Monitoring and improving military morale were concerns at least as grave as unraveling the mysteries of public opinion or controlling the psychological assaults on minority groups in civilian life. "Psychological ramparts are as important as physical ramparts in modern warfare," declared public relations wizard Edward Bernays in the Infantry Journal several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Our morale is our true first line of defense" against the hysterical manias lurking in the collective subconscious.
During the war, the job of regulating the mental state of the armed forces incorporated virtually every type of civilian morale and psychological warfare activity discussed thus far: case studies of individual personality, mass surveys of soldiers' viewpoints, reports assessing policy-making options, evaluations and predictions of intergroup hostilities. Life in the military was different from life outside it, but except for combat itself, the differences were relative, not absolute.
Conveniently, soldiers' attitudes were more accessible than civilians' to both measurement and manipulation. The fact that military institutions exerted much more direct control over individual behavior, and
therefore offered much greater support too (at least in theory), led many morale specialists to design civilian morale programs on the basis of the military model. During wartime, exerting too much control was not the biggest mistake that could be made, after all. The availability, albeit temporary, of the military total institution was yet another benefit of war, much appreciated by researchers eager to prove the scientific validity of their experimental methods and procedures.
The army institutionalized an elaborate research effort in order to stay on top of soldiers' attitudes and "to aid in practical social engineering." The Research Branch of the army's Morale Division (later called the Information and Education Division) was established in October 1941 to put the most sophisticated tools of social and psychological research, especially survey techniques developed in business, at the service of the military. "Its purpose," explained its director, "is to establish a clear-cut working knowledge of the American soldier, his educational background, likes and dislikes, opinions, attitudes and ambitions; and so to furnish a scientific basis either for the correction of Army maladjustments, or for explaining to the soldier the reasons back of particular policies." The branch's three hundred studies and sixty thousand interviews were sometimes conducted in response to requests from policy-makers for specific information, sometimes on the branch's own initiative. The expert staff summarized findings for high-level officials and government agencies and published them in popular form for army commanders in regular periodicals (a monthly rifled What the Soldier Thinks ) and occasional pamphlets (like Command of Negro Troops ). All of this work, even blank questionnaires, was considered highly confidential.
An impressive group of behavioral experts staffed the Research Branch, most drawn directly out of careers in academic or commercial research. Samuel Stouffer, a University of Chicago sociologist, directed the research effort. He made liberal use of civilian consultants from academia and business: John Dollard and Carl Hovland of the Yale Institute of Human Relations, Hadley Cantril of the Princeton Office of Public Opinion Research, Paul Lazarsfeld of the Columbia Bureau of Applied Social Research, Frank Stanton, director of research at CBS, to name only a few.
Like other experts, they found both opportunity and frustration in the wartime environment, which allowed them to ply their trade on a scale previously unimaginable, but also offered no guarantees that decision-makers would pay any attention to their wisdom. Samuel
Stouffer did his utmost to make the branch's research attractive to military bureaucrats. After the war he was the first to admit that "most of our time was wasted, irretrievably wasted, in so far as any contribution to social science was concerned [because] in order to help the Army, or to help 'sell' research to the Army, I had to be concerned first and foremost with what was immediately wanted or purchasable." Even so, he tried to do some justice to scientific concerns by promoting an eclectic intellectual approach in the Research Branch that combined psychoanalysis, learning theory, cultural anthropology, and social systems theory, along with the latest statistical techniques in opinion polling.
While this type of boundary-breaking work had begun well before the war in places like the Yale Institute of Human Relations, wartime efforts like Stouffer's advanced the prospects of an interdisciplinary and ambitious behavioral science precisely because wartime experience caused experts to dispense with many of the academic loyalties and identities they had previously cherished. In the postwar era the approach advanced by Stouffer and other like-minded experts garnered much prestige with the establishment of the Harvard Department of Social Relations (Stouffer himself became director of its Laboratory of Social Relations), the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. In each of these cases, psychological experts who had been deeply involved in war work were central figures and the Department of Defense provided most of the operating funds during their early years.
During World War II, the work of Stouffer's research staff was nothing if not varied. Their first effort measured the spirits of infantrymen the day after Pearl Harbor. Subsequent research checked up on the accuracy of the neuropsychiatric screening test, identified the factors most likely to influence good (or bad) adjustment to job assignments, and even turned its conclusions about what constituted good leaders into a training course in hopes of producing them. Among the many studies widely believed to have shaped policy directly was one that surveyed enlisted soldiers' attitudes on how demobilization should be handled, a study whose objectives were to simultaneously impress upon soldiers the significance of their input and maintain firm control over military personnel for as long as it might be necessary. The results,
which tabulated soldiers' preferences, were converted into a point system that weighed length of service, combat duty, and number of dependents, among other factors. The Research Branch staff believed that such instances of turning soldiers' feelings directly into policy were evidence of a highly democratic policy-making process, largely responsible for soldiers' feeling that demobilization rules were fair. It was also clear to them that the goals of the demobilization study included keeping men in the army as long as they were needed and "overcoming the idea that the country owes soldiers a living for sacrifices they have made while in uniform."
