A War Over War Movies: Donald Baruch and Pentagon Film Censorship

By Davis Winkie, Guest Contributor

Historians spend a great deal of time and effort finding sources. For many of us, our sources are words, images, and things that dead people left behind. But some historians have living sources, raising a question – if a historian is trying to be objective, how close can he or she be to their sources? How close is tooclose? We’ll return to that in a second.

Bernard Baruch is a familiar figure to those affiliated with CUNY-Baruch. But Bernard wasn’t the only Baruch in public service. His nephew Donald Baruch spent nearly 40 years  as the Department of Defense’s liaison with Hollywood.

Donald Baruch

Don Baruch, portrait c.1950s. Folder 9, Box 62, Series 9: Office Photographs (unframed), Subgroup 1: Professional Papers and Records, Papers of Donald E. Baruch, Baruchiana Collection

My research examines Baruch’s office and its impact on war movies during the Cold War. Though his titles varied, Baruch was responsible for arranging cooperation between Hollywood and the military. Need tanks, planes, military bases, or an Essex-class aircraft carrier (Pearl Harbor epic Tora Tora Tora got one!) for your movie? Want a military band for your premiere? Want the military to use your movie for recruiting? Baruch was the man for you, and for many years, he and the Pentagon alone could provide those things.

So what did Baruch and the DOD want in return? The short answer: control or influence –  his office edited the scripts of cooperating films. If the film studio said no, they would lose their military assistance. If a producer went rogue during production, the film would lose the military’s help in publicizing the film. My recent research charts the “red lines” that films couldn’t cross without losing Baruch’s approval, and I find that the military’s economic leverage enabled an unofficial censorship system for 1950s war movies.

This post isn’t about my work, though. It’s about two authors who wrote books about Baruch’s office: Lawrence Suid (Guts and Glory: Great American War Movies, 1978; 2nd edition, 2002) and David Robb (Operation Hollywood: How The Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, 2004). Robb’s title gives away his stance on the “censorship” debate; Suid acknowledges there were script edits, but he claims there wasn’t censorship because nobody forced filmmakers to request assistance. Historians make a living on professional disagreement, but things got very personal when Suid reviewed Robb’s book in 2005.

In Operation Hollywood, Robb states that Suid was biased because Baruch had given him special access to his office’s files. They were too close, Robb said. When Suid reviewed Robb’s book in Film & History, he ignored its myriad structural and analytical problems, hurling insults instead: “garbage in, garbage out…egregious errors of fact…nothing could be farther from the truth…transparently false…[unable] to present an accurate account of the relationship between Hollywood and the armed forces.” The editor allowed Robb to respond and Suid to have a last word, and things only got uglier.

I won’t get too far into the weeds with their feud. Instead I’ll ask Robb’s question: how close were Larry Suid and Don Baruch? In both editions of Guts and Glory, Suid thanks Baruch first in his acknowledgements section, explaining that Baruch had answered questions and fact-checked his manuscript. Was that all? The Baruchiana Collection suggests otherwise.

Suid and Baruch met in the early 1970s while Suid was conducting interviews for his book. Their relationship deepened from there. Baruch wrote a glowing recommendation in 1976 supporting Suid for a prestigious fellowship with the Guggenheim Foundation. He describes Suid’s proposal as “of inestimable value…monumentally ambitious” and worthy of “serious consideration.” He attested that “having worked with Mr. Suid for several years and having gotten to know him personally…he is objective[.]” Though Baruch’s letter likely held weight – he socialized with Guggenheims during the 1930s – Suid did not win the fellowship.

Donald Baruch's letter of recommendation for Larry Suid

Baruch’s recommendation of Suid’s Guts and Glory proposal. Folder 6, Box 10, Series 2: Office Subject Files-Film and TV Productions, Subgroup 1: Professional Papers and Records, Papers of Donald E. Baruch, Baruchiana Collection.

Their collaboration endured. Suid wrote a guest column for the Washington Film Council newsletter (Baruch was its president), and likely anonymously quoted Baruch in a 1978 Los Angeles Times op-ed discussing an ongoing review of the DOD’s Hollywood cooperation policy. During this same time, Baruch clipped reviews of Guts & Glory for his files, and Baruch updated Suid’s phone number in his Rolodex at least once, suggesting that they kept in touch.

