Elmer Davis, Director, Office of War Information (OWI), Alfred T. Palmer, photographer. Part of: Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540.
Soviet Russia’s lie that Hitler and Nazi Germans and not Stalin and Soviets communists were responsible for the mass execution murder of over 20,000 Polish officers, intellectual leaders and other prisoners of war in the Katyn Forest Massacre was the greatest fake news of the World War II and the Cold War period, which the U.S. government-run Voice of America (VOA) under its agency head Elmer Davis and pro-Soviet VOA’s first director John Houseman helped to spread starting in April and May 1943.
The Soviet Katyn lie was actively promoted by VOA from April 1943 to about 1945, but for several more years after the war VOA still continued to ignore its existence, as well as its earlier complicity in the Soviet campaign of denials and lies. Americans would not learn that during World War II the Soviet Union had control over VOA’s Katyn reporting, as well as VOA reporting on all Soviet actions in East-Central Europe, thanks to many communist sympathizers working as officials and journalists for VOA in its early years.
While VOA stopped actively promoting the Katyn lie at the end of the war while still not yet being willing to tell the whole truth, the lie persisted in Soviet government and media statements much longer, from April 1943 until 1990, when the Soviet authorities finally admitted that the Soviet secret police NKVD had been responsible for this act of genocide.
For many years, the facts were quite different from what Soviet officials were saying that what the Voice of America was initially reporting. The NKVD murdered the Polish prisoners of war at various locations in the Soviet Union on the orders issued in early March 1940 by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party Politburo. The mass executions became known collectively as the Katyn Forest Massacre after the first graves were discovered by the Germans in Katyn near Smolensk, in Western Russia, in April 1943. The executions were conducted in Katyn and in several other locations in the Soviet Union.
Neither Elmer Davis, John Houseman whom the U.S. State Department accused secretly to the FDR White House of being a communist sympathizer, nor the Voice of America, ever apologized to thousands of wives, mothers and children of the murdered Polish officers for helping to spread deceptive and fake Soviet Katyn news and VOA’s own commentaries in support of these and other Soviet lies. Many members of the families of the murdered men were themselves deported by the Soviets to the Gulag. Hundreds of thousands of such prisoners–men, women and children– died there from heavy labor, cold, illnesses, lack of medical care and starvation.
Most Polish citizens (the murdered in the Katyn massacres also included hundreds of Polish citizens who were Jews, Ukrainians, Belorussians and members of other nationalities), who at that time lived in the Soviet Union or in Nazi-occupied Poland, would not have been able to listen to Voice of America shortwave radio broadcasts, but some of their family members who had escaped to Great Britain and to other parts of unoccupied Europe would have been deceived by VOA’s Soviet lies and propaganda, as any person desperate for information about their loved ones might be under such circumstances. Even in Nazi-occupied Poland and in the Soviet Union, false Soviet news repeated by the Voice of America about their sons, husbands and fathers would have reached at least some family members of Katyn victims.
President Roosevelt’s chief propagandist Elmer Davis was formerly a well-known New York Times reporter and CBS news commentator. FDR hired him because of his popularity as a radio announcer with a great voice for delivering news, and urged him to continue his radio broadcasts in the United States while working for him in the Office of War Information. Elmer Davis did, thus giving President Roosevelt and the White House an opportunity to propagandize to Americans during wartime. These domestic and international broadcasts did include a lot of useful factual information, as well as anti-Nazi and anti-fascist messages. However, they also included pro-Soviet messages, including propaganda and lies which Stalin wanted Americans and VOA’s foreign audiences to hear. At the same time, the Voice of America was not broadcasting in Russian because pro-Soviet Roosevelt Administration officials apparently were afraid of offending Stalin. VOA would not start its Russian-language broadcasts until 1947. While working as the head of the Office of War Information and recording commentaries for the Voice of America and domestic radio networks in the United States, Elmer Davis managed to deceive and confuse U.S. media and public opinion by claiming that reports of Polish officers being killed by the Russians in the Katyn Forest massacre were “fishy’ and “phony propaganda stories.” The New York Times reported his radio comments on May 6, 1943, but other New York Times reports highlighted facts pointing to Russia’s hand in the mass murder. At that time, the Voice of America would not report any negative news about the Soviet Union, Stalin or communist parties and front organizations controlled by Moscow. In 1943 VOA news was written and edited by Howard Fast who later worked for the Communist Party USA newspaper The Daily Worker and became a best-selling author.
VOA started to tell partial truth about the Katyn murders only after 1945 and did not report fully on this and other Soviet atrocities until about 1952. Even later there was some VOA censorship on Katyn which lasted until President Reagan took office in 1981.
