The majority of Americans at home are learning through written accounts of foreign correspondents that Democracy is losing the propaganda war with the forces of Communism, but to the American tourist in Europe our failure becomes most apparent. The billions spent on Marshall Plan Aid show little or no return in good will toward the United States; in short, the sacrifices of the American taxpayer are not being appreciated by the recipients. It is ironic, indeed, that our nation, whose economy is based in large measure on effective advertising, possessing the ability to sell everything that its industries can produce, still lacks the ability to sell our way of life to the rest of the world, and particularly to Europe. There are very few places on the Continent where the travelling American is not greeted with signs branding him the “bacteriological killer of Korea,” or where the units of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean can moor without notices painted on seawalls, “U S NAVY GO HOME.” Foreign correspondents indicate that this “GO HOME” suggestion is not reserved for the Navy, but applies to all United States forces. Signs of “AMI GO HOME,” appearing in the interior of Europe, actually have the blessing of the majority and seem to indicate that Western Europe is “fed up” with the long presence of American soldiers. It should be of great concern to us that the “AMI GO HOME” expresses the sentiment of wide non-communistic circles. It should be of greater concern that this type of warning is being considered friendly advice by the non- communistic sources. How much of this can we attribute to clever Communist propaganda? If the American tourist bothers to investigate, he would find signs of Communist work, and its effect on the populace can readily be imagined.
Last year while I was assigned to one of the large carriers with the Sixth Fleet, my family followed me around from port to port, trying to minimize the periods of separation caused by sea duty. An opportunity for leave came up when our portion of the Fleet was assigned to spend the better part of two weeks in Leghorn Harbor. Taking advantage of the opportunity, we toured the countryside as second class tourists. Our budget did not permit us to travel with the Excelsior Hotel set, for we had to carefully choose inexpensive pensions that were within our means. This probably presented us with a point of view that the average tourist unfortunately misses by virtue of having sufficient funds to mingle in wealthier tourist circles. I believe we saw more of conditions as they actually exist and were able to sense the hostility toward our nation that is not normally brought to our attention. Florence, Pisa, and Leghorn had its share of reminders that we were considered the real threats to world peace—reminders through posters and crudely chalked signs of buildings. In Leghorn, particularly, the attitude of the people was practically one of open hostility toward our country and its representatives. It was this atmosphere that caused me to consider sending my dependents back via the first available transportation, but fortunately I decided to wait until I had an opportunity to receive counsel from the Attaché’s Office in our Embassy in Rome. Further south and away from Communist dominated areas, there was a definite relaxation of the tense atmosphere. It was evident that the sympathies in Rome were not as strong as in the strongly organized industrial areas of Northern Italy, but there were definite signs of an active program to sway those that were up to the present time unaffected by the Communist ideology.
One evening my wife and I decided to walk to the Palazza Venezia, the scene of many of Mussolini’s oratorical performances, and quite by accident we saw an example of the big lie used by the Communists in affecting public opinion. We passed a building that houses the printing facilities of L’Unita, the Communist organ for Italy, and our attention was caught by a series of photographs appearing in the windows of that building. The pictures appearing in two different windows struck a comparison between the “idyllic” life of peace under Communism and the barbarism advocated by the United States. In one window appeared a series of pictures showing a Russian family working in the fields, their faces expressing complete happiness, and the last picture in the series was one of a “typical” Russian family at home. There was a radio present in the picture that undoubtedly was tuned to a station playing the best in classical music, and a bookshelf containing sufficient books of proper thickness to indicate a life of culture. The case for barbarism was presented in the other window with three photographs that had been taken by American photographers. The first in the series was a shot of a typical atomic explosion, probably taken during “Operation Crossroads” at Bikini atoll. The second picture portrayed some of the survivors of Hiroshima, among them being a Japanese woman and child whose faces were badly mangled and scarred. The last photograph was quite innocent in itself but took on an entirely different meaning when coupled with the first two. It was a picture of a well- known American Admiral and unidentified guests, cutting a cake fashioned in the shape of the atomic “mushroom” cloud, celebrating successful completion of “Operation Crossroads.’’ The descriptive text underneath the photographs very carefully refrained from properly identifying the pictures or the circumstances under which taken—an old Communist trick of subverting the truth for their own ends. A careful study of the pictures reveals a most frightening inference. They had taken the topic of the Atomic Bomb, which is uppermost in everyone’s mind today, and carefully tied in the Hiroshima bombing with a party scene allegedly celebrating the wholesale massacre of women and children. All of this was accomplished by using our own photographs and was not the result of trick photography. It is conceivable that the foreign nationals who have been exposed to this type of propaganda are asking themselves if the destruction of their own homes and families would be cause for as much jubilation by the Americans. The seeds of distrust and doubt have been planted. In the absence of a rebuttal, such tactics are very effective in swaying public opinion.
