Selling War: The British Propaganda Campaign against American "Neutrality" in World War II

By Nicholas John Cull | Go to book overview

Epilogue: British Propaganda in the United States after 1941

To secure American collaboration in the defeat of the Axis
was only one of our objectives. Unless we can also secure maxi
mum American collaboration in the conclusion of a satisfactory
peace . . . our victory will be largely worthless . . . .

Frank Darvall, December 13, 19411

For some, the outbreak of war brought euphoria. At Princeton University, once an epicenter of isolationism, students built a massive bonfire of books, furniture, and other college things they would never need again, and danced around it into the small hours. 2 Meanwhile, BIS New York planned a bonfire of its own. Sir Gerald Campbell had just received word of Adolf Berle's plans to open the BIS archives to public scrutiny. On hearing the news, he panicked and telephoned the Ministry of Information in London to say that he was about to burn the entire archive. In the event, the files were spared the flames; but the British remained sufficiently jumpy that, by one account, a rumor of an approaching inspection sparked the administration to throw all the sensitive documents into a taxi and whisk them into hiding at the New York Consulate. Britain may have secured an ally, but the future of British information and intelligence in the United States seemed bleak. The British now faced the closure of its propaganda agencies and what Wheeler-Bennett later called a "considerable public scandal . . . with political consequences difficult to estimate." As the isolationist impulse died, Berle's bill threatened to revive the anti-British propaganda phobia, and in so doing poison the active Anglo-American military alliance at its birth. 3

Despite Pearl Harbor, the British knew that they still required publicity in the United States, to ensure the smooth running of the alliance and, more than this, to ensure American participation in the peace. Fortunatly the American internationalists who had worked for this

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