The Star Presidian During the Cold War
January 24, 2011
The Star Presidian was a weekly newspaper published and distributed on the Presidio of San Francisco from 1952 to 1995. Printed with the motto "serving those that serve a nation," the paper was geared towards troops and civilians living within the Presidio. Generally speaking, the paper only printed news that directly pertained to the military or life on the army base. Star Presidian stories usually revolved around promotions, retirements, policy changes, and leisure activities available to the troops. The overwhelming majority of the Presidian's content covered local sporting events and articles attempting to foster team pride for Presidio based athletics such as the Red Raiders football team. During one successful football season the paper included a series of cartoons depicting the Red Raider Mascot, a Native American warrior, doing battle with other team's mascots and in some cases even running them over with a steam roller. However the paper's obvious goal was to promote patriotism and troop morale which was very apparent through its language, article choices, and eye catching headlines.
This focus on patriotism becomes apparent when looking back at the papers run during the fifties and sixties. The Star Presidian printed articles that are very telling of the turbulent Cold-War years. This makes the paper extremely beneficial to the researcher interested in the red scare and anti-communist propaganda.
Whether this type of propaganda caused this fear or the articles are merely representative of societies already existing feelings is hard to tell. Some of these articles might strike today's readers as humorous but in fact are very informative research materials regarding the public's fear of communism. The paper would regularly print little cartoons with accompanying warnings against illusive communist spies and nefarious Soviet plots of world domination. Illustrations of communists would depict them as slave drivers, thieves, and robots. The stated purpose of these articles would be to deter the further spread of perceived communist ideology and actions, especially among the military.
Promoting good troop behavior seems to have been a primary goal of the Star Presidian. The paper commonly had segments discouraging soldiers from going AWOL, driving while intoxicated, or donning their uniform improperly. Articles on furthering troop education by taking night classes and checking out the new additions to the library were also regular features. Furthermore, the paper warned soldiers of the covert communist recruiting tactics. These articles are a perfect representation of the very real fear that communists were secretly recruiting within America's own ranks.
The lack of certain stories within the pages of the Presidian is also an indicator of the anti-communist sentiment of the time. While the paper would report on the U.S.'s proxy wars with the Soviet Union it would abstain from including any information pertaining to battles, casualties, or even anti-war demonstrations. The paper makes almost no mention of the Korean War, even information that would promote a U.S. presence in the country. In fact some of the only instances that Korea is mentioned are in small articles telling how certain soldiers received the Medal of Honor. One gets the notion from reading these articles that they were designed to inspire soldiers to act in similarly heroic fashion.
The bay area, Berkeley in particular, was a hot bed for anti-war protests. However the Presidian does not make one reference to any such demonstrations. On October 14, 1968 the Presidio Mutiny occurred in which twenty-seven soldiers protested the war in Vietnam and poor conditions in military prisons. Sadly the paper was not published for six-years starting in November 1965, so coverage of the event does not exist.
The paper would resume publication in 1972 and would continue through the mid-nineties. Some interesting articles pertaining to Desert Storm can be found within the collection, but with the ending of the Cold War and rumors of the Presidio closing the paper began to loose funding and relevance. While the Star Presidian may not be the best resource for researchers looking for unbiased articles, accurate information and statistics, or even acknowledgement of important historical events, one gets a real sense of life at the base. It's fevered articles warning against communist plots, inspiring tales of heroic soldiers, tips and advice for advancing in the armed forces and even the reviews of movies and books gives a good backdrop in which to view the life of a soldier in the Presidio.