During the 1980s, Suid turned to Baruch for career advice. Baruch’s papers contain an undated list of Suid’s book ideas, including a possible revision to Guts and Glory. Presumably, he asked Baruch which he should pursue. Apparently, Suid first tried to finish a cultural history of NASA, because Baruch’s papers include a hand-delivered draft chapter entitled “Hollywood, NASA, and the Pentagon.” The attached note: “Dear Don, sorry I missed you. Will call when I return to town. Larry.”

Note from Larry Suid to Donald Baruch

Undated handwritten note from Suid to Baruch. Folder 6, Box 10, Series 2: Office Subject Files-Film and TV Productions, Subgroup 1: Professional Papers and Records, Papers of Donald E. Baruch, Baruchiana Collection.

When Suid’s NASA contract ended due to Reagan budget cuts, he sent Baruch a job application, though it is unclear what role he sought. In a phone conversation with me last year, Suid indicated that he had helped archive documents for Baruch’s office, so the job application may be related.

Suid started revising Guts & Glory before Baruch retired in 1989. He sent Baruch an outline and a list of films for which he sought DOD files, annotated by Baruch’s secretary.

Films for revised edition of Guts & Glory

Films for revised edition of Guts & Glory, c. 1986-89. Folder 5, Box 4, Series 1: Business Correspondence, Subgroup 1: Professional Papers and Records, Papers of Donald E. Baruch, Baruchiana Collection.

However, Suid delayed his revisions, and Baruch retired and passed away before the revised edition came out in 2002.  In all, Baruch’s papers offer a partial picture (since the collection itself is not exhaustive) of a sustained relationship between himself and Suid – perhaps corroborating Robb’s accusation.

But let’s return to our earlier question: how close is too close? This is a controversial question among historians, as better relationships with sources (or collaborative knowledge-creating ventures) can allow for better access to documents and information. But this time, Icarus may have strayed too close to the sun. Baruch had more than 20 years under his belt as a public information official before Suid approached him, and he had a knack for cultivating relationships that helped him get the military’s message into films – he included “personal contacts” as a necessary competency in a draft of his official job description.

Perhaps the man who manipulated Hollywood for decades was able to persuade the most influential historian of the DOD-Hollywood relationship. Indeed, Suid never seriously questioned Baruch’s argument that the DOD’s Hollywood support program did not censor films. Baruch’s influence over his own legacy just might be the greatest testament to his prowess as a public information officer.

Davis Winkie is a military history Ph.D. student at UNC-Chapel Hill, the grants coordinator for the NC National Guard Museum, and a soldier in the NC Army National Guard. He recently spent a week exploring Donald Baruch’s papers at the Baruch College Archives. His M.A. thesis, “Thin Red Lines: Early Cold War Military Censorship of Hollywood War Movies,” thematically and systematically reconstructs the unofficial censorship regime enforced by Don Baruch’s office. Want to learn more? Email him at jdavisw@live.unc.edu or follow him on Twitter @davis_winkie.


The Fun Side of Robert Moses

We know Robert Moses — Luther Gulick’s classmate in the nineteen-teens at the Training School School for Public Service — from his colossal public works that reshaped New York: Jones Beach, Lincoln Center, the bridges, the parkways, the Queens fairground. We know Moses, too, from Robert Caro’s sharp-edged portrait in “The Power Broker” and the projects that the master builder tried (and luckily failed) to ram through, like LOMEX, the Lower Manhattan Expressway that would have obliterated SoHo.

But do we know Robert Moses, the social butterfly? Didn’t think so.

This surprising aspect turns up in our Institute of Public Administration collection detailing the birth of municipal reform by the New York Bureau of Municipal Research in the first years of the 20th century. (See our inaugural post from nearly five years ago: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ipaprocessing/wp-admin/post.php?post=8&action=edit).

Going through the records recently, our eagle-eyed archivist Sarah Rappo spotted a 1930 letter to Gulick from a certain “Paul” at New York University’s School of Commerce. It referenced a document he had come across from the early days of the Bureau that he was passing on to Gulick, along with a suggestion for some kind of reunion.

