SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) 


Principals of Propaganda 

One of the better lectures during the training course was on the general principals of propaganda. There is some repetition from earlier lectures, but the speaker made some interesting point. He says that the best method of building an audience is performing a service for your listeners or readers. To have maximum effect you must have an established reputation for accuracy and truthfulness. Never say anything that will diminish or destroy your reputation for accuracy and credibility. The long-term consequences of deceit are disastrous. On the other hand, although we tell the truth, we do not necessarily tell the whole truth. We are deliberately selective. All wartime propaganda serves the military action. Any propaganda that is not coordinated with military action is wasted. All wartime propaganda aims ultimately at inducing action. In the case of Japan, we want to induce surrender in the field and confusion or revolt at home.


A propagandist faces physical, moral and intellectual hardships in the field. This is not a job for the faint hearted. Psychological warfare means struggling with men's minds. The way to a man's mind is via his emotions. You have four basic emotions to play upon; love, hate, hope, and fear. We stress four propaganda themes.  


1. Victory is certain. This theme plays on hope. It plays on hate of the Japanese by the occupied peoples. The Japanese are now discovering that you cannot maintain an aggressive line of propaganda in a war that you are losing.


2. The Unity and Strength of the United Nations. It is a means of reinforcing the certainty of victory.


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Leaflet 2094 conveys to the Japanese what Unconditional Surrender would mean to them. The leaders of Japan had used the term to motivate the people to fight on, telling them that they would be disgraced and the Emperor would be humiliated should Japan lose the war. It became a powerful psychological weapon for the militarists. The text on the OWI leaflet was from a speech by President Harry S. Truman. The image on the front is interesting because instead of the usual American weapons of war, it displays Japanese weapons; what appears to be a Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber, a Japanese tank, artillery piece and truck. At the right is President Harry S. Truman. The text on the front is:

Unconditional Surrender means Simply the Laying down of Arms

Harry S. Truman, President of the United States said in a message to the Japanese people:

“Unconditional surrender is a purely military term meaning only the yielding of arms. It does not entail enslavement. It does not entail extermination of the Japanese people. These thoughts have been injected only by your former Premier, General Koiso, as an ignoble device to compel your people to continue a hopeless war.”

The back of the leaflet reminds the Japanese people that they were partners with a losing ally who could no longer tie up vast number of American troops in Europe, the leaflet depicts the German surrender signed by of General Gustav Jodl, Army Chief of Staff. OWI records indicate that 200,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. The text to the right of the German surrender is:

Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces on 7 May 1945. General Gustav Jodl, Wehrmacht Chief of Staff signed for the Germans.

Smiling German civilians wave white flags of surrender at soldiers of the 94th Infantry Division of the U. S. 3rd Army.

3. The Axis fates are interlinked. We stress that the German and the Japanese leaders think as one and both seek to enslave the world. The defeat of Germans can foretell the defeat of Japan.

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Leaflet 512

Leaflet 512 is interesting because it seems to break one of the major prohibitions of propaganda. In general, the propagandist never belittles the enemy. It is counter-productive and causes hostility instead of persuasion among the target audience. This leaflet mentions American military might, but then goes on to point out that the United States has been fighting Japan with one hand tied behind its back, using only 10% of its strength. I would think that such an argument would infuriate the proud Japanese. The leaflet depicts an American eagle over a nest filled with armaments, military aircraft, artillery pieces and vehicles. The purpose of the leaflet is to remind the Japanese that they were already losing the war, and now with the collapse of Germany, their position is even more hopeless. The text above the Eagle is:

Full Strength Instead of Ten Percent!

The text on the back is: 

From December 1941, until Germany's defeat in 1944, we regarded the war in the pacific as chiefly a diversionary battle and concentrated our forces in the European theater. Even so, we were able to advance everywhere in the pacific at will and to drive exceedingly close to Japan itself.

The war in Europe is now over and for the first time we can concentrate our overwhelming strength on Japan.  We no longer need to divide our forces and supplies. All of our resources, not just ten percent, will be in the battle against you. You failed to stop us earlier. Do you think you can stop us now?

The day of Japan's defeat draws ever nearer.

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Leaflet 2057

The leaflet is in blue and shows Japanese citizens in the iron grip at the top left, and an elderly official being attacked by a Japanese military officer at the lower right.  The leaflet was designed to point out to the Japanese people how the militarists had gained control of their country and how this control was going to cause the destruction of the Empire. The leaflet tells of various acts by the military that caused Japan’s present predicament.


In 1931, the military, without sanction of the Emperor and without consulting the Foreign Office, invaded Manchuria.

In 1936, the military attempted, by ordering its stooges, to assassinate Premier Okada, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Saito, Minister of the Treasury Tokahashi, Inspector-General of Military Education Watanabe, Grand Chamberlain Suzuki and others; and caused the 2.2.6 Incident. For a time they refused to obey the Emperor, causing a national incident.

In the general elections of 1937, the people ignored the wishes of the military and elected 416 members who had no affiliation with the military and elected 416 members who had no affiliations with the military out of a total of 566 members in the Diet.

In order to seize control of the nation, the military started the China incident.

To cover their failure to conquer China and to strengthen their control, they attacked Pearl Harbor With this, they challenged the two greatest powers in the world who had been their friends up to this time.

Only with the defeat of the military clique will you become a free people.

This leaflet is featured in LIFE magazine of 9 July 1945:

The "Gumbatsu" oppression of the Japanese people is exposed. The top inscription tells the Japanese that the Gumbatsu, without the emperor's sanction, invaded Manchuria in 1931. The bottom caption recalls that the Gumbatsu ordered the assassinations of moderates. The reverse side advises the Japanese: “Only with the defeat of the Military clique will you become a free people.”

200,000 copies of leaflet 2057 entitled “How the Gumbatsu Got Control” were printed by the OWI in Honolulu in February 1945. The leaflets were delivered to the 73rd Bomb Wing in late May 1945. The bombers dropped approximately 401,000 leaflets on the Japanese home islands. The OWI also printed a leaflet reprint coded 2057A, for an additional 200,000+ leaflets.

I received a call from the PBS television show History Detectives in late 2010. They wished to do a segment on this leaflet and asked me to act as a subject matter expert on the Office of War Information and how the propaganda leaflets to Japan were prepared and distributed. I was happy to help, and explained how the OWI worked, how it drew the leaflets in Honolulu and then sent them to Saipan for printing. The television show was broadcast 28 June 2011.

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History Detectives Advertisement

4. The Japanese militarists are responsible for the war and Japan seeks to exploit its colonies and occupied nations. To Japan we say that the ambitions of the militarists caused the war. We adopt a divide and conquer tactic. To the occupied people we tear away Japan's mask of benevolence and expose their real intentions, to exploit the goods, the labor and the lives of the peoples of the occupied territories. 

U. S. Propaganda in the Pacific has gone through three phases.


1. The preparatory phase from Pearl Harbor to the end of 1943. This was the hardest and the least rewarding. But, propaganda is cumulative. We sought to hold the line and build an audience for the future.

2. The anti-climatic phase is associated with developing decisive action, but is preliminary to the final showdown. This phase was from 1944 to early 1945.

3. The climatic stage is just prior to the final victory. It is the phase where we realize the fruition of all our months and years of cumulative work and preparation. In this phase the propagandist throws caution to the wind and for the first time moves out ahead of the events. 

The basic objective of all OWI propaganda against Japan is to induce their unconditional surrender. The speaker discussed the use of propaganda leaflets. He said that the morale of the Japanese officer is high. There is no evidence that he is susceptible to leaflets. The Japanese soldier expects to be tortured if captured so we must stress good treatment. The Japanese soldier still believes in ultimate victory so we must convince him otherwise. He has no realization of the actual status of the war. We need to give him accurate news. All soldiers get homesick, but the Japanese soldier suffers more than most. This is a powerful theme than can be used against him. Most Japanese soldiers have no idea why they are at war. We must tell them. The Japanese realize the importance of Germany to their war effort and this harping on German defeats can lower the Japanese morale. Leaflets should be small, easily read, faultlessly idiomatic, up-to-date, without the word "surrender," illustrated, and not provocative or insulting.

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Leaflet 809

Earlier in this article we pointed out that one of the main missions of the OWI in enemy countries was to destroy morale and their war effort. The writer above mentions morale and we now show a leaflet designed specifically to weaken morale. On the front the Nikko Shrine is depicted. The message on the back is designed to stir up pangs of resentment against the officers, military clique and war in the hearts of the Japanese soldier. The text us:

What are you fighting for?

The autumn is here. In your homeland the leaves are turning to crimson and the rice is being harvested. The summer festival is over and the autumn festival rapidly approaches. The natural beauty of your homeland and the good old days are not easily forgotten.

But now, look at yourself!

You are merely fighting like a robot for avaricious military and financial cliques. Our purpose is to eliminate those cliques and build a new Japan for you. Join us and let's accomplish this purpose.

The data sheet points out that this leaflet is less sentimental than morale leaflet 801 which depicted Japanese children under cherry trees. Joseph Ashby Durham, a radio operator on the escort destroyer USS Roberts who kept a copy of this leaflet wrote on it; “This is one of the leaflets dropped over Japan before the last bombing raids. Of course this one came from Guam.” If true, that shows that both Saipan and Guam were involved in the dropping of American leaflets. In 2012, an interesting 23 February 1945 letter from the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces, Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz to a member of the American Nautical Cadets surfaced. In it, Nimitz encourages the cadet to continue studying and ends with “Enclosed is a propaganda bill [leaflet] which our big planes drop over Japan.” Once again we see that just as the OWI was producing leaflets in Saipan, the Navy Advanced Headquarters was also producing leaflets in Guam.

There are four main uses for leaflets: They are to demoralize the enemy in and behind his lines, to induce surrender, to deprive the enemy of help and cooperation by native peoples, and to carry instructions to native people as to when and how to resist the enemy.

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Mount Fuji as a Pictorial Theme of American PSYOP

When one wishes to pictorially represent the United States of America, the Statue of Liberty is often chosen. For France it is the Eiffel Tower. When American OWI propagandists wanted to represent Japan and all of its spiritual values, they used Mt. Fuji. A number of different leaflets depict the holy mountain as the central feature of the vignette. Byron Earhart, a retired professor of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University, whose field is Japanese religion, and who published a book on the history of Mount Fuji entitled Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan, The University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina, 2011, explains its significance:  

At 12,385 feet, Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, and has always been revered by Japanese as its most beautiful peak, distinguished for its sacredness.  In the earliest collection of Japanese poetry, the eighth century Manyoshu, Fuji was praised as “our treasure, our tutelary god.”  From early medieval times, Fuji was one of the most popular subjects in painting.  In prehistoric times Fuji’s life-giving water provided the holy blessing of fertility. Later the custom of traveling to and climbing Fuji was considered a religious pilgrimage, not only honoring the deities and Buddhas of the mountain, but also improving the character of the individual and strengthening the nation.  During the late medieval period, when the capital of Japan moved to Edo (present-day Tokyo), more people had an opportunity to view Fuji as they traveled along the Eastern Sea Highway.  As Edo grew into a major city with a population of more than a million, Fuji, visible from the city, became linked with the busy life of this metropolis.  The nineteenth century artists Hokusai and Hiroshige created many colorful woodblock prints of Fuji, and produced sets of thirty-six or one hundred views of Fuji. When these prints reached Europe and America in the late nineteenth century they established the international reputation of Fuji as the hallmark of Japan.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as Japan moved from a country of many feudal territories to a modern nation-state, symbols of identity were needed to unify the people.  The emperor was the primary rallying point for focusing the people on loyalty to the newly developed state.   Fuji was the next most important symbol, with its long history of beauty combined with divinity, linking the people to the land.   Both in Japan and abroad, the triangular outline of Fuji is universally recognized as standing for Japan.  The form of Fuji has graced many Japanese postage stamps, and still appears on Japanese coin and currency.  If as Americans, we joke about the soldiers fighting for mom and apple pie, leaflet 114a seems to say that for the Japanese soldier it was mom and Mt. Fuji.  Except for the picture of the emperor, no other image has represented at the same time the land, people, and state of Japan more effectively than Fuji.

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Leaflet 101

Leaflet 101 is a very picturesque photograph of Mount Fuji, with the image reflected in a lake so that the leaflet can be held upside down and the image is about the same. The leaflet is printed on a light green paper in various shades of blue. It is attractive enough to frame. Its purpose was to stir up pangs of homesickness ad resentment toward their leaders in Japanese troops who are about to be attacked by American forces. These enemy troops have not been attacked yet and therefore are presumably fresh and eager for battle. Therefore, the propaganda is in the form of a mild suggestion rather than a direct forceful statement. The text on the back is:

Now is the season of beauty in your homeland and the glorious snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji beckons to the traveler and the visitor. Your parents and wives await you and your dear children wonder whether they will ever see you again.

But you are here on a miserable island, awaiting our overwhelming force of men and machines. Your military leaders grow fat at home as they continue to mislead your people. They enjoy the beauties of the season and the thrilling sight of Mount Fuji. Their children eat with them and bask in their love.

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Leaflet 114a

Leaflet 114a depicts a Japanese mother and child in the forefront, dead Japanese soldiers behind her with what appears to be cherry blossoms, and the towering presence of Mt. Fuji in the background. Surprisingly, the leaflet is in black and white. One might expect such a picturesque scene to be in full color. The text is: 


The question is whether or not the policy of aggression which the militarists took for the happiness and prosperity of the Japanese people has backfired. Although wars are supposed to bring happiness to the people, the more you fight the more unhappy you are. What is the meaning of this war, which continues to destroy your homeland? To die in battle for the cause of making your people unhappy is obstinate and foolish.

Now is the time to bring strong reason into play. Deliver your homeland. Deliver your compatriots who unwittingly seek the path of annihilation. Moreover, think profoundly of saving the lives of your comrades who are uselessly committing suicide and wasting lives that they should revere. 

Earhart says about this leaflet in The Asian-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus:

One leaflet combines the theme of homesickness with fear, a picture set against the backdrop of cherry blossoms and Fuji, with a Japanese mother and child in the forefront, and dead Japanese soldiers behind this pair. Americans have joked that WWII GIs fought for the homespun values of "mom and apple pie." This leaflet seems to appeal to the Japanese values of "mom and Fuji."

Leaflet 1049 has the exact same black and white illustration of the woman with baby in front of Mt. Fuji. The back has a long message meant to encourage the Japanese Wake Island garrison to surrender. It is in the form of a letter from a Japanese prisoner of war. Some of the text is: 

A Comrade's Cry

Like you, I have eaten seaweed. I know how weeds taste. I have been exposed to bombing and shelling. I escaped from an isolated island in the MARSHALLS where I suffered the worst tortures of starvation and despair. As a result of the kindness of the Americans, which was greater than you can imagine, I made a complete recovery although I had been just a step this side of death.

Now, even though I am a prisoner of war, I spend the nights and days without feeling any discomfort. However, even now, while I am receiving this fine treatment, I cannot help feeling uneasy when I picture to myself the sight of you recklessly throwing away your precious lives by starvation on an isolated island....

The United States Army Psychological Warfare Branch in the Philippines also produced a number of leaflets that depicted Mt. Fuji. For instance, leaflets 5-J-8 and 7-J-8 were prepared by the Eighth Army G2 (Intelligence) on 2 February 1945. They depict a drawing of cherry blossoms to the left of Mt. Fuji in red ink on the front. Leaflet 5-J-8 was designed to be dropped before U.S. troops landed on the southern islands and meant to produce nostalgia by presenting pictures of Japanese home life. The leaflet is entitled “Mt. Fuji.” Some of the text is:

Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. What hope victory?

We feel sorry for you. Your leaders do not tell the truth. They have not told you that we control the strategic islands in the Northern Philippines.

Have you been told that Americans control Luzon; that our fleet is operating in your home waters; our bombers are over Japan every other day; you have lost 78 leading admirals and that the Allies are approaching Berlin?

Your wild eagles cannot fly to you, or your ships supply you with food and medicine. You have given your best in the past. Why should the children of the Land of the Sun be forced to live in darkness?

In your homeland the plum and cherry trees will soon be budding, ready to bring forth their dazzling beauty. Your children should be playing beneath this beauty with you lying contentedly by sipping sake, and listening to their laughter.

Look at the picture now. Your families have heavy hearts, living terrified of the winged giants that tear apart your war industries, and you, existing in a land where even the inhabitants kill your comrades.

When we land on the islands what hope have you of victory? None! Of life? All.

The back of leaflet 7-J-8 is all text and entitled “Blossom time.” The text is:

It will soon be cherry blossom time in Japan. How beautiful it must be! After looking at the jungle vegetation for so many months, to see the graceful cherry tree would be like being reborn.

We Americans appreciate beauty and know what you are missing. In our capital, Washing, thousands of Americans go every year to see the Japanese cherry blossoms, a one-time symbol of peace between our two great nations.

Brave soldiers of Japan, do not throw away your lives in vain. Live to feast your eyes once again on those beautiful blossoms in a peaceful and prosperous Japan. Live!

Professor Earhart adds:

The tie to Washington and cherry blossoms is a nice sentimental touch. Once I ran into a little pamphlet about how the cherry trees in Washington were cut down during the war as a way of spiting the treacherous Japanese; then when the two nations became friendly after the war, cherry trees were planted again. One of the interesting aspects of Fuji is how it was a symbol of the enemy and war, and then a badge of peace. The cherry trees, too, seem to have been a gift of friendship, then a sign of betrayal, and later renewed amity.

The same unit produced a second leaflet coded 10-J-8 that depicted a Cherry tree to the right of Mt Fuji all in green ink on the front. It was dated 5 March 1945 and designed for Japanese ground forces in Visayans & Mindanao. The leaflet was entitled “Self decision.” The text was written by members of the Eighth Army Translator and Interpreter Section ATIS) and then tested and improved by Japanese prisoners of war. Some of the text is:

To the Courageous Men of the Japanese Army

At present your fate is becoming acute. It is up to you, individually, to decide whether you die a miserable death, take refuge in the mountains, get infected by disease and face starvation, or live a long life for the future of Japan.

The bloody battlefields of New Guinea, Saipan and Leyte have ended. The losing battle of Luzon – the Philippine Islands decisive battlefield – is in the determining stage. The promises of your officers have been completely destroyed. The ambitions promises of the future are just a dream. What has happened to the Japan that was exercising overwhelming power in the pacific?

In the past, a great number of men have died in fruitless battles. On the other hand, many are temporary prisoners of war awaiting peace with the progressive idea of constructing a new Japan…

It has become impossible for your officers to faithfully guide and assist you. The Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force have deserted you. Consequently, routes that supply you with rations, materials and reinforcements have been severed. You are in a pitiful position with no means of withdrawal.

Why are you holding your ground, with no hope of victory, depriving yourself of the glory of living? Why must you die a pitiful death? At this very moment you may make an honorable decision of which course you choose to follow. Hesitation in the end means death.

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Portion of leaflet 32-J-6 Depicting Mt. Kaguyama

Fuji was not the only mountain used as a theme in propaganda leaflets. I have seen two that mentioned Mt. Kaguyama. Leaflet 32-J-6 was produced by the Sixth Army and shows a thin line drawing of Mt. Kaguyama in black ink on the front. The mountain is often called "Heavenly Kaguyama" in Japanese writing and in mythology fell directly from Heaven. The leaflet is entitled “Nostalgic poems.” The text is:

From birth to death, each New Year brings us one step nearer the grave.

The herbs sent to me are at my side, reminding me of home and the snow on KAGUYAMA.

Professor Earhart says:

Kaguyama, (Mount Kagu) is a mountain near Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, and is linked to the (legendary) Emperor Jimmu (or Jinmu).

The battle for Wake Island was also a major PSYOP theme. Some of the leaflets aimed at demoralizing the Japanese Wake Island garrison are 1040, 1045, 1048, 1051, 1054, 1056, 1057, and 1058. Other islands are regularly mentioned too. For example, the Marshall Islands are cited in leaflets 1032 and 1035, Iwo Jima in leaflets 1037 and 1038, and Okinawa in leaflets 131, 416, 535, 536, 1027, 1050, 1055 and 2079.

A television reporter from the Tokyo Broadcasting System interviewed me in June 2006 on the subject of American PSYOP used against Okinawa during WWII. I had to select a number of leaflets either aimed at or mentioning Okinawa to show her, and I include two of those leaflets here.

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Leaflet 536

Leaflet 536 depicts a bomb falling toward what the leaflet data sheet calls “a Japanese city." Further research indicates that in reality this was a photograph from a bomb bay camera in a TBF-1 Avenger from the USS Aircraft Carrier Essex dropping a bomb over the Pasig River in downtown Manila, Luzon, Philippines, 14 November 1944. The bomb appears to be aimed at the Intramuros or “Walled City” where the Japanese withdrew to for their last stand in Manila. The leaflet discusses the eminent disaster facing Japan and the hopelessness of the troops’ position. Clearly the Americans used this photograph from the Philippines on leaflets targeting Japanese soldiers on lonely bypassed islands. The back of the leaflet depicts Japanese prisoners in American camps. The text on the back is:

Far from being killed – In a Certain Prison Camp in America

The war has reached a high pitch. It has reached a point where the U.S. forces move on relentlessly wherever they choose to go. The inner South Seas, Okinawa, and the Philippines are under the control of the American forces. The Americans attack with superior weapons and explosives. It is clear that they are contemplating landing operations on the mainland of Japan. This will be carried out in the near future.

In spite of being isolated on this small island, and suffering from lack of food, you will either resist fiercely or attempt suicide at the last moment. However, think this matter over calmly.

Your motherland is facing imminent disaster due to the war brought on by your military leaders who think only of their own glory. The people live in fear of air-raids and are threatened by starvation. This is the result of the challenge to the United States by your military leaders who overestimated their own strength and who are forcing you to go to the front. Even while you are fighting all odds on this lonely island in the northern seas, you are not able to stop dreaming of going back to your homeland someday.

However, this dream cannot be realized while you are being driven by your rash superior officers. How can you realize your dreams? It can be done by shaking hands with the U.S. forces.

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Leaflet 2079

Leaflet 2079 depicts Naha City, Capitol of Okinawa, before and after an American bombing raid. The same photograph was used on leaflet 131. I am not sure that an unskilled Okinawan or Japanese soldier would be able to make out the destruction on the pictures shot from so high overhead. The text to the right of the pictures is:

Naha City of Okinawa Prefecture before the bombing.

After bombing

The back of the leaflet depicts a B-17 bomber attacking railroad yards and surrounding buildings. The text is:


The bombing so far has destroyed only a small part of the Japanese industry. However, as time goes on the degree of destruction will be multiplied and Japan will become a ruin. It is not loyal to your country to sit and watch its destruction without doing anything. That is an attitude taken by cowardly persons.

Save your country! Stop resistance! Seek the assistance of your cane before falling!

