AMERICAN PROPAGANDA LEAFLETS
TO CHINA DURING WWII

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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United States and Chinese Flags

Americans who have grown up during the last few decades have known China only as a Communist enemy who helped North Korea and North Vietnam fight against American military forces with money, weapons and manpower. It will surprise those people to know that at one time China was a great ally of the United States, one of the “Big Four” that included Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China and the United States. These nations combined to defeat both the German Third Reich and the Japanese Empire during W.W. II.

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The Big Four

China had been invaded by Japan in 1937, over four years before the United States entered the war. It was a weak and backward nation at the time and the main thing it had was a tremendous population and a willingness to sacrifice land and manpower to keep the Japanese at bay. In America the newspapers and newsreels depicted Chinese children and peasants breaking stones by hand to build highways or burning their villages to defeat the Japanese. Later, Frank Capra would immortalize their war in his propaganda documentary – Why we Fight – The Battle of China (1944). John Wayne did his part in the 1942 blockbuster movie Flying Tigers, about the American pilots that flew for the Chinese Air Force two years before the United States entered the war. The Chinese were always depicted as loyal, fiercely patriotic and pro-American. Both the United States and Great Britain eventually had troops in China, using it as a secure base in their battles with the Japanese in China and Burma.

Leaflet Data

Data on U.S. leaflet drops to China is scarce. About 40 years ago I had fairly extensive records, but due to a lack of interest at the time I never really studied them in great detail. I have sparse records and few examples of Chinese leaflets today, and I think it might be worthwhile to put something in writing before all this data disappears after decades of neglect.

A number of propaganda leaflets were dropped on China by the Allies during the war. Some were designed to prop up the Chinese morale and encourage them to fight on, but many more were in the form of reward leaflets that offered the Chinese cash for the safe return of Allied airmen and their protection from the Japanese who were known to occasionally behead captured pilots.

The leaflet codes used on the leaflets to China are known. The leaflets are coded “CA,” “CM,” “CN,” and “CP.” The letter “C” was a general code for China (C = China). The CA were appeal leaflets (A = Appeal). The CM were morale leaflets (M = Morale) and sometimes show President Roosevelt or other Allied leaders. The CN were miniature newspapers (N = newspapers) and the CP were pictorial newspapers (P = Pictorial) for Chinese civilians living in Japanese occupied territory. Because of the scarcity of most of these leaflets, we will depict just a few of each type below. Because the reward leaflets offering payment for the return of American pilots are the most colorful, we will depict them first.

REWARDS FOR AIRMEN

I think I must have had about a dozen different types of these “airmen” leaflets over the years. At one time they were quite common and they are still seen from time to time at auction. They are usually in full color on the front, but sometimes found without color. Occasionally you will see a postage stamp and cancellation from the United States Navy Destroyer Marvin H. McIntyre on these leaflets. For some strange reason, the postmaster on the Navy Destroyer stamped and cancelled many different leaflets, probably thinking that he was guaranteeing that they were genuine. Instead, he simply defaced them. Researchers prefer their documents exactly as printed, not defaced with the addition of stamps. However, due to the general rarity of the Chinese leaflets, the stamps and obliterations do not detract from the value of the leaflet a great deal.

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U.S. Army China Theater Psychological Warfare Officer 
Monta L. Osborne and his wife Helen.

Former U.S. Army Major Monta Osborne arrived in Kunming, China, 21 May 1945 and quickly took the position of Assistant Psychological Warfare Officer. The Headquarters of China Theater was in Chungking. In this headquarters was a Psychological Warfare Board, which set overall PSYWAR policy for the Theater. Under the general policy supervision of the Board was a Psychological Warfare Section, headed by Colonel Edward A. Pagels, the Theater PSYWAR Officer.

