Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

G. Kurt Piehler

Committee Members

Stephen V. Ash, Daniel M. Feller


During the Korean War the White House and the Army publicized the Medal of Honor to achieve three outcomes. First, they hoped it would have a positive influence on public opinion. Truman committed to limited goals at the start of the war and chose not to create an official propaganda agency, which led to partisan criticism and realistic reporting. Medal of Honor publicity celebrated individual actions removed from their wider context in a familiar, heroic mold to alter memory of the past. Second, the Army publicized the Medal of Honor internally to inspire and reinforce desired soldier behavior. Early reports indicated a serious lack of discipline on the front lines and the Army hoped to build psychological resilience in the men by exposing them to the heroic actions of other soldiers. Finally, the Cold War spawned a great fear of communist subterfuge in the United States, which was exacerbated by the brainwashing of prisoners of war. The White House and the Army reached out to marginalized elements of American society through the Medal of Honor to counter communist propaganda.

The Korean War remains an understudied era of American history, yet it was incredibly important to the United States and the world. The war influenced the United States to maintain a large standing military prepositioned around the world to protect its interests. Achieving the status quo antebellum validated the containment strategy against communism, which heavily influenced the decision to intervene in Vietnam. The United Nations, ostensibly in charge of allied forces in the Korean War, gained credibility from preventing the loss of South Korea. Despite these important effects of the war on world history, scholars continue to focus on World War II and Vietnam. This study seeks to build on the relative dearth of scholarly material on the Korean War by examining in historical context the manipulation of a symbol that intersected both the military and the home-front to influence behavior.

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