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Anthropology and Total Warfare

The Office of Strategic Services' 1943 'Preliminary Report on Japanese Anthropology'

David H. Price

More than two dozen U.S. anthropologists worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the Second World War. Some anthropologists at the OSS's Research and Analysis Branch analysed information on Japanese culture and tracked shifts in Japanese morale to estimate the best ways of employing psychological warfare. Among the papers produced by these anthropologists was a 1943 'Preliminary Report on Japanese Anthropology' which included the contemplation of biological warfare programmes using anthrax and other weapons of mass destruction on Japanese civilian and military populations. This article summarizes and critiques the roles of American anthropology in designing and opposing various programmes directed against Japanese soldiers and civilians under consideration at the OSS.

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Olivier Wieviorka

*The full text version of this article is in French

English Abstract:

Historians generally consider resistance in Europe as a national phenomenon. This vision is certainly accurate, but forgets one important datum: the Allies have played a decisive part in European resistance, by recognizing (or not) governments in exile, by authorizing (or not) the free access to the BBC, and by using their secret services (mainly the Special Operations Executive, SOE, and the Office of Strategic Services, OSS). This article tries to show how this action has shaped resistance in Western Europe, and given to the Anglo-Americans a leading part in clandestine action—even if national powers, in one way or another, have resisted this hegemony.

French Abstract:

La résistance en Europe a le plus souvent été considérée comme un combat national, tant par les hommes et les femmes qui y ont participé que par les historiens qui ont, par la suite, tenté de l’analyser. Sans contester ce schéma, il convient sans doute de l’enrichir, en admettant que l’intervention des Britanniques, puis des Américains, a contribué à européaniser la résistance. En la pliant à un modèle organisationnel unique tout d’abord ; en imposant des structures de commandement et une stratégie identiques ensuite ; en légitimant les pouvoirs en exil enfin. Ces interventions ont au total amené à une homogénéisation de l’armée des ombres sur le Vieux Continent, sans que les résistances nationales n’aliènent, pour autant, leur identité propre.