Kunming was the China Theater operational headquarters. Day-by-day operations were directed by a small staff of Army officers in the Psychological Warfare Section at Rear Echelon Headquarters. In fact, this staff reported to the PSYWAR Section at the main headquarters in Chungking. actual PSYWAR operations would be conducted by the Psychological Warfare Unit of the Office of War Information (OWI). This unit was headed by an OWI official, James Stewart.

The relationship between the Army PSYWAR staff in Kunming and the OWI PSYWAR Unit was that the Army would exercise policy and operational control over the OWI unit. OWI would produce leaflets, maintain radio broadcasting stations, operate these stations, maintain its own intelligence service, and arrange with the 14th Air Force for the air distribution of leaflets.

Osborne spoke of the missions to save the Allied pilots:

One of our special missions was the Pilot Rescue Mission, in support of what was called the Air Ground Aid Section (AGAS). The mission of AGAS was to rescue pilots who were downed in Burma or anywhere behind Japanese lines. It had a vast intelligence network of its own, with agents located all through Japan-occupied China. The problem was that an AGAS agent might not be able to reach a downed pilot in time to prevent his being killed or captured by the Japanese forces or killed by the native populations. The PSYWAR mission in support of AGAS was to try to persuade people all over the China Theater and Burma that when an American pilot dropped into their midst, they should rescue him, feed him, bind up his wounds and transport him to the nearest American outpost. These who assisted our war effort in this way were given material awards, kept within believable limits. It is clear that AGAS could not have succeeded without PSYWAR assistance.

REWARDS FOR AIRMEN

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Leaflet CA-114

Leaflet CA-114 depicts a farmer bringing an American pilot into his hut as a smiling wife prepares a meal. The text on the front is:

Americans will never forget the people who helped them.

At the lower left a “blood chit” with an American flag is depicted in full color with the text:

Recognize the American flag.

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Leaflet CA-115b

This leaflet depicts an American aviator opening his flight jacket to show a Chinese farmer his "blood chit" in the form of an American flag. Text on the front is:

Plant melons and harvest melons, plant peas and harvest peas.

This is similar to the Biblical proverb "As ye sow shall you reap." At the bottom of the leaflet the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of War insignia is illustrated along with the text on the front and on the back:

Please notice this symbol.

Recognize clearly this symbol.

The text on the back explains that by doing the simple good deed of returning an American pilot to friendly forces the civilians will be richly rewarded.

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Leaflet CA-125

A similar image and text is used on the front of CA-125. The message on the top of this leaflet is:

A good deed has its reward, so has a bad deed.

Once again the CBI insignia has been added and the text:

Recognize this symbol to know your ally and friend.

On the back of the leaflet the American Air Force symbol of a white star on a blue background is depicted along with a message explaining that a reward for saving the airman will be paid at the end of the war.

Please notice this symbol

The text on the back explains that by doing the simple good deed of returning an American pilot to friendly forces the civilians will be richly rewarded.

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Leaflet CA-111

 

This leaflet is very similar to the one above, except instead of a shot-down bomber in the background this American pilot flew a fighter aircraft. In addition, besides the Chinese-Burma-India patch, this leaflet features the insignia of the 5th and 13th U.S. Army Air Forces. The text tells the Chinese farmer that this is an American pilot flying from bases in the Philippines. In addition is says:

 

Pay attention to these patches

 

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Leaflet CA-117

This leaflet to the Chinese depicts an American aviator being carried in a sling by two Chinese civilians. Symbols of the American Air Force and the China-Burma-India Theater of War are depicted in full color with the text:

Plant melons and harvest melons, plant peas and harvest peas.

Identify clearly these American military insignia

In October 1946, The Propaganda Branch, Intelligence Division, based in the Pentagon, Washington D.C., published a report entitled A Syllabus of Psychological Warfare. It was prepared to give quick answers about Psywar to the press that wanted to know what the United States had done during WWII. Leaflet CA-117 was featured on the cover of this report.

