By R.G. Auckland
MOROCCO, that north-western area of the African continent, has little to offer to the student of aerial leaflets, but having just visited the country there is an opportunity to record its interest.
This part of North Africa lay dormant to the attack of leaflets until after the Allies launched Operation Torch against the Vichy French in 1942 – an operation which covered Morocco and Algeria. As the amphibious plan began, planes dispatched from Gibraltar, flying over Oran and Casablanca dropped millions of British-printed leaflets on the natives and French 'colons' addressed to 'Frenchmen in North Africa.'
"The immediate purpose of the invasion," explained the leaflet (coded T2) which fluttered down between midnight and dawn on November 8, 1942, "is to protect French North Africa against the menace of an Italo-German invasion. The principal aim is the annihilation of the enemy and the complete liberation of invaded France. The sovereignty of France over French territories remains complete. All together, we will get them." These words were printed over the signature of Lt. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces.
Besides uplifting morale it was considered necessary to issue military instructions to the defending African forces to ensure their surrender, but happily no sustained severe fighting took place and all was over in a few days.
Unable to forecast the extent of possible French African resistance, Eisenhower broadcast to Vichy forces in North Africa certain measures they must take. These were printed in leaflet form (T4) and dropped over Arzeu, Port Lyautey and Oran, as well as other places, during the first three days of the landings.
Preceded by a short explanatory note, the instructions were:
Display the French tricolor and U.S. flag one above the other, or two French tricolors one above the other.
Display searchlights at a 90o angle.
TO ALL SHIPS OF THE NAVY AND MERCHANT NAVY
(1) Stay where you are.
(2) Do not scuttle any ships.
TO ALL COASTAL DEFENCE UNITS
Do not man your batteries or other installations.
TO ALL UNITS OF THE AIR FORCE
Do not take off.
All aircraft must remain in their normal places.
Generally speaking, you will obey any order which may be given to you by my officers. We come, I repeat, as friends and not as enemies, I have given strict instructions that no offensive shall be taken against you on condition that on your side you observe the same attitude.
This notice was issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, Lt-Gen, Eisenhower.
Albacore biplanes of the Fleet Air Arm flew from a British carrier cruising near the coast carrying a note from Lt-Gen, Eisenhower who said that he had been charged to deliver a message from President Roosevelt to the peoples of French North Africa.
The message was excerpts from a longer speech which was being, disseminated over France at the same time, and which declared the strong ties between America and France and the wish only to destroy a mutual enemy.
The obverse of this tract (un-numbered) was in Arabic and the reverse in French; both sides displayed the Stars and Stripes and Roosevelt's portrait.
Before General Giraud was smuggled out of the south of France by H.M. Submarine SERAPH, (commanded by U.S, Navy Captain Wright as the General would not co-operate with the British), a political leaflet intended for his signature had been prepared to be dropped over French territory, but he refused to sign. His refusal - even though he was a pro-Allies sympathiser - to sanction a call to all French forces in North Africa to fight alongside the Allies when they landed was based or his fundamental philosophy that he was a soldier, not a politician. He adamantly refused to approve the text which Eisenhower wanted him to broadcast and which would later be released in aerial leaflet form. The declaration and its intended use was scrapped.
Roderic Owen writing in his book THE DESERT AIR FORCE says that "to help the situation (i.e. the invasion of North Africa), leaflets bearing Giraud's proclamation were showered in thousands over Oran and other cities". I challenge this statement.
A certain Mohammed Ali, a merchant from Casablanca who had rallied to the Free French and had come over to England after the collapse of France was enrolled in the Political Warfare Department and later instructed to translate a leaflet into Arabic.
This was prepared and fighters from the Fleet Air Arm dropped thousands of them over Morocco and Algiers.
After the invasion was over, an American Intelligence officer asked the propagandist-in-charge what they said. "They are to rally the Arabs" was the stiff reply. 'They say "Victory rests with the Allies."'
"No, they don't," replied the American, "they say 'Buy Mohammed Ali's Green Tea.'"
This story in all probability apocryphal is told in full in Falling Leaf No.18 and is an extract from 'Airline Detective' by Donald Fish (l962).
Morocco is inhabited by people descended from Berbers, Arabs and Moors, Prior to 1956 it was a French Protectorate with a Spanish 'sphere of influence.' Since 1956, it has been an independent kingdom ruled by a Sultan with the exception of the International zone of Tangier.
As with nearly all newly-acquired independence, there are certain elements who wish to object to the new regime. In this case, the tribesmen did not agree with certain measures and began to cause trouble.
On October 21, 1958, the Paris newspapers reported that leaflets had been dropped on the Moroccan plains for consumption by refugees of tribal revolts against the King of Morocco.
About three months later there was still trouble and a report from Rabat, the capital, of January 6, 1959, said that more than 100,000 leaflets appealing for calm were dropped the previous day by the King of Morocco on revolting tribes in the mountain regions of the Riff.
Further research has found us another Moroccan leaflet.
In 1911 French aviators dropped leaflets in Arabic on a number of occasions. The leaflet was an appeal in the most strongest religious terms to cease dissension among the rebellious tribes and advising to make an armistice. A total of 10,000 appeals is said to have been dropped.
One of the flights was made in a Bregeut 40 biplane with Henri Bregi as pilot, from Casablanca to Rabat on September 13, to Helmes on the 19th, and to Fez on the 20th.
For futher details of leaflet operations in North Africa reference should be made to the following Psywar Society publications:
- Catalogue of Axis Leaflets Dropped in North Africa to Troops and Civilians 1940 - 1943
-Catalogue of Allied Leaflets Dropped in North Africa to German and Italian Troops and Civilians 1940 - 1943
The Falling Leaf. No. 31. September 1965.
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