Published Date

September 2, 1943

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

Confidential Memorandum

[No author given, but presumably Guy Stanton Ford as recording secretary. Original in Box 384, AHA Papers, Library of Congress]

Colonel Spaulding presented the material which he had previously given to Mr. Ford in St. Paul.

It is a matter on which they have been working since he first became associated with the Army. He speaks today with the approval of General Osborne, director of Special Services Division, War Department, who is responsible for the off-duty time of the Army. Started at first under Bureau of Public Relations, then transferred to General Osborne. One of the needs the War Department has recognized since before Pearl Harbor is the desirability of orienting men in service to the problems attendant on the war. Orientation course has dealt pretty exclusively with the events of the war—the ten years background and the daily progress. The course has not gone into surrounding, domestic, or purely national problems dealing with the events of war. There was issued some time ago an order to commanding officers that one day a week there should be a discussion period for men under unit commander to raise any questions they have in mind and talk freely about the orientation course. This was to be in training camps and all over. Discussion periods have gone more or less well—mostly the latter. The officers in charge have been exclusively engaged in training program and they have not had an opportunity to put their minds to the discussion program.

A year ago last February, when Colonel Spaulding first went on the job, there was under consideration a proposal for the freer, broader discussion of events of the war. There was an experimental try out of discussion group techniques in one or two camps in this country to see how it went. They selected a camp on the Atlantic seaboard and the commanding officer grudgingly gave permission to go ahead. For reasons unexplained the experiment was not carried out. They experienced a good deal of opposition from commanding officers who felt themselves so burdened by the training job that they did not want to see the men go into discussion; some felt it unwise to allow men to indulge in controversial discussions in the camps.

Last fall Colonel Spaulding studied with interest the British program which they had tried to start in 1939 and which it took them until 1941 to get going. They met with the same kind of opposition the American efforts have been meeting with the commanding officers. It did not take until large bodies of well-trained troops were able to take their minds away from the military aspect and think in broader terms.

This group analyzed the situation again last fall and drew up two schemes or procedures. These were never put through because they were not entirely satisfactory for the War Department group. In December, as a result of investigations, a number of civilian organizations were getting out discussion materials along matters of pretty current interest (OWI and Foreign Policy Assn. two of these groups). Also in December they discovered that the Readers’ Digest (hereafter, R.D.) had begun the publication and free distribution of pamphlets for discussion of current problems. The Army group discussed with the R.D. people the possibility of their making an edition of that sort especially for troops. Proposed to reprint articles in the magazine printed for the troops. They were not expecting to limit it to the R.D.; the Army used the R.D. because that organization had discovered how to get at the greatest number of people in a way that interests them; they have skillfully developed the kind of appeal and kind of writing that reaches down to people who are normally not interested. It was something to try out in order to test the procedure. The result of the conversations with the R.D. people was one issue of Camp Talk, which was distributed to 25,000 men in four service commands (two, eight, nine, and one other).

The second service command a year ago last February (1942) proved a difficult place to find an experimental camp; in December seventeen camps in the second service command were conducting self-organized discussion groups.

Results of circulation of Camp Talk: Postal cards enclosed with the magazine brought forth double the response received at any previous time from civilians. One officer within three days after receiving Camp Talk requested 3,500 copies of the second issue instead of the 2,500 planned on (the second issue never came out for reasons undisclosed). Out of 1,000 letters there were only 12 that were unfavorable.

Enough Camp Talks were provided for every man in every unit group. They had four methods of distribution, one of which was putting them where every man could get them if he wanted a copy. They estimated that this issue reached about 60 per cent of the men—in terms of the abilities as you go down the scale. They found that even where there was not organized discussion there was a good deal of talk among groups of two or three. The interest ran high even among the men who did not talk about the magazine. They used a method of non-selective distribution in order to find out what groups it appealed to. They learned about the technique of doing the job.

Shortly after they made this experiment Drew Middleton’s article appeared (he wrote from North Africa). He said there was no interest among American troops in the discussion of serious problems; no program among American troops for the development of discussion; American soldiers immature and, on the whole, gave a pretty black picture of the political intelligence and interest among American soldiers in North Africa. An article in the last Saturday Evening Post takes exception to Middleton’s article. Particularly among men who have been in combat there is a very deep and serious concern about where we are going and what this all means.

The British Army, in terms of personnel to deal with the problem, is much better off than we are at the present time—educated officers and programs in operation for four-year period.

The Army does not regret the condemnatory publicity on the opposite side. The attitude of the regular Army officers is that this is unnecessary, and unreliable; they base their judgments on their recollections of the peace-time Army. Forty per cent of our Army are high school graduates; the average army schooling is the high tenth grade (in the Navy before taking draftees, 11th grade). Our men may be politically immature, but they are not stodgy. Eighteen to twenty per cent of the men in the Army have had college work; there is a notable number of college graduates among enlisted men. In many cases there is a very distinct difference between officers and the enlisted men—officers find two or three men, at least, in their companies who are better educated than they are.

