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Propaganda MS #B-587

Image of cover: Propaganda MS# B-587.
Image of cover: Propaganda MS# B-587.

Foreign Military Studies
Historical Division Headquarters, European Command
Volume I Number 15


I. Preliminary Remarks
II. The Nature of Propaganda

I. The Propaganda War of the East
II. The Propaganda War in the West
III. Summary
IV. Propaganda and Economy
V. Propaganda of Ideas
VI. Propaganda and Politics
VII. Propaganda and Ideology
VIII. Propaganda and Personality

I. Wartime Politics and Propaganda
II. Military Propaganda



I. Preliminary Remarks

In 1946 a questionnaire was sent to me at BRIGEND by the Historical Division concerning the reciprocal relationships between operational and propaganda warfare. The work was elaborated into a yellow booklet of about 150 pages, which was forwarded to the Historical Division from England in February 1947. It was founded on personal views, and experiences gathered in the war from 1939 to 1945 as seen from the German side. The following ideas may be considered a supplement to this work, concerning themselves as they do, with more practical consequences. Propaganda considerations belong in military history and in its practical evaluation.

II. The Nature of Propaganda

Propaganda is a kind of calculated, controlled direction of the thinking of the masses. It is utilized in all walks of life, including politics, economy, religion, ideology, and by all people from the solider to the businessman. It is an ancient art and has been used throughout the ages. Fifty percent of politics is propaganda, and from the military point of view, a fourth branch of the armed forces. Its results may be beneficial or harmful. It can cause victory or death, and today it is a potent and highly influential instrument for the deliberate and purposeful leadership of peoples.

The elements of propaganda are sober facts and emotional, psychological imponderables. If directed toward the masses it must exploit simple emotional factors, and must repeat them again and again in order to drive them home. As an example, one might cite the methods of the experienced Catholic Church.

Propaganda can affect specific groups or nations only if the propagandist accurately assesses and understands the mentality and the idiosyncrasies of these groups or nations. Therefore, the propaganda psychologist must be able to think and feel just as do the people concerned, otherwise the effects of his propaganda will be the opposite of those he intended. Propaganda thus requires extreme skill in national psychology, and it is much more difficult to handle, as a means of combat, than a tank, a gun, or an airplane.

Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian nations require a sober, objective propaganda, since they are rather critical, thoughtful, and calm. Yet they are not completely indifferent to emotional propaganda. Romantic and South Slavic nations, on the other hand, require a more emotional propaganda, since they are less critical, less thoughtful, more temperamental. The German nation reacts to a mixed objective and emotional propaganda, since it has a mixture of objective criticism with a strong emotional sense. The German from northern and eastern Germany is objective, cool, reserved and self-reliant, but the German of southern and western Germany is less stable, more receptive, vivacious and emotional. National Socialism recognized and exploited these peculiarities of a credulous, uncritical and strongly emotional people, and this is why its ideas spread from the south, from Munich, and not from Berlin in the north. It knew how to present things in an idealized form and this explains its growth between 1920 and 1933.

The German nation, fundamentally undemocratic by nature, was so childishly naïve that it relinquished the republic, the democracy it had gained in 1919, without hesitation in exchange for idealistic utopias and phantoms. The fundamental fault of our so capable and educated nation was that it had an erroneous conception of democracy. It felt that democracy was the unrestrained will of the individual rather than the controlled common will of the group, as represented in the genuine, old democracies. This is the reason why great men throughout German history were constantly compelled to govern with a tight rein; otherwise this undemocratic, strongly individualistic, and even eccentric nation would have fallen apart. A knowledge of these problems is essential to any propaganda aimed at remoulding the German people.

National Socialism did not know how to propagandize other nations, and applied the most clumsy psychological methods that could be imagined. This was a result of the fact that the movement had come from the bottom, and had been conceived by men who had never looked beyond the small horizon of the German frontier. Hence they believed that other nations would think and feel just as they did. There were no men at the top who had traveled in foreign countries; no men with world experience, tact, and a sympathetic understanding of other peoples.

