USAGM WATCH HISTORY

When Mr. Ingvar Nyberg, a shortwave radio listener in Lund, Sweden, requested a QSL card from the Voice of America in 1949, it was sent to him from New York. Writing in pencil on the reverse of the QSL card suggests that the program was heard or the request for the reception acknowledgement was made on September 27, 1949 and the QSL card arrived on December 23, 1949, an early Christmas present.

From 1942 until 1954 the Argonaut Building in New York City at 224 West 57 and Broadway was the headquarters of the Voice of America, while the headquarters of its federal parent agencies, first the Office of War Information (OWI) from 1942 to 1945 and the State Department from 1945 until 1953, were located in Washington D.C. In 1953, the Voice of America was put in the newly-established United States Information Agency (USIA) and a decision was made to move VOA radio operations from New York to Washington.

The Argonaut Building in New York was where first Voice of America radio programs were produced in 1942. It is now the headquarters of Open Society Foundations (OSF), formerly the Open Society Institute, originally created and funded by billionaire investor and philanthropist  George Soros to help countries move away from communism.

Ironically, during World War II, many American and foreign communists working for the Voice of America in the Argonaut Building in New York helped to spread propaganda in support of establishing pro-Soviet communist regimes in East-Central Europe. Voice of America’s first chief news writer and editor in 1942 was American communist author Howard Fast who after leaving VOA in 1944 joined the Communist Party, was one of its key journalists and in 1953 received the Stalin International Peace Prize.

It took the Voice of America several years after World War II to reform the management of its programs and to replace pro-Soviet journalists with anti-communist refugee journalists from Europe and Asia such as Polish anti-Nazi fighter Zofia Korbońska who was hired in 1948 after escaping from communist-ruled Poland. These new journalists eventually changed VOA into a radio station that opposed communism and advanced freedom and democracy.

Alan L. Heil, Jr., former VOA deputy director of programs, noted in his book, Voice of America: A History, that Voice of America had its start in 1942 in the Argonaut Building in Midtown Manhattan: 

There was a huge buildup of the Voice staff in the summer of 1942 after it became part of the Office of War Information, with the acquisition of many floors in the old Argonaut Building on West Fifty-seveth Street, in Manhattan, and expansion to sixteen studios, several score program lines, and forty transmitters in distant locations. Alan L. Heil, Jr., Voice of America: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 41.

Nyberg

The Voice of America acknowledges, with thanks, your communication of ____________, reporting reception of radio station WRCA, operating on a frequency of 15150 kc/s.

The Voice of America program and frequency schedule will be forwarded upon request.

READ: George Soros’ building in NYC saw Voice of America’s early love affair with Stalin. By Ted Lipien for Cold War Radio MuseumAUGUST 21, 2019.

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