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The Propaganda Warriors

America's Crusade Against Nazi Germany

Clayton D. Laurie

384 pages, 20 photographs, 6 x 9
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0765-5, $39.95

Book Cover ImageLegendary "Wild Bill" Donovan, CIA directors Allen Dulles and William Casey, journalists Stewart Alsop and James Reston, diplomat John McCloy, philanthropist Paul Mellon, playwright Robert Sherwood, theatrical great John Houseman, and civil rights leader Ralph Bunche were among the thousands of people who led or participated in America's massive propaganda campaign against Nazi Germany. In The Propaganda Warriors Clayton Laurie fully unveils for the first time this unprecedented, ambitious, and embattled wartime enterprise.

Laurie details the creation, evolution, and field operations of the overseas branch of the Office of War Information (OWI); the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS); and the Army-dominated Psychological Warfare units (PWB and PWD) serving the Allied forces in Europe. These agencies, Laurie shows, were as much at war with each other as with the Third Reich, largely due to FDR's failure to establish an official propaganda policy or to enunciate precise war and postwar aims. Within this vacuum, each agency eagerly developed its own distinct form of propaganda.

The propagandists at OWI and OSS (forerunner of the CIA) were especially at odds with each other. The OSS was led by Machiavellian "realists," conservatives, and Republicans who wanted American values to dominate the international order and believed that any means--including the Nazi's own subversive "black" propaganda--justified that end. By contrast, the OWI was led by liberals, New Dealers, and those in the media and arts who adhered to Wilsonian ideals and believed that the truth about America, as they perceived it, would win out through the sheer power of its message. They detested the Nazi regime every bit as much as their OSS counterparts but refused to emulate Nazi tactics.

Despite these conflicts, American propaganda did accelerate the drive toward victory, thanks to the emergence of the PWB and PWD, which after 1943 controlled the production of American propaganda against Germany, bending ideological agendas to serve the military's purely tactical objectives. But, as Laurie makes clear, all three agencies played a vital role in this crucial effort, even as their conflicts foreshadowed future ideological disputes during the Cold War.

"A fascinating story of an old American dilemma-ideals versus self-interest. Propaganda can be truthful, or it can lie to help win a war. The debate Laurie unveils was not resolved during World War II, merely postponed, as the United States went into the Cold War and Vietnam. Essential to an understanding of America's use of propaganda."--Warren F. Kimball, author of The Juggler: Franklin Roosevelt as Wartime Statesman

"An excellent and impressive work that presents a mass of material on a great World War II intellectual and moral struggle over fighting the Nazis by telling the truth, some of it, none of it, or outright lies."--Thomas F. Troy, author of Donovan and the CIA and Wild Bill and Intrepid: Donovan, Intrepid, and the Origins of CIA.

"A lively and revealing study of interagency rivalry in that most crucial of wartime arenas, propaganda warfare. There is much that is new and important in this book. All students of the war, as well as of intelligence, will benefit from it."--Robin W. Winks, author of Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939–1961

"A 'must' acquisition for anyone with any interest in espionage, intelligence, and propaganda."--Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenburg: Clash of Empires and editor of War in History

CLAYTON D. LAURIE is a historian in the Conventional War Studies Branch, Histories Division, at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and author of The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1877–1945.

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