The US already had monitoring sites in West Germany, but these would have to be upgraded and the network expanded. Under the code name Project ULTIMATE, the CIA’s Special Procedures Group began stockpiling surplus WW II weather balloons, but the operation had only begun to come together when the Russians made their move.
Germany had been divided into four zones, as was its former capital, Berlin, in East Germany, the Soviet Zone. Stalin had had enough of the ‘open city’. On July 27th, 1948, he ordered the RED Army to cut off land routes used by the Allies to supply the city. Without trucked in food, the Russian dictator expected Berlin to surrender to Soviet rule.
The US Air Force had other plans and began flying in supplies. Surviving a harsh German winter, the ‘Berlin Airlift’ carried over two million tons of supplies in 270,000 flights. The blockade of Berlin was finally lifted by the Russians on May 12th, 1949, becoming a symbol of the United States’ ‘resolve to stand up to the Soviet threat without being forced into a direct conflict.’
The US had just begun to fight. By 1951, the Air Force had set up a chain of listening posts manned by highly trained USAFSS personnel, more than 90% enlisted men, unheard of in the rest of the Air Force. The ‘Berlin Airlift’ had been only a warm-up. The Roswell radar tests were about to bear fruit. The CIA needed only a ‘cover story.’
‘The National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE), later the Free Europe Committee, was established in 1949 to find work for the democratic émigrés from Eastern Europe, put émigré voices on the air in their own languages; and carry émigré articles and statements back to their homelands through the printed word.’ These objectives were realized through the establishment of a publishing division, Free Europe Press, and a broadcast division, Radio Free Europe (RFE).
Founded, funded and run by the CIA, the NCFE maintained a public identity as a private corporation of freedom-loving American citizens.
A separate organization, the Crusade for Freedom, was formed in 1950 to promote the NCFE and to raise money for its activities. President Dwight Eisenhower announced, in a nationwide radio address: “The Crusade for Freedom will provide for the expansion of Radio Free Europe into a network of stations. They will be given the simplest, clearest charter in the world: ‘Tell the truth.’
The Advertising Council, a non-profit organization had been formed in 1941. During World War Two, its catchy slogans for security and victory: Loose Lips Sink Ships and Buy War Bonds.
After the war, the Ad Council produced advertisements in developing themes for fund raising plus free advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television for Radio Free Europe.
On May 27, 1949, the Chairman National Committee for a Free Europe wrote potential members…
‘An advertising campaign of a suitable tone and dignity will start …The enterprise touches so closely upon the instinct of survival, and the need is so clear, that substantial contributions have already been assured from a number of sources, and adequate funds are in hand for some time to come.”
A month later, the USSR exploded its first atomic device. The nuclear arms race was off and running.
The Crusade for Freedom took as its symbol a bell resembling the American liberty bell topped with a laurel wreath symbolizing peace encircled by a frieze of five figures representing the five races of humankind passing the torch of freedom. An inscription quoted Abraham Lincoln: That this world under God shall have a new birth of freedom.
The 10-ton bell got a ticker tape parade in New York City. then visited 21 American cities, and people in every state were encouraged to sign Freedom Scrolls and contribute money for RFE. More than a million dollars was collected.
“This is a struggle, above all, for the minds of men.” said President Harry Truman.
And to map out the PVO Strany radar network. After nearly four years of building and training and political maneuvering, the CIA and the AF Security Service were up and ready. Psychological warfare, ‘PSYOPs’ at its pinnacle was about to take flight…the grandest, noblest airborne invasion the world would ever know.
The first ‘weather research balloons’, about four feet in diameter, were launched in August 1951 from an open field three miles from the Czechoslovakia border. A ‘test operation’, independent of Radio Free Europe. The Free Europe Committee had used the Free Europe Press to print up millions of propaganda leaflets.
In part they read, ‘A new wind is blowing. New hope is stirring. Friends of freedom in other lands have found a new way to reach you…Millions of free men and women have joined together and are sending you this message of friendship over the winds of freedom…There is no dungeon deep enough to hide truth, no wall high enough to keep out the message of freedom. Tyranny cannot control the winds, cannot enslave your hearts. Freedom will rise again.’
Each balloon carried about 3000 leaflets, and when the weather was favorable, about 2000 balloons were launched each night. In two weeks, over 11,000,000 leaflets were dropped. But the Communist regime and its citizens seemingly ignored them.