The same photograph of Naha City before and after the bombing appears on leaflet 131. This leaflet is aimed at islands held by the Japanese and seeks to destroy their morale. On that second leaflet, the back is all text. The text on the front of leaflet 131 is:

The City of Naha – Before and after Bombing.

The back has a very long message so I will only translate a small part:

Brainless Leaders

Saipan is 3,300 miles from Pearl Harbor whereas your island is less than 1,000 miles from American bases. Therefore, it is obvious that we can take your island whenever we think the trouble is worthwhile. We considered Iwo Jima, the Philippines, and Okinawa more important to us than this island and we took those Islands first. The Japanese leaders know that we can capture this island, but they are going to repeat the same mistake as in the South Seas where the abandoned hundreds of thousands of your soldiers. They will sacrifice you the same way….

Leaflet 2027


An OWI Version for China coded M1906

I add this leaflet because like the one above, it depicts a B-17. What is interesting about this leaflet is that it was produced without color to be dropped on Japan. It was also used with different text over China in the Chinese language and some red color was added to the flames from the fires below to make the leaflet stand out more. The text on the front of this leaflet is:

You are Destroying your Homeland

The text on the back of the leaflet is (edited for brevity):

Everyone knows that America, with its huge resources and unlimited production facilities, is winning the war. Already your inner defense line in such areas as the Marianas has been breached. Until a Year ago, the closest U.S. base to Japan was Pearl Harbor. Today we have bases near enough to bomb Japan.

America has already bombed Japan many times. Yawata, Moji, Nagasaki, Sasebo, Fujuoka, among other cities, have been bombed. If you continue this useless resistance, it is necessary for us to bomb your home cities.

Only be ceasing this hopeless resistance can you prevent the destruction of your homeland. Think of it. Yours is the responsibility of saving Japan from total destruction.

Okinawa was to be the first great Pacific propaganda campaign. For the first time, a Combat Propaganda Team of officers, linguists and artists went ashore with the invasion forces to conduct a campaign in coordination with the assault. The team was led by Lieutenant W. B. Stephenson, USNR.

Curiously, the Japanese, in a complete act of denial told their people that although they lost the island, Okinawa was a victory. A “G2” Intelligence Report dated 6 August 1945 says that Tokyo radio broadcast on 25 July 1945:

If we quickly analyze the whole course of the Okinawa operation we find that it was a victory…It was a great wound to America to have suffered a big blow at Okinawa to the center of her front-line power. Thus we can point out that besides the physical war results, that we can count as invisible results such things as having caused the enemy to be scared of our Special Attack Corps [Kamikaze], thus it can be said that the Okinawa operation was a big operational victory.

The United States had lost a tremendous number of killed and wounded during the Iwo Jima campaign. It was the carnage from Iwo that indicated the need to obtain mass enemy surrenders. Prior to Iwo Jima it was believed that the Japanese must be killed to the last man.  Iwo proved that this concept was far too expensive in manpower. Combat propaganda would be the answer to this problem. It would convince the Japanese to surrender and save American lives. Okinawa would be the proving ground.

Months prior to the attack, General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Commander of the U.S. Tenth Army, requested that two series of leaflets be prepared for the “Operation Iceberg” Okinawa campaign. One should discourage civilians from obstructing the advance of U.S. troops; the second should weaken the resistance of the Japanese military.

This propaganda section contacted the commanders of all important organizations prior to the invasion to explain what they needed and what they could accomplish. They devoted over three months to this selling and planning phase. Leaflet drop demonstrations were held near Tenth Army Headquarters in Hawaii and they were publicized widely to get as many commanders and men enthused about the project. Knowing that soldiers craved souvenirs, the propaganda section distributed sample leaflets to all the watchers. They asked and received the operation order for the invasion and found that they would start dropping leaflets seven days before the invasion, and then switch to phase two on D-Day+10. They were issued 1,300 105mm propaganda shells and told that they would have one Navy PV-1 “Polly” plane equipped with loudspeakers. They were issued 100 empty propaganda bombs and 800,000 “safe conduct” leaflets to be used in the final phase of the propaganda campaign. By the start of the invasion this number was raised to 555 propaganda bombs loaded aboard 13 escort aircraft carriers (CVE). Seventy-five percent of the leaflet drops were planned for the towns of Shuri, Naha, Yonabaru, and points south. In central Okinawa the principal targets were Yontan, Kadena, and Machinato airfields.

Nine themes were designed for the Okinawa campaign:

1. Cite lies of Japanese leaders.
2. Create dissension and friction.
3. Play up American industrial might.
4. Create a feeling of panic and terror.
5. Appeal to physical needs.
6. Show the futility of self destruction.
7. Appeal indirectly for surrender.
8. Appeal to authority and respect for law.
9. Appeal to non-Japanese combatants.

Certain subjects were “taboo.” Just before embarkation a final meeting with the Combat Team was called to discuss policy. They would be no “horror” leaflets (scenes of horribly mangled or disfigured dead or wounded Japanese soldiers) and no leaflets would make grandiose promises that could not be fulfilled. They would not speak ill of the Emperor or attack Japanese legends like Admiral Togo or General Nogi. They would not attack the Japanese Constitution, customs, habits, religions, or the status of women.

95% of all the leaflets were printed aboard the ships of the invasion fleet; the other 5% were printed onshore by the topographic reproduction units of the 24th Corps and third Amphibious Corps. They were hand-written by a Nisei, then produced in lots of about 50,000, bundled and sent to be dropped by tactical aircraft flying from the newly captured Kadena AFB. The first hand-written tactical leaflet to Okinawan civilians said in part:

Those of you who wish to enter the American occupied area may do so during day in safety. Do not enter the American occupied area or loiter near it at night because we fear that you will be mistaken for a Japanese soldier.

A week later a second tactical leaflet was written that said in part:

If you move along with the Japanese forces, or if you aid the Japanese forces, you will receive the same treatment as the Japanese forces.

Eight leaflets were prepared in all. The final one said in part:

Come out of your caves and other hiding places at once. All of you. Come in groups, bringing with you only those possessions which you can readily carry.

Author Roy Appleman adds in Okinawa: the last Battle, US Military History of WW II, 2012:

The American plan called for an extensive effort to weaken the enemy’s will to resist. Intelligence agencies prepared 5,700,000 leaflets to be dropped over Okinawa from carrier planes. More millions of leaflets were to be printed at the target and be scattered over specific areas by bombs and shells. Tanks with amplifiers, an airplane with an ultra-loud speaker, and remotely controlled radios dropped behind enemy lines would also tell the enemy why and how he should surrender.

The gradual improvement in loudspeaker propaganda is also interesting to note. An MIT Press book on WWII psychological warfare mentions a case study from the Battle of Okinawa. It contrasted how aggressive surrender demands with threats of flamethrowers merely increased resistance, while a revised loudspeaker broadcast that was more in line with Japanese cultural beliefs worked. According to the report, an American Infantry officer with a loudspeaker team and a Japanese linguist under orders to translate exactly broadcast this message:

Japanese soldiers, come out of hiding and surrender or I'm going to burn you out with my flamethrowers!

In a second case, a more cultural message was broadcast:

Attention! Attention! I am the lawful American commander in the area. Attention! Attention! I have been ordered, by superiors, to end resistance in this area. Attention! Attention!I order all Japanese personnel to assemble, in soldierly fashion. Attention! Attention! I must end your resistance soon. I have flamethrowers. I would regret the unfortunate consequences of the use of flamethrowers.

According to the case study, most of the Japanese soldiers died in the first case, while most surrendered after the second approach. In the first message there is a threat. In the second message there is respect, a mention of the law and a military system. The Japanese are asked to assemble, not surrender. For those Japanese that knew the war was lost and wanted a way to save face, this second approach seemed to offer an honorable way to survive.

We could write an article just on the Okinawa campaign. Suffice it to say that this was the first time In the pacific that PSYOP was integrated into every phase of the invasion and it appears to have been a great success.

Curiously, other nations used the lesson of Okinawa in their propaganda. The Australians printed a leaflet for use against the Japanese coded J.302. The leaflet is large and there are five photos on the front, including: Allied wounded evacuated by air; American Marines advance; wrecked Japanese planes on the ground; and Allied guns fire day and night. Some of the text is:

Okinawa fell to the Allies on 22 June. On Okinawa, for the first time in the Pacific War, large bodies of Japanese troops recognized the futility of continuing resistance against overwhelming odds. During the last few days of the campaign more than 9,000 officers and men surrendered, and those men are being treated with respect by the Americans…

Barak Kushner refutes the relative value of some of the OWI leaflets to Okinawa in The Thought War – Japanese Imperial Propaganda, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2006:

As the battle for Okinawa surged in April 1945, the OWI and the American armed forces began to assess their most comprehensive campaign launched to date. Out of a garrison of approximately 120,000 Japanese troops, 11,000 POWs were taken, but only 7,400 were Japanese soldiers. The others were Korean or Taiwanese laborers. While it was a partial success compared with efforts elsewhere, the approximately 50,000 German POWs a month who flooded into U.S. camps from August 1944 until the spring of 1945 dwarfed Japanese surrender statistics.

But then he adds:

One reason behind the small numbers of Japanese soldiers captured by U.S. forces may have been the fact that U.S. soldiers slaughtered wounded or surrendering Japanese soldiers

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Leaflet 107

Leaflet 107 was one of a series of leaflets aimed at Taiwan. 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 Taiwan 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.

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Leaflet 415

This is another leaflet to the people of Taiwan to help inspire them with the knowledge that the United Nations are carrying the war to Japan. America believed that although the Japanese had ruled Taiwan for many years, the Chinese population still wanted freedom. The leaflet depicts the Pacific with Allied forces moving toward Japan from the Aleutians, Hawaii, the Solomons, New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, India and China. The text on the back is in Japanese and Chinese. It explains why the Allies were bombing Taiwan. The leaflet says in part:

Many Roads Lead Right to Tokyo!

President Roosevelt declared on 12 February 1943 that “There are many roads which lead right to Tokyo. We shall neglect none of them.” Taiwan is one of the roads to Tokyo that the President mentioned….And in order that this Taiwan road may be used, together with the other roads, in the final great attack on Tokyo, capital of the Japanese pirates, we must wrest the island from the Japanese….

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Leaflet 2059 and 2060 

This is a very odd case where the front of two leaflets is identical. We also find two identical images on leaflets 2093 and 2102 showing American Troops walking on islands toward Japan but the text is slightly different.

These leaflets targeted the citizens of Taiwan and tells them that they will soon be free of Japanese rule. The text on the back was written in both Mandarin and Literary Chinese style to increase readership. The image is strange. It shows a Taiwanese family laughing and celebrating over the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. The propaganda text is long on both leaflets so I will edit the text for brevity and just translate a few lines from each leaflet. Some of the text on leaflet 2059 is:


The defeat of Japan’s Navy and Army is only a small matter of time. In Europe, the Nazi’s strength will be broken soon, and Germany will then have to submit to unconditional surrender…People of Formosa, you are to know that America is your liberator, not your enemy. Someday East Asia’s arch aggressor, the Japanese military, will be broken up. Then you will understand the false Japanese military propaganda of the past and pass from the category of slaves to that of free men, and good times will be here again.

Some of the text on leaflet 2060 is:


You all understand that in this war, America’s might reach as far as Japan’s homeland. And the greatness of America’s Air Force power is such that practically every single day Japan’s cities and military harbors are subjected to the danger of bombing…America is now carrying on a general aerial attack, to wipe out entirely the enemy Japanese military clique…And thus Formosa also unavoidably is affected by the bombings…But America is your liberator, not your enemy. Someday the Arch-militarists of East Asia, Japan militarism, will be defeated. Then you will understand how false Japanese propaganda was. And the fetters and chains that have kept you as slaves for 50 years will be thus entirely removed.

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Leaflet 505

Since we have just depicted a number of leaflets aimed at the Taiwanese people, we should show this one that was aimed specifically at Koreans that were forced to work as laborers for the Japanese. The front is all in English and explains to the American soldier that the back is in Korean and asks the reader to point out other Koreans who may be in hiding and bring them forward to the Americans. It was believed that the Koreans would be very happy to escape the Japanese to the safety of the American lines.

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Leaflet 519

Leaflet 519 depicts Japan (as indicated by Mt. Fuji) being attacked by multiple American aircraft and ships. The purpose of the leaflet is “to show that American forces are closing in on Japan.” The leaflet is printed on a faded pink paper. There is no text on the front. The text on the back is:

Do you know that:

American bases in strength are less than 1500 miles from Tokyo. 

The American Navy is free to operate practically off the shores of Japan.

The Japanese mainland is in danger of being completely isolated from the rest of the world.

American submarines are sinking Japanese ships faster than Japan can build them.

The terrible destruction to Germany need not happen to Japan.

Free your country from the Gumbatsu tyrants who control it.

Free your country before it is too late.

The Gumbatsu mentioned in the text is a combination of the militarists (sometimes called "the military clique"), industrialists (Later called the Zaibatsu), large landowners and political office holders. They had the real power and control over the Japanese people. The Allies used this term in a number of propaganda leaflets. 

Byron Earhart depicts this leaflet in his book on Mt. Fuji and says in part:

The main use of this image of Fuji in American propaganda leaflets during WWII was suasion, showing the lovely peak as stimulus to homesickness and an inducement to surrender and return home (to Fuji). In this leaflet the message is a direct threat conveyed by the sight of many planes attacking Japan (with Fuji identifying the target).

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Leaflet 520

Leaflet 520 is a rather calm and sentimental picture of a Japanese landscape, with rocks and trees in the foreground and Mt. Fuji in the background. The leaflet is designed to induce Japanese troops to surrender. It is printed on a crème-colored paper. There is no text on the front. Text on the back is:

In olden days, before Japan became a powerful nation, citizens were forbidden to visit other countries. If they returned to Japan after such a visit, they were put to death. 

With the enlightened rule of the Emperor Meiji, such practices were abolished. After the Russo-Japanese War, more than 2,000 Japanese soldiers taken prisoner by the Russians were returned to Japan. Some of those men hold important positions today. 

Who is trying to make Japan go back to its former customs, against the wise policy of Emperor Meiji? Who is trying to prevent the return of soldiers who devoted themselves to the nation's welfare?  

Are the Gumbatsu ashamed of their conduct of the war? Do they fear to have their mismanagement of the war known at home? Do they fear to have you loyal soldiers see what they have done to the country?

Will you allow them to succeed in their policy of deceiving you?

I note that this leaflet is found in two versions. In one the leaflet is larger (5 x 9.5-inches) with a red color and coded “PW Serial No. 520.” The second version above is 5 x 8-inches in a brownish tone with just the code “520.” I suspect this may be because this image was also used by the Army PWB in the Philippines and there may have been some mixing of the images. I find the exact same variety in leaflet 518, though I notice the smaller version is coded “518A” which might mean it was an alternative image. Leaflet 806 and 807 are also found in both varieties though the small leaflets are coded “806A” and “807A.”

It is interesting to note that the Psychological Warfare Branch in the Philippines produced the exact same leaflet and text but coded it 4-J-1.

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Leaflet 2064

Leaflet 2064 is a very stark dark blue and white leaflet that depicts a Japanese pilgrim standing at the foot of Mt. Fuji at the intersection of two paths marked by road-stones reading “Duty” and “Humanity.” The leaflet is designed to lower Japanese morale and create a desire for peace. Text at the upper right of the leaflet is, “There are two roads but only one goal.” The back is all text:  

Japanese people have been praised and respected for their sense of duty. A true Japanese knows his obligations to his country as well as his family. 

In a predicament such as Taira no Shigemori and Amanoya Rihei were put in, one has to, in order to serve his lord and country, sacrifice his responsibilities to his family. In such a situation, a true Japanese will conquer ninjo [human feeling] and give his all to his country. 

Now, from the humanitarian standpoint, you would like to end this war so that you might save your parents and your children from meaningless death. However, you have been taught that you must undergo suffering to carry out your duty to your country. Hence, while you are thinking of your family, you are awaiting death. 

If you are truly patriotic, you would not hesitate to put an end to this war. You could not stand to see your country heading straight to disaster. Homes lost, factories destroyed, the people sunk into the depths of poverty. You need not wait until this happens. 

Your duty is to bring peace and to save your country from ruin. The Emperor has stated his desire for peace on several occasions. Japan is based on a family system. When the family is destroyed by death or other forms of disaster, the entire nation suffers. 

When you sacrifice yourselves and your families, the nation itself suffers. You lower the prestige of Japan among the nations of the world. 

The Emperor, father of the Japanese people, must be deeply concerned to see his subjects die and the national fiber weakened. Duty to your nation is identical with the duty to your family. 

To serve your Emperor is to serve your family. Therefore, if the Gumbatsu prevents you from doing your duty to your duty, rebel and save your family and your nation. Let the Gumbatsu take the blame for starting this war and its consequences.

This is a particularly interesting leaflet as was explained to me by military analyst Jeffrey Clinton Hill who lived in Japan for most of his life. He said in part:

The leaflet shows a Japanese pilgrim standing at the foot of Mr. Fuji at the intersection of two paths marked by road-stones reading “Duty” and “Humanity.”  Those are the English words that translate the Japanese kanji of Geri and Ninjo.  The Japanese consider the yin-yang concepts of Giri and Ninjo to be at the heart of what it means to be Japanese along with other Japanese yin-yang concepts that the Japanese consider to be unique to their culture and therefore impossible to translate into English and impossible for foreigners to fathom. 

Ninjo refers to human inclinations such as the desire for individual recognition, friendships, love, family life, and all of the simple pleasures and hedonistic desires. 

Giri refers to duty.   The Japanese concept is that quite often in life there is a conflict between the two and the honorable person will sacrifice his “ninjo” for his recognized “giri.” The assumption is that when the conflict arises, choosing “giri” is tough. Japanese literature abounds with this theme:

Giri:   Leave the one you really love, marry for duty, and secretly think of the one you really love with romantic idealism for the rest of your life. 

Ninjo:   run away from your duty-marriage, indulge in passionate, romantic, beautiful love with your lover for two weeks and then you both jump off a cliff hand-in-hand before society can find you and drag you apart from each other.

I think the PSYOP text of Leaflet 2064 shows remarkable skill.  The leaflet honors the Japanese concepts and challenges the Japanese to realize that, given the adversity they are facing, choosing to simply follow their corrupt leaders and die would actually be the easier “ninjo” choice, while choosing to challenge the Gumbatsu, survive, and rebuild Japan, would be the tougher and more honorable, “giri.” 

I particularly like the last line: “Let the Gumbatsu take the blame for starting this war and its consequences.” Various Japanese disciplines ranging from zazen indoctrination in a Buddhist temple to everyday at-home child rearing by the mother are “Accept life.  Don't blame someone.” The reason these disciplines exist, in my opinion, is that the Japanese are naturally given to blaming others more than most peoples of the world are given to blaming others.  All sorts of ways are built into the Japanese system so that no one individual gets blamed for something.  These ways are needed precisely because the Japanese have such a natural tendency to look for someone to blame. 

This is a leaflet designed by Frances Blakemore. Morioka says about it:

The light that emanate from behind Mt. Fuji suggests the sunrise…Appealing to the Japanese emphasis on family, a long text tells soldier that duty to one’s nation is synonymous with duty to one’s family…Frances’s illustration exemplifies an effective use of a cultural symbol in the choice of the Mt. Fuji – pilgrim motif. Any Japanese citizen would have instantly grasped its spiritual and nationalistic symbolism.

Special Themes

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Leaflet 1000

The OWI used certain images and themes on a number of different leaflets. Leaflet 1000 depicts the Imperial Chrysanthemum seal in black and white. Other than the seal, the entire leaflet is all text.  Some of the text is:

You have been told that this war had the approval of the Emperor and that the Emperor desired the loss of many young citizens. It is a lie! This is an example of the military deceiving the people to accomplish their own desires. It is the Gumbatsu that has caused the ruin of peaceful and prosperous Japan. You are probably reminded of the edict of the Emperor Sujin:

“I wonder if when our Imperial ancestors ascended to the throne, if it was for the benefit of themselves? No, it was in order to lead the people and stabilize the empire. They were able to extend the merit and spread the perfect virtue. Having received at their hands the mighty inheritance, we lovingly nourish our good subjects. In so doing, let us follow the footsteps of our Imperial ancestors, and long preserve the unbound felicity. And you, our ministers and functionaries, should you not cooperate with all loyalty in giving peace to the empire?”

How far have the leaders of Japan today strayed from this edict? Those who desired war thwarted the Emperor in his desire to personally lead his people….

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Leaflet 2082

Leaflet 2082 has the exact same design, and mentions Emperor Sujin’s edict. Its conclusion is slightly different. Some of the text is:

This decree gives the everlasting truth of the Empire. However, the ministers today have not fulfilled their great responsibilities in giving peace to the empire.  They have stood between the Emperor who loves peace and the people, and obstructed the wishes of the Emperor to reach the people and to become acquainted with the people. They have gambled the destiny of the nation and lost, but take no responsibility by committing suicide. Instead, they try to hide their crimes and demand the suicide of the nation.

When the military clique is destroyed, you will again see happy days as described by Yuryaku Tenno:

“At the present time, the world is like one family, the farmers are safe, and peace reigns throughout the realm. Such is the will of heaven.”

The idea of placing the Emperor's crest on an American propaganda leaflet seems to have been a poor one. According to a report prepared by the Chief Censorship Section of the Metropolitan Police:

There was a leaflet that quoted the constitution using the Imperial crest of the chrysanthemum. This was against the Japanese belief in the use of the Imperial crest, and not only was it not effective, but is stimulated hate for the Americans among the people.

The reason that the Japanese were so incensed is explained by Professor Byron Earhart. He says:

The chrysanthemum, brought to Japan from China as a medicinal and herbal plant, was associated with the imperial family in medieval times.In the Meiji era (1868-1912), when the emperor was made the head of state and promoted as the rallying symbol to transform feudal territories into one unified nation, a sixteen-petal chrysanthemum was officially adopted as the imperial crest. From that time, by national law no one could use this crest without permission of the imperial family (which was granted in a few cases, such as to shrines closely associated with the imperial family). From the Meiji era until the end of World War II, among the civilian population the chrysanthemum crest commanded the same respect and awe as the emperor it represented. A wartime example of the power of this symbol is found in "No Surrender: My Thirty Year War," (Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1974): holdout Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda tells how he dragged his rusted, stockless rifle through the jungles of the Philippines for close to thirty years after the end of WWII, because it had the imperial crest on it. The crest was a visual reminder of absolute loyalty to the emperor, linking every Japanese soldier and sailor to the chain of command that went up through the ranks and ended with the emperor.

