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OSS - The Psychology of War
RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS BRANCH (R&A)
The Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS was the first concerted effort on the part of any world power to enlist members of the academic community as foreign affairs analysts. [Smith, 1972, p. 13] The R&A Branch was led by Dr. James Baxter and Dr. William Langer. After the war, most of the OSS Research Branch analysts in Germany participated in interrogating Nazi defendants; Franz Neumann became the first Chief of Research at Nuremberg, succeeded by his OSS colleague Henry Kellermann. [Smith, p. 239]
Group one is composed of men who might be called national figures. I understand them to be tops professionally and are well known. Some are working in Washington and may not be available. The second group is made up mostly of younger men. I would regard them as equal to the first group professionally but a shade beneath them in terms of experience and reputation. Excerpts from Letter to Dr. Baxter from Elmo Roper, Aug. 25, 1941
You may recall your meeting with Professor Mark May several weeks ago. I had a long talk with him about the materials in the Cross-Cultural Survey, and about his staff. They have collected a great amount of information on the social and psychological characteristics of many societies throughout the world. As they may probably have information of value to us, and as they expressed a desire to assist us on any problem on which we wish information, it seems wise to send Mr. Junker, who knows Professor Murdock, head of the Survey, to Yale University for a brief investigation. The Yale Cross-Cultural Survey, Jan. 21, 1942
[T]he Psychology Division feels that psychoanalytic deliberation on special questions from time to time would be helpful. It would, therefore, welcome the privilege of submitting to your committee appropriate questions for discussion and of receiving a report on your deliberations. Furthermore, the Division would appreciate copies of memoranda from your Committee originating quite independently of any questions submitted by the Division. Relation of Psychology Division [of the Coordinator of Information] with Morale Committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Jan, 29, 1942
Surveys and Morale Metrics
Our division is interested in the morale and attitudes of the populace of strategic countries. In order to understand the psychological condition of the people we need a systematic description of their social structure and dynamics and of the ideologies of different classes and social groups. It is this description that our outline of topics organizes. Our interest in military and economic potentials and in formal political organization is peripheral. ... Our division plans to make recurrent morale situation reports not only to the end of revealing the current psychological condition of a people but also for the purpose of recommending, on the basis of such situation reports, current propaganda directives. The Conference with the Social Anthropologists and Resulting Operations, Jan. 10, 1942
After talking with our staff, and with Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Edwards, the advisors proceeded to formulate a working outline for the analysis of any social system having a territorial extent (a tribe, a village, a city, a nation, etc.) They conceived their job in this respect to be one of devising a guide for analysis based upon the experience of social anthropologists which would help us answer three major questions about a given country: (1) How do the people act? (2) How are these actions continued? (3) If we want to maintain (or change) these conditions, how can we do it? Report on Conference of Social Anthropologists held December 20-21, 1941.
The essential social and psychological facts about any country can be subsumed under six broad categories: I. Adaptation to the natural environment. (the forms of economic enterprise and the groupings of people in them). II. The social organization. III. Ideologies (the symbolic system of each social aggregate; ultimate beliefs and sanctions for behavior). IV. Recent social change (general trends and important dislocations within the last generation). V. Leaders and leadership (leadership in the organizational sense; particular individual leaders and aspirants). VI. The individual in his society (personality development in key groups, important national characteristics; etc.). Social and Psychological Analysis of a Nation: A Working Outline, Jan. 2, 1942
On the accompanying orientation chart the populace with its complex social structure and psychology is indicated by a center circle. The conditions that affect the morale of a group are indicated on the left. The appraisal of the military, economic, social and political conditions is not the central interest of the social psychologist except insofar as they affect individuals directly. The effect of these conditions on the populace results in certain expressions of the people as indicated by the 17 types of items at the right of the chart. These expressions define the national morale of a people and it is the main job of the social psychologist to collect and evaluate facts about them on strategic foreign countries. ...
Special psychological problems. We are conducting and plan to do further work on a number of special psychological problems dealing with certain characteristics of foreign peoples. These questions are as follows: 1. The social situations that produce panic in different peoples and the form that panic takes. One such study is under way. 2. The appeals to which persons in important social groups respond as revealed by a systematic study of contemporary popular literature, speeches, leaders' characteristics, music, aesthetic content, etc. 3. The social sensitivies and modes of releasing them as revealed by characteristics of humor, fads, etc. 4. Common modes of solving conflicts and frustrations as revealed by neurotic and psychopathic patterns. 5. Unique social sentiments in strong emotional situations, such as birth, marriage, death. 6. The characteristics of rumor-spreading. One study in collaboration with Mr. Potter, the OFF, and the Office of Education is now being planned.Summary of the Activities of the Psychology Division, Jan. 24, 1942
As our analysis proceeded it became increasingly evident that civilian panic as a weapon can only be effectively used when integrated with specific military operations against specific military objectives that include civilian groups. Such operations would require the participation of social analysts working directly with the military strategists. These analysts, employing the principles herein presented, would make a preliminary psychological study of the people of the specific communities involved in the campaign, and the procedures for the stimulation of panic would have to be carefully time and integrated with the actual operations. Like any other weapon, panic would not be effective if it were shot off at the enemy in general. Its use requires a high degree of control; skillful integration with other operations, and above all, planned and careful study preliminary to an actual campaign. Generating Panic, April 7, 1942 [report not found]