Propaganda is a very sensitive instrument—one stroke of a wrong key may destroy the effect. Short-term propaganda for business purposes need not adhere too closely to the truth. It may exaggerate, and it may even lie—the masses will believe even lies at first. But serious long-term propaganda, with great final goals, must be true. In the first moment of excitement people will uncritically believe everything, but when the excitement dies down, criticism commences, doubts arise, comparisons are made and the propaganda, if untrue, boomerangs. Good propaganda, therefore, must know when to change its methods and when to adopt new lines in order to be effective. It may be utilized in small-scale day-to-day politics as well as to promote great, valuable ideas. A chief of the propaganda office, therefore, is as important as a chief of the general staff.

Propaganda War in Peacetime

I. The Propaganda War of the East

World War II was officially terminated in 1945, but nevertheless, war continues throughout the world in the midst of peace.

The Kremlin has long been waging a war of aggression with other than military weapons. At war’s end, the Soviets succeeded in gaining more than they should have been allowed to have. Today Bolshevism controls areas in which it had no right. In Europe alone, it has advanced much too far toward the west (Germany) and toward the southeast (Balkans). With an iron hand, it grips the throats of Finland, the Baltic countries, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Balkan States, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Rumania. All these nations would prefer to be in the Western camp, but they are as little able to cooperate with the West as are the Germans in the Russian zone. As soon as they attempt to disengage themselves from the Soviet, the Kremlin intervenes with its own means. These nations are in a pitiable condition, and behind-the-scene tragedies are commonplace.

The Kremlin tried the same game in Greece and Austria, but its hold on the nerve centers of these two countries is not as firm as in the others. It pours its propaganda into the countries of Western Europe which it cannot reach directly, including Italy, France, the three western zones of Germany and perhaps even Spain, using for this purpose the Komintern agents, and the East German press and radio. It employs coups, unrest, whisper campaigns, and discontent, and attempts to achieve its goals with propagandistic methods, backed by naked force wherever territorial contiguity permits.

Outside of Europe, we see the same picture in the Middle and Far East. In Manchuria and Mongolia, in China and in Iran-Iraq, in Palestine, and even in North Africa, people feel the impact of this fourth branch of the Kremlin’s armed forces, with all its disquieting elements. The domain of Bolshevism is insecurity. At some spots in the Eurasian world, we have for many years felt the obnoxious cold war which the Kremlin was the first to start. Even in peacetime, politicians and soldiers will have to take cold war into account with all its problems and consequences.

The psychological, propagandistic war of aggression is still being waged by the Soviets with full intensity. Officially, however, the Soviets disavow the unofficial and illegal means which they employ, but we must recognize the danger and the power of propaganda as an instrument of Soviet politics, even in peacetime.

II. The Propaganda War in the West

The West undoubtedly is on the defensive with full justification. It wishes to defend itself against the propagandistic offensive of the East in order to keep from being undermined. This is the reason for the politico-propagandistic battle, and for the aid to the European buffer nations. The intention is to prevent the Kremlin from depriving the West of its influence on these unfortunate countries, and the weapons employed are likewise propaganda, plus economic and political support. In some countries, such as China, Turkey, and Greece, the West is obliged to give military aid in the form of military counsel and capital for armaments as a means of defense and self-preservation. This course is not objectionable from the moral viewpoints or in the light of international law. No nation can allow itself to be engulfed without resistance, and so these measures are forced upon the western states as measures of national self-defense.

The West is governed by the idea of propagandistic defense against the propaganda offensive of Eastern Bolshevism.

III. Summary

It is apparent that the political, economic, and psychological struggle between East and West has been in full swing for two years. It is also clear that the West has done everything possible to bridge the existing differences, but whether the East has an earnest desire to arrive at an understanding is still open to question.

Efforts made by the West in numerous conferences have yielded meager results hitherto and have brought many disappointments. The atmosphere at these conferences was strained. The agenda and inconsequential questions were cleared up, or at least discussed, but the Kremlin did everything possible to bypass major and fundamental problems of worldwide interest. Even the last conference in Moscow in March and April of 1947 brought no progress in this respect. The Kremlin wishes to gain time, to wage a political delaying action. The next attempt to bring about an understanding will be made in London in November 1947, but caution is necessary since the responsibility is enormous.

