Monday, January 14, 2013

Propaganda at Radio Luxembourg 1944-1945

by Erik Barnous in Film and Radio Propaganda in World War II, edited by KRM Short, page 192 -196 [Main source: Hans Habe: All My Sins; Publicity and Psychological Warfare: 12th Army Group: history, January 1943 - August 1945  (ETO, undated)]

In the spring of 1940 the German armies, sweeping westward, took possession of the station and proceeded to use it over the next four years for their own propaganda needs.  In 1944, the Allied troops drove in the opposite direction, Allied psychological warfare units were following closely behind, seizing and using any radio facilities they found intact or repairable.  They especially wanted the facitlities of Radio Luxembourg, but scarcely expected to find it in usable shape.  At the station the retreating Germans set dynamite charges, but inexplicably failed to detonate them.  It is said that Radio Luxembourg's head engineer (who had served the Germans throughout their occupation and use of the station) encouraged them at the time of their departure to destroy the transmitter tubes; his idea was to divert the Germans from more castrophic destruction.  When the Americans arrived, he dug up from the garden a complete duplicate set of tubes he had buried four years earleir for such a day.  This enabled the station to resume broadcasting twelve days after the Allied entry into Luxembourg.  On 22 September 1944, the psychological warfare unit of the 12th US Army group put Radio Free Luxembourg back on the air.
Radio Free Luxembroug now launched a variety of programming.  The  activities came under the executive supervision - generally exercised from Paris - of such luminaries as William S. Paley and Davidson Taylor of CBS and Allied counterparts, all seasoned radio veterans who had gone into uniform for psychological warfare duty.  The station's administrator was William Harlan Hale, but the propaganda strategy was the work of the remarkable Hans Habe.
Hans Habe, born Janos Bekessy in Hungary in 1911, was a prominent journalist and newspaper editor in pre-war Vienna; he claimed credit for the discovery that Hitler's name was Schicklgruber.  Bekessy fled Austria in 1939, enlisted in the French army, was captured by the Germans, managed a romantic escape through concealment in a brothel, made his way to Vichy and thence to the United States.  Then he enlisted in the American Army and  after special training was involved in psycological warfare both in North Africa and Italy.  With the steady advance towards Germany, he became the key strategist at Radio Luxembourg.  Because the name Bekessy was on a Nazi execution list, he lived under the Name Hans Habe.  At Radio Luxembourg he directed both its 'white' and 'black'.

[Frontpost, Letters undelibered, POW messages to family]
There were also grimmer features.  Two Germans in civilian clothes had been captured nearby on an espionage mission.  Radio Free Luxembourg broadcast their trial, and then interviewed the convicted prisoners en route to the prison courtyard.  ASked if they realised that the penalty for what they had done was death, the prisoners said no, their officers had not told them that.  Shortly afterwards, the radio audience was allowed to hear the click of the rifle boltsm the shouted command, the volley and the echo of the rifle fire.  Yank, the serviceman's magazine, thought this was probably the first on-the-air execution. [Yank 11 May 1945]
[Corporal Tom Jones, aka Richard Hanser New York newspaper editor PM]

The programmes mention so far were part of Radio Free Luxembourg's daytime and evening offerings as an acknowledged American voice, heard over Radio Luxembourg's regular place on the dial, with its full available power.  But the psychological warfare group also used the transmitter for an entirely different activity, which occupied the middle of the night, from 2 am to 6 am.
Using lower power, 30 000 watts, the station now purported to be an underground German station operating behind German lines.  It used a different frequency - 1,212 kilocycles - and called itself 'Twelve Twelve.'  It went on air with: 'Hello, this is Twelve Twelve calling'.  It was not overtly anti-Nazi but suggested that the German authorities were fallible and making mistakes.  On every programmme Twelve Twelve carried detailed, scrupulously accurate reports about the military situation within Germany.  Its task, at this stage, was to establish total credibility and trust.  Only a few German voices, of a regional quality to suggest a location in the Rhine valley, were used on Twelve Twelve.  The idea was to convey the image of a compact under ground group.
Much of its strategy had been planned in advance.  Music was never used - only talk.  The Twelve Twelve team was made to live in isolation, to avoid any hint of interaction with other Radio Luxembourg programming.  The group was housed in a fine villa in Luxembourg's Rue Brasseur, once the property of a German coalmine manager.  Military police guarded the premises day and night.

That the group's programmes were soon winning trust was reflected in the fact that German prisoners, when interrogated about the situation within Germany, began to quote Twelve Twelve.  But the winning of trust was only the first step.  The trust had purpose: it was a weapon, potentially devastating.  During the Moselle assault and breakthrough by Allied troops, Twelve Twelve suddenly began to create chaos with disinformation.  Among other bulletins, it reported Allied tanks near Nuremberg and Friedrichshafen, causing panic in those cities.  This confusion was its ultimate task.  Immediately afterwards, its job done and credibility shattered, Twelve Twelve vanished as abruptly as it had appear.  It had been on the air just 127 nights.

Japanese Overseas Broadcasting:  A Personal View by Namikawa Ryo  pages 319-333

Prisoners of war in South-east Asia and in the South Pacific totalled more than 100,000, and the Daihonei issued instructions to the ministries to use prisoners in seven fields of work, including propaganda.  Three Allied officers were selected and sent to Tokyo where they were assigned to the overseas broadcasting section of NHK.  They were Charles Cousens (Australian, former writer and announcer), Wallace Ince (American, announcer) and Norman Reyes (Philippino, announcer).  They wore suits and were treated the same as Japanese employees.  Many books written after the war said tehy were treated violently, but the fact is that they were subjected to no force, either physically or mentally.  Of course it may have been painful for them to be prisoners; their Japanese coworkers were sympathetic and even compassionate toward them as a result of the traditional fighting ethic of Bushido.  Some prisoners tried to affect lack of feeling in their announcing but they were genuine radio men who seemed to enjoy being in front of the microphone.  Lieutenant Commander Charles Cousens was orderd by the Chief of the Army staff of the Daihonei to coopearte in the work of overseas broadcasting.  I witnessed that impressive scene.  Tsuneishi Shigetsugu, at that time Lt Colonel of the 8th Section of the Daihonei, transmitted the official order to Cousens.  This stated, 'If you do not want to do this, you must return to the prison camp.  Think about it and decide.'  Everything went in a military way.  Cousens' attitude was extremely fine and soldierlike.  His dignified attitude never collapsed throughout the war.  His soldierly and gentlemanly manner was long the subject of talk in the NHK.
The main Japanese strategy during the war was to draw the American army to the Chinese mainland where all Japenese army forces would ambush the American forces, but that shortwave broadcasst from Tokyo performed miracle.

William L. Shirer by Steve Wick

Text:  William L Shirer and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Steve Wick
Comment:  Some curious anecdotes regarding reliability of journalist witnesses

page 118 - 119.  Birth of Eileen and Anschluss

After dark, Murrow and Shirer sneaked out of the building and walked to a nearby bar, where Murrow had spent the previous evening.  There, as Murrow had watched,  a man - Shirer quotes Murrow in his diary as sayin the man was 'Jewish looking' - had removed a straight razor from his jacket and dragged it across his throat.