Secrets of Victory: The Office of Censorship and the American Press and Radio in World War II

Article excerpt

Sweeney, Michael. Secrets of Victory: The Office of Censorship and the American Press and Radio in World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. 274 pp. $18.95.

World War II has never been out of the minds of the public or scholars, but both groups are renewing their interest in this most cataclysmic event of the last century. From Tom Hanks in Savng Private Ryan to Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation to the feature pages of local newspapers, the war and the people who served, fought, and died are getting attention.

Michael Sweeney's Secrets of Victory may not lead to a movie script or a best seller, but it adds deeper understanding about the way the world's leading democracy dealt with press censorship when it was brought into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is an outgrowth of his doctoral work, utilizing the ample records of the Office of Censorship at the National Archives and many other archives to answer questions about freedom of expression in wartime. His essential purpose is to explain why the Office of Censorship had such success with voluntary censorship within the United States and mandatory censorship of information crossing borders in or out of the country.

It is a rather tightly drawn book, given the breadth and depth of the issues and the institutions and individuals involved. Sweeney chooses to organize the tale around seven chapters: the origins and scope of World War II censorship; the establishment of voluntary censorship; censorship and the army, navy, and the White House; radio censorship; Drew Pearson and his bouts with censorship; the president and secrecy; and military secrets and the end of censorship. He adds conclusions along with notes and a bibliography that should be a starting point for any media historian working in the period. The key player in the work of censorship was its director, Byron Price, a longtime Associated Press writer and executive, a World War I veteran, and a respected member of the press corps. …