Shotgun Marriage

Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme of the BBC (AEFP) broadcast, Corn Exchange, Bedford, England, July 13, 1944

Chapter 3

SHOTGUN MARRIAGE

The actual reason for Miller’s transfer to the United Kingdom is detailed for the first time in any publication. The Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme (AEFP) conceived by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, designed by Supreme Headquarters (SHAEF), the BBC and the American Forces Network (AFN) is introduced, including the contentious negotiations surrounding its formation and the intervention of Prime Minister Winston Churchill to assure its launch. The challenge of convincing Gen. George Marshall and Gen. H. H. Arnold to approve the move of Miller to the ETO is described. The key BBC officials and SHAEF officers involved with AEFP are introduced, among them Sir Noel Ashbridge, Gen. F. E. Morgan, Gen. Ray Barker, William Haley, Maurice Gorham, Cecil Madden … and Lt. Col. David Niven. This is also the first time the accurate details of Niven’s key role have ever been published.

BBC Engineering Department – Start Point, 1050kc, 184kw Transmitter Signal Contour Map For AEFP

THE AMERICAN BAND OF THE SUPREME ALLIED COMMAND

Broadcast Thursday, July 27, 1944, 8:30 – 9:00 pm, Corn Exchange, Bedford, England
(AEFP – BBC)

PREVIEW

“After catching his breath, Maurice Gorham realized why Haley had selected him for the troop broadcasting service assignment. Among the upper echelon of BBC management, he had the most experience working with Americans. The BBC engineers had already assigned a transmitter and frequency for the new service. To operate it, the BBC wanted key people back from the forces and submitted a list of names. Gorham learned SHAEF had assigned Colonel Kirby from Washington to represent them, and the operation was under the guidance of General Barker.  SHAEF and the BBC named the new service the Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme of the BBC (AEFP). For programming, Gorham could call upon the BBC and AFN (AFRS). Although technically AEFP fit within the Overseas Services, Gorham reported directly to Haley rather than Randall. Gorham found Haley to be an ‘excellent boss and the best director-general we ever had.’

“With D-Day scheduled for June 5, Gorham had twelve working days to organize AEFP and put it on the air. Even under normal circumstances this was a daunting if impossible task. The BBC provided AEFP with offices at Broadcasting House. Not a group to be caught unaware, the Engineering Department had gone ahead and assigned a transmitter on the south coast at Start Point, Devon, and allotted a frequency before the BBC formally agreed to cooperate. Ashbridge and Bishop quietly made preparations for weeks on the correct assumption that SHAEF would simply order the BBC to comply with its wishes.

“Privy to the invasion plan, the engineers had already set up and tested a signal contour that provided AEFP with excellent coverage of the invasion area. When they presented him with the technical details, Gorham at once realized where the invasion was going and he became part of the secret. White-helmeted American military policemen appeared in the halls outside the new AEFP offices at Broadcasting House.

“The first program meeting, held on May 25, with Kirby, John Hayes of AFN, and Gerry Wilmont of the CBC, lasted for fourteen hours. Although they hammered out a tentative program schedule, Gorham still did not have a staff. He needed an operations manager, announcers, and a plan for how to pick up the AFN and BBC content. Gorham recruited Capt. Franklin Englemann from SHAEF to pull things together as his presentation assistant.

Kirby believed from the start that the designation ‘Allied Expeditionary Forces Programme of the BBC’ was an unnecessary irritant to American troops. Even if Barker agreed, he did not wish to argue the point with the BBC.”

 

Col Edward Kirby, Director of SHAEF Broadcasting (left) and Col. R. Ernest Du Puy (right), Director of SHAEF Press Relations, seated at broadcast microphone. Du Puy announced the D-Day landings from France to the world with “SHAEF Communique #1” the morning of June 6, 1944