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Historical

WWII Vet Explains How Radio Transmissions Helped America Win The Propaganda War

95-year-old WWII vet Houghton Sawyer discusses the impact his U.S Army Signal Corps unit had during the war and the technology they were using to transmit over German broadcasts.

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"The technique was unique to the Americans and the Germans were the ones that were defeated in trying to figure out how it worked."

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Keeping the transmitters going was the main object and we had to change frequency day and night sometimes different because of the skip in the trans of those days it wasn't a satellite that you bounced off of you bounced off the ionosphere, and the ionosphere it changes position every few hours.  - Some people might not know what the ionosphere is, why don't you explain that science to us. - The ionosphere is a ring around the earth with ionized air which is like a cloud except that it's thick enough so that it causes the radio waves to reflect from being radiated from the ground it'll reflect like a mirror back to earth only the distance that it takes on the other end is adjusted so that its long enough to go from nearly 3,000 miles away. - So are those calculations that you had to make? - No that was all done for you but we had to change frequencies in order to adjust the distances depending on where the ionosphere was at the particular time we had north and south transmitters which didn't really work the same way as the ionosphere did on the east west so those transmitters were different and we had anything from 2,000 watts to 60 kilowatts. - Well a few things come to mind for me here is that technology and maybe you don't know the answer to this, maybe you do, is that technology that the enemy also had or is that a capability unique to the Americans or the allies? - The technique was unique to the Americans and the Germans were the ones that were defeated in trying to figure out how it worked. As a matter of fact because of this kind of transmitter we could radiate right on top of their carriers and broadcast while they were broadcasting so we could actually inject comments and we did. - You said that with a bit of a smirk on your face, what kind of comments did you inject? - Whenever anything was said to the public in German we could inject a counter situation which would tell the public in Germany that things were different then what they were broadcast, lying by the Germans. - So the German civilian population would actually hear what you guys were saying and they would hear it in German? - Yes, we didn't do it. The people who were authorized to do that. And this wasn't something that was done regularly for any reason except propaganda. So this would be the OSS types, or some propagandists that are using your equipment to send these messages to the people who are in post war Germany? - More than likely it would be the kind of broadcast that you would expect people to get as a general public telling them about the news and the other things and the only thing that we could do would be comment on the same time at the same transmitter so they would not know that we were commenting on their comments for their public. We would be transmitting as though we were in a conversation with that person sitting in the same room.