CBS reported that 6 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast "The War of the Worlds" in 1938. Written and directed by Orson Welles, the radio play was an adaptation of the 1898 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. It is estimated that 1 million of those viewers believed the broadcast to be true. Given that Americans were accustomed to radio programs being interrupted (the Munich Crisis had brought the world to the brink of war only a month before) they were already in a panic-stricken state of mind and ripe for a such a hoax.
But when the nation did go to war only three years later after Pearl Harbor was bombed, apparently many Americans reacted skeptically to radio broadcasts about the attack. Radio listeners would never have that same naivete as they did on that night 73 years ago.
2. National Geographic News, June 17, 2005.
Photo courtesy National Geographic News.