If you’ve been an SWLing Post reader for long, you’ll likely know that I’m a Word War II history buff and I especially enjoy exploring the deep rabbit hole that is WWII radio and propaganda.
Radio broadcasts were heavily used by all of the players in WWII, and some prominent personalities emerged from the Axis propaganda machines: most notably Axis Sally and Lord Haw Haw in the European theatre, and Tokyo Rose in the Pacific theatre.
Toguri being interviewed by the press in September 1945 (Source: Public Domain)
Although Tokyo Rose was the name given to an array of female personalities on Radio Tokyo (NHK), at the end of WWII Iva Toguri was widely accused of being the “real” Tokyo Rose. After attempting to return to her native US, she was arrested, tried, and became the seventh person in U.S. history to be convicted of treason.
Her trial in 1949 resulted in a conviction on one of eight counts of treason and she received a 10 year sentence. Her sentence was eventually cut to 6 years due to good behavior.
U.S. President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri in 1977 based on new evidence that important witnesses in her treason trial had been forced to lie.
The story of Iva Toguri is truly one of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you enjoy comics/graphic novels and WWII history, then you’re in for a treat. Last week, I purchased a new graphic novel about the life and trial of Iva Toguri written by Andre Frattino and illustrated by Kate Kasenow.
This book is beautifully illustrated in black and white and the author does an amazing job of telling the story of Toguri, woven into a narrative, while keeping it historical accuracy.
It’s obvious a lot of research went into this particular graphic novel.
If this sounds like something that would interest you, I highly recommend it.
Image Source: Twenty Thousand Hertz. Art by Jon McCormack.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Wilbur Forcier, who recently shared a link to the latest episode of the excellent Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. This entire episode also explores Iva Toguri’s life and involvement in NHK’s propaganda broadcasts.
I also highly recommend listening to this episode.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zack Schindler, who shares the following stories all focused on US broadcasters receiving pressure from the NAB and their communities to halt broadcasts of Russian state-sponsored media like Russia Today and Sputnik:
It says it is a “fierce defender” of the First Amendment and “the critical importance of the ability to freely express views, both popular and unpopular.”
That said, the NAB explains that the First Amendment “does not prevent private actors from exercising sound, moral judgment.”
That’s why the chief advocacy group for broadcast radio and TV wants any state-sponsored programming with ties to Moscow pulled from U.S. airwaves now.
What will operators in Kansas City and Washington, D.C., do? RBR+TVBR heard from one of them, and he’s livid with the NAB. Another has placed the association among those responsible for “Cancel Culture” in the U.S.
In response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, NAB President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt seemingly took aim at Sputnik, the English-language service of the Voice of Russia.
Sputnik has already noticed, and reacted. On Tuesday, it noted that “Western governments” and internet giants including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter “have moved to heavily censor Russian foreign-language media outlets over the conflict in Ukraine, blocking websites, shutting down social media pages, and taking radio and television broadcasts off air.”
Calling the “censorship” unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Gavrilov said in a meeting of the Russian Federation Council that, “separately, attention should be paid to the absolutely unacceptable behaviour of foreign, especially American, IT giants such as Google and Meta. Hostile propaganda activities are openly conducted on their social platforms, while Russian sources of information are blocked, and massive restrictions on access to domestic media are put in place.”
[…]“[G]iven the unprovoked aggression exhibited by Russia against the free and sovereign people of Ukraine, NAB calls on broadcasters to cease carrying any state-sponsored programming with ties to the Russian government or its agents,” LeGeyt said. “While we know that airings of such programs are extremely limited, we believe that our nation must stand fully united against misinformation and for freedom and democracy across the globe.”
Programs aren’t extremely limited to those in the Nation’s Capital, where Radio Sputnik airs on W288BS, at 105.5 MHz, and originating station WZHF-AM 1390, a directional two-pattern Class B facility first known as Top 40 WEAM. Both WZHF and the FM translator reaches much of greater Washington. [Continue reading…]
“You’re listening to Radio Sputnik,’‘ the polished, made-for-radio voice says, accompanied by triumphant Russian-themed music. “Telling the untold.”
“Live from the divided states of America,” announces the host of “Fault Lines Radio” show. Produced in Washington, D.C., the program airs locally on AM radio station KCXL. Yes, we’re talking about a radio station spouting Russian propaganda from the heartland — just outside Kansas City. And why, you might ask, are Russian talking points airing on area radio stations?
Money talks. Or maybe we should say rubles.
Radio Sputnik, a media service funded by the Kremlin, airs daily on three stations in Kansas City. Alpine Broadcasting Corp. owner Peter Schartel is paid by Russian interests to broadcast pro-Vladimir Putin programming on them all.
And this week, with Russian tanks, artillery and troops continuing the tragic and reckless invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the Russian apologists spun hard. Schartel remained defiant even after multiple reports Thursday that the American branch of RT, the Russian-funded media network, was shutting down and laying off its staff. He said his contract was with an American company that works with the Russian authorities behind Sputnik. That company “has not notified us of any interruption,” he said.
