Wartime Morale

Topics: Propaganda, Psychological warfare, World War II Pages: 6 (2053 words) Published: October 13, 2006
Wartime Morale and Propaganda during WWII
Morale is the spine in your back, the lift to your chin, the song on your lips, the grit in your craw. Morale is the spirit that makes you say defiantly "Is that so?" when you are told you aren't man or woman enough to do something – and makes you do it! Morale gives you the heart to smile when the going is toughest; it gives you the spunk to wisecrack when the danger is greatest (Hunt 250). In the absence of a credible positive ideology, motivation was always a problem; in return, this led to fluctuations in morale. Consequently, raising and sustaining morale became all important, and morale itself developed into one of the unique obsessions of the Allies during the Second World War (Fussell 143). The ultimate goal of each army is to increase their own morale with positive and negative methods, while at the same time, diminishing the enemy's morale. Morale is far and away the most potent weapon in the whole arsenal and is comprised of civilian, artificial, individual, positive, and negative components, which are all achieved through different methods and contribute to the overall morale. In accordance to these components, physical, psychological, and external forces are all morale-defining factors, and their signs, contributions, importance, and effectiveness are observed during combat. In waging war, civilian morale is quite as important as military morale; indeed, the morale among the soldiers and sailors is largely dependent on the morale at home. The soldiers must feel that the fighting morale at home is equal to their own (Hunt 254). Home morale is essential to the maximum production of tools during war and to the fighting spirit at the front (Clausewitz 95). During the Second World War, civilian morale was the main target, and by the new technique, "strategic bombing." On the allied home front manufacturers that produced mass quantities of frivolous commodities like beer, tobacco, and chewing gum moved their products by arguing their indispensability to high morale (Fussell 145). Morale was thought of as a lot of "little" things. These little things were used to lift the spirits and keep up the courage, and to provide comfort for the reason that they are part and parcel of our American way of life (Fussell 145). In attempt to sustain the civilian morale, artificial morale began to surface. Since morale is so overwhelmingly important, the governments, of course, do everything they can to build it up and keep it up. Sometimes their methods are positive, and sometimes they are negative (Hunt 255). Negative methods were used more often than the positive (Clausewitz 161). The simplest negative method of maintaining morale consists in keeping news of defeats from the people. Eventually the people must be told, but if the bad news is kept long enough, they can be prepared so well for the news that its shock is greatly lessened (Hunt 255). Optimism was another negative method often used to soothe the home front through letters from the soldiers, photographs, and by turning serious matters into trivial messages. The uses of these particular negative methods of upholding morale are, at best, only stopgates. In the end, the bad news always leaks out, and when it becomes common knowledge, the people are likely to be resentful. Worse, they are likely to lose faith in the authorities and when people loose faith in its leaders, morale is diminished (Hunt 256). Our government has promised not to keep bad news from us, and is wisely avoiding this artificial method of building morale (Fussell 164). Negative methods were also used among each other on the front lines. A notable feature of the Second World War is the youth that fought in it (Clausewitz 231). In general the younger soldiers have a much higher morale than experienced soldiers due to the fact of innocence, lack of experience, and pride (Fussell 50). Older more established soldiers often used a negative method...

Cited: Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1976.
Fussell, Paul. Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989
Hunt, Erling, ed. America Organizes to Win the War. Chicago: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1942.
Psychological Operations. Rouse, Ed. 2004. 19 April 2005.
Psywar. Richards, Lee. 2005. 13 April 2005.
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