VOA challenged Hitler’s propaganda machine

 By Chuck Gibson

The Voice of America was not meant for us. Those words may have come as a surprise to most of the 50-60 people attending the Lunch & Learn Wednesday, October 23, at the Loveland Museum Center.

Guest speaker Jack Dominic, VOA Museum, Director explained the reason the United States started the Voice of America broadcasting system during the 1940’s. It was, in fact, to combat the propaganda machine of Adolph Hitler from feeding misinformation throughout Europe. Dominic told the group how a radio called the Volksempfanger – subsidized by Hitler – could not be tuned to “foreign broadcasts.” A tag on the radio dial warned users against listening to foreign broadcasts as a “crime against national security” ultimately punishable by death.

Dominic’s point was the U.S. was far behind Hitler in the war of propaganda. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded by calling upon U.S. engineers and broadcasting pioneers, like Cincinnati’s own Powell Crosley, to engineer a radio broadcast system with truthful programming to reach Europe and other countries. Voice of America was dedicated on April 23, 1944, and broadcast over a field of antennae covering about one square mile at the familiar site in West Chester for 50 years until 1994.

“The last antenna was removed in 1998,” said Dominic. “The antenna you see now is not part of the site, but actually the 700 WLW antenna.”  

Dominic shared the story of how President Roosevelt was convinced by the broadcast pioneers to use Voice of America “To Tell the Truth” and let the world decide. A propaganda strategy which ultimately proved significant in the U.S. ultimatley prevailing in the Cold War – even reporting our own failures over the years. It was especially significant in communicating during the Cold War.

“It’s always delightful to be able to talk to people who appreciate the importance of history,” Dominic said.

Times have changed. Today the powerfully transmitted radio signals of the 1940’s, truly incredible technology during that historic time, have been replaced by satellite transmission and internet communications. Yet, Dominic left the crowd with a significant thought about how short-wave broadcast could be making a comeback because of the censorship of internet in foreign countries around the world.

The lunch-hour crowd showed genuine interest in stories of the VOA, how it came to be located here in Cincinnati, and about Powell Crosley, his brother, and the role they played in the building of the Voice of America. They asked Dominic a variety of questions following his presentation.

“It was an absolute blessing to learn more about this little gem right in our back yard that literally affected the whole world,” said Ken Davis, Vice President of Loveland Museum Center. “I never knew there was so much engineering involved. I always heard it was the iron content in the ground there. “

Dominic made special note in his chronological history of the VOA to cite the significant technological aspects of building transmitters and antennae which broadcast to specific parts of the world. It was not believed to have been possible to do such a thing to all parts of the world from one location in the United States. Engineers proved it could. It is truly an amazing story.

“It is amazing what they accomplished there in that short space of time,” said Pete Bissman, a television and radio engineer who is a member of the Loveland Museum Center. “I met quite a few of those Crosley engineers that built transmitters and equipment out there. They started from scratch.”

The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting is OPEN EVERY SATURDAY and SUNDAY 1-4 PM. VOA Museum is located at 8070 Tylersville Rd. (GPS use Crosley Blvd.)| West Chester, OH 45069. Touring the exhibits – including the Crosley exhibit and watching the documentary video – takes about 60-90 minutes.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 5-12, FREE for children under 5. There is a maximum rate of $30 for a family with two adults and children from same household. 

“It (The VOA Museum) is one of the best kept secrets in the tri-state, not only as a museum, but the significance of what happened here,” said Dominic, “especially during the Cold War.”

Click here to learn more about Voice of American Museum

More about Loveland Museum Center events at www.lovelandmuseum.org 

Photo captions: Loveland Museum Center Lunch & Learn guest speaker Jack Dominic, VOA Museum director presented to a crowd of nearly 60 LMC members and guests sharing the history of the Voice of America and how it overcame Hitler’s propaganda machine including the Volksempfanger radio subsidized by Hitler.