If the Kremlin has any serious intention to meet the West halfway in November 1947 in order to bring about world peace, it would have to begin to cease its offensive now. This would become evident through an abatement in Eastern propaganda, a curbing of illegal subversive movements, and an about face of the Komintern in order to pave the way for a conciliatory atmosphere in London. Until November 1947, therefore, propaganda could be a gauge for the political intentions of the Kremlin. But on the other hand, the Kremlin might continue the propaganda war in order to exercise permanent pressure, to achieve still better conditions, and to determine the extreme limit of political possibilities. In any event, the power of propaganda is clearly perceptible.

IV. Propaganda and Economy

Every economy has made use of propaganda. (Naturally we are not concerned here with the universally known everyday commercial propaganda or advertising.) Economy provides the soil on which quiet and disquiet can thrive. A man with a full stomach is disinclined to revolt and an experienced soldier therefore will endeavor to have a well-supplied field kitchen and good food in his unit at all times. In like manner, a well-fed nation dislikes unrest. An empty stomach, a hungry soldier, a hungry nation, however, constitute serious dangers. Where they exist unrest, mutiny and pillage are imminent. Therefore, realistic politicians with a knowledge of human nature regard a sound economy as an important bulwark against Bolshevism, and Bolshevism, in turn, regards starvation as a desirable asset towards the realization of its goals.

It is gratifying and right that the richer nations alleviate the hunger in impoverished countries. This food costs money, but is a valuable weapon against Bolshevism. However, propaganda can vigorously support these measures and can make the masses understand just what is being done. Then it will become generally known that help is given in the West and that no help is available in the East, and the nations of Western Europe will feel that they fare better under Western influence than they would under that of the East. This economic type of propaganda is even more important for the masses than ideological and political propaganda, because idealism alone is no comfort for the average hungry man. He and his family wish to be fairly well fed before they are willing to listen to talk of ideological and other intangible affairs. Propaganda is an effective supplement to material economic aid.

V. Propaganda of Ideas

Eastern Bolshevism has an idea, a symbolic banner, which it has been hammering into the nations under its sway for the last thirty years. Its propaganda is well planned, the power of propaganda as a weapon having long been recognized. But Bolshevistic propaganda takes into account only the simpleminded communist masses, people who are nonentities and have nothing to lose. Other circles, such as the middle class, the nobility, workers and farmers who own property and the like, are of no interest to communism, since they are to be liquidated anyhow. Eastern propaganda is thus addressed primarily to the discontented - the “have-nots.”

Because of its slant this propaganda is not successful with us. It is too coarse, too brutal, too “Eastern,” too foreign to the culture of the West. We have a hard core of farmers, craftsmen, middleclass citizens and workers who still own property. Though private holdings may have become ever so small today, they are still private property, and in addition to property owners, there are large circles of other citizens in the West who do not belong to the proletariat. Hence, Bolshevism finds no resonance even in prostrate Germany, particularly since we have known Bolshevism and the East for a long time as a direct neighbor, and reject it.

The propaganda of the Kremlin will not succeed in the West because the essential sociological soil is completely different from the one that Bolshevism tries to conquer. Nevertheless, Western Europe must be awake to the seriousness and the danger of the Eastern appeal to the uprooted and hungry masses.

The ideological propaganda of the West must be, or must become, so strong and unified that it can repel the alien ideology of Bolshevism. The Western idea of defense must sound a rallying call. The variegated fragments of Western Europe must become reconciled to one another. Gone are the days of independent European politics by former great powers, many of which have disappeared. The mosaic fragments remaining must find their way together and historic antagonisms definitely must be smoothed out if Western Europe is to survive.

Western Europe alone is no longer strong enough to defend itself, but must be led by the Anglo-Saxon world powers. In so aiding Western Europe, these powers, and especially England, defend themselves. The narrow mosaic pattern of Western Europe is all that has remained of the marginal region of Western culture. It is the outpost area, the glacis, particularly so for England since the English Channel is no longer a protection and England no longer a secluded island.

