The United States PSYOP Organization
in Europe During World War II

by Herbert A. Friedman & Franklin Prosser

This article in an attempt to explore and study the psychological operations (PSYOP) organizations that were formed during World War II. It is a story in progress. As new organizations and connections between such organizations are found, the article will be updated. This article is mostly concerned with the war in Europe. A separate article will discuss US PSYOP in the Pacific. Many of the numbers of leaflets and newspaper printed are estimated. The number of printed products produced during World War II are in the billions, so it is difficult to be accurate. All the numbers mentioned in this article are from published references, but they do sometimes conflict.

Civilian Organization of Propaganda

On 16 August 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was named Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), with responsibility for disseminating news, films, and radio to Latin America. CIAA retained its independent existence throughout World War II, despite the formation of several other information organizations.

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General William Donovan

On 11 July 1941, the Coordinator of Information (COI) was formed, headed by Colonel (later General) William ("Wild Bill") Donovan. COI’s responsibilities included the gathering of intelligence and the analysis and dissemination of information abroad, outside Latin America. COI was a predecessor of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The Foreign Information Service (FIS), with Robert Sherwood as director, was formed within COI. It dealt with news and white propaganda outside Latin America, and quickly behaved almost as an autonomous unit.


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Elmer Davis 

Robert Sherwood

On 13 June 1942, the Office of War Information (OWI) was created with Elmer Davis as director, subsuming several other agencies including FIS (but not CIAA). FIS, under Sherwood, became the Overseas Branch of OWI, dealing in white propaganda. In this June 1942 reorganization, COI became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), with Donovan, operating as code number 109, as director.

We will not discuss the OWI in any great depth because most of the items we will depict in this article were both printed and disseminated by the OSS or military PSYOP units. However an example of the importance of the OWI is discussed in a 13 December 1943 LIFE Magazine article entitled, “Psychological Warfare; OWI runs school for propagandists.”

Hanging fire in the Senate last week was a $5,000,000 appropriation for the overseas branch of OWI. On its fate depends the expanding operations of a score of foreign outposts through which OWI, in collaboration with the Army, wages psychological warfare on the enemy. To fit men for this the OWI maintains a training center on Long Island from which more than 300 newsmen, radio and printing technicians, and public relations experts have been graduated to date.

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The Davidson Press

Workhorse of field operations, the Davidson Dual Duplicator, about 725 lbs., in weight and not much bigger than some office duplicating machines, can turn out both letterpress and color offset. These machines print newspapers, leaflets and posters on the spot in captured territories.

The three-week course (for 30 to 40 students at a time) is intensive and ranges from study of the nature of the enemy to commando techniques. In the field these propagandists operate in “combat teams” of two to 10 men each. Mobile equipment for frontline operations includes trucks carrying printing and broadcasting units, photographic dark rooms, and electrical generators and supplies. Four men have already been killed in line of duty.

Of the value of psychological warfare there can be little doubt. Approximately 80% of Italian prisoners questioned in Sicily had PWB (Psychological Warfare Branch) leaflets in their possession or had read them. When the Italian fleet surrendered in response to a radio appeal transmitted by PWB over international distress-signal frequency, British Admiral Cunningham said: “Tell General McClure they’ve accomplished in one day with propaganda what I've been trying to do for three years with the Navy.

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Responsibilities between OWI and OSS were but vaguely defined, and disputes within and among CIAA, OWI, and OSS became disruptive. At this early stage of the war, few officials knew what their organizations should be doing, but many knew what other organizations should be prevented from doing. Donovan’s ambitious plans for OSS were fought doggedly by Sherwood and Davis. The squabbling led to presidential Executive Order 9312 of 9 March 1943, which, in attempting to clarify the responsibilities of OWI and OSS, gave white propaganda (white propaganda is issued from an acknowledged source. This type of propaganda is associated with overt psychological operations) to OWI but left black propaganda’s (black propaganda purports to emanate from a source other than the true one. This type of propaganda is associated with covert psychological operations) status unclear. As the war progressed, OSS became the de facto owner of black propaganda and OWI of white, and this arrangement was formalized by an agreement between Donovan and Davis in June 1944. Early in the war, the U.S. had little expertise in subversive warfare. Donovan borrowed heavily from the British for experience in black propaganda; the British, after going through their own period of high-level resistance to unconventional methods of warfare, had borrowed from the Germans.

By mid-1943, OSS command (under the director and assistant director) consisted of two principal deputy directors: the Deputy Director of Intelligence, who controlled such branches as Secret Intelligence (SI) and Counter-Espionage (X-2), and the Deputy Director of Psychological Warfare Operations (later Deputy Director of Operations), controlling branches such as Special Operations (SO), Operational Groups (OG), Maritime Units (MU), and Morale Operations (MO). MO was the source of black printed propaganda.

In summer of 1943, OSS theatre officers were appointed for each of the major military theatres in which OSS was operating: ETO (European Theatre of Operations), METO (Middle Eastern), NATO (North African), and FETO (Far Eastern). NATO was later renamed MEDTO (Mediterranean Theatre of Operations), which through its MO branch was responsible for much of the black propaganda emitted by the OSS. In addition to serving in the chain of command to OSS headquarters in Washington, the theatre officers were the liaisons between OSS and the military theatre commanders, who had approval authority over all OSS and OWI projects in their theatres. The theatre officers served through December 1944, when another OSS reorganization eliminated this structure.

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SHAEF Insignia

OSS established many missions overseas during the course of the war. The MO units themselves are described later. The OSS had an important headquarters in London, with Donovan arranging its first beginnings in August 1941. OSS London reached its final form in 1943 and early 1944; the MO unit in London was established in May 1943, where, operating under direct allied military control, it produced subversive propaganda for the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (PWD/SHAEF).

In neutral Switzerland, the OSS maintained a headquarters in Bern, the Swiss capital, beginning in May 1942, using the diplomatic cover provided by the OWI. (This was before the OSS and OWI were officially formed, in July.)  On 8 November 1942, Allen Welsh Dulles arrived in Switzerland and assumed command of the OSS unit in Bern, a position he held through the end of the war in Europe. Dulles operated as code number 110, with cover name “Mr. Burns”. Dulles’s official title was Special Assistant for Legal Affairs of the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, and he nominally reported to Ambassador Leland Harrison, but he did not hide that he was the special envoy of President Roosevelt. The Swiss authorities thus knew he was OSS, but much of the time the Swiss turned a blind eye.

Gerald M. Mayer was sent to Switzerland as an OWI representative in May 1942. He nominally reported to Ambassador Harrison, and his official title was Assistant to the United States Ambassador to Switzerland.  From December 1942 until V-E Day, Mayer was chief of the Bern OWI Outpost, with code number 678. The OSS and OWI cooperated extensively on production of propaganda, and official correspondence on this subject seems to make little distinction between the offices. Although officially appearing to be on a rank equal to Dulles, Mayer was in practice Dulles’s subordinate. In fact, Gerry Mayer and his OWI team were brought under the OSS at some point in the war, probably in late 1942. The OSS awarded Mayer a certificate that states:

Gerald M. Mayer honorably served the United States of America as a member of The Office of Strategic Services. / (signed) William J. Donovan, Major General, USA, Director / The 1st Day of October 1945.

In neutral Sweden, the OSS established a small base of three men in Stockholm in 1942; by late 1944 it had grown to 35 members. A small two-man MO unit arrived in Stockholm in April 1944.

In the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, OSS-MEDTO was originally (in 1943) designated the 2677th Headquarters Company (Provisional) G-3. To increase its autonomy, in May 1944 the unit was designated a regiment, officially the 2677th Regiment OSS (Provisional). The regiment was activated in July 1944 with headquarters near Caserta, Italy, when North African Theatre of Operations military headquarters (NATOUSA) moved from Algiers to Caserta. The regimental commander was Colonel Edward Glavin, a Strategic Services Officer of MEDTO. Most of the black propaganda produced by the OSS originated with MO Rome, which was organized in mid-1944.

The OSS was disbanded on 1 October 1945.

OSS Morale Operations (MO)

The Morale Operations Branch of the OSS was created in early January 1943, and by March was ready for action. Its primary function was to attack "the morale and the political unity of the enemy through...psychological means operating or purporting to operate within the enemy or occupied territories." Chiefs of MO include Frederick Oechsner (began in early 1943), COL Kenneth D. Mann (replaced Oechsner in May 1944), Charles Healy, Patrick Dolan, Morton Bodfish, Howard Baldwin (active in late 1944), LTC J. Roller (chief in February 1945), and LTC Herbert S. Little (chief on 30 November 1945, after the dissolution of OSS). (The names are not necessarily all in order of service).

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Nachrichten für Die Truppe, 20 April 1945

Throughout most of the period of our main interest – 1944 and 1945 – MO and other branches of the OSS reported through their OSS theatre officers. The various field MO units did not work together on a regular basis, nor did they have close tactical connections with higher authority in Washington or London. This reinforced the natural secrecy and turf protection always present in intelligence and PSYOP work, and led to considerable local independence of action of the field units, despite continual interference from OWI and the military. MO-ETO maintained missions in Paris, Stockholm, Bern, and London. MO-Bern forged German postage stamps. The London MO unit (cover name MOTTA) was under direct military control, producing subversive propaganda for PWD/SHAEF and assisting the British in the production of the highly successful grey (propaganda that does not specifically identify any source) Nachrichten für Die Truppe (Message for the troops) newspaper.

Other MO units, under OSS leadership, had more autonomy. MO-MEDTO began with a 3-man mission to Algiers in March 1943. By 1945, MO-MEDTO maintained bases in Cairo, Algiers, and in the Italian towns of Rome, Bari, Caserta, Siena, Naples, and Brindisi. MO-Rome produced significant philatelic black propaganda. MO-Rome maintained contact with MO-Bern in the European Theatre of Operations, and on occasion shared ideas and materials.

The MO Unit in Stockholm

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Examples of clandestine black propaganda disseminated by the
OSS Morale Operations outpost in Stockholm.
Lee Richards: Report on OSS Morale Operations in the European Theatre of Operations

A two-man MO mission (code name Sioux) arrived in Stockholm in March 1944 under Embassy cover. One of the original personnel, LTJG William Casey, USN, quickly undertook production of the Harvard Project newsletter, Handel und Wandel, (Trade and Change) a weekly business and financial publication aimed at German industrialists. Using OWI equipment, the unit produced some 250,000 pamphlets, leaflets, stickers, posters, letters, and postcards. In 1944, Casey was named Chief of Secret Intelligence, ETO, and would serve in the 1980s as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. As CSI-ETO, Casey operated without a code number, unlike Donovan (code 109), Dulles (code 110), Gerald Meyer (head of OWI in Switzerland, code number 678), and Whitney Shepardson (Chief of Secret Intelligence in Washington, code 154).

The two men performed the following function in Stockholm:

a. Acted as an outpost and dissemination point for rumors and press plants,

b. Infiltrated subversive material prepared in London into garrisons in Norway,

c. Prepared material on their own for infiltration into Norway, Denmark and Germany by the British SOE and American OSS.

d. Acted as a listening post for the Branch's "black" radio activities.

e. Provided the Branch with items of intelligence concerning weaknesses in the Germans as gleaned from contacts which the unit was able to create.

