Was “Godzilla” inspired by a 1947 radio hoax?
Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
A group of Los Angeles men working at the Armed Forces Radio Service in Japan are in more trouble than even their fertile minds could have imagined over an elaborate hoax broadcast about a 20-foot sea monster overpowering U.S. troops on a destructive rampage through Tokyo.
AFRS Japan Director Dr. Wilson W. Cook of Los Angeles; scriptwriters Cpl. Arthur Bartick of 176 S. Vista St. and Pfc. Arthur Thompson of 611 S. Virgil Ave.; and announcer Pfc. Pierre Meyers of Hollywood were relieved of duty and several of them were sent to Korea despite an announcement during the broadcast that it was a joke marking the radio service’s fifth anniversary.
Bartick, 19, a former UCLA student, had warned his parents that he and his friend Thompson, 20, who attended Belmont High School, were writing a “War of the Worlds”-style script that would cause a sensation. And indeed it did, as the station’s switchboard was overwhelmed by calls from WVTR listeners, including Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
One soldier reminisced: “For the next three hours, until lights-out, we listened with fascination as the program was repeatedly interrupted by news flashes which eventually included on the scene ‘live’ reports with audio of the most amazing account of destruction, mayhem, gunfire, cannon shots, burning buildings, Army mobilization and an unknown “Beast From the Sea” roaring in the background….
“The report, which continued at a frantic pace, included harrowing rescues and escapes, remote radio links, movement of heavy weapons and tanks and all of the stuff of which the truly epic stories are made. Accompanied by the terrifying screams, roars and shrieks of both the beast and the panic-stricken populace. As well as the gun fire and bullhorns of the protectors.”
Thompson, who was at sea on his way back home to Los Angeles when the broadcast aired, said: “It was a good script, but it was so preposterous. How could it scare anybody?” Their original idea? A Nazi V-2 rocket that went out of control during tests at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and destroyed the U.S.
History does not tell us much about the fates of the sea monster crew. Bartick apparently worked for Art Linkletter in the early days of television. I’d like to think everybody retired on their “Godzilla” residuals, although I have absolutely no factual basis for saying so.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1947; May 31, 1947; June 1, 1947; June 22, 1947; Jan. 15, 1951; WVTR and the Japanese Sea Monster.
The civilian director was Wilton W. Cook. His name was not “Wilson”.