WANTED: THE ARTHUR GODFREY DOOMSDAY MESSAGE!
SEND ALL LEADS TO Bill Geerhart!
Since 1992 historian Bill Geerhart has - independently and with CONELRAD, the Cold War popular culture organization - been seeking scripts, tapes and / or films that were prepared during the Eisenhower Administration to be used in the event of a national emergency (specifically, this material was prepared for use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States). Multiple sourcing* supports that these apocalyptic documents were produced by the broadcasters Arthur Godfrey, Edward R. Murrow and, possibly, Lowell Thomas. In addition to these tapes or films being transmitted publicly during a national emergency, the broadcasters were to accompany President Eisenhower to an undisclosed location and perform various reporting duties.
Over the last 16 years multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have been submitted to obtain these remarkable Cold War era artifacts. Senior archivists and records management specialists at the Dwight David Eisenhower Presidential Library, FEMA, NARA and the Library of Congress have all been contacted regarding the existence of the aforementioned materials. Thus far there have been no conclusive results from any of these inquiries.
The purpose of this page is to request assistance in generating tangible leads to hopefully expedite this seemingly endless quest. Anyone with serious and substantial information related to the scripts, tapes or films produced by Arthur Godfrey, Edward R. Murrow and / or Lowell Thomas for use during a national emergency are encouraged to contact Bill Geerhart. Your anonymity is guaranteed.
The first public disclosure of the existence of the recorded emergency messages was by investigative journalist Ted Gup in the August 10, 1992 issue of Time magazine:
The site's (Mount Weather) television studio is prepared to provide the President--or his successor--a national audience over the Emergency Broadcast System. Throughout the Eisenhower Administration--and for years after--a vault held tape-recorded addresses by both Eisenhower and celebrity Arthur Godfrey. The prerecorded message was concise: The country has come under nuclear attack, but the government continues to function. In addition, a number of prominent newsmen who had taken oaths of secrecy had agreed to accompany the President to the relocation site of his choosing and lend their familiar names and faces to help calm the surviving audience.
Since the publication of this article, Bill Geerhart has corresponded with Mr. Gup who stated that he no longer had his notes regarding the Godfrey revelation. In 2004 Geerhart confirmed directly with former CBS President and former secret Eisenhower aide Frank Stanton (now deceased) that Arthur Godfrey had indeed recorded such a message.
Godfrey himself went on the record about his potential mission for the Eisenhower Administration on at least two occasions: According to an item headlined "Recognition Value," in the March 2, 1953 issue of Time magazine, it was reported that the famed broadcaster had informed his radio audience in February of 1953 that he and Edward R. Murrow had been chosen for the task of atomic attack news coverage should such an emergency ever occur. Godfrey also mentioned this awesome responsibility in 1981 with WNET-TV in New York (this portion of the interview was never aired):
It was thought by the Eisenhower administration that two voices were well known and trusted, and it was pretty tough to imitate us. One was Edward R. Murrow who had become much beloved during World War II for his broadcasting from London...and the other was Godfrey. And it was a great honor for me to be considered on the same level with Ed.
The non-public transcript of this interview was accessed by Arthur Godfrey biographer Arthur J. Singer and excerpted in his book "Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster" (McFarland Publishing, N. Carolina, 2000).
Additionally, on April 29, 1952 Godfrey appeared as "Master of Ceremonies" on a CBS television special concerning Civil Defense ("It Can Happen Here") that is significant in that it is yet another example of the broadcaster's self-professed involvement in government contingency planning (see pertinent quote below). Accompanying Godfrey on this program was Col. Justice M. Chambers, Assistant Administrator of the Federal Civil Defense Administration. A document at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland related to this TV special is entitled "Arthur Godfrey on Emergency Plans" and can be found in a file labeled "Arthur Godfrey (Material for)." In the document - which is in Godfrey's first person voice - it is stated "If the emergency arises, I'll be working on the Civil Defense team, and that gets me to you." The complete document can be viewed here:Arthur Godfrey on Emergency Plans: PDF Document
(Text of original document)
ARTHUR GODFREY on EMERGENCY PLANS