Our Darkest Hours
When Britain faced extinction in June 1940, it mounted a covert psyops campaign here to rally America against the fascists. Who's going to do it this time?
In 1940, Britain had its back to the wall. The Nazis had flown over and around France’s supposedly impregnable Maginot Line and seemed poised for an invasion of the island fortress, delayed only by heroic Spitfire and Hurricane pilots. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was desperate to get America into the fight, but his friend President Franklin Roosevelt’s hands were tied: U.S. public opinion was overwhelmingly isolationist, and after a decade of deep, scarring unemployment, millions of Americans—and Europeans, too—were questioning whether capitalist democracies were any good. An American Nazi movement had held a huge rally in Madison Square Garden.
Churchill’s answer: a covert operation, with Roosevelt’s connivance, to change U.S. public opinion. Led by a Canadian agent, William Stephenson, the blandly named British Security Coordination team opened an office in Manhattan and began pumping out “news” to both witting and unwitting U.S. news organizations and columnists. Some of it wa…