It is now an almost totally forgotten fact that parts of the U.S. government, but generally not in the U.S. Congress, were complicit in helping to spread the Soviet propaganda lie and fake news about Katyn. The most active in pushing the Soviet propaganda lie about Katyn were pro-Soviet and communist sympathizers in the wartime agency, which included what would later be known as the Voice of America. Full and honest reporting on Katyn by VOA started only in the early 1950s due to tremendous criticism and pressure from the U.S. Congress and the Polish American community, but later the story was again largely ignored in VOA broadcasts. At the same time, Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL), also funded by the U.S. government and operating semi-independently since the early 1950s from Munich in West Germany, were reporting fully and honestly on the Katyn Forest Massacre story to audiences behind the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War. During the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, VOA resumed unrestricted reporting on Katyn and other Soviet atrocities.
Office of War Information Director Elmer Davis, who was appointed to this position in the newly created agency by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in June 1942, began promoting the Soviet propaganda lie about the Katyn Forest Massacre in broadcasts on domestic U.S. radio networks as well as in Voice of America radio transmissions overseas in April and May 1943. VOA radio programs were produced in New York by the U.S. government wartime propaganda agency under his overall direction. He himself recorded a weekly commentary, which was broadcast during part of the war by both the Voice of America overseas and domestically on U.S. radio networks. Thanks to him, the Executive Branch had a propaganda outlet to address both Americans and radio listeners abroad. Soviet propaganda messages, including the Katyn lie, were spread by the Roosevelt Administration to both domestic and foreign audiences despite protests in the U.S. Congress and critical U.S. media reports during World War II. Elmer Davis remained in charge of the Office of War Information until September 1945 when the office was dissolved by President Truman, and he found himself without a job. VOA was transferred to the State Department.
The first director of the Voice of America, John Houseman who later became a well-known Hollywood actor, was secretly identified by the State Department and the U.S. Army Intelligence in early April 1943 as a Soviet sympathizer who was hiring communists to fill VOA broadcasting positions. Even if the vast majority of them were not actual Soviet agents of influence, they determined the tone and content of VOA broadcasts.
In mid-April 1943, shortly after the Germans announced the discovery of the Katyn graves and Soviet Russia denied any responsibility for the mass murder, the U.S. State Department advised Elmer Davis to avoid taking sides on the Katyn Massacre, but he ignored the advice of U.S. diplomats and others who told him that the atrocity was almost certainly committed by the Soviets. At that time, the VOA Polish desk in New York was dominated by communist sympathizers working with John Houseman, who promoted the Soviet Katyn lie as a true news story. One of them was VOA’s chief news writer and editor Howard Fast, who later joined the Communist Party USA and in 1953 received the Stalin Peace Prize. Houseman was forced to resign from his position in mid-1943, and Fast left in January 1944.
Even before the Katyn Forest Massacre story broke in mid-April 1943, the State Department refused to give Houseman a U.S. passport for official U.S. government travel abroad and informed the Roosevelt White House that Houseman along with several other OWI employees should be regarded as unreliable. After Houseman’s forced departure from the Voice of America in the summer of 1943, the pro-Soviet staff he had hired and other key managers under Elmer Davis continued to broadcast Soviet lies about Katyn and other Soviet propaganda until the end of the war and possibly even longer. After the war, a few of these VOA broadcasters, people such as Stefan Arski, aka Artur Salman, went to work for communist regimes in Eastern Europe as anti-U.S. propagandists or diplomats. They were eventually replaced at VOA by anti-communist refugee journalists from Eastern Europe. But even these anti-communist broadcasters, such as the famous Polish anti-Nazi fighter Zofia Korbońska, for many years had a hard time trying to convince their managers to pay more attention to the Katyn Forest Massacre story.
The Voice of America avoided reporting on the Katyn Forest Massacre in any great detail until about 1952 when pressure from the U.S. Congress and the Korean War combined with the intensification of the Cold War in Europe forced VOA’s management, which was then in the State Department, to significantly increase reporting on the congressional investigation of the Katyn Massacre and on Stalinist atrocities in general. This enhanced VOA coverage lasted only a short time.
In the early 1950s, Elmer Davis was criticized for his role in enabling the spread of Soviet fake news through the Voice of America, but later the whole incident was forgotten and became part of the Katyn cover-up. A bipartisan select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, which conducted an investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre, concluded in 1952 that Elmer Davis was responsible for spreading fake Soviet propaganda news through the Voice of America. The congressional committee also found that his agency, including one of its officials, future U.S. Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), engaged in illegal attempts to censor and suppress U.S. ethnic media because of their true reporting on the Katyn Forest Massacre and the Soviet Union. Elmer Davis himself took measures in trying to get the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down a Polish American newspaper. The Final Report issued by the bipartisan Madden Committee, named after its chairman Rep. Ray Madden (D-IN), was almost never mentioned in books and articles written about VOA, most likely because it reflected poorly on the Roosevelt Administration and VOA’s early management and history.
