voice of America promoted “Love for Stalin.”65 Epstein, a Jewish refugee from Austria, was a highly experienced international journalist who, in his youth, briefly joined the Communist Party and, after emigrating to America, worked as a German-language editor for OWI until 1945. Epstein believed he was laid off because of his internal warnings about the Soviet influence within VOA affecting the coverage of the Katyn story. Still, even he did not think it would have been wise to call Stalin publicly a mass murderer while the Russians were still fighting on the eastern front. However, he called for an immediate change of programming policy on Katyn after the war. He co-founded a private committee with former U.S. ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane to investigate the mass murder of Polish officers. By then, Lane had resigned as the U.S. Ambassador in Warsaw and wrote his book, I Saw Poland Betrayed.

Epstein, Carlson, and an ex-fellow traveler, Eugene Lyons, one of the first Western journalists who interviewed Stalin and became later an ardent anti-communist, knew the Office of War Information employed Communists and produced pro-Stalin propaganda for overseas audiences through the Voice of America and domestic audiences in the United States. Congress eliminated most of OWI’s domestic propaganda budget in 1943. In a 1947 booklet, Radio in the Red, Carlson wrote about domestic OWI propaganda programs, essentially the same as VOA programs.

Tens of millions of radio listeners were deluged with streamlined and dramatic presentations to prove that any talk of Russia as a ruthless dictatorship was a “reactionary” plot. The Bolshevik regime, it turned out, was just a Russian version of our own War for Independence, Lenin a Russian replica of George Washington, Stalin a compendium of Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln.66

Eugene Lyons wrote in his book, Our Secret Allies: The Peoples of Russia, published in 1953, about “revivified Stalin worship in the war years, when the Kremlin magically became a freedom-loving ally.”67

... the revised legend fashioned by the comrades of the OWI, the BBC, and other Allied agencies celebrated a regime not too different from our own—democratic and liberal in its own inscrutable way. Under the earlier concept the Kremlin was changing the world. In the OWI fairy tales the world was changing the Kremlin. The USSR was now presumably moving closer to our way of life. A hundred experts explained that Soviet Russia was moving closer to capitalism, the capitalist world was moving closer to socialism—and soon the twain would meet and embrace midway.68

Lyons was, however, able to write in a 1954 article in Reader’s Digest that pro-Soviet “subversives” were by then no longer at the Voice of America:

Without doubt some “subversive” individuals formerly found their way into VOA, as into other agencies in Government. Fortunately the Voice has cleared house. Ardent anti-Communists on the inside are now convinced that no known Communists or Communist sympathizers remain.69

Kathleen Harriman was definitely not a “subversive” and probably had little or no contact with those few who may have been actual Soviet agents at the Office of War Information rather than self-appointed agents of influence for Stalin. Still, in her youthful exuberance and under the influence of fellow travelers and pro-Soviet propaganda, Ambassador Harriman’s daughter appeared not to grasp the tragic significance of the murders of thousands of Polish officers. In a letter to her sister Mary and her future stepmother Pamela Churchill, she wrote a few days after returning from the visit to Katyn:

You see, the Germans say that the Russian killed the Poles back in '40, whereas the Russians say the Poles weren't killed until the fall of '41, so there's quite a discrepancy in time.70

She might have shown more journalistic skepticism about the evidence clearly manipulated by the Soviets, and a desire to investigate more fully if more than 10,000 American officers and intellectual leaders went missing and were later found dead. The reports she and her father sent to Washington allowed the U.S. government to accept the Soviet version of the crime. Stalin had good reasons to be grateful to both of them. Shortly before the Ambassador and his daughter departed from Moscow, he gave the Harrimans two horses, Fact and Boston. She and her father took them from Russia to their estate in upstate New York. It was a small gift considering their Katyn reports’ enormous benefits for him and the Soviet Union. Boston was Stalin’s gift to Kathleen.

One reason the dictator could count on Kathleen Harriman’s support was that she enjoyed all the attention from him and the Soviet media. She allowed herself to be used as Russia’s publicity agent and protector of his reputation. He already had his agents of influence at the Office of War Information headquarters in Washington, the OWI office in London, and among the Voice of America journalists, editors, and broadcasters in New York. At the time of the Katyn murders, the OWI London office director was Wallace Carroll. The chief English-language editor and news writer at the Voice of America in New York was Communist Party activist, journalist, and best-selling novelist Howard Fast. By his own admission later, Fast censored in his VOA job any news critical of the Soviet Union. In 1953, ten years after resigning from his VOA position, he was rewarded with the Stalin Peace Prize.

Another Office of War Information fellow traveler, Owen Latimore, was responsible for broadcasts to Asia, where China soon became a communist-ruled nation. As an OWI representative, he accompanied Roosevelt’s Vice-President Henry A. Wallace on his 1944 trip to Siberia, China, and Mongolia. Ambassador Harriman was already with his daughter already in Moscow. After their return to the United States, in an article published in the December 1944 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, Latimore claimed that the workers in the Kolyma gold mines, visited by the American delegation, were volunteers of socialist labor, for whom special hothouses were constructed to grow vegetables, so that they could be fed a vitamin-rich diet to keep them healthy and productive. While touring Siberia, Wallace and Lattimore never saw the prisoners of the Gulag slave labor enterprise. They were dying there by thousands from hard work, malnourishment, and untreated illnesses. The well-fed NKVD camp guards took the prisoners’ place for the duration of the American delegation’s visit.

Greenhouse Vitamins for Miners

We visited gold mines operated by Dalstroi  in the valley of the Kolyma river... . It was interesting to find instead of sin, gin, and brawling of an old-time gold rush, extensive greenhouses growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and even melons, to make sure that the hardy miners got enough vitamins!71

In 1952, former Vice President Wallace admitted he was duped by the Soviet officials and apologized.72 The same cannot be said about the World War II Office of War Information and Voice to America senior managers and journalists. They never apologized to anybody, not even to the families of the Katyn victims, whom they have provided with false news in Voice of America broadcasts during the most tragic period in their lives.

Various accounts refer to Kathleen Harriman as a representative of the Office of War Information, first in London and later in Moscow, but I was not able to find any news reports she might have written for OWI. What was significant in the Katyn massacre controversy was her known connection to the U.S. government’s propaganda and semi-journalistic entity rather than what she actually did for OWI. Thomas Urban wrote in The Katyn Massacre 1940: History of A Crime that her participation in the journalists’ trip to Katyn “was justified by her occasional involvement in the Office of War Information (OWI).”73 Harrison Salisbury also wrote in his 1984 memoir, A Journey for Our Times:

She had a job with the Office of War Information and acted as her father's hostess, bringing life and gaiety to a banal scene.74

The Voice of America was part of the Office of War Information during World War II, but her more direct albeit brief involvement with VOA radio broadcasting happened a few years after the war. At that time, the significance for the Soviet government of her participation in preparing the Voice of America Russian-language programs was largely symbolic. But earlier she gave a measure of official approval and journalistic respectability to a Soviet propaganda lie which had profound repercussions. After returning from Russia to the United States, in an apparent violation of government rules about not hiring unpaid and unvetted employees, Kathleen Harriman worked briefly in 1947 as a volunteer, helping to launch the Voice of America’s first broadcasts to the USSR. The VOA Russian Service chief and later VOA director, Charles W. Thayer, who recruited her for this job, knew her father and traveled with him to the Soviet Union in a private capacity.

Another U.S. diplomat, Chester Opal, who had served in Warsaw, reported that even after the war, Thayer doubted that Stalin was responsible for ordering the Katyn murders or that it was a Soviet-committed atrocity. The initial Russian-language broadcasts under his watch were remarkably uncritical of the Soviet Union. The suppression of the truth about Katyn continued and helped justify the VOA programming focus for a couple more years on building bridges with the Soviet authorities and the Soviet people while avoiding criticism of the Kremlin over human rights violations in Russia.

Very few historians and journalists know that VOA did not broadcast in Russian before 1947. The delay between the first broadcast in German in February 1942 and the first Russian broadcast in February 1947 occurred most likely because the left-leaning U.S. officials in charge of these radio programs in the Roosevelt administration were sympathetic to the Soviet Union and did not want to upset Stalin. Some continued to serve during the first years of the Truman administration. I could not determine whether Kathleen Harriman participated in the first VOA Russian programs under her name. Even if she did not use her maiden name, but the Soviet Embassy in Washington learned that she was involved in their production in 1947, it would have been still a highly reassuring sign for Moscow that someone connected with the late President Roosevelt, the Yalta Conference, and the Katyn lie had a role in the new American radio project for Russia.

Six female war correspondents who covered the U.S. Army in the European Theater during World War II appear together in this 1943 photograph: Mary WelchDixie TigheKathleen HarrimanHelen KirkpatrickLee MillerTania Long (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Before going to Moscow, Kathleen Harriman (Mortimer was her married name) worked for Newsweek in London and also as a volunteer overseas reporter for the Office of War Information. The propaganda and psychological warfare agency likely used some of her reports from London for its ”Voice of America” radio broadcasts, but I have not found any VOA recordings of her voice reports or radio scripts with her name. The Voice of America name was not yet officially used during World War II; it came into use a few years later.

It is not clear whether in January 1944, Kathleen Harriman’s father, by then the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, deliberately chose her for the propaganda trip organized for Western journalists or whether she volunteered for it on the spur of the moment. For the Kremlin, Western journalists were needed to witness and report on the results of the official Soviet investigation. According to Harrison Salisbury, who was visiting the Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Moscow, Kathy was present when the reporting trip to Katyn was announced. She reportedly said that she would like to join the group of correspondents. Harrison wrote, “The Russians promptly invited her and John Melby, a young embassy attaché.”75

Elie Abel, the co-author of W. Averell Harriman’s 1975 memoir, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, 1941-1946, states that Kathleen was included in the group of reporters going to Katyn because the Ambassador requested from the Soviet government permission for her to go. The book also briefly describes her work for the Office of War Information in Moscow:

Kathleen, who had been a correspondent for International News Service and then for Newsweek in London, worked in Moscow with the playwright Samuel Spewack, for about three months the Office of War Information chief in the Soviet Union. After Spewack's departure, Kathleen handled OWI affairs herself.76

A special train was dispatched from Moscow by the NKVD Soviet secret police to take them to Katyn. By then, the area was already under Russian control for several months, giving the NKVD time to prepare the crime scene. The purpose of the trip arranged by the Kremlin’s propagandists was to get the Western journalists to agree and promote the lie that the murder of thousands of Polish military officers at the Katyn Forest near Smolensk had been perpetrated not by Soviet Russia, whose communist leaders had ordered the secret executions in the spring of 1940, but by Nazi Germany a year later. Champagne, caviar, smoked salmon, beef Stroganov, chicken Kiev cutlets, and white bread and butter were served in large quantities to the reporters during their train ride to Katyn to make sure they were comfortable, drank a lot of alcohol, and knew how important this trip was for the Soviet government.77

The Soviet propaganda line that Katyn was a German atrocity had already been accepted in April 1943 by President Roosevelt, the Office of War Information in Washington, and its Voice of America radio broadcasting division in New York. Propaganda strategies were secretly coordinated between Washington and Moscow by Robert E. Sherwood. He was a Hollywood playwright, President Roosevelt’s speechwriter, and the head of the Overseas Division in the Office of War Information, which placed him in charge of VOA radio broadcasts. He later coordinated American, Soviet, and British propaganda from the OWI office in London. While still in New York, he 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. Poland was an anti-Nazi ally of the United States and a Nazi-occupied country where such cooperation with Germany on the part of the underground state, its underground army, and the Polish armed forces fighting the Germans in Italy was beyond unthinkable. After Moscow broke diplomatic relations with the Polish government-in-exile over its request for an independent investigation of the Katyn massacre by the International Red Cross, Sherwood was pushing the Soviet propaganda line that the Poles who did not accept the Kremlin’s position on Katyn were supporters of Hitler and fascism.

