As we discussed in Part 3, the domestic home front became a battle for ideas and slogans as the Roosevelt administration pushed the nation to get ready for war. FDR established the Office of Coordinator of Information (COI), based on the directions of Colonel William Donovan. Col Donovan spent considerable time with British officials, and after meeting with the head of British Secret Intelligence Service, Stewart Menzies, Donovan was convinced the U.S. needed a similar system of centralized intelligence. This would not happen to the extent Donovan initially wanted–he was concerned about creating new agencies that would risk “encroaching on the FBI, Army and Navy Intelligence, or other departments of Government.” Regardless, the decision was made to split the COI into OWI and OSS. Donovan would continue to be the director of the OSS, an instrument in wartime espionage, covert action, propaganda and counterintelligence. Additionally, the OWI still retained the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB), which also worked to create propaganda against foreign audiences.
Despite being drawn into the war because of the attack by the Japanese Empire, Roosevelt chose to win the war in Europe first, and thus concentrated much of the resources to that theater in the war’s onset. Although America cultivated many ideas from their British counterparts, the British themselves gained much of their military experience from their enemies. It was no surprise that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were especially adept at military and civilian propaganda.
Organizations and Agencies
Despite breaking up the COI into OWI and OSS respectively, the OSS was still capable of a multitude of different overseas operations. Propaganda (black) came out of the Morale Operations Branch of the Strategic Services Operations Branch. Created in January 1943, its primary function was to attack “the morale and the political unity of the enemy through… psychological means operating or purporting to operate within the enemy or occupied territories.”
In general, cooperation between missions and their respective theater officers was scant, hindered in some part by jealously guarding their home turf. But this cooperation was probably better compared to coordination with the military, who had an initial unenthusiastic response to PSYOPs and Psychological Warfare. This was particularly evident in the Pacific among senior Naval Commanders who, at best, supported minimal ad-hoc efforts. However, by the start of the European Theater, the Army was serious enough to create a Psychological Warfare Division/Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (PWD/SHAEF), using the experiences of the earlier Joint Psychological Warfare Unit attached to Allied Forces HQ during the North Africa campaign. Various other units would be mobilized or reorganized during the entire course of the war, and by no means subject specifically to the organizations mentioned in this article. The situation is best described as “fluid” where Psychological Operations and Psychological Warfare was continually shifted, changed, and formed to better respond to dynamic situations and relative ad-hoc nature of the Allied personnel involved.