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American Radio Propaganda during World War II

Introduction

Propaganda performed a crucial role and function before and during World War II. It assisted in accelerating the evolvement of the war and expedited the actual fighting. It is indubitable that the war would have taken a different direction without propaganda. The facts demonstrate that the radio had a great influence on providing information to the public regarding the war and all government problems and issues. Prior to television, people seriously depended on the radio as a method for entertaining and the means of understanding everything happening around the globe. The analysis of World War II period demonstrates that 90 percent of American families had a radio, which appeared as a major constituent of everyday life. Therefore, it appeared as an obvious method of spreading war propaganda. The war propaganda was disseminated via the radio with the help of news programs, public relations broadcasts, Hollywood scenarios, and mainstreams. Generally speaking, the medium reading level of Americans was poor, while comparatively low number of the American populace had even graduated from high school. The radio helped deliver news and stories to each person in plain simple English. In general, the U.S. radio propaganda was performed at local, international, and domestic military messages levels. All of these types of propaganda aided in uniting the American people against a singe enemy in the name of democracy and freedom. The current paper will demonstrate that the U.S. propaganda was highly effective on the local and international scene, changing the peoples’ understanding of the war and supporting the overall fight against fascism. Moreover, it will reveal that WWII appeared as a stimulating factor of the radio industry development.

Background

World War II started in 1939 at the time when Germany invaded Poland as the main constituent in Germany’s project to expand its empire in Western and Eastern Europe. This war conflict increased rapidly due to the fact that the military conflict between Germany and the combined forces of France and Great Britain ultimately encompassed the majority of states around the globe. By the end of the war in 1945, the United States appeared as the most vigorous worldly country, being the owner and user of atomic weapons. When the war started, the United States demonstrated a neutral position, regardless of the fact that it supported France and Great Britain by marketing them military equipment. Nevertheless, the country retained its position in regard to Britain after the fall of France. The main stimulus which forced the U.S. to join the war and become an active party was the Japanese attract on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Despite the fact that the U.S. stayed neutral at the beginning of the war, it was apparent that the U.S. government desired to be involved in the war in order to cease the expansion of fascism in Europe and consolidate the U.S. international relations with the European countries. Therefore, it appears that Pearl Harbor attack was a perfect excuse for the U.S. to enter the war actively.

Theoretical Framework

It is clear that the key objective of the U.S. radio broadcasts was to persuade Americans to engage in World War II. Nevertheless, it is important to understand how the broadcasts affected people and convinced them to support the U.S. government in their war efforts. The paper presents a framework the rationale for conducting the current research.

Direct Effects

Persuasive Communication Theory. The theoretical literature on persuasive communication demonstrates that mass media exposure can change the populace conduct by impacting their beliefs and preferences . The belief-grounded theoretical models depict that receivers usually, but not always, are regarded as rational agents utilizing Bayes’ rule when processing data, which is plausible and appropriate for decision-making. Applied in the present context, there are a number of factors that would lead one to believe that rational agents would respond to the content of the U.S. radio propaganda. The U.S. radio broadcasts were affirmed and supported by the government and the armed forces. They were credible and demonstrated the official policy and agenda of the elite in power, expressing the fact that the government and the armed forces were actively supporting the U.S. involvement in World War II and fought for democracy and against fascism. Moreover, it is highly important that the U.S. radio effectively disseminated the messages regarding the negative side of Nazi politics, dramatically revealing the truth about concentration camps and suffering nations. Moreover, another class of models, meaning preference-grounded ones, based on conceptions from psychology suggests that uninformative content can also influence public. People can actually value the act of participating. The appeal to emotions and the fostering of support via such methods as the use of dramatizing and celebrities participation performed an independent and complementary function by affecting intrinsic motivation for support.

Social Interactions Theoretical Model. The previous rationale outlines atomistic theory of conduct among individuals due to the fact that it does not incorporate social interactions model. Nevertheless, political communication methods focus on the role of social interactions in general and the significance of major leaders’ opinion in particular, while mediating the influence of mass media, especially radio broadcasts, shows, and programs. The speeches performed by President Roosevelt through the radio allowed to collect people in support of the U.S. political agenda. Moreover, radio broadcasts, which enabled the U.S. soldiers to express their experience and opinion regarding the war and allowed them to speak and unite with their families, formulated the collective feeling of the U.S. importance in the WWII. Moreover, the U.S. radio broadcasts employed celebrities in the radio shows specifically designed by servicemen in order to support the soldiers’ morale and reveal the massive social interaction between A-list talents and military. This helped further persuade ordinary people in the importance of the U.S. involvement in the war in the name of democracy. Finally, radio programs were broadcast to foreign countries in order to persuade all people to fight against the Nazi conquer, revealing all negative sides about fascism and important facts about the local government corruption, which stimulated people to stand against their authorities. Both these theoretical models combined demonstrate the effectiveness of the U.S. propaganda and its impact on the world and the course of World War II.

