Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs ( Barrett ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Webb )1


Subject: Taking the propaganda offensive

One field in which we can definitely take bold affirmative action is in the propaganda-information field. Here are my preliminary recommendations: Make an announcement to the effect that, while the Russians have made it exceedingly difficult for us to negotiate with their government, we can at least do everything possible to talk to their own and the satellite peoples. In pursuance of this objective, we propose three immediate steps:

Speed up the present program to throw additional transmitting equipment into the war of ideas in order to overcome Soviet jamming, etc.
Quickly coordinate with BBC and the few other free-nation facilities capable of reaching the Iron Curtain areas on a bold new propaganda offensive. In this, every free-nation transmitter capable of getting behind the Iron Curtain would be put on the air simultaneously on a single program called “The Voice of Freedom.” It would be a basic 15 minute program (probably 10 minutes of news and five minutes of “message”) rebroadcast in each of the important languages of the Iron Curtain area—taking up probably a total of two hours. For psychological as well as practical reasons, the preparation of the script would be coordinated in London. Wartime experience convinces me this is feasible though difficult. We would utilize not only voice but also slow Morse transmissions, recognizing that there are many in the Soviet Union who know Morse code.
Follow up the President’s tentative suggestion by appointing a new high-level committee of Sarnoff, etc., to look for added means of getting the truth behind the Iron Curtain.2 This would not confine itself to radio but would look into such proposals as the hardy perennial [Page 275] of utilizing balloons to drop leaflets. The President might also direct the appropriate research organizations of the Government to give priority to assisting this commission in technical studies and technical research.

[Edward W. Barrett]
  1. A marginal handwritten notation on the source text indicates that a copy of this memorandum was included in the White House Briefing Book for Secretary of State Acheson on March 6. The proposal presented in this memorandum was one of the subjects discussed by Secretary Acheson with President Truman at their meeting on March 6, one of their frequent meetings to consider important foreign policy problems. According to a memorandum of conversation of March 6 by Secretary Acheson, not printed, he gave the President a brief outline of the proposal contained in the memorandum printed here. The President was much pleased and asked that the proposal be followed up vigorously. Secretary Acheson also informed the President that Assistant Secretary Barrett was working on a plan for an advisory committee along the lines suggested by RCA Chairman Sarnoff (Secretary’s Memoranda, Lot 53 D 444, Secretary’s Memoranda—March 1950). Lot 53 D 444 is a comprehensive chronological collection of the Secretary of State’s memoranda and memoranda of conversation for the years 1947–1953, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.
  2. See the memorandum of March 1 from the President to Secretary Acheson, p. 271.