The MO Unit in Switzerland

The Chief of MO Switzerland and its principal forger was Raymond Arthur Schuhl, a French propagandist who had served in the 6th Section of the 2nd Bureau (the Deuxieme Bureau – military intelligence) of the French Secret Service until the fall of France. Schuhl relocated to Switzerland and operated for the OSS under the cover name Robert Salembier (code name "Mutt"). Schuhl oversaw a prolific print shop in Geneva shared by the OSS and OWI. Schuhl’s group produced millions of white and black pamphlets, leaflets, cards, postage stamps, and other forms of printed propaganda. Around Christmas 1944, Schuhl received 10,000 forged German Hitler head stamps from MO Rome to assist in a proposed project to insert propaganda letters into Germany from Switzerland. This would suggest that MO Rome originated the forgery of the German stamps. Other clues suggest that MO Switzerland was producing forged German postage stamps in the early fall of 1944 (prior to the end of October).

The papers of Allen Dulles shows that during the war Schuhl was considered for a U.S. military decoration for his outstanding work, but it was a political impossibility to give a formal award to a foreign civilian doing "black" propaganda. A letter to Dulles from "G.M.M." (presumably Gerry Mayer) states that Schuhl’s phone number was 2.61.74 at the Hotel Regina in Geneva.

MO operations in Lisbon

The Taurus Mission consisted of two individuals, one of whom was sent to Lisbon in early spring and the second in the late spring of 1944. Both individuals went under cover of Universal Pictures Company. After making initial contacts and doing one or two specific projects such as obtaining German paper samples, etc., both men had to return to the United States because of complications resulting from wounds they had suffered during the February 1944 air raids while waiting transportation in London.

The MO Units in Italy – MO Rome

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Morale Operations Rome Printing Press

Much of the OSS printed propaganda was produced by the Morale Operations unit in Rome during the period mid-1944 to mid-1945. Within the 2677th Regiment OSS (Provisional), Morale Operations (MO-MEDTO) bore the designation "2677th Headquarters Detachment OSS (Provisional)", with headquarters in Rome on Viale Regina Margherita. MO-MEDTO is often referred to as MO Rome. (The "2677" was the subject of an inside joke at MO Rome, since the Pantone color code for the ink used in the forgery of the 6 pfennig Hitler head stamp was 2677.) MO Rome was headed by Eugene P. Warner, a civilian, formerly of the Associated Press, and postwar public relations director of TWA. Warner’s title was MO Chief. His executive officer was Captain William T. Dewart Jr. (scion of the New York Sun publishing family; later promoted to major after COL Glavin (commander of OSS-MEDTO) personally interceded in Dewart’s behalf with General Donovan).

MO Rome’s activities centered on the editorial and planning group, which developed the propaganda ideas, texts, and production methods. Under this group were the operation and implementation planners who created such operations as Sauerkraut, Cornflakes, and Pig Iron. Finally, helpers and field operatives carried out the activities, including distribution of the propaganda documents. In many instances, an individual would be a participant in all three areas.

MO Rome used an existing Italian printing house, Stabilimento Aristide Staderini, located at Via Baccina 45 in Rome, where many of the leaflets, posters, and forged postage stamps were printed. This shop was run by CPL Egidio Clemente, who later became a close associate of Senator Joe McCarthy. Assisting Clemente with the printing were SGT Alfio D’Urso and civilian Helmuth Gruchol.

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Das Neue Deutschland

MO Rome produced forged postage stamps, stickers, leaflets, newspapers, postcards, and envelopes, often in huge quantities. The propaganda was distributed by a variety of means including airdrops, mailings by allied agents within the Third Reich, hand delivery by the German underground, and use of friendly German prisoners of war (Operation Sauerkraut, begun 1 July 1944). Before the end of October 1944, Clemente’s print shop was forging 6- and 12-pfennig German Hitler Head postage stamps for use in sending propaganda through the German Reichspost. MO Rome produced an extensive series of "black" propaganda postcards. An early venture by MO Rome into the field of leaflet airdrops (Operation Pig Iron) included dropping more than 10 million miniature copies of the black propaganda newspaper Das Neue Deutschland (The New Germany). A related effort, Operation Sheet Iron, assisted Italian Partisans in the production and distribution of their underground newspaper, La Riscossa Italiana. However, by late 1944 efforts to distribute anti-German propaganda inside Germany had met with only limited success, and hopes were tied to Operation Cornflakes, described below.

Forgeries such as postal cancels and German military documents were done by a civilian, codename Eddie Zinder, who frequently operated near the location of across-the-line infiltration. (In official reports, names were often disguised with aliases; in this discussion, we include the real names where known.) Famed New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg, then a LTJG, did much of the propaganda artwork. CPT Temple Fielding, who after the war became a noted travel author, was in the planning group. MSG Richard Lee, subsequently with the New York Daily News, provided valuable support. Neither Lee nor Fielding could speak or write German; however, Woman’s Army Corps CPL Barbara Suzka Lauwers, a writer, spoke fluent German and participated in the interrogation of prisoners in Operation Sauerkraut. Writers Jan Liebig (alias Jan Libich) and H. F. "Pitz" Broch de Rotherman (alias Hermann de Rothermann) planned and directed the Cornflakes and Pig Iron operations.

2LT Robert Allen, who arrived in Rome on 3 August 1944 with Broch de Rotherman, and who was initially assigned as an assistant in production and in charge of shipping, saved instances of much of the MO Rome propaganda in several scrapbooks, in order to provide documentation for congressional leaders who would determine support for MO activities. These scrapbooks, each different but containing overlapping selections of materials, have provided invaluable firm evidence of the products produced by OSS Rome. At least four of Allen’s scrapbooks survived the war. CPL Clemente, the chief printer, collected two specimen copies of all printed MO Rome propaganda. In the 1960s he donated one set to Guilio Polotti, current president of the Anna Kuliscioff Foundation in Milan, Italy.

Other personnel of the 2677th MO Rome, known from a unit commendation from General Donovan dated 3 November 1944, were 1LT Jack Daniels (later associated with the Cornflakes Operation), 1LT Arthur Mathieu, SSG Walter Weisbecker, SGT Marcel Robich, SGT Arthur Hammond, SGT Laird Ogle, T/5 Larry Bruzzese, and civilians Roland Dulin and William Laas. (Some of these names may be aliases.)

The MO Units in Italy – MO Bari

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OSS Agent in the Rome Printing Plant inspects propaganda material

MO Bari frequently participated in the distribution of black propaganda designed and produced by MO Rome. Bari is on Italy’s Adriatic (eastern) coast, about 250 miles southeast of Rome. In the summer of 1944, the chief of MO Bari was Mr. John Fistere. That summer, Fistere had experimented with air-dropping Hungarian mailbags filled with propaganda leaflets, and this notion was adopted and refined in 1945 in MO Rome’s Operation Cornflakes. Fistere was probably succeeded as chief by Capt. Temple Fielding. 1LT Jack Daniels of Company B in Bari was liaison with MO Rome and operations officer at MO Bari; by March 1945 he was chief of MO Bari. 2LT Marcel Robich was an "assistant" (probably second in command) at MO Bari when Daniels was chief.

MO in Washington:

Little is known of MO propaganda and forgery activities that originated in Washington. I did interview an OSS forger several years ago by the name of W.C. Reddick. He told me that he had established a forgery plant in Washington D.C. and was in charge of an operation that forged large quantities of Japanese occupation banknotes. We also know that LTC Carl F. Eifler requested OSS Washington to develop and produce counterfeits of the Japanese invasion money (JIM) for Malaya. Official documents indicate that Washington sent at least 50,000 ten dollar banknotes to anti-Japanese guerillas in Malaya. It appears that OSS Washington was very involved with counterfeiting the currency of enemy nations during WWII.

According to Sisterhood of Spies - the Women of the OSS, Elizabeth P. McIntosh, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1998, William Reddick later was transferred to the OSS London Cover and Documentation Office, behind the Headquarters building at 72 Grosvenor Street. His job was to establish a print shop in London to produce forged documents.

The OSS Combat Propaganda Companies

How did the OSS produce "black" propaganda in the field? Much of the story is told in a declassified "secret" memorandum From Director William J. Donovan to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff dated 3 February 1943. Some of the pertinent portions of the memorandum are:

In accordance with the Directive of the Joint United States Chief of Staff to the Office of Strategic Services, dated 23 December 1942 under which this office is charged with the planning, development, coordination, and execution of the military program of psychological warfare, a transfer of certain combat propaganda units, formerly a part of the Military Intelligence Service, to the Office of Strategic Services has been accomplished.

These units represent partial activation of the Combat Propaganda Companies, which, when completely activated and trained, will be available to Task Force Commanders as fully mobile combat units to:

  1. Demoralize, deceive and otherwise hamper the tactical activity of enemy troops opposite our lines.
  1. Break the will to win or resist of the enemy inhabitants of enemy territory.
  1. Inform, assure, inspire and guide friendly inhabitants of occupied territory in their cooperation with our objectives and forces.

Upon completion of training, the companies will be transferred to the Theater of Operations Commander and will therefore operate under his command. Through his liaison officer, The Theater Commander may obtain from the Office of Strategic Services and special psychological warfare studies or data desired by him.

What kind of PSYOP did these combat propaganda teams produce? One example is given in a 1943 secret OSS document.


Devices designed to undermine an enemy's will to resist by developing in him feelings of fear, distrust of his motives for combat, war weariness, futility of further struggle, and willingness to surrender, (Though each of these aims may be pursued separately, far more effective results may be achieved by saturating the enemy with the greatest amount of material possible, preferably in the order suggested below).

Fear. A continual series of pictures should be dropped over enemy lines. each showing the horrible fashion in which their soldiers met death. One batch of pictures a day should be dropped on them. Each picture might be entitled as follows; "Why?," "The New Order," "His children will miss him," and "More than he bargained for."

The same might be done with pictures of horribly mutilated soldiers who have been removed from the front and sent home. They may also be entitled as follows; "He escaped death," "An Iron Cross and a wooden crutch," and a picture of a blinded soldier entitled, "He never saw the fatherland again."

U.S. Military Organization of PSYOP – Government Level

For the most part, the U.S. military was not enthusiastic about PSYOP. The Navy Department had the most consistent interest in the subject, and during the war the Navy established the Special Warfare Branch (OP-16W) within its Office of Naval Intelligence.

The War Department engaged in only inconsistent and tepid support of PSYOP. Before World War II, a Special Studies Group (SSG) was formed to coordinate activities with COI and CIAA. Following a proposal by SSG, a military Joint Psychological Warfare Committee (JPWC) was formed on 18 March 1942, in part to coordinate activities of other U.S. government organizations. After OWI was formed in mid-1942, OWI refused to cooperate with JPWC; thereafter JPWC became swamped with dealing with OSS administrative problems, and by the end of 1942 JPWC was disbanded. No further central military control of PSYOP was attempted during the war.

However, Executive Order 9312 of 9 March 1943 provided that all PSYOP projects were subject to the approval of the appropriate military theatre commanders. This stipulation was strictly observed thereafter, and led to closer interactions between the military and the two civilian organizations. On the other hand, PSYOP activities became balkanized, with little exchange of information or personnel across major military commands.

Allied Military PSYOP in the European Theatre

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General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Beginning in October 1942, as the joint North African Operation Torch was about to begin, General Dwight Eisenhower, at the time one of the few military leaders sympathetic to psychological warfare, became concerned with the problems of coordinating the activities of the U.S. OWI and OSS, the British Political Warfare Executive and Ministry of Information, and the British and American Army and Navy intelligence services. Eisenhower established the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) of the Allied Forces Headquarters (PWB/AFHQ) as a joint U.S. and British operation in the North African theatre. This set a precedent for other Allied joint ventures. Colonel Charles B. Hazeltine organized PWB in three sections: combat propaganda units attached to front-line forces, occupation units that worked in newly captured territory, and base units that coordinated propaganda efforts of the Allied Forces Headquarters with those of London and Washington. Following the North African operation, PWB coordination of propaganda was extended to the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy and other actions in the Mediterranean theatre.