Method: Thesis Questions

In order to address thesis questions, the paper employs methodological systematic qualitative review of existing research findings.

TQ1: How effective was the American radio propaganda on the inner (domestic) level?

TQ2: How effective was the American radio propaganda on the outer (international) level?

TQ3: How the American radio propaganda united the US nation in the name of democracy and freedom?

Literature Review

The facts demonstrate that radio was the most popular implement for propaganda during World War II due to the fact that the audience was able to utilize it on a 24/7 basis. It was a powerful mass medium for news and entertainment. Numerous countries utilized radio during World War II in order to disseminate their propaganda as radio appeared as a predominant media platform that seriously affected people. Prior to WWII, radio performed advertizing function in the United States. That is the main reason why some U.S. radio stars became popular spokespeople, which enabled them to radio propaganda. This is the main reason why radio appeared as the most used media tool by the U.S. government in delivering its propaganda. The facts reveal that radio entertainment achieved success, which no government directive could possibly achieve, as it lectured during audience entertainments simultaneously defending the government’s position against its opposition and detractors.

World War II was the first period in mass media history during which radio appeared as a broadly-used weapon of psychological warfare. The facts reveal that both Axis and Allied Forces transfigured the radio into an antipersonnel implement. Both forces shot misinformation and psychological shrapnel at each other. This was the period (1937-1945) during which more than a hundred propaganda stations took to the air. Prior to WWII, the American populace appeared to be tired of propaganda attempts utilized by the government. Therefore, FDR had to put tons of effort into radio propaganda in order to convince people to support the new deal and demonstrate that they were not attempting to censor information regarding the contemporary war processes.

American Radio Propaganda During World War II

During World War II, the US required a daily media implement which could disseminate the propaganda and news. Therefore, journals, magazines, and movies did not appear to be beneficial and helpful in this manner. For this reason, radio appeared as the best media implement which the U.S. could utilize to deliver its propaganda. The U.S. radio propaganda can be divided into two broad categories, inner and outer.

Inner U.S. Radio Propaganda

The inner propaganda was highly significant for the U.S. as it allowed to inform Americans regarding everything what had been happening during WWII and assisted in encouraging them to help the government fight the enemy in the name of democracy. The U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) was created during WWII (1942) in the form of a specific U.S. government agency which was supposed to strengthen the existent government information services and broadcast American propaganda both within the country and abroad.  This agency managed to provide free news, which allowed to earn trust of the U.S. populace, and assisted in directing the overall attention to OWI programs. The facts reveal that numerous American people did not understand the true reasons why the country became involved in the war. Therefore, the major function of OWI was to educate the public regarding WWII. The government started to protractedly broaden radio utilization, and they even started a specific Radio Division, which evolved promptly when foreign affairs turned more intense. The government and the division even started to collaborate with commercial radio in order to advance the marketing of defense bonds and stamps. In addition, numerous actors and actresses even volunteered to speak on behalf of the department. All of these actions combined ultimately justified the America’s campaign for preparedness, and governmental propaganda was re-accepted by American people. The facts demonstrate that the success of governmental pro-war propaganda did not appear as highly condensed until after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Munich Crisis. These crucial events stimulated people to start listening carefully to all governmental reports on the radio. Therefore, despite the fact that the U.S. appeared as already prepared with fundamental propaganda for the war, they still did not demonstrate any clear reason for the U.S. involvement in the war. This attack convinced American people to “make the war their own.” After this attack, the U.S. government started to broadcast radio series programs, including “We hold these Truths” and “This is War!”, which majorly concentrated on the enemy, depicting the evil of the Nazis and providing highly detailed expositions of concentration camps and stories heard from them. Focus on the “evil enemy” appeared as one of the principal tactics in the successful U.S. inner propaganda. Another highly effective radio propaganda tactic utilized by the U.S. government concerned the “you-technique.” This tactics allowed to add a feeling of drama to radio broadcasts by immediately retracting the listener. It was performed through the narrative demonstration of the military from the insider’s angle, in which listener appeared intrinsically in a military camp or in an actual battle. The personalization of the plot allowed to bring the listener’s imagination to another level, and each listener was provided with individual attention. Besides personalizing the war, the propaganda also attempted to put radio listeners into the shoes of the soldiers fighting, which helped increase the overall sympathy factor.