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With Stamp and Cancellation

We mention above the strange stamps and cancellations found on some of these leaflets by the Postmaster of the Destroyer McIntyre. Here is an example cancelled on 10 January 1946. One wonders what he was thinking, and perhaps he was simply preparing souvenirs for all the members of the ship’s crews. We will probably never know. At any rate, I suspect that I have seen hundreds of such stamped cancelled leaflets.

POINTIE-TALKIE CARDS

The OWI knew that there would be cases where the Chinese civilian finding an American pilot might be illiterate. They therefore printed a number of these pointee-talkie cards that allowed an airmen to just show the cards to his finder in the hope that the person would understand the simple drawings. In most cases the cards depicted a farmer looking up at Allied planes, seeing a parachute come down, being shown the blood chit sewn to the airman’s jacket, and finally taking him to friendly forces.

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Leaflet CA-132

This pointee-talkie card depicts American and Chinese airmen showing their blood chits with flags in full color and the text:

These are the symbols of friends

Two Chinese farmers see a parachute in the sky. They bring the airman home, and later take him to a safe place where the Chinese government is in control. A similar leaflet with the same general story is entitled “AIRMAN’S PICTURE POINTIE.”

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Pointie-Talkee Booklet

This handsome multi-page pointee-talkee booklet depicts the flags of the United States, Great Britain and China. It appears to be a British product and there are over 20 pages of phrases in both English and Chinese that can be used for rescue or for intelligence against the enemy.

COMIC BOOK

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Front Cover

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Final Two Pages

One of the more intricate OWI items is in the form of a comic book that explains to the Chinese that the American airmen has left his home and family and volunteered to fight the Japanese to insure China’s freedom. The front cover picture the pilot and says:

This is an American Flyer

Some of the comic book text is:

He has a mission. That is to destroy the Japanese robbers, their looting and savagery. He feels that this is the most valuable enterprise of his life…This young flyer bade his parents farewell…But he needs the help of his Chinese friends. When he is shot down he needs your wisdom and courage to get him back to a safe place….

GENERAL LEAFLETS

Major Osborne discusses the OWI PSYWAR Unit:

It was composed of an administrative section, a psychological warfare operations section and an intelligence section. The operations section was divided into leaflet operations and radio broadcasting operations. The leaflet operations office was divided into five departments: editorial, art, languages, reproduction and air liaison.

Leaflets were produced by leaflet teams, each consisting of an American writer, a writer of the nationality of the target audience being addressed, an American artist, and an artist of the nationality of the target audience. The languages department consisted of translators and interpreters who, collectively, could handle English, French, Chinese, Japanese and a considerable variety of tribal languages. The reproduction department, of course, printed the leaflets and the air liaison department arranged with the 14th Air Force for airdrops.

Almost all leaflet delivery was by the 14th Air Force, using both fighters and bombers.

The P-40s and P-51s dropped leaflets from “belly tanks”, each of which held 5,000 5 x 7-inch leaflets. From the bombers, leaflets were dropped by means of a British Mark II bomb and finally by the M-16 Cluster Bomb. Artillery shells were used on occasion, and L-5 aircraft were employed in situations where the ground fire was not expected to be too heavy or where they could fly up beyond the range of small-arms fire. There also was extensive distribution of leaflets by ground patrols and by the OSS agents behind the lines. Through OSS we were able to place leaflets even in some Japanese unit headquarters; sometimes on the desks of the Japanese commanders.

CA

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Leaflet CA-120

We said that CA leaflets are usually in the form of appeals. The Office of War Information (OWI) leaflet coded CA-120 dated 9 March 1945 depicts a long-tongued God of Death in the clouds above a typical Chinese village. The text on the front is:

DEATH IS ABOVE YOU IN THE SKY

The back depicts American bombers over factories and warms the Chinese to stay away from railroads, air fields, etc.

Osborne adds:

 

A special series in the Chinese language was called the “Chinese Action Leaflet Series.” These were intended to provoke action: To persuade the Chinese people to quit working on the railroads and steamboats used by the Japanese; to escape into the hinterlands outside the areas controlled by the foreign forces; and to sabotage railways, steamboats, arsenals and factories which were producing or transporting arms for the Japanese and their Chinese puppets.

