In this recital of events that involves a number of different people whose individual lives eventually collide with each other in time and space, I could have focused upon any number of them, but I chose Herbert W. Armstrong for several reasons.
First thing to remember is that this is not a story about Herbert W. Armstrong. It is about the many individuals that his life impacted, and by this I do not mean in the world of theology, but in the real world of geopolitics; commerce, and life in general as lived by the majority of people in the world today. That opens up a vast spectrum of different views of life, and that is exactly the context in which I want to present the life and times of Herbert W. Armstrong.
In fact, if you go back through previous editions of this Blog - which will become part of the text for the book 'Dial 999 for Caroline - the girl who never was', you will discover that I have already delved into the biographical accounts of many people from various backgrounds. Eventually it is my intention to show how all of these people, and still more to come, all collide in time and space with each other, and most of them for different reasons.
The one contributing factor that caused me to use Herbert W. Armstrong as the centerpiece for my recital is that his life is now within bookends: he lived and he died. But within that same time period he was constantly writing letters and articles, as well as speaking on radio, television and in public forums. However, those letters of his are time-stamped and they were widely distributed. Therefore they have a certain amount of authenticity to them with regards to their contemporary content.
Then there is the content as well as context of his letters. Armstrong came from a print advertising background and then got into radio and television broadcasting. Because these broadcasts involved sponsored time, it means that he, or the organizations that he represented, had to buy the time periods from the stations for his programs to be aired.
A lot of his correspondence is centered upon media matters - both print and broadcasting. As such, by removing the theological overtones from his texts, we are left with a superb chronological documentation of media matters from the 1930s through the 1980s. This is what we will be delving into, and I don't think that anyone else has ever used the letters of Herbert W. Armstrong in such a secular context before now.
Remember too, that the life and times of Herbert W. Armstrong compose only one part of a gigantic story involving a host of very different people whose lives come together to reveal an amazing and hitherto untold story. That is the story behind the story yet to appear in context as 'Dial 999 for Caroline - the girl who never was'.
Therefore, keeping to my promise of bringing the life of Herbert W. Armstrong into the world of Radio Mercur, and my previous quotations from Armstrong about the manager of that offshore radio station, it is time to reveal just who this American was that Armstrong wanted to meet. Now a lot of material has been written about Radio Mercur as a Danish commercial station, and additional material has also been written about the Swedish language station that bought 'down time' from the Danish station for Skånes Radio Mercur.
What all of these accounts seem to have in common is in emphasizing that these two stations were primarily Danish and Swedish, and thus downplaying any American connections. Now in a sense, if we only concentrate on their broadcast output, then most of it was in Danish and Swedish, but if we look behind the scenes at management, we find something completely different.
So referring back to a previous edition of this Blog where we recited this interesting comment by Herbert W. Armstrong:
".... I boarded an SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) polar-flight DC-7 plane at Los Angeles International Airport, in early June, 1959 .... We arrived in Copenhagen about 3 o’clock in the morning. .... We took this flight, stopping first at Copenhagen, because we wanted to contact the first radio station that we had heard of operating offshore from a ship. The offices of this station were in Copenhagen. .... I was not able to contact the manager of the station, who was out of town. However, I did contact him later by telephone."
So who did Herbert W. Armstrong, an American who was not versed in either the Danish or Swedish languages, hope to meet and converse with in June 1959? More to the point, who called him from Copenhagen by telephone while Armstrong was in Rome, and offered to have his English language programs translated into Danish and or Swedish? Remember, Armstrong already had several foreign language editions of his program hosted by other speakers, including a Russian edition hosted by a speaker in New York.
That was in June 1959.
Now let us move ahead in time to this strange letter written on February 3, 1960 by Gordon McLendon to General Somoza in Nicaragua:
In May 1960 a feature about 'Radio Mercur' appeared in a U.S. electronics magazine:
This man's name is Phil Irwin and in May 1960 he was identified both in text and in picture as the station manager of 'Radio Mercur'. So what is known about this man? We know that he is a U.S. citizen and that he worked for a radio station in the State of New York before he went to Denmark. His career then shifted to the Voice of America, and by the 1980s he was presenting his own shows on that U.S. government network which was broadcasting to Europe.
Clearly there is a distinct timeline here. Herbert W. Armstrong flew into Copenhagen on a SAS plane in June of 1959 to see the Station Manager of 'Radio Mercur', but the Station Manager was not in town. However, after Armstrong had moved on to Rome he got a telephone call from 'Radio Mercur' in which the 'World Tomorrow' program was discussed with a view to airing it in Danish, Swedish, or both languages. On February 3, 1960, Gordon McLendon told General Somoza that his group had just bought half of 'Radio Mercur'. In May 1960, Phil Irwin was shown as part of a U.S. magazine article about 'Radio Mercur', and he was identified as both Station Manager and program presenter of an English language show on 'Radio Mercur', which he taped in the station's land-based studio in Copenhagen. On the desk in front of him is a model of the radio ship mv Cheeta.
This thread will continue in tomorrow's edition of the Blog.