Personal inquiry among the native population to determine for myself why we were losing this war of ideals indicated that our attitude was to blame in part, that we did not understand the people we were trying to influence, or their temperament. An Italian college professor whom I believed to be unaffected by Communist propaganda pointed out that we subsidized some Italian periodicals for the purpose of presenting our views, and all too frequently pictures of Hollywood beauty queens or scenes of well stocked American supermarket stores were featured. It does not seem possible that this approach would be used in a country where land reform and poverty are major problems. Are we not gloating in the face of misery and need with such pictures?
Countries, like men, never have been and never will be equal. As in human activity where some excel in medicine, management, finance, athletics, or music, so do nations differ from one another. Just as we would not want individuals to be identical in taste and capability, we should take pride in our differences as nations. The contributions to the culture of the world made by the older nations should be emphasized as a source of their national pride. Communism, on the other hand, minimizes past achievement, preaches discontent and a promise of a finer life after the overthrow of the incumbent regime. The communist Manifesto outlines three steps to a Communistic state. They are: 1) Tear down the existing government, 2) Set up a dictator, 3) The dictator will try to work out happiness for all people. Do the duped followers of Communism or those that are undecided actually want this? Man’s natural desire for freedom will never knowingly and wilfully permit one person to be the all- powerful and supreme ruler over their property and the daily lives of their families. Under Communism there would be such a person.
Many of our own labor unions and veterans’ organizations, having found their ranks thoroughly infiltrated with Communists, were able to lick the Red menace with the traditional democratic methods of debate, identification, and exposure. To date, our propaganda efforts have not shown any real conception of the problem or the methods of defending and strengthening free society. The forces of Democracy can lose by default as surely as by a positive error. We must provide the peoples of Western Europe whose countries are presently lacking in political and economic stability with the necessary hope, while they are putting their lives on a firmer footing. We must show them that the personal word of the Communist is worthless and that cooperation with him is impossible. We must lead the way by example in restoring a sense of the value of facts, integrity of reason, and devotion to truth. We have all of the facilities available to us to stop the spread of the cancer of Communism, but we lack the deep concern, imagination, and initiative that the successful solution of any problem requires. The avenues are available for the dissemination of our information to the peoples of Europe, but we must organize our program to gain the utmost from our opportunities.
Recently an American author vacationing in Europe found himself the addressee of an open letter published in L’Unita, the same Communist paper that conducts the picture gallery near the Palazzo Venezia. The open letter was timed to coincide with General Ridgway’s arrival in Rome and to use our author, Mr. John Steinbeck, in branding the Commanding General of SHAPE as a murderer and the instigator of germ warfare in North Korea. Until Mr. Steinbeck arrived, L’Unita’s charges went unanswered. The newspaper had a clear field, realizing that if the lie is repeated often enough and is not exposed, then the average reader would soon accept it as the truth. Fortunately for us, John Steinbeck decided to answer this charge, not only through L’Unita which carefully edited his reply to suit its motives, but also through the non-communist dailies which proved most eager to print his reply in full. Mr. Steinbeck’s rebuttal stated that the only germ warfare we have engaged in came in the form of small information leaflets, the germ most feared by the forces of Communism—the germ of truth that could permeate and destroy their plan for world domination. The effect of his reply was tremendous and should demonstrate to us how vulnerable the Red propaganda program is to exposure. Similar exposure opportunities are available to us constantly, but we lack the necessary coordination to provide the agencies in the best position to offer rebuttal with the necessary material to substantiate their arguments. Each challenge must be answered. Silence in this war of words can be deadly.
It is not sufficient that we assume a defensive position, but we must develop a vigorous program designed to show our true identity and purpose to our doubtful allies. I use the word “doubtful” because of the great strides made thus far by Communist forces in swaying public opinion. Let us examine the nature of the totalitarian challenge—then we may acquire some notion of the strategy and tactics of a democratic counter offensive. The aims of the Communist propaganda program are: 1) to weaken individual countries by causing dissension and discord among their citizens, 2) to spread ideas of revolution against the present regime, 3) to exploit differences between allies in order to break up attempts at a coalition of military forces against the Soviet Union, and 4) to present the Soviet Union as an invincible power based on an inevitable form of government. In general, their aims are to destroy unity of people, cripple their will to resist, and hamstring all means of resistance. The effectiveness of their program is attested to by the great lag in arming of the NATO nations, the lack of progress achieved in United Nations assembly meetings, and the size of the Communist vote during European national elections. Their achievements to date have been accomplished without recourse to example that could be witnessed by the citizens of Western Europe. The Iron Curtain was drawn to keep the truth from passing in either direction.
