The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

48 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL On June 13, 1942, after considerable debate within the U.S. govern- ment, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt estab- lished the Office of War Information, which was divided into a domestic branch and an overseas branch. From its head- quarters in New York, the latter grew to include 40 outposts. London was the first, followed by Stockholm. This is the Stockholm story. The playwright and FDR speechwriter Robert Sherwood, who headed OWI’s Overseas Branch for its first two years, tapped a 35-year-old photographer and designer best known for having served as a personal sec- retary for the architect Frank Lloyd Wright to head the new office. Karl Jensen had been born and raised in Copenhagen and had the additional advantage of having been in Stock- holm since March 1942, working for the Office of the Coordi- nator of Information, an OWI predecessor agency. OWI Stockholm, which operated as the Press and Informa- tion Office of the U.S. Legation (as the U.S. embassy in Stock- holm was then known), faced a daunting challenge. Jensen had to persuade the Swedes that the United States and its allies would win the war then raging across Europe and Asia. He also needed to make the case that the United States was a country Swedes should admire and even support. This was in the face of a broad and pervasive propa- ganda campaign by the Nazis in Sweden that a German and Axis victory was inevitable, and that the U.S. war effort was doomed to fail, in no small part due to the country’s internal societal challenges of racial conflict and crime. OWI Stockholm was tasked, as well, by OWI headquarters in Wash- ington to report on what was going on in Sweden and nearby Germany and the occupied coun- tries of northern Europe, and to convey news and information about the Allied war effort to their citizens. Jensen and his col- leagues in the legation, which was headed by the experienced U.S. Minister Herschel John- son, had to tread care- fully. Germany’s occupation of neighboring Denmark and Norway and its victories on the battlefield in the first years of the war were a con- stant reminder to Swedes that their neutrality and continued independence were fragile. While Swedes were inclined to support the United States, the Swedish government was determined not to give Hitler an excuse to invade. Relations between Sweden and the United States, and its close ally the United Kingdom, were strained at times by differences over how Sweden’s wartime trade, including in iron ore and ball bearings, with Germany and the Allies should be handled. Even the sharpest American critics of Sweden’s trade with the Nazis, however, did not want Sweden to be occupied and the United States to lose its vantage point in Scandinavia. To meet its mission, the new office needed space and staff. In time, Jensen got both. By January 1943, if not before, the Press Office (joined by the naval attaché) had taken over a magnificent villa designed and constructed OWI and the “Battle of Sweden” By Williams S. Martin and Daria Gasparini Williams (Bill) Martin was the public affairs officer in Stockholm from 2018 to 2021 and collaborated with Daria Gasparini, a Washington, D.C.–based architectural historian, on the 2021 exhibit, “Telling America’s Story in a Time of War,” at U.S. Embassy Stockholm. Villa Åkerlund, which has served as the official residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Sweden since 1947. In 2020 it was added to the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property. Ingrid Bergman, in a still from “Swedes in America.” U.S.DEPARTMENTOFSTATE U.S.NATIONALARCHIVESANDRECORDSADMINISTRATION