The facts also demonstrate that Americans were divided by two conflicting viewpoints, meaning the fighting against Japanese or the Nazis. In accordance with the majority of polls, the American populace believed that the country should concentrate on fighting the Japanese because of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and a high level of American racism against the Japanese. Nevertheless, the government held diametrically opposite ideas and utilized the radio to change the public opinion through focusing on the Nazi’s war objectives. The radio programs provided in-depth reporting of each facet of Hitler’s subjugation, including such programs as “Swastikas over the Equator,” “Work or Die,” “Women versus Hitlerism,” and “The Anti-Christ.” All of these radio programs also provided attacks against supporters of fascism and the U.S. isolationists. In fact, OWI utilized all radio stations in order to deliver war messages performed by popular spokespeople, which resulted in the increased quantity of audience and higher popularization of the government agency programs. Moreover, President Roosevelt used the radio in order to tell the American public to pray for and sustain the soldiers who fought for their country. The speech elevated the overall level of public interest and trust to radio broadcasts. In accordance with the Radio Division of OFF and OWI, the major objective of wartime broadcast propaganda concerned the possibility to make people listen to radio by conjoining entertainment programs with war-specific topics and projects. Therefore, it becomes obvious that radio helped OWI unite the American public opinion and convince the nation to accept the war and be active in it.

Outer Propaganda

This type of US propaganda can be actually divided into two categories, pure outer international propaganda and military messages directed to the U.S. soldiers. The dissemination of the U.S. governmental propaganda abroad appeared as highly significant for the country in gaining higher amount of allies and depicting the falsity of information which the Axis presented regarding the United States. OWI decided to entitle the war against the U.S. as the war against democracy and freedom as it allowed to obtain higher amount of international support for the country in its war against fascism. The radio appeared as the best implement as it allowed the U.S. government and OWI to provide instant news. Therefore, OWI performed its broadcasting and re-broadcast some programs in Britain, France, and other European countries in order to overbear the German propaganda. The facts reveal that the U.S. propaganda involved a huge audience in Europe. For example, the U.S. utilized Radio Luxembourg which people listened to practically in every home in Germany in order to broadcast programs in Germany which actually revealed the truth regarding the German government corruption. The facts demonstrate that such programs assisted in de-motivating German people to help their government attempts of winning the war. Moreover, the U.S. outer propaganda was also aimed at Japanese people, and it was successfully utilized to separate them from the Japanese government by announcing that the Japanese government was unable to serve the citizens’ interest. These programs provoked some Japanese people to resist and oppose their government during the war. In addition, OWI obtained access to radio broadcasting in Italy, which aided in targeting Italian people and ultimately acquiring the Italian allies. Finally, OWI broadcast the program entitled as “Voice of America” in numerous other countries. Therefore, it is obvious that the United States effectively utilized radio propaganda to claim that all countries should choose the American side due to its great objective of preserving democracy and preventing racism. On the other hand, it was highly significant to provide and advance propaganda to the U.S. soldiers who were fighting outside the country. Their life in a hostile environment with limited access to war news resulted in a negative effect on soldier’s mentality. This is the main reason why OWI decided to focus on utilizing propaganda to sustain the military, which could alter their harsh mentality, For example, OWI began broadcasting the “Tell It to the Marines” program in 1943 aimed at the marines in the Southwest Pacific. The facts reveal that by 1944 Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) had created more than 100 radio stations from Greenland to China. The radio stations and their broadcasts provided marines with daily news regarding the country. OWI’s propaganda sustained the military in every act, which helped the army be stronger and stimulated it to win the war. AFRS created its first radio hit called “Command Performance” in 1942. Military people were allowed to design the show of their dream and present a list of their favorite stars who they wanted to hear. Due to the fact that this radio show obtained huge popularity among servicemen, producers were worried because of costs. Nevertheless, the majority of Hollywood A-List performers, including Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Tallulah Bankhead, Margaret Whiting, etc. volunteered to take part for free. “Mail Call” was another radio show produced by AFRS in 1942. This radio show also asked A-list talents to support the U.S. servicemen and appeared in the form of a love letter sent from the celebrities to the military. The “GI Jive” was another radio program specifically created for the U.S. WWII soldiers. Music appeared to be the main focus of this program. This radio show appeared as the answer to the “Tokyo Rose” propaganda broadcasts. There was another highly unique radio program, known as “Jubilee.” Its uniqueness was in the fact that the program was directed toward African-American soldiers, and it broadcast the best War-period jazz performances.  Another radio program “Music America Loves Best” was created and broadcast by NBC. It was de-commercialized during the WWII period and specifically transcribed for AFRS. This radio program presented both classical and popular music for the U.S. soldiers. Finally, the program “Everything for the Boys” was specifically created for elevating the morale of the U.S. servicemen and was sponsored by Autolite. The radio show incorporated calls to the military who were stationed overseas, even permitting a conduction of family connections through the radio.

