11. Memorandum by the Chairman of the Committee on Public Information (Creel)1

Memorandum for an American Bureau of Public Information in Europe

Pressure from various quarters has been brought to bear on the Army Authorities to undertake Propaganda along the lines of the different European organizations. Both the British and French maintain bureaus in the allied and neutral countries each one considering its own national interest as well as that of the allied cause.

Thus far, our only “Propaganda” has been through the Press Division of the Intelligence Section of the American Expeditionary Forces which has charge of public relations and of censorship. It has supplied information freely to all who wished it, distributed photographs in allied countries and extended unusual facilities to influential civilians and writers and correspondents for seeing our Army.

Any organization that we may develop in the future should be under Government direction. Volunteer organizations will not only overlap but will assume a semi-official capacity if they receive official assistance necessary for efficiency, and, unless they carry out the spirit of Government’s intentions, may produce mischievous results in a work which requires the most delicate possible handling. Dismissing the Volunteer System as impracticable, we may follow one of two courses.

I. The Press Division may extend its work along present lines by an increase of personnel and a small appropriation which might come from the War Department.

II. We might establish a central bureau in Paris where the Press Division already has an office and branch bureaus in London, Rome and Madrid, the Central Bureau being in liaison with the Committee of Public Information in Washington and the Intelligence Section of the Army. Our policy should be to stiffen the moral[e] and determination of the allied countries by the presentation of the immense power which America could exert against the Germans when our preparations are complete. It would counteract German propaganda and other propaganda which has had such serious results in Italy for example, and by [Page 22] the exposition of American thoughts and ideals, remedy the too common scepticism of our motives among the masses in the allied countries who can not conceive that we are not in the war for territorial or commercial gains. After peace negotiations had begun, the organization would still be serviceable in its influence as a means of reflecting our national aims.

The chairman of the central bureau in Paris should be a man of broad European experience, and the branch bureaus in London, Madrid and Rome and the Scandinavian countries should be directed by men who knew the country to which they were assigned sympathetically and spoke the language fluently, including an eminent scholar, a practical man of affairs, an economist, a journalist and others who would reach different institutions and classes of Society. Upon the choice of these men and the character of the chairman would depend the results of the work which would be carried on in a dignified, modest and thorough manner in keeping with the character of the New America as opposed to the America with which Europeans associate boasting, flamboyancy and commercialism.

Rent of offices in Paris, London, Rome, Madrid, Rotterdam, Berne, Christian[i]a, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Petrograd $24,000.
Stenographers, clerks and offices expenses $50,000.
Salaries of five assistants in each branch at the rate of $250. to $500. monthly $240,000.
Total of Fixed Charges $314,000.

The principal assistants would be expected, as a matter of patriotiam [patriotism] as well as of wisdom in the policy of such work, to give their services for small remuneration. Out of an appropriation of $500,000. say $176,000 would be left for printing, travel and emergencies of the organization. One assistant at the Central Bureau should be am [an] accountant who would act as auditor. All employees would be subject to a month’s notice. No moneys should be spent in such a manner that the record of the expenditure would not bear public investigation.

1. Sound ethics as well as sound policy apparently require that our people should be told the truth in some detail of the present situation of the Allies. The facts had better come from the government now than later from other sources which may play into the hands of critics.

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2. Allied representations of the danger of the Germans winning a military decision on the Western Front should be considered in relation to the Allies’ desire to have us committed to the war with our last drop of blood and last dollar to gain ends, which, in some instances, are not in keeping with our declared purpose in the war.

3. In any event a campaign of education as to the actualities of the present situation should be inaugurated at home. The only force which will be convincing to the German General Staff in its survey of the situation is military force and the building of the bridge across the Atlantic which will bring military force to bear upon the German Army. Any preparations, even any public emotion, which is a diversion from this purpose will only play into the hands of the German military party which judges our effectiveness only by its measure of the power of our blows and our potential blows. The response of our people to the truth should be so determined and concrete in its warlike intensity that the German Staff will not mistake our meaning; for this is the best weapon to place in the President’s hands for the earliest possible ending of the war.

4. The French government should be informed of our purpose in telling our people the facts in order that the French government may, if it chooses, use its censorship in suppressing what may be harmful to French morale while strengthening to our own.

5. It is common talk among the French, and in a lesser degree among the English, masses that we are willing to loan the Allies money[,] to subscribe to Red Cross funds and provide ambulanciers but we are not willing to shed our blood. As the most convincing proof of our determination our trained troops, no matter how small their numbers, should, even at the expense of heavy casulaties [casualties], play a part against any great German offensive on the Western Front which will be well heralded in Europe.

6. In the event of a disaster to the French Army prevision requires that we safeguard our army, and, in the extreme event, join the British Army using British bases for future operations.

7. Such is the character of the French people and such the effect of the strain that they have borne for more than three years that every possible infleunce [influence] should be exerted to stiffen their morale with convicition [conviction] of our strength in order that they may withstand the shock of another great offensive which will undoubtedly be directed against their sector if the German[s] decide to make a supreme effort for a decision on the Western Front.

  1. Source: Papers of Woodrow Wilson , vol. 46, pp. 200–203. The original notes that the memorandum is dated “c. Jan. 31, 1918.” All brackets are in the original. © 1984 by Princeton University Press.