STATES OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
The US Office of War Information or OWI was a United States Government agency established on 13 June 1942 to consolidate release of war information for public use. It utilised mediums such as posters and radio broadcasts to promote patriotism, and as part of a propaganda program. It was also used to warn the public of the need for being vigilant because of the presence of foreign spies. The patriotic theme was also used to attract women to participate in war work.
OWI in the United States also had two photographic units which documented the mobilisation of the USA during the early part of the war. They also produced a large number of newsreels. The Voice of America was an OWI initiative in 1942. The Bureau of Motion Pictures was also formed to influence the content of the Hollywood film companies to include a flavour that might help the United States win the war.
OWI was a consolidation of a number of previous government agencies. Amongst them was the Foreign Intelligence Service. Elmer Davis a CBS Newsman became the first Director of OWI in the USA.
The Psychological Warfare Branch used radio broadcasts and propaganda leaflets to demoralise the enemy in a similar way to the operation of Australia's Far Eastern Liaison Office FELO.
Office of War Information offices were established in Melbourne and Sydney during WWII. Robert Burlingame was in charge of OWI in Australia during WWII.
In March 1944 the United States Office of War Information arranged for a broadcast by Prime Minister John Curtin to an American radio network praising the work of General Douglas MacArthur and those under his command.
As part of psychological warfare tactics, the Office of War Information based in Australia broadcasted daily to Japan from the 50 kilowatt transmitter at the short wave radio station at Shepparton in Victoria from 1 May 1945. The OWI programs were directed daily to the Philippines between 10 am to 10:15am and 7:00pm and 8:00pm. These OWI transmission were in addition to the Australian Government's own Japanese language radio transmissions twice each day.
The Office of War Information was disbanded in the USA on 15 September 1945 however the Sydney and Melbourne OWI offices continued for some time after this.
Part of an article in the Canberra Times on 3 February 1943 stated as follows:-
AUSTRALIA WANTS AN OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION
"Meanwhile, there had been set up in Australia a costly and elaborate publicity service known- as the Directorate of Press Relations of the Army. It has staffs at various points inside "and outside Australia but there is rarely much to be seen for, the money expended. The reason is not hard to find, for Army Press ' Relations plays a lone hand so far as Its poor and sickly-relation the Department of Information is concerned, and is in competition rather than in collaboration with It."
"To realise how far short of its proper job the Department of Information has fallen, it is only necessary for the Government to study the material that is being made available to the Australian Press by the United States Office of War Information. The kind of facts thatshould be made available in Australia about our war effort are presented by high-class American writers concerning the American war effort. The great story of Australian achievement on the home front as well as abroad -is denied to Australia while the same types of facts can be published in the United States, Australia and elsewhere of American achievement. Australia should have an Office of War Information no less efficient and articulate In relation to the Australian field 'than the United States has. This would call for an overhaul of the' present isolationism of the various Press Relations staffs on the Government' pay roll and an infusion of life blood into the Department of Information. It is desirable that there should be a co-ordinating body between information and censorship. The present moaning chorus which bears the title of the Censorship Advisory Committee and which represents no more than one-half of one per cent, of Australian newspapers, should be chloroformed as a merciful preliminary to-the setting up of a practical body which could be of infinitely more service to the Government and use to the Australian people who are not being told what they should be told to-day about Australia In the war."
I'd like to thanks Karen Nunan for her assistance with this web page.
© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 27 January 2013
This page last updated 27 January 2013