The Dual-Purpose Leaflet

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Leaflet 528

There is a group of leaflets that were considered dual-purpose. They are 523, 524, 525, 527, 528, 529, 530, 531 and 533. They are mostly text and the images are not too exciting. Each leaflet bears a message to the Japanese soldier to weaken his desire to fight to the death and a message to the local civilians to encourage them to avoid battle areas. The messages tend to be long and repetitious. As a result, I will just mention the first line of the four leaflets in this section to give an idea of the propaganda:

523: To military men: Does it not amaze you that Americans have already occupied this island?

524: American troops and supplies are being brought ashore in great quantities.

527: Isn’t it well known that American production of war materials is the greatest in the world?

528: You all know the kind of life the heroes who lost their arms and legs for Japan led.

The civilian message of 528 warns the local populace that when Americans attack they do so with naval bombardments and aerial bombing. It warns them to leave all the fighting areas immediately.

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Leaflet 525

Leaflet 525 depicts a Japanese soldier drinking from a canteen. I will not translate the entire text because of its length. Some of the more interesting comments are:

To Military Men:

Why did Japan start this war? Why is it necessary to sacrifice thousands of Japan's brave and outstanding young men and bring about the destruction of homes, factories, merchant ships, and to cause the civilians to live in great poverty?

It is just like the Nomonhan Incident in which 18,000 outstanding Japanese soldiers were needlessly sent to their deaths without the permission of the Emperor by military leaders selfishly seeking personal military glory...

To Civilians:

The Army is well supplied with food and water. Demand that they provide you with the necessities of life.

They are responsible for the fact that you cannot provide for yourself. By staying in the cities and towns they have exposed your homes and lives to destruction and made you dependent upon them. Apply to the Japanese Army for food and water. Do not accept a refusal.

The “Nomonhan Incident” reference is in regard to Hirohito’s fear of a full-scale war between Japan and the Soviet Union. The Emperor ordered his Kwantung Army in 1939 to limit its Mongolian operations. Despite the direct order, from May to September 1939, Japan and the Soviet Union fought an undeclared war on the Mongolian plains near the city of Nomonhan. Soviet General Zhukov massed his troops and 1000 tanks for a decisive attack to surround and eliminate the invading forces. Japanese causalities numbered 17,405. This defeat caused the “Southern Axis of Advance” faction to argue in 1941 against joining with Germany for a war with the Soviet Union, and for a war against the United States and Britain in an attempt to secure Southeast Asian resources.

The Kamikaze

Leaflet 2109

This leaflet is meant to dissuade Kamikaze pilots from carrying out their missions. There are four photographs on the front; Kamikaze pilots drinking a toast to death, A Kamikaze plane shot down, a rescued Japanese pilot, and Japanese POWs in an American camp. The back depicts rockets being fired by an American landing craft. The text for each photograph is:

Departure. A pilot who has exchanged his parachute for a “rising sun” headband. Bearing the ashes of a comrade, he is going to crash into an enemy ship.

An impossible wall of anti-aircraft fire.

Crossroad. The American sailor who came to rescue him said, “although he is an enemy soldier, he is a courageous warrior who was defeated while doing his best for his country.”

The new life. Productive power and spiritual power. “Now I realize that steel is indeed harder than flesh! This war has little connection with the welfare of the people. My life is important for the new Japan which will rise from the smoking ruins.

The Birth of the United Nations

OWI Leaflet 2112

This is a rather small leaflet, a bit larger than 5 x 3-inches. It seems important enough to print in a much larger size. I believe it is the first OWI leaflet to mention the new United Nations, the predecessor to the old, failed League of Nations. The front is a photograph of former Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius signing the United Nations Charter while President Harry Truman looks on. The theme of the leaflet is to show that Americans are peace-loving and put the blame on Japanese militarists for starting and continuing the war. The text on the front of the leaflet is:

U.S. Chairman Stettinius Signs United Nations Charter

The back is a long text which I will edit for brevity:


The Charter for a world security organization was signed at San Francisco on 26 June 1945 by fifty United Nations…The signing of this Charter concluded a long period of careful preparation, going as far back as the statement of the Four Freedoms issued by President ROOSEVELT and Prime Minister CHURCHILL in 1942…An International Court of Justice has been given the authority necessary for the peaceful settlement of disputes…It has been agreed that armed forces sufficient to suppress aggression will be available to the United Nations…Japan is now the only nation which prevents the return of peace…On OKINAWA, over 10,000 Japanese officers and men, realizing the trends developing in the world, became aware of the futility of resistance and surrendered.

The Starving Japanese soldier

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Leaflet 1027

Another theme used on a number of leaflets was the starving Japanese soldier. Black and white leaflet 1027 depicts a photograph of an emaciated Japanese soldier wearing only a loincloth in an American dispensary. This same soldier appears on a number of different leaflets. The text along the margins of the photograph on the front is:

Japanese Soldier Rescued just before Death from Starvation

This photograph shows a Japanese soldier who was forced to live for eighteen months on a little island in the pacific without food or medical care. Staving and consumptive, he was rescued by a group of Americans who picked him up in a small boat and took him to an American hospital where he was given the best medical treatment. But, it was too late, and today there is little hope that he will live. Will this be your fate?

Text on the back is in part:

Hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers were isolated in the Marshalls and other areas in the South Seas, when American forces captured the Marianas. There supply lines were completely cut. Those who can provide their own food are surviving, but those who can not produce foods are starving. These islands have become useless in the defense of Japan. The men have lost their reasons for fighting. Are your leaders going to leave you on this island?

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Leaflet 2097

The same soldier appears again on leaflet 2097. This time his image is at the left of the leaflet and the empty ocean takes up the rest of the photograph. OWI files indicate that 2,250,000 leaflets were printed. The caption to his right is:

Just a year since regular supplies stopped going to the orphaned islands of the south. This wreckage drifting about on the high seas and this picture of a soldier tells the real truth about the war.

Some of the text on the back of the leaflet is:


Your loved ones have been abandoned on isolated Pacific islands where they do not receive one grain of rice or one round of ammunition. Their single hope is that ships will come to rescue them. Now that artery, too, has been severed.

Numberless mines have been laid in the harbors of Japan. In rapid succession, the precious lives of your countrymen and the raw materials that are the nation’s lifeblood are being blown up.

Japan is bound hand and foot. Unable to act, she can only suffer in silence under the present deadly bombardment. When will Japan be released from the network of mines and submarines? When will you be able to roam over the vast ocean in search of the bounty of the sea?

Each one of you holds the key to this problem. Save your loved ones on the by-passed islands! Save your native land! Throw down your weapons and come forward to build a new Japan.

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Psychological Warfare – Annex H

We should note that a classified confidential Navy Psychological Warfare document entitled Annex H, which indicates that it was part of a greater document, depicts and says about this leaflet:

This is the second of a series of propaganda leaflets dropped on the Japanese homeland which makes specific use of the effects of the B-29 aerial mining blockade of the Japanese Empire.

The back of this document is Annex I and lists ships sunk by the mining operation of the 20th Air Force. Some of the text is:

Of the estimated 1,000,000 tons of Japanese ships sunk or damaged in 20th Air Force minefields, some 131,000 tons were documented photographically. These ships, although sunk or damaged remained sufficiently above water to permit their photographing from the air.

Leaflet 1054

Leaflet 1054 also depicts the starving man in loincloth. The photo’s caption is:

Japanese Soldier Rescued Just Before Death from Starvation.

The back is all text. Some of the message is:


You should know well how sad was the condition of your comrades who were recently returned to JAPAN on the TAKASAGO MARU.

On 5 July the American destroyer, USS MURRAY, inspected the TAKASAGO MARU while it was on its way back to Japan, and permitted it to continue its homeward voyage.

At that time, a Japanese doctor on board said, "Of the 974 sick and wounded officers and men who have been taken aboard, fifteen percent will, because of tuberculosis and extreme malnutrition, probably not survive until we reach Japan.

Although great pains were taken to put them aboard a hospital ship, it was too late. Moreover, because of continual bombings and naval bombardment, the homeland is approaching the depths of ruin, and so no man knows whether he will live or die. So, even if they are fortunate enough to return to their native land on the hospital ship, they may have to meet death sooner or later.

Leaflet 7-598-68

I chose to depict this American Vietnam War leaflet because when I first saw it, I had a flashback to the WWII leaflet above where the U.S. depicted a starving Japanese soldier on a bypassed island. Apparently good propaganda never gets old. Approximately 25 years later US forces in Vietnam printed this leaflet showing a starving North Vietnamese or Viet Cong soldier. His ribs show through his chest, and he seems not far from death. The Americans offer good treatment and food. The text is:

This is the result of your harsh life. Suffer this absurdity no longer! Return to the Government of The Republic of Vietnam!

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Leaflet 2098

We mention “Mines” above and this is the only leaflet that actually depicts mines being dropped by parachute from a B-29 Super-fortress bomber. The leaflet is meant to show the consequences of the sowing of minefields in Japanese waters. The Japanese people are warned that if the war continues Japan will soon have no ships. OWI files indicate that 1,000,000 leaflets were printed. The caption next to the photograph on the front is:

This is how mines are laid

The text on the back in part is:


Your harbors and waterways are full of mines. Trying to clear these mine fields is like trying to dry up the ocean with a cup. You remove one and immediately, the B-29s come and lay a new one.

The mine fields simply cannot be cleared, and militarists best know why. Yet they have to supply their war plants with iron and coal, so they recklessly order ships through the mined areas.

Because of this insane policy, the vessels which are essential to the JAPAN of the future are being sunk by mines in daily increasing numbers. If this continues, Japan will soon have no ships left.

The militarists are sacrificing JAPAN’s future. How long will you permit their reckless actions to continue?

Once again we note that the classified confidential Navy Psychological Warfare document entitled Annex H depicts and says about this leaflet:

This is the third of a series of propaganda leaflets dropped on the Japanese homeland which makes specific use of the effects of the B-29 aerial mining blockade of the Japanese Empire.

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Leaflet 2095

I was not going to add this leaflet because we already show two OWI leaflets that discuss mines, but since the report mentions three leaflets “which makes specific use of the effects of the B-29 aerial mining blockade of the Japanese Empire.” I thought that I should add the first of the three. This leaflet depicts a Japanese ship, and then the same ship sinking. OWI files indicate that 100,000 leaflets were printed. The caption text is:

Another ship sinks. Your loved ones are waiting anxiously on isolated islands in the South Seas.

The text on the back is long so I will just translate a paragraph or two:


Today again, ships piled high with food, ammunition, and vehicles sailed from the harbor. Will those ships ever reach your fighting men?

Do you know that your loved ones are dying of starvation on isolated islands in the Marshalls, in the farthest mountains of the Philippines, and in the jungle of Burma?

Every day the B-29s are dropping mines around the islands of Japan, the Kammon Straits, and Tokyo Bay. Every important harbor of Japan is filled with mines. They are new mines which cannot be handled in the way you gather seaweed…Soldiers setting out for the front lines are drowning before the very eyes of their families who are bidding them a tearful farewell….

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Leaflet 2021

Perhaps the most interesting artistic leaflet depicting the starvation of the Japanese people is this Frances Blakemore OWI leaflet that shows a Japanese skeleton awaiting food on the home islands while American “sharks” wait to attack supply ships bringing food from China, Formosa, the Philippines, Java, and the South Pacific. Some of the text is:

Ships are the lifeline of Japan. Without ships Japan cannot live

Between December 8, 1941, and June 24, 1944, 1,380 Japanese vessels were sunk. Of these, 1,099 were cargo ships (3,300,000 tons)…In addition; hundreds of smaller ships were destroyed.

Japan builds less than 2,000,000 tons of new ships a year. We are sinking your ships at a rate of 3,000,000 tons a year. Your Gumbatsu is solely responsible for placing you in such a difficult situation.

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Leaflet 1006

One of the most attractive U.S. Navy leaflets is 1006. It was the first in a series of leaflets to be dropped over Japanese troops stranded on bypassed islands. The text is black brushwork on slick paper. The front depicts a beautiful plate of mixed sushi and other Japanese delicacies in full color. To see this leaflet is to salivate. The text is:

Your island has been isolated and cut off from all aid and supplies. You have almost no food and are slowly starving to death. You are as human as we are and the thought of your hunger is far from pleasant.

if you are hungry and wish to have good food, indicate that fact by displaying a large visible cross along the southeast intersection of the airfield runway. We will then be able to help you.

How hungry were the Japanese? MSG Blair quotes enemy soldiers in “A Japanese Guadalcanal Dairy.”

An entry of 31 December 1942 states:

Since the 28th, not a single grain of rice has been distributed, and during this time, 3 pieces of hardtack were issued. Today there were 3 cigarettes and only a bit of the nutrition ration.

On 1 January 1943 an unknown soldier stated:

During the 3 days as the New Year on Guadalcanal Island, we have lived on one piece of hardtack, and this morning finally got one “GO” of rice. In the evening, one compressed ration was divided between two soldiers. Now we are eating rice gruel twice a day, and sleeping in the trenches as we are unable to walk. New Year's to us was just in name, for the day was spent suffering from bombardment and hunger.

Another comment is:

The contents of ant nests are good to eat when one is starving.

On 10 January 1943 we read:

Enemy bombardment becomes increasingly intense. We can hold out for one more week. My body is in such condition that I can barely walk. Food is 5 shaku [one-half go] of rice and some compressed rations. This makes 1 month that we have been eating just rice gruel.

Former Marine Private First Class Fred Griffith recalls his unit, Marine Observation Squadron (VMO) 155 dropping this leaflet during WWII. He adds:

Our Marine fighter squadron was based on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the last year of the war. The squadron was originally supposed to be an observation squadron but was changed to a fighter squadron a few months after it was formed. The men were really anxious to get into the battle, but instead, the squadron was used to train pilots before they were sent to the front to join a fighting unit. As part of their training the pilots flew missions against the many islands in the chain that were still occupied by the Japanese. Isolated Japanese forces held out on Wotje, Maloelap, Mili and Jaluit. These stragglers were supplied by an occasional enemy submarine. It was during these training missions right at the end of the war that the pilots strafed, bombed and dropped the leaflets. The leaflets were placed in wooden boxes and attached to the bomb hooks on the F4U Corsairs and dropped on these runs. The fighters received some anti-aircraft fire on these missions but none of the aircraft were ever hit. Some of our dive bombers were hit and had minor damage during their training missions over the isolated islands.

The exact same image of a plate of sushi was used on OWI leaflet 522. The text avoids any resistance to surrender by taking it for granted and by suggesting face-saving devices which permit the soldier to surrender with honor. It provides excuses that can be stored in the soldier’s subconscious mind and allow him to “fall into enemy hands” at some later date. Some of the text is:

Soldiers may, during wartime, fall into enemy hands. Through no fault of their own; but due to wounds, sickness, and lack of food he may fall into a semi-conscious state. He may be cut off from his comrades, or perhaps the enemy has won the battle…

If you come to the American camp, you will be treated well. You will certainly receive food and tobacco. If you work you will be paid for it. Then after the war, you will be able to help rebuild your country.

The WWII U.S. Military Intelligence Service SOLDIER'S GUIDE TO THE JAPANESE ARMY, Special Series No. 27, dated 15 November 1944 says about the Japanese diet:

When the Japanese soldier gets nothing to eat, he becomes just as hungry and dejected as any other soldier. He likes adequate meals at regular times and appreciates variety. Inadequate rations bring their full quota of complaints and exercise a depressing influence on individual and unit morale in the Japanese Army. One Japanese soldier plaintively records in his diary:

If I eat tonight, I may not be able to eat tomorrow. It is indeed a painful experience to be hungry. At the present time all officers, even though there is such a scarcity of food, eat relatively well. The condition is one in which the majority starves.

Another complains about the monotony of the rations:

The never-changing soup for the morning meal. Only two meals today, army biscuits to gnaw at in the morning and miso soup with watermelon in the evening. Also had some salt beef.

The Japanese were aware that the Americans were reading the diaries of dead or captured Japanese soldiers. The Australian Intelligence Review tell us what they said about it:

From captured documents it is obvious that for quite some time, the Japanese have been endeavoring to improve the security of their forces, and the following extract from ATIS SWPA Bulletin No 980 leaves little doubt that, whenever our methods of obtaining information come to their knowledge, countermeasures may be expected. According to the report, the enemy have said that we are obtaining intelligence from diaries taken from dead Japanese officers and men and are using them for propaganda purposes. Every unit must check its troops diaries and notebooks more thoroughly and make sure that these articles do not fall into our hands.

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Dish of Salad?

I want to stop for just a moment and show a Japanese version of the same leaflet. This leaflet depicts trapped American soldiers seeing their fleet destroyed in the distance by Japanese aircraft. They are starving and think of a luscious plate of…salad? Just as the American attempted to induce the Japanese to surrender with promises of fresh, inviting food, the Japanese retaliated with a very similar leaflet. What is interesting is that while the American leaflet shows a Japanese delicacy, the Japanese leaflet does not depict an American delicacy. If they had a better understanding of the American diet they would have depicted a big steak, ham or turkey. Instead they depict a salad, not exactly something a starving GI would relish. I believe that because of the choice of food this must be considered a failed leaflet. Notice also that the Japanese do not use the word “surrender.” They ask for a “Change of mind.” The text is:

Iron-rationed stranded.
Nothing but dog-biscuits.
Day after day, positively.
How about a dish of salad like this?
For a change of diet...Just a change of mind.

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Before we leave this concept of food for surrender, here is what I believe is a British version. Note that instead of sushi, we now see what appears to be a heap of rice on some kind of a meaty dish in an Allied mess kit. There is also some kind of soup or pudding and what looks like a slice of pie, but could be bread. It is very odd. This leaflet does not have a code number but I get the feeling it is British or Australian because of the wording. The other side is all Japanese text and three short sentences in English:

The bearer has ceased resistance. He should be treated well, in accordance with International Law. Take him to the nearest Commanding Officer.

C. in C., Allied Forces

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Leaflet 2056

There is an entire series of very colorful and artistic leaflets that attempt to exploit the American command of the air and its ability to bomb the Japanese at will. Each leaflet shows a horrific scene of death and disaster, but does so almost as an artistic oil painting. Some of the other leaflets in this series are leaflet 2046 depicting a suffering Japanese man under a wooden beam in his bombed house, leaflet 2047 depicting two Japanese factory workers in a burning factory and 2048 showing civilians surrounded by burning buildings. These are all very strong images and painted in a way that the Japanese would recognize and respond to. Leaflet 2056 above depicts a Japanese family after an American bomb raid and says in part:

Bombs have no eyes and no heart. In a crowded city they are guilty of all kinds of cruelty. While our bombs are directed at military or industrial targets, they are so powerful that nearby residences are also affected.

Children see their parents killed before their eyes; mothers are robbed of their children; husbands and wives are separated…The only cure for these cruelties of war is peace. For as long as Japan continues the war, bombs will fall in ever-increasing number.

This is another leaflet designed by Frances Blakemore. Morioka says about it:

This leaflet stands out among Frances’s creations for the unusually rich color scheme despite the terrible theme. In this scene of carnage, a bomb has struck a house: a man, his leg blown off, and a woman lie in a pool of blood, while in the distance a burning factory with tall chimneys illustrates the target of the air raid.

The classified military report booklet 1945 Progress of the War in the Middle Pacific adds:

Artwork on the leaflets was done by artists familiar with the Japanese people and their ways and customs. It was considered essential that the artist be extremely accurate in regard to details of Japanese customs. For example, a drawing of Nips inside a dwelling must show them with shoes off, and Jap women wearing kimonos must be shown with the kimono folded from left to right. The only time a kimono is folded from right to left in JAPAN is when the wearer is dead. If such details were not precisely correct, the average Jap would not believe the artist had made a mistake but would read an entirely different meaning into the message. Leaflets were all checked voluntarily by Jap prisoners to be sure the Jap GI slang was right and that there was no slip-up about Jap equipment or weapons.

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Leaflet 2046

OWI leaflet 2046 has the appearance of an art poster with interesting colors and design. The text is meant to describe the bomber, its range, load, and fire power together with indication of the havoc its bombs can create. The text says in part:

These American bombers above your heads are very advanced and powerful. Even engineers could not have dreamed of these powerful planes just five years ago. These bombers are twenty times bigger than yours, and its armor is so thick and bullets would not penetrate, unless the bullets hit its crucial areas, which is less than one third of total surface of its body. Not only these bombers able to fly at a much higher altitude than your latest fighter planes, but they also can carry a full load of bombs as far as two thousand miles away. Their ability to fly long distances is twice as much as the distances of the Liberators or Fortress as well as their faster flying speed…

Leaflet 2047

This is clearly another Frances Blakemore drawing. It depicts a Japanese worker trapped in a factory during an American bombing raid. The purpose is to show the futility of trying to escape bombs and the inadequacy of the air raid shelters provided for the workers. The text is:

The back is all text and says in part:


The Gumbatsu boldly urges resistance from the safety of their fine air raid shelters, but your shelters are only the entrance halls for death!

Every day of added resistance will bring greater terror on you. Bombs will blast great holes in your cities. Bombs directed at factories will also destroy your homes while you scurry desperately for a place of shelter which does not exist. Incendiary bombs will start conflagrations which will envelope you and consume you in flames. Every bomber will leave horror in its wake…

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Leaflet 2048

Instead of the full color artwork found on the previous leaflet, 2048 is printed in red, and the Japanese victims are almost caricatures, like the character in the Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.” The standard 5 x 8-inch leaflet uses the earthquake of 1923 as a sample of the horror and destruction that will be caused by bombs dropped by American aircraft. The leaflet depicts fear-maddened masses fleeing the toppling flame-ridden buildings. Tokyo is falling down and burning in the background. There is no text on the front. The text on the back says in part:

Do you remember the great damage done to your country by the earthquake of 1923? America is capable of producing earthquakes that will cause damage a thousand times greater. Such earthquakes will be brought in bundles from 2 1/2 to 4 tons. The bundles are capable of destroying in 2 or 3 seconds the results of several years of struggle and hardship.

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Leaflet 2018

I selected leaflet 2018 because it is a different than the usual American propaganda product. It is in the form of a Japanese flag. The bright red ball on a white background was sure to attract attention and would certainly be picked up by the average finder. It is smaller than most WWII leaflets at 6 x 4 inches. The back is all text:

Save the Nation!

Japan is faced with a national danger.

Now is not the time for you to think of your own fame or follow your own desires.

What is the proper act for a Japanese under such circumstances?

Obviously, one who dies foolishly at such a time accomplishes nothing. Japan is losing the war. Japan cannot afford to lose its citizens as well.

Preserve your race and help build a better Japan after the war.

I have seen one of these OWI “meatball” leaflets with the typed text:

These were dropped on Tokyo, February 16, 1945 by Task Force 58 of the Fifth Fleet. We were within 150 miles of the Japanese mainland. No air opposition was encountered!

