ENEMY LEAFLETS OF THE KOREAN WAR
Although the North Koreans and Chinese lacked the resources to emulate the leaflet disseminations of the United Nations, they attached great importance to every form of propaganda, and in many cases used this weapon most effectively in, for example, the worldwide agitation against "germ warfare". Considerable numbers of leaflets were disseminated on the Korean battlefields but owing to the fact that the United Nations possessed substantial command of the battle-zone "air", many of the leaflets were distributed by mortar fire and by night patrols who simply threw them into advanced positions. Strictly speaking, therefore, some of these leaflets were not airborne and are really outside the scope of some collections. However, in practice it seems impossible on the limited information currently available to determine exactly which items were carried by air so that all forms of enemy front-line leaflets have been included in the collection of the author.
The three earliest items bear the facsimile signatures of captured American soldiers and have the following texts:-
Have you ever stopped to think what you are fighting for? Stop! Just stop! And think it over. I say we shouldn't be fighting these people. I say we have no reason to fight, no reason to fight these people whatsoever! We are fighting the people who are fighting for the freedom of their country. This is their country and not ours. We should withdraw from Korea. We're Americans. Let the Korean people settle their internal problems just as we settled ours.
TO MY G.I. BUDDY
I am a prisoner of war under the care of the People's Army. I make an appeal to you. Stop this useless fighting and lay down your arms as I did. Don't believe what you were told about being killed or tortured! You will be treated kindly. I have been well-fed and housed since the first day of my capture. I, too, was afraid to surrender, but believe me, buddy, it is the best bet. Use your head! Don't die on foreign soil for nothing.
Another very lengthy leaflet enlarged on how well the prisoners were treated: "This is how the war prisoners of the U.S. Forces and of the so-called National Army are spending their days in leisure".
As in the case of the United Nations, "Safe Conduct Passes" were used very extensively. The wording of the most common leaflet was as follows:-
ORDER. The Bearer, regardless of his nationality or rank, will be duly accepted and escorted to a rear People's Volunteer Garrison or POW Camp, and on arrival will be guaranteed in accordance with our policy of leniency to prisoners of war the following four great affirmations:
1. Security of life
2. Retention of all personal belongings
3. Freedom from maltreatment or abuse
4. Medical care for the wounded
THE CHINESE PEOPLE'S VOLUNTEERS' HEADQUARTERS
There were a number of variations of this Pass: some instructed the bearers to shout "Surrender" -- "Too Hong" in Korean or "Tow Shong" in Chinese. A fairly early Pass "issued by the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces" has the following text which is reproduced in its original form:
YOUR FOLKS AT HOME NEED YOU
Your dear mother is filling with tears in her eyes. Your pretty and young wife is going to crazy, for she can't stand any longer. Your children are crying and asking where their daddy is now. American officers and soldiers; Do you like to leave your mother, wife and children for the cannon fodders of Truman and MacArthur? Just cease fighting and come over to our line. We guarantee you safe conduct, warm clothes, good food and medical care if you injure, and in the end you'll get home.
Another larger leaflet contained a "Safe Conduct Pass" coupon: "You CAN get out of this profiteers' war. STOP FIGHTING FOR DUPONT AND MORGAN. THEN WHAT? You'll go the rear to safety and get home in the end. Turn over and see what your buddies say." On the reverse are extracts of letters said to be written to and by prisoners of war.
Numerous other appeals were made to surrender, many with the names of considerable numbers of captured soldiers attached. One in booklet form was very widely disseminated, entitled "MAY WE BE HEARD! 400 American prisoners speak their mind". The foreword to this booklet had the following text: "More than 400 surrendered American officers and men in a camp in North Korea signed the statement which is printed here. They have asked for it to be sent to America and to the American troops fighting in Korea. They disagree with the war and they believe that most American soldiers as well as the folks back home also want to see it ended. Here is what they say. Read it and see if their opinions are the same as yours".
Another leaflet had a picture of a soldier in a wheel-chair:
Hello, sucker. Do you remember this? It used to appear in American magazines. It is a cruel picture of the bitter truth. Here was a man who was cheated into fighting by those who promote war for their own selfish interests. And behold his reward. Now they have got YOU in it with their 'Help the South Koreans' lie and their hysterical Red scare. GET WISE TO YOURSELF! Don't be a sucker! Don't end your life in the Korean graveyard or in an invalid chair. Save yourself and help to end this war. LEAVE KOREA TO THE KOREANS! Come over to us! This is your only sure road to get away from this dirty war, from death and invalid chairs. It is your road home - get back all in one piece. We guarantee you safe conduct and good treatment.
The Chinese People's Volunteer Forces
At the foot was a picture: "See how your buddies are doing here in a POW Camp".
