A Matter of Persuasion: The American Government’s Use of Psychological Warfare During World War II

by JoAnna Ramsey

From the Faculty Nominator:

“JoAnna Ramsey wrote this paper for my Public History seminar in the fall of 2014. I had asked the students to choose research topics related to the Vernon Goetz Diary, a World War II diary which had been donated to Special Collections and Archives in the fall of 2013. JoAnna was intrigued by several leaflets, printed in German, that Goetz had attached to several pages of his diary. As a result of studying these leaflets, JoAnna decided to focus her research on America’s propaganda campaigns, both at home and against the German Army, during World War II.
This is an outstanding paper for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the quality and breadth of research that went into this paper. Through diligent research on the internet, JoAnna was able to locate all of the German-language leaflets from the Goetz Diary in the files of the Propaganda War Division. Through further research, she was then able to ascertain how these leaflets were used and how successful they were in achieving their goals. Her discovery of the photograph of Germans surrendering with the leaflet in hand was, to me, remarkable.
Beyond her research on the leaflets, she pursued information on the U.S. government’s extensive program of mobilizing support for the war at home through the mass media. Her research on this topic in print and internet sources, including broadcasts of wartime film and radio programs, was excellent. As a result of the information and revealing images she gathered, JoAnna was able to write a thorough and convincing account of the variety of media the government employed to convert the strong isolationist sentiments that dominated the country at the outbreak of the war to solid popular support for the war.”

“Beautifully written, well-organized, and carefully documented, JoAnna’s essay is an excellent example of first-rate undergraduate scholarship.”

From the Author:

“The concept for this paper originated from my work with the diary of American World War II soldier Vernon Goetz. I have been working with the diary and its artifacts in Goucher’s Special Collections since the fall of 2013 with Professor Tina Sheller. In Professor Sheller’s Historic Preservation 311 course entitled “Public History: Theory and Practice” we focused on the documents that were found inside of the diary. I was assigned three leaflets from the diary to use as a basis for my research into the United States government’s use of psychological warfare during World War II. As I began my research, I became fascinated with the different messages that were used to influence the attitudes and actions of Americans and Germans and with the techniques used to completely surround both groups with these messages. Throughout this paper I explored the origins and methods of the United States government’s propaganda campaigns that were used to gain support from Americans and weaken German forces. ”

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