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General Eisenhower and Brigadier General McClure

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PWD-Allied Information Service (AIS) Commander
LTC Lance Lazonby (seated) with his staff.

The official PWD/SHAEF history, says in part:

PWD/SHAEF was nominally charged with two main functions in addition to psychological warfare against the enemy.

1. Consolidation propaganda in liberated friendly countries.

2. Control of the information services in occupied Germany.

David Lerner says about the AIS in Sykewar:

Actually, the first was handled by a subsidiary organization known as the AIS (Allied Information Services), later USIS (United States Information service), and staffed mainly by OWI personnel.

The PWD/SHAEF history continues:

To fulfil the need for consolidation operations among friendly populations, a subsidiary of PWD, called Allied Information Services, was established. The elimination of the phrase Psychological Warfare from the title was done simply because it did not appear to be diplomatic to speak in terms of "waging psychological warfare" against our friends. AIS was made up of a Group Headquarters, designated the 6805th AIS Group Headquarters (Provisional), and, at the beginning, three field teams each with a commanding officer.

AIS Group Headquarters, together with certain personnel designated as Advance PWD/SHAEF and the personnel of the first field consolidation team, landed on the Normandy beaches 5 July 1944 and reached Cherbourg the following day.

PWB was a model for the Psychological Warfare Division (PWD or PWD/SHAEF), established in 1943 by Eisenhower at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in London during the preparations for the cross-Channel invasion of mainland Europe in June 1944. PWD had an important role in the production and dissemination of white propaganda in the northwestern European theatre until the end of the war. The head of PWD/SHAEF was Brigadier General Robert A. McClure. In northwestern Europe, PWD incorporated the activities of PWB (with PWB units attached to each of the armies). Elsewhere, PWB continued its operations under a less complex structure.

Both PWB and PWD reported to American generals, and in this study the productions of these two PSYOP organizations are shown under the United States.

(Note on U.S. Army unit structure: The hierarchy is Army, Corps, Division, Regiment/Brigade, Battalion, Company, Platoon, and Squad. The "rule of threes" expresses a tendency to have three units within its parent unit. For instance, typically there are three Corps in an Army, three Divisions in a Corps, etc. This allows two units to be on the line, with one unit in reserve.)

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A Martin Herz Christmas Card

Martin Herz, was a Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) writer during WWII. After the war, he became an authority on psychological warfare and wrote numerous articles on the subject. He was credited with the production of this photograph depicting a German soldier reading an Allied propaganda leaflet. Herz apparently used this photo as a Christmas card, printing on the back “MERRY CHRISTMAS - Martin Herz.” The caption for the photo is:


A German prisoner reads a leaflet printed by the Psychological Warfare Division of the Allied Expeditionary Force which he brought with him in surrendering to American forces in Normandy. The leaflet, one of thousands dropped by Allied aircraft or fired across enemy lines by guns told the German soldiers the truth about the war and described the treatment they receive as prisoners-of-war of the Allies.

U.S. Signal Corps Photo – London OWI – Certified as passed by SHAEF Censor.

Allied Military Operations in the Mediterranean – North Africa and Italy

Military units in North Africa. With the outbreak of war, a small force of the British 8th Army found itself opposed in Cyrenaica by the Italian 10th Army, which the British quickly routed. This British success led Hitler in early 1941 to send to North Africa an expeditionary force under General (later Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel. Rommel reported to the senior German commander in the Mediterranean, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Commander-in-Chief, South, and Luftwaffe commander in the Mediterranean, who would serve with distinction in Italy. The dramatic successes of Rommel’s Afrika Korps in 1941 and early 1942 led to the controversial Allied Operation Torch – the invasion of North Africa – in November 1942. Until that time, there had been no significant U.S. forces in the North African theatre. The British military had undergone several changes in command: In 1941 General Sir Archibald Wavell was replaced as Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, by General Sir Claude Auchinleck, who in turn was replaced in August 1942 by General Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander. To command the British 8th Army in North Africa, Churchill appointed General Bernard Montgomery, who quickly resurrected British fortunes by routing Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika (which included the Afrika Corps) first at Alam Halfa in August and then at El Alamein in October.

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Leaflet G21

I added British leaflet G21 to this article because we are talking about war in the desert and the Afrika Corps. The leaflet shows an interesting use of both internal and external PSYOP. The Germans used their “people’s car” as a form of internal PSYOP to convince the people that things were getting better and even the young and the working class could afford a car under Nazi rule. The original pamphlet describing the car said in part:

Each German Folk-companion has the opportunity to obtain a KdF car. Two types will be delivered in the first years of production:

  1. Limousine
  2. Cabriolet/Limousine

Cost for the Limousine is RM 990. The Cabriolet/Limousine costs an additional RM 60 because it is more expensive to produce. The purchase request for the KdF car has to be made through the offices of the National Socialist Fellowship “Strength through Joy.” Once the saver has accepted the savings card, he is obliged to purchase RM 5 in saving stamps each week…

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German KdF car savings stamps

The RM 5 was deducted from the paycheck of the German worker who signed up to receive what would eventually become the “People's Car” (Volkswagen). Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design a car for the Nazi Kraft Durch Freude organization - the slogan meaning strength (or power) through joy. Of course, the cars were never delivered and I assume the collected monies all went to the German war effort.

The British looked at the KdF campaign and saw an opportunity to attack the German Government. British leaflet G21 was dropped from 20 April 1943 to 5 May 1943. A photograph at the top of the leaflet depicts Hitler being shown a model of the KdF car that was to be eventually owned by every German. The text is “Hitler sees the model, Berlin 1938.”

Below the photograph of Hitler and the miniature model of the car is a second photograph showing two dead German soldiers contorted in the North African desert heat with the military version of the automobile. They seem to have been stripped of their uniforms, so perhaps the Arabs got to them before the British. The text is, “The finished vehicle in Africa 1943.”

(Note) The KdF-Wagen was produced in military versions such as the Type 82 and amphibious Type 166, but it wasn't until after the Second World War that it became available to civilians as the Volkswagen.

The leaflet title is, “Strength through Joy!” Directly beneath the title is a Hitler quote from 30 January 1941. “I allowed for each possibility ahead of time.” The back of the leaflet is all text and entitled “Hitler Strategy.” The text mentions German military disasters in the Soviet Union and North Africa, and ends, “After Stalingrad and Tunis?”

Operation Torch, which began 8 November 1942, was the first combined Allied military operation of the war. Torch was under the command of General Dwight David Eisenhower. In addition to the British 8th Army under Montgomery, which was already on the scene, the forces were comprised of a Western Task Force (U.S.) under Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr.; a Center Task Force (U.S.) that included the U.S. II Corps, under the command of Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall (and later under Patton); an Eastern Task Force (U.S. and British) led by Major General Charles Ryder; and the British 1st Army, commanded by Lt. General Kenneth N. Anderson. In reaction to this assault, that same month Hitler created the 5th Panzerarmee in Tunisia under General Jürgen von Arnim to augment Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika. In February 1943, Alexander was placed in charge of the newly created 18th Army Group, which incorporated the British 1st and 8th Armies and the U.S. II Corps in Tunisia. The German forces, together with remains of the Italian 1st Army, were forced to surrender North Africa in mid-May 1943.

Military units in Italy. For Operation Husky – the invasion of Sicily in June 1943 – overall ground command went to General Alexander, who commanded the 15th Army Group. This group consisted of the British 8th Army under General Montgomery and the U.S. 7th Army under General Patton. The occupation of Sicily was completed in September 1943.

The invasion of mainland Italy commenced on 3 September 1943, with the British 8th Army under Montgomery attacking at the toe of Italy and on the Adriatic (eastern) shore; beginning 9 September, the U.S. 5th Army under Lt. General Mark W. Clark attacked the western shore at Salerno (Operation Avalanche). German defenses were under the command of Field Marshal Kesselring. The Allies occupied southern Italy during late 1943, but, thwarted by Kesselring’s skillful defense, the Allied advance bogged down in the winter of 1943-1944 at Cassino on the Gustav Line in south-central Italy.

In an attempt to break the stalemate and outflank Kesselring’s troops, on 22 January 1944 the Allies launched Operation Shingle, the invasion of Anzio. The result was deadlock on two fronts, at Cassino and Anzio. The stalemate dragged on with heavy losses on both sides into the spring of 1944, until in May the Allies broke through the Gustav Line and, following a breakout from Anzio, converged on Rome. Rome was captured on 4 June 1944, two days before the invasion of Normandy.

Following the capture of Rome, advances by the Allies continued at a crawl, with Kesselring fighting an effective delaying action throughout the remainder of 1944 and into 1945. British and American efforts were hindered by the withdrawal of substantial portions of the British 8th Army and the U.S. 5th Army to participate in Operation Anvil (renamed Dragoon), an attack on southern France in mid-August 1944 to divert German forces from the Normandy front. In Italy, the Allies stalled at the Gothic Line in late August and the Winter Line for the long winter of 1944-1945. Fighting continued until the end of the war on 2 May 1945.

Allied Military PSYOP Activities in North Africa

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PSYWAR Branch Armed Forces Headquarters in Tunis, North Africa. Note the crowds of people milling about the windows to read special announcements and news bulletins, and to study the picture displays.

Prior to the joint Allied Operation Torch in November 1942, British units produced a small amount of white printed propaganda aimed at Italian and German troops and indigenous Arab civilians in North Africa. These activities were based in Cairo, Egypt. Some 30 leaflets in Italian are known to have been directed to Italian troops in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (both now in Libya). Leaflets in German and in both German and Italian are known. A few leaflets in Arabic are known from this period.

In October 1942, with the approach of Operation Torch, control of propaganda was assigned to the newly created Psychological Warfare Branch of Allied Forces Headquarters (PWB/AFHQ). The PWB operated out of Algiers under the command of Brigadier General Robert A McClure. He was accustomed to working with British military and civilian groups. He was to serve as chief of military propaganda for more than a decade, and was influential in establishing the propaganda warfare school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1952.

Brigadier General Robert A. McClure (later promoted to Major General while assigned as Chief, MAAG, Iran, 1953-1956) is an interesting individual. Alfred H. Paddock Jr. called him the "Forgotten Father of U.S. Army Special Warfare" in an article in Perspectives, the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association, Volume 13, Number 3, 1990. In January 2001 the Army formally recognized McClure's contributions as the father of Army special warfare by naming the US Army Special Operations Command headquarters building in his honor at Fort Bragg, NC.

He had no special training in PSYOP and yet was able to successfully teach himself to become an expert in the field. He was military attaché to the London embassy during 1941-1942, following which he became chief of intelligence, AFHQ for a few months. Eisenhower then selected him to head up the Information and Censorship Section (INC) in AFHQ. In this capacity he planned and commanded INC, with responsibility for radio, leaflets, signal, propaganda, censorship, and related duties. By the end of the North African campaign the section grew to over 1500 personnel.

In 1944 he was named Director of PWD with the responsibility of coordinating all PSYOP in the ETO. He was able to merge members of the OWI, OSS, the British PWE and MOI into a smooth-running and efficient machine. By the end of the war, General McClure's organization was made up of over 2300 personnel. After the war he was quoted, "Modern war has become a struggle for men's minds as well as their bodies."