Some Poles are consciously or unconsciously cooperating with Hitler in his campaign to spiritually divide the United Nations.78

Harrison Salisbury wrote many years later that Ambassador Harriman was also “fed up” with the Polish government-in-exile in London. That remark, if true, was similar to the tone of Sherwood’s May 1, 1943 propaganda directive. Salisbury claimed Harriman had told him that the Poles, by insisting that the Russians, not the Germans, had carried out the executions, “had fallen for a German atrocity story.” According to Salisbury’s account of the conversation, Harriman remarked that what the reporters “had seen [on their trip to Katyn] strengthened his conviction” that the Russians were innocent of the crime. 79

The same Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent wrote that even in the 1980s, he was unsure whether the Germans or the Soviets were responsible for the killings in Katyn. He still awaited an “impartial commission” to give the final verdict.80 In 1984, no one believed in the official Soviet lie except for a few hardline Communists and those unwilling to admit they had been wrong in spreading Stalin’s propaganda. Had Harrison reported the whole truth in 1944, even accounting for some uncertainty, the Soviet censors would not have allowed his report to be sent from Moscow, and he would have been expelled from Russia, or worse. Had he taken a firm position on Katyn in the 1980s, as any honest journalist should have, and stated that it was a Soviet crime, he could have had problems getting a Soviet visa for his next trip to Russia.

The Soviet propaganda and disinformation campaign paid off thanks to the naïveté, the lack of courage, intimidation by the Soviet secret police, and collusion by some Western journalists and Roosevelt administration officials. The participants in exonerating Stalin and the Soviet government from responsibility for the Katyn murders and other atrocities also included almost all the “founding fathers” and the early leaders of the Voice of America, some of whom were prominent left-leaning American journalists and writers before and after the war: Elmer Davis, Robert E. Sherwood, Joseph Fels Barnes, Owen Lattimore, Wallace Carroll. They served as VOA’s actual program and policy directors. Reporting to them was the chief of radio production, John Houseman, who only later acquired the title of the first VOA director, and the future Stalin Peace Prize winner Howard Fast, VOA’s first chief news writer and editor.

It was not surprising that in line with the wishes of President Roosevelt, who wanted at all costs to protect Stalin’s reputation as America’s foremost military ally against Hitler and to avoid criticism of his concessions to the Soviet dictator at the expense of some of America’s other anti-Nazi allies in East-Central Europe, Kathleen Harriman, the Office of War Information’s unofficial representative in Moscow who was then only 26 years old, embraced the Soviet propaganda lie on Katyn. Immediately after the trip, she wrote a special report for her father to be sent to the State Department in support of the Soviet claims about the perpetrators of the mass murder, who, in her mind, had to be the Nazis even if she saw some evidence pointing to the Soviets as the guilty party.81

Telegram From United States Embassy, Moscow, January 25, 1944

(Telegram) Moscow, January 25, 1944–Secretary of State, Washington.

(For President and Secretary & strictly confidential.)

Member of Embassy staff and my daughter have returned from trip Smolensk with British and American correspondents. While there they were shown evidence being collected by special commission to investigate German shooting of captured Polish officers in Katyn Forest close to Smolensk. None of party was able to judge scientific evidence of autopsies which were performed in their presence. Moreover, they were not permitted to make independent investigations except for formal questioning of few witnesses made available. Correspondents filed reports telling what they saw without expressing opinions, but for some reason censor has held up these stories. The general evidence and testimony are inconclusive, but Kathleen and Embassy staff member believe probability massacre perpetrated by Germans.

On November 12, 1952, Kathleen Mortimer was called to testify before the Madden Committee.82 During Kathleen Mortimer’s testimony, her 1944 report on the trip to Katyn was presented as an exhibit. It appears on page 2132 of The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings before the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Part 7. It is also available on the National Archives website, “Moscow Despatch No. 207 with Enclosure Regarding the Investigation of Soviet Authorities of the Massacre of Polish Soldiers in the Katyn Forest, Near Smolensk.”

Embassy of the United States of America, Moscow, February 23, 1944. No. 207

Subject : Investigation by Soviet Authorities of the Massacre of Polish Soldiers in the Katyn Forest, near Smolensk.


The Honorable the Secretary of State Washington, D. C. Sir: I have the honor to refer to you secret telegram No. 247 of January 25, 7 p.m., concerning the activities of the Special Commission to Establish and Investigate the Circumstances of the Shooting by the German Fascist Invaders of Captive Polish Officers in the Katyn Woods. On January 21-23, 1944, the foreign correspondents in Moscow made a trip to Smolensk to witness the proceedings of the Commission. The correspondents were accompanied by my daughter, Kathleen, and Mr. John F. Melby, Third Secretary of the Embassy. I am enclosing copies of their memoranda containing their observations on this trip. I am also enclosing a copy of the January 29, 1944, Moscow News which contains an abridged version of the formal report of the Commission.

Respectfully yours,

William Averell Harriman.

File No. 711.6. Enclosures : 1-2-3-/ as stated.

Report Written by Mrs. Kathleen Harriman Mortimer After Visiting Katyn in January 1944 (Enclosure No. 2 to Despatch No. 207 dated February 23, 1944, from American Embassy, Moscow) On January 23, 1944 members of the foreign press were taken to Smolensk to get first hand the evidence compiled by the Commission on the Katyn incident. The party was shown the graves in the Katyn Forest and witnessed post mortems of the corpses. As no member was in a position to evaluate the scientific evidence given, it had to be accepted at its face value. The testimonial evidence provided by the Commission and witnesses was minute in detail and by American standards petty. We were expected to accept the statements of the high ranking Soviet officials as true, because they said it was true. Despite this it is my opinion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans. The most convincing evidence to uphold this was the methodical manner in which the job was done, something the Commission thought not sufficiently important to stress. They were more interested in the medical evidence as conclusive proof and the minute circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime. See note for link to full text.83

A blog post for the Cold War & Internal Security Collection, which is part of the Federal Documents Collection at J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, written by David Durant, explains the work of the Madden Katyn Committee in some detail. Durant noted that “Only the efforts of Polish exiles and Polish-American organizations, in alliance with certain journalists and prominent anti-communists such as Julius Epstein and Arthur Bliss Lane, kept the Katyn question alive in America.” He also noted the Madden Committee’s conclusion that the Office of War Information U.S. government officials “had coerced Polish-language radio stations in Detroit and Buffalo to cease their coverage of the Katyn allegations [against the Soviet Union].”84

The Soviet declarations of innocence with regard to the Katyn massacre were the most significant and long-lasting propaganda lie of the 20th century. Still, they were eagerly promoted in the early Voice of America broadcasts under the influence of VOA’s fellow travelers, who also advocated for establishing pro-Soviet governments in East-Central Europe. Among them was the person later declared to be VOA’s first director, theatre producer, fake radio entertainment news pioneer85, and future Hollywood actor John Houseman. Communist Party activist and the 1953 winner of the Stalin Peace Prize Howard Fast was one of Houseman’s protéges at the Voice of America.86

Houseman was hiring his communist friends to work on producing Voice of America broadcasts. Already in April 1943, the State Department, citing the U.S. military authorities, secretly identified him to the FDR White House as dangerously pro-Soviet and pro-communist. It was an unusual accusation made by some of President Roosevelt’s closest liberal advisors because FDR and his administration pursued a policy of what could be called extreme accommodation toward Stalin. The U.S. Army Intelligence considered Houseman a security risk and did not want him to travel abroad for the duration of the war. The State Department refused to give him his U.S. passport for government travel, which forced his resignation in 1943.

The hidden charges against Houseman and a few other OWI officials, made by FDR’s friend and confidant Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, led to Houseman’s departure from VOA. However, he was never publicly identified as a communist sympathizer, and the reason for his resignation was not publicized. The long-lasting secrecy over his ouster allowed some historians and former VOA officials to create the myth that he was a defender of truthful and honest journalism. Apparently unaware of these facts, Reagan administration officials invited John Houseman to the Voice of America’s 40th-anniversary celebration in Washington in 1982. He lectured them on the importance of not telling lies in VOA broadcasts. Ironically, some of these Reagan managers put an end to VOA censorship that Houseman and his team first introduced to protect Soviet propaganda lies from being challenged.

Under other officials who were even more responsible than Houseman for the pro-Kremlin tone and content of the early Voice of America broadcasts, VOA continued to air Soviet propaganda for the remainder of the war and even into the late 1940s, with the Katyn story still being occasionally censored or downplayed as late as 1951 and early 1952. When Kathleen Harriman Mortimer was called before a bipartisan investigative committee of the House of Representatives in November 1952, she admitted that she had been wrong in supporting the Soviet denials of responsibility for the Katyn murders but did not apologize to the victims’ families or anyone deceived by the Voice of America broadcasts. It is also worth noting that her father put her in charge of housekeeping for the Yalta Conference. At the “Big Three” summit, at which she and her father were present, President Roosevelt secretly confirmed to Stalin his earlier agreement to give Russia nearly half of Poland’s pre-war territory without the knowledge of the Polish government-in-exile in London and to make Russia a dominant power in Eastern Europe. Had Kathleen Harriman reported a year earlier the whole truth about the Katyn murders and the U.S. media publicized it, Roosevelt’s total appeasement of Stalin at Yalta, which caused millions of East-Central Europeans to lose their freedom for several decades, might not have been possible. Also attending the Yalta Conference as a member of the American delegation advising the President was Alger Hiss, later accused of being a Soviet spy and convicted of perjury. Hiss always maintained his innocence.

