The Power of Truth


By ROBERT E. SHERWOOD, Director of the overseas branch of the Office of War Information

Delivered at dedication of new 100-kilowatt transmitter for WGEO, General Electric international short-wave radiobroadcasting station, Schenectady, September 21, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 61-62.

IT is a privilege to participate in the dedication of this new and powerful radio transmitter which stands here in Schenectady as another evidence of the public service of a great American institution, the General Electric Company.

The American people need this transmitter to express to the world the voice of our country.

The radio is a vital factor in this war. Our enemies recognize this fact. They started long ago to equip themselves with all possible facilities for international communication.

They knew that words and ideas could weaken nations and render them defenseless even before a single shot was fired. They have proved this in many tragic instances, all around the world, from France to Malaya.

This country took a position of leadership in the development of radio broadcasting—but we developed it on a peacetime basis as an instrument of domestic trade and a medium of education and entertainment. We paid but little attention to the possibilities of the radio as a weapon of offensive warfare.

With the result that our enemies have far exceeded us in their shortwave radio power. They have been all too successful in poisoning the air-waves of the world with their propaganda of deception, corruption and demoralization. Our own American voice—as it has been broadcast overseas from here in Schenectady—from Cincinnati—from Boston, New York and San Francisco—has been sincere and honest, but it has been feeble as compared with the blatant voices of Germany, Italy, Japan and their satellites.

But—we have one form of strength which our enemies do not possess—and that is the power of truth.

That is the purpose to which the transmitter is today dedicated—to tell to the world—to friend and foe alike—the essential truth about this war.

Nineteen centuries ago the Governor of Judea asked, "What is truth?" And men have never been able to agree on the answer to that question. In Germany today the truth is what Hitler says it is—and Hitler has said that if you tell people a lie that is big enough they will believe it. Therefore, in Germany, the truth is a monstrous lie.

Here in this free country—and among all free men everywhere—the Nazi easy formula does not work. Because we believe in and practice freedom of speech, we have the means of recognizing a liar and exposing him—no matter how big a liar he may be—whether his name is Hitler, or Mussolini, or Tojo, or Quisling, or Laval.

The truth about this war, as we see it today, is not pleasant to contemplate.

We of the United Nations have suffered many grievous defeats. Our enemies are powerful and resourceful, and they are fighting with the desperation of the doomed. At this stage of the war, they have the tremendous advantage of interior lines of transportation—the Nazis on the continent of Europe, and the Japanese in East Asia and the far Western Pacific.

We have to travel the long way, the hard way, before we can either attack our enemies or join forces with our Allies—Britain, Russia and China.

As President Roosevelt has said, this war is the toughest of all time, and for victory we shall have to pay a terrible price in energy and in fortitude and in blood.

This is the grim truth which we are not afraid to broadcast to the whole world.

But—there is a greater truth, which inspires us to any sacrifice of time or of fortune or of life which we may have to make—and that is the truth which is known to every one of us, in all the United Nations—the incontrovertible truth that we are going to win this war; we are going to destroy utterly the evil power of militarism in Germany, Italy and Japan; and we pledge ourselves to the building of a decent and durable peace.

The people of China know this truth after more than five long years of incredible suffering at the hands of the Japanese invaders. That is why they fight on.

The British people know this truth—after Dunkirk, Crete, Singapore, Tobruk. They have been defeated, but they have never been conquered, and today their insistent demand is that they may surge forth from their island fortress and take the offensive. It is in that spirit of unbeatable confidence that they fight on.

The Russian people know this truth. In eighteen months they have fought the greatest, costliest battles of history. At Leningrad, Moscow, Smolensk, Rostov, Sevastopol and now Stalingrad they have shown that they do not know the meaning of the word surrender. And that is why they fight on.

We of the United States of America know this truth. We have been in the war less than a year, but we have had our full share of defeats—at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, the Philippines and the East Indies. We are now engaged in a colossal battle—a battle of global dimensions—the battle of transportation. Until we have won that battle, we can not even begin to win the war. But we are dedicated to a policy of action which will stop at nothing short of total victory. And that is why we fight on.

When we broadcast to the world our message of unshakeable determination and confidence, we are supremely aware that we can be heard by brave men and women who are risking their lives to listen to us.

The Nazi masters of Europe—the Japanese masters of East Asia—make it a capital offense for anyone to listen to the truth. They fear the truth, because it is the weapon of destruction for them who have thrived on lies.

To all victims of oppression who may hear us—to the conquered peoples and to those millions in Germany, Italy and Japan who know now that their own tyrannical rulers have betrayed them into the agony of this war—to all lovers of freedom everywhere, we Americans express the substance of our democratic faith—that the truth is mighty and shall prevail—the truth shall set you free.