Propagandizing Japanese Peasant Soldiers – Salinger to Stevens


<—Back to Index listing of Declassified CIA documents



This CIA declassified document wasn’t able to be recovered from the internet archive due to broken links. I recovered the images at instead, but since 2013 when I last worked on this, Sofir is also now a broken link. It was declassified in 2004.

This document is titled: Propaganda Material. It is from: Edgar Salinger to Major Harley C. Stevens


Document details

DATE: 20 January 1944


NAMES (or titles) mentioned:

Edgar Salinger
Major Harley C. Stevens
Mrs. (Elizabeth P.) MacDonald – “Undercover Girl” (later Elizabeth McIntosh)
Professor S. (Serge) Elisseeff

Interesting points from document –

In regard to the propaganda material which is being worked out by Mrs. MacDonald for possible use on the Burmese
and Thailand fronts, I have some suggestions, which I think might be useful.

We must always remember that the Japanese soldiers are 85% peasant, and therefore certain symbolisms with which
they are familiar, as conating either good or evil portents, should be employed in propaganda directed towards them. I am
not in this instance referring to the specialized superstitions connected with foxes, but to the general symbolisms with which the Japanese are familiar.

…Thus, if she would begin her material by saying, “Do you know that such and such an evil portent has occurred.” For example, “that the sacred horse of the Shihokema Shrine has refused to eat for days and has died”, it might be quite effective.


Other Images and People


Edgar Salinger


NY Times obituary

Mr. Salinger was born, here Nov. 11, 1887. He engaged in the import and export business in Tokyo ‘before World War I. He served as a member of the United States Tariff Commission in the Wilson, Administration. In 1940 he led. the New York City campaign of the American ORT Federation. He was fluent in Japanese, and in World War II, served the Office of Strategic Services in its psychological warfare division.

Edgar was affiliated with the Na Kau Trading Corporation, Yokohama.


Major Harley Crawford Stevens
pic – 1922 University of California


NY Times obituary died age 59.


Worked for Standard Oil and American Independent Oil Company, adept in an esoteric area of law—negotiations for oil and gas concessions.

Headed the Chungking China OSS branch.

The OSS had a “Pacific and Far East Section” and the May 1944 OSS Monthly Activity Report showed the following appointments for that section:-

Lt. Thomas J. McFadden, USNR appointed acting Chief
Maj. George C. Dibert appointed Production Officer
Frank Whittemore appointed Administration Officer
2nd Lt. John Cox appointed Acting Plans Officer
Maj. Herbert S. Little appointed Far East Area Operations Officer
Maj. Harley C. Stevens appointed Acting Far East Area Operations Officer
Lt. (j.g.) James Withrow, USNR appointed Pacific Area Operations Officer


Prior to 1944, the OSS Far Eastern division was run by Carl Remer (expert on American investments in China and Professor at University of Michigan) together with Charles Burton Fahs and William Lockwood as his assistants. Fahs was a Japan expert who had studied in Paris with Serge Elisseeff.


Mrs. Elizabeth P. MacDonald
Undercover Girl

While making small talk with an Army major at an agriculture exhibit she was covering for the Scripps Howard News Service, she mentioned that she grew up in Hawaii, had lived in Manilla, spoke fluent Japanese, and was a newspaper reporter, the officer immediately pulled three application blanks from his briefcase and offered her an opportunity “to make a great contribution to the war effort [even though] he couldn’t explain the type of work because it was secret.”

MacDonald helped establish the OSS Morale Operations offices that originated and managed propaganda campaigns designed to demoralize and confuse Japanese soldiers in the field and Japanese civilians at home. She led the effort that created false newspaper reports, forged postcards and letters, faked radio broadcasts, and concocted rumors that were intentionally spread to Japanese spies. (McDonald archive sale)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Arrived in Kunming in early 1945, she reported that the crude printing presses using hand-carved characters that MO field units were using to wage psychological warfare were being effectively replaced by new lightweight aluminum offset presses developed in OSS in Washington. She was assigned to a project providing leaflets for Chinese and Korean agents with instructions on how surreptitiously to place OSS incendiary devices shaped like a piece of coal into railroad coal bunkers so that they would be shoveled into a locomotive’s firebox and explode at the proper time, thus disrupting the transportation of Japanese troops. The primary MO [Morale Operations] role in China, however, was directed by socialite and media man Gordon Auchincloss, who arrived from the European Theater in August 1944. MO set up a powerful radio transmitter and beamed programs in various dialects to different regions of China encouraging guerrilla action by Chinese against Japanese occupiers and providing discouraging news to Japanese soldiers.

OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II by John Whiteclay Chambers II – 2008; OSS in Action: The Pacific and the Far East

Note: Gordon Auchincloss was a secret society ROOM member.

When the war was over the OSS was liquidated. MacDonald wrote her memoirs. At the end of that 1947 book Undercover Girl, Elizabeth “Betty” argued that all of the persuasion tools she and the OSS used could be countered through an informed population. Something she felt was a necessary requirement for citizens after WWII.

A funny idea she described they wanted to try, as told in this Bend Oregon newspaper announcing her book –

Then there was a Mr Erp who knew that all Japs were afraid of foxes. He proposed that U.S. submarines release phosphorescent foxes in Jap Waters. He said the animals would swim ashore and panic the populace. This expeiment was tried in Long Island sound. The foxes promptly headed for sea and were never seen again.

Betty went on to work for the CIA, the successor to the OSS, becoming an Operations Officer in 1958. In 1998, she wrote Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS under her married name of Elizabeth P. McIntosh.


Professor Serge Elisseeff

Harvard Crimson January 1934 –

Serge Elisseeff has been elected professor of Far Eastern Languages, University Hall revealed yesterday. Professor Elisseeff came to Harvard in 1932 as lecturer on Chinese and Japanese. During the present academic year he is in Paris as Director of Studies in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. A graduate of the University of Tokio, he served in 1916 as Privat-Dozent at Petrograd Imperial University, and in 1917 as Professor in the Institute for the History of Foreign Affairs in Petrograd. From 1921 to 1929 he was the interpreter in the Imperial Embassy in Paris.

Sergei Grigorievich Yeliseyev born January 13, 1889 Gregory in St. Petersburg , † April 13, 1975 in Paris ) was a Russian Orientalist who worked at Harvard University but preferred Paris as a place to stay. He was born into a wealthy St. Petersburg merchant family. His grandfather, originally a farmer from central Russia, had made a fortune by importing wine.

During WWII he taught Japanese to military personnel while also acting as a consultant to the OSS.


Images and PDF files


For those who don’t know – OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and when that is done on images, it makes it so you can search the images for certain words or phrases that you are looking for.

Here is an OCR’d PDF file of all the pages of this document.


Following are the individual images of the document, for those who prefer to look at them that way.

(click to enlarge)


<—Back to Index listing of Declassified CIA documents