If you went on a date to the “midnite show” at the Indiana movie theater in Kokomo, Indiana, on Saturday November 10, 1951, you could have watched a “SPECIAL! ‘Big Truth’ Crusade for Freedom with Ronald Reagan.” Below we will briefly look at Ronald Reagan and his support for Cold War Radios -- first as an actor and later as President of the USA.
The late 1940s witnessed the beginning of the Hollywood Blacklist when many persons working in films were prohibited from working because of their political beliefs and associations. In 1947, actor Ronald Reagan, as president of the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors, testified before the Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on the threat of Communism in the film industry.
Hollywood movie giants Daryl F. Zanuck and Cecil B. DeMille were two of National Committee for Free Europe’s original directors in 1949 and remained active in behalf of Radio Free Europe in the 1950s.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the launch of the first Crusade for Freedom campaign on September 4, 1950, under National Chairman General Lucius D. Clay. On September 16, 1950, Reagan sent a telegram to Chairman Clay:
Dear General Clay: the more than 8,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild are proud to enlist in the Crusade for Freedom and to take as active part in the battle for mend’s minds now being waged around the world. We offer you our complete support in this great counter-offensive against Communist lies and treachery. Please call on us.
In preparing the American public for the second Annual Crusade for Freedom, in August 1951 the Advertising Council used the services of actor, and future US President, Ronald Reagan in a Hearst Corporation movie newsreel and a televised public service appeal for contributions. Reagan also was the star and narrator of the short film entitled "The Big Truth," which was written by Otis Carney and directed by Seymour Friedman. Carney received a Freedom Foundation award in 1952 for his screenplay.
The heavy propaganda film opens with a scene of two Czech soldiers chasing a man in a forest. They shoot at him as he crosses through the barbed wire Iron Curtain, meets two men on the other side and eventually appears in the film reading a script before the RFE microphone. "The scene then switches to Ronald Reagan, who says, "This is the story of a man whom the Communists call traitor; traitor because he dared to speak of Freedom. Less than 24 hours ago Stefan Macochek met with a small group of men...” Then five men are shown listening to Radio Free Europe, one of whom is later identified as a Czech secret police agent.
Excerpts of the film, including a scene of Crusade for Freedom National Chairman General Lucius D. Clay speaking in Berlin on October 24, 1950, were then used for a television film appeal for the 1951 Crusade campaign. The film ends with Reagan saying:
My name is Ronald Reagan. Last year the contributions of 16 million Americans to the Crusade For Freedom made possible the World Freedom Bell -- symbol of hope and freedom to the communist-dominated peoples of Eastern Europe. And built this powerful 135,000 Watt Radio Free Europe transmitter in Western Germany. This station daily pierces the iron curtain with the truth, answering the lies of the Kremlin and bringing a message of hope to millions trapped behind the iron curtain.
Grateful letters from listeners smuggled past the secret police express thanks to Radio Free Europe for identifying Communist Quislings and informers by name.
General Lucius D. Clay now asks you to join with him in a second great Crusade for Freedom to build two more powerful Freedom Stations that will send more messages of hope of truth and hope through the Iron Curtain. And, to establish Radio Free Asia to stop the spread of Communism in the Far East.
The Crusade for Freedom is your chance, and mine, to fight Communism.
Join now by sending your contributions to
Crusade for Freedom
Empire State Building
New York City
Or, join in your local community.