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The Writers' War Board
The organization that came to be known as the "greatest
propaganda machine in history" was ironically not even a official government
agency. This group was known as the Writers' War Board and was established
in January 1942.(10) The organization was made up of thousands of writers
from around the country who agreed to help the government by writing anything
from novels to songs that would promote the government of the United States
and its war causes. These writers were headed by a group of 20 authors
mainly from New York City.
The President of the Board was author Rex Stout. Rex Stout is known for
his novels about the character Detective Nero Wolfe. (1) Many other well
known people devoted themselves to the Writers' War Board including lyricist
Oscar Hammerstein, dramatist Russel Crouse, author Pearl Buck, and radio
commentator Elmer Davis. (1) These and other members of the organization
allowed for the WWB to have connections and influence over the entire range
of media, from Broadway, to magazines, to radio. This allowed the message
and influence to reach millions of people nationwide. One official from
the Office of War Information, which was organized by the government shortly
after the formation of the WWB, stated: "With the Writers' War Board we
have the services of almost 5000 writers; we reach thousands of newspapers;
more then 600 radio stations; and have a vast army of writers ready to
cooperate in the governmentís war work.." (2) Throughout the entire war,
beginning from the time it was founded in 1942, the War Writers' Board
was an independent organization that was never officially under government
control. It was never censored or controlled by the government. Though
it was never run by the government, the idea for the Board was initially
proposed by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthaw Jr. (1) A few days
after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he agreed to the initiative to
seek civilian writers to help promote the war effort of the United States.
After getting the initial push from the government the Writersí War Board
continued to expand and evolve until it became very productive and influential.
The WWB was partially funded by the government with subsidies that came
from the Office of War Information. They provided the board with a nine-employee
"liaison office" as well as office rental and stenographic support. (1)
The writers were never directly paid by the government but because the
Board projects were usually requested by government agencies the money
received did in fact come from some division of the government. It was
even calculated that 85 percent of the work the WWB did was at the request
of the U.S. Government. (4) Because they were not censored in any way by
the United States Government, the Board had total freedom in the organizations
and topics it wanted to promote. But the Board tended to follow government
policies exactly. They were strict supporters of President Franklin Roosevelt
and everything he stood for. (2) They promoted his views and actions of
the war as if directly controlled by the President himself. In a way the
Board was more beneficial to the government as a private organization than
it would have been if it was a branch of the government. By being a private
group, it did not have any of the restrictions that it otherwise would
have. Also it did not have to face nearly as much of the criticism that
it would have encountered if part of the government. The mass distribution
of its columns and stores would have been frowned upon if coming from the
government, instead it did not face much opposition at all.