December 13, 2010

Arthur W. Page: A Quiet and Relatively Unknown Prime Mover Behind Radio Free Europe and the Crusade for Freedom

In the late 1940s, a group of men, united in their firm commitment to defeat Communism, set forth to change the American political landscape at the grass-roots level. Their dedicated efforts resulted the Crusade for Freedom from 1950 to 1960. This was a decade-long public relations and fund-raising campaign designed not only to arouse the American public against Communism but also to morally, politically, and financially support Radio Free Europe.

These men, collectively known later as the “Forty-Niners,” set up the Committee for Free Europe (CFE) as a non-profit organization in New York State on May 17, 1949. One of the articles of incorporation read:

Help the non-Fascist and non-Communist leaders who have fled to the United States from the countries of Eastern Europe to maintain themselves in useful occupations during their enforced stay in the United States.

Assist these leaders in maintaining contact with their fellow citizens in other lands and in keeping alive among them the ideals of individual and national freedom.

The Chairman of CFE was Joseph Grew, former United States Ambassador to Japan at the time of Pearl Harbor and later Undersecretary of State in World War Two. The treasurer was Frank Altschul, a prominent New York investment banker. The executive director was DeWitt C. Poole, director of the Princeton University School for Public Affairs, founder of Public Opinion Quarterly, former American Consul General during the Russian Revolution, and head of the Foreign Nationalities Branch of the OSS. 

Other founding members and directors included

·      Allen Dulles, former OSS chief in Switzerland, lawyer and future CIA Director,
·      Future U.S. President General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 
·      Arthur W. Page, whose name, unfortunately, does not immediately ignite a spark of recognition in the minds of most Americans.

Below we will look at the important but relatively unknown role that Arthur W. Page played in the setting up of Radio Free Europe and the Crusade for Freedom.

Arthur W. Page was born September 10, 1883, in Aberdeen, North Carolina and graduated from Harvard University in 1905. Page was the longtime vice president for public relations at the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), from which he resigned in 1946 at age 63 as vice president for public affairs. Page is often regarded as the founder of the modern practice of corporate public relations: he was the first person in a public relations position to serve as an officer and member of the Board of Directors of a major public corporation. Noel Griese, in his biography of Arthur Page, wrote that Page was “arguably the most influential pubic relations practitioner of the 20th Century.”

On August 6, 1945 at 11:00 a.m., President Harry S. Truman announced to the world:

Sixteen hours ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British 'Grand Slam' which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

This statement actually was written by Arthur Page, who had been appointed temporary special consultant on public relations to United States Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. Stimson was a long-time friend who asked Page to reorganize the U.S. Army’s Bureau of Public Relations. Page was awarded the "Medal For Merit" by the United States Government in 1946, "For Extraordinary Fidelity and Exceptionally Meritorious Conduct" during World War Two.

In late April 1949, Arthur Page met with Dr. Jan Papanek of the American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees, concerning that organization. In a letter to Arthur Page, Papanek thanked him for his interest in the refugee organization; “Unfortunately, there are few Americans who have such a complete knowledge of European and world affairs who are also willing to offer a helping hand to Europeans in difficulty ... The evening we spent together was such a pleasant one that Mrs. Papanek and I hope for an early opportunity to be with Mrs. Page and you again”

The American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees had been set up in New York in May 1948 as a nonprofit, charitable organization with the purpose of sending “supplementary food, clothing and medical supplies to the refugees and presently to provide resettlement possibilities for them.” The organization was looking for a chairman and Papanek and Page discussed possible candidates, including Harold W. Stassen.  On May 17, 1949, Page wrote back to Dr. Papanek,

There are so many appeals now that I think it would be difficult to get an internationally known citizen of this country who at the same time would have an appeal as a leader of a fund raising committee.

However, there is an organization in formation, which might help you some directly and also would, I am sure, be more competent in
suggestion than I am. This organization will, I think, come into being within two weeks and if it does I will write you about it.

