Voice of America Celebrates 75th Anniversary
Celebrate the Voice of America’s 75th anniversary with the National VOA Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township.
“We’re planning a series of events and exhibits this year to celebrate the VOA’s commitment across America and the world to embrace best practices in telling the truth in order to let the world decide,” said Jack Dominic, museum executive director.
The VOA, an international multimedia broadcasting service with roots in West Chester, was founded on Feb. 1, 1942 during the height of World War II to counteract Nazi propaganda in Germany and provide war news to American troops and allies via radio.
In order to transmit VOA radio broadcasts overseas, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked engineers with the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation in Cincinnati to build powerful short wave radio transmitters. The engineers built six 200-kilowatt transmitters on 625 acres of farmland at what became the VOA Bethany Station on Tylersville Road.
“WLWO, a division of WLW, was transmitting news via shortwave radio overseas long before 1942,” said Dominic. “In fact, broadcasters from WLWO provided the nucleus of the early VOA broadcasting team. Cincinnati’s shortwave technology and its broadcasters truly helped the U.S. win the war.”
The transmitters in West Chester were so powerful that they became known as the “siege guns of radio” for their capacity to reach the far corners of Nazi-occupied countries with little audible distortion. A frustrated Adolph Hitler was known to call the VOA “those Cincinnati liars.”
The station was later used to transmit VOA news to South America during the Cold War before it was decommissioned in 1994.
“The men and women who made up the VOA broadcasting system were our journalistic beacons of light during the 20th century,” said Ken Rieser, president of the VOA museum board. “Elmer Davis, John Houseman, Edward R. Murrow and Robert Bauer all had positions of leadership within the VOA.”
The Voice of America, based in Washington, D.C., is today the world’s largest international broadcaster, providing balanced and comprehensive news and information in 47 languages to 236 million people each week, according to the VOA website. It continues to reach people in countries lacking a free press and its languages include: Russian; Ukrainian; Azerbaijani; Serbian; Armenian; Thai; and Somali.
“We hope that the VOA enjoys many more years of embracing the highest of journalistic standards in its reporting so it inspires people in war-torn and oppressed countries to hope, dream and work toward democracy,” said Rieser.
The former Bethany Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The facility has been restored in 1940s art deco style at its original location, where it now serves as home to the National VOA Museum of Broadcasting, 8070 Tylersville Road.
The museum houses three collections: Gray History of Wireless radios; VOA Bethany Station’s Voice of America control room; and the Media Heritage Cincinnati Museum of Broadcast History. The West Chester Amateur Radio Association operates station WC8VOA from the museum building.
For more information, visit the VOA Museum website at www.voamuseum.org, or call (513) 777-0027.
West Chester Now: VOA History