The United States PSYOP Organization
in the Pacific During World War II

by Herbert A. Friedman

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Loading leaflet shells in the Pacific

This article in an attempt to explore and study the psychological operations (PSYOP) organizations that were formed during World War II. It is a work in progress. As new organizations and connections between such organizations are found, the article will be updated. This article is mostly concerned with  PSYOP used in the Pacific. We discuss American PSYOP in Europe in another article. Many of the numbers of leaflets and newspaper printed are estimated. The number of printed products produced during World War II is 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.

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Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

In the Pacific, most Navy commanders were lukewarm toward PSYOP. Showing little enthusiasm were Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet; Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) and later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Ocean Area (CINCPOA); and Admiral William H, (Bull) Halsey, Commander, South Pacific Force (COMSOPAC). In most Pacific theaters, PSYOP operated under strict military control with much less structure that was present in the European theaters, and usually with little encouragement and resources.

William E Daugherty, in an article entitled "U.S. Psychological Warfare Organizations in WWII" in A Psychological Warfare Casebook, says, "Admiral Halsey, the area commander, simply did not want to have anything to do with psychological warfare. The only propaganda operations ever conducted in the areas under his command were the improvised, largely uncoordinated, efforts of enthusiastic Japanese language and intelligence personnel desirous of capturing a larger number of Japanese prisoners for interrogation purposes."

Speaking of Nimitz, Daugherty continues,

In CINCPOA under Admiral Nimitz, psychological warfare activities as a recognized coordinated instrument of military was even later in coming into being...Late in 1944 or early 1945 the Joint Intelligence Center (JICPOA) at Nimitz's headquarters set up a small planning staff to plan propaganda operations against Japanese troops...It was just five days before the surrender of Japan that the CINCPAC reached the decision that psychological warfare was a sufficiently potent support weapon to deserve the status as a special headquarters branch. Accordingly, a PWB was established at Nimitz's headquarters.

In fact, Nimitz had authorized a small psychological warfare (PW) section in his headquarters in early June, 1944. Allison B. Gilmore mentions the section in You can’t fight Tanks with Bayonets, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1998:

OWI did not establish a presence in Nimitz’s command until March 1944, when it opened an overseas branch in Honolulu and began full scale propaganda activities. From Hawaii OWI worked under the jurisdiction of the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas (JICPOA), operating jointly with Nimitz’s Psychological Warfare Section, created by June 1944.

Just days before the end of the war Nimitz decided to upgrade his own section into a branch. The military PW section worked hand-in-hand with the civilian Office of War Information (OWI) unit headquartered in Honolulu and later with a forward base on Saipan. The Navy PW section started with just five officers and two enlisted men. When it was decided to concentrate on PSYOP during the invasion of Okinawa, six more officers were added to the section. The PW section continued to expand and had combat propaganda teams at Okinawa, Peleliu and Majuro. It moved with Admiral Nimitz to his headquarters in Guam, What is most interesting is that although it was a Navy section, it consisted of members from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.

William A. Vatcher wrote a report on the Guam outpost entitled Combat propaganda Against the Japanese in the Central Pacific. He says in part:

Nimitz had a Psychological Warfare (PW) Section on Guam and the use of OWI propagandists on Honolulu. The PW section originally consisted of 2 officers and 5 enlisted personnel. As the Okinawa invasion approached, six more officers were added to PW. During the invasion, PW prepared half the leaflets and OWI printed the other half. Two types of leaflets were requested; half to discourage the civilians from obstructing US troops and the other half to weaken the resistance of Japanese troops.

Five days before Japan surrendered, Nimitz authorized a Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) in his Guam Headquarters.

I have seen a great number of Naval leaflets prepared by CINCPAC-CINCPOA in historical archives and own a booklet containing over 200 of them. Most all are in color and they normally have just a numerical code, for example, 100 (Where is your Navy?), 405 (To the Japanese soldier), 802 (While you continue your future resistance), 1005 (Since December 8, 1941), and the notice of surrender, 2118 (Imperial rescript to all subjects). These leaflets bear OWI code numbers so would appear to be civilian leaflets prepared under Navy supervision. It is unknown what coding system the Navy PW section used.

The Australians

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General Douglas MacArthur

Significant U.S. PSYOP activity in the Pacific was concentrated in the Australian-dominated Far-Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) of the Southwest Pacific theater under General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) , who in June 1944 established a Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB). MacArthur, an Army General, reported to Admiral King under an unusual agreement, but was independent of CINCPAC.

Steven Bullard discusses the Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) in an article published by the Australian War Memorial. He points out that the Australian body charged with combat propaganda in the South-West Pacific Area was FELO. He says in part:

In the period from its formation in September 1942 till the end of the war, FELO distributed over 69 million leaflets in 14 languages and dialects in the region. The purpose of leaflet propaganda efforts was twofold: to weaken the fighting spirit of the Japanese, and to strengthen the resolve and resistance of the local people.

FELO was commanded and directed by Australian officers drawn from the three services. Its personnel included officers from Britain, Holland and the Netherlands East Indies force. More than 500 staff was employed within FELO at its height. Its Operational Headquarters were based in Brisbane along with MacArthur’s Headquarters, with a Research and Production section in Melbourne and offices in Sydney. Leaflets became FELO’s most important means of propaganda dissemination, though it also undertook limited direct broadcasting.

FELO was responsible for:

1. Preparation of propaganda material useful to the other sections and initially for dissemination by them to lower the morale of the Japanese forces.

2. Misleading the Japanese regarding our military intentions.

3. Influencing the New Guinea native populations so they would impair the Japanese war effort and assist the Allies.

The FELO Australian leaflets are a vast collection in themselves. There are over 50 different codes known, starting with “A,” “BM,” and “BML,” and ending in “X,” “Y,” and “Z.” To mention all the targeted areas would be an article in itself, so I will just mention a few of the major geographic targets; Borneo, Indonesia, French Indo China, Netherlands East Indies, Brunei, Sarawak, New Guinea, and Portuguese Timor. Some of the individuals targeted in the leaflets are; officers, men and civilians of the Japanese forces, Chinese in Japanese occupied territory, prisoners of war, natives of New Guinea in Pidgin, and Indian prisoners of war. It is clear that when General MacArthur reached Australia he found a very efficient propaganda machine already producing leaflets and posters. It must have been very easy to combine those forces with his American troops.

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Australian Pidgin-Language Leaflet to Bougainville PK20

Bougainville was part of the Australian territory of New Guinea, although geographically part of the Solomon Islands chain. The Allies hit the beaches of the Japanese-occupied island on 1 November 1943 (Operation Cherry Blossom). The initial landing was made by United State Marines, later replaced by U.S. Army and Australian militia troops. The Japanese fought on bitterly and only surrendered when the war ended on 21 August 1945.

In general, the Australian leaflets to the natives were not pictorial or colorful and usually just bore the Great Seal of Australia and propaganda text. I asked Martin Harris of the Australian War Memorial to select some examples for my readers and he sent me the two very colorful that we show here.

PK20 depicts the flags of Australia and the United States. The text on the back says:


We have cut off all the Japanese escape routes from New Guinea and our troops are at Manus, Talasea, Gasmata and many other places.

Your District Officers are with the soldiers assisting them in the fight.

You no longer see Japanese aircraft and ships since they have all been withdrawn.

You can forget the idea that the Jap is in control of you; his day is definitely done.

You must get away from the Japanese. If you are working for them and stay with them it will not be long before you are killed with them.


Notice the use of “District Officers.” This was certainly placed on the leaflet to indicate to the natives that the Australian Government was back and in power. The number of FELO leaflets in Pidgin is extensive. There are 40 coded “P,” 7 coded “PF,” 20 coded “PK” and 103 coded “PM.”

The Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) served as Gen. Douglas MacArthur's intelligence and covert action organization from July 1942 to the end of the war. It was a combined U.S.-Australian activity headquartered in Melbourne. FELO operated as Section D of the AIB. In June 1944 when MacArthur authorized the Psychological Warfare Bureau, FELO was confined to operations involving Australian, British and Dutch forces. The AIB answered to MacArthur's chief intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby, but was under the immediate direction of Col. G.C. Roberts, Director of Intelligence of the Australian Army. An excellent history of AIB is documented in War by Stealth: Australians and the Allied Intelligence Bureau, Alan Powell, Melbourne University Press, 1996.

AIB's mission was:

To obtain and report information of the enemy in the South West Pacific Area, exclusive of the continent of Australia and Tasmania, and in addition, where practicable, to weaken the enemy by sabotage and destruction of morale.

AIB was staffed by personnel from ten armed services from Australia, Britain, America, Netherlands East Indies and Asia.

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Australian Pidgin-Language Leaflet to New Guinea PM29

This leaflet depicts the Flags of Australia and the United States and two P-40 Curtiss fighters (Called “Warhawks,” “Tomahawks” or “Kittyhawks” according to the version) bearing the insignia of those nations. Other native symbols are placed at the left and right of the leaflet. The back is all text and says:


What we told you would happen has happened.

Our ships have passed Salamaua and landed large numbers of soldiers on the other side of Lae and surrounded it.

Large numbers of our troops have crossed the Markham River and cut off the Japs.

Our heavy bombers are plastering the Japs with bombs and strafing them. Lae and Salamaua are doomed.

We are strong now. Bad times are in the making for all the Japs in New Guinea.

The Government has warned you before and repeats its warnings.

Get away from the Jap. Hide in the bush right now and wait for word from us.

RAAF Kittyhawks played a crucial role in the New Guinea battles. They fought on the front line as fighters and their durability and ability to carry 1000 pounds of bombs made them ideal for the ground attack role.

The New Zealand “Digger History” site says:

The Allied Intelligence Bureau was a multinational espionage organization that collected intelligence data; it was also effective in committing wholesale sabotage and creating impressive propaganda during World War II. Under the direction of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, this agency was headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and made up of five departments, including British and Dutch espionage, sabotage, propaganda, and the Australian Coast Watchers who operated in front of and behind Japanese lines.

During MacArthur's brilliantly conceived island hopping campaigns, AIB, commanded by Colonel C. G. Roberts (head of Australian Intelligence) maintained constant propaganda through radio programs, clandestine presses behind enemy lines and leaflets dropped by airplane to discourage Japanese troops and inspire the conquered island peoples to conduct savage guerrilla activities against their Japanese foes.

The AIB-directed guerrilla movement in the Philippines was particularly effective in disrupting Japanese communication, destroying ammunition depots, ambushing small Japanese contingents, and gathering intelligence on troop dispositions and available landing areas which helped MacArthur immensely in mounting his 1944 invasion of the Philippine Islands at Leyte. Once the Philippines were secure, the AIB went out of existence.

Speaking of MacArthur, Daugherty says of the PWB:

A quasi-special staff section was established under the direct supervision of the Military Secretary to the Commanding General. In this unique setup the Chief of the Psychological Warfare Branch enjoyed direct access to the commanding general of the theater...There was little, if any, attempt made to establish a highly integrated staff of the type that emerged in Europe.

The Far-Eastern Liaison Office helped train the early American propagandists of the Psychological Warfare Branch. 37 American officers and enlisted were originally trained by FELO regulars. Later, when PWB asked for FELO members to strengthen their combat teams, nine Australians were attached to the Americans.

Powell goes into AIB activities in great depth. He says that AIB was split into two sections; the Operations Section at McArthur’s advanced HQ in Brisbane, concerned with intelligence; and Research and Production in Melbourne, concerned with research, training and propaganda material. He discusses the personnel of AIB. Powell says:

Captain C.C. Bell set up Camp Tasman at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, and recruited a heterogeneous group of servicemen and civilians to create leaflet propaganda. When Lieutenant Walker joined this group, he recorded, “I was warned by the adjutant to take no notice of any particular types I saw wandering around the camp. We’ve got just about one of everything…but a bloody Eskimo, and if the war lasts another month I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of those bastards walking through the gate.”

There were two “tame” Japanese prisoner-of-war propaganda writers who were allowed to go into town on leave but never left the base for fear of being shot as an enemy by some local patriot. There were at least six females and also a number of Americans assigned to AIB.

The propaganda leaflets were first dropped in brown paper parcels tied with string. Later they used the “Weigall Device” that had a time fuse to open the bundles at a preset altitude. Near the end of the war the Australians were using two types of leaflet bombs. In all, about 69 million leaflets were printed between November 1942 and September 1945. On 19 August 1945 AIB burnt a half million copies of a leaflet that announced the Allied invasion of Japan. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the leaflet unnecessary.

American General Willoughby cited some of the achievements of the AIB. Members won over 100 awards and decorations, 264 missions carried out, 164 operatives killed, 75 captured and 178 missing, against 7,203 Japanese dead, 141 POWs and 1,054 Allied personal rescued from enemy occupied territory.

Almost every wartime book about the OSS mentions Donovan's attempt to gain entry into MacArthur's headquarters. Such anecdotes are found in both The Shadow Warriors by Bradley F. Smith and OSS by R. Harris Smith. The books tell of a number of high-level military and civilian officials sent to meet with MacArthur to plead the agency's case. None were successful:

There was one attempt to smuggle a naval officer who was an OSS agent into MacArthur's headquarters. One of the OSS plotters later wrote, "Our man was captured - not by the enemy - by MacArthur and sent home."

We find another mention of the general’s dislike of the OSS in A Covert Affair, Jennet Conant, Simon and Shuster, New York, 2011:

…MacArthur loathed Donovan with a monumental hatred. The antagonism between the two was so deep that MacArthur had even sworn to court martial any OSS member caught operating in what he considered his exclusive territory. Rumor had it that the feud had its roots in the fact that Donovan had won the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War I, for capturing a German machine-gun nest single-handed, while MacArthur had been twice nominated for the medal and been twice denied…

Note the word “rumor” above. There may be no truth to the story.

Powell discusses the OWI and OSS and how they might have been a threat to the Australian AIB if MacArthur had not been so strongly against them. Some of his comments are:

OWI historian Allan M. Winkler suggests that MacArthur’s bitterness at what he regarded as Roosevelt’s betrayal of his Philippines command led to rejection of OWI’s services in SWPA because the agency was seen as linked to the President’s administration…

OSS was a different matter. Donovan tried hard but MacArthur would have none of it…Why was MacArthur so opposed to OSS? Donovan’s biographer gives three reasons. Willoughby’s ambition to control all intelligence work in SWPA; MacArthur’s objections to independent agencies in his command area; and “the inevitable clash between two strong personalities, equally fixed in purpose.”

Donovan did everything possible to get a toehold in SWPA but without any success. He sent personal emissaries to MacArthur in January and April 1943; in June, Donovan approached the Joint Chiefs of Staff with an offer to train the new Philippines section; In April 1944, Donovan visited MacArthur. It was all for naught. In May 1945, MacArthur told the War Department:

The OSS has not up to the present time operated within this area. I know little of its methods, have no control over its agencies, and consequently have no plans for future employment.

Perhaps the most telling report of the real enmity between the rival organizations was when Psywar Chief General Bonner Fellers submitted a plan for secret operations against Japan. The OSS experts in Washington read the plan and forwarded a lengthy criticism. MacArthur's headquarters replied, "Our experts state that your experts are obviously mere superficial observers." In 1945 when asked about the OSS by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff MacArthur said, "I know little of its methods, have no control of its agencies, and consequently have no plans for its future employment."

Major General Charles A. Willoughby defends MacArthur’s WWII decision in MacArthur 1941-1951, McGraw-Hill, NY, 1951:

In Washington, “Wild Bill” Donovan’s OSS operatives had a fixed idea that they were arbitrarily kept out of MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Theater. Actually, MacArthur had to go along without the OSS because he couldn’t afford to wait for it. Unlike the war in Europe, the U.S. war in Asia was a “shooting war” from the start. Where the OSS in Washington had time to gather information about North Africa, about the “soft underbelly” of the Axis in the Mediterranean and about Europe in general, MacArthur had to improvise his intelligence from scratch with the Japanese breathing down his neck…

His G2 section was handed the job of organizing an Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) to interrogate prisoners and translate captured documents; an Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) to conduct clandestine operations, sabotage and espionage behind enemy lines (a counterpart of OSS); an Allied Geographical section (AGS) to gather and publish geographical information; and a Central Bureau (CB) to provide crypto- analytical services. To help get accurate information about what the Japanese were up to, the AIB took over the Royal Australian Navy’s system of “coast watchers.”

British intelligence agencies were also unable to send agents into the southwest Pacific Area and eventually used the London Times correspondent in Australia to keep track of MacArthur and the American operations. We should also note that when MacArthur led U.N. troops in Korea in 1951 he tried to keep the CIA out of his command. He was less successful.