November 12, 1952, before the Select Committee on the Katyn Forest Massacre

TESTIMONY OF KATHLEEN HARRIMAN MORTIMER NEW YORK, N. Y. Chairman MADDEN. Will you raise your right hand and be sworn, please? Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God ? Mrs. MORTIMER. I do. Chairman MADDEN. Please state your full name. Mrs. MORTIMER. Kathleen Harriman Mortimer. Chairman MADDEN. And your address? Mrs. MORTIMER. 149 East Seventy-third Street, New York City. Chairman MADDEN. You may proceed, Mr. Counsel. Mr. MITCHELL. Mrs. Mortimer, I believe you have a copy of your report there on this subject; have you not? Mrs. MORTIMER. I do. Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. Chairman, I would now like to put in the record exhibit 25. Chairman MADDEN. I now present to you a document entitled “Enclosure No. 2 to Dispatch No. 207,” dated February 23, 1944, from American Embassy, Moscow. We will mark this “Exhibit 25.” Mr. MITCHELL. I would like the record to show also that the enclosure No. 1 attached thereto is Mr. John Melby’s report. ... Chairman MADDEN. Can you identify that document, Mrs. Mortimer? Mrs. MORTIMER. I identify that as my report. Chairman MADDEN. You may proceed, Mr. Machrowicz. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Mrs. Mortimer, you were in Moscow in February 1944, were you not? Mrs. MORTIMER. I was. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And January 1944? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes, I was. Mr. MACHROWICZ. In what capacity? Mrs. MORTIMER. I was then in the capacity as the daughter of my father, who was Ambassador. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And in January 1944, members of the foreign press were invited by the Soviet authorities to visit the Katyn place; is that right? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Do you remember how many there were? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would say offhand 20. Mr. MACHROWICZ. How many Americans were in that group ? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would say they were predominantly American and British. I really don’t remember how many did go. But I would say the members of the foreign press corps that were in Moscow at the time went to the Katyn Forest. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did you ask permission to accompany them? Mrs. MORTIMER. My father asked permission for me. Yes. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And you did accompany them? Mrs. MORTIMER. And I did accompany them. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And is this exhibit 20 a copy of the report which you filed? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. In that report you state your opinion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans. Is that right? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Can you state how you came to that conclusion? Mrs. MORTIMER. I can state it by reading what I said in the report. I wrote it 8 years ago, and I have refreshed my memory before coming down here to testify. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Will you read the first three paragraphs, which are the complete statement of the report. The balance is a report of the inspection; am I right? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. And that was my opinion at that time, having been to the Katyn Forest. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Would you read those first three paragraphs into the record? Mrs. MORTIMER. Do you want me to read them aloud? Mr. MACHROWICZ. If you wish. Or would you rather have me read them? Mrs. MORTIMER. I can read them. Mr. MACHROWICZ. All right. Mrs. MORTIMER. (reading) : The party was shown the graves in the Katyn Forest and witnessed post mortems of the corpses. As no member was in a position to evaluate the scientific evidence given, it had to be accepted at its face value. The testimonial evidence provided by the Commission and witnesses was minute in detail and by American standards petty. We were expected to accept the statements of the high-ranking Soviet officials as true, because they said it was true. Despite this it is my opinion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans. The most convincing evidence to uphold this was the methodical manner in which the job was done, something the Commission thought not sufficiently important to stress. They were more interested in the medical evidence as conclusive proof and the minute circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime. Mr. MACHROWICZ. The balance of the report is the report of the actual inspection. That completes the statement of the conclusions; am I right? Mrs. MORTIMER. I believe so. Mr. MACHROWICZ. As you stated there, no member was in a position to evaluate the scientific evidence and you had to accept it at face value? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And you stated also that the testimony was petty, by American standards, and you were expected to accept the statements of the high-ranking Soviet officials as true because they said it was true. Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes. Mr. MACHROWICZ. But, despite that, you came to the conclusion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. One of the reasons that you give in the sentence which follows that is: “The most convincing evidence to uphold this was the methodical manner in which the job was done, something the Commission thought not sufficiently important to stress. You felt that because of the methodical manner in which the murder was committed, the Russians were incapable of it. Is that right? Mrs. MORTIMER. This is trying to remember my train of thought at that time. I believe that there were German atrocities that were found, in which bodies were piled in the same order with the same type of bullet wound, had been found elsewhere. Mr. MACHROWICZ. You do not have that same opinion today as you had in February 1914, do you? Mrs. MORTIMER. I can say that before coming down here I read your interim report. You had access to every side of the picture, which I did not have available to me, and I would say, having read your report, that my opinion is that the Russians did kill the Poles. Mr. MACHROWICZ. In fairness to you, it must be stated that you did not have access to the information which we have today; did you? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. I merely was a witness of the show that the Russians put on for the benefit of the foreign correspondents in Moscow. Mr. MACHROWICZ. You considered it a show put on for the benefit of the correspondents in Moscow; at least you so labeled it later in the report; did you not? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes. Anywhere you went in Russia, a show was put on. You could not travel normally anyway. Mr. MACHROWICZ. At the bottom of page 1, paragraph 1, you state: The corpses were Poles—the majority enlisted men, with no rank badges, but some officers. Where, as the privates ranged from 25 to 30, the officers were considerably older—45 to 50 years. Do you know now that actually there were nothing but officers found in those graves? How did you come to the conclusion that the majority were enlisted men, with no rank badges? Mrs. MORTIMER. I presume I did that on the basis that they wore enlisted men’s uniforms. Mr. MACHROWICZ. In paragraph 2, you state: The majority of the corpses were dressed in topcoats, had long underwear. Those wearing just tunics had sweaters. Later on in the report, on page 4, you state that you were informed that the Germans killed these Poles between August and September 1941. Am I right? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did it not occur to you to be strange that between August 1 and September 1941, that being summer, that the majority of these corpses were still dressed in topcoats, had long underwear, and that those just wearing tunics had sweaters? Mrs. MORTIMER. That was definitely one of the questions that I know was prime in our minds as we were going back to Moscow and discussing it among ourselves. Mr. MACHROWICZ. That raised some doubt in your mind as to the truth of the Russians’ story; did it not? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes. Mr. MACHROWICZ. But it did not change your eventual opinion? Were you permitted to question witnesses? Mrs. MORTIMER. My Russian was not that sufficiently good. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Were you permitted to question them through an interpreter? Mrs. MORTIMER. I don’t believe I asked to. Mr. MACHROWICZ. On page 3 of your report you state: At first the committee refused to interrupt the testimonies for translation,but when the members of the press objected they agreed with some lack of grace. During the testimony the committee chatted and whispered between themselves and most didn’t appear to listen. We were told we could question any witness, through the committee, but the questions appeared to annoy them though not apparently due to their substance. Only one question was called irrelevant and not answered — the present job of one of the witnesses. Tolstoy later gave it to us. And then you state the following: The witnesses themselves were very well rehearsed, and they appeared subdued rather than nervous; their pieces having been learned by heart. Only the girl had an air of self-assurance. Did the fact that these witnesses appeared to be rehearsed and had learned their testimony by heart raise any question of doubt as to the truth of the Russian version? Mrs. MORTIMER. I can only say that, as I remember it, in the afternoon or early evening, we were told by one of the members of the Commission what we were going to hear later on that night, and the exact, same phraseology was used both times. In other words, they were giving us a second showing of what we had already heard. Mr. MACHROWICZ. You state further: When the last witness had been heard, general questions were asked, some of import to the Katyn incident, others not Shortly, however, the representatives of the Foreign Office press department got up and said we had better break up as our train was due to leave shortly. then you follow up with these words: * * * I got the distinct impression that the committee was relieved. They had been told to put on a show for us — the show was over — and they did not want to be bothered any further. The meeting broke up without any informal chatting. Mrs. MORTIMER. That was my impression. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Did you discuss with the American members of the committee what their impression was? Mrs. MORTIMER. I remember that going back on the train, certainly we sat around and talked. We brought up various points that had impressed us. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Mr. Cassidy testified that on the way back to Moscow the correspondents joked among themselves and said that the Russians certainly put on a show, they tried to put on a show, and they remarked about the fact that there was no sincerity about the testimony that was given to them. Do you remember any such comments? Mrs. MORTIMER. I don’t remember sitting at the same table in the dinner car with Mr. Cassidy. I may have but I don’t remember that. I said myself they put on a show. And I can’t imagine spontaneity coming into this type of investigation, to which foreign correspondents would be invited, at that time, in Russia. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Mr. Cassidy also testified that the exhibits which you refer to as having been taken from the bodies of the deceased actually were not taken from the bodies in the presence of the committee, but were under a glass case. Mrs. MORTIMER. They were in a relic museum, in glass cases. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Actually, then, no member of the group saw these exhibits taken from the bodies of the deceased, but they were already in a museum, in a separate building? Mrs. MORTIMER. No. I witnessed the post mortems that were going on in the tents by the graves. Mr. MACHROWICZ. You witnessed the post mortems but, as you stated in your report, as no member was in position to evaluate the scientific evidence, you had to accept it at its face value; is that right? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. But these exhibits that you referred to as having been found on the corpses, were not taken from the corpses in your presence, they were in a museum at the time? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right — in Smolensk, which was some distance away. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Whether or not they were fabricated or taken from some other place you do not know ; you just had to take the word of the Russians for it? Mrs. MORTIMER. I can state that, due to the odor in the room, that there would be no question in my mind that these documents had been taken from bodies that had been buried a considerable length of time. Mr. MACHROWICZ. There could have been some documents added to those that had been taken, could there not? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would think so. I would be in no position to judge that. Mr. MACHROWICZ. And you yourself observed the fact that most of these corpses were in topcoats? with long underwear, and sweaters? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Despite the fact the Russians claimed the massacre had taken place between August and September 1941? Mrs. MORTIMER. That is right. Mr. MACHROWICZ. That is all. Chairman MADDEN. Mr. Dondero. Mr. DONDERO. Mrs. Mortimer, were there any other nationalities present, outside of the American reporters, and the Russian commission? Mrs. MORTIMER. I believe there was a Frenchman. Mr. MITCHELL. Was he a reporter? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes; a French reporter. And I think there was a Polish one. Mr. O’KONSKI. Yes, there was, because they slept through the whole performance. Mr. MACHROWICZ. Two of them. Mr. DONDERO. Were there any others besides that? Mrs. MORTIMER. Not that I recall. The press group in Moscow was predominantly American and British, and this one Frenchman. Mr. DONDERO. Was there any other correspondent—and I refer particularly to the American correspondents—that wrote a report similar to yours, or came to the same conclusion? Mrs. MORTIMER. I do think that Richard Lauterbach, in his article in Time, which came out at that period, I think that you will find that he said that most of us thought that the Germans had done it. Mr. MITCHELL. Where is Richard Lauterbach today? Mrs. MORTIMER. He died. Mr. Mitchell. Was it very well known that he was pro-Soviet, pro-Communist, at that time, when you were over there? Mrs. MORTIMER. I could not say so. Mr. MITCHELL. For your information, Ed Angley, Henry Cassidy, Bill Lawrence, all of whom were with you, said that he jumped the fence and was very pro-Soviet-minded at that time. Mr. DONDERO. Just a moment. You news reporters have a saying among yourselves, I am informed, that if a thing is “phony,” the story is, you say, “rigged.” Did you have any impression while there, from things you observed, that that story might have been “rigged”? And I refer to the statement made that the witnesses seemed to have their words rehearsed, and so forth. Mrs. MORTIMER. I believe, as already has been brought out, that I did say that they put on a show for us. Well, I had been in Moscow some time before I want to Katyn. It was quite usual, whenever I went anywhere, that a show was put on for you, and that if speeches were made, they were rehearsed. So that did not necessarily surprise me. Mr. DONDERO. All those who took part, as far as concerned showing you the corpses, in the commission, were all Russians; is that correct? Mrs. MORTIMER. They were. Mr. DONDERO. Did they talk English to you? Mrs. MORTIMER. No; I cannot remember if Mr. Tolstoy spoke English or not. I believe he did. Mr. DONDERO. How far is the Katyn Forest from Moscow? Mrs. MORTIMER. It was overnight by train, and I think it was two-hundred-odd kilometers. Mr. DONDERO. How long did you stay there? Mrs. MORTIMER. We were there a full day. Mr. MITCHELL. How long were you at the forest itself, at the graves? Mrs. MORTIMER. In terms of hours, I would not know. I could not remember. I know we arrived early in the morning, and we probably got back on the train at 2 a. m. the following morning. Mr. DONDERO. Did the other American correspondents write their conclusions of that visit? Mrs. MORTIMER. I was not there at the time, so I did not see what they reported. I mean I did not have access to the American press there in Moscow, so I would not know. Mr. DONDERO. From your statement, there were 15 or 20 in the party, but they were nearly all Americans. Outside of yourself and Mr. Lauterbach, you know of no other story that corresponded with yours, or your conclusions? Mrs. MORTIMER. The only story that I read was my own. Mr. DONDERO. You did not see any story of any of the other correspondents? Mrs. MORTIMER. No. Mr. DONDERO. Whether they wrote any or not, you are not informed as to that? Mrs. MORTIMER. I am afraid I am not. Mr. DONDERO. That is all. Chairman MADDEN. How many bodies did you view? Mrs. MORTIMER. There were several graves opened. I know that I had to see more post mortems than anybody else, because each one of the doctors involved wanted me to see one. Chairman MADDEN. Did you see 10, or 20, or 30? Mrs. MORTIMER. You mean bodies lying around? Chairman MADDEN. Yes; that you viewed? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would say several hundred, or hundreds. Chairman MADDEN. Did you know that the Germans had made a similar autopsy? Mrs. MORTIMER. Yes, and they had put little metal tags on the uniforms, numbered tags. Chairman MADDEN. Did they tell you that a year and a half before, the Germans had made a similar investigation? Mrs. MORTIMER. I was in London at the time of the German announcement, and I read about that in the British press. Chairman MADDEN. Did the Russians tell you about that investigation that the Germans had made there at the grave site? Mrs. MORTIMER. What they told us was subsequently published in their report, and I cannot, offhand, remember if they mentioned the German report, or not. Chairman MADDEN. Did they not mention anything about the German investigation there, at the grave site? Mrs. MORTIMER. No. In other words, they did not present it to us as “The Germans said this, and we say it is not so.” They presented a case, as I remember it, without any reference. Chairman MADDEN. Mr. O’Konski. Mr. O’KONSKI. Mrs. Mortimer, your report, in fact, reminds me of a Congressman from my home State who at one time talked about a half hour against a certain bill and he concluded bv saying that, “Now I talked myself out of it and I am going to vote for it.” The thing that amuses me about your report is that your reasoning destroys your conclusion. In other words, as I read your report, and, frankly, I read it at least 10 times—you have in it more reasons why the Russians did it and not the Germans, than you have that the Germans did it. I cannot understand how you could have arrived at that conclusion. Frankly, as I read your report, I come to the conclusion that it was not the Germans who did it, it was the Russians. That leads me to ask you this question : How old were you when you went on this mission? Mrs. MORTIMER. Twenty-five. Mr. O’KONSKI. Would you tell us why your father selected you instead of, perhaps, somebody older and somebody who, perhaps, was a medical authority or sometlung of that nature? Your father touched on it, but, I think, for the record, that ought to be brought out again. Why did your father select you to go on this mission? Mrs. MORTIMER. My impression is that he selected me because he thought it would be more difficult for them to refuse him if he asked that I go than if he asked a medical officer or somebody else. Mr. O’KONSKI. That sounds logical. I asked that question, because the first time your name did come up, that you went on this mission, the average criticism immediately was, “Well, why would so young a girl be picked for so responsible a job?” I am glad to get the answer to that question, because it was a very serious mission that you went on. That clarifies it. Coming back to my original comment, that as I read your reasoning I cannot agree with your conclusion in your report, that prompts me to ask this question: Did you arrive at your conclusion independently and entirely on your own reasoning, entirely on your own thinking? Did anybody exert any pressure or any force or any hint to you at all in arriving at your conclusion? Mrs. MORTIMER. No. Mr. O’KONSKI. One of the reports, either yours or Mr. Melby’s, tells how the Polish representatives——— Mrs. MORTIMER. That was Mr. Melby’s report, I believe. Mr. O’KONSKI. Seemingly slept through the whole demonstration and exhibition. Do you remember that also? Mrs. MORTIMER. I do remember it was a very small room. As I said, I think I remember we were quite close to this museum where the personal effects of these corpses had been placed. It was terribly hot, there were kleig lights. We were there for many, many hours, and I can well understand how some of the people would have been drowsy, because we had to hear the testimony not only twice, but four times, because it had to be translated to us in English. Mr. O’KONSKI. But even then, they were not truly representative of the Polish people. Do you think that-under those conditions they would be found asleep, when it comes to finding out something about what happened to 15,000 murdered fellow men? Mrs. MORTIMER. That I truly cannot answer. I know I stayed awake. Mr. MITCHELL. Were there any pictures taken? Mrs. MORTIMER. As I remember it, there were certainly facilities, in terms of the kleig lights. How often the cameras were rolling, I don’t know. Mr. MITCHELL. Have you ever seen yourself in that film? Mrs. MORTIMER. No. I have never seen myself in it. Mr. MITCHELL. I will be delighted to show it to you sometime. It is a picture of you and the correspondents going there. I would like to have you verify some of the names in that for the members of the committee, of the people who were with you in that film. Mrs. MORTIMER. I will be very pleased to do so, to the best of my ability. Mr. PUCINSKI. I wonder if you would straighten out one point for us here.There has been some speculation that you went to Katyn as a correspondent or adviser or observer for the OWI. Did you have any connections with the OWI at that time? Mrs. MORTIMER. I was a correspondent in London for Newsweek magazine, before I went to Moscow, and I resigned from that post when I went to Moscow with my father. I worked for the OWI in a purely unofficial capacity. Everybody there at the Embassy was very short-staffed and, in other words, pitched in and helped. Mr. PUCINSKI. Did you file any reports for the OWI as a result of your visit to Katyn? Mrs. MORTIMER. No, this was the only thing I wrote. Mr. PUCINSKI. I have one more question. You were quite admired in Moscow, were you not? You were 25 years old, and the Ambassador's daughter, and people sort of looked to you with a great deal of respect, did they not? Mrs. MORTIMER. At the time I went to Moscow I was the only American woman there. Mr. PUCINSKI. The reason why I asked that question is this. I was wondering, had your observations and had your conclusions been different, had you believed in all the reasoning through your report, which indicated so strongly that the Soviets committed this massacre, could you, or were you in a position to so state, or were you somewhat bound by your position in Moscow to say that it was the Germans who did this? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would not say that my position in Moscow would have any bearing on what I would write in a report. I have been a correspondent before, and writing up a news story was not something that Mr. PUCINSKI. You were free of any pressures, to state your conclusions as you saw them? Mrs. MORTIMER. When I came home, my father asked me to write down what I had seen, and that is what I did. Mr. PUCINSKI. And what is your conclusion today? Mrs. MORTIMER. I have since had the opportunity to read your interim report and read what the New York press has said about your committee, and you had access to every side of the picture, and I think, undoubtedly Mr. PUCINSKI. Aside from our report, Mrs. MORTIMER. Well, that is my information on it. Mr. PUCINSKI. Aside from our report, can you think of anything that you observed there in 1944 at Katyn, which may strengthen the evidence that we have already compiled, to the conclusion that the Soviets murdered these men? In retrospect today, is there anything that you observed at that time that would strengthen that belief today? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would say that would be, off hand, hard to answer now, without going over your report here and mine here. Mr. PUCINSKI. No further questions. Chairman MADDEN. As a final question let me ask. You would testify today, would you, that the Russians committed the massacre at Katyn? Mrs. MORTIMER. I would. Chairman MADDEN. Thank you for appearing before us today as a witness. Mrs. MORTIMER. Thank you very much for inviting me. 87

