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”.
A new archive has revealed the BBC’s role in secret activities during World War Two, including sending coded messages to European resistance groups.
Documents and interviews, released by BBC History, include plans to replace Big Ben’s chimes with a recorded version in the event of an air attack.
This would ensure the Germans did not know their planes were over Westminster.
BBC programmers would also play music to contact Polish freedom fighters.
Using the codename “Peter Peterkin”, a government representative would provide staff with a particular piece that would be broadcast following the Polish news service.
Historian David Hendy said: “The bulletins broadcast to Poland would be deliberately short by a minute or so and then a secret messenger from the exiled Polish government would deliver a record to be played.
“The choice of music would send the message to fighters.”[…]
This is such an amazing story, Fred, and the CBC did a fine job putting it together. Thanks so much for sharing.
Editor’s note regarding WWII history: Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m an avid WWII history buff, in that I read, view, and especially listen to many accounts of the Second World War era, the glory days of radio. I’ve traveled and lived in several of the countries that were, at that time, among the Axis Powers, some of my close friends are from or reside in these countries now, and feel much as I do about this history: that this was a devastating war which we must not forget or romanticize, and from which we can learn about ourselves as human beings, hopefully with the view of preventing such chilling events from ever being repeated. As we have readers and contributors from all over the world in this radio community, I sincerely hope that WWII-related articles are regarded in this light of understanding. The takeaway? Times have changed. I firmly believe that a deep understanding of our shared history makes us all better people.
Soldiers coming ashore in Normandy, France. (Photo: National Archives)
Today, as many know, is the 75th anniversary of the World War II battle in Normandy, France, known to history as D-Day. “Operation Overlord,” as D-Day was code named, without doubt, was one of the key turning points of World War II.
But many may not know that D-Day was also one of the first events that brought continuous news coverage via radio on the home front.
“In addition to what it meant as a great turning point in world history, D-Day is also unique in how it was broadcast by American radio networks, as CBS, NBC, and what would become ABC pooled their reporters, engineers and other resources, and cooperated closely with military officials to present, for the first time, what would now be called “wall-to-wall” coverage of a developing major international news event for American audiences.
It’s something we take for granted now in the age of the internet and cable news, but this kind of media coverage can be traced back to D-Day.”
But the widely-covered event was originally top secret. So secret, in fact, that news agencies in the US first learned about Operation Overlord via not Allied news, but Axis news sources. Thus the information was delivered with caution, since the source wasn’t the War Department of Allied Forces.
A little after 3:30 AM (Eastern War Time), the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in London produced Communiqué #1, a short statement read twice by Colonel R. Ernest Dupuy, confirming that Allied naval forces, with the support of the air forces, and under the command of General Eisenhower, began landing Allied armies that morning on the northern coast of France.
Here is the actual recording via the Miller Center at UVA:
The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester will host a 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landing on Thursday, June 6 at 9 a.m. on the museum’s front lawn.
The event sponsored by Kehoe Financial Advisors of Cincinnati will honor the memory of WW II soldiers who participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, as well as veterans of all wars.
After a color guard presentation by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7696 and a brief ceremony, veterans and other attendees will be invited inside the museum for free coffee, donuts and museum tours until noon.
The public is invited.
Coffee will be donated by CAVU of West Chester, with donuts provided by Kroger stores in Sharonville and on Tylervsille Road in West Chester.
“D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in the history of the world and put Allied troops on the trajectory to win World War II,” said Ken Rieser, VOA Museum board president. “The sacrifice in human life that day alone is sobering—about 4,500 Allied soldiers and from 3,000 to 9,000 Nazi troops.”
During Operation Overlord, which occurred from the June 6, 1944 D-Day landing through August 30, 1944, when German troops retreated east across the Seine River, more than 425,000 Allied and German troops died, according to Barrett Tillman’s D-Day Encyclopedia (2014, Regnery Publishing), on www.HistoryontheNet.com. About 209,000 were estimated to be Allied troops.
“Although many of the soldiers who participated in D-Day are no longer with us, we want to commemorate their sacrifice—as well as the sacrifices of all veterans in all wars since then,” said Tom Keller of Kehoe Financial Advisors. “D-Day is a solemn day, but also an uplifting reminder of what our country can accomplish when we band together for a just cause.”
RSVPs are requested by noon on Wednesday, June 5 for the D-Day commemoration at firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure adequate food and beverages.
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.