VOA and its wartime origins.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"By the spring of 1942, VOA had established a pattern of around-the-clock fourteen and a half minutes transmissions in English, German, French and Italian. However, only two studios were available at 270 Madison Ave. One studio was reserved for the four main languages twenty-four hours a day. English was broadcast on the hour, German on the quarter hour, French on the half hour and Italian on the three-quarter hour. The announcers had only thirty seconds to leave the studio and make way for the incoming announcers. The second studio was reserved for other languages. These had increased at great speed. Czechoslovak, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Yugoslav, and Finnish desks were added. That was too much for the two studios on Madison Avenue; hence in late fall of 1942, the entire VOA staff moved to the General Motors building on the corner of Broadway and 57th Street where several studios had been constructed and office space was less constrained." Walter R. Roberts, American Diplomacy, 26 October 2009. This detailed historical essay is recommended reading. Dr. Roberts worked for VOA during its first years, and was later associate director of USIA. Among other details, Dr. Roberts tries to nail down the actual date of VOA's first broadcast -- probably 1 February 1942, but perhaps as early as 28 January 1942.
     "Miraculously, a short time after our arrival in New York [from France, in 1942] I received my F.B.I. clearance and started working in the shortwave control section of the Voice of America. My job was to closely follow events as they were happening throughout the world and to check scripts to be broadcast to Europe for factual accuracy and overall policy. Some matters, accurate or not, were taboo. We did not, for example, discuss food or any aspect of easy living when shortwaving to countries where people were hungry or lived under great hardship. We did not brag about our victories, we did not dwell on our mistakes and we did not apologize for missing targets that resulted in casualties. ... When I asked the cabbie to take me to the Argonaut Building on West 57th Street, he responded in his heavy New York accent, 'The Voice of America! I know that place. Tell them over there that we are coming to the rescue, tell them we are finally coming!'" Betty Zentall, New York Times, 4 June 1989. Re Argonaut Building facelift in 2007, see previous post.