Handwritten note about BMR Social Club

The document he sent Gulick was also in the files. Undated but probably from around 1916, it was the constitution and by-laws of “the B.M.R. Club” whose purpose was “to provide a means for encouraging the social relations” among the members and officers of the Bureau and its Training School. Unisex, in those days. Women slowly joined the ranks in years to come.

BMR Social Club Description

BMR Social Club Description

BMR Social Club Description

But the most interesting page listed the officers and committees in charge of activities like “Dancing and Cards,” “Billiards and Bowling,” and “Music and Smokers.” And who was Vice-President but…Robert Moses? Was this the same Moses who was increasingly disdainful of the Bureau? “He didn’t feel it was important any more,” Caro wrote. “Investigations didn’t accomplish anything. He didn’t want to count barrels of concrete; he wanted to pour them.” By 1918, Moses was out of the Bureau Social Club and the reform movement, and taking on a direct role in state government, courtesy of Gov. Al Smith.

BMR Social Club Description

From the penciled name atop the document — “Studensky” — we have an intriguing clue about the identity of the “Paul” who sent Gulick the Bureau material. Paul Studensky was indeed an N.Y.U. economics professor at the time who seems to have been Gulick’s colleague at the Bureau, although his name does not appear on any of the committees. Studensky, sometimes spelled Studenski, had another — extraordinary — claim to fame, as a pioneering Russian-born aviator from the earliest years of powered flight.

What aeroplanes looked like 8 years after the Wright Brothers’s inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk.

Read about Paul Studensky/Studenski:



Disappearing the People

The following blogpost with illustrations was written by Aaron Horvath, a Stanford University doctoral candidate who visited Baruch College’s Newman Library Archives in November to research the early governmental reforms of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research and the Institute of Public Administration. We are grateful for his input and gratified he found the Collection so useful.


By Aaron Horvath

The administrative theorists of the early 1900s loved organization charts. Everything — from the hierarchy of their own offices to the operational layout of democratic government — could be outlined in an organization chart. And outline they did.

Organization charts, for the unacquainted, are maps of formal hierarchies and authority within bureaucracies, illustrating how functional divisions of work, distinct departments, work roles, and people are yoked together in these entities called organizations. Though in many ways these charts are works of fiction — in practice, hierarchy and authority often differ substantially from their depiction on paper — they offer telling insights into the administrative assumptions, theories, and fancies of those who create them.

The following images are a series of organization charts produced between 1910 and 1940, by men traveling in the orbit of the New York Bureau of Municipal Research (and later, the Institute of Public Administration). As you proceed through these charts, consider which features appear or disappear, which ones move in or out of focus.

Fig 1. Government of the City of New York (New York Bureau of Municipal Research, 1915)

Fig 2. Governmental Organization of the City, County, and School District of Philadelphia (Philadelphia Bureau of Municipal Research, 1924)

Fig 3. Government of the United States (Bureau of Reclamation, 1935)

Fig 4. Federal Agencies Directly Responsible to the President (President’s Committee on Administrative Management [Brownlow, Gulick, Merriam, and others]; circa 1936-1938)

Fig. 5. The Federal Government of the U.S.A. Outline of Structure (President’s Committee on Administrative Management, circa 1937)

Fig 6. Master Organization Chart: The Government of the United States (War Production Board Administrative Division, 1943)

A cursory examination reveals a variety of changes. Different levels of government are depicted, and different levels of complexity are used to delineate the structure of authority. Closer examination, however, reveals more profound changes in the depiction of authority, especially considering the democratic commitments of the governmental entities being described. The public disappeared.

 In the early charts, there is no question who fills the top role. In New York, it’s the “Electorate.” In Philly, it’s more specifically the “Registered Voters [of the] City of Philadelphia.”  But as we move into the 1930s, the public disappears altogether, the top position now filled by the broad “Government of the United States” before immediately dropping to the “Executive Branch.” In the sunburst chart, the President is the sun around which all administrative agencies orbit; the public is not visible. The recommended re-organization chart bears the marks of these predecessors, with an interesting twist — the legislature is granted the highest position on the chart and the most distinctive shape. Following its lines of influence, however, quickly leads to a dead end (I cannot help but wonder the degree to which this is a rhetorical device to mollify congressional concerns surrounding the over-concentration of power in the executive). In the midst of WWII, the visual dominance of the executive is reasserted; the public is still absent.

