The Pentagon's Battle for the American Mind: The Early Cold War

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The U.S. military has historically believed itself to be the institution best suited to develop the character, spiritual values, and patriotism of American youth. In Strategy for Survival, Lori Bogle investigates how the armed forces assigned itself the role of guardian and interpreter of national values and why it sought to create “ideologically sound Americans capable of defeating communism and assuring the victory of democracy at home and abroad.”

Bogle shows that a tendency by some in the armed forces to diffuse their view of America’s civil religion among the general population predated tension with the Soviet Union. Bogle traces this trend from the Progressive Era though the early Cold War, when the Truman and Eisenhower administrations took seriously the battle of ideologies of that era and formulated plans that promised not only to meet the armed forces’ manpower needs but also to prepare the American public morally and spiritually for confrontation with the evils of communism.

Both Truman’s plan for Universal Military Training and Eisenhower’s psychological warfare programs promoted an evangelical democracy and sought to inculcate a secular civil-military religion in the general public. During the early 1960s, joint military-civilian anticommunist conferences, organized by the authority of the Department of Defense, were exploited by ultra-conservative civilians advancing their own political and religious agendas.

Bogle’s analysis suggests that cooperation among evangelicals, the military, and government was considered both necessary and normal. The Boy Scouts pushed a narrow vision of American democracy, and Joe McCarthy’s chauvinism was less an aberration than a particularly noxious manifestation of a widespread attitude. To combat communism, American society and its armed forces embraced brainwashing—narrow moral education that attacked everyone and everything not consonant with their view of the world and how it ought to be ordered.

Exposure of this alliance ultimately dissolved it. However, the cult of toughness and the blinkered view of reality that characterized the armed forces and American society during the Cold War are still valued by many, and are thus still worthy of consideration.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Lori Bogle is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville and researches the social and cultural aspects of American military history.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : forging the American character 3
1 Engineering patriotism 21
2 The American civil-military religion and the Cold War 48
3 Ideological and spiritual mobilization 77
4 Evangelical democracy and the reshaping of the American character 107
5 The U.S. military and the radical right 133
Epilogue : the citizen soldier in retrospect 165
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