The Propaganda Warriors

America's Crusade Against Nazi Germany

Clayton D. Laurie

Legendary "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.

“Laurie’s careful exploitation of manuscript and archival sources has allowed him to provide an objective and powerful accounting of the U.S. propaganda campaign.

—Journal of Military History

“Laurie’s detailed and unbiased analysis makes Propaganda Warriors an important contribution to the literature available in U.S. propaganda efforts during this century.

—National Security Studies Quarterly
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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.

About the Author

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.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series