In part one, we reviewed the basic definition of Psychological Operations and its relations to standard propaganda. Psychological Operations is actually a relatively modern concept but had roots long before the advent of the 20th century.

The United States government and military, with a few exceptions, did not effectively utilize propaganda or public relations during the early wars of the country’s history. Even when the U.S. inherited a pseudo-empire after the Spanish- and Philippine-American War, conventional military tactics were considered sufficient enough. But the start of a new war, unprecedented in technology and scale, would forever change that notion.

Modern war, modern propaganda

“Wake up America! Civilization calls every Man, Woman, and Child!”

-American WWI Propaganda Poster Slogan

The Great War was the first of many things: The first to see large scale industrialized warfare. The first to see the use of the armored tank. The first in which aircraft were used in combat. And the first war in which chemical weapons were employed on such a large and terrible scale.

With new methods of dissemination being available (airplanes, airships, radio, telephone, etc.) this was the perfect environment for countries to start using wide-scale propaganda. This is arguably the first time the Great Powers, including the United States, developed what we would understand as the modern form of Psychological Operations or Psychological Warfare.

At the outbreak of the War, both Entente and Central Powers rushed to capitalize on influencing their domestic and foreign audiences. Great Britain, with a long history of imperial rule, control over the seas, a better grasp of mass communication, and more robust “information” departments (Ministry of Information, National War Aims Committee, and the War Propaganda Bureau, later the Department of Information), could utilize Psychological Operations more successfully and mitigate Germany’s international efforts. Having control over 24 percent of the Earth’s surface since 1815 was an advantage that Great Britain capitalized on to maximum effect. (“The Great War,” a YouTube series that chronicles WWI as it unfolded, does a good job of summarizing propaganda war efforts by the leading powers.)