Our program must be one of demonstrating by example of democracy in action, offering hope to the European whose crisis is directly connected with our own welfare and existence. We are primarily a nation of Europeans, one or two generations removed. There are very few families in this country that do not have family ties on foreign shores. We have the facilities that permit us to visit these foreign shores, to demonstrate our way of life, and to converse in the native tongue. What better method is there to quell a vicious rumor than to hear a denial from the lips of one of your own family, or to see with your own eyes?
The Navy, and particularly the units of the Sixth Fleet serving in the Mediterranean, are in a unique position to take the counteroffensive in this war of ideas. Our secret strength lies in the number of first and second generation Americans serving in that Fleet —Americans whose ancestry is tied in with one of the countries adjacent to the Mediterranean. We have in effect mobile units that can go to any country outside of the Iron Curtain that is adjacent to deep water, and we have representatives that can visit with relatives and converse in their native tongue. The ships themselves are not only a demonstration of strength, of well disciplined crews ashore, but a real-life example of our nation and what we represent. No other demonstration can portray more effectively men living, working, and playing together with complete disregard for race, creed, or color. It will be a combination of our floating “Ambassadors in Gray” and our “Grassroots Ambassadors in White Hats” that will make the greatest inroads against the cancer of Communism.
We must capitalize on common interests to the very limit—those interests that we share with our allies, whether they be relatives, sports, hobbies, religion, or ideas. The Communists are exploiting our differences as cause for discontent; we must emphasize our differences that are cause for national pride—and we must stress the common bonds for unity. The menace of the Communistic ideology can be effectively combated by the force of world patriotism. In order to make the most of our joint interests, our efforts must be thoroughly coordinated with agencies of the State Department. We must coordinate what the naval forces can provide and what the State Department can effectively disseminate through the United States Information Service. The USIS maintains representatives in the key cities of Europe, with the necessary public information media contacts.
It is my belief that such coordination can be effectively handled at the attaché level in one of our embassies, preferably in Rome, because of its close proximity to countries most affected by Red propaganda and to the majority of liberty ports of Sixth Fleet units. The personnel of the Fleet should be screened so that liberty port assignments of individual ships will be made with as much thought and consideration for public relations as for Fleet operational problems. During in-port periods, a program should be set up, thoroughly coordinated with our attaché, for maximum effectiveness in public appeal and general good-will. I know of one ship in the past that fostered such common interests as Scouting, with outstanding results. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination, initiative, and enthusiasm shown by the respective commanders and the coordinating agencies.
In addition, the American citizen should be urged to make use of any talents he may have in rebutting the big lie, and the facilities of our nation should be made available to carefully selected individuals. A primary aim of Communism is to split Labor and Capital, just as it is to widen the breach between nations. Certain individuals with the proper backgrounds that are most likely to gain respect for themselves and the nation they represent should be encouraged to visit foreign shores. Why not allow certain persons who have proven themselves leaders and have been successful in meeting and defeating the Communist menace on a lower level, to travel on MSTS transports on a “space available” basis, with a priority above those who travel for the lack of anything better to do. Carefully screened labor leaders, who are in the best position to explain our labor-management relations to the interested labor groups in Europe, should be invited to make these voyages, just as we invite certain leaders of industry to make VIP cruises aboard our naval vessels. These are the witnesses for the defense that can disprove the arguments and charges of the unscrupulous prosecution before the court of world opinion.
We are engaged in a battle of persuasion with the most powerful sales force of all time which is selling Communism throughout the world. This sales agency is selling its products without the use of any samples that could come under close scrutiny, but simply by pictures and verbal descriptions. Like any clever sales group lacking an article of merit, an attack on the competition is a diverting substitute for a comparison of product. If the competition does not rise up to the challenge, bankruptcy is inevitable. That is our challenge today. If we shrink away from the hard contest ahead, then the domination of the world by a more aggressive group is assured. Let not the future pages of history indicate that we had the better product but were the poorer salesmen.