For some of its work, the Allies used the SIPA press in Algiers. Although the meaning of SIPA is not known, it appears to have been a local printing job shop that published newspapers. The Free French in North Africa also made use of SIPA’s press. The propaganda output was almost exclusively white. Allied leaflets in Italian were airdropped on Italian troops in Tripolitania and Tunisia. German-language leaflets and bilingual German/Italian leaflets were airdropped on Axis troops. Leaflets in Arabic and leaflets in French were airdropped for civilians in North Africa. Some leaflets produced in Algiers were dropped in southern France and Northern Italy.

Code designations for white leaflets for this theatre are, as is not surprising in wartime, largely inconsistent, missing, repetitive, and confusing. The best compilation of these leaflets is R.G. Auckland, Catalogue of Allied Leaflets Dropped in North Africa to German and Italian Troops and Civilians, 1940-1943, PSYOP Society Blatter Catalogue No. 17, 1990.

Allied Military PSYOP Activities in Italy

From 1943 to 1945, the U.S. 5th Army in Italy produced numerous white propaganda newspapers and leaflets. The 5th Army also assisted the British 8th Army in leaflet production. Klaus Mann, with the U.S. 5th Army, probably designed leaflets for both Armies. The numbering and labeling systems used in this theatre are confusing, and it is often difficult or impossible to determine the origin of the leaflets. However, there is little doubt that the bulk of Allied military printed propaganda for Italy originated with the Americans.

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The Propaganda Newspaper “Luftpost”

In Italy, the U.S. 5th Army produced the "G-" and "GL-" series of leaflets. The 5th Army probably also produced various series of leaflets coded "AU/" (for Austria), "C/GN/", "G/" (for the Balkans), "G.A." through "G.Z.", "GC/", "GN", "Gn/", "GS", "GT/", "GIG/", "GTC/", "LN" ("Letzte Nachrichten"), and "NN" ("Neueste Nachrichten"), and numerous other one-shot leaflets either uncoded or with codes not belonging to a series. From late 1943 until the German surrender, the 5th Army produced several long-running series of leaflet newspapers, including Frontpost / Wochenblatt für deutsche Soldaten; Frontpost Ausgabe Süd / Nachrichtenblatt für deutsche Soldaten; Frontpost Ausgabe Süd / Wochenausgabe; Frontpost / Ausgabe der Adriafront; Adriafront / Wochenblatt für deutsche Truppen; Nachrichten aus der Heimat / Frontpost Beilage; Luftpost / Ausgabe Süd; and Luftpost und Soldaten-Nachrichten / Ausgabe Süd. Fifth Army’s main Frontpost series began 4 November 1943 with Issue No. 1 and ran through No. 126 (20 April 1945).

Compilations of Allied leaflets for Italy are found in Hans Düsel, Catalogue of Allied Aerial Leaflets for German and Austrian Troops in Mediterranean Countries and Islands, 1943-1945, PSYOP Society Blatter Catalogue No. 21, 1994; and Hans Dusel, Catalogue Listings of U.S. "Luftpost" and "Frontpost" Newspapers Disseminated by Air to German Troops and Civilians in Europe and to German Troops in Italy, 1944-1945, PSYOP Society Blatter Catalogue No. 19, 1991. The Italian-language book Propaganda Politica e Mezzi di Comunicazione di Massa: Tra Fascismo e Democrazia, Istituto Storico Della Resistenza in Provincia di Novarr "P. Fornara", 1995, gives an extensive discussion of the propaganda to and from Italy; in a chapter entitled "Moral Operations" (pages 150-164), Egidio Clemente, the chief printer at MO Rome, describes the Allied black propaganda produced by his old unit.

Allied Military PSYOP on the European Western Front

Northwestern European theatre: military organization of SHAEF. Under Eisenhower, SHAEF was organized in three Army Groups (AG’s): the 6th AG, commanded by U.S. General Jacob L. Devers; the 12th AG, commanded by U.S. General Omar Bradley; and the 21st AG, commanded British Field Marshal Bernard F. Montgomery. The 6th AG comprised the French 1st Army, commanded by General Lasse de Tassigny; and the U.S. 7th Army, commanded by General Alexander Patch. The 12th AG comprised the U.S. 1st Army, commanded by General Courtney Hodges; the U.S. 3rd Army, commanded by General George Patton; and the U.S. 9th Army, commanded by General William H. Simpson. The 21st AG comprised the Canadian 1st Army, commanded by General D. G. Crerar; and the British 2nd Army, commanded by General Miles Dempsey.

Military PSYOP Structure Under PWD/SHAEF

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Brigadier General Robert A. McClure

The Chief of PWD/SHAEF was Brigadier General Robert A. McClure. At the Army Group level, PWD was combined with Public Relations to form a special Publicity and Psychological Warfare (P & PW) section. Nominally, an AG’s PWD officer reported through the AG’s P & PW officer. At the Army level, Psychological Warfare Branches (PWB’s) were formed within the General Staff section G2 (Intelligence) of each Army.

Officers in charge of PWD activities in the Army Groups and the Armies were:

6th AG: James Clark

12th AG: Colonel Clifford R. Powell

21st AG: Brigadier Neville. The 21st British Army Group produced approximately 81 different leaflets coded AgG.

U.S. 1st Army: LTC Sheperd Stone, then CPT Albert H. Salvatori, then CPT Jacob Tenenbaum. The First Army produced approximately 63 different combat team leaflets coded "CT."

U.S. 3rd Army: LTC Louis Huot. The 3rd U.S. Army produced approximately 56 different Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) leaflets.

U.S. 7th Army: CPT Roos, then Hans Wallenberg. The 7th Army produced tactical leaflets coded with the numeral seven.  An example is "7 A-D 8," which has a propaganda text that starts, "To the Mayor. Mr. Mayor. American troops are approaching your city..." and goes on to explain that there is no need to fear because American troops will not attack civilians. We have no data on the number of leaflets prepared in this "7" series.

U.S. 9th Army: MAJ Edward Caskey, then CPT Peter Hart. The 9th U.S. Army produced approximately 40 different CPH leaflets.

The Psychological Warfare Division Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force – An Account of its operations in the Western European Campaign 1944 – 1945 explains some of the inner workings of PWD/SHAEF. In regard to the use of leaflets it says:

The largest single operation of PWD/SHAEF against the enemy was in the field of leaflets. Largest, that is, in terms of continuing day-by-day tasks and in day-by-day production of materials. The first step toward PWD coordination in the British and American leaflet efforts was the establishment of a joint layout, printing, and production section to serve PID and OWI. By May of 1945 when Germany surrendered, and leaflets operations as such came to an end, the Anglo-American leaflet operation was utilizing exclusively more than 80% of the total offset printing capacity of the United Kingdom.

PWD also published three newspapers on a regular basis:

Nachrichten für die Truppe (Messages for the Troops) was a daily leaflet newspaper, at first of two, and then four sides, which was dropped continuously on or behind the German Western front from 25 April 1944 until the German capitulation.

Frontpost (Front Postal Service) was a weekly semi-tactical newspaper produced by the Twelfth Army group for dissemination by fighter-bomber and medium bomber.

Frontbrief (Front Letter) was a weekly newspaper published by the Seventh U.S. Army team under field conditions.

In regard to dissemination and special operations the final report says:

Through the agency of the Special leaflet squadron, approximately 80% of all leaflets disseminated in the areas of the Anglo-American armies were by the 8th Air Force. Approximately 10% was done by the Royal Air Force, approximately 5% by the fighter-bombers of the Tactical Air Force, and approximately 5% by artillery. A total of approximately 5,997,000,000 leaflets were distributed over the Continent by aircraft based in the United Kingdom during the leaflet operation in the European Theater.

There were a number of special PSYOP operations performed by the PWD. Some of the more notable were:

Operation Huguenot: An attempt to convince the German High Command that Luftwaffe pilots were deserting to the Allies with their aircraft.

Operation Nest Egg: The use of psychological warfare to cause the German garrisons on the British Channel Islands to surrender.

Operation Braddock II: The airdropping of small incendiaries to be used for sabotage by foreign workers in Germany.

Operation Clarion: The use of propaganda along with raids on the German transportation system to frighten repair workers and demoralize civilian and military personnel.

Operation Capricorn: A mixture of black radio and white propaganda leaflets stating the Germany had already lost the war and was fighting on needlessly.

Operation Aspidistra: Propaganda radio on German frequencies giving false orders and news reports to cause chaos among the people and government. 

Another interesting Allied PSYOP campaign asked “Where is the Luftwaffe.” Colonel Robert L. Gleason discusses this operation in “Psychological Operations and Air Power: Its Hits and Misses,” Air University Review, March-April 1971:

In Europe…a psychological warfare campaign enabled air power to achieve an objective that for a while appeared unattainable. This was in conjunction with Operation POINTBLANK, an operation intended to neutralize the combat potential of the Luftwaffe. The problem was to destroy sufficient German aircraft in the months prior to OVERLORD to assure Allied supremacy of the air over the beachhead. It was obvious that the German Air Force was closely husbanding its fighter resources in the spring of 1944…The psychological warfare people from the Office of War Information were called upon to assist in initiating a campaign to force the Luftwaffe into launching more intensive attacks so that their aircraft could be destroyed by the Allied bomber formations, which at the same time adopted new tactics to provide maximum protection against fighters. The theme of this campaign was “Where is the Luftwaffe?” The subtlety with which it was done made it a classic. After initiation of the campaign, the number of fighter intercepts rose from 1800 in March to 2500 in April to 3200 in May. At the same time the Luftwaffe began to abandon its conservative tactics. In May alone, 1315 enemy aircraft were destroyed in battle. This figure represented 25 percent of the German first-line fighters.

The campaign might have worked. I have read that the failure of the German Luftwaffe to appear over the D-day beaches caused the Army troops to comment:

If the plane in the sky is silver, it's American, if it's blue, it's British, if it's invisible, it's ours!

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Leaflet GE-233 

The leaflet shown above was produced by the American 5th Army for German troops in the Balkans during 1943-1944. Coded GE-233, the leaflet asked, Wo bleibt die Luftwaffe? (Where is the Air Force?). The front shows a group of infantry troops at the front and the text:

Where is the Air Force?

Even the best infantry fights in vain without air superiority. As experienced soldiers of the front you know what the lack of air cover means:

Every advance is impossible. Positions, reinforcements and transport are smashed by enemy aircraft. Bogged down at all front lines, the German Air Force is insufficient everywhere because production of aircraft goes down while that of the enemy is constantly increasing. The soldier is still fighting courageously and with exemplary endurance. But – a judgment has already been rendered for the air force. You know best what this defeat means to you.

The back depicts a photograph of a bombed aircraft factory. The caption is:

Focke-Wolf plants, Mardenburg, East Prussia

The text follows: 

In the course of a week (20 to 28 February) the following plants were destroyed or damaged:

Aircraft works Regensburg-Prüfening (Messerschmidt fighter bombers). Aircraft works Regensburg. Obertraubling Messerschmidt aircraft works. Gotha Robert Bosch AG Stuttgart-Feuerbach (spark plugs). Daimler-Benz works, Untertürkheim (air engines and weapons). United ball bearing works Bad Cannstadt Naxos Union, Frankfurt. Focke-Wolf plant, Berlin-Treptow. Siemens machine-building works, Berlin-Lichtenberg (air devices). Henschel aircraft works AG Berlin-Johannisthal Klettner Ltd. Berlin-Johannishof (production and repair works).Focke-Wolf aircraft construction Ltd. Berlin-Johannisthal M.I.A.G., Brunswick (Me 110 components). General transport facilities Ltd, Lepsic-Mockau (production of Ju 88). Junkers aircraft engine works Leipsic-Mockau Erla machines Ltd. Leipsic-Mockau (Me 109).