Roman Pucinski was chief investigator for the Madden Committee. He was later elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives from Chicago, Illinois, and served from 1959 to 1973. After her questioning before the Katyn committee, Kathleen Harriman faded into relative obscurity. While in the years after she testified, she was generally not linked in press reports with Katyn or the Voice of America, former VOA Director and State Department Foreign Service officer Charles W. Thayer wrote in his 1959 book Diplomat about her help with the first VOA Russian-language programs.

... the budget was so low that unpaid volunteers including Averell Harriman's daughter, Kathleen, were recruited to help in the studios, in violiation of government regulations.88

As a State Department diplomat, Thayer was in charge of launching the VOA Russian broadcasts in 1947. He was reported by another U.S. diplomat, Chester H. Opal, in a 1951 declassified State Department memo as not being entirely convinced, even after the war, that the Soviets were behind the Katyn murders.

A declassified 1951 “Confidential” State Department memorandum at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

Kathleen Harriman’s help launching the Voice of America Russian Service in 1947 was an early case of Washington insiders recruiting their like-minded friends to work on U.S. government broadcasts as full-time staffers or as paid or unpaid contributors. A daughter of a millionaire, she did not need money, but in offering her a volunteer job in international broadcasting, Charles W. Thayer may have been trying to ingratiate himself with the Harriman family. In 1959, he accompanied her father on a reporting trip to the Soviet Union. By then, both men were no longer with the State Department. Thayer resigned from the Foreign Service under pressure from the FBI over unproven and vehemently denied accusations of homosexuality, and accusations of heterosexual affairs, which he did not deny.

In his Diplomat memoir, Thayer implied that he had changed Voice of America programs from pro-Soviet to being critical of the Soviet Union. He even admitted that “A few known fellow travelers had during the war infiltrated into key positions whence they advocated a friendly-to-Russia line,” thus suggesting that he was not on their side. In an apparent attempt to defend himself from criticism that broadcasts to Russia were mostly innocuous and ineffective under his watch, he seemed to suggest that significant programming changes had already occurred in 1947. But that claim was not true. The change only happened at the insistence of President Truman, starting in 1950, when Thayer was no longer the VOA Russian Service chief and later the VOA director (1948-1949).

But in 1947, at the urgent insistence of the diplomats familiar with Russia, including Averell Harriman, recently ambassador in Moscow and then secretary of commerce, broadcasts directly to Russia were inaugurated and the tone of the other broadcasts changed to a much more vigorous anti-Communist approach. The fellow travellers were eliminated and the rest of the staff reoriented to a more realistic line.89 

Interestingly, Thayer did not write that VOA programs to Russia, when he was the service chief, were critical of the Soviet Union because they were not. He noted truthfully that “the tone of the other broadcasts changed.”

The content and the tone of Voice of America broadcasts to the Soviet Union changed a few years later under the strongly anti-communist next VOA Russian Service chief, former Soviet general Alexander Barmine. General Barmine, who had been with the Soviet military intelligence (GRU), had defected from his diplomatic post in Athens, Greece, in 1937 and came to the United States in 1940. He joined the U.S. Army, became an American citizen, and worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) forerunner.90 Thayer hired Barmine to head the Russian Service. He may have realized that there was a significant policy change or was instructed to employ him by his superiors in the State Department or in other parts of the U.S. government after President Truman decided to stop appeasing Stalin.