For now, at least, the show goes on, and we sampled its absurd pro-Russian arguments so you wouldn’t have to.
Guests on the “Fault Lines Radio” show this week, encouraged by hosts Jamarl Thomas and Faran Fronczak, would have you believe Putin was an unwilling participant in this conflict. The Western media, one guest said, is complicit in spreading Ukrainian government war propaganda, and added that the besieged Ukrainian government is winning the information war on social media.
“If you were reading that, you might think there has been a billion Russian troops killed and that Ukrainian freedom fighters are storming Moscow,” said Mark Sleboda, Putin’s Moscow-based mouthpiece and frequent contributor to pro-Russian media companies.
Thomas predictably agreed, and the Putin praise continued.
KCXL has no ties to Russia and is against the country’s conflict with Ukraine, Schartel told us Wednesday. But he needs the money, and he’d lose his business if he pulled the plug on Radio Sputnik. So, that’s how you end up with a radio show here in the land of barbecue and jazz playing Cold War oldies and coddling a powerful, seemingly deranged dictator.
Putin ordered the invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The unprovoked and inhumane attack has caused thousands of deaths of both civilians and soldiers in Ukraine. Parts of the country are being reduced to rubble.
Outside of Moscow, the Russian invasion has been almost universally condemned. Except for right here in the Kansas City area, where listeners of KCXL were bombarded with pro-Putin talk. [Read the full article here…]
LIBERTY, Mo. —Down a rural road just a mile away from Liberty’s city square, a radio station inside small brick building displays an American flag in the front window.
For six hours every weekday, 1140AM KCXL broadcasts radio programming paid for by the Russian government, called Radio Sputnik.
The National Association of Broadcasters earlier this week called for U.S. broadcasters to cease Russian-sponsored programming considering the war in Ukraine.
[…]Alpine Broadcasting Programming and sales manager Jonne Santoli-Schartel told KMBC on Thursday she and her husband, Peter Schartel, have no plans to pull Radio Sputnik from the station’s airwaves.
“If we can’t express our viewpoints anymore, and we have cancel culture, and people deleting and people putting pressure on other people to not hear certain programming, then we’re in trouble and freedom no longer exists,” Santoli-Schartel said.
Those living nearby disagreed.
“If the money means more than your morals, then you’ve got a problem,” said Debbie Bowman, who has family members from Ukraine.
Last year, government documents showed Alpine Broadcasting made at least $60,000 from RM Broadcasting, led by Florida businessman Arnold Ferolito. RM Broadcasting acts as a go between for two U.S. radio stations including KCXL, and Rossiya Segodnya, a media organization sponsored by the Russian government.
A judge in 2019 ordered RM Broadcasting to register as a foreign agent under the U.S. Foreign Registration Act.
That act makes sure people engaged in domestic political or advocacy work on behalf of foreign interests disclose financial information along with relationships.
[…]Santoli-Shartel also said she does not agree with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, she has no plans to stop broadcasting.
“My heart is breaking for these moms and these dads on both sides,” she said. “I think if I was in Russia, I would want to get out of Russia because I think they’re in danger also. But the people of Ukraine, I think it is so horrible.”
Aspidistra and the Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service including the wartime transmission of black propaganda.
The History of the Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service. The event starts at 19:00 BST on 8th September 2021
This is the story of Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service (DWS) which had its origins in the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) at the beginning of WW2. In 1972 it was amalgamated into the administrative structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and was renamed Communications Engineering Department (CED). The latter had two groups, Broadcast Group which was responsible for transmitters carrying many of the BBC’s World and Vernacular services, and Communications group which provided radio communications to embassies for diplomatic traffic. In 1986 CED’s Broadcast Group was taken over by the BBC.
In this illustrated talk we will learn first about the transmission of black propaganda and associated activities during WWII. Also such activities as trying to interfere with enemy rocket guidance systems. Then about the various Medium-Wave and Short-Wave transmitting stations of Broadcast Group with transmitter stations at Crowborough, Orfordness, Cyprus and the island of Masirah, a part of Oman. Transmitters ranged from 1?kW carrier power to 600 kW. Several of these were designed and manufactured in house. There will be many pictures and descriptions of the equipment and aerials used at these stations. Also covered will be an introduction to the progress of amplitude modulation techniques which enabled transmitters to become more compact.
So, what is Aspidistra? Please register to hear the story of Aspidistra and the Broadcast Group of the DWS with the engineering used to build and operate these stations.