Leaflet ZG.36

1,920,000 copies of leaflet ZG.36 were dropped on German troops from 11 August to 29 August 1944. Once again American propaganda ridicules the German Air Force. The text on the front is:

Of the German Luftwaffe
Answer at bottom of page

IN THE EAST your comrades are being told that the Luftwaffe is needed for the defensive battles in the West. Here in the West, your comrades of the 91st Infantry Division were told that the Luftwaffe is covering the retreat in Poland and East Prussia. What’s the explanation?

IN THE SOUTH your comrades are being told that the Luftwaffe was concentrated around Cherbourg. In Cherbourg, 50,00 comrades waited in vain for air support. The 243rd Infantry Division saw exactly one plane in 15 days. What’s the explanation?

IN THE WEST the whereabouts of the Luftwaffe is still the same old football. The defenders of St. Lo were told that the Luftwaffe was needed in the tank battles at Caen. At Caen, no Luftwaffe. What’s the explanation?

SOLUTON OF THE RIDDLE: The Luftwaffe does exist. It is at home in the east, west, and south. But it is sufficient nowhere. Just as the British and French air forces in the French campaign of 1940. It is due to its inability to take off, and thus it suffers heavy losses at the airfields. And since it is no longer able to defend the aircraft factories, replacements are declining. Thus, it is constantly shrinking in size.

[Note] it is interesting that the Allies talk about the dangers at the airfields. The Germans had very advanced jet fighters which were as good as, or better than the Allied fighters. As a result, Allied fighters often loitered around the German airfields to catch the enemy fighters landing or taking off. They had no defense then and were easily downed.

The back of the leaflet depicts a German Junkers ju-87 Stuka in a dive-bombing attack and the title: She is missing. Three paragraphs explain the importance of the Luftwaffe and are titled: For Reconnaissance, For Replenishment, For the front.

We should note that not everyone was so enamored with the leaflet operations.

The Operations Research Office (ORO) of the Johns Hopkins University published a 1950 booklet entitled The Value of Propaganda Leaflets Disseminated by Aircraft. Authors Kenneth W. Yarnold and Jean Marie Dady attempted to evaluate the leaflets dropped by aircraft in northwest Europe from 1944 - 1945 compared with other propaganda media. Since this is clearly impossible, and there is no way to evaluate the number of leaflets with the specific results, the authors state:

The techniques used did not demonstrate that airdropped leaflets had any positive value.

Flugblätter aus den USA 1943-1944, Klaus Kirchner, Verlag D+C, Erlangen, 1977 depicts all of the American USG leaflets (approximately 53) and all of the XG leaflets (approximately 26) for the years 1943-1944.

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USG 8 is an example of the full-color American strategic propaganda leaflets produced for dissemination over Germany. It was dropped in late 1943 and depicts an American B-17 with bomb-bay doors open. It tells the German people that the Americans have entered the war in strength and reminds them that it was the Germans who declared war on the United States. The text on the front is, "Now the American Flying Fortresses are in action." The text on the back is, "This leaflet was dropped by an American bomber." Around the four sides of the back of the leaflet is the message, "Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States December 11, 1941."

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Three Fuhrers…No Reich - CT-36
(Leaflet courtesy of Rod Oakland)

Tactical leaflet CT-36 depicts a cartoon of Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler with one hand covering a portrait of Adolf Hitler, and the other hand pressing on the head of Reichsmarschall Air Marshall Hermann Goering. Himmler's foot smashes a relief map of Germany. Text on the front is "Three Fuhrers…" and "…No Reich." This is a parody of the German slogan, "One leader – one Reich."

Like the CPH leaflets, the CT series were disseminated by artillery. They were produced and distributed by the United States First Army in Western Europe from D-Day+6 to the end of the war. A complete list of the CT series is illustrated by Rod Oakland in Leaflets Disseminated by Artillery Shell, PsyWar Society Blatter No. 23, 1996.

The German-language text on the back is over a large question mark. It is obviously meant to cause division within the German people, implying that Himmler is stealing power in the Third Reich from their beloved Fuhrer. The text is:

The large question mark.

In the last weeks, hundreds of your comrades and numerous German officers, who found safety and protection in our prisoner-of-war have camps asked us:

"Where is Hitler?"

It does not interest us where Hitler is.

We only know only that on 9 November, not Hitler but Himmler delivered the "celebration speech".

We only know that not Hitler but Himmler issued the proclamation for the formation of the "People's Army."

We only know only that not Hitler but Himmler has taken the oath of allegiance of the "People's Army."

Perhaps that your officers can answer the question whether you are still bound by your oath of allegiance to Hitler in spite of the fact that nobody answers your question:

Where is Hitler?

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CPH-16 - Florian Geyer (Front)

We mentioned the CPH leaflets above. They seem to have been first printed about October 1944. The CPH leaflets were tactical leaflets. They were used in limited local operations against the Wehrmacht for a specific operation or campaign. As you can see from the address below, this leaflet was prepared for use against a specific German division. Initially, the leaflets were printed in a shop in the Dutch town of Maastricht. Later, the CPH leaflets were produced by mobile printing presses in the field. They were disseminated by artillery or grenade.

CPH-16 is in the form of a German field postcard addressed "To the 957th People's Grenadier Regiment of the 363rd People's Grenadier Division near Broich at the Rur." The alleged sender is the "3rd company of the 957th People's Grenadier Regiment in an American collective camp." The text is:

Dear Comrades! When the Americans threw up a smoke screen, we knew that an attack was imminent. The whole bridgehead obviously made no sense anymore. The Americans came across every night and captured a few of us. On December 8, they took the whole company. Because of that idiotic bridgehead the whole company was sacrificed. But at least we made a virtue of necessity. For three days we had nothing to eat at Hasenfeld. Here in the collection (P.O.W.) camp we eat three meals a day. The Americans immediately treated our casualties. We are allowed to write four letters and four cards home each month. Our relatives will be very happy to see us again after the war.

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CPH-16 - Florian Geyer Card - (Back)

The back of the card depicts a knight in medieval clothes holding a banner. The lines "Florian Geyer" and "just seems to be dead!" are above and below the knight. The flag is inscribed "Colonel baron Florian von Gall." Near the picture is a typed text headline, "The men of the 3/957 People's Grenadier Regiment accuse you, Colonel." The message is:

Why did we have to push our bicycles on the march from Ede to Titz? Why were the officers allowed to ride their bicycles while you sat in your automobile?

Why could we not hold on to the Hasenfeld farm? Because you had taken no precautions if it had been necessary to blow up the Rur bridge. Do you seriously think that a foolish motto like 'Florian Geyer only seems to be dead' can replace shot-up pneumatic boats?

You, Mr. Colonel, are guilty of the fact that the last German bridgehead between Linnich and Jülich west of the Rur near the Hasenfeld farm was taken by the Americans. You wanted to sacrifice us pointlessly to save the bridgehead. But we saved ourselves.

The accused colonel of the 957th People's Grenadier Regiment was apparently named Florian Freiherr von Gall (Freiherr = baron). In Leaflets from the U.S. Armies for German Soldiers in Western Europe 1944-1945, author Klaus Kirchner adds that Colonel von Gall was captured by U.S. troops and interviewed on 7 March 1945. He stated that he had seen the leaflet and was amused by it. He thought that the leaflet text was a joke. The motto “Florian Geyer only seems to be dead” was designed to raise the morale of his men who were trapped in the Falaise Gap. In addition, He felt that no German soldier would expect his commanding officer to walk on foot with the infantry rather than ride in an automobile. He was sure that his men considered the American propaganda text foolish.

The 363rd Volks Grenadier Division was reorganized on 17 September 1944 from the 566th People's Grenadier Division and the survivors of the 363rd Infantry Division that escaped the defeat in the "Kessel von Falaise" in France. It fought the U.S. 101st Airborne Division near Nijmegen and, later, the British in the Arnhem area of Holland. It opposed the U.S. 9th Army in the Rur River area from November of 1944. As told in the text on the card, the Division was unable to hold the lines and lost the last bridgehead of this front sector on 8 December 1944 to the American troops. It was during this time that the CPH leaflet was prepared.

In Geschichte der 363 Infanterie Division, (History of the 363rd Infantry Division, Selbstverlag: Lubeck, 1977), author Helmut Gohlke illustrated CPH16 and stated that it was fired by artillery on and around the night of 10 December 1944. Being a tactical leaflet, the undated CPH-16 postcard was produced one or two days after the defeat. Kirchner mentions that 50 artillery rounds loaded with CPH16 were forwarded to the front on 17 December 1944.

Florian Geyer (1490-1525) was a Franconian knight. His fight for a better Reich was used as propaganda by the Nazis, since the 8th SS Cavalry Division was called "Florian Geyer."

The 363rd People's Grenadier Division faced the American 9th Army at the banks of the river in November 1944. It lost the last bridgehead of this front on December 8, 1944. German author Helmut Gohlke who published the story of the 363rd Infantry Division in 1977, says that the Florian Geyer leaflet was shelled to the German troops on December 10, 1944.

Flugblätter aus den England aus USA 1944-1945, Klaus Kirchner, Verlag D+C, Erlangen, 1977 depicts all of the American/British ZG leaflets to the German Wehrmacht (approximately 139), the WG (workers) leaflets (approximately 56) and all of the VG SHAEF Newspaper leaflets (approximately 27) for the years 1944-1945.

Some Samples of ZG Leaflets

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ZG 79K

2,160,000 copies of Leaflet ZG 79K were dropped in November and December 1944. The leaflet poses this question and explanation to the enemy:

Enemy Propaganda? BOMBS could have fallen from the plane that dropped this leaflet. Why does the enemy send you leaflets instead of bombs? Does he perhaps have to economize with bombs?

NO: This leaflet has a message for YOU. It is supposed to save YOUR life. Examine carefully therefore what it has to say.

  1. Germany has lost the war. If there had been anything which might have staved off defeat. it would have been committed now, in order to prevent the invasion of Germany in the East and West. And since no wonders occur in the machine age, even the utmost bravery and willingness to sacrifice can only have one result: your own death.

  2. You may be able to save yourself. Sometimes in attacks or counterattacks there is an opportunity to stay behind and let oneself be captured. The enemy is able to break down all resistance ruthlessly. It is up to you to give a sign, when in a hopeless situation, that you do not wish to commit suicide. You do this by raising your arms and waiving something white.

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ZG 80 K

Leaflet ZG 80 K reports "11,000 Casualties in one Division." 240,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped during November 1944. The text of the leaflet reads:

That is the history of the 710th Infantry Division since June 6, 1944.

First the 716th Infantry Division was simply crushed by the overpowering material superiority of the Allies. In the first onslaught of the invasion in the West. More than 2,000 were captured in the course of the unequal battle (among them Colonel King, the Commanding Officer of the 736th Infantry Regiment). Thousands upon thousands of other soldiers of the division have been buried in the soil of Normandy.

But that was not enough!

The survivors together with a few thousand newcomers, were sent from one catastrophe into the other; They are to try the impossible also against the enemy who landed in overwhelming force in Southern France - and to try it from Nimes to Poix along the Rhone and the Saone, up to the farefield of the West Wall, which meanwhile has been broken in the North. Again thousands of casualties (and among them Colonel Hafner. the successor of the captured Colonel Krug).

