British Propaganda and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1939 to 1941
In retrospect, I believe more and more that unbeknown to most at home, we played a totally decisive part in making Americans, official and unofficial, realize that it was their war as well as ours.
Sir Berkeley Ormerod, September 19661
According to Joseph Goebbels, a propaganda campaign may be judged by only one measure: success. 2 Goebbels's maxim holds particular importance for analysing a campaign in which one may be beguiled by the artistry of Humphrey Jennings, the audacity of Bill Stephenson, or the tenacity of Aubrey Morgan and John Wheeler-Bennett, and for which Winston Churchill uttered some of the finest phrases ever wrought in English with political intent. Regardless of the quality of this material, the campaign can only be measured against its declared objective: to create Anglo-American goodwill and, after the fall of France, to bring America into the war.
The officers involved were themselves unsure of the value of their work. Hermione MacColl, wartime head of registry at BIS and widow of René MacColl, confessed that, although the effort undoubtedly secured numerous free lunches for Major Ormerod, she suspected that it "didn't make three ha'pence of difference" to the wider war. The events of American entry into the war seemed a world away from Bloomsbury or Fifth Avenue. Yet the cumulative achievement of the British effort was tremendous. The British propagandists met with considerable success at each stage of their campaign. The efforts of the prewar planners bore immediate fruit in the royal visit and the British pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1939. Their commitment to liberal broadcasting procedures ensured that London remained the clearinghouse for American coverage of the European war, and that American broadcasters shared Britain's experience of the Blitz when it finally came. A campaign that relied on news and American channels of communi-