Sunday, December 7, 2014

The American word which is the big noise in the propaganda field is being spoken solely by our Allies

This entry is a work in progress; updated/reviewed 5/22/2016; suggestions welcome -- please email


31. Letter From Heber Blankenhorn of the Military Intelligence Branch, Department of War General Staff to the Chief of the Military Intelligence Branch, Department of War General Staff (Churchill)1

Dear Col. Churchill:
We are by no means ready to make final reports, but I write informally just after our first real move since coming over.
We had a fast trip, a funny reception at the port of debarkation, a busy two days in Paris, then Lippmann and I reported at G.H.Q. and planted Ifft there as a temporary liaison officer because it was already obvious to us, as it was to Col. Nolan,2 that the main office for the job will have to be in Paris.
We expected to find three organized and working Inter-Allied Propaganda Boards, one in Paris, one in London and one in Padua, which would be landmarks in the field, with which we would have to deal and to which we could immediately designate liaison officers. Those Boards are ghosts. This afternoon we sat-in at a session of the so-called Board here. It is essentially the new French Army Board for propaganda into enemy countries, headed by Commandant Chaix,3 and International only by virtue of the fact that an Italian, an Englishman, three Belgians and three Americans (Hugh Gibson, Lippmann and I) were present to hear what the French had done and were planning. We were announced as having ideas. We declared ourselves there to listen, not to exploit plans.
Here in a nutshell is the situation. The French at last are doing quite a good deal of propaganda in a precise, intelligent fashion, freely playing the American card as their trump, and mainly through the energy of Major Chaix, a Clemenceau personal appointee, attempting to expand their efforts with an intensified air program, greater use of smuggling through Switzerland, and reaching out to touch off Albania and Bulgaria. All the propaganda the American Army has distributed, be it noted, is this French propaganda, not “scrutinized by myself” as specified by Secretary Baker. The British in the second compartment of the nutshell are also doing a good bit, mainly with balloons but not with aeroplanes. The Belgians are anxious to have the whole program center around the distribution of Belgian newspapers and literature. What the Italians are doing was not indicated at the meeting today. All this means that there is considerable stirring of the ground but no clear and scientific ploughing and not an American machine on the whole farm.
For us the matter is simple! Far from being hampered by Allied activities, we cannot even count on very effective help and must build up our own organization. I think this is fortunate. It will mean slower work in the start. Just now America is in the position of being so utterly laggard that the American word which is the big noise in the propaganda field is being spoken solely by our Allies. They are yelling it.
We are just beginning to forsee something of the size and character of the various divisions of the organization which the Army will have to have. The main use of our present force of course is to do the Intelligence job of finding out what is needed. I had set August 15 as a date on which to send back a first rough draft of organization and needs, but I suspect such date will be nearer August 30. Much depends on the trip to London, which begins the day after tomorrow.
All in the party are well. Many inquiries concerning you and the fortunes of the Branch were addressed to us at G.H.Q. we just missed Van Deman but hope to see him within a fortnight. He seems to be doing what I should call surplus jobs. All G.H.Q. is fired these days with elation over the record of our men of July 4 and 144 and marvelous tales of unbelievable praise by men around Foch are current. For one thing this indicates the ripening of time for propaganda.
Most sincerely yours,5
Heber Blankenhorn

1 Source: National Archives, RG 63, Entry 105, Director’s Office of the Foreign Section, General Correspondence, Box 5, Blankenhorn—Military Information Abroad. No classification marking. The letter was forwarded to Sisson by Captain Francis Churchill Williams “for your information” under an August 26 covering memorandum.
2 Dennis Edward Nolan.
3 Edmond Aimé Louis Chaix.
4 July 4 was the Battle of Hamel, in which Australian and U.S. troops defeated the Germans. While the July 14 reference is unclear, it may refer to the Second Battle of the Marne (July 15–18), also an Allied victory.
5 Printed from a copy that indicates Blankenhorn signed the original.

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