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Leaflet 2088

I added leaflet 2088 because it is one of just a few leaflets to depict President Harry Truman. OWI records indicate that 8,000,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. This appears to be the highest count of any OWI leaflet. The text is:


Nazi Germany has gone down in defeat. You, the people of Japan know the mighty power of the United States Army, Navy and Air Force. As long as your false leaders and militarists continue the struggle, we will attack with increasing power over larger areas. We will continue until we have completely destroyed the industries and transportation facilities which sustains Japan’s fighting power.

Continuing the war only increases the hardships of the people needlessly. The people have nothing to gain. We will not cease to attack till the Japanese militarists surrender unconditionally and throw down their arms.

What will be the effect of unconditional surrender on the Japanese people? In a word, it means the end of the war. It means the destruction of the power of the militarists who have led the nation to the brink of ruin; it will enable the speedy return of the men of the army and navy who are struggling at the front to their beloved homes, their farms, and their jobs. It also means the end of the hardships and suffering brought on by those who dream of victory. However, I wish to state positively that unconditional surrender does not mean the extermination of the Japanese people or their enslavement.


Leaflet 2089

I was asked by the Discovery Channel if there were any Allied WWII propaganda leaflets against Japan that depicted mythical creatures. I explained that the United States had produced propaganda using an old vampire legend as the theme. We illustrate the leaflet above. It depicts a vampire cat drinking the blood of a Japanese maiden, drawn in the style of an old Japanese line woodcut. OWI records indicate that 1,100,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. The text is:

A long time ago there was a beautiful girl named Otoyo who served the Lord Hizen. Of all the ladies of the palace, she was his favorite. One day, the lord and Otoyo went into the gardens and enjoyed the flowers until sunset. They were not aware of a huge cat following them. Otoyo returned to her room and went to sleep. At midnight, she was aroused by the huge cat. Terrified, she screamed. The cat jumped on her, bit her soft neck and killed her. The cat buried the dead body of Otoyo and took her form to bewitch the lord. The lord weakened daily; his complexion became pale; and all the medicine he took did not help.

Finally, Ito Soda, a loyal and brave retainer was able to reveal the true form of the cat. The cat ran away into the mountains. The people hunted it down and killed the cat.

What is the meaning of this story? The cat compares with the Gumbatsu, who are sucking the life-blood of the nation. The Gumbatsu is needlessly sacrificing the lives of thousands of young men who are isolated far from home. Also, are they not neglecting to provide the clothing, food, and medicine needed by the people? Are they not causing the ruin of the nation? Beautiful Otoyo who was killed by the cat represents the constitutional system destroyed by the Gumbatsu. Disobeying the orders of Emperor Meiji, the military interfered with politics. Rather than protecting the Empire, they have led the Empire to the brink of disaster. Finally, the cat was forced to reveal her true form by loyal retainers. It was chased into the mountains and killed. Does this mean that loyal Japanese will destroy the Gumbatsu who have fooled the people and the Emperor and thus bring back peace and prosperity to the nation?

The Gumbatsu is the military-industrial complex, made up of high-ranking officers, some politicians, and the wealthy factory owners.

The text goes on to explain that the military-industrial complex in Japan is sucking the life-blood of the nation. The cat, representing the Gumbatsu, has destroyed all that is good. Just as the cat was revealed and killed, loyal Japanese will reveal the villains who fooled the Emperor and started the war. If they kill the “cat” they will bring back peace and prosperity to Japan.

Wikipedia described it thusly:

An illustration of a bakeneko (monster cat.) In Japanese folklore, a cat with supernatural abilities. A cat may become a bakeneko in a number of ways: it may reach a certain age, be kept for a certain number of years, grow to a certain size, or be allowed to keep a long tail. In the last case, the tail forks in two and the bakeneko is then called a nekomata (forked cat). A bakeneko will haunt any household it is kept in, creating ghostly fireballs, menacing sleepers, walking on its hind legs, changing its shape into that of a human, and even devouring its own mistress in order to shape-shift and take her place. When it is finally killed, its body may be as much as five feet in length. It also poses a danger if allowed into a room with a fresh corpse; a cat is believed to be capable of reanimating a body by jumping over it.

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Leaflet 2092

A second mythological creature is depicted on leaflet 2092. These two leaflets being coded so close together implies that there might have been some additional creatures shown in a “mini-campaign” between 2089 and 2092. This leaflet depicts an angry Buddhist devil with the text:

Your Military Leaders are Responsible for the provoking of This War.

Seek the peace

The back of the leaflet is a list of alleged crimes committed by Japanese military leaders:

The crimes committed by your military leaders are:

1. They have dragged the nation into a war they cannot win.

2. They have conducted this war poorly, sacrificing millions of Japanese lives.

3. They have contrived the sinking of practically every ship built with the sweat and blood of the Japanese people.

4. They are responsible for the starving of hundreds of thousands of garrison unit personnel left behind on the islands of the Pacific.

5. They have provoked war and ruined the life of the people.


Men of Japan!

1. Your military leaders are turning your native land into ruins.
2. Is the continued sacrifice of countless lives all right with you?
3. Clean up your government!
4. Rebuild your nation!
5. Save what is left of Japan!
6. Seek peace!

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Leaflet 534

I added this leaflet because just as the American propagandists depicted fearsome creatures, they sometimes pictured fearsome weapons on leaflets. Leaflet 534 depicts one of the most terrible weapons, the flame thrower. Three American troops are depicted, one using the flame thrower, and over half the leaflet shows the flames burning high over their heads. The leaflet is aimed at civilians and they are warned to keep out of the way. Some of the leaflet text is:

American forces have already landed elsewhere on your island and have made excellent progress. Most of the civilians who stayed in the path of the on-rushing army were killed because of their own foolishness. Unless you are prepared to suffer a similar fate, stay away from the beaches…To remain in the path of the Americans will be fatal…The American forces have absolutely no intention of shooting at you!

Did Americans collect Japanese Skulls?

This photo was published in the 22 May 1944 issue of LIFE magazine, with the following caption:

When he said goodbye two years ago to Natalie Nickerson, 20, a war worker of Phoenix, Arizona, a big, handsome Navy lieutenant promised her a Jap. Last week, Natalie received a human skull, autographed by her lieutenant and 13 friends, and inscribed: ‘This is a good Jap - a dead one picked up on the New Guinea beach.

Natalie, surprised at the gift, named it Tojo. The armed forces disapprove strongly of this sort of thing.”

Ralph Crane, Time & Life Pictures 

OWI Leaflet 409

Some did, but only a tiny number of the troops. I have mentioned in the past that I saw some skulls in tents, usually decorated with a cap or a pipe or cigar. There were rare reports of some Marines pulling the gold teeth out of dead Japanese on occasion. Americans are great souvenir collectors and will also look for weapons, swords, flags, medals, or other items that show they were in warfare in a distant place and survived. Apparently, the Japanese told their men these stories to make them hate the Americans and fight to the bitter end. The military knew this and at least one leaflet was prepared on this very subject. The leaflet is very plain with no images. It was prepared to dispel Japanese beliefs of American cruelty. It is tiny by most standards, just 4 x 4-inches. The title on the front is:

In Memory of General Saito

The back is all text:

Your leaders and newspapers have accused us of sending home the skulls od dead Japanese soldiers and of making paper knives [Letter openers?] from the bones of corpses. Such statements are nothing but vicious lies. They have been told to you and your families at home to make you hate us.

When we found the dead body of General Saito on Saipan, we buried it with full military honors and fired a salute of 101 guns over the grave. Thus, we honored a fallen soldier. Is such treatment the conduct of barbarians?

The world is well-aware of the long history of American generosity. Don’t be deceived by lies!

It was not only our forces in Asia that collected the occasional skull.
This skull was taken by a serviceman in Cassino, Italy.

Notable Operations

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The Original 12-City Bomb Leaflet 2106 with Tokyo at the upper far left

I now want to talk a little bit about the famous B-29 raids on Japan. The XXI Bomber Command Air Intelligence Report of 19 May 1945 says in a report entitled “Psychological Warfare via B-29”:

Psychological Warfare is now being carried to Japan by B-29s. This new role for the Super Fortress was ordered by the 20th Air Force to assist in the program being carried out by the Psychological Warfare Branch of CINCPAC and the OWI. To date, Weather Strike aircraft have carried M-26 and M-16 bomb cases loaded with the leaflets which were showered on such cities as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Two hundred twenty seven PSYCH-bombs have been dropped, containing 2,520,000 leaflets. The continuing program calls for the Command to drop up to 400 tons a month.

Perhaps we should stop here for a moment and take a closer look at the B-29, the greatest bomber of WWII. There was a need for a bomber that could travel a great distance carrying a heavier bomb load because of the vast distances in the Pacific theater of war. The B-29 was the most costly weapon of WWII. 3 billion dollars was spent perfecting the bomber, more than the 1.9 billion dollars of the atomic bomb project.

3,970 bombers were produced during WWII and dropped over 180,000 tons of bombs on the enemy. The B-24 Flying Fortress bomber could fly 2,850 miles and weighed 56,000 pounds fully loaded and the B-17 Liberator bomber could fly 1,850 miles and weighed 55,000 pounds fully loaded. The B-29 Super Fortress could fly an amazing 3,700 miles and weighed in at 135,500 pounds fully loaded. It was by far the largest and heaviest aircraft of WWII. The invasion of Iwo Jima was fought just so the B-29 could have an emergency landing site half way between Japan and the American bomber bases on Guam, Tinian and Saipan. And of course, the B-29s dropped the only two atomic bombs ever dropped on an enemy in wartime.

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Combat Cameraman Paul D. Guttman

Photographers Mate 3/C Paul Guttman preparing to board a B-29 on Saipan, during late March or early April 1945. The box contained his 16-mm motion picture camera.

In February 2019, I heard from the son of the man who took this original photograph found on the B-29 warning leaflet 2106. He said:

That was one of my father's pictures. He was Combat Cameraman Paul D. Guttman. He enlisted in the Seabees in 1942. During 1943 he transferred for "temporary detached duty" with a special combat motion-picture unit, with which he served for the remainder of the war. Paul experienced combat on land, at sea, in the air and even under the sea; from New Guinea to Okinawa. Paul's decorations included the Silver Star, Purple Heart with Gold Star, two Presidential Unit Citations (for the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Hornet), and the Navy Unit Commendation (for Navy Air-Sea Rescue Squadron VH-3, with which he flew 28 combat missions off the Japanese coast). He was also probably the only Seabee ever awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Submarine Combat Pin.

He took the B-29 picture during a raid over Kobe. The aircraft flew from Saipan and they were in the air for more than 16 hours to and from their targets, almost all of it over the open ocean with no fighter escort. During the period of late March through early April 1945 my father was assigned to temporary duty as a combat cameraman with the 873rd Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing. That doesn't sound like a lot of missions, but bear in mind that he was not a member of the Army Air Force, nor even in the Army. He was a Third Class Petty Officer in the Navy, and he had only just returned to Saipan after spending a month on a combat patrol aboard a submarine in the South China Sea.

My father was originally assigned to take motion picture footage to accompany a documentary that the Navy was making about their efforts to provide air-sea rescue for the B-29s. He had just left a submarine on Saipan after completing an assignment and since he was already on Saipan and was available, he was asked to volunteer for the B-29 assignment. He flew upwards of 35 missions.

In 2019 I found an official Air Force caption for the photograph and it is different that the story told to us by Paul Guttman’s son. I will add the Air Force’s version too:

The B-29 bombers in the photograph were from the 881st Squadron, 500th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing, 20th Air Force. Closest to the camera is the B-29 named “Snafuperfort” flown by First Lieutenant Robert E. Altoff. The original crew named her “Snafuperfort” because of mechanical unreliability. Behind “Snafuperfort” is "Fire Bug" flown by First Lieutenant Claude E. Bower. The 73rd's Mission Summary read:

Mission No. 186. Date: 29 May 1945. Target: Yokohama Area. Number of aircraft: 510. Altitude of Attack: 17,500 - 21,000 feet.

And finally, in 2022, a third caption of this picture was found in a private collection. The name of the collection was illegible. The text was:

Hundreds of incendiary bombs cascade from the belies of B-29s of the 500th Bomb Group in a daylight raid on Yokohama, 29 May 1945. The lead crew for this raid was commander by Captain Ferd J. Curtis, flying Z-12, and it was the left gunner, Sergeant Howard J. Clos who took this photograph. It was widely reproduced and was later used as the heading photo for a propaganda leaflet dropped on named Japanese cities to warn them in advance of a fire raid.

A total of 6.9 square miles of the city were burned and destroyed. Flak was heavy, meager to intense, accurate to inaccurate and shot down 3 B-29s. One B-29 was intentionally rammed. The B-29s were escorted by 101 P-51s. Two P-51s were lost over the target. This photo was used on Japanese language propaganda leaflets warning of impending attack. It was a crime to possess the flyers, which were suppressed by the government.

United States Air Force Photo - Date Photographed: Tuesday, May 29, 1945

OWI Central Pacific Operations says about the above photograph: Chief of Forward Area Richard Hubert inspects with Printer Cassius Miller a finished copy of the first leaflet used in the B-29 pinpoint bombing campaign. These leaflets, printed at the request of General Lemay named eleven Japanese target cities, warned that five would be bombed and urged citizens to evacuate. Prepared in Honolulu, printed on Saipan where the 21st Bomber Command was based, these leaflets were one of the most successful instances of coordination between military action and psychological warfare.

[Author’s note] They speak of leaflet 2106 of Course. It is funny that they should talk of pinpoint bombing when postwar records show that when bombing from five miles high some bombs fell as far as three miles from the target. Of course, Lemay wanted his B-29s to fly lower for accuracy. The blurb mentions eleven cities and that is just because Tokyo was removed from the first leaflet. The next two would have the planned twelve cities listed. 

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The Saipan Newspaper “Target”

This daily newspaper was published on Saipan by the Information and Education Section of the Western Pacific Base Command. The 29 July 1945 issue is of interest because it actually mentions the B-29 leaflets. Some of the text is:


Guam 29 July – Something new has been added to pacific warfare. The 20th Air Force is now calling its shots, telling the Japanese in advance just which of their cities are going to be bombed next by the Superforts.

Shortly before midnight, Friday, a flight of B-29 showered 60,000 leaflets on eleven Jap cities…

Since they mention eleven cities, we can assume this is the very first of the B-29 leaflets with Tokyo removed from the list.

So, how did the operation come into being? Who decided that warning Japanese cities before dropping bombs on them was a good idea? For a long time the credit was given to the OWI on Saipan and Air Force General Curtis LeMay. We now know that although both had part of the operation, the plan seems to have come from an Air Force officer on Guam.

Former Navy Lieutenant Robert Morris describes the origination of the plan in his book No Wonder we are Losing, The Bookmailer, NYC, NY, 1958. Morris tells of being assigned as a psychological warfare officer in 1944 to the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA). He moved forward in early 1945 to Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters in Guam. Later, Nimitz placed an advanced headquarters on Saipan. Morris was responsible for travelling to all the various American-conquered islands and working with the commanders to use PSYWAR to bring in Japanese prisoners. By the end of the war, he had visited 61 American outposts. One of his major responsibilities was convincing the Japanese home islands to surrender to save both Japanese and American lives. The home islands were already being bombed and the Japanese as yet showed no sign of surrender. Morris mentions that Richard Hubert was in charge of OWI personnel, but says that the unit was under his operational direction. He talks about the B-29 leaflet project:

In April 1945, the intelligence officer of the 21st Bomb Command on Guam, Colonel Jim Garcia invited me to his Quonset hut and asked. “Would you be interested in a leaflet project that would warn the inhabitants of Japanese cities that they were about to be bombed?”

Naturally, I leaped to the idea at once. It was particularly fortunate that the plan originated with the B-29 people, for that meant they were willing to assume the risk and responsibility for the project. After a discussion in the operations room, we decided to announce by leaflets, dropped by B-29s on weather runs, the names of six or seven Japanese cities, three of which would be bombed within the next 24 hours. [Author’s note: Often commanders who are familiar with the big picture err in the details. In fact, 12 cities were eventually named on each leaflet, probably to make it more difficult for the Japanese to marshal air defenses over the greater number of cities].

Paul Boller on Guam in the spring of 1944, helped create
leaflets dropped over Japan during World War II.
Photos courtesy of Paul Boller

The next morning, as early as possible, I was off to the prisoner-of-war stockade with Paul Boller, a Yale graduate student who was the best language officer I could find on the island. I explained the project to him and asked him to explain it in great detail to our Japanese prisoner advisors. …I could see that they liked it. They soon indicated that they would help us perfect the language of the leaflet. They agreed it was a humanitarian act that would save many thousands of Japanese lives, possibly those of their own families. Boller, the prisoners and I spent the day polishing the text...

The 21st Bomb Command assigned us three weather B-29s for the warning runs, and the operation got under way. Altogether, 31 cities were warned by leaflets, and 14 of them were firebombed later.

Some of this project is mentioned in The Interpreter. The comments are by Paul F. Boller, Jr:

My POWs energetically went to work on it in a room assigned to us. “Issho kemmei ni hatarakimasu!” (“We will work very hard”), one of them assured me. All my collaborators were college educated and had a reading knowledge of English (though they did not speak it well at all) and in a couple of hours the five of them had prepared a Japanese translation of the text which I knew was far better than any literal translation I might have made myself. Upon its completion, one of the POWs named Kitagishi, an excellent calligrapher, copied it all over in large and graceful kanji for photographing, and I turned his handiwork over to Morris. Morris then flew to Saipan with it, where the Office of War Information (OWI) prepared and printed the leaflets, wrapped them in rolls, packed them in 500-pound bomb cases, and delivered them to the Air Force. Jim Garcia, intelligence officer for the 21st Bomb Command (headed by General Curtis LeMay) had arranged for the 73rd Bomb Wing, stationed on Saipan, to assign three B-29s to drop the leaflets on regular weather runs to Japan. During the next few weeks, the 73rd Bomb Wing dropped millions of the leaflets, principally on Honshu, Japan’s main island, warning 31 cities of raids to come (14 of which were subsequently fire-bombed).

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B-29 Bombers stationed on Saipan - 1944

In August 2011, I spoke to former Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Boller, then a translator of the Japanese language on Admiral Nimitz’s staff, now a professor at Texas Christian University. He was very modest and admitted that he was so far down on the chain of command that he didn’t know much about leafleting in general, but he was a prime mover in the B-29 leaflet. He was a member of a small language department on Guam made up of eight linguists.

Paul wrote about his wartime experience in Memoirs of an Obscure Professor, Texas Christian University Press, 1992. He says in part:

I began slipping out of the office and making my way to the prisoner of war stockade, two or three miles away, to chat with the prisoners there….I was anxious to improve my facility in spoken Japanese. Who knows? I might get in on an operation someday, and I wanted to be well prepared…The prisoners I approached were friendly and polite; and talking Japanese with them turned out to be great fun…

One day, out of the blue, A Navy Lieutenant named Robert Morris…came over to my desk and started quizzing me about the prisoners I had gotten to know in the stockade. “Do you think it would be possible to persuade any of them to help out on a project I am trying to devise, if they thought it would help shorten the war?”

With the conquest of Iwo Jima, our B-29s had such control of the skies over Japan that advance announcements of their raids would in no way put them in jeopardy and probably have the psychological effect of dramatizing American superiority and the futility of Japan’s continued resistance…I rounded up the POWs I had befriended, about five in all, and explained the project to them. As I expected, they all volunteered to help out…

When I took the message Morris had prepared to the stockade, my POWs were energetically to work on it…Upon its completion, one of the POWs named Kitagishi, and excellent calligrapher, copied it in large and graceful Kanji for photographing…

Morris then flew to Saipan with it, where the OWI prepared and printed the leaflets.

The Navy gave Boller his own Quonset hut for the job. He told me that he would regularly call Ardatt Burke at the Air Force and ask them which cities were to be placed on the leaflet that week. Paul said he prepared six or seven different leaflets, but we show below that only half of that number was dropped so obviously they were not all used. One week when he called Burke to ask about the cities for that week he was told that there were none:

There seems to be a special dead of some kind planned for next week. I really don’t know what is going on.

Returning from a mission, Boller found out why there were no leaflets that week:

I heard the news over the radio: the United States had dropped an atomic bomb, with the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT on Hiroshima.

Paul visited the museum in Hiroshima after the war and was surprised to see that some of the B-29 leaflets were in the exhibit:

To my surprise, one of the exhibits was a set of the leaflets which the prisoners on Guam and I had prepared in the spring and summer of 1945. I couldn’t help wondering how it would have been if we had been able to prepare leaflets about the atomic bomb to drop beforehand.

Boller also visited the War Museum in Tokyo and was surprised to note that despite every major battle being described in detail, there was no mention of Pearl Harbor.

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Richard Hubert, OWI Chief Forward Area (Saipan) inspects the newly printed B-29 Leaflets

Although the OWI on Saipan took part in many operations and produced propaganda on many themes, the B-29 leaflet is mentioned in detail in the OWI official history. Hubert’s final report implies that General Curtis LeMay actually requested this leaflet. In a way he did since as Commander he had to approve the project, but we know the request actually came from his intelligence staff. The leaflet depicted a flight of five B-29s dropping bombs with Japanese cities printed in small circles below. OWI Chief Richard Hubert’s final report said:

On July 25 came a development involving the closest collaboration yet achieved in the theater between military and propaganda operations. At the request of General LeMay, a leaflet text had been prepared warning Japanese cities that they would be bombed within the next few days. The first leaflet notified eleven cities. The original leaflet contained the names of twelve cities and included Tokyo, but a last minute deletion of the name of this city necessitated the reprinting of the whole issue totaling 886,000 leaflets.

Kanji is the most complicated script in Japanese, first brought to Japan by Buddhist monks more than 1200 years ago. The Kanji Script character for Tokyo (“East, Capital”) is depicted at the upper left-most position. Kanji is most commonly used to express the names of places, people and nouns. It was thought that this leaflet was destroyed.

The original 12-city leaflet named from left to right: Tokyo, Ujiyamada, Tsu, Kooriyama, Hakodate, Nagaoka, Uwajima, Kurume, Ichinomiya, Oogaki, Nishinomiya, and Aomori.   This leaflet was printed in black and white and bears no code number on the back. OWI records simply call it “B-29 I” and state that 900,000 copies were printed.

The message on the back of this first leaflet is:


Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or a friend. In the next few days, American bombs will destroy four or more of the cities named on the reverse side of this leaflet. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories, which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique that they are using to prolong this useless war. Unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's well-known humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives.

America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique, which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace, which America will bring, will free the people from the oppression of the Japanese military clique, mean the emergence of a new, and better Japan.

You can restore peace by demanding new and better leaders who will end the War.

We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked, but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.

Notice the threat to four or more cities. This mention of four cities only appeared on this first leaflet. Later versions did not give a specific number. We should also note that I asked some Japanese translators to look at the message carefully to see if it actually said what the Americans thought it said. They replied:

There are only tiny style differences, for example: “Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or a friend” is better translated in Japanese as “Do you hope to save the life of your family and friends? If you wish to do so, please read this carefully.”

