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Harry S. Truman Papers Staff Member and Office Files: Psychological Strategy Board Files

Dates: 1951-1953

The Psychological Strategy Board Files comprise documentation of the work of that agency from its founding on April 4, 1951 until the end of the Truman administration. The documents are filed according to the War Department decimal file system.

The two most important series are Class 000--General, and Class 300--Administration. These series together contain files on Government agencies; private societies and associations; boards, commissions, committees and councils; individual people, including PSB staff members; and PSB programs and procedures.

A second segment of PSB files, documenting the period January 20 to September 3, 1953, are in the holdings of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library.

[ Administrative Information | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


Size: 19 linear feet, 3 linear inches (ca. 35,000 pages).
Access: Open, with the exception that some documents are temporarily restricted in accordance with President Truman's letter of gift of February 12, 1957, his will dated January 14, 1959, and the requirements of the Executive Order governing the administration of classified information.
Copyright: Documents prepared by United States Government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in documents outside of this category are presumed to remain with the writers of the documents.
Processed by: Dennis E. Bilger and Harry Clark (1981); Carol A. Briley, Raymond H. Geselbracht, Dennis E. Bilger and Erwin J. Mueller (1989); Janice Davis and David Clark (2014-2015).

Top of the page | Administrative Information | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List


The Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) was established by Presidential Directive on April 4, 1951 "to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations." An abbreviated version of the Presidential Directive was released to the public on June 20, 1951.

The PSB was composed of the Undersecretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, or their designated representatives. The founding Presidential Directive instructed the PSB to report to the National Security Council "on the Board's activities on the evaluation of the national psychological operations, including implementation of approved objectives, policies, and programs by the departments and agencies concerned."

The Psychological Strategy Board succeeded the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, which had been established during World War II to coordinate the Government's psychological warfare efforts. During the Truman Presidency, the PSB, in addition to its inherited coordination role, conducted planning for psychological operations undertaken by its constituent agencies. It did not conduct operations of its own.

According to Edward P. Lilly, the PSB's historian, the Board's basic function was to prevent interagency rivalries from developing among the agencies involved in psychological operations. Seventeen meetings of the PSB's constituent agency representatives were held during the last year and a half of Truman's administration.

During the Eisenhower presidency, the PSB became purely a coordinating body; all planning was discontinued. The Board was terminated by Executive Order 10483 of September 3, 1953, and its functions were transferred to the Operations Coordinating Board.

The Psychological Strategy Board had three directors during Truman's presidency. Gordon Gray was the first director, serving from June 1951 to January 1952. Raymond B. Allen, the second director, served from January to September 1952. Third was Admiral Alan Kirk, who served the remainder of Truman's term. Charles E. Johnson was the Board's executive officer. Besides the office of the Director, the staff of the Psychological Strategy Board included the following offices: the Executive; Plans and Policy; Coordination; and Evaluation and Review.

The files of the Psychological Strategy Board were in the physical custody of the Central Intelligence Agency until they were turned over to the National Archives in about 1980. They were then divided chronologically into Truman and Eisenhower administration periods, and transferred to the appropriate Presidential Libraries.

The Truman Library's portion was opened for research in 1981. In December 1988, the PSB files were temporarily closed and were subsequently reviewed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Several hundred formerly open documents were restricted because of security classified content as a result of this review. The files were reopened for research in October 1989.

The PSB files, with the exception of a single folder of material filed under Gordon Gray's name, are arranged according to the filing scheme described in the War Department Decimal File System (Washington, D.C., revised edition, 1943). Each classification group, or "class," has been treated in the description of the PSB files as a series.

Probably the two most important series are Class 000--General, which includes such classifications as 040 Agencies, 080 Societies and Associations, 091 Countries, and 091.4 Peoples; and Class 300--Administration, which includes such classifications as 300.6 Memoranda and Notes, 334 Boards, Commissions, Committees, Councils and Missions, 337 Conferences, Military and Naval and Others, which includes minutes, agendas and related documentation for the PSB's staff and board meetings, 381 National Defense, and 387.4 Armistice, which includes material about the Korean War. About 85% of the volume of the PSB files, apart from the Indexing and Suspense Form Series, is contained in these two classes.

The Indexing and Suspense Form series is composed entirely of forms of this name, which were used by the Psychological Strategy Board staff to provide cross references to their files. The origins of the forms were often, or perhaps even usually, attached to the fronts of the documents being referenced, and copies were then distributed throughout the files as appropriate. Copies were also put into this Indexing and Suspense Form series, which thus acts as an index to the PSB files. Not all of the documents cross referenced are present in these files.

The Truman Library staff does not know where such documents are, nor why, if they were ever part of the PSB files, they were removed from them. The Indexing and Suspense forms are arranged by the War Department decimal file system. They are filed disproportionately in two decimal files: 040 Executive Departments of the United States Government, and 201 Personal Records. The documents referenced are described by correspondents, dates and subject content.

A list of the specific War Department decimal file system classifications used in this collection of Psychological Strategy Board files is appended to this finding aid.

The Truman Library staff has selectively annotated the folder-title list to try to give some definition to uninformative folder titles. Acronyms and code names have been identified whenever possible. All Library staff additions made to folder titles received from the White House appear in brackets. Accretions of newly declassified documents were opened in 2007 and 2009.

Top of the page | Administrative Information | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List

Container Nos.   Series
Correspondence relating to staff organization and to the meetings of the Psychological Strategy Board during Gray's directorship. This file, which is about 75 pages in volume, appears to have been kept personally by Gray; it was not filed under the filing scheme employed with the rest of the PSB files. Arranged chronologically.
1-15   CLASS 000--GENERAL, 1951-1953
This is the main subject file of the PSB files. It consists of correspondence, reports and printed material relating to every area of Psychological Strategy Board activity. The General Class includes several important classifications: Executive Departments of the United States Government, which includes files on the Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Economic Cooperation Administration, the Mutual Security Agency, Radio Free Europe, the State Department, and the Voice of America; 080 Societies and Associations, which includes files on the American Legion, the Ford Foundation, the Red Cross, and the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia; and 090 Geographical and Political Divisions, which includes files on Germany, the Soviet Union, National Security Council report number 10/5, and approximately fifty people. The book which described the filing scheme used for the Psychological Strategy Board's files, War Department Decimal File System, is filed at the beginning of this series.
Correspondence and reports relating to the estimate of the Psychological Strategy Board's budget for fiscal year 1954, and to the intelligence operations of the State Department.
16-18   CLASS 200--PERSONNEL 1951-1953
Correspondence, reports, applications for employment and newspaper clippings concerning the personnel procedures of the Psychological Strategy Board.
18-32   CLASS 300--ADMINISTRATION, 1951-1953
Correspondence, reports and newspaper clippings relating to the methods and procedures employed in the operations of the Psychological Strategy Board. The series includes files on staff members Raymond B. Allen, C. Tracy Barnes, Gordon Gra