Western Europe includes fifty million Germans, who are a valuable asset, both in respect to manpower and territory. The Germans in turn are the advanced outposts against the new East, which has hurled forward as far as Thuringia. These three Western zones of Germany constitute a buffer, east of the Rhine River for Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. In their country, these fifty million Germans must again form the front, whether they be called upon for mutual defense or not.

Western propaganda would have a powerful, unifying, rallying idea if it could unite the diverse, often hostile countries of Western Europe. The propaganda strategist who accomplished this would be a great solider, and the resultant spiritual resistance would be felt by the Soviets, affording a likelihood that armed conflict would be avoided. The psychological difficulties are certainly great. Mistrust, suspicion, fear, and rivalry still run high on the Western European continent as a result of the politics of the European nations during the past centuries. Mistrust cannot be transmuted into love overnight, but a start must be made immediately, since no one knows how much time we have for our spiritual rally.

In these circumstances, Germany constitutes a particular problem. We are not trusted, and we must frankly admit that the past provides reasons for distrust. But today a still greater danger looms east of the former Germany.

In a sense western propaganda has an asset in that our German nation has made infinite sacrifices from 1914 to 1918 and from 1941 to 1945 in its fight against Bolshevism. Regardless of whether the policy was wrong or right, there is no denying the fact that the German people and the German Army have fought resolutely against Russia in two world wars and have thus fought indirectly for Western Europe. Neither the people nor the soldiers can be blamed for a wrong policy toward the West. It is also a fact that as early as 1919 Bolshevism tried here and there in Germany to gain a firm foothold in the form of Soviet dictatorships. These efforts were contrary to the will of the people and the principles of the Weimar Republic. We soldiers fought against this Bolshevism on orders of the Republic, and our people rejected Bolshevism at that time. Again in 1945 and 1946 the German people in the western zones clearly demonstrated that they wanted no communism, despite the collapse of their country. These facts are assets for western propaganda in its effort to win over the fifty million west Germans.

I believe that the propaganda of the West faces formidable tasks, and it will pay to put the best men in the top propaganda posts. The first step should be to tone down mistrust and disparagement of our people, and then to prevent further proletarianization. We have become quite poor, and the refugees from the East have become still poorer. Large circles who by birth and education form a bulwark against Bolshevism no longer own anything and have become proletarians. That is a danger, since intelligent and active individuals thus merge with the “have-nots” and may be absorbed by them, thus facilitating the work of the Kremlin. Existing counterforces to communism, no matter how modest, should be maintained.

The German mentality being as it is, western propaganda must realize that to allow the Germans a few more calories and merely improve the food situation is not enough. We Germans are by nature a decent people, but as a nation are at present temporarily sick. We are a valuable nation, but unfortunately very much swayed by sentimentality. Therefore the German people react very strongly to good treatment, magnanimity, and to intangible factors of many kinds. The German character knows no hate and no desire for revenge. The average German gives his best to those who understand him and know best how to handle him. These qualities of understanding and knowledge cost nothing but would create for propaganda an enormous mission, the mission of rallying latent forces. The effort expended might prove well worth while in the uncertainties of the future.

VI. Propaganda and Politics

His path being a dangerous one, the politician must plan realistically, soberly and with foresight. He needs to be helped by disciplined propaganda, the all powerful factor. However, the propaganda must appeal to the intellect and to the sentiments of “public opinion.” The reciprocity between politics and propaganda is quite patent: politics must lead. To this end it will respect but not be unduly influenced by public opinion, since mass instincts must not be allowed to triumph over the government as happened in Germany from 1920 to 1932 because that was misunderstood democracy. The masses can never retain a comprehensive view of things, only the government can do this. The masses also cannot grasp the realities of politics and economy, some aspects of which, in fact, would frighten and harm. For this reason propaganda must be controlled in the interplay of forces between politics and public opinion. In certain major issues the government will find it necessary to withhold information from the public until after a decision has been made. Then propaganda must state those reasons and gain public support for them. In other cases, the government will need the support of public opinion before making an intended decision, then propaganda must develop this decision in the public mind. Politics and propaganda, therefore, are indivisible.