It is interesting to note that different American translators gave a slightly different translation. I have seen an official B-29 leaflet printed in English rather than Japanese, certainly a specimen for filing, and the leaflet was translated as below, very close to the later official translation, but with very minor changes.


Please read this flyer carefully if you want save your life and the lives of your parents, brothers, sisters and your friends.

Within a few days the United States Air Force will bomb military bases of four or five cities of those listed on the back of this handbill.

These cities are military bases and have facilities to manufacture war goods. The United States Air Force will destroy all military goods used to fight a useless war. However, bombs do not have eyes. So, there is no telling where one may fall.

As you are well aware, humanistic America does not want to hurt innocent persons. Therefore, please leave the cities listed on the back of this handbill.

You are not the enemy of America. The enemy is the military who have brought you into this war. American peace wants to rescue you from military oppression.

In this way a new and better Japan will emerge. How about choosing new leaders who will bring peace back to Japan?

There may be other cities not listed on the back of this handbill which may be bombed. But of the cities which appear on back of this handbill, four are certain to be bombed.

The Office of War Information magazine Leaflet Newsletter of 1 September 1945 mentions the radio broadcast that went along with the bomb warning leaflet. It says in part;

The bomb warning story broke on American wire services and from Guam sooner than had been anticipated. According to a previously arranged schedule, San Francisco was going on the air with a broadcast to Japan at 4 p.m. PWT. When San Francisco learned that the warning story had broken, they went on the air immediately at 9 a.m. PWT repeatedly for three hours. The announcement was also broadcast in other languages. The text of the broadcast, which was written in the Pacific, follows:

“The broadcast you are now listening to may save your life or that of a friend or relative. American bombs will destroy at least four of the cities that we will now name within the next few days. Here are the cities on our list: Kurumo, Uwajima, Tsu, Hakodate, Aomori, Ogaki, Ujiyamada, Nisfinomiya, Ichinomiya, Nagaoka, and Koriyala. Military workshops and installations or factories making military supplies are found in these cities. Our determined resolution is to annihilate all the instruments of the military clique that are being used to lengthen this, useless fight. Bombs have no eyes, unfortunately, so in conformity with the humanitarian policies of America, our air force has no desire that innocent people be injured and now want to warn you to leave your cities in order that your lives may be spared. The United States is not waging war against the people of Japan but is battling the military machine which has enslaved the people of Japan. America will bring you a peace that will loosen your bonds of oppression in which, the military clique has you enmeshed and from this freedom will emerge a Japan that is new and better. Peace can be restored by you if you will demand new leaders that are good and will put an end to this conflict. No promise can be given that only these cities will be bombed, but at any rate, four cities at least will be attacked. So take heed of this warning, and immediately evacuate, from these cities.

Again we want to say to you that we will destroy four or more of the cities we will name now. These cities are (names repeated.).”

The 20th Air Force Air Intelligence Report, Vol. I, No. 22, 4 August 1945
The 20th Air Force also mentioned the bomb warning leaflets and radio broadcasts in its
Air Intelligence Report.

Why was Tokyo removed from the leaflet dropped the night of 27 July 1945? General LeMay had spearheaded the effort to develop more effective bombing - even to building a fake target town on Tinian and demanding the production of a new incendiary bomb to spread destruction. The new firebomb was dropped on Tokyo the night of 9/10 March 1945.

334 B-29 bombers dropped 1,600 tons of cluster incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital. The bombs had been tested and perfected against mockup Japanese civilian homes at the so-called “Japanese village” in Utah. These incendiary devices were designed to punch through the thin roofing material of Japanese homes before spraying flaming napalm in all directions. They worked as intended, igniting thousands of small fires throughout the city that quickly converged into a massive firestorm. The raid cut Tokyo’s industrial output in half overnight, and the human cost was terrible. Postwar Japanese and American estimates put the total number of civilian casualties at over 200,000, with 100,000 killed outright, dead and over 1,000,000 homeless, making the March 9th raid the deadliest bombing raid in human history.

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Kototoi Bridge in Flames
Painting by Kano Teruo. He was fourteen at the time of the air raid.
Kano lost both his parents and two sisters.

The Emperor's palace grounds were not targeted but a small area suffered collateral damage. It is said that LeMay was pleased with the effectiveness but appalled at the civilian losses, and ordered that warning leaflets be prepared in the future. Perhaps after such destruction LeMay removed Tokyo as a target to use it as a bargaining chip in some future negotiation or because it was already so badly damaged that there was nothing left to destroy. We will never know.

In general, propaganda leaflets written in Japanese have little value. Americans cannot read the text, so unless there is a very vivid image they have little interest. This Tokyo B-29 leaflet seems to be the exception. Perhaps because of this article, or perhaps because the Japanese wish to reclaim some of their history, the B-29 leaflets have gradually gone up in price. The leaflet above sold at auction in 2013 for $93. That is an exceptional price for such a Japanese-language leaflet.

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11-City Bomb Warning Leaflet 2106 with Tokyo removed from the List

The very first leaflet had twelve cities listed, but a last minute deletion of Tokyo left just eleven cities. Whereas there had been three cities listed vertically at both left and right, the new leaflet had three cities to the right but just two cities to the left. From left to right the cities named on this 11-city leaflet are: Ujiyamada, Tsu, Kooriyama, Hakodate, Nagaoka, Uwajima, Kurume, Ichinomiya, Oogaki, Nishinomiya, and Aomori.  Included among the cities were eight on the main island of Honshu, and one each on the islands of Shikoku, Hokkaido and Kyushu. The night after the leaflet was dropped, Tsu, Ichinomiya, Aomori, Oogaki, and Uwajima were bombed and left in ashes. William E. Daugherty says in an article entitled Bomb Warnings to Friendly and Enemy Civilian Targets that this leaflet was dropped on the night of 27 July 1945.

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Army Air Force S-2 (Intelligence) Room – Saipan

Regarding the list of cities, I did see a list of all the cities that might go on these leaflets in the estate of Staff Sergeant Preston McMann who was assigned to the 871st Bombardment Squadron of the 20th Air Force and assigned to Saipan on 20 September 1944 as part of the XXI Bomber Command. The list identifies 47 cities and states:

The following list of cities to be bombed includes all those with population of over 100,000, and should represent approximately 35% of the occupants of the home islands.

Some of the cities in the first column of names are: Tokyo; Osaka; Nagoya; Kyoto; Yokohama; Kobe; Hiroshima; Kure; Nagasaki; Sapporo; etc.

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  Japanese Archived Leaflet 2106 Showing “Deleted” City

After the initial correction when Tokyo was deleted, (As stated by General Curtis LeMay), 886,000 leaflets with the appended Japanese characters were printed. It is interesting to note that although the 11-city leaflet above shows no sign of a 12th city having been printed, this same leaflet appears in a Japanese archive where there is a white circle indicating that a 12th city had been printed and somehow erased from the leaflet.

The Army Air Force dropped this leaflet on at least three occasions. Author’s note: There is some debate about the number of leaflet drops because although we have numerous documents listing three drops, some military publications, like the Leaflet Newsletter mentioned above states:

The first 21st Bomber Command Warning to Japanese cities occurred on 27 July 1945.

On 31 July, leaflets fell again on a new list of Japanese cities from 4:00 p.m. until 9:30 a.m. on 1 August.

A third bomb warning was scheduled. It was never dropped. More momentous events made this third warning unnecessary.

I continue to believe that three drops did occur. I have the hand-drawn chart from OWI Saipan entitled “Number and quantity of each leaflet and newspaper produced by OWI on Saipan May 20 to August 15, 1945.” At the bottom right Hubert has three vertical lines identified as “B29I,” B29II” and B29III.” Below the three missions he wrote “bombing” and above he wrote “B-29 cities and towns bombing leaflets.”

This leaflet worked on many levels. It showed the people that the Americans could bomb at will and their government and military were powerless to stop them. It also had the result of panicking citizens to leave the targeted city, flooding the roads, blocking transport, and slowing the factories that were producing war weapons and materials. It is curious that the OWI did not place a code number of leaflet 2106. Codes are normally left off "black" leaflets but this product is clearly "white" from the Americans.

The reason for the missing code number came to light during the time I was helping the television show “History Detectives” research another OWI leaflet. A former member of Admiral’s Nimitz’s Headquarters on the island of Guam talked about making propaganda leaflets. He said that none of the Nimitz leaflets were coded, and he showed a photograph of the B-29 “Cities” leaflet. So, we can assume that the leaflet was designed in Guam and left uncoded, but printed in Saipan by the OWI unit. This would explain why we see OWI people printing the leaflet although there is no OWI number on it.

There is a code number on leaflet 2106A depicted at the end of this section.

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A second version of the 12-City Bomb Warning Leaflet 2106

From left to right the cities named on this version of the 12-city leaflet 2106 are: Nagano, Takaoka, KurumeFukuyamaToyama, Mizuru, Ootsu, Nishinomiya, Maehashi, Kooriyama, Hachioji, and Mito.Daugherty says that more than 500,000 copies of these leaflets were dropped on 30 July 1945. The reader will notice that this leaflet is in a bright blue color and we also note that there is no code number on the back. The OWI called this leaflet “B-29 II” and Hubert’s handwritten notes indicate that 600,000 leaflets were printed. Several copies of this leaflet were found in the estate of Staff Sergeant Lynn R. Kidder of York, Pennsylvania, who dropped the leaflet as a gunner of the 497th Bombardment group stationed in Saipan during WWII. Kidder later was commissioned, taught at the War College in Carlisle, PA, and retired as a Major.

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Lynn Kidder (front center) and B-29 crew

Paul Boller says in his book that after the war he met the mayor of Hachioji, a city named in the above leaflet. He adds:

One week, the mayor told me, the B29s dropped a bunch of leaflets on Hachioji warning of a possible raid to come and he had given permission for people to evacuate the city if they wanted to. Most of them did, he said, and escaped the raid that came a few days later, leveling the city. Of those who remained, he added, 360 were killed.

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A Third Version of the 12-City Bomb Warning Leaflet 2106

The cities named on the third disseminated version of the B-29 leaflet are from left to right:  Otaru, Akita, Hachinoe, Fukushima, Urawa, Takayama, Iwakuni, Tottori, Imabari, Miyakonojyo, Yahata and Saga. These leaflets were dropped on 3 August 1945. This leaflet was printed in black and white and once again bears no code number on the back. We only know the code number because there is a great deal of OWI reference data written about this campaign. The OWI called this leaflet “B-29 III” and state that they printed 600,000 copies. This third version of the leaflet is very rare and seldom seen. However, in mid-2017 at least three of them were placed on auction, all alleged to have been dropped by the 497th Bombardment Squadron.

Curiously, the dropping of these leaflets must have been common knowledge. Reading the diary of an American Army engineer who was assigned to Okinawa I find the following 3 August entry:

A new leaflet being dropped on Japan proper warns them of new air raids – 72 hours warning before they drop any bombs is the usual procedure.

Let us discuss the actual leaflet and its effectiveness for just a moment. On 19 October 1945, interviews were held with numerous Japanese officials about the effectiveness of American propaganda leaflets. They were rated as “very effective,” “Effective,” “Slightly effect” and “Not effective.” The Japanese gave only four leaflets a rating of “Very effective,” and 2106 was one of the four. Some examples of why the bomb warning leaflet was rated so highly are:

At Hachioji, all work came to an immediate halt and practically the entire population of the town took to the hills. The warning leaflets dropped in advance of the raids was highly effective because we could take no counter measures against them. After the first big bombing raid on Tokyo the public believed the war was lost. In Akita Prefecture the people in confusion removed their household furnishings to the outskirts of each city. The Americans broadcast the results of the raid so quickly that often the first news the Japanese government and people heard of the aid was over the Allied broadcasting system from San Francisco. It was clear to the people that the United States was winning the war.

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The Star & Herald

This third leaflet is mentioned in the 5 August 1945 U.S. occupied Panama Canal Zone newspaper Star & Herald. This issue has a prominent two-column heading that reads: 12 Jap Cities Get “Surrender or Die” Notice. The article mentions all the cities threatened, explains why they were selected and says in part:

Guam, 5 August (Sunday). The 20th Air Force today placed twelve more cities on its “Surrender or Die” list of targets for B-29 raids…Some 720,000 warning pamphlets were scattered over Yawata on Kyushu Island. It is the Empire’s largest single iron and steel center with a population of 650,000. Yawata and the eleven other cities have a combined population of 1,400,000. Another city on the list was Akita, which, with its port of Isuchizaki, is the center of Japan’s largest natural oil producing field, on the northwestern coast of Honshu…

What I find interesting about this clipping is that it shows that not only did the OWI prepare leaflets to attack Japanese morale, but it also produced newspaper articles that were sent around the world to advertise what it was doing and increase the morale of Allied readers. Usually, PSYOP campaigns are classified secret. In this case, America told the world exactly what it was doing.

There is an unsigned report in the Psywar Society magazine Falling Leaf that another mission was scheduled for 11 August. The author states that he was ordered to fly from Saipan in his B-29 and drop the 12-City warning leaflets on Kochi, Osaka and Nagoya as part of a “maximum effort” bombing raid. The flight was about 10-minutes past the half-way point of Iwo Jima when the attack was cancelled due to a Japanese offer to surrender.

There is some duplication on three known versions of this bomb warning leaflet though Hiroshima, Kokura and Nagasaki are not among the major cities mentioned. Richard Hubert, Chief of OWI Saipan outpost said in a handwritten note that warning leaflets were delivered specifically to Hiroshima and Nagasaki but we have found no record of such a leaflet unless it was placed on leaflet 2106A. In all, I count 33 different cities named on the leaflets out of a possible 36 cities with just 3 duplications.

We might ask where the OWI got the idea of naming the cities on the leaflets. The Army PWB would produce similar warning leaflets for Japan but without naming the target cities. What did the OWI know that the PWB did not? Was there a historic reference to this sort of PSYOP campaign?

It turns out that there was. In June 1944, when the Allies landed on the beaches of France, bomb warning leaflets were dropped on the civilians in the path of the attack. The civilians did not respond. When questioned, the French civilians admitted that they had seen the leaflets and read and understood the message. So, why hadn’t they left their villages and moved into the hills where they would be safe. The French explained that they read and understood the leaflets, but thought that they were probably meant for someone else, perhaps blown into their area by the wind. It immediately became clear to the American propagandists that the only way a bomb warning would be effective was when it specifically named the target city so the inhabitants knew that it was aimed directly at them.

In 1947, the Morale Division of the Office of War Information produced a strategic bombing survey of Japan entitled The Effects of strategic bombing on Japanese morale. The report mentions the bomb warning leaflets:

The fact that the American attack seemed to be proceeding in a descending order from large cities to smaller cities must have given reason to people in smaller cities, and even villages, to feel that their turn would come—and soon. This feeling was further exaggerated by the tactic of dropping leaflets, warning the residents of various communities that they might be included in the next series of attacks.

One of the most spectacular moves in psychological warfare was the Ignited States Strategic Air Forces’ announcement to the Japanese people of three series of cities that it promised to destroy “In the next few days.” By this warning to evacuate, the power of the American air arm and the contempt in which it held the Japanese defenders were convincingly demonstrated.

On 27 July 1945, 60,000 leaflets were dropped on each of 11 cities; on 1 August the same number were dropped on another set of 11; and on 4 August 720,000 leaflets warned a third list of 12 cities. Some leaflets with these lists on them were dropped on other cities, of course, and the warnings were also carried on the radio.

As a result of the American air offensive against Japan, 500 separate targets were bombed and an average of 43 percent of Japan's 68 largest cities were destroyed. More than two-thirds of the civilian population experienced air raids, and more than one-third personally experienced bombing. As estimated from the Morale Division sample survey, approximately 1,300,000 people were injured and approximately 900,000 killed as a result of the bombings. Bombing, or the threat of bombing, resulted in mass disruption of the lives of countless millions of people, including the evacuation of more than 8,500,000 persons from cities.

Notice that this document also mentions that the bomb warning leaflet had been dropped three times. In the various documents the dates are sometimes off by a day as are the numbers of leaflets dropped. The former is probably because the mission left on one day and returned on another. There is also the possibility that some reports used the date in the United States rather than the date in japan.

Conrad Crane seems to be discussing this leaflet in his 14 June 2019 article The United States needs an Information Warfare Command: a Historical Examination:

The Army Air Forces were very active in using leaflets and radio transmissions to take advantage of the effects of strategic bombing. Major General Curtis LeMay’s 21st Bomber Command executed a successful leaflet campaign to incite mass evacuations of Japanese cities that they were firebombing, eventually motivating over eight million civilians to flee to the countryside, which caused significant economic disruptions of and widespread refugee problems. The effort was similar to the leaflet campaigns the U.S. Air Force undertook more recently in Kosovo and Iraq.

There has always been a rumor that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were warned of the coming bomb raids. The rumor is wrong because as Enola Gay pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets once said in a private conversation with Hubert’s daughter Jo Williams:

Hiroshima was not warned because the secret atom bomb was to be delivered by bomber devoid of any defense weapons and the Allies could not jeopardize the success of the historic mission by advertising - especially since they rightfully felt the newest weapon would end the war and save thousands of Japanese and Allied lives.

It is easy to see where the rumor started. Jo Williams wrote an article on the bombing campaign that was published by the CIA. She told me:

I did not want to discredit the CIA but since the article has become part of the National Archives it deserves correction and clarification. The text of my article was purposefully ambiguous but under a picture of Leaflet 2106 the CIA inserted a line specifically citing Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being among the 35 cities which were warned ahead of being bombed. This is simply not true. The insertion was done after I approved the final copy for the press. Still, it carries my name so I guess I should have a right to correct it. I shall write the CIA editorial offices with the correct information and they can go as national as they wish with it.

The erroneous leaflet caption on the CIA website is:

Front side of OWI notice 2106 dubbed the LeMay bombing leaflet which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945.


Fat Man and Little Boy, the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan  

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Official U.S. Air Force Photo of Nagasaki Bomb

It is reported that a bomb warning leaflet was dropped on Nagasaki on 10 August, but that is one day after the plutonium bomb was dropped on that city on 9 August. I find no record of any warning dropped before the uranium bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. There was only one more atomic bomb in the American stockpile, and it was back in Wendover Air Force Base, Utah, in the United States, but that was a closely guarded secret and the United States implied in messages to the Emperor that there were many more in its arsenal ready to be dropped on Japan. We know that two B-29s were sent to Wendover Air Base to pick up the third atomic bomb and the first open date for bombing was to be 19 August. The bomb was never released to the air force, and Hirohito had made a record to be played to his people telling of his surrender at noon on 15 August 1945. After the surrender was broadcast, there was no further need for a third atomic bomb.

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Harry Truman answers the Federal Council of Churches

President Harry Truman was a veteran of WWI and he was not into nonsense. His motto was "the buck stops here." When a Christian Federation of Churches asked him to delay using a second bomb he told them "you treat a beast like a beast." His other nickname was Give ‘em Hell Harry. He told it exactly like he saw it.

President Harry Truman announced to the Japanese less than 16 hours after the atomic bomb was dropped:

This is the answer to Japan for its refusal to accept the Potsdam Ultimatum. We will send over waves and waves of planes with atomic bombs to do destruction the likes of which have never been seen in this world.

On 8 August, President Truman announced:

Even more powerful forms of the atomic bomb were being developed and the United States is now prepared to obliterate any enterprise in Japan.

I am not sure if Harry Truman ever completely understood the power of the bomb. He wrote about it in his diary of 25 July 1945:

Anyway we 'think' we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexican desert was startling - to put it mildly. Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter, knocked over a steel tower 1/2 mile away and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

The weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old capital or the new [Kyoto or Tokyo]. He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement [The Potsdam Proclamation] asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance.

Letter Authorizing use of Atomic Bombs and Instructions

General Curtis LeMay asked that the last bomb be immediately sent to his command, but the Japanese surrender came before the bomb could be shipped. Curiously, in a Hillsdale College televised lecture on the air portion of the Second World War, Professor Victor Davis Hanson said that General LeMay was puzzled at the need for the atomic bomb because he had burnt out 80% of Japan’s infrastructure with his fire raids, and with the continued building of B-29s which could now fly from the new bases being built on Okinawa, he could attack the Japanese twice a day and force their surrender. As an example of American production, the professor said that in the United States a B-24 Liberator bomber was being rolled out of the factory every 10 minutes. Liberty ships were being built at a rate of one a day.

I should also add that although some reports say that there was one more bomb in the American stockpile, Brian Mark Rigg says there were two on the way in an August 2021 article titled “The Kyujo Incident - Japan Almost Did Not Surrender in 1945”:

The U.S. was getting two more bombs ready to drop on Japan on the 13th and 16th of August.

Rigg also says that although there were American bomb raids daily, Japan was surrounded by U.S. submarines, and it was clear that Japan had lost the war and the emperor was in the process of making recorded speech of surrender, there were still diehards ready to fight to the death. All that propaganda paper and radio broadcasts were wasted on the fanatical group that tried to kidnap Hirohito to keep the nation from surrendering:

They stormed the Imperial Palace, shooting and beheading those opposing them. They also captured and detained 18 people, including Ministry staff and NHK (the State-Run Radio Station) personnel sent to record and play the surrender declaration. They searched for Hirohito, but he was well protected and hidden from Major Hatanaka and his zealots. Nonetheless, Hatanaka and his men severed all wires going into the Palace, cutting off all communication from Imperial headquarters to the outside world. They searched for the phonograph recording of Hirohito’s surrender announcement but did not locate it. The coup failed on the day of the broadcast as other forces, loyal to the emperor, arrived at the Palace.

A Japanese translator that has studied the target names on the leaflets is surprised to note that most of the cities are rather small and unimportant. Perhaps they were chosen because of their manufacturing base or some other unknown factor. They were placed on the leaflets in no particular order. We should also point out that U.S. bombing was not all that accurate. General Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima once commented that only about 2% of the bombs were on target early in the war. This was because they had few air maps, the bombardiers were new and young, they mostly bombed at night, they were slow in taking the 300mph jet stream wind into account and, the B29 was a new bomber and difficult to fly. 

Despite the accuracy problems, by 1945, of Japan's 206 target cities, 44 had been destroyed and 37 more including Tokyo had lost 30% of their infrastructure. Two million military and civilians had died in Japan, and many more in the occupied territories, 30,000 lost on Saipan alone. There were eight million wounded and/or homeless in Japan and workers were arbitrarily removed from their homes and entire families were housed by the factories or facilities in which they worked. American heavy bombing was close to eliminating the Japanese economy and its production capabilities. Perhaps there were simply not that many large cities left to bomb.