Josette H. Williams mentions the OWI contribution to the Pacific War in Studies in Intelligence - The Journal of the American Intelligence Professional. In an article entitled "The Information War in the Pacific, 1945," she says:

OWI was responsible for using information warfare to promote distrust of Japanese military leaders, lower Japanese military and civilian morale, and encourage surrender. Information was disseminated by radio and leaflet both to the Japanese mainland and to enemy forces hidden on Allied-occupied Pacific islands.

OWI was manned by civilians and supported by military liaison personnel. The Director, Elmer Davis, reported to Secretary of State James Byrnes. Policy decisions were subject to the approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, coordinated by Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Edward Barrett managed the Overseas Branch; Bradford Smith was chief of Central Pacific Operations in Honolulu; and Richard Hubert headed the forward area on Saipan.

OWI monitored Radio Tokyo broadcasts through its offices in San Francisco, where they were summarized and relayed to Washington. Response and new copy were composed and coded in Washington, then relayed through Honolulu to OWI's printing presses and radio station on Saipan.

OWI bombarded Japan with radio messages through its 50,000-watt standard-wave station on Saipan, Radio KSAI. The station also picked up 100,000-watt shortwave transmissions from the OWI station in Honolulu and relayed them to Japan. KSAI radio transmissions served many purposes: to Japan's civilian government, they were a vital source of news, received at a time when the fanaticism of the Japanese militarists denied civilian leaders access to information about the status of the war; to hidden Japanese soldiers on occupied Pacific islands, they tempted surrender by promising fair treatment as prisoners of war; and to Allied flight crews, the around-the-clock OWI radio transmissions beamed home the B-29s, saving planes and lives.

White Propaganda

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"I Surrender" leaflet was later replaced by "I Cease Resistance"

The American forces fighting in Guadalcanal in 1942 made use of a limited number of OWI morale and surrender leaflets. There was a still a general belief at that time that the Japanese would not surrender, and a tendency on the part of the Americans to shoot those attempting to do so. A great deal of research went into the eventual preparation of an acceptable surrender leaflet and the training of the U.S. troops about the importance of taking prisoners for intelligence purposes. Surrender leaflets were used again in the Aleutian Islands in 1943 with little result.

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Alaska – Death Trap for the Jap

As this Thirteenth Naval District of the United States Navy poster shows, the Navy was not at all happy with the Japanese thrust into the Aleutian Islands.

In the Southwest Pacific, FELO was assigned a mission identical to that of the SHAEF PWD, to "direct psychological warfare (Psywar) against the Japanese and the indigenous inhabitants of the area." MacArthur banned the OSS from his area of command and there are arguments about that action until this day. Most historians agree that he simply did not want a group of uncontrollable civilians mucking about in his area of responsibility.

Brigadier General Charles A. Willoughby, SWPA intelligence chief, later claimed that MacArthur, in the midst of a shooting war, could not afford to wait for the new OSS to establish itself in the theater. MacArthur and his staff were apparently suspicious of semi-autonomous agencies with a separate chain of command back to Washington, and they also believed themselves to be quite capable of handling special operations in the Philippines without any help from the OSS.

The OWI was allowed to prepare "white leaflets’ for SWPA, but no representatives were at headquarters. OWI was simply to plan and print leaflets as requested. The SWPA PSYOP Chief was General Bonner E. Fellers. Al Paddock says in U.S. Army Special Warfare - Its Origins, revised edition, University of Kansas Press, KS, 2002, "Fellers, a 1918 West Point graduate, was one of a very few U.S. senior officers in the Pacific who had actually studied the Japanese military in some depth prior to the war. His "Basic Military Plan for Psychological Warfare in the Southwest Pacific Area," completed in August 1944, provided the Psychological Warfare Branch with its organizational structure, goals, and operating procedures. Fellers believed that the purpose of psychological warfare was 'to further the military effort by weakening the fighting spirit of the enemy and thus hasten Japan's decision to surrender'."

In his "Foreword to the Basic Military Plan for Psychological Warfare in the Southwest Pacific Area" he wrote:

All commanders realize the importance of high morale as a major factor in military success. To lower morale in an enemy army is as vital a mission as to establish and maintain high morale among our own troops.

A soundly conceived, effectively executed campaign of psychological warfare is as basic a part of any modern military operation as are tactics and logistics.

Enemy armies are comprised of soldiers who are individuals - people. What these people think and believe governs what they do, how well they fight and how long they fight. The mental attitudes of enemy civilians likewise have a direct and important bearing on the duration of the war and a close relationship to the fighting effectiveness of enemy troops.

Psychological warfare is the MILITARY application of the science, which analyzes, predicts and influences the behavior of people. In this theater, it includes all activity directed against Japan except guerilla and orthodox warfare and physical sabotage.

A properly directed psychological warfare program in the Far East could achieve objectives of far reaching consequence. A stubborn China, the heroic resistance of the Philippine people, and the stupidity of the Japanese aggressors prevented a racial war. Only by winning the peace can we avert a future racial war.

The favorable reaction of Oriental peoples to invading forces from the West is dependent upon a clear understanding of Western tolerance and liberalism. It is a responsibility of psychological warfare agencies to inform Oriental peoples of the idealistic and unselfish purposes of our war aims. Establishment of mutual respect and trust between Occidental and Oriental peoples presents to psychological warfare agencies a challenge of the highest order.

Allison B Gilmore says in You Can't Fight Tanks With Bayonets, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1998:

Feller's 'Basic Military Plan' established three functional divisions with PWB: the Collation Section, The Planning Department, and the Production Section. Situated between these three sections and the Office of the Military Secretary in the chain of command was the executive officer, COL J. Woodall Greene. As executive officer, Greene implemented Feller's plans and policies, supervised administration, and coordinated the work of the three section chiefs and the field units. He also comprised the 'Weekly Military Plan for Psychological Warfare' designed to achieve the organization's objectives in light of the changing military situation. Each week's plan was submitted to Fellers for his approval, then distributed to the Collation, Planning and Production divisions to insure a coordinated effort.

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Layout Leaflet Design

The Collation Section studied intelligence reports from all over the Asia and the Pacific and identified Japanese vulnerabilities and ways to exploit them. Planning prepared the psywar operations. It schedules leaflets drops, newspaper publication and radio broadcasts. They forwarded weekly directives to Production where the newscasts, leaflets. newsletters, and magazines were actually produced.

Carl Berger mentions the Philippine campaign in An Introduction to Wartime leaflets, The American University Special Operations Research Office, Washington D.C., 1959. He says:

On 11 September 1944 the G2 (Intelligence section) of the Sixth Army, which had been designated to make the invasion, drew up a detailed "Basic Sixth Army Plan for Psychological Warfare".

Later, Berger concludes:

Between October 1944 and January 1945, when organized resistance on Leyte practically came to an end, an estimated 20,000,000 leaflets had been distributed throughout the islands. In January, Sixth Army moved onto the main island of Luzon... In a six month period an estimated 28,500,000 leaflets were disseminated over the island.

There was also a Basic Military Plan for Psychological Warfare Against Japan prepared by the Joint Chief of Staffs. This plan included the following objectives or themes:

  1. Undermine morale by convincing the Japanese that:
  1. Military defeat is inevitable. Their land and air forces are inadequate; their tactics and equipment inferior; their fleet impotent.
  2. Their country is blockaded; their Pan-Asian dream is dead.
  3. Their country is divided. Disunity exists among the army, navy and air forces; between the civil and military population; and between officers and enlisted men.
  4. Continuation of the war will destroy Japan.
  1. Charge the military clique with the responsibility of the war:
  1. Cite their incompetence in foreign affairs and on the home and fighting fronts.
  2. Prove that they have lied and are still lying about the war.
  3. Explain the exploitation of racial prejudice.
  4. Show the misrepresentation of Western people.
  5. Charge them with the responsibility for national disaster.
  6. Drive a wedge between the Emperor and the people on one hand, and the military clique on the other.
  1. Encourage the people to:
  1. Seek self-preservation.
  2. Rally to save what is left of their country.
  3. Destroy the military clique and form a peace government.
  4. Throw themselves on the mercy of the United States.
  5. Sue for peace on our terms.

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Propaganda Overprinted Japanese Invasion Money

Not only did the United States forge Japanese currency, but the U. S. Sixth Army in the Philippines also overprinted captured Japanese currency with the text:  THE CO-PROSPERITY SPHERE: WHAT IS IT WORTH? The notes were originally overprinted in Tacloban in December 1944 under General Fellers, coded 10F6 and dropped by the Fifth Air Force over Manila and Central Luzon. A military document states that the notes were "To impress on the Filipino people the worthlessness of Japanese occupation currency, with consequential embarrassment and loss of face to the Japanese."

Stanley Sandler lists the "10 basic rules" of psychological warfare adopted by FELO in Cease Resistance: It’s Good for you!: A history of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations, 1999:

1. Be Paternal but not cold.
2. Avoid a superior attitude.
3. Do not offend or humiliate the enemy.
4. Avoid boasting.
5. Never blame the psywar recipients for the war.
6. Never corner the enemy without showing a way out.
7. Iterate that death is not the natural destiny of the Japanese soldier.
8. Be sincere.
9. Encourage psywar targets to draw their own conclusions.
10. Show that Japan could have a bright postwar future.

The first FELO leaflet was dropped in 1942, and told of the Japanese defeat at the battle of the Coral Sea. FELO dropped another 45 Japanese-language leaflets by the end of 1942. By the middle of 1943 they had dropped over three million leaflets.

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Australian Leaflet written in Pidgun English 

Beneath the seal of Australia this leaflet says in Pidgun English:

To all people under Japanese Rule 

Pay attention to this card. Give it to other natives in this area. Leave the Japanese and come join us. We will not hold anything against you. 

The Government

Note: Pidgun is an auxiliary language, generally of a hybrid and partially developed nature that is employed over an extensive area by people speaking different and mutually unintelligible tongues in order to communicate with one another. It has a simplified grammar and a restricted, often polyglot vocabulary.

During the period 1942 to 1945, sixty-nine million items were printed by FELO in 14 languages and dialects. These leaflets were prepared in English before translation by native speakers, including some Japanese POWs. Leaflets were then printed in Australia, often in numbers of tens or hundreds of thousands, before they were distributed by aircraft over occupied areas. These were distributed through air-drops or by shell canisters, primarily over the Japanese Army or villages of native peoples. FELO employed a large number of language interpreters, particularly for Japanese, but also in the languages of Southeast Asia, so that the documents could be read by their intended audiences. Japanese prisoners-of-war were also co-opted for this purpose if they passed security checks.

Native peoples were another FELO target as it was vital to keep their support for Allied forces. Pamphlets were dropped telling them to keep clear of certain areas where there might be danger, for example.

In the China-Burma-Indian theater of operations (CBI), the OWI Assam Psychological Warfare team (PWT) team based at Ledo in India began operating in fall 1943. After a rough start, U.S. Nisei proved invaluable in the writing of leaflets and newssheets. They published a number of newspapers, including Gunjin Shimbun and Senjin News.

Other newspapers were being produced in Saipan. Josette H. Williams says:

At the same time, newspapers and leaflets in the Japanese language were printed on Saipan. From there, Air Force B-29s flying at 20,000 feet dropped 500-pound M-16 fire bomb containers converted into leaflet casings. These opened at 4,000 feet to deploy millions of leaflets, effectively covering a whole Japanese city with information. In just the last three months of formal psychological warfare, OWI produced and deployed over 63 million leaflets informing the Japanese people of the true status of the war and providing advance warning to 35 cities targeted for destruction.

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Japanese soldiers  surrender holding Safe Conduct leaflets

By August of 1943 Japanese official documents begin to mention U.S. PSYOP becoming more efficient and dangerous. As mentioned earlier, PWB was authorized and assumed the FELO duties in June 1944.

The first large-scale use of PSYOP in the Pacific was the Okinawa campaign. The OWI working with the Navy on Saipan printed more than six million leaflets to be dropped on Japanese troops and Okinawan civilians. They dropped a series of lealets and so far I have seen them coded 131, 416, 535, 536, 1027, 1050, 1055 and 2079. The Army PWB also prepared some leaflets that used Okinawa as a theme. Loudspeaker teams were used in depth. The result was the surrender of 11,409 prisoners of war. Up until the Okinawa campaign it was believed that Japanese troops could not be convinced to surrender. Fifth Fleet carrier planes dropped some five million leaflets on the island. The psychological warfare teams' immediate objective was to depress Japanese morale so that the enemy soldiers would surrender rather than resist. The long-range goal was more ambitious: to promote the idea that Okinawans were ethnically and culturally different from the home island Japanese. The leaflets told the Japanese soldier why and how should surrender and the Okinawan citizens not to be afraid, for they were not regarded as the enemy.

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OWI Leaflet 1050

The Tenth Army Combat Propaganda Team put together a very detailed campaign to motivate the Japanese defenders of Okinawa to surrender. On 10 June 1945, Canisters were dropped with a letter from U.S. Army Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner to Lieutenant General Ushijimi Mitsuru. The letter was a personal request to surrender. The Japanese commander ignored the request as might be expected, so on 12 June 1945, 30,000 leaflets reproducing the letter with an appeal to Japanese officers were dropped. This letter explained that their commander had no regard for their safety, so as educated officers they should take responsibility for the care and welfare of their own men. On 14 June, 25,000 leaflets entitled “Think this over carefully” were addressed to Japanese soldiers and dropped on Okinawa. The leaflet pointed out that although the Americans were trying to save their lives, their own officers were willing to see them all killed. Before the island was declared “secure” on 21 June, hundreds of thousands of surrender leaflets were dropped, enough for one leaflet for every square yard of enemy territory.

Leaflet 1050 is an appeal to Japanese enlisted soldier and depicts Japanese POWs on the front and the title:

We are going to live!

Morning roll call at the Japanese prisoner of war camp on Okinawa.

The back is all text and says in part:

The commander of the American forces is well aware of the relationship which exists between you and your commanding officer. Therefore, he first made his intentions known to your commanding officer. You know what effect that had.

Now the only choice is to deal with you directly. …We would like you to consider carefully whether there is any point in dying…If you think there is no sense in dying, please persuade your esteemed commanding officer to cooperate with you.

If he is a commanding officer who lacks any sense of right and wrong and any trace of magnanimity and affection, and who is interested only in flaunting his rank, part from him without hesitation…Let those who would live be cautious and calm, and, at the first opportunity, let them be resolute and let nothing hinder them from taking the decisive step! One last word – you can be sure that the Americans will not kill you.

General MacArthur's PSYOP staff prepared a great number of leaflets for the Philippine campaign. There were close to 200 different leaflets in the "J1" series. Examples are 6J1 (Abandoned), 25J1 (I cease resistance), and 159J1 (Surrender order, 38th Division, Southern Luzon, signed by Colonel Kobayashi).

The US 6th Army used leaflets coded "J6." Examples are 1J6 (Germany surrenders), 33J6 (Manila Falls), and 103J6 (Japanese officers, please read this).

The US VIII Corps used leaflets with the code "J8."

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Rakkasan News No. 21

The Rakkasan Nyuso (parachute news) was published from about March to August 1945.

Once the United States military accepted the premise of psychological operations in the pacific, they proceeded to prepare millions of leaflets and other printed material.

Some U.S. Leaflets to Formosa were coded "F," for example 1F01 (The future of Formosa). Other US leaflet codes are listed below. In general the last letter "A" indicates an appeal, the letter "G" indicates a gift, the letter "M" indicates a morale leaflet, the letter "N" indicates a newspaper, and the letter "P" indicates a pictorial publication.

AB - Japan
AFA, AFN - Annamese in Indochina
CA, CM - China
CTA, CTM, CTN, CTP - Thailand
SSU - Sumatra
TA- Taiwan
X, XN, XP - Okinawa (SWPA-PWB)
XA, XShM - Shans in Burma (OWI-PWT)
XKAM, XKanN, XKN, XNL - Kachins in Burma.

US Army White Operations

In general, the leaflets with "alpha" characters are Army and the leaflets that are strictly numerical are Navy. Having said that, it is important to understand that there was a lot of mixing and some of the same leaflets appear with either Army or Navy codes. In fact, since Navy aircraft delivered the great majority of the leaflets dropped on the Japanese defending fortified islands, a case could be made that they are all part Navy.

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“Jap in the Boat” - 2-J-1

One of the earliest Army leaflets dropped on Japanese troops is 2-J-1 entitled “Jap in the Boat.” The leaflet depicts an unhappy Japanese soldier alone in a rowboat near a barren island. Text on the front is:

Left Behind With Only Small Boats, an Army Chokes With Grief:

The back is all text and says in part:

Soldiers and Officers of Japan.

We wish neither to insult nor make fun of you. Because at Bataan and Corregidor we faced the same miserable conditions you are now facing, we cannot but sympathize with you…

Where are the ships that brought you and your supplies here? Where is the Navy which escorted your transports?

When ships can no longer reach an island garrison, do you not realize for the first time that the island has been abandoned?