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OWI China Appeal Leaflet CA-147

This 27 July 1945 American leaflet was dropped over China to warn industrial workers away from Japanese operated plants. It depicts heavy bombers over bombed and flaming factories. Some of the text is:

Industrial workers of Taiyuan and Shihchiachuang

Save Yourselves! Soon Chinese and American bombers will be coming to bomb Japanese installations. You Chinese who work in the mills, factories, warehouses and on the decks of ships operated by the Japanese – find work elsewhere, quickly! The Japs are doomed. For it is written in the Book of Changes, “When a thing reaches it limit, it turns around.” Don’t work with them and die with them. Let Jap blood spill, not yours….

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Leaflet CA-148

The OWI leaflet coded CA-148 dated 31 July 1945 depicts Kuan Ti in full armor mounted on his war horse. The text is:

EVERYONE CAN BE KUAN TI

The text on the back reminds the Chinese that Kuan Ti once fell into the hands of the enemy and worked for them. But, he was loyal to his Chinese brothers, returned to them and is now renowned as a hero. It tells those Chinese who might be working for the Japanese that they have the chance to be a hero like Kuan Ti if they just return to the Chinese cause.

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Leaflet CA-145

I was not going to depict this leaflet because it is a tiny little thing about 80 x 60mm. It is a very crude wood-block drawing of a train on tracks near a building. It warns the Chinese civilians against working on any Japanese railway.

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CA-146

I suspect that CA-145 was dropped along with CA-146 because that is the same size leaflet and depicts a similar image except that now the train has been hurled into the air by the detonation of bombs. Some of the text on CA-146 is:

Railroad Workmen

Chinese and American pilots must bomb this Japanese-held railway. Therefore, Chinese workmen, go away from this railway and stay away! Let Jap blood spill, not yours! Read this friendly warning….

Osborne says:

The 14th Air Force had gained complete mastery of the air in China. It was military policy to bomb Chinese cities where there were large concentrations of Japanese military installations and troops. Wishing to spare the Chinese populations, we urged them to vacate the city at a specific time. For example, we would drop leaflets over Hankow, informing the people:

“As of 0900 hours, June 23, Hankow will be bombed. The first plane will appear precisely at 0900 hours. You must get out of the city! You must save your life!”

When such a leaflet was dropped, people streamed out into the countryside in all directions. All along railway lines we dropped leaflets warning the Chinese people that the entire line would be bombed out of existence. They were warned to move out of the reach of the bombs. It is a fact that there was a stretch of 100 miles of railroad where no Chinese family was living nearer, on both sides, than five miles from the rails.

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Leaflet CA-152

The OWI leaflet coded CA-152 dated 31 July 1945 depicts a Chinese soldier bayoneting snake that represent Japan and the text:

A DYING SNAKE CAN BITE!

The text on the back reminds the Chinese that although the Japanese have been beaten and are in retreat, they are still murdering civilians and burning towns. It warns them to stay clear of the Japanese for their safety. It warns that sometimes the Japanese pretend to leave, but a small rear guard will then take any Chinese that reenter the village as prisoners and make the men work as porters and rape the women. It ends:

Wait until the bloody tail has ceased to twitch before you expose yourself and your loved ones to the final drop of venom from its fangs!

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Leaflet CM-108

The OWI leaflet coded CM-108 dated 28 December 1944 is all text. The title on the front is:

DEATH TO TRAITORS!

The back warns that the Japanese will offer to pay $100,000 for an American pilot but will not pay the full amount. Worse, when the Japanese lose the war the traitor will have to face Chinese and American justice. It ends:

The fate of the traitor is DEATH AND DISHONOR.

