Formation of the US Writers’ War Board – January 1942

The idea for a production line of professional writers who would create high-quality propaganda to ensure America’s war effort remained resilient during the years of conflict ahead was initially proposed by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., who agreed to an initiative to seek civilian writers to help promote the war effort of the United States to its citizens. The task was delegated to Julian Street Jr., head of the writing staff for the US Treasury Department.

On the 9th of December, 1941, Street set up the legal structure to represent the authors and spoke with playwright Howard Lindsay about organising a group of prominent writers to promote the sale of war bonds and raise public morale. Lindsay spoke with his writing partner and dramatist, Russel Crouse, and they approached Authors’ League President Rex Stout, known for his novels about the character Detective Nero Wolfe, who they felt should lead the group.

On January 6th, 1942, Stout met with Crouse, author Pearl Buck, broadcaster and philosopher Clifton Fadiman, radio commentator Elmer Davis, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, and author John P. Marquand, and the Writers’ War Committee was formed.

The organisation soon outgrew its modest founding mission as thousands of writers from around the country all agreed to help the government by writing anything from poems to novels to songs—emotional material that would promote the causes of the Government of the United States in its prosecution of the war. The committee, whose writers were headed by a group of 20 authors primarily from New York City, was renamed the Writers’ War Board (WWB).

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