December 11, 1957: Memorandum From the Operations Coordinator in the Office of the Under Secretary of State (Richards) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Berding):
For your information there is quoted below an excerpt from my preliminary and informal notes on the OCB meeting of December
"Guidelines for Public Information on the U.S. and Soviet Scientific Earth Satellite Programs
""At the meeting on December 11, there was extended discussion of publicity on the recent test at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Mr. Murray Snyder (Defense) and Dr. Alan T. Waterman (National Science Foundation) were present for this item. Mr. Snyder told the Board of the experiences of Defense in handling publicity at Cape Canaveral. He pointed out the physical limitations on controlling the press at the launching site, as well as the policy considerations if additional restrictions were to be attempted. In the first place, the recent Vanguard test was, as had been made clear, purely scientific in nature. It was well established policy to permit full press coverage of such scientific projects. Furthermore, it was impossible to control speculation by the press. Even more damaging stories would be published if less factual information was given out. To keep people away from the launching site would require some Presidential action similar to that at the time of the Manhattan project and this would create great public relations problems. As for the future, Mr. Snyder suggested certain changes in the OCB Guide Lines, the principal point being that all official releases should emanate from his office in the Pentagon.
"Mr. Herter said that official releases were only a small part of the picture. It was the speculative stories which did the damage. Perhaps these could be best controlled through appropriate official releases. At the same time, the Guide Lines for the Pentagon spokesmen should not be inflexible.
"Governor Stassen said that every effort should be made to keep attempted launchings secret until a satellite was actually in orbit. It seemed essential to him that one man should be in charge of all releases and that this man should operate under clear directives. As a matter of policy, releases should underrate the possibility of success rather than give exaggerated opinions of the possibility of success. He said that 'U.S. prestige should not ride on expectations as tenuous as the doubtful success of Vanguard'.
"Mr. Allen (USIA) said the recent failure of the test had subjected the U.S. to damaging ridicule overseas. Our position at the moment was undignified and damaging and reflected a dangerous lack of discipline. One trouble was that the Guide Lines were directed toward a purely scientific experiment. Since the Russian ICBM announcement and the successful launching of Sputnik it was no longer possible to treat the tests in this light. Rather, they had become a part of psychologic warfare and competition.
"It was agreed that the OCB Guide Lines should be amended along the lines suggested by Mr. Snyder. However, the actual language should be refined and submitted to the Board for approval in approximately two weeks' time."
Arthur L. Richards
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