The 718th Infantry Division has fought well - but the unequal fight has so far cost no less than 11,000 casualties in one division - and what for? That is the question which the survivors of the twice desolated regiments are asking. And the enemy's superiority as meanwhile not become smaller, but bigger.

After hard fighting and bitter disappointments the last soldier of the 716th Infantry Division must realize today: They comes a time when the sacrifice of human lives simply no longer benefits one's country and that time which had been reached before by thousands of comrades who have been taken prisoner - that time has now arrived for all.

FLASH: Major General Richter, the former Division Commanding General of the 716th Infantry Division is well, and is safe and sound in allied captivity.

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ZG 100

Leaflet ZG 100 is titled Lost! 9,161,860 copies of this leaflet were dropped between 1-11 January 1945. The text of the leaflet is as follows:

The last attempt to avoid defeat has failed. The surprise offensive in which Himmler and Rundstedt have staked everything is collapsing. Neither Liege nor Verdun were attained. Around the long neck which Rundstedt has driven into the Allied lines, is a noose that is tightening.

In order to prevail against the Allies one needs an unlimited flow of replacements, of tanks, planes, men and artillery. That such a flow of replacements is needed, was well known to Rundstedt and Himmler. That they were not available, they also knew. Still they staked everything on one last card - and lost the game.

What are the consequences?

  1. Thousands upon thousands have already perished in this campaign. Further thousands will still have to die - but with one difference: before, it may have had some meaning, but now you know that everything is lost.

  2. The war may still be continued by the fanatics. But after the last attempt every soldier must realize (if he is a soldier and not a party politician) that the outcome can no longer be influenced by fighting.

  3. Again among the soldiers who were "lost", there are now tens of thousands who await the peace as prisoners-of-war. They have swelled the number of comrades who were taken prisoner in the West to 850,000.

Those comrades are the ones who won.

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ZG 115

Leaflet ZG 115 is titled: ONE MINUTE which may save your life. 3,928,544 copies were dropped between 12 March and 2 April 1945. The remainder of the text on the leaflet is:

Read the following six points carefully and thoroughly. They may mean for you the difference between life and death.

  1. In the battle of material, valor alone cannot offset the inferiority in tanks, planes and artillery.

  2. With the smashing of the West Wall and the collapse in the East, the decision has been reached: Germany has lost the war.

  3. You are not facing barbarians who delight in killing, but soldiers who would spare your life if possible.

  4. But we can only spare those who do not force us by senseless resistance, to use our weapons against them.

  5. It is up to you to show us your intention by raising your arms, waiving a handkerchief, etc., in an unmistakable manner.

  6. Prisoners-of-war are treated decently, in a fair manner, as becomes soldiers who have fought bravely.

You must decide for yourself. But in the event that you should find yourself in a desperate situation, remember what you have read.

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ZG 116

The bold red letters at the top of leaflet ZG 116 announces: Two words that saved 950,000 Lives. 6,980,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped between 10 March and 9 April 1945. The remainder of the text is:

"I SURRENDER" said 950,000 of your comrades in the West alone, because they realized their position was hopeless.

"I SURRENDER" meant that 950,000 of your comrades got out of the hell of the battle of material, into safety.

"I SURRENDER" meant that 950,000 of your comrades will see home again, healthy and well, after the end of the war.

For you two words show the road home TWO WORDS: "I SURRENDER".

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ZG 118 K

Leaflet ZG 118 K lists the German prisoner of war totals as of certain dates in the West alone since the invasion. The leaflets points out that as of March 7, 1945, the number of German prisoners had reached one million. The leaflet notes at the bottom that: These soldiers are in safety. 8,500,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped between 12 February and 17 March 1945.

WG (workers) leaflets

These WG (workers) leaflets were created to scare away the German Civil (working) population away from the war plants. Similar leaflets were disseminated targeting the slave labor force brought to Germany from France, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Italy. Shown below is the front of leaflet WG48 with the English translation and the Italian version back to the leaflet.

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WG 48

1,308,978 copies of leaflet WG 48 were dropped between 19 March and 24 March 1945. The text of the leaflet reads:

of Frankfurt on Main and Mannheim - Ludwigshafen

You live in one of Germany's most important areas of war industry. The whole armament industry of Frankfurt and Mannheim Ludwigshafen from now on will be subjected to a merciless bombardment. But the allies are determined to destroy not the German people, nut the German war machine. For this reason the Supreme Commander has issued the following warning.

  1. The warning applies to all parts of Frankfurt and Main including the following suburbs: Niederusel, Heddernheim, Eschersheim, Eckenheim, Ginnheim, Preungsheim, Seckbach, Fechenheim, Burgel, Offenbach, Oberrad, Niederrad, Griesheim, Rodelheim, Hausen, Praunheim.

  2. The warning applies to the town of Mannheim-Ludwigshafen including the following suburbs: Sandhofen, Waldhof, Kaftertal, Wallstadt, Feudenheim, Seckenheim, Neckarau, Mundenheim, Rheingonheim, Mutterstadt, Friesenheim, Oggersheim, Oppau, Esheim, Frankental.

  3. These districts are now combat areas. Every inhabitant of the above name districts is hereby warned to remove himself and his family immediately to a safe place outside the battle area.

  4. You are specifically advised that from now on, no shelter or refuge within the above named districts can be considered safe. Your life depends upon the immediate execution of these orders. Act now! out of the battle areas! Out of the war!


March 17th, 1945                                                 Dwight D. Eisenhower
                                               Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force

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To the Italian Workers

One of four backs on leaflet WG48. The version shown above is the Italian version. Versions were also prepared in French, Polish, and Czechoslovakian.

The PWD in Britain produced the "T", "V", "W", "Y", and "Z" series of white leaflets.

Working under PWD, the OWI produced the several "US" series of white leaflets destined for various countries: "USB" leaflets were for Belgium; "USC" leaflets were for Czechoslovakia, etc. Other "US" leaflet codes are: "USD" (Denmark), "USF" (France), "USG" (Germany), "USH" (Holland), "USI" (Italy), "USJ" (Channel Islands), "USL" (Luxembourg), "USN" (Norway), and "USP" (Poland). OWI and the British PWE (Political Warfare Executive), apparently outside the PWD umbrella, produced the "X" series of white leaflets, which employed a country code similar to the "US" series.

Tactical Military PSYOP on the Western Front

Twelfth Army Group. In the northwestern European theatre following D-Day, the 12th Army Group’s Psychological Warfare Detachment (PWD 12th AG) was particularly industrious in producing (mostly) white propaganda. Within the 12th Army Group, PWD’s tactical PWB attached to the U.S. 9th Army in the field produced the "CPH" series of leaflets.  Another PWD tactical unit, the PWB attached to the U.S. 3rd Army, produced the "PWB" series of leaflets.

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Open Letter - PWB-33 (Front)

This United States PWB propaganda leaflet is entitled "Open letter" and depicts an envelope addressed in the old so-called "Sütterlin" type that was preferred by the Nazis, "To Major Voss / Commander / Fort Empress." The envelope shows a hand-drawn "stamp" and cancel with purposely illegible text except for the cancel date of 12 December 1944.

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Open Letter - PWB-33 (Back)

The message on the back  is:


You know that Fort Mannstein, Fort Alvensleben, Fort Kronprinz, and all the other forts around Metz have fallen – except your fort.

You know that we will now concentrate all our artillery that was directed against these forts, on your fort.

You know that your fort is far away from the HKL since our troops are already fighting east of Saarlautern.

You know that your resistance in this hopeless situation will not have any influence on the end of war, and that your leaders have already given up you and your subordinates.

You know that every day you hold out will cost the life of further casualties which could be saved in American hospitals.

You know that uninterrupted fire on your fort means further victims of dead and wounded men.

You know that the men you send out every night to secretly cross our lines for Germany will not achieve their goal.

They will be killed or taken prisoner.

You know that all the stories you are disseminating about the treatment of German prisoners-of-war are untrue. All POWs are treated well according to the regulations of the Geneva Treaty.

Colonel STOESSEL and lieutenant colonel RICHTER knew that we will treat their subordinates fairly.

We agreed to the requests of the German medical orderlies, and they carried their casualties to the waiting American ambulances.

German officers disarmed their crews and led them to the waiting trucks.

One glance at their faces convinced us that the German soldiers were glad to have escaped the war.

How long will your subordinates have to suffer?

Note: Metz is a town in Northern France, about 40 km south of the Luxembourg border. There were about 22 defensive forts in the Metz area. "HKL" can be translated as "Hauptkampflinie," the "Main Line of Resistance" or "Main Fighting Line," probably similar to the United States Army acronym "FEBA" or "Forward Edge of the Battle Area."

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The front of leaflet PWB-47 depicts a map of Germany surrounded by the Allies. Part of the map is checkered and there are small bombs drawn all over Germany. Text at the top and bottom of the leaflet is: 

Retreat on all Fronts
German-held areas on February 11, 1945
Targets most frequently bombed in the last fortnight.

The back of the leaflet is all text and bear a long propaganda message. Some of the message is:

To All German Soldiers!

It must be evident to all German soldiers that this war, instigated by the Nazis, is hopelessly lost.

The result was inevitable, because, like the Nazi Party, the war was based on evil and unholy precepts. The Nazi Party dominates the German people through the rule of the gangster. That rule is; either agree with us and conform to our orders, or you will die or go to a concentration camp. The Nazi Party has maintained domination over the German people and the German Army through its violation of the noblest impulse of the Human heart, which is the love of a man for his family and his blood relatives. The Nazis have intimidated every German through the persecution of his helpless and innocent family. The whole German people permits itself to be dominated and ruthlessly controlled by one-quarter million SS gangsters under Nazi rule. No cause predicated on these principals has ever succeeded in a world of righteous men, nor ever will…


Rather than die in a hopeless cause.

12th Army Group

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Leaflet 12 AG-20 -  My Name is Joe Jones

The 12th Army Group after-action report mentions some special leaflet operations. "As occasion demanded, Group asked for and sometimes produced leaflets for special occasions. On the request of the field commander a leaflet was written and produced by group to serve as an advance calling card for the imminent arrival of American troops. This was printed in color (The American flag) and with the picture of a typical American combat soldier. It was just called, "My Name is Joe Jones" and presented the thoughts of Joe Jones in the first person. Joe told the Germans that Americans had not changed since occupying Germany in the last war; that Americans were out after a lasting peace and were smashing the German Army for that purpose; that Germans who behaved themselves and had clear records had nothing to fear, but that Nazi criminals and those who resisted would be crushed." Some of the Joe Jones leaflets bear no code, others are coded 12 AG-20

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German leaflet 982144/26

What is curious about this leaflet is that the Germans may have answered it. This leaflet was used in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge as well as other fronts in Europe known by the Germans to be occupied by Allied soldiers. The leaflet depicts a half-naked woman on a couch, holding a cigarette and daydreaming of her evening out. The text on the back of the leaflet reads in part:

Yes, it is the wife of Joe Jones or of one of your other boys. She dreams of last night. In her thoughts she is enjoying the wonderful hours again which she has just spent with her new friend. Don't grudge her these nights. She is young and beautiful. The human body and its desires are powerful. At first she tried very hard to remain faithful but she lost this battle against herself as thousands of wives and girls back home did before her. It all started with an evening out, with going to the movies and to some bar, but soon it became real love.