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Lonely Japan - 5-J-1

Leaflet 5-J-1 depicts the lonely position of Japan, attacked from every direction as its allies Germany and Italy fade away. This is an excellent image and even an illiterate could understand that the attacks are coming from every direction and Japan is helpless to resist. I should mention that when Italy capitulated, many Germans were happy, glad to be rid of what they considered a weak and needy ally. It would be interesting to know if the Japanese considered the loss of their allies an asset or a liability. The text on the front is:

What Can be Done Against Overwhelming Odds?

Text on the back says in part:

When Germany and Italy are Gone?

…The leaders knew very well that if they alone embarked on a war against both England and America, there was no chance of victory.

For this very reason they went into an adventurous military alliance with Germany and Italy. They thought that while Germany and Italy were fighting the Allies, drawing enemy strength to Europe, the enemy strength opposing Japan would be very small.

But what has happened? Italy crumbled some time ago and Allied troops are on German soil.

Japan now faces a crisis, in which the full strength of the Allied nations will soon be concentrated against her. Does she not feel lonely?

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Abandoned - 6-J-1

Army leaflet 6-J-1 depicts a lone Japanese soldier standing on a small island looking into the distance. Text to the right of the soldier asks: "Where are the ships and planes? What is going to happen to you? Text on the back is:

General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South pacific, recently paid high tribute to the brave actions of the Japanese soldier:

We cannot help giving our sympathy to you promising Japanese soldiers who have been forced into such miserable conditions as today's. Your wild eagles, upon whom you depended so much, hardly show their faces, leaving you unprotected against the never-ending bombing of our air force.

The Japanese Navy is withdrawing its ships from their bases and U.S. troops are successively pouring into the Japanese naval bases. As a result, you are cut off from supplies and reinforcements and now you cannot even expect to be evacuated.

If you attempt to establish yourself in the mountains and make a last stand there, all that can happen is that disease will eat your flesh and hunger gnaw your bones, and your plight becomes worse and worse. Your comrades-in-arms, who were left behind in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, died hoping that friendly ships and airplanes might come to their rescue.

Why must you die a futile death with this vain hope in your hearts?

The whole Japanese concept of never surrendering was difficult for Americans and Europeans to understand. They believed that the Japanese desire to die or commit suicide before surrender or capture was some kind of fanaticism bred into them by the military, perhaps with the addition of sake or drugs. In fact, it was part of their modern militaristic culture.

They were constantly told that to surrender or be captured meant they were cowards, incompetents and traitors to the Emperor. To be captured alive meant that you were dead to all Japan and to your family. As a result, many captured prisoners begged to be killed on the spot, and continued to plead for honorable death even after arriving at a prisoner of war camp. The prisoners were terrified that their family in Japan would be notified that they were still alive. The American, Nisei and Australian translators of the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) who served in the Southwest Pacific constantly worked to convince the Japanese that they were not traitors or cowards, and that their capture was an understandable result of poor leadership, injury, illness, or lack or food or ammunition. They regularly reinforced the message that to die for the Emperor would be worthless; to live for him and to help rebuild Japan after the inevitable defeat would be both honorable and worthwhile. The ATIS staff also helped to write leaflets on occasion, translated Japanese documents and maps, made radio broadcasts, prepared charts of the japanese order of battle, and went to the front lines with some combat units.

Colonel Arthur Page points out that the Japanese loved American cigarettes and the translators went through cases of them. The Japanese also had a sweet tooth and if one was especially helpful it was common to give him a piece of chocolate. Most important, since the Japanese general staff could not imagine a Japanese soldier being taken alive on the battlefield, no instruction had been permitted on how to act when captured. The POWs were on their own without guidance and with a little psychological urging could be broken.

Page was less than excited about the use of PSYOP. He says in part:

The PSYOP patrols targeted the retreating enemy moving into the hinterland, often in small rag-tag bands. These broadcasts were accompanied by saturation air-dropping of surrender leaflets at selected points….PSYOP was relatively costly in terms of manpower and resources committed for the minimal returns obtained and, despite its potential I considered it an expensive waste of time and effort.

I devoted considerable time and thought compiling the text for the surrender leaflets and was heartedly disappointed not to be greeted by legions of bedraggled Japanese soldiers persuaded to turn themselves in by my deft turn of phrase. In fact, I recall hearing of only sixty enemy soldiers who surrendered to broadcast points in the jungle…My most successful foray saw three Japanese surrender to us, one of them a Formosan. This was a paltry return for our considerable investment, but a far better result than our previous trips to date.

Readers who want to know more about the men who interrogated the Japanese in their own language and convinced them to live on and to tell all they knew to the Allies should read Arthur Page’s Between Victor and Vanquished, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, Australia, 2008.

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Japan's Life Line - 10-J-1

This is one of the most intriguing U.S. Army leaflets to the Japanese. It depicts General MacArthur on the Philippines and Admiral Nimitz on an aircraft carrier pulling on a rope that strangles the lifeline to Japan.

There were major egos among these Allied leaders and they were both very jealous of their power and prestige. It must have taken a really good argument on the part of some PWB propagandists to get them both to approve this leaflet. The text is:

Key to the outcome of the war.

The Domei News Agency stated on November 7, 1944:

The Japanese loss of Leyte will disrupt sea lane transportation of our vessels to the Southern Regions, and will endanger the transportation of our various raw materials from the Southern Regions to the Homeland." Just how accurate was this prediction is shown by the successive military developments themselves.

The entire strength of the army, navy, and air force under General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz is now able to operate freely from the newly captured bases in the Philippines. The sea route which connects the homeland of Japan and the Southern regions is gradually being compressed.

The day is not far off when this sea route, which is called the life-line, will be cut; and Japanese shipping will be halted. There will soon be a shortage of airplane fuel. The supply of rubber, tin, and other vital supplies needed for the implements of war will soon be in short supply.

No matter how strong a soldier may be, when even the very supply lines cannot be protected, how can he satisfactory perform his task? Note that the leaflet is careful not to attack the Japanese soldier. It implies that even with his fighting spirit he cannot be expected to win against the superior war materials of the Allied powers. It allows him to consider surrender while saving "face.

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Soldiers of Japan - 22-J-1

Another Army leaflet to the Philippines is 22-J-1. It depicts a lone Japanese soldier standing on a beach watching a ferocious fight in the distance with an island in flames. The text is:

Soldiers of Japan:

You fought hard and courageously, yet within three months after the Americans landed in the Philippines they had advanced to the very heart of the islands – Manila. It is obvious that support and reinforcements have failed you, and you have been forced into fighting against hopeless odds.

Why is this?

Isn’t it because the large forces of Japanese troops in the Southern Region have been out-maneuvered, immobilized, and rendered useless? And this because Japan had completely lost control of the Sea and Air.

These large by-passed garrisons look on idly, like men watching fires across the river, while you fight your Waterloo (Sekagihara – decisive battle). No need to tell you that these troops have become ineffective as a fighting force, and their isolation will seriously affect the future conduct of the war.

Is it not another blunder on the part of your military leaders who by blunder after blunder, have brought Japan to the very brink of disaster?

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Peace has come in Europe - Leaflet 28-J-1

Leaflet 28-J-1 announced that the war in Europe had ended and peace had returned to war torn Europe. The intention was to create nostalgia in the minds of the Japanese who are continuing to feel the destruction and privation of war. The text on the front of the leaflet reads: Peace has come in Europe. The text on the back of the leaflet reads:

The greatest European war in history, which turned the continent into a scene of carnage, is now over. The bells of peace are ringing far and wide.

The day is not far off when the soldiers, who have grown gaunt with hunger and disease in the front line and smoke of battle, will return to their own peaceful homes longed for these many years. They will enjoy the great happiness of reunion with their families.

The stain of carnage will disappear, and soon with the time of the budding spring foliage will come to the fields, hills, and villages.

The dawn of a new era has come to them at last!

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War has passed Luzon - 101-J-1

The front of leaflet 101-J-1 shows a map of Formosa, Ryukyu Islands and Japan under bombing attack. The text on the reverse is:

To Japanese Soldiers - As you know, Japanese soldiers in the Philippines have withdrawn to the mountains. You too are in this situation and the Battle of Luzon is almost over.

The US Army, with strong fighting spirit is continuing to bomb the Japanese homeland. All parts of Formosa are daily bomb targets, while the military installations in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe and all large cities are exposed to bomb attacks. Iwo Jima is in American hands and the US Army is fighting fiercely to occupy Okinawa. That island’s capture is a matter of time.

The war has already moved from the Philippines to the Japanese homeland. You have been left to your fate. If you doubt this, think over what appears below.

Where are the planes that were to come to your assistance and what are they doing? Have you even seen a single plane bearing the Rising Sun fly over?

Where is the Japanese Navy that boasted only last spring that it would destroy the US Navy? What has it done? Some time ago, the Japanese fleet was bombed in the Inland Sea by the American air force.

Do not let your officers mislead you. For the sake of Japan’s future think about living in order to build a peaceful country after the war.

It is your duty to consider the future of your country and to make every effort to prolong life for your beloved ancestral land.

Early in the war the Japanese had asked the Americans on Bataan and Corregidor, "Where is your fleet?" and "Where are your promised reinforcements?"

The Americans return the favor in the late stages of the war in the Pacific. Note also that the United States used the same type of message in Europe, asking the German troops: Where is your air force?

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Leaflet 113-J-1 was designed for use against Japanese troops anywhere. The text on the front asks the question: "Who will rebuild Japan?". The picture shows a riveter working on a building, with other new buildings among the ruins in the background. The text on the back of the leaflet is:

War Reaches Japanese Heartland

Japan’s great cities are being heavily bombed from bases on the Pacific Islands and on Okinawa. The industrial districts of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe are being devastated. Great areas in these once flourishing cities have been reduced to ashes,

It is sad that the exigencies of war mean that the US air raids will increase in fury with each day until the selfish militarists have been destroyed.

The Japanese militarists alone are responsible for Japan’s present misery. It is they and not the Japanese people at whom the attacks are directed. On the day when the militarists are crushed and peace returns under a modern government, will you not be needed for the great work of rebuilding Japan?

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Japanese Navy and Air Force Powerless - 134-J-1

The official title of U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Branch Leaflet coded 134-J-1 is: Japanese Navy and Air Force Powerless. The target is the Japanese homeland. The leaflet depicts a Japanese city with the shadow of a U.S. B-29 upon it. One wing of the aircraft is visible in the upper left-hand corner. The text on the back is:

Boasting that their defense was an iron wall, the militarists asserted that the Japanese Navy and Air Force would annihilate all who attacked the homeland.

Today, those militarists stand powerless while the U.S. Navy and Air Force attack Japan at will and with increasing fury.

It is clear that the Japanese Navy and Air Force cannot defend the homeland. It is also clear that the militarists whose so-called defense was merely an empty word, are not worthy to be leaders.

The full force of the American attack has not yet been felt. When it comes, the destruction will be pitiless and complete.

The militarists cannot save Japan by their boasts, but the people can save their country by unconditional surrender.

Pilot Blood Chits

Other Army leaflets used on the mainland were often in the form of "blood chits," and "pointee-talkee" leaflets that showed the Chinese or other native populations how to rescue American aviators and return them to friendly forces. There were literally dozens of such leaflets.

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Americans will never forget -CA-114

CA-114 depicts a farmer bringing an American pilot into his hut as a smiling wife prepares a meal. The text on the front is, Americans will never forget the people who helped them. At the lower left a blood chit is shown in full color with the text, Recognize the American flag.

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Plant Melons - CA-115b

This leaflet depicts an American aviator opening his flight jacket to show a Chinese farmer his "blood chit" in the form of an American flag. Text on the front is: Plant melons and harvest melons, plant peas and harvest peas. This is similar to the Biblical proverb: As ye sow shall you reap. Text on the back explains that by doing the simple good deed of returning an American pilot to friendly forces the civilians will be richly rewarded. In addition, text at the bottom of the leaflet is: Please notice this symbol with an arrow pointing to the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of War insignia.

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Plant Melons II - CA-117

This leaflet to the Chinese depicts an American aviator being carried in a sling by two Chinese civilians. Symbols of the American Air Force and the (CBI) are depicted in full color with the text, "Identify clearly these American military insignia." Text on the front is once again, "Plant melons and harvest melons, plant peas and harvest peas."

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U.S. Army leaflet 144-J-1 was dropped in 1945 and depicts a giant Soviet soldier greeting a giant American soldier over the tiny nation of Japan. The title is “Red Army Strikes.” There is a long propaganda message on the back pointing out that Germany has surrendered, and now both the United States and the Soviet Union can turn their combined military might on Japan

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Many of the leaflets dropped on Japan depicted B-29 Super Fortresses,  B-17s or B-24s dropping bombs.

WARNING! - 150-J-1

The newspaper Free Philippines of 31 July 1945 talks about one version of this leaflet, a Psychological Warfare Branch, U.S. Army Forces Pacific Area product coded 150-J-1. This is a "directive leaflet," one that gives orders, instructions, and directives to the target audience. The article states:

Leaflets Will Give Jap Cities 72-Hour Notice of Air Assault.

Leaflets soon will rain on Japan, warning civilians that their home cities will be subjected to large-scale air-raids within 72 hours, Psychological Warfare Branch of General Macarthur's Headquarters has announced.

Leaflets will be dropped by planes of General George C. Kenney's Far East Air Forces.

Lt. Colonel J. W. Greene, executive officer of PWB, said: "The new warning program is part of the truth campaign started by the branch some time ago, which has produced excellent results. Furthermore, the appearance of the leaflets, followed by a raid in force, in each case in clock-like regularity will demonstrate to the people of Japan that their army and navy air forces are impotent to stop us, even when they know exactly when and where we are coming."

The leaflet shows a white bomb-burst on a red and black background. The center of the burst states "This city is the next target of the United States Army Air Force."

On the reverse side the message is amplified, informing Japanese that doom is coming in 72 hours.

The Japanese are warned: "As you can see, your military force is powerless to stop us... This destruction will continue so long as the people follow the militarists."

Japanese are advised to turn away from the militarists and endeavor to save what is left of Japan, and urged "to evacuate the city at once."

Carl Berger mentions the leaflet in more detail in An Introduction to Wartime Leaflets. He says:

During the summer of 1945, prior to B-29 attacks on Japanese cities, American aircraft dropped hundreds of thousands of warning leaflets bearing the heading: "Civilians! Evacuate at once!" and the following text:

These leaflets are being dropped to notify you that your city has been listed for destruction by our powerful air force. The bombing will begin within 72 hours.

This advance notice will give your military authorities ample time to take necessary defensive measures to protect you from the inevitable attack. Watch and see how powerless they are to protect you.

We give the military clique this notification of our plans because we know there is nothing they can do to stop our overwhelming power and our iron determination. We want you to see how powerless the military is to protect you.

Systematic destruction of city after city will continue as long as you blindly follow your military leaders whose blunders have placed you on the very brink of oblivion. It is your responsibility to overthrow the military government now and save what is left of your beautiful nation.

In the meanwhile, we urge all civilians to evacuate at once.

Berger adds that the leaflets were very effective and after the war Japanese officials stated, "The military had no time to prepare special defenses and practically all persons rushed out of town."

The leaflets were so successful that during the Korean War similar leaflets warned the North Koreans in February 1953 of cities and military targets to be bombed during a U.N. operation called "Plan Strike." During the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, Coalition forces dropped leaflets warning specific Iraqi infantry divisions that they were about to be bombed by B-52s. It is believed that there were mass defections in these units before the bombings occurred.

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B-29 Cities Leaflet

One of the most famous leaflets of the war depicts a flight of five B-29s dropping bombs and a number of Japanese cities printed in small circles below. The Army Air Force dropped this leaflet on numerous occasions. For instance, 700,000 were dropped by the 73rd Bomb Wing on several Japanese cities on the night of 27-28 July 1945. Text on the back is:



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


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


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


We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked, but at least four will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately. 

Former Navy Lieutenant Robert Morris describes the origination of the plan in his book No Wonder we are Losing, The Bookmailer, NYC, NY, 1958. Morris tells of being assigned as a psychological warfare officer in 1944 to the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA). He moved forward in early 1945 to Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters in Guam. One of his major responsibilities was convincing the Japanese home islands to surrender to save both Japanese and American lives. The home islands were already being bombed and the Japanese as yet showed no sign of surrender. He talks about the B-29 leaflet project:

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

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

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

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

In August 2011, I spoke to former Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Boller, then a translator of the Japanese language on Admiral Nimitz’s staff, now a professor at Texas Christian University. He was a member of a small language department on Guam made up of eight linguists. He had several Japanese prisoners-of-war that aided him in getting the language on the leaflets just right. He told me that he would regularly call the Air Force and ask them which cities were to be placed on the leaflet that week. Paul said he prepared six or seven different leaflets, but we know that only half of that number was dropped so obviously they were not all used. One week when he called to ask about the cities for that week he was told that there were none; “something big was up.” A few days later he heard that an atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

Paul visited Japan after the war and was told by a mayor of one of the named cities that after reading the leaflet, he granted permission for the inhabitants of that city to escape to the countryside. The mayor thought that the leaflet has probably saved thousands of lives. Paul also said that when he visited the museum in Hiroshima, he was surprised to see that some of the B-29 leaflets were in the exhibit.

