Spotlight on Lee Falk - The WWII Years

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Draft Card 1940

The WWII Years

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Chief of Radio of the Foreign-Language Division

In October 1941, Archibald MacLeish was appointed director of the "Office of Facts and Figures" (OFF), an independent government information agency. To head the "Foreign Language Division" (FLD) within the OFF MacLeish chosed Alan M. Cranston [footnotes 1].

Cranston wanted Lee Falk[footnotes 2] to serve as associate chief and handling radio[footnotes 3] issues. In Cranston's letter inducing Falk to take the job, he explained that Falk would: compose radio scripts for use in foreign-language broadcast designed to provide information about the war, to boost morale, and to sell the war to the German, Italian, and other groups in this country.

Early[footnotes 4] 1942 Lee Falk started his work at FLD in Washington. He established[1] a close collaboration with OFF Radio Division, attending their weekly radio conferences with committees of agencies, stations and networks. He also established[1] collaboration with the Broadcasters Victory Council, setting up an exchange-of-program-ideas service. A new program "Uncle Sam Speaks" was scheduled for WOV in New York in Italian, later reproduced in German (and English).

During[footnotes 5] the NAB Convention in Cleveland Lee Falk explained how enemy interests were attemting to capitalize on foreign tongue programs The broadcasters set[2] up a temporary committee to set up a organization of self regulation, where all personnel should be clared through this committee (Foreign Language Broadcasters Wartime Control). Lee Falk agreed[3] to act as liaison between the committee and the various Governmental agencies identiffied with or interested in foreign language broadcasting. Included the Office of Cencorship, Federal Bureau of Investigation, intelligence branche of the Armey and Navy, and OFF.

OWI: Chart of Organization

"Office of War Information" (OWI) was established as a federal agency on June 13 1942, to conduct the government's wartime information and propaganda programs. OWI came into being by integrating several agencies — including the OFF, with the FLD as part of the Buerau of Special Operations, headed by Philip Hamblet.

By 1943 Congress made a varity of accusations against the OWI, as a political tool, and began its investigation. A more specific accusation involving the work of the Radio Section of the FLD and its head, Lee Falk. The inquiry, chaired by Edward E. Cox, claimed that in addition to the initiated moral- and unit-building foreign-language programs they also removed from the air broadcasters who were considered pro-fascist. The Cox Committee claimed that radio stationes were pressed to dismiss personnel by holding the treat of license suspension over their heads, attendent to force upon radiostations a pro-Russian or an arbitrary OWI slant, and that Falk used the division to secure publicity for himself and employment for his friends. The inquiry started in August (1943) and by the end of the month Lee Falk had quietly quit his job at OWI.

Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom

In Washington Lee Falk was[4] one of several dollar-a-year men, and his income was from his newspaper strips. In 1948, Phil Davis said[5] that Lee Falk did mail two or three months' supply at a time. In 1967, Lee Falk said[4] he created a few weeks of script for both Mandrake and The Phantom at a time, spending eight to ten hours a week on this. Even if Lee Falk probably worked long days in Washington he could continuing writing his script for Mandrake and The Phantom. Also several scripts in this period are about the war theme and intelligence, inspired by his work at OFF/OWI.

Timeline 1942-1943: Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom Stories
19421943
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
probably no ghosted stories
MD: contThe Rumor FactoryBaron KordThe Witch of KaloonThe Earthshaker
MS: contPacificaMystery of the Girls with Red HairCloud CityGloria Golden
PD: contThe InexorablesBent Beak BroderThe Phantom's EngagementHigh Seas Highjacker
PS: contThe ImpostorCastle in the CloudsThe Ismani CannibalsHamid the Terrible
Chief of Radio of the Foreign-Language Division
(Office of Facts and Figures (OFF))
Chief of Radio of the Foreign-Language Division
(United States Office of War Information (OWI))
writing
By the end of August 1943 Lee Falk had quit his job in Washington and back in New York he wrote the Passionate Congressman, inspired by his experiences in Washington's political environment. He also worked[4] feverishly plotting and writing an army-term-lenght supply of Mandrake and The Phantom.

Private in the United States Army

He was enlisted with no branch assignment at Fort Devens (Massachusetts) on Mars 7, 1944. Lee Falk himself said[6] that he promptly was shipped from one end of the country to another. 12 times he was on the verge of going overseas, and 12 times the orders were cancelled and he was sent to some other post. He also said he most of the time as a private and almost all of the time on KP.

Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom

Timeline 1944-1945 Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom Stories
19441945
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
possible ghosted stories
MD: contThe DomeDoctor CongoThe Mirror PeopleThe Ice LadyThe Old Ones"he Mystery PrinceThe Sleeping Beauty
MS: contThe Garden of WuzzuThe Circus AdventureThe Santa Claus PiratesFountain of YouthKingdom of the WindThe Attalan DeepThe Twins of Karana
PD: contDianaThe CroonerThe Maharajah's DaughterThe Blue GangLago the Lake GodThe Wild GirlThe Mermaids of Melo Straits
PS: contThe Childhood of the PhantomThe Golden PrincessThe Strange FishermanQueen Pera the Perfect
contFort Devens and other ?

Note

  1. Lee Falk's friend and collaborator of "The Big Story"
  2. In the newspaper strip of June 30, 1942 there is an interesting real-time connection. Mandrake is talking about a new job, some sort of espionage, in Washington!
  3. Lee Falk had some experience with radio from his work for Westheimer & Co., St. Louis agency, in the years 1932 to 1934
  4. January or February
  5. Lee Falk in the panel, Parlor E. May 13, 1942

Sources

  • ancestry.com; U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947, U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
  • Horten Gerd, Radio Goes to War: The Cultural Politics of Propaganda During World War II
  • Lees Lorraine M., Yugoslav-Americans and National Security During World War II
  • Sweeney Michael S., Secrets of Victory: The Office of Censorship and the American Press and Radio in World War II
  • 1.0 1.1 "OFF Foreign Language Division Forms Radio Section for Program Exchanges", Broadcasting, 9 March 1942, p 12
  • "Foreign Language Stations Approve Self-Control Plan", Broadcasting, 18 May 1942, p 14
  • "Foreign Tonge Group Formed To Contrl Wartime Operation", Broadcasting, 8 June 1942, p 16
  • 4.0 4.1 4.2 Murphy Patricia, "The Toast of Paris, France: Mandrake’s Master, Mr. Lee Falk", Detroit Free Press (Detroit), 4 June 1967, p 44-46
  • Dale Bert (1948), Meet Phil Davis, The OPEN ROAD for Boy's, February 1948, 34-36. Copy: Interview - Meet Phil Davis by Dale Bert
  • Heimer Melvin Leighton, "Famous Artists & Writers", King Features Syndicate (NY), 1949, p Lee Falk