The Director of Censorship (Price) to the
Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
Washington, July 4,
My Dear Mr. Berle: You will recall that on
November 20 last the Censorship Policy Board considered the future of the
Office of Censorship and indicated in general a view that progressive
curtailments should be inaugurated. Since that time there have been a number
- An agreement has been entered into with British and Canadian
Censorships, and is now in effect, providing that Censorship will
neither distribute nor collect information regarding the post-war
plans of firms and individuals other than enemy firms and
individuals, unless there is a direct current relation to the
- By mutual agreement British Censorship has ceased opening any
United States mail except that which is terminal to the United
Kingdom, and United States Censorship has ceased opening any United
Kingdom mail except that which is terminal to the United States. The
British Censorship Station at Bermuda has been dismantled and the
British Censorship Station at Trinidad has ceased to examine
- My proposal for a complete communications blockade of Japan after
the collapse of Germany has been submitted by the State Department
to a considerable number of foreign governments, and has evoked a
sufficient number of replies to indicate that the plan cannot be
- The British Government has approved a set of general principles
upon which action after the collapse of Germany is to be
Attached is a memorandum showing the present situation in detail. I am
sending a copy of this to each member of the Censorship Policy Board and I
am also providing a copy to Joint Security Control with a request for
comment and suggestions. I think it would be a mistake to undertake positive
decisions until after the collapse of Germany, but I believe events have
reached a stage warranting serious study of the possibilities.
This is a matter regarding which I would like, of course, to have the
considered advice of the State Department. I hope you will let me have any
thoughts which may occur to you.
Future Phases of Censorship
- Since June, 1943, British, Canadian and United States Censorships
have been discussing what policies should be adopted after the
defeat of Germany and while Japan remains an enemy. These
discussions have been predicated upon a realization that in
democratic countries censorship can be employed feasibly only as an
instrument of war, and that no censorship measures ought to be
adopted or maintained except as they contribute to military
- It was agreed after some consideration that only general
principles could be laid down for the time being, and that decision
as to exact procedures must await military developments.
- It appeared that the ideal solution, if it could be attained,
would be to impose a universal communications blockade against
Japan, thus making it possible to abandon virtually all other
censorship. Accordingly, on September 16, 1943, the Director of
Censorship wrote the Secretary of State28 suggesting that
the possibilities of such a blockade be explored internationally,
even though a remote chance existed that the project would succeed.
The State Department did approach various foreign governments,29 soliciting their views as to the feasibility of
isolating Japan and Japanese-occupied territories completely by
international agreement so as to prevent any communication whatever
between the Japanese area and the outside world. The replies to this
overture were far from satisfactory.30 Some nations readily accepted [Page 1515] the plan in principle31 but others were skeptical.32
The Chinese Government declared there was no possibility of cutting
off communication between free and occupied China. This Chinese
situation, coupled with the uncertain attitude of the Russian
Government,33 appears to dispose of any hope of drawing a tight
censorship ring around the Japanese area. Some other solution has to
- Meantime in the Fall of 1943 the British Prime Minister issued a
directive to the British war agencies requiring submission of an
outline of policies that were to follow the defeat of Germany.
Responsive to this directive, and after discussion with Canadian and
United States Censorships, the Director General of British
Censorship submitted a paper entitled “Plans for the Transition
Period,” a copy of which is attached.34 Recently this paper has been approved by
the War Cabinet and may now be regarded as representing the settled
policy of the British Government.
- Late in 1943 the United States Director of Censorship brought the
situation to the attention of the Censorship Policy Board. The Board
at a meeting held November 20 expressed informally its unanimous
opinion that Censorship should look forward to progressive
curtailment as the military situation improved, and should cease its
operations entirely upon the cessation of hostilities.
- There are numerous compelling reasons why curtailment must take
place upon or shortly after the collapse of Germany, even though the
Japanese war continues. Some of the more important are:
- It may be expected that the British decision already
taken, although expressed in vague and general terms, will
lead to far-reaching retrenchments on the part of British
Censorship once Germany is defeated. For five years the
people of the United Kingdom have been faced with an
unprecedented conflagration on their very doorstep, even
over their doorstep; when this menace suddenly disappears,
when the lights are turned on, and when the war has moved
half way around the world, the tremendous emotional
resurgence of this democratic people may be expected to
sweep away as many of the annoyances of war as possible.
Censorship is, by its very nature, highly vulnerable to
public reaction. It is the belief of well-informed British
officials that a very large part of the British Censorship
Organization, with which United States Censorship is closely
intertwined, will disappear. The event is certain to have
popular repercussions in the United States, adding to the
practical obstacles which would handicap United States
Censorship in any endeavor to continue full scale operations
without British collaboration.
- Upon the arrival of a state of peace in Europe travel
between the United States and European countries will be
resumed on a tremendous and probably unprecedented scale. It
is to the advantage of the United States commercially that
such travel be encouraged. American citizens moving in
peaceful areas on the business of reconstruction will not
endure placidly the delays and annoyances incident to
Censorship examination of their papers. Without an effective
travellers’ censorship, censorship of the mail and cables
will become far less valuable.
- The personnel of Censorship is nearly 90% civilian. Upon
the collapse of Germany it may be expected that a large part
of this personnel, and particularly those executives holding
the most important key positions, will resign from
Government service and return to their private affairs. They
cannot be replaced on any efficient basis.
- It would be most difficult and probably impossible after
the surrender of Germany to convince Congress that funds
should be made available for continuing Censorship, except
on an appreciably reduced basis.
- In view of all of the above, the question is not whether
Censorship activities will be reduced, but in what direction they
should be reduced. It still is too soon to make binding decisions,
but the following is presented here for purposes of discussion as a
possible basis for action to be taken as soon as possible after the
- The domestic press and broadcasting codes should be
modified to remove all unnecessary restrictions relating to
the Atlantic areas. This modification would not be
extensive; it would be confined principally to information
about travel and merchant shipping in the Atlantic.
- Formal censorship of motion picture films offered for
export would be abandoned. It should be understood that all
military information in such films, whether news reels or
features, must be cleared in advance with the Army and
- All mail and cable censorship between the United States
and the United Kingdom would be abandoned. Censorship of
radiotelegraph and radiotelephone should be continued
because of interceptability.
- All censorship between the United States and Canada would
- All censorship between continental United States and
Puerto Rico would be abandoned, and all censorship between
continental United States and Alaska and the Canal Zone
would be relaxed in whatever degree the military situation
might from time to time permit.
- All censorship to and within the Caribbean area would be
abandoned, except for spot checks.
- Censorship of incoming mail and cables from all sources
would be abandoned, except in the case of watch-listed
persons or firms or communications from Japanese
- Censorship of mail destined for Latin America would be
reduced and operated largely on a watch-list basis.
- Censorship of cables destined for Latin America would be
curtailed and concentrated on specific areas to be
determined by developments. [Page 1517] Censorship of radiotelegraph and
radiotelephone would be continued.
- The present 100% censorship of German prisoner-of-war mail
would be relaxed and a spot check substituted.
- In general, Censorship activity should be directed almost
completely toward preventing the export of military information to
dangerous destinations, and the economic, political and social
intelligence functions of Censorship would be abandoned.
- Upon the surrender of Japan and the establishment of an armistice
in the Pacific, all U. S. Censorship should cease, except:
- military censorship within the occupied areas, to be
operated by the Military; and
- prisoner-of-war censorship to be operated by the Provost
The Office of Censorship would be completely liquidated.