World War II Pro-Soviet Propaganda at VOA
During World War II, the Voice of America did not broadcast in Russian because its pro-Soviet leadership in the Office of War Information (OWI) did not want to offend Joseph Stalin. While both the United States and the Soviet Union were fighting Nazi Germany, VOA employed many Soviet sympathizers who censored all critical information about Russia and repeated Soviet propaganda lies. One of them was VOA’s first chief news writer and editor, Howard Fast, who in 1953 received the Stalin Peace Prize. Fast and his patron, the first VOA director John Houseman, who put Soviet sympathizers and communists in broadcasting jobs, were quietly forced to resign by the Roosevelt administration. Still, Soviet propaganda influence over U.S. government radio broadcasting overseas did not end until a few years after the war.
One of several Communists who turned anti-communist and exposed Soviet influence at the Office of War Information, the parent U.S. government agency of the Voice of America, 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.”1 Oliver Carlson knew that the Office of War Information produced such propaganda for overseas audiences through the Voice of America and domestic audiences in the United States until Congress eliminated most of its domestic propaganda budget in 1943. Carlson wrote about domestic OWI propaganda programs, which were 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.2
Voice of America’s Russian broadcasts were launched in 1947 after the most blatant pro-Stalin VOA’s World War II propaganda had stopped. However, the first Russian Service chief and later VOA director, American diplomat Charles Thayer, still refused to broadcast any criticism of the Soviet Union. Thayer hired Barmine in 1948 to be the head of the Russian Service, most likely because of pressure from the Truman White House and higher-level State Department officials to make VOA broadcasts to the Soviet Union more effective.