Political Indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War


Political Indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War

Christopher S. DeRosa

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

348 pages


April 2009


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About the Book

After drilling troops during the American Revolution, Baron Friedrich von Steuben reportedly noted that although one could tell a Prussian what to do and expect him to do it, one had to tell an American why he ought to do something before he would comply. Although such individualistic thinking is part of the democratic genius of American society, it also complicates efforts to train and educate citizen-soldiers.

For more than three decades, the U.S. Army’s “Troop Information” program used films, radio programs, pamphlets, and lectures to stir patriotism and spark contempt for the enemy. Christopher S. DeRosa examines soldiers’ formal political indoctrination, focusing on the political training of draftees and short-term volunteers from 1940 to 1973.

DeRosa draws on the records of the army and the Department of Defense’s information offices, the content of the indoctrination materials themselves, and soldiers’ recollections in analyzing the political messages the nation conveyed to its army during three decades of conscription. He examines how the program took root as an army institution, how its technique evolved over time, and how it interacted with the larger American political culture. In so doing, he explores the implications of trying to impose a political consensus on the army of a democracy.

Author Bio

Christopher S. DeRosa is an assistant professor of history at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey.


“Very well researched, rich with detail and supporting anecdotes, and evenhanded. . . . DeRosa’s book reads very well due to his thorough research.”—Susan Canedy, Journal of American History

"I commend this study to those who wish to understand the Army's efforts to produce not just efficient soldiers, but citizen soldiers who truly believed in what they were asked to do."—John W. Mountcastle, Journal of Political and Military Sociology