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David Sarnoff’s Axis Connection: Background to NBC and the Walter Sheridan Broadcast

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COMMENT: In our long series of interviews with Jim DiEugenio about his masterwork Destiny Betrayed, we highlighted veteran intelligence officer Walter Sheridan’s broadcast hatchet job on New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison’s investigation of the JFK assassination. The TV hit piece was broadcast on the NBC network.

In our discussion of the Sheridan broadcast, we noted the efforts of RCA chief David Sarnoff in resurrecting the Nazi Radio France station and presiding over its conversion to Radio Free Europe. (RCA is the parent company of NBC, which aired the Sheridan broadcast.) In resurrecting Radio France and midwiving its conversion to Radio Free Europe, Sarnoff, who is Jewish, was building on profound and treasonous Axis connections he maintained during the war.

In Trading with the Enemy, Charles Higham chronicled the deep involvement of David Sarnoff with the Transradio Consortium, which joined the Axis nations with the Western Allies in a telecommunications cartel that provided vital–and lethal–intelligence to the Axis during the war.

Key points of analysis and discussion include:

  1. David Sarnoff’s successful efforts to restore and expand the Nazi Radio France Station and re-brand it as “Radio Free Europe.” ” . . . . In 1944, Sarnoff worked for the complete restoration of the Nazi destroyed Radio France station in Paris until its signal was able to reach throughout Europe. It was then retitled Radio Free Europe. He later lobbied the White House to expand the range and reach of Radio Free Europe. At about this point, Radio Free Europe became a pet project of Allen Dulles. Sarnoff’s company, Radio Corporation of America, became a large part of the technological core of the NSA. . . . Robert was president of RCA, NBC’s parent company, at the time Sheridan’s special aired. David was chairman. . . .”
  2. Sarnoff’s RCA was part of the Transradio Consortium, something of a broadcast cartel melding Axis and Western Allied broadcast establishments: ” . . . . RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C. Davis, head of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, as its chairman. In turn, RCA, British Cable and Wireless, and the German and Italian companies had a share with ITT in TTP (Telegrafica y Telefonica del Plata), an Axis-controlled company providing telegraph and telephone service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nazis in Montevideo could telephone Buenos Aires through TTP without coming under the control of either the state-owned system in Uruguay or the ITT system in Argentina. Messages, often dangerous to American security, were transmitted directly to Berlin and Rome by Transradio. Another shareholder was ITT’s German “rival,” Siemens, which linked cables and networks with Behn south of Panama. . . .”
  3. Transradio Consortium was the vehicle for lethally treasonous communications during the war: ” . . . . But the public, which thought of Sarnoff as a pillar of patriotism, would have been astonished to learn of his partnership with the enemy through Transradio and TTP. The British public, beleaguered and bombed, would have been equally shocked to learn that British Cable and Wireless, 10 percent owned by the British government, and under virtual government control in wartime, was in fact also in partnership with the Germans and Italians through the same companies and proxies. . . . Simultaneously, the Transradio stations, according to State Department reports with the full knowledge of David Sarnoff, kept up a direct line to Berlin. The amount of intelligence passed along the lines can scarcely be calculated. The London office was in constant touch with New York throughout the war, sifting through reports from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and sending company reports to the Italian and German interests. . . .”

1. Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 255.

. . . . It is relevant to note here that General David Sarnoff, founder of NBC, worked for the Signal Corps during World War II as a reserve officer. In 1944, Sarnoff worked for the complete restoration of the Nazi destroyed Radio France station in Paris until its signal was able to reach throughout Europe. It was then retitled Radio Free Europe. He later lobbied the White House to expand the range and reach of Radio Free Europe. At about this point, Radio Free Europe became a pet project of Allen Dulles. Sarnoff’s company, Radio Corporation of America, became a large part of the technological core of the NSA. During the war, David’s son Robert worked in the broadcast arm of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Robert was president of RCA, NBC’s parent company, at the time Sheridan’s special aired. David was chairman. . .

2.    Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 by Charles Higham; Delacorte Press [HC]; Copyright 1983 by Charles Higham; ISBN 10-0440090644; 13-978-0440090649; pp. 104-107.

. . . . In South America, Sosthenes Behn was in partnership (as well as rivalry) with an even more powerful organism: the giant Radio Corporation of America, which owned the NBC radio network. RCA was in partnership before and after Pearl Harbor with British Cable and Wireless; with Telefunken, the Nazi company; with Italcable, wholly owned by the Mussolini government; and with Vichy’s Compagnie Generale, in an organization known as the Transradio Consortium, with General Robert C. Davis, head of the New York Chapter of the American Red Cross, as its chairman. In turn, RCA, British Cable and Wireless, and the German and Italian companies had a share with ITT in TTP (Telegrafica y Telefonica del Plata), an Axis-controlled company providing telegraph and telephone service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nazis in Montevideo could telephone Buenos Aires through TTP without coming under the control of either the state-owned system in Uruguay or the ITT system in Argentina.

Messages, often dangerous to American security, were transmitted directly to Berlin and Rome by Transradio. Another shareholder was ITT’s German “rival,” Siemens, which linked cables and networks with Behn south of Panama.

The head of RCA during World War II was Colonel David Sarnoff, a stocky, square-set, determined man with a slow, subdued voice, who came from Russia as an immigrant at the turn of the century and began as a newspaper seller, messenger boy, and Marconi Wireless operator. . . .

. . . . After Pearl Harbor, Sarnoff cabled Roosevelt, “All of our facilities and personnel are ready and at your instant service. We await your command.” Sarnoff played a crucial role, as crucial as Behn’s, in the U.S. war effort, and, like Behn, he was given a colonelcy in the U.S. Signal Corps. He solved complex problems, dealt with a maze of difficult requirements by the twelve million members of the U.S. armed forces, and coordinated details related to the Normandy landings. He prepared the whole printed and electronic press-coverage of V-J day; in London in 1944, with headquarters at Claridge’s Hotel, he was Eisenhower’s inspired consultant and earned the Medal of Merit for his help in the occupation of Europe.

Opening in 1943 with a chorus of praise from various generals, the new RCA laboratories had proved to be indispensable in time of war.

But the public, which thought of Sarnoff as a pillar of patriotism, would have been astonished to learn of his partnership with the enemy through Transradio and TTP. The British public, beleaguered and bombed, would have been equally shocked to learn that British Cable and Wireless, 10 percent owned by the British government, and under virtual government control in wartime, was in fact also in partnership with the Germans and Italians through the same companies and proxies. . . .

. . . . Simultaneously, the Transradio stations, according to State Department reports with the full knowledge of David Sarnoff, kept up a direct line to Berlin. The amount of intelligence passed along the lines can scarcely be calculated. The London office was in constant touch with New York throughout the war, sifting through reports from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and sending company reports to the Italian and German interests.

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