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B-29 Cities Leaflet

This leaflet was prepared in two different formats. In one, the cities are depicted in circles at the bottom of the leaflet. General Curtis LeMay actually requested this leaflet. The very first leaflet had twelve cities listed, but a last minute deletion of ‘Tokyo” left just eleven cities. After the correction, 886,000 leaflets with the appended text were printed. A second printing of 568,000 leaflets on 30 July 1945 had twelve target cities. B-29 bombers immediately dropped them. On 3 August, a third leaflet with another twelve cities was printed and 600,000 dropped.

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

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

Most people are generally familiar with the extensive fire bombing of Japan during the spring of 1945. Many are less aware of the equally extensive psywar campaign carried on concurrently. In fact, the psywar mission was included in the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive to the Twentieth Air Force not only to inflict physical destruction on Japan but also to “undermine the morale of the Japanese people to where their capacity is decisively defeated.” This psychological warfare campaign, launched by General LeMay and later taken over and run by Headquarters Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, started with leaflets dropped by the bombers along with their bomb loads. Later the campaign became considerably more sophisticated, and leaflets were dropped on separate missions preceding the bombing raids by a day or two. These leaflets would name about ten towns in Japan and state that a number of them would be bombed and that the people should evacuate the area. We could afford to bomb only a few of the towns listed, but the uncertainty and fear of the unknown created a severe mental strain on all the cities involved. As reported by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) following the war, this psychological operation was most effective. At the height of the campaign, more than 8˝ million Japanese were involved in evacuating their cities—many from cities never touched.

John W. Dower discusses the fire bombings in War without Mercy – Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, NYC, 1986:

Precision bombing was abandoned dramatically on the night of 9-10 March 1945, when 334 aircraft attacked Tokyo at low altitude with incendiary bombs, destroying 16 square miles of the capital city and making more than a million people homeless. Between 80,000 and 100,000 thousand civilians died in the Tokyo raid – “scorched and boiled and baked to death” in the words of General Curtis LeMay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General MacArthur was not universally loved by his own men. There was some resentment against his following the direct order of President Roosevelt to leave his command in the Philippines and relocate his headquarters to Australia.

The Philippine people loved the general, and apparently he loved them with equal intensity. Upon reaching Australia he said:

The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary object of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.

Although the words "I shall return" were attacked by the general's enemies as proof of his ego, and the OWI wanted to change the words to "We shall return," MacArthur stood firm. Carlos Romulo defended the phrase. He said:

America has let us down and won't be trusted, but the people still have trust in MacArthur. If he says he is coming back, he will be believed.

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Signal Mirror

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Pack of Cigarettes

MG Courtney Whitney explains how these three words became one of the most famous propaganda campaigns in history. He says:

On 10 August 1943 I proposed that various items known to be scarce in the Philippines, such as cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, candy bars, sewing kits, and pencils be sent to the islands by submarine in great quantity for widespread distribution. Each package would bear the crossed American and Philippine flags on one side, and on the other the quotation "I shall return" printed over a facsimile of MacArthur's signature.

Millions of such items were distributed in the Philippines and the words were printed on walls or placed wherever the people and the Japanese might see them. This was the equal of the "V" for victory campaign waged in occupied Europe.

US Navy White Operations

Many of the Navy propaganda leaflets were archived in classified "Confidential" booklets. A number of them exist. Examples are: 

1. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare Propaganda Material Part One, CINCPAC-CINCPOA, December 1944. This booklet sets forth the general principals, means, and methods of employing propaganda in the Pacific Theater. It is a 44-page instructional booklet. 

2. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare Propaganda Material Part Two, CINCPAC-CINCPOA, December 1944. This booklet contains 167 samples of psychological warfare leaflets and newspapers prepared prior to the date of publication starting with leaflet 100 and ending with 2049. 

3. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare, Part Two, Supplement No.1 CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-45, 14 July 1945. This booklet contains 54 leaflets, staring with 115 and ending with 2102. 

4. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare,  Part Two, Supplement No. 2, CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-45, 15 August 1945. This booklet contains 57 leaflets, staring with 113 and ending with 2118. 

5. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas - Psychological Warfare,  Part Two, Supplement No. 3, CINCPAC-CINCPOA Bulletin No. 164-45, 15 August 1945. Supplement 3 consists of two sections. The first contains copies of all newspaper and newssheets with translations distributed after 1 June 1944. The second contains copies of all newspapers without translation printed prior to 1 June 1945. The booklet I studied contains 48 newspapers, staring with 2514 and ending with 4513. 

6. Outpost Service Bureau Notes on Courses I & II, Far East Training Program, Office of War Information, San Francisco 1944. This is a series of lectures taught to the new OWI agents. 

7. The OWI Saipan Operation – An account of operations on Saipan from 3 March 1945 to 15 February 1946 with notes on the period July 1944 to 2 March 1945.  

Part One of Psychological Warfare breaks down the code numbers of the leaflets into categories and explains their themes. I have greatly edited the explanatory paragraphs. I also added some examples of the Leaflet titles in each category to show the reader the general concept of the U.S. propaganda.

a. 100-399. Leaflets bearing these numbers have been prepared for the period of bombardment of an entire tactical area, preliminary to any further action to be taken in that area.

    100. Where is your navy?
    109. Victory in the air?
    116. Open your eyes.

b. 400-499. Leaflets bearing these numbers are designed for that period of intensive bombardment, usually by surface ships, just prior to the invasion.

    405. To the Japanese soldier.
    410. I raise my two hands to live for my country.
    413. Civilians!

c. 500-699. Leaflets bearing these numbers are designed for that phase when the actual landings are made and the main engagement begins.

    501. To Japanese officers!
    503. You can't fight tanks with bayonets!
    512. Full strength instead of 10%.

d. 700-799. Leaflets bearing these numbers should be used when the enemy realizes that our forces will be successful in their attacks.

700. Die for the military caste or live for your home and country
701. If you commit seppuku.
705. Think it over carefully.

e. 800-999. Leaflets bearing these numbers should be used when resistance has been broken and only mopping-up remains.

808. Are you so determined to die that you won't listen to reason?
809. What are you fighting for?
810. Life-saving guarantee.

f. The pamphlets for by-passed garrisons are numbered serially from 1000-1099.

1001. Do you intend to continue to live like a beast in the jungle?
1006. Your island has been isolated and cut off from all aid and supplies.
1009. Instructions for negotiations.

It should be noted that although we call these Navy leaflets, they were prepared in partnership with the American Office of War Information with Pacific Headquarters in San Francisco, and a forward outpost on the Island of Saipan.

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Leaflet 100

Leaflet 100 depicts a map of the entire western Pacific to include Japan, Australia, part of China and Southeast Asia. Two lines appear on the map, one in red, one in blue. The blue line depicts the furthest advances of the Japanese Empire, while the red line shows the current status of the war with Allied forces moving closer to the home islands. The lines visually prove that the Japanese Navy cannot protect the Empire and that Allied forces are advancing to within striking distance of Japan itself. Some of the demoralizing text is:


December 7 1941

November 1943 – Beginning of the American offensive!

The Gilbert Islands conquered by America November 20, 1943!

Saipan, Tinian and Guam conquered by America July 1944!

Is Japan next?

There is reason to believe that this ridicule of the Japanese Navy worked. According to Report on Psychological Warfare in the Southwest Pacific Area 1944-1945, American admirals believed that the Japanese Navy could be needled into coming out to fight. As a result, messages and leaflets said that the Japanese Navy would abandon its troops in the Philippines just as they had those isolated troops on the southern islands. After the campaign of ridicule they attacked Leyte Gulf on 24 October 1944. It was a disastrous defeat. U.S. Army Colonel Sidney F. Mashbir, who led the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section of Southwest Pacific Area, congratulated the PWB on its needling of the Japanese and said:

No one will ever under-estimate the part which the campaign of ridicule, so ably carried out by the Psychological Warfare Branch, played in bringing out the Japanese Navy to be destroyed.

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102 - Save the Nation by Saving Yourself

Leaflet 102 depicts the bound hands of a Japanese naval officer dripping with blood. The theme is that the only way to save Japan is to end the war. The text on the front is:

Bind the Hands of the Gumbatsu, Soaked with the Bloods of the Citizens

The text on the back is:

Anyone can see that it is hopeless for Japan to fight against the whole world. The military leaders who were foolish enough to lead you into such a conflict will be punished.

But, if Japan is to survive and not destroy itself, the war most be ended before all the young and potent men are killed. Save the nation by saving yourself.

This is your most important duty right now.

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Leaflet 103

Leaflet 103 is an early attempt to induce the Japanese to surrender by promising humane treatment and by citing past instances as proof of this claim. The leaflet is in black ink on white paper with a green border. The front depicts a group of United States Marines playing a game with Japanese prisoners. The faces of the Japanese have been partially blocked in an attempt to protect them and their families. It was later determined that the Japanese officers cited this masking as proof that the soldiers pictured were not really Japanese. Reacting to this counter-propaganda, later leaflets depicted the prisoner's face in full. There is no text on the front. Text on the back is:

Your leaders have told you so many false stories about American cruelty that you fear and hate us. You have apparently forgotten about America's aid to Japan during the great earthquake disaster of 1923, and the long tradition of American kindness and generosity.

Don't be deluded by falsehoods. Your soldiers who came over to us on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam received food, water, clothing, and medical treatment, and they are now safe and happy. When you cease fighting and come over to us, we will treat you the same way.

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Leaflet 112

Leaflet 112 is a wonderful example of a divide and conquer leaflet. It is larger than most at 8 x 10 inches. The leaflet is in blue ink on a white background. It depicts two forlorn Japanese soldiers on guard near their machine gun watching two officers walk toward a Japanese aircraft, obviously about to escape being trapped on a besieged island. The purpose of the leaflet is to stir up resentment in the Japanese soldier toward his officers. The text is:

It seems rather strange to us that Japanese officers should be evacuated wherever possible, whereas ordinary soldiers are expected to remain behind and die. Such conduct is hardly consistent with Bushido, and surely your lives are as valuable to you as theirs are to them.

Recently, for example, the commander of the second fleet, together with several officers, was evacuated from Manokwari by plane and taken to Japan. He should have remained and led his men, but apparently officers of high rank act to please themselves. They preach Bushido to you, but they act upon different principals.

Is your life of so little value to you that you will throw it away in vain? A few minutes of thought should convince you otherwise!

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Leaflet 408

Navy leaflet 408 depicts the Japanese Emperor Meiji. The text reminds the troops that until 1868 feudal lords controlled Japan. The leaflet indicates that the militarists are nothing more than the rebirth of the ancient feudal lords and have usurped the power of the Emperor and need not be followed. Notice that the Emperor is not attacked, it is the Gumbatsu that has made Hirohito a victim. The Emperor is above all, and it is he who the soldiers owe their loyalty too, not the militarists. The text is:

When the powers of government were restored to the Emperor Meiji in 1868, Japan truly became a nation and the loyalty of all citizens was given to the Emperor.

Before that time, feudal lords controlled the country and every man gave loyalty to the Lord under whom he lived. The restoration of the Emperor corrected this unfortunate situation.

Recently Japan has returned to the error of the pre-Meiji days. Militarists have usurped the powers of government. The name of the Emperor is used, but in reality there is a new bakufu in control.

To fight for men who have involved the nation in a hopeless war is not true loyalty. Give your loyalty to the nation. Cease resistance – save the homeland.

The bakufu mentioned in the text can be translated as "tent government." It alludes to the time when feudal soldiers lived in tents and controlled Japan through a military governmental system. The Emperor still functioned, and his court appointed civil governors, collected tax, and controlled his capital, but the feudal lords informally ran the country through control of the military and police functions.

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Leaflet 410 was designed to offer a positive course of action to Japanese troops who have been cut off, resulting in surrender rather than suicide. It paves the way for a future surrender. The leaflet depicts a Japanese soldier with his hands raised. The leaflet is printed in black on white paper, but red has been used to highlight the soldier and the text. Text at the right of the vignette is, "I raise my two hands to live for my country." Text on the back is:


Allied victory in the global war is assured.


The Allies are invading the homeland of Germany. The Allies are attacking the homeland of Japan.


Accept Allied protection until the war is over. You will be given medical treatment and food.

You will not be disgraced or abused.

The Allies wish to preserve mankind.

Further instructions will be given.

The threat of Japanese suicide was very real and the United States produced a great number of leaflets in an attempt to convince the Japanese soldier to live to return home. The Japanese warrior code stated that death in battle brought honor both to individual and to the nation. The preferred method of hara-kiri or seppuku is to stab yourself in the left abdomen and pull the knife across your stomach, disemboweling yourself. This should be done without showing any pain or emotion. Many Japanese would have a friend stand by with a sword and if they wavered their friend would do them the honor of beheading them before they expressed pain and dishonored themselves.

An Office of Strategic Services Interrogation dated 9 June 1944 mentions a Japanese officer explaining to his troops the way they should die rather than be captured in a situation where seppuku was impossible and time was of the essence:

  1. Point your rifle under your chin. Place a stick in the trigger guard. Use both feet to force the stick down.
  2. Release the safety pin of a hand grenade and place it close to your body.
  3. Plunge your bayonet into your body.

It is very interesting to note that although the American propagandists tried to keep Japanese enlisted personnel from killing themselves, they had no reserve about urging Japanese officers to commit seppuku. Eleanor Sparagana says in her doctorial thesis entitled, The Conduct and Consequences of Psychological Warfare: American Psychological Warfare Operations in the War against Japan, 1941-1945:

Not all propaganda directed at the military sounded as compassionate as the anti-suicide appeals. One of the more hard-hearted and devious facets of the campaign consisted of inciting Japanese officers to perform seppuku when they failed in their military mission. The Allied reminded Japanese battle-level officers that, while they committed soldiers to commit hara-kiri instead of surrendering, their senior leaders, including Tojo, often failed to kill themselves after their failures in battle. One leaflet depicted a leader preparing to kill himself while kneeling beside a newspaper that chronicled his failure. Another leaflet pictured the traditional setting for seppuku and insisted: “It is time that the military leaders admitted their failures and obeyed the code which they demand that their followers obey. If they do not take that action the people should demand that they do so.”

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Leaflet 503

Leaflet 503 depicts a Japanese soldier watching an American tank approach. There is no text on the front. I selected this leaflet because the title was used by Allison B. Gilmore in her book You Can't Fight Tanks with Bayonets - Psychological Warfare Against the Japanese Army in the Southwest Pacific. I have the book in my library so will honor her by showing the original leaflet. There is no text on the front. Text on the back is:

You can't fight tanks with bayonets!

You can't resist our naval and artillery fire by hiding!

You can't overcome sickness and wounds by ignoring them!

Come over to us and let us give you food, water and medical treatment. Neither your resistance nor death can accomplish anything.

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

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Leaflet 701

Navy leaflet 701 depicts two Japanese prisoners-of-war happily playing "Chinese checkers" in an American camp. The leaflet was specifically designed to create doubt in the soldier's mind about the wisdom of the "banzai charge" or suicide. The text is:

If you commit seppuku -

You will be the last of your family. You won't be able to carry on your line.

No good to you, to your family, or to Japan will come from such an act.

When the war is over soon, you won't be alive to enjoy peace and happiness. If you come over to us -

You will not be harmed, but will be given good food, water, and medical attention.

You will be able to return home when peace comes. All Japanese, military and civilian, will be in the same status. There will be no shame for anybody.

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Leaflet 704

Navy leaflet 704 depicts a pagoda with the inscription: To Japanese Colonists on the front. The leaflet  assures the non-combatant Japanese colonists that they will receive friendly treatment at American hands. The leaflet further stresses both Japan's failure to aid them and the kind treatment offered by the Americans. The procedure for surrender is also indicated. The text on the reverse of the leaflet printed in violet ink and reads:

You have come to the South Seas to till the soil and develop the myriad islands of the Pacific. You have worked hard. You are far away from the home land and from your friends. Life has not always been easy. But you endured because the military leaders promised to send ships. But they are all hiding in NAICHI. The Arawashi will not come out to save you in the South Seas. All their promises have been broken.

Now the American fleet and land forces have come to occupy this island. The American air force has driven the "Arawashi" away. They have already taken the GILBERTS, the MARSHALLS, and the MARIANAS. They have driven back the Japanese fleet.