Discovering Unreasonable Attitudes
Their studies were matters of great pride to Research Branch staff, and advocates of behavioral and psychological expertise in and out of government used them routinely, for many years following the war, as prime examples of socially useful science and ammunition for the argument that behavioral expertise should have a much bigger public policy-making role as well as hefty support from private foundations and universities. But much of what the Research Branch turned up in the course of its research was not only far less amenable to adjustment, but even shocking in its implications. Casting doubts upon the dependability of reasoned intelligence, as so much other wartime research also did, the Research Branch effort sharply contrasted the rhetoric of democratic morale against the reality of rampant emotionalism and unconscious motivation.
Most significantly, Stouffer's organization discovered that U.S. soldiers had no meaningful understanding of why they were fighting or what the war was actually about. Worse, they did not seem to care. When soldiers were surveyed with open-ended questions about the war's aims, an astonishing 36 percent chose not to answer at all and only a handful ever mentioned fighting fascism or defending democracy. According to the Research Branch studies, the number of men who viewed the war "from a consistent and favorable intellectual position" was somewhere between 10 and 20 percent. "Why we are fighting the war" was typically on the bottom of the list of things that soldiers wanted the army to teach them. In dismay, Stouffer concluded that "the war was without a context . . . simply a vast detour
made from the main course of life. . . . It may be said that except for a very limited number of men, little feeling of personal commitment to the war emerged ."
Such glaring gaps between the rhetoric of democratic morale and the reality of popular ignorance and apathy spurred the Research Branch to involvement in bold efforts at direct political indoctrination. The most famous of these were the "Why We Fight" films, which the Research Branch produced with the help of filmmaking Colonel Frank Capra, but staff and consultants offered suggestions for many other training films and programs aimed at instilling the appropriate political attitudes and feelings in rank-and-file soldiers. Congress was rather touchy about making it widely known that the army was engaged in such explicit propaganda during a war directed against exactly such efforts, and only one of Capra's films was ever shown to civilians, who also knew nothing of the military's other experiments in direct indoctrination.
There were questions other than that of propriety. Did the films work? Unfortunately, not very well. When the effectiveness of the "Why We Fight" films was tested, the Research Branch found that cinematic education had succeeded in supplying soldiers with some concrete facts, but that the effect on soldiers' willingness and desire to fight passionately for U.S. political ideals was utterly "disappointing."
The Research Branch went on to experiment with weekly mental conditioning sessions, hoping that active participation in group talk would be a more effective route to changing political attitudes than passively watching movies. But these met with similar failure. Psychiatrist Julius Schreiber, who eventually headed the entire Information and Education Division, was left with no positive ideas about inculcating democratic morale and capitulated to the dismal view that hatred for the enemy was easier to manufacture than genuine enthusiasm and respect for U.S. institutions. He set up a program at Camp Callan Training Center in California, using broadcast news, lectures, a weekly column, and therapy groups to inspire the maximum amount of animosity in U.S. troops toward fascism. The program was later copied elsewhere. With this sort of experience behind them, it is not very surprising that Stouffer and others associated with the Research Branch emerged from the war convinced that "for the majority of individuals . . . it may be true that motivations and attitudes are generally acquired without regard to rational considerations and are practically impregnable to new rational considerations."
Irrationality, however, was only the beginning of the bad news. To
all appearances, U.S. soldiers were motivated by the same primitive feelings and loyalties, the same absence of conscious and reasonable motivation, the same ominous emotional attachments to authority figures, that had been identified as such alarming traits in the German and Japanese national characters. The influence of the soldier's immediate group, and the caliber of his immediate leaders, were found to be the most salient factors in soldiers' morale. From this, an unflattering portrait of the ordinary soldier gradually materialized. He was preoccupied with physical discomforts, displayed all sorts of aggression, and worried most about moving up the chain of command, making more money, and staying out of combat. This was not exactly the democratic warrior the experts wanted to find.
Kurt Lewin's effort to generate a social psychology of group dynamics was tremendously influential among the experts who had to face such demoralizing facts about the pitiful psychological state of the U.S. military. Lewin's "field theory" turned personal identity into a social product and made "attitudes" a reachable halfway mark between the obscure psychic depths of individual motivation and the more comprehensible external world in which policy-makers operated. Lewin drew on the work of industrial psychologists in the interwar years who had found human relations in the corporate workplace to be emotionally charged. The Hawthorne experiments, conducted between 1924 and 1933 at the Western Electric Company, were only the most famous examples of the scientific discovery that job satisfaction and labor productivity were products of irrational attitudes, highly distorted and subjective perceptions, and group cohesiveness, rather than the specific organization of labor or authority in the workplace. In the Hawthorne case, Elton Mayo and his fellow researchers from the Harvard Business School identified the personal attentions paid (or not paid) to female workers in the plant, and their immediate group environment, as the decisive factors shaping how they felt about their jobs and influencing how hard they worked. What military managers observed among World War II soldiers was really quite similar.
