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United States Office of War Information Case Study


Aim of the public diplomacy project

The primary goal of the public diplomacy project is to examine and evaluate the consequences of the implementation of the United States Office of War Information in 1942, the establishment of the Bureau of Motion Pictures, and its contribution to present.

Scenario: The Context in which the activity took place/issue it sought to address

Context. At the beginning of the World War II, the nation of the United States of America consistently remained in the dark concerning the wartime facts and news. One American observer noted: “It all seemed to boil down to three bitter complaints…first, that there was too much information; second, that there wasn’t enough of it; and third, that in any event it was confusing and inconsistent” (Weinberg 77).

Furthermore, the people of the United States admitted experiencing a deficiency of comprehension regarding the origins and reasons of world war. Moreover, the American government had observed a considerable animosity of its nation against other representatives of the Allied Nations. The situation required immediate government intervention.

Issue. The United States Office of War Information, which is also called OWI, was established as an administrative bureau of America in the course of the World War II in order to centralize existent at the time political information services and distribute indoctrination not only within the country but abroad as well.

The United States Office of War Information functioned from June 1942 until September 1945 by Executive Order 9182 of Franklin D. Roosevelt. By means of radio transmissions, regular publications, posters, placards, images, movies and various other methods of spreading media, the United States Office of War Information received a role of a network between the combat zone and civilian communities.

The OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures had been founded as a continuation of the public diplomacy of the USA in the cooperation with Hollywood in order to develop motion pictures, which promoted and achieved the war intentions of the American government.

Programme Activity: Describe succinctly the PD response to this scenario

As a response to the current situation at the beginning of the War, President Roosevelt decided to implement a solution of public diplomacy. He established the United States Office of War Information, as it was said before, in order to not only satisfy the need for the wartime information and reduce the disorientation but to deal with the indifference of the American nation towards military action taking place in the world.

The people of the United States, as well as the Congress, became tired of the assorted propaganda and information that was designed to persuade them in various assumptions for a few reasons.

First of all, the mass media was feeling alarmed because of a centralized governmental organization that played the role of the only wholesaler of the wartime news and information. Secondly, the Congress was concerned that the activity of the United States Office of War Information and its propaganda could possibly mirror the movement of Joseph Goebbels in Germany.

Moreover, preceding efforts in implementing indoctrination with the help of the Committee on Public Information/Creel Committee in the course of the past war were observed as a defeat. And the last but not the least reason for declining the possible source of wartime information is the native indifference that became a major issue during the war; therefore, the American nation was indecisive towards becoming dragged into a worldwide propaganda operation and a World War afterward.

However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, the dismay of propaganda was superseded by the demand for organized, correspondent, and accurately advertised wartime news and facts from the armed force or the authorities to the people of the American nation. President Roosevelt entrusted the Office of War Information to beloved journalist and CBS newsman Elmer Davis, with the mission to take “an active part in winning the war and in laying the foundations for a better post-war world” (Winkler 1).

Moreover, he “ordered Davis to formulate and carry out, through the use of press, radio, motion picture, and other facilities, information programs designed to facilitate the development of an informed and intelligent understanding, at home and abroad, of the status and progress of the war effort and of the war policies, activities, and aims of the Government” (Winkler 34).

According to Elmer Davis, “the easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people’s minds is to let it go through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized” (Winkler 2). The outstanding and rewarding motion pictures characterized the Allied military organizations as courageous ‘Freedom fighters’ and encouraged the involvement of the citizens, such as preserving energy and gas or giving away supplies for armed forces.

In July 1942, the authorities of the Office of War Information became aware of the fact that the adequate way to approach the American nation was to provide them with war motion pictures in combination with feature films. The existence of the Office of War Information in Hollywood expanded through World War II; moreover, in 1943 each one of the studios (excluding the Paramount) provided Bureau of Motion Pictures with the opportunity to study every movie scenarios.

The Bureau of Motion Pictures decided whether a given movie would be able to advertise the confidence and reputation of the Allies’ mission. As a result, the Bureau of Motion Pictures had determined the movies that are known to the humanity at the present day.

What does your example demonstrate?

The example of the establishing of the United States Office of War Information and the OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures demonstrates the efficiency of the public diplomacy in the historical case of the beginning of World War II and American indifference towards it. What is more interesting is the greater success of the motion pictures abroad rather than inside the country, as the public diplomacy actions were directed to either side.

The United States Office of War Information had established a Psychological Warfare Branch, also known as PWB over the ocean in order to use propaganda and wartimes films to threaten and oppress the military forces of the opponents in combat areas. This activity was held additionally to the providing information to the nonmilitary citizens in the camps of Allies.

The OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures had been eliminated in the autumn of 1945 and had preserved the close connection with the Hollywood until the very end (Cull 187). The current President Truman described the OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures Information as a significant addition towards winning the war and failed to see the reasoning for the continuation of financing the organization after the war has ended.

“The international offices of the OWI were transferred to the State Department, and the United States Information Service and the Office of Strategic Services/Central Intelligence Agency assumed many of the information gatherings, analyzing, and disseminating responsibilities” (Johnson 341).

Regardless the fact that the OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures had experienced a distressed and unsettled continuation, it is extensively generally acknowledged as a great compelling attribution to the victory of the Allied Nations and assembling the assistance and support of the American Nation for the military actions from the inside of the country.

What can others learn from this case?

The case of the OWI Bureau of Motion Pictures demonstrates the power of the public diplomacy as a response to the historical cases. Moreover, on the example of the Office of War Information, in general, it could be said that the result of a considerable scale could be achieved with the help of the public diplomacy.

Please identify which approach and theme best describes the project.

Approach Theme
Listening
Facilitation Sustainability
Exchange Security
Cultural Diplomacy X Citizenship, governance and education
International Broadcasting X Social Justice and Diversity
Advocacy

Sources for scenario and activity

(including links to project website, online video or reference to the project in print media).

Cull, Nicholas. The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency. London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. 2012. Print.

Johnson, Matthew. “Propaganda and Sovereignty in Wartime China: Morale Operations and Psychological Warfare under the Office of War Information.” Modern Asian Studies 45.2 (2011): 303-344. Print.

Nelson, Michael. War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. 1997. Print.

Weinberg, Sydney. “What to Tell America: The Writers’ Quarrel in the Office of War Information.” The Journal of American History 55.1 (1968): 73-89.

Winkler, Allan. The Politics of Propaganda: The Office of War Information, 1942-1945. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1978. Print.

This Case Study on United States Office of War Information was written and submitted by user LivingMummy to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

LivingMummy studied at Bowling Green State University, USA, with average GPA 3.5 out of 4.0.

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LivingMummy. (2019, September 9). United States Office of War Information [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/united-states-office-of-war-information/

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LivingMummy. "United States Office of War Information." IvyPanda, 9 Sept. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/united-states-office-of-war-information/.

1. LivingMummy. "United States Office of War Information." IvyPanda (blog), September 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/united-states-office-of-war-information/.


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LivingMummy. "United States Office of War Information." IvyPanda (blog), September 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/united-states-office-of-war-information/.

References

LivingMummy. 2019. "United States Office of War Information." IvyPanda (blog), September 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/united-states-office-of-war-information/.

References

LivingMummy. (2019) 'United States Office of War Information'. IvyPanda, 9 September.

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