The 1943 secret State Department memorandum identifying the first VOA director John Houseman as a pro-Soviet communist sympathizer was declassified in the 1970s, but it also has not been mentioned in books or articles about VOA or the Katyn Forest Massacre. The formerly classified State Department memorandum about Soviet and communist influence in the Office of War Information with its Voice of America broadcasts was first highlighted by the Cold War Radio Museum in May 2018 to a wider reading audience interested in the history of U.S. international broadcasting. During World War II, OWI’s overseas radio broadcasts were not yet commonly referred to as “Voice of America” broadcasts but the OWI unit in charge of them eventually became officially known as the Voice of America. It is important to remember that the United States was engaged at that time in a total war with Nazi Germany and Japan, and the Soviet Union was a valuable military ally in the war. Russia, however, was not America’s political ally, although parts of the Roosevelt Administration and the Voice of America tried to present it as such and to promote Stalin as a believer in democracy and supporter of peace and freedom.
Even during World War II, many members of Congress were warning that the Voice of America pro-Soviet Russia propaganda was wrong and dangerous. In 1952, they criticized Elmer Davis but not John Houseman who escaped scrutiny and was quickly forgotten but was later presented by some of his admirers at the Voice of America as a model of journalistic objectivity and truthful news reporting. He cultivated that image in his later life as a successful Hollywood actor.
Even Elmer Davis presented himself later as a fighter for honest journalism, but that is not how a bipartisan congressional committee saw him in 1952 based on his performance from 1942 to 1945 as the director of the Office of War Information.
“Mr. Davis, therefore, bears the responsibility for accepting the Soviet propaganda version of the Katyn massacre without full investigation. A very simple check with either Army Intelligence (G- 2) or the State Department would have revealed that the Katyn massacre issue was extremely controversial.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), accessed October 26, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582.[/ref]
Elmer Davis’ Voice of America overseas broadcast on May 3, 1943, which also happened to be Poland’s national holiday in commemoration of the May 3rd Constitution, was callous in its lack of empathy for thousands of victims and their families. It included a number of obviously false and misleading assertions. One of them was that medical experts would not have been able to tell how long ago the men were executed.
Audio Recording of Soviet Katyn Propaganda Lie in U.S. Domestic Radio and Voice of America Broadcast by Elmer Davis, Office of War Information (OWI) Director
“But while the German armies are finding it pretty tough going, the German propaganda won a striking success last week when it succeeded in bringing about a break in diplomatic relations between Russia and the Polish government in exile. The way the Germans did it is a good example of the doctrine Hitler preached in Mein Kampf, that it is easier to make most people swallow a big lie than a little one. When the Germans had beaten Poland in September 1939, the Russians moved in and occupied eastern Poland, taking thousands of Polish troops as prisoners. In June 1941, when the Germans attacked Russia, they overran all this territory and have held it since. Now, almost two years later they suddenly claim to have discovered near Smolensk the corpses of thousands of Polish officers, who, according to the Nazis, were murdered by the Russians three years ago.
In several respects, this story looks very fishy. At first, the Nazis were quite uncertain about the number killed; they said 10,000, then 2,000 and then 5,000, before finally deciding on 12,000. Rome and Berlin disagreed as to how they had been killed. The Japs and the Vichy French got their signals crossed and were telling about Rumanians murdered in Odessa, not Poles in Smolensk. First, Rome and Berlin disagreed as to how they had been killed. The remains must have been better preserved than is usual after three years. The Russians were said to have tried hard to conceal the graves, yet they buried every man in uniform with his identification tag, according to the German story. Suggestions of an investigation by the International Red Cross mean nothing, for the Germans control the area. It would be easy for them to show the investigators corpse in uniform with identification tags. But there is no way the investigators could determine whether these men were killed by the Russians, or by the Germans, as they probably were. The Nazis are known to have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Poles after the fighting was over. If they found a camp full of Polish prisoners when they attacked Russia, it would have been the most natural thing in the world for the Germans to murder them, too, if not at the moment, then later when they needed corpses for propaganda exhibits.
Remember that when the Germans invaded Poland, they told the world that they had found the graves of thousands of German civilians massacred by the Poles. Few people ever believed that story; it is all the more remarkable that any Poles who remember it should believe this one, especially as its motives are so obvious. The first motive is to distract the attention of the world from the mass murders which the Germans have been steadily committing in Poland for three and a half years — murders by now so numerous that they look like a deliberate attempt to exterminate the Polish people. Another purpose would be to arouse suspicion and distrust between Russia and the rest of the United Nations — which would help the Germans in two ways. Directly, it might hamper the prosecution of the war that we are all fighting against Germany. Indirectly, it might help to prop up German morale at home. There is plenty of evidence that among the German civilian population — yes, even among the army — there is less belief that they can ever win a decisive victory over all their enemies. But German propaganda has persuaded many of them that any day now America and Britain might call off the war, make a compromise peace, and leave Germany free to turn on Russia. And of course, more people will believe that if there is trouble between Russia and any other of the United Nations.
