Study Guides

Understanding Documents  Context
The Congressional Front by Congressman Everett M. Dirksen, February 21, 1945

The funds necessary for Dirksen to take his trip came from an unusual source:  unspent campaign funds contributed by his friends and neighbors.  The Congressional Front was a weekly newsletter the congressman himself wrote and mailed to constituents.  This particular issue was dated the day he left Washington DC to begin his 89-day trip abroad.

Everett Dirksen to “Honey Kids,” May 8, 1945

Everett Dirksen was nearing the end of his trip as he left Italy mid-day on May 7.  At 3:30 p.m., the pilot of Dirksen’s flight from Rome to Paris brought the message that in two or three hours the war in Europe would be over.  Dirksen’s log entry at 4:00 read “flash—Germans have unconditionally surrendered, (Thank God).”  On Tuesday, May 8, Dirksen penned this letter.

Everett Dirksen’s Report to Congress, May 29, 1945 Four days after meeting with Truman, Dirksen took to the floor of the House of Representatives to address his colleagues.  His 13,000- word speech covered the waterfront:  the trip itinerary, physical descriptions of the terrain and historic sites, the dignitaries he met, the inspections of military and civilian operations, and his conclusions about the state of the world in 1945.

The Congressional Front, June 2, 1945

After meeting with President Harry Truman on May 25, Dirksen wrote his first post-trip newsletter to his constituents back home.  His newsletters were called The Congressional Front.  The June 2 edition, entitled “What of Freedom,” was the first in a series related to his travels.  On June 9, he dealt with appropriations for national war agencies; on June 16 with the living costs in other lands; on July 7 with the impact of American movies on foreign audiences; and on July 21 with the Atlantic Charter and instability in Europe.

Confidential Memorandum to the President, June 4, 1945

At Noon on Friday, May 25, 1945, Congressman Everett Dirksen met with President Harry Truman in the Oval Office of the White House.  “You were a wagon soldier in the last war, Mr. President.  So was I.  We don’t have much conception of how modern warfare operates.  But we do know something of what our boys have gone thru, and we’ve got to make sure that those who have taken it on the chin have not done it in vain.”

Draft of Remarks Concerning the Office of War Information, July 1945

The Office of War Information, created in 1942, formulated and executed information programs to promote understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.  Besides coordinating the release of war news for domestic use, the office established an overseas branch to manage the information and propaganda campaign abroad.  Congressional opposition to the domestic operations of the OWI resulted in increasingly curtailed funds, and by 1944 the OWI operated mostly in the foreign field.  At virtually every stop, Dirksen made a point of visiting the OWI outpost.  He came away impressed by the agency’s work and vowed to increase funding for its work, as his remarks confirm.  He did not succeed, however.  OWI ceased operations in September 1945, and its foreign functions were transferred to the Department of State.

“Dirksen Reports on his World Tour,” July 27, 1945

Before Everett Dirksen left on his trip, he promised his sponsors—people in his hometown and the 16th congressional district of Illinois—to provide a full report upon his return.  For example, on Friday, June 8, Dirksen returned to his hometown to meet with an audience eager to hear first-hand about their congressman’s adventure.  The press estimated that 3,500 residents packed the Pekin High School auditorium.  He made at least five such speeches within two weeks before continuing his speaking tour outside the district.



The Dirksen Center | Everett M. Dirksen | Robert H. Michel | Ray LaHood | Congress for Kids| Communicator | Dirksen Center Projects

The Dirksen Congressional Center Copyright 2008