General Barmine knew about the Soviet infiltration of the U.S. government information programs during World War II and warned about it in an article titled “The New Communist Conspiracy,” published in Reader’s Digest in October 1944, four years before he joined VOA in 1948.91 While testifying under oath in July 1951 before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), sometimes referred to as the McCarran Committee after its chairman, Senator Patrick Anthony McCarran (Democrat – Nevada), Barmine, who, after his defection in 1937 from the Soviet Embassy in Athens was sentenced to death in absentia in the Soviet Union, told members of Congress that his boss in the Soviet military intelligence, General Yan Karlovich Berzin, identified to him two former Office of War Information officials responsible for VOA broadcasts, Joseph F. Barnes and Owen Lattimore, as “our men,” which meant that they could have been Soviet agents.92 Berzin, a Latvian Soviet communist, was shot during Stalin’s Great Purge of 1938. Others described Barnes and Lattimore as fellow travelers and promoters of Soviet propaganda, but both categorically denied they had any links to Soviet military intelligence.93 Barmine gave the same information about Barnes and Lattimore to the FBI confidentially three years earlier, but he said he did not have any additional evidence besides what he had been told without any specific details by Berzin and other Soviet military intelligence officers.94

W. Averell Harriman and Charles W. Thayer Visiting Moscow University During 1959 Trip to Soviet Union. Credit: Harry S. Truman Library Museum. Credit: Harry S. Truman Library Museum.

Interior view with a group of men and students seated around a circular table. W. Averell Harriman is seated just to the left of the vase on the table. Ivan Petrovsky, Rector of Moscow University, is to the right of Harriman and Charles Thayer is on the left. Inscription of back of photograph reads: “Gov. Harriman, Rector Petrovski and other members of university faculty talking to U.S. students currently studying at Moscow University.” Photograph taken during Harriman’s 1959 trip to the Soviet Union. Charles W. Thayer accompanied Harriman as a guide and confidant on the trip which took place May 12 – June 26, 1959. Harriman went as a special foreign correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). Trip visits included Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Yalta, etc., as well as areas in Siberia and the Urals, and ended with a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev.

Under considerable pressure from Congress in the early 1950s, VOA abandoned its cover-up of the Katyn story, but limited Katyn-related censorship returned in later years. Only during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s did VOA’s attempts at covering up the Katyn Soviet crime cease completely.

The historical record shows that Charles Thayer, the first VOA Russian Service director later promoted to the position of Voice of America director, was not sure, even after the war, that Stalin had perpetrated the mass murder in Katyn. He recruited to help him an American journalist and former Office of War Information representative in Moscow, who, three years earlier, had accepted and promoted the Soviet propaganda lie on Katyn. But while both were involved in starting the first VOA broadcasts in Russian to the Soviet Union in 1947, the early group of VOA Russian Service broadcasters also included several strongly anti-communist White Russians. One was Victor Franzusoff, who does not mention Kathleen Harriman in his book, Talking to the Russians. Her role in launching VOA radio broadcasts to Russia could not have been significant in practical terms, as her knowledge of Russian was limited. Still, it may have been designed to signal to the Soviet leadership that they need not fear the new programs. Franzusoff praised Charles Thayer as a capable Russia expert and manager. But apparently, neither Thayer nor Kathleen Harriman believed, at least initially, that Joseph Stalin could have been the cold-blooded mass murderer.

The Truman White House was unhappy with Voice of America programs after widespread criticism that they were soft on communism and the Soviets. According to Edward Carleton Helwick, Jr., who had worked for VOA as an English-language writer-producer and later in an academic paper compared VOA programs in 1947 with those in 1950-1953, VOA’s initial Russian-language broadcast did not include, outside of the newscast, any criticism of Soviet leaders or analysis of human rights issues under communism. Helwick also observed that mainstream U.S. media outlets were not impressed with the direction and tone of the first VOA Russian broadcast from New York in February 1947.

It was evident from newspaper accounts that the broadcast in America, at least, was received with something less than enthusiasm. Typical of the reactions the New York World Telegraph headline, “Russians Restrain Joy over U.S. Broadcast.”... The first program, a widely publicized event, had consisted of a twenty minutes of straight news; a twelve minute lecture on the United States form of government, which said, among other things, that the U.S. had lost its fear of the “so-called despotism of the central government”; an interlude of cowboy tunes, including “The Old Chisholm Trail,” the refrain of which, “coma ti yi soupy, happy yay, happy ya, come ti yi soupy happy yay,” Time observed, “probably sounded like static to Russian ears”; a talk on a new cure for hay fever, revealing that the U.S. had 5 million sufferers; and details of a new method of exploring the Milky Way.95
Opening Segment of the First Voice of America Russian Broadcast, February 17, 1947

A Russian linguist, Helen Zhemchuzhny Bates Yakobson (1913-2002), who had worked in the VOA Russian Service under Charles Thayer, had this to say in her memoir published in 1994 about VOA’s first broadcasts to Russia in 1947:

In those early years, VOA programs attempted to give full and impartial reports of life in the United States, including confessions of our shortcomings and faults. No direct criticism or attacks on the Soviet system were permitted. After all, they had only recently been our allies. But as the Cold War intensified, VOA responded and became openly and vigorously critical of the Soviet system and government.96

According to U.S. Ambassador to Poland Arthur Bliss Lane, who served in Warsaw from 1945 until 1947, Kathleen Harriman’s report was the only one in the Katyn file at the State Department. He made this statement when testifying before the Madden Committee on November 13, 1952.

Mr. MITCHELL. In your briefing to assume your position as United States Ambassador to the Polish Government in exile, what were you informed concerning the Katyn massacre?

Mr. LANE. The only document that I was able to see was the report that came from the American Embassy in Moscow, which had been prepared by Miss Harriman.

Mr. MITCHELL. During the course of time from September 1944 until you departed in July 1945, did you, of your own personal knowl­edge, not official, find out anything about the Katyn massacre, and, if so, from whom, and when?

Mr. LANE. I did not find anything except that one report, although I endeavored to find out if there were any files in the Department of State on that subject.97

When Kathleen Harriman testified in 1952 before the congressional Katyn investigation committee under her married name Mrs. Kathleen Mortimer, she tried to minimize the importance of her OWI work. She said that she had not reported from Katyn for OWI. While stationed in Moscow and serving as her father’s diplomatic hostess, her volunteer work for the Office of War Information was directed more at preparing a daily news bulletin in English for distribution to Soviet media, which rarely used it. However, her secret report to the State Department, where she was known as a journalist, even if not one with a lot of experience, confused and misled officials in Washington. Her conclusion on Katyn was precisely what her father, President Roosevelt, and Stalin wanted to hear. Her more experienced American colleagues, who went with her to Katyn, also backed the Soviet propaganda lie. The New York Times article headline from January 27, 1944, referenced Kathleen Harriman’s presence at Katyn:

SOVIET BLAMES FOE IN KILLING OF POLES; Commission Reports on the Katyn Incident, Finds Plot to Hurt Russian Prestige ALLIED PRESS SEES BODIES Correspondents and Daughter of Ambassador Harriman Visit Scene for Data. 

The New York Times‘s correspondent in Russia was W. (William) H. Lawrence, who presented in great detail but did not directly challenge the Soviet version of the mass murder. He managed, however, to include in his article some of the questions from reporters that may have cast doubt on the Soviet claims that it was a German atrocity. The censors allowed them to be published, most likely because he also included and did not question the statements from the Soviet officials and experts explaining away some of the doubts expressed by the reporters. About Kathleen Harriman, the New York Times correspondent wrote:

Because of the presence of Ambassador Harriman's daughter, the Soviet authorities changed their original plans to go by automobile, with each correspondent bringing his own food for three days, and decided to make available the Foreign Office's special train, complete with well-heated, lighted, plush-carpeted compartment cars and a bright, cheery dining car whose windows were curtained in pastel green.98 

The New York Times correspondent added about his colleague:

It was the first time Miss Harriman had seen mass graves, but she didn't flinch, and even went into the tents with us, where we watched eleven teams of doctors performing post-mortems on the bodies of the Poles.99

Geoffrey Roberts, professor of history at University College Cork, Ireland, who had interviewed Kathleen Harriman Mortimer in New York in 2002, quoted in his article in the Winter 2015 issue of Harriman Magazine, published by the Harriman Institute, from her letter to her former English governess, Elsie Marshall, written shortly after her return from the trip to Katyn, near Smolensk:

Everything was swell—a whole private train just for the press.... The trip was on the gruesome side but most interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it—and the chance to see some countryside other than Moscow for a change. I imagine one of these days I'll get round to sitting down and typing out for youwhat happened etc. At the moment it's bit late & I'm too sleepy.100

In a longer letter written on January 28, 1944, to her sister Mary and Pamela Churchill, the wife of  Randolph Churchill, the son of prime minister Winston Churchill (she knew that her father had an affair with Pamela Churchill; they would later marry), Kathleen Harriman described the autopsies conducted by the Soviet experts:

Next on the program we were taken into post mortem tents. These were hot and stuffy and smelt to high heaven.101

Kathleen Harriman described next what she considered firm evidence that the Germans had carried out the murders:

While I was watching, they [the Soviet experts] found one letter dated the summer of '41, which is damned good evidence.102

The letter was put in the uniform by the NKVD secret police. When Prof. Roberts suggested that her “letter about Katyn had been a bit flip” about the autopsies, she raised an eyebrow and replied: “Well, what would you expect me to do—try and get closer?”103 At the Yalta Conference, she was greatly impressed with President Roosevelt, whom she had not met before, and with Stalin, whom she described in one of her letters as a “charming, gracious, almost benign host.”104

W. H. Lawrence noted that Miss Harriman had joined the other reporters during the trip to Katyn in taking notes about the autopsy of the Polish victim with the Russian post-mortem tag number 808. Even though in his report for the New York Times, he also did not challenge the Soviet claims and presented without any comment false Soviet responses to questions that could have undermined the Kremlin’s official position, his report, dated January 23, was still delayed by censors in Moscow for several days and did not appear in the paper until January 27. Another interesting fact in W. H. Lawrence’s report is his identification of John Melbe (misspelled last name of U.S. diplomat John F. Melby) as “acting OWI director in Moscow.” The Office of War Information functioned abroad as the United States Information Agency (USIA) between 1953 and 1999. Had John Melby been a USIA officer, his title would have been the acting Public Affairs Officer or PAO. His official title in Moscow in 1944 was Third Secretary of the U.S. Embassy. Prof. Roberts noted that Kathleen Harriman rarely mentioned in her letters her work for the OWI in Moscow. She participated in the launch of Amerika—a glossy Russian-language magazine, which her father thought could change the opinions of ordinary Russians about the United States. The Soviet authorities never allowed the magazine to be widely distributed in the USSR.