Yet this lurid murder story, which so plainly can do no good to anybody but the Germans, had serious consequences for the Nazi propagandists were cleverly jabbing at a sore spot. The longstanding friction between Russia and Poland over the future frontier between those countries. This dispute is hundreds of years old. The Poles occupied much disputed territory after the war of 1920. The Russians moved back westward in 39. Two years later, the Germans pushed the Russians out. But statements by Russian leaders since have indicated that when they reconquer the territory they occupied in 1939 they mean to keep it. But the Poles insist on keeping it too, on retaining their country as it was before Hitler attacked them. The outsider looks as if the time to settle this argument is after Germany is licked. For until Germany is licked good and thoroughly, it won’t make any difference where you draw that frontier line. That the situation has been permitted to get into the present tangle is no credit to either Polish or Russian statesmanship. General Sikorski, head of the Polish government in exile, is an able and a reasonable man, but he is under constant pressure from a faction of extremists, the sort of men void of any sense of political realities who ruined Poland in the 18th century. But the reason these people were able to push Sikorski’s government into suggesting a Red Cross investigation of this fantastic murder story was that the Russians for months past had been completely un-receptive to any suggestions made by the Polish government for better and more humane treatment of Polish refugees in Russian territory.
The Poles have now apparently withdrawn their suggestion of a Red Cross investigation. But when they made it, the Russians promptly broke relations with them in a note whose violent language is hard to explain. If Stalin means to go on dealing with the Poles at all, it’s certainly poor policy for him to undermine Sikorski, the most reasonable of Polish leaders. And if, as unconfirmed rumors [sic] have suggested, if the Russians should set up in Moscow a rival Polish government in exile composed of fellow travelers, that would do Hitler more good and Russia more harm than anything Nazi propagandists could ever think up. This has been treated by both Poles and Russians pretty much as a matter that concerns them alone. If it were finally to be settled on that basis, Russia’s enormous preponderance in size would give the answer.
But anything that creates division among the United Nations is the concern of every one of those nations — the United States included — because we must all hold together to win the war. After the war, if the United Nations continue to hold together in some sort of collective security system, there will be less danger that any of the great powers might feel it had to safeguard its individual security at the expense of weaker neighbors. That is the only way this Polish-Russian issue can be treated — as one phase of the problem of world security.”
The bipartisan Madden Committee concluded in 1952 that while some measures taken by the Office of War Information could have been excused as a wartime necessity with regard to Russia as a military ally, American officials and VOA journalists misled the American public and foreign audiences about the true nature of the Soviet regime thus preventing a more pragmatic policy toward Russia from being adopted. Considering the cost of the failure of the Yalta Agreement, it was a profoundly serious charge that was never answered and was quickly forgotten. On November 11, 1952, the Madden Committee grilled Elmer Davis over his Soviet Katyn propaganda lie broadcasts. He was asked to read a large portion of his May 3, 1943 Voice of America commentary from a transcript reported at the time by the U.S. Embassy in Sweden. [The transcript read by Elmer Davis during his 1952 congressional testimony and presented by the Select Committee on the Katyn Investigation as one of the exhibits differs slightly from the original audio recording but does not alter its meaning. Minor edits might have been introduced in transcription.] Responding to questions from committee members, Davis gave a number of both revealing and misleading answers and lashed out at his congressional and Polish and Polish American critics, as John Houseman did later in his autobiography Unfinished Business.
In its Final Report, released on December 22, 1952, the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, criticized both Elmer Davis and the Voice of America.
“The Katyn investigation revealed that many individuals throughout the State Department, Army Intelligence (G-2), Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission, and other Government agencies, failed to properly evaluate the material being received from our sources overseas. In many instances, this information was deliberately withheld from public attention and knowledge. There was a definite lack of coordination on intelligence matters between Army Intelligence (G-2) and the State Department, at least as far as the missing Polish officers and the Katyn massacre was concerned.
The possibility exists that many second-echelon personnel, who were overly sympathetic to the Russian cause or pro-Communist minded, attempted to cover up derogatory reports which were received concerning the Soviets.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre pursuant to H. Res. 390 and H. Res. 539, Eighty-Second Congress, a resolution to authorize the investigation of the mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952), accessed October 26, 2017, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=osu.32435078695582.[/ref]
The Madden Committee also said in its “Final Report”:
“Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).[/ref]
The bipartisan congressional committee added:
“This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre. Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1952).[/ref]
But even the Madden Committee was not made aware in 1951 and 1952 of many secret U.S. government diplomatic cables and other communications which showed the extent to which Robert E. Sherwood, a “Founding Father” of the Voice of America, and other Office of War Information officials, including John Houseman, coordinated VOA’s wartime propaganda with Soviet propaganda and became advocates for Stalin’s plans for the domination of Eastern Europe.
