Ideology and American propaganda: The psychological warfare campaign against Nazi Germany, 1941-1945
During the 1930s and early 1940s American journalists, foreign correspondents, internationalists, and interventionists perceived that Nazi propaganda was a threat to American security and a weapon the United States needed to use for defensive and offensive purposes. These individuals subsequently undertook successful efforts to educate the American public about propaganda and to convince FDR in 1941 to create government agencies to counter-act the Nazis and to use propaganda as a weapon. The Records of the Office of War Information, the Office of Strategic Services, and the U.S. Army reveal some of the difficulties of this propaganda war. Agency members became involved in a series of internecine ideological and political conflicts, due to the lack of any common perception of what propaganda was, how such agencies should be organized and operated, and due to the absence of any official federal policy on propaganda and clearly defined war and peace aims. The top policy makers in these agencies, therefore, developed conflicting propaganda policies based on their personal political and ideological preferences. The OWI's propaganda reflected liberal values and idealized FDR and the New Deal. The OSS adopted a conservative, subversive propaganda doctrine reflective of the views of its top members. In mid-1943, FDR implied that, rather than espousing any particular long-range wartime or postwar ideology, the nation was committed solely to obtaining a military victory as rapidly as possible. Denied top-level ideological and political support, the OWI deferred to the U.S. Army and military-affiliated agencies such as the OSS. Thereafter, the U.S. Army controlled all propaganda output and civilian agencies in the combat theaters and sanctioned only tactical propaganda designed to meet military ends. Elsewhere, strategic propaganda as conducted by OWI was less politically extreme and down played the personal ideologies and propaganda preferences of its members to produce a program whose intent was to maintain the Grand Alliance until final military victory.