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Leaflet CM-111

The OWI leaflet coded CA-111 dated 16 April 1945 is all text and says on the front:

BERLIN FALLS

The text on the back explains that Berlin has fallen and thousands of high-ranking Nazi officials and military personal have been captured. It ends:

Immediately after the fall of Germany the entire might of the United States, China and Great Britain will be unleashed on the Japanese and they will know no respite until they are completely defeated.

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Leaflet CM-119

The OWI leaflet coded CA-119 dated 24 April 1945 depicts President Harry Truman and tells of the death of President Roosevelt. There is a long text that encourages the Chinese people to fight on and ends:

The day after President Roosevelt’s death, the Washington Post reflecting the spirit of the Capital of the United States and of the people, published this statement: “There are signs that the leadership and influence of Mr. Roosevelt are even stronger in death than they were in life.”

CN

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Leaflet CN-102

CN-102 dated 15 February 1945 is the very first edition of a 5 x 7-inch unillustrated miniature newspaper and is entitled:

THE WORLD NEWS – Number 1

The newspaper is divided up into several sections such as Far East, Europe, and Japan. Some of the text in the “Japan” section is:

Repeated bombings of Japan by American Superfortresses have caused a panic among the Japanese. Even the Japanese newspapers do not deny this. The Yomiuri Shimbun, for example, acknowledges that “enemy planes will come any time they like regardless of weather conditions.” A report of the Asahi Shimbun depicted Tokyo as “The city of endless nights,” as a result of the unlimited blackouts.

Although Osborne uses a different name for the newspaper, I am fairly certain this is the one he was talking about since it is the OWI product for the Japanese in China:

Our most effective leaflet series directed to the Japanese target audience was the Japanese News, which actually was a small Japanese language newspaper, printed on 8 x 10-inch sheets and on both sides. We tried to establish among the Japanese soldiers the belief that we were their regular, reliable news service. Every effort was made to drop this paper all over China where Japanese forces were known to be located, on the same day every week, if possible at a certain hour. Over a period of time Japanese soldiers learned that news from their own officers was false propaganda designed to bolster their morale. They increasingly began to rely on our Japanese News, which kept them informed of Japanese defeats and losses everywhere, plus conditions in their homeland.

The Japanese News was supplemented by the weekly Japanese Pictorial, which also was a newspaper but consisted largely of photos with captions, cartoons and drawings. It featured such events as the Allied bombing of Tokyo, the burning of the city, and defeats of the Japanese Army all over Asia.

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Leaflet CN-111

The OWI leaflet coded CN-111 dated 28 May 1945 has the silhouette of an aircraft near the top. The title and headline is:

CHINA NEWS HIGHLIGHTS – Number 10

TOKYO BOMBINGS ARE PREVIEW OF ALLIED AIR POWER.

The text explains that the power that destroyed the Luftwaffe and bombed Germany’s cities and factories is now coming to the Pacific to bomb Japan. 500 American B-29s bombed the Japanese homeland on 24 and 26 May 1945. It says in part:

The U.S. War department announced on 28 May 1945 that Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle will bring his famous Eighth Air Force to the Pacific from Europe…During the last months of the European war, American flight of 1000 four engine-bombers escorted by nearly as many fighters, blasted German war installations….

It reminds the Japanese that Doolittle was the first American to bomb Tokyo and he is returning to finish the job he started.

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Leaflet CN-117

The OWI leaflet coded CN-117 dated 7 July March 1945 depicts General Douglas MacArthur. The title and headlines are:

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS – Number 16

PHILIPPINES CAMPAIGN VICTORIOUSLY CLOSED

A Communiqué issued at General MacArthur’s Headquarters on 5 July said: “The entire Philippine Islands are now liberated and the Philippine Campaign can be regarded as virtually closed.”

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Leaflet CP-106

CP-106, dated 16 April 1945, is a larger pictorial newspaper meant to keep the Chinese in occupied territories informed of the progress of the war. The title and headline is:

LIBERTY PICTORIAL – Number 6

ALLIES CLOSING ON BERLIN

After five years of bloody war, the total collapse of Nazi Germany is in sight. Only 40 miles separate the American armored spearheads from Berlin, once the center of the arrogant Nazi government, now a city without hope.

