Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
The U.S. military has long enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Hollywood, stretching from the early 20th century to the present day. But during the 1950s, the Department of Defense enforced an ad hoc censorship system on war movies through economic leverage provided by its Hollywood production support program. Thin Red Lines explores the origins, mechanics, and impact of the DOD's Hollywood liaison office, founded in 1949 under Don Baruch. Baruch's office made edits to film scripts, and a thematic analysis of the edits reveals the "red lines" that filmmakers could not cross in their war movies. Seven red lines emerge: American war crimes, mass American casualties, disturbing combat scenes, excessive indiscipline/insubordination, toxic/incompetent leadership, American racial inequality, and excessive German or Japanese war crimes. Thus the Baruch office played a large role in shaping America's burgeoning memory of WWII and perhaps opened the door to moral injury in Vietnam vets.