2018 is the 100th anniversary of the first effort by the US Army to design and deploy a psychological operations capability in support of US and Allied military efforts during World War I. Under the direction of Captain Heber Blankenhorn, a Military Intelligence officer, the Army's first efforts to create this critical capability have resulted in the successful creation and deployment of the US Army Psychological Operations Regiment.
The very creation of America's first military PSYOP capability was not particularly welcomed by then-President Woodrow Wilson. Here is an insight into the history that has resulted in today's PSYOP Regiment:
Entering World War I in April 1917, the U.S. War Department had no capacity to conduct what is commonly known as psychological operations, or PSYOP, or what is doctrinally referred to today as Military Information Support Operations. On January 23, 1918, Maj. Charles H. Mason, head of MI-2 in the War Department Military Intelligence Branch, direct-commissioned Capt. Heber Blankenhorn straight from civilian life to establish and lead the Psychologic Subsection for the purpose of organizing "the implementation in combat of the psychologic factor in the strategic situation" -- quite a nebulous charter for the new officer.
President Woodrow Wilson vehemently opposed the idea of military-run propaganda, so Blankenhorn's low-key activities were initially limited to research and planning. He spent ensuing weeks walking the halls and knocking on doors throughout the War Department, trying to get support for his idea of waging "leaflet warfare" overseas in support of Gen. John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces in France.
Having received little support for his concept, Blankenhorn bypassed several layers in his chain of command and secured a meeting with Secretary of War Newton D. Baker on June 21, 1918. At the meeting, Baker was surprisingly open to military propaganda. "I think we should do this," he said. "I give my approval to it right now, subject to one condition. The President has had some misapprehensions about this ... [but] I will take this matter up with him ... If I say nothing further, it's approved."
Much has changed in the PSYOP world. To recognize this important 100th birthday milestone, POVA's brother organization, the Psychological Operations Regimental Association (PRA), sponsored and conducted a special birthday celebration at Ft. Bragg on 1 August. This is an important milestone for all in our Regiment, and POVA appreciates PRA taking leadership on behalf of all Psywarriors, past and present! A special birthday dinner and cake-cutting will be held at Ft. Bragg on 2 November 2018.