Propaganda must always exert pressure more upon the soul of the masses and hence will accentuate emotional elements. Politics will always have to exercise responsible leadership and hence must be governed by a sober, realistic intellect.

Propaganda is thus seen to be the medium by which politics is translated, so to speak, into public opinion.

VII. Propaganda and Ideology

One must realize that it is only in very few nations that the masses can have any clear conceptions of an ideology, which fact explains the abundance of empty catchwords in this field. The point must also be clearly realized that the masses have little interest in ideologies. All that the average man wants is sufficient food, a decent living, his small personal liberties, and the possibility to pursue his hobbies. Fortunately, he is not troubled by great problems and philosophic definitions.

The masses always prefer simple fare on the radio and in the newspapers; not profound problems which they cannot understand. Every commander knows this of his men, and the same applies to the people. Officers, as educated men, may occasionally turn to profound problems; the scholars may study them with fruitful results, but the masses receive little value from them because these things do not interest them. But with a primitive and simple program, controlled propaganda may at the right time support the intentions of politics even in the ideological field.

Closely akin to political propaganda is religious propaganda. The German is deeply devout and religious. In this serious field, propaganda in the ordinary sense of the word, has no effect. Religion is something a person has or has not, and propaganda is not likely to develop true Christians.

VIII. Propaganda and Personality

Even in this personal field propaganda plays an important part. We know, for instance, that great men may be the result of propaganda. They are simply made great. Equally familiar is the fact that great men deliberately avail themselves of propaganda to enhance their own reputations. Every nation has its heroes or at least its favorites, whom the public itself has raised to national figures, usually because of some superficial factor that has become noticeable. The following are a few cases in point.

Prime Minister Churchill was not only built up as a popular figure on the Western side, but we, as enemies, also regarded the pictures of this man with humor. The typical hat, the inevitable (real or unreal) cigar, his jovial manner made him popular even with us. In addition to other factors there was the prize question whether the cigar was genuine or only for the photographing, and so forth. In like manner, there were and still are favorites in the United States and in other countries, who have been built up by propaganda.

Among our Field Marshals, Rommel was undoubtedly the most popular. The enemy also acknowledged him in good humor. Rommel often spoke of his “friend” Montgomery in Africa. There was mutual respect, a most interesting fact from the psychological viewpoint.

Rommel was born in 1891, the author in 1892. Rommel entered the Army in 1910, the author in 1911. They both attended the same officer candidate school in Danzig, Rommel in 1911 and the author in 1912. Both entered World War I in 1914 as young second lieutenants and both returned as young first lieutenants in 1918. They knew each other very well. German and foreign propaganda concerning this dead Marshal is a source of interest.

Rommel was a native of Wuerttemberg, the son of a high school teacher, and came from a good middleclass family, who were genuine Swabians. He was courageous and was awarded the pour-le-merite* in 1918 as his highest decoration for his actions during the assault on Montejur.

After the war he passed the Wehrkreis** examination, and underwent training for the General Staff, but he was not taken into the General Staff Corp. This he could not forget and, ambitious as he was, he became embittered towards the General Staff Corps.

In this sense of present-day propaganda Rommel was a rank militarist. His interests, his way of thinking and all his ambitions were strictly military. From morning till night he could talk about nothing but military subjects. Subjects of general culture did not interest him; he would read nothing but military books, and even before the year 1939 wrote only military literature. Africa was his lucky star, and “Rommel ante portas” became the humorous slogan of the Army. He always emphasized with special pride that he was the Marshal of the Fuehrer, Hitler’s favorite, and that every child in Germany knew Rommel, the field marshal.

He suffered severely under the unsuccessful outcome of the war in Africa and hoped to be able to reestablish his reputation by fighting off the Invasion in the West. He traveled tirelessly day and night. He was assigned special defense missions by Hitler, but nevertheless was in collusion with the men who plotted the attempted assassination of Hitler on 20 July 1944. After the failure of the plot, however, he told me the attempt had been sheer nonsense.

