The War of the Worlds Letters

Letter from Paul Morton to the
Federal Communications Commission
October 31, 1938
Letter from J. V. Yaukey to the
Federal Communications Commission
November 1, 1938
National Archives, Records of the Federal Communications Commission

On October 30, 1938, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) broadcast an adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. The hour-long radio program began with an announcer introducing a musical performance and moments later interrupting with a special news bulletin describing the landing of Martians in New Jersey and their subsequent attacks with death rays. Although CBS made four announcements during the broadcast identifying it as a dramatic performance, millions of Americans who heard it were scared into some sort of action, many wrote letters. The newly created Federal Communications Commission received more than 600 letters about the broadcast, including the two featured here.

Yaukey LetterStudent Interest:

  • Documents can serve as models of effective communication for students. In these letters, students witness the exercise of First Amendment rights and the power of the written word.

  • Analyzing multiple documents related to a similar topic allows students to compare different points of view.

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