Week 10

This week, we learned about the early years of the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong. I chose the Korean War exploration pack. In class, my group talked about propaganda from the American and Chinese perspectives during the Korean War. The US supported South Korea, while China supported North Korea. We watched American newsreels from the beginning of the war in 1950 and the end of the fighting in 1953. (The Korean War is still technically going on and Korea remains divided along the same lines). A theme across both videos was showing off the power of the US’s new weapons and the strength of American troops. More specifically, in the first newsreel, the narrator describes the B47 jet, the fastest bomber at the time, as “a welcome addition to freedom’s arsenal.” The phrase “freedom’s arsenal” was meant to persuade American audiences to support the Korean War because they were supposedly fighting for a good cause. It was also trying to boost morale by portraying the US military as powerful. 

On the Chinese and North Korean side, we examined propaganda posters and read about the indoctrination of American prisoners of war. One poster that stood out to me was titled “It’s glorious to take part, to oppose America, support Korea, protect the home and the nation” (1951). It is a Chinese poster that shows a family and their neighbors saying goodbye to a soldier who is leaving to volunteer in the Korean War. All of the people on the poster are smiling, and the soldier is getting large baskets and bouquets of flowers. There is a crowd right outside the door holding Chinese flags and a sign with Mao’s face on it. The artist was trying to encourage Chinese people to volunteer to fight for North Korea by glorifying war and showing that all of their friends and family would be proud. They would be joining a group of patriotic and happy young people. The poster makes going to war look fun instead of portraying the reality. 

Poster of Chinese man leaving his house to join the military. There are soldiers outside carrying Chinese flags and a poster of Mao. The man's family and friends are smiling at him and giving him flowers.

The Chinese military also used psychological warfare on American POWs to persuade them to support communism. One tactic the Chinese guards used was taking prisoners individually to their offices or going on private walks with them to talk about communism, causing other prisoners to feel paranoid (McKnight 78). Prisoners were divided into Progressives who helped the Chinese and Reactionaries who resisted them (McKnight 77). One of the Reactionary groups was the KKK.

Sources:

April 13, 1953. Anonymous Universal Pictures Company, 1953. https://video.alexanderstreet.com/watch/universal-newsreels-release-456-april-13-1953.

“Chapter 4: Winning Captive Hearts”. In McKnight, Brian Dallas. We Fight for Peace: Twenty-Three American Soldiers, Prisoners of War, and “Turncoats” in the Korean War. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2014.

December 11, 1950. Anonymous Universal Pictures Company, 1950. https://video.alexanderstreet.com/watch/universal-newsreels-release-412-december-11-1950.

“It’s glorious to take part, to oppose America, support Korea, protect the home and the nation.” Chinese Propaganda Posters. https://chineseposters.net/gallery/e15-474.


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