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Frontpost, 11 December 1944

We will examine 12th AG’s progress through France and Germany by following the production and distribution of Frontpost, their successful newspaper for German troops in the Western Front (France, the Low Countries, and Germany). The production of Frontpost and its offspring is a useful illustration of the frenzied pace of activities during the campaign in Western Europe.

While not forsaking its propaganda goals, Frontpost contained mostly straight news, and is therefore "white". The first issue, dated 14 August 1944, was prepared in the operations tent in a field near St. Sauveur in Normandy. The printing of the first issues (Nos. 1 through 5) was done at Rennes, in Brittany. Single-sheet (two-page) issues were produced thrice weekly.

With the advance through France, the publication site for Frontpost and tactical leaflets was moved to Paris soon after the fall of the city. The first Paris-printed issue was dated 31 August 1944. Nine issues (Nos. 6-14) were printed in Paris.

Beginning with issue No. 15 (dated 22 September 1944), printing was moved to the plant of the Luxemburger Wort in the city of Luxembourg. Beginning with No. 33, dated 13 November 1944, the newspaper became a four-page weekly. Since Frontpost was being airdropped inside Germany, its content began to include news of interest to German civilians in addition to soldiers. Frontpost continued publication through issue No. 48, dated 20 April 1945.

The classified confidential Psychological Warfare Branch Combat Team booklet says in the Frontpost chapter:

One of the most important undertakings of the PWB Combat Team in the field is the editing, printing, and distribution of Frontpost, a miniature but complete weekly newspaper delivered to German troops in the immediate operational zone. This newspaper, written in German, is delivered regularly once a week to the opposing troops in shells fired by Allied artillery.

Although strictly an informative newspaper edited in a neutral manner, it fulfills major propaganda aims by providing German troops with an impartial, objective presentation of world news which is not available through any German medium.

The PWB Team booklet states that they were packed into shells that could carry 400 copies of the newspaper.

The History of the Second Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company

The Second Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company History which was part of the PWB says that it printed the Frontpost newspaper. It was written and edited in part by Company personnel with material obtained by the Intelligence personnel as well as the group monitoring section. Printing was first done at the plant of the newspaper L’QUEST FRANCE in Rennes and dissemination was made by leaflet bombs of the 9th Tactical Air Command from its airfields in the vicinity.

After the liberation of Paris, investigations were made of the records of the Nazi Propaganda Agency for the purpose of locating collaborators and uncovering incriminating material that might be used in future propaganda. Frontpost, the first Paris edition which had been published the day following the liberation continued to be produced at a local printing establishment and delivered to nearby airfields.

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Feldpost, 18 November 1944

In order to reach areas close to the battle lines not being serviced by Allied airdrops, in early November 1944 PWD 12th AG began an abridged version of Frontpost, called Feldpost, in single-sheet leaflet size, to be released from artillery shells fired by front-line artillery units. The first issue appeared 5 November 1944. Feldpost was initially issued once a week; later twice weekly.

The book Publicity and Psychological Warfare 1943-1945 by the 12th U.S. Army Group European Theater of Operations, mentions the newspapers in greater detail:

"Early in November it was decided that the airdrop of Frontpost did not entirely fill the demand for getting news to the German troops facing us, since areas where a newspaper might be effective were sometimes not being reached by airdrop. To remedy this situation, it was decided to produce a leaflet-sized newspaper to be fired from artillery shells. The first issue of this leaflet-newspaper, called Feldpost, ("Field Post") appeared under the date of 5 November 1944. Feldpost employed the same methods and had the same objectives as its bigger brother Frontpost. Many of the same features were included, but in condensed, stripped-down form.

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Official translation of Feldpost (Issue 6 - December 1944) prepared for the artillery.

From the first, an exact English duplicate of Feldpost was printed in English. This was done for distribution among the gunners and other Army personnel involved in the distribution of the paper. It was felt that these men were entitled to know what they were shooting at the enemy, and that they would perform their jobs with more enthusiasm and understanding if they themselves could read the paper that they were helping to get to the enemy."

The Report of Operations of the 12th Army Group says:

"12th Army group began it psychological warfare operation from a cow pasture outside St. Sauveur de Lendelin seven weeks after the advance elements of the Headquarters attached to First Army produced the first combat leaflets of the war.

The first leaflet was written on a wheelbarrow, run off on a mimeograph machine, loaded into six shells and peddled, with difficulty, to batteries of the 82nd Airborne Division.

The first combat loudspeaker laid down its barrage in the hedgerows approaching La Haye de Puits, also in support of the 82nd Airborne Division.

The first tactical radio program, from an SCR 399, was broadcast to the enemy in the vicinity of St. Lo.

The first issue of the 12th Army Group newspaper for German troops, Frontpost, appeared under the date 14 August 1944, and carried the headline: 100,000 prisoners in France." Publication was suspended with the first May issue of 1945 after the official announcement of the German surrender."

As increasing territory in Western Europe fell to the Allies, PWD 12th AG began the production of a newspaper aimed at civilians in areas controlled by the Allies. The first issue was dated 27 November 1944 and was called Die Neue Zeitung ("The New News") with the headline "Strassburg has been liberated." All subsequent issues were entitled Die Mitteilungen, loosely "Information." This civilian newspaper was distributed by land, not airdropped. Die Mitteilungen was of standard newspaper size, a single sheet printed on both sides.

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Installing loudspeakers

Before we leave the subject of the newspapers Frontpost and Feldpost we should briefly mention the “Ritchie Boys.” In 2004 Christian Bauer directed and produced a movie entitled “Ritchie Boys” which told the story of Europeans and German nationals and Jews who fled the European Continent only to return as U.S. soldiers. They knew the psychology and the language of the German military and people. In Camp Ritchie, Maryland, they were trained in PSYOP and intelligence. They advanced with the U.S. Army after D-Day and interrogated German prisoners, defectors and civilians. They drafted leaflets, produced radio broadcasts and helped to publish Frontpost and Feldpost. They also went to the front lines in trucks equipped with loudspeakers, and tried to persuade their German opponents to surrender.

The movie is based on the book Die Ritchie Boys - Deutsche Emigranten beim US-Geheimdienst, (The Ritchie Boys - German Emigrants in the US Secret Service), Christian Bauer and Rebekka Goepfert, Hoffmann and Campe, 2005. The author says:

We are at Colombières Castle, which the Americans just occupied. This is the Ritchie boys' first French headquarters. Hans Habe played the leading role in Colombières. He had a staff of Ritchie boys with him. He had chosen the best people from the special training course in Camp Sharpe.* They were writing for him - for the Frontpost - a newspaper in German which was dropped over the German lines. They edit reports and conceive leaflets. The production of the leaflets and newspapers was difficult under war conditions. There was a lack of paper…When they moved westwards, they had a mobile printing unit with them which made it possible to print the leaflets and newspapers on the spot...The Ritchie boys found out that the German soldiers at the front lacked important information. The Nachrichten für die Truppe newspaper was conceived for them. Stefan Heym came up with the idea to print the Frontpost which appeared regularly after 14 August 1944. This newspaper was later published under the name of Feldpost, and precisely described the situation on the front lines, together with maps and reports of the fates of soldiers and civilians. The Frontpost, like the leaflets, was first edited at Colombières Castle.

*Intelligence personnel proceeded from Camp Ritchie to a staging area at Camp Sharpe, Pennsylvania, where they received additional combat training, were formed into teams, and assigned directly to theater control.

The History of the 2nd Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company details the history of the unit from Camp Ritchie to the end of the war.  From the time the unit arrived in Normandy in the last week of June to the end of July, the printing section turned out approximately 2,015,000 copies of about 15 different leaflets.

Charles de Maupeou wrote to me from France in January 2007 to say that he had created a free exhibition in the castle to commemorate the time that the Second Radio Mobile Broadcasting Company was stationed there. The name of the exhibition is, “The Ritchie boys at Château de Colombières in June 1944.”

Before we leave the subject of loudspeakers we should briefly mention their introduction on tanks. Arthur T. Hadley talks about the first use of American loudspeaker tanks in an article entitled “Firing Potent Words from a Tank,” The New York Times, 25 September 2006. He says in part:

We soon discovered that reminding Germans that they would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions was one of the most effective ways to persuade them to surrender. We would first outline the German position; then describe the weight of artillery and air power that was about to fall on them; then end with assurances that those troops who surrendered would be well treated under the Geneva Conventions.

After the Battle of the Bulge, we mounted a loudspeaker on a light tank of the Second Armored Division. The jury-rigged tank worked remarkably well. The loudspeaker itself was mounted on the forward slope of the turret and partly covered by a metal casing that resisted light machine-gun fire. Some of the ammunition racks inside the tank were removed and the amplifiers for the loudspeaker fastened to the steel insides. The broadcasters were in the turret, the tank driver was forward in the driver’s compartment and the electrician who maintained the loudspeaker and electronic equipment occupied the assistant driver’s seat. In three weeks fighting beyond the Rhine in 1945, the Second Armored Division credited the talking tank for the surrender of 5,000 prisoners.

Hadley mentioned loudspeaker tanks once again in his book Heads or tails: A life of Random Luck and Risky Choices. He says that in March 1945 he mounted loudspeakers on tanks and moved forward with the regular armor. Ninth Army headquarters cited him for his ability to talk German defenders of roadblocks and towns into surrendering. Hadley was awarded the Silver Star for his “talking tank.”

He adds:

The cold winter of 1944-1945 drags on. The Germans are repulsed at the Battle of the Bulge. Their Siegfried line is finally breached, the Allied Armies reach the Rhine. A heroic OSS agent, Alex Samarepa, mounts a loudspeaker on a Third Armored Division tank. He is unfortunately killed two weeks later. I mount a loudspeaker on a Second Armored Division tank. If only I had been able to mount a loudspeaker on a tank in June of 1944 not March of 1945, how many lives might I have saved? Along with the loudspeaker and spares, I have two fine sergeants: William Plice, an electrician who keeps the speakers working, and Walter Freund, a German speaker. Both courageous men. Plice will leave the safety of our tank to save my life. Freund has quit a soft job in Versailles to work on loudspeakers with me.

With the deeper advance of Allied forces into Germany following the crossing of the Rhine, even Die Mitteilungen could not serve the entire Allied-occupied area, and beginning 2 April 1944, 12th AG began production of its first local newspaper, Kölnischer Kurier. The Cologne Courier was highly successful, and led to a chain of local newspapers as the 12th AG advanced.

References for 12th AG activities: "News sheets as weapons of war," in William Daugherty, Psychological Warfare Casebook, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1958, pages 556-562; this article was taken from History: Publicity and Psychological Warfare, 12th Army Group, January 1943-August 1945, pages 116-126. Additional information is in Clayton D. Laurie, The Propaganda Warriors – America’s Crusade Against Nazi Germany, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 1996.

Canadian PSYOP

A Royal United Services Institute for Defense Study paper written by Oliver Ryan Clow dated April 2006 discusses Canadian psychological operations during WWII.

Clow says that the Germans had broadcast French short-wave broadcasts to French-speaking Canadians starting about 1941. The Vichy radio directed towards Quebec consisted of themes such as patriotism towards France, promoting the leadership of Marshall Petain and the common bond between Parisians and Quebecois.

Canada entered the field of psychological warfare on 20 June 1943, when the Political Intelligence Committee was formed. This later became the Political Warfare Committee (PWC) responsible for the oversight and general planning of psychological warfare. The Canadians did not want to follow the British or American models. They preferred a smaller, more maneuverable organization.