The organization to which Arthur Page referred was the Committee for Free Europe -- the name shortly thereafter changed to National Committee for Free Europe-NCFE).

On May 17, 1949, at the CFE charter meeting, DeWitt Poole showed Arthur Page a list of proposed members of the new organization and asked him to join CFE. Page wrote to Chairman of the Board Joseph Grew the next day,

As I look at the partial list of members of the N.C.F.E., which Poole gave me yesterday, I notice that it has publishers, labor leaders, editors, lawyers and a politician or two but that it is very short of industrial leaders. 

And particularly if this committee hasn't got con vincing industrial representation it won't get the money it needs and it will fall of support of an essential part of public opinion.

Poole asked me if I would serve. I told him I would but I seriously suggest that you do not put me on the com mittee for you ought to use all your committee space for names that have gotten a public following by having been in the papers as president of this or that or in some other way.

I would prefer to do what I can without being on the committee and I will do all I can.

Joseph Grew answered Arthur Page on May 24, 1949, in a letter, which read, in part:

I am glad to have your letter of May 18th and I full appreciate the importance of your advice to get some industrial representation on our committee ... We definitely do want you on the committee and your name is already on the list of those who have accepted. We definitely need and want you as a member ... Your name and personality, and especially your moral support, carry more weight than you perhaps modestly realize and we regard you as one of most important member of our ship’s crew.

On May 18, 1949, Arthur Page sent a draft NCFE newspaper advertisement to the public relations company of Hewitt, Ogilvey, Benson & Mather, part of which read:

The battle of bread in Europe is being won. The battle for human freedom and the progress of mankind depends on ideas, knowledge and faith ... It is the purpose of the N.C.F.E. to counter attack and spread the gospel of freedom and hope through people who come from and know the land they talk to.

Arthur W. Page
Due to Arthur Page’s many long-standing professional contacts, his major role as a director within National Committee for a Free Europe in the early years was to recruit top industry leaders to join the new organization. For example, on July 5, 1949, he wrote a recruitment letter to William Rand, President of Monsanto Chemical Company, in an attempt to get Rand to join NCFE.  Page wrote, “I urge you to do it. I can with a clear conscience for I have done it. This Committee appeals to me because it is not defensive.”

Even though Arthur Page was not yet officially a member of NCFE, his counsel was requested by Executive Secretary DeWitt Poole, who, on May 26, 1949, sent him a copy of a draft press release scheduled for an upcoming press conference on the new organization.

Page made a slight suggested correction to the first sentence on page 3 of the press release: the original draft read,

Coming now to heading no. 2 in our immediate program – we have in view an ambitious effort, and I want to say at once that I am not now in a position to tell you precisely how we are going to accomplish it.

Page changed that sentence to read, “... and I want to say at once that I do not know exactly how we are going to accomplish it.”

Page then returned the draft to DeWitt Poole on May 31, 1949, with this comment: “If my change can be used with clear conscience it will provoke far less question than the original.”

DeWitt Poole wrote a letter to Allen Dulles on June 12, 1949:

Arthur Page as shown a lively interest and has already helped with his experienced and level-headed counsel. I believe he would be a valuable addition to the BD of Directors, especially a board which is to be also in effect a “policy committee.” It is in view as well that Page may help in raising funds.

Arthur Page saw the need for the establishment of local committees and expressed his views in three letters he wrote on July 11, 1949. Two were sent to DeWitt Poole and one to Allen Dulles. His message was clear: in the letters he wrote to Poole, he asked, “I think the next thing we need is a set of local committees.  How are you going to do this?  In the second letter, he advised Poole, “We won’t do very well with the advertising in money raising unless we have local committees in the cities in which we advertise.” In his letter to Allen Dulles, Page wrote, “Do you think that Poole ... can get local committees set up for the Committee on Free Europe?  If not, who is going to?” 