The Marshal, who was young at the time of his death, had a personality which the author esteemed highly, even though his opinions on strategy frequently differed from those of von Rundstedt. This, however, did not impair the high regard they had for each other. Rommel acknowledged the superiority of Rundstedt, who, in turn, respected the young, impulsive “Marshal Kid.” Despite their great difference in age the two got along very well. Rommel rarely laughed, his humor was often bitter. But he was a personality.

It was propaganda that made him popular. Hitler and Goebbels had him shown in all motion picture theaters and newspapers. A halo was created for him. He never traveled without war correspondents and photographers, which was something original. Rommel is a striking example of what propaganda can do.

Field Marshal Schoerner was a Bavarian. Originally, when World War I broke out, he was a school teacher and a reserve officer. Because of his bravery he was granted regular officer status. Both Rommel and he stormed the Montejur in World War I from two sides with their companies and both received the pour-le-merite. Each maintained persistently that he had been the first to reach the summit of the hill. Schoerner also was nothing but a soldier. However he was not a pleasant superior, and could be downright brutal toward his officers and his men.

His greatest satisfaction was that he had also become a field marshal. He too had been an unsuccessful applicant for General Staff Corps status who harbored a grudge against the General Staff.

Generaloberst Dietl was a Bavarian, and nothing but a soldier, but possessed unique and original characteristics which gave rise to many anecdotes. Propaganda made him a popular general.

Rommel, Schoerner and Dietl were all three strictly soldiers and nothing but soldiers, or in other words, militarists. None were Prussian; Rommel was a Wuerttembergian, Schoerner and Dietl were Bavarians. No Prussian was as impetuously military as these three. Our own propaganda threw the spotlight particularly on these three popular commanders. The enemy propaganda gave preference to Rommel and Dietl.

Propaganda has it that the Prussians are the militarists; in reality it was generally the other way around. The reasons for this misconception are that the Prussian was allegedly stiff, prominent, sarcastic, and unpleasant; and the Southern German was considered open-minded, democratic, cordial, and easy-going.

In reality the Southern Germans were usually more Prussian than the Prussians; at least they were more stolid and eager for duty. The South German units had much more routine service than the Prussian unit. These small examples show what propaganda can do.

Propaganda in Wartime

I. Wartime Politics and Propaganda

While propaganda plays a great role in peacetime its importance is still greater in wartime, when the very existence of nations and whole groups of nations is at stake.

In wartime, public opinion is particularly important. The masses must be influenced and it is quite understandable that emotional factors are of special significance. War atrocities, humanism, and moral imponderables are given special prominence.

If war is imminent it is particularly important that propaganda must be firmly controlled by the government in order to prevent injurious propaganda and the frustration of the intentions of the government. Otherwise that government may be accused by the enemy of using propaganda to agitate in favor of a war. It is a noticeable feature that peace is discussed with particular intensity in the periods just prior to war. An examination of the periods preceding World War I and World War II will confirm this.

If war has broken out, the question of international law is emphatically brought before the international public by both sides. Both parties have for a long time been collecting material, facts, documents, with which they now suddenly confront each other. In the course of the war propaganda then becomes a decisive weapon.

Sound propaganda, which has its foundations in confidence in the nation, can be frank and outspoken. It will leave the emotional issues to the nation. It will exercise more reserve and point to the difficulties to be encountered. If things then develop more fortunately than they have been depicted, all the better, then the people will have more confidence in the government. That was the great difference between British and German propaganda from 1939 to 1945. Until victory is won, caution must be exercised to avoid extravagant statements.

Properly employed, propaganda will play a leading role in wartime, but there can be only one propaganda center, namely that of politics, of the government, and military propaganda must be given a place as a branch within this center.

II. Military Propaganda

1. As an instrument of strategy. Difficulties will always exist because of the necessity to maintain secrecy. It would be folly to disclose a secret operational plan through propaganda. On the other hand, propaganda may be used for deliberate deception, for instance, when a measure is mentioned in propaganda which is not intended for implementation.

Example a. A propaganda rumour could be started deliberately to the effect that certain operations in certain areas are to begin soon. The next step is to ascertain whether the enemy has swallowed the bait, and what effect it has had. If the enemy believes the propaganda disseminated, he will bring his forces to the area involved and then operations could begin at another point. If he does not accept the story, propaganda must be devised to find other ways to influence him.