At first the Canadian psychological warfare effort focused on countering the Vichy and German efforts. However, a good deal of Canadian propaganda was also leveled at the German people, people of German-occupied countries and the German military forces. Germany would remain the focus of the PWC long after efforts in France were reduced.

Throughout 1944, PWC continued to improve the Canadian psychological warfare capability, especially in terms of French and German language material. Much of this was forwarded to the British and Americans. The PWC routinely solicited German prisoners of war, as well as Canadians of various cultural backgrounds in order to address their compatriots in their own language. While French and German language material was the focus of the PWC; materials were produced in other languages. Starting about 31 March 1944 the PWC was able to develop a variety of linguistic capabilities, including Italian, Dutch, Yugoslav, Danish and Norwegian.

No short-wave transmitter capable of reaching Europe existed in Canada until late 1944. At the end of 1944 the equipment was procured and psychological warfare duties were then transferred from the PWC to the Wartime Information Board and eventually the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In February 1945, the “Voice of Canada” spoke to the world for the first time.

Canadian psychological warfare made a valuable contribution to the overall Allied propaganda effort. Although there seem to be few printed products, they made great use of radio featuring many of the German prisoners-of-war and helped both the American and the British PSYOP organizations with French and German broadcasts.

Operation Cornflakes

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OSS-forged German Hitler Stamps

This famous project was an elaborate scheme by OSS Rome’s Morale Operations unit in late 1944 and 1945 to improve the delivery of propaganda within the Third Reich by airdropping propaganda-filled mail sacks in the vicinity of bombed railway mail cars. The plan, conceived by Jan Liebig based on John Fistere’s Hungarian mail-bag scheme, required large quantities of properly addressed envelopes containing propaganda, stamped with forged German postage stamps and struck with faked cancellations. Authentic German cancellation devices had been obtained early in MO Rome’s operations, but were made useless when the German Reichspost altered its style of cancellation in August 1944. Weeks of search were needed to obtain post-August 1944 canceling devices. Various problems led to further delays, and the operation went into high gear only in January 1945. A new printing of the OSS-forged German Hitler Head postage stamps was prepared by MO Rome in January 1945 for use in Operation Cornflakes.

Liebig was placed in full charge of Operation Cornflakes in January 1945. Planning and production was done at MO Rome. Distribution was handled by the OSS’s Morale Operations unit in Bari, Italy, under the supervision of Lt. Jack Daniels, who enlisted the 14th Fighter Group of the U.S. 15th Air Force, operating out of Foggia, to perform the airdrops. Twenty-one MO personnel were eventually involved in Cornflakes: 13 at Rome and 8 at Bari.

A staff of workers prepared thousands of envelopes with proper destination and return addresses, taken largely from telephone directories. The destination addresses were generally handwritten, but some were typewritten; the return addresses were either handwritten or printed. Letters with handwritten return addresses had been prepared in large quantities beginning in fall 1944, but these were made obsolete for use in the Cornflakes mail-bag airdrops after wartime depredations caused the German Reichspost to curtail delivery of individual private letters. These restrictions were announced in Reichspost regulations issued 29 January 1945; this caused another delay to Cornflakes while letters with printed (business) return addresses were hurriedly prepared in late January and early February 1945.

Most of the envelopes were stuffed with already available propaganda such as issues of Das Neue Deutschland, the Allies’ full-size black propaganda news sheet for Germany which purported to come from German underground sources. (Later, reduced-size editions of Das Neue Deutschland were used as white propaganda, overtly originating from Allied sources to represent reproduced examples of alleged German underground activity.) Some envelopes addressed to Austria contained Ten Commandments for Austrians or Austrian underground newspapers such as Der Oesterreicher. Labels such as the "Futsches Reich" skull stamp parody of Hitler were also included. An envelope exists containing Das Neue Deutschland for 15 September 1944 (reference: HF files).

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Cassenverein error envelope

The addressed, stamped, and canceled envelopes were placed in replicas of German mail bags. The bags were stuffed into 7-inch smoke-shell bombs and airdropped over Germany and Austria during bombing raids on mail trains in early 1945, in the hope that in the confusion following the air raid the Germans would find the "misplaced" mail bags and insert them into the regular German postal channels. The fake envelopes with propaganda material inside would thus be delivered by the Reichspost! About 400 pieces of mail could be put into a German mail bag. Twenty Operation Cornflakes airdrops involving 320 mail bags of propaganda were made between 5 February and 16 April 1945. Following an air drop on St. Poelten in Austria on 16 March 1945, the Germans discovered the ruse upon noticing a misspelling of a company name – "Cassenverein" instead of the correct "Kassenverein" – on the printed return address of an envelope. Although the mail-drop scheme was somewhat successful for a time, the loss rate of mail bags was very high; only about half were delivered onto the targets, and some of those were surely lost, destroyed, or detected by the Germans.

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Genuine "SIGN OF LIFE" Card

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OSS Forgery of  "SIGN OF LIFE" Card

Another black propaganda item prepared by the OSS-Rome was the forged "Sign of Life" cards. In 1943, the German Reichspost released special postcards that allowed victims of bomb attacks to send a short message to their relatives. Three versions differing in color and design were printed. They are inscribed "Lebenszeichen von" (Sign of life from) on one side, and "Eilnachricht an" (special message to) on the back. All have a broad color frame around the margins. Red cards were for private addressees, green cards for soldiers with field post numbers. Violet cards were used by the Reichspost to check the postal addresses of people living in so-called "Luftnotgebieten" (emergency zones). This form, sometimes called Sign of Life, might be sent to a serviceman from Berlin or Cologne to inform him that his parents were alive and well after a severe raid. These forms usually passed through the German post at no cost to the sender. They normally bore no cancellation, although they were sometimes censored. The OSS forged the green version of the sign-of-life card. The forgery is inscribed in German in carefully handwritten Gothic script. On the address side where the genuine card says "Express to" the OSS added the word "you!" At the lower left, they added the text "F.D.R," short for "Fur die Redakation," ("For the editor"). Beneath those words are Text, which translates to, "The New Germany, Action Committee." The message side bears a longer propaganda text, "Sign of life from - The Illegal fighters – in all the Reich." The card is dated "19-1-45." Text beneath is, "The United Front of all revolutionary parties fights for our liberation from the yoke of the SS and the Party. Join us in the struggle! Form your own action groups!"

In addition to the mail-bag scheme that was the heart of Operation Cornflakes; other airdrops of material prepared by OSS Rome were made in Austria and Germany during the early months of 1945. It is likely that much of this material was inspired by or prepared in conjunction with Operation Cornflakes. However, in a technical sense only material distributed in the twenty known Cornflakes mail-bag drops qualifies as true Cornflakes. Most existing examples of so-called "Cornflakes" envelopes are probably from the ancillary airdrops. It is usually not possible to establish that a given item was dropped in a Cornflakes raid.

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I think I would be remiss if I did not add at least one German leaflet to this article. This leaflet implies that a commando raid was in fact an Allied attempt to invade Europe and it was a terrible failure. It may have helped German morale, but it was a valuable lesson for the Allies and they learned from their failure.

One of the most iconic German leaflets of WWII was dropped on Great Britain after the disastrous raid on Dieppe, France. The leaflet is large, folded and printed on all four sides. There are 29 photographs of destroyed Allied military equipment, British and Canadian dead and captured and allied soldiers being treated well by their German captors. The text is:

We and British invade France (American Journal)

If then this is not in any sense the opening of a “Second Front” what may it be taken to mean? (Times)

The leaflet, coded 451/DE/VIII.42, was dropped on Britain the night of 4-5 September 1942. The Raid, also known as Operation Rutter and Operation Jubilee, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe during the Second World War. The raid took place on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 0500 and by 1050 the Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat. It involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, and 50 United States Army Rangers. A total of 3,367 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Royal Air lost 106 aircraft, compared to 48 lost by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy lost 33 landing craft and one destroyer. The events at Dieppe was used as a lesson and influenced Allied preparations for the successful North African (Operation Torch) and Normandy landings (Operation Overlord).


A wonderful official source of information on the OSS is Kermit Roosevelt’s War Report of the OSS, prepared by the History Project, Strategic Services Unit, War Department, Washington, D.C., and published in two volumes by Walker & Co., New York, 1976. The first volume appears as War Report of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services); the second volume is entitled The Overseas Targets – War Report of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) Volume 2. Another excellent and more recent source is Clayton D. Laurie, The Propaganda Warriors – America’s Crusade Against Nazi Germany, University Press of Kansas, 1996. Niel H. Peterson, From Hitler’s Doorstep – The Wartime Intelligence Reports of Allen Dulles, 1942-1945, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996, offers additional background. The structure and activities of PWD/SHAEF are well recorded in Daniel Lerner, Sykewar, Psychological Warfare Against Germany, D-Day to VE-Day, George W. Stuart, Publisher, New York, 1949.

Of the numerous reports of the Cornflakes operation, some of the more authoritative are listed here. Cornflakes operations through March 1945 are described in an official report "The story of Cornflakes, Pig Iron, and Sheet Iron," prepared in April 1945 by the Morale Operations Unit of the Rome OSS. A specification of types of forged cancels and of some printed return addresses appears in Joachim Hosang, Gezahnte Kriegspropaganda, 2. Teil, De Falschungen der Alliierten für Deutschland, published by the author, Solingen, 1956. Covers are illustrated and discussed in Herbert Friedman’s, "Allied forgeries of the postage stamps of Nazi Germany," The American Philatelist 85, 2 (February 1971), page 119, and in Herbert Friedman’s, "Poison cornflakes for breakfast," German Postal Specialist, February 1973, page 45. The airdrops and the contents of the envelopes are discussed in " ‘Cornflakes’: Using postal forgeries to place anti-Nazi literature on German breakfast tables," American Philatelist 98, 8 (August 1984), pages 819-822/838, which reports investigations by Martin Roberts, who acquired an entire file of "Cornflakes" material from Robert Allen; in Werner Bohne, " ‘Cornflakes’ numbers now known," American Philatelist, May 1989 (reprinted in German Postal Specialist, November 1995, pages 489-496); and in Werner Bohne, "Declassified 6/12/90," German Postal Specialist, April 1991, pages 149-152. Werner Bohne’s GPS Reference Manual of Forgeries, Propaganda and Espionage Forgeries, provides information on stamps, covers, and cancellations used in the Cornflakes operation. Wolfgang Baldus, Schwarze Post, Vol. 1, Munich, 1997, pages 130-148, provides an excellent summary (in German) of Cornflakes, including a tabulation of cancellations and printed sender addresses.

Perhaps we should give the final word about WWII leaflets dropped on Europe to James Erdmann, who wrote a doctoral thesis on U.S. leaflet operations in the European Theater of Operations entitled Leaflet Operations in the Second World War, Denver Instant printing, 1969.

Erdmann estimated that prior to D-Day, the British Royal Air Force dropped 2,151,000,000 and the U.S. Army Eighth Air Force dropped 500,000,000 leaflets on Europe. After D-Day, most psychological operations were controlled by PWD/SHAEF, and the U.S. Army Air Force carried out the majority of leaflet missions and dropped a further 3,240,000,000 leaflets over Axis controlled Europe.

According to “Military Aspects of Psychological Warfare,” The Infantry School, 4 September 1953, The numbers are higher. It claims that over eight billion leaflets were used against the Axis in Europe alone during WWII.

As stated at the beginning of the article, this story is a work in progress. Readers with comments or additions are encouraged to write to the author at

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