The Emergence of Psychological Warfare

The beginning of the Second World War brought with it the beginning of a new style of war. No longer was war a strictly military test of superior weaponry and armed troops; it was suddenly a mental struggle for the minds and spirits of citizens and soldiers alike. Throughout the war, the Axis and the Allies engaged in massive use of propaganda specifically aimed at psychological manipulation of each of its subjects--they soon discovered that such forms of persuasion could be equally as effective against the enemy, given the proper investigation.

Learning from Hitler's example in the early stages of the war, Britain began its mission to revolutionize its propaganda by utilizing it on a scale never before imagined. Beginning with the establishment of the Ministry of Information, Britain developed psychological warfare into a science through careful studies of the psychological vulnerabilities of the human mind. As the value of psychological warfare became clearer, the British government created various subdivisions of the MOI responsible for various aspects of the psychological "counterattack" on Nazi Germany. The highly classified work of the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) involved the recruitment of various British psychologists to research and oversee the production of new psychological weapons.


"The place of the artillery barrage as a preparation for an infantry attack will in the future be taken by revolutionary propaganda. Its task is to break down the enemy psychologically before the Armies begin to function at all." -Adolf Hitler

"In total war, propaganda is as much a military weapon as any of the three established services." -British Chiefs of Staff

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