But you need not die. You can build a new life like the hundreds of thousands of Japanese in HAWAII. After the fighting is over you will be returned to your farms and your homes will be rebuilt. You will be given food, water, and medical care immediately.

Here is what to do: Come out unarmed in the daytime, wear white or colored clothes, and carry white flags held high. Show the American troops that you are friendly and they will treat you as friends.

Save your lives.

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Leaflet 806

Leaflet 820 depicts a peaceful scene of a deer, trees and a pagoda in the background. The text is similar to that of leaflet 520, and tells the Japanese soldier that it is proper to cease resistance and it is only the wrong teaching of the militarists that make him believe that the act is dishonorable.

The text on the back is:

Many Japanese believe that it is a disgrace to cease hostilities at one's request after fighting to the best of one's ability. Where did you get this idea? Who made you think this? There was no such idea when the Tokugawa submitted to the Emperor Meiji.

There was no such idea when more than two thousand Japanese prisoners were returned to Japan after the Russo-Japanese War. Many of these men are now in high positions in Japan. Why has the Gumbatsu suddenly taught that it is a disgrace to return to Japan?

Should you not think deeply about this matter?

The Tukugawa Shogunate (1603-1868) was the longest period of uninterrupted peace Japan ever enjoyed. Yet, it was not a happy time. The brilliant and ruthless administration of the Tokugawa military administration combined with the rigid seclusion of the country to produce the Japan that we know today.

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Leaflet 1004

Navy leaflet 1004 depicts a smiling United States Marine giving a small Japanese child a ride on his shoulders. This is certainly one of the most informal poses presented on any American leaflet and meant to show the Japanese military and civilians that Americans were not the monsters that their propaganda had claimed. The text is:

When once the violent battle is concluded, a period of peace and relaxation ensues. The American forces, which annihilated the Japanese troops on Saipan, extend kind treatment and protection to the old and young of both sexes who were left behind. Japanese even become close friends with American troops. Both the boy and the Marine who is carrying him on his shoulders appear to be having great sport.

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Leaflet 1006

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

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

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

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

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

I worked in the carpenter shop where we built the boxes that were used to make the drops. Later, down by the flight line, the pilots gave me a few of the leaflets as souvenirs.

The new pilots trained for 3 months before moving on and being replaced by another group of fliers.

As happens so often, we find that each side has used almost the same PSYOP concept. Early in the war when American soldiers were starving, the Japanese dropped a leaflet that depicted a beautiful salad plate and American soldiers trapped on a small island, their burning fleet in the background. The text is, "Iron-rationed stranded. Nothing but dog-biscuits. Day after day, positively. How about a dish of salad like this? For a change of diet… just a change of mind." One wonders about the Japanese attitude toward food that would show a starving American a plate of salad. Perhaps their own dietary customs intruded on their propaganda. Would it not have been better to show the American’s a steak or hamburger?

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Leaflet 1008

Leaflet 1008 is the third in a series of leaflets for specific by-passed islands. The front depicts a montage of photographs, including those of Japanese troops, U.S. dive-bombers, and ships at sea. Text on the front over the photographs is: Friendship, military might, and which is it to be?

Text on the back is:

Your situation is getting steadily worse. Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Palau, Eniwetok, Kwajelein, and practically all the rest of the South Seas Islands are in our hands. There is no chance for outside air, nor is there any chance of escape. Our Navy controls the sea and air. Your position is entirely hopeless. We don't need the island and will merely use it for bombing practice but we fell that it is shameful that you should have to die of hunger, thirst, and sickness without any accomplishment. Therefore, we who hate to see you die a useless death offer you a chance at survival. You have nothing to fear. We abide by international law and treat those who cease resistance as fellow men. It will cost you nothing to negotiate with us. Surely there must be volunteers who are brave enough to follow instructions, which will be dropped next.

As an indication of your willingness to negotiate with us display a large visible cross at the southeastern intersection of the aircraft runway.

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Water - Leaflet 1013

This leaflet was dropped wherever and whenever the Japanese showed a willingness to cooperate or surrender. It was printed on yellow paper and as a result, the image is not particularly clear. The front depicts a group of Japanese prisoners near a U.S. water point. Large cans of water are everywhere. Superimposed on the picture is the word: water. The text is:

We have seen the indication of your willingness to negotiate with us. The plane will return soon with full instructions. follow the instructions and your safe conduct is guaranteed.

Supplies of fresh cold water, good food and medical assistance will be made available immediately after the completion of the negotiations.

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Leaflet 1014

I added leaflet 1014 to this report because it is unique. Few leaflets use this type of image to capture the audience. The leaflet is plain black and white and depicts a sinking Japanese light cruiser in the crosshairs of a submarine periscope. The purpose is to emphasize Japanese shipping losses caused by American submarine action. There is no text on the front. Text on the back is:


When Admiral Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, made mention recently of the effectiveness of the blockade against Japan, Domei was quick to reply that Japan is a land of rice and that she had enough food. During August, however, Tokyo admitted that the rice crop this year is causing greater concern than the crop in previous years.

You, however, really know the truth. You know how desperately in need of shipping Japan really is, and you should know how remarkably effective American submarines have been against your shipping.

If Japan were really strong, she would concern herself not with big talk about her highly doubtful self-sufficiency, but with an attempt to overcome the terrible submarine menace to her ships. But, unfortunately for you, that can only be done by ships, not be words.

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Leaflet 2111

A somewhat similar leaflet depicts a cargo ship sinking and aircraft overhead attacking a cargo ship. I was not going to depict this leaflet but happened upon the official Air Force leaflet that was the source of the image. The purpose of the leaflet is to create anxiety among the Japanese about the adequacy of their food supply. Text on the front is:


Some of the text on the back is:

Where is the rice?

The militarists cried to the people: “Considering the great sacrifices our officers and men at the front are making, you must send food to the combat areas, even if it means that you eat only two meals a day instead of three.

Officers who returned from the front said: “If we had even one rice ball to eat, we would not have been defeated by the enemy.”

…On the home front, people have been overcome by hunger and have fallen over at their work; pupils have stolen other student’s lunches at school; you have no food to give to your children when they complain of hunger; wives of soldiers at the front have committed suicide with their children

What happened to the food that you produced after long hours of work?

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The Official Air Force Photo Depicting the Sinking Cargo Ship


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Leaflet 2010

Leaflet 2010 is a leaflet that uses the theme of Japanese hypochondria to lower enemy morale. It is deigned to exploit the perceived Japanese fear of disease and uncleanliness. It depicts a strange monster-like figure representing death and disease crawling over the bodies of Japanese women and children. The text on the front is:


The back is all text and says in part:

Disease comes with every war. Water lines and electricity will be destroyed by bombs. Food will become scarce. Thus you will weaken and become sick. Medicine will not be easy to buy and recovery will be difficult.

With every bombing the country becomes more unclean, and it is more difficult to control disease.

Put an end to this needless suffering. Demand that the militarists who started this was bring it to an end.

We know that this is an OWI leaflet designed in Honolulu by American artist Frances Blakemore. This information is found in An American Artist in Tokyo, Michiyo Morioka, The Blakemore Foundation, Seattle, WA. Morioka says:

A military officer with a bloodstained sword in his hand pompously leads a nightmarish parade. His resemblance to Tojo Hideki who personified Japanese militarism as Prime Minister and General of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII, is startling. A ghostlike disease with a skeletal head and lizard-like body skulks behind him. It slithers triumphantly over people besieged and overcome by pests and other weird creatures.

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Leaflet 2014

Leaflet 2014 is very impressive from a visual standpoint. It shows a highly detailed and polished vertical black bomb on a red background. There is no text on the front.

The back depicts a vertical silhouette of the bomb with black text on a white background. The purpose of the leaflet is to tell the Japanese that America did not want to kill civilians, just destroy Japan's military strength. The text is:

This leaflet could have been a bomb.

This is to warn you away from military installations, factories,railways, and harbors where our bombs will strike again and again until the gumbatsu quits this hopeless war.

Stay away from military objectives!

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

Frances created a portrait of a menacing black bomb. She rendered its three dimensionality, cool tactile surface, and compact geometric shape through a precise hatching technique and fine lines. Set against a red background, the bomb’s perfect appearance emphasizes its inhuman effectiveness as a modern weapon of mass destruction.


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Japanese 10 yen banknote Parody 2009

OWI printers working with the Navy on Saipan printed parodies of the 10 yen Bank of Japan convertible note of 1930, with code and propaganda text on the back. There are four such notes, each with a different text. The code numbers are 2009, 2016, 2017, and 2034. I first translated all four in an article entitled "Propaganda Currency of the Far East," Whitman Numismatic Journal, April, 1968. The notes were dropped on Japanese troops and civilians by carrier-based aircraft.

The translation for leaflet 2009 shown above is:

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

The text on leaflet 2016 is:  

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

The text on leaflet 2017 is:

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

The text on leaflet 2034 is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toshikazu Kase, Chief of the First Section of the Third Department of the Cabinet Board of Information added:

The 10 yen note leaflet was the most effective. It was a very powerful leaflet. It evoked great interest and curiosity among the Japanese people.

Masjiro Kawaguchi, Chief of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Home Ministry forwarded a report that said:

Leaflets of our 10 yen notes most excited the curiosity of our people. The best leaflet was the one that dealt with the cost of living [No. 2034]. In Fukushima, Fukuka, and Aichi Prefectures there were cases where the 10 yen leaflet was used as currency.

A report of the Foreign Section of the Home Ministry adds:

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

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Leaflet 2041

Leaflet 2041 is interesting because it uses as a theme the juxtaposition between German and Japanese defenses against bombing. At the right Nazi Germany is depicted with massive tunnels that lead many levels beneath the ground. Even so, American bombs have reached the hiding citizens. At the left, A Japanese woman is shown with a shovel and a bucket, and it is quite obvious that she is going to dig a hole just a few feet deep to protect herself. Some of the text is:

In London and Berlin, bomb shelters were deep underground, yet, bombs reached them. The Gumbatsu have not given you adequate protection against bombs.

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Leaflet 2042

I have added leaflet 2042 because the vignette is so strange. The leaflet depicts a Japanese militarist looking at a map showing his military strength while behind him a figure of Uncle Sam stands with arms outstretched among planes, bombs, and ships. The text on the front is:

The Gumbatsu miscalculated America’s Fighting Strength.

The text on the back is from an article in the Chuo Koron of April 1925 by Hironori Mizuno on the subject of the American fighting spirit. Some of the text is:

To underrate and look down on the fighting spirit of the American people is a great mistake. In calculating the strength of America if we do not consider their manpower equal to our own, we shall make the same mistake as German did in misjudging the British people in the First World War.

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Leaflet 2090

Leaflet 2090 is designed to destroy the people's confidence in the militarists. The front of the leaflet has an illustration of twelve prominent Japanese militarists with a caption above that reads: 

Military leaders of Japan. Can you convince the people that you are able to defend the soil, the waters, and the skies of Japan? 

The back of the leaflet depicts President Harry S. Truman and the following text: 

These questions were asked by Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, in a message directed to the people of Japan.

"Did you not in the past solemnly declare that you would defend Guam, Tinian, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, the last barricade on the way to Tokyo? Did you not promise in the past, that our planes would not violate the skies of Japan? Were you able to keep these promises? 

Let me assure you again and again that my country is determined to fight this war to its predestined end and I cannot find any who thinks that our victory will be too hard and too costly to win. 

Your future lies in your own hands. You can choose between a wasteful unclean death for many of your forces, or a peace with honor."

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Leaflet 2109


I added leaflet 2109 because it is directed at the Japanese suicide pilots, those volunteers that followed the code of Bushido and were causing the death and destruction of American seamen and naval vessels. One side of the leaflet depicts an American landing craft firing rockets. There is no text. The other side depicts four photographs with captions.


1. Four Kamakaze pilots drink a toast to death.


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


2. An American ship shots down the Japanese suicide plane.


An impassable wall of anti-aircraft fire.


3. An American sailor rescues the Japanese pilot.


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


4. Japanese prisoners of war with an American guard in an American camp.


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

The last two photographs showing the rescued pilot and the prisoners with the American guard appear in many other OWI leaflets.


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Japanese POW leaflet 

The American invasion of Guam was fought from 21 July to 10 August 1944. It had been planned for 18 June but the stubborn Japanese defense of the island of Saipan after the landing of 15 June 1944 pushed the invasion back a month. USMC 1LT Horace Ralph Hughes of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division found the above surrender leaflet on Guam. It appears to show well-fed and well-clothed Japanese POWs in captivity. Since the USN/OWI Saipan printing unit was not in production yet, the leaflet was probably printed in Hawaii or San Francisco and forwarded to the fleet. It bears the date 28 September so it was probably used to coax Japanese troops and civilians out of the jungle in the weeks following the end of the major fighting portion of the invasion. The text says in part:

To non-combat personnel.

You have lived a long and harsh life of hard labor in the wilderness. However, the situation has changed now. It is useless to continue the hard life. American soldiers will provide humane care.  Sick Japanese should come out without even one day of delay to receive medical treatment. We know there are about 200 sick Japanese in hiding.  Come to us for safety and better life. 28 September.

Additional text on the back of the leaflet says in part:

We urge Japanese soldiers and citizens to throw away their weapons and come to our side.  You have patriotically fought for your country, but it makes no sense to continue fighting now. If you come over to our side, you will have plenty of food, clothing, a house to sleep in and tobacco to smoke.  It is stupid for anyone to live in the wilderness without food and get sick and die.  Take off your uniform or outer clothing, throw away your weapon, raise your hands, and walk in the middle of the road toward the Americans.

It is interesting to note that some Japanese did hold out on Guam for years. The Emperor’s Last Soldiers tells of two who hid in the jungle for 16 years after the war and came out in 1961. In January 1972, Corporal Shoichi Yokoi was found by two hunters. He later said:

I am sorry I did not serve his majesty to my satisfaction...We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.

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Leaflet 2114

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


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

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

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

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

Admiral Nimitz’s PSYWAR Section on Guam

According to Jeffrey M. Mooret, Spies for Nimitz: Joint Military Intelligence in the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 2004; in January 1945, Admiral Nimitz moved the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet forward from Pearl Harbor to Guam for the remainder of the war. Psychological Operations were carried out by the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA), which had a Psychological warfare section whose duties were to print leaflets, distribute misinformation and broadcast to the Japanese military and civilians. It is important to note that this was separate from the Navy and OWI propagandists on Saipan and MacArthur’s Army propagandists in Australia and later the Philippines. Mooret says that JICPOA postwar analysis showed that the following leaflet themes were most successful: Air Raid warnings; News of the outside world - The true status of the war; the Potsdam Declaration leaflets and the fake yen with propaganda text. Leaflets that attacked the military commanders fared the worst of all.

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American Propaganda Leaflets - Aleutian Campaign
One of these booklets sold for $255 at auction in 2019.

Many of the leaflets we show below are found in a booklet titled AMERICAN PROPAGANDA LEAFLETS - ALEUTIAN CAMPAIGN printed by the Office of the Army Chief of Staff G2 (Intelligence), Headquarters Alaska defense Command, 25 October 1945. The forward says:

In these days of airplane and radio the propaganda front becomes increasingly important. Even in the past, the importance of propaganda in war has been recognized and the expression “The pen is mightier than the sword” in no idle slogan.

The Japanese are depending on this theory. They admit the superiority of our firepower – yet are confident of success because of their superior “spiritual power,” which is the product of extensive indoctrination of their troops in the “Spirit of Bushido” (A set of ideas).

Hence our propaganda task with our Pacific enemy is doubly difficult. First, they have braced themselves against it by an extensive program of spiritualistic education for both the military and civilian population. And second, their psychology, their religion, their customs are so different than ours, that their response to a given situation or set of ideas may be entirely the opposite from ours.

This booklet shows samples of psychological leaflets which have been used in the Aleutian campaign. They were dropped on enemy occupied islands in order to lower the morale of the enemy or to cause doubts, dissatisfaction and to induce surrender. There were carefully prepared in the light of known Japanese national psychology in order to produce the greatest effect.

Many of the Guam leaflets I have found during the last almost six decades were not translated. By very good luck a young man with a degree in history volunteered to translate those leaflets. I want to thank Edwin Tai for all the help he gave me in transcribing and providing rough translations for some of the leaflets below.

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Where is the American Navy? Tarawa

This WWII Japanese-language leaflet is from a large set of twelve with the same image in various colors but different text on each piece. The leaflets have no mixed alpha-numeric code so they are not Army, and have no all-numeric code so they are not from the Navy-supported Office of War Information on Saipan. The only other organization that might be responsible is the small PSYWAR unit on Guam at Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters. We know from a comment by a former naval officer that they did not code their leaflets on Guam.

