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SOME ASPECTS OF AIR-DROPPED LEAFLET PROPAGANDA

 

In addition to strategic and tactical leaflets, a great many newspapers and miniature Magazines were produced for dropping from the air during WWII. These fell into two categories, those such as Le Courrier de l'Air, the French language newspaper which was intended to boost morale and give information to the inhabitants of the occupied countries and others like Nachrichten für die Truppe (News for the Troops), the world's first airborne daily newspaper which hoped to lower the morale of enemy troops

Printed in German, the first edition of Nachrichten für die Truppe came out on April 25th, 1944 with a print run of 200,000, but by D-Day this had risen to a million and continued daily at this level until the German surrender on May 8th, 1945. This 4-page paper contained truthful details regarding the progress of the war and was read and its content respected by the enemy who received it before their own news sheets. On occasion some 'grey' or 'black' items were included, especially in the days leading up to the Normandy invasion.

 

Le Courrier de l'Air newspaper for Occupied France

 

Miniature magazines often containing as many as 30 to 40 pages were disseminated on a regular basis to all the occupied countries. Often they had a camouflaged cover to hide the true content in case the reader was observed reading it by the enemy.

Also, during WWII a number of what might be called 'novelty' items were dropped from the air. These included packets of morale-boosting cigarettes dropped over Holland on Queen Wilhelmina's birthday on 31 August, 1941 and again in 1942. Packets of tea and coffee and even chocolate eggs were also dropped on The Netherlands. Other unusual items disseminated from the air were cigarette papers, book matches, soap, needles and thread, pseudo currency and a number of leaflets cut to the shape of actual leaves.

Korean War Safe Conduct leaflet

Safe Conducts were used in every area of conflict in WWII where they were either dropped from the air or fired in special shells by artillery. Shelled leaflets were usually of a smaller size and can be distinguished by the 'crinkling' effect caused by the explosion of the shell. The currency Safe Conducts used in the Gulf war (see the Home Page) were particularly effective. Desertions, defections and surrenders were measured in thousands and these and other PSYOP leaflets undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of Coalition and Iraqi lives.

Malingering instructions were dropped by both the Allies and the Germans in WWII. An unusual example produced by the Germans in Italy was in the form of a book match but contained 13 double sided pages in very small print fan-folded into the cover instead of the matches. The front cover bore the victory 'V' logo and * * * - (the Morse code for the letter 'V'). It was sealed with a label printed in red which carried the words 'Come back home alive' . The back carried additional wording in blue 'BETTER A FEW WEEKS ILL THAN ALL YOUR LIFE DEAD'

The inside gave detailed instructions on how to feign illnesses, both minor and more serious and how the soldier should conduct himself in front of the Medical Officer. The text assured readers that the methods and potions recommended "are absolutely harmless and will not produce any illness, but mere symptoms which cannot be distinguished from real diseases, even by trained troop officers".

V1 P.O.W. Post propaganda leaflet dropped over England in 1944

On 24th November, 1944 squadrons of Heinkel III bombers fitted with V.1 rockets under the starboard wing, made for the north-east coast of England where the rockets were released, aimed in the direction of Manchester, which was far out of the range of ground-based rockets. Some of these rockets carried bundles of leaflets headed ''V.1 P.O.W. Post' which were discharged by a light explosion just before the war-head itself plummeted to earth. Four different types of leaflet were disseminated but each contained facsimile letters from British prisoners-of-war in Germany. The finders of the leaflets were asked to forward them to the addressees who would receive the originals through the Red Cross in due course. It was thought that German agents in England were instructed to contact the relatives of the POWs and to enquire if they had received any news via the 'V.1 POW Post' and if so to ask where the letters had been posted from. This would give them some idea of the range achieved by their air to land rockets.

British security soon realised the clever aim of the letters and Police, Civil Defence and other officials were instructed to search over a wide area and reclaim every single leaflet. A few did get delivered to relatives but they remain one of the scarcest leaflets to obtain.

It is now generally thought that aerial propaganda leaflets, along with broadcasting and news sheets should be integrated in all future operations to minimise loss of life on both sides.


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