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Biography

Dan de Wit researches on the intersection of special operations and psychological warfare, and how these intersect in conflict below and on the margins of major war.  He is also an operations support officer at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and an information operations planner in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.  When he doesn’t have his nose buried in books and articles, he likes to hike, ski, mountain climb, and travel--preferably to places where he doesn’t speak the local language.  Dan holds a BA from Vanderbilt University and an MA from Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. 

 

Research Interests

  • Special Operations
  • Political & Psychological Warfare
  • Strategic competition below armed conflict
  • Intelligence and covert action
  • Naval diplomacy and naval competition

 

Publications

  • “Fake News for the Resistance: The OSS and the Nexus of Psychological Warfare and Special Operations in World War II,” Journal of Advanced Military Studies, Marine Corps University Press, Forthcoming (Spring 2021).
  • “Competing Through Cooperation: Leveraging Security Cooperation to Counter Russian and Chinese Influence in Africa,” Journal of Advanced Military Studies, Marine Corps University Press, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Fall 2019).
  • “The Inauguration of 21st Century Political Warfare,” Small Wars Journal, November 15, 2015.

 

Thesis

Fake News for the Resistance: The OSS and the Nexus of Psychological Warfare and Special Operations in World War II

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America's intelligence and special operations organization in World War II, is best known for its efforts to collect intelligence on the Axis Powers and to arm and train resistance groups behind enemy lines. It has received negligible attention for its efforts to disrupt enemy morale and decision-making through the use of "black propaganda,” which took the form of forged orders, letters, and news articles.

Indeed, as of this writing, there exist no published histories that provide a comprehensive overview of how OSS’s Morale Operations Branch conducted these activities in the field, or how these efforts interfaced with the service’s operations to support resistance groups in Axis-occupied areas. Furthermore, there are no published works that compare these activities between theaters. This thesis will attempt to fill this gap in the literature and thereby provide a better understanding of whether and how MO and SO efforts interfaced with one another, a key aspect of OSS’s wartime experience that would otherwise remain opaque.

Beginning with a critical review of the extant secondary literature, this thesis will present a detailed study of the wartime activities of OSS' Morale Operations Branch based on archival research through the OSS records. It will focus especially on how Major General William Donovan, the founding director of OSS, envisioned the integrated role of propaganda and special operations, how the employment of these activities differed across theaters, and the institutional roadblocks presented by conventional military commanders which hindered more effective support to resistance groups.

Supervisor

Primary: Dr. Simon Anglim

Secondary: Dr. Peter Busch