|An American family listening to the radio in 1942|
It's important to begin by considering just how important radio was to everyday life at the start of the Second World War. In America, eighty percent of households owned a radio by 1940, and in 1939 a survey of housewives revealed that the radio was a more indispensable household appliance than the refrigerator. Throughout the 1930s, stations had been getting involved in news broadcasts and were providing live coverage of key events, and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany was covered by the American Press. CBS sent Edward R. Murrow to London to head their European Operations, and he became an important voice in relaying details of major events to Americans back home. In the interest of keeping things brief for you all, I will limit the general overview section but provide you with a great link for further reading if you're interested: https://www.otrcat.com/world-war-ii-on-the-radio There, you can find details on radio's role in the war effort plus listen to original recordings from major moments throughout the war.
|Princesses Margaret (L) and Elizabeth in front of the radio microphones on Oct. 10, 1940|
I would be remiss not to mention the legendary speeches delivered by Winston Churchill over the radio, which also captivated audiences and did wonders for their spirits during the war's darkest days from the very beginning of his time as Prime Minister. It turns out that he actually did not enjoy broadcasting, and struggled to speak in front of a microphone rather than an adoring crowd. If you're interested in a great essay about the conspiracy that Churchill used a radio stand-in, here's a link: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/myths/130-an-actor-read-churchills-wartime-speeches-over-the-wireless
Overall, one of the most important aspects of Second World War radio was its impact on the home front. Having the ability to stay updated on events around the world and to receive regular morale boosts over the airwaves was a great comfort to a great many people during that time, and allowed for audiences to connect with the voices delivering them in new and unique ways. Information courtesy of Dr. Shawn Graham, Imperial War Museums, and The Telegraph.
Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)