Of course, images alone make for an imperfect comparison. These are only some of the many governmental org charts produced over this roughly 30-year period; they weren’t all produced for the same ends, and, indeed, the movement away from including the public is not uniform. One can find in Luther Gulick’s papers an org chart of New York City from the 1930s that more closely resembles that of Philly in the 1920s.

Nevertheless, the authority structures mapped in these evolving org charts visually reflect the story found in the voluminous correspondence, memos, reports, papers, and books that these chart makers produced alongside their illustrations of administrative order. Frustrated by the ugliness and inefficiency of politics, optimistic about the promise of objective administrative science, an influential cadre of administrative thinkers began to articulate a new vision of democratic governance, premised less on the contributions of the public and more on effectively administering to the public. What this meant, in practice, was to carry the offices and operations of American government further away from the influence and scrutiny of the American people.

The very ethos of this shifting focus is found in a piece written by Luther Gulick (among whose archival materials five of the above six org charts can be found). In Papers on the Science of Administration (written with the British Taylorist, Lyndall Urwick in 1937), he contends that, in all forms of administration, public or private, “the basic ‘good’ is efficiency,” defined as the “accomplishment of the work in hand with the least expenditure of man-power and materials.” “Efficiency,” he continues, “is thus axiom number one in the value scale of administration. This brings administration into apparent conflict with certain elements of the value scale of politics.” To this end, he highlights the “highly inefficient arrangements like citizen boards and small local governments which may be necessary in a democracy as educational devices,” ultimately concluding that such “interferences” do not “in any way eliminate efficiency as the fundamental value upon which the science of administration may be erected.”

Concerns with the public did not disappear altogether. Though its political authority is diminished, its interventions in government understood as “interferences” with efficiency, the public becomes an end to be served by the state, not a participant in the state itself.  In the haste to advance an apolitical politics of efficiency, the administrative thinkers of the early 20th century minimized the role of the public as well.







The Secret Science of Government Reform

“It has become physically impossible for one man to see so many persons,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress on April 25, 1939.

Which is why in 1935 he had tasked his President’s Committee on Administrative Management – Luther Gulick and the political scientists Louis Brownlow and Charles Merriam — to streamline and fortify the executive branch, “to make democracy work,” in his words picked up from Gulick.

(l to r) Luther Gulick, Charles Merriam, Louis Brownlow

PCAM’s mission was notably historic, the greatest federal government restructuring since 1787. It resulted most notably in creation of the Executive Office of the President that created a new managerial structure and consolidated Presidential power, without which the nation might never have finally overcome the Great Depression and won World War II. Until then, as Roosevelt lamented, some 30 major federal agencies and countless minor ones reported directly to him, an impossible burden.

The records reside in 18 archival boxes of our Luther Halsey Gulick III papers, Series IV, Project/Working Files. Duplicates exist in prominent archives like the presidential libraries of Roosevelt in Hyde Park, N.Y.; Harry S. Truman in Independence, Mo.; and John F. Kennedy in Boston. No one has yet digitized them for online access, so far as we know.

Powerful evidence of the value of the collection is the confidential draft of the 1937 government reorganization speech that Gulick wrote for Roosevelt to deliver to Congress. An extensively marked-up typescript that Gulick sweated over (from 5 to 9 a.m. on Jan. 6, 1937, according to Gulick’s meticulous notes) offers an extraordinary window into the thought processes of this pivotal presidential advisor.

Roosevelt gave the speech to Congress six days later largely as Gulick had written it, starting with the ringing opening: “Now that we are out of the trough of the depression, the time has come to set our house in order…”

But it would take two difficult years to get a bill though a hostile Congress in revolt over Roosevelt’s effort to pack the Supreme Court.

Another landmark document is Gulick’s handwritten memo on a “private and confidential” conference with Roosevelt and Brownlow on Nov. 14, 1936, revealing the President’s detailed thoughts on government reorganization. Roosevelt was afraid a constitutional convention could get out of hand, given the various “crackpots” around. “But there are more ways of killing a cat,” FDR said. He read the committee’s proposals with approval, “and said slowly ‘one hundred per cent,’ banging his fist on the table with each word.”