The classified military report booklet 1945 Progress of the War in the Middle Pacific says that the Japanese tried to make the leaflets seem insignificant:

The Japanese government used Radio TOKYO as a counter-propaganda agency. Many broadcasts to home and conquered Asiatic audiences were designed for this purpose since listeners were not inclined to take U.S. propaganda lightly. U.S. leaflets dropped during bombing raids would generally provoke a sharp reaction. At times Nip propagandists attempted to dismiss Allied efforts in this field as ridiculous and not worth rebuttal or explanation. U.S. Air Force listings of Jap cities marked for future bombing were described as a crude American attempt at psychological warfare, intended to lower morale in all of these cities, destined to fail because U.S. bombers would be unable to carry out their threat. When these listed cities were attacked, commentators tended to call the whole affair coincidental.

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Printing the B-29 Bomb Warning Leaflet
The Curtis LeMay bomb warning leaflets “hot off the press.”

According to Hubert’s notes, the 73rd Bomb Wing dropped 700,000 of the 11-city leaflets on Japan on the night of 27 July 1945. 568,000 of the 12-city leaflets were dropped by B-29 bombers on the night of 30 July 1945. On 3 August, 600,000 of the second 12-city leaflet were dropped. Hubert’s production charts give slightly different numbers at the back of his report. On his charts he shows the three production runs of leaflet 2106 to be 900,000, 600,000, and 600,000 for a total of 2,100,000 leaflets. The text on the back of all the later 11-city and 12-city leaflets is identical:


Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or a friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories, which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique that they are using to prolong this useless war. Unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America's well-known humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives.

America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique, which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace, which America will bring, will free the people from the oppression of the Japanese military clique, mean the emergence of a new, and better Japan.

You can restore peace by demanding new and better leaders who will end the War.

We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked, but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.

Notice that in the later versions of the bomb warning leaflet the threat is no longer to “four or more cities,” but now to “some or all of the cities named on the reverse side.”

The messages were also broadcast on Saipan radio station KSAI, read by a Japanese prisoner of war. These messages were probably ineffective because at the end of the war Japanese officials stated that the Saipan broadcasts were jammed and they believed only a very miniscule number of people actually heard them.

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Bomb Warning Leaflet 2106A

In a second version of the leaflet, the cities were listed in a box at the lower right. The second (box type) leaflet is illustrated in United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Areas Psychological Warfare, Part Two, Supplement No. 2, CINCPAC - CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-45, 15 August 1945. It is coded 2106A. Text at the left of the vignette is, "NOTICE BOARD." The purpose of the leaflet is "To inspire fear in the Japanese people by informing them of the cities we intend to destroy, thereby making it clear by inference that the Japanese air force is impotent and that we are masters of the skies over Japan." The text on the back of the leaflet is identical in both versions.

Colonel Robert L. Gleason discusses this operation in “Psychological Operations and Air Power: Its Hits and Misses,” Air University Review, March-April 1971:

Most people are generally familiar with the extensive fire bombing of Japan during the spring of 1945. Many are less aware of the equally extensive psywar campaign carried on concurrently. In fact, the psywar mission was included in the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive to the Twentieth Air Force not only to inflict physical destruction on Japan but also to “undermine the morale of the Japanese people to where their capacity is decisively defeated.” This psychological warfare campaign, launched by General LeMay and later taken over and run by Headquarters Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, started with leaflets dropped by the bombers along with their bomb loads. Later the campaign became considerably more sophisticated, and leaflets were dropped on separate missions preceding the bombing raids by a day or two. These leaflets would name about ten towns in Japan and state that a number of them would be bombed and that the people should evacuate the area. We could afford to bomb only a few of the towns listed, but the uncertainty and fear of the unknown created a severe mental strain on all the cities involved. As reported by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) following the war, this psychological operation was most effective. At the height of the campaign, more than 8½ million Japanese were involved in evacuating their cities—many from cities never touched.

A Fire-bombing Cartoon from “1945 Progress of the War in the Middle Pacific”

The classified military report 1945 Progress of the War in the Middle Pacific adds:

Introduction of a new aerial bombing technique keynoted the month of March's activities. The Japs were caught by surprise as the first all-incendiary assault on TOKYO accomplished unprecedented results. Medium-level night fire-bombing replaced high-level daylight bombing as the TOKYO raid was followed in quick succession by like raids against NAGOYA, OSAKA, KOBE, and a repeat performance against NAGOYA. In ten days, the heart was burned out of four cities, among the six largest in JAPAN. 2500 tons of incendiaries and general-purpose bombs were dropped on this already badly battered city. An important factor in the unprecedented bomb tonnage hurled against JAPAN

William E. Daugherty and Morris Janowitz mention the effect that the bomb warning leaflets had on the Japanese in A Psychological Warfare Casebook, Operations Research Office, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD, 1958.

At the close of the war, after Americans had occupied the Japanese homeland, Japanese authorities admitted that bomb warnings sent thousands of people in panic-stricken flight from their homes, thus interrupting the daily routine of the people and thereby, seriously interfering with the Japanese war effort…There was nothing the civil or military authorities could do to counteract the effects of the leaflets; i.e., they were unable to reduce or to limit the impact of the fright the leaflet messages inspired.

There was little or nothing that could be done to counteract the growing belief of the people in the impotence of the Japanese military, or to reduce the trust that the people placed in the sincerity and truthfulness of American propaganda...It became increasingly obvious that the warnings hit the Japanese people more effectively than any other propaganda effort attempted by the Americans.

The reaction most commonly experienced, especially in the warned cities, was that of fear. A number of individuals experienced a realization of the great strength of the US and the impotence of Japan. Some interpreted the warnings as evidence of humanitarian instincts on the part of the Americans...Considerable numbers of people moved away from their homes and accustomed places of work when they learned that their home communities were to be bombed. The movements of civilians in many instances, seriously interfered with the movement of military and other supplies…According to the word of Japanese leaders the bomb warning leaflets were among the most successful operations in the field of psychological warfare that were directed against Japanese civilians.

Daugherty concludes:

Bomb warnings, where feasible, are a powerfully effective means of adding to the desirable psychological effects of bombing. Warnings can be used to reinforce the fears of people and to induce in them panic flight. Warnings can be used to demonstrate materiel and military superiority. Warnings can be used to reduce a target group’s resentment against an attacking air force, and to increase the resentment which the people may hold toward their own political and military leaders. Air-warnings leaflets may also be used to discredit the enemy’s propaganda and to establish credibility for American propaganda.

John W. Dower depicts this leaflet and several others from this article in Cultures of War, W.W. Norton, NYC, 2010. He says in regard to the bombing:

Terror bombing was not aimed only at destroying enemy will. The devastating urban-area raids simultaneously proved an enormous boost to American morale as the pacific entered its ferocious endgame against a fanatical enemy now engaged in kamikaze attacks and suicidal last stands of Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. As one internal military report put it after the great incendiary raid on Tokyo in early March, the outstanding success of the new bombing policy “salvaged the morale and fighting spirit” of LeMay’s crews and persuaded them that the B-29 was an efficient and reliable aircraft.

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The Planned Japanese Heavy Bomber G10N1 Fugaku

The Japanese never developed a heavy bomber like the American B-17, B-24 or B-29. At one point in WWII, the Japanese Nakajima aircraft company began to develop a heavy bomber capable of striking the continental United States. This plan was called “Project Z.” The bomber was to have been powered by six powerful radial engines. It’s designation: the G10N1 Fugaku. The giant bomber was never built.

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Leaflet 2069

One of the most interesting Allied “bombing” leaflets depicts General “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the U.S. 20th Air Force and Allied landing barges on the front. The back depicts falling bombs and dead women and children. The leaflet is meant to weaken the morale of the Japanese militarists and civilians. Some of the text is:


General Arnold, Commander of the 20th Air Force and who is in charge of the B-29 Super Fortress bomber operations said: “There is no part of the Japanese Empire which is not within the bombing range of our Air Force and there is no munitions factory that will escape bombing no matter in how remote a place it may be located.”

The systematic bombing of Japan’s war industries started six months ago from bases in China will be carried on with greater power to soften up the heart of Japan in preparation of joint landing operations by the Allied land, sea and air forces…

General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold was an aviation pioneer and Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1941 until 1945 and the first and only General of the Air Force in 1949. He is also the only American to achieve five-star rank in two of its armed services. During WWII he was concerned about the B-29 bomber, which was plagued with mechanical problems. In order to assure that Japan was attacked the way he planned, Arnold named himself the commander of the new bomber force. With approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president, he created the Twentieth Air Force, consisting of the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands. He transferred General Curtis LeMay and the B-29s from the China-Burma-India theater to the Pacific, with bases in Guam and the Mariana Islands. LeMay commanded subsequent combat operations against Japan, including the massive incendiary attacks on sixty-four Japanese cities. Hap Arnold is credited with being the guiding force behind the aerial destruction of the Japanese Empire.

At the end of the war, W. D. Conde of the U. S. Civil Information and Education Section ordered a number of uncooperative Japanese "thought control" officials to the Radio Tokyo Building where they were questioned about the effectiveness of the American OWI leaflets. Many of the individuals had been dismissed from their government job in accordance with the American Supreme Commander's directive. At least fourteen Japanese agencies dealt with Allied psychological warfare material. None of the individuals had notes and all make their comments directly from memory. The individual comments were very similar which indicates either collusion, or that they were telling the truth and were of the same opinion.  

The LeMay bomb-warning leaflet was the most effective single piece of American propaganda dropped on Japan according to Mr. Kawagucki of the Home Ministry. 

These “end-of-the-war” leaflets were mentioned in a document titled “The Political and Military Background of and Negotiations for the Surrender and Occupation of Japan.” The document says in part:

On the night of 13-14 August, seven B-29s of the 20th Air Force dropped 5,500,000 propaganda leaflets informing the Japanese people of the terms of the Japanese Government's surrender offer and the reply of Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, as well as the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation. Although the population centers-Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Kyoto--got most of the leaflets, all four Japanese home islands were covered. Plans further called for two B-29s on the 15th four on the 16th to drop four million more leaflets on 31 major cities, keeping the Japanese people advised of the course of negotiations.

Sukohido Kabayama of the Foreign Office also cited the air raid leaflet as the most threatening. He said that in Hachioji, the military had no time to prepare special defenses and all factory work came to an immediate halt as all the workers rushed out of town. 

Masjiro Kawaguchi, Chief of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Home Ministry said, “The warning leaflets dropped in advance of raids were very effective because we could not take counter measures against them.” He later forwarded a report that added, “The people were seized with fear by the leaflets announcing the air attacks beforehand. The city that was warned was surely attacked and destroyed within a few days after the announcement.”  

A report of the Foreign Section of the Home Ministry agrees, “In view of the fact that the cities that received the notice were reduced to ashes within ten days, the citizens of the cities were considerably frightened.” 

A report of the Foreign Section of the Home Ministry adds, “Those leaflets saying that American planes aimed at military plants and advising people to evacuate soon from the vicinity of them were effective, and some workmen of those plants were terrified of the air raids…The leaflet shocked us and had a great psychological effect in general. The inhabitants of cities were driven by fear. In Akita Prefecture they removed their household furnishings to the outskirts of the cities." 

A departmental ordinance decreed that the Japanese people collect and turn in Allied leaflets. Those who disobeyed faced a sentence of up to three months in jail and a fine of up to 100 yen. The government did not fear the American propaganda and expected each citizen to do his duty to his Emperor and his nation. It seems therefore, that there was no great enforcement of the ordinance. There were less than a dozen people actually arrested for carrying and reading leaflets, and all apparently received reprimands with no incarceration.

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The Original USAF Photograph used to make the Bomb Warning Leaflet
The photograph depicts B-29 Bombers from the 73rd Bomb Wing dropping
Incendiary Bombs over Japanese Installations in Yokohama, 29 May 1945

There is some documentation that shows that the pilots were very unhappy about dropping warning leaflets pointing out future bombing targets. They felt that the Japanese would be able to build up the air defenses around those named cities. However, General Curtis LeMay was able to convince them of the long-term psychological advantages of the campaign. At the same time, the OWI radio on Saipan increased its power to broadcast the same message to the Japanese people.


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General Curtis LeMay

For those too young to remember WWII and the Cold War, a word about General Curtis “Iron Ass” LeMay. It is surprising that he supported psychological operations against Japan because he was an old-fashioned hard-line warrior who introduced the fire raids on Japan during WWII. LeMay had few qualms about the fire raids believing that they would shorten the war. In July 1944, Le May was given command of the 21st Bomber Command. He wanted to destroy Japan's manufacturing industry, and concluded that his mission was to obliterate Japan's manufacturing base, including the small industries that fed the large factories. His Tokyo raid on 9-10 March 1945 killed 100,000 people, injured another 100,000, and destroyed 16 square miles of the city. For the attack on Tokyo, over 300 B-29's were involved. They flew at a surprisingly low 7,000 feet and dropped M-69 incendiary bombs that weighed 6 lbs each. Each B-29 carried 37 containers with 38 bombs inside, or just over 1,400 bombs per plane. The bombs exploded on contact with the ground and spread a jelly-petrol compound that was highly inflammable. The fires consumed the oxygen in the air and people actually suffocated to death.  LeMay lost 14 B-29s. He once said, “Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at the time....I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal....every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier.” At the end of the war, he became head of the Strategic Air command and later Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In 1964, the character of the insane Air Force “General Jack D. Ripper” in the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was allegedly based on General Curtis LeMay. Alabama Governor George Wallace selected him as his vice-presidential running mate for his unsuccessful run in 1968.

A shorter unsigned concise bio of LeMay adds:

LeMay commanded B-29 Superfortress combat operations against Japan, including massive incendiary attacks on 67 Japanese cities. This included the firebombing of Tokyo, known as "Operation Meetinghouse," air raid on the night of March 9–10, 1945, which proved to be the single most destructive bombing raid of the war. His command covered the 509 Composite Group which executed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He implemented Operation Starvation, a crippling minelaying campaign in Japan's internal waterways.

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Leaflet 129

Since we mention Curtis LeMay’s firebombing of Tokyo perhaps we should depict the results as they appear on an OWI leaflet to Japan. The picture shows what remains of Tokyo after the fire-bombing. Some damage to the Imperial Palace is visible dead center in the middle of the photograph. The text on the leaflet is meant to lower morale by causing the Japanese to become apprehensive about the coming invasion. The back of the leaflet is all text:

Raids over Tokyo

You must have heard of the news of the American bombers raiding Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyushu and other areas. This picture was taken on one of these raids. Tokyo station, the Niju Bridge, and the Marunouchi [commercial district of Tokyo] can be seen in the picture.

Air raids will be continued until the Japanese leaders admit defeat and negotiate for peace with us. To occupy your island would be easier than raiding Tokyo. Soon we shall demonstrate to you our astounding naval and air power. Then you will find out how much damage was done to JAPAN proper by air raids.

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The Tokyo Firebombing Raid

On the night of 9–10 March 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force carried out Operation Meetinghouse, the firebombing of Tokyo. 334 B-29 bombers took off from Saipan and Tinian and flying at top speed at about 500 feet altitude dropped 1,665 tons of bombs on Tokyo. The bombs were mostly the 500-pound E-46 cluster bomb which released 38 napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary bomblets. The M-69s punched through thin roofing material or landed on the ground; in either case they ignited 3–5 seconds later, throwing out a jet of flaming napalm globs. A lesser number of M-47 incendiaries were also dropped: the M-47 was a 100-pound jelled-gasoline and white phosphorus bomb which ignited upon impact. In the first two hours of the raid, 226 of the attacking aircraft unloaded their bombs to overwhelm the city's fire defenses. Approximately 15.8 square miles of the city were destroyed. It was reported that the stench of burning flesh that rose above the city sickened the later bomber pilots, forcing them to grab oxygen masks to keep from getting sick in their aircraft. The US Strategic Bombing Survey later estimated that nearly 88,000 people died in this one raid, 41,000 were injured, and over a million residents lost their homes. The Tokyo Fire Department estimated a higher toll: 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded.

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Japanese 10 yen banknote Parody 2009

Another very successful campaign was a series of four banknote leaflets in the form of a Japanese 10 yen Bank of Japan convertible note of 1930, with code and propaganda text on the back. There are four such notes, each with a different text. The code numbers are 2009, 2016, 2017, and 2034. The text on the back of leaflet 2009 is:  

FIVE THOUSAND YEN. With this money, pay your land taxes. The military clique is squandering your tax money. The military caste has been spending an awful lot of your money, 5000 yen per individual person for this war. The longer the war endures, the more of your money the militarists will waste.

The text on leaflet 2016 is:  

FACTORY WORKERS! [Shokko] Until now, you workers earned a great deal of money. But of what use is it to you? Your purchasing power is no different from that of this 10-yen bill. You who exert all your efforts in the production of war weapons should also be regarded as soldiers. You are the soldiers of armament production. But can you buy as much rice and beer as the soldiers? Can you purchase the commodities that soldiers and their families can buy with their special rations?

The text on leaflet 2017 is:

TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE! The money and bonds deposited in the bank, are they of any use? We recommend that you instead buy daily necessities and commodities you will need in the future. Goods are becoming scarce. Because of the air raids, most of the shops will soon be unable to open. To cope with these difficult times, we recommend you buy food, clothing and the daily necessities. Money alone cannot prevent hunger, and it can not be used in place of food and clothing. With savings bonds, you cannot stop a child from crying. If you are prudent, you will buy commodities instead of depositing your money. This is not a time for saving. Now is the time for buying goods.

The text on leaflet 2034 is:  

Before the military clique started the war, the following commodities could be bought with 10 yen in Showa 5 [1930].

* Two to and 5 sho [about 20 Kg] high quality rice.
* Textiles for summer clothing for eight persons.
* Four hyo [50 Kg. packages] charcoal

The following commodities could be bought with 10 yen just after the China incident in Showa 12 [1937].

* Two to and 5 sho low-quality rice.
* Textiles for summer clothing for five persons.
* Two and a half hyo [2 ½ packages] charcoal.

 Today (1945), three years after you have fought a hopeless war against the world's strongest country, the following commodities can be bought for 10 yen.

* One sho and two go [1 ½ kg] good quality rice on the black market.
* A small amount of charcoal (if obtainable)
* No cotton material for clothes.  

 These are the results of the mutual prosperity your leaders told you about! 

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The Post War Home of OWI Forward Base Commander Richard Hubert

Richard Hubert had spent two decades in China and Japan and was highly respected by the Japanese people. The Bible asks that people beat their “swords into plowshares.” Richard was Canadian and helped found a Japanese hockey league. He beat his hockey stick into a Samurai sword. As a reward for coaching Japanese teams, local officials presented Hubert with an antique Samurai sword. He would later command the OWI forward base in Saipan and print the Japanese counterfeit yen. When I first saw this photograph I was drawn to the framed picture over the display. He has framed the front and back of one of his OWI fake 10 yen notes and a photo of himself and a Japanese collaborator on Saipan.

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Short Snorter

Short Snorter with OWI Propaganda Banknote 2034

Americans love to collect souvenirs of their service. I have a banknote from every country I ever served in. During wartime troops will have all their unit members sign such notes and tape them together so that in later years they can remember each and every one. The short snorter above is a record of one man’s WWII service and battles and consists of six items including a 10 Yen from Japan signed by a Major Herman Schroeder, OWI leaflet 2034 with a typed comment “Propaganda leaflet - Tinian,” a 5 Yen from Japan with typed message at the top “Removed from a dead Jap in a cave on Iwo Jima” and an unreadable signature, a 10 Yen from Occupied Korea with one unreadable word and “3rd summer - 1944,” a 10 Yen with “Occupied China” and a 100 Yen from Japan with “Sapporo, Hokkaido, 5/8/1945.” We depict the fronts of the first two, so the leaflet is the banknote on the right.

After the war,Iwatai Sakamoto, Chief of the censorship Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department cited the 10-yen note leaflet as one of the most effective.

Toshikazu Kase, Chief of the First Section of the Third Department of the Cabinet Board of Information added, “The 10 yen note leaflet was the most effective. It was a very powerful leaflet. It evoked great interest and curiosity among the Japanese people.”

Masjiro Kawaguchi, Chief of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Home Ministry forwarded a report that said, “Leaflets of our 10 yen notes most excited the curiosity of our people. The best leaflet was the one that dealt with the cost of living [No. 2034]. In Fukushima, Fukuka, and Aichi Prefectures there were cases where the 10 yen leaflet was used as currency.”

A report of the Foreign Section of the Home Ministry adds, “The 10 yen banknote leaflet aroused the nation's curiosity and gave the financial circles anxiety as they believed that the Americans might drop counterfeit currency at a later date. The banknotes addressed to workers [2016] were unpopular among the working class because they felt insulted by the leaflet. About the 20th of June, a certain Yamazaki in Hiroshima Prefecture used the forged 10 yen note leaflet and was arrested.”

We now come to the end of the war. It is interesting to note how the OWI took part in the final demoralization and defeat of Japan. The last dozen leaflets of the war told the Japanese that their fate was sealed. Day by day the news got worse and it was just a matter of time before the Emperor was convinced to sue for peace. As mentioned earlier, leaflet 2106 warned the Japanese that their cities would be bombed. Leaflet 2107 informed the Japanese of the full terms of the Potsdam Declaration to assure that the militarists could not distort the Allied message. 5,500,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped on Japan on 31 July.

I now want to mention a theory that is complete conjecture on my part. It was drawn to my attention that a bombing raid occurred on 29 July 1945 and targeted about a dozen cities. One of the cities was Ogaki, with 92 bombers from the 319th Wing involved. The aircraft were flying between 14,000 and 16,000 feet. The official Air Force Bombing Run sheet says that one of the bombers of Mission 301 was a broadcast aircraft. I am not sure what that implies, but I wonder if one of the aircraft was broadcasting radio propaganda to the Japanese as they flew overhead. We know that the Japanese stations went off the air when B-29 bombers were overhead, so it would be a fortuitous time to broadcast.

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Leaflet 2107

Leaflet 2107 was in the form of a miniature special edition of the newspaper Mariana Jiho. The entire Potsdam Declaration was written on the front and back of the leaflet in black ink. OWI files indicate that 5,500,000 leaflets were printed. The OWI thought that the Japanese leaders might try to distort the meaning of the declaration, so they insured that the Japanese public could read the complete text. There were 13 paragraphs in all. I will not translate the entire leaflet some of the paragraphs are:

We, the President of the United States, the President of the national government of the Republic of China, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, representing the hundreds of millions of our countrymen, have conferred and agreed that Japan shall be given an opportunity to end this war.

The prodigious land, sea and air forces of the United States, the British Empire and China, many times reinforced by their armies and air fleets from the west, are poised to strike the final blows upon Japan.

The Japanese military force, after being completely disarmed, shall be permitted to return to their homes with the opportunity to lead peaceful and productive lives.

We call upon the Japanese Government to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.

