The Office of Censorship & Operation Alert (1955)

06Mar11

Historically, censorship has been employed by the U.S. government as a shield to restrict specific categories of information during war. For example, the Office of Censorship’s Code of Wartime Practices (1945) requested that publishers and broadcasters refrain from communicating  information on weapons, “military intelligence,” and casualties during WWII.  The Office of Censorship was established by Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8985, December 19, 1941, and abolished by way of Truman Executive Order 9631, November 15, 1945.

On June 15, 1955, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) conducted nationwide civil defense drills under Operation Alert. The day of the drill, one newspaper described Operation Alert in the following way:

President Eisenhower, his Cabinet and the military joined in the test, named Operation Alert 1955 and designed to send key workers’ from 31 agencies pouring out of buildings, tumbling into cars and streaming to relocation posts 30 to 300 miles away. Plans called for Washington to be “hit” at 3:25 p.m. and reduced to radioactive ash and debris. Within the following 20 minutes another 48 target cities across the country, each a vital production center, were to be theoretically wiped out (Cumberland Evening Times, 1955).

An Executive Order to establish the Office of Censorship, and describing its functions and duties, initiated by the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM), sought to establish an Office of Censorship under Operation Alert. The Emergency Action Document, or EAD, authorized several policies that are somewhat similar to the WWII Office of Censorship in its Code of Wartime Practices. However, under the ODM’s EAD, the Office of Censorship would among other things, carry out the following policies in the event of a nuclear attack:

Directs Director to request and coordinate voluntary cooperation of domestic press, radio and television broadcasters and motion picture producers in withholding from publication military and other information.

Matthew L. Conaty (2010, p. 10-11) offers background on the ODM’s role in crafting emergency policies, observing“Emergency Action Orders that detailed the formation of a new series of executive agencies did not specify their exact function or lifespan. Instead, they focused on ensuring the activation of these agencies on the day of attack” (p.13).

Reproduced here, are:

– The unclassified Executive Order to establish the Office of Censorship, and describing its functions and duties, initiated by the Office of Defense Management, (1955?).

– Office of Censorship (1945),  Code of wartime practices for the American press and radio. (Washington: Government Printing Office: SuDoc Y 3.C 33/6:2 P 92/2/)

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References

Conaty, M. L. (2010). The atomic midwife: The Eisenhower administration’s continuity-of-government plans and the legacy of ‘constitutional dictatorship.’62 Rutgers L. Review, Retrieved from  http://ssrn.com/abstract=1553553

CONELRAD (n.d.) The Eisenhower ten, Retrieved from  http://www.conelrad.com/atomicsecrets/secrets.php?secrets=e18

Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. (n.d.). Emergency Action Series finding aid. Retrieved from http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/finding_aids/PDFs/WHO,%20OSS/Emergency_Action_Series.pdf

Garrison, D. (2006). Bracing for armageddon: Why civil defense never worked. New York: Oxford University Press.

Green, S.F. (1955, June 15). Key officials will flee in mock attack. Cumberland Evening Times, 1.

Lester, R.E. (ed.)., (2004). The confidential file of the Eisenhower White House, 1953–1961: A guide to the microfilm edition. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com/documents/academic/upa_cis/16500_ConfFileDDEWHPt1.pdf

Maret, S. (2011). Censorship map. Retrieved from http://senna.sjsu.edu/smaret/iecology/Censorship/freemindbrowser.html

Sweeney, M. S. (2001). Secrets of victory: the Office of Censorship and the American press and radio in World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

U.S. under mock martial law. (1955, June 16). Portsmouth Herald, 1.

Washburn, P.S. (1990). The Office of Censorship’s attempt to control press coverage of the atomic bomb during World War II. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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