The Full Set of 12 leaflets, Plus the pilot’s Flight Log

Each Leaflet measures 9cm x 20.5cm. They show an American fighting ship at the top and then an arrow coming down indicating that the Americans have attacked and taken a Japanese island or atoll. The leaflets all ask “Where is the U.S. Navy?” in colored ink, and in black ink list the name of various Pacific islands and atolls. Some of the places mentioned where the Americans have struck are: Munda, Buna, Gona, Attu, Tarawa, the Admiralties, Makin, Kwajalein, etc.

The Lockeed PV-1 Ventura

According to the pilot's logbook, the 12 leaflets shown above were dropped by pilots who flew the PV-1 Ventura over Taroa, Nauru, Wojic, Naget, Jaluit Atoll, and other targets in the Marshall Islands from October 1943 to July of 1944. Most missions seem to have been from 4 to 6 hours in duration. They often strafed islands and ships and entries include "Strafed Nauru and Ocean islands and also dropped propaganda pamphlets." The PV-1 Ventura was built by the Vega Aircraft Company division of Lockheed Aircraft.

The text on the illustrated leaflet is:

Where is the American Navy? Tarawa

There is a 13th leaflet that is all Japanese text on a map of the Pacific. The text on that leaflet is:

Where is the Imperial Navy?

In each engagement the Japanese Navy has abandoned the Army on land.

You have been abandoned by the Japanese Navy.

The Japanese Navy doesn’t care that it left you to die of starvation on this island while hiding in Japan’s home waters.

There is no hope of the navy bringing provisions to you.

For what reason? You have been abandoned. You are dying of starvation on this island because you have been abandoned.

For a soldier death by starvation is a dishonorable death. Nevertheless, the Japanese Navy has abandoned you and left you with no other possibility except starvation on this island.

My translator points out the message on this leaflet is very redundant; repeating the character “ga” meaning “starvation” a number of times. In the background of this leaflet are islands that the Japanese have lost. New Guinea, the Solomons, the Gilberts, the Marshalls, Brown and Attu with each named and marked by a sort of shell burst. The larger subdued characters in the upper center are “Pacific Ocean.”

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Attention American troops…

I believe that this set of leaflets also came from Nimitz’s headquarters on Guam. Like the set above, it was apparently produced in a large number of individual items. I have seen at least three variations so far, in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean languages. We also note that there are no code numbers, another sign that points to Guam. The leaflets were found in the papers of Yeoman 2nd Class Ralph William Masis who was stationed on the aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) beginning in early 1943. Masis was injured in the battle of Leyte Gulf when his anti-aircraft gun was destroyed by a Japanese kamikaze on 5 November 1944. He collected propaganda leaflets and Japanese occupation money while on the Lexington. Among his papers were several OWI leaflets from Saipan.

Each of the three leaflets I have seen from this safe conduct pass series has the text in English:

Attention American Troops

The bearer is entitled to honorable treatment as prescribed the Geneva Convention.

The leaflets are large, and each has three folds which gives four sides. They are printed both front and back. The "Attention American Troops" message is always at one end of the leaflet, and the other three pages are either text in different languages and scripts or sometimes one or two pages with pro-American illustrations such as happy Japanese prisoners of war compared to dead Japanese soldiers. All of the leaflets point out the benefits of being alive in captivity, soon to return to Japan, against lying dead in the muck of some forsaken Pacific island.

Section 1 at far right depicts either a dead Japanese soldier, or a dead Korean civilian. I want to point out here that this is a very rough translation. It is in both Korean and Japanese and the translator found it very difficult. We have guessed at the meaning of some words and changed to text to be more readable for Americans. The text is Korean:

Koreans! Why die for the Japanese?

The translation mentions “the work of the Japanese,” and “Americans” and appears to be referring to the benevolent conduct of Americans as a comparison to that of the Japanese above.

Section 2 is Korean and is titled:

You are not Japanese!

This entire section appears to be an emotional appeal to Koreans to remember their years as a Japanese colony and reminds them of the discrimination and cultural genocide inflicted upon them (having to learn Japanese, take Japanese names, etc.), and that they shouldn't be dying for Japan, ultimately exhorting them to use this 'Life Guarantee Leaflet' to save their own lives.

Section 3 is in Japanese:

People of the Island

America is not at war with the people of this island, when they attack this island, please ask them to save your lives as shown on the left.

1. If possible, run away from where you are or hide in a hole or covered area.
2. Do not offer the slightest amount of assistance to Japanese troops.
3. Once the situation has subsided, make your way towards American lines as soon as possible.

American troops will give you food, clothing, and tobacco. If you are injured, they will give you medicine/treat you. When you feel better, you may go home. Do not offer Japanese troops any assistance, and if you can reach American lines without getting hurt, try to do so.

Section 4 at the far left is in Japanese:

Life Guarantee Leaflet

Those carrying this pamphlet will not be harmed when US soldiers are attacking.

In accordance with international law, food, clothing, tobacco, and medical aid will be given.

Assist US Troops or actively join.

How to use this Leaflet

Approach the U.S. lines with hands help up and holding this leaflet.

Do not come as a group, approach U.S. lines alone.

Do not to approach U.S. lines at night. This leaflet can be used by Japanese workers and citizens.

This leaflet saves lives.

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We believe this is another Nimitz leaflet because one of his naval PSYWAR officers who was interviewed about his wartime activities was holding this leaflet as he spoke. Notice that the leaflet bears no code, so that also points to the Guam origin. The leaflet depicts a map of the Pacific on one side and tells the Japanese that have invaded the Island of Kiska that they have made a foolish mistake. The map shows Japan at the far left, and then highlights the island of Kiska in a white circle, and Alaska at the far right. The text from left to right is:

Japan – 3,600 kilometers – SO SORRY – Kiska Island - Alaska

The other side depicts a bomb over the Japanese symbol of the rising sun. The leaflet also exists in an olive green color. Some of the long text is:


Your contact with Japan has been cut off and you are now in a completely isolated situation. For you, in your present distress, to bring about your extermination in an isolated island of the bleak Aleutian chain is really to die uselessly.

The commanders of your fellow soldiers have already completely given up attacking and any pursuit tactics. They are leaving you to your fate by failing to send to this isolated, distant, storm beaten north Pacific island any reinforcements to oppose the American army which is daily increasing its power. This is because during the last few months, the sacrifices have been too great. How many ships have been sunk before your eyes alone? The number sunk without being announced to you is much larger. The aircraft destroyed or damaged is still greater. Can you even count the numbers drowned, killed in action, or wounded? Because the victims were so numerous, was it not impossible to even report this in Japan?

Your leaders are even unable to send food and provisions to you now that the extreme cold has come. They do not even think of sending you any relief. You are completely forsaken.

As is generally known, the American forces are corning from the American continent and are passing through the bases that stud the island chain and they are striking you down. You are in the wretched condition of being completely in the power of the American forces. Is it not true that you were not once able to take the offensive after you landed? And are you not losing even your means of defense now? Your plight is serious. Even your families far away over there across the ocean are becoming sorry. This is because, without doing anything, you are dying.


A Folded Leaflet that Appears to be from Guam

Another uncoded leaflet aimed at the Japanese. I believe this is one from Nimitz’s headquarters on Guam simply because of the small aircraft silhouettes placed in the text not unlike the small bombs in the leaflet above it. These little images placed randomly in some leaflets are like a “tell,” they imply Guam. We see them in no other leaflets. The front of the leaflets depicts two destroyers and what seems to be large barrels for big ships like battleships. My first impression is that this leaflet is about the industrial might of the USA and how Japan cannot compete. The leaflet is folded and the inside depicts a photo of what seems to be American aircraft being built. The back of the leaflet depicts the same picture we believe are American aircraft and at the bottom tanks being built. Surely this leaflet tells the Japanese of the enormous advantage the U.S. has in the ability to build massive numbers of military weapons. The text on the first page with the two destroyers is:

The famous General Motors Company, which manufactures the Chevrolet automobile, is putting their full effort into the production of armaments. There are many such examples now, and each and every one of them are striving towards the total annihilation of the Japanese military. Therefore, the destruction of the Japanese military is inevitable.

The text on the two middle pages is:

If that person is an honest person, they will surely respond with, "I cannot sleep well at night due to worries about that matter."

For example, some among you may have visited the Ford Motor Company in the United States or have read about the company.

This Ford Motor Company's countless factories are now operating day and night in the production of super-heavy bomber aircraft.

Moreover, these heavy bombers, flowing out like a flood, fly to secret airfields where they can directly bomb the Japanese homeland and return safely.

When it comes to military strategy in this current war, the source of headaches for the Japanese Command is that Japan's heavy industry is within the range of American bomber operations, while the United States' major industry is far beyond the reach of Japanese aircraft.

[Translator’s note]: The word used for "flood" here would usually recall something more on the scale of a "tsunami" or something similarly disastrous (as opposed to a 'mild' burst riverbank). The bottom line is it implies a nigh unstoppable force.

Therefore, American bombers can safely attack the Japanese homeland from the air and return safely, whereas Japan's aircraft, with inferior range capabilities, are unable to reach key industrial areas in the United States, which are scattered far within the continent, and cannot attack them. That is the bane of the Japanese military and the cause of its inevitable destruction.

The products manufactured in the vast factories of Pittsburgh serve one purpose only. They are the bombs that are to be dropped like a rain of hail upon the land of Japan.

Moreover, the countless manufacturing facilities in Pittsburgh are several times the size of the steelworks in Yawata, Kyushu.

The last page with the tanks at the bottom has the text:

Of course, it goes without saying, not when the people of the Thought Police Bureau are around.

Ask them: "How big of an industrial nation is the United States? To what extent can this industrial nation exert its power? How superior are the aircraft that flows from its heavy industry?"

Then, the person who returned from the United States will surely nod in agreement. In that case, questions will likely arise in everyone's hearts again.

Now, to fight this war, the United States is mobilizing its massive industrial capacity with the express purpose of producing military supplies on a massive scale. How can Japan win against a United States thus-militarily prepared?

[Translator’s note]: The "Thought Police" are the "Special Higher Police," civilian counterpart to the Kempeitai. They got that name because they were empowered to arrest a person if they believed his thoughts were incorrect or anti-Government.

More Unknown Leaflets that Appear to be from Guam

We don't know much about this series of leaflets, but it bears many aspects that are in common with the leaflets from Nimitz's headquarters in Guam. For one, the lack of a code number. All the American Army PWB and Navy OWI leaflets have codes, none of the Guam leaflets do. Some of the Guam leaflets were divided into various messages of three or four sections that could be folded. None of the OWI or PWB leaflets are divided like that. We know of three leaflets that are in the general form of the one above. In each case, the front is divided into four horizontal panes with a vertical text message on each. In all three of these leaflets the back shows a photograph of wrecked building or some American military weapon.

The leaflet above shows four distinct folded sections on the horizon leaflet with a vertical message in Japanese. The front is a long message written in Kanji and Katakana and thus very difficult to translate. Some of the comments are:

National Peace - As long as you blindly obey the Japanese military, there is no way the country will be at peace.

Domestic Safety - Evacuating the factory (or places of work) before it burns down is the only way to be safe.

The back shows a bombed and partially destroyed German city.  The U.S. liked to show the Japanese the results of American bombing of Germany. The text is:

A certain German factory following an air raid


The Backs of Leaflets Two and Three

A second and third leaflet each has a set of four different vertical messages on the front, but the back shows either a tank or an American B-17 heavy bomber. Neither of the backs have any text identifying the military weapons. The second variety with the tank seems to be a bomb warning leaflet. I was originally told that the text discusses Hakone Hajinonari, at the time a suburb of Tokyo where wealthy people lived. It threatened the destruction of this area. It also warned the Japanese to evacuate Tokyo. Again, the current translation is very difficult but the text seems to say in part:

The End is Coming

[Literally: The Danmatsuma (a term with Buddhist origins akin to 'death throes' or 'death agony') is coming.]

Your body, hair, and skin were given to you by your parents.

Not daring to cause it harm is the beginning/first step of Filial Piety.


Evacuate could also be "hide" or "desert," depending on the context of where this was distributed.

The sentences referring to the body and to filial piety are lifted almost word for word from the Japanese translation of the Confucian treatise the Xiaojing or in English, The Classic of Filial Piety.

It's a very East Asian notion that children have a supreme moral duty to be filial and to look after their parents, especially in their old age. Of course, one cannot do this if one is dead, so this leaflet is essentially telling the recipient that the only way they can hope to be filial is to do what is necessary to stay alive so that they can return to their parents, in this case to evacuate/hide/desert.

On the back of the third leaflet in this series, the B-17 leaflet, is four sets of text that I was told years ago says in part, Observe this warning - Follow this warning – Evacuate your factory. So, the B-17 leaflet is clearly a bomb warning leaflet. Some of the text on the four panels is:

Fortune, Prosperity, and Longevity

Following this warning would give you the same benefits as a [protective] talisman.

If you seek good fortune [then] flee your places of work before they turn into a scorched wasteland.

If you are burned to death, then you will have neither Fortune nor Longevity.

Evacuate/flee from your factories/places of work.

My translator adds:

The main sentence has a strange lack of punctuation, I don't know enough about Japanese to tell you whether it would have sounded perfectly normal to a native Japanese speaker or not, but I have added breaks where I think it would make sense for English speakers. The word used for fortune, prosperity, and longevity is commonly used in to denote three Gods who bring the three attributes of a good life. Statues of these three gods are found on the facades of folk religion's temples and ancestral shrines.

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Black tablet version of Kiri Leaflets Front & Back

The United States prepared and dropped a very realistic looking "kiri" tree leaflet on the Japanese in 1943 and 1944. The Kiri tree is known as "Royal Paulownia." It is native to the Orient. It is also called the Chinese Empress tree and the Princess tree. The early fall of the kiri tree leaves is considered a bad omen in Japan.

According to one Alaskan official U.S. document the translation of the front and back of the leaflets is:

A falling Paulownia leaf is the unlucky omen of the inevitable destruction of the military power of Japan. As these leaves scatter about they do nothing but pile up sorrow and bad luck.

Before spring comes a second time, American bombs, falling like Paulownias falling from far away, will bring disaster and bad luck.

Life Magazine of 9 July 1945 mentioned American psychological operations and the kiri leaf in a pictorial story entitled: “Leaflets dropped on home islands attack Nippon’s militarist caste.” Some of the story said:

Along with factual leaflets, the Americans drop one that is shaped like a kiri leaf which capitalizes on the peculiarly Japanese obsession with the poetry and omens of death. Every B-29 raid on Japan now drops about 750,000 pieces of propaganda on Japan…

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White tablet version of Kiri Leaflets Front & Back

The American Air Force dropped the leaflets in a number of locations. A New Delhi newspaper mentions:

Planes shower 'Leaf of Death' on Jap Troops. The 'leaf of death' is falling in North Burma, dropped by Allied planes. This is a reproduction of the kiri leaf, which appears in a famous Japanese drama as a symbol of death (Note: "The Kiri Leaves Fall" is the name of a famous Japanese play by Tsubouchi Shoyo. At the end of the play, kiri leaves fall, symbolizing the end of hopes of the main characters that had tried to seize power). With the 'leaf of death', the Allied planes are dropping imitations of Japanese newspapers reporting the fall of Japanese strongholds and the expulsion of the Japs from 1,000 square miles of Burmese territory. These “leaves” are falling as the British open their attack on the Japs on the Imphal-Tiddim road, along which the main enemy effort against India is directed.

The Japanese poet Basho (1644-1694) wrote the haiku:

Won't you come and see loneliness?
Just one leaf from the kiri tree.

The Alaska Defense Command G-2 (Intelligence) pamphlet American Propaganda Leaflets (Aleutian Campaign), 25 October 1943 says:

The Eleventh Air Force bombers frequently mixed leaflets with the bombs they dropped on Kiska after August 1942. Later, when the Japanese reoccupied Attu, bombers delivered small quantities of leaflets there also.

According to my old friend Tom Mahoney writing in American Legion Magazine, May 1966:

The leaflet was first intended for the Doolittle raiders to drop over Tokyo in April 1942, but was never used.

The color of the leaflet is an autumn brown and the text is in a black or a white tablet surrounded by a green border in the center of the leaf. A second translation of the text on the front and back of the leaflet from a different American document is:

The kiri leaf falls. Its fall is the ill omen of the inevitable downfall of militarism. With the fall of one kiri leaf come sadness and bad luck.

Text on the back of the leaflet is:

Before fall comes, the raining bombs of America, just like the kiri leaves fluttering to the ground, will bring sad fate and misfortune.

Infantryman Bernard Bergmann picked up some of the leaflets in Gertrude's Cove at the south end of Kiska one day after the invasion of the island. He said:

The leaves are die cut and each one bears in natural color the likeness of a real kiri leaf.

