When the U.S. Government Took on the Sinister Santa Claus Threat

December 25, 2015

Do you always feel a little Grinchy at Christmas? Have you always suspected that Santa Claus was probably up to no good? Then we have the historical document for you.

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Office of War Information (OWI) to promote an understanding at home and abroad of American policies and of the American war effort. An interesting part of the OWI was the Rumor Project that tracked rumors, jokes, and anecdotes that were circulating in the country. On Christmas Eve 1942, the rumor analysts were up late working on an important assessment of the Santa Claus problem. According to their memo, Santa Claus was a dangerous, “Axis-inspired” rumor intended to “undermine the morale of Freedom Loving Peoples.” Santa Claus, after all, promised to “distribute gifts indiscriminately” but of course “a rising acceptance of escapist myths may prove harmful to the War Effort.” Furthermore, Santa’s beard threatened to “undermine confidence in the adequacy of the razor blade supply” and his red suit was some sort of effort to “discredit our Soviet Allies.”

It’s hard to do justice to this memo with a few excerpted lines. You just need to read it. If nothing else, you will conclude that at OWI, their brains were full of spiders and they had garlic in their souls.

Merry Christmas!


Mark Stout is a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks. He is the Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies and the Graduate Certificate Program in Intelligence at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C.


Image credit: Christopher (adapted by WOTR)