Another leaflet from the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army contained an appeal "Don't die a useless death" with the signature of about 30 soldiers, including numerous British, and a picture of a skeleton sitting down to a family with the wording "Your loved ones are not expecting you to return in this manner. However, if the Korean War continues you can send them nothing but your own skeleton as present from Korea. If you want to return home, lay down your arms and surrender to the People's Army".
The familiar "Wall Street racket" theme was repeated in a number of Chinese leaflets same way as had been done by the Germans and Japanese earlier. One typical leaflet read:
IT'S MONEY AND YOUR LIFE
Total American casualties in Korea amounted to one hundred and forty thousand, nine hundred and fiftyfive persons, according to Omar N. Bradley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, reported by a Washington AFP despatched May 24, 1951.
This is equal to nearly half of all American casualties in the four years of American fighting in World War Two.
AND THE BIG CORPORATIONS GET THE GRAVY.
Profits 1949 Profits 1950
General Motors $656 million went up to $884 million
Du Pont $213 " " $307 "
U.S. Steel $165 " " $215 "
General Electric $125 " " $173 "
(Figures from the Economic Notes of Labour Research Assn.)
Special leaflets were directed towards U.S. Negro troops such as the one with two cartoons: one showing a Negro soldier being booted into a Korean foxhole, and the other showing a Negro in America being booted outside "Bar White. Off limits for Negro". The text read: "Negro People! Are the freedom and equality of man in actuality guaranteed in the U.S.A.? Why are those restaurants in which Negroes are strictly forbidden found in America and why are you alone plunged into the most dangerous foremost front in battle? Are you going to die a dog's death for the white Americans despite all their abuse and disdain?".
A number of leaflets were scattered for British troops. One had the headlines "Don't risk your life for Yankee dollars! Let the American millionaires and their gangster-politicians do their own fighting".
Towards the end of the war the production of the leaflets was very greatly improved, many of them reaching U.N. standards. On Christmas Eve, 1952, the Chinese and Koreans hung Christmas stockings containing pro-Communist propaganda on front-line positions, and also fired mortars into U.N. positions with the same leaflets and cards. The Christmas card for the British troops showed an old-world coaching scene on the front, in four colours. Inside were greetings and the following text:
British Officers and Soldiers,
It is nearly 28 months since the Yanks dragged Britain into this war. Nearly 10,000 British lads have been killed or wounded in this period (actual number of casualties to September 1952--- 9393).
The Gloucester Regiment has suffered particularly heavy losses as a result of American selfishness. Now British soldiers have also been rushed into Koje Island, where the Yanks have been committing the most terrible crimes against Prisoners of War. They want you to share their responsibility. Though, all over Britain, the people are longing for peace, yet the so-called United Nations delegation -- which is run entirely by the U.S. without a single Britisher on it -- has been sabotaging the truce talks. They are forcing you to face another grim winter in Korea.
Is it not true that almost every letter you get from home mentions how prices are going up -- food, clothing, fares and nearly everything else?
The Ministry of Labour has reported there are now 517,000 unemployed in Britain.
Where is Britain getting to as a result of tailing behind the Yanks, the American Big Business millionaires who want to grab the whole world for their profits?
Is it not quite plain
That only peace will put a stop to further,
unnecessary casualties for all you lads;
that only peace will save your folks from
the growing burden of armaments expenditure;
and peace will give you the chance of spending
Christmas along with your dear ones.
Even U.S. airmen have lately been refusing to fly in the Korean war.
Friends! Don't fight for the Yanks any more! Without you, they cannot keep up this war!
THE KOREAN PEOPLE'S ARMY
THE CHINESE PEOPLE'S VOLUNTEERS
Other leaflets were headed "Truth will out" (dealing with the armistice negotiation failures), "Rejects medal of son slain in 'needless' war" (story from N.Y. Daily Compass, February 21, 1952), "Nellie Gray" verses by Thomas Hood ("Darling, I will dream that you are coming back to me this Christmas. I can't think of a Christmas without you") and the facsimile of a letter said to have been taken from the body of a U.S. soldier.
A considerable number of other leaflets bearing similar themes are in the collection and undoubtedly various others exist. There was also a wide variety of leaflets in Korean addressed to the ROK troops, to Costa Ricans, Turks and other nationalities. In concluding, it may be said that the Chinese and North Korean propaganda followed the usual themes, but its effectiveness in securing surrenders was undoubtedly greatly handicapped by the shocking treatment of prisoners by the Koreans in the early days of the war. Accounts of massacres and tortures had received very great publicity amongst U.N. troops and a bitter feeling of resentment created a sure shield against later appeals to come over to the Chinese.
The Falling Leaf. No. 1. January 1958.
Return to Falling Leaf Selected Articles
©1958 PsyWar Society