Our Congress is extraordinarily sensitive to the discussion of problems which might affect votes. There seems to be less jitteriness in Parliament with respect to what Army men talk about. The Congress is on sound ground with respect to their hesitation in this business.

The Army’s job is to educate the men for military and naval pursuits; it is not the Army’s job to try to educate the military personnel with respect to civilian pursuits. In the long run it would be very bad for the military services to do that. What they want to do is see to it that there is an opportunity to get education along these lines—the information to be presented should be determined by the most competent people to be found and prepared by civilian groups. The initiative ought to come from a group not tinged with military. American troops in England found themselves in the position where they wanted material for their troops and sent over for any material or suggestions and the Army finds itself without any good material to distribute. They presented samples. They need to develop materials usable at the option of the commanding officers; material that would serve as a basis for letting men discuss—and learn by discussion—matters that are of current and legitimate interest not just to soldiers but also to civilians. They need to get all possible authenticity, and not military authenticity. The material should be presented in such a way that it will do as nearly as possible the kind of thing the R.D. does—reach down with serious material as effectively as the R.D. does. The material should be framed for discussion leaders in such a way as to help them most effectively in striking the level of interest and type of interest among the men.

The best way to arrive at a solution would be to ask an associated like the AHA to help them develop materials—or develop the material—for the Army. The Army would like to enter into a contract to develop discussion group materials around topics suggested by the Army from time to time—topics decided upon after sounding out the men. They would like the Association to establish a staff of professional people to assure the authenticity of the materials presented.

Topics to be considered: I. Our Allies; II. Foreign Affairs; III. National Affairs; IV. Personal and Community Affairs.

There were four organizations the Army considered, including the AHA; the other three had to be ruled out:

Social Science Research Council: General Austin was subjected to serious line of questioning because there appeared the term “social science” in the budget. Congress does not know the difference between socialist, social science, social worker.

American Council of Learned Societies: Already have very extensive arrangements with them. Dismissed because they would have to work it all up fresh. Desired not to have too many entanglements with only one organization.

American Council on Education: Same as ACLS.

American Historical Association: Would be in position to bring in people from other fields. Has the advantage in the first place with respect to the historical approach—the soundest approach that can be made. Demobilization should be considered on a historical basis; same is true of many other difficult and rather hot situations. Noted for disinterestedness and impartiality by both the public and Congress. Old organization incorporated by an act of Congress.

The Army would like a library of about twenty pamphlets. The AHA judgment of cost would be accepted. If a pamphlet produced was used, it would not be censored by the Army. Major Goodrich would be available to work with the group. He has rewritten and reorganized material for the Army. He could help on any military problems that might arise. He was formerly head of Calvert School in Baltimore; he has been in the Adjutant General’s office for the last two years translating Army lingo into Army terminology.

(Note: Colonel Kenderdine was a regimental adjutant in the first war. He maintained an interest in the Army during the intervening years. He was responsible for the establishment of the business men’s training school in Plattwood. He has written “What Every New Soldier Should Know.” As a civilian he was in the publication business in connection with the Survey Graphic.)

Contract with ACLS. Pay on monthly basis; have non-profit contracts arranged in such a way that they can be revised at any time. The ACLS, after initial operations, found no difficulty in adjusting to the Army system of monthly payments. Administrative operations would be included in the contract. Headquarters not necessarily to be in Washington, but preferable. New York would be the alternative. Suggested that Infantry Journal take care of publication, but that would be up to in the Army.

AHA has had three or four years experience in conducting radio programs—Story behind the Headlines. A topic is selected, a soldier is called in to draft script; Saerchinger rewrites scripts; script resubmitted to historian; then goes on the air.

Suggested staff:

Director—continuing staff member on long-term basis.

Small clerical staff—proof reading, etc.

Rewrite men—approximately two for continuing membership.

Advisory board—members responsible for general supervision and advice.

Group for long or short periods—remaining for particular job in particular field of competence.

Scholars and referees.

One thing of great concern is the method of presentation—it should be geared to conditions under which discussions would run. Director should be interested in what is to be taught and how it is to be taught. Some of the methods tried:

  1. One person lectures—so much depends on personality and presentation;
  2. Symposium—radio forum techniques;
  3. Panel discussion;
  4. Informal discussion;
  5. Debate;
  6. Problem-solving technique.

The two types of discussion most likely to occur—large group (over 50) panel discussion or symposium with moderator for chance of discussion afterwards; informal group (under 50) material and suggestions for conduct of discussion to be put in hands of the leader.

Pamphlets must be self-contained—as it is very possible no reference books will be available. They do not mean to exclude reference altogether, but to have substance if references are not available.

Will continue if the program is good, and it will not be interfered with by the kind of criticism and attack that is noisy and not intelligent. Must be able to back up the material.