All confidential government materials come in as well as material from P.W.E.'s own agents. Sifters go over this material first and decide what of the material is usable for propaganda purposes and who is to use it, e.g., whether it should be carried by BBC or the black operations. This material goes to the quite separate research staff, also housed in the country offices. This staff files the material and prepares summaries. Here, also, the propaganda analysis and the morale indexes are made. ... Mr. Crossman is going to have his research staff give us a report on their methods of preparing the Morale Graphs. He thought that it would be possible to make the graphs available to us too. The Political Warfare Executive as Described by Mr. H.R.S. Crossman, Oct. 9, 1942
Morale and the Subconscious
We must recognize that what is important in propaganda is the effect upon the listener, whether his morale has been improved or not, rather than the manifest line which the propaganda takes. It is obvious that a given broadcast or movie can leave an audience violently disagreeing with the material presented. Such effects may be controlled. Likewise, the broadcast which is full of highest patriotism, but at the same time makes the patriot's cause appear hopeless, may have a negative morale effect upon the listener. ... Cues for disguised propaganda may be taken from the list of possible techniques above. The most usual one is whether or not there is a predominance of "bad news" or "good news." Suggested Report on The Psychology of Disguised Propaganda, August 7, 1942
We should make our most aggressive psychological warfare of informative kind in battle lulls; at other times the news speaks for itself -- (as relayed by white). During lulls, rumor, black radio, pamphlets should carry out aggressive divertive pseudo-news campaigns dealing with personalities, etc. The cream of such materials should be reserved to lull periods. On the other hand, major military news events should be immediately followed by black psychological warfare campaigns designed to exploit them, e.g., when Axis out of Tunis, spread local rumors of landings at neighboring points in Italy -- rumors that Mussolini asked for peace but was immediately placed under custody, etc. Random Notes for a Manual on Subversive Psychological Warfare Techniques, circa 1943
It is my impression that attention is focussed almost wholly on the purely conscious, rational level. This phase is certainly important and warrants extensive consideration. It is, however, only a part of the picture. Behind this facade lies a psychological domain which is not conscious and does not follow the laws of reason. For the purposes of Psychological Warfare the latter may be of even greater value than the former inasmuch as effects produced in this regious are beyond conscious control and tend to go over into action more promptly and efficiently. Psychoanalysis is the only branch of science which has studied this region [of] the mind extensively and it is for that reason that I believe it is in a position to make some worthwhile contributions. Psychoanalytical Contributions to Psychological Warfare, by Walter Langer, Jan. 1, 1943
I think the psychographs of the enemy leaders and enemy nations would be immensely valuable. I am somewhat less convinced of the possibility of analyzing current propaganda, although for obvious reasons it is worth trying. Memorandum about Langer Report, circa 1943
Summary of Suggestions by Mr. Theodore Roscoe, of New York City, For Psychological Warfare Campaigns Against Germany, Oct. 6, 1942
Factors which may decrease confidence in victory. Operative vulnerabilities: 1918 parallel -- American participation, etc.; reverses on Russian Front and diminishing air power; recent changes in propaganda line to Strength through Fear theme; rumors of persons in high circles. Contingent vulnerabilities: Hitler's assumption of personal responsibility for the conduct of the war; doubts of German technological superiority.
Conditions contributing to war-weariness. Operative vulnerabilities: prospect, officially admitted, of long hard war. End not yet in sight; execssive casualties on Russian Front; dread of air raids on cumulative scale; disruption of order and efficiency in German civilian life, especially in bombed areas; boredom and frustration with existing living conditions; soldier morale on Russian Front and in occupied areas.
Grievances against Party. Operative vulnerabilities: destruction of German labor's traditional freedom, organization, and power; Gestapo and SS surveillance; attack upon churches; violation of German cultural traditions; misconduct of party leaders; corruption of justice; estrangement of parents from children; distrust of news sources, surfeit of propaganda; proletarianization of small business and professional groups. Contingent vulnerabilities: bungling of foreign policy; assumption of responsibility for war.
Other conditions contributing to internal dissention. Operative: sectionalism; dissention and conflict amony Party leaders.
Bases for possible appeals. Operative vulnerabilities: unpopularity of party; United Nations' policy opposing indiscriminate reprisals; war-weariness in Germany; appeal to German cultural values - craving for law and order, identification with England and U.S., tradition of workmanship, refinement, and ethics in conduct, German nationalism.
Groups and conditions which may be exploited. Inflation, black market, currency; foreign nationality workers; rumor channels; radio listening habits; remnants of German labor organizations; soldiers in occupied areas and Russia; the Churches; physical installations capable of being sabotaged.
Exploitable anxieties. Civilian anxiety about conditions on the Russian Front; inflation; reprisals from conquered peoples; two-front war; stab in back; Bolshevization of Europe and Russian occupation; American participation; uneasiness about choice of allies; fear of agrarianization and destruction of industry; guilt feelings over violation of traditional stand.Preliminary List of Major German Vulnerabilities, Jan. 23, 1943
Kurt Wiener's Outline of a Program of Psychological Warfare, March 8, 1943
Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler, Oct. 1943 (first 53 pages of longer report)
The Psychological Foundations of the Wehrmacht, Feb. 1944 (excerpts from long report)
Vulnerabilities Within Components of the Wehrmacht, May 6, 1944
R and A Research Program on Behalf of MO in European Theater, April 4, 1944
Source Materials, circa Oct. 1943
Outposts of the Research and Analysis Branch, March 12, 1943
Notes on Organization of Topographic Intelligence, Dec. 13, 1944
Branch Morale, June 9, 1943
Considerations in respect to the basis and procedures of Psychological Warfare, Dec. 14, 1942
Plan for the More Specific Functions of the Psychology Division, Oct. 9, 1941
Observations on the Bill of Rights Day, Dec. 10, 1941
Panic in War Situations, Feb. 13, 1942 (27 pages)
Copyright Paul Wolf, 2004. For educational use only. No copyright to original government works.