This translation was written by Otis Cary’s Japanese prisoner-of-war group. Otis Cary was a Navy linguist who had been born in Japan as the son of missionaries. Cary already spoke excellent Japanese, and after completing the Navy’s Japanese language school, he was commissioned as an ensign and sent to Hawaii to serve in Admiral Nimitz’s Central Pacific Command. Cary took part in the American invasions of Attu and Saipan. In early 1945, he convinced a small group of Japanese prisoners held at a POW camp near Pearl Harbor to consider cooperating in America’s war efforts by writing propaganda. They first improved the effectiveness of the American propaganda newsletter, Mariana Jiho (Mariana Bulletin). However, the most significant project the group completed was the rapid translation of the Potsdam Declaration in July 1945.

The US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School Archival Project, The Interpreter adds:

Cary organized a group of POWs to assist in writing propaganda and surrender leaflets. According to Straus, the group's most important contribution was its swift translation of the Potsdam Declaration, the July 1945 statement drafted by three Allied leaders — Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, and Chiang Kai-Shek — that delineated the terms for Japan's surrender. The document had been suppressed by the Japanese government, so Cary's POWs translated it for dissemination in leaflets dropped from B-29s all over the country. The leaflets dispelled widespread fears in Japan that the surrender terms would be excessively punitive and put pressure on the Japanese government to accept the declaration a few weeks later.

Leaflet 2108 pointed out that Japanese military history proved that surrender is not a disgraceful act. Leaflet 2109 told the Kamikaze to disobey their orders and crash their aircraft near American ships where they could be rescued. Leaflet 2111 asked “Where is the rice?” and was designed to create anxiety about the adequacy of the food supply. Leaflet 2112 told the Japanese people about the new United Nations Charter signed in San Francisco and that the Allies were a peace-loving people.

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Leaflet 2113

Leaflet 2113 told the Japanese of the 7,519 Japanese officers and soldiers who had surrendered on Okinawa. It adds that if labor troops are counted in, the number is more than 11,000. Some of the text is:


There were cases where, in one day, more than several hundred surrendered, including entire units led by their officers. Even the surrender of high-ranking officers, who occupied posts of importance, is no longer unusual…

This picture shows some of your comrades who have embarked on a new life. Far from being killed or maltreated, hey are taken care of and given medical treatment just as American soldiers are.

If you die in battle…Your family will say with their lips “He died well.” But will they truly be happy in their hearts? Perhaps you have heard a weeping bereaved family say, “We have been robbed of a dear son.”

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Hiroshima after the Atomic Bomb Attack

Lieutenant Robert Morris tells us about the origin of this leaflet:

The Invasion was undertaken by the 10th Army…Their enthusiasm for psychological warfare apparently had not diminished, for when they landed they had a complete psychological warfare unit assigned to them…This was really the first full-scale psychological warfare attached to an invasion army in the entire Pacific War. The fact that over 19,000 prisoners were taken on Okinawa testified to their success.

[Note: The leaflet mentions 11,000 prisoners, but states that is “up till 5 July.” Surely the Morris number of 19,000 is a total counted at the end of the operation.

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Leaflet 2114

A very plain small 4 x 5-inch all-text leaflet may be one of the most important items dropped by Allied aircraft over Japan. The leaflet is coded 2114 and is in the form of a extra addition of the American propaganda newspaper Mariana Jiho. Its purpose was "To inform the Japanese people of the new atomic bomb and to make them aware of the great devastation that is in store for them. Some of the text is: 


Washington - August 6 - President Truman today issued the following statement:

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than 2000 times the blast power of the 11-ton British "Grand Slam," which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare. 

With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present forms these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.  

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release Atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add Atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. Beginning in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, scientific knowledge useful in war was pooled between the United States and Great Britain and many priceless helps to our victories have come from that arrangement. Under that general policy the research on the Atomic Bomb was begun. With American and British scientists working together we entered the race of discovery against the Germans.

The United States had available a large number of scientists of distinction in the many needed areas of knowledge, It had the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project and they could be devoted to it without undue impairment of other vital war work…

We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history – and won.

We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan's power to make war. 

Lieutenant Robert Morris tells us about the origin of this leaflet:

On August 6 General Thomas J. Farrell (in charge of advanced operations of the atomic bomb project) and his Public Relations Officer Major John Moynahan…had been to see Admiral Nimitz that day, and he had sent them to me on Saipan…

Moynahan gave me the basic ordnance facts, such as the TNT equivalent of the bomb and the details of the atomic bomb program ahead, and we incorporated them into our leaflet. This particular leaflet had to be cleared by higher authorities …We took the text to General LeMay and Admiral Nimitz. When the translation was effected and clearance obtained, we hastened back to Saipan to have it printed. We delivered the first supply of leaflets on 9 August. Six million were dropped on 49 cities. While we were working news came through that the second bomb had fallen, not on its prime target but on Nagasaki.

The atomic bomb propaganda campaign is mentioned in the report: The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prepared by the Manhattan Project Atomic Bomb Investigating Group. It says:

On the day after the Hiroshima strike, General Farrell (Deputy – Atomic Bomb project) received instructions from the War Department to engage in a propaganda campaign against the Japanese Empire in connection with the new weapon and its use against Hiroshima. The campaign was to include leaflets and any other propaganda considered appropriate. With the fullest cooperation from CINCPAC of the Navy and the United States Strategic Air Forces, he initiated promptly a campaign which included the preparation and distribution of leaflets, broadcasting via short wave every 15 minutes over radio Saipan and the printing at Saipan and distribution over the Empire of a Japanese language newspaper that included the description and photographs of the Hiroshima strike.

The campaign proposed:

1. Dropping 16,000,000 leaflets in a period of 9 days on 47 Japanese cities with population of over 100,000. These cities represented more than 40% of the total population.

2. Broadcast of propaganda at regular intervals over radio Saipan.

3. Distribution of 500,000 Japanese language newspapers containing stories and pictures of the atomic bomb attacks.

The campaign continued until the Japanese began their surrender negotiations. At that time some 6,000,000 leaflets and a large number of newspapers had been dropped. The radio broadcasts in Japanese had been carried out at regular 15 minute intervals.

Boller mentions the campaign in his book. It appears that once again Morris used Boller and his POWs to write the Japanese text:

I flew back to Guam to work with my POWs on the new leaflet. I was struck by the fact that my collaborators put the term “atomic bomb” at once into Japanese (genshi bakudan) and went ahead with the translation as if there were nothing special about the Truman statement. When they finished, I couldn’t help saying, “It’s really awful isn’t it, this genshi bakudan?” “You mean it’s real?” they cried in evident surprise. Their surprise surprised me. They had translated a statement which they had taken for granted was mere propaganda…

[Note. The second atomic bomb was to be dropped on Kokura. On the bombing day it was “socked in” by clouds. The B-29 “Bockscar” was running short of fuel and could not return with the heavy 10,000-pound bomb called “fat man” so selected the secondary target Nagasaki to lighten the aircraft].

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The British “Underground Propaganda Committee” spread thousands of rumors

Speaking of propaganda and the atomic bombs I want to mention a very strange coincidence. In an attempt to raise the morale of occupied Europe and lower the morale of the German military, civilians and their allies, the secret British “Underground Propaganda Committee” produced well over eight thousand rumors, (they called them “Sibs” from the Latin sibalare – to hiss). Researcher Lee Richards mentions the “whisper campaign” and many of these rumors in his book Whispers of War, Psywar.org, 2010. In regard to British propaganda rumors about the still top secret atomic bomb he mentions several rumors. It is amazing to note that while the atomic bomb was one of the greatest secrets of WWII and everything possible was done to keep American research on the bomb hidden from the enemy until its actual use in August, 1945, the British, apparently not knowing of the American project blithely used the threat of it in their rumor campaign. Some examples:

17 January 1941 – America’s Flying Fortresses are specially designed to carry atomic bombs with a blast area of two miles generating intense heat.

22 January 1941 – Sir William Bragg has been knighted for perfecting the uranium bomb.

19 March 1943 – Air Marshall Harris is very satisfied with the Essen try-out of the new uranium atom bomb.

If American security heard of these rumors they surely were in a state of panic. The less said of the atomic bomb in the early years of the war the better.

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The Atomic Bomb is being Moved to the Front

The OWI received orders on 7 August to institute a PSYOP campaign with the Atomic Bomb as its focal point. They would drop 3,600,000 leaflets daily for 9 days on Japanese cities having a population of more than 100,000 persons. A Japanese prisoner-of-war recorded the leaflet text for Saipan radio for broadcast to Japan starting at 1830 on 8 August. These broadcasts continued half hourly until the evening of 10 August. The plan called for daily delivery for 9 days of 75 M-16 bomb cases, each containing 32,000 leaflets. The first delivery of leaflet bombs was on 9 August. Such a grand campaign was not required. On the night of 10 August, the Japanese government first expressed its willingness to discuss peace negotiations.

American intelligence monitoring the Japanese radio on 9 August mentioned the Japanese response to the atomic bomb in a secret report dated 12 August 1945. It said in part:

With the gradual restoration of order following the disastrous ruin that struck the city of Hiroshima in the wake of the enemy’s new type of bomb on Monday morning, authorities are still unable to obtain a definite check of casualties in the civilian population.

Medical relief agencies were unable to distinguish, much less identify, the dead from the wounded. Practically all living things, animal and human were literally seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure of the blast. The effect of the bomb was widespread. Those outdoors were burnt to death while those indoors were killed by the indescribable pressure and heat.

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Leaflet AB11

The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

We have known for many years that the code “AB” was American propaganda for Japan, but little more. My records show that there are at least two items from this series, which the government listed as: “AB11 - Warning of Atomic Bomb” and “AB12 - To the Japanese People, Bomb Warning.” The code “AB” clearly meant “atomic bomb.” When I checked through old OWI reports I found a notation that AB11 and AB12 were called “atomic bomb leaflets” and 3,500,000 copies were printed of the first and 1,600,000 copies were printed of the second leaflet. OWI records state that 5,180,000 of these notices were delivered by B-29s for dropping on Japan. AB11 was apparently printed and dropped on 9 August 1945, the same day the Nagasaki bomb was dropped and told of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. AB12 was also printed on 9 August but was dropped on 10 August and told the Japanese people of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. The leaflets are smaller than usual, measuring 5.5 x 4.25-inches. According the OWI notes, the leaflets were declassified 12 August 1977. AB11 says on one side:


America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet

We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2,000 of our giant B-29's can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.

We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, ask what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.

Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our President has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender: We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace loving Japan.

You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.


The text on the other side of the leaflet is:



Because your military leaders have rejected the thirteen part surrender declaration, two momentous events have occurred in the last few days.

The Soviet Union, because of this rejection on the part of the military has notified your Ambassador Sato that it has declared war on your nation. Thus, all powerful countries of the world are now at war with you.

Also, because of your leaders' refusal to accept the surrender declaration that would enable Japan to honorably end this useless war, we have employed our atomic bomb.

A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s could have carried on a single mission. Radio Tokyo has told you that with the first use of this weapon of total destruction, Hiroshima was virtually destroyed.

Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the emperor now to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace-loving Japan.

Act at once or we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.

There is a Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum that has among its many displays, copies of American leaflets warning of the atomic bomb just dropped on Hiroshima. Wikipedia says:

<>Leaflets which American forces dropped on Japan during the early part of 1945 are on display. One gives information on the bombing of Hiroshima and the power of the atomic bomb, warning citizens to leave the city and stop fighting.


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Leaflet AB12

Leaflet AB12 has the propaganda message:



Because your military leaders have rejected the thirteen part surrender declaration, two momentous events have occurred in the last few days.

The Soviet Union, because of this rejection on the part of the military has notified your Ambassador Sato that it has declared war on your nation. Thus, all powerful countries of the world are now at war against you.

Also because of your leaders' refusal to accept the surrender declaration that would enable Japan to honorably end this useless war, we have employed our atomic bomb.

A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29's could have carried on a single mission. Radio Tokyo has told you that with the first use of this weapon of total destruction, Hiroshima was virtually destroyed.

Before we use this bomb again and again to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, petition the Emperor now to end the war. Our President has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender; we urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better, and peace loving Japan.

Act at once or we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.


Note: A copy of AB12 was offered for auction on EBay in July, 2018 for under $10. The owner did not know the significance of the leaflet so just called it a “WWII Japan Surrender Propaganda Leaflet.” The Central Intelligence Agency on its website says incorrectly that the Le May bombing leaflets (2106) mentioned Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Japanese. They did not. It would have been foolish to mention the possible targets of a highly classified and untested secret weapon before it was dropped. The first mention of the atomic bomb on a leaflet is found in AB11 and AB12 (thus the AB), dropped after the Hiroshima bombing. Apparently there were collectors (perhaps Japanese) watching the auction that did understand the value, and the leaflet sold for $199.88.

These leaflets seem to be mentioned in Lieutenant Colonel John F. Moynahan’s book Atomic Diary, Barton, 1946. Moynahan was a communications officer for the Manhattan Project during World War II. On 9 August 1945, he flew over Japan in the task force that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He talks about getting the order to print the leaflets. I have edited his comments for brevity:

Navy Lieutenant Robert Morris headed the Advance Psychological Warfare Section of CINCPAC. I found him that night on Saipan. We drafted a leaflet and worked on our “circulation department.” The cities of over 100,000 would be our targets. There were 47 of them. We conferred with the OWI at Saipan on the complex problem of printing and packing the leaflets in T-3 leaflet bombs. Our aim was more than 6 million.

In the prisoner stockade, three young Japanese officers were poring over our copy. When our three prisoner officers had finally made our message calligraphic Morris and I noted that everything was translated except B-29. The Japanese had no word for it. The Japanese believed it would take more than one atomic bomb before they would quit.

Morris said OWI head Dick Hubert printed a Japanese newspaper. [See Mariana News 2523 in the first section of this story]. I had the top secret photo of the Hiroshima burst. We used this to illustrate the newspaper. We also went ahead with the original leaflets. We chopped them to half the customary size to double our distribution of them to the Japs. [As we said above, the leaflets are smaller than usual, measuring 5.5 x 4.25-inches. Apparently this occurred about 8 August because Monyahan says he was then ready to go on the Nagasaki mission which was 9 August]. Moynahan concludes: We flew to Guam to get priority loading of our leaflet bombs. Our pilot that night was Marine Lieutenant Tyrone Power. Something must have gone wrong with our “Circulation Department.” The day after Nagasaki was hit by the atomic bomb [10 August] our warning leaflets [AB-12] came fluttering down over the devastated city.

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, all but the most fanatical diehard militarists knew that Japan had lost the war. However, those militarists still held power and controlled the means of communication to the Japanese people. They also had the will and the ability to take the Emperor hostage and carry on the hopeless war. In order to disarm these leaders and inform the people that peace talks secret peace talks were in discussion, the OWI prepared two leaflets for the Japanese people. One leaflet informed them of current negotiations with the Allies. The second announced the surrender of Japan. They were premature, but printed and held in reserve for the proper moment of dissemination. Both leaflets would be all text, prepared quickly and used as needed. Perhaps because of the nature of the message, the second leaflet stating that the war was over was 2116, while the first leaflet mentioning the talks was 2117.

Leaflet 2115 was prepared as a special “extra” edition of the weekly newspaper Mariana News. It points out that Japanese military leaders have rejected a call for peace and that the Soviet Union has entered the war against Japan.

Perhaps we should take a moment to build a rough timetable of the last days of the war.

In July 1944, Saipan was captured. The Allies then had direct radio and B-29 access to the Japanese mainland. In March 1945, U.S. Army Air Force firebombing destroyed most of Tokyo and caused more casualties than the later atomic bombing of Hiroshima. In July 1945, the Potsdam Conference set the Germany terms of surrender and offered Japan surrender terms. On 27 July, OWI leaflets announced the surrender terms to the Japanese people. They were ignored. On 28 July, General LeMay ordered bomb warnings dropped for civilians in specified cities. On 6 August, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. On 7 August, an OWI newspaper leaflet explained the special nature of bomb and threatened more. The same day, Radio Tokyo reported that the Hiroshima bombing was being investigated. Rumor has it that Tokyo dispatched a team to investigate the Hiroshima attack. The team arrived at night in a rainstorm. The team set up camp at the base of a hill that had been totally denuded of all vegetation. The heavy rainstorm caused a landslide that buried the entire camp and team. Tokyo lost all contact with the investigating team. It is thought that the Japanese government did not realize the power of the bomb and the damage it caused.

The second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August. On 10 August, the Emperor broke a Cabinet stalemate and ordered the surrender of Japanese forces. Allegedly, that same day, a third atomic bomb mission was cancelled. It is my understanding that the United States only had two bombs at the time with a third bomb expected to be ready about 17 August, so this might have been a deception rumor. Documents declassified since the end of the war have hinted that the third bomb would have been dropped on Tokyo, though I think this is doubtful. The Allies needed a viable Japanese government to deal with. Another rumor is that there was one plan to use seven atomic bombs during the invasion of Japan to clear the way of all obstacles. This would seem to indicate that the Americans had little fear of the radiation threat.

If this seems impossible one must remember that during the Cold War there were countless experiments where atomic bombs were dropped and individuals put in danger. For instance:

In July of 1951, the military asked the AEC for permission to have soldiers take part in maneuvers that would simulate atomic warfare. The request came just after the first series of tests held in Nevada, Operation Ranger. The original proposal was for 5,000 troops to take up combat positions at a barely safe distance from a test detonation, and then advance into the area affected. The chairman of the AEC readily agreed under the condition that the military alone be responsible for the safety and living conditions of the troops…An hour after the 31-kiloton explosion of Shot Charlie, the troops were trucked into the area where the equipment was deployed. Half an hour later, paratroopers were dropped in. Some of them walked within 175 yards of ground zero, where the radiation was probably over 100 roentgens.

For the most part these soldiers were never informed of the very real danger of radiation and many died horribly in the years afterwards.

On 11 August, the White House accepted the surrender terms and ordered the OWI to notify Japanese civilians. On 12 August, surrender information leaflet 2117 was dropped over Japan. On 14 August, a Military coup to take the Emperor hostage and carry on the war was unsuccessful. That same day the final conventional bombing mission of the war was flown, and the crews were told that if they received the code-word “Apple” they were to turn back as this would mean that Japan had officially surrendered. The code-word was not received and the B-29 bombers of the 315th Wing destroyed the Nippon Oil Company Refinery at Akita. Finally, at noon on 15 August, the Emperor's radio address of surrender was broadcast to the Japanese people. It was the first time the voice of the Japanese emperor was heard on the radio. He said in part:

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration... Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization…It is according to the dictate of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.

The war was officially over.

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Leaflet 2117

We will discuss leaflet 2117 first because it is the pre-surrender message. It informs the Japanese people of the surrender negotiations. Since The Japanese people believed from the government-controlled radio and press that they were winning the war, this must have come as quite a shock. The leaflet is 4 x 5-inches, black text on white paper. Washington prepared the message and sent the text by telephone to Honolulu. The translated text was forwarded to Saipan by Radiophoto on 12 August. By midnight, 750,000 leaflets were printed, four to a sheet. The leaflets were immediately placed in leaflet bombs and dropped over Japan on 13 August. Additional raids on 14 and 15 August brought the total count of leaflets disseminated up to 5,200,000. The text is extensive, so I have translated just a few pertinent paragraphs:

To the Japanese People

These American planes are not dropping bombs on you today. American planes are dropping leaflets instead because the Japanese Government has offered to surrender and every Japanese has a right to know the terms of that offer and the reply made to it by the United States Government on the behalf of itself, the British, Chinese, and the Russian Government. Your government now has a chance to end the war immediately. You will see how the war can end by reading the two following official statements.

Message from the Japanese Government:

In obedience to the gracious command of His Majesty the Emperor, who ever anxious to enhance the cause of world peace desires earnestly to bring about an early termination of hostilities with a view to saving mankind from the calamities to be imposed upon them by the further continuation of the war, the Japanese Government several weeks ago asked the Soviet Government, with which neutral relations then prevailed, to render good offices in restoring peace vis-à-vis the enemy powers...  

The Japanese government is ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on 26 July 1945 by the heads of government of the United States, Great Britain and China, and later subscribed to by the Soviet Union

Message from the United States Government: 

...From the moment of surrender, the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the supreme commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effect the surrender terms.  

The Emperor will be required to authorize and insure the signature of the Government of Japan and the Japanese Imperial general headquarters of the surrender terms necessary to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration, and shall issue his commands to all the Japanese military, naval and air authorities and all of the forces under their control wherever located to cease active operations and to surrender their arms, and to issue such orders as the supreme commander may require to give effect to the surrender terms.... 

After the war, Mr. Kawagucki of the Home Ministry said that leaflet 2117 was one of the most effective single pieces of American propaganda dropped on Japan. This was the second Saipan leaflet to be called “Very Effective” by the Japanese.

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Hubert's note on leaflet 2117

A handwritten note by the Saipan OWI Chief of Station Richard Hubert says:

2117 – This is the leaflet transmitted from Washington by phone and from Honolulu by radio-photo to us – printed and delivered by B-29s on Japan in 24 hours from the time the text was phoned from Washington.

Hubert’s daughter told me:

August 15th stands high in my mind as the day Leaflet 2117 left Saipan for distribution over Japan. Initially I couldn't understand why dad gave greatest importance to that leaflet -- it had no pictures, it was not particularly eloquent, and it was much smaller than the rest (done "four up" on regular 8-1/2 x 11 paper). In his files I found two of the original run of 2117. They were racing against a mutual massacre and were responsible for delivering this message as soon as possible on direct orders from Washington. He was very proud of the allied civilian/military teamwork, and they did receive commendation from Secretary Byrnes. But to hear what the Japanese thought of this leaflet is satisfying beyond measure. The Allied psychological warfare in Pacific Theatre WWII was based on conveying accurate information to Japanese civilians. Japanese reaction to Leaflet 2117 reveals they had come to trust the information received via leaflet and KSAI radio from Saipan.

Admiral Nimitz mentions these final leaflet drops in his diary under the date 15 August 1945. He says:

Seven B-29s on 13-14 August dropped 5.5 million leaflets telling the Japanese people the terms of the Japanese surrender offer and the reply of Secretary of State Byrnes, plus the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. The populated centers – Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya got most, but all islands were covered. Two B-29s on the 14th and four of the 16th are scheduled to drop 4 million leaflets on 31 major cities, keeping the Japanese people to date on negotiations.

One military document states that the code name for the airborne leaflet drop on prisoner-of-war camps announcing the Japanese surrender was BIRDCAGE.

Secretary of State James F. Byrnes thanked the staff in a 17 August 1945 dispatch sent through OWI Honolulu:

I am requested by Secretary Byrnes to send appreciation to everyone concerned for the magnificent work done in lettering, translating, printing, sending and distributing the important leaflet directly before the surrender of Japan. It is the belief of Secretary Byrnes as well as we in this office that the factor which helped to bring about the final surrender was this leaflet.