A key historic feature of our PCAM collection is the set of Louis Brownlow’s memoranda – some 1,500 typed pages he viewed as a diary – tracing the history of the reorganization growing out of Brownlow’s 1934 strategy sessions with Roosevelt on civil service reform. By the following year, Brownlow wrote in a “very confidential” diary entry: “The President also said he was interested in having a study made of the possibilities of reorganization of the several departments, commissions, and agencies of the Federal Government; that this ought to be undertaken by some non-governmental agency…” Privately, Brownlow doubted it would be possible in the time allotted. He also thought it should be kept largely secret “and that only when pressed should we give out background material for the guidance of correspondents…”

These memos provide fascinating granular insights into day-to-day life in the New Deal – the rivalries, politicking, personal dramas, and, perhaps most of all, the intense dedication of countless public servants to saving American democracy.

One Brownlow memo from 1933 discusses the financial crisis with particular reference to “the situation of the Negro in agriculture and industry.” In another, Roosevelt shares his thoughts on shortcomings of the traditional merit system. From his time as assistant secretary of the Navy, he knew, he said, that to be a bureau chief in the government required only three things: to live, not to get drunk, and to show up promptly at 9 a.m.


Secrets of World War II

Of all Luther Gulick’s memorable contributions to the life of the nation — leading the first training school for professional public servants, streamlining FDR’s chaotic executive branch, masterminding relief for up to half a billion war refugees, spearheading the campaign to fluoridate New York City’s water, besides much else — one of the most historic was his work on the United States Reparations Missions to Germany and Japan under Ambassador Edwin W. Pauley, an oil magnate and Roosevelt’s wartime petroleum manager. Pauley, who died at 78 in 1981, is a worthy subject in his own right. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/oralhist/pauleye.htm

So are the reparations missions. https://www.archives.gov/research/holocaust/finding-aid/civilian/rg-59-5.html

We have our own rich files on Gulick’s involvement in the Allied effort to bolster the postwar order by defanging the industrial might of their former Axis enemies and holding them financially accountable for their crimes. They’re part of Gulick’s World War II archive that is next in line for planned digitization.

Here’s Gulick (left) briefing Pauley (center) and Gen. Mark Clark, much-decorated commander in chief of US forces of occupation in Austria.

In June 1945, a month after the Nazi surrender, the Reparations Mission was in Moscow (Gulick saved his map as a keepsake) where the Soviets were demanding to receive half the roughly $20 billion (worth about $280 billion today) that the Allies discussed levying on Germany. But Pauley was cautious. https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945Berlinv01/d356

Pauley’s team subsequently met with Stalin’s Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov who pressed Soviet demands for $10 billion from Germany in industrial plants, machine tools, coal, textiles, chemicals and other resources. Soviet forces occupying eastern Germany ended up confiscating untold booty as compensation for razed cities and an estimated 20 million war dead.

On July 25, 1945, according to a Top Secret report in the files, Gulick and another team member, Howard Marshall, reconnoitered the industrial area around jointly-occupied Berlin, finding that “Swarms of workmen, mostly men in Russian Army uniforms are at work moving, stacking and loading this material on flatcars…” The report went on: “When machinery is removed, everything in the plant is taken with it. The process is wholesale, not retail.”

When the Reparations Mission reached the Far East, it documented similar Soviet seizures of former Japanese war plants in Manchuria, depriving war-ravaged China with its battling Communist and Nationalist armies of a badly-needed industrial base.

In a July 13 secret report, Gulick and a prominent banker serving as a U.S. accounting advisor, N. Loyall McLaren, proposed creation of a special single-use currency called “Repunits”, for Reparation Units, backed by German commodities due the Allies as war reparations. There is no sign the idea went anywhere.

Reparations talks continued in Paris in the summer of 1946.  The files include a working draft of an unsigned and undated letter letter that Gulick may have prepared for Pauley to his boss, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, complaining that efforts to remove “German war potential” by eliminating excess industrial capacity were being thwarted by Allied disunity. In the same vein, another unsent letter Gulick may have drafted for Byrnes from Pauley urges that to prevent German re-militarization, the industrial Ruhr-Rhineland area be designated a “Free Province” and placed under United Nations trusteeship.

