About Donald Satterlee Day
Donald S. Day (1895 Brooklyn, New York City – October 1, 1966 Helsinki, Finland) was an American reporter and a broadcaster of Nazi propaganda during World War II. He was arrested and investigated for treason after the war but no charges were brought due to lack of evidence.
Day’s parents were John and Grace, née Satterlee. He had two brothers, Sam and John, and two sisters, Della and Dorothy Day. He followed his father, who was editor of the New York Morning Telegraph into journalism, working for The Day Book, a tabloid newspaper aimed at the working-class market which campaigned on behalf of labor unions and the right of women to vote.
In 1917 he became a pilot in the United States Navy and on discharge following the end of World War I he returned to New York, working as a sports reporter for The Morning Telegraph. He later became the editor of the New York World.
Reporter in Europe
In 1921, Day was invited by the unofficial Soviet representative in New York, Ludwig Martens, to accompany him on his deportation from the US to the Soviet Union and to report on events there. When he arrived in Riga, Latvia, he received a Soviet visa and an offer from the European Director of the Chicago Tribune, Floyd Gibbons, to be that newspaper’s Northern Europe correspondent. Day accepted the offer and from August 1921, as the only US reporter in the region, he reported on events in the Baltic States, Finland and the Soviet Union. His visa for the Soviet Union was withdrawn when he refused to report on the Soviet system in a consistently favorable light. He was unable to comply when faced by the realities of Soviet tyranny and the communist subversion of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Denied direct access, he relied on reports from refugees and his own correspondents whom he sent across the Soviet border.
His experiences made him a committed anti-communist and this was reflected in his reports, especially those on the forced collectivization of agriculture in the 1920s and the Soviet famine of 1932–1933. Unlike other Western reporters such as Walter Duranty, Day’s uncompromising reports on the Soviet Union were almost unique at the time. Day survived a reporting gaffe when three months before the United States presidential election, 1936 the Tribune headlined his story, 'Moscow orders Reds in U.S. to back Roosevelt'. The rival Chicago Times offered $5,000 for proof that the story was true. The reward was never collected.
In March 1939, Polish authorities barred Day from verifying reports of the persecution of the country's ethnic German minority as he was sympathetic to the German position.
Day was a war correspondent in the Finnish-Soviet Winter War of 1939 - 1940.
When the Soviets invaded Latvia in July 1940 he was given 24 hours to leave the country. He reported from Riga that the invasion was facilitated by the Russian and Jewish minorities in the country:
'On June 17 there was a mob at the railway station, waving red rags and screaming in hysterical joy about the arrival of the Russians. The Latvian language could not be heard. The speeches, the shouts, the screams were all in Russian or Yiddish.'
Following the annexation of the Baltic States by the USSR, Day relocated to Sweden to continue reporting as the Tribune’s Stockholm correspondent. As a war correspondent, Day again accompanied Finnish troops in 1941 as they advanced into Soviet territory in the Continuation War of 1941 – 1944 and in September 1942 he quit his post to join the Finnish Army. His enlistment was rejected by the Finns due to US political pressure. His passport had expired and had not been renewed, so Day found himself technically a stateless person.
Propaganda for Nazi Germany
As the Continuation War was drawing to a close and convinced that the West had to be warned of communist expansion into Eastern Europe behind the advancing Red Army he relocated in the summer of 1944 to Nazi Germany. There he was employed in Berlin as a commentator for the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft, German State Radio. He was the last American recruit to the RRG’s USA Zone.
Day began broadcasting from Berlin on August 31, 1944 to American forces in Europe and continued until April 1945. He was convinced that the Third Reich was the only bulwark of the West against Soviet tyranny. His broadcasts denounced President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Jewish instigators of atheistical communism and America's military-political alliance with the USSR.
Though Day was ideologically convinced of his actions:
‘I also feel that in fighting the Jewish-Bolshevik regime of Russia that Germany is performing a service for Western civilization which will be properly appreciated and recognized in the future.’
he was paid $3,000 a month as a broadcaster, putting him in the top six on the RRG’s payroll.
Ironically, Day was included on the Nazi list of those to be detained in 1940 following a successful invasion of Great Britain and the conclusion of the war in Europe on Nazi terms.
Arrest and charges of treason
Day was arrested in May 1945 and held in detention along with Mildred Gillars and Herbert John Burgman by the Counterintelligence Corps at Camp King, Oberursel, until he was conditionally released from custody on December 24, 1946.
Day returned to his wife and home in Bad Tolz, Bavaria.
He was rearrested pending treason charges on January 12, 1949, but the US Department of Justice dropped the case soon after. During the Berlin Blockade there was no interest in prosecuting Day for his mainly anti-Soviet broadcasts during the war. The DOJ had noted in a memorandum of January 22, 1947:
‘His broadcasts consisted primarily of anti-Russian and anti-Communist sentiments, although he sometimes suggested that the United States should not have entered the war and that Germany’s cause against Russia was just.’
On his release, Day returned to Finland with his wife, whom he had married in Riga in 1940.
He appears to have recommenced as the Tribune Baltic correspondent in late 1962 and was still filing copy for that newspaper until just before his death in Helsinki of a heart attack in 1966.
Donald Day: "Onward Christian Soldiers: An American Journalist's Dissident Look at World War II". ISBN: 0939482622 First edition Sweden 1944