Osborne says:

We also produced a Chinese language weekly newspaper, addressed to the population of Japan-occupied China. Here we stressed Allied victories and Japanese defeats. This, also, was supplemented by a pictorial weekly.

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Leaflet CP-113

This leaflet, dated 22 August 1945, informs the Chinese people that the Japanese have surrendered. The title and headline is:

CHINESE LIBERTY PICTORIAL - Number 14

VICTORY OVER JAPAN – JUSTICE IS VINDICATED

Japan, the first criminal to start the war of aggression in the world and the only Axis power to insist on the continuation of the mass slaughter after the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, has at last capitulated to the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union….

This article has concentrated on leaflets dropped on the Chinese mainland. However, just to give an example of a leaflet in the Chinese language not dropped on China, we must look at the OWI leaflets to Formosa (now Taiwan). The Chinese island of Formosa was invaded and occupied by the Empire of Japan after a brief war with China in 1895. During WWII the American OWI sent a number of leaflets to the Formosans promising liberation after the Allied victory.

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Leaflet 107

Leaflet 107 was one of a series of leaflets aimed at Formosa. It was not to be used anywhere else. It depicts Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at the left, President Franklin Roosevelt at the right, and the island of Formosa in the grips of a Japanese octopus in the center. Text on the front is:

China and America Together Doom Violent Japan!

Text on the back is in both Chinese and Japanese and says:

The two great nations fronting on the Pacific Ocean are united with a single purpose. They are determined to sweep away the Japanese pirates and to restore human liberty.

What I find amazing about this leaflet is that while Chiang is being politically used on a propaganda leaflet as a Chinese hero and patriot, U.S. General Joseph Stillwell in China so hated the Generalissimo [he referred to him as “peanut”] for his lack of courage and unwillingness to fight the Japanese that at one stage he hatched a plot to have OSS Detachment 101 assassinate him by using a small botulism pill. He also had a second plot where Chiang would be killed in an aircraft accident. On October 19, 1944, Stilwell was recalled from his command partly due to continuing difficulties with British and Chinese commanders. He did not get a parade upon his return, instead he was met by two Army generals who told him that he was not to answer any media questions about China whatsoever. The assassination plan is discussed in The Deadliest Colonel, Thomas N. Moon and Carl F. Eifler, Vantage Press, New York, 1975. 

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China and United States Cooperation…

This is almost surely not a propaganda leaflet. The design indicates it was never dropped from an aircraft. However, it is a propaganda piece. It depicts Roosevelt and Chiang and the flags of both countries. My best guess is that it was a handout for the Chinese people at patriotic meetings and demonstrations to hang on their walls, to raise their morale and remind them that they were not alone in their fight against the Japanese. The text is:

China and United States Cooperation to beat brutal Japan and build peace

Printed by the U.S. News Bureau

This is just a very short look at American leaflets to China during WWII. I could show several dozen more such leaflets but I think this will give the reader an idea of how we tried to keep our Chinese allies informed and motivated during the Second World War.

Did the leaflets do any good? Major Osborne concludes:

The PSYWAR campaign in China resulted in or strongly influenced a few thousand Japanese soldiers to surrender. It had a decisive influence on the morale of the Japanese soldier, particularly during the last few months of the war. We were able to convince very large numbers of Japanese soldiers, months before the war actually ended, that they had lost the war and that their wisest course would be to try to preserve their lives. During the summer of 1945 there was very little military action in China, due in part to the reluctance of the Japanese soldier to fight. Toward the end of the war we began finding the corpses of Japanese officers in the rivers of China; they had been assassinated by their own enlisted men. There is no question that the PSYWAR effort had been worth far more than its relatively small cost.

Readers with comments are encouraged to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com