Click here for more information and examples of leaf shaped leaflets used in different conflicts.


The Guiding Voice

The Guam leaflet was also dropped on Japanese troops thought to be on the Aleutian Islands. It is two sides with three Japanese language messages and one English text. The front of the leaflet is bordered with cannons and says in part:

The Guiding Voice

When driven to the Utmost desperation

Why are you dying the death of a dog? Those who want to live and be of some aid to Japan come forward and surrender. Come forward alone either day or night waving this paper to the nearest American position. The Americans will be courteous. Don’t forget!

The back of the leaflet is a surrender pass in English and Japanese.

The Japanese text is:

Permit for Passage across the Front Lines.

The bearer of this slip surrenders automatically. He will be treated as any other person and will be sent to the rear.

Commanding Officer of U.S. Forces

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Security Pass

This leaflet is divided into three sections on the front and back. Five of the sections are in Japanese, one in English. The message is very long so I will just quote a few lines:

Here is the True State of Affairs – Get to Know it

If you in all sincerity want personal safety and wish for the comforts and other special privileges of a surrendering soldier, please follow these instructions.

It makes no difference whether it is day or night, but approach the American position alone.

Raise both hands above your head and wave this pass.

Upon a signal from the .American soldier, point to this pass and follow the orders he will give you by gestures.

American soldiers without a single exception have been ordered to treat kindly the bearer of this pass, but of course you will want to be doubly sure. However, there is not the slightest need to be afraid.

Another side of the leaflet says:

A Pass For Crossing Over The Fighting Line

The bearer of this pass is surrendering voluntarily. He is to be treated courteously; and after he is escorted to the nearest commanding officer, he will be sent back out of the fighting area. Although he probably does not understand English, he is prepared to receive sign orders. He is giving notice of the above.

The Commander of the American Forces

Further text is:

The American army treats prisoners kindly. Being bound by the International Treaty regarding the Treatment of Prisoners; the United States believes it literally. This treatment is almost invariably the same as for American soldiers. To quote the Treaty:

ARTICLE 2. “The prisoner in whatever circumstances is to be treated kindly, and especially he must be protected from violence and punishment and from the curiosity of the general public.”

ARTICLE 10. “The prisoner is to be accommodated in barracks or buildings where as much attention as possible is paid to sanitation and health.”

ARTICLE 11.“The rations of the prisoner must be of the same quality and quantity as those of the soldiers of the army base that has custody of the prisoner.” Smoking is allowed.


As the prisoners of the American army are provided with the same grade of food as the soldiers of the American army, one can see from the list below that one would be getting every day what, if it were in Japan, one would eat in the vicinity of the first class Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Below are indicated the daily rations of American soldiers:

1 pound - 120.96 momme

Fish and meat – 136 momme, Rice and bread - 95 momme, Potatoes - 75 manme, Vegetables - 84 momme, Milk - 68 monnne, Butter and other - 24.8 momme, Tea and Coffee - 17.8 momme, Cereals - 11.3 mornme, Fruit - 35.2 momme, Sugar - 37. 7 momme.

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Naizo’s Luck

This Guam leaflet depicts a “Sad-Sack” Japanese soldier at the front. It uses a “divide and conquer” them to turn Japanese soldier against soldier. It tells of unlucky Naizo who was wounded in Shanghai and again in Nanking. He watched those more-favored troops steal, use Geisha Girls and send loot home while he just stood guard and fought for his Emperor. Finally, while the soldiers from “Special Services” control the food, set high taxes, sell opium to the people and grow richer and more corrupt, Naizo is killed. The leaflet says in part:


He did not have any relations in the Special Service Organization.

Finally the call to the Service came to Naizo. He was compelled to recite the Emperor Meiji's Imperial Rescript over and over before going abroad. No sooner than he reached Shanghai, Naizo received an honorable Wound. After Naizo and his buddies had taken over the city, the men of the Special Service Organization arrived. The members of the Special Service controlled the food, set high taxes and sold opium to the public.

Naizo was allowed to gaze upon the Geisha girls at the Special Service Headquarters and given the privilege of guarding the place. Naizo was permitted to carry the freight that was to be shipped to friends and relatives of the Special Service members. During the invasion of Nanking, Naizo was again wounded.

After China was sufficiently controlled, the Japanese Forces started to attack the Philippines and French Indo-China. However, six hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Emperor of Japan was endeavoring peaceful terms with the United States thru the Japanese Envoys in Washington, D.C. The Emperor of Japan was not aware of the attack until after it happened.

At last a box arrived at Naizo’s home from the front. It bears the ashes of Naizo, killed in action. Who took Naizo from his mother? Who used his life as a stepping stone?

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Atsushi Iwamatsu in 1967

According to Wikipedia, the artist of this leaflet, Taro Yashima, was the pseudonym of Atsushi Iwamatsu (1908 - 1994), a Japanese artist who lived in the USA during World War II. Iwamatsu was born in Nejima, Kimotsuki District, Kagoshima, and raised there on the southern coast of Kyushu. Iwamatsu refused to participate in military exercises at the school and, in 1929, he was expelled for insubordination. Iwamatsu was also repeatedly jailed and beaten in prison for his leftist political activism.

After studying for three years at the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo, Iwamatsu became a successful illustrator and cartoonist. In 1939, he went to the United States to study art. After Pearl Harbor, Iwamatsu enlisted in the U.S. Army and was posted first to the Office of War Information (OWI) and then to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). It was then that he first used the pseudonym Taro Yashima (Eight Islands), out of fear there would be repercussions for his family if the Japanese government knew of his employment. He wrote and illustrated handbills in Japanese that were dropped over battlefields bearing such comments as “Don’t Die!” and “Papa, Stay Alive.”

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Your plans were poor…

We know that the leaflets above all came from Guam because we have other reports and comments that mention them. This is the first leaflet that we cannot prove came from Guam. However, it meets the criteria; it has no code numbers either British or American. So, although it is just an informed guess at this time, I will place this leaflet into the Guam file. The text on this leaflet is:

Your plans were poor and in addition your ships are sinking one after another. There is no way that you can win. You can show your true loyalty by choosing to live rather than dying for nothing and by serving your country again in the future. Come to the Allied forces base without shame immediately.

A few years after the first translation I found another young man who was highly educated in history and he translated the text with more depth:

It was a foolish plan, [and the] ships were sunk one after another, in [expecting] victory there was no logic. Rather than die a dog's death [a meaningless death] one should live to serve Japan another day; that is true chuko [loyalty to the state] and filial piety [to one's parents]. Don't be afraid to go to the Allied positions [and surrender].

An Uncoded American Leaflet Featuring a B-17 Bomber

This American leaflet to Japan shows a B-17 bomber dropping bombs over what we assume is a Japanese island. The back has an interesting design of silhouettes of small P-38 Lightning fighters and burning Japanese fighters. This sort of design on the back of leaflets is often seen in those leaflets produced in the Guam base of Admiral Nimitz. The leaflet is clearly divisive, telling Japanese Army troops that the Japanese Air Force and Navy has no interest in helping them. Note that the B-17 bomber on this leaflet is the same one depicted on another Guam leaflet earlier in this story. The text says:

To Japanese officers and Soldiers.

Our air force prefers not to conduct bombing raids on the ground; our purpose and intention lies in engaging the Japanese air force in combat. However, the Japanese air force has been shirking away from meeting us in combat. In response to this, what other measures can our supreme commander take? And what measures will you all take in response to this in the future?

The back of the leaflet is all text with silhouettes of small P-38 lightning fighters all over. The text is:

To the Officers and Soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army

Once again, the imperial Navy has betrayed your expectations. The Japanese Navy Air Force fought bravely at the beginning of the war. But now it is hiding on Rabaul, waiting for help from the Army air Corps. While they hide, they indulge in tea drinking waiting for the time when stronger flying forces of the commander are mobilized. Consequently, as they wait, the American Air Force drives ahead. The Japanese landing forces in the direction of New Guinea are faced with annihilation owing to bombings and artillery. Even though the Japanese have an Army Air Corps they are outnumbered sometimes or helpless due to fact that the American Air Force in New Guinea is being reenforced many times. The Japanese Navy Air Force is indifferent as usual.

We do not know for sure this leaflet was from Guam, it could be from Australian and American troops in Australia. We do have one clue that gives us hope we are correct. One of the leaflets in this grouping from an old scrapbook shows the leaflet Naizo’s Luck that we depict above and absolutely know that was a Guam Nimitz leaflet. The next two leaflets are from the same scrapbook. They seem to be divisive leaflets trying to drive a wedge between the Japanese Army and Navy. Since they are glued down to a scrapbook with an unofficial translation, they could be the front and back of the same leaflet. We have no way to tell for sure.


President Roosevelt's Letter to Hirohito. 

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

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

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

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

Uncoded Cartoon Leaflet 1

This leaflet depicts a Japanese naval and army officer talking. The next picture depicts the Japanese fleet being sunk. The final picture shows the Army officer expressing a lack of confidence in the navy. This leaflet was translated most like by a POW so it is not going to be accurate, but the reader can get an idea of its divisive nature:

A Japanese naval officer tells a Japanese army officer that their army is in a bad position in China. The naval officer replies that the sea battle was lost in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese naval officer says not to worry because sometimes we win and sometimes, we lose. The Japanese army officer says that the Imperial Navy is not as strong as he thought it was.

Uncoded Cartoon leaflet 2

This divisive cartoon shows Japanese army and navy officers looking at a map and arguing. The second panel shows Japanese troops wounded and left to starve on a Pacific Island. The last cartoon depicts Japanese sailors swimming in the ocean as their warship sinks in the background. Once again, the text is unofficial and questionable:

Japanese imperial officers discussing the war and strategy in the Southwest Pacific. Japanese soldiers cannot understand why they are in such a floating and holding on the wreckage in the ocean. They say if Admiral Tojo was in charge things would be different.

[Note]: Marshal-Admiral Togo Heihachiro was in the Imperial Japanese Navy and served as Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 – 1905. He is widely regarded as one of Japan’s greatest naval heroes and remains deeply revered as a national hero in Japan.

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WWII Exhibit at Anchorage Museum, Alaska

While visiting the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Erik Sheppard found a military display of leaflets used by the Americans against the Japanese in the Aleutians. He told me that there was only one case of WWII relics, but it was a very nice one. Notice that we depict and translate all of the exhibit’s leaflets above: the Kiri Leaf; Naizo’s Luck; and the Graveyard of the Stupid North Pacific Policy.

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Mount Fuji as a Pictorial Theme of American PSYOP

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

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

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Leaflet 101

Leaflet 101 is a very picturesque photograph of Mount Fuji, with the inverted image reflected in a lake. The leaflet is printed on a light green paper in various shades of blue. It is attractive enough to frame. Its purpose was to stir up pangs of homesickness and resentment toward their leaders in Japanese troops who are about to be attacked by American forces. These enemy troops are presumably fresh, motivated, and eager for battle. Therefore, the propaganda message is in the form of a mild suggestion rather than a direct forceful statement. The text on the back is:

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

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

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Leaflet 114a

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


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

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

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

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

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Leaflet 519

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

Do you know that?

American bases in strength are less than 1500 miles from Tokyo

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

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

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

The terrible destruction to Germany need not happen to Japan.

Free your country from the Gumbatsu tyrants who control it.

Free your country before it is too late.

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

Earhart adds in Japan Focus:

The lower third of the picture is a formation of battleship guns and ships pointing at Fuji; the upper third of the leaflet is the underside of a large four-engine bomber, flanked by a number of twin-engine bombers all headed toward Fuji, with two bombers returning from their sortie. Here the mountain is a visual rubric for Japan, the recipient of unrelenting air and naval bombardment, intended to invoke fear, despair, and surrender.

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Leaflet 520

Leaflet 520 depicts a peaceful scene of Mt. Fuji with rocks and trees in the foreground. Its purpose is to make Japanese soldiers wonder why their leaders have been so insistent in impressing upon them the belief that surrender is synonymous with disgrace. An appeal is made to them to consider the ideals introduced during the nineteenth century by Emperor Meiji. This leaflet is 5-inches x 8-inches in size. Text on the back is:

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

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

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

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

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

The same leaflet was also printed in red, coded “PW Serial No. 520” in larger 5.25-inches x 9.5-inches size. This image and message was also printed by the Army Psychological Warfare Branch coded 4-J-1.

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Leaflet 2064

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaflet 514 (close-up)
Notice the small representation of Mt. Fuji at the left of the main island

It is interesting to note that OWI leaflet 514 also uses an image of Mt. Fuji, although it is very small. In this leaflet, bombers and ships are depicted attacking Japan, but if you look carefully at the island you can clearly see a small 5mm representation of the holy mountain.

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Patriotic March – VF/J/21

This leaflet is interesting because once again it depicts Mt. Fuji, but we are not sure when or where it was made. It is part of a large series since this leaflet is numbered 21. Many of the leaflets mention Manchuria, and one mentions being there seven years. That implies the leaflets could be as early as 1938, or depending on when the soldier left home it could be several years later. It does seem likely that they were aimed at Japanese troops fighting on the Asian mainland. The leaflet depicts two soldiers looking at the Holy Mountain with arms uplifted. They say in unison:

Hail the citizens of Japan!

The text over Mt. Fuji is:


Look at the dawning in the eastern sea, the land of freedom glistens.
The gallant citizens of Japan cheer the native land.
Of the frightful days of military dictatorship are past and gone.
Thinking about it now appears a nightmare of Japan.

Earhart adds in Mount Fuji – Icon of Japan that the Japanese also used Mt. Fuji in their wartime propaganda.

The government sponsored magazine Shashin Shuho (Photographic Weekly Report) published other photos and text utilizing the power of Fuji. A 1944 cover of the magazine features a photograph of a boy peering out of a tank, which was taken at a low angle so that the tank dominates Fuji.

An October 1944 Japanese leaflet depicts President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill as debauched ogres carousing within sight of Mt. Fuji. The Japanese were encouraged to kill the devilish Americans and British. Earhart says that a second propaganda cartoon depicted Americans as gangsters lusting after foreign lands while they committed outrageous racist crimes at home. As one American attempts to lasso Mt. Fuji, a Japanese bayonet stabs him in the behind.

The Use of Superstition on Leaflets to Japan

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Leaflet 2089

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

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

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

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

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Leaflet 2092

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio Operations

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KSAI Radio

The OWI ran 50,000 watt radio station KSAI on the Island of Saipan. It broadcast to Japan and the nearby fortified islands. Near the end of the war the station broadcast the Potsdam Conference surrender terms to the Japanese nation. When the militarists tried to hide the surrender negations and the magnitude of the destruction caused by the two atomic bombs, it was KSAI that broadcast directly to the Japanese people and exposed their plight and the Emperor’s desire for peace.

Black Operations

Although we have mentioned that Nimitz and MacArthur wanted no part of the OSS or "black" operations in their AO, that is not exactly correct. When it suited their needs, they were more than happy to request, receive, and use black propaganda materials. Information on these operations has surfaced over a number of years and we have some idea of what was secretly being produced.

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OSS Forged 5 sen Togo Stamp

We know that the OSS produced black letters, postcards and stamps for use in the Pacific Theater of Operations. For instance, the U.S. forged the Japanese 5 sen Togo stamp of 1942. The forgeries were printed in the OSS Facility Detachment 505 in Calcutta and forwarded to OSS Morale Operations (MO) in China in early 1945. The stamps were to be used on "poison pen" letters. These stamps were found in the U.S. Archives and later discussed in an article entitled "Wartime U.S. Forgery of Japan's 5-sen Togo" by Leroy Gardner in The American Philatelist, January 1999. Some of the data in the Archives indicates that the printing job was number 341 and 1000 stamps were delivered on 2 May 1945 and another 800 on 18 May 1945. The OSS also forged the writing paper to be used with the stamps.

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Propaganda Stamp for Philippine Guerrillas

Another black operation was a Guerrilla postage stamp meant to raise the morale of the partisans and American troops fighting the Japanese in the jungles of the Philippine Islands. The origin of the stamp is discussed in MacArthur - His Rendezvous with History, Major General Courtney Whitney, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1956. Whitney says, "I had my staff strike a special stamp for the establishment of a 'Guerrilla Postal Service.'

When these were sent into the Philippines, guerrillas in the free areas used them, and with added defiance the postmasters even issued token one-peso money orders on the Central Post Office in Manila, in favor of General Douglas MacArthur. Such was the psychological warfare that the guerrillas under macArthur's inspiration constantly waged against their would-be conquerors."

The stamps were used by the 10th Military District Guerrilla Forces on Mindanao in November 1943. They are quite rare and valuable today.

Two of the postcards were found in the National Archives in Washington D.C. One depicts an angry looking Japanese soldier taking the children from a Chinese peasant woman. He has a baby on his right arm and holds another child tight with his left hand. A girl kicks the soldier with her leg and threatens him with her little fist in protest. Three other children, holding Japanese flags, react in panic and dismay.

