Soviet Russia’s lie that the Nazi Germans and not the Soviets were responsible for the mass execution murder of over 20,000 Polish officers, intellectual leaders and other prisoners of war was the greatest fake news of the World War II and the Cold War which lasted from the actual murders in April and May 1940 until 1990 when Russia finally admitted that the Soviet secret police NKVD was responsible for this act of genocide. The NKVD murdered the Polish prisoners of war on the orders orders issued by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party Politburo. It is now almost totally forgotten that parts of the U.S. government, but certainly not the U.S. Congress, were complicit in spreading 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 agency which included what would later be known as the Voice of America (VOA). Even after the war, some VOA reports about Katyn were censored. 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 but later the story was again largely ignored in VOA broadcasts. At the same time, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, also funded by the U.S. government, were reporting fully and honestly on the Katyn Forest Massacre story. During the Reagan administration, VOA resumed unrestricted reporting on Katyn and other Soviet atrocities.
In April and May 1943, the Office of War Information (OWI) Director Elmer Davis who was appointed to this position by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in June 1942, began spreading the Soviet propaganda lie about the Katyn Forest Massacre of thousands of Polish military officers in broadcasts on domestic U.S. radio networks as well as in Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts overseas. Voice of America broadcasts were produced in New York by the U.S. government wartime propaganda agency Elmer Davis was in charge of until September 1945. The head of the Voice of America, John Houseman, was identified a few weeks earlier by the State Department and the Army Intelligence as a who was hiring communists to fill VOA broadcasting position.
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 mass murder was almost certainly committed by the Soviets. He chose to ignore their advice.
The VOA Polish desk in New York was dominated by communist sympathizers working with John Houseman. Several weeks later, Houseman was forced to resign from his position. Even before the Katyn Forest Massacre story broke in mid-April 1943, the State Department refused to give him a U.S. passport for official U.S. government travel abroad. The Voice of America staff Houseman 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. After the war, a few of these VOA broadcasters went to work for communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
The Voice of America continued to avoid 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 the management of the Voice of America, then in the State Department, to significantly increase reporting on the congressional investigation of the Katyn Massacre and on other Soviet crimes.
A bipartisan select committee of the House of Representatives, which conducted an investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre, concluded in 1952:
“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.”1
- The bipartisan Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, also known as the Madden Committee, said in its final report issued in December 1952: “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.” The committee added: “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.” The Madden Committee also said in its final report in 1952: “This committee believes that if the Voice of America is to justify its existence, it must utilize material made available more forcefully and effectively.” A major change in VOA programs occurred, with much more reporting being done on the investigation into the Katyń massacre and other Soviet atrocities, but later some of the censorship returned. Radio Free Europe (RFE), also funded and indirectly managed by the U.S., never resorted to such censorship, and provided full coverage of all communist human rights abuses. See: Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, The Katyn Forest Massacre: Final Report (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 10-12. The report is posted on the National Archives website: https://archive.org/details/KatynForestMassacreFinalReport. ↩