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Foy D. Kohler (1949 – 1952)

VOA Director Foy D. Kohler (1949 – 1952)
VOA Director Foy D. Kohler (1949 – 1952)

Foy D. Kohler, already a seasoned diplomat by 1949, was appointed to direct the Voice of America by President Harry Truman. Kohler followed Charles Thayer both as Russian Service Chief and as VOA Director. The two also started VOA’s Ukrainian Service together just before Thayer left VOA (it officially launched in December 1949).

Under Kohler, VOA expanded from 25 to 45 languages, including Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Estonian, Georgian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovene, Tatar, and Turkmen. In 1950, Kohler appeared alongside other organization representatives on a panel at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention, “How to Develop and Sell New Program Resources,” held during the independent station session. VOA was grouped with Ampex Company, WOV New York, French Broadcasting System, Decca Records, RCA-Victor, and Billboard, among others.

President Truman used VOA airwaves on March 4, 1952 when he broadcast a major policy speech directed towards Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from the U.S. Coast Guard ship “Courier” before it left Washington, DC. Later that year the “Courier” reached its destination, the island of Rhodes, Greece. A floating VOA transmitter, the “Courier” docked at Rhodes for 12 years broadcasting to countries behind the Iron Curtain.

After his time at VOA and as U.S.-Soviet tensions were on the rise, Kohler played a key role as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and was involved in a number of diplomatic engagements. Among these was the historic “kitchen debate” between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the 1959 opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow. While attending the exhibition’s opening, the two had a string of heated exchanges about capitalism and communism in the middle of the exhibition’s model kitchen. In 1962, as U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, he fielded communications between Moscow and Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kohler was involved in the de-escalation talks that followed, that eventually led the Soviets to recall their missiles from Cuba.

In 1974 he became a member of the oversight body for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty a position he held until 1982. Following his work in government, Kohler taught at the University of Miami’s Graduate Center for Advanced Foreign Studies for more than ten years.