Close cooperation between Soviet and American government propagandists and employment of Soviet agents of influence at the wartime Voice of America helped to obscure the betrayal of U.S. allies and democratic values at the February 1945 Yalta Conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The betrayal was accompanied by the U.S. government’s pro-Russian propaganda and censorship of information to prevent Americans and foreign audiences from learning about the true nature of Soviet communism and Stalin’s intentions to subjugate Central and Eastern Europe. While protecting Stalin and Russia from criticism was excused by some during the war as dictated by a military necessity, it was harder to excuse the continuing cover-up of Stalinist crimes in post-war Voice of America broadcasts.
After the war, one of many members of the U.S. Congress who raised alarm about Soviet influence and censorship at the Voice of America was a U.S. Representative from Illinois (1951 to 1959) Timothy P. Sheehan. He was a Republican member of the bipartisan Select Committee of the House of Representatives, which investigated the 1940 Soviet mass murder of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia. In a supplementary statement to the committee’s Final Report, Congressman Sheehan included a segment on “Propaganda Agencies.” The congressional investigation put a temporary stop to most of VOA’s censorship of the Soviet responsibility for the Katyn Forest Massacre.
Timothy P. Sheehan, R-IL:
“Admittedly, during the Katyn investigation, we but scratched the surface on the part that the Office of War Information and the Voice of America took in following the administration line in suppressing the facts about the Katyn massacre. During the war, there may have been a reasonable excuse for not broadcasting facts which were available in our State Department and Army Intelligence about the Katyn massacre and other facts which proved Russia’s failure to live up to her agreements. After the war, there certainly was no excuse for not using in our propaganda war the truths which were in the files of our various Government departments.
One of the witnesses from the Department of State, which controls the policy of the Voice of America, stated that they did not broadcast the fact of Katyn behind the iron curtain was because they did not have sufficient facts on it. Yet, the preponderance of evidence presented to our committee about the cover-up came from the files of the State Department itself.
The Voice of America, in its limited broadcasts about the Katyn massacre, followed a wishy-washy, spineless policy. From other information revealed about the policies followed by the Voice of America, a committee of the Congress ought to make a thorough investigation and see to it that the Voice pursues a firm and workable propaganda program and does not serve to cover up the mistakes of the State Department or the incumbent administration.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), p. 15.[/ref]
In a segment on “Misjudgment of Russia,” Congressman Sheehan also mentioned the role of the Voice of America in misleading not only foreign but also American public opinion. During World War II, many of the Office of War Information news and broadcasts were widely distributed to media in the United States. The U.S. Congress put a stop to domestic distribution of VOA programs by passing the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act. The Final Report of the so-called Madden Committee was released on December 22, 1952.
Timothy P. Sheehan, R-IL:
“Roosevelt’s misjudgment that Russia would honor her agreements, in spite of the factual record of her past broken promises, has proven to be the major error in our entire foreign policy. In setting this policy, our Government, through the State Department, the Army Intelligence (G-2), the Office of War Information, and the Voice of America, followed the policy line so that the American people were misled. During the war the American public was led to believe that Russia was a loyal and trustworthy ally and after the war and until very recently, the executive department covered up the fact that they were so grossly mistaken about Russia.
To me, the reason why our Government suppressed the truth about the Katyn massacre was because this was but a small part of the giant error made in our foreign policy program. If our Government would have disclosed the truth about Katyn and the sellout of Poland, it would have had to disclose more truths about the perfidy of Russia. The American people would have then spoken in no uncertain terms and the Democrat administration did not want that to happen for very obvious reasons.”[ref]The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report of the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances on the Katyn Massacre (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), pp. 14-15.[/ref]
Union Calendar No. 792
82d Congress, 2d Session- – – – – – – – – – – House Report No.2505
THE KATYN FOREST MASSACRE
SELECT COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN
INVESTIGATION AND STUDY OF THE FACTS,
EVIDENCE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES ON THE
KATYN FOREST MASSACRE
H. Res. 390
H. Res. 539
A RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE THE INVESTIGATION
OF THE MASS MURDER OF POLISH OFFICERS IN THE
KATYN FOREST NEAR SMOLENSK, RUSSIA
DECEMBER 22, 1952.—Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on
the State of the Union and ordered to be printed
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1952
SELECT COMMITTEE TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION AND STUDY OF
THE FACTS, EVIDENCE, AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE KATYN FOREST
RAY J. MADDEN, Indiana, Chairman
DANIEL J. FLOOD, Pennsylvania
FOSTER FURCOLO, Massachusetts
THADDEUS M. MACHROWICZ, Michigan
GEORGE A. DONDERO, Michigan
ALVIN E. O’KONSKI, Wisconsin
TIMOTHY P . SHEEHAN, Illinois
JOHN J. MITCHELL, Chief Counsel
ROMAN C. PUCINSKI, Chief Investigator
LUCILE S. BIEBIGHAUSEE, Secretary
OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
When the Nazis, on April 13, 1943, announced to the world the finding of the mass graves of the Polish officers at Katyn and accused the Soviets, the Allies were stunned by this action and called it propaganda. Mr. Elmer Davis, news commentator, then head of the Office of War Information, an agency established by Executive order, told this committee he reported direct to the President. Under questioning he admitted frequent conferences with the State Department and other Government agencies. However, testifying before this committee, when faced with his own broadcast of May 3, 1943, in which he accused the Nazis of using the Katyn massacre as propaganda, he admitted under questioning that this broadcast was made on his own initiative.
