No. 605

Barrett files, lot 52D432

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


Subject: Radio Free Europe

For a number of evident reasons, it is important that the topmost officers of the Department receive a broad fill-in on the subject of Radio Free Europe—so that they will know how much cooperation to give. With the concurrence of the other agency, I propose that either you or I cover the points in the attached memorandum in an oral report at an Under Secretary’s Meeting, cautioning all concerned to hold the information tight.

I suggest you give me a buzz after you have read this.2

Edward W. Barrett
[Page 1207]

Radio Free Europe

I would like to make a brief report on Radio Free Europe so that the key officers in the Department will be aware of the organization and its relation to the Department.
Radio Free Europe is a division of the National Committee for a Free Europe. As such, it operates the Committee’s newsgathering, programming and broadcasting facilities. One short wave 7 1/2 kw station is now in operation in Germany and a medium wave 135 kw transmitter will be in service there by April 1, 1951. Two additional 10 kw short wave transmitters will be completed by May 1, 1951.
As additional broadcasting facilities are completed in Western Germany, Radio Free Europe is taking steps to provide personnel, both indigenous and from the United States, to do their newsgathering, editing and programming in Europe rather than in this country. This step will place the program offices nearer the satellite areas, thus expediting the transmission of spot news of interest to these areas. It will also provide ready access to newly arrived exiles and defectors with up-to-date information.
RFE now broadcasts to five satellite countries: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Rumania. The programs include news items, features, and political reports from exiles. They are written and voiced by the nationals of the target countries. As a nongovernment operation, they can and do use exile spokesmen.
The Department was fully informed of the organization of NCFE and of the informal support and cooperation being provided by the United States Government. In June 1949 the Acting Secretary sent a circular airgram to most of our European embassies and legations3 stating that although the Department had no active concern with the Committee’s activities, it had given its unofficial approval to the Committee’s objectives. It was further pointed out that because of the implicitly political nature of the Committee’s work, there would be continuing coordination between it and the Department, and that the Committee would cooperate in every way to the accomplishment of our objectives in Eastern Europe and of the general aims of our foreign policy.
At a press conference on June 29 [23?], 1949, Secretary Acheson stated in response to a question that the Department was very [Page 1208] happy to see the formation of this group and welcomed its entrance into this field, giving the Department’s hearty endorsement.
While it is inevitable that some people must know the full background of the Committee, this number should be kept to the absolute minimum as one of its principal advantages will be lost if the general public, particularly in Europe, has grounds for belief that RFE has any official or semi-official connection with the United States Government. While it is true that RFE personnel in Germany have been granted Post Exchange and Commissary privileges and the right to use requisitioned billets and offices, it should be borne in mind that this same logistic support has also been arranged for other private organizations such as CARE, the American Express Company, and numerous newspaper and radio correspondents. Every precaution should be taken by Department officers to keep overt contacts with RFE officers at a minimum and such cooperation as is necessary and desirable should be carried on in the most discreet manner possible.
C.D. Jackson, publisher of Fortune has recently agreed to serve as President of the National Committee for Free Europe. He will replace Dewitt Poole who will remain as Vice-Chairman of the Board. I believe that Mr. Jackson, as an experienced propaganda warfare expert, will give the Committee and RFE the leadership and drive which has been needed.
  1. Copies of this memorandum were also sent to MacKnight (P) and Joyce (S/P). The source text indicates that it was seen by Matthews and was returned to Barrett’s office on January 29.
  2. No record has been found of any further exchange between Barrett and Matthews on this subject prior to the Under Secretary’s meeting of February 2 (see Document 611).
  3. For the text of the circular airgram, dated June 21, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. v, p. 289.