About the Speaker
Roger Castle-Smith FIET
Mr Roger Castle-Smith FIET. Roger first became interested in radio when he joined the signals section of his school’s Combined Cadet force. This led to him gaining an amateur’s radio license at the age of 15, callsign G3IOT. Then on to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he started an amateur station for the academy. Graduated into Royal Signals. Achieved a BSc(Eng) degree as an external degree from the University of London whilst at the Royal Military College of Science. Many of his army postings were of a technical nature. On retirement at the age of 37 he was made a MBE. Joined the Diplomatic Wireless Service then worked his way up to becoming Head of Broadcast Group in 1979 leading to Chief Engineer and Head of Communications Engineering Department (CED) in 1981. During his service a CBE followed his MBE. Retired age 66.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ray Robinson, who writes:
Hi, Thomas. I have recently been re-watching the Australian soap serial ‘The Sullivans’, which ran on Channel 9 from 1976-1983. I used to watch it on ITV in England, and also for awhile on the Tempo cable & satellite channel here in the States in the late 80’s. It is set in Melbourne during the second World War and after, and begins in September 1939. In the episodes covering the early part of 1940, much is made of one of the character’s abilities to listen to Nazi German broadcasts via shortwave, in both English and German (and they play clips of actual audio in the episodes). My question is, how realistic is this?
Were German broadcasts at that time able to be heard with good quality in Australia? Does anyone have a transmission schedule from that era? I know that German broadcasts were well heard throughout Europe and in North America, but I don’t have any details of broadcasts targeting Australia. Might they have been relayed via some Axis transmitter in the Far East? If any of your SWLing Post readers can shed any light on this, I’d be very grateful. Thank you.
Great question, Ray. This is certainly an inquiry for radio enthusiasts and WWII buffs in Australia and New Zealand. I’m sure there are accounts out there that could verify how easily and frequently Axis broadcasts could be heard in Australia and NZ. My guess would be that propaganda would have certainly targeted Australia and New Zealand during WWII.
Please comment if you can provide some insight and/or evidence for Ray!
How sex, jazz and ‘fake news’ were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute of Historical Research about the secret history of British “black propaganda”.
However, I’ve got quite a number of books in my to-be-read stack at the moment, so Hear My Voice lay in wait on my bookshelf until this past Sunday, when I decided to read the first chapter––just to get a taste of it.
Although I had a very busy day in store––working on a home renovation and making several trips into town––nevertheless I struggled to pull it from the stack, and having rapidly consumed the first chapters, had a hard time putting the book down. By the day’s end, I found I had read the entire book.
While those who know me know I’m a bit of a WWII history buff, I only knew that Hitler’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland was but a hint of what was to come. The history I’d read previously had provided a bit of insight into this crucial lead-up to the war, but not as Vaughan’s book does: in what feels like a first hand account, through the eyes of an interpreter and broadcaster. I was hooked.
Hear My Voice clearly indicates how transformative the medium of radio was in this era, and how deliberate and insidious Nazi propaganda became in the Sudetenland years before Czechoslovakia ever took notice.
All in all, it’s a great read. I think you’ll find Hear My Voiceas intriguing as I did.
Czechoslovak Radio in the mid-1930s, photo: Czech Radio
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Palmer (KC8RZM), who writes:
Was listening to Radio Prague yesterday evening, there was a very interesting item where author, David Vaughan, was interviewed and talked about his most recent book “Hear My Voice” a novel which deals with the lead-up to WWII and in which Czech Radio plays a part:
The play, on which the novel is based, was commissioned by Czech Radio and was awarded the Czech Book readers’ award for 2015. In the interview the importance of this then new technology called radio was discussed and its influence, for good or bad, in the world at large, an interesting parallel to today’s discussion on the role of the internet and social media. From the capsule bio on the book cover his background is in languages and radio (BBC and Czech Radio).
“1938 was a turning point in the histories of Europe and the media. When Hitler annexed Austria and then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, radio was at the heart of events. Battle for the Airwaves looks at the Munich crisis as it was played out on the radio stations of Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain and the United States, and reveals just how central a role radio played in the run-up to the Munich Agreement and beyond. It is a story of propaganda and counter-propaganda, censorship and self-censorship. It is also a story of courage and innovation. Munich was a fateful step in the road to World War Two; it also marked the beginning of the age of the electronic media. Published in English and Czech in a single, illustrated, hardback volume, Battle for the Airwaves is accompanied by a CD recording of key British, Czechoslovak, German and American radio broadcasts from 1938.”
Anyway, just thought the above might be of interest to others at the SWLing Post. I’d like to learn more from him on the role of radio in those early days on the events leading up to WWII. I’m probably going to check out his novel.
Thank you so much for sharing this John! I received an Amazon gift card and have already put Hear My Voice in the cart. I look forward to reading it!
Earlier this year the Czech Republic marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, signed in September 1938 by the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, resulting in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. Radio Prague’s David Vaughan recently published a book in the UK titled “Hear My Voice”, most of which is set in Czechoslovakia in the months preceding the Munich agreement. Its narrator is an interpreter for the international press corps in Prague and he watches the events of 1938 unfold in Central Europe as the atmosphere is getting tenser ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War. Pavla Horáková spoke to David Vaughan and their conversation begins with a few paragraphs from the book.