This is another example of the failure to coordinate between Government agencies. A State Department memorandum dated April 22, 1943, which was read into the record (see vol. VII of the published hearings), stated:
and on the basis of the various conflicting contentions [concerning Katyn] of all parties concerned, it would appear to be advisable to refrain from taking any definite stand in regard to this question.
Mr. Davis, therefore, bears the responsibility for accepting the Soviet propaganda version of the Katyn massacre without full investigation. A very simple check with either Army Intelligence (G- 2) or the State Department would have revealed that the Katyn massacre issue was extremely controversial.
Furthermore, members of the staff of both OWI and FCC did engage in activities beyond the scope of their responsibilities. This unusual activity of silencing radio commentators first came to light in August 1943 when the House committee investigating the National Communications Commission discovered the procedure.
The technique utilized by staff members of OWI and FCC to silence was as follows: Polish radio commentators in Detroit and Buffalo broadcasting in foreign languages after the announcement of
the discovery of the mass graves of Polish officers at Katyn reported facts indicating that the Soviets might be guilty of this massacre.
In May 1943 a member of the FCC staff suggested to a member of the OWI staff that the only way to prevent these comments was to contact the Wartime Foreign Language Radio Control Committee. This committee was made up of station owners and managers who were endeavoring to cooperate with the OWI and FCC during the war years. Accordingly a meeting was arranged in New York with two of the members of this industry committee. They were specifically requested by the OWI staff member to arrange to have a Polish radio commentator in Detroit restrict his comments to straight news items concerning Katyn, and only those by the standard wire services. The fact that a member of the FCC staff attended this meeting is significant because the FCC in such a case had no jurisdiction. In fact, the FCC member was in New York to discuss the renewal of the radio license of one of these industry members. The owner of the radio station in Detroit was contacted and requested to restrict the comments of the Polish commentator on his station, and this was done.
By applying indirect pressure on the station owner, these staff members accomplished their purpose, namely, keeping the full facts of the Katyn massacre story from the American people. (See vol. VII of the published hearings.)
Office of Censorship officials testified and supported the conclusion of this committee that the OWI and FCC officials acted beyond the scope of their official Government responsibilities on this matter of Katyn. Testimony before this committee likewise proves that the Voice of America—successor to the Office of War Information—had failed to fully utilize available information concerning the Katyn massacre until the creation of this committee in 1951. The committee was not impressed with statements that publication of facts concerning this crime, prior to 1951, would lead to an ill-fated uprising in Poland. Neither was it convinced by the statements of OWI officials that for the Polish-Americans to hear or read about the Katyn massacre in 1943 would have resulted in a lessening of their cooperation in the Allied war effort.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON
Mr. Justice Jackson appeared before this committee and advised that he had received no instructions or information concerning the Katyn massacre. When asked to explain how the Katyn affair happened to come on the agenda of the Nuremberg trials under the indictment of Herman Goering, he stated that the Soviets were responsible for drawing indictments on war crimes committed in eastern Europe. Mr. Justice Jackson stated as follows:
To the United States was allocated the over-all conspiracy to incite and wage a war of aggression. The British were assigned the violation of specific treaties and crimes on the high seas. Violations of the laws of war and crimes against humanity were divided on a geographical basis. The French undertook crimes in western Europe, and the
Soviet prosecution was assigned the duty of preparing and presenting evidence of crimes in eastern European area largely in Soviet occupation, and to much of which the others of us had no access. The geographical area thus assigned to the Soviet representatives included Katyn wood and Poland as well, but at that time it was not known that the Katyn massacre would be involved.
When asked by the committee if he had received the various reports then in the files of the State Department and Army Intelligence (G-2), Mr. Justice Jackson testified that he had not. When asked by the committee what he would have done if he had received these reports, he replied as follows:
Of course, any information would have been helpful. If we had had information of that kind, I cannot pass on whether this would have been adequate, but if we had had adequate information of Russian guilt, we would not have consented at all to have the charge against the Nazis. It would have strengthened our hand in keeping it out immensely and probably would have resulted in the Soviets not making the accusation.