Melby’s report, in which he presented the same conclusion as in Kathleen Harriman’s report, that in all probability, the Germans were responsible for the Katyn murders, was sent by Ambassador Harriman to the State Department in Washington with his daughter’s report. It might be reasonable to assume that the Office of War Information leadership would have been advised about their Moscow representative’s view of the Soviet autopsies on the Katyn victims. However, I did not find declassified diplomatic cables or documents showing that his report had reached OWI. Melby’s assessment at the end of his report from Katyn was:

It is apparent that the evidence in the Russian case is incomplete in several respects, that it is badly put together, and that the show was put on for the benefit of the correspondents without opportunity for independent investigation or verification. On balance, however, and despite loopholes the Russian case is convincing.

[SEGMENT - for a link to the full report see note]


[Enclosure No. 1 to Despatch No. 207 dated February 23, 1944, from Americau Embassy, Moscow 

Trip to Smolensk and the Katyn Forest, January 21-23, 1944105

The State Department dismissed Melby in 1953 because of his love affair with the playwright Lillian Hellman, who supported communism in Stalin’s Russia and was reported to have loose links to the Communist Party in the United States but was not formally a party member. They met in Moscow at the end of 1944, several months after his visit to Katyn, and started their affair while Melby’s wife and child were living in the United States.

The conclusion in Kathleen Harriman’s report for the State Department about the Katyn massacre was almost identical to Melby’s statement that the Russian case was “convincing”:

The testimonial evidence provided by the Commission and witnesses was minute in detail and by American standards petty. We were expected to accept the statements of the high ranking Soviet officials as true, because they said it was true.

Despite this it is my opinion that the Poles were murdered by the Germans. The most convincing evidence to uphold this was the methodical manner in which the job was done, something the Commission thought not sufficiently important to stress.

[SEGMENT - for a link to the full report see note]


[Enclosure No. 2 to Despatch No. 207 dated February 23, 1944, from American Embassy, Moscow]

One of the few reporters on the 1944 NKVD-arranged trip to Katyn who chose not to repeat Soviet lies by not filing any reports was an African-American journalist and writer,  Homer Smith, Jr. (1909-1972). I wrote in an op-ed that he was a 20th-century fighter for freedom and human dignity, initially fooled by Soviet propaganda but later becoming a critic who deserves to be admired and remembered by more people.107 During World War II, almost all elite Western journalists, including all who were in charge of the Voice of America, repeated Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s lies about the massacre of thousands of Polish military officers and intellectual leaders who were prisoners in the Soviet Union. But Homer Smith, who then lived in Russia, chose not to participate in the Kremlin’s propaganda charade. After escaping from the cradle of communism, he later wrote in his book about his trip to the site of the Katyn massacre.

According to Polish officer Captain Józef Czapski, who was one of the few not killed by the NKVD secret police and was charged by the Polish government in London with a futile search for the missing soldiers in Russia, where he was lied to by multiple Soviet officials, Mr. Harriman’s report to the U.S. government did tremendous damage. Still, several U.S. and other Western correspondents who went with her to Katyn wrote articles with similar conclusions.108 Had they reported differently, they would not have been able to stay in the Soviet Union. The Soviet regime would have accused them of being Nazi sympathizers. Ms. Harriman might have been safer as the daughter of the U.S. ambassador, but she still did not express any doubts about Soviet propaganda claims publicly. Had she done so, the truth would have been served, but her father would probably be unable to continue as President Roosevelt’s ambassador to Stalin. His standing with the President would have been destroyed and his diplomatic career ruined. Kathleen Harriman’s and John Melby’s work for the Office of War Information, or any work that Ms. Harriman did or hoped to do in the future for the Voice of America, would have ended and become impossible later. They would have been ostracized by most of the pro-Soviet journalists in Britain, the United States, and elsewhere. Kathleen Harriman and John Melby would have had to tell their boss, American journalist and broadcaster Elmer Davis, the then OWI director, that he was wrong when in April and May 1943, he had told Voice of America overseas audiences and Americans listening to his reports on domestic radio networks that the Germans were behind the Katyn murders and that the Nazis used the Katyn murders as propaganda material to make false accusations against the Soviet Union. While testifying before the Madden Committee in 1952, Davis admitted he was wrong. Still, he remained unapologetic and launched attacks on members of Congress and the media who criticized his judgment. The congressional committee asked him to read his Katyn radio report from May 1943.

OWI Director Elmer Davis repeats Soviet propaganda Katyn lie to American radio audience; the same report also broadcast by VOA

Ambassador Lane’s private efforts to investigate the Katyn massacre led to the creation of the House Select Committee, which conducted the official U.S. government-funded investigation.

In an interview with the Voice of America Polish Service correspondent Wacław Bniński, recorded in Maisons-Laffitte near Paris in 1984, Polish writer and survivor of Stalin’s murders, Józef Czapski, who had been censored by VOA in 1950, was especially bitter about Kathleen Harriman’s role in the cover-up of the massacre. He correctly pointed out, however, that everybody at the highest levels, starting with President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, covered up the truth about Katyn. What she and other journalists did was to make it easier for Roosevelt and Churchill to suppress the truth and avoid what these leaders feared might have been Stalin’s move — to reach a separate peace treaty with Hitler if his crime was exposed.

Polish writer and artist Józef Czapski is bitter about Kathleen Harriman’s 1944 Katyn report
WACŁAW BNIŃSKI. These first steps slowly led to the famous US Congress hearings on Katyn.

JÓZEF CZAPSKI. Yes, yes, but many years later.

WACŁAW BNIŃSKI. Many years later.

JÓZEF CZAPSKI. And then, then even Harriman's daughter completely took back (odszczekała) what she had said before.

WACŁAW BNIŃSKI. Yes. And she was once taken to Katyn, shown Katyn [graves], and then she publicly stated that there is no doubt that it was done by the Germans.

JÓZEF CZAPSKI. Well, sir, that's all I could say to you, what you just said.

WACŁAW BNIŃSKI. Then she recanted.


WACŁAW BNIŃSKI. At that time, it did great harm to both the Poles and the United States - a cover-up of the truth.109

One of the early U.S. government reports that had disappeared or were misfiled and difficult to find was written by Lieutenant Colonel John H. Van Vliet, Jr. He was an American military officer, a POW in Germany, taken under protest to Katyn by the Germans to witness the exhumation of the bodies of the murdered Polish officers. Lt. Colonel Van Vliet was highly suspicious of the German Katyn claims and refused to be flown to see the graves. However, after being forced to go and after seeing the bodies and other evidence, he concluded there was no doubt that the Soviets had been responsible for the murders. His full report, written in May 1945 shortly after his release from German captivity, was classified as secret and mysteriously disappeared from the U.S. government files and archives. He had to reproduce it from memory in 1950.

Also, in 1950, the Voice of America management censored Józef Czapski’s talk about Katyn, which he had recorded for the VOA Polish Service at their request. The Voice of America admitted that the VOA Polish Service chief Józef Gidyński refused to air one of Czapski’s programs about Katyn, but Gidyński was acting most likely on instructions from senior managers.

According to journalist Julius Epstein, a pre-World War II Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and Austria and former Office of War Information German desk editor who gave sworn testimony to the Madden Committee, Czapski, who barely had escaped death in Katyn, felt devastated by the VOA management’s censorship of his talk. On December 11, 1950, Rep. Philp J. Philbin (Democrat – Massachusetts) inserted in the Congressional Record Epstein’s description of the Voice of America’s handling of one of Józef Czapski’s programs, which the VOA Polish Service requested from him but later refused to air it as written. The VOA management lied about the circumstances of the incident, defending its actions and slandering both Czapski and Epstein.

[JULIUS EPSTEIN as quoted in the Congressional Record by Rep. Philip J. Philbin (D – MA)]In the spring of 1950 Count Joseph Czapski arrived in the United States. Count Czapski is well known not only among the Poles. He is a writer and painter, and he is also a survivor of the massacre of Polish officers on Russian soil. He has widely writ­ten about Katyn and his own experiences to General Anders’ representatives in the Soviet Union. The Voice of America, well aware of Czapski’s importance, invited him to address his Polish compatriots. Count Czapski was anxious to get the truth about Katyn across the iron curtain. But who can describe his disappointment when he was told in the New York offices of the Voice that he couldn’t even mention the word Katyn? I had the privilege of having lunch­eon with Count Czapski an hour or so after his conversation with Voice officials. I shall never forget how furious he was. I could not comfort him. The only thing I could do, was to tell him about my own experience with the Voice in connection with the Katyn massacre.

To evaluate correctly the very strange behavior of the Voice in respect to Katyn w should never forget that the only thing broadcast by our Government were Stalin’s lies of 1943 and 1944.

It is an undeniable fact that our Government has never told the truth about Katyn. From 1943, when the story broke, up to this very day when the cold war against Stalin has already become pretty hot in Korea, the Voice of America is suppressing the truth. Wouldn’t it be about time to break this habit?

It may, therefore, be a good idea if you, my listeners of today, wrote short letters of protest against the suppression of the truth on Katyn by our Voice of America. The letters should be addressed to the Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, Depart­ment of State, Washington, D.C.

Your letters may do some good. They may even change the attitude of the Voice of America.

Whatever the success of your letters may be, the truth will become known as always truth prevails against lies. No government in all the world is powers enough to kill the truth. The real Voice of America, people’s voice, will carry the truth about Katyn around the world.110

In an attempt to hide their censorship, Voice of America officials falsely claimed that Józef Czapski, the Polish officer, outstanding writer, and artist—one of the very few survivors of the Katyn murders and the person who had searched for the missing officers in Russia, whose profound disappointment Epstein described in the excerpt inserted in the Congressional Record by Rep. Philbin—had voluntarily agreed with the management of the VOA Polish Service to have references to Katyn eliminated from in his 1950 radio talk broadcast by VOA to Poland during his visit in the United States. He apparently did it under protest to save his other programs from being discarded. He was later a frequent guest in Radio Free Europe Polish Service broadcasts, commenting on Katyn and other Soviet atrocities. Czapski spoke fluent Russian, greatly admired pre-Bolshevik Russian culture, and had many friends among Soviet dissidents. He was always working for a better understanding and improved relations between the Poles and the Russians. To my knowledge, the Voice of America did not interview Józef Czapski until Ronald Reagan was in the White House and I was put in charge of the VOA Polish Service.

State Department diplomat and Soviet affairs specialist who was the Voice of America director from October 1949 to September 1952, Foy D. Kohler, denied all the accusations made by Epstein about VOA’s handling of the Katyn story and proceeded to tarnish his reputation to contacts inside and outside of the U.S. government. In a memo dated December 18, 1951, declassified many years later, Kohler wrote that Mr. Epstein’s activities were “colored with the cast of the disappointed job seeker.” In the same memo, Kohler also suggested Epstein himself should be investigated, perhaps because, in his student years, he had joined the Communist Party. Epstein quickly abandoned the Communist Party and became an ardent critic of Communism.

A segment from Foy D. Kohler’s memorandum, “Julius Epstein and the Katyn massacre,” December 18, 1951, in the National Archives.
Finally, I cannot forbear adding that perhaps the time has arrived to investigate Mr.Epstein himself. His immigration status is not known but it is assumed he has become naturalized since taking out his first papers in 1942. His actions would seem to indicate that he is not be (sic) best type of new American citizen.