The next day, Dulles in turn wrote to DeWitt Poole,

It strikes me that you have an armful of work already without trying to tackle the organization of local committees throughout the country. However, I feel strongly, and I think Arthur fully agrees with me, that you won’t really begin to get in the money with advertising until it is backed up with some local representation. I suggest we might consider who would be available to work on the local committee situation and possibly this will require professional as well as an amateur touch.

In January 1950, Arthur Page was elected chairman of the NCFE's Public Relations Policy Committee that was formed to "develop an overall plan of public relations for NCFE." Lucius D. Clay joined the NCFE as one of its directors and then became National Chairman of the Crusade for Freedom. Page wrote to him in March explaining the role of the Public Relations Policy Committee: "The business of this committee is to stimulate, help and guide the working organization, which is formalizing the Crusade plans."

Arthur Page wrote a revealing letter to Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA, on February 9, 1955, in which he seemingly expressed doubt about the cover for Radio Free Europe,

We can’t run a half-hearted campaign.

If we get $5,000,000 or anything like it from corporations, we must get $5,000,000 or something like it from the general public.

Public support is essential to our general picture. Moreover, we get some two million dollars worth of advertising space and radio time from the Advertising Council. The Council will not do its part for a half-hearted campaign.

If we get $10,000,000 or anything near it in 1955 or 1956, we can honestly say that we are the main support of the “operations” of Radio Free Europe.

Moreover, $10,000,000 is not a large campaign in this country. That is the smallest sum that would justify a National campaign or support the education of the American public in the continuing necessity of a continuing campaign for liberty—for men’s minds in the President’s words

In November 1956, Arthur W. Page became president of the Crusade for Freedom and sent out a letter to local Crusade leaders on January 15, 1957, which in part read,

We of the Crusade more than ever must rise to the increased responsibilitieswhich 1957 is placing on us. We know now – because of the way in which the American people responded to the Hungarian situation – that Americans will expect much of the Crusade. We must more than fulfill their expectations.

The New York Times wrote of his new position, “For a lifetime, the business of the day for Arthur Wilson Page has been the world of tomorrow. As editor, business publicist and Government consultant, much of his work has involved pictur­ing the shape of things to come.”

In July 1957, Page sent out a multi-page report to Crusade for Freedom supporters entitled  “The Growth of the Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe.” In the report introduction, Page wrote, 

The past seven years – 1950-1957 – have, indeed, been extremely fateful ones in the struggle for freedom...But the choking grip of the iron claw has not been able to kill its victim’s desires to know the truth; neither has it been able to keep the truth from reaching them.

Until his death on September 5, 1960, he remained dedicated to the cause of Radio Free Europe and the Crusade for Freedom (of which he was president 1956-1958). Earl Newsom, Page’s friend and fellow public affairs practitioner wrote this tribute in the October 1960 Crusade for Freedom Newsletter:

Thousands of people who today are concerned with movements in public opinion and with public relations look upon Arthur Page as a masterful pioneer. His selfless, unobtrusive devotion to the best interests of the country he loved, his quiet skill in conciliating conflicting points of view, the trust and confidence he instilled in all those with whom he came in contact enabled him constantly to get done those things he thought ought to be done for the good of mankind.

His wisdom will be sorely missed by leaders of men throughout the country - most particularly by those in whose hearts he imbued a sense of the desperate importance of Radio Free Europe.

The legacy of Arthur Wilson Page lives on today with the Arthur W. Page Center at the Penn State College of Communications in Pennsylvania, which is a “research center dedicated to the study and advancement of ethics and responsibility in corporate communication and other forms of public communication.“ 

Also, as a separate entity, the Arthur W. Page Society is a “select membership organization for senior public relations and corporate communications executives who seek to enrich and strengthen their profession.“

For more information:

Collected papers of Arthur W. Page, 1908-1960, 81 archives boxes, 5 volumes, 1 package and 14 photographs, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin.

Noel Griese, Arthur W. Page: Publisher, Public Relations Pioneer, Patriot (Tucker, Georgia: Anvil Publishers, Inc. 2001)

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