Before this committee was formed, many allegations were made that Americans on Mr. Jackson’s staff at Nuremberg assisted the Soviets in the preparation of this case on Katyn against the Nazis. The committee desired to clarify this point and specifically asked Mr. Jackson this question, and he denied that any member of his staff participated in the preparation of the Katyn indictment. The committee viewed with interest Mr. Justice Jackson’s statement in his testimony which is as follows:
This history will show that, if it is now deemed possible to establish responsibility for the Katyn murders, nothing that was decided by the Nuremberg Tribunal or contended for by the American prosecution will stand in your way.
1. In submitting this final report to the House of Representatives, this committee has come to the conclusion that in those fateful days nearing the end of the Second World War there unfortunately existed in high governmental and military circles a strange psychosis that military necessity required the sacrifice of loyal allies and our own principles in order to keep Soviet Russia from making a separate peace with the Nazis. For reasons less clear to this committee, this psychosis continued even after the conclusion of the war. Most of the witnesses testified that had they known then what they now know about Soviet Russia, they probably would not have pursued the course they did. It is undoubtedly true that hindsight is much easier to follow than foresight, but it is equally true that much of the material which this committee unearthed was or could have been available to those responsible for our foreign policy as early as 1942. And, it is equally true that even before 1942 the Kremlin rulers gave much evidence of a menace of Soviet imperialism paving the way for world conquest. Through the disastrous failure to recognize
the danger signs which then existed and in following a policy of satisfying the Kremlin leaders, our Government unwittingly strengthened their hand and contributed to a situation which has grown to be a menace to the United States and the entire free world.
2. Our committee is sending a copy of this report, and volume 7 of the published hearings, to the Department of Defense for such action as may be proper with regard to General Bissell. We do so because of the fact that this committee believes that had the Van Vliet report been made immediately available to the Department of State and to the American public, the course of our governmental policy toward Soviet Russia might have been more realistic with more fortunate postwar results.
3. This committee believes that the wartime policies of Army Intelligence (G-2) during 1944-45 should undergo a thorough investigation. Testimony heard by the committee substantiates this belief, and if such an investigation is conducted another object lesson might be learned.
4. Our committee concludes that the staff members of the Office of War Information and Federal Communications Commission who participated in the program of silencing Polish radio commentators went beyond the scope of their duties as official Government representatives. Actually, they usurped the functions of the Office of Censorship and by indirect pressure accomplished domestic censorship which was not within the jurisdiction of either of these agencies.
5. This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.
6. This committee began its investigation last year, and as the committee’s work progressed, information, documents, and evidence was submitted from all parts of the world. It was at this same time that reports reached the committee of similar atrocities and violations of international law being perpetrated in Korea. This committee noted the striking similarity between crimes committed against the Poles at Katyn and those being inflicted on American and other United Nation troops in Korea. Communist tactics being used in Korea are identical to those followed at Katyn. Thus this committee believes that Congress should undertake an immediate investigation of the Korean war atrocities in order that the evidence can be collected and the truth revealed to the American people and the free peoples of the world. This committee will return to Congress approximately $21,000 in surplus funds, and it is suggested that this money be made available by Congress for such an investigation.
The final report of the Select Committee Investigating the Katyn Forest Massacre hereby incorporates the recommendations contained in the interim report, filed on July 2, 1952 (H. Rept. No. 2430).
This committee unanimously recommends that the House of Representatives approve the committee’s findings and adopt a resolution:
1. Requesting the President of the United States to forward the testimony, evidence, and findings of this committee to the United States delegates at the United Nations;
2. Requesting further that the President of the United States issue instructions to the United States delegates to present the Katyn case to the General Assembly of the United Nations;
3. Requesting that appropriate steps be taken by the General Assembly to seek action before the International World Court of Justice against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for committing a crime at Katyn which was in violation of the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;
4. Requesting the President of the United States to instruct the United States delegation to seek the establishment of an international commission which would investigate other mass murders and crimes against humanity.
RAY J. MADDEN, Chairman.
DANIEL J. FLOOD.
THADDEUS M. MACHROWICZ.
GEORGE A. DONDERO.
ALVIN E. O’KONSKI.
TIMOTHY P. SHEEHAN.
￼SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT BY MR. SHEEHAN
On November 22d I addressed a letter to the Honorable Ray J. Madden, chairman of our committee, listing my conclusions for the consideration of the Katyn Committee to be incorporated in the final report.
Most of these conclusions have been incorporated in the final report and I am happy to join with my colleagues in making this a unanimous report. However, it seems to me that there is need for further emphasis on several points covered in the report and I feel these points can be best emphasized by this addendum to the final report.
MISJUDGMENT OF RUSSIA
On page 3 of this final report the opening sentence under the heading “Second phase” read:
The Congress requested that our committee determine why certain reports and files concerning the Katyn massacre disappeared or were suppressed by departments of our Government.