Diplomat and ex-VOA director Foy D. Kohler was later the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn praised Julius Epstein’s investigative reporting—not in connection with the Voice of America, but in Epstein’s book Operation Keelhaul (1973). Solzhenitsyn’s reference was to “not less than one million fugitives from the Soviet government,” who at the end of World War II were in Western Europe, “but who in 1946-1947 were perfidiously returned by Allied authorities into Soviet hands.” Solzhenitsyn noted that they were ordinary Russians—former German Red Army prisoners of war and others. He stressed the difference between these Soviet refugees and “the Vlasov men, the Krasnov Cossacks, and Moslems from the national units created under Hitler,” who had collaborated with the Nazis “out of conviction” or as “involuntary participants.”111

It is surprising that in the West, where political secrets cannot be kept long, since they inevitably come out in print or are disclosed, the secret of this particular act of betrayal has been very well and carefully kept by the British and American governments. This is truly the last secret, or one of the last, of the Second World War. Having often encountered these people in camps, I was unable to believe for a whole quarter-century that the public in the West knew nothing of this action of the Western governments, this massive handing over of ordinary Russian people to retribution and death. Not until 1973—in the Sunday Oklahoman of January 21—was an article by Julius Epstein published. And I am here going to be so bold as to express gratitude on behalf of the mass of those who perished and those few left alive.112

In the 1970s, Solzhenitsyn’s writings were still partially censored by the Voice of America’s management and the VOA Russian Service was not allowed to interview him—the ban not lifted until the Reagan administration took office.

September 18, 1950, Department of Defense press release on the missing Van Vliet Report

State Department officials gave Congressman Timothy P. Sheehan misleading information that the Voice of America reported frequently and extensively on the Katyn massacre story. At the beginning of 1951, such reports in VOA broadcasts were still brief and infrequent. However, under pressure from Congress, VOA started to increase its coverage of the Katyn murder investigation by the bipartisan Madden Committee.

The State Department could not provide Ambassador Bliss Lane, its diplomat going to Warsaw in 1945 as the U.S. ambassador, any other U.S. government, the British government, or the Polish government-in-exile reports pointing to the Soviet guilt in Katyn. They also were never filed, were hidden, or seemed to have mysteriously disappeared. The only report the State Department could show to Ambassador Bliss Lane in 1945 was written by a 26-year-old OWI journalist and later a Voice of America freelancer Kathleen Harriman, who in 1944 informed Washington that the Soviets were not responsible for the Katyn murders. Several other reports discovered or reproduced later provided evidence of Soviet guilt, including the original Van Vliet report, which could have been destroyed by several persons at the State Department, including Alger Hiss. U.S.-born Soviet spy Flora Wovschin (codename “ZORA”) was employed during World War II as a librarian and researcher in the Office of War Information library and research unit, which served for the Voice of America and other OWI divisions in New York.113 I discovered in her file that she claimed to be the author of a report on Poland’s pre-war eastern border and the territory given to Stalin at Yalta. She moved to the State Department in 1945 before defecting to the Soviet Union. According to the FBI, she died in North Korea after volunteering to work there as a nurse.114 She would have known how to find the archived Katyn documents at the State Department and possibly be able to remove them. Still, the mystery over their disappearance or removal from the State Department, except for Kathleen Harriman’s report, has never been fully explained.

Prof. J. K. Zawodny, a Polish-American historian, political scientist, and World War II soldier and anti-Nazi resistance fighter, noted in his 1962 book, Death in the Forest: The Story of the Katyn Forest Massacre, that the U.S. government was by the end of the war in possession of seven “reliable and well-documented” reports, blaming the Soviet government for the Polish officers’ murders directly or by implication. Still, while Arthur Bliss Lane was in the State Department from September 1944 to July 1945, preparing for his trip as ambassador to the post-war government in Warsaw, the only document he was given was “the paper by Miss Harriman.”115

The United States Department of State seems to have been more inclined to rely on Miss Harriman's account than on the reports of its two ambassadors, one minister, two lieutenant colonels, the results of a study by a presidential research team, and the information supplied by the British and Polish intelligence agencies.116

Still, as reluctant as the State Department was to publicize the Soviet crime and to declare officially that the Soviet Union was responsible for the Katyn massacre, it did not engage in actively promoting the Soviet propaganda lie, as the Office of War Information and the Voice of America officials and journalists did until at least the end of World War II. Even for many more years after the war, VOA limited or censored news reports about Katyn in violation of its Charter and its stated commitment to truthful journalism. Prof. Zawodny wrote about such VOA censorship in 1950:

The war was over for several years when Mr. Czapski, the man so actively engaged in searching for the missing men in Russia, and himself a survivor of the annihilation, came to the United States for a visit in the early spring of 1950. The Voice of America invited him to make a broadcast in the Polish language to Poland. He submitted a script. From it officials of the Voice of America eliminated all references to the Katyn Massacre. He was not even allowed to mention the word "Katyn."117

Józef Czapski may have been able to mention the Katyn massacre in another VOA program at that time, but not as openly and freely as he would have liked. Something he wrote in his introductory talk caused the Voice of America to censor it. As far as I know, this remarkable writer and artist was not interviewed by VOA until I became the Polish Service chief in the 1980s. Fortunately, throughout the Cold War, he frequently participated in Radio Free Europe Polish Service broadcasts. They had a much more significant impact in Poland than the Voice of America programs until management reforms during the Reagan administration ended all restrictions on VOA reporting on Soviet and other communist crimes. By the end of the 1980s, VOA’s audience in Poland had more than quadrupled and was almost as large as RFE’s audience. Some of the most popular VOA Polish Service programs then were about Katyn and other historical topics censored in Poland under communism. I also had the privilege to serve briefly as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President in December 2020-January 2021.

Józef Czapski commented in an article written in 1966 on the difference between Kathleen Harriman’s 1944 report and her 1952 testimony in the U.S. Congress and noted that her report was the only one given to Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane before his departure to Poland in 1945 to take up his diplomatic post, from which he resigned in 1947 in protest against Stalin’s violations of the Yalta Agreement on free elections and democracy. Józef Czapski wrote about Kathleen Harriman in his review of Le massacre de Katyń, a book published in 1966 by French anti-Nazi wartime journalist, historian, newspaper publisher, and writer Henri de Monfort.

In the attached documents we have the text of Harriman's telegram to Roosevelt of January 24, 1944, incriminating the Germans for the crime, and the conclusion of Harriman's daughter, who visited Katyn together with the Russian investigative commission. The same Miss Harriman, investigated by the American commission in 1952, states that all she could find out at that time was a comedy [Czapski sarcastically used the word komedia to mean that it was a farce]staged by the Russians for foreign correspondents in Moscow. The two testimonies with completely contradictory conclusions create a depressing impression of reckless irresponsibility for words on a matter of tremendous importance.118

Józef Czapski’s observation is still a valuable lesson for today’s journalists to help them protect themselves from Vladimir Putin’s propaganda distortions of history used by the Kremlin’s state media channels to justify his unprovoked war of aggression and conquest against Ukraine.


