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Reference Information Paper 78

A Finding Aid to Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II ("The American Soldier" Surveys)

Table of Contents

Part II: The Creation of the Records

II.1 The Army Research Branch (ARB) was established in October 1941 as part of the War Department General Staff and later became part of the Information and Education Division (IED) of the United States Army Service Forces (USASF). Because of this organizational change there are records of "The American Soldier in World War II" in both Record Group 165 (Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs) and Record Group 160 (Records of Headquarters Army Service Forces). Because the primary mission of IED was to provide the Secretary of War, later the Secretary of Defense, with its professional advice and information, the largest portion of the records of "The American Soldier in World War II" are in Record Group 330 (Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense).

II.2 The Information and Education Division (IED) was responsible for organizing troop information and orientation programs, analyzing the state of troop morale, and providing related services. The wartime mission of the Army Research Branch included determining the effectiveness of IED policies and programs. One means of making this determination was investigating and analyzing the attitudes and behavior of U.S. military personnel.

II.3 To that end, ARB conducted hundreds of surveys of soldiers' attitudes. This activity extended well into the 1950's, leaving us much information about the postwar and the cold war Army. The well over 200 surveys that relate directly to World War II are generally and collectively referred to as "The American Soldier in World War II." The wartime surveys began in December 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and were conducted as late as November 1945. At least two large issues make the studies historically interesting. They were conducted at a time when the traditional army, proud of its professionalism and institutionalism, was confronting a new type of soldier. It seemed obvious that this new "selectee" had attitudes, values, and pre-induction experiences that were significantly different from those of the old army "regular." The surveys also came at a time when investigative techniques and theories in social psychology and political behavior were being challenged by the emerging behavioralist paradigm. This concept of an empirical, "bottom-up" approach to studies of social phenomena within the military conformed neither to the views nor the style of the traditionally elitist, "top-down" military establishment. The resistance of that establishment, however, had little effect, and the behavioralists soon carried the day.

II.4 One of the functions of ARB was to serve the other three branches of IED with reports on the attitudes of military personnel as they related to the plans and programs of those branches. Thus many of the surveys may be categorized in terms of their relationships to specific missions of IED:

  • 1. Several were designed to focus on soldiers' evaluations of broadcasts, film productions, and Army publications produced by IED's Information Branch. That branch also received survey data measuring the short- and long-term effects on soldiers' attitudes toward the war effort that were produced by exposure to various media.

  • 2. The Orientation Branch of IED was served by surveys examining soldiers' impressions of orientation and ongoing discussion programs conducted by the Army. These studies sought to determine the amount of interest soldiers felt the Army displayed toward them and their sense of participating in Army life or "belonging."

  • 3. The Education Branch of IED was assisted by ARB surveys designed to determine the educational levels of individuals upon entering the Army, their postwar educational plans and vocational interests, the value they placed upon educational issues, and related concerns.

II.5 Other studies conducted through ARB surveys were of subjects not directly related to the missions of the other branches of IED. Some were limited to issues of concern only to a particular command, theater of war, or unit. These surveys not only provide "snapshots" of attitudes and conditions at various locales but offer opportunities for comparative studies of attitudes on the same or similar topics in different units, locations, or times. Topics include the value of training, combat experience, estimation of the enemy, feelings toward allies, race relations, medical care and facilities, and postwar plans.

II.6 Other surveys, although never conducted on an Army-wide scale, addressed Army-wide concerns and employed sampling procedures that would make the findings broadly applicable. These included surveys about postwar assistance to soldiers, demobilization plans, morale problems, and "the propensity for psychiatric and other non-battle casualties." Some studies in this category led to specific changes in military practice, such as the revisions of pay scales, introduction of the Combat and Expert Infantryman's Badges, adoption of a point system for the discharge of officers and enlisted men, and development of a new publicity program for the Army.

II.7 The findings of ARB social scientists and subsequent analysts based on the surveys of "The American Soldier in World War II" have long been most easily accessible in the four-volume Studies in Social Psychology in World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949-50). The four volumes are:

  • 1. The American Soldier: Adjustment During Army Life by Samuel A. Stouffer, Edward A. Suchman, Leland C. DeVinney, Shirley A. Star, and Robin M. Williams, Jr.

  • 2. The American Soldier: Combat and Its Aftermath by Samuel A. Stouffer, Arthur A. Lumsdaine, Marion Harper Lumsdaine, Robin M. Williams, Jr., M. Brewster Smith, Irving L. Janis, Shirley A. Star, and Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr.

  • 3. Experiments on Mass Communication by Carl I. Hovland, Arthur A L- umsdaine, and Fred D. Sheffield.

  • 4. Measurement and Prediction by Samuel A. Stouffer, Louis Guttman, Edward A Suchman, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Shirley A. Star, and John A. Clausen.

These works were produced under the auspices of a Special Committee of the Social Science Research Council, many of the members of which had been employed by ARB during World War II.

II.8 The main body of records related to "The American Soldier in World War II" has been assigned to Record Group 330 (Records of the Secretary of Defense), but there are significant series in other record groups. Throughout the records, the key element for linkage and most kinds of analysis is the survey number. The format of that number might vary slightly across series and record group lines, and even occasionally within a series, but it is consistent enough to provide matching and comparison. (The same survey, for instance, might be called 132-A in one record group and S-132 A in another.) The numbers provided herein are rendered as they are found in the records being described.


Note: Compiled by Ben DeWhitt and Heidi Ziemer. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 1991 (Revised, 1997).

Web version prepared 1999. Additions and changes incorporated in the Web version are between brackets [] and in italics.

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