The second card depicts the same soldier with a huge moneybag on his side. Four Chinese peasant women with their little children, each holding a rice or begging bowl, have gathered to receive a small token the soldier mercifully offers. In return they have to hand him their banknotes.

Another "black" postcard was addressed to Muslims in Sumatra. The card illustrates a black and white photograph of the mosque at Kobe. Kobe is an important port on the Japanese island of Honshu, a few miles west of Osaka. Above the picture are two lines in Arabic script reading "Allah is God, and Hirohito is His prophet". This is a modification of the Islamic saying "Allah is God, and Mohammed is His prophet". Nothing could be more irritating to Muslims than replacing the founder of the Islam by the name of Japan’s emperor. The caption below the photograph, also in Arabic letters, translates "This is the mosque at Kobe".

Forged OSS letters in fake envelopes also exist. One of the "poison pen" letters in the National Archives is inscribed "Matsugoro Ikeda, Burma expedition corps, unit 1750 "morning dawn", Tomizawa unit", and the reverse "Ryo Yamamori, Burma expedition corps, unit 8418 "North", Urasawa unit." Evidently, these letters were to be used in Burma. The letter draft that is attached to this cover is an appeal of the soldier "Kenzo" to his friend "Suegoro" who played with the idea of surrendering to the enemy. It reads:

Dear Suegoro:

I was sadder than words can tell when you left base camp. Aside from the great personal loss I felt, I fear that you are entertaining dangerously mistaken thoughts.

Beloved friend, you can’t mean what you said to me the night before you moved up. I am certain that you said those things because we had been talking over old times, the wonderful lives we had led before the war. I, too, felt an intense longing to see again the lovely village where we grew up together.

But, Suegoro, it was in that very town that you learned with me of our sacred duty to our ancestors. You learned the way of a Japanese soldier. When a battle is irretrievably lost, by his own hands he departs to join his ancestors and friends at the Yasukuni shrine. No real Japanese ever surrenders.

Don’t think, my friend that I speak to you from a mind free of worry and sorrow. I have been thinking a great deal about this since our conversation. Like you, I wish to do the right thing for the Japan of the future. But I just can’t get myself to believe that this "right way to die" is to surrender to the enemy, so that we can live to help build a new Japan. Believe me, I recognize the logic in that argument. It troubles me deeply. But I cannot allow myself to think that way. I can’t break with our past teachings so completely.

I feel too the sadness of having been for three years away from our loved ones and our homeland. Just as you do, I long once more to be home, happy with my honored friends, my beloved wife and my cherished son. But we must keep in the back of our minds and hearts our most tender memories and deepest desires. We must not even consider any way of returning to Japan that is not the way we were taught is the soldier’s way.

I implore you, Suegoro to call upon your inner will to exercise those tragically mistaken ideas of yours. I fear that some traitor has poisoned your mind. I regret speaking so strongly to you, but your idea that we are committing "national suicide" by refusing to surrender – well, we must not let ourselves think that way. Think instead that no enemy has ever dared to challenge us without learning to his sorrow that the Spirit of Japan is more formidable than any number of arms and troops.

As for your belief that the flower of Japanese young men will practically disappear if we carry on the traditions of Bushido, think, instead, that the enemy is much more likely to lose his best young men. That will make it easier to resist the temptation to surrender.

No, my friend, we must not believe that Saipan was a mistake. Even if there are other Saipans – even if all Japan becomes a Saipan – well, we just must not let that happen. Yes, that is the way to avoid "national suicide" – not let that happen. But surrender, as you suggest – I don’t want to think about that.

But this thinking is so complicated. Let us try not to think about this subject. Yes, that is best.

Write me as soon as possible, Suegoro, and assure me that you have purged your mind and spirit of those defeatist ideas.



In the Spring of 1943, General MacArthur established a secret Organization, The Philippine Regional Section (PRS) reporting directly to him. The PRS was commanded by Colonel Courtney Whitney Sr. It was based near MacArthur's headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, The PRS was allegedly involved in the production of Philippine Guerrilla Postal Service Stamps. Whitney was apparently responsible for the decision to create, in SWPA propaganda, a cult around MacArthur and his pledge to return.

The OSS produced counterfeits and parodies of the banknotes of the enemy and the occupied nations. The United States produced a reproduction of the Burmese 5 rupees Japanese invasion money with a long anti-Japanese propaganda text on the back. Two types are known. One in Burmese, one in Kachin. I translated both notes in "Banknotes of World War Two," I.B.N.S. Journal, July 1985. The United States is also believed to have prepared a forgery of the Burmese 10 rupee note.

The OSS also produced forgeries of several of the Japanese puppet banks in China in an attempt to destroy the enemy war economy. In addition, They overprinted propaganda slogans on a number of 10 yuan Central Reserve Bank of China notes with such statements as "If reserve notes be accepted as money, ghost money and toilet paper could also be used as paper money," and "He who expects poverty and bankruptcy saves puppet money."

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.

OSS Detachment 101 requested forged banknotes for Indochina but there is no evidence that the notes were produced.

The OSS prepared counterfeit banknotes for Thailand, but they apparently were deemed inadequate and the project was abandoned.

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American Forgery of Japanese Occupation Currency

The biggest target seems to have been the Philippines. The return of U.S. troops had always been MacArthur's greatest priority. In order to facilitate his guerrillas with currency and hurt the Japanese occupied economy at the same time, he had counterfeits of the 50 centavos and 1, 5, and 10 pesos notes printed. These forgeries were prepared back in the United States and taken to the Philippines by submarine. 

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American Forgery of Japanese Railroad Pass

In August of 1944 the OSS produced 300,000 fake railroad passes to be airdropped over bombed Japanese cities immediately after an air-raid allowing the finder to travel on all railroads in Japan. The hope was that the Japanese civilians, in their desire to get away from the Allied bombing would tie up the railroads and production would drop due to the absence of the fleeing factory workers. A notice attached to the pass explains that it has been dropped by Japanese Imperial Air Force fighters to aid in the rescue of the Japanese people. The front of the pass has the following text:

Special Free Railroad Pass for Air Raid Evacuees.

Good for six months.
Issued under emergency decree of August 1, 19th year of Showa (1944).
Good on any government or non-government railroad
Air Defense General Headquarters Ministry
Ministry of Railroads

The back explains that this is a special free railroad pass and gives five conditions for its use. An example is, "The use of this pass is limited to the evacuee and his family."

The End of World War Two

As we mentioned earlier, the Japanese militarists tried to keep the nation in the dark about the Emperor’s desire for peace and the surrender negotiations. Many of the military leaders preferred to fight to the death, and some of them committed seppuku rather than submit. There are reports of young officers rebelling and planning attacks on the Emperor’s palace. The end of the war to a great extent was a psychological operation. The Japanese militarists were propagandizing that all was well and victory was in sight, and the Americans had to overcome that message with its own campaign. Some aspects of this campaign were constant radio messages to Japan, leaflets reporting the peace negotiations, and finally at the end of the war, the Emperor’s actual capitulation document was copied and dropped on Japan.

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Notice to all Japanese soldiers

I have a number of these surrender leaflets in different languages. Some are quite large and explain the end of the war in great detail. This small Japanese-language air-dropped leaflet is entitled "Notification of Surrender from the War Department." The text on the back is:

     Notice to all Japanese soldiers.

On September 2, Shigemitsu, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
and Umetzu, Minister of War, boarded the U.S.S. Missouri
and signed the official surrender document.

The terms of surrender include the following:

Paragraph 1, Section 4: The office of the War Department, the main islands of Japan and her surrounding possessions up to the 38th parallel of Korea, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force troops in the Pacific area are to be surrendered to the American Army of the Pacific ocean. Furthermore, it has been decided that each individual soldier is to surrender to the American forces. Therefore, every soldier fighting in all the different war zones is to surrender to the nearest American unit. Send the man into the American zone and surrender with pride and orderly discipline.

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Eighth U.S. Army “End of War” Leaflet

A similar leaflet was prepared for the 8th U.S. Army in the China-Burma-India Theater of War. The all-text leaflet is coded 29-J-8. The front text is:

Japan-America Armistice announced! Combat has ended!

The back is a longer text message explaining that the war is over and the manner in which the Japanese are to turn over power to the Allied forces.

These "Surrender" PSYOP activities were mentioned by Josette H. Williams in The Information War in the Pacific, 1945:

Back on Saipan, the OWI presses were turning out leaflets that revealed the special nature of Hiroshima's destruction and predicted similar fates for more Japanese cities in the absence of immediate acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam agreement. By 9 August, more than 5 million leaflets about the atom bomb had been released over major Japanese cities. The OWI radio station beamed a similar message to Japan every 15 minutes.

The 17 members of the OWI staff on Saipan were challenged to a previously unmatched degree. By mid-night on 11 August, less than 48 hours after Japan's message was received in Washington, three-quarters of a million leaflets giving notification of the surrender offer had been printed on OWI's three Webendorfer high-speed presses running continually. By the next afternoon, production of OWI leaflet #2117 totaled well over 5 million copies.

The significance of this information barrage cannot be overstated. For the first time the Japanese people became aware that their government was trying to surrender. And it was the first that Japanese officials knew of the Allies' acceptance of their surrender offer, because the OWI notification preceded, by about 72 hours, the receipt of the official diplomatic reply sent through Switzerland.

In an action without precedent, the Emperor decided to issue an Imperial Rescript announcing the capitulation, to be delivered both to the Allies through diplomatic channels and to his subjects in his own voice via radio broadcast. The enormity of this decision must be understood in context: the Emperor was considered a deity—no one was allowed to look upon him from above, few citizens had seen him at all, and the Japanese people had never before heard his voice. Hirohito well understood the powerful effect his broadcast would have.

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Leaflet 2118

Leaflet 2118 is the last leaflet of the war prepared by the OWI on Saipan. Its purpose was to inform all Japanese military forces and civilians at home and abroad of the Emperor’s two Imperial rescripts concerning Japan’s surrender. The text is very long. I have selected just four of twenty paragraphs to translate.

To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that out empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

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

To the large number of loyal and brave officers and men of the Imperial forces, who have died in battle and from sickness, goes our deepest grief. At the same time we believe the loyalty and achievement of you officers and men of the Imperial forces will comply with our intention and will maintain solid unity and strict discipline in your movement, and that you will bear the hardest of all difficulties and bear the unbearable and leave the everlasting foundation of the nation.

17 August 1945

Besides the Imperial seal the leaflet is countersigned by several Ministers of State.

It was not only the Americans that produced leaflets telling the Japanese that the war was over. There is a wonderful narration of a similar Australian project on the website of the Australian War Memorial.

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Carved wood printing block and produced leaflet
Courtesy of Australian War Memorial

When news of the impending surrender of Japan reached Torokina, Bougainville on 9 August 1945, the major concern of Australian commanders was to ensure that the Japanese forces were immediately notified of the impending peace, to avoid any unnecessary casualties on either side. The most obvious solution was a leaflet drop, but to save lives, the entire design and production job would have to be done immediately. The task was given to WX3033 Sergeant Henry Walker, head of production in Bougainville of the Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO).

With only two hand-operated and one electric Gestetner duplicators at his disposal, Walker had a huge job ahead of him. “To be effective, the Japanese leaflet had to be bold - and Mobile Print had no Japanese type faces.” Walker had to think quickly. “At 10:00 pm I took some paper, Indian ink and a brush to the POW compound at Torokina.” Here he woke up his regular Japanese leaflet writer, an unidentified economics student from Tokyo University who had surrendered early in 1944, been sent to Brisbane for “re-education” and returned to Bougainville “on parole” to assist FELO staff.

“I made him brush the necessary characters on the paper;” relates Walker, who chose a simple message “Japan has surrendered. Peace has come. The war is over.”

Now he had to make a printing block. “I armed myself with a jack knife and crept into the tent of Captain Waters (a member of the British Solomon Island Protectorate Forces) and carved a piece out of the nice American linoleum he had recently procured from Guadalcanal.” Captain Waters remained blissfully asleep during this operation. “Transferring the Japanese characters in reverse to the linoleum through carbon paper, I then carved them out with the jack knife, working under a hurricane lamp, between 1 am and 7:30 am. At 8 o'clock, I had it mounted on a board and, with the paper ready at Mobile Print; (we) worked without stopping until Major Atlee gave his memorable broadcast on the 15th.”

In five days, Walker and the Mobile Print staff had churned out 900,000 leaflets. They were packed in bundles of about 300 and loaded aboard any aircraft that could fly - Beaufreighters and Boomerangs, C-47s and Wirraways - and dropped over Japanese lines over the ensuing five days. “It was gratifying to learn later that from 10:30 am on (10 August) not one Japanese shot was fired on the Island despite the fact that their General, Kanda, did not contact any of his troops until 7:30 am on 16 August.” The linocut is in much the same condition as when it was removed from the flat bed press in 1945, still mounted on its wooden backing board and bearing extensive ink stains from the marathon printing effort.

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The Aussies were very creative. Notice that the underside of the wing of this Beaufort bomber aircraft has been painted with Japanese characters that tells the enemy that Japan has surrendered and the war is over. This aircraft was flown at low level over Japanese positions in New Guinea.

A case can be made that it was PSYOP that ended the Japanese resistance. Of course, PSYOP only works in combination with military victory and the knowledge by the enemy that defeat is imminent. It was American and Allied military might that won the pacific war, but it was PSYOP that told the Japanese of the atomic bomb, the peace negotiations and the willingness of the Emperor to cease resistance. This final little-known campaign, aimed at an armed people willing to fight to the death for their Emperor-God, may be one of the most important PSYOP operations in history.

The final propaganda leaflets of WWII might have been dropped on 21 August 1945 according to Bertrand M. Roehner’s Relationships Between Allied Forces and the Population of Japan, He says:

After Japan’s surrender, many of the pilots at Atsugi airbase (16 kilometers west of Yokohama) refused to follow Hirohito’s order to lay down their arms. They printed thousands of leaflets stating that those who had agreed to surrender were guilty of treason and urged the continuation of the war. The leaflets were dropped over Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka and other locations around the Kanto Plain. They also held the base captive for seven days. Constructed in 1938, the base housed Japanese elite fighter squadrons which shot down more than 300 American bombers during the fire bombings of 1945.


If the Japanese had not surrendered there were plans for the navy and OWI PSYOP people on Guam to take part in the invasion of Japan:

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Invasion of Japan PSYOP Chart

Pastel: Deception in the Invasion of Japan, shows that Admiral Nimitz's Nayy PSYOP operation on Guam would work hand in hand with General MacArthur's Army PWB PSYOP people in the Philippines to drop leaflets and deceive the leaders of Japan on where the invasion would occur. The real assault code-named Olympic was planned for South Kyushu on 1 November 1945. The deception plan code-named Pastel featured fake invasions of Shanghai on 1 October 1945 and Shikoku on 1 December 1945. The atomic bomb made all this planning unnecessary.

The Chusan-Shanghai and Shikoku deception stories were to be sold with leaflet drops, psychological warfare radio broadcasts, air reconnaissance, bombing and strafing, and a submarine-borne beach penetration landing. Leaflet drops in the Shanghai area were to be provided by the Far East Air Force (FEAF) and the content was to be directed at Japanese military or Chinese civilian morale. Drops were to be at the rate of two per week in early August, three per week in late August, then one every two weeks after the target shifted to Shikoku on 7 September. FEAF was also to show U.S. interest in the Shanghai region by conducting "aerial reconnaissance, photography, bombing, and strafing missions." These missions were to be flown three times per week before 7 September and once every two weeks thereafter. The extension of leaflet drops and air reconnaissance even after 7 September was required because PASTEL called for a latent threat to be maintained against the Shanghai region even though Shikoku had been designated the next main assault zone.

Did Korea help Motivate the U.S. to Drop leaflets on Japan.

On 29 March 2022, the Yonhap News agency depicted a document that said showed Korea’s independence fighters had made a proposal to the United States for staging psychological warfare against Japan during World War II. In the five-page document written in October 1942, a group of the activists called on the U.S. and its allies to use "paper bombs" -- leaflets aimed at cementing unity among the allies and making Japanese troops realize the cruelty of Tokyo's then militarism.

Consisting of China-based activists against Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, the group sent the document to Rhee Syngman, then a key member of Korea's provisional government in charge of diplomacy with the U.S. The document was found at the Center for Korean Studies at the University of Hawaii. It is part of a dossier that George McAfee McCune, a late American scholar of Korea and former State Department official, donated to the university. The document includes a letter requesting the use of "paper bombs" and anti-Japan propaganda materials written in Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Burmese languages.  

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

© Copyright, all rights reserved - 26 January 2005