  1. “We Take Off Our Hat To Miss Kathleen Harriman,” The Sketch, April 3, 1946, p. 175.
  2. Marian Hemar, Generał Anders: Życie i Chwała (London: Polska Fundacja Kulturalna, 1970), pp. 56-58.
  3. Helen Yakobson, Crossing Borders: From Revolutionary Russia to China to America (Tenafly, N.J: Hermitage Publishers, 1994), p. 146.
  4. Edward Carleton Helwick, Jr., “Policy problems of the Voice of America: 1945-1953.” Master Thesis, Department of Political Sciences, University of Southern California, June 1954, pp. 218-219. The master thesis is in the Cold War Radio Museum collection.
  5. AP report in The Mobile Press Register, “U.S. to Start Radio Programs Aimed at Reds: State Department Directs News, Music, Features to Inform the Russians,” February 2, 1947, p. 1.
  6. Helwick, Policy problems of the Voice of America: 1945-1953, pp. 218-219.
  7. Arthur Bliss Lane, I Saw Poland BetrayedAn American Ambassador Reports to the American People (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company), 1948, p. 219.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ted Lipien, “Voice of America Had No Audience in Pre-Castro Cuba and Initially Supported Soviet Socialism in Eastern Europe,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), February 24, 2020,
  10. Alan L. Heil, Voice of America: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 32.
  11. Ted Lipien, “A Stalin Peace Prize Laureate Still Waiting for Acknowledgement of His Soviet Agent of Influence Role at Voice of America,” Cold War Radio Museum, November 7, 2022,
  12. Ted Lipien, “Mira Złotowska – Michałowska — pro-Soviet Collaborators at OWI and VOA,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), December 10, 2019,—michalowska—-pro-soviet-collaborators-at-owi-and-voa/.
  13. Ted Lipien, “Polish Diplomat Who Exposed Pro-Stalin U.S. Propagandists,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), December 16, 2018,
  14. Ted Lipien, “How U.S. Lied About Polish Refugee Children to Protect Stalin – Cold War Radio Museum,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), December 9, 2018,
  15. Ted Lipien, “Voice of America Polish Writer Listed As His Job Reference Stalin’s KGB Agent of Influence Who Duped President Roosevelt,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), February 12, 2020,
  16. Ted Lipien, “Mira Złotowska – Michałowska — pro-Soviet Propagandist at OWI and VOA,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), December 10, 2019,
  17. Mira Złotowska, “I came back from Poland, Harper’s Magazine, November 1946,
  18. Ted Lipien, “SOLZHENITSYN Target of KGB Propaganda and Censorship by Voice of America,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), November 7, 2017,
  19. Mary L. McNeil, Century’s Witness: The Extraordinary Life of Journalist Wallace Carroll (Buena Vista, VA: Whaler Books, 2022). The quote appears on the front jacket above the title.
  20. Wallace Carroll, We’re In This With Russia (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942), p. 89.
  21. Carroll, Persuade or Perish, pp. 149-152.
  22. Ibid., p. 152.
  23. Statement of Hon. Robert H. Jackson, Suprememe Court Justice in The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings before the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Eighty-second Congress, Second Session, on investigation of the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, Part 7, 1952, pp. 1943-1951,
  24. Ibid., p. 151.
  25. Wallace Carroll, Persuade or Perish (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948), pp. 132-133.
  26. In a 2000 interview with a Polish-American magazine, a Voice of America Polish Service broadcaster, Konstanty Broel Plater, said he had refused to read Soviet propaganda and resigned from VOA in 1944. Broel Plater told a Polish-American journalist, who interviewed him at his home in Pennsylvania, that while he worked as a Voice of America announcer in New York, a representative of the Washington office came to see him to discourage him from criticizing VOA broadcasts supporting Soviet propaganda. In a short conversation, the Office of War Information manager asked him after inviting him to lunch whether he intended to fight with the President of the United States and the Voice of America director. Teofil Lachowicz, “Zapomniany dyplomata,” Przegląd Polski (New York), October 20, 2000.
  27. Alexander Barmine, "The New Communist Conspiracy," Reader's Digest, October 1944,
  28. Overseas Information Programs of the U.S.: Hearings Before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee Under S. Res. 74 on Overseas Information Programs of the U.S., Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952, p. 1457, Ted Lipien, “Voice of America Russian Branch Chief Alexander Barmine Was An Ex-Soviet General and Ex-Spy Who Testified Before Senator McCarthy – Page 9 – Ending Censorship of Katyn Massacre,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), April 17, 2023,
  29. Edward R. Murrow, “Edward R. Murrow - Response to McCarthy on CBS’ See It Now,” April 13, 1954,
  30. Krystyna Piórkowska, Anglojęzyczni świadkowie Katynia: najnowsze badania, Pierwsze wydanie (Warszawa: Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, 2012), p. 99.
  31. United Press dispatch in Imperial Valley Press, Volume 42, Number 93, January 26, 1944,
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ted Lipien, “LIPIEN: Remembering a Polish-American Patriot,” The Washington Times, accessed May 13, 2023,
  34. Harry S. Truman, “Address on Foreign Policy at a Luncheon of the American Society of Newspaper Editors,” April 20, 1950. National Archives, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
  35. The House of Representatives, Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session. The Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Katyn Forest Massacre Hearings, Volumes 1-4, p. 205,
  36. Ibid., p.204.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Leopold Braun and Gary M. Hamburg, In Lubianka’s Shadow: The Memoirs of an American Priest in Stalin’s Moscow, 1934-1945 (Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), pp. liii-liv.
  39. Katyn Forest Massacre Hearings, Volumes 1-4, p. 205.
  40. Braun and Hamburg, In Lubianka’s Shadow, pp. lvii-lxx.
  41. Bertram D. Wolfe, A Life in Two Centuries: An Autobiography (New York: Stein and Day, 1981), p. 81.
  42. Braun and Hamburg, In Lubianka’s Shadow, p. 306.
  43. Ibid., pp. 303-304.
  44. Ibid., pp. 306-307.
  45. Ibid., p. 309.
  46. Ibid., p. 259.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid., p. 260.
  50. Ibid., p. 160.
  51. Ibid., pp. 216-217.
  52. Catherine Grace Katz, The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Family, Love, and War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020), pp. 156-157.
  53. William H. Standley, Admiral, USN (ret.) and Arthur A. Ageton, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.), Admiral Ambassador to Russia (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1955), p. 409.
  54. Standley and Ageton, Admiral Ambassador to Russia, p. 282.
  55. Ibid., p. 285.
  56. 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.
  57. Dwight D. Eisenhower, The White House Years: Waging Peace 1956-1961 (Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1965) 279.
  58. Standley and Ageton, Admiral Ambassador to Russia, p. 490.
  59. Thomas Urban, The Katyn Massacre 1940: History of A Crime (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2020), pp. 126-127.
  60. Harrison E. Salisbury, A Journey for Our Times: A Memoir, 1st Carroll & Graf ed (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1984), p. 215.
  61. Krystyna Piórkowska, Anglojęzyczni świadkowie Katynia: najnowsze badania, Pierwsze wydanie (Warszawa: Muzeum Wojska Polskiego, 2012), p. 100.
  62. Urban, The Katyn Massacre 1940, p. 127.
  63. Geofrrey Roberts, “‘Do the Crows Still Roost in the Spasopeskovskaya Trees?’: The Wartime Correspondence of Kathleen Harriman,” Harriman Magazine, the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Winter 2015, p. 16,
  64. Ted Lipien, “Broel Plater Resigns In Protest Against Soviet Propaganda On Voice Of America, Cold War Radio Museum,” accessed October 31, 2022,
  65. Julius Epstein, “The O.W.I. and the Voice of America,” a reprint from the Polish American Journal, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1952.
  66. Oliver Carlson, Radio in the Red (New York: Catholic Information Society, 1947), p. 7.
  67. Eugene Lyons, Our Secret Allies: The Peoples of Russia (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1953), p. 339.
  68. Ibid.
  69. Eugene Lyons, “How Good Is the Voice of America,” Reader’s Digest, June 1954, p. 91.
  70. Geofrrey Roberts, "'Do the Crows Still Roost in the Spasopeskovskaya Trees?': The Wartime Correspondence of Kathleen Harriman," Harriman Magazine, the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Winter 2015, p. 18,
  71. Owen Lattimore, "New Road to Asia," National Geographic, December 1944, p. 567.
  72. “Henry A. Wallace (1952) on the Ruthless Nature and Utter Evil of Soviet Communism,” Cold-War Era God-That-Failed Weblogging, a reprint of “Where I Was Wrong”, The Week Magazine, September 7, 1952,
  73. Thomas Urban, The Katyn Massacre 1940, p. 126.
  74. Salisbury, A Journey for Our Times: A Memoir, p. 212.
  75. Ibid.
  76. W. Averell Harriman and Elie Abel, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, 1941-1946, 1st ed (New York: Random House, 1975), p. 301.
  77. Salisbury, A Journey for Our Times, p. 212.
  78. 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 (Entry 363); Regional Directives, January 1943-October 1943; Box 820; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
  79. Ibid.
  80. Ibid., p. 216
  81. Testimony of Hon. William Averell Harriman, Director of Mutual Security in The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings before the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Eighty-second Congress, Second Session, on investigation of the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, Part 7, 1952, p. 2124,
  82. David Durant, “Congress Investigates the Katyn Forest Massacre – Cold War & Internal Security (CWIS) Collection,” Cold War & Internal Security Collection of the Federal Documents Collection at J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University (blog), May 30, 2015,
  83. National Archives Catalogue, "Moscow Despatch No. 207 with Enclosure Regarding the Investigation of Soviet Authorities of the Massacre of Polish Soldiers in the Katyn Forest, Near Smolensk," Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, Series: Central Decimal Files, File Unit: 740.00116 European War 1939/1355 - 1396. Produced: February 23, 1944.
  84. David Durant, “Congress Investigates the Katyn Forest Massacre,”
  85. Curator, “Future First Voice of America Director Introduces Americans To Entertainment Fake Radio News in 1938 – Cold War Radio Museum,” accessed November 2, 2022,
  86. Curator, “Former Voice Of America Chief News Editor Collects His Stalin Peace Prize,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), June 21, 2022,
  87. The Katyn Forest Massacre: Hearings before the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, Eighty-second Congress, Second Session, on investigation of the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, Part 7, 1952, p. 2124, pp. 2148-2149,
  88. Charles W. Thayer, Diplomat (London: Michael Joseph LTD, 1960), p. 167.
  89. Ibid., p. 186
  90. Ted Lipien, “Voice of America Russian Branch Chief Alexander Barmine Was An Ex-Soviet General and Ex-Spy Who Testified Before Senator McCarthy,” Cold War Radio Museum (blog), April 17, 2023,
  91. Alexander Barmine, “The New Communist Conspiracy,” Reader’s Digest, October 1944,
  92. United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws., United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee Investigating the Institute of Pacific Relations. (195152). Institute of Pacific Relations: Hearings before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee To Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Subcommittee Investigating the Institute of Pacific Relations, Eighty-Second Congress, first session, Eighty-Second Congress, second session. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., p. 201,
  93. Ibid., William S. White, “Lattimore and Barnes Linked to Soviet Spies But Deny It,” The New York Times, July 31, 1953, p. 1, and p. 7,
  94. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Records: The Vault, “Owen Lattimore, Part 2 of 2,”
  95. Edward Carleton Helwick, Jr., “Policy problems of the Voice of America: 1945-1953.” Master Thesis, Department of Political Sciences, University of Southern California, June 1954, pp. 218-219. The manuscript is part of the Cold War Radio Museum collection.
  96. Helen Yakobson, Crossing Borders: From Revolutionary Russia to China to America (Tenafly, N.J: Hermitage, 1994), p. 146.
  97. Testimony of Arthur Bliss Lane, Washington, D.C., Hearings Before Select House Committee To Investigate The Katyn Forest Massacre, Part 7, November 13, 1952, page 2217,
  98. W. H. Lawrence, "SOVIET BLAMES FOE IN KILLING OF POLES. Commission Reports on the Katyn Incident, Finds Plot to Hurt Russian Prestige. ALLIED PRESS SEES BODIES. Correspondents and Daughter of Ambassador Harriman Visit Scene for Data," The New York Times, January 27, 1944 (January 22 – Delayed), p. 3,
  99. Ibid.
  100. Prof. Roberts provided a note: "Kathleen to Elsie Marshall, January 24, 1944. This letter is in Kathy's private papers." Geofrrey Roberts, "The Wartime Correspondence of Kathleen Harriman," Harriman Magazine, the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Winter 2015, p. 18,
  101. Ibid.
  102. Ibid.
  103. Ibid.
  104. Ibid., p. 20.
  105. Select House Committee To Investigate The Katyn Forest Massacre, Part 7, November 13, 1952, page 2141,
  106. Ibid., p. 2133,
  107. Ted Lipien, “Black History Hero Homer Smith Fought Racism at Home and Soviet Propaganda Abroad,” Washington Examiner, February 28, 2022,
  108. Curator, “Voice of America Censors Soviet Massacre Survivor Józef Czapski And Lies About Its Actions – Cold War Radio Museum,” accessed October 31, 2022,
  109. Ted Lipien, “Józef Czapski o Tuszowaniu Prawdy o Katyniu,” Muzeum Radia Zimnej Wojny, accessed April 26, 2023,
  110. On December 11, 1950, Congressman Philip J. Philbin (D-MA) inserted in the Congressional Record the text of Julius Epstein’s talk delivered earlier in a program on a Polish American radio station in Massachusetts. In it, Epstein described how the management of the Voice of America tried to hide the truth about Katyn, first by broadcasting Soviet propaganda lies about it during World War II with the help of its pro-Soviet officials and journalists, and after the war by limiting VOA’s coverage of American efforts to investigate the Soviet war crime and generally avoiding reporting on it, this time against the wishes of some of the newly-hired anti-communist refugee broadcasters.
  111. Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenit︠s︡yn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 1st ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1974), p. 85.
  112. Ibid.
  113. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale Nota Bene (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2000), pp. 197-199. Also, Ted Lipien, “A Stalin Peace Prize Laureate Still Waiting for Acknowledgement of His Soviet Agent of Influence Role at Voice of America,” Cold War Radio Museum,
  114. Lipien, “A Stalin Peace Prize Laureate Still Waiting for Acknowledgement of His Soviet Agent of Influence Role at Voice of America,” Cold War Radio Museum.
  115. J. K. Zawodny, Death in the Forest: The Story of the Katyn Forest Massacre (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1972), pp. 180-181.
  116. Ibid., p. 181.
  117. Ibid., 186.
  118. Józef Czapski, Rozproszone: Teksty z lat 1923-1988. Tom 2, Biblioteka “Więzi,” tom 365 (Warszawa: Więź, 2021), p. 106.

Ted Lipien is the online Cold War Radio Museum's principal volunteer editor. He is an independent journalist, writer, and media freedom advocate. He was Voice of America’s Polish Service chief during Poland’s struggle for democracy and VOA’s acting associate director. He also served briefly in 2020-2021 as RFE/RL president in a non-political and non-partisan role. His book “Wojtyła’s Women” was published in 2008 by O-Books, UK. E-mail him at:

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