Example b. Through propaganda an enemy may be induced to do something that is detrimental to him militarily, politically, or in the light of international law. He may be induced to attack first, which he may be blamed for subsequently.

Thus, through propaganda the impression can be created that in the near future one will have to protect and occupy territories before the enemy does so. If the enemy moves into these territories in order to anticipate the action he had been led to expect, it will be said that he has committed a breach of neutrality.

Example c. Starting propaganda rumours over a broad front may cause the enemy to be uncertain as to when and where an operation is going to begin, as was the case with the Allies in the West in 1943-1944.

Example d. While mobile operations are in progress, propaganda possibilities are restricted, with the exception of propaganda to influence the friendly or the enemy troops. In certain other respects, propaganda at such times will take the form of specifically military measures of deception controlled by the Intelligence Branch. But this is not to be construed as propaganda proper, but rather as a deceptive military action. Nevertheless, propaganda may render valuable service during major operations.

2. Propaganda in the wake of advancing forces. When we advance eastward in 1941, no large-scale propaganda was undertaken. It could have been employed to accompany and follow our troops, with slogans such as: “Liberation from the Soviet yoke!” “Distribution of land!” “Independence for the Ukraine and White Russia!” and so forth. Such propaganda, coupled with action, would have been our best help and reserve.

3. Propaganda directed at friendly troops. Such propaganda must be free of bombast, which is in tragic contrast to the sacrifices made by the troops and the hardships they have to bear. Here also, propaganda from the rear may be detrimental.

4. Propaganda directed at the enemy. For this purpose, a precise knowledge of the mentality of the enemy is necessary. Otherwise, such propaganda is likely to be ludicrous.

5. Propaganda by deed. Propaganda is most effective when it is followed by the resolute fulfillment of all promises. Such propaganda may decide campaigns and even win wars. It is also the best way to avoid revolts, since there is no reason for them.

6. Propaganda can be used to unleash prepared revolts or illegal warfare in the rear of the hostile army.

7. Propaganda can be used for the overthrow of the enemy’s government, through defamation of enemy statesmen, military leaders and particularly obdurate social circles, but this is not a pleasant activity for a true soldier to engage in. None the less, it is a necessary evil, and the application of these methods should be decided by the politicians. This may seem an old fashioned attitude, but he soldier dislikes becoming involved in activities of this type and therefore must leave it to others.

It can thus be seen that propaganda both in this true form and in the form of deceptive measures may effectively support the actual military operations in the air, on the sea and on the ground.

The more extensive, the more global the theaters of war become, the more effective propaganda and deception can be before the enemy, whose forces will likewise be widely distributed, recognizes the truth and is able to take countermeasures.


Propaganda plays a role in all possible phases of human life. It serves both in peace and in war. It may elevate or destroy and can produce admirable or abominable results. It is a weapon. It can turn white into black and can change and distort opinions. It can turn friends into enemies and vice versa.

It can also tell each individual in a dejected nation, “You can now atone by again working for the good of the community; now is the time to prove your good faith.”

However, propaganda must always remain firmly under the control of politics and must never be allowed to follow its own course. It requires firm but subtle control. In clumsy hands it will cause damage and become dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child. It is the instrument of the politician and a fourth branch of the armed forces in a modern military command.


* High German military decoration awarded to officers only for bravery in World War I. Founded by Frederick the Great in 1740.

** The Wehrkris was the basic military area of Germany and in many respects was similar to the pre-war corps area of the United States of America. The examination administered at Wehrkreis headquarters was to determine the suitability of officers for general staff service.

Foreign Military Studies. Prepared nonperiodically by the Historical Division, Headquarters, European Command, for the purpose of increasing the availability of selected special studies and monographs prepared by or under the supervision of this Division and in coordination with other staff divisions of this headquarters as appropriate. The material presented herein does not necessarily reflect official Department of the Army doctrine or accepted practices, but is for information only.

Note: The Navy Department Library does not have any other issues of Foreign Military Studies in its collection.


Published: Mon Nov 20 16:41:06 EST 2017