Lewin hypothesized that individual personality emerged from the "ground," the "life-space" of all relevant group memberships, which ranged from marriage (a small group, but a group nonetheless) to ethnic and religious communities to institutions like the military. By making individual psychology largely a matter of group psychology, Lewin did more than merge the two, which, after all, many World War II psychological experts were in the habit of doing. He held out the opti-
mistic possibility that group management could keep soldiers' unpredictable attitudes in check and could be the most effective means of manufacturing democratic personalities and democratic leaders in the military.
Of course, what was applicable to the U.S. military was applicable elsewhere. Public opinion pollsters who had nothing to do with shaping soldiers' attitudes one way or another incorporated "reference group identifications" into their explanations of how and why public sentiment fluctuated on a variety of issues. Many plans for postwar psychological reeducation programs—whether to reform intergroup relations at home or national character abroad—were unmistakably stamped with the imprint of Lewin's theories about the advantages of working with groups and training leaders. (So too were postwar theories about the origins of revolutionary movements in the Third World, as we shall see in chapters 5 and 6.)
One of the consequences of learning all these dismal truths about Americans' lack of democratic morale and motivation, their political apathy, and their vulnerability. to emotional manipulation was to strengthen psychological experts' faith in themselves and illuminate the gravity of their future choices. Simply stated, they could either become heavy-handed social engineers in charge of the future (a vision that appealed to the most pessimistic), or (for the diehard optimists) they could function as democratic guidance counselors and cheerleaders, helping an unhealthy society reach a point at which self-determination might finally become feasible. While this division was certainly significant, both personally and politically, experts at all points along the spectrum shared a commitment to serving the state through increasing and enlightening policy options related to political attitudes and participation.
Intergroup Tensions and the Mental State of Black Soldiers
As with the civilian population, the unreasonableness and emotionalism of soldiers' attitudes seemed to reach their zenith in the delicate area of intergroup tensions. The vast majority of white soldiers supported the rigidly segregated structure of the military without question. This structure not only kept black soldiers in separate units but rejected them at much higher rates than whites and restricted them to a small number of labor-intensive assignments—mainly in quartermaster,
engineering, and transportation corps—if they managed to make it into the armed forces. Black soldiers were also systematically denied the opportunities for social mobility available to white soldiers, since the command of white troops was not a possibility for black officers, while many black units were led by white officers. There were, in any case, only five black officers in the entire army at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and three of them were chaplains.
Not surprisingly, when the army's Research Branch conducted an elaborate survey about race relations in March 1943, it discovered that whites barely considered these issues, whereas black soldiers' attitudes were thoroughly shot through with resentment about military discrimination and contradictory feelings about the fairness of separating the races in a war against a racist ideology. Further, the pervasive anger of black troops about racial injustices affected the way they thought and felt about everything else. Black soldiers were even less likely than whites (if that was possible) to have a reasonable grasp of war aims or be personally identified with democratic ideals. Unlike their white counterparts, however, black soldiers' uncertainty on this matter was not the product of thoughtless indifference but a pessimistic conclusion drawn from direct observation and personal experience. As one man facing imminent induction put it, "Just carve on my tombstone, 'Here lies a black man killed fighting a yellow man for the protection of a white man.'"
The Research Branch was careful to note that no evidence existed that black soldiers behaved disloyally; there was no difference between draft-dodging rates among blacks and whites, for example. Clearly, black soldiers could and did respond to racial frustration in a variety of ways. Either their aggression could devolve into alienation and insistence that blacks had no reason to fight on the side of a hypocritical United States, or they could proclaim their patriotism, demand the right to serve in combat units and command positions, and hope that their wartime service would translate into racial gains at war's end. One illustration of alienated reaction was Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little), who was given a 4F after he arrived at the local induction center dressed in a zoot suit and told the psychological screeners that he either wanted to join the Japanese army or go south to organize black soldiers and kill white people. Civil rights leaders and the black press, on the other hand, along with many black soldiers, agitated tirelessly against the War Department's 10.6 percent quota for blacks in the military and a selection process that counted complaints about segregation as
sufficient reasons for psychiatric rejection. They tried to counter the argument about frustration's negative consequences with claims that frustration made black soldiers even more determined to serve than whites. But suggesting that the gap between racial rhetoric and reality made black soldiers' patriotism especially heartfelt also depended upon the growing authority of psychological experience as a measure of political sacrifice. Just as Malcolm X understood that overt racial antagonism would likely result in rejection by the military's psychiatric gatekeepers, so too did other black soldiers wager that enduring the racism of a segregated military would eventually be seen as a badge of emotional honor, and benefit them.
The Research Branch made films and developed leadership training materials in an effort to blunt the dangerous potential for racial divisiveness in the army, just as it had done in the above-described case of addressing widespread ignorance among soldiers about the purposes of the war. In 1943 Frank Capra made a film titled The Negro Soldier, based, in part, on Research Branch survey data. It ritualistically celebrated a historic honor roll of black Americans who had valiantly served their country, from Crispus Attucks to the black Wacs who repaired jeeps and trucks. Capra's film was careful to mention neither slavery nor military segregation, but attempted to instill pride and solidarity in black troops through emotional identification with "the tree of liberty" and "this great country." The Research Branch also put its findings to good use in publications like Command of Negro Troops and Leadership and the Negro Soldier.