Due to the fact that radio broadcasting appeared as highly effective for the U.S. war propaganda, the Germans demolished a number of radio stations, which delivered it to Europe. Moreover, the Nazi empire established death penalty for reading and saving different Allies’ materials. It also forbade Germans to listen to all foreign radio broadcasts. One major factor which helped radio broadcasting reach the booming level of popularity during the World War II period regarded radio sponsors. The facts demonstrate that the radio stations obtained 70 percent of their budget from national and regional advertisers, on the contrary to newspapers which obtained only 70 percent merely from local advertisers. Prior to World War II, the U.S. was in the process of stepping out of the crisis and consequences of the Great Depression, which presupposed that businesses and advertising had serious issues regarding their performance and business results. Nevertheless, the war assisted in elevating the use of the radio as a method of connecting people at national level. Moreover, the radio collected the U.S. populace in support for the war, which meant that companies that advertised on the radio also obtained higher profits. One method of advertising frequently engaged by companies via radio was to ask the stars to include an advertisement into their radio program or show. It was an effective method of incorporating advertisements into the show, while the audience often would not even notice that they were provided with a specific advertisement. Bob Hope appeared as one of the most successful movie stars and a famous comedian among others, who assisted in drawing people into the radio. He was regarded to be the funniest comedian on the radio during the war period. Bob Hope became known as a prototypical GI comedian. All his programs and shows were broadcast from military or marine bases, and he appeared to be the unofficial spokesperson for all GIs. In addition, his radio shows enabled him to make a solid connection to the servicemen at war as his comedies demonstrated and narrated about the issues which affected soldiers’ lives the most. Despite the fact that the major part of Bob Hope’s shows was directed toward the soldier audience, he was still capable of making a connection to the local audience as well.

The major part of people in the U.S. where entirely unaware that the radio was designed and equipped with a masterful propaganda plan, generated by both the government and different advertising agencies. Generally speaking, the U.S. radio propaganda efforts during World War II were greatly convincing. And despite the fact that the radio was replete with a seriously projected outline for propaganda, there was no end to the creativity of the kinds of propaganda proposed to the audience on the radio. The radio effectively informed, entertained, advertised and marketed products, and connected the American populace behind the war efforts. Radio appeared as the most successful medium platform, which combined entertainment, news, propaganda, and advertisements. Moreover, there was a specific survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Denver in November 1945, which inquired 2500 Americans. It asked Americans to tell which media platform, including magazines, newspapers, moving pictures, and radio broadcasting, performed the best function and role in serving the public during the war. The results demonstrate that 67 percent of the people polled announced radio to be the best media platform in the above-mentioned regard. Therefore, the radio propaganda effort helped the government gain much required American support during World War II.

Conclusions

The current literature review vividly demonstrates that the radio industry was highly significant in regard to the U.S. war efforts due to the fact that radio was specifically utilized for the war propaganda, which appeared to be principal for the United States during World War II. Radio was the main media platform of the time and appeared as the soul of communications during the war on both the U.S. and the Allies’ side and the Axis’ side. The paper reveals that the United States dedicated a lot of efforts in order to make people attracted to listening to radio. Generally speaking, the American populace was reluctant to listening to governmental propaganda due to their previous negative experience connected with WWI. Therefore, the U.S. government had to dedicate numerous efforts to convincing that the information was not censured and propaganda and radio programs revealed the true nature of things and actions occurring during the war. President Roosevelt’s speeches broadcast on the radio helped earn the public trust and interest in the radio shows. Finally, the U.S. required the true reason for convincing Americans in the importance of the U.S. involvement in the war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was effectively used for this purpose. Moreover, radio entertainment performed a crucial part in making advertising the main mediator between the American government and the American populace. A number of radio programs utilized journalistic and dramatic techniques in order to obtain public attention. For example, the “Our Secret Weapon” propaganda show vividly demonstrated and dramatically depicted the lies of German broadcasts. Generally speaking, the human voices and speaking expression on the radio made it even more preferred and favorable to the audience on the contrary to the press. Therefore, radio performed a critical role in disseminating the U.S. propaganda during World War II both within the country and abroad. It actually aided in making the American populace supportive of their government regarding the enemy conquering, creating effective international relationships, stimulating the U.S. army, and de-motivating the enemy’s armies, especially via depicting their governmental corruption. Therefore, the utilization of radio propaganda assisted the United States and its allies in winning the war. For this reason, it is obvious that World War II can be regarded as a war of media appeal and the boom of radio era both within the United States and around the globe. Moreover, the radio propaganda during World War II demonstrates two significant facts. Firstly, the radio propaganda can be highly effective. Secondly, radio can be utilized as the powerful media platform for transmitting news and propaganda. Finally, World War II was the main factor which significantly affected propaganda development and radio evolvement and actually assisted in developing the overall radio industry. The analysis of the U.S. propaganda utilized during World War II is highly significant for the current time as it reveals the methods to influence public relations, international intercourse, and all forms of individual, social, and public expressions.

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