From the disclosure of many hitherto secret documents and from the oral testimony of men like our former Ambassadors Standley and Harriman, Special Ambassador George Earle, the former Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles and others, the cover-up of the facts of the Katyn massacre and withholding them from the American people was but a part of the desire on the part of the Democrat administration to cover their basic and colossal error in their foreign policy judgment.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who Mr. Harriman stated set our foreign policy and was the final authority on all foreign policy decisions, thought that Russia would disintegrate immediately after the end of the war. When warned by various of his appointees that Russia would become a great menace, Mr. Roosevelt silenced these men and refused to heed their advice. Mr. Roosevelt kept committing our country to agreements with the Russians in spite of the fact, as Mr. Harriman stated, that—
* * * There were a series of misdeeds by the Russians, from our standpoint, beginning with the Ribbentrop treaty, that it (revelation of the Katyn massacre) would have contributed, I think, to further distrust of the Soviets.
Roosevelt’s misjudgment that Russia would honor her agreements, in spite of the factual record of her past broken promises, has proven to be the major error in our entire foreign policy. In setting this policy, our Government, through the State Department, the Army Intelligence (G-2), the Office of War Information,
and the Voice of America, followed the policy line so that the American people were misled. During the war the American public was led to believe that Russia was a loyal and trustworthy ally and after the war and until very recently, the executive department covered up the fact that they were so grossly mistaken about Russia.
To me, the reason why our Government suppressed the truth about the Katyn massacre was because this was but a small part of the giant error made in our foreign policy program. If our Government would have disclosed the truth about Katyn and the sellout of Poland, it would have had to disclose more truths about the perfidy of Russia. The American people would have then spoken in no uncertain terms and the Democrat administration did not want that to happen for very obvious reasons.
Admittedly, during the Katyn investigation, we but scratched the surface on the part that the Office of War Information and the Voice of America took in following the administration line in suppressing the facts about the Katyn massacre. During the war there may have been a reasonable excuse for not broadcasting facts which were available in our State Department and Army Intelligence about the Katyn massacre and other facts which proved Russia’s failure to live up to her agreements. After the war there certainly was no excuse for not using in our propaganda war the truths which were in the files of our various Government departments.
One of the witnesses from the Department of State, which controls the policy of the Voice of America, stated that they did not broadcast the fact of Katyn behind the iron curtain was because they did not have sufficient facts on it. Yet the preponderance of evidence presented to our committee about the cover-up came from the files of the State Department itself.
The Voice of America, in its limited broadcasts about the Katyn massacre, followed a wishy-washy, spineless policy. From other information revealed about the policies followed by the Voice of America, a committee of the Congress ought to make a thorough investigation and see to it that the Voice pursues a firm and workable propaganda program and does not serve to cover up the mistakes of the State Department or the incumbent administration.
ARMY INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES
The United States Congress should investigate the wartime and postwar operation of the Army Intelligence (G-2) and the Counter-intelligence Agency. In our search for the missing Van Vliet report in the Army Intelligence Agency, there was revealed a very serious lack of close liaison between the various Government agencies. There was revealed to the committee a definite pro-Soviet sympathy by certain people working for G-2 during the war. In early 1942 one of our military attaches connected with Intelligence recommended that counterintelligence measures be set up against the Russians; he was advised that he showed a Russian bias and did
not know what he was doing. Several men who were openly anti-Russian were soon transferred out of this department. Documents were missing from this department which tended to be contrary to Russian interests. It was pointed out to our committee in executive session that quite a number of employees in G-2 who were suspected of Communist or leftwing sympathies were transferred to the Counter-intelligence Agency. Just several months ago two German officials of an agency which is the equivalent of our Federal Bureau of Investigation refused to make use of our Counter-intelligence Agency because they stated the German division of this agency was infiltrated by the Communists.
Mr. Harriman in his testimony stated that on the “strong recommendation of our Chiefs of Staff every effort was made to get Russia to come into the war against Japan. The quick and complete collapse of Japan took everyone by surprise because we thought the American armies would be forced to land on the plains of Tokyo. Postwar revelations proved that Japan sought out Russian help about 6 months prior to the end of the war, pleading with Russia to act as a peace intermediary. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were undoubtedly following the advice of Army Intelligence agencies, which apparently were grossly mistaken.
Did Russian influence in our Army Intelligence contribute to this gross miscalculation of Japan’s fighting capabilities? If so, is this element still in Army Intelligence? For the peace and security of our country, some independent body, such as Congress, should investigate.
Mr. Alvin E. O’Konski concurs in the above statement of Mr. Sheehan.
SUPPLEMENTARY STATEMENT OF MESSRS.
MADDEN, FLOOD, AND MACHROWICZ
We have carefully examined the statement submitted by Mr. Sheehan. We believe that the final report adopted unanimously and signed by all the members of the committee adequately and fully explains all the matters contained in this addendum. We are therefore submitting no additional remarks.