Gulick’s handwritten notes offer a fascinating window into their plans for “French Peace for the Ruhr” with France annexing the Saarland.

It became a French Protectorate but after a referendum rejoined the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957.

Gulick may also have drafted a bitter 1946 memo for Pauley depicting Germany as the victor of World War II, based on the failure of the Allies, divided by the advancing Cold War, to agree on how to curb their former adversary’s military and industrial potential.

One of the most striking documents in the file is a 1946 memorandum to Pauley from a member of the Reparations Mission with Jewish roots in Germany, Ernest L. Klein, offering a third approach to helping Jews who survived the German genocide, beyond fostering increased Jewish immigration into Palestine and easing quotes for immigration into the U.S. Klein noted that Jewish immigration into Palestine “is savagely opposed by the Moslem world in the Middle-East.” Similarly, he said, there was opposition to letting more Jews into the U.S.

Instead, he told Pauley, “a bright opportunity presents itself for you to propose a third and novel solution to the Jewish problem”– creating Jews as a class of belligerents “entitled on the basis of their contribution of six million dead” to reparations, just like Filipinos and other war victims. To anyone who would argue that they were ineligible as German nationals, Klein pointed to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws depriving Jews of German citizenship.

“The frame work of the plan is simple,” Klein wrote, “the details can be handled later.” Whether Klein’s proposal had any bearing, West Germany and its reunited successor state after 1990 paid restitution to Nazi survivors, mostly Jews, totaling about $90 billion over six decades. In 1951, Klein published a diplomatic memoir, “What of the Night?” The Baruch library turned out to have a copy.

There is one other eye-popping document on saving Jews in the Gulick files — a draft marked “SECRET” from someone Gulick rendered as “Joe Dubois.” Gulick’s handwritten note from Paris dated July 8, 1946 said “not used.”‘

But why not?

The answer, after some research, turns out to involve a grim but thrilling tale of wartime heroism. The writer was Josiah DuBois, a young (non-Jewish) Treasury Department lawyer who as early as January 1943  learned of the Nazi extermination campaign, thanks to a telegram to the State Department that U.S. diplomats long hostile to Jews were covering up. On Dec. 25, 1943, DuBois wrote his boss, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. (who was Jewish) an 18-page memo called “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews” detailing how the anti-Semitic State Department was sabotaging courageous efforts to bring the genocide to light and save imperiled Jews. https://ww2db.com/doc.php?q=365

Morgenthau hesitated to deliver the report to President Roosevelt so DuBois condensed it to nine pages in a “Personal Report to the President.” The Government continued to dither (FDR’s role is still hotly debated by historians) but eventually created the War Refugee Board credited with saving many victims of the Nazis, although the American record of inaction is widely regarded as shameful. DuBois, who went on to lead the prosecution of I.G. Farben at Nuremberg (another grim but fascinating tale), was later celebrated for his heroism as a whistleblower.




The secret draft in the Gulick files shows that DuBois’s humanitarian efforts continued after the war, as he sought relief for pitiful Holocaust survivors confined in Displaced Persons camps — in some cases the same camps where they had been imprisoned by the Nazis. We cannot bring the dead to life, DuBois wrote, but we can save the living. “The time for talk has long passed — the time for action is long overdue.”

And so, he said, with the cooperation of some American generals, he was organizing a “caravan” of some 5,000 Jews from an unnamed D.P. camp in Germany to the frontiers of Italy. “There we shall knock at the door,” he wrote. “”We shall knock at the door not as a diplomatic mission, but a mission of mercy, and I am confident that the warm-hearted Italian people, who have already done so much to aid and comfort refugees from persecution and oppression, will greet us with open arms.” Their goal was southern Italy where they would make camp near some port until passage could be arranged to a more permanent refuge, probably Palestine.

The memo doesn’t say what happened — remember that Gulick noted it was “not used” — but the record of Italy’s hospitality to Jewish refugees is clear.


And so is the inspirational legacy of Josiah DuBois.