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Leaflet 2116

Even as leaflet 2117 was in bombs inside the B-29s, the OWI started production on leaflet 2116. They printed 200,000 leaflets announcing the Japanese surrender, which were crated and ready for use when the final surrender occurred. The B29s were in radio contact and ready to turn around and bring leaflet 2117 back to Saipan if the story of the surrender was announced.

B-29s of the 73rd Wing were at the disposal of the OWI now and MPs stood by, ready to provide escort to the trucks ready to rush the new leaflets 10 miles to the Isley Field.

On 15 August, the OWI print shop received orders to stop printing 2117 and concentrate on 2116. Instead of dropping leaflet bombs from 20,000 feet, the new leaflets would be dropped in bundles from 4000 feet. The OWI requested the cessation of all Japanese radio jamming so that Japanese anti-aircraft units would know that the war was over and not fire on the low-flying bombers. There were some reports of Japanese units continuing to fight and ignoring the ceasefire order from Tokyo. B-29 crew would have little chance of survival if hit at 4,000 feet. As a result, although ordered to drop the leaflets, the OWI on Saipan made a decision not to put the aircrews in danger. It was apparent that the Japanese now knew of the surrender through their own newspapers and radios, and there was no reason to risk the lives of American military personnel on a redundant mission. 

Leaflet 2116 is once again a small 4-3/8 x 5.5-inch black and white all-text leaflet. It was prepared to inform the Japanese people of the surrender terms accepted by the Japanese Government. OWI records indicate that 2,350,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. I have seen one leaflet offered with the serial numbers blanked out and bearing the handwritten message, “Leaflets dropped by B-29s on Japan telling them to surrender 1945.” Of course, the message is wrong. It told the Japanese they had surrendered. This leaflet was offered on eBay in June 2022 estimated at $175. The text is extensive so I have only translated a few pertinent paragraphs:


The United States, The United Kingdom, China and the Soviet Union have accepted the Japanese offer of surrender, with the provision that, "The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems necessary to effectuate the surrender terms."

In accepting the terms, the Allied powers laid down the following conditions:

The Emperor will be required to authorize and insure the signature of the Government of Japan and the Japanese Imperial general headquarters of the surrender terms necessary to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration, and shall issue his commands to all the Japanese military, naval and air authorities and all of the forces under their control wherever located to cease active operations and to surrender their arms, and to issue such orders as the supreme commander may require to give effect to the surrender terms. Immediately upon the surrender, the Japanese Government shall transport prisoners of war and civilian internees to places of safety, as selected, where they can quickly be placed aboard Allied transports.

The ultimate form of Government of Japan shall, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration, be established by the freely-expressed will of the Japanese people. The armed forces of the Allied powers shall remain in Japan until the purposes set forth in the Potsdam Declaration are achieved."

The rest of the leaflet explained the Potsdam Proclamation and peace terms in detail. There are eight paragraphs that start with the text:

These are the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation which has been accepted by the Japanese government.

Since the text is rather long I will just translate the first paragraph:

There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world…

This translation might have been written by Otis Cary’s Japanese prisoner-of-war group. Otis Cary was a Navy linguist who had been born in Japan as the son of missionaries. Cary already spoke excellent Japanese, and after completing the Navy’s Japanese language school, he was commissioned as an ensign and sent to Hawaii to serve in Admiral Nimitz’s Central Pacific Command. Cary took part in the American invasions of Attu and Saipan. In early 1945, he convinced a small group of Japanese prisoners held at a POW camp near Pearl Harbor to consider cooperating in America’s war efforts by writing propaganda. They first improved the effectiveness of the American propaganda newsletter, Mariana Jiho (Mariana Bulletin). However, the most significant project the group completed was the rapid translation of the Potsdam Declaration in July 1945.

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Leaflet 2118
The Last OWI Leaflet Dropped on Japan

What may be the final OWI leaflet of WWII was numbered 2118. The official title of this leaflet is, "Imperial Rescript to all Subjects" on the front, and "Imperial Rescript to the Ministers of War and Navy" on the back. This leaflet informed all Japanese military forces and civilians at home and abroad of the Emperor’s two Imperial Rescripts concerning Japan’s surrender. The leaflet is all text and mentions the brave efforts of Japan’s fighting forces, the "cruel" atomic bomb, and the need for millions of Japanese citizens to survive the war. He warns against rebellion and outbursts of emotion and asks the people to realize that Japan will never perish and to accept defeat in good faith. OWI records indicate that 2,400,000 copies of this leaflet were printed. Some of the text is:

To our good and loyal subjects

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors, and which we lay close to heart. Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to secure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone, the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State and the devoted service of our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking a toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but it would also lead to the total extinction of human civilization... it is according to the dictate of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it….

I asked an expert if the leaflet quoted the Imperial rescript correctly and he told me: Word for word.

Some of the more fanatical Japanese did not agree with the Emperor. In Report on Psychological Warfare in the Southwest Pacific Area 1944-1945. We find the comments:

The Emperor realized the risk he was taking, for the young militarists were determined to fight it out. He could expect therefore violent and fanatical counter-measures against the action upon which he had determined. His movement would be restricted; his Imperial rescript would be branded as a fake not to be followed…

But the Emperor felt out airstrikes had discredited militarists in the eyes of the people; that the population was war-weary and that they had knowledge of and would accept the Potsdam Declaration and the Allied reply amplifying its terms. He accordingly issued his Imperial Rescript and broadcast it to the people, confident that somehow they would understand and permit his leadership to prevail…

Japanese Navy planes flew over Tokyo between 14 and 24 August dropping leaflets to disregard the Imperial Rescript, advising that the Emperor was surrounded by traitors; that the war must continue.

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Although it is not really part of this story, since we show the OWI copy of the Emperor’s Imperial Rescript upon Surrendering, perhaps we should take a moment and add the original Emperor’s Rescript where he declared war.

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Leaflet 5000 - Weekly Magazine

The highest leaflet I have found in my OWI Saipan files is 5001. These last two leaflets are not translated in the various OWI booklets. I suspect they were prepared in the last days of the war or shortly afterwards as consolidation leaflets in the form of illustrated newsletters. I have leaflet 5000 in two different sizes, 9.75 x 7.25-inches and 10.25 x 8-inches. It is entitled: Weekly Magazine. It has five photographs on the front and six on the back. All of the photos are in regard to Okinawa.

At the upper left on the front we see American troops with flamethrowers and explosives. The text is:

A 6th Division Marine flamethrower team on Okinawa blasts stubborn Japanese defenders.

At the upper right we see an American translator explaining how Okinawan survivors will be fed:

The activities of an American translator are seen explaining the distribution of food and supplies to local inhabitants.

At the lower left we see American troops watching an explosion and the text:

An American demolition team uses dynamite to destroy a Japanese bunker.

At the lower right, the women of Okinawa welcoming American soldiers with green tea.

American soldiers have removed their shoes to accept a friendly cup of green tea from Okinawan ladies.

The pictures seem to compare scenes of war and peace. In the center is a big fat mess sergeant reminiscent of the mess sergeant in Beetle Bailey holding a ladle filled no doubt with something tasty that he just cooked. Curiously, the ladle leaves a shadow on his chest that looks like the Japanese Hinomaru (what we called the rising sun “meatball,” the symbol of Japan). The text is in the form of a tanka, a short unrhymed poem of five lines, thirty-one syllables long, (5, 7, 5, 7, and 7 syllables each line) and talks about the idea of war reverting to peace; very Japanese and exotic:

If the hand holding a ladle will hold a gun, the Hinomaru on his breast would disappear someday

I did not understand the meaning of the tanka, and like Haiku the meaning can be mysterious and sometimes rely more on feeling than actual words. So, I asked an expert to explain the tanka and he said:

The poem suggests that as a friend to the USA the nation of Japan would be prosperous. The Hinomaru rising sun shadow on the fat belly of the cook implies prosperity, fatness, and peace. But if Japan were to treat the USA as an enemy the situation would be reversed, the same man would take up arms and Japan would be destroyed.

Clearly the OWI is telling the Japanese that Americans are friendly and can be trusted and with peace it is safe to go to them where they will be fed and treated well.

Because I knew so little about these last two items I did a thorough search of all my OWI files. I did not find the leaflets mentioned in any text, but I did find a chart entitled:


The line-graph is not what I would call really accurate, but it seems to indicate that 150,000 copies of Leaflet 5000 were printed in a category called “Newspapers.”

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Leaflet 5001 – Weekly Pictorial

This is the last leaflet in my file from Saipan. This large 10 x 8-inch leaflet is also called a newspaper in the line-graph mentioned directly above and indicates that 250,000 were printed after the photos were taken in June 1945. There are five photographs on each side, some showing destruction, others showing the friendly interaction between Japanese and American troops. These two leaflets seem to be the only examples of the pictorial newspapers prepared so late in the war. I will describe the five photos on the front and their translations.

The photo at upper left shows the Japanese city of Kobe aflame. The text is:

Kobe in flames. On 4 June, B-29s turn the city of Kobe into a field of ash using napalm incendiary bombs. The photo released by the commander of the XXI Bomber Command.

The photo at upper right shows an American B-29 bomber and an anti-aircraft gun. The text is:

A Japanese anti-aircraft gun is left behind on Saipan as a souvenir by the retreating Japanese. A B-29 bomber advances to strike the Japanese mainland.

The photograph in the center depicts a group of Japanese prisoners marching into a prison camp with the text:

Japanese soldiers enter the prisoner-of-war camp on Guam. The officers lead the men into the camp after their surrender to US Naval and US Marine Corps forces on 11 June. Thirty-five Japanese troops held out and resisted surrendering for almost 1 year.

The photo at bottom left depicts an American with a small boy. The text is:

A heartwarming scene of a young boy on Okinawa examining the binoculars of a US Coast Guardsman. The two have become friends.

The photo at bottom right shows an American officer speaking to a pair of Japanese officers. The text is:

American and Japanese officers have a conversation. A US Navy officer and a Japanese officer have a chat on 11 June. After the fall of Guam, the 35 Japanese troops led by these pair of officers had held out for nearly 1 year.

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The Line graph prepared and colored by Hubert in his own hand as part of his final report on the number of leaflets prepared at the end of the war.

I should add that the line-graph mentioned about had several other comments that might be worth noting. It says that 150,000 “miscellaneous surrender leaflets” were printed for Pagan Island (about 200 miles north of Saipan) and now belonging to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and another 100,000 for Minami Tori Shima (Marcus Island), some 1,148 miles southeast of Tokyo and now again a part of Japan. No code numbers are given so we have no idea what surrender leaflets were printed and disseminated. In all, about 55,000,000 leaflets and newspapers were printed by Saipan in the last three months of the war.

Propaganda to the Occupied Nations

The OWI had stations all through the Pacific area during WWII. For example, millions of leaflets were printed and disseminated to the following countries: Burma (And the Kachins and Shans inside Burma); China; Malaya; Taiwan; Thailand; and Vietnam. Leaflets were also dropped on people long held by the Japanese like Korea and Okinawa. At the same time, the British and Australians had their own very successful leaflet programs.

Readers wanting to learn more about OWI leaflets to Burma click here, for OWI leaflets to China click here and for OWI leaflets to Thailand click here

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The OWI ended the war with dozens of different leaflets sent to all the Japanese-occupied territories; China, Korea, Formosa, etc., telling the people that the war was over. An example of these leaflets is CM-129 dated 12 August 1945 targeting all the people of China. The leaflet bears the United States and Chinese flags and says in part:

Chinese friends,

Japan has surrendered! She has accepted the surrender terms imposed by the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union. The hostilities will cease at once. The gloomy and painful days you suffered for eight painful years are over and the dawn glows now…Thus, Chinese friends, the final victory is here. You are happy. We are happy too…

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We should point out that other Allied nations also produced “end of the war” leaflets. For example, Australians FELO leaflet PK20 to the occupied peoples of New Guinea depicts a native symbol and the Pidgin-English text in part:


The Emperor of Japan has said that he has enough of this war. The war is finished. We have beaten them completely. Very soon all of the men of Japan will be in prison. You look out. The Japanese will be very cross with you. Keep away from them. If you see any Japanese, tell our soldiers.



The Japanese are Told the War is Over

A leaflet from Japanese Commanding General of the Armed Forces, Yamashita Tomoyuki. The leaflet text is:

This leaflet is being distributed by American airplanes to all Japanese personnel who are not aware of the official notification.

This order to cease all wartime hostilities is being issued from the highest authority. Each soldier must cease fighting at once. You are further instructed to communicate this order to other fellow soldiers. However, military discipline is to be maintained. You must continue to obey orders from your military superior. All units are to assemble at a convenient location. Contact the nearest American unit and await further instructions.

Military order from the northernmost base, 30 August 1945, the 20th year of the Emperor’s Reign.

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Leaflet SJ/141

The British Southeast Asia Command prepared a general leaflet for all the Allied prisoners of war in English, Dutch and Urdu. The translation is:


The Japanese have surrendered unconditionally and the war is over.

Allied aircraft are dropping leaflets in English, Dutch and Urdu giving instructions to Allied prisoners of war to remain quietly where they are.

Japanese guards must see that the prisoners get those leaflets and see that the prisoners are treated with every attention. The guards should then withdraw to their own quarters.

All Japanese officers and soldiers will be held personally responsible for the good treatment, care and proper feeding of all prisoners of war and internees.

A Leaflet for Dutch Prisoners of War

It appears that at the end of the war every nation with prisoners held in Japanese camps distributed leaflets telling them that help was on the way. This one reminds the prisoners to act with restraint and not to do anything that might cause the Japanese to react. Because there is a message in both English and Dutch, I assume this one targeted the prisoners from the Dutch East Indies.

Returning to the OWI on Saipan, on On August 17 the Saipan transmitter KSAI went off the air. It had run day and night continuously for four months and seventeen days. On 7 September 1945 the oversight of forward area (Saipan) was transferred from the Office of War Information to the U.S. Information Services. On 31 October 1945 the Office of War Information offices in Honolulu closed. On 12 March 1946 the Office of War Information offices in Washington D.C. closed. As we stated earlier, the majority of information in this article comes directly from The O.W.I. Saipan Operation: An account of operations on Saipan from March 3, 1945 to February 15, 1946 with notes on the period July 1944 to March 2, 1945 by Richard S. R. Hubert. The report was written by Hubert in Honolulu and as he was returning to the United States from Saipan. I thank his daughter Josette for her kindness in letting me study through these rare and valuable historical files. 

A member of the Japanese Foreign Office named Saito Hiroshi was captured on Iwo Jima and volunteered to work with the OWI. On 12 October 1945, Richard Hubert (Chief Forward Area) sent a letter to Honolulu explaining how Hiroshi had helped the OWI. He said in part (edited for brevity):

Saito was connected to the Japanese Foreign Office in Tokyo in 1944 and because he had published an article to which the government took exception, was inducted into the Japanese army, and sent to Iwo Jima as a probationary officer. He was captured on Iwo Jima and sent to Guam as a prisoner-of-war. Lieutenant Morris was able to arrange to bring him to Saipan. We agreed to allow him to live in tent occupied by three of the Morris staff. In my opinion, the slight inconvenience caused by having him live on the premises was more than offset by the use we were able to make of him.

Saito helped to rewrite some OWI leaflets that had errors and took part in the loudspeaker broadcast to Japanese still hiding on Saipan. As already noted, Hiroshi worked on the three Lemay bomb warning leaflets. After Victory in Japan Day, Saito was sent to Honolulu.

He wrote a long letter to the OWI at the end of the war telling what he thought of the propaganda operation. I quote some brief parts of the 4-page letter.

I firmly believe that the propaganda leaflets which were used in this war filled a major role hitherto unparalleled in world history and that they fulfilled the heavy responsibility of psychological warfare in the most effective manner…I believe that in modern warfare, military operations can be most effective when a war of strategy which combines the two major elements of scientific warfare and psychological warfare is applied…This new tactic is a most appropriate one to apply against a militaristic nation…I believe that the use of propaganda leaflets in this war facilitated military operations and made them more effective.

The propaganda leaflets in this war had a direct and considerable influence on the Japanese people…I cannot help but think that, to the Japanese, these leaflets served as a beacon which would guide them to a future new Japan…The liberal ideas of the Japanese people were strengthened through reading the moralistic propaganda leaflets issued by the Americans…By reading there leaflets, they began to hate their militaristic system and to desire the immediate termination of the war.

At the end of the war, most PSYOP agencies were asked to submit reports of what they had accomplished. The final report from Saipan states that they had printed 78,752,000 Office of War Information leaflets and another 19,749,000 Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area (Navy) leaflets. In addition, they printed 11,648,000 Japanese-Language newspapers, 270,000 Korean-language newspapers and 6,000 Chinese-language newspapers. The radio production from 26 December 1944 to 14 August 1945 was 5,076.5 hours. The Honolulu station KRHO broadcast another 4,321 hours which included 1,024 features, 2,135 newscasts, 1,373 musicals and 492 news commentaries.

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An OWI Strategic Product - Roosevelt's Letter to Hirohito...

The OWI prepared brochures and leaflets in many languages. In this article we have depicted those tactical leaflets that were meant to be dropped on Japan and Japanese troops and allies during the war. Other OWI items were printed in numerous languages and disseminated world-wide in a more peaceful tone and meant to educate the reader rather than threaten him. Some examples of such OWI leaflets and brochures are: America and the War (French), The Four Freedoms (Dutch), America Prepares for War (Chinese), and even The U.S. Navy (English). Thousands of different brochures and leaflets were prepared by printing plants all over the world; wherever the OWI had an outpost. Unlike the rough finish on many of the wartime tactical items, these were very professional strategic printings to influence civilians and government leaders and produced on high quality paper.

The item above is President Roosevelt's Unanswered Letter to Emperor Hirohito. It depicts a letter from FDR to Emperor Hirohito and was meant to be dropped over Japan or Japanese territories, where it was designed to appeal to the Japanese sense of honor and shame and to inform the Japanese people of the real reason America declared war on Japan. This leaflet is folded once so can be considered a brochure. It is written in English and Japanese. Some of the text is:

On December 6, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, addressed a courteous and statesmanlike letter to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor of Japan. The letter was written in a final effort to avert war between the two countries and was forwarded to His Imperial Majesty through the usual diplomatic channels. The letter was never answered. It is unthinkable that any Japanese would be guilty of the gross discourtesy of ignoring a polite and important letter. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese armed forces attacked the United States in Hawaii. It is therefore quite obvious that the letter from President Roosevelt was never delivered to the Emperor. Had it not been kept from him, the war might well have been averted. The letter appears within.

Some copies of this Roosevelt letter to Hirohito were dropped on Japanese troops thought to be on Kiska. The leaflet in my collection is black and white. The one dropped on the Japanese on Kiska depicts the U.S. insignia in red, white and blue. The booklet American Propaganda Leaflets – Aleutian Campaign says:

[This is one of the] psychological leaflets which have been used in the Aleutian Campaign. They were dropped on enemy occupied islands in order to lower the moral of the enemy or to cause doubts, dissatisfaction and to cause surrender. They were carefully prepared, in the light of known Japanese national psychology, in order to produce the greatest effect.

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Booklet – OWI Central Pacific Operations

At the end of the hostilities the OWI on Hawaii produced a booklet to illustrate and describe what they had done during the war. The cover depicts Chief Bradford Smith and the Honolulu OWI transmitter.

The section on leaflets depicts a number OWI artists and the following text about Honolulu operations:

Central Pacific Operations began its leaflet production as soon as headquarters was established in April 1944. Working in close collaboration with Joint Intelligence of the Central Pacific Ocean Area, the staff produced a total of 11,665,000 copies of leaflets and newspapers during its seventeen months of operations…Texts and artwork for special leaflets, prepared in Honolulu, were transmitted by radiophoto to Saipan for printing and distribution….

On 20 December 1946, Captain C. J. Moore, Historical Section, Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to Hubert:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have decided that a complete history of psychological warfare, as employed by the United States during World War II, should be prepared in order that that the war-time experiences gained along these lines may be preserved for the guidance and future use of the military services…I desire to present Dr. Edward P. Lilly, the bearer of this letter, who has been given the task of preparing the history of psychological warfare for the Joint Chief of Staff. Since the resultant document will be a highly classified history, you need have no hesitancy in imparting information of a highly classified nature.

We know that in late 1944 Lilly was the designated O.W.I. historian. He wrote 800 pages of a draft history but in late 1945 the OWI and the book project was terminated. In 1946 he became a consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and continued writing his monograph. This eventually became a 1,400-page classified study which he was unable to publish in a declassified form. Upon his death in 1994 his papers were given to the Eisenhower Library. The material required a page by page declassification. There are 29 boxes entitled “The OWI series.” Among the information is the draft of the history of the OWI which Lilly never finished.

On 18 April 1950, George S. Pettee, the Deputy Director of Human Resources Research of John Hopkins University wrote to Hubert:

The Operations Research Office of the Johns Hopkins University is attempting to compile a list of personnel who engaged in various aspects of psychological warfare during World War II…

On 20 July 1950, William E. Daugherty wrote from John Hopkins:

This office is engaged in a current research project the purposes of which is to discover more effective standards for the selection, training and organization of psychological warfare personnel. In order to supplement material found in the archives, I desire to interview a number of individuals who participate in propaganda activities in World War II…For many months I have wanted to have the opportunity of talking with you about your experiences in the Central Pacific, and especially on Saipan.

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A Psychological Warfare Casebook

Daugherty and Hubert met on 27 July 1950. We don’t know exactly what they talked about, but Daugherty published the book, A Psychological Warfare Casebook the John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, in 1958. The 880-page book was a collection of information relating to all phases of psychological warfare. Some of the articles that Richard Hubert might have assisted with are: “U.S. Psychological Warfare Organizations in World War II,” “Personnel Qualifications for Psychological Warfare,” and “Use of Japanese Prisoners of War.”

Perhaps it is best to end this report with the 25 September 1945 interrogation of Hideki Tojo, the Japanese wartime Prime Minister, and the man considered the major villain of WWII by many historians. He was questioned about his attitude toward American propaganda. The interviewer states:

The former Premier told interviewers he had never heard any foreign broadcasts. While in office, he saw occasional digests of intercepts. He said there was no comparison between the skillful “explanations of facts” by the Allies and the blundering fabrications of the Japanese.

He had been forced to alter his view toward leaflets. At first he had been confident that the Japanese people would be impervious to propaganda. He now believes, however, the proverb that what a Jap “hears three times he believes.” The Japanese did not have the resistance to propaganda he had anticipated.

While he admitted that “sinking’s and bombings” also had their effect, there was no doubt in his mind that Allied leaflets had weakened the people’s will to fight and this shortened the war.

This concludes our study of the wartime training of the Pacific area OWI agent. Readers with comments are encouraged to write to the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.

© January 22, 2005